A/N: No, I'm not dead; I've just been A.W.O.L. for the better part of six months or so. I'm really sorry about the wait, guys. Last year was just pretty hectic for me, what with going through a number of family issues, as well as having to move from the city and defer from University on top of that. Let's just say I haven't been able to update anywhere near as much as I would have liked to. Even with the time off from Uni, I'm still pretty busy working most days so I can save up money to live in the city again next year and finish my studies.

But, I digress... Things have been looking a lot better for me recently, and I've been able to get back into writing to relieve some of the stress in my life. I was really excited about finally getting this chapter completed as well, considering how well received this story has been so far. Thank you guys so much for the overwhelming amount of alerts, favourites and reviews you have given me! They are most appreciated and have definitely motivated me to carry on. :D

I also thought I should address a recurring concern I've noticed in a number of the reviews I received, and say that this story is definitely NaruHina. I have no intention of making Hinata a rebound girl for Naruto. Any reference I may have made to that idea in the last chapter was just me trying to convey some insecurities Hinata holds about their relationship... Which I'm sure Naruto will do his best to dispel later. ;) So, yeah, don't worry about this story suddenly ending up as NaruSaku, because that is not my aim for it at all.

Anyway, I hope my absence didn't cause any of you to lose interest. Here is the (long overdue) second chapter. This has not been edited, so apologies in advance for any glaring errors.

Secret Lovers

Chapter 2: The Slip-Up

Naruto perched low, his body remaining crouched as close to the ground as possible. He furrowed his brows deeply, as his ears strained to pick up on any suspicious sounds resonating from the other side of the wall. He had to act carefully. It wasn't just his own well-being at stake here, and timing their exit accurately was crucial. One wrong move and their cover would be blown, their otherwise full proof falling completely apart.

Fortunately for them, everything seemed to be clear. He couldn't pick up the sound of footsteps approaching, and the voices that carried from further away seemed too distant to pose any immediate threat. Concluding it safe to move on, Naruto drew back slowly.

"Alright, I think we can go now," he spoke in a low register, as he turned to his companion. "But just to be safe, you head out first and I'll cover you... I'll stay back for a before following after you. It'll look less suspicious than if we both go out together."

A delicate hand reached upon to cover, soft, pliable lips, attempting to smother the giggle that escaped from them, despite Hinata's best efforts. She couldn't help it. The stern expression and tone of voice he currently bore were so unlike his ordinary nature, she couldn't help but find humour in the contrast. Not to mention the, she assumed, mock seriousness with which Naruto was approaching their situation. It was if they were about to undertake some kind of life threatening mission and he was providing her with an in-depth plan of attack. At the infectious sight and sound of her melodic laughter, Naruto could feel his own lips twitch into a grin.

"Okay, Naruto-kun," Hinata answered eventually, as she regained her composure. Her tone now holding the same gravity his had earlier, as she played along. "I'll be careful."

Her hand reached out gently, hesitantly, to grace a tanned, whiskered cheek momentarily. He welcomed the touch gratefully, his eyes slowly dropping closed as he leaned into her tender caress. Hinata was still somewhat apprehensive when it came to acts of affection. However, she was gradually become more comfortable and confident at taking the initiative, which please Naruto immensely. He sighed contentedly, only breaking the contact of her digits to to brush his lips fervently over her still exposed collarbone. The affection was returned, as her lithe arms surrounded his form earnestly, her mouth searching his own.

It was obvious that either of them were particularly happy about having to leave each other; it was exactly why they were still exchanging lingering caresses, dragging out their parting ministrations, for as long as possible. However, they were left with little other choice.

They had been in the bathroom together for far longer than what could be deemed a reasonable amount of time, and had almost been caught by Naruto's best friend in the process. They really needed to leave soon before any of their remaining friends outside got suspicious.

The couple cherished each moment they could spend together deeply, no matter how fleeting, and knew that another opportunity to be alone would present itself soon enough. They just hoped they had been able to quell each other's desires long enough to last through that void. For, when they left this room, they would have to hide behind a facade. Outside, and under the watchful of eye of their friends, they couldn't exchange loving caresses like this. They couldn't kiss, or hold-hands, or even remain completely at ease and comfortable in each other's presence, as, as far as they were concerned, there was nothing going on between them. Hinata lacked self-confidence, and became little more than a nervous, apprehensive wreck at the mere sight of Naruto; who was completely oblivious to her obvious affection. Those were the roles they had perfected for themselves. That was what everyone believed, and that was how they wanted it to remain. For now, at least, anyway.

Things just worked out much simpler that way.

"I guess I'll see you later." Hinata whispered after awhile, her warm breath dusting over his ear, before she slowly pulled away. She couldn't help but shudder beneath the sudden lack of warmth emanated from his body, and the ache that clenched at her heart when they finally separated. Noticing her apparently troubled disposition, the blond offered up his hand in reassurance.

"Yeah. Whenever you're next feeling a little under the weather," He responded with a flash of teeth, his bright eyes twinkling mischievously as they remained fixated upon her own.

Hinata laughed sincerely once more at the man's behaviour. It was just so... Naruto. Maintaining his usual upbeat, optimistic demeanour, even when he was probably feeling just as upset as she. He disregarded his own well-being to try and reassure her; to, at least, appear strong for the both of them. She was still amazed by how easily Naruto had been able to adapt to reading; in spite of being practically incapable of doing so for many years past.

Rising to her feet, Hinata looked over shoulder and offered Naruto one last reticent smile, before she left. Leaving intimate, warm spaces of his arms, and returning to noise and flurry of the packed cafe. Returning to the self-conscious, frail shell she thought she had abandoned for good several years ago.

'Later' couldn't come soon enough, as far as she was concerned.

"I still don't understand why they don't allow dogs in there. Akamaru's smarter and better behaved than most of the people in that place!"

"Not everyone operates in the same way as your family, Kiba. I'm sure they don't share their beds with animals, for one."

"What? Akamaru gets cold at night sometimes. Don't you, boy?"

The dog barked happily in response, his tongue drooping lazily out of his mouth. The canine's deep, content pants carried on as his two legged companion scratched lightly against the top of his head. Hinata smiled at the casual and familiar exchange of banter between the two young men walking across from her. Kiba and Shino were two of her oldest, closest friends. They had been in the same class together since their freshman year of high school with their teacher, Kurenai Yuhi, and the relationship had been solidified with time. Over the years, Kurenai had also become something of a mentor to the trio, Hinata in particular.

However, in spite of their intimate relationship, not even they were aware of the full extent of her and Naruto's relationship. No one did. Not any of their friends, not her sister or her cousin, and certainly not her father. She hadn't mentioned anything to Kurenai-sensei either. However, Hinata suspected the older woman had a feeling there was something more to her relationship with the man who had captured her heart so effortlessly, all those years ago.

"So Hinata, what was going on with you and Naruto earlier, eh?"

Hinata felt a lump abruptly form in the pit of her throat and her heart lurched uncomfortably. Regressing to old habits, her face flushed slightly as she panicked at the implications of Kiba's lewd comment. Could he actually suspect that something was going on between them, or was he just teasing her like normal? After all, it was no question that Shino and Kiba were both well aware of Hinata's feelings for the blond. Kiba in particular. As he, like several of their other friends, had made a habit out of attempting to coerce Hinata in the making a move on the blonde. He was even known to tease Naruto whenever he was in her presence, accusing the man of showing off for her.

It suddenly struck Hinata that she had been lost in her own thoughts and her friend's query had been met by nothing more than silence for several moments. Fortunately for her, blushing and being rendered almost inarticulate was generally considered a typical response for Hinata as far as mentioning her relationship with a certain blond male. For once, she relished her meek, withdrawn personality. Consequently, Kiba had no real reason to suspect anything with a brief and soft sigh of relief. He was smirking at reaction, in fact, debunking her initial suspicion that his statement was made for anything other than his own mere amusement.

"Ah, nothing Kiba-kun," Hinata replied eventually. "He just thought I wasn't feeling well. That's all."

"Figures," Kiba scoffed, scratching at his shaggy hair in a manner uncannily similar to that of his canine companion. "I guess I forgot who we're talking about here. Naruto's far too dense to figure out what's actually going on with you."

The irony of Kiba's statement was not lost on Hinata.

"H-he's not that bad," She defended, though her words lacked any real conviction.

"Oh, please," Kiba carried on, unphased by her protests. "He's completely clueless! I know it might be difficult for you, Hinata, but you really need to

Hinata gaze returned to the path ahead of her, as she made no real effort to pay attention to what Kiba was saying. This wasn't the first time she had had a conversation like this with him and she was all too familiar with the formula. He would disparage Naruto's social skills (or lack thereof) and she would vainly defend him only to be encouraged to establish what Naruto had failed to. As a matter of fact, she'd been through it with all of her friends; save for Shikamaru, Shino and Sasuke, all of whom appeared to remain rather apathetic to the entire situation. The process was becoming increasingly frustrating to have to endure though, considering she was already several steps ahead of her friends.

There had been several instances in which Hinata had come close to completely giving up and just revealing their secret, in the hope that maybe then she wouldn't have to worry about people pestering her over Naruto. However, she remained strong. She knew that there was no way she could do that, not after the two had agreed to keep their relationship private, and especially not for her only selfish gains.

It was why, she'd been deliberately reverting to some old habits of hers; the hot flushes, the stuttering, the occasional fainting spell, all at the prospect of intimacy with Naruto; when in actual fact her relationship with him had developed much further than any of them could have ever possibly imagined.

They were falling right into their hands.

It was then that Hinata realised Kiba was still speaking, and even though she was no longer actively participating in the conversation. In fact it was Shino, who, in a rare act of social interaction, appeared to have substituted for her.

"That analogy doesn't really work, Kiba. I think you'll find that a relationship between two dogs is quite different to that of two humans..."

Maybe it was best that she hadn't been listening.

"Oi, Ero-sennin! I'm back!" Naruto called, the front door to their apartment swinging wildly open as he stepped inside.

"Keep it down, brat! Don't distract me. I'm really on a role here!"

Naruto rolled his eyes at his godfather before retrieving his keys from the door and closing it firmly. The Great Jiraiya was currently slouched over the kitchen table surrounded by a rapidly growing pile of crumpled papers, as he scribbled furiously at a notepad. It was apparent that he hadn't moved all day, given that that was more or less the exact same position that Naruto had seen in him when he had left that same morning. He rarely ventured out of the house to conduct 'research' anymore, especially after what had happened the last time Tsunade-baa-chan had caught him.

He was no doubt working on his latest novel, judging by the small trickle of blood seeping its way down from the older man's nostril. Jiraiya was an acclaimed author, namely for his series 'Icha Icha Paradise'. His godson, for the life of him, appeared to be one of the few who could not work out why that was the case. From what he'd read of the stories, the plots weren't particularly inspired, the characters relatively one dimensional and the writing itself was average at best. It was really just soft-core pornography in a thinly veiled disguise, and really, there were only so many euphemisms for genitalia. That was the key demographic though, he supposed; sexually inactive, older men looking for some form of outlet.

Naruto preferred the man's older works, personally. One novel in particular he was fond of was entitled The Gutsy Ninja, and a personal favourite of his parents, he had been told. In spite of its poor sales, it held great sentimental value for Naruto and the old, worn paperback still rested upon the nightstand in his bedroom.

Naruto peeled off his jacket and set down his keys, before making his way towards his own room, fully intent on leaving his guardian alone to his outlandish plots and unusual metaphors. He was interrupted however, by the abrupt and harsh scrapping of a chair against the wooden floor as it was pushed back and Jiraiya rose to his feet.

"Oh, but before I forget, Naruto," the man spoke, his voice suddenly holding a teasing tone. Naruto paused, already feeling apprehensive about where exactly this conversation was going.

"A young woman stopped by earlier while you were at work," he continued. With his back turned, Naruto couldn't actually make out the man's expression, but he was smirking perversely and wiggling his eyebrows suggestively in a manner typical of him. "Quite a cute one too. A friend of yours?"

'Damn pervert.' Naruto thought, feeling a vein popping out on his forehead, as a frustrated breath escaped his lips. "That depends. Did they say who they were?"

"No, actually, they didn't." The older man responded, a hand stroking his chin in contemplation. "But... It must've been Yamanaka's kid; she was saying something about wondering if you could help her out at a flower shop..."

Naruto sighed inwardly, that was definitely Ino. Recently she'd been frequently inviting him over to her place, or out somewhere else under the most incredibly, flimsy pretenses. They typically served as nothing more than a front for her to try and play Cupid to Hinata and himself. She would often invite other friends of theirs, so as not to rise suspicion. However, Naruto saw through when they would unexpectedly remember they had other commitments, or needed to get home early, conveniently leaving Naruto and Hinata alone together. Considering the two weren't exactly brilliant friends; they got on well, but didn't exactly spend time together one-on-one; he assumed that this was the case, once again.

Naruto supposed he couldn't really blame his friends, in a way. In retrospect, he was aware of how incredibly blind his younger self had been to Hinata's feelings. The flushes, her stuttering and stumbling, her nervous gestures, the fainting... He couldn't believe he had overlooked it for so long. However, after years of teasing, frustrated sighs and somewhat demeaning hints at the hands of his friends, Naruto now derived an odd form of pleasure from in knowing that the situation was now reversed. He was more than aware of Hinata's fondness for him and had acted decisively upon it, establishing a romantic relationship with her, hoping to make up for all the years that he had missed the signs. It was his friends who were in the dark now.

At least, he supposed it was a romantic relationship. He didn't really have a lot of prior experience to compare it to. Sure, he and Hinata hadn't officially been on an actual date, in any sense, but that was only for fear of being caught out. Even if they managed to avoid their friends, they were almost certain that someone would spot the head of the Hyuuga family's daughter out in public with that 'Uzumaki delinquent'. His only other knowledge of dating came from his time from Sakura and well... That hadn't exactly gone the way he would have liked at the time. He had relentlessly harboured for her attention for years, and in the process, became blind to any that was actually directed his way by another. When Sakura finally relented and agreed to go on a date with him, the experience had been incredibly different to what he had initially expected.

No matter how good of a time they had together, Naruto was always felt that Sakura's affection was half-hearted, as if she didn't share the same feelings as he. Her smiles didn't seemed somewhat forced, never really reaching her eyes. Naruto also noticed that had one consumed him so fiercely didn't appear to be as strong as he recalled them. His younger self had dreamed out this scenario for as long as he could remember and would probably be overjoyed to learn that several years down the line it was actually brought to fruition. However, as the two had grown older and inevitably changed, the crush for her he had once held so deeply had diminished somewhat. Not to mention, the brief time they spent together couldn't possibly live up to expectations brought about by Naruto's ludicrous fantasy.

In the end, he felt as though she was merely looking out for his well-being, and had only agreed to date him so that he wouldn't be hurt by her rejection. He could tell though, that her heart really longed for someone else, and he had an inkling suspicion he knew who... He had ended their relationship not too long after, stating that he didn't like to she lie to herself. In spite of the separation, they remained amicable to one another and continued to share the very close, intimate relationship they had always had. He treasured his friendship with Sakura and was pleased to learn that it hadn't been damaged as a result of their time together. There just hadn't been any sincere romantic feelings between them... Not like with he and Hinata.

It was a notion that he found almost... disconcerting. He had struggled his entire life to forge meaningful relationships with those around him. His friendships with Sasuke, and Sakura, among others, had not come easily. He'd had to debunk a number of rather unflattering rumours and reputations that existed. He'd had a troubled childhood without parents or proper guidance, and spent most of his pre-adolescent years alone before finally been taking into the care of his guardian. Desperately trying to attain some kind of acknowledgement in his younger years, Naruto acted irresponsibly; vandalizing, playing pranks, possessing little manners and speaking to others disrespectfully. Because of his abhorrent behaviour, most children his age avoided him under the instructions of their parents. It was a few years before he met anyone he felt he could genuinely call his friend.

Yet, throughout it all, Hinata had admired his perseverance in the face of adversity, wishing she too could possess the same traits. In later years, as she grew more confident, and they eventually became friends, she offered him her affection and admiration without question doubt. She had taken him for who he was, for all his flaws and weaknesses, and seen the strength he exuded in spite of them. There was something oddly comforting in that knowledge, something that he had never been able to completely wrap his head around.

Naruto often wondered if maybe this was something he might be to talk to his Godfather about. After all, he had seen the man flirting with a large number of women in his time. Maybe he wouldn't exactly be in a position to offer any advice about relationships, but the experience would have surely provided the man with an idea of how a woman might think in behave in a particular situation. His novels did include female characters, after all. Several of them.

Then again, Naruto had never actually read any of Jiraiya's books beyond his first, so he didn't real know for sure. He didn't, however, exactly know many females who were found of Jiraiya's works. Considering that, he couldn't really imagine the heroines; if you could call them that; as being portrayed as memorable characters or having important roles.

His train of thought was halted by a rather obnoxious declaration.

"Man, I never realised Inoichi's daughter had grown up to be such a looker. Blonde, curvy, legs that go on for-"

The rest of the older man's statement was promptly interrupted by an airborne book colliding firmly with the square of his jaw.

"Stop ogling over my friends, you sick freak! She's less than half your age!"

The statement was punctuated by the emphatic slamming of the blond's bedroom door.

'Yep, he's definitely not the person you want to go to for advice about women,' Naruto concluded with a sigh. That didn't really leave him with many other options. The idea of asking Tsunade-baa-chan or Shizune-san didn't really appeal to him. He couldn't exactly bring it up with Ino or Sakura either. They were among some of the people he and Hinata were trying to avoid having find out. Not too mention he couldn't imagine it was a conversation he wouldn't exactly be comfortable having with either of them, for different reasons.

It was times like this Naruto couldn't help but curse the significant lack of feminine influence he'd had in the early stages of his life.

Fishing his hand into his pocket, Naruto retrieved his phone, which he had turned off while at work. Switching it on, Naruto's attention was drawn to a message flashing on the screen, alerting him of a new voice-mail. Perhaps it was from Ino? Initially, Naruto had brushed off her visit earlier today as insignificant; probably something they could just talk about later. However, if she was this desperate to get in contact with him, maybe something was up after all. With a shrug, Naruto decided to satisfy his curiosity and opened the message, pulling the phone up to his ear.

"Hey Naruto, it's Ino. Listen, I was wondering if you could do me a favour..."

She trailed off, not immediately finishing the thought and Naruto hesitated. It must have been something pretty major if she was having this much difficulty asking him. A small, simple favour wouldn't have warranted this much of a build-up.

"You see, we've got a bunch of new stock coming in for the shop on the weekend, but my parents are going to be out... I was going to ask some of the gang around to give me a hand with unloading it. Shikamaru and Chouji will be there to help out, obviously. Oh, and Hinata as well."

The teasing lilt her voice adopted upon revealing that last tidbit of information didn't go unnoticed by Naruto. His suspicions hadn't been entirely correct. He considered hanging up the phone then and there, but he listened on, purely for curiosity's sake.

"Most of the others are busy though, and couldn't help... But you will, right?! Please, Naruto. I'm desperate here! I will totally owe you one... Anyway, just think about it, okay? Call me back..."

Naruto sighed, setting his phone down and massaging his temple as he slumped back against his bed. He starred vacantly at the ceiling above him, the fading twilight draping patterns across the bare decor, as he considered Ino's request. His weekend was free, there was no denying that, and; despite his suspicion of her having an ulterior motive; he couldn't help but feel as though Ino was genuinely needed his help. He released another breath, running a free hand through the unruly fringe of hair falling over his brow. He'd never been one to turn down his friends, not when he was capable of helping them out.

He stifled a yawn, glancing over at the clock beside his bed. He hadn't realised how late it was. Business had been booming at Ichiraku Ramen's lately and Naruto was pleased at the propsect of his favourite spot in the city having so much success; even if it meant he had stay back well after his shift had ended to help with cleaning up. It was worth every minute of labour to witness a place he loved thriving.

Grasping at the sheets crumpled at the fight of the bed, Naruto promptly stripped down to his boxers and switched the light off, before nestling beneath the soft, cotton confines. He'd get back to Ino about her request tomorrow.

Naruto sighed, cursing for the umpteenth time the fact that he had ever let his interest in plants slip to Ino, of all people. Ino: the daughter of the Yamanaka Flower Shop owners. Ino: the woman adamant about involving herself in any aspects of his life where her assistance was definitely not wanted, i.e. his relationship with Hinata. Ino: the reason why he was currently spending Saturday, his day off, helping her out.

What had he been thinking?!

His pant legs were stained with soil, his back ached, his feet and fingers were showing signs of blistering. Not to mention the consistent, close proximity of Hinata was slowly driving him, and his libido, mad. Why the hell had he agreed to this again? For some reason, this hasn't seemed like such a bad idea to him yesterday.

She was standing within arms reach of him, dressed in a worn tank top and light shorts. It was perfectly appropriate attire given the warm weather, and their task at hand. Yet, even while they weren't particularly revealing, it still made for a stark difference to her typical, baggier clothing, and the sight alone had been more than enough to distract Naruto when they began that morning. Now, a light sheen of sweat coated seemingly every inch of her exposed skin, as if it wasn't obvious enough to him already and needed to blatantly showcased.

Her flowing ebony tresses were tied back loosely, a few stubborn strands still spilling haphazardly over her shoulders, as she worked diligently. Naruto had never felt more tempted to run his hands through them than he did in the exact moment. Naruto raked a hand at his face in exasperation, happy for the momentary distraction from the vision a few feet away from him. Ino misinterpreted this as frustration over the laboriousness of his current task.

"Oh come on, Naruto, it can't be that bad!" She chimed playfully, his exasperation apparently just as palpable as he thought. Naruto scoffed dismissively, sometimes Ino was too cheery for her own good, and coming from someone as upbeat and overly enthusiastic as him, that certainly was saying something.

Shikamaru was sprawled lazily in the corner, his eyes focused out of the open window beside him and onto the soft billows of cloud decorating the sky. His right hand loosely grasped a trowel, as if to allude to a sense of productively, despite his currently immobile state. Shikamaru's eyes fluttered open and closed occasionally, as if growing heavy; the young man appearing rather eager to engage in a mid-morning nap. Ino, knowing her friend all too well, didn't even need to look up from the list she was checking, to know that he was slacking off. She had already suspected that would be the cause from the moment they had started, already having years of experience dealing with his indifferent nature under her belt.

"Oi, Shikamaru! Wake up!"

"No thanks." He replied gruffly. In spite of the wince that overcome his features when her foot connected with his shin, his eyes remained closed and his voice impassive.

"I mean it, Shika," Ino continued to scold, her hands pressed at her hips. "It's not fair that we do all the work while you just lounge around."

"Troublesome," Shikamaru replied, before begrudgingly sitting up and returning to help the others.

Shikamaru and Chouji were never far from Ino; it had been that way for as long as Naruto could recall. Their family histories were all practically entwined. They had known each other since they were newborns, their fathers all having been friends since childhood. It explained the way they acted around each other; seemingly always bickering, yet remaining fiercely loyal to and caring of one another. It was like they really were siblings.

Consequently, Ino's two male friends were often roped into helping her 'schemes' along; this was one included. Chouji agreed simply because he was a kind-hearted individual who cherished his two best, and oldest friends, deeply; one of whom Ino was. Though, the offer to go out for Korean BBQ afterwards certainly didn't hinder the chances of him turning up.

Shikamaru, on the other hand, knew better than to try argue with Ino. Any form of protest would undoubtedly elicit a tirade of nonsensical shrieking from his childhood friend; something that, at any cost, he would avoid having to endure. In considering this, Shikamaru had begrudgingly cleared his busy schedule of cloud watching and taking a nap, in favour of maintaining the use of his eardrums. This also provided him with an opportunity to potentially avoid receiving the same treatment from his mother, something Shikamaru was always in favour of.

"You're having fun at least, aren't you, Hinata?" Ino all but begged, her eyes pleading miserably as a pout crossed her lips.

"Hai, Ino-san." The woman in question replied, giggling softly at her friend's melodramatic behaviour. Naruto furrowed his eyebrows in suspicion, unsure as to how anyone could possibly derive pleasure from the mundane procedure that had been abruptly thrust upon them. Hinata certainly had a great deal of patience... Either that or she was just humouring Ino.

In spite of himself, Naruto couldn't help but find Hinata's sunny disposition infectious, and a smile tugged at his own lips. Perhaps it wasn't as bad as he was making it out to be after all. It certainly wasn't as bad as Shikamaru was making it out to be. For once, he was more than willing to help Ino out as it seemed that really had no ulterior motives and had generally needed the help of her friends. So, Hinata just so happened to be there, that didn't necessarily mean anything. Hinata was a sweet girl and certainly wouldn't be the type to turn down a friend either. Naruto decided that he'd just been acting paranoid and cynical as of late. He resolved to try and stop over-analysing every minute detail of his friend's behaviour, as it was all slowly picking him apart. That kind of thinking was better left to people like Shikamaru.

"Actually Hinata, Naruto; there are some boxes of Gardenia seeds out back. Do you think you two could bring them out for me?"

"Yeah, sure thing, Ino."

Unfortunately, he had let his guard slip a little too much.

It had always been oddly cold in the back area of the Yamanaka Flower Shop, and not just in terms of the temperature.

In the few times that he'd been there; which had been increasing over the past few weeks; Naruto had found it quite uncomfortable, seemingly in a constant state of neglect. Wads of paper, ribbons and boxes were wildly strewn throughout the room in disarray. The piles of order forms and receipts stacked upon the counter alluded there once having been a great deal of human life and activity, however the clutter also suggested a state of disuse, and that any visit was a brief, concise one.

The surroundings were stale, and almost suffocating. The lack of windows offering no fresh air or natural light, the ventilation blasting cold, manufactured air to compensate for the warmer outside temperature, adding to the room's overall cold atmosphere. The dull fluorescent glow of the bulb and bare, worn walls contrasted significantly to the vibrant life and colour of the shop itself. It was difficult to believe that this two completely different environments were separated by a single wall.

On this occasion, however, it seemed that nothing could be further from the truth.

Heat pulsated throughout every fiber his being.

He could almost feel the perspiration building on his forehead, as he desperately clawed at the materials restricting his own body. The fabric of his favourite orange jacket suddenly felt practically intrusive in these conditions, grinding at his skin like sandpaper. Growling lowly as he struggled within the cloth prison, Naruto, in his frenzied struggle, eventually slipped one tanned arm free from the confines. The limb immediately surrounded her waist, pulling her wanton form closer.

Never before had the unrelenting throttle of air against his bare flesh been more inviting.

His muscles throbbed in anticipation, as they were enveloped by the supple, silk skin before him. Her mouth, hot and needy, was captured desperately by his own. She shivered; whether it was underneath his sensuous touch or the chill of the artificial air brushing over her naked flesh, he wasn't sure. His teeth nipped at her swollen lips, hoping to elicit further convulsions from the young woman thereby ruling out the possibility that it had been the latter. At some point amidst their carnal exchange, her hair had come loose, the slightly damp strands now pooling over her shoulders in waves. Naruto could feel thick tufts of the dark mane sticking against his sweaty cheek as his lips descended further down to mold against her heaving chest.

They had honestly tried to just get the Gardenia seeds, like Ino had asked. The last thing they want to do was engage in heavy petting, just a few rooms away from three of their closest friends, running the risk of unveiling the most intimate details of the relationship in the flesh. Unfortunately, they both only possessed so much willpower. A small part of his subconscious nagged at the back of Naruto's mind, alerting him to how dangerous the idea was. However, any warnings fell promptly on deaf ears. They hadn't ventured more than a few paces into the smaller room before jumping one another. Little did Ino know, her initially, rather innocent, plan to place the two in close confines was achieving results far beyond her wildest imagination.

His fingers clenched at the material now plastered against her skin, Hinata wrapped her legs around his waist with a needy cry; trying to push their bodies as close together as physically possible. Her lips scattered in ardent grazes across his face, lingering over his shining eyes, the unusual birthmarks that marred both of his cheeks; those unique, unmistakable traits of his, that appealed to her so much. Her own lust-filled orbs flickered open, as his hand fisted clumsily beneath the material of top, fighting between his temptation to continue stroking at her soft, velvety skin, or to completely rip the shirt from her body, revealing it to him entirely.

"Naruto, st-" Hinata protested weakly, her voice broken by mewls. It took her a moment to articulate a coherent sentence beneath the sensuous exploration of his hands.

"I... I think I can hear someone coming."

Naruto too registered the increasing sound of an approaching presence. The sound of familiar voices growing steadily. The words were blurred ad incomprehensible, but the tone was clearly curious, inquisitive. He tried to answer, to offer the person some sort of adequate reaction that would dispel any need they felt to check on the two. However, his voice cracked, barely breaking the sound of his own hand rustling against Hinata's top as he continued, unphased in his quest to pry it from her body.

There had always been something inviting about the risk. Something appealing the mere possibility that they could get caught. It was usually something that fueled the desire of the young couple.

It was at that moment, Naruto had thrown his head back wildly, his mouth slack, and a moan threatening to escape his lips, when he was interrupted. The sound of a door creaking on its hinges and an abrupt, high-pitched shriek gradually drew his attention from the .

"Hey you two, did you manage to the find the- What the hell?!"

Hinata shrieked at the intrusion, mortified. Her arms frantically reaching up to cover her now bare chest, as she buried her flushed face into Naruto's shoulder. Naruto, on the over hand, remained completely frozen, and at loss as to what to do next.

His friend was gawking at him, her eyes wide and hand still frozen in place upon the door handle.

"Heey, Ino." Naruto began, slipping his arm behind the back of his head sheepishly. He gestured to one of the boxes, knocked on its side on the floor and the contents spilled.

"We uh... We found the Gardenias."

A/N: I promise not to take more than six months to update this time. :P

... Especially after the way I ended this chapter, haha. Anyway, thanks again for your patience; please keep the reviews coming!