Is This Love, My Damn Darling?


"Naruto-kun!" As he heard his voice being called, the blonde boy swung around to see none other than Yamanaka Ino, one of the prettiest girls out of the Konoha Eleven running up to him.

"Morning Ino-chan!" he replied, flashing her his famous foxy grin. For some reason, after the battle with Pain, Ino had become nicer towards him. No, scratch that, her view of him had taken a complete one-eighty, and now she was as friendly as can be. It was downright scary, but he wasn't about to complain. If a pretty girl wanted to talk to him of her own free will, then by all means…

Hell, she even allowed him to call her 'Ino-chan'!

Naruto slowed his pace to match hers as she fell in to step with him, panting slightly from an evidently hard run. "How are you today?"

"I'm fine Naruto-kun," she said between gasps of air. She quickly regained her composure, flipping her platinum blonde hair expertly over her shoulder, in a way that made it catch the sunlight and shine majestically. Naruto was dazzled for a few moments, before blinking the stars from his eyes and continuing the conversation.

"So, are you heading straight to the meeting for the Konoha Eleven or do you have something to do? It's still pretty early."

"Um, no, not really. I just wanted to go for an early morning walk…" she petered off, realising that her story was not at all convincing. One look at Naruto's sceptically raised eyebrows told her that he didn't buy her excuse for a single moment. "Alright, you got me," she said with a blush, pouting cutely. She leaned in closer to Naruto, who was completely perplexed by this new side of Ino.

He had to admit though, as she pressed closer to him, that she looked adorable with such an innocent blush on her cheeks. His eyes widened in shock. What was he thinking? He wasn't the type to fall for a girl so quickly! Or was this fate?

"I really wanted to spend time with you Naruto-kun," she said, linking arms with him. "Where were you going?"

Naruto could feel the heat rising in his face. He quickly glanced away. This little scene reminded him of a scene in of one of Jiraiya's Make-Out novels. "Uh, um, I-I was going to-"he jumped when Ino reached over and poked his nose.

"Aw, you're so cute when you're flustered!"

"H-Hey! I'm a man, I have my pride!" she snuggled up against his arm, closing her eyes in a satisfied manner.

"You really are super cute Naruto-kun," she giggled as he blushed again. "So where were you going?"

"I was going to get some breakfast at Ichiraku Ramen. Did you want to come along?" he asked, finally regaining some composure.

"It would be my pleasure!" she replied, and the two headed off towards the newly rebuilt roadside restaurant. As they walked, Naruto had to admit that it wasn't so bad having a pretty girl hanging on his arm.

"We are adjourned." said Neji, signalling the end of the meeting.

As the members of the Konoha Eleven wandered away from the meeting at their usual place where the spare planks for rebuilding houses were located, Kiba groaned out loud to his fellow teammates.

"Who the hell does that white-eyed prick think he is? Judge Judisu?" he grumbled, referring to a judge from a popular Japanese courtroom drama. He quickly glanced back at Hinata, a panicked look on his face. "Sorry Hinata, I didn't mean-"

"It's OK; it's not the first time I've been teased about my eyes." She replied meekly.

Well that just made Kiba feel even worse.

"I didn't mean to offend-"

"Hey, Hinata! Can I talk to you?" a bright and all too familiar voice yelled out from behind them, cutting off Kiba's apology. Hinata froze in response as her face quickly took on the complexion of a tomato.

"Y-Yes Naruto-kun?" she stuttered as she slowly turned around to face her beloved.

"Can I talk to you in private?" he said, adding meaningful emphasis to the end of his sentence.

"Hey, whatever you want to say to Hinata, you can say in front of us right…? Shino…?" he could simultaneously see and feel Hinata's pleading gaze and Shino's hand on his shoulder, both telling him in polite, unspoken terms to bug off. He sighed loudly "Fine, I get it," He stepped forwards towards Naruto. "But even if you are the hero of the Leaf, you better treat her well Naruto, or you'll have me to answer to." He finished with a menacing glare, complemented by a growl from Akamaru, who materialised by his master's side.

Naruto began to chuckle. "Ha-ha, Kiba's trying to play the elder brother role. It really doesn't suit you!"

Kiba blushed. "I'm not, I-"

"Kiba, let's go." Shino's quiet yet firm voice cut through Kiba's retort. He had noticed that Hinata was becoming increasingly flustered by thinking up various scenarios that would warrant Naruto demanding her attention, and she was getting close to the critical fainting point.

"Shino! Come on, he-" Kiba noticed Hinata's physical signs of stress and relented. "Fine. But I was serious Naruto!" he added as a parting shot as he, his dog and the bug user strode out of the artificial clearing.

As the crunching sounds of footsteps receded, Naruto found himself alone with Hinata. They were surrounded by three walls made up of stacked planks, and he stood at the only exit, effectively trapping the shy Hyuga. He blushed as he recalled that this was like another scene in Jiraiya's latest pervy book, and he berated himself mentally for ever have agreed to critique his work.

'Damn you Pervy Sage, my innocence is ruined!' he thought, conveniently ignoring the fact that he was the proud creator of the Sexy Jutsu, and had undertaken several research trips himself to various hot springs to perfect the 'bon-kyu-bon' (Japanese for big-small-big; a cheeky reference to bust-waist-hip!) in his transformation.

They stood there in silence for a few moment, each one looking anywhere else but at each other. In a rare moment of observation, Naruto noticed that Hinata was close to fainting and hastily jumped in, saying the first thing on his mind. "I like your jacket!"

"T-Thank you, N-Naruto-kun." She replied. 'He likes my jacket! Oh, wait… what if he means… what if he's looking at… at my…!'

Naruto stood there vaguely confused as Hinata's face took on a whole new shade of red. 'It wasn't that much of a compliment was it?'

He stepped closer to Hinata, who looked up at him with a mixture of emotions on her face. Embarrassment? Worry? No, while those emotions were present, the main one he could see was admiration. For what, he didn't know. He placed a hand on her shoulder comfortingly. She gazed up at him with her pale-lavender eyes. He had never notice how pretty they looked before.

"Hinata, I want to ask you something."

"W-What is it, N-Naruto-kun?"

'Kawaii!' he thought. That stutter and blush combination was just too cute. "About what you said when you jumped in to defend me from Pain…"

Hinata's eyes widened in shock. He remembered her confession! She had been too scared to bring it up in case he didn't remember after the Kyuubi took over his mind. "Y-Yes?" was all she could manage, she didn't trust herself to make a coherent sentence at this point.

"Did you-" a rhythmic thumping noise interrupted him. The very ground seemed to shake with each impact, and even the stacked planks began to knock against each other. "Oh Kami…" was all he managed to utter.

"NARUTO!" Sakura zipped out of the nearby trees and landed a solid punch on the hapless boy, sending him flying past Hinata and into the column of planks behind her. It collapsed with a crash, and before Naruto could even pull himself from the wreckage, Sakura had him firmly by the collar.

She began to drag him away. "What were you trying to do to Hinata huh? Don't worry, I'll teach him a good lesson!" she said over her shoulder to the stunned dark haired girl still standing where she had been with Naruto moments before.

Naruto screamed in fear as Sakura dragged him into the shadows of the trees, clawing futilely at the ground and leaving deep scratch marks in the earth. "Mum! Dad! No, they can help me with the Kyuubi, but not this. ANYONE! SAVE ME!"

Hinata simply stood there wide-eyed as the love of her life, who was possibly about to respond to her feelings, was dragged away by his first and unreciprocated love.

"S-Sakura-chan, where are we going?" asked Naruto as Sakura pulled him through the more crowded streets of Konoha. She turned to face him for the briefest of moments, and oddly enough, she wasn't mad. In fact, she was smiling.

"You'll see when we get there!" she faced forwards and upped her pace, flat out dragging him into the Konoha Hot Springs, one of the few places left untouched during Naruto's battle with Pain.

As they passed under the familiar red arch, Naruto was left wondering as to why Sakura would bring him here of all places. She finally came to a halt in front of the main office and, grabbing two fistfuls of Naruto's jacket, pulled him to his feet. "Alright, we're here! Now, I've booked us a private bath. Just head over to your right and there should be a placard on one of the curtains with my name on it." She smiled and pushed him gently, giving him no time to ask questions. "You go on ahead; I'll just grab some towels from the front desk and I'll join you soon."

A very nonplussed Naruto did as he was told. As he arrived at the curtain with the name 'Haruno' affixed to it, he wondered how they were both going to bathe. Maybe it was one of those baths that had a removable dividing wall installed? Nevertheless, he was looking forward to a long soak in the bath – there was nothing better after a hard day's training or when trying to recover from a hard battle.

He stepped into the anteroom and quickly stripped down to his underwear. Tossing them haphazardly into a nearby basket, he stepped through the curtain of beads, following the enticing wisps of steam to the natural hot spring in the next room.

As the blonde was about to step into the water, he realised that he did not have a towel, and that he still had his underwear on. Smacking himself on the back of his head for that moment of complete stupidity, he headed back to the changing room, hoping that Sakura would have left out a towel for him.

Once again stepping through the bead curtain, he was met by the sight of a naked Sakura placing her neatly folded clothes in the basket next to the one containing his own. The two shinobi froze for a long moment, not daring to shift their gaze from each other's eyes. The moment was broken when Naruto hastily covered himself up and turned away. "You pervert!" he yelled girlishly, trying desperately to cover his well-defined and muscular chest.

"That's my line!" Sakura yelled indignantly, while quickly covering herself up with a towel. Her cheeks were dashed with a sprinkling of pink; a blush that complemented her hair perfectly. She tossed a towel towards him, while keeping her eyes on the wall to her right. "Here, put this on and take off your underwear before heading into the bath, please."

"C-Could you wait outside until I'm done?" Naruto asked meekly, acting very much like a shy girl uncomfortable with being seen au naturale by other girls.

"Are you a man? This is pathetic Naruto!" Sakura huffed before storming out. Naruto quickly bit his finger to prevent himself from laughing out loud. She actually bought into his teasing! He wondered how far he could take this little joke.

Complying with her commands, Naruto ditched his undergarments and tied the towel around his waist. As he stepped through the bead curtain for the third time, he called out to Sakura, letting her know that he was done.

He leaped into the bath gratefully, enjoying the feel of the warm water covering him like a blanket. He closed his eyes and leaned back blissfully against the carved rock wall, preparing to enjoy a peaceful hour of solitude. He'd have to thank Sakura properly later. This was exactly what the medic-nin should have ordered.

A little splashing noise alerted him to the presence of another. Lazily opening one eye, Naruto addressed the new arrival. "Excuse me, this is a private ba-ba-BAH?! Sakura?!"

The pinkette quickly slipped into the water, towel and all. Ripples of water emanated from her point of entry, gently lapping against Naruto's bare chest. His face was bright red, yet he could not take his eyes off Sakura, who was slowly moving towards him, a cute blush of her own gracing her cheeks.

She stood up and began to walk the short distance between them. Naruto's eyes were wide; the soaked towel was clinging wetly to her figure in a very appealing fashion. Naruto's face and a certain other part began to heat up, and he swore he heard an evil little voice squeak from below the water. "You called?"

He quickly placed his hands in his lap. "I didn't!"

Sakura was moving ever closer to the flustered blonde, swaying from side to side in very natural yet seductive way. She moved with all the grace and elegance of a true lady, while making it look sexy at the same time.

That is, until she tripped over her own feet.

She landed with a very ungraceful splash, right on top of Naruto. Naruto was freaking out; their faced were inches apart and her body was pressed up right against him. Her cheeks became redder and she looked away trying to conceal an embarrassed smile, perfectly capturing the innocent little girl look.

Naruto was shocked to see this side of Sakura. Past the fists and quick temper, was this what she was really like?

She turned to him, and their eyes locked together. Cerulean eyes stared into jade before Naruto blushed and copied Sakura's innocent girl routine. Glancing to the side, he said. "Please be gentle, it's my first time."

A vein twitched on Sakura's temple. "That's my line!" she exclaimed, raising a fist. Naruto shut his eyes and waited for the end, trying to hold back a chuckle. Whatever Sakura's plan was, he was doing a good job of teasing her about it.

Surprisingly, the punch never landed. Instead, she lightly bopped him on the head. He glanced at her surprised. What was going on? She never held back… well to be honest she never done anything like this before. Just what was going on?

"Hey Sakura-" the pink haired girl placed a slender finger against his lips, shushing him.

"Naruto, when you left to fight Pain, I was so worried I was going to lose one of my best friends."

'Eh?'

"And when you returned from the battle, I was so happy to hold you in my arms, to know that you had come back to me." She slowly sat up, straddling Naruto's waist. Naruto could feel her smooth legs wrapping around his hips and could vaguely hear the evil voice from below speaking to him. "You called?"

'I DIDN'T!' he though desperately, unable to reach his lap.

"So I wanted… I wanted to tell you how I really feel, before something else happens." She stared deep into his eyes, trying her best to convey the heartfelt honesty behind her words. "I want to spend all of my time with you… and to know if you still have feelings for me after all this time. I know I haven't treated you well in the past, but I'm more than willing to make up for it now…"

She leaned forward, placing her chest closer to his face. "You can touch them if you want." She whispered into his ear, making the skin on his neck tingle with a strange feeling. Naruto stared wide eyed at Sakura's face. Her eyes were closed and she looked almost expectant, as if she had been waiting for this moment.

His gaze shifted to her breasts, mere inches from his face. The towel she wore was still wet and was starting to slip, almost presenting him with the most coveted of views that every man strove for.

He gulped audibly and began to raise his hands from his sides. He could feel and hear his heartbeat like a drum beating in his chest. He wondered if Sakura could feel it too. He could feel hers; it seemed to make the water around them pulse with passion. It started off with a rapid and quick tempo, and as his hands rose to her chest, he could feel his heart and hers speed up and slow down respectively until they beat as one.

His hands stopped a couple of inches from her towel coated chest, roughly in the spot where they would already be touching a girl with an average sized pair of breasts.

She whispered seductively in his ear, causing shivers of anticipation to run up his spine. "It's OK, I want this too. You can touch them." She repeated.

Suddenly a smirk lit up Naruto's face. In an instant, all the embarrassment was gone as he replied. "What do I touch?"

Sakura's eyes opened and she glanced down in confusion. "Huh?" As she saw the space between her chest and his hands and realised what he was hinting at, her blush, so far restricted to her cheeks, borrowed a page from Hinata's book and took over her whole face. The vein on her temple grew larger than ever and her face was shrouded in darkness, the first sign of a world of hurt for poor Naruto.

"NA-RU-TO…" she very nearly growled as her menacing aura seemed to dim the lighting in the bath. As Naruto began to say his prayers, they were both interrupted by a high pitched giggle.

A very familiar sort of pervy giggle that the two shinobi in the bath knew all too well.

Sakura's fury seemed to give her more inhuman strength than ever. She swung a fist at the wall where the laughter had emitted from, and the resultant shockwave utterly demolished the bamboo wall revealing none other than Kakashi himself seated on the other side, a small paint brush in one hand poised for writing.

He gave them his trademark eye smile and waved to his two students. "Yo!" he said casually, as if an entire wall of bamboo hadn't been reduced to splinters right in front of him.

Sakura stood and faced her teacher; her killing intent was almost tangible as it filled the small room with a thick sense of dread. Naruto wisely chose to scuttle back as far as he could from the enraged pinkette, since dying here would end his dream of become Hokage, and would also get in the way of his more current goal.

"H-Hey Kakashi-sensei, what are y-you… doing…?" He petered off into silence as Sakura turned and eyeballed the blonde, threatening a world of hurt if he uttered one more word.

Kakashi held up a rather familiar looking notebook. "Excellent question Naruto. I have been entrusted with an important duty, and so have been performing it as required by one of the most influential people of our time."

"And who would that be?" growled Sakura, as she cracked her knuckles and readied her fists.

"Why, none other than Jiraiya-sama of course!" came the reverential reply. "On his will, the Great Toad Sage himself left me with his precious research notebook and a request: to continue his greatest work and his most important contribution to the world of literature – the Icha-Icha series!"

Kakashi one visible eye began to tear up, before streaming down his cheek and soaking into his mask. "It is truly an honour to be left with such a monumental task, to be acknowledged as one of his greatest fans... And that is why I am here, to continue his research for the next book! Your little scene there by the way was pure gold, you two. It can lead up to some very steamy scenes."

"Ah, right. This was one of his most favourite places to gather information." Naruto mused out loud, seemingly unconcerned with unofficially starring in an ero-novel.

"Kakashi-sensei, you… you… YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A PERVERT!" yelled Sakura.

"Correction, my dear Sakura. I am… A SUPER PERVERT!" Kakashi leapt straight up to the ceiling and hung upside down, facing his students. "I have been given the utmost privilege to take up Jiraiya-sama's title and bear it with pride!"

"KAKASHI-SENSEI!" Sakura screamed as she ran at her teacher, fists quivering with unsuppressed rage. She seemed to emanate power, making the water around her bubble and splash about the room.

"Well, see you Naruto. This is where I make my exit!" Kakashi waved to the blonde before vanishing in a swirl of smoke and leaves.

"COME BACK HERE!" Sakura sprinted through the smashed wall, intent on finding and punishing her sensei for even daring to think of spying on her and Naruto. As she ran, her towel rose and fell behind her, treating Naruto to a spectacular retreating view of Sakura's lower curves.

"Hmm, very nice. Very curvy, yet firm and well defined. Definitely makes up for the lack of curviness upstairs. Love the legs too, very sleek and sexy." He appraised out loud. He shivered twice, the first due to the cold breeze that was blowing into the now empty bath and again because he had scared himself with how perverted he had become. "Damn you Pervy Sage." He muttered with a fond smile.

Naruto sneezed as he finally wandered away from the hot springs. The owners hadn't been very happy with the destruction of the wall and the emptying of the bath, but apparently Sakura had already paid a deposit that covered the damages. 'Did she expect to get angry and destroy the place or was it just a precaution?' he wondered as he walked. What did that say about her expectations of Naruto if the former was the case?

He still felt extremely chilly after being left in a waterless bath with a strong breeze blowing through the space where a wall had once proudly stood. He might have even caught a cold. Still, he was confused as to why Sakura had wanted to bathe with him. It couldn't be true that she had fallen for him, not after all those years of Naruto loving her while she was smitten with Sasuke. As much as he didn't want to think it, he had a vague suspicion that he was the one she had settled for, rather than actually wanting to be with him since the last Uchiha wasn't around. Still, she had seemed very sincere…

It was a pity then that he had his eyes on another.

Nearby on the street that was home to Naruto's most favourite restaurant, Hinata was wandering about aimlessly, still thinking over her little encounter with her blonde idol, and the subsequent interruption by a certain pink haired kunoichi. Did she have feelings for him too now? Was it fair for Sakura to have feelings for Naruto after rejecting him after all this time? Hinata stopped herself right there; she was not a petty person.

"Aww, it looks like I have competition now.' She thought to herself miserably.

"Oi! Hinata! Hey!" she felt her heart stop again. This really couldn't be good for her body. She turned around to face the owner of that voice she knew as well as her own.

"Hello N-Naruto-kun." She replied with a faint smile and a heavy blush.

'Kawaii!' he thought. "Hey Hinata, can I talk to you?" Hinata was stunned. Not only did he want to talk to her, he seemed a little embarrassed. He was looking at the ground, smiling sheepishly before looking her in the eyes with his usual confidence. If, heaven forbid, she had been feeling even the slightest amount of resistance to his request, it would have melted away then and there under his intense gaze. As it was, she couldn't have said no even if she wanted to, and tripped over herself trying to reply.

"Y-Y-Y-Yes, N-N-Naruto-k-kun!" he gave her a strange look, and she instantly felt panic rise in her chest. Was that affection? No, it couldn't possibly be, he probably found her stutter irritating. 'Oh no, what will he say? What does he want from me? Oh-oh, please, let it be good! Please let-'

"Hinata, are you feeling alright?"

'EH?! Was that the question?!' she thought incredulously. "Um, y-yes?"

Naruto smiled a truly honest smile that captured her eyes and heart. "It's not a question you answer with another question. You look a little flustered, that's why I asked."

'Oh no, can he really see how flustered I am? When did my Naruto-kun get so observant?' she mused. "Um, then yes! I am fine!" she replied earnestly.

"That's good to hear," he grinned his trademark foxy grin. "Hey Hinata, do you want to join me for lunch? I know a really great place that's not too far from here."

Hinata's eyes widened at the offer. "I-Ichiraku's right?" she silently congratulated herself for holding onto her composure.

Naruto looked surprised. "You know it? Have you been there before?"

Hinata debated over whether the next thing she said would make her seem like a stalker. "I-I haven't eaten there before b-but I've seen you eating there far too many times to count." She closed her eyes and waited to be called 'creepy' or 'weird' by her beloved.

"Ha-ha, really? Well, then you've been missing out! They make the best ramen in the world hands down! Come on, it'll be my treat!" he said grabbing her hand and pulling her along.

Hinata was too stunned to even offer to pay for herself. He was holding her hand! It was just as warm as she thought it would be. Unbidden, a smile graced her lips, lighting up her whole face.

As they walked the last few meters to the roadside restaurant, a voice hailed them down.

"Hey Naruto-kun! Hey Hinata!" Hinata's heart sank as Ino came bounding up to blonde haired boy and the love-struck girl. She had seen Ino and Naruto this morning, and definitely knew that Ino had feelings for the Hero of the Leaf Village.

"And where are you two going on this fine afternoon, hand in hand as well?" asked Ino, her eyes on their linked hands.

"We were just about to grab some lunch here," he gestured to Ichiraku Ramen. "And I had something I needed to discuss with Hinata. Ino's eyes glinted knowingly, and she was quick to grab hold of Naruto's arm and pull him away from Hinata. The girl with the pale lavender eyes felt sadness weigh on her heart when Naruto's hand broke away from hers.

"Well, if it's OK, I need your help with something Naruto," said Ino. "I'm all alone in the flower shop, and I really need someone to help me with the stocktaking." She shot him her best puppy dog look, turning on the cuteness to the max. No boy could resist this and she knew it all too well.

Naruto being Naruto of course was rather oblivious to her true intentions. "Well sure I guess, I don't mind helping out a friend."

"Thank you Naruto-kun, it's really urgent so please come with me." The platinum blonde began to lead him away, leaving a very distressed Hinata behind. "See you later Hinata!" she said as she pulled her fellow blonde away.

"Uh, sorry Hinata-chan, I'll talk to you later then! I still have something important to tell you!"

"B-Bye!" she waved gloomily. At least he still wanted to talk to her, though it was probably to tell her that he couldn't respond to her feelings. A faint smile suddenly formed on her lips.

'Did he just call me "Hinata-chan"?'

As Naruto finally left the Yamanaka Flower Shop, he felt absolutely exhausted. Ino had a massive amount of work to do that day, and he felt extremely sorry for her that she had that kind of workload almost every day. Between the two of them, they got the stocktaking and rearranging done in less than half the time, so he was really worried when he realised how much time his fellow blonde spent working in the family store.

Stretching his sore arms above his head, he hear d the satisfying pop of his bones sliding back into place. He shook his head a few times and set out into the cool evening, a single destination on his mind. He moved with purpose, and finally arrived at the hastily rebuilt Hyuga compound. He knocked on the wooden gate, stated his purpose to the Branch family member who answered call, and waited patiently while the gatekeeper went to fetch Hinata.

Soon enough, Hinata came bounding out the front door, eyes wide at the fact that Naruto had come to see her.

"Y-Yes Naruto-kun?"

"Hinata-chan," she felt a tingle of joy blossom in her heart when he added the '-chan' suffix to her name. It hadn't been an accident earlier! "Before we get interrupted again, I need to tell you something important." He leaned towards her and whispered in her ear.

"What?!" Hinata's incredulous yell, completely out of character, echoed around the empty compound.

The next day, Shikamaru and Neji summoned all members of the Konoha Eleven to meet at the usual spot to decide the fate of Uchiha Sasuke. As Naruto made it clear that it was his intention to kill Sasuke, and would not be persuaded otherwise on the matter, most of the Konoha Eleven left it at that, save for the kunoichi that had been chasing after him as of late, and the dog loving Inuzuka Kiba.

Kiba grabbed Naruto by the collar of his jacket. "Look Naruto, don't be an idiot! You don't have to do this alone!" he growled. Beside him, Akamaru licked Naruto's hand, trying to convince him like his master.

Naruto stared back, unfazed by Kiba's outburst. "He's my teammate. And I understand him better than you guys. He was my best friend." Kiba snarled and raised a fist.

"You idiot! He's our problem too! Don't try to shoulder the burden by yourself!" as he aimed his fist at Naruto's face, Naruto waited until the last second and caught it, using the boy's momentum to flip the dog user over his shoulder. Kiba landed hard on his back, temporarily winded.

"Naruto," the blonde turned to face Sakura, who approached him slowly with tears in her eyes. "Sasuke-kun was my teammate too. Let me help you, please. I want to be there to protect you; I want to know that you'll come home safe. So if I'm fighting with you, I know that we'll stand a chance."

"Kiba's right Naruto-kun," said Ino as she approached him from the other side. "You don't have to shoulder all the pain yourself. He's our problem too."

Naruto turned to look at Hinata. She was watching him from one of the stacked columns of planks, tears coursing down her cheeks. Her eyes said it all: "Don't fight Sasuke alone."

Sakura noticed the extended silent exchange between Naruto and Hinata and scowled. 'Why is he paying so much attention to her? I'm just as worried as she is, if not more.'

On the other side of Naruto, Ino's thoughts were along the same lines as the pinkette's. She walked close to Naruto and latched on to his arm, a plan formulated in her head to distract Naruto from the Sasuke situation. "Naruto-kun, I think it's time," giving him a meaningful glance.

"Huh? Time for what?" asked the very puzzled Naruto. Ino shook her head in a mock exasperated fashion. Meanwhile, Sakura was watching the little display from the sidelines, her fists shaking with barely concealed rage.

"Naruto-kun, you've won the hearts of two very eligible and attractive kunoichi… and Sakura over there too," she added as an afterthought. Sakura began to use some very colourful words to describe Ino under her breath.

"I have?" Naruto asked disbelievingly, watching from the corner of his eye as Hinata nodded her assent.

"So now you have to decide here and now," said Sakura. "Before we all start a petty fight over you."

A smirk appeared on Naruto's lips. "A catfight between Sakura-chan, Ino-chan and Hinata-chan over me? I wouldn't mind seeing that." The male members of the Konoha Eleven nodded in agreement. There was nothing like a good catfight, and that lucky bastard Naruto had three hot girls chasing after him who were willing to participate. As Ino and Sakura scowled at him, he put his hands up in defence. "Kidding. I'm just kidding. So I have to decide right here, right now?"

"Yes!" the three kunoichi said in unison. Behind them, Kiba began to slowly struggle to his feet, gasping for air.

Naruto grinned in an odd way, flipping his spiky hair in a manner that made him seem mysterious and alluring. "Well then, I choose…" and he vanished in a puff of smoke.

"Huh?" once again the platinum blonde and the pinkette were in perfect and unpractised synchronisation.

They glanced around the clearing and spotted Naruto helping Kiba to stand up. He gazed deep into the dog user's eyes and said "Kiba!"

"WHAT?!" was the collective response from the Konoha Eleven, minus Hinata. She instead turned around, placing her head against the wall of planks and covering her face with an arm; the very picture of dejection, rejection and crushed dreams. Her shoulders shook and an air of gloom seemed to surround her, making her little corner of the clearing seem darker and more depressing than the rest.

'Oh, poor Hinata-sama, her dreams have been crushed.' though Neji, noticing his cousin's change in demeanour.

Muttering filled the small clearing as Kiba stared at Naruto's face in shock. Phrases like "I didn't know he swung that way." and "How long has he been like this?" were whispered between the other members of the Konoha Eleven not involved in the little love pentagon on display.

Naruto flashed Kiba his most charming grin. "So what do you say? Will you be mine?" Kiba started to panic as the blonde held him closer. From the sidelines, Ino and Sakura stood watching the two, stunned speechless. Ino had a look of complete disbelief plastered on her features while Sakura alternated between fury and shock. Curiously, her cheeks were tinged with a faint blush as she recalled a similar scene from one of her 'Boy's Love' erotic novels. A dirty little secret past time of hers, she kept all her 'Adults Only' novels in a secret box in her attic and read them late at night under candlelight. It was one of her little tricks to set the pervy mood.

Kiba gently pushed Naruto away, suddenly mindful of his feelings. He stepped away and glanced back at the blonde with an uncharacteristically serious expression on his face. "Naruto, I… I need some time to think this over. I can't accept this just yet. This is… this is very new to me and you'll have to give me some time to get my head around it."

"I'll give you all the time you need and more very soon, my damn darling." The cerulean eyed jinchuriki replied seductively.

Kiba shivered and began to walk away. "'My damn darling'?" he murmured to himself as he began a very long walk around the village as he tried to make sense of things.

Slowly, the other members of the Konoha Eleven began to disperse. Ino gave Naruto one last look that was filled with longing and left with Tenten. Sakura, oddly enough, wiped a small trickle of blood from her nose before vanishing in a swirl of leaves and smoke. But Hinata was still leaning against the stack of wooden planks for support, her shoulders heaving with what appeared to be silent sobs.

Naruto approached her slowly and placed his hand on her right shoulder, spinning her around gently. As her face turned to his, he could see tears streaming down her bright red cheeks. Strangely enough, they were tears of mirth. As she let out a giggle, her face split into a mile wide smile, a sight the blonde boy had rarely seen.

Hinata was shaking with barely suppressed laughter.

Later that night at the home of the Inuzuka Clan, one light still burned when all the others had been switched off for the night. Kiba sat on a chair placed right in front of his open bedroom window and gazed out into the night sky, his chin resting on his hands and his elbows placed on the windowsill – the picture of a man with a lot on his mind.

Naruto's confession had been on his mind for the entirety of the day, yet he still didn't know what to think. While Kiba most certainly didn't swing that way, he couldn't just refuse the blonde and deny his confession. After all, it would have taken a lot of guts to confess something like that in front of everyone.

"Argh! What do I do?!" Kiba roughly grabbed his hair, hoping to yank a solution from his brain by force. "It's not like I can respond to his feelings… but I can't ignore them either! Damn it! Damn you Uzumaki Naruto for putting me in this predicament!"

He leaned back in his chair, feeling a little better after venting his frustrations out loud. Memories of Naruto throughout their childhood and their time at the Academy began to surface in his mind, and he found himself chuckling over some of the pranks they had pulled in the past. Then Naruto's recent achievements flashed before his eyes, and he had to admit, the dead last of the class had come a long way since then.

"Would it really be so bad?" He asked his faithful companion, who was sleeping at the foot of his bed. "It could be different, it could be unique… Maybe this is why I don't do so well with the ladies."

He gazed up at the crescent moon, watching it fade away as the sun rose, heralding the new day. "Maybe this is my true calling…"

At dawn, Kiba stood waiting at the meeting spot, a determined glint in his eye. He had sent Akamaru to fetch Naruto as he had finally come to a decision.

A familiar scent of ramen wafted into the air, and Kiba turned to the source expectantly. Strangely enough, another scent accompanied Naruto's distinct aroma, a rather feminine smell… the scent of lavender…

As Naruto stepped around the wooden planks, Kiba spotted the signature white eyes and dark blue hair of his teammate. "Hinata? Why are you here?"

"Um, I-"

"Never mind that now. Naruto!" Kiba stood as straight as he could, making sure to accentuate the seriousness of the situation with the appropriate body language.

"Yes Kiba?" the blonde's nonchalant and easy going greeting deflated the Inuzuka for a few moments, before he regained his composure. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and steeled himself for what he was about to say.

"I accept your confession!" he bowed and continued. "Please go out with me Naruto-chan!"

Silence filled the small clearing. As Kiba opened his eyes, he did not dare to look up, instead he kept his gaze on the slowly shortening shadows of Naruto and Hinata as the sun rose up from behind them.

A chuckle and a giggle broke the silence. "Kiba, you swing that way?"

'What?!' Kiba quickly straightened up, blushing a deep crimson. "Why the hell are you laughing?"

Naruto had his hands on his knees and was flat out guffawing, unable to stand up straight. Beside him, Hinata was trying her best not to laugh at her poor teammate, and was failing spectacularly. As Hinata leaned against the stacked planks for support, laughing daintily yet energetically, Kiba stormed over to Naruto and grabbed him by the jacket.

"What the hell is so damn funny ass-wipe?!" Naruto wiped away tears of mirth and removed Kiba's hands from his collar.

"You!" he replied in between chuckles. Kiba was stunned. This was not how he thought this encounter would go. "You didn't actually think I'd fallen for you did you? I just said that to get Sakura-chan and Ino-chan off of my back without hurting their feelings! I confessed to Hinata two nights ago after confirming her feelings for me. She actually admitted her love for me during the battle with Pain, and it was all I could think about since then. But Sakura-chan and Ino-chan wouldn't leave me alone, and I was worried for Hinata's safety. I knew that those two would start a fuss like they used to with Sasuke, so we planned this in advance! Pretty brilliant right?"

Kiba simply stared at the blonde ninja as his jaw hit the floor. "S-So I spent the whole night aching over this decision for no reason?"

"Yep. You know, it was ridiculously difficult to act that out yesterday, and Sakura-chan getting a nosebleed was just plain worrying." as Hinata finally recovered and moved to his side, Naruto placed an arm around her shoulders and kissed the top of her head affectionately. "But we're finally together, and now we'll be leaving for a few weeks, until everything blows over."

"Huh?"

"W-We're h-heading to Suna for a little while, just until Sakura-san and Ino-san calm down," Hinata stuttered. Naruto's eyes suddenly filled with affection, and anyone could see that all he was thinking about was how cute Hinata's stutter was. "S-So we decided to tell you before we left, and then you conveniently sent Akamaru to summon Naruto, so w-we figured now was the best time to reveal our secret."

Kiba slumped to the ground without warning, landing hard on his backside. Akamaru picked that moment to come bounding out from wherever he had disappeared to, and whined loudly when he sensed his master's mood. Kiba's face was devoid of emotion. He just gazed up at the two lovers, realising that he had been well played.

"I'm such a fool… What am I?" He asked no one in particular.

"You are our messenger boy! You'll spread the word that we've left right? We don't want people sending out search parties." said Naruto cheerfully, slapping Kiba jovially on the shoulder. "Anyways, good luck with your new sexual orientation! We'll see you in a month!" with that, the blue eyed boy and the pale lavender eyed girl picked up a pair of backpacks hidden behind a stack of planks and leapt off into the trees, heading towards the village gates.

A new future of love and happiness awaited the two lovers in Suna. The same could not be said for a very confused Kiba, and soon enough, a very furious pair of pink and blonde haired kunoichi.

Is this love, my damn darling?