He's Coming Home
Waiting with Hope
Disclaimer: I do not own the Naruto franchise, nor do I own any of the merchandise or spin-offs connected to the concept. These belong to Masashi Kishimoto.
Summary: When Hinata accidentally discovers the day that Naruto is due to return from his long journey with Jiraiya, she decides to wait for him at the gates of Konoha. Just how much will this one act change things between herself and the one she loves?
Chapter One: He's Coming Home
As the morning sunlight broke through the window of Hinata's bedroom and began to subtly creep up her body and onto her face, the Hyuuga girl began to stir, her eyes clenching shut as she tried to hold onto the dream she had been having. A faintly mumbled, "Naruto-kun…" escaped from her lips before her eyes fluttered open.
As she shifted herself into a sitting position, Hinata couldn't help but blush as she thought of the object of her night-time musings and almost subconsciously she let out a dreamy sigh. It wasn't just her face that was feeling particularly hot at that moment – her entire body was feeling like a fire had been lit inside her. The thought of who exactly had ignited that fire and how he had done it in her dream made her blush even harder.
She may not have seen him for two-and-a-half years now, but his face from just before he had left his village, left his home, left her, was still as crystal clear in her mind as the day he had departed. His spiky blonde hair that she secretly longed to run her fingers through. His huge, encouraging grin that seemed almost too large for his face, making his eyes squint. His bright orange jumpsuit that just screamed out, 'Notice me!' to everyone that he passed. And his eyes… oh Kami, she could gaze breathlessly into his eyes forever… they were a combination of all the different hues of blue in the world, from the aquamarine of a sparkling ocean to the deep indigo of a dusky sky. They were so expressive, she felt like she was staring into Naruto's soul when she mustered up the courage to look at him face to face. And the way that his blue orbs sparkled as he talked, even about the most inane subject, made Hinata's heart melt. In her opinion, the legendary Byakugan that her clan possessed wasn't even comparable to Naruto's eyes. They may have held a well protected kekkei genkai that granted amazing powers of perception and vision to its owner, but Hinata thought that they paled in comparison to the radiant eyes of the one she cared for most.
But the thing she loved most about him was his determination. She didn't think it was an exaggeration to say that it was his unwavering perseverance and the effort he put into everything he did that was the biggest influence in her life. When she had been back in the Academy she remembered watching Naruto train, all alone, for hours on end, striving to become a real ninja and hone his skills, and she had felt truly inspired by the example he was setting. From that moment on, she had resolved to try as hard as the loud-mouthed, hyperactive, ramen-loving boy that she watched, pitied, admired and… loved?
Hinata was districted by her morning musings by the muffled sliding sound of her shoji door opening and the appearance of her older cousin Neji's face peering at her.
"Good morning, Neji-niisan," Hinata greeted him, lifting herself up from the traditional futon she had been sleeping on and standing.
"Good morning, Hinata-sama," Neji answered in a polite, respectful voice, inclining his head slightly. Despite his somewhat serious greeting, the small smile on his face indicated that he was genuinely pleased to see her. That was another thing that she had Naruto to thank for – giving her cousin back to her. After his father's death, Neji had become cold and withdrawn to everyone, holding a burning grudge against the Hyuuga main family, and he had taken it out on her in brutal fashion in the Chuunin Exams, back when she had been twelve. But Naruto had changed him; no longer did Neji look at her with a cold anger that froze her chest in a grip of ice. He was still quiet and precise in both manner and speech, but the change was noticeable – gone were the bitter lectures about fate and being unable to change, replaced by the belief that he was in control of his own destiny. Hinata could still vividly remember the feeling of shock that she had felt when Neji had apologised – yes, actually apologised – for his actions towards her. Neji's newfound humble attitude was another welcome change and now he treated Hinata almost like a younger sister, rather than a cousin.
"Aren't you a little late getting up this morning, Hinata-sama?" Neji asked, quirking an eyebrow at her. The fact that she immediately blushed as he said this clued him in on the reason for her unusually late awakening this morning. He wasn't proclaimed as the Hyuuga genius for nothing, after all. "It wouldn't happen to be because you were daydreaming about a certain orange clad ninja, would it…?"
"N-N-Neji-niisan!" Hinata gasped, horrified at both the stutter in her voice and the fact that the feelings she had tried to hide for so long seemed to have been unearthed without any real effort on his part. Anxiously, she began prodding the tips of her two index fingers together, hoping he would drop the subject. "That is a v-very… p-personal question to me!"
The smile on Neji's face seemed to grow ever so slightly at this answer. "You still miss him."
Hinata swallowed. It wasn't a question. "Y-Yes," she managed to stutter out, suddenly finding the wooden flooring of her bedroom very interesting.
Neji actually chuckled at that. "You know, as strange as it sounds, I think I might actually be missing him too. Konoha just hasn't been the same without him."
Hinata nodded, eyes downcast. She cared deeply for Neji, Kurenai-sensei, Kiba and Shino, and enjoyed her life as a Konoha shinobi, but her cousin was right – without Naruto around, a part of her just seemed to feel empty. The village itself seemed less vibrant and much quieter and she knew both Iruka-sensei and the Hokage were missing him too. Tsunade-sama had admitted her affection for loud-mouthed genin on numerous occasions and Iruka-sensei had always worried about Naruto, even before he had lrft the Academy.
Hinata knew she shouldn't worry about Naruto. She respected and admired his strength and knew he would have gotten even stronger from his extra training. He was in capable hands too – Jiraiya-sama was a highly skilled ninja and a member of the Sannin, after all. But still… it had been over two years since Naruto had left Konoha… surely he would come back soon?
Hinata had to content herself with one thought. 'When you do come back, Naruto-kun, I promise I will also be stronger. Because that's my nindo too.'
Hinata made sure to keep her breathing under control, her Byakugan active and flashing in the dappled sunlight filtering through the canopy of the forest on the edge of the Hidden Leaf Village. Hearing a deep warning bark from Akamaru, she saw the undergrowth rustle, before a small, dark shape leapt out from the shadows. Avoiding the clutches of the nin-dog and the Inuzuka boy riding on its back, it made a desperate break for freedom, attempting to give its trackers the slip. However, before it could get far she noticed her teammate Shino falling like a soundless wraith from a thick branch of one of the taller trees, blocking the shadowy shape's path. With an angry hissing sound it changed direction once more, this time darting in Hinata's direction. She tensed herself, waiting for just the right opportunity to strike after her teammates had manoeuvred the target into position, then leapt forward in a burst of motion. Her hands grasped around short, warm fur as the target made a surprised yowling sound… and then promptly began licking her face, hands, and any other part of her body it could get to.
"It appears our mission objectives have been satisfactorily concluded," announced Shino in his usual precise tone, adjusting the dark glasses perched on the edge of the nose. "Now that we have Tora in our possession, it would be prudent to return her to her rightful owner and report back to Hokage-sama."
"What's the rush, Shino? It looks like Hinata's picked up a new little friend," sniggered Kiba, as the little cat tried to burrow its way into Hinata's soft grip, purring and stretching out as it did so, much to Hinata's embarrassment. The fact that it then proffered its belly to be stroked only made Kiba's laughter even louder and Hinata's embarrassment all the more acute.
Akamaru just growled. He did not like cats. Particularly this cat.
Tsunade groaned as Shizune entered her office for the third time that day, holding another giant stack of mission requests. She may have loved the village, and she took the role of protecting the villagers from any sort of harm seriously, but times like this made her wonder why on Earth she had given up a life of wandering and gambling for this. Then a picture of a loud, short-tempered blonde ninja flashed through her mind and she smiled. Yes, now she remembered. His passionate wish – no, dream – to become Hokage had touched her and she knew that she would never forget it. No matter how tough things got for her, no matter how stressed she became as she tried to cope with endless mission requests with a force of ninja that was still depleted after the attack of Orochimaru and the Oto nin, she knew that it was her job to keep the will of fire that her old sensei Sarutobi had always been preaching about, and as long as she had any life in her body she would do that to the best of her abilities.
Not that she would feel too guilty having a sly drop of sake every now and again.
As Shizune dropped the pile of paperwork into Tsunade's now overflowing in box, a knock at the door was heard. Sitting up straighter in her large chair, the Godaime called out, "Enter," in a commanding voice. She had to keep up appearances, after all. In single file, Team Kurenai trooped into her office, presumably to give a quick spoken summary of the hunt for Tora she had sent them on earlier. In her opinion D-rank mission reports weren't even worth the paper they were written upon.
Shino cleared his throat. "Team Kurenai is ready to conduct a verbal assessment of our assigned mission, Hokage-sama. Is this acceptable to you?"
Tsunade waved a hand carelessly. "As long as it's brief, that should be perfectly in order. I presume there weren't any problems?"
Kiba snorted. "That damn cat must have led us across half the forest, but we got it in the end, right Akamaru?" The affirmative bark of the big dog was coupled with a wag of its tail, which had Shizune scrambling over the floor as it knocked over the mission requests that she had just brought in.
Tsunade brought her hands up to her temples, massaging them. Yeah, sake sounded really good right about now.
Hinata bent down to help the Hokage's personal assistant pick up all the loose paper, with Shizune's gratefully murmured, "Thank you," tingeing her cheeks a faint shade of pink. Shino just stared stoically at Kiba, who waved his hands defensively.
"Hey, hey, it wasn't my fault. Why aren't you staring like that at Akamaru instead of me?"
Shino just continued staring gravely at Kiba. Akamaru let out a small whine.
"Ok, fine, I'm sorry. Geez…"
Tsunade banged her fist down on the hard wooden surface of her desk, making everyone other than Shino jump. Tsunade frowned. She hadn't even hit it that hard, and it had still made a noticeable crack in the tabletop. At least she hadn't destroyed it – Shizune's constant nagging of how she seemed to go through desks at a rate of one per fortnight must finally be getting through to her. "If we can get back to the task at hand…" she trailed off, enjoying the nervous look on Kiba's face.
Shino inclined his head slowly and began succinctly talking through their mission, aided by frequent interjections from Kiba and the occasional, "Ano…" from Hinata. As he finished, Tsunade nodded, satisfied. "Thank you, Team Kurenai. That will be all for toda–"
She was about to dismiss them when there was an abrupt knock on the door of her office and Kamizuki Izumo, one of the Hidden Leaf's 'jack-of-all-trades' ninja assigned to guarding the Hokage's office, burst into the room.
"My apologies for interrupting, Hokage-sama, but we have some urgent news from the Decoding Department! We have received a message from Jiraiya-sama and have just finished translating it now." With that, he passed the Godaime a folded piece of paper, the ink still wet, as it had evidently been scrawled upon in great haste. Tsunade's eyes widened and she snatched it from him impatiently, barely noticing as the chuunin guard bowed and exited in a whirl of leaves. Any news about Naruto and the old pervert was good news… especially with the recent resurgence of Akatsuki activity in the last few months…
Hinata's eyes had widened at this sudden announcement, and her heartbeat sped up. As Tsunade's eyes skimmed from side to side, reading swiftly, the Hyuuga heiress held her breath. 'Urgent? But Jiraiya-sama was with Naruto-kun! … Please, please be ok…' She could tell that Shino and Kiba were listening intently too, judging by the fact that the bug-user's posture had become even more rigid than usual and the Inuzuka had stopped fidgeting.
Then, without any warning, Tsunade let out a bark of laughter, which quickly became hysterical. She was guffawing so hard that she almost fell out of her chair, slumping onto her desk with tears of laughter in her eyes, much to the bemusement of everyone else in the room. Hinata wasn't sure whether to help her, to remain standing in wait or just to leave. Shizune, although worried about where the Hokage's sudden burst of amusement had come from, evidently surmised that the latter option was the best course of action to take, as she began ferrying her two teammates out of the room before they had a chance to protest. Hinata could see that she was about to be forced out the door in the same manner as her teammates, but, panicking, she interjected before Shizune could get a grip on her. She had to know what was happening with Naruto. She couldn't bear not knowing whether he was in danger or not now that it had been dragged to the surface.
"Ano… Shizune-san. W-Would it be alright if I – if I waited to hear what Tsunade-sama was going to say about Naruto-kun?" The words left Hinata's mouth in a jumbled rush before she had even thought about what she was saying, and immediately she blushed. It was hardly her place to be asking about such things after all, and she felt very self-conscious as Shizune looked quizzically at her.
Before the Hokage's assistant had a chance to make a decision, however, Tsunade herself, now over her giggling fit and pulling herself upright behind her desk, just smiled at Hinata. "Let her listen if she wants, Shizune. This information is hardly confidential. Besides…" The Hokage paused for a second, and a mischievous glint, that reminded Hinata of Naruto at his pranking best, appeared in her eye. "It's obvious she cares about the brat."
Hinata's blush intensified at these words. Was there anyone in Konoha that didn't know about her infatuation with the self proclaimed number-one-hyperactive-knuckleheaded shinobi?
Shizune chuckled at Hinata's reaction, relenting. She had to admit that she was curious about what was written on the small slip of paper too, and the fact that this shy kunoichi genuinely cared about Naruto was touching. He may have had some acceptance before he left Konoha, mostly from his peers, but the presiding mood was still very much a negative one from the majority of villagers. Shizune was sure that he saw all of his friends as priceless, and the fact that one of his precious people seemed to value him as equally precious was something that she had no doubt Naruto fully deserved.
Tsunade cleared her throat, drawing the attention of the other two women in the room back to herself, as she began to smile again. "This is the first message I've received from Jiraiya now for almost half a year, but the news in it is excellent. Spectacular even! He and Naruto… are coming home!"
Shizune let out a delighted squeal at the news, and grabbed the piece of paper for confirmation. Hinata, on the other hand, completely froze, afraid that even breathing would destroy the perfect moment. 'Naruto-kun is safe… and he's coming home? He's coming back to me?'
However, Hinata's worry returned as her treacherous mind brought up a new thought. 'But… will he even remember me? It's been so long since we last spoke… could he have forgotten about me?' Hinata mentally shook herself, disappointed in her lack of faith towards the object of her affection. 'No. Naruto-kun is never cruel. I know he wouldn't forget his friends. And… he said he liked people like me. I have to have faith in him… because I know he would have faith in me!'
Gathering her courage together, Hinata forced herself to ask one final question. "Ano…" she stammered, trying to compose herself but failing miserably. "W-When… when will N-Naruto-kun be back?"
Tsunade smiled at the girl's shyness and briefly wondered to what extent the girl's feelings for the boy that so resembled her long deceased younger brother, Nawaki, extended. "In three days time, according to Jiraiya's report." Tsunade's smile changed, becoming reminiscent. "And you know Naruto wouldn't go back on his word, right?"
"Yes…" Hinata breathed out, a determined look flashing across her face for an instant. She bowed in front of the Hokage. "Thank you, Hokage-sama, Shizune-san. I t-truly appreciate what you have d-done for me today."
The Hokage and Shizune both smiled kindly at her. "That is no problem at all, Hinata," said Tsunade, with her voice containing a hint of… affection? Pride? Whatever it was, it sounded almost… motherly. Hinata's own mother had died giving birth to her second child, Hanabi, when Hinata had been just five, and though her memories of her mother were faded by age, Hinata remembered above all else the loving, caring tone of voice she had always spoken to her only daughter in. Hearing Tsunade-sama speak in such a voice made her feel warm inside and wonder whether the Hokage ever regretted never settling down and having children. In Hinata's opinion, at least, she would have made a wonderful mother. And that thought led her back to the dream she'd had last night, where things had gotten rather… intimate between herself and Naruto. The thought of Naruto as a father was one that she couldn't help but wonder about… and just the thought of herself as the mother of Naruto's children made her feel lightheaded for a second. Blushing profusely, she stuttered a quick goodbye to the Hokage and her assistant and rushed out of the room, not noticing the amused expressions that both of them had on their faces. Well, at least until Shizune produced another stack of mission forms.
Hinata walked down the main street of Konoha in somewhat of a daze as she thought about all that had happened in the Hokage's office. She had almost bumped into at least four villagers already on her way back to the Hyuuga compound (though they stopped shouting at her once they saw her eyes; insulting a member of the most powerful clan in Konoha was never a good idea). She had stammered out apologies to those she had accidentally collided with, but truthfully her mind was elsewhere.
'Naruto-kun is coming home.' That one thought kept whizzing around in her mind like a dynamo. She wondered how much he had improved during his training mission and thought back to the times she had seen him fight. Against Kiba in the preliminary round of the Chuunin Exam, he had been beaten, bruised and knocked down, but a combination of luck, skill, quick thinking and determination had turned the tables on her teammate in jaw dropping fashion. Then she remembered how he had fought for her – according to Kurenai-sensei and the rest of her team, sworn an oath on her blood – to defeat Neji. He had said that she wasn't weak, and that she had given him the confidence to defeat her cousin. That small act of Naruto saying that it had been her words, calling him a 'proud failure' that had reignited his determination to prove Neji wrong, had meant the world to her. Knowing that she had been able to help him, even a little, was something she treasured close to her heart, and she considered it the biggest achievement of her life. She would do her best no matter what to help Naruto even more when he came back, to follow his example, his –
"Ouch! Watch where you're going, missy!"
"S-Sorry, sir, I d-didn't mean to."
Author's Notes: Ok, after telling myself I would finally start writing some fanfiction, this chapter is the end result of my hard work. I really like the pairing of Naruto and Hinata, and there are a lot of fanfics out there, many of them very good, but there aren't very many really great fics for this pairing (that I've seen at least – if anyone has any recommendations, I'd be more than willing to have a look, if you'd be so kind as to leave a link). So I finally decided to get off my lazy ass and start writing myself! In my opinion, it's not fair to criticise the work of others unless you're willing to try and better it yourself! If anyone has found any flaws in this chapter or has questions, speculation, ideas or even just plain encouragement that they want to throw my way via a review, feel free. I don't want to be a 'review whore' though – if you don't want to, that's fine too. In regards to Hinata's character, I tried to show that she has become a little more confident (with the way that she questions Tsunade as an example of this) but is still essentially the same shy, kind Hinata that we all know. As for the humorous touches I tried to add in to the chapter, yes, I'm a sucker for comedy and I'm trying to stay true to the humorous nature of the manga/anime as much as possible (and that applies for future events in this story too – I'm going to be fairly loose for the most part in terms of following canon, but it will stay along the original guidelines, with the Akatsuki still hunting the various Bijuu, Naruto still wanting to bring home Sasuke, etc.). Oh, and if anyone wants to get in contact with me in regards to becoming a beta reader for me, that would be great – I haven't had one for this chapter (though I hope it didn't show), and having a second opinion on some things would be very helpful. Last but not least, a shoji is a traditional Japanese sliding paper door and a futon is the traditional style of Japanese bedding. Ok, I think that's everything I wanted to say, so I'll see you next chapter!