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Gardening Love

By SourGrapes101


Gardening Love

Gardening Love

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: First it was just the seed of an idea. Then it became a hidden, secret dream. And then, thanks to Hinata, Naruto's idea of making his very own garden became a reality. Submitted for the NaruHina Gardening Contest.

Note: Both Naruto and Hinata are in their early twenties in this story.

Chapter One: Hard Work and Soft Memories

"Oh you've got to be kidding me!"

Naruto's shout split the still, stiflingly hot summer air of the Uzumaki-Hyuuga household's garden. Plunging his spade into the soil yet again, the blonde boy stared incredulously down into the hole that he'd spent all morning digging. Right in the middle, just sticking up through the surface of the earth, was a thick tree root that was blocking the path of his shovel.

Gritting his teeth, the blonde haired boy fumed silently. The hole went a good foot or so down into the ground and there were small mounds of earth on either side as evidence of the work he'd put in, but in his frustration it felt to him that it hadn't gotten any deeper at all since he'd started. It didn't help that the soil was so dry that it was practically rock-hard and that digging into it was back-breaking work, leaving him sore all over. And that root was the third one that had gotten in his way this morning. It was almost enough for him to make him want to throw down his shovel and leave the stupid hole. If not for all the tree limbs in the way he would've been done by now rather than sweating his ass off outside.

"I swear, if I see one more damn root I'm just gonna Rasengan it out of the way," he muttered to himself, squatting down to give his aching legs a break. "Either that or use an exploding tag…" He trailed off, too tired even to stay annoyed. The day was so hot that he felt like he was physically wilting under the scorching sun overhead and the sweat was quite literally dripping off him. Even though he'd taken both his jacket and T-shirt off earlier, leaving his top half bare, it had still hardly made a difference.

Wiping his grimy, dirt smeared hands together in a futile effort to clean himself up a bit – he knew he must have looked like something a cat had dragged in and quite frankly he felt that way too – he looked over longingly at the garden's patio. It was cast in shade where the house blocked out the sun's rays and it looked so inviting. Hell, any respite at all would've been nice right about now; he was panting like Akamaru in heat.

But despite his fatigue and irritation at the obstacles in the way of his digging, Naruto couldn't help but feel somewhat proud of his efforts. When he'd first moved in the garden had been a total dump; the flowerbeds were covered with weeds, the wooden fencing was half collapsed and rotted with all its paint peeled away and the lawn was a tangled, overgrown mess. But now the garden was nearly done. It had taken a good few months – missions, training and other day-to-day distractions had kept him from working on the garden as much as he would've liked – but slowly but surely the garden felt as though it had almost all come together.

And he knew for a fact that he couldn't have done it without Hinata's help. Not just the physical help either – without his long-time girlfriend's support and help he would never have gotten this far and the garden would still be nothing more than a fanciful idea in the back of his head. She had been the one to encourage him to make it into a reality.

All that was left now, to finish off the garden, was the hole; Hinata had told him that she had a surprise for him waiting at Ino's flower shop for her to collect for him and the hole needed to be dug in time for her return. He'd instantly been curious and tried to quiz her about it but all his attempts to wheedle the secret out of her had been unsuccessful. Hinata had just giggled at his pleading efforts and given him a quick goodbye kiss as she left to pick up whatever the gift was. Naruto could only guess that it was some kind of tree, based on the fact that she'd asked him to dig a hole, but what type of tree exactly he had no idea.

Naruto pouted, although he didn't really feel dismayed by her secrecy at all – in fact it was intriguing and it made him feel humbled that she was doing something so sweet and going to such lengths just to surprise him. But he just couldn't help but wish Hinata were here with him right now, even though he knew he was just being irrational. The garden wasn't just his, it was theirs, and the two of them had put so much time and effort into the garden that he felt somehow… incomplete without her company. And besides, she made everything, even the boring, dirty jobs, seem so much more… more fun. Whether it was going out with her to shop for food at the marketplace or even something as mundane as washing up after dinner, everything seemed much brighter and more cheerful when she was next to him.

Forgetting his tiredness for a moment as more thoughts of the Hyuuga heiress filled his mind, Naruto grinned to himself as he thought back to how the idea of renovating a garden together had begun. It had all started several months back, with him wanting to take his relationship with Hinata to the next level. The two of them had been dating for a few years and Naruto couldn't possibly have been happier. He enjoyed spending time with her so much and it felt completely natural – as far as he was concerned having her company was just about the best thing that had happened in his life. So when the idea of moving in together had struck him he'd instantly felt like it was the right decision; in his mind it wasn't like it was that big a step to make anyway, as she already stayed over in his small but cosy apartment as often as she could. The little signs that he wasn't the only inhabitant, like the neatly arranged sandals by the doormat and her various skincare products in the bathroom, always caused a warm glow to spread through his body. His home seemed even more homely with her – even a simple evening curled up on the sofa together was enough to make him appreciate her presence all the more.

Being around her was… comfortable. That was the only way Naruto could describe it to himself. He felt like he could open up to her about anything and she would understand and support him, and it was an incredibly uplifting sensation. It was completely different to anything he'd felt with anyone else. Even after dating for so long it was new and exciting in so many ways – having someone that actually wanted to listen to him and his stupid jokes or his rambling stories about his past missions was still something he struggled to get his head around – and their relationship had easily become the most important thing in Naruto's life. Her laughter at one of his dorky quips, or the playful teasing they engaged in, or even the way her palm felt clasped in his… They made him feel warm, content and loved.

In short, after years of living on his own, sharing his apartment with Hinata was a whole new experience for him and he had wanted to take it further. Not that it had been easy to raise the subject of moving in together – for some reason he couldn't help but get butterflies in the pit of his stomach just thinking about the prospect. He'd thought about maybe asking someone for advice on how to breach the topic – he was sure Iruka-sensei or Kakashi-sensei would be willing to lend an ear – but he'd dismissed the idea almost instantly. Maybe it had just been his stubbornness getting the better of him, but he had wanted to be the one to ask Hinata himself, without any assistance.

Looking at it logically he knew he shouldn't have been getting worked up over it in the first place – after all, the worst thing that could've happened was Hinata gently turning down the proposition in favour of just staying around his place a couple of nights a week, which he was still more than happy with – but he just didn't know how to ask her. Should he just come straight out and say it? Try and explain just how big a part of his life she was? Ask her indirectly by pretending to bring the idea of moving in together up in conversation to gauge her reaction? No matter how he tried to word it, none of it had sounded right in his head.

And to top it all off he and Hinata had been really busy over the last few days – Tsunade-baachan had given him a load of missions and Hinata was spending lots of time at the Hyuuga complex in meetings. Finding an opportunity to snatch more than a few words with her was tough enough, let alone asking her something as important as whether or not she wanted to live with him on a permanent basis.

After three or four days of debating back and forth whether or not to ask her, however, even in the limited time they had together Hinata had inevitably noticed that he was struggling with something. Naruto had to fight back another smile – she always seemed to recognise whenever he was feeling down and manage to cheer him up again, just by being herself. She had asked him over a quick dinner at Ichiraku's, when he had been fidgeting restlessly with his chopsticks and staring into the depths of only his second bowl of noodles, his appetite deserting him as he tried in vain to come up with the right words.

"Naruto-kun, is something wrong?" she questioned, concerned. "You've been awfully quiet all evening… Is there anything you want to talk about? You know I'll listen, right?" She laid one of her smaller hands on top of his and squeezed softly.

Naruto couldn't help but grin at her typically caring nature and squeezed her hand back. "Yeah, I know. It's just…" He paused, staring at Hinata under the cheerful glow cast by the Ichiraku lanterns overhead, and he felt a surge of love for the indigo haired kunoichi alongside him. And at the same time, a realisation struck him; he was being stupid. She was just about the most understanding, kind and loving girlfriend he could ever even begin to hope for, and what more incentive did he need to ask her than an example of just the sort of care and affection that had made him want to share his life with her in the first place?

Noticing that she was beginning to blush under his intense gaze, Naruto snapped back to reality with a shake of his head, suddenly decided. Right there and then, going with his gut instinct, he'd blurted out, "Hinata, do you… D'you wanna move in together?"

He knew it was typically blunt – and probably a bit tactless too – but as soon as he'd asked the question he instantly felt better for it. He'd always been spontaneous by nature and the moment had just felt right.

If he'd had any lingering doubts remaining, then her initial shocked expression being replaced by one of delight as she repeated, "Move in together? You mean like… living together? Permanently?" was more than enough to banish them completely from his mind.

He had nodded eagerly at her positive reaction but before he had a chance to speak further he was almost knocked off his stool as Hinata jumped up and engulfed him in a huge hug, a smile on her face that made her eyes light up like stars. The on-looking Teuchi and Ayame had immediately congratulated both of them, the ramen stall owner slapping Naruto jovially on the back and Ayame gushing over what she could get the two of them for a housewarming present. For the rest of the meal Naruto had worn a grin on his face from ear to ear that must have been visible from the top of the Hokage monument.

Hinata had, of course, slept over that night – although, Naruto recalled with a foxy grin, they certainly hadn't done much 'sleeping.' Almost without realising it a low, satisfied rumble emanated from deep in his throat; just imagining their bodies pressed against one another, the electric feel of her skin against his and the wonderful little moans she would let out in the heat of their passion were enough to make his heartbeat speed up.

Tempting as it was to lose himself in those admittedly very enticing thoughts, Naruto shook himself and refocused, remembering the morning after. When he had woken up the next day to see his girlfriend slumbering peacefully alongside him, her inky hair spread haphazardly across the pillow and her face bathed beautifully in the sunlight shining through the half-drawn curtains, it had been just about the best sight he could imagine. For a while he had just laid back and watched her, trying to catch all the little details. Things like the adorable way her nose would occasionally wrinkle up in her sleep, or how a couple of loose strands of hair would sway gently back and forth in time with her breathing, made him feel happier than he could put into words. If this was what he was going to wake up to every day, then that sounded perfect to him.

Just then Hinata had stirred, stretching her arms and murmuring a slightly drowsy, "Good morning." Naruto chuckled, shifting his weight to press his lips against hers in a simple kiss and breathing in – the flowery smell of her hair, probably from her shampoo, and the faintest trace of something tangier, like cinnamon, filled his nostrils.

As Hinata's eyes fluttered fully open and she returned his affections, wrapping an arm around his neck and pulling him in closer, Naruto grinned down at her, their noses almost touching. "Mornin'. Maybe I should wake you up like that more often." Wriggling his eyebrows teasingly at her he let out a laugh as she playfully shoved him away. "C'mon, let's have some breakfast."

Ten minutes later the two of them were sitting down at the table together, Hinata pouring a glass of orange juice for herself as Naruto began eating. "So, got any plans today?" he had asked, voice muffled by a mouthful of cereal.

Hinata had giggled at his less than perfect table manners. "I was thinking maybe we could go out somewhere together?" she offered. "It's been a while since I last had a whole day free – these clan meetings recently have been informative, but…" She trailed off with a frustrated sigh.

Naruto nodded sympathetically. Frankly he was amazed by how well Hinata managed to deal with some of the stuffier Hyuuga elders – he would never have the patience in him to put up with them for meeting after boring meeting. Although the clan was definitely heading in the right direction and slowly but steadily changing for the better thanks to the efforts of Hiashi, Neji, Hanabi and of course herself, the clan's traditionalist ways meant that even the most minor of changes was met with much foot-dragging and debate.

"Doing something together sounds good, yeah – I think I've got the day free too. Anything you had in mind?"

Hinata had hummed thoughtfully. "How about a picnic?" she suggested. "The weather seems perfect for it and Konoha Central Park looks beautiful right now with all the flowers in bloom. We could always bring some sandwiches for lunch, and, um…" She paused for a moment before adding modestly, "I could maybe make a quick something to bring along as well for dessert, if you'd like?"

Naruto nodded enthusiastically at the idea – anything that gave him an opportunity to try some of Hinata's cooking was definitely a plus point. "Yeah, that sounds great," he said eagerly, grinning as he noticed her cheeks redden the slightest tinge at his compliment. Hinata had gotten over most of her nervous habits, such as the occasional fainting spell and her stammer, but Naruto still prided himself on being able to draw out that adorably flustered look from time to time.

The rest of the morning the two of them had prepared for the picnic, Naruto finding an old rug for them to sit down on and packing a basket with their lunch, whilst Hinata worked on the dessert in the apartment's tiny kitchen area. Naruto had offered to help but she had wanted it to be a surprise for when they ate, even holding firm against Naruto's attempts to sneak a peek and his patented puppy-dog-eyes expression.

"C'mon, please?" he pleaded. "I'm gonna keep going on about it unless you show me." Pouting at her as she just smiled and shook her head at his clowning around, he drew closer, encircling his arms around her waist from behind and grinning as she let out a small squeak of surprise. "I'm too irresistible for you to hold out against forever," he mumbled teasingly against her ear.

With her back against his chest Hinata let out a huff, although her dancing eyes showed her affection as she turned her neck to look at him. "Uh-huh, sure. Sorry Naruto-kun, but you'll just have to wait a bit longer, ok?"

Naruto sighed theatrically, releasing her and crossing his arms with a petulant hmph. The corners of Hinata's mouth twitched upwards as she tried to fight back a smile at his childlike behaviour and, noticing, Naruto grinned lopsidedly back at her, wiggling his eyebrows. The two of them stared at each other with amusement for a moment, each waiting for the other to give in to laughter, before Naruto finally snickered. "Ok," he relented with a dorky grin. "I guess I can make an exception to my usual impatience just for you." He wrapped his arms around her waist once more, allowing her to lean against his body and smiling down at her as she nuzzled happily into his orange jacket.

Hinata giggled in the embrace as Naruto's hands ran whisper-like up and down her sides, provoking an almost-ticklish sensation, and hugged him back, running her hands through his spiky golden hair. She rested her head just above Naruto's strong, warm heartbeat, feeling his chest rise and fall beneath her with the rhythm of his breathing.

Finally Hinata had reluctantly broke from the hug, and, with a quick kiss and a murmured, "I love you," against his lips, ushered him out of the room to continue her cooking in private. Naruto found himself grinning like a loon. The simple, heartfelt nature of her words and the loving voice she had spoken them in made his stomach do back flips.

When Hinata's dessert was complete – hidden away inside a tin to avoid Naruto's prying eyes, which made him pout in a way that Hinata secretly found incredibly cute – the two of them had headed out to their picnic destination. The weather was just about perfect for it, with the sun shining brightly overhead and a light, cool breeze dancing through the air.

Reaching the entrance of the park and clasping the Hyuuga heiress' smaller hand in his, Naruto had breathed in deeply, enjoying the natural fragrance of the flowers and the feel of her alongside him. He glanced across at Hinata and smiled to himself; she seemed to radiate this calmness that he couldn't put into words, but it was relaxing and invigorating all at once. Catching her eye, Naruto grinned wordlessly and Hinata smiled back, leaning in closer with a happy humming sound.

The blonde haired boy felt his heart swell and he impulsively wrapped his arms around her in a hug. The little tender, affectionate gestures like that, which she only ever directed at him, were so… so her. They made him feel well and truly loved and even after all the time they'd spent dating it still never failed to send a delicious feeling of warmth all through his body.

"Thanks," he mumbled in her ear, holding her more tightly against him and enjoying the sensation of her body's warmth mingling with his.

Hinata looked up at him, pearly eyes filled with surprise. "What for?"

Naruto rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly with one hand, releasing her from the embrace. "For… for making me feel happy, I guess," he answered sheepishly.

Caught off guard by his simple response for a second, Hinata recovered and beamed at him. Somehow Naruto always seemed to know the exact right thing to say to make her feel lighter than air. Wrapping her arms around his neck she laid a kiss on one of his whiskered cheeks, prompting a pleased grin from the orange clad boy. "You make me feel happy too, Naruto-kun," she whispered. "Happier than I ever thought possible."

Naruto's grin became softer, almost shy, and Hinata was struck by how different it was to his usual, confident expression. As much as she loved his exuberance, knowing that there was another side to him, a side where he felt he could let down his guard and bare himself to her, made her love for him even stronger. Still holding hands, she rubbed her thumb gently over Naruto's callused knuckles, trying to convey without words just how wonderful it was to have his touch and to be spending time with him like this.

Of course Naruto was never the type to lose his usual enthusiasm for long and the two of them had ambled aimlessly through the park together, half-looking for a nice spot to eat but mainly just enjoying the sunshine, the fresh air and one another's company. Naruto had been recounting a typically exaggerated story about his last mission as they walked, complete with hand gestures and sound effects much to Hinata's amusement, when he saw what seemed like the ideal spot for their picnic.

Just up ahead, by the side of the park's lake, there was a tall willow tree that looked like the perfect place to eat, casting a dappled area of shade. Pointing it out to Hinata and seeing her nod her approval at his choice, Naruto quickly unfurled the rug he had packed for the two of them to sit down on and unpacked their lunch.

"So, what's the surprise?" he asked, taking a seat and looking up at her hopefully. "C'mon, you've kept me hanging all day!"

Hinata let out a laugh as she too sat down, getting comfortable next to him. "Well, I was thinking of maybe saving it for tomorrow…" she said playfully, pretending to deliberate.

Naruto's face momentarily dropped with disappointment but then he noticed the Hyuuga girl stifling her giggles at his reaction and scowled good-naturedly. "Tease," he mumbled, pretending to glare at her.

Hinata regained control of her laughter. "Sorry, here it is," she apologised, giving him a sympathetic smile as she reached into the basket and withdrew the tin. "I hope you like it."

Naruto's eyes had lit up as she removed the lid – it was a small but delicious-looking sponge cake, with cream, jam, strawberries, the works. "This looks amazing! You didn't have to make something like this just for me."

"I know, but I wanted to," she replied with a simple smile. "I like it when you enjoy my food."

Naruto's honest, thankful smile was all the response she needed, making her cheeks flush slightly and her whole body tingle, and the two of them cuddled up against one another to eat, alone together in their own little world. Naruto remembered just how much he'd enjoyed the entire meal and the cake in particular was incredible – he'd ended up having three pieces and getting jam smeared over his face, causing Hinata to let out an unladylike snort of laughter at his less-than-elegant efforts to reach it with his tongue whilst she ate her own slice far less messily.

After eating they had taken off their ninja sandals and dipped their feet in the cool, shallow waters of the lake, sitting down on the grassy bank. Naruto recalled with amusement how, when she had been looking the other direction, he had mischievously splashed her, drawing an indignant squeal from the Hyuuga heiress at the coldness of the water. In response to his cheeky 'what're you gonna do about it?' grin, she had promptly splashed him back, giggling as he let out a very undignified yelp, and it promptly developed into a splashing war, with both of them laughing and ending up soaked.

Having left his jacket next to Hinata's out in the heat of the afternoon sun to dry off, Naruto lay on his back in the shade of the tree canopy, one arm wrapped around Hinata's waist to draw her closer. The pale eyed girl had her eyes closed and let out a soft hum of contentment against his chest as she rested against the fabric of his somewhat damp t-shirt, smiling to herself, and Naruto affectionately pulled her more tightly into him, running his free hand idly through her inky hair. The comforting feeling of the Hyuuga girl resting against him, combined with the heat of the day and the faint noises of insects buzzing and the water of the lake lapping against the banks, were enough to make him feel completely relaxed.

"It's nice to be out here like this," Naruto commented. "Y'know, being able to appreciate nature and all that. I've been so busy with missions and stuff lately that being able to lie outside like this is such a relief."

Hinata nodded in agreement, turning her head slightly to meet Naruto's eyes. "It's one of the things I like best about living in Konoha. Everywhere is so green and alive. The Hyuuga compound's gardens are especially lovely at this time of year too…" She trailed off with a happy sigh.

"Yeah…" Naruto said quietly, staring off into space with a wistful look on his face.

Noticing his faraway expression, the indigo haired girl nudged him gently, smiling as he jerked slightly and came back to reality. "Did I say something profound? I don't think I've ever seen you look so thoughtful," she teased, pressing her lips to one of his whiskered cheeks.

"Eheheh, not really," Naruto grinned, shrugging. "It's just that…" He paused, feeling a little foolish for what he was about to say. "Well, it's kinda silly."

"That's never stopped you so far," Hinata pointed out impishly.

Naruto let out a burst of laughter at her mischievous response, drawing forth giggles from Hinata too. Recovering, Naruto scratched the back of his head with one hand sheepishly as he tried to put it into words. "Ok, well, I know it sounds stupid but… I guess, even when I was little, I've always kinda wished I could have a garden of my own, if that makes sense."

"A garden?" Hinata repeated, surprised. That certainly hadn't been what she'd expected him to say. She knew he liked keeping at least a couple of potted plants around his apartment, but she'd never pictured him as the green-fingered type.

"Yeah, I know," Naruto mumbled, abashed. He couldn't help feeling slightly embarrassed, even though it was irrational, at telling her something that he'd never revealed to anyone before. "I mean, I don't know anything about the serious gardening stuff like fertiliser or anything like that, but if it was just for fun…"

Her curiosity piqued, Hinata shifted slightly so that she could look directly into Naruto's face. "What made you want to have a garden in the first place, Naruto-kun?"

Naruto scrunched up his face with thought. He wasn't even completely sure himself; it had just been this urge that he couldn't explain. "I don't really know," he said honestly, shrugging. "I guess maybe, when I was little, back at the Academy… y'know, when I was all alone… I thought that those flowers would actually need me to care for them…" Naruto paused for a moment, his voice trailing off. Even now, with friends and the village behind him, it still left a dull ache when he thought about the void of loneliness that had enveloped him in the past.

Hinata met his gaze sympathetically, noticing his difficulty, and Naruto smiled his thanks as she gave his hand, still clasped in hers, a quick squeeze of comfort. Taking a deep breath, he had continued, albeit a little hesitantly. "One of the things I remember seeing from when I was younger is other kids playing with their parents and brothers and sisters… and I s'pose I thought that a garden was like – like a symbol. It made me think of safety and family. And I wanted it for myself too. One day, when everyone acknowledged me as a great shinobi, I'd have a garden of my own, that I could care for and make exactly the way I wanted it. It'd be personal, just mine. And all the little seeds would grow into flowers, like how I would grow into a ninja and become Hokage!" Glancing at Hinata, who had been quiet for all his explanation, Naruto stopped himself before he rambled on any further, scratching the back of his neck awkwardly. "So, uh, yeah. I mean, I know it's stupid –"

"That's not stupid at all," interrupted Hinata, the smallest hint of a frown etched across her forehead. "I think it sounds like a wonderful idea."

Naruto blinked. "Huh? You do?"

"Of course. It's a dream of yours, right? And I seem to remember a certain Hokage candidate saying that they would never give up on their dreams." She arched an amused eyebrow at Naruto.

He grinned at her teasingly. "That nindo's not just mine, y'know," he chuckled. "It's yours too, remember?"

"How could I forget?" Hinata smiled at him. "But if neither of us are going to go back on our word, I guess that means we'll both go through with the gardening idea together?"

"Wait, you mean you want us to garden together?" Naruto asked, his cerulean eyes widening with surprise as he sat up straighter. "Seriously? You'd like that?"

Hinata had nodded. "I've always enjoyed tending to the Hyuuga complex's garden, ever since I was little," she explained softly. "Watching all the flowers bloom, in all the different colours…" She trailed off, a whimsical tone to her voice. "When I was very young I learned how to press flowers, to capture the little moment in nature and keep it with me forever as a keepsake. It's something I've cherished ever since – it feels like I'm keeping a piece of my childhood too. So yes, I'd be happy to help with your garden, if you want me."

"Are you kidding? I'd love to do something like this with you!" Naruto agreed enthusiastically. "We could –" But his thoughts had suddenly been cut short as he realised a glaring flaw with their plan. "Ah, but… my apartment doesn't have a garden though," Naruto reminded her, crestfallen as reality struck. His shoulders visibly drooped with disappointment. "There isn't even a communal bit of grass to share…"

Hinata bit her lip, feeling equally deflated by their rather major oversight. She'd already been excited at the idea of spending more time with Naruto on something so personal to him.

But something inside her – perhaps that stubborn streak that made her so similar to Naruto, she mused – rejected the possibility of just giving up on the idea. Now that Naruto had brought it up, she wanted to find a way to make it work. And suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, an idea hit her.

"What if we found a new place together?" she asked excitedly. "A place with a garden?"

Naruto jerked abruptly and nearly cricked his neck as he turned his head sharply. "Our… our own place?" he repeated, disbelievingly. "You… really think we're ready for an actual house?"

Hinata nodded, the idea appealing to her more and more as she thought about it. "Sharing a house would be a big step, I know, but… I really think we're prepared for it. We've already spent so much time together at your apartment and we both want this, right? And…" She blushed slightly, but continued, "It would be a good start for if we eventually raise a family together."

Naruto's own face reddened slightly too. "I dunno. I mean, I like the idea. But it'd feel really strange leaving my apartment behind, y'know? I've lived there pretty much my entire life…"

Seeing his uncertainty, Hinata felt a little bad for her initial enthusiasm – the last thing she wanted to do was to force Naruto. "You don't have to, if you don't feel ready," she said softly. "It was only a suggestion. I just thought it might work, so that we could still be together and you could get your garden. I didn't mean to pressure you or anything like that."

"No, no, that's not it," Naruto assured her. "Trust me, I really like the idea. I just…" Naruto paused. What exactly was he concerned about? The more he thought about it, the more Hinata's suggestion appealed to him. They definitely had enough funds between them for a small home – doing plenty of successful, high ranking missions and saving carefully had left him with decent funds and Hinata was equally as prudent – and although his apartment was cosy and friendly, it wasn't exactly modern or roomy. And Hinata's comment about family, aside from causing a happy glow to emanate from his chest at the thought of being a father, was something that made him think seriously. Having his own home to raise a family someday…

Impulsively he stood up. "Y'know what? You're right," he said, his trademark grin across his face. "I know what we can do. We can have a trial period; maybe a week or two living together in my apartment. Then, if everything goes well, we can start looking for a new place together! What do you think?"

Hinata scrambled to her feet too, surprise written all over her face at his sudden shift in attitude. "You're sure?" she asked apprehensively. "You don't have to decide so quickly if you need more time to think about it. I don't mind, really."

Naruto stepped closer to her, taking hold of her hands in his. His confident but serious expression, combined with the way the dappled sunlight filtering through the canopy of the tree settled across his face, made Hinata's heart almost skip a beat. "Yeah, I know," he said insistently. "But I want to. I want to spend my life with you. I want to share a home together. I want to be with you."

Hinata was left breathless for a moment. Loving him could make her feel so weak and yet so strong simultaneously. And as Naruto closed the distance between them and pressed his lips against hers she responded in kind, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck and kissing back with fervour, trying to convey every last scrap of tenderness and affection she felt. Naruto encircled his arms around her waist and for what felt like hours the two of them had just stood there and held each other, too wrapped up in one another to care about the passing time.

Naruto smiled tenderly at the memory – the site by the lake was now one of their favourite dating spots, up there alongside Ichiraku's. But his next memory was a rather more nervous one – telling Hiashi that his daughter was going to be moving out.

He didn't dislike Hiashi or anything like that – he actually found him a reasonable enough guy, although a bit stiff and uptight – but he always got the impression that the Hyuuga clan head was watching him like a hawk. Naruto knew he was useless at decorum and under the scrutiny of the Hiashi's unwavering gaze he couldn't help but feel nervous. He always felt one step away from making some social blunder or accidentally saying something inappropriate that would leave him feeling like a clumsy, awkward idiot. It wasn't so much that he was afraid of Hiashi's disapproval, but he still wanted to make a good impression for Hinata's sake. She had stuck up for him when they had first started dating – he still vividly remembered, with a faint sense of pride, that respectful but steely look in her eye when she had revealed the news to her father – and in return he wanted to prove that Hinata had made the right choice in choosing him.

But that hadn't made telling Hiashi about his daughter's choice to leave the Hyuuga compound any easier. Hinata had tried to soothe him by saying that her father would be understanding and fair, but the orange clad boy couldn't help but feel nervous nonetheless. Hiashi was an intimidating presence, to put it mildly, what with his granite-like features making him nearly impossible to read.

It had been a couple of days after the talk by the lakeside that they had decided to break the news, over a dinner at the Hyuuga compound. It had at least been a less formal atmosphere, with Neji and Hanabi eating with them as well, and Naruto hoped that Hiashi would be more accepting with the extra company. To try and make things easier, Hinata had stayed the past few nights at the complex; sleeping at Naruto's apartment one or two nights a week was one thing, but four or five days in a row would have surely set the alarm bells ringing. Although Naruto was impatient for her to move in with him he reluctantly agreed that if it helped grease the wheels a little then it would be worth it in the long run to wait just a bit longer.

Once the meal had commenced Naruto had to fight against the urge to fidget. The dinner had felt like it was dragging on for ages, whatwith the burden of the news he had to break weighing him down, and his taste seemed to have deserted him – the main course was some sort of fish that had clearly been expertly prepared in the Hyuuga kitchens, but he was so on edge that he might as well have been chewing cardboard. The worst part was not being able to speak privately with Hinata. She had been sitting right the way across the table from him, next to her cousin, and all he could do was try to catch her eye for moral support. But he knew that he just had to stick it out and gritted his teeth, attempting to hide his tension as best he could.

As they finally moved onto a large array of desserts and there was a momentary lull in the conversation, Naruto had decided it was at last time and cleared his throat, glancing over at Hiashi for permission to speak. The Hyuuga clan head raised one eyebrow but showed no sign of objection.

Standing up, Naruto tried to quell the butterflies in his stomach by speaking as confidently as he could. Neji and Hanabi both looked up at him curiously as he tried to keep his composure. "Sorry for the interruption, but I, erm, have something important I wanna say. I've thought about this hard and, well, me and Hinata… we've decided we wanna move in together."

There was a brief silence that was punctuated by Neji almost choking on his first mouthful of cheesecake at Naruto's announcement. Alarmed, Hinata patted him on the back until his coughing subsided and Hanabi's eyes instantly fixed on Hinata, her gaze questioning. Recovering, Neji turned to his cousin as well and Hinata's nod, complete with a pink blush settling across her cheeks, was all the answer needed.

"Well, that was… unexpected," Neji gasped, still trying to regain his breath after his coughing fit. "When did the two of you decide this?"

"Indeed," Hiashi said deliberately, his face unreadable and his eyes slowly roaming from Naruto to Hinata and back again. "And, perhaps more to the point, what exactly was your reasoning behind such a life-changing decision?"

Naruto took a deep breath to settle his nerves. "I didn't take this decision lightly," he said seriously. "I wanted Hinata to move in with me because… because I wanted to show how important this relationship is to me." He paused, mouth feeling about as dry as sandpaper, and wetted his lips. "I care about her," he continued hoarsely. "I mean really care about her. And I wanted to show just how committed I was. Living together would mean everything to me."

Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Hanabi grinning and nudging her sister, who was smiling beautifully, but tempting as it was to turn his head Naruto kept his eyes fixed firmly on Hiashi's for the entirety of his mini-speech. The older man's expression had remained frustratingly neutral and Naruto wished that he would show something; he didn't even look surprised.

"Please, Outo-sama," appealed Hinata, also standing and moving next to Naruto. She clasped hold of his hand and felt that familiar surge of warmth and confidence flowing through her body as he responded with a quick squeeze. "Both Naruto-kun and I are taking this decision seriously. We've put our trust in one enough with this step – and we trust each other because we love each other."

Seeing Hiashi's face shift ever so slightly into a genuinely tender expression at his daughter's words, Naruto waited on tenterhooks for a few seconds, breath baited for an answer. His whole body was so active with nervous energy that he was finding it hard to stand still – he just wished Hiashi would make a decision already. "So, uh, what do you say?" he asked as the silence stretched out. "Are you ok with Hinata staying with me?"

Hiashi sighed, looking very old for a moment. "I am aware that I have not always been the most attentive father, but when it comes to matters of the heart I trust my daughter's judgement. Although you are an…" Hiashi paused diplomatically, searching for the right word. Coughing into a closed fist, he continued, "An unconventional choice for a partner, it is clear to see that Hinata truly cares for you. And despite your, ahem, quirks –" Hiashi looked pointedly at Naruto's orange clothing, sticking out like a sore thumb against the tasteful decor of the dining room "– I am aware of your positive attributes and that you care for her too. I have no reason to oppose the two of you moving in together so long as you make my daughter happy."

He glanced over at Hinata, giving her a small but genuine smile, and Hinata returned it tremulously, her eyes bright. But his eyes hardened as his gaze flicked back to Naruto. "Just be sure it stays that way," he added sternly.

Naruto nodded fiercely, not backing down to the clan head's warning. Now that he had said his piece he almost wanted to say it again; his body was still buzzing with adrenaline and now a mixture of relief and delight too. "Don't worry. It will."

Hiashi seemed satisfied. "Good. In that case, shall we return to our desserts?"

As they all went back to eating, Naruto and Hinata sitting down with matching smiles across the table at one another, the previously silent Hanabi hid a smirk behind a hand. "So, if neechan is moving out… Does this mean I'm going to be an auntie soon?" she asked conversationally.

Immediately Hinata let out a mortified squeak, Neji very nearly began choking on his food again and Hiashi dropped his spoon, visibly stiffening at the implications of his youngest daughter's words.

"No!" cried Naruto, his voice panicked as he waved his arms defensively. The last thing he wanted was for Hiashi to get the wrong idea into his head – or Neji either for that matter, judging by the glare directed his way by the Hyuuga clan's Jyuuken prodigy. "No, nothing like that! I – I just wanted to –" He cut himself off just in time; he had very nearly blurted out, 'I just wanted to get closer to Hinata,' which would've been just about the worst possible thing he could have said.

Thankfully Hinata stepped in before he put his foot in his mouth. "Um, we don't have any plans for children yet," she mumbled, her head ducked in a futile effort to hide the cherry red blush that had appeared all over her face. "I'd like to raise a family at some point in the future, after we're married… but not now."

"Y-Yeah," Naruto agreed, his relief palpable. "I'd love to have a family, but I don't think I'm ready to be a daddy just yet."

Thankfully Hiashi had let the issue drop – although not without eyeing Naruto for a few more seconds, just for good measure, and a stern look at Hanabi, who merely smiled innocently – and the remainder of the dinner had proceeded without further interruptions. Over the next few days Hinata had begun gathering up her belongings, with the help of Neji and Hanabi, and by the end of the week she had said her heartfelt goodbyes to her old home and moved into Naruto's apartment.

After their agreed two week 'trial' period of living together, which had gone even better than Naruto had hoped, the two of them had started searching for a new home. It had taken several different house viewings, but finally they had stumbled upon the one that was right for them. Naruto had instantly gotten a good feeling from it; the house was just the right size, modern and well furbished. And, crucially, the garden was both large and secluded. Hinata's first impression had been equally as favourable and, after finishing the tour, they had both agreed that it was the right place for them.

The moving in process had of course been long and drawn-out, and Naruto was thoroughly sick of the sheer amount of forms and contracts he had to read, but at last the day came when they could move in. And, after the unpacking process was finally over and done with – Naruto still couldn't believe just how many possessions he owned or how they had even fitted into his old apartment – they could finally make a start on the garden together.

However, that had been a task all of its own. Although the previous owners had left the house in a good condition, the same could not be said about the garden and it had been a mammoth task to get it into a fit state, especially as both Naruto and Hinata only really had the weekends free.

But as Naruto looked around the garden, surveying it with a sense of accomplishment, everywhere there were signs of the work and care he and Hinata had put into renovating it and the moments they'd shared together. Like the flowerbeds, just beginning to show signs of growth; Naruto fondly remembered Hinata's spur-of-the-moment suggestion that they scatter the seeds randomly when planting them, so that when the flowers did bloom there would be a vibrant burst of different hues and tones. Or the new fence panels that they had replaced the old, rotting ones with; Naruto recalled with a grin how he had jokingly pleaded with her for them to be painted orange, with Hinata shaking her head in amusement. Everywhere he looked there was another sign of the time he and Hinata had spent together doing something they loved and it made him feel that every last bit of effort he'd put in had been completely worthwhile.

And now all that was left for their garden vision to be complete was this hole.

Staring at it with renewed determination, Naruto gripped the spade more firmly. Hinata would be back soon and he had promised he would have it done by the time she returned with his surprise. And there was no way he was going to go back on his word. Grinning to himself at the thought, Naruto plunged the spade back into the soil. That was his – no, their nindo.

Author's Notes: I've had this idea brewing in the back of my head for a while now and when I saw that the NaruHina Fanclub over on the Naruto Forums website were having a contest revolving around the theme of gardening I decided it was the perfect chance to write the idea out. I'm hardly the competitive sort, but I wanted to enter just to see what I could come up with and it's been very fun getting this chapter done. It was certainly tricky in stages though – Hiashi's character is a difficult one to write and striking a balance between 'imposing' and 'accepting' was very difficult when it came to gauging his most likely reaction to Hinata moving out. Not to mention that the flashback takes up so much of this first chapter that it was difficult to keep it in the past tense. But, all in all, I'm definitely satisfied with the final outcome, particularly the cute 'aww' moments between Naruto and Hinata and especially the little scene at the park. And hey, I'm normally hyper-critical of my work, to try and get it to the absolute best quality I'm capable of, so for me to be genuinely happy with what I've written is a nice surprise! As for a few 'shout outs,' I'd like to thank a few people on for their support. Firstly both eyeofthegoddess and NessaMoon for the feedback they gave whilst this fic was still in its first draft, which really helped shape it. And also Perpetual159, whose writing style is something that I wanted to pay homage to (and, hopefully, do justice). Her wonderful portrayal of the sweet, loving banter that Naruto and Hinata engage in within her own fics has been a big influence on my writing, no doubt. Anyway, reviews would of course be appreciated and the second chapter is in the works, so until then I hope you enjoyed the story so far, bye!

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