The Princess and the Tower: an Idiot's Guide to Getting a Date
"I got this."
On a sunny summer day in one of Konoha's many alleyways, Naruto was talking to himself. Though the more appropriate phrase would be "psyching himself up."
"I got this!"
This sudden habit of talking to himself hadn't sprung from nothing in particular. Something remarkable, perhaps even downright impossible, had happened.
Naruto had noticed something.
Now, Naruto could hardly be called the most attentive ninja in the lands. Or even the second most attentive. Actually, if there were some sort of contest for attentiveness, Naruto would probably take last place, because he wouldn't even have noticed the contest being held in the first place.
And yet, Naruto had noticed something.
Hinata Hyuuga liked him. A lot.
He'd gotten his first hint a couple months ago, when the whole village had been flattened, and she'd told him she'd loved him. That had been his first clue.
He hadn't put it together at the time, because he'd assumed she'd meant it in the same way he loved Sakura, or tolerated Sasuke. A comrade, someone she would fight a near-literal god for: a friend.
But after some intense contemplation, Naruto had begun to realize that wasn't the case anymore.
Maybe, just maybe, Hinata had meant something more than that.
Naruto may not have been attentive, but he did know himself, and with that knowledge had come the certainty that there was no way he'd be able to figure out the thing desperately nudging at the back of his brain alone.
So, he'd gone to Sakura.
"Hey Sakura!" Naruto yelled, tripping through the pink-haired girl's doorway and executing a near perfect cartwheel that neatly kicked her only fan, slowly whirling on the ceiling, in two. The bottom half flew out an open window: the top continued to rattle, with nothing left to spin. "How do you tell if someone likes you?"
Sakura stared at him, a vein slowly pushing its way up through her forehead.
"Naruto," she muttered, gritting her teeth and standing up, laying aside the medical text she'd been reading. "What did you do?"
"Uh… nothing?" Naruto scratched the back of his head, laughing uncomfortably. "I just need to know-"
"You sure?" Sakura asked, and Naruto backed up a step. "Are you sure you didn't do anything?"
Naruto stared at her with wide eyes. "I'm… pretty sure?" he asked, stealthily glancing left and right, forming an exit strategy. That window looked good: a fan could fit through there, easy. He could definitely make it through-
Sakura sighed, and Naruto relaxed, grinning easily. He knew what that sound meant.
"Anyway!" he chirped. "I got a question!"
Sakura kneaded her forehead, groaning. "What is it, Naruto? Can you hurry? I need to be somewhere pretty soon."
"It's okay! It's okay! It'll just take a minute!" Naruto assured her.
"Fine," Sakura conceded. "What is it? I didn't catch it that first time."
"Right! Uh…" Naruto frowned, and bent forwards, lowering his voice. Sakura mirrored the motion, bringing their faces close together. Naruto cupped a hand over his mouth.
"How do you know if someone likes you? Y'know, like…"
Sakura raised an eyebrow as Naruto scrambled to find the word. "You mean romantically?"
"Yeah! That's it!" Naruto exulted, pulling back, subtlety forgotten. "Like, dating! How do you know?"
His teammate frowned, blinking. "Well, you can never be sure, really." She cocked her head. "What brought this on?"
Naruto did his best to look innocent. He did poorly. "Nothing! Just, y'know, curious!"
"Uh huh." If skepticism were a physical force, Sakura's would have made her punches look like love taps. "Okay then. Well…"
She sat back down on her couch, crossing her legs and bringing her hands up to her chin in an unconscious mimicry of the Fifth Hokage. Naruto stayed standing, leaning on one of the couch's arms.
"Well, I guess they probably know you pretty well," she posited.
"Yeah," Sakura confirmed. "If it's just a physical thing, they might only have seen you around…" She glanced at him. "But you're pretty famous, Naruto, and people like that tend to be… loud."
Sakura grimaced: she was speaking from personal experience. Naruto just nodded thoughtfully. "Uh huh?"
Internally, he was turning Sakura's words over.
Someone who knew him pretty well, huh?
Hinata did know him pretty well. They shared a nindō, even…
Sakura continued, Naruto paying her most of his attention.
"They probably look for opportunities to talk to you…"
Huh. Ever since the end of the war, Hinata had taken the time to talk to him whenever they passed by. But so did most of his friends.
But not so consistently: she always seemed to have something to talk about, and not just meaningless stuff. It was always a new technique, or questions about the negotiations with Kumo, or how the new Jinchūriki were doing…
Naruto's hand wandered to where he'd once held Kurama. Sakura kept listing examples.
"They would probably refuse to accept compliments, or at least redirect them. Lots of girls don't like seeming vain."
Naruto blinked. He'd never seen Hinata accept a compliment, and particularly not from him.
Also weird. But maybe-
"Hmm…" Sakura seemed to be running out of 'advice'. "I guess if you're lucky, they might blush around you a lot. Maybe even act faint if you really get to them."
Naruto fell over with a dull thud.
"What!?" he shouted from the floor. Sakura leaned back, glancing over the back of the couch.
"Oh yeah," she said carelessly. "Didn't you know? If they're blushing, or stuttering, or doing something with their hands…" She stuck her hands out and twiddled the fingers together as an example, Naruto staring with alarmed eyes. "Then that's almost always a sure sign."
"What?" Naruto squeaked again, and then he shot for his feet, headed towards the door.
"So, who is-" Sakura had time to say, before the door slammed shut, and the sound of running feat withdrew. She was left alone in her quiet apartment, wind brushing by the open window.
She snorted, leaning back down and reopening the book on medical seals she'd been studying.
"Took him long enough."
With that revelation, Naruto had retreated to a secluded alley, trying to process the information.
Hinata liked him?
Hinata liked him?
It made somewhere between a little and absolutely no sense to him, but Naruto had never been one to question something like this.
So, the immediate concern became how to express this sudden realization.
Naruto had concluded, of course, that he had to ask her out. That was how guys said they liked someone, right?
He'd never really done it before, but really, how hard could it be? People asked other people out all the time!
Hence, the current session of talking to himself.
"I got this!" Naruto concluded, pounding his fists together.
The blond froze, slowly turning his head towards the voice.
Hinata stood at the entrance of the alley, a puzzled look on her face, with her hands clasped in front of her.
"What are you doing back here? Were you talking to someone?" she asked, stepping forward.
Naruto gulped. He hadn't expected this. Who could have? It was a million to one chance.
He considered the moment, as Hinata stared at him in confusion. He quickly concluded there were three things he could do.
One, say nothing, and just stand there for the rest of the day and probably a good chunk of the next. Hinata would get bored eventually, or maybe go to get help, and then he could make his getaway.
Two, just run for it. Hinata was fast, but he was faster.
But she had the Byakugan, meaning that unless he made it ten or fifteen kilometers away from her, she wouldn't lose track of him. So running was out of the question.
Three… ask her out, and get it over with now.
Naruto swallowed loudly again.
"Hey Hinata?" he asked, his voice holding none of his normally endless confidence.
"Would you, uh, maybe, you know…" he fumbled the words, his mind going blank, and Hinata watched him with concern.
"Naruto, are you okay?" She stepped closer, and he broke out in a cold sweat. "Do you need me to get someone?"
"I'm fine!" he laughed, a laugh he hadn't let out for years. Hinata's eyes widened.
That was Naruto's "I'm not fine" laugh. She knew it a little too well.
"Naruto…" she murmured, stepping even closer. "It's okay. You can tell me. What's wrong?
"Umm… it's just…" Naruto flailed his arms impotently, clamping them down on his head. "Grah!"
He spun away and then back towards the Hyuuga. "Hinata!"
"What?" she asked, startled.
"Would you like to-"
Something punched him in the back of the neck, hard, and the world went gray. Naruto slumped over, his mind fuzzier than normal. Hinata yelped, but he barely noticed. The world seemed to be moving in slow motion.
He hit the ground and stayed there, his head swimming. Everything below the neck felt numb.
But it was a familiar numbness. He'd felt it, four years ago, during the Chunin Exams. In the finals, in fact.
It felt a lot like a Gentle Fist punch.
He pulled his head up, slowly, painfully, and found himself staring into the milk-white eyes of another Hyuuga, one he only knew in passing.
Hiashi Hyuuga. Who was, coincidentally, Hinata's father.
"Uh oh," Naruto slurred.
"'Uh oh' indeed," Hiashi said calmly. He leaned down. "Young man, you couldn't possibly have been about to do what I thought you were, could you?"
"Uh…" Naruto groaned. "Depends. Would that be asking out your daughter?"
Hiashi nodded wordlessly, his lips tight.
"Then yeah," Naruto admitted guilelessly. "I was totally about to do that."
"Hmm." Hiashi sounded rather unimpressed. He straightened back up, crossing his arms. "But have you earned that right?"
"What?" Naruto asked, struggling to his hands and knees. "What does that even… I saved the world!"
"Perhaps," Hiashi said, watching him with a cocked eyebrow. "But none of us saw anything after that cursed jutsu was enacted, did we? It could very well have been-"
"Don't you say it!" Naruto protested.
"-Sasuke Uchiha who saved the world," Hiashi finished.
"Oh c'mon!" Naruto managed to make it to one foot. "Why does everyone say that?! What's he got that I-"
"He can fly," Hiashi pointed out carelessly.
"I could too!" Naruto whined.
"Really?" Hiashi raised an eyebrow. "I don't believe anyone has ever seen that either."
"Really?!" Naruto shouted, before wincing. It was probably a bad idea to shout at Hinata's dad, particularly after he'd done his best to paralyze him a couple seconds ago. "I mean, what's it to you if-" He glanced around Hiashi, and found Hinata lying on the ground, unconscious.
His eyes snapped back to the older Hyuuga. "You knocked her out?" he shouted incredulously. Hiashi just shrugged.
"She would have gotten in the way," he said simply.
Naruto blinked. "I… wow. That's just…" He ran out of words, and sighed. "Look, can I just ask her out?"
"You'll have to get permission from me first," Hiashi said, his arms still crossed.
"Alright…" Naruto hazarded. "Can I have permission to ask your daughter out?"
"Oh c'mon!" Naruto said, finally making it all the way to his feet. "Why not? There's nothing wrong with it, right? If she doesn't want to, she can just say no!"
Hiashi's face didn't shift from its stone-like aspect. He turned and bent down, lifting his daughter up and over his shoulder.
"That's not good enough, Naruto," he said with an unmistakable finality. "If you want the opportunity to date my daughter, you must earn the right."
"All right!" Naruto yelled. "Jeeze. Whad'ya want me to do?" He struck a thoughtful pose. "Save the whole village? Oh wait!" He dropped out of it. "I already did that!"
Hiashi just snorted. "So naïve." He turned away. "Four years ago, you and my daughter both learned what it was to be shinobi. You fought, not against each other, but against near impossible odds. You succeeded, while she succumbed. You did this in a very specific place."
He began walking up the wall, Hinata's long dark hair dangling over his shoulder alongside his own. "Go there, and we'll see if you can earn my approval. Until then…"
He turned his head back, the Byakugan activating. "Don't. Bother."
Naruto shivered, and Hiashi reached the roof of the building he was walking up. He paused there, at the lip, and glanced back at Naruto.
"She'll be waiting at the top," he said, and then he was gone.
"Wuh?" Naruto muttered. He raised his voice. "Hey!"
There wasn't a response. Naruto decided that this was obviously because Hiashi couldn't hear him.
"HEY!" he yelled at the top of his lungs. "Whad'ya mean, 'a very specific place'?!"
"Jeez. Do you have to be so loud?"
Naruto snapped his head to the left, and found Shikamaru Nara standing there, leaning against the wall with his hands behind his head.
"Hey!" he yelped. "How long have you been standing there?"
Shikamaru pushed off the wall. "I just got here: all the screaming was troublesome. I figured it was worth checking out."
Naruto nodded furiously. "It was! Hinata got kidnapped!"
Shikamaru's hands dropped. "Wait, what?"
"Yeah!" Somehow, Naruto's nodding grew even more emphatic. "Her dad jumped in and knocked her out!"
Shikamaru froze, and then relaxed, his hands wandering down to a pouch on his hip. He withdrew a pale, thin cigarette.
"Oh," he said, sounding completely unsurprised.
"'Oh'?" Naruto asked, bringing his hands up. "That's all you got? 'Oh'? We gotta help her!"
The Nara shrugged. "She'll be fine. I bet you tried to ask her out, huh?"
Naruto stood stock-still. "How the hell did you know that?"
"What else would make a dad knock out and drag away his own daughter?"
Naruto opened his mouth, and Shikamaru nonchalantly flipped out a lighter, pointing it like a kunai.
"Don't answer that."
Naruto closed his mouth as Shikamaru lit his cigarette.
"So," he said casually. "He say anything to you?"
Naruto stared at the slightly taller boy for a minute. "Uh, yeah," he finally said, blinking. "He told me… uh…"
He focused, his forehead creasing. "He told me to go somewhere."
"Where?" Shikamaru didn't sound the least bit interested in the answer, but Naruto knew that he wouldn't have asked in the first place if that were the case.
"To the place where we… 'learned what it was to be shinobi'." Naruto said. "Where I succeeded, and she succumbed."
"What's it mean, though?" Naruto leaned against the wall, crossing his arms. Shikamaru followed him. "I guess… where'd I learn what a shinobi was?"
"Training field?" Shikamaru said casually.
"Nah. He said… that she'd be waiting at the top." Naruto scrunched his face up. "Why's that sound so familiar?"
Shikamaru snapped his fingers. "It's the tower, of course." He took a draw from his cigarette.
"In the Forest of Death. Remember? That big-ass tower in the center? The Chunin Exams?" Shikamaru leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes. "Isn't that where you learned what a shinobi was?"
"Oh yeah!" Naruto shot away from the wall. Shikamaru opened his eyes and blinked, before shrugging.
"You heading there?" he asked idly.
"'Course I am!" Naruto said. "I swore to myself I'd ask Hinata out! I never-"
"Go back on your word, yeah yeah," Shikamaru waved him off. "Go do it, then, huh?"
Naruto grinned. "Right!" He turned to go, before looking back. "Thanks for the help, Shikamaru!"
The Nara lazily saluted him, and Naruto's smile widened, before he took off, bursting out of the alley and sprinting down the street.
He had a girl to ask out.
Shikamaru took one last drag of the cigarette, before dropping it and crushing it under his sandal.
"You were right," he said lazily. "He did need some help."
"Unsurprising. Uzumaki never was the quickest."
"Hey," Shikamaru protested mildly. "He's just not good when it comes to stuff like this. Riddles aren't his thing, you know?"
Neji Hyuuga emerged from the shadow cast by a trash bin, wearing a grim smile and smelling faintly of old rice.
"I'll be sure to keep that in mind," he said, and then he vanished, up the wall and out of sight.
"Man." Shikamaru stuffed his hands in his pockets, shuffling his way out of the alley. "That was ominous."
He paused at the entrance, watching the passing pedestrians. His hand wandered down to the pouch at his hip again, before he shrugged and lifted it away.
"Eh," he muttered, making his way into the crowd.
"Too troublesome for me."
I got no idea where this came from. But I definitely like it.
My first ever semi-crack fic... let us see how deep this rabbit hole goes.