Ramen And a Walk
No sooner had Naruto curled into a ball than he thought of a plan, uncurled and put his hands into his favorite seal (A/N-This all happened in the space of about three seconds) "KAGE BUNSHIN NO JUTSU!" A perfect copy of Naruto formed in front of him. He pushed off the clone, made a backwards flip and landed safely on a large branch.
Tsunade just stared in shock. She had been so sure that she was going to have to rescue the boy. Kakashi would be so pissed if he found out Naruto passed that one, she thought with a smirk.
Naruto jumped up to the next branch to continue when he heard a shrill whistle from below. He turned to see Tsunade moving her hand in a 'come here' gesture.
"That's enough for now, Naruto!" Tsunade yelled.
"But I'm not tired!"
"I know that! But I need to get to work!"
Naruto half sighed, half growled in defeat before jumping down from his perch in the tree.
Tsunade smiled. "You did well, brat. I'm proud of you," she remarked, ruffling the boy's hair.
Naruto shook his head to remove the offending hand. Tsunade laughed. "Let's go, Naruto."
Naruto smiled and followed the Fifth back to the house."Just remember to stay away from the course while I'm gone," Tsunade said as she grabbed a few books from her desk at the house.
"I know," Naruto said with a bit of irritation. He didn't like being babied.
Tsunade was about to go out the door when she turned her head back to look at Naruto. "Oh, and I have something I want to talk to you about when I get home," she said with a smile.
Naruto cocked an eyebrow. "Okay."
Tsunade turned back to the door and made a half wave. "Later."
Naruto decided to explore the house a bit. He hadn't had much time to look around since he was almost always at the training field. After walking through a couple of rooms he found a long, glass hallway filled with plants. There was a cobblestone path leading down the center of it. He stepped into the hall. This feels great! He noted the steam around him. It's so warm in here.
At the end of the hall was a door with a sign on it that read: 'Hot spring'. Naruto's eyes widened in delight. When he saw the 'in use' sign his expression changed to one of disappointment. "It could be a guy in there though." he thought. He pushed the door open just a crack. "Is anyone in here!" he asked. No answer. "HELLO!" he shouted. He looked at the sign again. "Maybe someone left the sign on the wrong side?"
Naruto pushed the door open the rest of the way and walked in. He had difficulty seeing the hot spring due to the steam and stepped right off the edge into the hot water. "AHHHHH!" he yelled at the temperature of the water. He heard another scream that was not his own and decidedly female. He squinted in the steam to see Nabiki backed up against the side of the spring, holding a towel up around her important features. "AH! Nabiki-chan. F...forgive me!" he said as he waved his hands franticly in the air in front of his face. "This isn't what it looks like, I swear!" he sputtered. He covered his eyes and waited to be slapped.
Nabiki calmly removed the headphones that had kept her from hearing Naruto earlier. "Naruto-kun? Didn't you see the sign on the door," she asked with a frown.
Naruto cautiously straightened himself. "Y...Yeah. But no one said anything when I ask if anyone was in here."
Nabiki winced. "It's my fault then. I was listening to some music. Guess I had it up too loud, huh?" she said with a half laugh.
Naruto blinked. "You're...not gonna hit me?"
Nabiki looked at him strangely. "Why would I? It was an honest mistake?"
Naruto raised his eyebrows. "If it had been Sakura she would've decked me for sure."
"You can go now," Nabiki said with a 'You've worn out your welcome' look.
Naruto stood and got out of the water immediately. "Y... yeah. Eh heh. Bye!" he said quickly just before bolting out of the room.
Nabiki laughed. "Too bad he's four years younger than me," she lamented, "He's pretty cute." With that she sunk back into the relaxing water.
Tsunade spread out the previous day's reports in front of her on the desk. She sighed. Might as well get started, she thought just before she heard a knock at the door. "Yes?"
Genma poked his head in. "Tsunade-sama. The head elder wishes to speak with you."
Tsunade cocked an eyebrow in interest. "Oh?" She straightened herself and eh hemmed. "Show her in then." The head elder walked in and Genma left the two women alone. "So—What do I owe the honor of this visit?"
The elder (A/N-I'm pretty sure they've never mentioned her name.) pulled a small envelope from the obi of her kimono. "The third left instructions to give this to the new Hokage once they had settled into their duties. I believe the time has come," she finished as she handed the envelope to Tsunade.
Tsunade turned over the rather plain looking envelope a few times. "What's it about?"
"I do not know. I was told the contents were for your eyes only," the elder replied.
"I see. Thank you, Elder," Tsunade said with a respectful nod.
The Elder nodded in kind and left the room.
Tsunade sighed. "Might as well open it," she said as she loosened the metal fastener on the envelope. She unfolded the one page letter and began to read. After a short moment her eyes went wide. "This...this is—My God. How could he have kept something like this from him?"
Naruto aimlessly wandered around the streets of Konoha, looking for something to do. He suddenly noticed Hinata wandering around in circles, staring intently at the ground. "Hinata?" he said, walking over to her.
Hinata jumped a little at hearing her name called by her favorite voice in the world. She looked up. "N...Naruto-kun."
Hinata's cheeks took on a slight pink tinge. "I...I was going to buy some g...groceries. B...but, I dropped my money. I th...think it's around here somewhere," she said, looking around a bit.
Naruto smiled. "Want me to help you find it?"
Hinata waved her hands in the air. "N…no. I couldn't ask y...you to go to the trouble..." she said quickly, looking down as she finished.
"Bah! It's no trouble at all," Naruto said with a grin. "What kind of friend would I be if I didn't help?"
"Th..thank you, Naruto-kun."
The two teens began looking around for Hinata's money. Not long into their search Naruto spotted what looked like a small billfold underneath the outside display of Ino's family shop. "Hinata, is that it?" he asked pointing to what he had found.
Hinata smiled. "Yes, it is!" She picked up the billfold and quickly checked for missing bills. Satisfied that the money was all there she turned to Naruto. "Th...thank you so much, Naruto-kun!"
Naruto grinned. "No problem!"
Hinata suddenly felt bold. "N...Naruto-kun? I would like to t...treat you to ramen as a reward."
Naruto's eyes lit up instantly. "For real!"
"Y...yes," Hinata replied with an embarrassed smile.
"Ya HAA! Let's go Hinata!" He grabbed Hinata's hand, not realizing the gesture would turn the poor girl into pudding.
"N...Naruto-kun," Hinata said quietly. Seeing that Naruto hadn't heard her she decided to just enjoy the feeling of holding his hand; even if he didn't mean anything romantic by it.Naruto finished off his bowl of ramen. "Thanks a lot, Hinata!" he said with that foxy grin of his.
Hinata blushed a little. "You're welcome, Naruto-kun. W...would you like another bowl?"
"Really?! You're the best Hinata!" Naruto said just before he ordered his second bowl.
Naruto grabbed his chopsticks and started eating. He gulped down his current bite and looked at the young Hyuuga. "Hey, Hinata. I just noticed today. You're stuttering less lately," he said with a smile.
This turned Hinata bright red. "Th...thank you, Naruto-kun."
Naruto smiled and went back to eating.
Hinata just watched him eat. Why can't I say anything to him? Why? Why won't my voice work?
Naruto finished his bowl and noticed Hinata staring at him. For no reason he could think of, this made him blush a bit. "Hinata?"
Hinata shook her head to banish her current train of thought. "Y..yes."
Naruto frowned at the short answer. "You want me to walk you home?"
Hinata's eyes went wide. "S...sure," she said, managing a smile.
Naruto smiled and hopped off his stool. "Let's go."
Hinata nodded and followed him.As they walked Hinata kept trying to think of something to say. You're alone with him. Say something! she mentally chided herself. Just as she was about to open her mouth a girl appeared in front of Naruto. She was Naruto's age. She was wearing a basic pair of denim shorts and a t-shirt with a whale on the front. Her brown hair was worn in two puffy pigtails.
"Hi, Naruto-kun," said the blushing girl.
Naruto looked a bit startled that this girl was talking to him, much less using 'kun' with his name. Then he remembered her letter from his hospital stay. "Momiji?"
Momiji began to shuffle her right foot. "Did...did you like the flowers?"
"Yeah. They were nice," Naruto replied with a small smile.
"Don't panic. Don't panic. They're just talking," Hinata chanted in her mind.
"Can I ask you a question, Momiji?" Naruto said suddenly.
Momiji looked up. "Yes," she said with a smile.
"You hated the fact that I was even alive when we were at the Academy. What changed?" Naruto said with a mix of sadness and confusion.
Momiji's eyes went wide and she quickly looked down. She felt sick to her stomach. That's right... ((Momiji yelling at Naruto)) ...I always made fun of him... ((Momiji shoving Naruto aside to get to Sasuke)) "I...I'm sorry. I didn't know you then."
"You still don't," Naruto said plainly.
Momiji swallowed. "I..."
"You just like me cause I beat Neji in the Chuunin Exam," Naruto continued.
Momiji's eyes began to water. "I..."
"I'm sorry, Momiji," Naruto said, a touch of sympathy entering his voice. "I won't be your new Sasuke."
At this Momiji burst into tears and ran.
Naruto was in shock. He'd never seen a girl act like this toward him. On the one hand he was flattered, on the other he hated the fact that her attentions were only for his fighting skill. He watched the shattered girl run and suddenly realized he'd been a little mean. He hadn't meant to. It just...happened. "Dammit," he swore under his breath.
Naruto sat Hinata down on a nearby bench. "I'm sorry, Hinata. But can you wait here? I'll be right back."
Hinata frowned, but nodded her head in agreement.Momiji was surprised when Naruto appeared in front of her. "Naruto-kun?" she said in a choked voice.
Naruto looked down for a second before raising his head and speaking. "I'm sorry. I went too far," he said regretfully. Then he smiled. "Wanna start over?"
Momiji smiled. "Yes!"
"I can't date you though," Naruto said quickly, before the girl got her hopes up too high.
Momiji's face fell. "You like someone else?"
Naruto smiled apologetically. "Yeah."
"Oh..." Momiji said as her eyes misted over once again.
"I have to get back to Hinata. I'll see you later," Naruto said gently.
Momiji sighed and nodded her head in defeat. So...he likes Hinata... she thought as the object of her affections ran off.Hinata looked up when she sensed Naruto coming. "Did everything g...go alright?"
"Yeah. I let her down a little more gently this time," Naruto said with a slight grimace. "Ready to go?"
Hinata nodded happily and stood. The two resumed their walk to the Hyuuga estate.As they came within site of the house Hinata began to feel a little sad that their walk was drawing to a close. She stopped mid-step, causing Naruto to bump into her.
"Hinata?" Naruto questioned.
Hinata turned around, realized their faces were uncomfortably close and took a step back. She tented her fingers and blushed a bit. "Naruto-kun? D-do you h-have anyone that you l...like?"
A bit of pink touched Naruto's cheeks and he rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment. "Um...Y...Yeah. I kinda like Sakura-chan."
Hinata's face fell. "Oh..."
A look of confusion came to the blonde's face, which quickly turned to one of wide-eyed realization. "Hinata? Do you...like me?"
Hinata's eyes widened in fear of being found out. "Th-There's m-my h-h-house. I h-have t-to g-go!" she said as she ran to the house.
"Hinata!" Naruto called after her. He wanted to follow her, but he was still in shock; and as such, his legs refused to move. "Hinata...likes me?" he thought in confusion. All the times he had talked to her came rushing back to his thoughts. The way her stuttering got worse whenever she spoke to him. The way she always seemed nervous and blushed when she was around him. It suddenly all hit him like a ton of bricks. "Hinata...likes me..."
Naruto stood in stunned silence for a few moments, then turned around and started walking towards home. Uzumaki Naruto had a lot to think about...
...TO BE CONTINUED
Man, this chapter had a mind of its own. The ideas just kept coming.
Hope this keeps the NaruHina fans happy for a while. But I prefer to take relationships like these slowly. I always find it ridiculous when Naruto goes from being friends with Hinata to saying he loves her in the space of two paragraphs. It's not realistic. Sides, when things are dragged out a bit it makes the moment when they do come together much more satisfying—at least, to me. :)