"Is there anything you can do?" Hinata asked for the umpteenth time.
The airline desk worker didn't even spare her a glance. "I'm sorry ma'am. As I've said before, the next flight to Konoha is boarding in an hour and twenty minutes. You have been placed on the wait list along with everyone else. You may wait at gate A3."
The women's tone was clipped, brash. Rude. Hinata was exhausted. She had spent a grueling three days in Sunagakure for work that was disappointing in and of itself. But her flight had already been bumped and was in the middle of the night, that had led to a six-hour layover, leading to another flight change, further extending her lay over. The airport in Amegakure was small, outdated. There was nothing to do, little to no shops that weren't for tourists and there was only a McDonalds.
The Wi-Fi was slow, her iPhone and MacBook were low on power and the plug ins were scare, monopolized and not located near any of those terrible seats. She had used one, a few hours ago, when her phone had died. She sat crisscross applesauce next to a trash can for twenty minutes, gum on the dirty carpet next to her while a fifteen-year-old Gen Z-er stared her down, waiting for his turn until she deemed her devices charged enough to get out of there.
Now, imagining spending even more time in this god forsaken airport almost had Hinata seriously regretting her life choices. This, of course, was not new for Hinata. Regret was a familiar acquaintance of her's. But regretting her financial situation was new. She had never given great importance to wealth, knowing that it had never lead to happiness. Hinata grown up in one of the richest families she knew and her childhood had still been severely lacking in other basic departments like love and respect. Her marriage also had not been short on money, but again was missing the love and respect elements. Ironic.
So Hinata was painfully aware that money could not buy happiness.
But it could've bought her a new ticket on the next flight, though. Instead of being waitlisted with everyone else on her entire plane. The size of this airport and the number of flights going in and out lead her to believe that she would be here for much longer then the hour and twenty-minute wait until the next flight.
She made her way to gate A3, which was right behind the desk with the less than helpful worker, and sat down in the faux leather black chairs with the awkwardly spaced arm rests. Hinata tried not to cry. She had grown up with Hiashi Hyūga as a single parent. She had survived her estranged husband. She wouldn't let an extended layover make her cry in public. She had come too far.
Her stomach growled.
Instead of dwelling on her impeding starvation, she pulled out her phone. A cracked iPhone 5c that her little sister let her use, matching the outdated MacBook that was thicker than a college text book. At the moment, they are her most prized possessions.
"So… when is the next flight?"
The voice wasn't directed at her. But made her drop her phone anyways. Low, raspy, but exuberantly loud and cheerful.
"Oh, Mr. Namikaze!" The desk attendant practically shrieked, in a much kinder tone than Hinata received.
The conformation of her suspicions had her stomach churning, not with hunger.
War hero. United Nations Ambassador. An honest prospective Hokage candidate. He was now featured in magazines like Forbes and even GQ, famous not only for his passionate pacifism and activism but also for his charming good looks and silly, boyish attitude.
Most importantly, Hinata's childhood crush.
"The next flight is in an hour and fifteen minutes, Mr. Namikaze. The gate is right behind my desk so don't be afraid to ask for anything."
The way she said 'anything' didn't sound like snack voucher compensation.
"Thanks so much, y'know."
Hinata hadn't had a panic attack since she had got back to Konoha, but those familiar feelings were already creeping in. Pounding heart, cloudy eye sight, clammy hands, shaky legs, hair on her neck standing on end. He was headed to the same gate as her. To wait for the same flight. He would see her. He would talk to her.
She dove on the ground for her phone, pushing it further under her seat so it would take longer to grab. It was a silly move. She couldn't stay down there forever.
But Hinata was a pathetic, desperate person.
The only plan she could formulate, was that perhaps Naruto would get a seat facing away from her, and he wouldn't notice when she sat back up. Giving Hinata enough time to go hide in a bathroom for the next hour and fifteen minutes until she was inevitably bumped to the next flight.
She took a deep breath. She could do this.
Grabbing her phone and sitting up, as slowly as possible. All she needed to do is grab her laptop and backpack and she could bolt right on out of there.
Oh kami, that voice.
She took a deep breath, trying to hold down the shiver that ensued.
She swallowed, accepting her defeat.
Naruto stood right behind her, in a suit. His blonde hair was smoothed down, his tanned skin flawless, eyes shining. He had a leather brief case, gold watch, his shoes shined.
He looked amazing.
Hinata was wearing leggings, a fleece pullover quarter zip, and boots that could be mistaken for slippers. She was tired, dirty and smelled of the airport. She was also, hands and knees on the ground, ass facing him.
She stood up quickly, blushing burning so hard her face hurt. She dusted herself off fruitlessly in an attempt to look anywhere else but him and so her fingers didn't poke together. She had gone to too much therapy to revert back to that.
"It's me, Naruto." He continued smiling, not dishearten by her lack of reply.
She finally looked up at him, not being able to hold back a shy smile. How could someone ever forget him?
"Hi." She managed, awkwardly.
His smile got even bigger, if that were possible. His arms reached out, one hand with the leather briefcase, another with a gold watch and a blackberry. And he hugged her.
He hugged her.
Hinata might've topped breathing.
"How are you? Are you also on this fligh? Are you sitting right here? Can I sit with you?" He spoke in one breath.
Hinata smiled for real this time.
He hadn't changed at all.
She answers most of the questions with one word, ignoring the 'how are you'. She can't answer that one. Not honestly. Not without ruining the whole conversation. She's done that enough times, at home, with family members, that don't actually care.
"I can't believe I'm seeing you. You look great, by the way. I had heard you moved back to Konoha." His voice is so cheerful, it's like its washing over her, wrapping her up in a blanket. "So what has the amazing Hinata Ōtsutsuki been doing?"
Hinata tries not to scoff, so instead she breathes out a little too harshly. "Its Hyūga, actually." She musters up as much nonchalance as she possible can for that sentence. "And, I'm working for my dad."
There's nothing to hold the déjà vu from hitting her full force in the face. That last time she had properly seen Naruto, she was also working for her father's company.
"Hyūga?" He echos, visibly confused.
"Divorced." She says.
It's a lie. Her divorce is not technically finalized. Paper work, finances, jail time is still being disputed until she can be truly free from her disaster of a marriage but 'divorced' is simpler.
She's expecting him to give an awkward apology, as most people do when they hear about the death of a union. But, he gives her a small smile and bumps her arm with his. "Hey, me too. Sakura and I called it quits a bit ago. But it ended on good terms. For Shinachiku. Have you seen my son. He's cute, believe it." Naruto leans closer, his voice lowering to a quasi-whisper. "He's a little shit though."
Hinata shakes her head no, trying not to giggle.
"Hold on." He grabs his blackberry out. "You would not believe how many fidget spinners I have to buy this kid. And apparently, I have to warn him not to eat Tide Pods. What is up with that? Nobody had to warn me not to eat detergent as a child."
He hands her the phone, showing Hinata the most beautiful little boy she's ever seen, probably around five years old. Looking exactly like Naruto without his birthmarks and very obviously had his mother's startling green eyes.
"He's adorable." She hands the phone back.
Naruto nods in agreement. "So, what about you? What was the guy's name again? Netori? Tinore?"
"Toneri." Hinata grits her teeth over her ex-husbands name. "No, not really." She tries her best not to sound too bitter.
"Ehh," He says. "He was probably an asshole."
Hinata thinks of the yelling, the screaming, the word twisting, the fresh scars she'll always have hidden in her hair line. The emergency room. Police questioning. Having to call her father for help. The thousands of dollars in court fees, hours of testifying, rehashing years of emotional and physical abuse. Fighting for a restraining order just so she could have a semblance of piece of mind.
"I can't believe you never had kids. That's crazy. I'm a dad, me. And you're not a mom? You'd be a killer mom. Like, you were the best baby sitter ever. I remember you and baby Mirai."
Hinata tries to smile at that. She does. In another life, she would've loved to be a mom. She would often wonder what her babies would look like. In her old day dreams, they looked a lot like the person sitting next to her. Life obviously didn't have that in store for her.
"Oh, shit. I'm sorry." He seems to notice her silence and takes it in the wrong why.
"It's fine. Better this way." She tries to believe that. The divorce would be even messier if there was a custody dispute. She repeats that to herself whenever she sees her childhood friends with children.
And she is all alone.
"I still like to spoil Mirai." Hinata admits.
Naruto nods. "That sounds about right. So, working for your dad. I honestly can't imagine that either. You, working for Hyūga Hotels." He wrinkles his nose.
Hinata hates it. But, working for her father's company is the stipulation for living at home and him taking care of her. He doesn't accept free loading. Even in her situation. It is her only viable option until her financial situation is taken care of in the divorce finalization. Who knew a former heiress would need alimony?
"Just, paying the bills." Hinata is now a master at hiding her bitterness, but even this is hard to swallow.
Naruto nodded. He's known a bit about having shitty jobs in the name of just trying to scrape by. He had to join the army after all. Though it has since work out in his favor, exploding his career after his war efforts. He's a hero. But Hinata is surprised that he seems to remember only joining to meet his basic needs.
"Ino told me that she approached you about a business proposal."
Hinata is beyond shocked to hear this. That Naruto and Ino can have conversations that don't just entail them screaming at each other the whole time. And that those seemingly civilized conversations had something to do with her. Her and business?
"Um yes, but it didn't seem feasible." She answers him honestly. He seems to know how it went anyways.
Naruto makes a face like he doesn't understand this. "How come? Ino has an eye for fashion. You have the craft and mind for business. It sounded like a dope idea."
Hinata bites her lip, hearing the countries ambassador say "dope".
"It did sound like fun, but I'm not in the place financially for that type of risk. I also don't have good, or any credit, for a loan. I wouldn't be comfortable with it unless we could be proper partners, so I had to turn her down."
Ino had approached her in just two weeks of Hinata's return to Konoha. When her stitches still zigzagged through her scalp and her anti-anxiety meds weren't fully kicked in, making her hands shake. She was sleep deprived as well, having to ask Ino to repeat herself on more than on occasion. It was a hard cry from the right time to jump head first into a business.
That was months ago though. Hinata's cuts are healed into unseen scars, covered by her thick black hair, the physical ones at least. Her meds seem to be working perfectly now, no noticeable side effects. Her sleep patterns have returned to normal, aside from the random nightmare here or there. The therapist assures her that they are completely normal, and if the only thing she has to worry about are periodic nightmares from her trauma then she is doing quite well. Aside from dealing with her court dates, Hinata's life is doing much better.
But the job is still a low point.
She'd be lying if sometimes she didn't think about it. She loves knitting, crocheting, sewing, creating. And working with an old friend, as one and exuberant and lively as Ino seemed refreshing. Almost like a TV show or a Romantic comedy. But Hinata's life is not a RomCom. Hinata doesn't get to float into her job, loving what she does. Hinata has always been dealt sadness and heart ache.
Her life seems to be just one long list of lame things after lame things.
The death of her mother. The strained, borderline emotionally abusive relationship with her father. Her unrequited love from Naruto himself from Kindergarten till their high school graduation and his proposal to Sakura. The death of her cousin. The entirety of her loveless marriage she desperately tried to make work for years out of fear of being alone, letting verbal abuse escalate to physical abuse all the way until he almost killed her. And now, her final admits of defeat, asking her father for help. Living at home. Working for her family's company, something she had sworn she would never do again.
Ino Yamanaka had dreams of a trendy boutique in downtown Konoha. With original new pieces designed by her and created by Hinata's own hand. That dream sounded heavenly. Too good to be true.
And it was.
"That's admirable." Naruto nods to himself, about Hinata's fiscal responsibility. "But, I think you should still do it. It sounds like fun, and something that could actually work out. You were always amazing at making stuff. Remember my scarf?"
Hinata visibly flinches. Yes, she remembers his scarf. The very reason she wanted to avoid speaking to him. It was easy to forget, after they started talking. Naruto has always had a way with words and conversation. He's had to. You don't come from nothing, an orphan and an infantry soldier to a world leader and celebrity without being a smooth talker. But bringing up the very thing itself made Hinata remember her bathroom and hide plan she had formulate earlier under her hair.
"I still have that scarf." He admits, smiling at her like he can't see her wanting to shrivel up and die. "I didn't notice at the time, but the way you made it, I've never seen something so beautifully crafted. It's a work of art, believe it."
She can feel her blush, from her humiliation or his praise, it doesn't matter.
The scarf. The red scarf. Her love confession. His awkward thanks for the gift and blatant refusal to even acknowledge her love for him. Which was made pretty clear when he proposed to Sakura at graduation.
Senior year was not Hinata's year.
Neither was this one.
She had yet to have one, honestly.
"Thank you." She says, looking down at the ground.
He waves her off. "I'm not just flattering you! I think you should rethink Ino's proposal."
There was nothing to rethink. "It sounds like a dream." She admitted. "But it doesn't change the finances."
Naruto gave her a sly look. "That's your only reasoning for turning it down?"
"…Yes?" She looks around, wondering if this is a trick question.
They talk a little more, Naruto talks more about his job and Shinachiku, and Hinata does everything humanly possible to not talk about herself. Which is hard because Naruto suddenly seems interested. Which would've been an answer to her prayers in high school and now only has her needing to call her pharmacist to up her prescription.
"Ready to board?" Naruto asks her, almost an hour later, looking at one of the screens.
Hinata tries not to frown but all she wants to do is lay down and cry. "I think I got bumped to the next flight."
The next flight to Konoha is four hours later.
Naruto abandons his expensive briefcase with Hinata at the screen, leaving her awkwardly blocking the other people who are trying to desperately find their own names. She manages to carry it, along with her back pack, over out of the way, next to a random potted plant. She observes Naruto leaning in, obviously flirting with the desk attendant. He's beautiful. More so than she even remembers him being. His suit fits him perfectly, his smile is still crooked and his eyes glitter with the same mischief as when him and Sasuke would commit some kind of misdemeanor or other back in school.
Thinking about Naruto like that makes her chest hurt like a physical pain so she tries to focus back onto the potted plant. Who waters the thing?
"I tried to add you to my ticket, but they said that the plane is completely book. But I got you a permanent seat on the next flight." He looked genuinely sorry that he couldn't do more. "So, no more wait list at least."
Hinata just started at him, opened mouthed. "Y-y-you got me a permanent seat?"
He rubbed the back of his head. Something she remembered greatly from school but she hadn't seen it all day. It had messed up the flat lay of his hair, making him look years younger.
"I really am sorry I couldn't get you on the flight." He repeats.
She shakes her head, still not believing that she had a promised seat to go home. "No, thank you so much Naruto."
He smiles at her, pumping her arm again. "No problem. Hey, listen. We should catch up so more. Can't believe you've been in Konoha for months and haven't hit me up yet." His fingers brush her as he reached for his brief case. "We'll get ramen sometime, yeah?"
Hinata can only look at him stupidly and nod.
"See you." He waves.
Hinata waves when his back is already turned to her, lips pressing together, her heart clenching. Things feel all too much like high school and its uncomfortable and depressing but there's something so familiar about it that it's also… comfortable and uplifting. She's survived Naruto's unintentional heartbreak before. He's a kind, genuine person, who has always taken care of his friends. Perhaps reconnecting with him would be a good thing.
If she can remember to keep her feelings in check, that is.
Hinata falls asleep on her hour flight home, the person in the window seat is beyond angry about the delay.
Kō is there to take her home and Hinata hugs him as he carries her bags to his car. Their car isn't chauffeured, Kō is driving his own, and Hinata appreciates it. She falls asleep in his car too, her head against the window. He wakes her up as gently as possible, and Hinata know that if she was a little girl, Kō would've carried her in side and tucked her in still sleeping like a kind grandfather. But he carries her bags all the way up to her room, apologies about her lay overs even though he had nothing to do with them, gives her a hug and tells her to get a good night sleep.
When she wakes up, her phone has blown up.
Not literally. It's not a Galaxy phone and it's not 2016, it hasn't randomly caught fire.
But she has multiple missed calls from her father, from Hanabi, her direct supervisor at work, her lawyer and her therapist. Along with three different calls from Ino Yamanaka, and a text message.
Naruto just called me. Told me he's willing to front the money for the boutique and that you're still interested!
Hinata hasn't even sat up in bed yet. She has a sleep headache, she's slept for thirteen hours straight and its almost 2pm. She's beyond starving but hearing that Naruto, Naruto Uzumaki – no – Namikaze, is willing to front the money for a business that they had a conversation about at an airport during her layover. Her headache isn't just from her sleep schedule.
There's an email from Naruto in her inbox, along from a few ones for court and again from her supervisor.
From: Naruto U. Namikaze
To: Hinata Hyūga
You always believed in me.
Now it's time for me to believe in you.
We can meet in person to discuss the repayment details.
How does Aragawa sound? This Saturday at 9pm.
Meeting at the most expensive restaurant in Konoha at 9pm sounded a lot more like a date instead of discussions on monthly payments and interest. Even though she knows that Naruto would never ask her on a date, and she must remind herself of that specifically. It was also hard to ignore that Ino wasn't CC in this very informal email. And why bring up the past in such a way again? She had always believed in him. But, clearly, he never understood the depths of her feeling for him - to just compare them so easily.
From: Hinata Hyūga
To: Naruto U. Namikaze
Aragawa sounds inappropriate for a business meeting.
Sooner is better for me.
When is the closest appointment I can make?
Sincerely, Hinata Hyūga
Naruto replies almost immediately, again reminding her of high school and instant messenger.
'Get over yourself.' She screams internally. High school ended in disaster. Everything ends in disaster Hinata. How could she forget so easily?
From: Naruto U. Namikaze
To: Hinata Hyūga
Geez, so formal.
I can do tonight.
He had attached his cellphone number.
'Two birds, one stone' she mused. His promise of ramen and her business meetup make an easy paring. He then completes his obligation as an acquaintance and then they can move on a business partners.
And why was he not even mentioning Ino?
She decided to call the blonde. Maybe Ino can help ground her. Plus, there are hundreds of things they need to discuss now. Waking up to a new possible life path, talking with Naruto of all people, it's a bit too much. She's feeling light headed.
But, she lets herself smile.
This is the most excited she's been in… she has no idea.