Only The Beginning

"You don't really know me that well." Naruto remarks. "I know…but I want to." Hinata breathes out, watching his eyes widen just a fraction. Naruto Uzumaki is a mystery; a puzzle. And Hinata knows beneath his smile there are layers and secrets she wants to uncover, a darkness that goes beyond what anyone else can see and she wonders just how long he can keep up the facade. Set after the Pain Arc.

Chapter 1: Of Memories

Naruto

'I'm still up.' He sighs, feeling the pulsing of a headache soon to come glancing towards his alarm clock.

1:16 AM stares back at him in bold red numbers.

A sliver of moonlight slips in through his blinds along his bed creating a crisscross of patterns along his bedspread.

He should be asleep like the rest of the village, especially after he had indulged in over 5 bowls of ramen on the house from Ichiraku's to the mini impromptu celebration created just for him for all he's done in saving the village from further destruction.

Pain or really Nagato is dead.

And even though he has brought back all he has killed in atonement resulting in his own death, he couldn't bring back the one person they shared in common.

Jiraiya.

"You mourn for a man you barely even knew that well." Kurama chides him breaking through the quiet of his room, deep cold laugh rumbling up vibrating and pounding through his ears.

"People only care about you now because you saved them from the bigger threat, they'd still be scared if they saw what you can truly do. You could truly hurt them back if you really wanted to." He asserts further.

He tunes out his biting remarks even if they're partially true. Pervy-Sage only swept into his life when he was barely 12, the godparent he never knew that regaled him with stories of his parents and his own journeys throughout the nations that helped shape him into who he was.

But now 4 years later he is already gone, buried in a sea of murky waters far away from the village...

His stomach churns, pushing away the image to the back of his mind.

Konoha has acknowledged him, he's no longer seen as just a demon or person to fear/avoid...

Though the rush of excitement and warmth isn't lasting like he had hoped, particularly when he's longed for so long for people to finally look at him in this way. Now that all of the cheering and celebrating is done everyone has gone back home to their own families.

Back to their own lives.

And no different than before the apartment he returns to is lonely and dark, a bitter reminder that so many of his loved ones aren't here; alive.

'I love you Naruto.' He's sure he heard Hinata say that in the midst of Pain's attack. A whole new slew of knots bubbles up in his chest wondering if he even heard her right or if perhaps her words were only said in the heat of the moment right before Nagato pinned her down.

Was she out of the hospital? Sakura hadn't given him any updates, but then again he hadn't asked her yet in a long while.

'I should go look for myself.' He decides.

"There'll always be someone afraid of you don't forget. Someone who has more anger than fear for the cruel things you can do when you tap into my power." Kurama snickers lowly.

His heart twinges, scoffing under his breath. Kurama has never been this talkative except for when he wants something; to take control.

'I'm thinking too much on this.' Naruto realizes, settling back down into his sheets.

Sleep still doesn't come, mind whirring on what's next.

Not all of the Akatsuki are dead and soon enough someone will fill in the spot Nagato has left behind.

-X-

Hinata

"Are you sure you're feeling better big sister?" Hanabi frowns, opalescent eyes focused on flecks of dried blood now the color of copper still mixed in with her hair down to the remnants of fading bruises various shades of blue marring her skin.

But really, it doesn't hurt as bad as it looks anymore. Sakura even related if she's feeling well enough she should be able to go home tomorrow...

She's more than ready to go home today if she can, at least to get away from viewing these same white walls and the scent of cleaning and disinfectants. Kurenai-sensei promised her they'd celebrate with her favorite sweets once she was discharged when she stopped by with Kiba and Shino yesterday, though she picked up on the words she was leaving unsaid in front of her teammates.

"There's topics we need to discuss between just us." Kurenai had whispered.

"You've asked that same question twice now Hanabi, we need to let Lady Hinata rest." Ko assists bringing Hinata back to her current conversation, giggling at his attempts to tug her sister back towards the door to no avail.

"He's right Hanabi. I'm okay; honest." Hinata reassures her.

To prove it she sits up properly off her pillows, ignoring the race of pain that singes down her back at said action. Anything to get Hanabi to relax a bit more...

It's enough as a small grin blooms across her lips, cheeks turning a ruddy pink in delight. She waits until Ko slips out the room, announcing he's getting a snack from the cafeteria before she leans closer letting her voice drop conspiratorially low.

"You told him, right? Father has been whispering about it with Neji." She voices.

Hinata bites down on her lip, she expected this conversation topic to come up and yet with all her practice for it she is still becoming tongue-tied.

Saying out loud she loves Naruto hasn't changed anything, she thinks...

There was too much going on at the time, crimson enveloping Naruto's eyes as the beast within him took over his every thought and action.

Her silence says it all, Hanabi pouting.

"Invite Naruto over! Father is even expecting you to ask permission for it!" She practically orders her.

Hinata stiffens, picking absently at loose threads in her sheets. "It...It isn't that easy! And Father; really?"

Well, he's always known of her feelings she's sure though this is her first time hearing of him suggesting she act on them.

"You have to ask him! He's popular now and I refuse to have you keep being in the shadows!" Hanabi further asserts and reluctantly she promises she will ask him at a later date.

Late morning sun highlights her chestnut hair as she sweeps back towards the window, humming to herself. Her gaze stretches beyond buildings still crushed and dilapidated from the remnants of Pain's mark on the village, lilac trailing on an object out of her view.

'What is she looking at?' Hinata frowns, her teasing smile seeming only to widen.

"Okay, I'm holding you to that! I'll let you get some rest properly now." Hanabi beams abruptly looking back her way, twisting out of the room before she can say anything else.

Hinata arches a brow at her behavior, sitting up further to get a better view of whatever had gotten her attention.

And then sees it, a flash of golden blond hair and cerulean eyes on the opposite building.

'Naruto?'

She feels her face growing hot when his gaze fully meets hers, sliding open her window letting the warm air breeze in. Despite the heat, goosebumps prickle her skin watching him maneuver closer to her until he right beside her on the ledge.

"Good to see you're okay!" Naruto notes, stare relaxing peering over her figure and she wishes she had changed out her bandages earlier or at least properly brushed her hair if he was going to come by.

"Here!" He goes on, pushing a duo of red and dark pink roses to her.

"Ino said they mean thankfulness and respect in the language of flowers...or something like that you know!" Naruto flusters.

Hinata feels her own blush crawling down her neck, unwinding her hands from her tight grip on the window's railing. Her stomach flutters, looking for the right words to say as she accepts the gift.

"Thank you. What about you though Naruto? Are you okay?" She asks. Externally he has no visible wounds due to his fast healing, but he's been through a lot in these past few days to even weeks now more than anyone else she can think of at the moment besides his own Team 7.

His grin slips just slightly before he tacks it back on, eyes falling briefly away from hers.

"I'm fine."

The lie sits there in the air, neither speaking on it for now as their attention moves back to the bustling of the village below. Konoha will rise again as it always does, but this time feels much different than the past wars the village has endured at seeing many familiar landmarks completely reduced to rubble.

It begins to smell of rain, gray clouds hovering and building on the horizon and Naruto straightens up at seeing a crack of lightning streak across them.

"I should go." He grumbles, about to hop down to the building below when Hinata grips at his end of his sleeve. For all of Naruto's obliviousness and naivety, she has to make sure he at least knows her earlier words on the battlefield are true.

"I meant what I said." She breathes out.

-X-

Sakura

"Geez Pig, you didn't have to resort to lying to Naruto! You know red roses mean love!" She scolds her lightly, but she can't help the smirk resting upon her own lips as well.

The afternoon rush of the store has died down, leaving them the only two people inside the Yamanaka Flower Shop. It smells pleasantly of the latest orchids and lilies finally coming into bloom to the herbs she always comes by for to create medicine.

Ino merely shrugs, putting away a set of pots before turning back to face her. "Keep it down Forehead! Anyways, you should've seen how nervous he was wandering back and forth around the store. I had to take it upon myself to help push him along to get the right gift!"

Sakura snickers at the thought, resting back in her chair. It's strange to picture Naruto anything but boisterous and confident no matter the situation.

Ino plops down beside her, grin falling just a bit. "He came here to get more than just a gift for Hinata. He...He asked what flowers are good for remembrance so he bought some chrysanthemums and white carnations as well. I think he's going to build a shrine for that sensei of his."

'Jiraiya.' Sakura realizes, frown etching across her face as well.

As much stories Lady Tsunade has told her about the man and his perverseness, his death has deeply affected her...

And Naruto.

"I haven't really talked about it with him." Sakura muses, emerald eyes falling to the tile of the store. It was her most difficult subject to cover when it came to her team. She could easily discuss a critical case of an infected wound to helping a couple mourn the loss of their child to a terminal disease, but she couldn't do the same when it came to those closest to her.

Because she like a thorn sticking out had never loss anyone close to her the same way Sasuke, Naruto, and even Kakashi-sensei have.

Her parents are still alive and as close as Lady Tsunade brushed with death herself, she is still here with her...

"The best thing you can do is just say you're here to talk if he needs it." Ino advises, interrupting her thoughts. Sakura looks back up to her, blue eyes glancing out towards the street at passing faces.

She winces internally, hating that she reminded her.

'Even Ino could give better tips for this with Asuma-sensei's passing not too long ago.' Sakura fidgets in her seat.

Ino twists back to face her, flicking her arm gently at seeing her expression. "I'm fine Forehead! This is the life of a shinobi after all."

The familiar chime of the entrance's bell rings out a man's voice calling out if they're open and immediately Ino jumps to her feet, swishing her blonde locks out of her face. "Well, a customer calls! Let me know if you hear anymore gossip!"

Sakura rolls her eyes, but nods accepting her latest packets of ginger and chamomile she left wrapped up for her in the back.

She pulls open her umbrella just as the light drizzle turns into a downpour, pattering of raindrops doing little to ease this budding tension within her. She hadn't known Sasuke well enough to stop him from leaving the village, couldn't understand the darkness that had been rising and festering within him...

It was why she was pushing herself so much now, working longer hours at the hospital and building up her strength just as Lady Tsunade has suggested until she has mastered every technique she knows.

'But still, I don't really know Naruto that well either.'

-X-

Hiashi

'Hinata will be home tomorrow.' Hiashi considers, pausing himself as he turns on the lights of her room.

He's left it untouched, same white and lavender bedspread to her favorite collection of books on relaxation and meditation lining the shelves.

Maybe he should go out to get her favorite cinnamon rolls from that one bakery, at least so that she feels comfortable and not like she is a stranger within the compound.

"Uncle, there's a Sweet Delights Bakery Store I can stop by on the way home after training tomorrow if you want to surprise Lady Hinata." Neji questions behind him, seemingly having read his thoughts.

Hiashi shifts himself from looking around Hinata's room once more before flicking off the light.

"Yes, that would be good. Thank you Neji." He answers, turning to face him fully.

Granted, he still feels this pressure weighing on his chest. All of Hinata's favorite foods won't make up for the years of neglect he's caused towards her in disregarding her strength to her feelings.

'I almost lost her if not for Lady Tsunade's apprentice.' He frowns.

Neji pats at his shoulder, regaining his attention. "Lady Hinata isn't the type to hold grudges, you know that."

He gestures for them to head back to the kitchen, Hanabi glancing up from her glass of milk to peer at them both.

"Back already from the hospital?" Neji notes in surprise, she had been typically spending most of her afternoons well into the evening at Hinata's side until visiting hours were over.

An amused grin lights up her face, shrugging. "Hinata wanted to get some rest."

Right.

The teasing in her voice gives away there's much more to it than simply that alone, taking a seat beside his youngest while Neji takes the chair opposite.

Pearl eyes blink innocently between them, humming to herself as she takes another sip of her drink.

The quiet goes on for another long minute before he gives in to his curiosity and Hanabi's barely veiled entertained look.

"What else happened while you were there?" He finally asks.

Hanabi sits up at this, beaming. "Why, I'm glad you asked Father! Naruto came by shortly after I left; I saw him approaching from the rooftops!"

Neji clicks his tongue, that wasn't that big of news as Hanabi made it out to be. However, it was good to know that perhaps Naruto wasn't a complete lost cause when it came to Hinata.

"Did you stay to listen to them talk?" Hiashi questions.

Hanabi purses her lips, grin evaporating. "Father, that would be rude! But...I did see what looked to be like roses in his hands. I didn't want to stay too close or one of them would've noticed me."

Hiashi looks back to Neji, neither having anything to say.

There's a lot about Naruto they don't truly know, only surface level information on his Mother's background who comes from Uzumaki ancestry. His antics during a majority of his boyhood didn't help either in them wanting to give him a second glance or to know more about him considering much of his files are classified and locked away due to being their village's tailed beast...

'Has he learned to fully control it?' Hiashi suddenly wonders, blinking away thoughts of scarlet eyes and the fox's deafening roar.

If he hadn't, there were ways to help him still.

Things are changing, especially now in knowing how strong Hinata's feelings are as well as the rest of this Akatsuki group on the move.

"We should ask Hinata to invite him over for dinner or tea at some point then." Hiashi suggests after thinking it over for a moment. Neji nodding his agreement that they need to fully clear the air between them all.

Hanabi beams again, leaning forward. "Oh, I'm way ahead of you on that Father! I already passed along that very idea to Hinata earlier."

"What are you guys doing?" A new voice asks from the corridor.

'Wait, wasn't she going to be discharged tomorrow?' Hiashi stiffens.

Hinata.

She gazes at them all in puzzlement, brushing away remnants of droplets along the ends of her top. Ko said everyone was in the kitchen finishing up dinner, but none of them appear to have eaten anything save for Hanabi.

At their shared silence she huffs, crossing her arms expectantly before her gaze lands directly on Hiashi. Despite the edge of frustration in her voice, a tiny grin begins crossing his eldest daughter's lips and he releases a breath, heartbeat slowing down in relief.

"If you're going to talk about me, shouldn't I be a part of the conversation too?"

-X-

Naruto

"I know it's not perfect Pervy-Sage, but at least this way anyone can stop by to visit you if they want. I even left a copy of your first book behind in case anyone wants to read your work before you moved on to your classic porn series." Naruto jokes at studying the polished carving of 'teacher' into the stone monument.

The forest is quiet this early in the day, grass and foliage still damp with the mists of the night. A trickle of light slides through the forest's canopy shining over the novel to the paper roses Konan gifted him with.

It feels if only briefly Jiraiya is here beside him; ready to listen.

The 'flowers of hope' match nicely with the white flowers he picked up from the Yamanaka Flower Shop, though he'll have to keep replacing them every so often.

He leans back against the bark of the closest tree, gathering his thoughts.

"So...a lot of stuff has happened. I won't bore you with the details as I'm sure you already saw." Naruto begins.

"I almost broke the seal, that's what worries me the most if not for Dad's interference. All my training and goals just felt pointless then and there when I thought..." Naruto paused, stopping himself.

'Hinata. When I thought Pain had killed her.'

"Ah, never mind what I thought you know! There's still much I have to learn anyways considering the Akatsuki isn't completely dissolved yet. I'm hoping to train maybe with this guy called Killer B, don't know yet if that will work out or not!"

He moves to stretch then, feeling a bit of weight off his chest saying aloud his thoughts. He turns back to face the monument one last time before heading out.

"Keep watching over me along with Mom and Dad, I promise I'll be back to visit you soon when this is all over!" He assures.

The central marketplace is coming alive as stores begin to open and in the distance towards a fruit stand he catches a glimpse of violet hair.

He stills in place, he hasn't spoken to Hinata since she was released from the hospital.

And whether it's Jiraiya nudging him through use of the wind or not wanting to hear Kurama's low taunting that his fears will always hold him back he unfurls his hands and steps forward before he loses sight of her in the crowds.

-x-

My friend Serena for weeks now has been wanting me to post this NaruHina romance/adventure idea she gave me outlining multiple rough drafts of it lol. Since her birthday is coming up, I promised her I would upload it and see if feedback was popular enough for it to go on. So...let me know what you think!

Enjoy. Review. Favorite. Follow!