Finally, we have chapter five. Yes, I'm useless. But this chapter is rather cute, so I hope y'all will forgive me.
Chapter Five: A Perfect Moment
Naruto is there all the time now.
Hinata is starting to get used to it; she is apologising less, blushing less, and instead of making her more nervous his presence is slowly calming her. She is starting to forget what life was like without him at every corner, without the sound of his snoring through one thin rice-paper wall, without his smiling eyes just behind her.
When she gets up in the morning he is there, yawning and complaining about the cold; he walks with her to the shrine and waits under the trees while she prays; his daily training takes place within hearing distance of hers – she loves being able to hear him. When she has dinner with her family he is standing on the wall next to Neji-niisan, keeping an eye on her.
Winter has never felt so warm.
Neji started it, really.
That's not to say Naruto wasn't to blame; he was being rather annoying at the time. But boys will be boys...
Let's back track.
Barely one minute before:
The forest was quiet and peaceful. The trees were still frosted that early in the morning. The snow that fell the night before had yet to melt. This morning a little green could be seen under the white curtain, a sure sign that winter was almost over.
Two young ninjas sat in silence under a large tree, both wrapped in large jackets, just watching their breath freeze in front of their faces. It would be safe to assume they had not been there long; one of them still clung to sleep, but that was soon about to change.
"Na, na, Neji."
"Yes?" Neji knew (intimately) and accepted how difficult it was for Naruto to sit still and be quiet. His tone was that of the resigned as he rubbed his eyes and waited for the inevitable question.
"What is she even doing up there?" Naruto leant back against the tree bark, wriggling until he found a comfortable niche. "An hour. Every single morning. We could be training, Neji."
"Well, for a start it's tra– "
"And don't say that it's tradition either. That's your excuse for everything." Naruto made a displeased noise deep in his throat and sat up. Without conscious thought the chakra on his palm started to spin like a tiny, localised snowstorm.
"My excuse? It's the main family's excuse, not mine." Neji sniffed. In his own palm, Neji held a handful of compacted snow. At times like those it's awfully tempting, if below him. "Anyway, it is tradition."
"Yeah, but what for? Or is it one of those useless stupid ones like – "
"Does it matter?"
"It's eating into my training time! Of course it matters!"
Neji could feel another headache coming on. He wished once again that Naruto wasn't such a morning person, or a late night person for that matter. "Hinata-sama is training." Tetchily, he enunciated that word perfectly, just to make the optimum imprint in his companion's thick skull. "She is training her other senses. She blinds herself and experiences the world through smell, touch and sound."
For a moment, Naruto looked thoughtful. He frowned, furrowed his eyebrows and breathed through his nose – it at least looked like he was thinking. He opened his mouth again, probably to ask some irritating question, so Neji gave into temptation.
He threw the snowball.
Now, Neji had never been in a snow fight before. He didn't really know that much about them, other than that they were for children and looked like a terrible waste of time. He had observed them before, of course; they seemed to him to basically involve throwing as many badly made, soggy projectiles at your chosen opponent, then laughing at them and running away.
Well. Objectives one and two he deemed satisfactory. The snowball had deposited itself all over Naruto's face quite nicely and despite himself, he felt a snigger coming on. It was immature, definitely. But he couldn't help laughing, especially when Naruto started railing on about revenge, and it was all he could do to collect himself and achieve objective three before Naruto caught up with him.
Up high and in the dark, she waits for it just to be over. She dislikes this time the most; she is afraid of it, afraid of the dark and the alone and the knowledge that one wrong movement could send her crashing to the ground. So she just clings to the branch she is sitting on, cold and stiff and half-afraid to even breathe. With her sight the world is shut off to her, it is one big mystery, hiding from her in the distant inky black.
The bark is rough under her fingers, and all she can hear is the urgency in her own breathing.
She wishes, perhaps a little childishly, that he were sitting up her with her instead of safely on the ground below with Neji. Behind her eyelids she conjures up his face; she may be blind, but his face is one thing that she can see. His sparkling blue eyes, the mess of blond, the grin that means everything really is all right... It's all there.
Then, a sound. Down – under her.
He is laughing. Shouting, something...
There is another sound too, a laugh she doesn't know. The crunch of sandals on fresh, crisp snow, swift movement, something flying through the air...?
Naruto and... Neji? She concentrates, focussing her energy on her ears. Her fear means little now.
"Not even an academy kid would've fallen for that!"
"Shut UP Neji! I'm so getting you back for that! Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"
"Oh yeah? Come get me!"
"Uzumaki Naruto Shadow Snowball Attack!" A dozen Narutos yell from every direction.
Under her blindfold, Hinata smiles. She is always amazed how Naruto can cheer her up, how his simple act of being himself can bring her out of the darkest place and make her smile. Even more amazing is his effect on Neji-niisan; she will always be grateful to him for that alone. She can hear, hear their movements, hear their fun – more than anything now, she wants to join in.
The snow crunches under her feet. She crouches – she doesn't want them to know she's there. Everything hinges on Neji being too preoccupied to notice there's a third player in their little battle. Still blind, she feels around at the base of the tree. The boys' bags should be here somewhere... Finally her hands find canvas. Smiling almost wickedly to herself, she unzips it. Quietly, slowly, her ears straining for anything that might indicate they were onto her... Her fingers are cautious. What she is looking for is sharp and she doesn't want to cut herself.
There! The round, cool and most importantly, not-sharp end of a kunai. She lifts it out, and as soon as it's clear of the canvas bag she slices the blindfold and frees her sight.
The rising sun glares at her, reflected on the snow. It makes her eyes water, but she has more important things to think about. Like which patch of brush would be most advantageous, for example...
She wants to get Naruto first. She wants to see his face when she covers it in snow, she wants to hear him laugh and vow revenge. She wants to laugh with him like Neji is, and run from him with the sweet knowledge that he isn't far behind.
So she does.
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