I have read all your reviews, and yes point taken. It was not right to give this story an angsty ending hehehe. Anyway, happy reading!
It was a direct order from the Sixth Hokage himself. Hyuuga Hinata stood in front of the Hokage's office, her eyes on the closed door. The instruction was sent to her small hut somewhere near the Mist Village through her cousin, Hyuuga Neji, and his teammate, Tenten.
Neji then was silent as she read the scroll from the Hokage, yet all the while she knew that he was busy watching her in quiet curiosity.
Of course, it was understandable. What did the Hokage-sama have to say to a woman who had not stepped in the Leaf Village for five months?
And more than that, she knew that it was still etched in his mind—the Chuunin exams battle that clued him into her own feelings for Uzumaki Naruto.
Clearly, there were things for the Sixth to say to his cousin.
Tenten sat down and drank the cup of herbal tea that Hinata served them awhile ago. "Hokage-sama was disappointed when he didn't see you in the ceremonies." She was referring to the inaugural ceremony for the Sixth Hokage.
Her white winter eyes looked up from what she was reading. "T-The party heading for this place was leaving. I-I had to…"
"It's not like I'm the one who needs the explanations," said the weapon expert, shrugging. "Relax, Hinata-chan."
Neji shot his teammate a warning look, and then glanced back at her. "What will I tell the Sixth, Hinata-sama?"
She swallowed involuntarily. Yes, what should she say? The Sixth Hokage had personally arranged for her to return to Konoha to cure his ailment. Her knuckles trembled as she placed the scroll down. Admittedly, she was puzzled. There were a lot of medics in Konoha, and even his own teammate, Haruno Sakura, was a personal protégée of the greatest female medic in all of Leaf village. Why her?
"Hinata-sama?" Neji cleared his throat.
She managed a weak smile. "Please tell him that I shall be there tomorrow."
And that day was today. As she raised her knuckle to rap on the door, she instinctively looked at the Hokage monument. Beneath it was the hill where those prayer flags stood. Her eyes crinkled in fondness, at the same time wondering how her flags were doing.
She turned around, startled. Haruno Sakura was grinning at her, her emerald eyes scrutinizing her. "Hmm, you lost some weight. What war did you go into? Invite me in so I won't, I mean, Ino won't have such a hard time dieting!"
Her smile widened. "O-Ohayou, S-Sakura-chan." Her pale eyes went from the office door, and then back at the pink-haired kunoichi.
Sakura smiled. "Don't fret. I work as the Hokage-sama's right hand. He still has this tendency to forget about meetings with other villages and stuff. It's my job to remind him, and then some."
"I-If he's busy now, t-then I would just come back another time—"
"Nonsense!" Sakura slapped her shoulder playfully. "That idiot had been waiting for you for so long!"
"I didn't mean to!" she cried, wide-eyed. "I-I didn't know what time to come here, and the journey was delayed by the rain—"
"I didn't mean that, silly," said the pink-headed kunoichi, laughing. "Oh boy! You and Naruto…you both need help, if truth be told." Sakura pinched her cheek affectionately. "Go in. One must not make the Sixth wait, for he's an impatient one."
Helplessly, she opened the door, said a few lines of murmured encouragement to herself, and then bravely walked in.
"N-Na…" As usual, the first syllable of his name would render her stammering, prompting her blood to rush to her cheeks. She silently castigated herself—hadn't she told herself months ago that he was not available anymore? He belonged to the people, he belonged to the village, he belonged to the monument he dreamed of since childhood…
"Hinata," said a familiar voice deepened by authority.
She turned to the right, then felt her mouth drop open. Before her stood the man of her dreams and waking hours, a little taller and broad-shouldered than she remembered, his golden mass of hair kept in place the symbolic white hat.
He belongs to me! Her instincts cried out, making her blush hotly. How unlady-like, Hinata! she scolded herself.
"Na…" She checked herself just in time. "H-Hokage-sama, y-you called for me?" Gracefully, she bowed, hoping she could maintain this position until she leaves the room. The thought of looking at him face-to-face was enough to make her alter-ego she never knew she had to appear.
"Chin up, Hinata. You haven't changed," he said amusedly. "You still are afraid of me, for some reason I could not guess."
Cautiously, she lifted her gaze, but she still refused to look his way. "N-No, o-of course not, Hokage-sama."
"Okay," he said quietly.
"A-Anou…" She mustered her guts and looked up at him. One moment of contact with his eternal azure eyes made her blush once more. Wrong move, indeed. "H-How can I help you?"
"You read my letter, I hope," he said, closely watching her.
"W-What is the nature of your illness, Hokage-sama?"
"Well, the answer for that should lie in the medic, right?" He reached for his hat and threw it down the floor carelessly.
Her eyes widened when she saw that he was taking his white coat off next. "H-Hokage-sama!"
He made a 'he-he' sound. "Well, for you to properly diagnose my illness, you need to examine my whole body, right?"
She clenched and unclenched her sweating hands. "Y-Yes, b-but…" Take all your clothes off? She watched him sit on a stool, now only in his green shorts. She gulped once more, and then approached him.
Despite herself, she couldn't stop her eyes from roaming around his body. He was not well-muscled, but his skin complexion looked good and healthy enough. His bone structure was good too, this she decided from checking out his posture.
She activated her Byakugan to scan his nerves and other internal organs. They were functioning as they all should be.
Next, she placed her palm on his chest, sensing his heartbeat. It was as normal as any heartbeat should be.
Her frown deepened. What then, was the Hokage's sickness?
"How do you feel?" she gently asked the man, who for some reason, had his eyes closed.
He opened one eye, a chuckle coming out from his throat. Immediately, she realized what the whole situation was.
He was, after all, Konoha's number one prankster.
And before she could utter another word, he took her hand and placed it firmly on his shoulder. "Massage me."
"E-Eh?" She was a medic, not a masseuse! "M-My hands are not very good, Hokage-sama."
"Please humor me, Hinata." There was no plea in his voice though; it was a Hokage's command.
She had no idea what was on his mind, but she did as told. Mustering all the strength her hands could give, she kneaded his muscles.
"Ahh…you…underestimate your hands…" he murmured, half-moaning like a wounded beast. "It…feels good…"
A smile made its way to her face. She loved the feel of his skin beneath her palm. It was like holding silk, only warmer.
"Hinata?" he said in between the massage of his nape and the back of his ribcage,
"Yes, Hokage-sama?" she asked, rubbing some homemade oil she brought with her onto his back.
"Why weren't you in the ceremony?" he asked, a hint of sulking in his voice.
She tried to laugh. "I-It's not I who would become the Hokage so…"
"I was looking for you," he said.
She knew that. Tenten narrated that he postponed the ceremony for some hours because he was waiting for his special guest. Sighing, she kneaded the right shoulder part. "I was in a hurry. I was leaving with a traveling party, and they were leaving in the morning. Thus, I didn't tell you anymore."
"I was looking for you for three hours," he informed her. "Your cousin arrived only an hour after, announcing that you have left."
She honestly didn't know what to say, so she chose to keep mum.
Naruto continued to speak. "After the ceremony, I waited by the hill. I was hoping you would come there, like you used to do."
"G-Gomen," she mumbled, all the while wondering where this was leading to.
"There was one question bugging me, and it was only you who could answer it. Imagine, for five months, I would be disturbed by it out of the blue. Before I would go to sleep, that question would send me into deep thoughts, and then my insomnia would begin." He rubbed his cheek. "I tried asking it to someone else, but I didn't fare any better. Oh well, Kiba has always been the disagreeable type anyway."
"I-I don't understand, Hokage-sama," she said, shaking her head. "H-How did Kiba-kun get involved in your question?"
"Simple. I want to know what you see in him that you think I don't possess."
"E-Eh!" Her hands froze.
"I-I mean…" The Sixth Hokage scratched his chin, contemplating. "Ah…let's see…I remember that you told me that the guy that makes you happy is that Kiba."
She chewed her lower lip. "A-Anou…"
"I could not understand what trait merited such devotion from you. I watched him closely, and yet I still couldn't get it. That's why I asked Kiba himself directly. He may not be in the most jolly mood then, because he nearly knocked my teeth off."
She remembered her lie, making her blush some more.
"He told me that taunting an impoverished man with meatloaf was unbecoming of me, and then punched my face," he recounted. "Now that you're here, maybe you could already point out what was his best characteristic that you actually admired, since I think I don't see any of Kiba's attitude qualified for such poetic esteem." He tapped his left shoulder. "Here too, please."
She resumed her massage. "The question is too personal, Hokage-sama. May I refuse to answer?"
"Overruled," said Naruto cheerfully.
She sighed. "I admire Kiba-kun like a brother…and also because he reminds me of my first love."
This made her laugh softly.
"So you have a first love," said Naruto, nodding slowly. "What about a second love? Maybe a third one even."
"He was my first and only love," she explained quietly.
"Oh…" He too was taciturn for some moments. "Uh…Hinata?"
"You know…er, what did I tell you before? I would rather hear you call me by my name," he sighed.
"That would be a sign of disrespect for authority," she protested.
"Call me by my name. It's an order," he said firmly, as if saying that he was all for authority too, considering he was its personification in this village.
"V-Very well, N-Naruto…kun…" She barely managed to say his name. Alas, she was still cursed by that stammering sickness of hers.
"Anyway, as I was saying, are you sure about your first love being your only love?" he asked, glancing her way. "And if I'm not mistaken, he doesn't know about your feelings. Where would that lead you to?"
She pointed to her heart. "I'm not seeking for any place. He has his in my heart, and I'm happy with that."
"Hinata…" She was wearing it again, the nostalgic happy-sad twinkle of her eyes. He unconsciously clenched his fists.
"Y-You worry too much, Naruto-kun."
"Well, if you don't want me to worry, you can try my suggestion."
Her forehead creased. "S-Suggestion?"
"Well, you could stay here in Konoha and I'll make you forget him."
Her heart froze.
He too, was now blushing faintly. "H-Hey, having a Sixth Hokage for a husband has its perks. You can eat all you want in the Ichiraku, a-and…well, you can get a front seat whenever you want to watch the Chuunin Exams…" When he didn't hear any response from her, he forced a careless laughter. "A-Actually, there's more. It's just that I couldn't remember them now."
"W-Why…" she whispered, finally finding her voice. She had not expected this at all.
"I don't know. I don't usually communicate with my memory."
"I-Iie! I-I mean…why are you saying these things?" Her voice was barely audible, since all she could hear was the furious beating of her heart in her ears.
"I don't know…maybe because whenever Granny Tsunade mentions something about 'wife', I would always remember that classmate of mine who prayed so earnestly for me and my dreams…she was the only one who did that for me. Ero-sennin at times would try to push me into going to his spa to help him with his Icha Icha Tactics project, but the memory of her innocent eyes would make me refuse." He smiled thoughtfully. "Or maybe because I won the battle for Konoha with her and her unbelievably unshakable courage for my inspiration. Then again, maybe because there were times I would actually wish that Kiba was born a dog, an ugly dog."
"It may also be because she was weird, and yet I still liked her a lot, and found her weirdness cute. And yes, there's also the part when she was wearing that enchanting nightdress the evening before I left Konoha to battle the Akatsuki. I thought I was with a fairy. A beautiful, prayerful fairy." His blue eyes twinkled. "I have a lot of theories, but well, I think they go down to one conclusion." He got up and turned to face her, a shaky, uncertain smile on his face. "Of all the people I know, it's you that makes me happiest."
She nearly lost her breath on that one. "Na…Naruto-kun…"
His eyes searched her face. "When you disappeared months ago, I felt an all too familiar feeling of sadness, but somehow, this was worse than before. Because after how you lit up my life, I doubt if another someone like you would come my way and make me smile the way you did." He smiled hopefully. "So um… well…will you…consider my proposal at least? Give it a shot. I don't understand why Kiba chose to pass up someone like you, but I'm not THAT dumb to be like him too."
Misty-eyed, she gazed at him. He looked boyishly endearing, just like a cherub. But he was built an archangel, this Sixth Hokage.
She loved him so.
"If you dream to become the greatest Hokage in all history, then your love for your village must not be divided," she reminded him. This was her father's doctrine, something her mother accepted to the best of her ability. She died an unloved wife, but a successful one. After all, her husband became one of the best clan heads in the history of the Hyuugas.
Naruto frowned. "You can't divide infinity, nor can you subtract from it. Like love. I love, and they love me back. Nothing withers away. Besides, what's the use of being great when you're not happy?"
She hugged herself, feeling the tears forming in her eyes. Those were the answers she sought for, the answers she wanted. And they all sounded so simple, coming from the man's mouth. She couldn't believe it; those five months she spent contemplating could be solved by just a simple lesson as going for your happiness.
She felt him touch her shoulder gently. "H-Hinata, d-did I say…something…stupid? S-Sorry…really, I am…anou sa, Hinata…it's not that I'm forcing you or anything…and even if in my heart, I believe I am cuter than your dog-loving friend, I would accept if—"
Suddenly, she threw herself into his arms, laughing and crying at the same time.
She looked up at him, at his scratched cheeks and deep blue eyes, and found herself wondering how happy he could make her.
And then she smiled lovingly at him. He understood, with the way his arms tightened even more around her.
All their lives, they lived with a happy kind of sadness.
Perhaps it was high time for them to feel what it was like to have a happy kind of happiness.
In each other's arms.
Below the hills, with the wishes finally granted, the two lone prayer flags finally found their right time to rest. They yielded to the breeze and flew high above the skies together, with only Him knowing where they would go. But one thing was for sure.
The flags would make this journey together.
For those who like NejiTen, you might want to check out the epilogue of this story in my profile. Relatively lighter and fluffier, which is my signature NejiTen ficcating hehehe.