Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and/or its characters.
He felt someone there. Someone watching. Always, but even now, they were no where to be seen.
He lay sightless and discombobulated in his hospital bed and they were there. The softness of their touch, the warmth of their being, the love in their voice… things he had longed for, for so long, but when he opened his eyes for the first time in days, they disappeared. He missed them greatly.
Naruto began his quick road to physical recovery. By day, he wore his normal mask of naivete, ignorance, clumsiness, and determination, but by night he would wait for his phantom to return. He never did see them, but when he woke, he would find fresh flowers and a chair pulled up next to his bedside. He couldn't outsmart his phantom… that just heightened his curiosity.
He found himself captivated with this mysterious person. Judging from the tone of their voice, they were female. His heartbeat quickened at the thought that some girl would care for him so much as to watch over him while he slept. It also freaked him out a bit. He wished it was Sakura, but knew it was a lost cause. Her tearful plea for him to bring Sasuke back to her was enough of a reminder.
As Naruto became more and more mobile, his mystery girl came less and less. He became a bit saddened by her absence and left the hospital, still not knowing the identity of his phantom girl.
He wondered when he became so possessive and dependent on the presence of his phantom girl. He wondered when her existence became so important to him. Why was she having this much of an impact on him and why wouldn't she show herself! Of course no one would tell him who the girl was either. Damn stubborn bastards.
Three months pasted as Naruto put on his normal façade. Jiraiya would be there soon to take him away for about three years. He ate ramen with his former sensei, Iruka and felt the all-too-familiar watchful gaze on him. He turned around and found no one. To most, this would unnerve them, but Naruto just snickered.
He would find out who it was today!
He left Iruka and traveled down the street as if he were heading home. Instead he made a sharp right down an alley where a surprised squeak met his ears. Who he saw set his inside ablaze.
The shy girl nodded, refusing to look him in the face.
"Are you the one that's been following me?"
She nodded again, guiltily.
That was a shocker. He'd never pinned Hinata to be the stalker type. He had written her off as another Sasuke fangirl… even though she never did really show any interest in the boy.
The he asked the question she wished he wouldn't have.
She gulped. She needed to tell him how she felt about him. Now, before he left for 3 years for training. He may find someone else if she didn't act now. She already wasted a few years trying to gather up her courage.
Too bad her mouth and mind were not cooperating with her.
She took a deep breath and tried to make eye contact with the foxy shinobi, but failed miserable. "Because… watching you gives me strength, Naruto-kun…"
His eyes widened, not because of her touching words, but because of her voice. It was the same voice that he heard in the hospital. The one he could never forget.
"You're the phantom girl!" he exclaimed, shocking poor Hinata.
She looked thoroughly confused. "Phantom girl?" she inquired.
"Yeah. The girl that always came to see me in the hospital when I was unconscious. It was you!" Suddenly the weight of his words sunk in. It was Hinata that was always there for him, by him, watching him when he needed someone the most. Then he vaguely remembered her saying something about watching him and him giving her strength back before his match with Neji. He also felt stupid when he remembered he just brushed off her words with his pessimistic attitude… just like Sasuke did. He silently cursed himself.
Hinata couldn't believe that he was aware of her presence during her visits. She blushed. What if he heard her confessions of love for him felt her caressing his hair and his cheeks? Her breathing quickened a bit. He already thought her weird, he might think she was a crazed fangirl that wanted to jump him in his sleep now.
Naruto interrupted her inner admonishments. "Why'd you only come when I was asleep? More importantly, why'd you stop?" He cursed himself again. He sounded so desperate.
She looked away; one hand clutched at her side while the other placed in front of her lips in a defensive manner. It was now or never… even though never looked pretty tempting, Hinata knew what she had to do. She just was bracing herself for the worse.
"I..I..I came because I was worry about Naruto-kun. When they brought you back after the mission… you looked like…. you looked like you were about to die. Hokage-sama rushed you, Neji-niisan, and Chouji-kun to the hospital. Some said that you weren't going to make it and some were happy about that. I wanted to see if you were going to be okay."
"But that still doesn't tell me why you only came when I was sleeping."
She looked away, not daring to meet his gaze. "I…I was afraid that you might have changed. I didn't want…I didn't want to see the Naruto-kun that I li-knew change. But I feel silly now, you haven't changed at all."
He closed his gaping mouth. Her words were always touching to him and always seemed to cheer him up. "Well with people like you there for me, there would be something wrong with me if I did change. Getting depressed doesn't suit me, does it?"
She looked up at him, shyly and shook her head no.
He grinned foxily back at her, "Thought so." He stopped smiling and sighed, looking away from her. "But sometimes, I don't even know if anyone will care if I'm gone. Sometimes it feels like people would be better off if I wasn't around." he trailed off. Since when was he this gloomy, he didn't really know, but he knew he could blame Sasuke somehow.
Hinata didn't really know what to say. These were feelings that she knew all too well, but hearing Naruto have them too hurt her a bit. She knew everyone had their doubts about themselves, but she always placed Naruto and everyone else in different categories.
They lapsed into an uncomfortable silence until a loud, deep voice interrupted them.
"Naruto! Where is that baka apprentice of mine?"
Naruto blinked. "That's Ero Sennin. Well it's been nice talking to ya, Hinata."
She tried to form words, to tell him, but nothing was coming out. Tears began to well up in her eyes. Why was she being so stupid? She needed to tell him before he left. She needed him to feel better. It would be bad karma for him to leave home feeling depressed.
As he turned towards the voice that called him, her small hands grabbed his. He faced her again to find that his fingers were intertwined with hers. It was a nice feeling. One he could get used to.
She did not look him in the eye, but at their hands, a small smile and blush present on her face. "You're not alone, Naruto-kun. You will always have someone to welcome you home." She spoke the words she longed to hear for herself, from anyone.
She then let go of his hands and stepped back from him, her shy demeanor taking over once again. Sure, she didn't say what her feelings were but she hope that he would understand what her actions meant.
He stood there, stunned. He was amazed. The only person that ever made him feel this was Hinata. She always managed to leave him speechless. For a shy, quiet girl, she sure had a way with words and actions.
Then, like he did many months prior, he smiled, a true smile, and said, "Thank you, Hinata."
The girl nodded in recognition, flashing him a small, shy smile of her own.
Jiraiya called for the boy again.
"Kuso," Naruto muttered as he looked back at the mouth of the alleyway. He glanced back at the white-eyed girl, apologetically. "I wish I knew it was you sooner, Hinata. Now I have to go away for a while, but I'll be back and stronger than ever!" He pumped his fist in the air. He then averted his eyes, scratching his whisker-marked cheek, "It's kinda weird to ask you this but…. Will you wait for me?"
"Always…" she quickly responded, a little too quickly for her own taste. She broke out into a large blush causing Naruto to break into another foxy grin. She smiled back. His smiles were always contagious.
He felt he looked stupid, grinning like an idiot, but he couldn't stop himself; he had someone he knew really cared for him, even if she didn't say it out loud. They continued to bask in each other's company until the same irritated voice called his name again.
"I'm coming, I'm coming… Stupid Ero Sennin." He turned back to his phantom girl. "I have to go now, Hinata, but when I get back, I'll treat you to the best ramen Konoha has to offer!" He flashed her another one of his smiles and was off to meet the Toad Sennin.
She watched him exit their little dwelling. She watched him get whacked in the back of the head by a man with long white hair. She watched him declare he would get stronger. She watched him go. That was what she does; watch him. And she would continue doing so as long as her life allowed her to.
Happy way belated birthday, Lucky-san! n-n;; Yeah…
Blah… so little NaruHina fandom at the moment. T-T It makes me sad. Erm… yeah… I'm not dead. I have a blog now, so check it out for updates of fics and stuff… Ja ne.