Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

Note: This fanfic is set post time-skip, but was written before the actual time skip had been written in the manga, so I suppose its AU.


Chapter One:

Learning to Scream


Dawn began to settle across the skies of Konoha village. Bright streaks of orange and pink cut through the clouds like heavenly kunai. A light dew clung to the grass. The slightly chilly wind whistled through the trees. The field behind the old training academy was empty, save one solitary blond ninja slowly swinging on an abandoned tree swing.

Oh... and me hiding in the bushes.

I know the situation looks err... unwholesome. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not stalking Naruto-kun. I AM going to go up and talk to him! I just need a moment to compose my self. Besides, Naruto-kun looks soo... Un-Naruto like so maybe he needs a moment too? What if I catch him in a moment of weakness and embarrass his manly pride? So I'm giving him a moment. Several of them in fact. I'm considerate like that.

Hmm... If he's depressed I could comfort him... in the moonlight... all alone... Eeek!

I repressed a shiver and put my hands in my jacket pocket. In front of me, Naruto-kun leaned forward on his swing, staring forward but seeing nothing. He was gently pushing off the ground with the tip of his foot, letting the swing sway back and forth.

When had his eyes become so blue?

Oh course, they've always been blue. But ever since he returned from his two year training trip, they've become bluer. And somehow deeper too, like a whirlpool I'd gladly drown in. You don't get to see his eyes very often. He closes his eyes when he smiles, like his smile is too big for his face.

I've always been fascinated by eyes. Blue, green, red, violet, brown, they reflect so much of a person's soul. He has such kind and terribly lonely eyes. Maybe that's why his smile covers them up? My own eyes are supposed to instill fear in my enemies, not reflect such "useless" emotions such as kindness. My clan will never be satisfied with the reflection they see in my eyes.

Still, the situation with my father and my cousin is better now. After my first chunnin exam, they both became... nicer. Father said something to him... I don't know what. And I know Naruto-kun beating Neji-nisan broke through his icy facade. I guess I have him to thank for that too, huh?

Kindness, fear, gentleness... A Hyuuga is meant to be a stoic mountain; unmoving and unyielding. But I know better now. Kindness isn't a liability. I know in my gut I'm right. It's funny really, that eyes that can see in all directions could be so blind when gazing within.

That is my nindo.

I've become stronger Naruto-kun. I want you to see. I want you to be proud.

And now I can finally tell him. He's finally returned from his training trip with that... that... MAN. Oh, it makes my stomach clench just thinking about it! When he had left on that sunny day years ago, I had been worried that he would come back different somehow. Would his eyes no longer sparkle, or crinkle at the edges when he smiled? Or worse, he would come back with that hardened, empty look that I have seen on so many other ninjas? Still, I knew deep down that Naruto-kun was strong. He could take anything the world could throw at him.

However, the news of what his legendary teacher was really like began to trickle down to me.

And that's when I became REALLY worried.

So worried in fact, that I bought a copy of Icha Icha Paradise with the help of an aging genjutsu Kurenai had taught me (obviously not intended to help me procure dirty books). I bought it purely for research purposes, of course! I was sure it would give me some kind of insight into what the man who had taken Naruto away was like.

...why oh why had I read it? Surely THAT should never go THERE normally! And I never knew that THAT could do... that. And honestly, if you tried to do THAT with THAT why... you would be arrested!

...wouldn't you?

For weeks, I couldn't sleep. What kind of horrible-womanizing-pervert-enemy-of all-women-evil-man had Tsunade-sama allowed Naruto to be trained by? How could she let him leave with such a man?! My faith in Konoha's leadership was shattered! But more importantly, what kind of womanizing pervert Casanova would NARUTO return as?

What if he got messed up expectations and expected all women to be like the ones in that book? I could never compete! I could never slink around and be all sultry like those women in the novel. I can't slink. I'm a shuffler. I shuffle.

Shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle.

That's never the sound effect when a sexy woman enters the room!

And in the midst of my agonizing, the worst possible thing happened.

Neji-nisan caught me reading my copy of Icha Icha Paradise.

It was the first, and probably only time, I have seen Neji-nisan burst into laughter.

It's strange that a major turning point in my life would come with me in my pajamas and bunny slippers early Saturday morning, holding a dirty book, and turning strange combinations of red. And yet, it was. Something just snapped inside. The cage inside my mind smashed, releasing my inner beast.

A tiny, bunny slipper wearing beast, but a beast nonetheless.

I still remember what I said.

"S-So what if it is mine?!" I glared at him and tried to stand taller, even though I still barely reached his shoulders. "I was doing research cause I was worried about Naruto-kun! And-And now he's going to come back a super pervert and-- How could they print such horrible stuff?! How could this be a best seller?! What is the world coming to?!"

My cousin had looked taken back, but also oddly amused.

Which had made me even angrier.

"Wha-what are you so happy about?! Why oh why did Tsunade-sama let him go away with that man that... that.. Ero-Sennin! Yes, I said it! And it WAS rather disrespectful!"

Neji shrugged his shoulders in a placating kind of way.

I think I then became a bit incomprehensible, because Neji had put his hands on my shoulders and shook me slightly. I recall looking up dazed.

The corner of Neji's mouth twitched. "I'm sorry to break this to you but." He didn't look sorry at all. "Naruto is..." A smirk cracked his stone face. "ALREADY A PERVERT."

And then he had walked away, leaving me alone in my room with my mouth hanging open.

I think I threw the book at him too, but everything for the next hour or so after that is a bit cloudy.

I know it would have been a small moment for anyone else. But for me, it was important; defining. I had yelled at someone!

I know it sounds so insignificant, but it was the first time in my life I had left my true feelings flow out of me.

And little by little, it became easier.

The first week, my teammates went to eat after practice at the restaurant I picked out instead of simply staying silent and letting them choose. And then Kiba found out what I REALLY thought about him and Akamaru practicing lethal peeing practice only ten feet away from where I was practicing.

He was very polite to me for weeks.

Then I asked Kurenai to teach me a few Genjutsus. A month after that, I asked for the DANGEROUS ones.

And things progressed that way for two years, little by little.

I can speak now. I WILL speak now. I won't hold back. I'll be more like Naruto-kun. Stronger. LOUDER.

I really admire his ability to scream. I can understand why many people see it as an obnoxious trait, and it sort of is, but I envy it. To be able to scream your heart out until your throat burns, not giving a damn what anyone thinks, it's true freedom.

And I won't let him scream alone anymore. Two voices are louder than one, right?

I backtracked out of the bushes, and approached Naruto-kun from the walkway like I hadn't been staring at him from the bushes till nightfall like a disturbed person.

I still have some issues I need to work out, I guess.

I slowly approached Naruto-kun, who looked up at me as if waking from a dream.

"Hello Naruto-kun." I took another step forward and leaned down a tiny bit. Even from his sitting position on the swing, we were almost eye level. He'd gotten taller, not a lot taller, but still taller. It suited him. "Are you okay?"

Yes! No stuttering! Everything is going okay so far! No klutzy-ness either.

"Oh, hi Hinata." He smiled fleetingly. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just weird being back ya know? And..." He trailed off and looked away.

"What?" I took another step forward. Wow, we're having a meaningful conversation in the moonlight! Not that Naruto-kun's pain is good. Er...

"It's just that..."


Naruto-kun locked gazes with me, and it felt like he was boring in my soul. Have we finally made a connection? A gentle breeze blew a few tendrils of his golden hair across his forehead. As if in slow motion, he opened his mouth to speak.

"The... ramen shop is closed today!"

I took another step and promptly fell face first into a mud puddle.

A muddy, squishy, dirty, mud puddle.

My nindo still needs some work.

Why me?

...maybe if I don't move he'll think I'm dead and leave me alone.

Or... maybe he'll think I'm dead and give me CPR!

Visions of lips and fingertips, of random twisted ankles and piggy back rides, of midnight confessions of love, contrived blanket scenarios and sudden rain storms flashed through my mind.

...I never should have read that book.

"Oh crap! Hinata are you okay?" Naruto-kun grabbed my arms and lifted me from the puddle. My fall had splattered him all over with mud too.

"Oh my gosh Naruto-kun I'm s-so sorry! I didn't mean to get you all muddy!"

"Eh heh heh. It's okay. It's not like ya did it on purpose or anything." He smiled. "Don't worry about it. Trust me, I've stepped on and fallen into lots of stuff way more gross than mud. Why I remember this one time..." He paused and looked sheepish. "Oops, sorry about that. Girls probably don't want to hear about my adventures of stepping into gross stuff."

"Oh no, I don't mind." I'd listen to him read off his grocery list if I could. I paused and looked down... he was still holding me.

Naruto must have noticed too, because he let go of me gently and stepped back. I watched as he wiped a bit of mud absently off his cheek, and I had a strange urge to grab his hand and wipe it off myself... His deep blue gaze turned to me and his head tilted curiously.

"You're so... weird Hinata."

My heart took a plunge into the cold dark ocean of despair.

"But in a good way."

My heart jumped out of the ocean and went to a beach party; the happy drunken kind.

Naruto looked away. "Do you think anyone would mind if I took this swing?"

I was having trouble throwing off the after effects of Naruto-kun's "compliment no jutsu". "Huh?"

He looked back at me, and his expression was blank, unreadable. "They're not doing anything with it. If I just swipe it, no one will care right? I used to sit here all the time as a kid." He shrugged and brushed some mud off of his pants. "I dunno, just bothers me that it's just gonna sit here and rot."

"I promise I won't tell a soul!"

Naruto blinked. "Wow Hinata, you're talking in exclamation points and everything!" He smiled, and the smile reached to the tiny creases in his eyes.

A little dark spot inside me warmed and I couldn't help smiling back.

"Ok then!" He jumped up to the lowest branch in one leap, pulled a kunai from his pants pocket, cut the top of the rope with one smooth motion, jumped down, and caught the swing before it fell to the ground. "Operation complete!"

"What are you going to do with it?"

"Eh? I dunno" He shrugged, and I could have sworn the tips of his ears turned red. "I guess I'll take it to my apartment. Maybe I'll keep it and some other kid someday will swing on it. Oh well, I'll figure something out."

Some other kid? Like... his own someday?

Or... OURS?

EEK! Bad Hinata! Block the Icha Icha Paradise thoughts out! You are a properly brought up lady!

I took a step forward and felt a sharp jab of pain shoot through my ankle. I tried to keep my balance, but it was hopeless. I was going to meet Mr. Ground again today.

Then Naruto-kun caught me in his arms.

My breath caught. My heart forgot to beat. My face burned. I looked up and our faces were only inches apart. He smiled a cheshire grin at me, but I could see his cheeks turning rosy.

"Heh, can't stay out of my arms eh?"

We were so close I could feel his breathe on my face. He smelled like ramen... Should I kiss him? Is this my chance? Or would that be weird?

I accidentally leaned back and winced in pain.

"Ah jeez. You're hurt aren't you?" He stepped back a bit but still kept a loose hold on my arms.

I felt the mood crumble like Tsunade-sama in a poker game.

"Um... I think it may be twisted." TWISTED ANKLE PIGGY BACK RIDE! Eeek! No! I have to stop jumping to conclusions! He wouldn't do anything like... I blinked.

He had let me go gently and was now standing with his back turned to me, holding his arms out behind his back.

"Here." He looked over his shoulder at me. "I'll give you a piggy back ride home."

My heart remembered to beat, and then started pounding so hard it made up for all of the missed beats at once.

Oh my gosh! NarutowantstogivemeapiggybackridewhatshouldIdo?! That would involve touching and stuff and.. Eeek! I can't move! But I have to go for it! Then I can be pressed against him and... Oh no! I'M THE ONE THAT TURNED INTO A PERVERT!

"Err..." He paused, looking so lost for a brief second before he covered it up that my heart clenched painfully. "If you don't want to that's--"


I clamped my hand over my mouth, but it was too late. I'd just screamed so loudly half of Konoha had to have heard it.

Naruto stepped back in surprise. "Whoa, I didn't know you could be that loud!" He smiled again, a smile just for me. "Here." He walked in front of me and showed his back again. "On the count of three I'll pick ya up... one, two, three!"

He latched his hands behind my knees as I hesitantly leaned forward. Seemingly effortlessly, he lifted me up onto his back.

I was so close his scent filled my nostrils; it was sweat, fresh cut grass, and just a hint of miso ramen. I thought he said the ramen shop was closed today? Oh well! Who cares! Naruto-kun was giving me a piggy back ride!!

"I know you had it in ya." He started walking off toward the Hyuuga estate. Was it my imagination, or were his ears turning red again? "I've always found, that if ya want people to notice you, ya gotta shout above the crowd. Know what I mean?"

"Yeah... I know what you mean Naruto-kun."

And so, he carried me off into the night, talking all the way until we came to my home. And although we didn't do THAT or THIS... Not that I expected to! I felt that today, and from now on, my voice would be loud enough for him to hear.

I had learned to scream.

Which sounds a bit perverted now that I think about it...

Darn Ero-Senin.


C&C is welcome. Sure this is just a little bit of oneshot fluff, but there can never be enough Naruto/Hinata fluff in the world.