This is dedicated to Dark-Hooded Eriol the Mag a.k.a Aya-chan in Himitsu Desu Forums! Happy birthday neechan!

Of birthdays and fever

She sat there at what was once his "fortress of solitude", trembling because of the cold wind brushing against her pale skin. She rubbed her hands together to bring even little warmth to her fragile body. It proved futile because the night was far too cold for her and she wrapped her arms around herself as a last resort.

Her nose was red and her cheeks were tainted with her tears. She shook her head meekly to remove the snow flakes that accumulated in her blue hair. Her eyes were downcast and she was staring absentmindedly at the snow-filled ground.

The cold wind brushed against her again as she hummed to herself a song of loneliness.

He walked in the dim streets alone and with a worried expression. He was clad in thick clothes to maintain the warmth of his body.

He mumbled a couple of curses as he was suddenly blocked by a path that was filled with too much snow. He was in a hurry and he wouldn't allow this to stop him from searching for her.

With determination in his intense blue eyes, he gathered chakra in his feet and landed atop the pile of snow without sinking in.

And he ran as fast as he can…

He was off to find her, the princess who experienced coldness greater than winter's.

He came. He saw. He heard it all.

He came to her 16th birthday because he knew she would love it. He saw how they glared at her; he saw how much hate the Hyuuga had in their eyes for their mistreated heiress. He heard how much they cursed her.

And in a blink of an eye, she left…tears running down her face.

For seconds, he stood there on the snow, dumbfounded by what happened again.

He clenched his fists.

And he was off again to play the part of a knight in shining armor in her nightmarish night.

He tried to stop the tears that threatened to fall when he saw how much pain she kept in. He felt a dagger pierce his heart when she reminded himself how much loneliness can kill you.

And yet…with all the pain and suffering she carried, she was still like an angel in his eyes.

He shook his head and ran silently to where she sat. He took off his thick coat without hesitation once he realized how thin her dress was. He wrapped it around her gently and she didn't move.

"Hinata…" He spoke gently and she snapped out of her trance in a sharp gasp. She looked at him straight in the eyes. His heart was shrouded with sadness when he saw how much loneliness and sadness she had in her eyes. He could see it easily in her white orbs. It was still fresh, the pain and the suffering.

"Naruto-kun…" And in a split second, she fell of the swing.

Naruto moved to catch her in his arms and he thanked his quick reflexes for that.

He looked at her and she was unconscious. He removed his gloves and placed it over her forehead which was very hot.

He placed her carefully on his not-so-comfy bed and tucked her under a very cozy comforter. He immediately checked her temperature again and on the moment he placed his calloused hands on her forehead, her eyelids fluttered open gently.

He furrowed his eyebrows in worry. "Hinata…how do you feel?"

She looked at him with sad and tired eyes, "Naruto-kun…I…" She tried to sit up but she found her body weak. Naruto gestured for her to continue lying down. "I…feel… bad…"

Naruto smiled at her warmly to comfort her even for just a bit. "Rest…" He whispered softly. Naruto stood up.

"Wait…Naruto-kun…" Hinata said. "Don't leave me…" She tried to reach out and grab his hands. Naruto leaned down; he took her hand and squeezed it reassuringly.

"I'll come back, Hinata…" He stroked her hair gently and he smiled again. Even though Hinata wasn't at her best condition, she still managed to blush. Naruto chuckled. "I won't take long. For the meantime, rest in here. You don't have to worry. "

A couple of minutes later, he came back with a bowl of hot ramen in his hands. He placed it at the table near the bed. He sat near Hinata. "Hey…" He shook her gently and she opened her eyes again. Naruto helped her to sit up. He took the bowl. "You have to eat first. You can't take the medicine with an empty stomach…" He lowered the bowl and looked down. "You…haven't even eaten yet…"

"How did you find out?" Hinata reached out for the spoon laid atop a napkin at the table. A few seconds after she took it, her hands gave in and the spoon dropped in the bed. Hinata looked down at her hands; she felt so tired.

Naruto picked up the spoon. "I was there Hinata." He grinned; Hinata looked surprised. It was because she didn't see Naruto there.

"But…I…" She looked down.

"Hehehe…you were so tensed there. Makes sense because of all the stares you received…" He mentally cursed himself a second later for making Hinata recall what happened earlier. "Ugh…I'm sorry…" His voice trailed off.

Silence fell as the smell of the ramen's broth filled their senses.

Naruto then smiled at her. "Open wide…"

Hinata shyly opened her mouth.

"Do you feel better now?" Naruto asked her with a cheerful face. Hinata smiled faintly at him. "I'll take that as a yes." He then took out a tablet from his pouch. He offered Hinata the tablet and the glass of water. "This should make you feel a lot better."

He watched her silently as she took the medicine he gave her. Unknown to him, his lips slowly curved into a smile. Hinata didn't notice for the first few seconds while she drank her medicine. She stared at him in a puzzled way; she wondered why he had such a smile on his face. Hinata blushed as she laid the glass of water in the table beside the bed.

He immediately looked away once he heard the sound of the glass hitting the table and once he noticed she was staring at him in a puzzled way.

Silence fell again. He rubbed the back of his neck as he felt very uncomfortable with the deafening silence in the room.

Hinata looked down on the white sheets of her bed. There was only one thing to say that was very appropriate for what was happening now.

"Arigatou gozaimasu…" Hinata's soft voice filled his hearing. He turned to look at her.

"It's not a problem at all, Hinata…" He smiled gently and warmly at Hinata.

Hinata shook his head, "Thank you very much Naruto-kun…" She smiled at him.

Naruto scratched his head. "You don't have to thank me that much…"

Hinata had more energy in her face now. "You deserve it Naruto-kun."

Naruto looked confused. "It wasn't a big deal at all."

"If you hadn't found me, I might have caught hypothermia already …" She looked outside the window. It was snowing heavily outside. "…Or worse…I could have died out there…buried alive under the snow…"

Naruto just looked at her.

"It is a very heroic deed, Naruto-kun. You will be a great Hokage someday."

Naruto grinned at her, "Stop flattering me Hinata…"

Hinata giggled, "But it's true, Naruto-kun…"

Naruto laughed with her. The mood in the room became cheery.

"Truly, Naruto-kun, you have saved me very much…more than you know…" Hinata whispered shyly.

"We're quits now…" Naruto grinned.

"Eh?" Hinata looked at him.

Naruto looked away. "Remember…? Back then, in the training grounds…before my fight… " He looked at her. The snow gradually stopped; the clouds made way for the moonlight and the moonlight illuminated his features, as well as hers. "You saved me more than you know…"

Hinata suddenly had this unusual feeling in her heart. She felt her cheeks burn because of the sudden rush of blood in her face. "N-Naruto-kun…"

"Hinata…" Naruto spoke out her name with so much emotion that Hinata didn't know exactly what. Her blush grew fiercer as he stroked her face.

"N-Naruto-kun…" Her heart was beating fiercely.

"How do you feel?" He asked while he directly looked at her eyes. He looked down. "Are you really alright now?" He felt tears against his hand. "Hinata…" He wiped away her tears. "Please stop…I don't want to see you cry…"

"It's just that…it hurts so much…!" She cried more.

Naruto clenched his teeth in regret of asking her the question. He didn't have to but he wanted to know how she felt. Kept feelings, after all, are no good.

Hinata buried her face in her hands. Her shoulders shook as she sobbed.

Naruto moved closer and he enveloped her in his arms. He didn't stop her from crying; he let her release all the emotions trapped deep inside of her.

"Did…did you here what…t-they said?" She sobbed. Naruto hugged her tighter.

"Yes I did…" He felt so angry. He wanted to attack the Hyuuga compound right now to kick some Hyuuga bastards. But at the same time, he wanted to stay here with her.

"I don't get why Hiashi-sama tolerates a weakling like her."

"I don't get it too…a weakling like she should be kicked out of the main house, or even better….out of the Hyuuga clan. She's a complete disgrace."

"Hai, she brings nothing but problems and shame…"

Hinata cried harder as some of the things she heard earlier played back in her head.

"She's is just a worthless girl…"

"Why…why do they still se me like what I was years ago?" She asked.

Naruto stroked her back.

"Why do they still fail to see how much I worked and trained to meet their expectations? What…What is strong to them anyway? What do I need to do to show t-them that I am strong?"

Naruto cradled her weak body in his arms. "I have an idea…"

She pushed herself away from his arms. She looked up at him and she wiped away her tears. "Y-you do…?" She asked.

Naruto nodded enthusiastically. "All you have to do is stand up straight and keep your chin up tomorrow."

Hinata raised her eyebrow. "Huh?"

Naruto chuckled. "If you do that, you can show them that you're not affected by the lies they say about you. In other words, you're strong…" He raised one finger while he made his point.

"B-but…N-Naruto-kun…" She stuttered.

Naruto crossed his arms. "Don't tell me that you're weak because you aren't!"

Hinata looked down. "B-but Naruto-kun…" She gripped the sheets tightly with her pale hands. "I am--!"

"Lies!" Naruto cut her off. "You're not weak! You're a strong and beautiful person! Those bastards fail to see it because they don't use their eyes correctly!"

Hinata was startled by such an outburst from Naruto. She was very used to seeing a loud Naruto but what he said hit her right in the heart. And he did say she was beautiful.

"If only I could open their eyes, I would have opened it a long time ago so they can see who Hyuuga Hinata really is." His cerulean eyes were focused on her white orbs. "I have failed to see you before…" He sighed, "It took a long time before I was able to use these eyes of mine correctly."

"Naruto-kun…" She didn't know what else to say.

Naruto gently brushed away stray strands of her hair. "Hinata…I've passed up a lot of chances by being blind. I have something to tell you…"

Hinata suddenly became nervous when he said that. She was unable to speak because of her fast heartbeat. Her fingers grew cold and her palm became sweaty. She had already forgotten about all the invisible pain inside her. Her senses were focused on him solely.

Naruto's eyes darted back and forth between the furnishings of the room and Hinata. He was absolutely finding it hard to say the things he wanted to tell her. This wasn't the best time, but this might be the only time he'd be able to tell her. Adrenaline rushed inside him as he struggled to say what he wanted to say. "Hinata…"

Hinata gripped the sheets tighter. She didn't know what he would say but she was somehow expecting him to say that he liked her. She shook off her expectations because she knew it would only bring her more pain if it didn't turn out to be what she expected.

"Hinata…" He repeated her name. He ruffled his blonde her. "I…I…I…" He bit his lip. "I just want to greet you a happy birthday!"

Hinata's nervousness quickly left her after she heard what he said. She was a bit disappointed but nevertheless, he just made her most terrible birthday into a great one. "Thank you, Naruto-kun…"

Naruto smiled at her and he was relieved to see that she smiled back. He then heard a knock on the door. He immediately approached it and he opened it. The sight of Neji wearing a pretty thick coat greeted him. "Naruto…have you seen Hinata? You ran after her, right?"

Naruto grinned at him. "She's here…with a fever…"

Neji stepped inside without shaking off the snow in his body. It wasn't a big deal for Naruto that Neji carried snow inside his house. "A fever…! Where is she?'

Naruto pointed at the bed. "Don't worry; I did all the necessary things to stop her fever from becoming worse."

Neji looked at him. "Good." He approached the bed. "Hinata-sama…" Neji leaned down. "Forgive the stupidity of some of our clan mates…"

Hinata smiled at Neji. "It's ok now, Neji-niisan. Naruto-kun not only took care of me, he also cheered me up."

Neji straightened up. "I see. You're father wants you to come back now…he has already scolded those who have opposed his daughter." He smirked.

"Ugh…Neji…she's still a little weak…" Naruto said.

Hinata shook her head. "I think I can stand up now…" She tried and Neji assisted her. She was shaky at first but she eventually got it right. She walked slowly to Naruto. Hinata shyly smiled at him.

She then lightly kissed Naruto on the cheek. "Thanks again…"

Naruto blushed and her grinned. "You're welcome Hinata…any time…" He did a nice guy pose.

Neji smirked, "Let's go, Hinata-sama…it's getting late."

"Wait! Hinata…about you're gift…can we just go out. I mean, so I can get you what you want." Naruto said slowly.

Hinata blushed.

Neji smirked yet again. "She would come with you, don't worry. Her answer would be yes, trust me."

Hinata glared at Neji.

Neji smirked again.

Hinata then spoke, "Ok…" Neji chuckled. "This Friday…erhm… what time?"

"How about six pm?" Naruto asked.

"At night…?"

Neji smirked more, "More shops are open at night, Hinata-sama…"

Hinata smiled at Naruto shyly. "Ok…"

"Then it's a date!" He covered his mouth suddenly.

Hinata giggled.

Neji raised an eyebrow, "Hinata-sama…" He cleared his throat. "It's getting late…"

Hinata nodded and she waved goodbye to Naruto. Neji and Hinata stepped outside.

"Hinata…!" Naruto called her again.

Hinata turned around and faced him. They stared at one another. Then, Naruto just shook his head. "Take care…"

Naruto watched them leave at his doorstep. He then rubbed the back of his neck. He stepped inside and before he closed the door, he said, "Damn it, why was it so hard to say like her?"


Hope you enjoyed it!