She didn't know how long she had been looking for him. It felt like hours, but everything seems to take longer when you're as worried as she is. She wasn't sure why she was worried. She just knew that the look she saw on his face as he left wasn't normal. It simply wasn't something he would ever show unless something was very wrong.
'Why do these woods have to be so thick? I'll never find him in here.' She thought frantically to herself as she ran. It was at that time she spotted him. Sitting up in a tree staring off into nothing. It was quite possibly the largest tree she had ever seen and for once she was thankful that he was wearing his orange jumpsuit. She never would have spotted him up there if he dressed like a normal ninja.
"Naruto-kun." She called out to him.
He didn't turn but she saw him flinch slightly as if she had surprised him.
"Naruto-kun are you ok?"
Still no answer but at least he looked her way this time. His eyes were blank, showing none of the joy that was always there before. Nothing ever scared her as much as that look.
When he left on his training journey she promised herself that she would be stronger when he got back. Strong enough to tell him how she felt about him. Perhaps this was the best time to tell him. If nothing else it would distract him from whatever was bothering him. She leapt up, ricocheting from tree to tree until she reached the branch he was on. Slowly he turned to look at her. Their eyes met but it seemed almost as if he didn't really see her. Like he was looking straight through her. She knew she had to help him. Somehow.
"Naruto-kun, what's wrong?"
"Don't worry about it." He responded in a dull, quiet, monotone.
"I'm sorry but I can't not worry about it. Please, I just want to help."
Something flickered in his eyes for a moment but what it was she couldn't tell. Anything was better than the emptiness she saw though.
"Why? Why do you want to help me?"
The slight undercurrent of anger in his voice startled her. The only time she had ever heard him angry was when someone hurt someone he cared about or insulted his dream.
"Because. Because I'm your friend and I care about you."
He snorted derisively. "Don't bother lying to me. I know no one cares about me. Have you ever seen the way they all look at me? I thought that maybe by the time I returned things might have changed a little bit, but I guess people don't change. At least not for the better."
The whole time he was speaking he never raised his voice but his words held the same intensity as if he was shouting.
"I'm not the one lying! You're lying to yourself if you think no one cares about you." She on the other hand was shouting, an action that surprised even herself.
Calming herself she continued. "There are a lot of people that care about you. I can tell without even asking them. Everyone from our graduating class, Neji and his team, all the jounin sensei, even the Hokage herself. And then there's me. No, I never noticed the way the villagers look at you; I only know how I was looking at you. I watched you. You made me happy when nothing else could. You made me strong. Much stronger than I ever could have been without you." She trailed off, waiting to see if he would respond.
He looked stunned. Clearly confused, a storm of questions and emotions raged behind his cerulean eyes. For a moment it looked as if he would speak. His mouth opened slightly and then closed again. His gaze drifted down to the branch he was still seated on. Slowly she walked over until she was right in front of him and then sat down. With a delicate hand she reached out and gently lifted his head to look at her.
Smiling sweetly she continued, "And even if I'm wrong about everyone else, I know I'm not wrong about how I feel. They say that you'll know what love is when you feel it and I think it's true. N-Naruto-kun."
Her word began to stick in her throat. Her tongue unable to force out what she knew she needed to say. He was looking at her expectantly. No longer were his eyes plagued by the hollowness that had been there before. Slowly she felt her courage return to her.
"Naruto-kun I know I'm not wrong about how I feel because… because I-I l-love you."
The last three words were said barely above a whisper but the look on his face assured her that he had heard her. She didn't want to have to repeat herself. It was doubtful she would even be able to.
His expression remained largely unchanged except for a tear that was slowly making it's way down his face. Suddenly he sobbed and buried his fingers in his hair. Staring down between his legs at the branch he was on, his body racked itself as it tried to expel all the negative emotions that had been festering there. She quickly rose to her knees and wrapped her arms around his head, clutching it to her chest. Softly, she stroked his hair in an attempt to comfort him. Unable to think of anything to say, she remained quiet, lowering her face to nuzzle the back of his head.
Again time seemed to defy its' usual pace. It seemed to her like he had only been crying for a few minutes but by the time he was starting to calm down the sun was setting. It didn't matter. All that mattered right now was him. Slowly his breathing returned to normal and he began to raise his head.
"H-Hinata?" He said, his voice shaking.
"Thank you… for everything."
She shook her head slightly. "I'm only doing what I should have done a long time ago."
"You say that but you're the first person to ever really try to help me, and you're the only person to ever say they love me in any way, shape, or form. It means a lot to me."
She smiled. A smile she only has when she's with him. "Many people love you Naruto-kun, they just haven't told you yet."
By that time the sun had set and it was getting dark.
"Naruto-kun I need to go, my father will be angry if I don't get home soon." She said as she began to stand.
Without thinking his hand shot out and grabbed her wrist.
"Please…. stay just a while longer with me." The loneliness that permeated his eyes as he said this tore at her heart. There was no way she could tell him no. Gradually she lowered herself back down to the branch in front of Naruto. Lightly, he grabbed her shoulder and turned her so that her back was too him. He then pulled her back until she was leaning against his chest. Sighing, he wrapped his arms around her and leaned his head on her shoulder.
"You know something Hinata? I think I could love you someday too."
If he could have seen her eyes at that time he could have seen just how much of an effect his words had on the small girl in his arms. Some might say that the pale lavender orbs of the Hyuuga clan are soulless and unfeeling but at that moment there was more emotion in the eyes of one Hyuuga Hinata than had ever been seen before, all of it happiness.
A/N: This is the first of what I hope to be many stories I write. I'm currently working on another part of this story. My general rule is that if anyone asks me to write again I probably will, even if it is just one person. Anyways, thanks for reading until the end. I hope you enjoyed it. Review and I'll love you. Don't review and I'll feel indifference to your continued existence.