A breeze blew strongly now and again.
The occasional gust of wind did not seem to inconvenience the large number of butterflies visiting the flowers that sprung up along the edges of the training field.
"You've just about got it, Hinata-chan!" Naruto called out encouragement. "You're doing really well. For a shy, dark weirdo, I mean."
"Naruto-kun-n-n-n-…" Hinata bit her lip. His joke had made her lose concentration. They had been practicing for weeks, and she had been working very hard, because she wanted her important person to be proud of her. She never put that into words of course.
"What? You need to be able to concentrate no matter what situation you are in. I've used that jutsu falling from high places… needing to get out of deadly situations… and when great opportunities arose…" He rubbed the side of his nose. "Of course, if you don't want to be the kind of person I could like…"
That had Hinata's eyes going wide. She sighed. Taking a deep breath, she held it. Somehow, things all came into focus this time. She spoke the words and made the seals. Before she knew it, she was looking at six copies of herself. She twiddled her fingers looking them up and down. Had she gained weight?
"WAY TO GO HINATA-CHAN!" It could have been an imposter and not Naruto if there wasn't at least one enthusiastic shout. "Uzumaki Naruto, master teacher. Hah! Not too many people know this skill, Hinata-chan. They don't get to look at the Forbidden Scroll."
"I did it, Naruto-kun." Hinata's eyes sparkled. She gave Naruto a look filled with gratitude. There was something else in her gaze, but Naruto wasn't experienced enough to notice. "But, though I have taught you how I do my jutsus, you can never do them." She sounded a bit dejected, saying that.
"No big deal, Hinata-chan!" Naruto flexed the muscle on one arm. "I picked up plenty of new jutsus when I was training with Jiraiya. That old hermit wasn't as good a teacher as me." Naruto wasn't about to admit that Hinata had been a far more receptive student than he had been. "I might try to teach you Rasengan some day… but I doubt that a girl could master that…"
"I… ummm… well…" Hinata stopped rubbing her fingers together. Naruto was only joking. She had been getting more and more used to his sarcasm and quips while they spent unofficial time training together.
"Most guys wouldn't be able to do it either, Hinata-chan." Naruto liked to tease Hinta. He had gotten a fair idea of just how shy and withdrawn the girl was by training with her. She seemed to be making improvements there, too. He needed to be careful not to discourage her or chase her away. "Yeh. I don't have the Hyuuga eyes or Blood Limit, but you managed to teach me something anyway, without knowing it." Naruto hooked a thumb under one arm and stuck his nose in the air.
"Naruto-kun?" Hinata wondered what she could have possibly done to help him. She had been the one who always watched him, not the other way around. He had been the one who turned her life around with a few shouted words of encouragement. She never did anything like that for him.
"I can't do the Byakugan, Hinata. That means that I personally can't see the inner coil system or tenketsu. But, the stupid fox can. He can't be bothered under normal circumstances, and it's hard for me to reach him. But, in an emergency…" Naruto shrugged. Kyuubi was a mystery to him. He preferred to keep it that way. It had taken him a long time to come to terms with the fact that he was as strong as he was because the demon was sealed behind his navel.
"Naruto-ku…" Hinata looked surprised.
"Yes. Mention that to your father at dinner some night. It will probably make his day." Naruto knew how proud the Hyuugas were of their exclusive skills. They had right to be proud. But, they could all use to be a bit less snooty. All except Hinata, that is.
"Ummm…" Hinata wasn't about to do that. It was wonderful that her father accepted her back into his family life, and had taken to teaching Neji and her.
"Oh. And I can't do Kaiten either, since I personally can't expel chakra from every one of my tenketsu." Naruto's smile grew even more. "But, Kyuubi can…" He clapped his hands together. "All I need now is Rokujuu Yonshou to have the whole matched set!"
Any other girl might have been jealous, or felt the sting of pride, seeing that someone else had effectively copied her family's secrets. Not Hinata. She clasped her hands together and stared at Naruto with a look of adoration.
"That's all because of you, Hinata-chan. Who knows? It might save my life some day!" Naruto looked down at the ground and kicked at a stone. He had started off training with Hinata because he felt sorry for her, seeing that she had a limited number of powerful jutsus, due to the usual Hyuuga way of things. Of course, those jutsus were one that nations were willing to kidnap white-eyed children for, but it was the principle of the matter that had irked him. He had also felt compelled to help her, because while she had friends and had opened up a great deal more, she always seemed to be alone. He knew all too well what that was like, from his childhood. He had also felt isolated, away with the Frog Hermit. He just wanted to be with someone that wanted him around.
Of course, the more time he spent with her, the more time he wanted to spend with her. It wasn't just because she worked hard like he did. It wasn't because she never complained and never really scolded him or put him down. She liked him. He had finally figured that out. Somehow, that made her very attractive to him. But, she was attractive in her own right, having gotten cuter and… well… having filled out some more… and… well… having rounded up nicely. She had been in his dreams a lot, lately. He had dreamed about seeing her in this field with him. There had been flowers in his dream, and butterflies. Was it just a big coincidence?
The Hinata clones began popping out of existence. Hinata almost looked sad to see them go. Naruto watched her, just as she always seemed to be watching him. He had come up to the field today with another goal in mind, one he didn't think he would actually have the courage to follow through on. It was risky. As brash and loud as he was, the truth of the matter was that he was feeling rather shy himself. He didn't want to mess up and look like a loser. He also didn't want to frighten Hinata.
Hinata's success gave him an idea. It would be an easier way to bring up a certain subject. That didn't mean it would necessarily be easy now, but it gave him a better chance. Besides, it would be somewhat tricky in a way, and that appealed to his mischievous side. He hadn't come up with this idea in his dreams, but the new scheme seemed more realistic.
"OK, Hinata-chan. Good work. But let's see if you can do it again. Focus your control, trying to decide how many clones will come into being." Naruto rubbed his hands together. His palms had begun to feel a bit sweaty. "I also want to see how clones interact. I've never really tried that with anyone before…" He would create a clone of his own.
"Alright, Naruto-kun." Hinata concentrated. She had to get this right. Naruto was watching. "Kage Bunshin!" A single Hinata clone came into being.
"Very good, Hinata-chan!" Naruto nonchalantly made a clone of his own. He walked over and whispered into its ear. The clone looked startled and took a few steps back. "You can do it! Even if you mess up, you won't be around long enough to worry about it." He called over to Hinata. "Will you come over here and bring your clone?"
"OK, Naruto-kun." Hinata did as Naruto had requested.
"So… now… we can… uhhh…" Naruto cursed under his breath. He sounded like a babbling idiot. It didn't help that his clone was looking at him and smiling at his discomfort. People were right. He really could be a jerk, sometimes.
"Naruto-kun? Is something bothering you?" Hinata rubbed her fingers together. Her clone watched, and then did the same thing.
"HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH!" Naruto forced a loud laugh. "What could possibly bother Uzumaki Naruto, future Hokage?" He swallowed hard. "It was… I just wanted to see if… well… it's like this…" He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth. The damn Naruto clone was whistling now.
"Is it something you wanted to learn, Naruto-kun? Or, something you wanted to teach?" Hinata looked puzzled.
"Both! I mean… neither… well… I don't know…" He almost gave up on the idea. But, that wasn't like him. "OK. Let me try again. There's been something I have been thinking about. Let's see if we can use clones to practice something, so that neither of us gets hurt. It will be something… uhhh… nonviolent because… well… clones can only take so much, even when you put a lot of chakra in them."
"That sounds like a good idea, Naruto-kun." Hinata nodded.
"I hope you think that in a few minutes," Naruto said under his breath.
"What? Did you say something?" Hinata looked over at Naruto.
"Hinata-chan… have your clone stay still. I am… uhhh… going to have my clone try something. That way… you know… we can both see if it might be something…" Naruto coughed. "We might see if it's something we want to try ourselves." He waved his hands. "You won't have to, if you don't want to!" Those words came out in an awful rush.
Hinata nodded, and turned to watch the clones. Naruto gave his clone a thumbs up. He began to sweat heavily, as his clone walked over to Hinata's. He could still call this off. Maybe it would be best if Hinata's clone disappeared now. Geeez. He felt as if he was either going to explode, or melt into a puddle.
The Naruto clone walked over to the Hinata clone, hesitated a moment, and then kissed it on the lips. The eyes on the Hinata clone opened wide, and then closed again. The kiss lasted a while. Then, abruptly, the Naruto clone acted on its own volition, reaching out and grabbing the rump of the Hinata clone.
Hinata had been wobbly on her feet after seeing the kiss. That last part had her freezing, her hand going to her mouth.
"HEY! DON'T YOU GO DOING THAT TO HINATA-CHAN, ASSHOLE!" Naruto ran over and did a flying kick to the head of his own clone, causing it to explode in a puff of smoke. "Hey, I'm really sorry, you know…" He apologized to the Hinata clone.
Hinata giggled, seeing Naruto worry about her clone. Her mouth fell open when she saw what happened next.
The Hinata clone wrapped her arms around Naruto and kissed him. It was a long kiss, and the clone wrapped her legs around him as well. When it popped out of existence, Naruto fell to the ground and rubbed his lips.
Naruto and Hinata stayed as they were for a moment, neither moving nor making a sound. Finally Naruto spoke. "That was a bit more than I expected." He coughed. "You see… what I wanted to ask… but… well… didn't have the courage for…" He sighed. Why didn't he just spit it out? "I was wondering if you… uhhh… might like to be…" Shit! So damn close.
Both Hinata or Naruto knew what he had been about to say. The clone show really didn't leave too much to the imagination. Neither of them ran away, turned into a pillar of salt, or burrowed deep under the ground. Hinata just stood twiddling her fingers, blushing.
"Hinata-chan. I didn't tell the clone to… you know… grab your butt." Naruto needed to make that clear right away. It had shocked him as much as it shocked her. Well, not really. Not after some of the dreams that he had. There were some mornings that he made certain to wash his sheets before the laundry service did. He scratched the back of his head. "Just like you didn't have a chance to tell yours to kiss me like that." He rubbed his lips again. "I guess your clone just knew what you wanted to do, huh?"
"I…" Hinata bit her lip. She had dreamed about Naruto caring about her. Usually that happened before they ever kissed. But, it wouldn't be bad, if things happened in the opposite order, would it? She just didn't have the courage to bring it up on her own. "I do want…" Her eyes went wide when she followed through on what Naruto had said about her clone. She put her hand on her backside.
"Wait!" Naruto figured out what she must be thinking. "Your clone must have known what you wanted. Mine was just being a jerk. I wouldn't… uhhh… no way!"
Both Naruto and Hinata looked away from each other for a few moments. Naruto made it a point to cut off some loose threads on his jumpsuit. Hinata was suddenly entranced by the idea of counting clouds.
They had both spoken at the same time. They both went quiet, waiting for the other to speak. The moment stretched on and on. Naruto coughed, cleared his throat, and boldly said "Uhhh… ladies first."
"Ummm… Naruto-kun…" Hinata still couldn't look at Naruto.
"Y-Y-Yes, Hinata-chan…" Naruto clenched his fists. He was the guy. He should sound confident and in control.
"That was a very clever trick." Hinata could get the other words out. She hoped that Naruto wouldn't give up. He never gave up.
"Oh. Thank you, Hinata-chan. You know me, mister spontaneity." Naruto smacked his head. That certainly sounded lame. There was nothing spontaneous about this now.
"Ummm… yes…" Hinata grabbed the fingers on one hand with the other, No twiddling now! It was hard enough to breath, and she felt dizzy. She needed to focus and stay calm.
"Would you like to… uhhh… " Naruto almost said it. Almost was only good for horseshoes and big explosive jutsus! Damn. "… Use that clone method for different kinds of practice?" idiot! Loser! Wimp!
"I… yes…" Hinata hung her head. She was actually trembling. Why? She was sitting in a nice warm spot. That had been so close. She had started saying 'yes' before Naruto had even finished speaking.
Naruto slammed his fist into his palm. This was enough. He was Uzumaki Naruto, the boy who had stood up to Shukaku, Kabuto, Orochimaru, and those bastards in Akatsuki. It was time to show people why they would be carving a stone replica of his face some day!
"Would you like to be kissed, Hinata-chan?" He folded his arms over his chest. There. He did it. He was a man, not a boy. Well, he was a man whose knees suddenly felt weak; but, there was nothing wrong with that.
Hinata opened her mouth. She couldn't speak. Oh no. Not now! Come on Hinata. You're so close. You could have backed down from Neji. You didn't, because of Naruto. You can do anything when he's around. He's right over there.
"Well, if you don't want to, it's OK." Naruto sounded disappointed. Thinking that she might refuse, he suddenly felt confident. Funny how that works. "I guess I was kind of rushing things." He kicked at another stone. "Sorry…"
"Yes." Hinata looked up. She swallowed hard. She had done it.
"Huh?" Naruto froze.
"I said 'yes', Naruto-kun" It was easier now. "I would like to be kissed."
"Oh. I see. Great. I guessed as much." Naruto had to clear his throat. He closed his eyes, pictured himself fighting against various opponents, and then opened his eyes again. He went to sit next to Hinata. He handed her a roll of breath mints that he had in his weapons bag. "It's not because you have bad breath or anything!" He said quickly. He didn't want to give her any wrong ideas. "It's just that it would be rude for me to take one, if I didn't offer you one first. " He put a mint in his mouth and bit into it, sucking in when he tasted the intense burst of flavor.
"Th-Th-Thank you…" Hinata took a mint as well. She put it in her mouth and began blushing again.
To make a long story short, Naruto finally worked up the courage to lean over and kiss Hinata. She worked up the courage to kiss him back. Neither grabbed the other's behind.
"That was nice, Naruto-kun…" Hinata couldn't remember being this happy in her life.
"Yeh. It was, wasn't it?" Naruto suddenly felt ten feet tall. "Good thing no one was watching us, though."
"TOOK YOU LONG ENOUGH!"
Hinata and Naruto spun around. They looked over at the mouth of the path that led to this field. Kiba was there. Akamaru was with him. So were Shino, Choji, Ino, and Shikamaru.
"It was bothersome, waiting there in the woods." Shikamaru motioned to Choji. They both left. "Lunch is my treat, Choji. You bet he would kiss her."
"You're so lucky!" Ino exclaimed, watching Shikamaru walk away. She would give anything if he would kiss her. "Oh. Except that it was Naruto!" She ran after Shikamaru and Choji.
Akamaru yapped a bit, and then took off after some butterflies. Shino turned and left without saying anything.
"I wondered why you would ask for breath mints, Naruto." Kiba chuckled. "I thought it might be something like this. Welcome to the real world." He gave his friend a salute. "I particularly like the part where your clone grabbed her clone's ass. Sweet move. Wait until Kurenai hears about that!"
"Kiba-kun!" Hinata stood up. "Please…"
"Well, you're a really good cook, Hinata." Kiba smiled. "Akamaru loves those sugar cakes that you bring sometimes." Usually, Kiba ate half of them before Akamaru, Shino, or Kurenai got a single one. "I could be quiet for a few dozens of those." He laughed. "Each week…"
Naruto frowned. He scowled. His brows furrowed. He clenched his fists and snorted like a miniature bull. Hinata was being hassled. Hinata needed to be protected. Kiba must pay.
"Don't worry, Hinata-chan. Kiba won't need sugar cakes if he doesn't have any teeth left!" Dozens of Naruto clones appeared, each smacking fists into their hands. Kiba was effectively surrounded.
"Naruto-kun…" Hinata pulled on Naruto's arm. "He's your friend…."
"You're right, Hinata. He is. They might hurt him more than I would want, since I don't know my own strength sometimes, and they have the same temper I do." Naruto smiled. "You need more practice. Your clones won't do as much damage. You do it!"
"Ummm…" Hinata looked down at her hands.
"If you win, it would be very embarrassing for Kurenai to find out. You would have something to trade." Naruto smiled. Perfect solution.
"I don't know… I don't think I can do that… not to Kiba…" Hinata hesitated. She blushed when Kiba taunted her, and then grabbed his own buttock.
"If you do it, I will give you another kiss." Naruto whispered in her ear.
"Kage Bunshin!" Hinata looked very intense.