Ulan

For the HD Forum Fan Works Challenge. Also, a belated fic gift for myself.

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Theme: Bad Weather

If the caliginous skies overhead and the slapping sensation of the crisp, chillsome gusts of wind were telling Uzumaki Naruto something, it was that today was a good day to get a steaming bowl of ramen in the most sacred ground of all Konoha-- the Ichiraku.

Not that any other day was a proper day for a yummy ramen treat. However, there was just something much more magical in a warm ramen bowl taken inside the cozily-lit noodles stall while the pouring rain and near-howling wind battled each other outdoors in a fight to the end. His body could feel more explicitly the almost therapeutic touch of warmth gently chasing the chill away from his drenched form. The tangy flavor of vegetables and meat explodes more tastefully in his mouth as his tongue buds imprison each and every scalding drop of its savory flavor, both in reverent gustatory relish and in hurried efforts to ward off the cold. The steady rhythm of the rain could easily calm his often excited, sometimes rattled nerves, setting the right kind of mood to enjoy his meal and derive the best kind of soothing relaxation from the hearty ramen.

These and a few more reasons account for his eagerness to arrive in the Ichiraku as soon as possible.

A few minutes have passed before he noticed his cheeks getting wet. Instinctively, he cupped his palms heavenwards.

The rain had announced its presence, and it demanded attention from the Konoha villagers it had given privilege to be graced by its coming.

His cerulean eyes watched the flurry of activities around him. Some had improvised their belongings as impromptu umbrellas, walking briskly towards the sheds by the sidewalks. Others headed for their respective shacks, while the few merchants around busied themselves in protecting their goods from the drizzle.

He felt his forehead crease. What was it about the rain that scared people away from outdoor's embrace and into their roofed domiciles anyway? It was as if a drop of rain would send their body ablaze in hell's furious flames, or drown their fragile bodies, or mess their awesome hair. Naruto had to smirk at the last thought, with his not-very-much-liked classmate Uchiha Sasuke in mind.

He concluded with a shrug that, indeed, rain makes people act funny.

As he passed by the training field by the woods, he noticed a lone soul standing all by himself amidst the pouring rain. He was not expecting anyone to be around so, piqued with curiosity, he walked towards the person, intending to watch in silence.

As he drew nearer, he discovered his two mistakes: the person was a she, and that she was not standing but was actually meditating, preparing to launch a taijutsu.

"Yaaah!" In one held of awestruck breath, Naruto watched the swift, graceful motions of her fingers and the solid step forward of her right leg. Her ankle pivoted, preparing to turn around three-hundred-sixty degrees.

And then came his third mistake: he didn't jump away.

The next thing he felt was the slamming of a powerful force against his chest, the instantaneous kick on his stomach that nearly acquainted his intestines with his esophagus, and the stars that danced in his dimming vision.

"N-Naruto-kun!" He didn't know if he had just imagined the stifled gasp of a familiar timorous voice crying out his name, but he was sure as heaven made Ichiraku for him that the arms who caught his body were the softest, warmest pair he had ever felt in his entire life.

He tried to open his mouth to say he was fine, but consciousness deserted him. The last thing his awareness recalled was the faint scent of vanilla mixed with the smell of rain and muddy grass.

Hatake Kakashi snickered at him, telling him how rich the situation was in his sensei's colorful-as-usual POV. Perhaps, the notion of his student getting beaten up helplessly by a stranger he only knew by gender was a nice source of amusement for him that certain rainy afternoon.

The flower of his weedy life, Haruno Sakura, rolled her emerald eyes at him. The incident must have surely done anything but improve her outlook on his coolness. "You idiot..."

"What?" he yelped, rising from the bed.

Uchiha Sasuke summed it all up for him unceremoniously. "You got massacred... pft... in training."

"So?" he asked, cupping his chin. "That sort of thing happens to all of us sometimes."

"You weren't even her sparring partner then," Kakashi chirped. "You were just spectating."

He grimaced.

"You got massacred... and you HAD to live through it," continued Sasuke, groaning. "Unfortunately, the jutsu that downed you was not meant for offensive assault, so you escaped with just some non-fatal bruises."

"What were you doing in Hinata-chan's training spot anyway?" demanded Sakura, a vein popping on the side of her head. "You scared the poor girl out of her wits! She thought she had killed you!"

"I thought so too," said Kakashi, still grinning from ear to ear. His sensei must be really enjoying this.

"You were peeping, weren't you!" continued the kunoichi, cheeks now fiery scarlet.

"You were?" The jounin applauded happily. "Wow, puberty has kicked in! Congratulations, Naruto!"

"Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura cried, aghast. "Must you support his perverted ways so blatantly?"

She was cheerfully ignored by the Copy Ninja, who had turned to Sasuke already. "See? Everyone's into it, even Naruto! Now if you had only given normal male adolescence a chance..."

"Pft." Sasuke's glare turned even darker.

Throughout the exchange, only one thing stuck in his mind. "Hinata?"

Sakura placed her hands on her hips, blowing on her bangs exasperatedly. "Uh-huh. She was quietly training on her own when you suddenly appeared behind her. She thought you were the opponent that Kurenai-sensei had set up for her mock battle, so she went on a defense stance. How the defense stance nearly killed you though is beyond my comprehension... and anyone else's for that matter."

He grinned when he recalled the triple whammy he received-- the chest slam, the stomach kick, and the sensuous earthly female scent that assaulted him. "She's... amazing!"

His female teammate gave him an incredulous look. "Of course she is. She works very hard on her jutsu everyday." She tossed her hair behind her shoulders. "Oh, by the way, if you must know, she dropped by here to apologize for what happened."

"When she shouldn't have," interjected Sasuke. "It's not her fault that you are a blockhead."

Naruto's eyes narrowed and opened his mouth to give out an equally smart-alecky comment. He couldn't think of any, so he jumped up from his bed instead. "I'll go over and tell her I'm fine."

"She's still in the field where you last saw her," supplied Kakashi helpfully. Too helpfully.

But Naruto being Naruto…well, he didn't notice the mischievous glint in the eye of the Jounin. He quickly left the room, Sakura's voice hollering after him to say sorry to Hinata properly.

Sasuke, who was more perceptive, chose to stay quiet. Whatever the white-haired man was cooking up, he was out from it. Besides, he still had an interrupted training session to continue.

……………………….

His Kakashi-sensei was right. Hinata was still training where he last saw her. Undeterred by the even harsher pouring of the rain, she was like a nymph amidst the rainfall, defying the severity of nature's conditions to practice her battle moves.

And once more, he found himself taken by awe with the fluid grace and poetry her motion displays. He watched her for some more minutes before deciding to call her name out. But before he could do so, she suddenly froze.

A minute later, her knees buckled and her body gave way.

"Hinata!" He caught her just in time before she landed on the muddy grass. "Hey, Hinata? What happened? Are you okay? Oh wait, of course you're NOT okay! Geez, what was I…" He touched her forehead, and then withdrew it quickly. "Oh great! You're burning up!" Carrying her in his arms, his gaze darted back and forth around the surroundings until he detected a large tree that could provide them with even halfway adequate shield from the shower. He rushed to get her there.

……………….

"This is so low," said Sasuke as he watched Kakashi bring out tubs of popcorn and soda bottles into the ANBU screening room. Usually, this was reserved for important screenings like the Chuunin Exams, but knowing the Jounin, he could have pulled just about all the right strings to secure this room.

"But this would be GREAT!" He sat down in front of the giant screen and reached for the remote. He pointed it to the screen, and a familiar-looking place appeared.

"What the hell…" His face darkened. "That's…"

Sakura (who was peeking by the door because she was not allowed earlier by Kakashi-sensei to come into the room because it was a "guys-only outing") gasped. "The genin training area by the woods!"

Both men turned to her, though Kakashi looked like he had expected her. "Come in, Sakura. You weren't invited, but because you gave me a lovely Hyper Rare Edition of Come, Come Paradise, I shall accommodate you. Come in!"

Sasuke couldn't contain his curiosity. "You gave him that book?"

She smiled helplessly. "Jiraiya-sama gave it to me when the Godaime refused his…uh…peace offering and threatened to inflict serious physical injuries upon him. I thought Kakashi-sensei could appreciate it more."

"Ssh! Quiet, the movie's starting!" said the Jounin, placing his finger in front of his lips. He the pointed to the screen, where Naruto was carrying Hinata towards a tree.

Both Sasuke and Sakura's jaws dropped down to the ground while Kakashi whistled. "Wow, Naruto is sure quicker than I thought," he said, chuckling to himself.

Sakura ran towards the screen, eyes incredulous. "You…you…" she sputtered, "…set a videocam to record this?"

"Yeah!" said Kakashi proudly.

"B-But why?" The kunoichi was still dumbfounded.

"Because I was bored?" He laughed when he received withering glares. "Okay, okay, I admit. I just grew curious. I want to know what happened there that could have led to Naruto's incident. After all, it's not everyday that you can down the Kyuubi's flesh representation, am I right?"

"Well…" Sakura deliberated on this. It sounded pretty reasonable, although it still felt improper.

On the other hand, Sasuke crossed his arms. "I don't buy it."

Kakashi shrugged. "I can't help it if you don't trust your good ole sensei."

"No," continued the Uchiha ninja, face still dark. "It's that reality program you had been watching, right? The one with a twenty-four hour camera reeling inside a house with strangers living in it for weeks?"

"Okay, so it was a creative influence," admitted Kakashi, grinning.

"KAKASHI-SENSEI!"

"Ssh, look! Naruto's talking!"

At once, the three heads huddled together to watch.

…………………………….

To Be Continued

A/N: I'm not sure how much you trust those three words that kept you hanging in TFTP and my other ongoing fics, but I had to write it anyway ehehe. It's almost time for my DevRead class. Anyway, this is another belated happy bday gift to me:D

This story is also part of the HD Forum's FanWorks Challenge, the 100 NaruHina Love Themes.