Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

Let It All Out

Chapter Eight

Naruto stared at the girl in front of him nervously. She looked to be about his age. Her tiny hands were fisted and resting on her hips; her cobalt eyes were narrowed. A strand of platinum blond hair fell loose from her hair clip and hung over her left eye. She blew at it impatiently, trying to get it off of her face. She soon gave up and tucked the stray lock behind her ear with a huff. As soon as that was done, she rounded her attention back onto Naruto and demanded, "I asked you a question, so answer it!"

Naruto slowly raised his arms to indicate the flowers bunched in his fist before replying meekly, "I was just picking flowers..."

The girl's eyes widened when she saw the flowers and she screeched, "Picking!? You're tearing them up! They'll die in no time that way!" She rushed over and gingerly took the flowers from his hand. Naruto tried to protest, but she was ignoring him in favor of fussing over the dangling roots still attached to the stems of the flowers.

"You're not supposed to pull up the roots! Don't you know anything?!" she snapped at him, having pulled out a pair of scissors from a small pouch she had with her. She set to grooming the flower stems as best she could.

"Sorry...I didn't know..." Naruto replied sheepishly, rising to his feet awkwardly as he prepared to bolt. The girl looked up at him and sighed. Setting the flowers and scissors down carefully, she grabbed his elbow and yanked him back down beside her.

"You have to cut the stems at a slant like this," she instructed as she cut the stem of a yellow tulip. Then she held the scissors up to him. "Here, you try." Naruto stared at her disbelievingly for a moment before hesitantly taking the scissors from her. Looking around, he spotted a light blue flower that he thought Hotaru would like and leaned forward to cut the stem.

"No, no! You have to cut it at a slant! A slant!" the girl reprimanded, taking his hand in hers and tilting it so the scissor edges were angled appropriately against the stem. Her hand still covering his, she snapped the blades together and plucked up the falling flower. "See?" she questioned with a small smile as she added the flower to the small pile. Naruto nodded slowly in reply.

"So why are you picking flowers?" she asked, directing him with her hands to pick another flower.

Naruto paused just before cutting the stem. His bangs fell in front of his eyes and his cautious disposition transformed into a depressed one as he mumbled, "Onee-chan's in the hospital..."

The girl blinked at him and nodded in understanding. "'Get well soon' flowers, then? We'll need more bright colors for that. Cheerful flowers, you know?" she told him with a wide smile, observing the pile of yellows and bright blues. "Now get to work! We're picking the most colorful flowers we can find!" she proclaimed, pumping a fist in the air.

Naruto just stared at the beaming blonde in front of him, completely dumbfounded. The girl's smile suddenly turned to a frown as she exclaimed, "Oi! Why are you just gaping like a fish outta water? Say something--like "Okay!" or "I bet I can pick more than you! Nyaa!'"

Naruto blinked owlishly before his face split in a happy grin. "Aye, aye, cap'n!" he responded with a salute. The girl nodded in approval and the two set about picking various flowers to add to the pile. Once she deemed the pile worthy, they picked out the liveliest flowers and she tied them together with a yellow ribbon from her pouch.

"Here," she said as she handed him the colorful bouquet. "You're all set, gaki-chan."

Naruto gave a small laugh at that and the girl looked at him questioningly. "Onee-chan calls me that too," he explained.

"It's 'cause you're a gaki, gaki-chan," she replied teasingly, sticking her tongue out at him.

Naruto chuckled softly and told her, "Yeah, well you sound like an old lady!"

"Who you callin' old?" the girl demanded hotly, resting her hands on her hips and jutting them to one side moodily as her eyes narrowed.

"You, obaa-san!" Naruto replied in a sing-song tone, grinning wickedly as he dodged a half-hearted punch to his chest.

"Sankyuu!" he called out cheerfully, dashing back toward the village, colorful bouquet in hand. The girl stuck her tongue out at him again and went back to collecting the flowers that her mother had orignally sent her out to get.

Hotaru stood outside the classroom door, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth nervously. Her gaze fell to the polished Konoha plate and the clean-cut black band tied around her left leg, and she nodded her head determinedly. Mustering up a small smile, she reached out and slid the door open.

"Hello," she called out as amiably as she could manage to the two occupants of the room. The boy sitting closest to the door glanced up at her and gave a stiff nod in greeting before going back to staring blankly ahead. The other boy in the room was asleep in the far corner, and the noise of her entrance elicited a displeased grunt and the slight shifting in the positions of his arms as they cradled his head. Hotaru's smile quickly fell as she sank into the nearest seat to wait for their designated sensei. So this was her new genin team. 'They're just going to be like all the rest,' Hotaru thought, letting her head drop to the desktop dejectedly. 'They won't see a teammate; they'll just see a bakemono.'

An overpoweringly sweet aroma filled Hotaru's senses and she jerked awake to find a palette of colors that blocked out anything else they may have been in sight. Then the colors were gone and replaced by bright blue eyes and a blinding smile.

"You're awake!" Naruto exclaimed happily, shoving a bouquet of wildflowers into her arms. "For you," he announced proudly.

Hotaru stared at him blankly for a minute, trying to collect her scattered thoughts, before accepting the flowers and holding them in one hand while looping her free arm around Naruto's shoulders in a hug as she squealed, "You're just too cute!" Pulling away, she grinned at his indignant pout at being called cute and ruffled his hair affectionately. "Sorry about this," she continued with a sad smile, "I did my best to keep from getting hurt. The mission was just a little more difficult than I thought it would be. I'm really sorry I broke our promise."

Naruto shook his head and replied, "You didn't break it though. You came back and you're fine now. And I think I made some friends."

"Really?" Hotaru asked curiously, pulling herself up and patting a space on the bed next to her for Naruto to flop down on. "Pop a squat and fill me in." Naruto crawled up on the bed and leaned back against a pillow.

"Well, 'Maru and me were playing peek-a-boo when you're team got back--" Naruto began.

"'Maru?" Hotaru asked.

"Oji-san's grandkid," he elaborated.

"You mean Konohamaru?"

"Yeah, but his name's too long, so 'Maru."

Hotaru flicked the side of his head. "Hmm, how very lazy of you." Naruto just stuck out his tongue. "You said friends, though. As in plural. So keep going."

"Well, there was this girl--"

"A girl?" Hotaru interrupted excitedly. "What's her name?"

"I don't know. And stop interrupting my story!" Naruto ordered.

Hotaru looked at him incredulously. "What do you mean you don't know? Usually the first step to making a friend is finding out a name."

"I didn't ask her."

"So what were you planning on calling her?"

"The Girl."

"The girl? The girl?"

"Not like that!" Naruto sputtered.

Hotaru broke out in a giggling fit. "Naru's got a girlfriend! Naru's got a girlfriend!" she sang in between laughs.

"I do not!" Naruto wailed back. "She just helped me pick these flowers!"

"Picking flowers together? I think that qualifies as a date!" Hotaru continued, grabbing her sides as they began to cramp.

"Does not!" Naruto screamed, his voice pitching higher and sending Hotaru into uncontrollable guffaws.

Hyuuga Hikari had been crouching on a rooftop that allowed a full view of the Ichiraku ramen stand for nearly twenty minutes now, and still there was no sign of the Uzumaki boy the Hokage had sent her to watch over. The Hokage had said Ichiraku, hadn't he? Hikari was sure that he had. But then, where was the boy? Well, certainly not at Ichiraku.

After another five minutes, Hikari was beginning to worry. She concentrated her chakra toward her eyes and whispered, "Byakugan," as she activated her bloodline limit. She quickly scanned the surrounding area but found no trace of the boy. Jumping to a nearby rooftop, her eyes began darting all around the streets. Where could he have gone? He had to be around here somewhere, right?


...Hokage-sama's going to kill me.

A/N: OMG I finally updated! Sorry it took so long. Really, really sorry. I'm such a horrible procrastinator. Anyway, I hope you'll forgive me. Pretty please?

Dun dun dun. Who could this mysterious blonde-haired flower girl possibly be? And a Hyuuga character has been introduced. Will she be appearing ever again? Who knows? And a glimpse into Hotaru's past! Flashbacks to her genin days. But why would her teammates think of her as a monster?

Look forward to the next chapter to find out!

(And if you're in a generous mood, why not review?)