Title: Unmasked

Pairing: Naruto/Neji

Summary: Years have gone by, Naruto and the others are respectful members of Hidden Leaf Village. There is the continued threat of the Akatsuki.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any of its characters. I'm just borrowing them. I am not…I repeat…I am not writing for profit.

Chapter 1: Trouble

The breeze was cool as it caressed her skin softly. Even with her jacket on she could still feel the chill that raced down her spine. She glanced at the open windows into the dark night beyond, hoping for answers. She repressed a frustrated groan and silently moved dark blue hair that continued to fall into her face. When she did, she was amazed to see her pale hand trembling. She bit her lower lip as she hastily tucked her shaking hands into her coat pockets. She silver eyes glanced around the room, hoping that no one saw her frighteningly display.

The three other ninjas in the softly lit room were all busy keeping their eyes fixed upon the man at the open window.

No one said a word. At two o'clock in the morning, there was no objection to the secrecy of such a meeting.

Hyuga Hinata silently observed the three men. After seven years, many have praised the maturity of these men.

Leaning against a dark corner was the brooding face of Uchiha Sasuke. With one leg braced against the wall behind him and his arms crossed severely over his chest, he looked ever the silent avenger. Even if she could not see, she knew the dark gaze behind those dark bangs was focused on the man who called them here. It was especially hard to decipher any emotions from his body language when he wore his dark clock over his even darker ANBU uniform.

Even after all these years, she could not see the attraction that many found in such an unwelcome face. Yes, he was physically attractive, with his height and well-proportioned physique, but his personality was still chilling.

A quiet sigh turned her gaze to the man occupying one of the two chairs that were strategically position there for guests. He was tall as well, with a slender build and somewhat calm but bored expression upon his face.

He shifted in his chair and subconsciously straightened his jounin vest. Just looking at him, one would not believe the importance of such a man. He looked relaxed without a care in the world. Fools would think twice at the brilliance of this man's mind, for no man is better suited to be the advisor to the Hokage. Nara Shikamaru.

And then there was the other occupant, standing quietly with his arms relaxed at his sides, an ANBU captain, just like Sasuke: Her cousin and fierce protector, Hyuga Neji. Even with quiet authority, his blank stare did not rattle her as it use to. If she was being biased she refused to comment, for she felt and quite proudly, that her cousin was one of the handsomest men of her acquaintance. Indeed he was tall, towering over Sasuke's six foot two and equaling Shikamaru at six foot five. His long dark hair flowed down into the custom tie at the small of his back. His physique was broad but not too muscular. Still appearing slender, a deception in his dark cloak, he appealed to many women in Konoha.

She hide her smile when she remember just yesterday, Rock Lee started announcing that it was his personal duty to find a suitable companion for her cousin. Neji was not amused or grateful. He silently glared at Lee for a moment before shaking his head and walking away. That was the end of it, as well as lunch.

She was pulled out of her thoughts when a decisive click drew her attention. In the silent room, all that was heard was the latching of windows, as they were closed shut. But she kept silent as she observed the man in front of her: the leader of her people and her most precious friend, Uzumaki Naruto. After he closed all windows, the Rokudaime Hokage, turned to his guests with a blank countenance upon his tanned face.

Many believed Naruto to be a very handsome man. But with his six-foot slender frame and golden complexion, he looked ethereal. His sun kissed hair was pulled back into a thick braid that caressed his waist. With his piercing blue eyes framed by long dark lashes, he personified a regal but hard edge.

In their youth, Hinata always thought Naruto adorable with his constant grin and whiskered cheeks. But in recent years, the face lost its baby fat and the whiskers faded gradually until his skin was soft and unblemished. Although she never thought to associate such a term to a man, she knew that Naruto was not merely handsome, but beautiful. She had no other word to describe him.

"How did it go Shikamaru?"

The waiting was over when Naruto's strong tenor broke through the silence. Everyone turned their gaze at the only seated man in the room.

Shikamaru straightened from his relaxed posture and met the Hokage's eyes. "It was as we predicted. He will not only stand with us, but he'll be sending Temari to aid as well."

"Did you inform Gaara of the enemy's moments, they are getting rather bold in their aggression against our allies?"

Shikamaru nodded his head in affirmation.

"Temari will be bringing in the statistical charts concerning their allies in the south. She should be arriving in the morning."

Naruto raised a slender eyebrow.

"She'll have to be working with you. She's more comfortable when you're with her."

He tried to seem light on the topic, but everyone could clearly see the amusement in his eyes, as well as the flush that spread over Shikamaru's face.

Before he could reply verbally Sasuke spoke.

"He's trying to draw us out, he knows he can not attack Konoha directly. What better way to taunt you by destroying the people who support you."

Naruto turned his gaze to the ANBU captain as he slowly sank into his seat behind his desk. He regarded Sasuke for a moment, before he nodded and closed his eyes. Moments past before he opened his eyes to pin Hinata with an unbreakable gaze.

Even with those hard blue eyes piercing her, she remained silent, waiting.

"Hinata….you have something for me?"

She nodded once before she reached inside her coat to pull forth a scroll. She confidently walked over to Naruto, even when she felt all eyes upon her. Handing it to the Hokage, she bowed before turning to leave the room.

"Hinata, do not leave yet. Since you went to such trouble to gather this information, it is only fair you are here to witness this."

She turned back and nodded in acceptance.

"As to the topic you were inferring Sasuke, Akatsuki are become bold. Under Itachi, they have become stronger. They are unpredictable now, dangerous and not to be underestimated. None of us have encountered Akatsuki in a while; we have no viable information on how strong they are."

Sasuke visible bristled when Naruto spoke of his brother's name.

"Shikamaru and I knew that this war was close approaching, so….I sent someone to spy for us in the Hidden Rain Village where I was last inform they were."

Naruto did not have to confirm whom the spy was when all the men looked at her.

For the first time that night, her cousin spoke up. After fixing her with a glare he turned his silver gaze unto Naruto.

"You let Hinata-sama spy on the Akatsuki? She could have easily been recognized. She could have been captured-"

As much as she loved her cousin, she was offended by the little faith he had in her skills as a shinobi. But before she could voice her displeasure, Naruto spoke to him.

"Hinata is a jounin of Konoha, she knew her duty, and performed it well. Are you questioning my authority, Captain?"

Enough was said in that soft reprimand that Neji stiffened. Naruto's voice was not raised but the undercurrent of irritation, even anger was present.

"My apologies Naruto-sama." Those were said with cold formality and repressed frustration.

Hinata watched the emotions that flickered in Neji's eyes, which few could understand.

She knew years ago that her crush for Naruto had changed into loving companionship of a close friend, even a brother. She remembered welcoming it with open arms. But before the midst was lifted from her eyes she failed to see that she was not the only Hyuga that was enamored but the blonde shinobi.

After her affections were transferred to Kiba, she began to see something in Neji's blank expressions that surprised her. There was a longing and enduring wistfulness that flashed through his eyes. They were so brief that she thought herself delusional, until she repeatedly saw it when regarding Naruto.

When Neji turned sixteen, she remember seeing him try to contain a blush to his cheeks when Naruto gave him a card and on impulse gathered the older teen into a bear hug.

She knew then…Neji was in love. Her heart went out to her cousin. For she knew he was a proud man, and would not approached Naruto about his feelings, and Naruto…well…

…..Naruto never had a clue about her crush on him.

The longing was present in Neji's eyes now, but just a flicker though; before he could control his emotions he narrowed his eyes in anger and clenched his fists.

She never confronted Neji about his feelings but she could guess that he has harbored these feelings since the Chuunin Exams.

Who could not help but love Uzumaki Naruto?

TBC

How was it? Review please…I want to know what you think.

This is my first Naruto fic. Should I continue this story?

Thanks!