Title Story: Always up front

Pairing: Naruto/Neji

Disclaimer: I DO NOT own Naruto. Just Borrowing.

Summary: Is there such a thing as two identities in one? Neji tries to understand to the real Naruto.

Chapter title: Secret affair

Hyuga Neji felt himself relax slightly when he realized how quiet the training area was. At 11 p.m., it should be at least. He pulled off his ANBU mask and tried to lean back against the tree. Balancing his weight on the branch he sat on, he closed his eyes and reran the events earlier in the evening in his mind.

Sometimes Naruto's ongoing jokes grated on his nerves. These were the days that he questioned Naruto's mental state. Uzumaki as an ANBU was a surprise, him as a captain was…. unbelievable. When he and Sasuke heard that Naruto was being made captain they were surprised. When they were promoted to captain a year prior, they never doubted why Naruto was never promoted with them. He just did not fit the the role of an ANBU leader.

That baka never took anything seriously. He was loud and a prankster. Haruna was close to killing him when he asked if her actions were a result of her erratic hormones.

He was still contemplating the other ANBU captain when he heard a noise somewhere below. He was instantly on alert, he glanced around trying to decipher where the noise emited from, when he caught sight of a shadow about ten meters away among the trees to his left, moving towards the training grounds.

Even off duty, he felt his body move to act. But before he could jump down towards the individual to inquire on why they were sneaking about, he was surprised to see his cousin's face as she stepped out of the shadows.

Hinata was nervous, of that he could easily tell, as he watched her shift her weight every few seconds. Her silver eyes were glancing around the area, as she bit her lower lip and kept her hands clenched at her sides.

It reminded him of the days when they were younger, when she was ridiculously shy. He was about to confront her when she visible relaxed and spoke.

"Naruto."

Neji froze in shock. He glanced in the direction she was gazing at, and saw Naruto approach silently. He was still wearing his ANBU uniform, but he had taken off his fox mask and the hood of his cloak was resting behind him.

Naruto was smiling at Hinata as he came and hugged her.

"Hinata-chan."

"You came."

She returned the gesture and buried her face into his chest. Neji watched the display with a frown. It was highly inappropriate for Hinata to be out here alone with…

It disturbed him to watch the affection between them. It was a private moment, he knew he should leave or at least make his presence known, but his embarrassment for witnessing such a scene prevent him from doing so.

/I could just leave…silently. They won't suspect, they are too occupied with themselves to notice./

Neji frowned at the sarcasm that laced his thoughts. There was a nagging feeling in the back of his mind that found the scence below...wrong.

/Why are they hiding? Why meet here, are they afraid of censure? When did Hinata and Naruto become a "they"/

Random thoughts came flying around in his head before he realized that he was angry. He was furious and he didn't know why.

"I'll always be here for you Hinata. You should know that by now."

Neji focused his attention on the two down below. They had pulled apart but Naruto kept an arm around her shoulder as she leaned against him.

"I know. Naruto….I have…I don't know…Naruto…promise me that you won't do anything rash when I tell you something?"

Naruto pulled away from her when he heard the anxiety in her voice. He turned her face so he could look at her eyes.

"Hinata, what's wrong?"

Hinata fidgeted, trying not to look directly at him.

"Hinata, look at me."

Neji and Naruto were both surprised to see tears glistening in her eyes.

"Hinata! What's wrong? Tell me!"

"You have to promise! Naruto, promise me."

Her voice was cracking, so quiet, full of shame and sadness."

Naruto nodded, his face set and the ever-present grin gone. "I promise."

"I'm…I'm pregnant."

The silence was deafening.

Neji was shocked for a few seconds, analyzing the words slowly in his head before his confusing turned to anger. He was going to kill Naruto!

"I'm going to kill him!"

Neji came to a halt when he realized that his thoughts were voice out. But it was Naruto who spoke.

He watched from his hiding place as Hinata gasped and threw herself at Naruto and held him in place. He was walking away from Hinata with hurried steps, when Hinata's arms were thrown around his neck trying to stop him. It would have been comical to watch as she dangled from behind him as she tried to reason with him, but all Neji felt was confusion.

/What is going here? Hinata was pregnant with Naruto's child and he wanted to kill someone else./

"You promised not to do anything rash. Naruto!"

Naruto stopped in his tracks and Hinata was forced to release him when he turned to look at her. Neji watched as Naruto glanced down at Hinata with a look of disbelief upon his face.

"Naruto…please-"

"Rash? I'm not going to do anything rash, I'm going to kill him."

His face lost all expression as he stared down at Hinata.

Hinata gazed back at him with pleading eyes.

"Naruto, I love him. Please."

Naruto was silent for a moment, before he sighed.

"Does he know?"

"No."

Neji tried not to make a sound as he listened to this bizarre conversation.

/What were they talking about? Hinata was in love was someone; someone that was not Naruto? Hinata was having someone else's baby/

Neji watched in amazement as Naruto laughed quite loudly to wake the dead.

"Well! Why didn't you say do! Hinata! This is great news! You should go tell him!"

He kept laughing and grinning as he congratulated Hinata on her news. It was a complete transformation from what he witnessed a few moments ago. The goofy look was back and he kept moving his arms in gestures that appeared to confirm his insane glee.

"Naruto. Don't. Please. Don't do this to me. Don't hide from me. I need you."

Neji watched on in confusion as Hinata's shoulder shook from suppressed sobs. The laughter died away instantly.

Naruto's face changed again so suddenly that Neji questioned which was real.

Naruto sighed softly. "I'm sorry. Automatic reflex."

Hinata nodded without looking at him.

"Come here."

Naruto wrapped his arms around her and held her quietly as she sobbed.

"How long are you?"

"One month."

Naruto tightened his arms around her.

"I told the son of-…. I told him, actually, I warned him that he was inviting trouble if didn't make an honest woman out of you."

"He loves me Naruto."

"Then you should have told him. No more hiding. Tell him. Your family should know too. About your up coming marriage I mean."

Hinata pulled away from him with a gasp. "What?"

Naruto returned her gaze with determination in his blue eyes. His mouth was set in a thin line and his jaws were clenched.

"You really didn't think that I was going to let this go did you? You both love each other. You said so. So you are going to get married. Hinata, there better be a wedding, because if I don't get to Kiba first, your cousin will."

"Don't tell Neji!"

"I don't have to tell him Hinata. You are going to show soon. You have to tell Kiba."

/Kiba/

/Why didn't I see it before/

Neji realized then that the romance between Hinata and Kiba were obvious if you cared to look. The looks, the blushing, the not so subtle touches; it was all there.

"Are you sacred that Kiba is not ready to get married?"

"I don't know."

"There's no choice now. You have to tell him. Where is he?"

"He's on a mission with Shino and Ino."

"Well..when he gets back then."

Hinata only nodded as she peered at Naruto. He was looking past her into the trees, his face neutral of any feeling.

"Are you upset with me, Naruto?"

He seemed startled by her comment. Naruto turned his gaze back at her and stared at her without replying. Neji never saw Naruto so quiet before. Without that idiotic grin, Naruto looked very different.

"No. Nor am I disappointed. Hinata, you're one of my closest friends, I would never abandon you, nor judge you."

"Thank you, Naruto-kun."

"Besides, you're too adored to upset anyone."

Hinata blushed at the comment. She smiled at him as her eyes watered again. She calmed as he raised his hand and wiped away the trace of tears on her cheeks. She kept staring at him as he moved away from her and pulled off his cloak to wrap around her shoulders.

"You shouldn't walk around at night without your coat, especially-"

"Especially when I'm pregnant? I'm not fragile Naruto; I'm a shinobi."

The steel in her voice made Naruto smile gently at her. But Neji never saw that smile before, Naruto either grinned like an idiot or cackled like one. But now, with that smile, he seemed older, wiser, and very weary.

"I was going to say 'especially in winter.' Calm down Hinata."

Hinata had the decency to blush in embarrassment. "Sorry."

She tilted her head to the side and observed him. She smiled softly at him when he frown down at her scrutiny.

"What?"

"Why do you hide Naruto?"

"What?"

"You heard me?"

Naruto held her gaze without speaking. When a few minutes went by without him answering she elaborated, even when she knew that he understood what she meant.

"Naruto, I have known you for years now. And I think that I can count on one hand how many people you've really opened up to. Why the mask? Why do you pretend to smile all the time? The cheshire grin, the stupid remarks, the blank looks when I know that you understood what they were saying; why do you label yourself as the village idiot?"

"Hinata, Tsunade-sama has asked me to step down from my position as an ANBU."

"What! That's a sure way to change the subject Naruto."

Neji was confused at the turn in conversation.

/Naruto was pretending? What/

/Step down./

"Listen Hinata. I'm going to explain."

Neji observed Naruto's face, for what, he wasn't sure. But he was starting to doubt himself and his belief about Naruto when he saw the grim look on the blonde's face.

"Tsunade wants me to go on missions that might need infiltration. I might have to go on missions that last months at a time. An ANBU's duty is to protect Konoha, here. I can't do that when I'm absent. Besides, I work better alone. Being captain to someone like Sakura drains me of patience and sanity. You have no idea how many times I wanted to strangle her today."

Hinata giggled. "I heard about that. What happened?"

"She wasn't focused. She kept hinting that she should be at her husband's bedside. I was at the end of my rope when she kept whispering Lee's name like a mantra. Sometimes I think her brain is connected to Lee's ass. I know it's cruel to think that when Lee's in the hospital hurt, but she has to be more centered than that. But I guess that remark about her pmsing was uncalled for though."

"Things like that make them think unkindly of you."

Naruto shook his head. "I'm not there to win a popularity contest Hinata. As long as they obey orders, do their share, and respect my authority when on duty; then I don't care what they think of my attitude. Besides, this façade as you pointed out, deceive my adversaries."

"In the end, you get what you want without making a fuss. Truly twisted Naruto, I suppose it comes in handy when on missions? So...you agreed with Tsunade? You're going to give being an ANBU?"

He nodded. "I think it's best. I'm going to be returningmy uniform tomorrow."

"What about your team?"

"Already been taken care of."

"Are you trying to hide? Don't think I forgot about our eariler conversation when you changed the subject." Her face was set and her posture determined as she peered at him through her blue bangs.

Naruto looked at her seriously, his eyes brilliantly blue in the faint light of the moon. "I don't like people to see me this way Hinata. I feel-"

"Vulnerable. I know. You've been hiding for so long that it's hard to take off the mask. I'm just glad that I know the real you."

"I could never fool you Hinata-chan."

"I hope so."

"On a more serious note…about Kiba; when is he due back?"

"I think tonight or early tomorrow... Naruto…do you think he'll-"

"Don't worry Hinata, he'll marry you without prompting. Besides, I think he'll be happy about the news, shocked but happy; his own little mutt. OW!"

He rubbed his bicep where she punched him. "That's my baby you're talking about. Be nice."

Neji watched, as the laughing duo moved away into town, never realizing that their whole meeting had been observed. He had a lot to take in about the recent events.

/Hinata…pregnant./

Naruto was right about one thing, if Kiba didn't marry Hinata, he'll kill him.

He clenched his fists and tried to calm his raging anger. But under that anger was relief.

/Relief? For what? Naruto./

His thoughts were jumbled as he tried to comprehend what Hinata said about Naruto hiding behind a mask.

/Was the Naruto they all knew, a lie/

/And what was this sense of relief that I feel that Hinata and Naruto were not hiding a secret from the whole village/

He always respected Naruto as a ninja, but he never held such a regard to him as a person. He was confused and hurt, and he did not know why?

/Perhaps I should observe Naruto more closely. Maybe I'll also understand my feelings on the topic between Hinata and Naruto's relationship./

Nodding his head. Neji pulled on his mask and melted into the shadows, silently making his way home. He'll start tomorrow.

/Tomorrow./

TBC

What do you think?