Title: Gather Roses

Fandom: Naruto

Author: Dark-Hooded Eriol the Mag a.k.a Aya-chan

Theme: #71. Paradise

Pairing: Uzumaki Naruto / Hyuuga Hinata

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

Summary: This is their paradise.

They met in a garden of roses.

It was unscheduled, unplanned, and truly coincidental. Under the boughs of ancient trees with rose vines clinging to their trunks and hanging from their branches, they crossed paths.

The sky was a faint summer blue tinged with red and orange. Summer was saying goodbye to another day. Somehow the fading sunshine seemed to make her glow underneath its gentle touch. The roses danced with the wind as the golden light added brilliance to their gowns of petals.

She was clad only in a lightweight white summer dress. Her dark hair was unbound and its dark tresses framed her pretty face. There was a tender little bud tucked above her left ear and gave her a girlish look. On her arms were her choicest flowers that will later grace her bedroom.

He was wearing jeans and an ordinary t shirt. On his head was a gardener's hat. His eyes were like the blue of delphiniums. And on his lips was a smile of pleasant surprise.

"Hinata-chan." His voice was not hyper or cheery or even remotely like his usual. It was soft with admiration.

She reddened and it reminded him how fascinatingly reminiscent it was of a rose's color...

"Naruto-kun," she managed to say. Her arms tightened around the flowers. It was another surprise.

Nobody knew of this secret garden that she went to on her free days. The whole garden was an abandoned one at the edge of the vast Hyuuga estate. The family had decided that gardening wasn't a very profitable hobby.

How did he get in?

"So... you're here often?" he asked, tucking his hands into his pockets. His head was thrown back and he smiled into the sky. The garden was more beautiful to his eyes now.

"Y-Yes, I am." She replied demurely. Her hands caressed the roses almost lovingly. She only went here for some flowers for her room. In all the days of her life, she did not expect to meet the man of her dreams in her most cherished place. What a wonderful twist of Fate that was.

Silence fell. They avoided looking at each other but knew that the other was stealing glances. He couldn't help himself. She was so beautiful! Almost like a nymph but only lovelier because he knew that she was real.

She never felt more timid in her entire life. Here was her chance to talk to him and she was wasting it. Her shyness held her back from communicating tender feelings to this man. Somehow her throat had constricted and she couldn't form a decent word without stuttering. When would she ever get over this affliction? She sighed regretfully. At least she had another image to remember and love when she lay awake in her bed at night before going to sleep.

"I'm sorry... I know this is your property and I have no right coming in uninvited. It's just that everything was so old and beautiful and mysterious. And the roses made me curious. They were so pretty..." Here he laughed comfortably as if he was retelling an old story. Nobody knew where he went when he was alone. It was here, in this secret rose garden, that he spent most of his time dreaming his dreams.

"Y-Yes, they are. I-I take care of them." Hinata blushed redder as she bowed her head. Her family cared less where she went. She trained constantly on the grounds but she went here to relax. This was her garden, her own Eden.

"So that must be why they sometimes seem as if someone had taken care of them." Naruto smiled thoughtfully. "I hope you don't mind if I came in here a lot."

She shook her head.

"Hmm? What's that?" This was probably the longest conversation he ever had with her. She usually was very timid and quiet and supposedly... weird in his eyes. "Sorry but I didn't quite get that..."

"I-I don't mind," she said quietly. Her eyes were staring at the fallen flowers as if they were more interesting than his handsome face.

"Oh. There was an opening in those walls, you know. I was wandering around the edge of the forest one day and I saw it. My curiosity got the better of me and here it was... Everything was like a dream. So I came here to be... alone." Naruto grinned warmly at her. She returned it shyly. "But now, I can't be alone because you've discovered it too."

Although she had every right to throw him out because she was the first daughter of the Main family and she was here first, she did the opposite. "I-If you want... I-I can l-leave..."

His blue eyes widened. "No, I'm sorry... I didn't mean that... I want you to be here too..."

She raised her head slightly to meet his eyes. "R-Really?"

He nodded vigorously. "If you want, we can stay here a lot and talk. You know, be friends."

Friends? That sounded like a good idea.

"Do you want that?" Naruto had lots of friends. He had his noisy Haruno Sakura-chan, snobby Uchiha Sasuke, and scores of others. But he wasn't sure where he could place her. They didn't talk much or even met frequently for the matter but he was sure she was. So very sure that she was going to be a good friend. "I'll be a good friend, I promise."

She giggled softly when he did a very childish thing--- he crossed his heart. His smile got wider when he realized he'd managed to coax a very small laugh from her.

A sudden realization hit him. Hyuuga Hinata was just like a small bird: quiet, tentative, and shy. He had to deal with her very gently. The blond boy had the feeling that she would flee if he handled her too roughly.

She nodded with another one of her rare smiles. "Friends," she murmured.

"So... what are you doing?" he asked, curious. Now he was getting somewhere.

"G-Gathering roses," she answered as a smile lit up her face. Then and there he knew that she loved and adored her roses. And that she was so beautiful.

After a few moments he asked again, "can I help you?"

She nodded her assent and they set to work. With four pairs of hands, more roses were picked, cut and gathered. Under the twilight sky he realized just how much beauty did she add to this small and mysterious garden.

It was as if she was meant to be there... with him.

The place had been his secret heaven. Now it had become his paradise.

They worked until early evening set in. Though it hurt to part, they still smiled. Through the few sweet hours they spent together, they learned more about each other. He now knew that she was hardworking, funny, and wonderful. She knew that he was everything she loved.

"I'll see you around." He said cheerfully with a tip of his hat. Then under the roses and dewdrops and early stars he reached over to hold her hand. In a whim he kissed the back of her hand. She blushed; she also cannot keep the smile off her face. "Goodbye hana no hime!"

She clasped said hand to her chest and stared at the space he'd occupied a few minutes ago. He waved goodbye and vanished from sight. Where his lips had touched, heat seemed to spread outwards until it covered her whole body.

Flower's Princess? That's a nice name, she decided.

The secret rose garden became her paradise. She closed her eyes and let the fragrance of the roses envelope her when the wind blew. Her arms tightened around her small bouquet of roses. This was by far the most beautiful afternoon of her life.

They met again and again in that garden of roses. Through their shared passion for the flowers, a bond was born. Love bloomed like the beautiful roses that surrounded them.

This was their paradise.