Author's Notes: This is an idea my friend had when we were watching one of the NaruHina-ish filler episodes… I think the idea is simply great.

Such a surprise I'm writing canon het…and it's not even because of my Pairing Machines… I really like NaruHina but I never felt like writing it before.

Disclaimer: Naruto and Hinata belong to Kishimoto Masashi-sama. I just wish he'd also pair them up already…

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Courage

My face felt so hot that it had to be a miracle that Naruto-kun didn't notice my blushing. Of course he couldn't even see my face like this, but still… He was being so kind again but it was hard to contain myself getting so close to him….riding piggyback like this… He was still slightly shorter than me, but he was really strong and his step was light as he carried me.

For the longest time I had tried to concentrate and get some words out since we were all alone now, the rest of our temporary team away, gone ahead to continue the mission. I had failed again and hurt my leg… I could still limp if I had to, but he carried me. To make it to the meeting place faster. He was so kind… I still couldn't get it out, it was really odd the way he words just stuck in my chest and refused to come out. So I cheated and buried my face to his shoulder and his hair tickled my cheek. He smelled nice.

"Are you alright, Hinata?" he asked slightly worried. I jerked up, embarrassed, and told him I was okay. My voice faltered again, as it always did when I tried to address him. Why did it have to be like this? I was getting all sweaty because of it all and that made me even more self conscious because I thought I might smell bad to him.

"…I think it won't be that long anymore. You don't weigh very much, Hinata." he smiled. I could hear it in his voice. Did he try to compliment me in purpose? I tightened my grip just a little.

"…Uh…Thank you, Naruto-kun."

"It's alright." He seemed a bit less talkative than usual, too. Could it be that he maybe felt like he was carrying a girl and not just a person? I thought he didn't even think of me as a girl, not like that.

I concentrated really hard. I breathed in and I breathed out. Don't think too much, just say it. Now. Say it. Now.

"N-naruto...kun…I…" Breath in. Breath out. I can do it now. I can. "I…do you hate me?"

Naruto was silent for a really short moment. Then: "What? Why would I? Um…I told you before that I think you're a really nice person…"

It wasn't like that I was supposed to have said it. "I just…because I never talked to you when we were small. When we were in the Academy."

Now he was quiet for longer. I was happy I couldn't see his face. I was so embarrassed. I always was.

"…No, I don't hate you." Oh, now he turned his head and managed to look at me. He was serious, just for a moment before smiling again. It was a flash of the real him, not the smile he always put up. I knew it, since I had seen it from the shadows. I hated that smile.

I couldn't stop the sweating, but I closed my eyes so I didn't have to look in to his wonderfully blue eyes. "…But I…" My breath was stopping. Too hard. But I could do it. "…I've always loved you, Naruto-kun", my voice muffled to his collar.

But he heard it, since he stopped.

"I've loved you since the first common year we had in the Academy. I always watched you…you see…" The words still didn't want to come out, but I made them despite the throbbing of the world. My voice was really quiet and catching, but he heard. Tears started to fall from my tightly shut eyes and it was getting even harder to breathe. "I know it's love, I really do. But I never did anything…and you were so alone…I'm so sorry, Naruto-kun…"

I pictured him throwing me to the ground and looking so angry it hurt me and then telling me he hated me and wouldn't forgive me.

He lowered me to the ground. I still couldn't control my crying. I sat down and turned my face from him. I heard him move.

"…I never knew…" he said. He sounded different than usual, very quiet. I peeked at him and he didn't seem embarrassed or anything, maybe it was sadness, that expression. But it was real. He crouched down on the road facing me. He blinked rapidly, and I recognised it as holding back tears. "Why didn't you talk to me, then?"

I wiped my face, but the tears weren't stopping yet. "I…I don't know…I knew Father didn't really want me to talk to…people from no clan…and…I thought you wouldn't…I saw you liked Sakura…and…then I was so embarrassed because I hadn't said anything earlier…I'm sorry, so sorry…" Instead of trying to hold it back I tried giving in for a change. I cried loudly for a little while and Naruto-kun was quiet.

"I…guess I get it", he said. I looked up to him and the world was standing still to see if he really meant it. "I guess I can forgive." He blushed just the tiniest bit and sat down, taking some distance. He put his hands behind his head and looked up to the trees lining the road. Serious.

I cried again, but this time it didn't squeeze my chest painfully but let all the anguish out and slowly made me feel like swimming on bright, warm water. I sighed and breathed out happiness. He didn't hate me now.

"Are you okay, Hinata?" he looked at me and tried to see under my hands that covered my eyes. A wavering sigh escaped me again and I told him I was fine.

"Now…it's because I'm…happy." I smiled. He smiled too, very slightly and a bit wistfully. It was a real smile, for me. I laughed shortly while some tears still rolled down my cheeks.

"I'm so happy you don't hate me." I said very quietly and wiped my face again but then I remembered I had a tissue in my pocket. "I was really afraid." I blew my nose and smiled again. Naruto-kun was looking at me, unusually quiet for him, but I knew it was the real him and he had things to think about, so I was very happy that he showed it to me. The real him.

"…I was really glad when you cheered me in the Chuunin preliminaries, more than I can tell. …It's because of you I think I can change, Naruto-kun." He looked like he could tell the solid conviction in my words. I was less aware of myself now thanks to the post-crying euphoria and my voice didn't stutter anymore even though it was quiet. "I know you're really strong. I want to be more like you. And I know you'll be Hokage." I just couldn't get enough of that little smile. It was real and so beautiful. Much better than the fake broad ones.

"Thanks, Hinata." I think you can tell the real smile from the blush. He blushes really slightly when it is for real.

There was a pause and we looked at each other and I dried some solitary teardrops every now and then, and sniffed. Naruto-kun rubbed the back of his head and let out a breath.

"Mm…I don't really know what to do…and…something", he frowned in a troubled way.

I had seen and witnessed it had worked and I knew he didn't hate me. So I could say it when I concentrated. "I know you don't love me, but its okay." He looked sort of funny, confused like that. "I think you would have to get used to the idea. Many people actually like you a lot. You have a thing – a talent like that." I was happy I could tell him that even like this. "I love you…and I'm happy if you're happy. I of course hope we could be happy together but if you need something else more, you should have that. You deserve happiness more than anyone." I was surprised how sure and determined I sounded when I said that. But it was solid truth.

"…Hinata…" he looked moved. It made me feel like floating again. He wiped his eyes and I had to do he same. He laughed shortly then. "Geez, a ninja crying like this…" Then he realized something and flinched. "Oh no! I'm sorry, Hinata!"

I smiled. "It's all okay." He looked so sweet.

It was sort of sad but it had to end some time. "…Maybe we need to continue soon…" I got up. Naruto-kun got up too. He looked me in the eye very seriously.

"Hinata, I'm really grateful. I never knew you… Umm, I never knew I was so important to you. I think you deserve happiness, too." Wonder why he has to blush like that always when he's serious? "I'll notice you more from now on, I swear."

"I'm…very happy about that." But I was sort of sad now. It was ending.

Naruto-kun got closer so that I could climb to his back again. Now he obviously had gotten around to realise that I truly was a girl. That made me happy. I hesitated a bit as he offered his back. I suddenly felt adventurous. It wasn't really supposed to go like this…but… This was my only chance for the following three years he would spend training away from Konoha, wasn't it?

"N-naruto-kun", I said meekly and touched his shoulder. He turned to look. And I took a step closer and put my other hand to his other shoulder and I kissed him. He was very surprised and even jerked back a little, but it was so little I followed and then he didn't try to break off anymore. Everything else went away and there was just my mouth and his, that's what it felt like. He even answered me a little. I didn't imagine it. I could have died of happiness.

It was nearly impossible to remember I had hands and move the left one away from his shoulder and step a bit closer. He held my waist like I held his shoulders, very lightly. It was terrible, terrible to take out the kunai from my belt bag and even more difficult to bring it to where I knew his right kidney was.

I broke off and I felt like someone strangled my throat. Be strong now, you have to. You must. He looked at me and his lips were still slightly parted. He looked like he had something to say. My eyes welled up again. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Naruto-kun…" I whispered and stabbed the kunai in.

His eyes could have killed me. Surprise. They still didn't have hate in them, he just looked surprised and made a small sound. Why did it take so long? He didn't even move away. Wasn't it time already?

Finally he – it, that's what it was, it - exploded to that cloud of white smoke. I breathed hard. It had taken so long I had even started to doubt it wasn't a fake. I had to walk by myself a bit longer now, but as…the clone had said, it wasn't very far anymore. I breathed deep and tried to concentrate. He didn't hate me. Or he wouldn't. That was good to know for the time three years from now. I looked up to the sky and readied myself. Naruto-kun didn't hate me, so what else could I need? The world seemed somehow lighter than before. I smiled and started to walk.

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Author's Notes: That twist makes me love it. The anime had a piggyback situation like that and we started wondering why 1) Naruto didn't leave a Kage Bunshin to carry Hinata and go help Kiba himself and 2) Hinata doesn't take advantage of the unsuspecting clone. XD

And I managed to move myself when I planned this…I'm emotional that way. Sort of funny… The story didn't feel that extraordinary when I got to actually write it, tough.

…If you liked the idea, go see my bio. I should have a link to my friend's take on the subject. I like it a lot too. :)

EDIT: Just made the ANs...up to date...and I guess I can note that this fic just became impossible with the newest manga chapters and what they cleared about Kage Bunshin. Heh.