A/N: The whole story premise came from my Cai-kun so it's his. Thanks to him, we have this! Still for the NaruHina fanworks drive... :D LONG LIVE NARUHINA! Arigato Cai! hugs him

(8. Such simple words)

I'm Always Here

The sun was slowly saying goodbye to the world. It gave it's ward one more show of colors as a promise to see it again the next day. Indigo had bled in on the east while red bloomed on the west in the wake of the sun.

Naruto licked his lollipop thoughtfully. He was sitting on the only swing in the school grounds. Almost everyone had gone home to their families.

All except him. He had no one to go home to. Eight-year-old Naruto understood, even at his young age, that he was an orphan and he had to quit hoping that someone would come and make his apartment a home.

Nobody really understood. He didn't care though. Just as long as the housekeeper came in everyday and left some food for him, as long as he had sweet big lollipops to eat he was happy and contented.

The Village looked after him. The Sandaime had explained that he was a very special boy who deserved to be cared for. Why he was chosen among many children in the orphanage was a mystery but he was thankful nonetheless. He liked living outside, thanks very much.

He wanted nothing else in the world. Naruto was still a child so he had very little to worry about. He'd rather be playing, eating, and sleeping than calculating budgets or washing the laundry. No, the Sandaime had hired someone to do that.

So he was free. He went to school, made some friends, and ate lollipops or candies all day long. There was nothing else in the world he wanted but to find a few short blissful moments.

Naruto was happy.

The school yard was quiet except for the rustle of the dancing fallen leaves. Everyone had gone home. The sun was going to say goodbye in another ten minutes. He leaned back and enjoyed the view of the great big orb without destroying his eyesight.

His ears twitched when he thought he heard something.

No, that was wrong. He felt something.

His blue eyes roamed the yard. There was no one else but him. The old buildings reflected some of the sun's red rays and acquired some grandeur. The sun hit some parts but some of the building fell in shadow.

He frowned thoughtfully. What could it be?

There it was again. He leapt up and left the lollipop in his mouth as he walked towards the school buildings. His heartbeats accelerated.

Naruto did not understand what it was that drove him towards the buildings. There was just something calling to him over there. A small voice dictated his steps, as if it knew where he was going all along. He didn't know the reasons why he had to, only the need to.

His feet led him to stop a few steps from the west end of the building where it was all shadow. He bit on to his lollipop again and wondered if he should go on.

Then he heard a small sob.

He wondered who else could stay there at such a late an hour. (Sir Iruka did not mind if he stayed after-hours as long as he did not do anything funny.) Everyone he knew was gone.

There was another quiet sob. As if the person was trying very hard not to be heard.

Naruto chewed on one lollipop fragment thoughtfully. Oh, well. He had to know.

So he took another step.

The sobs continued.

He approached as quietly as possible.

His heartbeats were so fast.

Then the blond boy peeked. He let out a short sigh of relief as he saw a dark-haired young girl sitting with her back against the wall and hugging her arms, crying. She had pale skin and longish dark hair. Her cheeks were wet with some tears but she was biting her lip so that meant it hurt a lot more inside.

Naruto felt himself grow sad. He wasn't so happy that he could not feel anyone else's pain. Somehow he'd formed the principle that not everyone would care if he was sad so he'd rather be happy.

She must be a very sad little girl, he thought as he watched her wipe the tears away and sob to herself. Obviously she did not want anyone else to see.

He took a step. She looked up.

Her eyes were pearl-gray and the tears on her eyelashes were shining like diamonds. She was on the darkest corner with her sorrow wrapped around her almost as palpable as the shadows. Her face he did not recall very well; she must be in another class.

But Naruto was concerned for her. She was shivering as if she would break.

"H-Hey..." he said and swallowed nervously. She wiped her nose with the sleeve of her jacket. He grinned in spite of himself. Her eyes were fixed on him with shock and embarrassment and... some fear. He wondered what could have caused her to get scared of him.

She merely sniffed.

"You okay?" he asked gently.

She lowered her eyes on the ground before shaking her head. Her fingers tugged at her shoelaces restlessly. Though distracted, her eyes were still misty. She still wanted to cry, he realized with some shame. He'd disturbed her.

But it was done and he must see it through.

Without being asked, he squatted down in front of her to stare at her more closely. She looked vaguely familiar. He noted with unconscious interest her lovely eyes and sad expression. She was beautiful but her sadness tugged at the corners of her lips and placed fresh tears in her eyes.

"Are you mad at me?" he asked.

"N-No," she replied and then hid her face in her arms. Her grip around them tightened. Naruto watched, fascinated. He'd never had the opportunity to be close to girls. They usually ran away but she did not seem to care.

"Why are you crying?" asked the blond boy with compassionate blue eyes.

"B-Because... Because no one knows..." she murmured, half-angrily "I... I don't like being ignored. N-No one knows me enough... F-Father says I am a nonsense and big waste of time... N-No one cares because they were never there..."

Here she bit her lowed lip to keep from crying out too loud. Naruto never knew the feeling of being looked down on by family members but he suddenly felt empathically connected to her. He could feel her pain. She tried her best to hide it and do her best and not be a bother.

He noted not for the first time that she was a very good girl. She was still a child- very much like him- who still wept and hurt for things she did not understand or have. The sweet thing did not want to bother her parents with her hurts when another child would've protested. What a sweet and caring nature she had!

"I care," Naruto declared. She could hardly believe her ears. "Well, no one in your house cares, right? You're always in the dark! Maybe that's why they don't see you enough! So I'll care for you!"

Her eyes widened. Her father did always dismiss her to the dark and perpetually ignored corner. How'd he know that!

"D-Dakedo they won't bother looking for me." She looked ready to cry again. Naruto's own fragile heart broke for her. "I'm worthless to them."

He did not want to believe that anyone would want to ignore her! She was too precious to be broken by such callous ways! He vowed to himself he'd always stay by her side. Apparently, she needed him too.

"Here." He said and handed her one of his precious lollipops. She accepted it shyly and then followed his instructions to rip off the paper and indulge her on the sweet. He showed her how to eat it messily and they laughed at each other's antics. They were both sticky and full and happy.

She realized that he was very kind. He was Naruto, of course. She knew him. But he did not know her yet.

He decided that she was familiar although he couldn't remember her name.

They sat in the dark, sitting close and sharing stories. It was almost time for the sun to finally say goodbye. He smiled and handed her a handkerchief. She looked at him uncertainly when he reached over and wiped her eyes and cheeks from another round of fresh tears as she recalled another painful incident at home. Her slender and lovely fingers he wiped clean until she couldn't feel anything but his warm and strong hand holding hers.

"C'mon," he said and pulled her up. Reluctantly, she let him help her to her feet. Their hands were still linked but neither cared nor paid any attention. " Let's see the sun…"

He half-dragged her out of their corner and into the full sunset splendor. She gasped in awe at the beautiful summer sky colors as they painted everything. Naruto's blond hair gleamed with magnificence and his blue eyes had little golden flecks in them. He was... cute.

She sucked in breath and started to dance in dizzy circles, enjoying her newfound freedom. Sunshine. The last splendor of the sunshine.

Naruto approached her as she stopped twirling. He let her rest against him for breath as her world spun. She was breathless and pretty and happy. Without hesitation he told her, "I'm always here."

Such simple words...

A smile made her pretty lips curve. Yes, she knew she could count on him to do just that.

She wanted some company and he gave it. She wanted someone to take her out of the dark... and he did.

He was there. And always would be.

"What's your name though?" Naruto asked curiously.

"Hinata," she replied softly.

"Sunshine… Nice name!" He gave her a thumbs-up. She smiled shyly. "Stay in the sunshine, okay? I'll be here to pull you into it."

So Naruto found something infinitely best to make him happy: her happiness. They were children but what they shared was far more valuable.