Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto. I make no profit from this.

Notes: My first Naruto fanfic. I know there's a ton, so I tried to do something I've never seen before (in fanfic, anyway). This would take place early on in the series, shortly after Naruto and the other genin are sorted into their respective cells.

Summary: Hinata has one day to develop a jutsu that she and Akamaru can use together. Fortunately, Naruto's sensei Kakashi knows plenty about ninken, and Hinata as well.

Dog Jutsu for Dummies

A Naruto Fanfic by

Nate Grey (XMAN0123-at-aol-dot-com)

Hyuuga Hinata was more nervous than usual as she and her teammates sat on the grass, staring at each other somewhat uneasily. Just when they were starting to get used to the idea of being a cohesive unit, their sensei had placed another obstacle in their path towards real teamwork, or so it seemed at the time.

Inuzuka Kiba hadn't said a word since the announcement, which was very strange for him. He was always the loudest and most confident member of the team, and the idea of him being uncomfortable made Hinata even more nervous.

Aburame Shino hardly said anything at all, ever, but they had learned that when he did, it was usually a good idea to listen. He wasn't saying anything now, though, but it was hard to be sure if he was feeling uncomfortable, or anything else, for that matter.

Akamaru, being a dog, only spoke in growls, yips, and barks as far as Hinata knew, and even then only Kiba understood him perfectly. As with most dogs, it was pretty obvious when he was happy, angry, or sad, but beyond that, it was difficult to know what he was thinking.

"Well?" Yuhi Kurenai asked when no one spoke up. "Any volunteers?" She looked expectantly at each member of Team 8 in turn, waiting for someone to reply.

Hinata could tell that her sensei was starting to get annoyed, so she made up her mind to push aside her hesitation and at least get the ball rolling. Shifting slightly in the grass, she opened her mouth and began to answer.

Not surprisingly, as he nearly always did, Kiba beat her to it.

"Okay, let's just do this," he practically ordered, a determined look in his eyes. "I'll take some of Shino's bugs, and Hinata can borrow Akamaru first."

Shino offered no visible or audible protest, merely handing over two or three insects that Kiba accepted with some obvious discomfort. Hinata was more than a little surprised when Akamaru rose from his place at Kiba's side and loped over to her, plopping himself comfortably in her lap, where he began to wag his tail eagerly. This was odd behavior for the white dog, since he had never given Hinata anything more than a bark or a nudge when he thought she was moving too slowly. Certainly he was never this friendly with anyone other than Kiba.

When Hinata looked to Kiba for an explanation, he just grinned. "You always smell like flowers. We don't have too many of those around my place anymore. Guess Akamaru misses them."

Hinata blushed and smiled faintly, ducking her head to avoid Kiba's gaze. This brought her face closer to Akamaru, who took it as a signal to hop up and lick her chin. She giggled softly and petted the dog's back, watching his tail wag even faster than before. "I like him," she murmured. "He's sweet."

Kiba grunted noncommittally, as if he should've been insulted by the comment, but really wasn't. "Yeah, well, NOW he is. But you're not a threat to him. If you were, though..."

"I'm sure he would be quite fierce," Hinata agreed, trying to save Kiba just a little dignity in front of the others. Naturally, she then proceeded to ruin it, unknowingly, by talking to the dog. Hinata rubbed Akamaru's neck with both hands as she spoke to him. "Isn't that right, Akamaru? You'd protect me just like our big, strong Kiba-kun does, wouldn't you?"

Akamaru barked in what Hinata assumed was the affirmative, since his tail kept wagging wildly. Had she bothered to look, it would've been pretty obvious from the slight shade of red in Kiba's face.

"It's a nice start, but being on good terms with the animals isn't enough," Kurenai reminded them all. "The point of this exercise is to actually make use of them when their owners aren't around. Suppose Shino was knocked out during a mission, and you needed his insects to create a solution with the same properties as a smelling salt. How would you do it?"

Hinata and Kiba stared at each other blankly. It was obvious that neither one had the faintest idea of what to do in that situation. And if Shino knew the answer, he clearly wasn't telling.

This didn't seem to surprise Kurenai at all. "Since Kiba has the insects this time around, it'll be his job to figure that out. Hinata, I want you to develop one jutsu that either you and Akamaru can perform together, or one that you teach him to do on his own. I don't expect anything too advanced, since you come from two very different clans, but not being an Inuzuka is no excuse for not learning a few tricks with ninken. They can be extremely useful, as I'm sure Kiba has told you."

"I'll try, Kurenai-sensei," Hinata promised, still feeling a bit uncertain about the whole thing. She had seen some of Akamaru's techniques with Kiba, but she wasn't so naive as to think that she could pull off anything like that. Most of their attacks depended on Kiba's strength and speed, and Hinata was probably the weakest member of the team in those categories. At least, she thought so, and Hinata hoped Akamaru's opinion of her (and by extension, Kiba's) wouldn't change once he realized that, too.

"You'll do fine," Kiba said at once. "You'll figure something out, and when you do, Akamaru won't let you down."

Hinata turned bright red and looked away. "Thank you, Kiba-kun," she whispered. It was nice to know he had that much confidence in her, though she still had no clue as to what kind of jutsu she could teach Akamaru.

Once Kurenai dismissed the team, Hinata wandered around the village for a while, hoping to stumble upon an idea for a new jutsu. The only real restriction Kurenai had given them was that they couldn't ask each other for help. Technically, that meant Hinata was allowed to ask Kiba's mother and sister for advice, but somehow that felt like cheating to her.

In the meantime, Hinata merely kept her eyes and ears open, hoping some inspiration would come to her. She was carrying Akamaru in her arms, in order to conserve all his energy for the jutsu (she certainly didn't expect to get it right the first time). That, and she didn't think her neck was strong enough to have him sitting on her head all the time, as he was used to doing with Kiba.

It was something of a happy accident that Hinata happened to be passing by Ichiraku Ramen just as the most loyal customer was leaving. As if it were fated to be, they nearly walked right into each other, and were saved from harm only by Akamaru's warning bark.

"Huh? Oh, it's you, Hinata," Uzumaki Naruto said, rubbing the back of his head. "Sorry about that, I didn't see you." He paused, catching sight of a somewhat miffed Akamaru in her arms (he had nearly been squashed between them, after all). "Hey, isn't that Kiba's dog?" he asked, leaning closer. Akamaru growled low in his throat, and fortunately, Naruto took the hint and took a step back.

Color blossomed in Hinata's cheeks as she stared at him, and her mouth temporarily forgot all the words she knew, save one. "N-Naruto..." she breathed, all other thoughts forgotten as he looked at her expectantly.

"Are you okay?" Naruto asked, giving her a funny look. "You're always short of breath and feverish every time I see you. Maybe you should go home and get some rest."

Realizing that Naruto thought she was ill, Hinata shook her head to clear it and finally managed to speak properly. "No, I'm fine, really. Akamaru and I were just out walking around..."

"Then shouldn't he be walking, too?" Naruto asked, growing more puzzled by the minute.

Hinata shook her head. "I don't want him to be tired later. Kurenai-sensei said I have to teach him a new jutsu, but I don't know where to start, since I'm not allowed to ask Kiba-kun for help."

Naruto laughed out loud, and Hinata could only look on cluelessly, since she had no idea what he found so amusing.

"You don't need to ask Kiba!" Naruto chuckled, winking at her. "You happen to have access to a REAL expert on ninja hounds!"

Hinata's eyes widened in relief. "You mean... you know about ninken, Naruto-kun?" she asked hopefully. Just the thought of spending more time with Naruto made her heart beat faster.

"Me? HA! No way!" Naruto replied with a huge grin. "I was talking about Kakashi-sensei! He's got TONS of ninja hounds just lying around. Come on, I'll show you were he lives." With that, he started walking.

"Um... Naruto-kun, isn't that... cheating?" Hinata asked hesitantly. "I mean, he's your sensei. If I can't ask Kiba-kun for help, I shouldn't be able to ask him, either..."

Naruto shook his head as he turned back to her, smiling patiently. "Did your sensei SAY you couldn't ask another sensei?"

"Um...no, but-"

"Then it's not cheating!" Naruto insisted with an easy grin. "You gotta learn to read between the lines, Hinata. Kakashi-sensei taught me that!"

Hinata had heard a great deal about Naruto's sensei, and not all of it good. But the rumors seemed to agree that he was formidable, and if Naruto had taken the man's teachings to heart so readily, who was she to argue?

Naruto had a certain way of doing things, and Hinata knew that better than most. Still, she wished he would show a little more respect than he was at the moment.

"HEY! Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto hollered as he kicked the apartment door. "Open up! It's your number one student!"

The door finally did open, and it did so just as Hinata had expected it to: quickly, as if the person behind it was very much irritated. And, quite obviously, they were.

They just also happened to NOT be Naruto's sensei.

"Keep it down, you idiot!" Haruno Sakura shouted, her left eye twitching angrily. "Everyone within a mile can hear you!" It was then that she noticed Hinata, and instantly calmed down, as if she hadn't just been seconds away from breathing fire on Naruto. "Hi, Hinata. What are you doing hanging out with HIM? I'm sure you have better ways to waste your time."

"What are YOU doing here, Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked, though unlike her, he didn't seem upset all.

Sakura sighed. "Same thing as you, I bet: getting advice from Kakashi-sensei. At least, I WAS, until SOMEONE started attacking his door!"

Naruto laughed loudly, startling Hinata. "That's great! So we're both getting ahead of the game! I should've known only you and I would think of something smart like that! I guess poor Sasuke's going to get left behind, huh?"

Sakura smiled nastily. "Actually, Sasuke-kun was just leaving when I got here, so it's looks like YOU are the one in last place again, Naruto. But I guess the fact that you're even here at all is a step up for you."

"Just like a slacker to take off early!" Naruto countered, earning a glare from Sakura.

Hinata could tell that this would go on all day if she didn't stop them. Plus, even though Naruto and Sakura were arguing, Naruto seemed to be enjoying himself, which made Hinata a bit jealous. On the other hand, Sakura seemed to be getting more and more annoyed by the second, so it was very likely that Naruto was the only one having fun.

Somehow, Akamaru seemed to sense Hinata's distress, because he barked loudly, bringing the heated exchange to an abrupt end.

"Oh, sorry, Hinata. We didn't mean to upset your... dog?" Sakura said slowly, looking confused. "I didn't know you had one."

"She doesn't, he's Kiba's," Naruto informed her. "Hinata's just borrowing him for a new jutsu she has to learn. That's why I brought her to Kakashi-sensei."

"So you're not actually here to learn anything, Naruto," Sakura sighed, shaking her head. "I should've known better."

"I am too here to learn!" Naruto insisted heatedly. "I'm going to watch!"

"Actually, you won't," said a new voice. "While I'm happy to help Hinata, any advice I give her is none of your business."

Hinata looked up to see a tall, lanky man appear behind Sakura. For some reason, she was instantly reminded of an old scarecrow. He certainly didn't look dangerous, in fact, he looked just a bit worn out. The only visible part of his face was his right eye, the rest being obscured by his mask and forehead protector. His white hair was sticking out in all directions, almost as if he'd just lost a fight. His voice was calm, even friendly, and Hinata decided that she liked him at once.

"Aw, no fair!" Naruto complained. "I want to learn about ninken, too, Kakashi-sensei!"

Hatake Kakashi nodded slowly, but his eye never left Hinata's face. "An admirable goal, but I'll teach you another time, Naruto. Just as each genin is different, so is the training that works best for each one. You wouldn't be able to effectively use all of the advice I'm going to give Hinata."

"Can't I at least try?" Naruto wheedled.

"No." Kakashi clearly wasn't going to agree, but his voice never rose in the slightest. "And if you really need a reason, it is this. My advice will involve discussing Hinata's personal history. It is for her ears alone. If she chooses to tell you about it later, that's fine. But until then, it will stay between us."

"Aww..." Naruto groaned, obviously disappointed. "But you'll train me tomorrow, right?"

"Tomorrow," Kakashi agreed with a nod. "Bright and early. 5 AM should be perfect."

"What!" Naruto cried. "But you never even show up before 6 AM!"

The accusation didn't seem to bother Kakashi in the least. "If I show up and you're not there, I'll assume you changed your mind," he replied.

"Then you'll be even further behind us, Naruto," Sakura reminded him, prodding the boy in the shoulder.

Naruto frowned and clenched his fist dramatically. "Fine! I'll be there!" he shouted.

"That's the spirit," Kakashi said approvingly. "Now, you two run along. Sakura, keep practicing what we talked about, and you shouldn't have any more trouble."

Sakura inclined her head respectfully, blushing faintly at the same time. "Yes, Kakashi-sensei. Thank you!" Hinata suspected that Sakura didn't want anyone to know she'd needed some extra help. She watched as Sakura practically shoved Naruto out of the apartment, closing the door behind them.

"They're good kids," Kakashi said absently, almost as if he were talking to himself. "A little odd, but good kids all the same." He blinked and turned to Hinata. "Well, then. What can I do for you?"

Suddenly realizing that his full attention was on her, Hinata had to suppress a wave of anxiety before she could speak. "Naruto-kun said you were the one to ask about ninken. I've seen a few of Akamaru's jutsu with Kiba, but none of them really fit me."

"That's not surprising. You come from two very different clans, and so you have two very different fighting styles. It's only natural that you'd have some questions when it comes to ninken. I doubt Kiba knows anything about Gentle Fist, save for what he's seen from you."

Hinata's eyes widened in surprise. "You know Gentle Fist, Kakashi-sensei?"

The honorific seemed to catch them both off guard, but Kakashi ended the awkward moment with a little laugh. "Do I know Gentle Fist? It would be more accurate to say I know of it. I've been around for some time, and I've seen a great deal. And there I go talking about myself, when you're more interested in ninken. Sorry about that."

"Oh, it's alright," Hinata assured him quickly. "I don't really know much about you, and Naruto-kun speaks so highly of your training. I'm sure you must have a very interesting life."

"We can debate that some other time. For now, I think we'd better focus on why you're here. You're supposed to have a new jutsu to show Kurenai, and I doubt she'd be happy if you told her my life story instead." Kakashi closed his eye briefly, as if he were attempting to order his thoughts. It was still closed when he finally asked, "Forgive me, but am I correct in assuming you're familiar with the bloodline limit of your clan?"

Considering he'd already known about Gentle Fist, Hinata wasn't too surprised that Kakashi also knew about the Byakugan. She was starting to wonder if there was anything in all of Konoha that he didn't know about, frankly.

"Yes," Hinata answered after a few seconds had passed.

"Ah," Kakashi replied simply.

In the long silence that followed, Hinata wondered if it had been a mistake to admit that. Being able to use the Byakugan had gotten her out of (and into) a great deal of danger in the past, and she was very careful about who she revealed the ability to. Though she trusted Kakashi so far, she was very aware of the fact that he outranked her by a great deal, and that she would be no match for him if he decided to attack her.

"Well, let's get started," Kakashi said abruptly.

"Do you... need me to demonstrate?" Hinata asked hesitantly as she set Akamaru down on the floor.

"There's no need for that." Kakashi turned his back to her. "There's no need for me to see it, I mean. I can understand why you wouldn't want me to. Just you knowing how to use it is enough for our purposes today."

Worried that she had offended him, Hinata tried to explain herself. "Oh... but I-"

"It's alright, Hinata," he assured her calmly. "Now, you know to target and block chakra channels, correct?"


"Good. Have you ever tried stimulating the channels instead?"

"I... no," Hinata answered, starting to feel very worried about her chances of success. "Is that anything like healing?"

Kakashi shook his head. "Not quite. In fact, it can be very dangerous. That's why I want you to practice on me before you try anything with Akamaru. The idea is to encourage chakra production, rather than cutting it off. Keep in mind that releasing too much chakra can be harmful, even fatal. But I'm sure that won't be a problem."

"Why are you sure?" Hinata murmured, biting her lip.

Kakashi shrugged calmly. "Let's just say I have confidence in both of us, and leave it at that. Whenever you're ready."

Though she did her best to avoid using the Byakugan frequently, Hinata could no longer remember a time when the activation hadn't been second nature to her. Taking a deep breath, she stepped closer to Kakashi, wondering just how much she could hurt him if she did something wrong.

"You're thinking too much," Kakashi noted. "Let me worry about the consequences for now."

"It's just that I don't usually practice unfamiliar techniques on other people," Hinata whispered.

"I knew you wouldn't be able to," said a familiar voice in her ear. "You're weak and soft, and you'll never be anything else. That'll make it so much easier when I finally decide to break you."

Hinata reacted without thought, spinning around and lashing out at the sneering face of her cousin. She was surprised when she connected with something that felt completely unlike a face, however.

It was a wall. At least, it had been before Hinata's fist had plowed into it. Now it was a wall with a fist-sized dent in it.

"I suppose that's my fault for trying to motivate you," Kakashi sighed.

Hinata blinked, shaking her head. "What... what happened?"

"Basic genjitsu. I thought hearing Neji threaten you might provoke you. It did, just not the way I'd hoped for. Had you been focusing the Byakugan, you probably would've seen through the illusion. But you allowed yourself to be distracted by his voice, and you never even bothered to look."

"I can't help it," Hinata admitted softly, looking down. "Everyone in my family... everyone that I love... sometimes I think they'd rather harm me than protect me. Every time I hear his voice, or see his face, I'm afraid that he'll-"

"You can't be afraid of Neji, Hinata. He has enough advantages over you as it is. Don't give him another. Admitting your fear is one thing, but giving into it is another entirely. If you allow your fear of Neji to control you, you allow him to control you. And forgive me for saying so, but I thought it was supposed to be the other way around between you two."

Hinata gasped at the implication. "I would never-!"

"If he were in your place, would he?" Kakashi asked quietly.

She didn't answer, nor did she need to. If Neji had been a member of the main house, and she had been the one with the Cursed Seal on her forehead, would he hesitate to activate it each and every time he saw her? Hinata didn't want to believe that Neji was that cruel, but there had been very little evidence to the contrary in the time that she'd known him. His hatred for the main house ran deep, and because she was in line to be the Hyuuga clan's heir, this was especially true for Hinata in particular.

"I can only help you if you want to be helped, Hinata," Kakashi pointed out. "So let's make a deal. I won't play any more tricks on you, if you keep your focus."

"I'll try," Hinata agreed with a small, determined nod.

It was nearly midnight when Hinata finally left Kakashi's apartment. She was exhausted, could barely see three feet in front of her without wincing, and seriously doubted that she would make it home at all this night. Despite that (or even because of it), she could now proudly consider herself one of Kakashi's success stories (he'd told her as much, right before he passed out on his couch).

Akamaru wasn't in much better condition. Though he hadn't trained for as long as Hinata had, most of his energy had been sapped in just the three short, closely supervised trials. Kakashi had been very impressed with the dog's stamina. The first two attempts had left Akamaru so weak he could barely stand, but he had refused to stay down. He had even gone so far as to bite Hinata's arm, gently, when she tried to talk him out of the final attempt.

Hinata still couldn't believe that they'd pulled it off. Yet, the scroll in her pocket insisted otherwise. Kakashi had hastily scribbled out a note for Kurenai, certifying that Hinata had created, and would eventually perfect the jutsu on her own.

At first, Hinata had thought that this was so she could get more out of the experience. But it was quickly dawning on her that Kakashi probably trained his other three genin in much the same way, and that Sakura had most likely been "practicing" on him earlier as well. Kakashi probably wouldn't last another week if he had to let four genin beat him up on a regular basis.

Honestly, she still felt a little guilty about wearing him out. Hinata was thinking of doing something nice for him, just so he'd know how much she appreciated his help. Naruto would probably have an idea... and it would give her another excuse to spend time with him. The idea brought a dreamy smile to Hinata's weary face as she dragged herself home, with Akamaru practically crawling at her side.

Because it was so late, Hinata didn't expect to run into anyone. Chances were they'd see her first and be able to dodge accordingly anyway, and she was in no shape to be much good at either. She did feel Akamaru bump into her ankle, but she assumed he had just tripped over his own paws, and bent down to help him up.

Hinata raised her head just in time to be sandwiched between two soft, pillowy mounds before she landed hard on her bottom, squeaking in pain.

There was a strangely similar squeak from the other person, who Hinata assumed was female. But when she took a closer look, she realized she'd been very wrong.

"Ow..." Naruto groaned, rubbing his chest. For some reason, his clothes were smoking slightly, as if he'd just dropped a smoke bomb.

"Naruto-kun?" Hinata asked in pleasant surprise. "What are you doing out so late?"

"Who, me?" Naruto's face turned bright red. "Um, I was jogging, and... Yeah! I was jogging! Jogging, and absolutely nothing else!" He almost sounded desperate, as if he thought Hinata wouldn't believe him.

"Oh. You know, for a second, I thought you were a girl," Hinata commented with a small smile. "I guess I must really be tired, if I could mistake you for a girl."

"Must be," Naruto agreed with a weak laugh. "Hey, um, why don't I walk you home? I could use an alibi."

Hinata blinked. "What?"

"I mean, I wanted to say goodbye!" Naruto blurted out as he jumped to his feet. "Uh, goodnight, that is! Yeah, that's what I meant to say!"

"You don't have to," Hinata whispered, her cheeks growing red. "I don't want to be a burden..."

"No, I insist!" Naruto said at once, pulling her off of the ground. "I just ran over you, so it's my duty to make sure no one else does!" He pointed in the direction she'd been walking. "This way, right?"

Hinata could only manage a nod before he practically dragged her down the road, his arm wrapped tightly around her waist, as if he were afraid she might try to run. Her whole face was glowing red now, and she couldn't think of a single reason to protest. Naruto had even picked up Akamaru without her noticing, and had the dog tucked under his free arm.

"So, how'd it go with Kakashi-sensei?" Naruto panted, trying to make conversation.

"Oh, very well. Akamaru and I were able to learn a new jutsu after all," Hinata replied breathlessly. "I can't thank you enough for your help, Naruto-kun."

"Ah, it's just practice for when I become the next Hokage!" Naruto boasted. "Then I'll be able to help everyone in Konoha!"

"I... I hope all your dreams come true," Hinata murmured softly.

"Hey, thanks! I think... I think we just passed your place, didn't we?"

Sure enough, they'd been so busy talking that they'd walked right past the main gate of the Hyuuga Clan's land. They quickly doubled back, and all too soon for her liking, Naruto removed his arm from Hinata's waist and put Akamaru down.

"Well, uh, goodnight," Naruto said after an awkward moment of silence. He started to hurry off, but Hinata gently caught his arm.

"Wait, Naruto-kun," she pleaded.

"Yeah? What is it?" he asked.

Hinata lowered her head. "I-I have no right to ask, but... I have to demonstrate my jutsu tomorrow, and... I need a volunteer..."

Naruto stared at her uncertainly. "You mean, you need a target?" he guessed.

Her face turned bright red. "Yes. I-I know it's an unusual request, but-"

"What time?" Naruto interrupted. "I'm training with Kakashi-sensei in the morning, but after that, I'm not doing anything important."

"Kurenai-sensei said we would begin at noon."

"Fine, I'll be there. But, um, what kind of damage are we talking here?"

Hinata looked away. "It's hard to explain. Kakashi-sensei could tell you better than I could, since I used it on him. I'll understand if you change your mind after talking to him, though..."

"I won't change my mind. I said I'd be there, and I always keep promises to my friends!" Naruto puffed out his chest. "I can take pain, no problem!"

"We... we're friends?" Hinata whispered, her voice trembling.

The question caught Naruto off guard. "Well... yeah! I wouldn't go to all this trouble for a stranger! Okay, maybe I would, but-"

Hinata suddenly closed the distance between them, wrapping her arms around his waist as she buried her face in his chest. "Thank you so much for saying that, Naruto-kun."

He stared at the top of her head in confusion for a few seconds, but finally slid his arms around her back. "I didn't think I had to, but if it makes you feel better..."

"It really does," Hinata assured him just before she let go. She could tell he didn't quite know what to make of the hug, and Hinata herself was still amazed that she'd had the nerve to be so forward.

"I'll see you tomorrow," Naruto said, waving as he turned and walked away.

Hinata entered the gate with a huge smile plastered across her face. Knowing that Naruto considered her a friend left a warm, pleasant feeling in her belly, and for a few seconds, her exhaustion was forgotten as she scooped up Akamaru and quickly ran inside.

Once inside her room, Hinata collapsed on the bed with a sigh. She was vaguely aware of Akamaru wriggling under her arm, but didn't think much about it until she noticed that he was settling down on the floor.

"What are you doing down there, Akamaru?" Hinata asked. "It's time to sleep now."

Akamaru barked at her and lowered his head to rest on his paws, but she had no idea what the problem was. The only thing she could imagine was that he might be uncomfortable sleeping in a new place without Kiba.

Hinata patted the spot next to her on the bed. "Come on up here, Akamaru. You don't have to sleep on the floor."

Akamaru whined uncertainly, but eventually hopped up on the bed and allowed Hinata to drape her arm over him again.

Hinata rubbed his head affectionately. "I'd never make you sleep on the floor, not after you worked so hard. I know Kiba-kun is going to be very proud of you when I tell him what a good dog you are." She giggled when Akamaru licked her nose. "I like you, too."

"So if you give the bugs enough chakra, they can pretty much do whatever's needed on their own," Kiba explained with a shrug. "I found out they can relay messages to and through Shino, so if we ever get separated, we can stay in contact with each other. We could try that around the village, in order to work the... uh... the bugs out..." He threw a guilty look at Shino. "Sorry, man."

If Shino got the joke, he gave no sign.

"That's a good idea, Kiba," Kurenai said. "A relay system would definitely improve your teamwork in the field, and at home." She then looked to the kunoichi of the group, who hadn't said a thing all morning. "You're up, Hinata. Got something to show us?"

"Oh... yes, Kurenai-sensei," Hinata murmured nervously as she stood up.

"Good. Why don't you demonstrate first, then tell us how you did it?"

Hinata nodded, then turned to signal Akamaru, and nearly gasped when she found he was already sitting at her feet, looking up at her expectantly. It was almost eerie, how smart he was, as if he understood people other than Kiba at times. Feeling a sudden rush of affection for the dog, she briefly bent down to pet him.

"I-I'm going to need a volunteer..." Hinata said softly.

Kiba instantly stood up, cracking his knuckles in an obscenely loud manner.

"So I arranged for someone to assist me."

Kiba's face split into a frown, and he had barely opened his mouth when Akamaru began to growl. Kiba joined him as Naruto jogged up, panting slightly as he squatted next to Hinata.

"You guys... always train... all the way... out here?" Naruto gasped, wiping some sweat from his forehead.

"You asked HIM?" Kiba demanded angrily. "You couldn't get anyone else?"

Naruto glared up at him. "Hey, dog breath. You ever stop to think that maybe asking, 'Can you stand there while I take your head off?' is easy? Or that there'd be a bunch of people willing to say yes?"

"I would've done it!" Kiba snapped.

"Yeah, well, she didn't ASK you," Naruto replied with a huge grin. "Probably thought you weren't... MAN enough to take it. Or that you'd turn and run with your tail between your-"

Hinata finally stepped between the two boys, pushing them apart. "Kiba-kun, I didn't ask you because it wouldn't have been fair to Akamaru. I couldn't ask him to attack you and expect him to perform at his best. He doesn't seem to like Naruto-kun very much, though, so... I thought he was a better choice."

"You took Akamaru's feelings into account," Kurenai said approvingly. "Very good, Hinata. It seems you did understand the assignment."

"So let's get on with it. I never like to stretch out getting my butt kicked," Naruto laughed good-naturedly.

"Just stay where you are and try not to dodge, please, Naruto-kun," Hinata requested as she moved back a couple of feet.

Naruto smirked. "Think I can handle that."

Taking a deep breath, Hinata knelt down and stroked Akamaru's back as she concentrated on Naruto's chest. "It's just like we practiced," she whispered, more to herself than the dog. "The only difference is that it's easier now, since we know what to expect. Ready, Akamaru?"

She felt the dog's body tense up underneath her hands.

"Good boy," she murmured. "Byakugan!"

When she was younger, she had likened the feeling to the world flipping over to reveal an entirely new side underneath. It was nowhere near that big a sensation now, more like a strange tickle at the back of her skull. And yet, the feeling was no longer anywhere near as pleasant as it had once been. She knew now that her cousin Neji felt much the same thing... and that he would feel so much more than that, if his Cursed Seal was activated. It was part of why Hinata had sworn to herself that she would never do so. There was enough pain in his life already.

Hinata needed only a glance to make a mental note of the targeted area on Naruto's chest. Looking down, she could easily pick out the spots on Akamaru's back where the most chakra would be released. Sending her own chakra to her fingers, Hinata carefully massaged those areas on Akamaru, being careful not to allow her chakra to come into conflict with his own. Instead, she used hers to gradually coax his to just beneath the surface of his fur. Perhaps because she and Akamaru had done this before, the process only took about twenty seconds, where it had previously been about one minute.

"It's all up to you now, Akamaru. I know you can do it." With that, Hinata removed her hands from the white dog's back.

Akamaru became a red blur as he streaked across the field, slamming into Naruto's chest hard enough to knock the boy flat on his back. The dog landed neatly on Naruto's leg, then promptly collapsed.

No one said anything for nearly a whole minute.

"That was... impressive," Kurenai admitted at last. "I'm sure you're aware of the downside, however."

"Yes," Hinata said softly as she carefully cradled Akamaru in one arm, and checked Naruto's pulse with her free hand. "The jutsu drains a great deal of chakra, and the user takes a considerable amount of damage. I made sure Akamaru and Naruto-kun knew the risks."

Shino stepped forward and stared down at Naruto. Once done with his inspection, he looked at Hinata. "He hit his head on the way down. He'll be out for a while."

Hinata nodded her thanks. She hadn't been able to see that from where she was standing.

Kiba grunted, apparently just as impressed as Kurenai had been. "And here I thought you might make him less colorblind or something."

Hinata lowered her head. "Kiba-kun... I'm sorry."

"For what?" he asked in surprise.

"I didn't mean to create a jutsu that would hurt Akamaru."

"Oh, that. Nah, he's fine." Kiba prodded Akamaru roughly with a finger, and the dog came around at once, letting out a pleased bark and wagging his tail. "Told you he wouldn't let you down. What do you call that thing, anyway?"

"We were thinking about 'The Akanata Comet' for now," Hinata admitted with a slight blush, holding the dog closer so he could easily lick her face. "I don't think we'll have many opportunities to use it, though."

"Regardless, you met my requirements," Kurenai informed her. "Both of you did. But I want that insect relay system tested by the next time we meet, so we can figure out what needs work. Dismissed. Oh, and be sure to pick up after yourselves."

Smirking, Kiba reached down and grabbed Naruto's arm, hauling him up over one broad shoulder. "I'd bet anything the smell of ramen would bring him around. You guys in or what?"

"I really should pay for his," Hinata sighed. "He didn't have to agree to help."

"You sure about that, Hinata? I've seen the way he sucks down ramen, and you could be broke before he's even half full."

Hinata smiled. "I'll risk it, Kiba-kun."

He rolled his eyes. "I hope you're not doing this out of some kinda misplaced guilt. If Akamaru had missed and collided with his thick skull, they'd both be dead."

"Kiba-kun!" she gasped.

"Just don't go thinking you owe him anything. It's his own fault for showing off. If he'd been ready to take the hit, he might still be conscious."

"He can't help it. Naruto-kun has to be proud of his own abilities. He's been alone for a very long time."

Kiba snorted. "Pride is one thing, boasting is another. Shino's tough, but you don't see him telling everyone in Konoha that, do you?"

Hinata smiled fondly at Shino before turning back to Kiba. "You boast a good deal, too, Kiba-kun," she reminded him gently. "You let everyone know how strong you are."

"Yeah, well, that's different!" Kiba argued. "I can back it up, and-"

"You don't understand," Hinata interrupted, touching his arm. "I like that about you. Your confidence makes me more confident. But I feel the same way about Naruto-kun. So please, try not to fight with him as much? He helps me in his own way."

Kiba didn't look like he wanted to agree, but noticing Hinata's hand was still on his arm, he merely grunted and adjusted Naruto's weight on his shoulder as he walked off.

"Hope you don't think I'll be that easy to tame," Shino muttered as he passed her, amusement in his tone.

Hinata smiled to herself and looked to the dog in her arms. "What do you think, Akamaru?" she asked.

Akamaru barked at her, his tail wagging excitedly.

"You're right," Hinata giggled. "Should be fun either way!"

The End.

Comments on characterization are GREATLY appreciated!


I don't know whether or not Gentle Fist can be used in this way, but I imagine if you can block chakra flow, increasing it shouldn't be that much of a stretch with practice. I'm not quite sure if Akamaru's fur only turns red after eating a soldier pill, but if I have my facts right, the pill increases chakra output, and that causes him to turn red. So in theory, the Akanata Comet would have much the same effect.

I know the Sharingan can't copy the Byakugan, so Hinata has no factual reason to fear that. But keep in mind she was nearly kidnapped because of the Byakugan, and you'd be a fool if you didn't think twice about trusting someone nicknamed Copy Ninja Kakashi. I assume the clans don't just tell people what their bloodline limits can and can't do, so no one outside close friends of the Uchihas would be well informed about the Sharingan. Kakashi only refused to watch Hinata activate the Byakugan as a way of humoring her fear.

If Akamaru seemed unusually friendly, I don't plan for him to react that way to anyone else. But I think he and Kiba would largely be of the same mind when it came to Hinata, only Akamaru wouldn't bother to put up a front about liking her. Dogs are honest that way.

Kiba probably never cracks his knuckles, it's just something I've seen another dog warrior do. Of course, that one's half human, half dog demon, so it maybe it doesn't exactly apply.

As you can tell, I'm still getting used to writing for this fandom (especially the vocabulary!). Probably all my attempts will focus on Team 8 and/or the Hyuuga Clan, I always like the quiet ones. Really looking forward to working with Hanabi, once I figure out her personality.

Hope you enjoyed the story! (in case you didn't, I added a little something that will hopefully change your mind, or at least lighten your mood...)


Kiba burped loudly as he finished his ramen bowl. Wiping his mouth, he decided to discuss a recent rumor with his teammates. "Hey, you guys heard anything about the Midnight Streaker?"

"The who?" Hinata asked, looking confused.

"You know, the Midnight Streaker! They say there's a young woman who strips down naked and runs through the village late at night!"

Naruto practically choked in the midst of his twelfth bowl of ramen.

Hinata patted him on the back. "Naruto-kun, are you alright?"

Coughing a bit, Naruto turned to her with watery eyes. "Yeah, just great. Hey, uh... you guys don't really believe that story, do you?"

"It does sound very strange," Hinata admitted doubtfully. "Why would she want to run around naked?"

Kiba shrugged. "Just to show off, I guess. Word has it that she's a real fox."

"What does she look like?" Hinata asked, sounding interested, which was surprising.

"Wish I knew for sure," Kiba sighed heavily. "I heard she's a blonde, but that's about it."

"Ino's a blonde," Naruto offered at once, a strangely desperate look in his eyes.

"Yeah, but it's supposed to be a HOT blonde," Kiba reminded him. He was about to go on, but his eyes widened abruptly, and he ducked just as a flowerpot slammed into the wall just above him, dumping soil all over his head.

"They moved the flower shop across the street yesterday," Shino observed calmly, without looking up from his own bowl.

Three pairs of eyes gazed across the road to see Ino glaring at them, her hands on her hips.

"How did she know?" Kiba muttered, shaking his head and sending soil flying in all directions.

"She probably has really good ears," Naruto suggested. "How else could she always know the latest gossip about that jerk Sasuke?"

Though Hinata was looking at her own ramen at the time, she reached out and pulled Naruto toward her slightly, just enough so that the next flowerpot only clipped his ear before it exploded against the wall.

"OW!" Naruto cried, covering his ear with a hand. "What the heck!"

"You know you can't talk bad about Sasuke when Ino's around," Kiba added with a grin.

Naruto frowned. "Hold on! Hinata, if you saw it coming, how come you didn't pull me completely out of the way?"

Hinata's large, usually peaceful eyes narrowed slightly. "Never insult the object of a girl's affection, Naruto-kun. It's very rude."

Naruto stared at her in shock. "Um... Hinata?" he asked weakly, trying to keep his voice from trembling.

"Yes?" she asked sweetly, smiling warmly at him.

"Uh... nevermind..."