NOW it's complete. Thought about making this the first chapter of a new story, but i'm feeling a little muse-less at the moment, so it's up in the air when there'll be a sequel proper.
P.S. read and enjoy, and take a look at something at the bottom for me.
Naruto happily slurped his ramen with Hinata next to him, unaware of the shape stalking up behind him.
Sakura's hand snapped out, grabbing the blonde by the ear and yanking him off the stool.
"You don't -slap- take a girl out on a date -kick- just so you can get -smack- ramen!"
"We're not on a date!"
Sakura paused in the beating she was giving Naruto. Looking up, she noticed Iruka-sensei and Kurenai-sensei in the seats next to Hinata, all looking at her as if she'd gone mad.
"But...you said you were going on a date with Naruto…"
"Tonight! Tonight!" Naruto pulled himself off the ground, brushing the dust off his clothes. "I was getting a snack with Iruka-sensei, and she was walking by with Kurenai-sensei…"
"I had something to discuss with Iruka."
Kurenai stood up and Iruka quickly slurped down the rest of his food, the two of walking a short distance away for a semblance of privacy.
While Sakura apologized and tried to make small talk, the two adults watched them from a distance.
"It's nice to see Hinata getting over her shyness."
"Yeah. She seems more confident now, and did very well on our last mission."
When Naruto's griping and Hinata's quiet laughter floated over, they leaned closer together, lowering their voices further.
"He doesn't understand why or how or what exactly he's feeling. Maybe it was just the way Hinata acted towards him while he was under that seal. Maybe he always knew what Hinata thought of him on some unconscious level, but now Naruto is experiencing something that he's never known before. Not from his friends, his teammates, his sensei or even from me."
Hinata dove into the dirt to save his ramen, knocked away by one of Sakura's flailing arms. Iruka straightened and smiled as Naruto curled around Hinata protectively as Sakura turned her attention to the dark-haired girl.
"So I can count on your support?"
Kurenai straightened and smiled as well, seeing the happiness on her student's face. This time, it was Naruto's turn to blush when he saw it.
"Of course. I'd do whatever I could for Hinata's happiness."
A note was discretely passed to Iruka with all the skill she could muster.
"But some of these people may have…objections."
"Thank you for the forewarning, Kurenai-sensei."
Sakura turned to leave, and Naruto waved goodbye.
"Don't forget what I told you! This is your first date. Be serious, like it's an A-rank mission!"
Naruto gave Hinata a kiss on her cheek before the group separated, going their separate ways. Hinata smiling, Kurenai's hand patting her shoulder in congratulation. Iruka headed to the academy, the note tiny but heavy in his pocket. Naruto strutting away, going over the evening's preparations in his head.
And around them all, a dozen angry glares, angry at the boy's happiness, and angrier still that they were powerless to do anything about it.
Later that evening, Naruto paced in front one of Konoha's better restaurants, in clothes that Iruka had helped him pick out, not too casual or too dressy, not that he owned any dress clothes to begin with. He had made sure to arrive a half-hour early, and was now stuck waiting and worrying that he had missed something.
When he turned, he saw her wearing a too-big long coat. He couldn't see what was underneath the coat, but when he finally looked up, Naruto blushed a deep crimson.
Hinata was wearing makeup. A soft red on her lips, a very faint blush on her cheeks, and a small, tasteful application around her eyes that accentuated her pale eyes perfectly.
"Thank you. Ino and Sakura helped."
"I'll…have to thank them later…"
Hinata giggled softly, and Naruto nervously offered her his hand, walking hand-in-hand with her into the restaurant.
It was a dress.
That was what she was hiding under the coat. A black dress. Again, simple, with a minimum of frills, but when she took the coat off, it was like Naruto was looking at an entirely different person then he Hinata he'd known. A very, very beautiful one.
When she offered him her hand again to walk inside together, he thought he was going to faint. Fortunately, Naruto managed to keep himself together, and decided that this was probably the best night of his life.
After that, things quickly went downhill.
It started with the waiter, who jumped at the sight of the Hyuuga heiress, immediately waving her forward to the front of the line. A burly attendant stepped in front of Naruto, and the two employees nearly spat when Hinata stopped as well and they realized the two were walking together, arm-in-arm. Hinata fixed the man in charge with a glare and he waved the other man away, apparently not walking to risk offending such a powerful clan.
The second hurdle wasn't as easily cleared.
When they walked inside the main dining area, the patrons immediately recognized the girl. The random background noise turned to murmurs that washed up and down the room at the sight of her. A second later, it was several dozen people sucking in their breath, gasping in surprise and half-restrained exclamations when Naruto came into view, followed by dead silence.
Hinata was livid, and Naruto gently pulled her forward behind their waiter. Every face followed them as they walked across the room to a private table, and their voices echoed in the quiet room as they made their orders.
Naruto ate as politely as he could, considering how he normally ate. Hinata barely touched her food, until Naruto began prodding her with a fork, offering a smile to reassure her. The voices around them were low, and the two knew they were the center of attention. Naruto, for once in his life, didn't particularly care, which he realized halfway through a conversation about their last few missions, and he knew it had something to do with the way Hinata was smiling when she forgot about the onlookers and talked to him.
Hinata's face began to turn downwards at the prospect of the trip back across the room, and as the table was cleared and he helped Hinata to her feet, he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the back of it gently. Another quiet ripple of shock sounded through the room, and Naruto gave Hinata a impish smile that she returned before stepping forward and kissing him deeply. The two walked out smiling, with looks that dared anyone who didn't approve to speak up.
Turned out, no one could even look them in the eye.
The two were making their back to Hinata's home, walking slowly through the streets of Konoha.
"Is it…always like that?"
"No…it was actually a lot worse when I was younger."
His tone was light, and Hinata was stunned that he could talk about it with a grin on his face. None of the people at the restaurant had dared to harass Naruto the moment they saw Hinata with him, but she knew that didn't mean her presence changed how they felt, and she also knew that she had only seen a fraction of what Naruto had endured over the course of his life.
The two walked in silence until the Hyuuga mansion was in sight, with Hinata keeping a tight grip on Naruto's arm the whole time.
"So…I'll see you later, Naruto?"
"Yeah! Ahh...I had a great time. But what are we going to do next time? A movie, maybe? Hmm…"
"A great…but everybody…"
"The way…everyone was looking at you."
Hinata was cut off as Naruto pulled her closer, resting his hands on her shoulders.
"I don't really get it, but no one looks at me like you do. And…" Naruto voice dropped lower, the cheerful tone turning quiet and soft. "And I just feel like…I can't let anything change that. I won't…ever…"
Their lips met, arms tight around each other in the middle of the street for all to see. They paused to catch their breath, but as they leaned towards each other again, the sound of a throat clearing interrupted them.
She stepped out from around the corner, covering a smile with her hand.
"I'm very sorry to interrupt, but if you take any longer, Hiashi might grow suspicious."
"It doesn't matter…" Hinata turned and accepted a package from Kurenai, disappearing from view. "Soon, everyone will know."
"Umm…Kurenai-sensei…what are you doing here?"
"Me? Oh, I came along to make sure nothing happened." Her smile stretched from ear to ear. "And it looks like I got here just in time."
From out of sight, Hinata began to cough.
"I-I wouldn't do something like that!"
"I wonder, being Jiraiya-sama's student…"
"AH! Don't compare me to that pervert! I'm a hundred times more responsible than he is!"
Hinata stepped out into sight once again, dressed in her normal clothes. She handed the box back to Kurenai-sensei, bowing slightly.
"Thank you for the dress."
"It was no problem."
"Oh? You gave it to her?"
"I just held onto it. Hinata picked it out herself. What did you think about it?"
"She was beu-err…it was…nice. Yeah. Very nice."
Kurenai worked to keep from laughing out loud at the reversal, seeing Naruto blushing and stammering whenever Hinata was mentioned. The two stumbled though an extended farewell, parting reluctantly. Hinata jumped silently towards her home with Naruto watching over his shoulder as he walked away, and Kurenai moved out of sight, but kept them both in her range of perception until she was sure both were home, safe and sound.
They'd made that first step on their own, but she'd be damned if she wasn't there to make sure it didn't go perfectly.
And without interruption.
On my profile, there's a link to a forum i've created for something i've thought up...i put it up once before, but took it down. I put it up again, and i need your feedback to decide whether to go for it or not.