Title: Speak Up
Disclaimer: I'm not entirely sure if Sasuke and Hinata have even officially met in the series.
Rating: G ( K+ ) – For nothing but fluffy insinuation and a bit of violence against Ichiraku's ramen stand. (Rating subject to change.)
Spoilers: Umm...I guess I've given away that Sakura becomes a medic-nin, does that count?

Summary: Naruto shook her off and confronted Sasuke again, "Not until he apologizes and promises to leave Hinata-chan alone!" SasuHinaNaru.

Here's to the things that need to be said...


Chapter One: Fightin' Words

"What're you blushing for, Hinata-chan?" Naruto queried, leaning in close to the Hyuuga heiress to diagnose her condition. Hinata stammered and blushed harder.

"N-n-no r-reason, N-Naruto-k-kun," she squeaked, steam rising from her cheeks.

Naruto held a palm to her face, eyebrows drawn together in concern. "Have you caught a cold, Hinata-chan? Hard to believe since you're always wearing that sweater..."

Hinata politely pushed the thoughtful Kyuubi's hand away and averted her eyes from his face. "N-no, I'm f-fine."

"Are you sure?"

"P-p-positive."

"Maybe I should check you out anyway, Hinata-chan," Sakura offered, swallowing her gyouza ( 1 ) with a gulp of tea. "If you're really sick, then you shouldn't let it go untreated. You don't want to spread it to others, do you?"

Hinata's shoulders slumped in defeat. "N-no, Sakura-chan, b-but – "

The pink-haired kunoichi grinned in triumph and chirped, "It's settled, then. You'll come back to the hospital with me after lunch and – "

"She said she wasn't sick, didn't she?"

The three ninja leaned back on their stools to get a better look at the person who had interjected. Sasuke sat at the far end of the counter, ignoring the small bowl of miso ramen before him. His gaze was focused on something in front of him, making it almost seem as if he hadn't spoken at all. His chin rested on his interlaced fingers and hovered above his food, propped up by his elbows on the counter.

"Did you say something, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura asked, fluttering her eyelashes in Sasuke's direction. The Uchiha avenger didn't respond to the overt flirting.

"Hyuuga said she wasn't sick. Leave her alone," Sasuke grunted, blinking once.

Naruto frowned. "We're just worried about her. If she's sick, she needs to go to the doctor."

"But she's not sick. Leave her alone."

"And how do you know, eh? She's all red like she's got a fever!"

Sasuke's eyes finally strayed from whatever it was he had been staring at to fix a cold glare on Naruto. "I just know," he said simply, looking away again.

Naruto began to growl and bare his teeth. "Why...you..."

"A-ano," Hinata interrupted, using her position between Naruto and Sasuke to put a barrier between the two. "Please, d-don't fight. N-not here."

"Jerk," Naruto muttered, resentfully conceding to the Hyuuga heiress' wishes as he returned to his ramen.

"Ahem," Sakura brought attention back to herself, leaning around Naruto to bring herself face to face with Hinata. "I really think you should come back to the hospital with me, Hinata-chan. Just in case."

"W-well..."

"Don't go if you don't want to," Sasuke interrupted again. "Or can't you say what you want to?"

Hinata turned to her right, startled, to find the Uchiha staring right through her. "A-ano..."

"Well? Speak up."

"I...I d-don't..."

Naruto slapped his hand down on the counter, causing his large bowl of ramen to splash broth across the clean surface. The entire restaurant fell into stunned silence for a few seconds. "What is your problem, Sasuke? Why are you picking on Hinata-chan? She hasn't done anything to you!"

Sasuke turned his full attention to Naruto over Hinata's shoulder. "This is none of your business, dobe."

"It is so! Hinata-chan is my friend and you're treating her like garbage," the Kyuubi vessel countered, fisting his hands on the counter and ignoring the gossiping patrons around him.

"P-please, s-stop..."

"At least I'm trying to listen to her, which is more than you can say," Sasuke growled, flashing his sharingan at Naruto. He was turned on his stool, one arm draped along the edge of the counter, with his shoulders tensed.

Without hesitation, Naruto leapt off his stool and assumed an offensive stance. "The hell you are! You're just trying to bully her, you bastard!"

"Naruto!" Sakura hissed, yanking on the back of Naruto's orange windbreaker in an attempt to pull him back on his stool. "Stop it! We're in public!"

Naruto shook her off and confronted Sasuke again, "Not until he apologizes and promises to leave Hinata-chan alone!"

A weak smile crept across Hinata's face and the pink tint returned to her cheeks. "N-Naruto-kun..."

There was a scrape of wood against tile as Sasuke got off his stool and assumed a lax fighting stance himself. "I've got nothing to apologize for," he hissed with an acidic tone.

"Then I'm gonna have to beat it outta you!" Naruto proclaimed, taking a step towards Sasuke with battle-ready fists.

"If you can," Sasuke countered, taking a step of his own to meet his teammate in the middle.

"S-stop!"

Both opponents skidded to a halt inches away from Hinata, who had stepped into the vortex of their battle. She held up a placating hand to each, beckoning them to stop.

"Hinata-chan, get out of the way," Naruto insisted. "I need to beat the crap outta this guy for you."

Hinata shook her head defiantly. "N-no. I don't w-want you and S-Sasuke-s-san to f-fight."

Sasuke crossed his arms in front of his chest, but didn't make any further response.

"Please," Hinata continued, tears clinging to her eyelashes. "I'm f-fine. Y-you don't n-need to f-fight for m-me."

Sakura blinked in awe at the scene from her seat, frozen on the edge of her stool from where she had been about to slide off. "Hinata-chan..."

"Feh," Sasuke snorted, turning on his heel toward the exit. Lifting the cloth above the door out of his way, he called over his shoulder, "Fine. I'm leaving."

Naruto lowered his hands to hang limply at his sides as he stared after his rogue teammate. With eyes widened to the size of ramen bowls, he turned to Sakura and groaned, "What was that all about?"

Sakura shrugged, absolutely bewildered.

Hinata watched the disturbed material hanging above the entryway ripple in the wake of Sasuke's exit, chewing fretfully on her lip. She didn't know why, but she got the feeling that the entire situation went beyond her inability to refuse Naruto and Sakura. It was almost as if Sasuke had already been upset about something before this entire episode, though she couldn't begin to fathom what that "something" might be.

"Maybe I s-should ap-pologize to Sasuke-s-san..." she concluded, taking a step toward the doorway.

— — —

Authors Notes: Just a quick fic for a sudden whim. Un-beta'd.

Be sure to look for the "meaning within meaning" in the dialogue I used. Is Sasuke really referring to his current stimulus? Or is he reaching back further?

Oh, and picture these characters as adult. I had to base this fic post-Orochimaru in order to fit the Sakura/hospital details in there. Other than that, I don't have any specific timeline requirements.

Footnotes:

( 1 ) Gyouza – pot stickers/dumplings. A relatively common menu item at casual restaurants in Japan as either appetizers or main courses. They can come steamed or fried and with different fillings (pork, chicken, veggies, etc) and some sort of dipping sauce, which is often reminiscent of soy sauce. They're pretty tasty, actually; I get them at a sushi place near my house all the time.

. ( . Ms Videl Son . ) .

Love can be black and white. SasuHina.