.:a candy cane add on:.
-six-

"AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!"

Hinata was busy fearing for her life.

Because she was being dragged by a certain blonde-haired, hyperactive ninja in scathing orange clothing. And she was being dragged at a very fast speed.

And just as suddenly as it had started, it stopped and she nearly collided into that same blonde-haired, hyperactive ninja. She ended up rocking back to sit smack dab on her butt, her head spinning and her breathing coming fast and quick.

They were in dim hallway and scrunched in the shadows. They could see half of the front door from where they were and the entrance into the living room. All chaos was currently taking place there, sounding like a pack of animals that had escaped from their exhibits at the zoo. While they took a moment (thankfully) to catch their breath, Hinata saw a streak of red and pink fly past at top speed. Sakura? She half expected Rock Lee to go sprinting after her in his lively bright green jumpsuit. But no, it was a blur of blue and black that followed.

Sasuke?

Hinata looked nervously at Naruto, wondering if he had saw what was going on with his teammates. His head was leaning against the wall, his eyes were closed, and he was focused on breathing slowly. He looked so nice and peaceful like that. She could feel her cheeks light up, and then start to burn when she realized that his warm hand was still firmly attached to her small cold one.

"N-Naruto…what are we doing?" she decided to ask after a while. As much as she was enjoying the moment, she was still curious.

His eyes opened slowly, revealing beautiful sky blue irises. Hinata looked up at him, completely enraptured. "I needed to recruit someone to be on my side." His eyes slid down to look at the girl by his side. "And I decided you were perfect for the job," he said, grinning.

Hinata hardly thought that "recruit" was the right word for what he did. (Perhaps "hijack" would suit it better?) But she wasn't complaining. She looked down at his shirt, her cheeks a cute pink.

Naruto turned away from her and looked out into the living room. "Now what I want to do requires stealth and expert timing, okay, Hinata?" Hinata nodded obsequiously, even though he wasn't looking in her direction. "Now, my plan…" Naruto said, straining his head to see as much of the living room as possible, "…is for us to attack Shino."

"Attack Shino?" Hinata was surprised at that one. Naruto sure was full of surprises…

Naruto grinned. "Sure. He's been so quite this whole time that it's only natural we'd want to rouse him up a bit. You know, get him to join the party."

"But, N-Naruto…what would we use to attack him?"

"Pillows, of course," Naruto said, holding up in his other hand a plump green pillow that Hinata hadn't noticed until just now. She looked at it nervously and then looked into his smiling face. She usually didn't chance looking directly at Naruto, especially when he might be looking at her, but she was feeling more agitated than usual about this "plan" of his.

Naruto saw her expression and his grin widened. "Come on, Hinata. Don't worry. We're not going to actually hurt him. We'll just pummel him a little. Throw him for a loop. Catch him off balance. It'll be fun."

"O-Okay," she stuttered, completely not convinced. Naruto, she noticed, was really not persuasive when it actually counted. But she even knew herself that she'd probably do anything for him. So, she couldn't complain.

Although she still didn't particularly like this let's-gang-up-and-attack-your-teammate get up. It was obviously something Naruto would do, but Hinata? No, Hinata would rather just stand in a quiet corner and watch.

"Okay, so you stay here," Naruto said, letting go of her hand and giving the green pillow over to her. "I don't see Shino right now, so I'll assume that he's in the bathroom. I'll go back into the living room and get a pillow and pretend to be doing something else. Then, when he appears, watch for my signal. I'll…uh…pull on the collar of this sweater a little bit." Naruto demonstrated the action and then waited for Hinata to nod. "When you see me do that, run and attack Shino and I'll do the same. Hopefully, we'll get him from two sides." Hinata nodded some more, and couldn't help but think that even Choji could have thought up a better attack plan than that. Naruto sure was a unique individual.

"All right, I'm off," he said. Then he got up and left.

Hinata felt nervous as she edged herself over to the corner so that she could lean out and peek over into the living room. Naruto and her had never been a "team" before and although this probably didn't even qualify as a "team" she felt like it was. She couldn't let him down. She would have to focus. She'd have to show, even in this small and ridiculous scenario, that she was somebody he could count on.

She sighed a little. Why was it that she liked him so much? It was beyond all human comprehension. She couldn't even explain it herself. But maybe the gist of it was that he was so much different than her. He was on the completely opposite side of the spectrum and that was what she strived to be. He was almost like her role model. She wanted to be able to be noisy and rowdy and play practical jokes on people and even just get in trouble for once in her life and not have to always play at being perfect.

But she did. And truthfully, she didn't know how to act to be all those things she wanted to be. So she stuck with what she did know how to do. Playing perfect.

Maybe here was her chance to change that a little, though. Maybe she could discover how to be that noisy, rowdy, practical joke playing, troublemaker Hinata. She smiled at the thought. Oh, then she remembered that first she had to pay attention to Naruto to do that.

She peeked out from behind her dark corner just in time to watch Shino walk out of the bathroom. Hey, so Naruto had been right about that, at least. Hinata's eyes traveled from Shino to the boy in the bright orange. He was playing with a pillow in his hands, his eyes on that and not looking up at all. But she knew that he knew that Shino was there, waiting to get pounced on.

And she knew that where Shino was right now would mean that he got attacked on both sides. Hey, maybe Hinata had underestimated Naruto's intellect, as so many people had before in the past.

And then she saw Naruto pull his collar. And she gulped.

She felt really bad about attacking Shino right after he had walked out of the bathroom, but she had to. To prove to herself that she could change, she told herself.

In a moment, she was out from behind the corner and running at a full sprint for Shino. She caught a glimpse of Naruto doing the same thing from the other side. She braced herself, brought back the pillow, and then swung it for all she was worth…

A few seconds later, she fell hard on the floor, smack dab on her butt again. She winced and then shook her head, trying to clear things up. What happened? Why was she on her butt and not Shino?

She looked over at her teammate. And he was crouching, nice-as-you-please, looking from her to Naruto back to her and back to Naruto. He had ducked. He had seen it coming and ducked. And Naruto and Hinata had ended up whacking each other.

Didn't Hinata say to herself that this really wouldn't work from the very beginning?

"Oh, HEY!" Naruto cut in, his voice indignant. "That wasn't fair. You can't go around ducking like that." He rubbed the small of his back. That fall had really hurt.

"Can't I?" Shino asked him softly, looking over at him with his sunglasses. Naruto huffed in frustration and got up, throwing the pillow he had used to attack behind him.

"You're no fun. I'm going to go find…hey, look I see Sakura and Sasuke over there." And with that Naruto started to walk away.

Hinata felt like her heart just broke a little. She looked very downcast and she picked herself up off the floor, grabbing the pillow next to her and clutching it tight in her arms. It wasn't fair. Why was Sakura so much more attractive than she was? Sakura didn't even like Naruto and often made that loudly clear, but he still followed her around like a puppy dog. Why couldn't Hinata exude that kind of irresistible charm?

She sighed. Loud. And slowly.

"Go after him, Hinata."

Huh? She turned around and looked at her calm and impassive teammate, who now was standing up as well. His face was turned toward her. "Nothing will ever happen if you wait for him," he continued.

Hinata took a moment to orient herself. Wait a minute, Shino was giving her advice about Naruto? Really? She never would have thought that would happen. Before she could react, he had reached over and taken the pillow from her arms. "Here, I'll help you get started." And with that, he chucked the pillow right for the back of Naruto's head.

"Shino, what are you…" but he was already gone. Disappeared. Hinata looked around, in a panic. Oh no, Naruto will think I threw the pillow and then he'll get angry and…oh, why couldn't we just have let Shino alone in the first place??

"Hinata." That would be Naruto, calling her to her doom. She looked over at him slowly, not wanting to respond. "Did you throw that pillow at me?"

"Um…n-no," she said, looking up at him meekly. She was telling the truth, but it sounded awfully like she was lying.

But amazingly enough, Naruto was smiling. At her. He was smiling at her. "Yeah, you did, didn't you? Don't lie to me."

Hinata was taken aback for a moment. So Naruto really was interested in her? It just took a pillow to the back of the head to make her realize it? She was really confused now. She didn't know whether to hate Shino or to thank him later. "I'm not lying," she said quietly, smiling in spite of her insecurity.

Naruto grinned and stooped to pick up the pillow that was lying at his feet. "Hinata, you are a terrible liar." Then he threw the pillow back at her. It came straight for her head.

Out of instinct, she flinched back and the pillow missed her face by inches. She turned to look at Naruto and found him charging at her, a wild grin plastered onto his face. "I'm going to get you!" he yelled. Hinata screamed and ran.

They flew all over the house. Hinata started to smile as she ran, realizing that she really would have to thank Shino later. This was what he meant. "Go after him, Hinata." Well, he was now going after her…but regardless. She had to take the first step. And now that she did (or rather, Shino did for her), things were looking up.

Up. What a good idea. She needed to find somewhere to hide from Naruto, to make him come look for her. She had no doubts that he would give up, as he wasn't a quitter. And what better place for hiding than the rooftop?

Suddenly, she felt something collide into her from behind. "GOTCHA!" Naruto yelled in triumph, his arms wrapping around her tightly. Immediately she could feel her face burning as she pressed into him. The room started to go dizzy. I'm touching Naruto…we're so close…

She ducked underneath the circle his arms made around her and slipped out of his grasp, then doubled back and started running the way they'd come. "HEY! GET BACK HERE!" she heard Naruto shout after her but she didn't look back. Her hair flying behind her, she turned the corner and found what she had passed before: the backdoor.

She yanked it open and shot outside, the freezing air hitting her full in the face. She could hear the door bang shut again behind her and knew that she didn't have much time before Naruto came out here himself. Giving a small shiver, she ran toward the wall and started to climb.

(give)

Neji hadn't been lying. Seeming to be immune to the cold was a family secret. Hinata sat on the rooftop and looked across the other surrounding rooftops nearby, already used to the cold that had made her shiver a couple minutes ago. She could see the mountain with the Hokages' faces carved into it. She smiled at them. The sight of them always inspired her to do her best in everything she tried. So she repaid them by trying to be extra polite whenever she acknowledged them.

She knew it was foolish, as it was just a huge chunk of rock she was acknowledging, but that was only in reality. That chunk of rock seemed to hold a deeper meaning for her. A deeper meaning that she held close and dear to her heart…

"I…found…you…"

She turned and there was Naruto, panting and standing triumphantly on the other side of the roof. Immediately, she felt her face flush probably a vibrant crimson. Her plan had worked. There he was.

"It only took you forever," Hinata said to him quietly, something that she never thought she'd have the guts to say. She gave him a small smile. Naruto's blue eyes widened. That was something knew. He never thought she'd have said that either.

"Yeah, well, I still found you. You picked a pretty cruddy hiding spot, considering how out in the open it is." Naruto walked to where Hinata was and sat beside her, looking across the sea of rooftops as well.

"I picked a cruddy hiding spot and it still took you forever," Hinata then said. She was shocked but pleasantly so. What was helping her form these words? She was just teasing him, of course, but that was the thing. She never teased people. Except for, maybe, Kiba. Usually she'd just bow her head and say something complacent or complimenting. But she never teased.

She liked this new her. She could get used to it. Definitely.

"Psh, whatever. I bet it would have taken you forever too," Naruto countered, scoffing and waving it away with his hand. He had a grin on his face, though, which Hinata took to be a good sign. She smiled too, and fixed her eyes ahead. They both stared at the chiseled Hokage faces in silence.

"I will be Hokage one day," Naruto then said after a while, almost like he was reassuring it to himself. Hinata looked over and saw that familiar fierce look of determination she so loved. She couldn't help but smile lovingly at him, placing her chin on her arms that were wrapped around her drawn up knees.

"I believe you," she said.

Naruto looked over at her, a little astonishment in his eyes. "You do?"

"I've believed you since the very moment I heard first you say it, Naruto," answered Hinata, amazed herself at how her voice was steady, but soft, and how she hadn't stuttered yet. It made her feel good inside, more confident, like she could do anything at that moment and it would go right. It would be a success.

"Wow," Naruto looked away, his voice carrying off. His eyes blinked slowly for a while as he thought this over, and then a gentle smile spread across his face. "Thanks." Hinata felt a warm glow spread inside her. After another moment of peaceful silence, he said: "What is your goal, Hinata? No matter what it is, I promise I'll support you and believe in you." His eyes turned soft and caring and his smile was friendly. Hinata could feel her heart ache.

"I…I don't really know…" she said after a while, looking down at the rooftop of the house in front of them. Actually, she did know. But there were so many things she strived to do that she didn't know which to say. She wanted to become stronger and a better ninja, hopefully one day to the point where she'd rival Neji. She wanted to have less fears and reserves, to be herself more, to be more open. She wanted to be able to be wild like Sakura and Ino and Tenten. And she wanted most of all to tell Naruto that she loved him.

But she couldn't say any of these, of course. She was afraid to.

But that was exactly what she didn't want. She wanted to have less fears. Not more.

As she mucked through this mental dilemma, snow started to fall. She looked up with her pale eyes and faced up to the dark sky. The snowflakes brushed against her cheek and melted on her forehead. Naruto shivered and rubbed his hands up and down his arms. "Gosh," he commented, his voice starting to audibly shake, "aren't you cold Hinata? I'm freezing."

"Oh, you are?" Hinata asked, coming out of her thoughts in a bit of a daze.

Naruto stood up and stamped his feet a little. "Yes. I don't see how you can't be. I'm going to go inside now. You coming?"

Hinata could feel her heart sink. Here had been the perfect opportunity to confess. To tell him what she was feeling and finally just put it out there, no matter what he said or did. And then she had let it slip away. The girl of lost opportunities. That was her.

She got up as Naruto started to walk to the side of the roof. She stood still and watched his back, retreating from her step by step. And she was struck by how similar this was to when they had been inside the house and Naruto was walking away from her after the failed attempt to ambush Shino. And she remembered how Shino had surprised her with the words, "Go after him, Hinata. Nothing will ever happen if you wait for him." And she realized that she must follow his advice. It was now or never more.

"Naruto!" she called, starting to walk toward him. He turned, an expectant expression on his face. Hinata took a deep breath, squeezed her eyes shut and then opened them. Confidence. Exude confidence NOW. You are confident… "I know what my goal is now."

"Oh yeah?" Naruto asked her with a smile. He turned to fully face her now, still shivering but more interested in what she had to say. Hinata took a happy breath. "And what is it?"

"To tell the boy I like that I like him," she said before she could stop herself. She stopped, now right in front of Naruto. She looked up into his face and saw him nod thoughtfully.

"Ohh, I see. Well, I don't see how I can help you with that, but I will do whatever I can to try. Tell me, who is he?" He leaned closer to her, a conspiratorial look on his face and his lips curved in a teasing smile. Hinata's heart nearly burst out of her chest. I'm going to have a heart attack. Oh gosh, help me…

Then she leaned forward and kissed him. Right on the lips.

For those couple of seconds, she was sure that her heart just stopped beating. Everything was completely silent.

Then she broke away from him, her cheeks burning, and her heartbeat returned, pounding against her ribs, threatening to break them. Naruto was staring at her, stunned and speechless. They looked into each other's eyes for a second before she flicked them toward the ground.

"Hinata…I…" Naruto started, obviously not able to find the words in his vocabulary to describe anything at the moment.

"I'm sorry, Naruto," Hinata cut him off, staring hard at the rooftop that was now getting coated in a slight layer of new snow. "It was not my place. I…didn't think before I…"

"No, Hinata, stop," Naruto interrupted, his tone firm but gentle. He took hold of her chin and lifted it up so that her eyes were looking into his again. They studied each other intently for a while and all Hinata really wanted to do was to jerk away from those probing eyes and run far away. But she didn't. And then, after a while, Naruto said, "Why are you apologizing anyway? I said I'd do whatever I could to help, didn't I?" He smiled.

And then kissed her.

Hinata's heart stopped again. When he pulled back, she stared at him in shock. Does he…like…me…?

"Naruto…" she whispered, her voice a little more than a breath exhaled.

Then she fainted.

(unwrap)

"Naruto, what did you do to her?" Tenten growled at the blonde-haired ninja.

He pulled back, body language completely suggesting innocence. "I didn't do anything!" Which was a lie. But nobody else needed to know that. Heaven forbid…

Everyone was crowded around an unconscious Hinata that was lying on the living room couch. Tenten was bent over her, gently patting Hinata's cheeks in an effort to wake her up. It was very late by now and they all would probably be facing very angry parents when they trudged home from this unforgettable evening. Tenten frowned as she stared at her dainty best friend. Then she gasped and moved away when Hinata's eyelids fluttered and her eyebrows creased into a frown.

"She's waking up. Back up, everyone. Give her some breathing room." Tenten reached out her arms on both sides to push people back a little and when her left hand was coming back down, it brushed against Neji's. Immediately, he caught it and laced his fingers through hers, keeping their hands behind them where no one could see them. She smiled faintly, a thrill of pleasure running up her spine.

Hinata sat up slowly, rubbing her eyes. "What…" she started to ask and then trailed off when she saw everyone staring at her. "Uh…h-hello…" she said tentatively, not knowing what to do. "W-What's going on?"

"You fainted," Sakura explained to her. Hinata noticed that Sasuke had one arm casually draped around Sakura's waist. One of Hinata's eyebrows rose slightly. "Naruto carried you in from outside."

"What were you two doing anyway?" Ino asked, giving Hinata a curious and suggestive glance. She wriggled her eyebrows and Hinata smiled, blushing. Everyone else gave little muffled giggles at the question. Hinata saw that Ino had one hand on her hip and the other connected to another hand. That belonged to Shikamaru, as it turned out. So she did like him…

"Yeah, Hinata. And what in the world made you faint?" Tenten questioned, the next one down the line. Hinata smiled at her best friend and then noticed how close Neji was standing next to her. She didn't notice any obvious signs of possessiveness, but they wouldn't have been standing that close together otherwise. They were crowded around her and hard pressed for space, but still…

Naruto scowled from where he was standing behind the couch. "Would you guys drop it already? It isn't that funny." Hinata looked over her shoulder at him and their eyes locked for an electrifying second.

"Yes it is," half the people in the room said in unison, laughing. They all started to wander then, getting jackets and coats, taking one last piece of chocolate or cookie. All the signs that it was time to leave. That the party was over. Bummer.

Hinata caught a glimpse of Tenten and Neji holding hands as they walked slowly toward the door. Ha, she was right.

Then she felt a hand on her own shoulder. She turned to see Naruto smiling down at her. "Wanna get some ramen with me tomorrow?" he asked her. She smiled back.

"Sure."

"You pigs, you made a mess of my house!" Sakura was calling as the last of the people left. Nobody cared though; they were busy calling last minute goodbyes to one another and going their separate ways. The rowdy, noisy Haruno household was finally quiet once again.

(receive)

"How'd you like the party?" Tenten asked Neji, walking close beside him as they neared her house.

"Eh, it was okay."

"Okay?!" she said, hitting him on the arm with her free hand. She saw him crack a little smile. "I know you enjoyed it. Admit it. Just admit it. You're not such a tough guy." They reached her door and she turned to face him defiantly, waiting for him to concede.

"I'm not going to go easy on you during training tomorrow," he stated flatly, looking down at her with his pale eyes.

"I wouldn't expect you too, Hyuuga," she countered. "You better watch your back."

His smile widened and she leaned into him for one last kiss.


A/N: Ta da! And that's all folks! I'm all Christmas spirited out, so you'll just have to wait until next Christmas rolls around to get another Christmas story out of me.

Anyway, this particular chapter isn't too fabulous in my opinion, but I do like the ending. c: And now I've fulfilled what was requested and am ready to focus on my current ShikaIno fic and my forthcoming NejiTen fic. Yay for those!

THANK YOU SO SO MUCH TO ALL OF MY READERS/REVIEWERS. I cannot tell you how much I love you all. You're what make this site worth it, of course. So keep doing what you are doing and writing those fantabulous stories and reading those fantabulous stories. I salute you. -salutes-

I'm off to go read those other great stories I'm hooked on now. Teehee...

UNTIL NEXT TIME...!!