A/N- This is a companion one-shot to chapter 21 of Ryukaze: Dragon Wind but could pretty much stand on its own. If you are reading Ryukaze, make sure you read chapter 21 before reading this. If you are not reading Ryukaze, then the basic premise is: my OC Sorano is having a dinner and she sent Naruto and Hinata out to get ice cream to go with the pie Hinata made so that Hinata could be alone with Naruto.

Special thanks to Sukiovic for coming up with the fitting title. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, "à la mode" means "served with ice cream".

Disclaimer: Neither the characters nor the world of Naruto are mine, however, Sorano and a spattering of other OCs are. You can look but you can't touch.

Enjoy!

À La Mode

Blue eyes kept steeling glances at the beauty walking beside him. The moonlight only made her look more ethereal and his poor bewildered mind didn't know what to do or say. They had spent years working together on missions and he had known her healing touch more than a few times after injury, but he had never felt so nervous around her before. But then, he had never seen her wear a dress like that before either.

Even after all these years she still preferred to wear bulky sweaters over that killer body and even the few times when she didn't, he was never able to see her in that light. She was Hinata: sweet, kind, shy Hinata, the girl who always believed in him even when he barely knew she existed. Since then she had become one of his precious people, always timid and blushing in that strange way of hers, but a friend and trusted comrade just the same.

He always thought she was pretty with her lavender Byakugan eyes and short midnight shaded hair. People often underestimated her because she was so petite and sweet natured, but she was a fierce and capable kunoichi. She had taken down ninja even he couldn't defeat. So he never understood why she didn't have a boyfriend. In fact, as far as he knew, she never had a boyfriend. Maybe Neji's overprotective nature scared away all of her prospects? Surely there was at least one shinobi in the village brave enough to risk a Sixty-Four Palm attack.

He glanced at her again in time to catch her gaze and they both blushed and looked away.

"So, uh," he cleared his throat and reached for his usual confidence that seemed to have abandoned him the moment they left Sorano's apartment. "How are things at the hospital?"

"Oh, ano, quite well," she said. "Th-there have been less in-injuries lately."

"Yeah, it's been slow," he agreed, relaxing now that they had fallen upon a subject they both could discuss freely. Now if he could just avoid looking into her bright beautiful….

"Ah," he cleared his throat again and looked away. "How's the library coming along?"

Hinata looked down and started poking her fingers together. Naruto was nervous and she had never known him to be nervous about anything in his entire life. The man had more confidence than anyone in existence. He knows what Sorano-san was trying to do and he doesn't want to be with me. She wanted to cry.

"Hinata-chan?" he glanced at her when she didn't answer right away and she seemed to shrink into herself.

"Ano, it's going well. S-sorano-san does m-most of the w-work." Her stutter was getting worse and she felt her cheeks burn in humiliation.

Naruto frowned slightly when she continued to avoid looking at him and kept poking her fingers together. He had been on enough missions with her over the years to know what that meant. Did I say something stupid? He thought back over his words but couldn't find anything that would have made her anxious or embarrassed.

"I guess she likes books though I can't imagine why," he laughed nervously as he scratched the back of his head and peaked at her from the corner of his eye. His heart sunk when the expected smile didn't flit across her down-turned face. Man I must have really stepped in it this time, but I don't know what I did wrong! Okay, okay, I can fix this. Just keep talking.

"Have you been on any missions lately?" he asked as he shoved his hands into his pockets. That's good! It's always easy to talk about work.

Hinata shook her head, dark bangs flitting across her face. "There hasn't b-been much need for medic-nins with so f-few missions." She took a deep breath and forced herself to calm. He was still talking to her as a friend. At least, she hadn't lost that. "Tsunade-sama has been teaching us new jutsu."

"Cool," he said. Yosh! She hardly stuttered that time. Good job, Uzumaki! "What kind of jutsu?"

"Mostly field treatment," she felt herself warming up to the topic. Sometimes Neji would listen to her talk about what she had recently learned, but she liked being able to show Naruto that she was getting stronger too, that she had never stopped growing, that just maybe she could be worthy of him. "She said she wants us to be prepared for when the missions start coming back."

"That's Granny, always thinking ahead," he grinned. "Hey, we should be able to get some ice cream here," he grabbed her hand and pulled her toward a corner store.

Hinata squeaked at the sudden change in pace and had to skip to keep from loosing her footing. Her sandals were more conducive to a leisurely stroll than traipsing all across town. By the time she had registered that Naruto was holding her hand, they had entered the store and he let go.

Of course, they were only here for ice cream, ice cream to go with the pie she had made for Sorano's dinner, the dinner her friend made just so she and Naruto could spend some time together outside of work. But Naruto would never see her as anything but a friend.

"Wow, there are a lot of flavors," Naruto said as he stood in front of the glass freezer. "What kind should we get, Hinata-chan?"

She hurried over, forcing her mind back to the matter at hand. I can live with this. As long as he is always in my life, I can be happy. "V-vanilla would be best," she suggested.

"Vanilla it is," he said as he yanked the door open and grabbed one of the cartons. "Anything else we need?"

"Just the ice cream."

"Yosh, I'll go pay and we can be back in a flash. I can't wait to taste your pie," he said and took off to the cashier.

Hinata blinked for a moment and then decided she would wait for him by the front door.

With a forlorn sigh, she wrapped her arms around herself and stared absently at the ads plastered over the windows of the corner shop. He never even noticed my dress. And she had spent an entire day trying to find the perfect one. Ino and Tenten said it illuminated her eyes and any guy would be a fool not to notice how beautiful she looked in it. She was so self-conscious about wearing something so revealing, despite how modest it truly was. The simple sundress didn't show off an indecent amount of skin, just more than she was used to. Even Neji-nii-san had been startled by how feminine she looked, her shapely body no longer hidden beneath baggy clothes. But the one man she did want to notice, didn't.

"Hey, I know you."

Blinking rapidly, Hinata looked up at the man standing in front of her, three of them actually. They had slipped through the door without her even noticing, so lost in melancholy she was.

"E-Excuse me?"

"You're the Hyuuga medic, from the hospital," the shaggy haired man said with a grin. He was sort of handsome, in that wild way that resembled Kiba. Only Kiba always made her feel safe. This man's growing grin made her feel more like a helpless rabbit.

"H-Hai, I'm a medic-nin," she said as she took a step back to put more comfortable space between them.

"Yeah, you patched me up a few times, but I guess we all start to look alike to you after a while, eh?" he smirked.

"W-we do get b-busy," she said, her eyes shifting nervously to the side only to see his two companions stood between her and the door.

"The name's Kaiza," he said as he stepped closer and she caught the distinct whiff of sake. "And that's Bali and Miduri."

The name did ring a bell, but she wished it didn't. Where's Naruto-kun? "Hai, Kaiza-san, I r-remember."

He smiled brightly. "Cool. Hey, maybe you could help me with something."

She took another step back, having the unsettling feeling that this small favor wasn't something she wanted any part of. "Ano, um, help you?"

"Yeah, you see, my teammates here," he jerked his thumb at the two grinning men. "Made me bet to kiss the first girl I see tonight and if I don't, I'll loose a whole week's pay!" he pouted dramatically and had she been a little bit younger, a little bit more naïve, she may have taken pity on him. At the moment, she just wanted out.

"Ano, w-what does that h-have to d-do with m-me," she flushed at her own obvious anxiety.

"Why Hyuuga-san," he grinned charmingly, "You're the girl. I have to admit I'm rather relieved. I mean I could have been stuck with someone like Anko!" They all shuddered at the name. "But Kami must be smiling on me because I couldn't have picked a sweeter, prettier girl to help me out of this mess."

He took another step forward and she stepped back into a shelf. "You will help me out, won't you, Hyuuga-san?"

Oh, this wasn't good. If only he was an enemy nin, then she wouldn't mind blasting him with chakra. But he was an ally, a jonin, one she remembered tending a few times after missions and he obviously couldn't be thinking clearly with the amount of alcohol she could smell on his breath. She could just allow it and get it over with. Her night was ruined as it was, what with Naruto so obviously not interested in her beyond friendship.

But she had never been kissed before, not on the lips anyway unless one could count Akamaru, and she definitely didn't want her first kiss to be with a drunk shinobi trying to win a bet. Oh, if only she had half of Neji's confidence!

"Ano, I'm w-waiting for s-someone and—."

"It won't take but a minute, Hyuuga-san," he smiled.

"A m-minute?" she squeaked and he laughed softly as he casually leaned his hands on the shelves behind her, trapping her between his arms. She tried to shrink back, but there was nowhere left to go and if she didn't spontaneously combust from the heat of her blush, she was going to faint from the overwhelming smell of alcohol on his stagnate breath.

"Come on, just one kiss."

"P-please, I-I—." She choked on her words as he leaned in and she squeezed her eyes shut. I don't want this!


Naruto frowned pensively as he stood in line at the cash register. There were a few people ahead of him, so it gave him some time to think before rejoining Hinata.

As a child it had always been so easy to tell Sakura how he felt. His childhood crush on the pink-haired kunoichi was hardly shallow. She was beautiful, yes, but he had never believed her weak or useless. He always knew Sakura would do great things if she ever found the desire to put her training first. After the whole mess with Sasuke, she had done just that and he couldn't be prouder of her.

He still loved her, just not that way. It's not like he ever had a chance with her. Her heart belonged to Sasuke and he wouldn't change that for anything. Sasuke needed her, whether the jerk would admit to it or not. The guy liked to think he was self-sufficient and didn't need anyone, but that wasn't true. Everybody needed someone. Even he needed someone.

Sure, he had plenty of friends and the respect he worked so hard for was not in short supply. But he still got lonely and he often wondered what it would be like to come home to a warm meal, a soft voice calling his name, a smile just for him...

Come to think of it, there was a smile just for him, so tremulous and shy one had to look close to see it.

Naruto laughed at his own stupidity. Well, she never did have a boyfriend and he already knew what Neji's Sixty-Four Palms felt like and how to counter it. And when pink dusted her pale cheeks and those soft eyes looked shyly up at him, it felt like time had to stop and reorient itself before moving on. It made him feel invincible.

Finally it was his turn to pay and he could barely stop grinning as he waited for his change. Stuffing it into his pocket, he scooped up the bag and hurried towards the door. Hinata was probably waiting outside for him.

Only she wasn't.

Uzumaki Naruto seldom lost his temper without declaring his intent to do so. There was a reason why people still called him Konoha's Number One Hyperactive Loudmouth Ninja. But when he saw Hinata cornered by three grinning men and one of them leaning in to kiss her, something snapped inside of him and he didn't waste time on words.

He was there in an instant, shoving the man back so hard he slammed into the glass door and cracked it.

"What the—!" The man leaped back to his feet, only to pause at the sight of his opponent.

Naruto had neatly placed himself between Hinata and Kaiza, his eyes glowing dangerously red, pupils slit in anger. The Kyuubi's chakra swirled violently through his body and even he was startled at how quickly the dangerous power swelled up within him.

Kaiza knew death when he saw it, even in his drunken state, and there was not a ninja in Konoha who didn't know who Uzumaki was and what he was capable of.

The shaggy haired man spread his hands out warily. "Man, it was just a bet. I wasn't going to do anything."

He yelped when Naruto's hand shot out and grabbed a fist full of his shirt. Jerking him to within inches of his face, Naruto bared his fangs in primal fury. "If you ever touch her again," he snarled. "I will pulverize you!"

Kaiza gulped nervously. "H-Hai."

Naruto pushed him away and he stumbled back into his friends who were quick to drag him out of the store. Taking a few breaths, Naruto forced the overwhelming rage he felt to subside before turning to face a startled Hinata.

"Well, I got the ice cream," he closed his eyes and grinned cheekily. "We should get back before it melts!"

Hinata could only blink in shock and relief, offering no protest when he grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the store. Only this time, he didn't let go.

It had been years before she first saw Naruto draw on the power of the Kyuubi inside of him. The change had been frightening, his power unfathomable, and yet even then she had known there was no one more capable of using it properly. Anyone else would have abused such power for selfish reasons and many had tried what with the Akatsuki trying to capture him and all. But not Naruto, never kind-hearted Naruto.

The change still frightened her at times, fearing that he might indeed be overtaken by the beast's bottomless rage, but she was only ever frightened for him, never of him. Even now he held her hand so gently when just moments before his eyes had been feral. He had tried to hide it from her with his cheer, but she had still seen and she could not help marvel at how violently enraged he had become, and so quickly. Even still, his muscles were tense as though he was still anticipating a battle.

Looking down at her hand resting in his, she could not help smile. She should have stood up for herself, and if it were a true battle, she would have. But he had come so quickly, so fiercely to her defense, it made her heart swell. Neji was always quick to defend her honor, but on some level he was obligated to as her cousin and a member of the branch family. Naruto had no such obligation and that made her treasure it all the more.

With a sudden deep breath, Naruto released the rest of his tension and looked down at her with a sheepish smile, an apology for his behavior on his lips when he noticed her attention was riveted on their joined hands. With a sudden wave of embarrassment he released her hand, but her fingers closed tightly around his own and she looked up to smile shyly at him.

"Thank you," she said.

He blushed at her unexpected gratitude. "Anytime, Hinata-chan." He smiled broadly at her and her cheeks pinked to that hue that he adored and to his relief and joy, she kept holding his hand. Well if she isn't going to let go, I'm sure not.

So he closed his hand just a little more firmly around hers and out of the corner of his eye, he saw her smile widen. They didn't speak on their way back to Sorano's apartment and didn't have to. The silence was comfortable, both enjoying the company of the other.

Hinata's heart would not slow its pace as she kept remembering how furious her love had become in defense of her. Not even Neji would have displayed so much emotion over such a small threat. One did not become so aggressive over a mere friendship, did they?

They climbed the steps together, but Naruto stopped her outside of Sorano's door. When she looked up at him, she was surprised to see the nervousness from earlier back in his eyes. Her heart skipped a beat in panic. Was it all just the act of a friend?

"Hey, Hinata, um," he reached up to scratch his head in that nervous habit of his, but stopped himself half way. Come on, Uzumaki. Don't be a coward. Think Hokage. Right! Nodding his head at this, he met her timid gaze and smiled. "You look really great in that dress!"

Lavender eyes blinked in surprise but before she could reply, and before he could lose his nerve, Naruto leaned down and a dropped a soft kiss on her petal pink lips.

Turning swiftly to hide his own blush, he opened the door and stepped into the apartment. I should get ice cream more often.

-fin-


A/N- The part about Hinata having defeated a shinobi that Naruto couldn't handle is a reference to filler episode 190 when she fought a guy who used magnetism to disorient his opponents.

If you enjoyed this, check out my other stories. Thank you for reading!