Edge of Tomorrow
-Calm before the Storm-
Tsunade stared at the motley crew before her, a thin smile on her face. The ninja arrayed before her looked tired, worn down even. Not that she could blame them since by all accounts at least three of them had fought against a nearly immortal S-ranked criminal.
The Hokage mused silently about how old Kakashi was looking, then turned her attention to her soon-to-be successor, who was looking decidedly disgruntled, and his friends. Her well trained eyes noted the various undercurrents between the teams; things were going to be strained for awhile that was for sure, espcially between Naruto and the surivivng memebrs of Team Ten.
"Well," Tsunade said lightly, downplaying the tension, while arching an eyebrow. "Excellent work everyone. I have to admit I'm impressed, you all performed far above expectations."
"Oi, of course we did." Naruto said before stretching. "So, what now Baachan?"
The Godaime sighed, leaning back in her seat, taking some pleasure in seeing Sakura bop the boy upside the head. Those two would never change and it was almost like seeing back to when she and Jiriaya were that age. Pulling herself from her memories rather quickly she smiled. "You take some well deserved time off of course, get some rest...hell, go out on a date or something."
Naruto cheered like child at that, then shared a look with Hinata who blushed. The others were already moving out of the door after a polite bow, talking about what exactly they were planning. Tsunade however cleared her throat, stopping the blond and the Hyūga heiress short. "Naruto, I need to talk to you for a minute," then shooting Hinata a discreet glance continued "alone."
"Aww, but me and Hinata-chan were going to-" Naruto started to say until the girl spoke up politely, in that ever quiet way she had.
"Anou, Naruto-kun its ok." She flashed him a pretty, though shy, smile seeing his pout. "I must see Sakura-san at the hospital anyway."
"Aright," Naruto said, sounding annoyed. "See you later though?"
"Of course." Hinata said softly as well, then quickly kissing his cheek darted out of the room.
"Ok so what ya need?" Naruto asked, turning with a curious look on his face.
"There are a few things," Tsunade admitted "for one, Kakashi told me your reaction to Shikamaru."
"What about it?" Naruto asked gruffly "he's my friend and I'm not going to let another friend make the same fucking mistake as Sasuke."
"I see," Tsuande said, slightly surprised to receive such an upfront answer. Then again, Naruto seemed to be maturing faster than she had expected lately, though she wasn't sure why. Most ninja matured quickly, it was the nature of the beast after all, but this was Naruto and she had a hard time reconciling the young man with her memories of the loud, brash kid she had met. "Well, there is also the matter of a Clan Council Meeting that is planned."
"A meeting between the Clans, in which they vote on laws that dictate how they interact among each other." Tsunade explained, sighing slightly as she leaned back in her chair "as the head of the Uzumaki Clan you'll be required to attend. I would highly recommend going since this meeting will have a law that should be of interest to you...and Hinata."
"What do you mean?" Naruto asked, his eyes narrowing slightly.
"They have a law coming up, as it does every few years, but it is always tabled for later consideration." Tsunade explained "At the moment, whenever the law comes under discussion, it is tied vote. Now weither this is was why Hiashi gave you a Clan, or for another reason we have yet to see, I think you should use this moment."
"Ok," Naruto said, blinking "so wanna tell me why*?"
"As it stands, the Clan Law dicitates that 'No legal member to a Clan can enter or seek to enter another Clan as an adopted child or spouse; nor can they abandon the paternal house to establish an independent family of their own.'" Tsunade recited, then seeing Naruto's confusion explained it "which means Naruto, that they cannot separate from their Clans in law; but are free to live in a separate house. They must always obey the orginal Clan."
"So basically, once a Hyūga or Uchiha, always a Hyūga or a Uchiha?" Naruto asked, eyes widening before snorting "That's a load of bullshit."
"Exactly, which is why intermarriage among Clans' is unheard of. Villagers have a better chance of marrying into a Clan, as families don't have a reason to object to the law." Tsunade said, smirking privately already knowing what his reaction to the new law would be. "the new law of course, would amend that Clan Law as follows 'no Clan may seek to bar any member from entering or attempting to enter another Clan as a spouse; those seeking such things are free from interal Clan rules to attempt to establish an indpendent family.'"
"...so the new law means, what? That if you get engaged to someone else your clan can't interfere or control 'em?" Naruto asked, blinking as he showed a surprisng amount of understanding.
"That is the traditonal interptation," Tsunade agreed, grinning at him. He really was growing up and she felt an urge to embrace him in a hug, before remembering that he was a fifteen year old boy and would probably get a cheap thrill from having his face pressed into her chest, Baachan or not. "However, the way the law is worded allows for it to be interpeted that even if your dating you're free from Clan Rules."
"...So, that means..." Narujto blinked, stunned "Hinata-chan wouldn't have to worry about the Clan Elders she's always talking about?"
Naruto nodded after a moment, considering that fact, but surprisingly didn't start jumping around wildly. What was there to think about, Tsunade wondered. This would free not only Hinata, but others, to date free of Clan interference.
"Oi, so is that it?" Naruto asked after a moment, but it was clear from the look on his face that he was still thinking about what he had been told.
"No, there is one more thing," Tsunade said, scowling at him "it invovles Saturobi's grandson, Konohamaru."
"He's aright right?" Naruto asked immediately, concern in his voice. "I mean, Sakura-chan had him pretty much fixed up when we sent him back."
"Physically yes, or at least he was when he was released from the hospital. Sakura did an excellent job stabilizing him and figuring out we needed to do to counter what was wrong with him. Emotionally though," Tsunade sighed. "He's lost his sensei, his uncle and according to a tearful Mogei, he woke up on her and Udon kissing."
Naruto blinked, then scowled, then looked downright upset in his own right. It was so odd seeing a ninja, who was on the edge of becoming a Jonin, showing his emotions so openly. Then again, Naruto had always been like that and he probably always would be. But it was still strange.
"Where is he?" Naruto finally asked.
"I'm not sure. He's physically fine so its not like it's a medical emergency to find him, we know he hasn't left the village. Still, I'm worried because of the emotional shock he's been through."
"Shit," Naruto muttered crossing his arms. "Aright, I'll find him."
"I know," The Godaime said, moving to sit behind her desk. "That's why I told you. After all, you're the closet thing he has to family left."
Naruto didn't say anything, just scowled and then without another word turned and walked out of the room. Tsunade watched him for a moment then sighed, turning to stare out the windows and at the village itself. Idly she wondered about what the future was bringing, it was coming faster than she had expected honestly.
Naruto was almost ready for his dream job and the others of his generation were getting close to taking over. Then she was distracted from her thoughts by the sight of a messenger bird, coming from the direction of Tsuchi no Kuni. That would be from the Tsuchikage, letting her know his arrival time.
Sighing the Hokage wished futilely that she could sneak out and get blind stinking drunk. "I'm getting too old for this."
According to many people within the village, Satroubi Konohamaru was a miniture Naruto. Weither this was a good thing, or a bad thing, depened on who you spoke with and if they had been pranked or not recently. However, the universally and errounsly agreed fact was that Konohamaru, like Naruo, remained carefree no matter what.
The truth of the matter however, was that both tended to hide behind mask's, yet at times they didn't bother. One such time for Naruto had been during the Sandaime's funeral, and for Konohmaru it was staring sightlessly at the tombstone before him, feeling numb. He had been all over the village, determined more than anything to avoid this one single location.
It was such a simple thing, square and slate grey, the chisled words standard and unimpressive. 'Saturobi Asuma', Konohamaur's uncle and last living realtive.
His parents had both died during a mission, leaving his grandfather and Asuma to raise him and now they too were gone. With Ebisu dead too, it really appeared that he was left alone. He didn't even has Mogei or Udon, they had betrayed him and without them...he had nothing. Because the doctors, while claiming he was healed, were unsure if he truly was fit to return to duty.
Why did he have to lose Ebisu? Or Asuma? Why did Udon and Mogei have to go behind his back? Why did he have to be alone while facing the possibility that he might no longer be allowed to be a ninja? It wasn't fair, he wanted to scream that until his throat was raw, he wanted to cry until his tears some how magically made it all not true.
But he refused to do that. Konohamaru had sworn two years ago, after his grandfathers funeral, to never cry again. So far he had managed it, mostly by fixating on his goal of becoming the Nanadaime Hokage. "Damn everything!" Konohamaru said bitterly, unable to help himself.
The Genin jumped in surprise, turning to find Naruto standing behind him with his hands in his pockets.
Naruto nodded, a faint smile on his face. "Oi, you haven't called me that for a while now."
"I, huh," Konohamaru blinked thinking about it before turning away to stare at his uncles grave. Silence settled over them, but Konohamaru refused to say anything. He wanted to be alone, to try and get a handle on what was going on, Naruto though seemed to refuse to go anywhere. As a matter of fact, the blond had stepped up to stand beside him, letting the silence stretch on and on.
Finally Konohamaru spoke, saying the only thing that came to mind. "You know, I never really knew him. He was just my uncle," at Naruto's continued silence Konohamaru continued. "I miss him, because he was there for me when I needed him...but I didn't really...and its not like with Ebisu."
"Oi, of course it isn't," Naruto said after a moment, reaching out to rest his hand on Konohamaru's shoulder. "I didn't know him that well either actually, but he was a nice guy."
"...Did you know he was going to marry Kurenai-sensei?" Konohamaru said before sighing. "I'm an orphan now and its...I thought I'd have my friends..."
"You always have your firends."
"No!" Konohamaru said heatedly looking at the older boy. "I don't have them, Udon and Moegi, they...behind my back and-I don't have anyone now! Its not just that, they say I might not be able to stay a ninja!" Konohamaru winced a second later as Naruto punched him on his head.
"Oww, what was that for!?" Konohamauar asked, rubbing at his head and glowering at the older ninja.
"You were being an idiot," Naruto said simply. "Maybe they did do that behind your back, but you should be happy for them. I know it hurts, but they're your friends. Don't they deserve some happiness?"
"You don't know what its like," Konohamaru said defensively, glaring at the boy while still rubbing his head tenderly.
"Like hell I don't," Naruto muttered sourly. "Trust me, your not the first one to have something like this happen to you."
Konohamaru started to retort, wanted to retort, but instead he saw the unspoken words in the older boys eyes. Naruto was speaking from experience, he knew what it felt like to have this happen and he was trying to help. Konohamaru stared at the boy, remembering the crush had sported for Sakura and wondered-
-then he was promptly hit on head yet again!
"Owww!" Konohamaru shouted, kicking the blond in the shin's out of instincts. "What was that for?!"
"Owww," Naruto shouted back, then bashed him upside the head even harder. "Oi, don't hit me you prick!"
"You hit me first!" Konohamaru groused, eyeing the boy warily.
"Oi, only because I wanted to tell you that even without your friends you weren't alone."
"What are you talking about? I don't have anyone left niisan, of course I'm alo-" Konohamaru stopped short, as he realized what he had just called Naruto. Niisan. Naruto was here, had hunted him down and was trying to help him. He was...Konohamaru couldn't believe how stupid he was.
"Ahah," Naruto said, nodding as he crossed his arms. "Finally figured it out huh? Yeesh and Ino used to call me stupid?"
"Oh be quiet," Naruto said with a roll of his eyes, before turning serious. "Konohamaru, life isn't fair. But you have friends, even if they are hurting you right now, and not all families are related by blood. The important thing is to remember your not alone, otherwise you lose yourself in the loneliness and hurt a lot of people that care about you."
Konohamaru blinked, staring at the boy in surprise. That had been rather, well, profound. "Ok, who are you and what have you done with Naruto-niisan?"
"Oi, what do you mean by that?!" Naruto said heatedly grabbing him in a headlock.
"Just that the real Naruto isn't that smart!" Konohamaru shouted back, biting the boys hand. They struggled a few minutes longer until finally Naruto grew bored and released him, allowing Konohamaru to breath. Regaining his breath he sighed, looking once more at his uncles tombstone.
"Oi, so what are you going to do now?" Naruto asked softly.
"I don't know," Konohamaru said, glancing at Naruto. "I can't just keep standing here though. I have to talk to Udon and Mogei."
"Yeah," Naruto said, and then followed him as Konohamaru walked away from the grave. They exited the graveyard in silence, wandering the semi-empty streets. Konohamaru felt so out of place, he still felt alone but it wasn't like earlier. Naruto was right, Konohamaru wasn't alone and now that he realized that, he could shoulder everything that was resting on his shoulders.
"You know," Konohamaru said after a moment, scowling. "I know I'm suppose to be happy for them, but I still wanna get even for going behind my back."
"Ah," Naruto said, an impish grin on his face. "Maybe there's hope for you yet."
Naruto grinned a little more and reaching into his unzipped jacket produced a scroll. "You're only the second person to ever see what I'm about to show you." Naruto said leading them down a side street to a small training area. "Ero-Sennin was the first but he had to, it was one of my tests on sealing, plus he pitched in some damn good pranks."
"Pranks?" Konohamaru asked, slightly deflated. Pranks were fun, but they were so hard to create and even if he had Naruto's scroll there couldn't be more than a dozen ideas.
"Among other things," Naruto admitted mysteriously, flashing through a series of complicated hand seals and slamming the scroll against the ground. "Engozen ake dame!" There was a poof and the scroll unrolled, revealing that despite its small size it was several feet long.
"...Wow!" Konohamaru said eyes wide staring at the scroll swept up in a desire to learn how to do this. It was amazing to think that a few squiggly lines and chakra could make something so cool.
"Hehe, Ero-sennin was surprised to...he didn't think I would have a knack for Sealing," Naruto explained, a grin on his face. "I specifically designed this scroll to have unlimited space and its designed so I'm the only one that can open it, so its like totally cool!"
"Ebisu-Sensei never showed us any seals though..." Konohamaru admitted softly, almost depressing himself with thoughts about the older man. "He said that teaching seals to Genin was like giving a baby a knife."
"Oi, a Genin is still a ninja," Naruto said flashing him a fox like grin as he gathered a few sticks. "So ya gotta learn 'spcially if ya want to be Hokage someday."
"Right!" Konohamaru sat forward eagerly taking the stick Naruto offered, mind rampant with thoughts and knowledge that Naruto was including him as a Hokage. Shaking his head to clear his mind he instead focused on the older ninja as he explained seals, in his unique way and then explained the prank itself.
Konohamaru was stunned to say the least, amazed, and immediately taken with the idea.
"It'll take some practice and before I leave you can copy the notes ok?" Naruto said with his never fading grin. "Just remember, seals are very tricky and since this will be your first active seal, it could blow up in your face."
"Yes!" Konohamaru said focusing on the scroll in front of him while tracing the seal design in the dirt as Naruto demonstrated. "I won't disappoint you Naruto-niisan!"
Smiling Naruto ruffled his hair.
Careful breathing, smooth movements, rapid rustling of cloth as open palms struck the post repeatedly. Hyūga Neji weaved his way like a wraith around the training post, practicing his taijutsu. It was perhaps the most relaxing thing he could do, just striking the inanimate post over and over.
It was almost therapeutic really, it helped to keep his mind off other distracting matters. The most distracting of which was approaching from the left, her perfume and his Byakugan alerting him to that fact. Still he refused to let his inner turmoil disrupt the flow of his strikes.
"We need to talk." Tenten said coming to a stop just within the training field their team normally used.
"I fail to see a reason why." Neji said, not stopping his efforts of striking the post. He watched without meaning to as she came closer, circling to his right.
"Too bad, because I do." Tenten said frowning.
Frowning as well, Neji stopped his last strike and eased himself into a neutral stance before turning. "You have made your feelings toward me clear, we have said all we need to. We have nothing further to discuss, unless you wish to spar."
"So let's spar. We need to have this out, Neji. Right now." Tenten said, her frown deepening.
"To say what, Tenten? You've made it clear how you feel-"
Tenten cut him off by moving forward suddenly to grab his arm. "Yeah, I have but you haven't! You came to the clearing that day to tell me something and I said you didn't love me. I need to know, Neji, what were you going to say that day?"
"Remove your hand." Neji whispered, glaring at her. Didn't she understand what he felt like, to have someone he cared about so much now outside his reach. By his own actions no less, and no matter how much he might want to change things, he could not change that.
Tenten hesitated then did as asked, sighing softly. "You, all you ever do is say what your logic tells you. You claim your accepting that not everything is predetermined but you...that day...don't you understand that sometimes you have to fight for what you want?"
"I fail to understand-"
"Don't understand!" Tenten said quickly, her look pleading. "Please, for the love of kami, don't understand. Just listen to whatever your heart is saying and tell me what you were going to say that day."
Neji hesitated, a large part of him tempted to admit what he would have said that day. He knew this was a chance, a chance to make things right between them. Still he shook his head and turned away, unable to accept that things could be so easy. "What I was going to say that day is irrelevant."
"You need to say it, because it is not irrelevant!"
He blinked slowly, then felt an anger beginning to build. How dare she believe that she could dictate what was, or was not important between them. How dare she command him, Hyūga Neji, as if he was here only for her feelings. Turning he walked away from her and then stopped, looking at her once more. "You believe that, only because you've decided that it is not. Just as you decided that I did not love you."
"You decided all of that, just as I decided to listen to you and accept that decision."
"What are you-"
"You rendered whatever I had to say that day irrelevant and you can not now decide that it is any different." Neji said curtly.
"Yes I can you egotistical bastard!" Tenten shouted, her face blotching in anger. "Because I love you, because ever since that day I've felt like my heart was ripped out. So I want to know, because you act as if you don't care, that it doesn't bother you!"
Neji's already sparked anger exploded at that, she claimed that he didn't care? How dare she! Still he did not shout, his ingrained clamness growing in strength as he he kept his tone even. "You assume that you know what I feel? That makes you much more egotistical than you could ever claim I could be. It is also very selfish to assume that just by saying this, by coming here and claiming to have changed a previous decision, that things could be any different."
"So I'm selfish!" Tenten shouted back, swinging her arms wide. "At least I admit that I love and want you! You can't, even now when with just three words you could have me back, you can't even admit you cared at all about me. It makes me wonder if you can love at all!"
"...Why should I say it? My actions spoke louder and more clearly than my words ever could." Neji said, then seeing her look turn horrified he continued almost vindictively. "Doubt all that is in existence, but do not make the assumption that I can not love."
Tenten looked hurt, more hurt than he had ever seen her. Neji tried to sooth his ill-feelings with thoughts that it was not his fault. That he had spoken the truth, but it was impossible. He had hurt her, the one person he had never wished to hurt, and he had done it. Closing his eyes, he took a breath then turned to continue on his way.
"You don't get to walk away from this!" Tenten suddenly shouted from behind him.
Pausing Neji opened his eyes, but didn't turn. "We have said all we needed to."
"Neji, I love you..."
Neji paused, foot hovering in mid-step. It would be easy now to turn, say it back, to believe that after all he had said and done that they could be together. However, Neji knew that he had hurt her. That he had rejected her. His pride would not allow him to go back, nor could he allow himself to. Because he loved her, he had hurt her and if he went back he would hurt her again.
To Neji, it was clear that you never hurt the one you loved. Taking that step he kept walking, using his pride and arrogance to keep moving. Still over the soft crunch of twigs and leaves beneath his feet he heard her crying and muttering that she loved him.
Still Hyūga Neji kept walking, because it was the right thing to do.
Naruto sighed, rubbing his neck as he entered the gate of his dark home. He hadn't realized just how tiring teaching sealing could be, Naruto could barely believe he had ever thought performing them was the hardest thing. Now he knew better, the real nightmare had been teaching them, thank the kami Konohamaru had picked it up quickly.
Passing through the gates, Naruto paused long enough as he entered his house to remove his shoes. Walking across the 'living room', the blonde Hokage-to-be seriously wished he could have seen Hinata. Of course it was his fault, he'd been hanging out with Konohamaru longer than he had meant to and by the time he had finished it had been late.
Shaking his head he quickly stepped out onto the veranda and then made his way to the bedroom.
Opening the door, taking some pride in his skills of repair, he entered quietly while shrugging off his jacket and laying it on the small dresser he had salvaged. The house was actually coming along nicely, between the Kage Bunshin and Hinata's help in all things traditional, the place was really starting to shape up.
Slipping his forehead protector off he set it on the night stand and collapsed face first into the bed. Groaning in exhaustion, the blond closed his eyes dozing for a moment before waking up and rolling over. Staring at the ceiling he counted the tiles before closing his eyes once more. It had been an exhausting few days, not only had he been on a failed mission to get that stupid chakra device, he had fought an Akatsuki and managed to kill him.
He was getting stronger, but was it strong enough?
Naruto was brought out of further musings as he caught the noise of the door sliding open and then closing softly. He started to move until he caught the scent of Hinata's jasmine perfume. Smiling he remained perfectly still waiting to see what she would do, then he heard the faint whisper of cloth, and that was it before he felt her weight on the bed next to him.
At this he opened his eyes and stared at her, almost immediately noticing a few key facts. First was that her jacket was unzipped, revealing her more than ample chest. Second was that he could see her bare legs, which hinted at the fact that she had taken her pants off, and third was the intense blush on her cheeks as she stared at him nervously.
Naturally, the purely male part of Naruto's mind started rubbing its hands together gleefully. It was a fantasy come true after all, Hinata half naked on his bed and blushing in a very adorable fashion. The more rational part, which was struggling to remain functioning, was confused as hell about Hinata's apparently sudden urge.
"N-naruto-kun..." Hinata mumbled and then the girl's blush intensified as she moved, silently guiding his arm beneath the jack to hug her while she moved to lay against him, head on his chest and a bare leg slipping between his.
"Uhmm, not that I'm complain Hina-chan...but er...what's gotten into you?" Naruto managed, forcibly trying to control his body. Kami she felt good, really good. His fingers twitched, stroking her back despite his efforts. Ok, so maybe he wasn't really trying to control himself that much.
"I..." Hinata mumbled, falling silent as Naruto stroked her back gently. "I just wanted...to...make you happy..."
"Hinata?" Naruto said after a moment, his mind almost leaping to what she was going to say next. When she made a soft noise Naruto continued, wondering if he was right or not. "...you don't have to do this to make me happy."
"I just..." Hinata stopped, looking at him. "Don't you...a-anou...don't you want to?"
Naruto suddenly felt his body go stiff, unsure of what to say or do. How the hell did you respond to that sort of question from your girlfriend? Hinata suddenly moved, pushing herself up to stare at him, her pearl-colored eyes searching, almost pleading with him.
"You...a-anou...I'm..." She started to pull away and climb to her feet appearing on the verge of tears.
Naruto of course did the only thing that came to his rather confused mind, he grabbed her wrist, yanked her back down and then proceeded to kiss her. It started as a soft, heartfelt kiss but grew more demanding and more passionate revealing emotions that he could have never imagined from Hinata. His hands seemed to take a cue from the kiss and explored her back and hips.
From there it was only a short trip for his hands to slip beneath her black fishnet shirt to caress her bare skin. This seemed to startle Hinata into breaking their kiss, which prompted Naruto's hands to freeze. The blond could still hear his heart however, it was pounding in his ears, but he didn't move an inch almost afraid that she had changed her mind.
Hinata stared at him, her cheeks damp from the start of her earlier tears, then she sat up and shrugged off the heavy jacket much to Naruto's appreciative gaze. Hinata offered him a shy smile noticing his attention and leaned back down resuming the embrace. Hands moving once more, it was Naruto that broke the kiss this time, only instead of giving her a chance to think he began to awkwardly kiss her chin and down her neck.
It had been something Jiraiya had explained once and Naruto was pleased to find Hinata responding favorably to it.
Encouraged the blond allowed his hands to roam her body even more, hopeful that he would not shock her too much. From the delighted noises she was making, and the way she moved agianst him, Naruto was pretty sure he was doing anything but shocking her. Naruto discovered a sweet spot and Hinata moaned heavily into the kiss, pressing her body completely against him, more enthusiastic than ever and Naruto made sure to revisit the spot several times.
They spent who knew how long just caressing each other, then with one last deep kiss, he stopped to met her half-lidded gaze. "Hina-chan, we don't have to you know."
Hinata hesitated, chewing her bottom lip, her eyes wavering ever so slightly. "I...I just don't...what if so-something happens...anou...w-what if something happens to you and we..."
Naruto was silent for several long minutes and then, despite every part of him that shouted at how stupid he was, rolled them so that they were laying on their side. "Hinata, lets stop ok?"
"No..." Hinata mumbled staring at him with wide eyes, looking almost afraid. "P-please..."
Naruto shook his head, willing himself not to give in. Looking back over this moment, when he wasn't hitting himself, he would wonder who had ever thought he had no will power?
"We'll have plenty of time Hinata, I promise." When Hinata didn't respond he grinned a little, nuzzling her cheek. "I never break a promise Usagi-chan, remember?"
"Roku-kun..." Hinata mumbled.
"Hinata, I promise you that we'll have our entire lives to do everything you thought I wanted tonight or needed to be happy." Naruto said firmly, holding her tighter than ever. "So, don't rush ok? We'll go slow...we'll see how far we're both comfortable with going...and then someday..."
Hinata nodded, almost ashamedly and then started crying softly. "I...I just...I don't k-know...anou..." Hinata choked out between her tears and Naruto frowned, while giving her a reassuring squeeze.
"Ninja don't, anou, ninja don't have long lives...and I want t-to make you as happy as I can in the t-time we have." Hinata mumbled thickly. "I...I don't want to lose you...so I, I thought if I could...if I could make you hap-happy like this..."
Naruto was silent and then kissed her forehead softly. "Oi, Hina-chan?"
"Y-yes?" Hinata looked up at him nervously.
"From now on, if you want me to be happy, just be yourself ok?" Naruto grinned, eyes closing in his trademark fashion.
Hinata nodded, then grinned a little herself. "Uhmm Naru-kun, earlier..." She flushed suddenly. "When your hands...uhmm...you know...t-touched..."
"Yea?" Naruto blinked staring at her curiously, feeling a nervous hope welling up inside him.
"Uhmm...could you...m-maybe...uh, do that again?" Hinata stammered, blushing brighter than ever.
Naruto blushed as well, wetting his suddenly dry lips while his hands slipped back to they're previous positions on her body. "S-sure..."
Hinata couldn't help but make a noise of delight and kiss him heatedly.
Shikamaru stifled his yawn, staring up at the darkening sky overhead. The day was pretty much over, but he couldn't go home just yet. There would be a lot of yelling and lectures, mostly from his mother. Plus, the entire way back Naruto had refused to let them stop for a moments rest. The boy had been upset and there was no denying that Shikamaru was feeling a little guilty about that.
The boy had a point really, troublesome as it was to admit. Still, Shikamaru took some comfort in the fact that he had been able to explain his actions to the Hokage to keep his team out of an ANBU cell for desertion. Shaking it off he turned his mind back toward the clouds, loosing himself as they drifted high over head without a care in the world.
"I thought you'd be here," Ino said softly walking over to sit beside him. She was joined a minute later by Choji who was eating from his bag of chips as quietly as he could.
"I haven't been able to do this for a few days," Shikamaru said absently. Ino in response laid down beside him and he knew without looking that she had closed her eyes.
"So do you think he was right," Ino asked after a moment, her tone guarded. "I mean, we did go out there for revenge and we did get at least one of our friends hurt."
Shikamaru was silent for a moment, staring up at a particular cloud lost in thought about what Asuma had told him. What the goal of all Konoha Shinobi, the protection of the King, or more directly the children who would inherit the Will of Fire. He mused about Naruto and his point of view, then sighed. "It's troublesome, but I don't think he was right...but then neither was I. It's about perspective."
"What are you talking about?" Ino demanded, sitting up suddenly and Shikamaru was aware of Choji pausing to stare at him as well.
"All of us," Shikamaru explained closing his eyes. "We're like Shogi pieces, Knights and Bishops, all used to protect the King. Just like Shogi we can be used in a variety of attacks and defenses, depending on the player controlling us. We made the decision that we should go after those two because we would have anyway and we knew that our chance of success was decently high."
Opening his eyes he stared up at the sky, noting the first star as it peeked over head from behind the clouds. "The Hokage, Naruto, they made other decisions because they knew more than we did about our opponents. We made assumptions that we knew all of their secrets and were strong enough to handle the fight."
"That didn't answer the question," Choji said gently.
Shikamaru sighed and sat up as well. "This is troublesome, but Asuma-sensei was wrong about at least one thing. I wouldn't make a good Hokage."
"Aa, but your plans worked great and-" Ino started to say defensively but Shikamaru cut her off.
"...and I jeopardized my friends for revenge. I created a plan assuming I knew everything, but I forgot to consult the Hokage or others that might have more information. I assumed these were just strong missing-nin's."
"We would have gone anyway," Choji said eating a chip once more.
"Yeah, it's not like you were alone out there." Ino added. "It was our decision."
"I'm not saying you wouldn't, I'm not even saying we shouldn't have gone." Shikamaru explained keeping his groan of annoyance in check. "What I am saying is that a Hokage would have thought things through better, would have used common sense and known that three Chunin against two S-ranked criminals was not a good plan."
"But, you won and we could have-"
"Ino, we are the weakest of the Rookie Nine. Yes, I defeated that Hidan, but his partner would have killed you and Choji. Then he would have killed me as well when I showed up."
"For what it's worth," Ino said softly glancing at him. "I think Asuma-sensei was right, you'd make a great Hokage."
"It'd be too troublesome," Shikamaru said with a sigh, laying back on the grassy hill once more. "Besides' that's Naruto's job."
"Plus, he'd kill you if you did become Hokage." Choji added with a chuckle.
Ino laughed and then started joking about various things concerning a Hokage Naruto and the village. Shikamaru however tuned them out, focusing on the stars and thinking about the Will of Fire and Shogi. In the end he decided it was just to troublesome and left it for the moment to others.
Rock Lee was a blur of motion, a green upon green haze, as he moved through his self-made form. Butterfly kicks, followed by spinning heel kicks, followed by elbows and punches, front kicks, side kicks. High block, low block, inner forearm block, palm heel blocks. A leg sweep combined with continuous spinning Heel kick as he rose followed by another leg sweep, which was finished with a knife hand and upset punch.
Panting Lee stopped, feeling the burn after such an early morning exercise. Forms were an important part of his training regimen, they forced him to practice moves even ones that he normally didn't use. Helped him to keep his arsenal sharp and ready for anything.
He had been at this since before dawn, form after form, working his way silently, without thought, toward a solution to his inner problems. Sakura and her feelings for Naruto, the jealousy he held for Naruto, the fact that Neji and Tenten were not only broken up but that he had found Tenten crying last night.
Taking a deep breath, he let it out slow and tilted his head back to relax.
The solutions were so obvious now, for Sakura he could only be there for her when she needed him. For his jealousy he would accept that it would never go away, but he would not allow it to consume him. For Neji and Tenten, the only solution there would be to speak with Neji and force the boy to see what he was doing.
"You are up early."
Lee jerked slightly, startled then turned to stare at the white eyed Hyūga that had just been occupying his thoughts. Neji looked mildly curious at Lee's presence so early, but mostly he looked as bored as he normally did. Lee felt a slight twitch of annoyance at that, if one friend was hurt so badly that she cried, then other should be as well.
"Yosh, as a bright flame of youth I could not let my flames burn pointlessly." Lee said, then seeing Neji's look of annoyance felt refreshed that the other boy could show emotion. "I spoke with Tenten yesterday."
"Lee," Neji said in warning, his gaze growing dark. "What occurs between myself and Tenten is none of your affair."
"It is indeed my affair, as two of my best-friends and dearest teammates are determined to hurt each other." Lee countered, turning to face the other young man completely. "As a bright flame of youth, I must say something to help you both."
"I do not need your help." Neji said curtly, his tone brooking no argument.
Lee however, was not about to back down. It was not his way, nor was it honorable since he was the only one in this position. No he would have to press ahead and force Neji to confront the truth. "I fear that you do, both of you. She because you show none of your emotions and you because you refuse to admit you love her."
"Lee," Neji said turning to walk away "drop it."
"I am serious." Neji said, stopping, his tone almost threatening.
"So am I." Lee said, following the other young man. "Yosh, something is wrong and you are not acting like the Neji I know."
"Lee, you have no idea what is occurring." Neji said, turning to glare at him.
Lee frowned and crossed his arms, matching the Hyūga glare for glare. He would not be intimidated or threatened, he had a duty to his friends. A duty he was determined to see through to the end. "Tenten broke up with you, you let her go. She has now decided she wants you and you...have refused."
"It is more complicated than-"
"Yosh, it is very simple," Lee said, cutting Neji off "do you love her?"
"You don't get it," Neji said, the tone of his voice rising slightly. It was a sign of just how much emotion he was feeling and Lee knew it. "She decided I did not love her, then she decided that because she loved me that I must love her. She pretends that only she feels, that her decisions are the only ones that matter."
"Yosh, are you going to let her go?" Lee asked, his tone subdued, counter to Neji's. Now that he was here speaking with Neji, Lee actually found he had nothing to say that could change his mind. All he had was what his heart told him to say, oh why couldn't Gai-sensei have given him tips for this situation.
"It is not my decision." Neji said sharply, eyes narrowed.
"Of course it is," Lee said, narrowing his own eyes. "It is your destiny, your fate. Yosh, she has left it as your decision."
"I find it funny that you can stand there and advise me on my relationship, when you yourself, are single." Neji said, his tone biting. "You're only crush is a girl that is fixated on two other men. You are not even in her mind, let alone her heart."
Lee winced, but held strong. Now was not the time to show weakness to Neji's comments, no matter how truthful Lee felt they were. Still it was an effort to keep from physically hitting Neji, but he mastered himself knowing that fighting would only work as a last resort in this situation. So instead he pressed his earlier attacks.
"Yosh, no matter what you say, I know of my standing with the beautiful but dangerous cherry blossom. You however do not know yours with Tenten, because you are afraid to look at yourself."
"If you love her," Lee said quickly, cutting the young man off once more "if your youthful flame burns bright for her, then you must tell her. By not telling her, you are hurting both her and yourself."
Neji blinked, then closed his eyes. He didn't say a word, but Lee didn't need him to. He knew Neji better than most people, he knew when the boy was surrendering. That Neji was realizing that he was beaten. Lee felt pride course through him, he had reached the boy without a punch, had helped two of his dearest companions find each other once more.
"Yosh! Gai-sensei, you would be so proud!" Lee suddenly shouted, holding his hands before him and tearing up. "FOR TWO SUCH BRIGHT FLAMES TO REKINDLE THERE LONG DORMANT PASSION FOR ONE ANOTHER! TRULY THE FLAMES OF YOUTH AND SPRINGTIME OF LOVE ARE BRIGHTEST NOW!"
"Lee...I am going to walk away," Neji said turning as he did just that "and I am going to pretend I did not just hear any of that."
"GO FORTH NEJI! CREATE EVER BRIGHTER FLAMES OF YOUTH AND LOVE WITH YOUR PRECIOUS TENTEN!"
Hyūga Hinata had never thought, never in her wildest dreams believed, that she would be sneaking into her Clan's Estate after a night at Naruto's. Nor had she ever dreamed of seeing Naruto quite as nervous as he currently was, due to a fear of being found, but thankfully they had managed to bypass each Hyūga they had come across.
Naruto however, seemed to be growing more and more nervous with each passing second, not that Hinata could blame him, it did indeed feel as if they were on the edge of being caught. Not that they had done anything improper, not really, sorta, if you really stretched the term and kind of squinted with your head tilted.
Just thinking about what had happened last night was enough to make Hinata blush and stumble, kami it had been beautiful and...a little overwhelming.
Still she knew it would not be the last time they 'explored' in such a manner and while she was sure it wasn't improper really, she wasn't so sure her father would see it that way. Oh no, she could see her father viewing it in an entirely unfavorable way. Glancing at her boyfriend, Hinata smiled slightly watching as he constantly kept looking around determined to not get caught sneaking her back into her room.
He was so sweet and he had stopped her from a huge mistake last night. Hinata knew she would have slept with him, even though she hadn't felt entirely ready for that step, but he had stopped her.
"-Hinata-sama has been missing since last night?"
"Yes, Hiashi-sama is rather upset with her."
Hinata came to an abrupt stop, along with Naruto who grabbed her and pulled her into the shadows of a nearby building. Her heartbeat increased, both from the proximity and the fact that her absence had been discovered. Straining she tried to hear what they were saying but couldn't quite make anything out as the two moved away.
"Aa, Hinata-chan, I think we better move quickly," Naruto said in an urgent whisper. "I really don't want you getting into more trouble."
Hinata nodded and quickly stepped away from him and they both rushed through the Estate, Hinata leading the way to her room. She had the patrol routes memorized, which helped greatly and it appeared that they would accomplish the mission unnoticed, though Hinata was beginning to wonder about why exactly Naruto needed to escort her all the way to her room.
Shaking it off she rounded a corner and let out a note of alarm at the body that was in her way, still she managed to pivot and twist gracefully around them to avoid the collision. Naruto however was not so lucky, he ran full force into the man carrying him to the ground. Hinata paused, staring at the two, then felt her face pale as she realized that the man in question was Neji.
Neji and Naruto quickly separated, though both were looking rather angry. Anger from Neji was never a good thing, especially in this situation.
"Naruto-san, You should watch where- Hinata-sama?!" Neji said sweeping his gaze toward her and Hinata became acutely aware of how rumpled her clothes were.
"Ahaha, Neji, its not what you-" Naruto said edging around the boy to join her side.
"You two." Neji said slowly, eyes narrowing dangerously. "Explanation. A Good one. Now."
"Ahah, well see...the thing is," Naruto said, scratching the back of his head. Hinata shrank in on herself, trying to hide behind the blond. "Well, see..."
"Oi, so we had a date only it was sorta delayed because of Konohamaru and stuff...so she came over to hang out. Well it got so late that she would have to wake up the whole place to get in right? So I offered to let her stay at my place, she took the bed and I slept outside...so nothing happened."
Hinata blinked, relaxing as she stared at the boy in amazement. He had sounded so believable, if she hadn't known better even she would have believed his story. Looking away from him she glanced at Neji who was eyeing the other boy carefully before glancing at her, his gaze hesitant.
"Hinata-sama, I am sorry I assumed otherwise. I can only ask that you forgive my rash presumption, it was only natural to assume considering the circumstances."
"O-of course," Hinata managed in amazement, unable to believe that Neji had been fooled.
"Naruto-san," Neji said, turning to look at the boy, a small grin on his face "I believe you and Hinata-sama should part ways now. I of course, may believe that nothing happened, but Hiashi-sama may be of a different opinion. I can guide her back without undo problems from here."
Hinata wondered about that grin, but turned her mind to the blond who was looking torn. Reaching out she rested a hand on his arm and he sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Anou, he's right Naruto-kun. Father would be very...closed minded in this situation."
"Bah," Naruto said in annoyance, but grinned wrapping his arms around her and pulling her in tight. "Then I'll see you later, neh?"
"Y-yes," Hinata managed, blushing as he leaned in for a kiss...
Only to be interrupted by Neji. "I do not believe you have time for that. Hiashi-sama is on his way here now."
Naruto made a frustrated sound then shooting Neji a dark glare pulled away from her. Hinata felt much like him, she really liked kissing Naruto after all, but instead stayed silent as Naruto preformed a Shunshin. Sighing she turned her attention to Neji who was looking stoic as ever.
"We should go."
Nodding Hinata turned, heading for her room with Neji at her side. It was a rather oppressive moment in her opinion, but at least he didn't think they had done anything improper. She had no trouble picturing Neji trying to 'avenge her honor', despite herself being a willing participant.
Sighing she turned her mind toward other matters, namely Neji and Tenten, she had notice the change in both and had been meaning to comment on it. Only instead of her commenting on his relationship, he commented on hers. "Hinata-sama, I believe the next time you and Naruto-san decided to 'hang out' as you did last night you should at least take a change of clothes."
"W-what are you-"
"Hinata-sama," Neji said tiredly, with a hint of humor. "I have had two girlfriends, I am very capable of recognize the signs of 'hanging out'."
Hinata blushed and just gave up on talking.
"T-Tsunade-sama," Shizune's voice piped, followed by the dark haired woman's head peeking in through the door.
Looking up from her mountains of paperwork, which mostly covered previous paperwork that she had already completed, Tsunade fixed her apprentice with her most formidable glare. It was a glare nominally used to alert her apprentices that Tsunade was both pissed at something and at them for interrupting her. Shizune naturally winced, but didn't retreat or move, knowing from experience that a sudden move now could end badly.
"Well?" Tsunade said curtly, her temper flaring. Shizune quickly slipped into the room, followed by a middle aged man with sandy hair and hard eyes. Tsunade glanced from the man to Shizune, then back to the man. "Who's this and why am I bothering to stop my paperwork about paperwork to ask?"
"Er..Tsunade-sama, this is-"
"I'm the Tsuchikage," the man said simply arching an eyebrow expectantly.
Apparently he felt like he was due a proper greeting. Tsunade stared at him for a minute before turning her attention back to her paper work. "Ah, glad you made it...missing your hat you know."
"Tsunade-sama!" Shizune yelped, turning to try and placate the man. "I'm sorry, Tsuchikage-sama. Normally she isn't like this, but she's been overworked lately and her temper is rather short-"
"Shizune!" Tsunade snapped jolting the younger woman into silence as she held out a stack of papers. "Take these to Houra and Karou, they're my confirming of appointment of my selected designate of appointment."
Shizune took the papers, then offering a hurried bow to both Kage's left the office. A moment passed and then the Tsuchikage spoke, sounding slightly befuddled. "Appointment of selected designate of appointment? What does all that mean?"
"Just a really long way of saying that I confirmed who I wanted as my successor." Tsunade sighed, reaching up to pinch her nose. "I don't know about Iwa, but they try to bombard the Hokage with as much paperwork as possible."
"Actually, I think that's how it is in all the villages," the Tsuchikage confided before approaching her desk and indicated the chair. "May I?"
"Why not," Tsunade said, leaning back in her own seat to stare at the man curiously. This was the first time being so close to a ninja from Iwa in a long time, plus it was the first time a Kage other than herself was so informally garbed. "So...no guards? No robes?"
"Well this is a 'Secret Meeting', I figured that showing up in all my regale might tip off Akatsuki spies. As for the guards I know Konoha ninja, you honor your pacts and would never do something so silly as to assassinate an ally." At this he smiled wryly. "Of course, I felt enough killer intent from the ninja that knew who I was that I don't relish the decision now."
"Heh, not surprising. Konoha ninja have a long memory as do Iwa ninja, so I expect animosity on both sides for a while." Tsunade confided before lacing her fingers together. "So I take it that you've settled on a final course of action?"
"Unfortunately, it is the option which I least like. What my village will be loosing is something very valuable," the Tsuchikage said before leaning to the side and propping his chin in hand "I am also reluctantly asking that you agree to do the same with your Jinchuriki."
"...and why would I agree to that?" Tsuande said, her tone deathly cold.
"Because, they are the last two in the world and if they're dead then Akatsuki has been neutralized. Between Konoha, Iwa and Suna we can defeat whatever Bijuu they decide to use, however they decide to use them."
"First off," Tsunade said climbing to her feet, hands pressing against the desk forcing the sturdy wood to groan "they're might be a third out there somewhere. Second off, there are no Jinchuriki within Konoha."
"Oh don't be so naive that you think that you can lie to me." the man said, standing as well. "You're villagers, might when within your lands, be unable to speak of it but outside...everyone knows. Of course Iwa knows, how could we not considering his past with us."
"You misunderstand," Tsunade grated out, the desk groaning even louder as she pressed down on it "The Kyubi was indeed sealed inside a baby. But there are no 'Jinchuriki' within Konoha, that word and term do not exist within this village or this country."
"But it is what he is!"
"No! What he is, what Naruto is, is the most dedicated and loyal ninja and future Hokage we have. Nothing more and nothing less!" Tsunade barked, slapping her hands on the desk hard enough to snap the legs. "Now, Konoha will provide you with the best trackers we have, because that's our original agreement. What you do with your ninja is your business, but make no mistake that Naruto is not going to be murdered so you can sleep safer at night."
"Fine." the Tsuchikage said tightly, eyes narrowed. "What of the last ninja?"
"I'm expecting information on their location any minute and when I receive it, I will send out a suitable team," Tsunade said ominously "and please, feel free to send your own."