Hinata took a deep breath. Was he coming her way? Peering around the stone corner, she yanked herself out of view once more. Yes, he was there. Now all that was left to do was to tell him. It should've been easy, but it wasn't. Hinata had been in love with Naruto-kun for at least two years now, and had never said a word. Breaking that streak was going to be hard on her emotions.

After all, what if Naruto-kun didn't like her back? What if he had another girl he already liked? What if, after she told him, he started avoiding her because he was feeling guilty about not liking her back? Hinata fretted over this, her fingers playing over her lips, looking down at her feet. Finally, a decision was reached. Hinata turned around.

Sandaled feet thumped the dirt-packed street in a shortcut that few people knew about. Hinata reached training yard five in next to no time, completely ashamed. Why was she so weak? She couldn't even say those three little words that she dreaded so much. She couldn't take emotional or physical blows, and she had no self-confidence.

Hinata sat there on top of a training tree stump and cried quietly to herself.

"Hey, Akamaru, what is it?"

Hinata's red face jerked up. That was Kiba's voice; one she knew as well as she knew Naruto's. He was a teammate of hers. And if she knew his dog, Akamaru's, nose as well as she thought she did, he was coming this way.

Hinata began to scale down the tree stump. She hadn't even gotten one step in before she heard Kiba-kun calling her name.

"Hinata? What're you doing here? Hey, you're crying!" he accused. "What'd you do?"

"Nothing."

"Yeah right." Kiba looked at her with a sarcastic expression. "C'mon, out with it."

"That's just it, nothing. I just walked away, and did nothing!" Hinata's tears were coming back, and growing thicker. Kiba's normally hard expression softened.

"Okay, Hinata. What-or who- did you walk away from? Why?" He hoisted himself up beside her. His dog Akamaru nestled in his shirt, as usual, leaped down and onto Hinata's lap comfortingly.

"Uh, um…. mummmlnruto, umm….." Hinata turned bright red and mumbled nonsense words. She couldn't even tell Kiba her feelings. Perhaps being vague was the best way to go.

"Hey, Hinata, you're not making any sense." Kiba reminded her.

"Well, you see, there's, um, a guy in Konohagakure that… that I kind of… well, like. But I'm terrified of what he would say if I told him. I want to tell him, but I run away from him every time. I'm hopeless." Kiba's eyes opened a little wider. He had suspected that Hinata had someone she liked, but she had never said anything about it and, apparently, no one had enough guts to ask her. And here she was, spilling her guts?

"Who?" Kiba asked.

"Uh…" Hinata said.

"Oh, I get it. Can't tell huh? Can't say I'm not disappointed." Kiba said. "But listen, I got your solution. A cousin of mine gives advice to people. Love fortunes and junk I don't believe in. But she can still help you out with this nameless crush of yours. She usually charges, but just tell her that I know you and she probably won't charge you a copper." Kiba hopped down, Akamaru close behind. "See you 'round, okay?"

Hinata smiled and nodded, hopping down herself once he was out of sight. Then it hit her. He hadn't told her where this cousin was to be found. Oh well, Hinata thought. I can ask him the next chance I see him. No worries there. Hinata began to take her normal path home.

Soon, Hinata was at the large door to the Hyuuga Main House. Taking off her sandals and donning slippers, she entered the ornate room. As she closed the door behind her, she heard a noise. Turning around again, she emitted a little squeak of surprise. There was a woman who was clearly not of Hyuuga Clan. She had short black hair that came just to her shoulders and a small calico cat at her left side. Somehow, just from that cat, Hinata knew. This was Kiba's cousin. His clan specialized in man-beast joint jutsu, and the jutsu they used were usually only executed with the assistance of an animal, sometimes two. Kiba's partner was, of course, Akamaru-kun.

"Are you-are you Kiba-kun's cousin?"

"And here I thought I'd have to introduce myself." She had that same sarcastic tone in her voice that Kiba had. "Yeah. I'm Kirika, pleasure to meet you. Kiba just said that you needed help, and so, here I am. Care to tell me what kind of help I'm to be providing?" Hinata gulped.

"Is this private?" she asked.

"Of course. Nothing said here goes anywhere but here." She said.

"Alright." Hinata gathered her courage. "Love troubles."

"Oh. That kind of stuff." Kirika seemed a bit more comfortable now. "What'cha got for me?"

"There is a boy in Konohagakure that I like, very much. But, I don't know if he likes me." Hinata said.

"Jesus, I can tell where this is going. So you want me to tell you if he likes you or not, is that it?"

"No, no! I want to ask him; to tell him; myself. But I just run away, every time. I'm not sure I have the emotional strength I need to say anything to him about it. There are lots of signs that he likes me, but just, kind of, as a friend. I don't want to end that friendship by saying something at the wrong time." Hinata said.

"Oh. Boys are flexible. To know what to do when, you just need to find the category they fit into. I need to ask you a couple of questions about this boy- nothing like his name, or anything so obvious." She added, correctly interpreting the look on Hinata's face. "For instance, is he stubborn?"

"Gracious, yes."

"Is he the emotional type?"

"Somewhere deep down. He doesn't like to show it, though."

"Is he stupid or smart?"

"Well, he didn't know about my feelings for two years…. and he still doesn't…"

"He's stupid, gotcha. Is he focused?"

"On ordinary things, no. On his dreams, oh yes."

"His dreams are?"

"To become Hokage."

"That's one hell of a dream. Any others?"

"Not that I know of." Hinata leaned back a little, her shoulders slumping in a more relaxed form now. She could answer these questions all day. There was nothing she didn't know about Naruto-kun.

"Well, I think you should tell him. And soon."

"But- but…"Hinata gasped. She had hoped the answer would be 'Wait another few months and see if things change'.

"Listen, kid," Kirika-sama started. "From what you've told me, it's possible that this guy of yours likes you too, but is too much of a tough guy to say anything, or he's too much of a git to recognize love for what it is. If you tell him and he likes you back, goodie for you, I'll send you a congratulatory cookie. If he doesn't, then it seems he will still continue being your friend, with a few intimate changes. He might be more sympathetic to your feelings; he might help you with training or whatever else. He won't start avoiding you with the guilt that he doesn't like you back. Naruto isn't the type to feel guilt much."

It took Hinata several long moments to register what Kirika had said. I never said his name! I didn't let it slip! How could she know? "I guessed." Kirika put her chin in the cup of one hands with a sly smile. The other hand went to the calico cat.

"That, and Hotaru-chan told me. But, back to business. You've absolutely got nothing to lose if you tell him, only to gain. If you're not so afraid of the outcome, you won't shake or chicken out. Tell him." And with that, Kirika-sama stood up and left, putting her shoes back on before leaving. The cat, Hotaru, that's what she called her, jumped down from the coffee table nimbly and trailed after her mistress in one fluid motion.

……

Hinata gulped. She knew he was there; she had checked at least 5 times. All that was left was to pop out and say she loved him. Checking a sixth time, she confirmed what she knew already; there was Naruto-kun, and he appeared to be looking for something. He was also pretty red in the face, most likely from the sun beating ferociously overhead.

"Um, Na-Naruto-kun?" This was it.

"Oh! Uh, hi, Hinata. I was-kinda- uh, l-lookin' for you." Naruto stumbled over the words; he never did that. But Hinata didn't hear. Her ears were roaring and her face was beyond flushed.

"I wanted... I wanted to tell you-

I love you."

To Hinata's infinite surprise, Naruto bent forward and hugged her close.

"You don't know how long I've been waiting to hear that."

Hinata was a shade of red that Rock Lee would have been particularly proud of. "H-hontou?"

"Oh, wait, sorry. I thought you said something about ramen. Er, was that not it?"

thud