Author's Note: See Chapter One for disclaimer. See Profile for Author's Note, Commentary, and response to reviews…
"ABC" - Spoken
ABC - Thought
'ABC' -Bijū Spoken
'ABC' - Bijū Thought
&&&& - Scene Change
Warrior's Heart, Lover's Soul
Chapter Two: Umbrella
Leaping threw the trees at a brisk pace; the remaining members of Squads Seven, Eight, and Hebi are silent as the day's events weigh heavily upon them. The silence is shattered as Sasuke, carrying Naruto's body, moves to be next to Shino, who's carrying Hinata's.
"When did… When did they happen?"
Shino follows Sasuke's gaze to the bundle in his arms and nods his head.
"To be honest, Uchiha, I believe the only positive to come from you leaving to be what you saw in that clearing."
Shino's statement captures everyone's attention as they all want to hear the story he has to tell. Nodding in understanding, Sasuke replies, "Maybe you're right."
"Don't worry, Uchiha, there's no need for regret. Your brother is dead and they died protecting the people and ideals precious to them. To answer your question, it all began with an umbrella. Shortly after your departure, we were visiting our incapacitated teammate when…"
Nearly 3 Years Earlier…
Rain… It had been raining nearly nonstop for almost a week, ever since the members of the retrieval effort failed to return with the rogue Uchiha. It seemed as if nature itself was reflecting their feelings of failure, of defeat, of lost.
It was within this dreary weather that Hyuuga Hinata found herself as she and her teammate, Aburame Shino, leisurely approach Konoha Memorial Hospital hoping to finally be allowed to see their recuperating teammate, Inuzuka Kiba.
Taking in the barren streets from under her umbrella, Hinata couldn't help but reflect upon the apparent lack of life within the village as a whole.
It's just a little rain, it's not like it'll hurt anyone… but, I guess even ninjas can't help but avoid the rain…
Glancing at Shino, she can't help but smile. She watches as he walks through the rain without an umbrella, only a large hooded jacket separating him from the gentle downpour. Her mind drifts to times when she's found peace on days such as this, whether alone, with her squad, or while observing her crush.
But, I don't and neither does Shino-kun or… does that make us odd? No, we simply like the rain, nothing wrong with that... right, Naruto-kun… I hope he's alright.
Entering the hospital, Hinata can't help but think of how much she hated this place. The place where she awoke to the horrible realization that her own cousin had tried to kill her, the place that had taken away her mother and, now, the place that held the broken visages of her friends.
Why, Sasuke, why did you leave…? Why did you have to hurt us, hurt Naruto-kun, like this…?
She's brought out of her thoughts as Shino places a hand on her shoulder. Looking up into his shades-covered eyes, she sees him raise an eyebrow to which she replies, "I-It's nothing. I-I'm all right…"
Nodding, Shino withdraws his hand, stating, "Very well. I've been informed that all our comrades have been cleared for visitation but only for short periods of time."
"That's good. I-I hope they're all alright."
"I as well but we need not hope as we can see for ourselves. Shall we?"
Nodding her head, Hinata follows Shino towards the stairs as her thoughts turn once more to the one who's never too far from her mind.
"Guys, it's been great, really, but you better start heading out… besides I don't really like anyone seeing me like this."
Hinata frowns slightly at Kiba's statement. She continues to pet Akamaru as she notices Kiba glancing at the clock on the wall. She tries to respond but her hesitation allows Shino to do so in a most unorthodox fashion.
"This is neither the first nor will it be the last we see of you in such condition, Kiba. The only difference I observe is that it wasn't my Kikaichu or Hinata's Jyuuken that's left you in such a state."
Hinata, Kiba, even Akamaru's eyes widen in shock at their teammates uncharacteristic statement. It wasn't long before Kiba got over his shock, shouting, "What the hell did you say to me…?"
Hinata could only sit there with her hand frozen above Akamaru's head, as she and the small pup glance back and forth between the riled Inuzuka and the stoic Aburame. This lasted several moments more until Shino finally replied while adjusting his shades.
"I've simply pointed out that this is neither the first nor will it be the last we see of you in such condition… we are your teammates, more importantly your friends, so this should be all but obvious. Thus, your embarrassment is illogical."
Kiba sat their frowning at his male teammate, simply blinking and breathing, before turning to Hinata and asking, "Huh…?"
Hinata muffles a quiet laugh before attempting to translate for her bewildered teammate.
"Shino-kun is saying that…. w-we're your friends so you shouldn't be embarrassed by us being here. I-I also think he was joking around with you by making slight of your condition."
Kiba looks from Hinata to Shino to see him nod his head in agreement with her interpretation, replying, "That is correct. My humor is apparently lacking."
Following his statement, silence reigns for a short time before laughter suddenly fills the room. Leaving Shino perplexed, thinking, Apparently, I said something funny… Yet, I do not see the humor in my statement.
Calming down, Kiba shakes his head as he rubs tears from his eyes, stating, "Oh man, I swear you're going to kill me one of these days, damn… But, seriously, I understand that yet I still have my pride, that's all. Besides, the Hokage is being all anal about us getting rest so…"
"Kiba-kun… S-She is only worried about you. You don't have to be disrespectful."
"Hinata is correct. You should find yourself blessed to be treated by such a skilled physician, let alone the Hokage herself."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. I didn't mean anything by it. She's just been really… Anyway, I'm not the one she should be hovering over since that prick Hyuuga and Chouji got it worst then we did, ain't that right, Akamaru?"
The small, white dog barked his agreement as he leap from Hinata's lap to Kiba's bed before making his way to his perch upon his partner's head.
"Kiba-kun, Neji-niisan is not a… I'm a Hyuuga as well, you know."
Kiba frowns before bowing his head slightly in apology, "Yeah, I know but… you're one of us. Ain't that right, Shino?"
Hinata looks to Shino, who nods his head ever so slightly, stating, "I agree. A Hyuuga-born you may be but one of us you are and shall remain. I know we are not the only ones who think as such, Sensei as well as Uzumaki and the others would agree. Besides, your family leaves much to be desired when it comes to personalities… no offense."
Laughter instantly fills the room, as his statement leaves the other members of Squad Eight struggling for breath. Had they not been fighting for precious bits of air, they may have noticed a slight smirk appear upon their friend's lips.
Perhaps I spoke too soon as the humor of this statement was most obvious. It may be my timing that is off… Perhaps, I will have to look into this further...
Noticing that his friends don't appear likely to stop anytime soon, Shino brings up a topic sure to quiet them down.
"Kiba, would you happen to know of Uzumaki's condition? You mentioned the Hyuuga and Chouji, what of Naruto and Shikamaru?"
As expected that question instantly brought silence upon the room but what was not expected was the intense frown that took its place upon Kiba's lips.
"Is something the matter?"
Shino's question causes Kiba to snap out of it as he looks to him and Hinata before sighing, replying, "That's just it… I don't know how's the Dobe doing. Shikamaru's fine, he managed to escape with minor injuries thanks to that Suna chick with the fan showing up and saving his ass. He's the one who informed me of everyone's conditions."
"So, you have heard of Uzumaki's status?"
"Huh, oh, well yeah, but only that first day after I woke up and Shikamaru visited… since then…"
Hinata could only stare into her lap; afraid her squad may notice her face displaying the budding emotions within her – confusion, worry, fear.
Naruto-kun… please be all right.
"Then, when last heard of what was his condition?"
Sighing, Kiba shrugs his shoulders, stating, "I promised not to say anything but… if anyone needs to know it'd be you guys, I guess. He's stable and recovering surprisingly fast, considering…"
Seeing the grimace on Kiba's face as he pauses, Hinata finds herself speaking before she even realizes it, her voice laced with obvious worry, "C-Considering w-what…?"
"Considering… that bastard Uchiha used something called the Chidori on him."
"The Chidori…?" Hinata finds herself repeating as simply the sound of the jutsu's name increases her worry tenfold.
"The Chidori is an A-Rank assassination ninjutsu of the Raiton class. It is also known as the Raikiri or Lightning Blade and was created by The Copy Ninja, Hatake Kakashi."
Hinata can't help but gasp at that revelation as Kiba shakes his head, adding, "Damn, to be nearly taken out by your own Sensei's technique… and by your own teammate, no less."
"It is quite disheartening to say the lease but I am surprised that he was able to survive such an attack; let alone recover from it in such a short period of time. It speaks highly for the type of individual Uzumaki is, he has come far since the academy, maybe even since the Exams."
"Yeah, he's a troublesome blonde; at least, that's how Shikamaru explained it. But, that doesn't explain the type of reactions simply mentioning him gets."
That statement serves to capture Hinata and Shino's full attention, as Kiba tries to explain.
"Like I said I couldn't get any info on how he's doing cause no one would tell me. They had no problem talking about the others, even about that Lee kid, but mention Naruto and they look about ready to castrate someone."
The shock on Hinata's face as she looks to Shino, seemingly searching for an answer of some sort, is met with a surprisingly tired sounding sigh. Shino shakes his head before leaning back slightly against the wall and adjusting his shades once more.
Kiba and Hinata glance at each other as they're thrown by their teammate's odd behavior. Their attention is brought back to Shino as he begins to speak with a surprising amount of emotion in his voice - meaning any at all.
"One must come to realize that there are many within this village who judge without ever attempting to understand, who refuse to forgive or forget, who are so bigoted, so shallow, so narrow-minded that… that it can cause one to question if they are doing the right thing in defending such a place, wonder if duty alone can warrant protecting such people…"
Noticing his flabbergasted teammates, Shino looks away from them, adding, "Pardon me, I-I have spoken out of line. Disregard the end of my statement."
A nod of the head is all Hinata and Kiba could manage as the emotion, borderline passion, they heard and felt within Shino's words has left them stunned. Feeling surprisingly uncomfortable under their gaze, Shino steps away from the wall and heads for the door, pausing as he opens it, he glances over his shoulder at their shocked faces.
"If we plan to see the others we should leave now. I will visit again soon, Kiba. Rest well."
Without waiting for a response, Shino exits the room as Hinata and Kiba look to each other, similar looks of disbelief upon their faces. Kiba is the first to recover, stating, "Whatever the hell was that, I don't think I've… Did he just say…? Was Shino just suggesting… Oh man, I could use a drink."
Hinata nods her head in agreement, not really hearing what Kiba said as the shock of an emotional Shino still has her reeling.
"Shino-kun was surprisingly emotional." is her all but obvious addition to the conversation but in this case the obvious bears repeating.
"Surprisingly emotional… the fact that he showed any at all is shocking. But, what I still don't get is what Naruto could have done to deserve such reactions? I know he's pulled some pranks, some real brilliant ones at that, but to… Ah, man, forget it, I'm going to sleep; this is all tiring me out."
Hinata couldn't help but giggle slightly at Kiba antics, despite being quite upset herself at the implications of Shino's words. Rising to her feet, she pats Akamaru on the head before heading for the door. She pauses at the room's threshold as Shino had done, glancing back at Kiba, and saying, "Get well soon, Kiba-kun. We'll see you soon."
"Yeah, later… Hey, Hinata, do you think that Shino knows… Nah, nevermind…"
Hinata nods her head before stepping out of the room and closing the door. She turns to find Shino standing outside the room looking no different then the day she met him. But, while he may look no different to any other person, for Hinata his discomfort at his actions in the room were clear as day.
From the very slight tilt to his posture, to the near-silent buzzing of his Kikaichu, it's clear for her to see and it causes her to ponder Kiba's unspoken question.
Does Shino know something about Naruto-kun that we don't…?
Movement to her right captures Hinata's attention as Shino steps into place beside her. Their gazes meet momentarily as they head towards their next destination without the exchanging a single word, but none are needed as the message is received loud and clear.
Are you all right, Shino-kun?
It's of no concern. Let's move on.
"I'm glad everyone's all right."
"Yes, they were all doing surprisingly well considering what they've been through; though, we still have one comrade left to visit… And, it appears we have arrived."
Hinata looks up with hesitantly to find them standing in front of the one room she's dreaded yet anxiously awaited visiting since arriving in this awful place.
Glancing to the room's nameplate, it simply reads, in plain lettering, Uzumaki, and not for the first time, Hinata's amazed at how that one word manages to fill her with such conflicting feelings of joy and sorrow, hope and despair, that she hesitantly takes a step away from it, unaware of Shino's ever-watchful eyes.
Hesitant as ever, I see. Yet, I suspect this is one time where hesitation can not be allowed. Forgive me, Hinata, but it is for your own good… both of you.
Speaking suddenly, Shino asks, "I wonder if Uzumaki is awake, I'd hate to disturb him."
Hinata turns to him looking slightly confused by his statement, obviously, not picking up on Shino's silent suggestion. Sighing, so lightly that it can hardly be considered one, Shino adds, "Why don't you check if he's awake with your Byakugan. It'd be rude to intrude."
Hinata turns beet red at Shino's suggestion, never noticing the oxymoron that was his suggestion, or how it rhymed, before nodding her head as she strengthens her resolve and with a muted muttering of its name activates her Kekkei Genkai.
A startled gasp is heard as Hinata quickly scans the area, looking into several rooms, before deactivating her bloodline and turning to Shino with worried eyes.
"N-Naruto-kun isn't in his room…"
Shino nods his head but before he can respond Hinata dashes after a passing floor attendant.
"Ano, um, excuse me, but would you know what happened to Naruto-kun…?"
Stopping mid-stride, the nurse turns to face the young Hyuuga with a bright smile that to Hinata's surprised twists into a vicious sneer as she voice the topic of her question.
Huffing indignantly, the nurse responds with a bitter laugh, replying, "Like I'd know or even care where that thing is… if we're lucky, he's off suffering somewhere."
The nurse turns to continue on her way when her wrist is suddenly grabbed and she's yanked back the other way. Looking to give whoever grabbed her a piece of her mind, she freezes mid-rebuke under the scornful gaze of Hinata's Byakugan and the fierce frown upon her lips.
Her eyes only widen in shock as the young woman pulls her free arm back preparing a textbook Jyuuken strike, which the nurse instantly recognizes having reached the rank of Chuunin before retiring to work at the hospital after finding life in the field to much for her.
Oh, how she wishes for the days when her biggest worry was simply the occasional missing-nin as the righteous fury held within Hinata's eyes threatens to consume her very soul.
Instead, she finds herself wanting to beg for forgiveness, to plead ignorance of whatever she could have done to anger the young Hyuuga but the shockingly potent killer intent, oozing from Hinata, is impeding her from doing so.
Surprisingly, for her at least, Hinata's strike halts mere inches from it's target, her heart, as a calming hand is laid upon her shoulder. Shino stepping in at the last possible moment, as a part of him even though he'd never admit it enjoyed seeing the woman cower before Hinata, addresses the frightened woman from beside a deathly still Hinata.
"We'd appreciate if you didn't speak of our comrade in such a manner… it'd be unpleasant if we'd be made to defend his character, as we'd be unable to account for our actions."
Despite being terrified, even as she could now hear an intense buzzing sound coming from the boy she's identified as an Aburame, the woman can't help herself from responding with a sarcastic retort.
"Character… that thing…"
Before she can utter another word her wrist is twisted, so hard she's amazed it wasn't snapped, as she finds herself brought to her knees before the infuriated Hyuuga.
Sighing, clearly heard this time, Shino states, "Your apparent lack of concern for your current predicament aside… Being the attendant for this floor, I assume it is your responsibility to be aware of the condition of all your patients, obvious prejudices notwithstanding. I wonder how Hokage-sama would react to hearing of such obvious contempt, not only for ones work but for one of her most valued ninjas."
The look of absolute terror in the woman's eyes brings a visible smirk to the Aburame's lips as he continues, noticing too similar a smirk upon his teammate's lips.
"Now, if you'd be so kind as to tell us if you have any information on the current whereabouts of our comrade, Uzumaki Naruto, we'd be much abided."
The nurse quickly nods her head in agreement, causing Hinata to reluctantly release her death-grip on the woman's wrist. Rising to her feet, she wearily observes the two Genin before replying.
"I may have seen "it" heading towards the roof about an hour ago… "It" should be there, Tsunade-sama and Shizune-san having left "it" far too spooked to try leaving the grounds again."
The nurse quickly runs off as a barely audible snarl escapes Hinata as she takes a tense step forward, obviously taking offense to her use of the word "it" when referring to her Naruto-kun.
Watching that scum of a woman dash around a corner, Hinata shuts off her Byakugan and releases a haggard breath as she tries to calm herself as her mind's running a mile a minute while trying to understand what she's done.
What have I done…? Why did I…? What was I thinking…? I could've killed that…? What if Father… No, first, I need to find Naruto-kun and…
Feeling the forgotten hand on her shoulder give it a gentle squeeze, Hinata suddenly remembers she's not alone in this moment of confusion.
Eyes full of hurt and confusion; Hinata turns to face one of her sources of guidance and support. Hoping the her actions had in no way offended him.
"That woman was most unpleasant. I believe the term… a royal bitch would apply, do you not agree?"
Hinata could only smile gratefully as she nodded in agreement. Her fear that Shino would be upset or disappointed in her actions being proven unfounded as she was all too pleased that he agreed with her.
Shino-kun's right… That woman was such a bitch!
Oh God… Oh God… What am I going to do…? What am I going to do…? Why, Shino-kun, why are you doing this to me…?
Hinata struggles to calm her breathing as she stares at the door that will lead her to the hospital's roof and, more importantly, the location of Uzumaki Naruto.
Having reached the stairwell's final landing, the exit to the roof ahead, Hinata activates her Byakugan only to gasp as she comes upon the sight of Naruto.
Still wrapped from nearly head to toe in bandages, he's lying faceup in the middle of the roof with his eyes closed as the rain gently falls upon him. He wears an expression unlike any she's ever seen upon him before, an expression that if forced to describe it is full of remorse or maybe sorrow.
She's brought out of her thoughts as Shino gently places her umbrella into her hands, she not remembering when she put it down or when he had picked it up.
As if hearing her unasked question, Shino replied, "You dropped it when you were preparing to accost that troublesome woman."
Hinata could only nod her head as she blushed slightly until she noticed that Shino was walking away. She went to call out after him but was cut off by Shino's gentle yet authoritative voice.
"Hinata, this is something that only you can do. I am not capable of giving him what he needs at this time. What you witnessed today and heard about from Kiba is something that I have some experience with and yet my understanding is not what he needs."
Shino turns back around to face Hinata with a gentle smile; Hinata can't help but return it as Shino continues to speak.
"What you almost did to that woman is all the proof you need of how strong your conviction or should I say feelings truly are. Go to him… I believe you'll be surprised by what you find."
Hinata nods her head as her smile is replaced by a nervous frown, seeing this, Shino laughs, stating, "For two who are so alike, your shared inability to act is confounding. I'll see you soon, Hinata, give Uzu… Give Naruto, my best."
Puzzled by the meaning of Shino's final words, Hinata doesn't even realize he's gone until she looks up to ask him what he means.
So alike… me and Naruto-kun… is it possible…?
Shaking her head, Hinata tries to build up the courage to do what she knows she must, to do what she's dreamed of doing, to step past this door, and offer the same support that his very existence has given her to the one who's come to hold her heart in such a complete and utter manner.
With a determined nod of the head, she takes a hold of the door's knob while tightening her grip upon her umbrella's handle. Opening the door, she takes her first steps towards confronting her fears and insecurities while embracing her hopes and dreams for the future.
Rain… It had been raining nearly nonstop for almost a week, ever since the day the members of the retrieval effort failed to return with the rogue Uchiha. It was as if nature itself was reflecting their feelings of failure, of defeat, of lost.
And, yet, Uzumaki Naruto wouldn't have it any other way. To say that his life wasn't made of the most pleasant of experiences was like saying that Ero-Sennin was just your average pervert.
But, within the past year, he felt, no knew, that things had reached a turning point. He had become a Genin, had learned of his fate as jailer of the Kyuubi, had gained friends who accepted him, and was well on his way to accomplishing his goal of earning everyone's respect and becoming Hokage; and, yet…
Why… Why, Sasuke… You stupid bastard, why…?
The death of Ojiisan, learning of the Akatsuki, and, now, losing Sasuke to Orochimaru, to his need for power and vengeance, were weighing heavily upon him; running the risk of smothering whatever hope and determination the young blond had left.
Not that the hateful words and continued glares of his fellow villagers and ninjas helped, but at least he was used to them or so he keeps telling himself.
Then, there was Sakura and the look of complete and utter lost her eyes held when she learned that he hadn't been able to keep his promise of a lifetime. She had tried to hide it, mask it with a smile and promise of getting stronger and succeeding together where he had failed alone; but he saw through her flimsy mask, of course, he did, being a master of the art of false bravado.
The sun had come out at that time, as if it was mocking them all by being so bright, sitting high up in the sky free of their pain and sorrow; yet throughout Sakura, Tsunade, and Shikamaru's visit he couldn't help but wish that the rain would return, swallowing the sun whole, so that he could wallow peacefully in his misery.
Later, Jiraiya showed up and tried to convince him that he should give up on Sasuke. The scary thing, as far as he was concerned, he nearly did. At that moment, he was all but ready to wash his hands of that bastard Uchiha, even now he thinks of doing so, despite a part of him knowing that he'll never be able to forsake a friend, no matter how much they deserve it.
Now, here he is lying on the very rooftop where he had his first "true" fight against the one he'd consider a brother and he can't help but wonder if there's anything he could've done to prevent all of this. But, before he can dwell upon it any further a familiar presence makes itself known and he can't help but smile.
Hinata freezes mid-step as she hears her name cross Naruto's lips. So long, she's waited to hear him say her name with such emotion, such affection, and, yet, now that he has she can't help but find something wrong with it.
Naruto continues to stare up into the midday sky, his eyes remain closed, as he listens to the sound of Hinata's approaching footsteps. The rain suddenly stops falling upon his upper body as Hinata comes to stand just above his head, looking down at him with a look that one would find out of place upon her delicate features.
Opening his eyes, Naruto tilts his head back causing his gaze to fall upon Hinata's legs, just below her calves, before beginning to work its way up her entire person. His eyes appear to be scanning every inch of her person to memory, leaving Hinata unable to do anything but blush under the intensity of his gaze as it comes to a stop at her face after having paused, momentarily, at her chest.
Hinata doesn't know what to do, think, or say at the moment. For so long she wished that Naruto would notice her. That she would be the sole focus of his attention. And, now that she was she can't help but feel naked before him, as if he can see into the hidden depths of her soul.
"Man, I've got to get you out of those clothes… and into a nice dress. I bet you have killer legs… among other assets. "
With that one statement, Naruto had nearly succeeded in destroying whatever image of him Hinata had built up in her mind; yet the shocking thing was he appeared to know exactly that.
"N-Naruto-kun… w-what… this isn't… you aren't…"
Struggling to find the words to continue, Hinata watches as Naruto frowns as he closes his eyes, sighing, before reopening them and looking straight up at her umbrella instead of her.
"Huh… Oh, are you trying to say that this isn't like me?"
Hinata simply nods her head causing Naruto to smile but unlike every other time she's seen him smile, she could instantly tell it was hollow.
"Well, you'd be surprised what is and isn't like me, Hinata-chan."
Naruto looks at her and smiles brightly but this one is surprisingly cocky, as he then smirks, stating, "Yeah, chan… unless you prefer kun but I don't think that suits you… Hmm, I know… Hime, now, that's much better."
"Yeah, well, I've always seen you as a sort of princess, Hinata-hime. Ha… some prince I turned out to be, huh? Can't even save his best friend, so how can he even think of being there for the princess? Well, can he, Hime-chan?"
Hinata stands there stunned beyond belief. Had Naruto really just called her a princess? Did he really see her that way? Would he really want to be the prince to her princess?
Hinata's pulled away from such thoughts as she hears a cherished voice calling her "new" name.
"Hey, Hime… Hime… Yo, Hime-chan, you still with me…?"
"Huh, oh, yes, Naruto-kun?"
Naruto stares into Hinata's daze eyes and can't keep from smiling. And, to Hinata's surprise it's again unlike any smile she's seen on him before. It's so happy, so carefree, that it causes her to wonder, If this is him happy, then, what have I been seeing all these years…?
As if hearing her thoughts, Naruto frowns before quietly apologizing. Confused, Hinata asks what he's apologizing for, to which he says something that would shake her to the very core.
"I've always seen you, Hinata… I mean, really seen you… I'm so sorry for never acknowledging you… Sorry, I could never acknowledge you… Like I said, some prince I am."
The look on Hinata's face leaves Naruto feeling like the demon everyone claims him to be. Sighing, he continues to speak figuring there's no turning back.
"I'm sorry, Hinata… I can lay hear and give you a thousand excuses but seeing the look on your face makes them all seem, I don't know, stupid or something. I just want you to know that I never meant to hurt you and I can understand if you hate me now."
Closing his eyes, Naruto awaits his divine punishment knowing that whatever she delivers unto him is more then deserved. A bitter laugh escapes him quietly, as he thinks, At least, now, she'll hate me for something I did and not that damn fox.
But, as seconds turn to minutes he begins to get worried till he suddenly feels something wet fall unto his face. Looking up he's witness to a sight he hopes to never see again. As, tears stream down Hinata's face and, yet, he's confused by the fact that she has on the brightest smile he's ever seen on her or anyone else for that matter.
"N-Naruto-kun… I-I could never hate you. I-I'm just happy that you actually… I-I…"
Hinata drops to her knees still holding the umbrella above them both, as Naruto is left with no idea as to how he should proceed. So, lying there, he waits for Hinata to make the next move as he's still reeling from the idea that she could never hate him; but, there's a part of him that thinks otherwise.
She only says that cause she doesn't know… if she did…
Looking back to Hinata, he finds her looking down upon him with tears still falling from her eyes. Reaching up, he wipes them away with a finger and frowns, saying, "Why mess up such a pretty face with tears… when a smile is always so much better."
The blush that spreads across her cheeks brings a smile to his face that she shyly returns as Naruto begins to lower his hand only for her to grasp it with her own.
They both stare at their conjoined hands in surprise, neither really believing what they see or feel. Hinata's brought out of the shock of her own aggressiveness as she feels Naruto give her hand a gentle squeeze. Looking into her eyes, she receives his silent message clear as day.
Nodding her head, she squeezes his hand back before smiling brightly. The intensity of her smile causes Naruto to blush as he looks away slightly hoping Hinata won't notice but, luckily or unluckily, she does and her smile only grows.
They remain as they are, holding hands, Naruto lying on the roof with Hinata sitting near his head while holding her umbrella above them both as the rain gently falls around them in complete silence.
They're both simply comfortable and neither wants to ruin this moment that they've both craved for so long. But, ruined it must be as there is still too much that needs to be said and, surprisingly, it is Hinata who breaks the silence.
"Naruto-kun, why couldn't you acknowledge me? Was there a reason or…?"
She's cut off as Naruto sighs deeply; he gives her hand another gentle squeeze before slowly removing his from hers. Closing his eyes, he misses the flash of hurt, of longing, that flashes across her eyes. It only takes him a moment to come to a decision on a subject that he's been wondering about for almost a year, ever since he had learned of his connection to the Kyuubi.
Hinata can't help but wonder if maybe she's made a mistake by asking that question. But, she just has to know if there's a reason he couldn't approach her. Realizing, that since Naruto had noticed her and then avoided her, even if she had been the one to approach him, he may have simply pushed her away and she needed to know why.
"I don't know how to say this… I thought of telling it like a story, maybe even a joke, but that seems to cheapen it and… So, anyway, I'm just gonna be blunt, since everyone tells me that's what I'm good at…"
Naruto looks up to met Hinata's gaze and finds her nodding her head in understanding. Smiling warmly, he looks away to stare out from under her umbrella at the village and sky beyond.
"You are the heir to the most powerful clan in the village, while I am a no-clan-having orphan. I guess, obviously, status has something to do with it. I mean, even I noticed how you weren't allowed to play with that many kids. Only those dubbed worthy and… well, let's just say, knowing what I know now confirms I'd be seen as anything but. So, that's why friendship was out of the question back then; like it was for many kids... Then we got older and you got cute…"
Hinata can't help but blush at his statement, yet she remains silent as she notices that his eyes never left the world lying beyond her umbrella. As, if he thinks that if he were to look away the world, beyond the safety her umbrella offered, would come and swallow him whole.
So, remaining silent and fighting the urge to play with her fingers, Hinata grows firm and strengthens her hold on the umbrella swearing to be his shelter from the storm, both literally and figuratively.
"You see, when I realized that you noticed me… I was so happy. I mean, who wouldn't be. The times when you'd follow me to my training spots would motivate me to try all that much harder. I honestly didn't notice at first and I wasn't always able to tell if you were there or not. But, simply thinking that Hinata-chan could be watching me helped me to try even harder... Especially, since I was so nervous and I'd get so embarrassed when I'd mess-up in front of you… but, I only heard you laugh when I actually succeeded and I knew you were just as happy about it as I was."
She couldn't believe what she was hearing. He had known this entire time. Hinata doesn't know if she should be happy or devastated by this but decides to take the first option. She had been helping him, encouraging him, without even realizing it, but a part of her still realizes that it wasn't enough.
I shouldn't have been hiding… I shouldn't have been just watching… I could've been there – with him – together getting stronger…
"To tell the truth, I still don't get what you see in me… But, I have a feeling it's the same thing I saw in you and Sakura. You're both like me in that you want to be acknowledged, you by your family and, I guess, me, Sakura by, well, Sasuke… but, it wasn't always like that. There was a time when she was more like me. Wanting anyone and everyone to see me, want me, care for me…"
Sakura, a source of endless frustration for Hinata, if there ever was one; the pink-haired kunoichi was and still is something of an enigma for Hinata. Parts of her hates Sakura with an unbridled fury that would leave Kyuubi cowering in fear, another saw exactly what Naruto did and can not hold it against her, no matter how much she wants too.
Yet, another envies her and her ability to freely go after what she wants. Back in the academy, listening to Sakura proclaim her love for Sasuke and how they were made for each other left Hinata both captivated and disgusted.
Captivated by how she let nothing, Ino and Naruto, stand in the way of her and her one true love. Disgusted by how even after Sasuke repeatedly told her no she still hounded him and how she'd do anything even at the cost of others, Naruto, to make him notice her.
Hinata's always told herself she would never be like that, that if she ever told Naruto how she feels and he turns her away she'd accept his answer. She's honest enough to admit that she'd be devastated and would try to make him want to be with her as she does him. But, in no way, would she allow herself to stoop to the levels of fanaticism that Sakura, Ino, and others like them have in the name of the Uchiha.
"I think… more like know, why I had no problem going after Sakura-chan, while I only pretended not to notice you. She had no one to support her while you… I mean, now, I know that I was wrong… Man, was I wrong… I thought that you had a clan supporting you while Sakura only had her mother; who I'm pretty sure is only a civilian and doesn't have a clue on how to support a ninja."
"I think I wanted to support someone, be there for someone, the way I wished someone would for me… And, Sakura was the safest target… I'm sorry for not noticing how tough you had it sooner."
Hinata nods her head, not trusting her words, despite Naruto having not looked at her. The longer he goes on the more she wishes she could go back and change so many things. Yet, she still feels there's something she's missing. Pieces of the puzzle that is Uzumaki Naruto, that'll make everything fall into place; if only she knew how big a piece it was.
"I promised myself that when we became ninjas, adults in the eyes of the village, that I would do everything in my power to become worthy of people, comrades, friends like you and Sakura. Then I failed the Genin Exam and, for the first time, I fully realized just how weak and stupid I really was. I mean, who the hell fails the Genin Exam three times… I was so angry since I knew it was as much my fault as it was those damn bastard teachers."
"You have no idea how tiring it was trying to balance wanting to learn and not giving a damn. They didn't want to teach me so I wouldn't want to learn from them… only problem was I did want to learn and when I tried nothing came of it. I started to think that maybe I really was an idiot. But, then we got Iruka-sensei and even though he was a bastard at first too, I could tell he really didn't mean anything by it."
Hearing someone you idolize speak so poorly of themselves can have detrimental effect upon oneself and the image of that person, but, for Hinata hearing Naruto speak so freely about his life, something she could tell he's probably never done before, left her filled with a newfound level of respect and admiration for the Blond.
"Then after I failed the exam, Mizuki-teme came and offered me another way to pass, and being the fool that I am, I gladly accepted. He wanted me to steal the Scroll of Sealing from the Hokage's Tower. So, with little effort, using my ingenious Oiroke no Jutsu, I defeated Ojiisan and took the scroll to the meeting place…"
"That's how I learned the Kage Bunshin. It was the first jutsu in the scroll and I figure what better way to prove myself then to learn a harder version of the jutsu that kept me from graduating. I then learned it was all a trick and Mizuki told me something that a part of me wishes I never learned… I think that maybe staying unaware would've been better but I know that not knowing why you're hated is just as painful, probably more so."
Hinata watches Naruto tense before taking calming breathes. Then, for the first time since beginning his explanation, he looks at Hinata. Tilting his head back ever so slightly, his gaze locks with hers. He gives her a hesitant and, surprisingly, shy smile which she happily returns triggering him to continue.
"The Yondaime didn't kill the Kyuubi. He couldn't… so he sealed it into me. I have the Kyuubi no Youko sealed in me."
There it's been said. Naruto and Hinata's eyes remain locked on each other. Neither speaking, both hardly breathing, nor knowing how to react to what's been revealed.
For Naruto, the silence was maddening, he would rather she freak out, hit him, or run away than simply staring at him with those all-seeing eyes of hers.
For Hinata, the silence was shocking, she would rather he break down, hug her, or run away than simply staring at her with those soulfully-blue eyes of his.
Then, as one they speak, both saying the name of the other hesitantly, and it serves to break the awkward tension that has surrounded them. Doing something she had once seen one of the older girls from the Branch House do with her boyfriend, Hinata reaches out and rubs her hand against Naruto's cheek, before tracing his whisker-like birthmarks with her fingers.
Naruto doesn't know what to do, what to say, and is hardly able to even breathe, let alone form a coherent thought. This girl, this beauty, no, this angel, scratch that, this goddess wasn't running, wasn't screaming, wasn't hitting, she was simply touching him gently as if he was made of the finest, rarest of materials and was worthy of her attention and awe. Never, in his life, had he felt like he did at that moment – loved beyond words.
His question is simple but her answer is anything but.
"Because I love you…"
Hinata had no clue as to what she should expect from saying those words but the one thing she never expected was for Naruto to roll away from her touch, stopping with his back to her.
Shocked, worried, and more than a little hurt, Hinata climbs to her feet and cautiously approaches Naruto. Fighting her first instinct to retreat into herself and blame his reaction upon herself, she realizes that this is what Shino was speaking of.
Only she could be there for Naruto and be there she would. With each less hesitant step, the only sounds she hears are the wind, rain, and her footfalls until she hears it – quiet sobbing.
"N-Naruto-kun, please look at me… please, Naruto."
Hearing his name with the lack of that all-too familiar suffix causes Naruto to pause. His sobs quiet down as he looks over his shoulder with tear-stained eyes to see Hinata standing beside him with her hand outstretched.
"I-It's okay… I won't run… I won't leave… I don't care about it, only about…"
Hinata doesn't get to finish her statement, as Naruto suddenly rolls over onto his back, grabs her hand and pulls her down towards him. With a startled yelp, Hinata falls to find her self lying next Naruto with at least half of her atop of him.
Looking up from her head's position upon his chest, Hinata finds Naruto looking straight up into the sky as if nothing had been said or done. The only proof of the opposite being her current location and the tears still trailing from his eyes, as she notices her umbrella rolling away in the wind.
"You know why I love the rain…?"
Hinata was actually startled slightly by the sound of his voice as several minutes have passed since he pulled her down upon him. Finding her voice she replies to the negative. She watches as he smiles while still looking up into the sky before taking a deep breath while closing his eyes and exhaling deeply.
"Everyone runs from the rain, yet whether they realize it or not they all need the rain."
Hinata can't help but smile at his statement, replying, "You're the rain."
Opening his eyes, Naruto looks down at the young woman lying beside him and smiles. He smiles so brightly, so joyously, that Hinata can't help but return it with one just as bright.
Wrapping an arm around Hinata, Naruto nods, saying, "Yeah and you didn't run."
Snuggling into his embrace, Hinata closes her eye, answering, "I love the rain."
Laughter fills her ears then a pregnant sigh of content which is quickly followed by a phrase she'll hold dear in this life and the next.
"And, the rain loves you too."
"It's started to rain again."
Naruto opens his eyes to see that it has in fact started to rain once more. A blissful smile fills his lips as he glances down at the woman lying atop him.
"Remember the first time we laid like this?"
Hinata nods her head as she lets out a relaxed sigh.
"That day change my life… I'll never be able to thank Shino enough for forcing me out there that day."
"Yeah, if only everything else could have been as simple."
Hinata looks up at Naruto with a look of utter shock, one at which Naruto can't help but laugh. Shaking her head, she asks, "You thought that was simple?"
"Compared to what followed... Absolutely..."
Laughter fills the clearing, not that any living being could hear it. Snuggling into Naruto's embrace, Hinata can't help but let her mind wander to what awaits them. It will be yet another challenge for them to overcome but she knows that together they'll succeed.
Laughing softly, she states, "You know, after everything that's happened… I still love the rain."
Then just like that day so long ago, laughter fills her ears then a pregnant sigh of content which is quickly followed by a phrase she'll hold dear in this life and the next.
"And, the rain still loves you too."
To Be Continued…