Too emotionally drained to leave A.N. to explain. Enjoy ch. 9:


Chapter 9 Apologizing

The rest of the week went by quietly. After breakfast, Sasuke would inspect the compound, taking note of what needed to be repaired and interviewing contractors. Hinata would spend the day weeding and aerating the herb and vegetable gardens that Mikoto had so lovingly cultivated. In the afternoons Hinata would train under Sasuke's tutelage. For dinner, they would usually be joined by several of their mutual friends, and more often than not, Hinata's sister. After Sasuke's nightmare the first night, Hinata decided to share Sasuke's with him.

For purely medical reasons.

It had nothing to do with how warm Sasuke's body was.

…Or how safe she felt in his arms.

…Or how good he smelled.

…Nothing at all. Really.

About a week after the interesting mission involving retrieving Sasuke's clothing, Hinata was spending the mid-morning shopping for groceries and seeds for the newly prepared gardens when she was approached by Sakura and Ino.

Well, actually she was ambushed and cornered in the most remote (and coldest) section of the store, but who pays attention to semantics, hm?

"C-can I help you, Sakura-chan, Ino-chan?" Of course she was nervous, she was being cornered by the two most ardent of Sasuke's admirers whom they had just discovered was and had been off the market for nearly all his life.

"Yes, actually, you can." Replied Ino cryptically.

Sakura sighed and took over explaining, "We are here on behalf of Sasuke's Fan Club. We were wondering if you could convince Sasuke to listen to us for two minutes. We would like to formally apologize for… well," Sakura faltered and shared a flustered look with Ino, "uh… everything." The pink-haired medic ended, rather lamely.

"Oh!" Hinata was surprised (and relieved) at this unexpected twist. "Well, if you two would like to join us for dinner, I'm sure-"

"Actually," Ino interrupted, "the entire Sasuke Fan Club (main chapter) would like to issue the apology. Just a quick one!" The blonde stressed hastily seeing the anxious look on Hinata's face.

Hinata bit her worriedly. She never liked saying 'no' when any of her friends asked her for a favor but the odds of Sasuke willingly listening to his entire fan club (which with Itachi's demise had moved up the list to the number one bane of Sasuke's existence) were… slim.

Actually there was a better chance of Choji giving up BBQ, Naruto giving up ramen, and Anko giving up dango at the exact same moment.

At least Hinata had more tact than to say that.

"I'm sorry, Ino-chan, Sakura-chan. B-but I don't think-"

Sakura interrupted quietly, "We know it's a lot to ask…"

"…but if anyone can do it, you can." Ino finished the sentence with a lot more enthusiasm and confidence than Sakura had started it with.

Hinata sighed; there was no harm in trying. "Alright, I'll try. But I need to finish shopping first."

"Thank you, Hinata!" Ino exclaimed while Sakura hugged the dark-haired teen as best she could with a handcart in between them.

"If you can, bring Sasuke to Team 7's old training ground at one o'clock this afternoon." Sakura said as she let go and walked away with her best friend, both waving and thanking Hinata as they left.

"That was very… weird." Hinata said to the empty space around her in the frozen foods aisle.

"I found it quite disappointing, myself."

Hinata jumped at the voice, and immediately flushed with embarrassment.

Sai walked casually down the aisle until he reached her side, either not realizing or not understanding her embarrassment.

"I thought there would be a three-way cat fight and clothing being ripped. But they didn't even threaten you, Boobs."

Hinata was still a little out-of-it from her confrontation with Ino and Sakura and almost agreed with Sai without realizing what he called her.

"W-wha-ah… y-you, uh?!"

Sai looked at her with his typical fake smile on but with what looked like genuine amusement in his eyes.

"What was that, Boobs?"

Hinata took a deep breath, determined to get out a (somewhat) coherent question despite her mortification.

"W-wh-why ar-re y-y-y-" another deep breath, "you c-c-calling me th-that?"

"Hmm? Calling you what, Boobs?" It seemed that, contrary to popular belief, Sai did have a sense of humor. Unfortunately, it was a bit twisted.

Alas, the poor human tomato was unable to respond to Sai's teasing articulately and could only squeak out, "mehugh".

"I had no idea you were hiding such a fantastic rack under that hulking coat."

Oh. Oh, crap! It wasn't fair. She had no one to blame but herself (and if she was completely honest with herself, Sasuke was a little bit at fault too… just a little) and it sucked. Her dear, dear fiancé was not a fan of her 'hulking coat' so she had forgone it for… ok, truthfully? Her coats were currently M.I.A. Of course, considering her kekkai genkai, hiding anything from her was pointless. Which Sasuke was well aware of, he was just trying to make a point. So, out of respect and because she had no other missions today (or for the near future really) she went shopping in a navy T-shirt with fishnet at the neckline, a pair of khaki shorts, and her navy ninja zōri.

She was also currently standing in the coldest aisle in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

"Of course you have a great ass and legs, too. Would you prefer I call you 'Sex Kitten'? Or maybe, 'Sex Bunny' would fit you better? Would you be interested in doing some nude modeling for me?"

Okay, the strangled noise that came out of Hinata's throat scared her.

It made Sai chuckle. "Is that a 'no', then? Oh well, if you ever change your mind, Naruto and Sakura know where I live." With that Sai turned to leave before calling over his shoulder, "and if it doesn't work out with you and Uchiha, don't hesitate to approach me."

Hinata was normally a very patient and forgiving person. To the point that it was nearly abnormal. But everyone has their limits and it seemed like Sai enjoyed pushing said limits. She was sorely tempted to, oh so casually, mention what Sai said to Sasuke and Neji and let them bond over extracting their vengeance on Sai. Hinata was already considering what snack to serve with the tea when she realized this plan would require her to repeat what Sai said. For example, what nickname he called her. She shuddered at the thought of having to use Sai's exact wording in front of her cousin.

Nope. Not going to happen. Hinata scrambled to the checkout line. She would happily take this conversation with her to the grave. It would be safer for all involved.

Luckily, she made it back to the Uchiha compound without any further incident. Though she did make it back in time to hear Naruto and Sasuke having an argument. Cautiously, Hinata opened the front door and peeked inside. Checking if the coast was clear of flying pointy objects and gravity-allergic blondes.

Warily, Hinata walked inside and called out into the empty house while she slipped off her zōri at the genkan. "Um…, I'm back?"

"HINATA-CHAN!" A blonde blur flew toward her and attached itself to her shoulders. "Thank Kami you're back! That teme won't train with me." Naruto pointed childishly at said 'teme' as he sauntered into the room. "Make him train with me, Hinata-chan. I'm so bored!"

Sasuke leaned forward, taking the grocery bags from her arms and sneaking in a quick kiss. Hinata smiled and gently removed Naruto's arms from around her neck. "I'm sorry, Naruto-kun. But as Sasuke's medic, I cannot allow him to do that. He's ribs are still healing. He shouldn't even be carrying those bags or walking around the estate as much as he does."

"Che. You worry too much, hime." Sasuke's disembodied voice said from the kitchen.

"Oi, teme! Give me those bags. Hinata-chan said-" Naruto raced after Sasuke.

Hinata cringed at the sounds of yelling, cans falling, and, finally, fighting that coasted back to her. When nothing but silence came back to her, she had to resist the urge to poke her index fingers together. As much as she'd like to go into the kitchen to check on things, everyone in Konoha (and Suna, but that's another story) knew it was suicide to interrupt Sasuke and Naruto when they were fighting.

She was seriously considering activating her byakugan, when a dejected blonde shuffled back into the entry room. "He kicked me out of the kitchen… again." Naruto pouted, rubbing the bump on the back of his head.

Naruto gave a defeated sigh. Hinata bit her lip, she hated seeing any of her friends so down.

"W-why don't you spar with me instead, and Sasuke can watch?"

"Really?" If he'd had ears on the top of his head, they would have perked right up with the rest of him.

"Mn," Hinata nodded. "Besides, I think Sasuke might be getting bored training me everyday…"

"Nah, I'm sure that could never happen. I once overheard Iruka-sensei and the other academy teachers doing our quarterly evaluations when we were in the academy. You were one of their favorites. Which is a big deal because they couldn't even agree on where to sit for a long, long time." Naruto waved his arms emphatically.

Hinata smiled shyly at this information. "Really?"

"Swear on my nindo!" Naruto straightened into his best, and much practiced, 'Iruka poise'. "She's such a sweet and polite girl, and so eager to learn; a joy to teach." Naruto relaxed and grinned broadly. "They liked you better than Sasuke-teme, even though he was the top student. Besides," Naruto narrowed his eyes, "I'm sure he enjoys training with you. Hehe, after all, the Uchiha compound is pretty big, I'm sure he needs all the practice he can geh- OW! Teme, that hurt, datebayo."

"So does hitting that thick skull of yours." Sasuke sauntered over to Hinata, casually wrapping an arm around her waist while he threw a mild glare at Naruto. Turning back to Hinata, he asked, "Which training ground did you want to go to?"

"Number __. If I'm to have any chance of beating Naruto-kun and his unending supply of chakra, I'll need a lot of water available."

"Yatta! Let's GO!"

"I," pant, "I have to admit," deep breath, "that lasted longer than I thought it would…"

"Yeah, you were great Hinata-chan. The way you tracked me without your byakugan was so cool!"

Hinata smiled serenely, handing the water bottle back to her fiancé with a quiet thank you. She was quite proud of herself. Although she hadn't beaten Naruto, she had put up one hell of a fight.

"Hn. It looks like training with your cousin paid off." Sasuke tossed a towel at his honorary younger brother before handing one to Hinata.

She blushed lightly at the 'Sasuke compliment'. "Neji-nii-san's training has helped me with my byakugan and gentle fist taijutsu more than he knows, b-but Kiba-kun and Shino-kun have helped me with my tracking and survival, and you've helped me with my ninjutsu, Sasuke." She looked up at him, making sure he knew how much she appreciated his tutoring. "Oh! And working out with Lee-san's improved my stamina and strength."

Naruto and Sasuke stopped mid-motion to stare at her incredulously, or in Naruto's case, slack-jawed.

Hinata blushed at the scrutiny, "We occasionally trained together in the evenings. I don't think I'd survive training with Lee-san in the mornings when he's just getting started…"

Sasuke smirked, "I doubt even Naruto'd survive that."

"Yeah, Fuzzy Brow's really crazy about- HEY! I could too, survive it! I'm Uzumaki Naruto, the Greatest Shinobi of Konohagakure no Sato, Future Hokage, Devourer of Ramen-"

Sasuke threw the blonde boy a disturbed look, "Knock it off, dobe. It's just getting sad now."

"Teme. I'll prove it to you! Tomorrow I'll spend the whole day training with Fuzzy Brow's, datebayo!"

"You do that, Naruto." Sasuke said dismissively.

Unfortunately Naruto took it as confirmation that his bet had been accepted. He jumped up enthusiastically and started running toward town, "I'm gonna go tell him right now! Bye teme! Bye Hinata-chan!"

Hinata shook her head after the rambunctious blonde, just a bit envious. "I can barely mold what's left of my chakra and he can still-" Hinata let the rest of the thought out with a puff of air that rustled some of her bangs. She smiled at Sasuke's chuckle. Turning to him, Hinata accepted his outstretched hand and picked her weary body off the ground. "Maybe I should start training with him, too."

Hinata caught the weird look on Sasuke's face and worried he had misunderstood her reasoning. She opened her mouth to quickly explain but Sasuke beat her to it.

"I don't think he'd make a good teacher or training partner just yet."

"What do you mean, Sasuke?"

"I mean he's still too… immature. He's never not had someone else telling him what to do, not really. Give him a little longer to grow into himself and his abilities. Otherwise it will probably end up being you teaching him."

Hinata took a moment to think about it and conceded that her fiancé did have a point. And, despite his three year defection, no one knew Naruto better than Sasuke... to the point where it was eerie. She nodded to show Sasuke she understood.

"Though I'm sure if you wear a tank top and short skirt and ask very nicely, you might trick Kakashi into agreeing to train you." Sasuke let his eyes stray over Hinata's entire body slowly from top to bottom and back up to smirk at the red staining her entire face.

It took a moment for Hinata to get her breathing back to normal. When she did, she threw the smirking young man next to her the best glare she could, which just seemed to make him laugh. Hinata dropped the glare and sighed, she could never stay angry at him when he laughed.

She looked at Sasuke out of the corner of her eye as they started gathering the discarded weapons from her match with Naruto. "I never had a crush on him, you know." She remarked softly.

"On Kakashi? I hope not. He is 14 years older than us, hime…"

Hinata pouted and threw her towel at Sasuke's head, knowing he'd catch it before it hit him. He caught it with a lazy swipe of his hand and smirked as she tried to come up with suitable words to properly ridicule him. "Not him. You- you- wicked, mean-"

Sasuke cut off her tirade by kissing her, his hands tenderly caressing her neck, his thumbs tracing her jaw as he cradled her head in his hands lovingly.

When he slowly pulled back, Hinata opened her eyes to see his smirk gentle into a smile. Sighing she pouted half-heartedly at him, "I thought you were going to try to resist the temptation to tease me so."

Sasuke laughed quietly, "Technically, I never agreed to that." He sighed dramatically, and slipped his hands from her neck to hold her around her waist, pulling her closer into his embrace. "I guess I'll just have to spend the rest of our lives practicing."

Hinata smiled brilliantly, leaning forward to rest her head against his chest, "I guess so."

After a moment Sasuke kissed the top of her head and they drew back. While he was picking up the kunai Naruto left, Hinata tried to clear the air, again. "I mean it, you know. I never had a crush on Naruto."

"I know you didn't, Hinata. I didn't think you wanted to train with him so you could have an affair."

"Good. I was a little concerned, actually." Hinata smiled at Sasuke's questioning look, "Because we never talked about the gossip that I had a crush on him when we were in the academy, or when we were genin. Well, when I was a genin." She giggled at the sour look the last of the Uchiha gave her, knowing that once the council decided to let him compete in the chūnin exam she'd never outrank him again. "I wondered if maybe it was a talk we needed to have."

"I'll admit the rumors did get to me a bit when I was on Team 7. And I didn't handle it very well. I was… harsher than I should've been to Naruto. It was petty. I didn't realize how bad it was until one day when Kakashi dumped us on Team 10 to train for the day and Shikamaru decided we needed to have a talk, whether or not I agreed." She must have looked shocked, because Sasuke chuckled. "He caught me in the alley behind the Inuzuka's veterinary clinic when I'd finally ditched Sakura and Ino and bound me in place until I agreed that everyone else in Konoha was just too blind to see that you were in live with me."

"Oh. We're going to have to find Shikamaru a spectacular present for his next birthday."

"Maybe we can just find a way to get everyone else in Konoha to leave him alone for one day."

Hinata was about to object when she remembered who they were talking about, "That would be pretty spectacular. For Shikamaru, at least. Ano… Sasuke-kun-"

"Uh-oh. You said '-kun'."

Hinata cursed her nervous habits! "I just thought; since I had a chance to clear the air with you about Naruto, maybe you should let someone else have the chance to clear the air?"

She watched the mental calculation going on in Sasuke's head. She hoped he would figure out that two plus two equals four, so she wouldn't have to say it. But at the same time, she really hoped he wouldn't because when he did, it was bound to be ugly. When his spine stiffened, she knew he'd come to a conclusion. When his sharingan activated, she knew he'd come to the correct conclusion.

"Let me see if I understand correctly. You want me to listen to a bunch of harpies while they try and weasel their way out of any guilt they have for the extra emotional trauma and stress their stalking placed on me and our relationship?"

"No, I want you to listen while to a group of confused, emotional, and hormonal young woman who didn't know how to properly express their feelings for you apologize for everything they have done that caused any unintended side-effects. And possibly for the breach in 'Girl Code', as well," Hinata muttered the last part to herself, wondering if that might be part of the reason for asking her to personally bring Sasuke to the mass apology.

"'Girl Code'?"

"Hm? Oh," Hinata flushed. 'Note to self: stop talking out loud!' "Um, well, trying to break us up, even though they didn't know there is an 'us', was a breach in the number one rule of 'Girl Code'."

"And you think the conniving, vindictive tramps that chased after me care about 'Girl Code'?"

Hinata threw him a smile that she knew that he knew was too serene for what he'd just said. "'God help the sister who comes between me and my mister.' I'm within my legal 'Girl Code' rights to enact revenge for their violation."

Sasuke shot her an incredulous look. "And you think these… people care about that?"

"Perhaps, you never know. Not all of your fans cut off all their friendships to pursue you like Sakura and Ino."

"Perhaps," Sasuke smirked and pulled teasingly on a lock of Hinata's hair. "But I'm still-"

"Either they don't care about the code and they just want to apologize to you, they feel bad about trying to come between us and want to apologize to us, or they feel bad about breaking relationship number one and want to apologize to me for fear of any revenge I may enact."

"Alright, alright," Sasuke sighed, holding his hands up in a sign of surrender. "I'll go, I'll listen. But I still say this is a bad idea."

Hinata smiled sweetly and reached up to hold one of Sasuke's hands in hers. "Don't worry, Sasuke-kun. I'll protect you from the scary girls."

"You'd better. My immune system is still compromised and I don't want cooties."

"Cooties, huh?" Hinata tried to suppress the grin while she started leading Sasuke to Team 7's old training grounds. "As your medic-nin, it is my duty to inform you…"