A/N: This story is a birthday gift for Belletiger, who was kind enough to draw me a NaruHina fanart for MY birthday, which I used as an inspiration for this fic, and which you can find a link to in my profile.
Night had fallen over the Village Hidden in the Leaves, and Naruto was training. After throwing several volleys of shuriken and kunai into a tree trunk, he went to collect his ordinance.
As he was pulling a kunai out of the tree, he heard a twig snap behind him. Reacting on instinct, he threw the kunai in his hand at the noise, causing a slight shriek to emit from the intruder.
The indigo-haired kunoichi was frozen in place; the thrown kunai imbedded in a tree, just inches from the side of her head.
"Jeez, Hinata, you startled me! What are you doing out here at this time of night?"
"I... I wasn't..." Hinata started rambling. "It's just that I was... and I heard... and you were... and then you threw-"
"Whoa, calm down. I was just surprised to find someone else out and about this late."
"Oh..." She relaxed a little as Naruto removed the kunai from the tree and placed it in his pouch with his other weapons.
"Sorry about that kunai. Are you alright?"
"I... I'm fine. I didn't mean to sneak up on you. I was just out for a walk because I couldn't sleep, and I heard you training out here. Why are you out so late?"
"To tell the truth, Kakashi-sensei and Yamato-taichou's training is so exhausting it's got my sleep cycle all out of whack. I woke up about an hour ago, so I decided to do some target practice while I wait for them, though it's probably going to be a couple hours before they wake up."
"Do... do you want to walk with me?"
"It's just... It's such a nice night out; it'd be a shame not to share it with someone."
"Oh... Sure, I guess."
Naruto packed up the rest of his ninja tools, and the two of them wandered out to the main road in the village. They walked in silence for a while, until Naruto spoke up.
"So, I hear you're a chuunin now. Congratulations."
"Oh... Thank you."
"You lead any missions yet?"
"A few... I only received my rank half a year ago. I was the last one in our class to pass the exam."
"Besides me, you mean."
"Oh! No... I... I didn't mean..."
"Ah, it's okay. I was gone for so long you probably forgot about me."
"What? No! I could never forget you, Naruto-kun! If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be the ninja I am today!" Hinata blurted out, blushing after she realized what she just said.
Naruto just paused and blinked a few times, processing Hinata's statement. "Me? What'd I do?"
"Naruto-kun is Naruto-kun. You strive to be the greatest ninja in the village, and you never give up, no matter what. You're my inspiration."
"Wow... Hinata... I..."
"Back when we were in the academy, and even after we graduated, I never had any confidence in myself, and when I made a mistake, I got discouraged easily. I tried so hard, but it seemed like I was never able to change. I wanted to give up, but then I would think of you. I had watched you from afar, and I saw how hard you tried to make others acknowledge you. It made me want to try even harder. When you defeated Kiba in the Chuunin Exams three years ago, it gave me hope that change was possible, and when you cheered me on in my match with Neji, it gave me the courage to believe in myself and stand up to him."
"I... I had no idea I meant so much to you."
Naruto and Hinata walked in silence a bit more, until they reached the Hyuuga household.
"Thank you for walking me home, Naruto-kun."
"I'm glad you asked me. It was nice just walking and talking with you. I think it was the longest conversation we've ever had together. That alone proves you've changed a lot these past three years."
"Mmhmm! You've always been so nervous around me, but I never knew why until now, when you worked up the courage to tell me. Three years ago, you would have just fainted or something. Heck, three weeks ago you fainted when you saw me!"
"I... I didn't know you were back! I wasn't prepared and then you just popped up out of nowhere!"
"Hey, relax. I'm trying to give you a compliment."
"Oh, uh, thanks. I should probably get to bed. Good night, Naruto-kun."
As Hinata turned to enter her house, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Naruto standing behind her.
"Hey, Hinata, wait... You, uh... You want to grab a bowl of ramen with me sometime?"
"You mean... just the two of us?"
"Sure! My treat!"
"You mean it?"
He flashed a grin and flexed his bicep. "I never go back on my word. That's my nindo, my ninja way!"
"I'd like that, Naruto-kun. Good night."
"Good night, Hinata."
Hinata entered her house and Naruto started his walk back to his training grounds. He looked up at the starry night sky and realized Hinata was right. It was too lovely a night to keep to oneself...