So, for those who read my Ichigo/Orihime fic, One Lonely Saturday, this is the Naruto/Hinata fic I promised you. For those who haven't read OLS and enjoy the couple of Ichigo and Orihime, I encourage you to check it out.

Disclaimer: Don't own it.

"Well done," Tsunade congratulated, "Teams Kakashi and Kurenai, due to your success in the mission to retrieve Uchiha Sasuke before he murdered Uchiha Itachi, I grant you each enough vacation time to forget all about this ugliness." Most everyone smiled at this, but Naruto noted she seemed to be a bit… nervous. In intervals of a few seconds, she would glance out her window, craning her neck in hopes of some unknown visitor's arrival, and then promptly swiveling her head back towards the eight shinobi, a sigh escaping her lips.

"Are… are you alright, Tsunade-baachan?" Naruto asked.

"Hm?" brow raised, she waved him off. "No, no, I'm fine. You've got your best friend back, right? You go out and –"

But suddenly, an ANBU soldier slid his way through the open window and knelt down. "Hokage-sama," he said, speaking rapidly, "I have an urgent message to deliver."

"From whom?" she asked.

"From… one of the elder toads of Mount Myoboku," the ANBU answered. This resonated only with Tsunade and Naruto, who knew that that particular mountain had been the source of all Jiraiya's training with his frogs.

"Deliver your message," Tsunade ordered, her tone much more timid than before.

"Yes ma'am." Retrieving a small piece of paper from his pocket, he cleared his throat and began. "An undetermined amount of time prior to the delivery of this message, Jiraiya-sama was met in combat with the leader of Akatsuki, a man known to the world only as Pain. After some analysis, Jiraiya-sama sent the information directly to here in hopes that we would receive it and destroy Pain and Akatsuki. After doing so, however…" the ANBU's voice diminished, "Jiraiya-sama was brutally murdered by Pain."

Naruto's heart stopped. Ero-sennin? Dead? It didn't seem possible and as such, Naruto's first instinct, thankfully not selected, was to laugh. Naruto had always taken his existence as a constant, as one of the few stable things in his life. He was one of the Sannin. He was incredibly strong; strong enough to take a full-on blast from Naruto's own four-tailed transformation and live. He'd acted like Naruto's crazy, drunken, sex-obsessed father for three years, but he was still a damned father.

"Understood," Tsunade replied quietly a short while later. "You may leave." With a nod, the ANBU was off, leaving no evidence of his arrival but for one small slip of paper on the desk.

"That's it?" Naruto wondered aloud after the black ops member was gone. "You say, 'Undestood,' and that's it? You just let Ero-sennin's death just wash over you? Tell me, do you have a heart of fucking stone?"

"Naruto!" Sakura chastised, "You musn't speak to Tsunade-sama lik-"

"Shut up, Sakura-chan!" Naruto roared, Sakura awed in fear, "I'll talk to this hag the way I want! So tell me, hag, do you have any idea what he thought of you?"

"Naruto," Tsunade piped up, nearly at a whisper, "It is not the issue of the Hokage-"

"He loved you, you know that?" Naruto bellowed in fury, "He utterly fucking loved you! He told me, so many nights, that no woman he'd met was as beautiful as you, o-or as enchanting, or whatever the hell you want! And you know something else? He was a great guy, and you just had to keep turning him down because you're too stuck-up to see past you own nose!"

"Naruto-kun…" Hinata muttered, saddened by Naruto's words.

"Shut up…" Tsunade murmured, her back to Naruto.

"Don't tell me to shut up! You know it as well as I do, that he-"

"I said shut up!" she cried, and whipped around to face both teams, revealing the tears cascading down her reddened cheeks. "You're right. You're absolutely right. I… I shouldn't have turned down his advances, I shouldn't have had my own pride… he was… he was wonderful, and I didn't get to tell him. I'm a failure…" she fell to her knees with a thud, the rivers of tears flowing even more forcefully. "I couldn't save him. I'm a failure as a ninja, a failure as a woman, and a failure as Hokage… I should have been the one to die, not him… oh, God, not him…"

Her sobs echoed around the room as Shizune and Sakura knelt beside her. Naruto sighed and started towards the exit. "Just… make sure you give him a damned good funeral, okay?" he said, and, not even checking that she had nodded, left the building. A few seconds later, Hinata hurried after him.

His destination hadn't been planned, yet his legs had taken him to the only place he would have thought: The old training ground, the place where he first became a true shinobi. With a sigh, he plopped himself down at the trunk of a tree, closing his eyes and breathing deep the scent of the land: the woods, the grass, the dirt… the glorious flowers? Lids flipping open, he noticed Hinata standing over him, concerned.

"Hinata?" he asked, "What are you doing here?"

"I-I… I thought you didn't s-seem to b-be okay… I just wanted to check up on you," she replied, forcing at once with all her might to not blush and to not faint.

"Oh," he said plainly. Patting the earth next to him, he said, "Come. Sit with me."

Hinata was grateful for this for two reasons: One, she really did love Naruto's company and to sit next to him would be a dream, and two, she felt her legs were going to give out any moment. "Are… are you s-sure?"

"Yeah, I could use the company right about now."

Slowly, she set herself beside him, both exhilarated and frightened by their proximity. "… Jiraiya-sama was a great man," she said eventually despite the fear in her heart that her words would backfire.

Naruto grinned in nostalgia. "He was a stupid, drunken, perverted oaf. But he… he was always a good person, always honorable. He always wanted what was best for the village, the country, or even the world." Naruto's expression plummeted to a sorrowful scowl. "So much so that he sacrificed his life for us… for me. I'm gonna miss him."

"I'm sorry," Hinata whispered, "But if you… if you n-need anything, I… I'm here for you." She turned away to hide her enormous blush, certain that he'd laugh or yell at her.

Instead, he reached a hand out and grasped her shoulder, sending a burst of electricity through her mind. "Thank you, Hinata," he said tenderly. "I know… Sakura-chan will be busy with Tsunade-baachan and Sasuke… I thought I would be alone. But if you're here, I think it'll be better." Hinata could scarcely breathe at these words. "You're a good friend, Hinata, and a fine person."

"Thank you," she breathed, and, though it felt like snapping her own neck, turned back and smiled at him.

"Well," he said, standing and patting the dust off himself, "What do you say we go have some ramen, eh? My treat."

"N-Naruto-kun, I think that would be… I would… I would like that!" she finally managed to squeak out.

His toothy (and goofy) smile restored, he extended his palm to her. She was briefly stunned, paralyzed by the opportunity to even brush her beloved's hand, but, gaining newfound confidence, grasped his arm, letting herself be pulled up. "Great," he said, starting to lead them to Ichiraku, "Then let's get going."

Before they could take another step, however, another ANBU soldier leapt in front of Naruto. "Uzumaki Naruto," he said promptly, "I have been assigned to deliver these to you." Displaying what appeared to be a paper handbag, he continued, "These were the items that Jiraiya-sama intended to bequeath you in the event of his death." Before Naruto could ask what they were, the masked soldier was off in a puff of smoke.

"What… what is it?" Hinata asked, peering into the bag. She easily could have used her Byakugan, but didn't want to intrude.

"I'm not sure…" Tentatively, Naruto opened the bag slowly. A part of his mind feared that he would find porn in this bag and Naruto really didn't want to have his inheritance be that in front of Hinata.

However, inside were not pornographic books, but instead, a small book and a few messages on separate slips of paper. "An Icha-Icha book?" Naruto muttered under his breath, "I've read all of them… this doesn't seem to be a new one." Checking the publishing date, he discovered the book was released a few months before Naruto was born.

The title caught his widening eye: "The Tale of the Gallant Naruto."

Hinata had noticed it too. "What does this mean, Naruto-kun?" she asked quietly.

"I don't have a clue…" Naruto was shocked. His name wasn't very common; he knew that… there was a note scribbled under the title inside the book:

"To Minato and Kushina – Hope the baby's coming along well, and I hope you enjoy this novel, even though most didn't… Well, have a good time, anyway. Sincerely, Jiraiya-sensei."

Minato? Kushina? Naruto didn't know these people at all… but why did he refer to himself as Jiraiya-sensei? And why was the main character named Naruto, for that matter? Excited, he moved on to the notes. The first one said,

"Jiraiya-sensei – I don't know why your book wasn't liked! I loved it, personally. It was a great read, something to pass along the time while I make all these heavy decisions for the village… and I really liked that main character… come on over and we'll talk about it. Kushina and I have something important to ask of you. Ever your faithful student, Namikaze Minato."

Namikaze. A last name. One of Jiraiya's students, he was in a position of power. If only he knew more about this Kushina person, Naruto thought, it would definitely make more sense. Hinata had read the note as well and watched as Naruto, so tense his hands were vibrating, snatched the second note, written in a nicer, curvier handwriting than the last two messages. It read,

"Jiraiya-sama – I'm glad you accepted the responsibility, as the one who named him. Really, as Minato said, I can't think of a better person for the position. Thank you so much. Grateful, Uzumaki Kushina."

Naruto felt his brain explode. He mouthed, "Uzumaki," unaware of the look of shock Hinata wore. As though a system of stopped cogs were suddenly forced roughly into function, the pieces clicked in Naruto's head.

Jiraiya had been the teacher of the Fourth Hokage, the strongest ninja to ever live. His name was Namikaze Minato. He had a wife, or at least a lover, with whom he was having a baby, and her name was Uzumaki Kushina. Jiraiya had written a book before writing the popular Icha-Icha series, a book with a main character named Naruto. Minato had loved the main character, loved him enough to want his son to be like him and thus… thus… he had Jiraiya christen him as Naruto. As the giver of his name… this made Jiraiya…

"Oh my God," said Hinata, having reached the conclusion long before Naruto had.

"He was my godfather," said Naruto, eyes blank. The second major blast of information hit him immediately after. "I… Oh my God, I'm the son of the Fourth Hokage! Namikaze Minato was my father, and, and… Uzumaki Kushina was my mother!" The myriad of implications of this epiphany raced in his head at extreme speeds, paining his brain. "There's gotta be something else," he panted, rummaging in the bag for something, anything that would bring these thoughts to a point. His fingers managed to clutch one last slip, his last hope for this chaos that had been wrought upon his life. Barely able to concentrate, he scanned the paper:

"Naruto – If you are reading this, then I'm dead and you've just received the two notes and my first book ever. Ahh, knowing you, you won't be too sad, right? I hope not, anyway. Well, in any case, what I've given you is information on your father, Namikaze Minato, or as you may better know him, the Fourth Hokage. He was a fine man; popular, strong, kind, it's no wonder why old man Sarutobi chose him over Orochimaru for the title of Hokage. You also may have guessed that Uzumaki Kushina, his wife, is your mother. From the former Whirlpool Country, she was one of the most beautiful shinobi in the land… she was like you, in terms of personality and jutsu, and she loved Minato very, very much. He felt the same. I've left a picture of them between pages two twenty-seven and two twenty-eight."

He hadn't finished reading the sentence for a second before he re-clamped his hand around the book and opened it as gently as he could with his shaking hands. "Two twenty-seven," he muttered, flipping the pages. Finally, he reached the desired page and found a slightly faded photograph with a man he recognized from the Hokages' Faces standing with his arm around a gorgeous, brightly red-haired woman. Both wore bright smiles and, from their attire, Naruto guessed that this was on their wedding day. "Mom… dad…" he muttered, and he quickly returned to Jiraiya's note.

"I'm sorry I or anyone else didn't tell you… but the power of the Nine-tailed Fox, while it gives you an incredible boost to your already wonderful potential, it makes it hell for you to improve and you don't need anyone expecting you to live up to the Fourth's reputation. I tried to do my best to watch over you, to be the best godfather I could be, but that's just another failure on my life, I guess. I know you'll end up as the strongest Hokage in history, even stronger than your father, just never give up, not even if the whole world is against you. Well, I guess this is goodbye, Naruto. Have a good life. – Ero Sennin."

Naruto's hands had turned ghostly white. They had stopped shaking, instead clutching the paper with stone fingers. Jiraiya's words swam in his head in a dizzying effect. He could feel the tears falling. He turned to Hinata, picture in hand. "Hinata," he whimpered, "These are my parents."

"Naruto-kun…"

"I've always thought I've been alone for my entire life…" Naruto said, trembling, "but I wasn't, for however briefly."

"If it's worth anything," Hinata said, bravely resting a hand on his wrist, "Y-you've always had… m-me." She handed him a handkerchief from under her jacket. "Here."

Surprised by her words, he took the cloth and dabbed his eyes. "Thanks. You know something, Hinata?" He returned the cloth. "You're great. Really, really great. Now come on," he said, taking her hand and once again unknowingly zapping her with what felt to her like a thousand volts, "Let's go eat… to the memory of my mother, my father, and Jiraiya."

"O… okay!" she agreed, and left with him to eat some ramen, completely dazed from the compliment he'd just paid her.

-------------------------------

It had a year since that day, Hinata recalled, the day that ignited the closeness of her and Naruto's relationship. As Naruto had predicted, Sakura had spent most of her time either rebuilding her relationship with Sasuke or serving Tsunade in the hospital. As a result, Naruto ended up spending more and more time with Hinata, and the two had come to know each other extremely well. Hinata, of course, was ecstatic because of this. She'd managed to keep her fainting to a minimum, to quell her blushes, and even completely erase her stutter. She felt comfortable around him, more so than she did around anyone else.

She had been picking flowers in the woods, which happened to be near their old woods, as they now called the meeting place in which Naruto had discovered his heritage, when she had strolled down memory lane. Naruto had dealt with the knowledge of his lineage quite well, thanks in part, Hinata hoped, to her efforts. He hadn't changed at all due to this discovery and hadn't told anyone aside from Hinata. Instead, he merely took pride in the identity of his father and mother, researching the Fourth and finding out as much as he could about Kushina. It felt to him there was finally some validation to his life.

Hinata sniffed the flowers she held in her basket, fondly remembering when Naruto had told her she had the scent of beautiful flowers, giving Hinata a blush so forceful that steam rose from it. The flowers she'd collected now gave off a beautiful fragrance, so fresh with life. This, combined with her memories and the absolutely glorious day it was outside, placed a great smile upon her face.

She recalled when Naruto had discussed the relationship between Jiraiya and Tsunade, how both had felt something for each other but had never really admitted it. Sure, Jiraiya had asked Tsunade out on various occasions, but he went and slept with woman after woman, so it didn't seem like he really wanted her. She, rejecting him all those times, had portrayed the same image. "I just don't understand it," Naruto had said over a bowl of Ramen, "How can two people, or even one person feel that way and not say anything? It's like those two were just lying to each other…"

Hinata's face fell. If he found out she loved him, would he be angry? Would he consider it lying too? Resolute, she told the sky, "Then I'll do it," and raised a clenched fist. "I'll ask him out today." Her smile had returned, and she hummed a simple but hopeful tune as she searched for more flowers.

Suddenly, as if to spite her, clouds rolled onto the sky and immediately, pounding rain careened toward the earth. Sighing, Hinata muttered, "Byakugan!" and began searching for a nearby cave. Locating her objective, she quickly hurried into it, leaning against the wall of the entrance, disappointed at the weather. It had been such a good day, too… Well, at least she had her flowers. She'd surely show them to Naruto later, and he would enjoy them with her.

Before she could sit down, she felt a needle in her neck, and the pressure of something rushing from it into her. She tried to remove the offending needle, but her arms and legs were numb, leaving her barely able to stand as she dropped her basket, the flowers spilling out. Her Byakugan wouldn't activate. She felt like she was suffocating, completely bound by invisible ropes.

Things started to go dark as she heard a creepy, rumbling voice whisper directly into her ear, "My, my… sweet little Hyuga Hinata, wandering all alone in the rain… and picking flowers? How sweet." She felt his hand creep up her chest, pausing to squeeze her breast, and then stopping at her jacket's zipper. She wanted to scream, but her voice would not sound, and as such, tears flowed from her pupil-less eyes, the feeling of being violated ripping through her. Having undone her zipper, he moved to her pants, agonizingly slowly pulling down the waist.

Hinata tried to scream again, but once more found it futile. "Don't worry, my little flower-girl," he whispered languidly into her ear, "You'll find that soon, you won't feel anything at all."

"Naruto-kun," she thought instinctively, "Help…" her last sight was that of her flowers, trampled on the ground, ruined by the unknown attacker.

-----------------

"Alright, what the hell is going on?" Naruto roared, meeting Sakura, Shizune and Tsunade in the hospital corridor. "I got a note saying Hinata's in trouble. Why?"

The three women looked from to each other and finally, Sakura nodded. Reaching a hand to Naruto's shoulder, she said, "I don't know how to tell you this, exactly… but it seems Hinata has been…" she strained to get out the last word, "… raped."

The sentence didn't click with him. "… What?" he asked blankly.

"A chuunin scouting a training ground found her inside a cave this afternoon… it appeared she'd been there for quite some time. She was unconscious and her clothes were torn to the point of indecency. He brought her in, and when we examined her, we found she had a great deal of damage around her pelvis. Her wrists were completely stained with rope burn, and she was covered with…" Sakura tried to determine a way to put this gently, "Her fluids."

"… How is she now?" Naruto asked, eyes widened by this horrifying tale.

"She's still asleep; the guy had apparently given her a strong muscle relaxant and sedative. We would try to counteract it, but it's non-lethal, there seem to be no further effects, and we fear any treatment may aggravate her condition."

Naruto was furious: He felt his claws and fangs grow, his whisker marks thicken, and his eyes inflame with rage. "Where… is the guy?" he asked through forcibly steady breathing.

Sakura's expression worsened. "We… haven't found him," she told him regretfully.

"What?!" Naruto raged, grinding his teeth at Sakura.

"We had Kiba analyze his scent, but it was difficult to separate from Hinata's. After that was done, he transmitted it to Kakashi-sensei and he scent the Ninken out to find him. They haven't yet come back."

"Where is she?"

"She's in this room," Sakura answered, pointing to the one next to them, "But I don't think it's a good idea for you to-"

"Get out of my way!" he bellowed and forced his way into the room. His fox traits vanished instantly as his anger faded, replaced by incredible sorrow. "Hinata…" he groaned, approaching her. She was pale, paler than usual, a complete, though faded, white.

"I'm sorry," said Tsunade, patting his shoulder gently. "There… there was nothing you could do."

"I could have… I could have protected her," he moaned feebly.

"No, Naruto," she said gently, "Despite your kagebunshin, you can't be everywhere at once."

He wasn't convinced, and pulled a chair to sit by Hinata's unconscious form. "Hinata," he whispered, grasping her frigid hand, "I'm here for you."

Weakly, she moaned in her sleep, "Naruto-kun…"

Watching his surprise, Shizune informed, "She's been moaning your name every so often…"

"She must think I'm a failure too," he replied, to Shizune's disappointment.

"I'm sorry, Naruto," said Sakura, "But visiting hours are over. You can come back tomorrow."

"Fine," he said, and, with a heaving sigh, lifted himself from the chair. Giving one last mournful glance at the girl on the bed, he dejectedly let himself be escorted out by Sakura.

"Naruto," she said gently as they walked out of the hospital, "You really have to understand that this isn't your fault! Bad things… they just happen, you know? It's tragic, but we can't always stop them."

Naruto really didn't feel like debating this with her, so merely gave the reply, "I know. Thanks." Seeing a bit of relief cross her features, he added, "Listen, I'm sorry, but I don't think I'm gonna be able to make dinner tonight with Kakashi-sensei and Sasuke. Let them know for me, will you?"

"I understand," she responded softly. She gave him an encouraging smile before saying, "She'll be okay, Naruto. I'll see you later," and walked back towards the hospital.

He waved to her before beginning the stroll back to his apartment. "Oh, Hinata…" he breathed, removing his forehead protector and rubbing his temples. What a world this was… it was an absolute atrocity for such a thing to happen to anyone, but Hinata? She was special. She was innocent, pure… Naruto was certain she didn't have a malicious thought in her mind.

Without even thinking, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the only other picture besides his team's that he carried. It was of him and Hinata, on one of the numerous days they'd spent together in the past year. That day, after a hearty lunch, they'd found an excitable little man on the street taking and selling photographs of people who said he couldn't resist taking a picture of the two of them. And so, arm in arm, dopey smiles on both, Hinata and Naruto posed for the camera, purchasing the picture at a small fee.

His heart swelled and ached with the photo. They had been so happy that day, the two friends. And what had become of her? Some sick bastard's undeserving prey? Naruto couldn't wait for Kakashi's hounds to find the son of a bitch so that Naruto could rip him apart, piece-by-piece, until he felt ten times the despair he'd caused Hinata.

Finally, Naruto had reached his apartment. Turning the key inside the lock, he swiftly entered and collapsed on his bed. Hours passed as he tossed and turned, reviewing every part of the day, praying for sleep to come so that he could visit her once again the next day…

He kept his promise, meeting Shizune outside Hinata's room the next day. "Hey, can I go in?" he asked, heading for the entrance.

"Yes, Naruto-kun…" Shizune answered, opening the door, "She woke up hours ago, but… she's refused to eat anything."

The two entered the room to find a nurse attempting to feed Hinata what appeared to be a fruity mush with a spoon. "Please, Hinata-san… you have to eat!" Hinata refused, shaking her head slowly.

The nurse stood and walked to Naruto and Shizune, "I can't seem to make her eat," she whispered, "We'll have to feed her through an IV."

"Give me the food," said Naruto, softly but sternly. Taking the bowl in hand, he added, "Now step aside," and slowly made his way toward Hinata's bed.

Hearing footsteps, Hinata looked towards the source and upon recognizing it, her eyelids shot open. "Na…ruto…kun?" she croaked, her voice weak.

"Hey, Hinata," he replied gently. "It's good to see you."

"Don't… look at me," she muttered, turning back away from him.

"What? But Hinata, I-"

"Don't look at me!" she shrieked and buried her face in her pillow, sobbing.

Exhaling, he once again took his seat beside her and muttered, "Okay. If you want, I won't look at you." She uncovered her tearstained face, and he held out a spoonful of mush. "I need you to eat this." Shifting a bit, she did not look him in the eye, but allowed her face to be seen. "I…" he said, emphasizing the word, "need you… to eat this." She hesitated for but a moment before opening her mouth ever so slightly. "There we go," he muttered, lifting the spoon to her mouth, allowing her to swish the mush around for a bit before she swallowed it.

The nurse stood in awe next to Shizune. "I… I can't… how did he do it? I've been trying to get her to eat all morning!"

Shizune had too been stymied initially, but now understood. "Of course… We've been saying, 'You must eat, you have to eat or else,' but… that isn't what she needs. She can't handle being coerced like that… Instead, Naruto-kun told her that she's needed… that she has worth, even if it's something that small."

"But how…?" the nurse asked, "How could he have known that, how could he have understood her?"

"It's because he knows, knows that pain," answered Shizune, "The pain of being alone."

"Hiashi, you can't just barge in there!" came Tsunade's voice suddenly from the hall, alarming the occupants of the room.

"I'll do what I want, Hokage-sama, this is my daughter!" Hiashi roared back, barging into the room with Neji and a few other Hyuuga guardsmen, Tsunade trailing behind.

"F… Father," she breathed as he scrutinized her, bearing a scowl.

He turned away and Hinata felt her throat start to close. "I see," he said to Tsunade, "So it is true. She has let herself be ruined." Hinata felt her blood solidify.

A vein throbbed in Tsunade's forehead. "What do you mean, 'let herself be ruined'? How could you say that about your own daughter?"

"Daughter?" Hiashi asked coldly, brow raised, "I have no daughter."

Aside from their barely visible appearance, the clear liquid on Hinata's face gave no evidence for its existence aside from the escaping her lips, audible only by Naruto.

"Hiashi-sama," Neji started, "How could you? Hinata-sama is-"

"Silence, Neji!" Hiashi shouted, wielding the handseal for Neji's cursed one in a threatening manner. "Remember your place, lest you suffer the consequences!"

Neji, fists balled and teeth gritted, grumbled, "Yessir."

"Hiashi, I don't know what the hell you're playing at," Tsunade yelled, "but Hinata does not deserve being disowned!"

"Hokage-sama, you have no place in the affairs of the noble clans," Hiashi responded cruelly. "As the head of the clan, what I decide to do with that failure is of my concern alone."

Naruto shot up, enraged. "You son of a bitch!" he roared, meeting Hiashi face to face, snatching his collar. "You're the sickest, most coldhearted asshole I've ever met, and I've met quite a lot! Hinata is a wonderful person, and I don't care what clan you lead, I don't even care if you're the king of the goddamned world! You don't have the right to take away her freedom!"

"Hmm," said Hiashi impassively, "You must not want that hand, brat."

Baring his fangs at Hiashi, Naruto growled, "God damn you-" but stopped as he felt Tsunade taking hold of his arm.

She looked sadly into his eyes. "Stop. You'll only make things worse." Naruto, calmed by her tone, released Hiashi's collar.

"Good move, Hokage-sama," Hiashi said, turning to leave, "If you hadn't intervened, I wouldn't have been responsible for the Kyuubi brat's fate." With that, Hiashi and the rest of the Hyuuga left, Neji giving a regretful parting look towards Hinata.

"We'll do everything in our power for Hinata," Tsunade told the anguished Naruto. "We'll keep her here in the hospital until she's recovered."

"No," said Naruto with a shake of his head, "I'll take her. She'll stay at my place."

"Naruto-kun, I must strongly advise against this-" Shizune began.

"I'll allow it," Tsunade cut through, "I believe you can take good care of her."

"Thanks, baachan," he said, and moved for the door. "When you can release her?"

"Today," said Tsunade, "I've had Sakura and Shizune – my best people – heal her, so she's okay, as far as her wounds are concerned. As for her mental health… for whatever reason," Tsunade did not want to give away Hinata's obvious feelings for Naruto, "She feels she a strong connection with you and you alone. You're all she has, Naruto. Don't screw this up."

"I won't," he said, turning the knob of the door and exiting. "I'll meet her at the front door."

A few hours later, Hinata, clad in her washed and repaired clothing, emerged from the hospital with Sakura at her side. "Here she is, Naruto," Sakura said, leading Hinata to him. "Make sure she drinks a lot of liquid, gets plenty of rest… and please… take good care of her, okay?"

"I don't go back on my way, remember?" he said, with the best grin he could muster under the circumstances. "Alright… come on, Hinata," he held out his hand toward her, "Let's go." She did not accept his hand, nor did she look at him; her head remained sculpted to face the ground. A sting at his heart, he retracted his hand. "Alright. Then… let's go. We'll see you around, Sakura-chan."

"See you," Sakura replied and watched as Naruto and Hinata walked off.

As they walked, Naruto noticed Hinata's posture: in addition to her neck craned down, she was completely slumped over, her hands fastened together, which in turn caused her shoulders to be completely hunched together; even her knees kept bumping from her pigeon-toed stance.

"She's automatically shut her body up, so that the world can't get to her… God, I have to do everything I can to help her!" Naruto thought, his confidence renewed. "She's the only person who's ever accepted me as I am! I've never had to prove anything to her… she gave me my confidence back when I fought Neji, she helped me bring Sasuke back... She's always understood me. I owe it to her to help her through this, no matter what it takes!"

As Naruto flicked on the lights to his apartment he looked around. "Well, here it is… It's not much, but I hope you'll be okay with it." He took her a few steps around the small apartment, reaching the bed. "Here's where you'll be sleeping… I'll take the couch." Leaning over the mattress, he fluffed up the pillow and pulled back the blanket. "There. All set."

Taking the hint, Hinata laid herself down seemingly without acknowledging Naruto's existence or actions. As soon as she had settled in, facing the wall, Naruto tucked her in and pulled down the shades, allowing her some rest.

Naruto sat by her side for a good while until he heard her steady breath indicating she was sleeping. Exhaling in relief, he stood and began his quest of systematically removing any and all objects in his possession sharp enough to break the skin. As a shinobi of his caliber, this included all knives, shuriken, and even weapon-summoning scrolls, forcing him to continue this task until the late hours of the night. Finally, after he'd collected the last kunai, he heard a knocking at the door. Answering it, Sakura appeared in his doorway. "Sakura-chan? What are you doing here?" he asked, puzzled.

She held a few large bags, each containing various items: "I'm here to give you these," she said, placing the bags inside. "Two contain some clothing for her… I figured she'd need it if she stays here long enough. Sorry if they don't fit perfectly, I tried to guess her size. This one contains ingredients for food, actual food," she said, pointing at a bag filled with several boxes and cartons, "not your perpetually eaten ramen. And last, but not least, I thought I should give you these…" Sakura revealed two wrist bracelets from her pocket. They bore the leaf symbol. "They're chakra-restricting bands. Hinata is a master of the Juuken, to the point where she can sharpen the chakra enough to slice through many sturdy objects. These won't reduce her chakra to a non-functional level, but they will prevent her from refining it to cutting power. In her condition, she might…"

"I know," said Naruto, accepting the bracelets. "Do you happen to have another pair?" he asked.

"Uh, yeah," said Sakura, confused. "I thought in case they break or something, I'd give them to you, but…"

"Can I have them now?"

"Sure, but why?" she asked, handing out the extra pair.

"I have something planned," he said, stowing them in his jacket.

"Well, alright. Just try not to screw up the cooking too much, okay?" she smirked.

"Yeah, yeah," he waved her off, grinning. "I think I can get good at it pretty quickly."

They exchanged farewells and Sakura was off, leaving Naruto with her gifts. The first thing planned, he headed back to Hinata. Lifting her wrists with absolute meticulous precision, he slipped the bands over them, and then proceeded to place the extra pair on his own. His chakra slightly disturbed, Naruto figured he would simply have to get used to that feeling. Next, he carefully laid out a nice outfit for Hinata to wear when she woke up hanging on his dresser and scribbled a short next to it. That done, he picked up one of the packages of food Sakura had left him (pancake mix, incidentally) and muttered, fingers in a cross, "Kagebunshin no Jutsu." Leaving a few to watch over Hinata, Naruto, cramped, sidled out of his apartment, leaving the original pancake box carefully on his dinner table.

For the next several hours, Naruto practiced preparing the food, over and over, gaining exponential experience, until he felt sufficiently skilled at this feat. And so, dispersing his doppelgangers and feeling the now-familiar rush of mental fatigue, he returned yet again to Hinata's side, praying with all his might that her condition would improve when the sun came 'round.

Hinata, meanwhile, suffered as she slept, her subconscious preying on her weakened heart. The hands, those terrible hands! They were everywhere, all over her body, invading every crevice and surface. She was helpless against them, and from every angle came her father's booming voice: "You let yourself be ruined." She was being strangled, suffocating from the pain in her heart and her body. There was no hope, no hope at all…

She awoke, gasping and panting, instinctively covering herself with a blanket. The odd sensation of not knowing where she was hit her like a punch in the face, but she overcame it quickly, realizing, to her dismay, that the last few days were real and that she was no a burden on her beloved Naruto's shoulders. Soon, she realized that Naruto himself had stayed in a seat next to her, watching over her the entire night. Guilt tore at her as his eyes blinked open and he smiled a sleepy grin at her.

"Hey there… you're awake, good," he said, standing up and stretching. "Well… I'll just go and make us some breakfast and you can get changed…"

As he walked out of the room, Hinata wondered what exactly she would change into until she noticed the outfit on the dresser: a light yellow sundress, with a few small frills here and there, accompanied by a white blouse. She picked up the note that rested beside the clothing, reading, "Hinata – I thought these clothes would make you look and feel pretty. – Naruto." She didn't smile, nor did she feel any happiness from this note, just more guilt from the thought that he had gone through more trouble for her. "Worthless," she thought, unzipping her jacket, "Just another worthless chapter in your worthless life."

Naruto stood over his oven, flipping the pancake he'd whipped up, pleased at how it had turned out: He hadn't burned it and he'd managed to cook it until, as the instructions ordered, it was "light and fluffy." Footsteps from the bedroom alerted him to Hinata's presence. With a look, he saw her in the doorway, dressed in the clothes he'd given her, but the carrying herself the same way. Head down, hands compressed, she'd tied her hair back in a long ponytail. Naruto guessed she didn't want her long, silken locks interrupting her meal.

He smiled, though it betrayed his heart. Hurt though he was by her condition, he smiled, hoping that the lack of gloom on his face would spread to her. "Oh!" he said, setting the pancake down on a plate. "You look nice." She did not react, so he created a bunshin to pour her some juice (thankfully bought a only few days before) and another to pour the syrup while he cut her meal. "Well. Dig in," he said, laying out a small, dull, plastic fork and retracting the knife he'd used, lest she misuse it.

Wielding the fork, she noticed for the first time the small bits of cloth around each wrist. But as she raised her arms to examine them, she noticed that Naruto too bore these odd bands. Naruto pretended not to notice. Internally, however, he breathed a sigh of relief that his ruse had worked. Naruto had wielded the principle of "monkey-see-monkey-do": If Hinata saw that if Naruto also wore chakra inhibitors, she would figure they were okay.

After she ate, the day progressed in a similar, silent matter. Naruto attempted, every few moments, to engage her in conversation, trying to see if anything would bring her around, with no success. Hinata stayed resting in her bed mainly, except to use the bathroom.

The next few days did not yield any progress either. It had become a routine for Naruto: Get up, feed Hinata, tend to the house, rest by her side, and repeat. Eventually, Sakura came around to alert him that Team Kakashi had received a mission.

"We can keep Hinata at the hospital until we get back," she assured him.

"No," he said.

"No?"

"No," he repeated. "Tell Tsunade-baachan… I'm retiring."

"From what?" asked Sakura, puzzled.

"From being a shinobi."

Sakura gaped at him. "But… but…"

"No buts."

"But what about your dream? You won't become Hokage!"

"I know," he said, giving her a sad smile. "But this is more important."

Sakura frowned at him. "Alright. I'll tell her," she said, and left.

--------------------------

"So that's it, eh?" Tsunade said as Sakura finished. "That idiot…" She pulled a document from her stack of forms.

"What are you doing, Tsunade-sama?" asked Sakura.

"I'm temporarily removing Naruto and Hinata from their respective teams and giving each of them an indefinite paid vacation." Handing the form to Sakura, she told, "Give this to Shizune, will you? And do me a favor, don't tell the elders about this."

Sakura, an excited smile upon her lips, grabbed the form, answered, "Yes ma'am!" and ran to find her sempai.

------------------------

At the apartment, Naruto stood outside his bathroom, awaiting Hinata so that if anything bad happened, he'd know. He was relatively certain nothing would happen but he'd made sure to take out the shower curtain cord just in case.

Hinata exited her bath, drying off and dressing herself. She was about to leave the room when she caught sight of herself in the mirror. The word "worthless" had rung out in her head constantly ever since her rape, but as she viewed her reflection, it grew a thousand times more terrible. "Worthless…" it hissed, "Worthless, useless whore!" Enraged at her own visage, she raised a fist and struck the mirror, glass shards embedding themselves in her fingers, crimson running thickly from her fingers.

Naruto nearly broke down the door in entering, crying, "Hinata!" at sight of her hand, he gingerly clenched it, immediately taking out some bandages from his pack. "Oh my God, Hinata, I'm so sorry," he said, carefully removing each flake and bandaging her wounds. After the worst of it was patched, he produced a troop of clones to find and alert Sakura of this incident. "I'm so sorry," he repeated, "I was stupid, I forgot to take out the mirror… I failed you. I'm a failure as a person, as your friend… I'm worthless."

"No," she said, so softly that Naruto was not sure she'd said it at all.

"What?"

"You're not," she explained. "You're… a good friend."

Hearing her speak made Naruto ecstatic. Progress! Actual progress! "Hinata," he said, wanting to make absolutely certain, "You… you just spoke." She nodded, looking him in the eye. She didn't say anymore as he escorted her to her bed, nor did she when Sakura arrived and healed Hinata. Luckily, the wound was small enough so that it didn't leave a scar. It was then that Sakura told them of the arrangement Tsunade had fixed, making Naruto smile while Hinata's head merely rose slightly.

Sakura did not miss Hinata's actions and noted that even this minor reaction to another's words marked improvement. She left, giving Naruto a short congratulation

As the days became weeks and soon months, Hinata continued to improve, engaging more and more in conversation and even allowing Naruto to touch her lightly. He would keep a kagebunshin in the house to keep her company when he went out and bought groceries. On one such occasion, he contemplated his and Hinata's relationship. "I think this is the right brand of pancakes she likes… Hmm. She's been doing a lot better as of late," he thought. "She sure is great… Kind, smart, beautiful… a bunch of kunoichi must be jealous of her, and she must be a target for all the guys."

He stopped dead in his tracks. "Oh God. I… I think I want her." His heart started pumping rapidly. "She's been raped and I think about dating her? What the fuck is wrong with me? No, no," he said, shaking his head and calming himself. "Now that I think about it, I must have felt this way about her for a long, long time… I mean, she and I have been spending a lot of time together this year. I've just always had this, this tunnel vision for Sakura-chan, I guess I ignored my own heart. But it doesn't matter. I can't tell her, not while she's like this. Oh well. At least I'm helping her get better…" Despite all of Hinata's improvement, however, one thing was still missing…

"So, Hinata," said Naruto, chewing some ramen while Hinata munched her rice. "What do you say we head out and get some groceries today?"

Hinata paused before saying, "I… I don't… I can't, Naruto-kun," she said, taking her gaze away from him. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be," he said, gripping her hand, "If you're uncomfortable, I can wait." She blushed a little and the corners of his mouth curved up. Naruto was shocked. "Hinata… you… you smiled!"

Her blush deepened substantially as she said, "Naruto-kun… you always make me smile."

Initially a little surprised at this comment, Naruto, grinning, scratched the back of his head sheepishly and replied, "Well, Hinata, you… always make me smile too."

A tomato would envy the color Hinata became. She found herself breathing heavily as she stared into his eyes, his wonderful blue eyes… she felt she could lose herself in them, swim forever in his aqua spheres. She didn't know it, but Naruto loved her eyes as well. Despite their pupil-less state, he adored their lilac centers. She continued to match his gaze until, acting instinctively, she reached over the dinner table and brushed her lips against his ever so lightly.

Naruto found himself in a rare instance of him blushing. Hinata immediately pulled back, waving her arms frantically and screeching, "Oh gosh, I'm so sorry, I don't know what came over me, I just-"

"No," he cut through softly, "It… it's fine. I… liked it."

Her eyes widened as her voice reduced to a whisper. "Y-you did?" He nodded. "Oh, Naruto-kun," she sighed and leaned to him once more, crushing his lips against hers again, but kissing him fully, with all she was. He kissed back, cupping her cheeks and standing, pulling her up with him so that they could be closer.

"Take it slow," he told himself, running his hands down her back, "Be gentle." Soon, however, he found Hinata's tongue forcing its way into his mouth. He was all too eager to reciprocate.

Suddenly, however, a notion struck Hinata so forcefully that her mouth was practically jettisoned from their embrace as she cried. "I-if th-this is just for p-p-pity," she sobbed, "I-I-I'll never forgive you!" The words seared her throat crawling out of her voice box, but she had to say it, to know where she stood once and for all.

Naruto, eyes wide and mouth still open, was speechless for only a few seconds until he uttered, "Hinata… in this past year, I've gotten to know you, your mind, your kindness, your likes and dislikes, everything. Not even taking care of you all this time has changed my mind about this." He leaned in deep, just a hair's width from her nose. "I love you, Hinata. There's no denying it."

Her tears had stopped, but resumed, products of the immense euphoria her heart emanated. She slung her arms around Naruto's neck tightly and closed the gap, driving her tongue inside his mouth yet again. Naruto, as he swept the tears from Hinata's cheeks, felt a similar sense of exhilaration, happily playing with her tongue as she did the same. She started to unzip her jacket, but stopped midway, pulling back again.

"What's the matter?" Naruto asked.

"I… are you sure you want me?" she asked, "I mean, I'm tainted, unchaste… ruined," she finished with a gulp.

Naruto shook his head. "Hinata, I don't care what's happened in the past. I don't care what your father said." Stroking a raven strand, he said, "You're still pure, innocent to me."

Without a word, Hinata once more resumed their pleasure and completely zipped off the jacket, Naruto pointing towards the bedroom. She followed his guidance toward the bed straight away, discarding her jacket and fishnet shirt to the floor. Soon after, his clothes were removed as well, with her pants and underwear joining them. Now, they were stripped down to just their bodies, their raw, passionate forms. It was just then that Naruto recalled a teaching of Jiraiya's…

"Every man should learn to please a woman, Naruto," said a drunk Jiraiya one night after training.

"I don't get it. Why the hell do I need to learn these stupid techniques?" asked an indignant Naruto.

"Imagine you're sent into a territory where you need to seduce a powerful woman!"

"Okay. I'm imagining it. Now what?"

"These techniques will make any woman putty in your hand."

"Ugh. I would really just rather get back to training," Naruto grumbled.

"Okay," said Jiraiya, supercilious, "I guess you don't want to learn how to upgrade your Rasengan, then."

"Fine!" shouted Naruto hotly, "Just teach me the stupid tricks!"

Naruto situated himself above Hinata, inspecting her glorious, voluptuous form.

"These techniques function like the Eight Gates of chakra, except that you perform them on someone else. They can, however be just as dangerous, in the wrong hands."

"Yeah, I'm sure," muttered Naruto, sotto voce.

"What was that?"

"Nothing."

"They act by inserting chakra into your lady's body via a refined chakra blade, finer than that of a syringe. Don't worry. It won't hurt, and the more chakra you put in, the better the effect. The first one, and this is one you'll like, I know, is transmitted through the mouth…"

Naruto focused as hard as he could as he explored Hinata's mouth and, using all the control he could, beamed as great an amount of chakra he could without losing the control into a point in Hinata's mouth. She immediately gasped, eyes wide, and Naruto smiled as he saw her nipples stand erect. "Thanks, Ero-sennin," he thought, "I guess those hours and hours of practicing were worth it after all."

"Wha… what was that?" she panted through a series of labored breaths.

"Just something I picked up," he told her.

"The second one is actually in two places, directed forty-five degrees and five inches down and out from each nipple," Jiraiya explained.

Naruto ran his hands over her breast, taking the opportunity to squeeze them gently, sucking the one tip while toying with the other, and relishing Hinata's pleasured reactions. "Ohhh-hoh-hoh" she moaned, blood rushing from the effects of the first point. Giddy, Naruto followed Jiraiya's instructions as he remembered them, approximating forty-five degrees and blasting an enormous amount of chakra into each node. Hinata shrieked, contorting with sexual ecstasy. Naruto felt his erection pulsate heavily.

"The third one is eight inches directly below her solar plexus. I warn you, Naruto, do not go beyond the third one the first time around."

"Why? What'll happen?"

"The first three are enough to make the woman feel insane with erotic thrill. After that… well, most women can't handle it with anything before the first time, and their minds raise their standards so that they cannot achieve release by anything less than what was provided. And God help you if you go to the eighth and final point…"

"Why… is that?" Naruto asked, almost afraid of the truth.

"It will shatter her mind completely, taking away her freedom and making her your slave so that she will live only to pleasure and be pleasured by you. It's a treacherous thing, and it is the reason these techniques are only taught by the worthy, to the worthy."

"Then what's the point of the eighth one?"

"The mind-shattering can be overcome. If, before the intercourse, the woman loves the man completely and freely, with all her heart and soul, her mind will override the shattering. She will retain her independence, her standards will remain the same, but she will be taken to a place of the highest state a woman can go. Every nerve in her body reacts to the pleasure center of the brain at once. It is something few ever feel and as the man making love to her, you will feel it equally."

These memories made Naruto even more excited. "I can't be too careful," he thought, and counted eight inches from her solar plexus. Mustering all the chakra he could, he forced the energy into the spot. Hinata's body froze for a moment and then began to wildly spasm, her hands grabbing and tearing the sheets.

"Naruto-kun!" she screamed, "Please, I need it now!"

With a few quick seals, Naruto cast a protection jutsu on himself and thrust away at Hinata, each pounding moment sending enough bliss through her to make her writhe even more and it wasn't long until she had an earth shattering climax, over and over, with Naruto following closely behind. Their names rang out to each other, crystallizing the moment in their minds for all eternity.

Eventually, it subsided and he rolled over, holding her tightly to him so that they could fit. "Hinata," he whispered, "I love you."

"I… l-love you too," she answered, gasping for breath," S-so much… an unbel-lieveable amount…"

"I'm so glad you're finally back," he added.

"Me too," she agreed, "Me… too," and promptly fell to sleep.

Naruto watched her drift off before chasing after soon enough.

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Well, that's that for now. This one seemed to write more easily than the last one… wonder why. Well, I hope you enjoyed it, and there will most likely be a second chapter. So, please review! I hate to see a story that is liked but not commented upon! Even a simple "I liked it," will suffice.