Characters: Hinata, Naruto, Sasuke
Prompt: This one was taken from the Apples to Drabbles meme on LJ. The prompt is Clueless.
Hinata simply didn't understand.
It wasn't as though she hadn't tried. But it seemed unfathomable to her that everything she'd done up until now had flown right over Naruto's head. Either that, or he was purposely playing dumb simply because he didn't like her back and wanted to avoid hurting her feelings.
"No," Ino denied flatly. "He really is that dumb."
Hinata made an injured noise on his behalf. Ino ignored it and pushed a bouquet of red roses across the counter.
"These are about as subtle as a brick to the face," she said. "If he doesn't get the message, you need to consider moving on, Hinata. Really."
Hinata thanked her and scurried out of the shop with the bouquet.
An hour later, she intercepted Naruto on his way to the ramen shop and shoved them into his face.
"Oh, hey Hinata," he greeted, smiling and brushing the flowers out of his face. "What's up? Who're the flowers for?"
Hinata stammered something and turned five shades of red before managing to get the words out. "T-They're...they're for you, Naruto-kun."
He blinked. "Me?"
She nodded fervently.
He looked bewildered for a moment. Then a flash of understanding came over his face and he snapped his fingers. "Ohhh. These are for when I was in the hospital a couple of days ago, right?"
Hinata blanched. He took them from her and grinned sheepishly. "Ah, it was stupid. Chouji challenged me to a milk-drinking contest and I got diarrhea like you wouldn't believe. They had to give me an IV and everything. They even-hey, where are you going? Hinata?"
Her situation was grievously pitiful. People she didn't even normally talk to began taking notice and giving advice.
"Naruto is a little dense," Kakashi said kindly to her when he'd bumped into her hiding behind the bookstore alley. "A normal person would have filed a restraining order on you by now."
Hinata was abashed by this, not to mention a little discouraged.
"No worries," Kakashi said, seeing the look on her face. He reached into his pocket and withdrew two movie tickets. "Gai invited me to go see this, but he overdid it with the curry and put himself in the hospital."
Hinata shyly accepted them from him. "Um, thank you. D-Do you think...?"
Kakashi rubbed his chin and nodded. "Hopefully. If a girl treats a guy to dinner and an action movie on the first date, it usually means she's a keeper."
Hinata smiled. "Okay. I-I'll try."
Naruto did not seem to understand her intentions when she walked into the middle of his training the next day and held the tickets out in front of him.
Kakashi stood by, nodding his encouragement. Sasuke also stood there and looked between the two of them—at Naruto's bemused expression and Hinata's red face. Understanding dawned on him immediately.
"Gross," he muttered.
"Are you giving these to me?" Naruto asked in surprise.
Hinata nodded meekly. "I, um, d-don't...don't normally like action movies, but I thought...maybe...if you..."
Naruto's eyes brightened and he happily swiped them from her hand. "Wow! Seriously? Thanks, Hinata! You're the best! I'm gonna go ask Sakura if she wants to see this!"
Then Naruto ran off.
There was a stunned moment of silence.
"Hmm," Kakashi said, scratching his head. "Seems I overestimated him. Sorry."
If it had been in his nature, Sasuke would have broke down crying at the absolutely devastated expression on Hinata's face. But because he'd seen this scenario play out a hundred times before and was frankly disgusted by the entire thing, he stalked over to her.
"That's it," Sasuke said to her. "I'm sick of this. Tomorrow, come out here and tell that idiot exactly what I'm about to tell you."
Hinata was too frightened of Naruto's friend to disagree so she merely nodded and listened.
Sasuke said four words. The four easiest, simplest words a human being could understand. A look of hope dawned on Hinata's face as she repeated them back and Sasuke nodded.
"All right," she said shakily, mustering a brave smile. "I'll try."
The next day, Hinata appeared at the training grounds minutes before Naruto and Sasuke arrived for their exercise. She hid behind her usual tree, watching them and waving back when Kakashi raised a hand in her direction.
At last, it was time.
She emerged from behind the tree, poking her fingers together. Naruto was leaning against a post, drinking from his water bottle as she approached.
As she walked up to him, she caught the eyes of the two men nearby. Kakashi smiled and flashed a thumbs up. Sasuke crossed his arms and nodded.
Hinata took a deep breath and stopped directly in front of Naruto.
He noticed her a second later and smiled. "Oh, hi Hinata! What are you doing here?"
Hinata stared at him like a deer in the headlights. She felt the impulse to turn tail and run, but the sight of Sasuke threateningly brandishing a kunai at her quickly vanquished that thought.
She would not answer Naruto's question. She would simply say what she'd been rehearsing all night. Just four. Simple. Words.
"Naruto-kun..." she began, her voice faint. She squeezed her eyes shut and blurted the rest out. "I really like you!"
Her voice rang throughout the clearing. Birds were started into flight. A still silence descended upon the grounds. Hinata felt her shoulders slacken with relief, a feeling of sheer euphoria blossoming through her.
When she opened her eyes, Naruto was staring at her, visibly startled. Then a big grin split his face and he slapped her on the back with enough force to make her stumble.
"I like you, too, Hinata-chan! Say, you wanna train with us?" he bent closer, voice dropping into a whisper. "Can you teach me some of your moves? I need a surprise attack to kick Sasuke's ass."
Hinata looked up at him in utter dismay. Then she turned around and ran.
"Well, that was painful," Kakashi remarked.
"Hinata?" Naruto called confusedly. "Hey, Hinata!"
There was no answer.
Naruto turned to see that Sasuke had walked up beside him.
Sasuke slapped him across the face, sending him sprawling to the ground.
"You're a fucking dumbass," Sasuke said.