The door to the porch slid open and Sora slipped through. "You two making out out here?" she asked, moving to lean against the porch rail, spoon stuck in a carton of Death By Chocolate ice cream.
Naruto snorted from where he was perched on the railing and pulled Hinata closer into his chest as her cheeks colored. "No, we were just talking."
Sora snorted herself. "Yeah, right. You two better get it in now before you head down tomorrow. Because I don't think that Hinata's father is going to be as lenient with you two as I am."
"Lenient?" Naruto scoffed. "What the hell are you talking about? You put a huge picture of the two of us kissing up in the kitchen asking us to 'please control ourselves'."
Sora swallowed another bite of ice cream. "Hey, I said to control yourselves in public. I don't mind if you two suck face as long as I don't have to watch it."
Hinata let out a small 'meep' of embarrassment and buried her face deeper into Naruto's shoulder.
"Hey, cut it out, you're embarrassing Hina-chan!" Naruto yelled, causing Hinata to wince. "Sorry," he added with a rueful smile.
"You two ready to go back?" Sora asked, her voice taking on a more serious tone.
Naruto sighed and looked back out at the mountains. "As ready as we're going to be."
The last five months had proved to be some of the hardest Naruto and Hinata had ever been through. They had gone to Sora and told her they wanted to train harder than ever. They were good, but they needed to get far better if they were going to make Konoha into the place that they wanted it to be and defeat the Akatsuki. Sora had snorted, smiled, and shaken her head.
"Took the two of you long enough; I was expecting this to happen weeks ago," she said. "Come on, let's go talk to Yasu."
"Why?" Hinata had asked as they left the kitchen to go up to Yasu's room, where she had sequestered herself for the past month.
"Because first of all, she needs something to distract her, and helping me train you two is a good idea. Second, she can't train you just staying in that room and she needs to get out of it. Third, because she's still the best jutsu creator I've ever known and she needs to start getting back into the flow of things in terms of research."
"Why does she need to get back into the flow of things in terms of research?" Naruto asked.
"Because eventually she's going to start channeling her grief towards killing the man who did this. She can't go out and hunt them down with Miki, but she can give us the tools to do so."
And when they had found Yasu, she was sitting at the desk in her room, staring at the picture of her, Nori and Miki in front of their house. Miki was at her feet, quietly looking at a book. They both had become entirely too withdrawn since Nori's death, barely even interacting with the rest of the world.
"You," Sora said, pointing to Yasu, "are going to the library with Hinata where the two of you are going to start looking to see if we have anything on the Sharingan. And you missy," she said, picking up Miki off the floor and pushing her into Naruto's arms, "are going with Naruto, where he is going to teach you the first of the Shina-To-Be sets."
"Sora," Yasu said with a warning note in her voice.
"No, Yasu," Sora replied, grabbing her arm and hauling her to her feet. "It's been a month. You need to at least do something, and if we're going to prevent these men from doing this to anybody else, you're going to have to get your ass in gear."
"Doing this to someone else?" Yasu asked, slightly startled, as if the idea that they wouldn't stop at just her husband was surprising.
Sora opened her mouth to speak, but Naruto beat her to it. "If we don't stop them, how many more people will die? We don't even know what their plans are, Yasu. Unless we have your brain working on it, how the hell are we going to figure it out?"
Yasu took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Right."
And so they did. For their final five months on the mountain, the four of them worked harder than they ever had before. They barely ate or slept, training all day and working on creating jutsus with Yasu late into the night. The training itself had taken on a different tone, a more focused, pressured feel. It took Naruto and Hinata a few weeks to realize that it was partially due to the fact that Sora had started training herself as well as them. They were still young and had a lot to learn from her, but something had changed. They were no longer her students as much as they were her training partners.
Yasu refused to go down off of the mountain. She explained to them that she was never going to leave the house and Nori's ashes, buried deep into the side of the mountain. She intended to stay by his side for the rest of her life. Sora tried to explain to her that it was not what Nori would have wanted nor what was best for Miki, but Yasu wouldn't listen.
And so when the time came to pack their bags and return to Konoha, it was only Sora who walked down the stone passage with them. Wrapped in some of the best cloaking jutsus they could find, the three of them made their way back towards the village, keeping off the roads and camping out in the woods.
Every night, wrapped in the same blanket, Naruto held Hinata tightly. Once they got back, she would return to the Hyuuga household, and somehow he didn't think her father would let him spend the night.
Finally, they reached the part of the forest surrounding the village. It was night and the winter wind nipped at their cheeks as they stopped just off the road to say goodbye. The three of them stood there staring at each other, until finally Sora spoke.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "You're going to fail your mission because of me. I'd go back with you, at least for a little while, but Yasu…"
"Eh, it's okay," Naruto said. He hated the idea of failing a mission, and he hated the idea of having his sister walk away even more. But he couldn't bare the idea of Yasu and Miki up on that mountain all by themselves. "You'll come to visit soon, right?" he asked hopefully.
She gave him a half smile. "Just give me a while to get Yasu back on her feet and I'll come for a nice long visit, I promise."
"You better, or I'll come up that mountain and kick your ass!" Naruto exclaimed with a grin.
Sora snorted. "Like you could."
Naruto's grin widened. "Just wait!"
Smiling, Sora wrapped her arms around him to give him a hug. Suddenly she burst into tears. Naruto hugged her tighter, looking over her shoulder at Hinata. The girl just smiled, a stray tear running down her own cheek.
"Hey, hey, what's going on with all this crying?" he asked jokingly.
Sora sniffed and laughed a little at his tone. "I'm sorry, it's just…you're taller than me."
"Huh?" he responded, pulling away slightly to look at her.
"You've grown a hell of a lot in the last three years, kid." She sniffed and reached up to ruffle his hair. "Told'ya you'd reach six feet."
He grinned at her and pulled her back for another quick hug. She squeezed him back and then turned to face Hinata. They smiled at each other and then embraced.
"You're going to stand up for yourself with your father, right?" Sora asked.
Hinata pressed her lips together and nodded. They were both crying, while Naruto looked on awkwardly. Sora sniffed and jerked her head towards Naruto. "You're going to keep him from doing anything too stupid, right?"
With a half smile, Hinata nodded again.
Sora grinned. "You're pretty kick ass now; don't forget it and let people walk all over you."
Naruto snorted behind them. "Like I'm going to let that happen." They all chuckled a little, trying to shake off their sadness.
Finally Sora cleared her throat and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. "All right; well, we can't stand here forever folks. You two scat off to your village and fix it already."
Naruto held out his hand and Hinata slipped hers into his. He squeezed it once before they both turned to say goodbye one last time.
Sora smiled at them, eyes glistening with tears. "You know you're always welcome up at the house. You're both family, you know, so it's basically yours anyway. If this place becomes too unbearable, just come on up. And the two of you better keep in touch; that's what the falcon's are for."
"Don't worry," Hinata said. "I'll write you about everything."
"Good," she nodded and chewed on her bottom lip for a second. Then she took a deep breath and said, "And if you need me for something, just let me know, and I'll come down."
"Eh, we'll be fine," Naruto said.
"But if your not-" Sora started before Naruto interrupted her.
"We'll let you know," he said.
She smiled and choked back another round of tears. "All right, that's it. This time you two really need to get going. I have to get back up to the mountain. I'll send one of the falcons with the rest of your things when I get there."
"Give our love to Yasu and Miki," Hinata said, a few stray tears sliding down her face.
Sora smiled. "I will. Now get going."
They nodded and turned to walk back towards the gates of Leaf. "Bye Nee-chan! See you soon!" Naruto called back over his shoulder.
"Don't get into too much trouble!" Sora yelled back.
She watched them walk down the road that would lead them back to the gates of Konoha. Suddenly her mind flashed back to the day they left, Naruto pulling Hinata along by her arm, anxious to get going.
"I hope you're happy with me, Nanashi, wherever you are," she whispered into the dark. Her eyes filled with tears once again. "Be safe," she wished to the two barely visible forms in front of her.
She turned and headed back towards the mountain.
Naruto and Hinata walked hand and hand back towards Konoha.
Original Author's Notes: And that's the end! The story will continue exactly where it leaves off in the sequel Twice Shy. The first chapter will hopefully be out in a few weeks.
I have so many people to thank! First and foremost to TimeShifter my wonderful friend and beta, who put more time and effort into this than you guys know. I couldn't have done it without him. I am so happy that he will be continuing with me on Twice Shy.
To minimerc, in-character-checker and great author herself who read key chapters and let me know when things were off.
To Aternox for helping me with the Japanese language issues like naming characters and sending me some amazing art of Naruto and Hinata. Check it out at kirisame. Courai who has done some amazing pictures of some of the original characters for Two Halves. Her stuffs at Courei. all the folks over at Kitsune no Hana (particularly NotasuSama and chibified kitsunes) for being incredible cheerleaders while I was writing nasty battle scenes. I wish the forum was still active; it was one of the nicest on the web.
And finally to all of my readers who put up with my excessive numbers of original characters, political textbook type writing, typos and the times I said that Naruto had a wolf demon inside him and that red and blue made green. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Original Trailer for Twice Shy:
Naruto and Hinata return to their home after three years away to find the more things change, the more they stay the same. Many of the problems they had when they left come back to hit them full force, while they try to reintegrate themselves into a village that is different than when they left it. Friends and teammates have grown, new alliances have been formed, and the Jounin test is just over the horizon. And lurking in the shadows are Akatsuki and others who are bent on the destruction of Naruto and everything, and everyone, he loves…
J R LeDoux's Notes: And it's done. I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I did. I will begin posting the sequel tonight. Ja ne.