Title: One Small Step
Author: Shawny Wong
Theme: #3 jolt!
Disclaimer: The characters of Naruto belong to Kishimoto Masashi. This story is written without permission, for fan purposes only. Do not reproduce without permission.
Summary: What if Hinata had actually found the courage to approach Naruto at the Academy? How would befriending him change their lives? Drastic changes are the result of one small step.
Chapter 7: Accidental Kiss
The moment was broken by the arrival of a messenger at the entrance of their garden.
"I am sorry to intrude, Hinata-sama, Hanabi-sama." The messenger bowed low. "Hiashi-sama requests Hinata-sama's presence in his office immediately."
Hanabi shot her sister a worried glance. Their father had not summoned Hinata to see him in years. She might be the youngest in the family, but she wasn't stupid. Every other time he requested Hinata's presence in his office had been to criticize her for failing to live up to his expectations. Hanabi had never been on the receiving end of one of her father's chastisements, but she had eavesdropped on them occasionally and had even been present once or twice. It was always… unpleasant to say the least. This couldn't be anything good. Hinata had been doing so well lately! She had improved her Jyuken. She had won several spars in a row against her peers. Why did their father want to see Hinata now?
"Thank you. I will be there in a moment," Hinata said firmly. The messenger bowed and left having completed his duty. Hinata gave Hanabi a reassuring smile. "Don't worry Hanabi-chan. Everything will be okay."
Now if only she could believe her own words…
"Do you know why you are here?" Hiashi regarded his daughter carefully. She stood with her back straight and with hands clasped in front of her. Though he could find no trace of nervousness in her posture, she would not meet his eyes.
"You have been training under Maito Gai."
"Yes, Father." Hinata did not react outwardly to her father's observation, but the sudden dread in her heart made it hard to speak.
"He is a respected taijutsu specialist – one of the best in Konoha. It is no wonder that you were able to improve under his tutelage. You have finally achieved a passable level of skill in Jyuken."
"Thank you, Father. Gai-sensei is an excellent instructor. Training is his passion."
"You have also done well in your academic studies, both at the Academy and under your private instructors. However, you still have much to learn – especially in the niceties of proper behavior befitting a person of your status. For instance, it is not proper for the Hyuuga heiress to be friends with a penniless orphan."
The blood drained from her face – and she could feel her heartbeat quicken. He knew! Her father knew about Naruto!
"I suppose it is not entirely your fault," Hiashi allowed. "We have neglected your social training in favor of furthering your academic studies and improving your Jyuken. That was a mistake. If you had had more training in the comportment expected of an heiress, then perhaps you might have avoided making such an improper friend.
"The Uzumaki child is nobody. For you to be friends with him implies that he has the nominal approval of our clan. We are one of the most respected clans in the Land of Fire. We have a reputation to uphold – a reputation that does not include associating with the riffraff. Your behavior reflects poorly upon the clan.
"From now on, you will no longer associate with the Uzumaki child."
Despite her recent displays of strength, Hiashi expected immediate compliance to his orders, not defiance. He almost blinked in shock when he heard the softly spoken word…
Hiashi raised an eyebrow. Hinata was clearly afraid. Her stutter was back and her face was as white as a sheet. But she didn't back down. Interesting. When backed into a corner, the kitten revealed its hidden claws again. He wondered how far she would go to protect her friendship with the boy.
"Oh? Perhaps I did not make myself clear enough. I will explain in simpler terms. It is unwise of you to befriend an orphan with no future prospects. I forbid you from seeing Uzumaki Naruto outside of your normal classes at the Academy."
Hinata had a moment of panic. Her greatest fear was coming to pass. She couldn't let her father take Naruto-kun from her! What was she going to do? She had been expecting something like this for years. She was only surprised it had not come sooner. Four years ago, something like this would have crushed her. But four years as Naruto's best friend had rubbed off on her, just a little bit. It was enough. She was prepared to defend the most precious thing she had – her friendship with Naruto – no matter what it took.
Hinata was deathly afraid of her father. But she was more afraid of losing Naruto.
"No, I will not. Naruto-kun has future prospects! He has more potential than anyone else I know! It is unwise of the Hyuuga not to make ties with the future Hokage of this village!" she said fiercely. "Unless you intend to lock me in my room and keep me there by force, I will be friends with Uzumaki Naruto."
In that moment with her eyes blazing, Hiashi was jolted by just how strong his frail daughter appeared.
Once Hinata started she couldn't seem to stop – and words spilled from her heart to her mouth, completely bypassing her head.
"Naruto-kun is a strong ninja. Because of him I can become a strong ninja, too. It was his idea for us to train with Gai-sensei in the first place. It is his encouragement that makes me stronger, not because he can teach me new techniques or skills, but because he believes in me. Whenever I make a mistake, or fail, he's there to pick me up and tell me I did great! Even when I fail! He tells me that the next time I will definitely get it right. Unlike this family, Naruto-kun believes in me. Unlike this family, Naruto-kun never gave up on me – not once! And he won't let me give up on myself, either. Because of him, I can like myself more. Because of him, I've stopped hating myself for being so weak.
"Naruto-kun is my best friend! You will not take him away from me!"
Hinata's hands flew to her mouth in horror. She had not meant to say all those things! She was practically shouting at her father! She took several shaky breaths in attempt to calm herself. For her rebellion and blatant disrespect towards her father, her punishment would be terrible. For such disobedience towards the clan head, he could banish her to the branch house! She was already in a world of trouble. She might as well go all the way.
Hinata looked her father squarely in the eyes and spoke with absolute conviction.
"One day, Naruto-kun will be the Hokage – and I will be there by his side!"
"I see," Hiashi stared impassively at his daughter. "Is that your final word on this matter?"
"It is." Hinata tried unsuccessfully to keep her hands from trembling under the pressure.
"You understand that you are defying a direct order from your clan head. Are you prepared to accept the punishment – including the possibility of receiving the caged bird seal?"
The silence that followed was deafening.
Hiashi thought he should feel angry about Hinata's rebellion. He should have been furious! But strangely… he was not. All he felt was… pride? For the first time in years… For the first time since Hinata's first steps as a baby… He was actually proud of his daughter. Suddenly… he could almost see the ghost of his friend standing behind his daughter with his hand on her shoulder – and he could hear a familiar voice whisper in his ear…
Do you know what makes a good leader, Hiashi?
"Do you know what makes a good leader, Hiashi?"
"Strength, of course," he replied automatically. "A leader must be strong."
"Strength is a part of it, true, but it takes more than just strength to be a good leader." His friend looked out over the village and waved his hand carelessly. "There are a lot of strong ninja out there – but most of them would make terrible leaders. Only a handful of people ever become great leaders. Do you know why?"
"Share with me your words of wisdom, Oh Mighty Hokage-sama."
"Someday, Hiashi, I'm going to get you stop calling me that!" His blonde friend laughed. Then he said seriously, "Every great leader must embody six very important qualities."
"The first quality is – as you have said – strength.
"The second is unwavering courage.
"The third is belief – belief in themselves and in the people around them.
"The forth is the willingness to take responsibility for your decisions – no matter what the consequences may be.
"The fifth is empathy for and understanding of the people you lead. If you don't feel for them or try to understand them, how will you know what your people need?
"The sixth – and final – quality of a great leader is vision. A leader must have a clear vision of the future. Every decision they make takes them closer towards that future. I want Konoha to be a place where people can be safe and prosper. I want the children of the village to grow up safe and happy."
For some reason, he had never forgotten that conversation. Namikaze Minato had been an amazing friend – and an even more amazing Hokage. He had possessed all six traits of leadership in spades. Before today, Hiashi had not believed Hinata could ever become a capable leader – let alone the kind of leader the Hyuuga clan needed. But here she was… displaying every trait!
Strength. In the last few months, she had manifested amazing new strength – defeating her peers through hard work. In a few more years, she had the potential to be truly formidable.
Courage. She had faced down the entire council of elders, despite her obvious fear. And right now, she was almost daring him to stop her from being friends with Uzumaki Naruto. Where had the timid little mouse gone?
Belief. Her greatest weakness had been her lack of faith in herself; she had quit too easily, too often. But now… She had said it herself: she stopped giving up! He could see the confidence shining within her.
Responsibility – no matter the consequences. She wasn't backing down. She was fighting for the right to remain friends with the boy, despite the very real possibility of losing her status as the heiress and receiving the cage bird seal.
Empathy and understanding. These were qualities that Hinata had always possessed. She had always been too kind. Hiashi was not blind. Most members of the Hyuuga branch house liked his daughter for her compassion and gentle nature.
Vision. Hinata saw a future Hokage allied with the Hyuuga – and was taking steps to make that future a reality. That boy? A future Hokage? Only time would tell. But for now…
The ghost of his friend standing behind his daughter slowly morphed into an image of a golden-haired child with equally intense blue eyes before fading away completely. If the boy was behind his daughter's transformation, then he must also possess some of those same qualities. He was truly the Yondaime's legacy. The Yondaime's legacy! Hiashi paused and sat up a little straighter, as a suspicion took root in the back of his mind… The Sandaime occasionally referred to the child as the Yondaime's legacy – even though Minato's wife and unborn child had died in during the Kyubi attack so many years ago. Could it be?
Hiashi mentally shook himself. He could think about that another day. He made his decision.
Hinata tensed, anticipating an explosion of rage – or worse, banishment to the branch house. She had just promised to disobey her clan head! She was going to be punished, of course. It was only a question of how severe her punishment would be. But to stay with Naruto… she would gladly endure any punishment. Hinata searched her father's face and body language for signs of anger. Sadly, she was very familiar with all the signs. Only… Instead of a harsh scowl and cold unforgiving eyes, her father was… smiling?
Hinata's mouth dropped open in shock – and she wanted to pinch herself. Her father was smiling – a rare enough occurrence, although it did happen occasionally. What stunned her was the fact that was he smiling… at her! He never smiled at her. Was he actually pleased with her?
"A leader must learn when to make his own decisions and when to listen to the advice of his subordinates – even when it contradicts his own ideas. I am not well acquainted with Uzumaki Naruto… I only know of him through the second hand observations of others. I do not know him personally – as you obviously do."
Hinata held her breath. Her father was not reacting like she expected. It was disconcerting – and in some ways more frightening than the full force of his anger.
"Your argument for your continued association with him was… impressive."
"Th-Thank you?" Hinata was even more bewildered. She? Impress her father? Impossible!
"I suppose the long term benefits of a Hokage allied to our clan outweighs a minor mark on our reputation." Hiashi gave her a sharp measuring look. "It will be interesting to see if you are right about him. I will be watching Uzumaki Naruto's career very closely."
Sarutobi took a calming puff on his pipe. Smoking was a terrible vice. According to his old student, Tsunade, it was terribly unhealthy, too. Still he was an old man. After all he'd seen and lived through… well… he deserved to have a few vices. He carefully considered the jonin's request. It was a bit unusual, to request a single apprentice rather than a team of three genin, but it was not unheard of. Sometimes jonin preferred taking a single student over splitting their attention between three students – though it was not a common practice.
"Are you sure this is what you want?"
"It is, Hokage-sama."
"A pity. I think you would have made a fine instructor for a team of genin. Are you certain you don't want to take on a full team – and give your apprentice two teammates? Lee could learn a lot from working with his peers – and eventually, in order to pass the chunin exams, he will need a team."
"I have already spoken to Lee. He agrees with me, Hokage-sama. This is what we both want. I do not make this request lightly." The jonin met his gaze steadily.
The Hokage sighed. There was no reason not to grant the jonin's request (other than more paperwork). He carefully stamped the document with his seal – then blew on it lightly to dry the ink.
"Very well. Your request has been approved."
"Thank you, Hokage-sama."
Naruto gasped for breath as he finished the newest kata in his repertoire. Gai-sensei had taught it to him and Lee last week. Lee had already mastered it and was off running laps again. Naruto would have finished earlier and joined him, except that he had just increased his weights a few days ago. Each and every kata he knew suddenly became doubly difficult to execute. He used a towel to wipe away the sweat on his face and sighed a little in frustration. The difficulty would only last until he got used to the additional weight. The muscles in his arms and legs burned from overexertion. He couldn't wait until his limbs felt normal again. He grabbed a bottle of water from his pack and took a long refreshing drink. Movement at the edge of the training ground caught his eye – and he almost choked on his water.
It was Hinata! Naruto grinned at the pleasant surprise. Hinata rarely left the Hyuuga estate on the weekends. Her family kept her too busy with all their private instruction. But he was always happy to see his best friend. He jogged over to greet her.
"Hinata-chan! What are you doing here? I thought you'd be too busy to train with me today."
"Naruto-kun!" Hinata jolted in surprise. Lost in her thoughts, she didn't remember leaving the Hyuuga estate or automatically walking towards their training ground. She didn't even see Naruto until he announced his presence.
"Hinata-chan?" Naruto frowned. His friend looked pale – and dazed, like she had just woken from a dream. His eyes widened in alarm. "You're shaking!"
Hinata looked down slowly. Sure enough, her hands were shaking. She had been nervous, worried, terrified, panicked, determined, angry, shocked, and relieved – all within the space of an hour. But a Hyuuga was always dignified and self-contained. Excessive displays of emotion were frowned upon. So she had internalized and suppressed as many of those feelings as she could. It was too much. It needed an outlet. She looked at Naruto who was worriedly checking her over for injuries. His obvious concern for her well being touched her. Hinata sniffled. It made her so happy.
That last emotion combined with all the others finally broke her self control. Hinata started laughing and crying at the same time.
"Hinata-chan! What's wrong?" Naruto was worried before, but now he was absolutely frantic. He couldn't find anything physically wrong with her. She had simply grabbed onto him as if he were a lifeline. She wouldn't stop crying – and she wouldn't talk to him, either. In the end, he simply held her and let her cry all over his shirt. He did his best to comfort her by awkwardly patting her back. "Whatever it is… just stop crying, okay? I'll help you."
That only made her cry harder. Naruto snapped his mouth shut and decided not to say anything else, in case he just made things worse. After a several minutes, Hinata finally stopped crying and loosened her death grip on Naruto, though she didn't pull away completely. Hinata hiccupped a little. She was embarrassed for falling apart in front of Naruto, but he didn't seem to mind. And… she felt much better. They sat quietly for a few more minutes.
"My father ordered me to stop associating with you."
Naruto felt his heart stop.
"I said, 'No.' Then I announced my intention to disobey a direct order from my father!" Hinata said with more than a touch of disbelief. "I thought for sure that he would put the caged bird seal on me for that."
Naruto stopped breathing. His hand immediately flew to her head and brushed aside her bangs. Her forehead was unmarked. He released a shaky breath. If she had received the caged bird seal because of him… he would never forgive himself.
"What happened?" he whispered.
"N-N-Nothing." Hinata shook her head in amazement. "Nothing at all. Father was impressed that I stood up to him. I don't believe it. I impressed my father! That's impossible! I must be dreaming. Am I dreaming, Naruto-kun?"
"I doubt it, Hinata-chan." Naruto smiled. "You're a pretty impressive girl. It's about time your father realized it, too. I knew you'd show him eventually!"
Hinata blushed lightly. He always knew just what to say to make her feel better.
"Thank you, Naruto-kun." She leaned into his embrace and closed her eyes. "Thank you."
"Huh? Why? I didn't do anything. It was all you."
Hinata didn't say anything. She simply shook her head.
You're wrong, Naruto-kun. You did everything. Because of you, I was able to change. I think… I know… I like myself more now. For you, I found the strength to stand up to my father. Thank you… for everything.
"I'm okay now, Naruto-kun. Let's go train."
The next day at the academy…
Naruto approached Hinata's desk during the short break between outdoor weapons practice at the target range and more history lessons (mostly about famous shinobi battles) in the classroom. He had been watching her closely all day – looking for any sign of distress or discomfort. Yesterday, Hinata had assured him that she was all right – and that her father would not punish her for choosing to remain his friend. But he had his doubts. What if her father changed his mind? Naruto was selfishly glad that Hinata was still his friend. But he didn't want to risk her well being. The first thing he checked that morning had been her forehead. It was still unmarked. (Thank goodness!) Still… Her clan might find other ways to punish her for associating with the demon brat. To his great relief, Hinata appeared fine – if a little bit distracted.
"What is it Naruto-kun?" Hinata blushed when he put his hand on her clean forehead. Only time would ease his fears.
"Nothing. I'm just making sure you're okay." Naruto said seriously. "I want you to promise me something, Hinata-chan. I know that if you make a promise, you'll keep it – because we never go back on our words."
"What is it?"
"Promise me that you'll always tell me if you're not okay. I want to be there to help you when you're sad or unwell."
"Only if… only if you promise me the same, Naruto-kun."
"It's a deal then!" Naruto grinned. He leaned in and peered closely at her face, making Hinata feel a bit light-headed.
He's too close!
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yes!" she squeaked.
"Just checking!" Naruto smiled. He straightened up – and returned to his desk...
At least… that had been the plan. Except, plans don't always work out.
Jirou who sat in the row in front of Hinata suddenly remembered that he'd left his weapons bag at the target range. He glanced at the clock. If he hurried, he could run out and retrieve it before Iruka-sensei returned and took attendance. He jumped to his feet – completely unaware that Naruto was standing directly behind him – and slammed into Naruto's back.
With that sudden jolt, Naruto pitched forward and fell right into Hinata. Luckily, his reflexes caught his forward momentum enough that he was able to keep most of his weight from landing and injuring Hinata. But… his face collided with hers. And…
Their lips were touching!
Wide blue eyes gazed into equally wide lavender eyes. For a split second, they were too shocked to move. And then…
Naruto jerked back as if he had been burned.
"Oh, my God! I'm so sorry, Hinata-chan! Are you okay?"
Hinata's entire body was tingling. His lips… were… so warm and soft! She and Naruto-kun…
We just… kissed.
(1) This was written for the Thirty Kisses (30kisses) community on Live Journal. More information about the Thirty Kisses challenge is in my author profile.
(2) 7 down, 23 kisses to go!
(3) Sorry about the delay in getting this chapter written and posted. I was side tracked by another NaruHina plot bunny that I just had to write. If you haven't read it already, I invite you to check out my other Naruto fanfic: Ten Defining Moments.
(4) I'm not happy with this chapter. I meant for the confrontation between Hinata and Hiashi to be more… I don't know… just more. (sigh) I hope it wasn't too much of let down.
(5) This kiss was inspired by Naruto and Sasuke's accidental kiss in Episode 3. Naruto and Hinata weren't supposed to get any lip-to-lip contact for several more chapters. He was only supposed to kiss her nose or her forehead or something - not her mouth! Argh! Why did it come out this way? I guess my subconscious really wanted to have them kiss, even if it was an accident.
FYI, this won't change their relationship. Sorry to dash your hopes, but Naruto is still a dense boy. He isn't going to see Hinata in a romantic light for a while yet. Patience!
(6) Next Chapter Sneak Peak: Don't worry! There are no evil cliffhangers this time! This is one chapter that I've been itching to write – I'm really looking forward to it. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I'm going to enjoy writing it!
Chapter 8: Birthday Kiss (theme #11 gardenia)
"Naruto-kun, birthday presents don't have to cost money," Hinata protested. "Some of the best presents I've ever received were free."
"Oh yeah?" Naruto looked skeptical. "Like what?"
(7) Please review and let me know what you think. Thanks!