The Grand Essentials
"the grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." - allan k. chalmers
Today was the funeral. Just like the day of Sandaime's funeral, it was raining. Like father, like estranged son, Hinata thought without mirth.
She hadn't known Asuma that well, but her sensei was her surrogate mother, and the sheer pain this caused her was horrifying. Kurenai was the strongest female fixture in her life – her rock. To see her like this was mind-altering. For her to show weakness was rare, but to show it to all of these people at the funeral was even rarer, even if it was a very quiet display of grief.
Just tears. There was only quiet tears streaming down her cheeks. No wailing cries of abandonment, not even stuttering sobs. Just tears. But to Team 8, those tears were a louder message than any fits born of sorrow could've been.
Hinata's arm slipped around Kurenai's shoulder silently and the jounin leaned into her, trying to slow her tears to a slow trickle against the stiff, black fabric of Hinata's formal dress. Hinata rubbed soothing circles on her back, like her sensei had done to her so many times before – after failed missions, meetings with her father, and so many other times. Kurenai always knew exactly what to say. Hinata didn't. But she knew instinctively that this wasn't a time to say anything. Because right now, nothing could make this situation seem okay.
Soon the service itself was over, but the majority of the jounin stayed, as well as the Rookie Nine and Gai's team. Slowly, ninja trickled away from the gravesite until it was only Team 10, Kiba, Shino, Kurenai, and Naruto that remained. Even Konohamaru, Asuma's nephew, had already been led away by his sensei, Ebisu. When Kurenai was finally out of energy, she let herself be dragged away by teams 8 and 10. Hinata turned back once to see Naruto, a lone grey shape in the rain, head bowed. She set her gaze forward. No time for that now. Her sensei needed her.
As soon as they got to her apartment, Shikamaru, Ino, Chouji, Shino, Kiba, and Hinata had set up a sort of vigil for Kurenai, who had immediately gone to her room hadn't come out since. All of them sat her kitchen table, drinking the tea Hinata had prepared, not saying a word and not looking at each other. Ino cracked.
"Hinata!" she said suddenly, shooting up from her seat. The bluenette nearly spilled her tea from surprise.
Hinata looked quickly at Chouji and Shikamaru, silently asking them what was going on. They could only stare at Ino, completely baffled.
"Do you remember in the pre-Academy classes when I called your eyes weird?" asked Ino desperately, reaching from her seat next to Kiba to latch on to the front of her black dress. The blonde pulled her close, looking into her eyes.
"…I th-think so?"
"I'm sorry!" wailed Ino again, burying her head in Hinata's shoulder and crying.
"That was almost ten years ago, Ino-san…" muttered the confused girl. She smoothed Ino's hair, trying to comfort her distraught comrade. "Really, I'd almost forgotten about it... and I'd forgiven you ages ago…and, well, I hadn't been thinking the kindest thing about you anyway. So we're even."
"You're lying!" Ino accused her, voice muffled. "You're Hinata, you never had a bad thought about anybody!"
"Just because I don't verbalize my opinions or my feelings doesn't mean I don't have them. Besides that, I didn't have anyone to share my opinions or my feelings with."
"What did you think about me, then?"
"I thought that you were being pretty hypocritical, because your eyes don't even have pupils," answered Hinata honestly, eliciting a watery giggle from the other girl.
"I was kind of a brat, wasn't I?" said Ino, calming down somewhat.
"Yes," said Hinata again, quite bluntly. "You've gotten better," she assured her. Ino giggled again, this time more clearly. They shared a look of feminine understanding.
"What the hell brought that on?" Kiba demanded suddenly, looking from girl to girl and then back again. "Is this some weird girl bonding thing?"
"No," Ino replied. "I just thought… that could've been me today. I could've died. And then I would've died without saying all the things I want to say to people. And you, Hinata, ignoring what you've just told me, are the sweetest thing I've ever happened to meet, and after I'd realized that, I couldn't stop thinking about when I called your eyes weird. And I kept feeling awful about it. But I didn't want to tell you, cause that would look really weird, so I didn't say anything, but the feeling didn't go away. After I realized that I could've been the dead one, the feeling intensified, and I had to tell you. And I've got a lot of other things I'm going to let people in on now that I've been given another chance." Hinata might've imagined it, but did her eyes flicker toward Shikamaru for a moment as she said that?
"Anyway. I'm going to say goodbye to Kurenai-san, and then I'm going to go home and have a long talk with my parents."
She disappeared into the next room and they heard the bedroom door open and close.
"What a strange girl," said Kiba jokingly. But Hinata could tell that Ino's confession had touched him, too. She hadn't really thought of it like that before, maybe because the tragedy wasn't close enough to her. But now that Ino had said that, several things were weighing on her mind.
Think of the devil, and he – or she – shall appear. Ino popped back into the doorway a few moments later.
"Hinata-chan, she wants to see you. Bye, guys, I'll see you later," Ino said, looking considerably more lighthearted than she had upon entering.
Shikamaru tried to ignore the feeling in his gut that told him he, too, would be getting a nice long talk with Ino.
"Sensei?" Hinata called into the darkness of Kurenai's bedroom tentatively. She could barely see the woman in the murky afternoon light, dimmed further by the rain; she was sitting on the edge of her bed, hands on her very pregnant stomach.
"Come sit with me, Hinata."
She did as she was told and made her way to the bed. When she sat down it squeaked slightly. Kurenai wrapped an arm around her as she had down at the funeral, only this time she didn't move to cry into Hinata's shoulder, for which she was thankful, because Ino had already made it wet with tears.
Silently, she picked up Hinata's hand from her lap and placed it on her stomach. The baby was kicking. A smile softened the nervous line of Hinata's mouth and she leaned closer.
"My son," said Kurenai. Her voice was quiet but proud.
"You know the gender?"
"I found out at the doctor's last week."
Hinata usually found that women were supposed to gush over this little detail and squeal excitedly at the prospect of shopping for baby clothes, but thought that a response like that was perhaps the wrong one in this situation. She opted for a quiet, "that's wonderful" instead.
"Thank you, Hinata. You know, all this time I've been thinking about our future, and always had a feeling that… that his father… wouldn't be a part of it…"
Her voice started to choke up, so Hinata took her hand and squeezed it tightly.
"…at least, not in a physical way. Of course, I'm going to tell him that Asuma went out proud – protecting this village from the organization that would destroy us all for world domination. That he was a fine man who always fought for his principles. That he was a kind and caring man who would've loved his son more than anything."
There was no quaver in her voice this time, and Hinata admired her teacher for being the epitome of a kunoichi.
"But a baby doesn't raise itself, and I was wondering if you'd like to be a part of that."
"Of course, sensei!" Hinata said at once, turning to Kurenai and looking into her eyes. "I would like nothing better!"
"Excellent. You know, Hinata, you're my favorite. I care about the boys, but I always worry about you just a little more."
"K-kurenai-sensei – "
She laughed. "It's okay, they know it too. So, now that you've agreed to help me out, I'd like to make it formal."
"Hinata, I want you to be his godmother."
Her pearlescent eyes widened. "Really? Oh, I'd love that!"
"Your father may not approve –"
"I don't care what he thinks!"
Kurenai looked startled at her sudden, loud display of emotion.
"This may sound uncharitable, b-but… I owe you so much more than I owe him," Hinata muttered, blushing bright red as she insulted her father. "So I don't care. He can say whatever he likes, he can kick me out of the clan… but I will take care of your son no matter what."
"That makes me so happy," said Kurenai in a whisper. She pulled Hinata in for a hug and the girl reciprocated tightly. "But if that seal gets anywhere near your forehead, you're to come straight to me, understand? I'll not have that pompous ass of a man endanger one of my students."
They talked for a few more minutes about nothing in particular, before Kurenai asked her to send Shikamaru into her room so she could talk to him. Dropping a kiss on her sensei's cheek in farewell, Hinata walked out, like Ino, feeling much better than she had when the day started.
In the kitchen, she told Shikamaru that Kurenai had called him, but Kiba didn't let alone when he saw the pleased blush on her cheeks.
"What did she say, Hinata-chan? C'mon, you're glowing."
"Well…I-I get to be godmother," said Hinata, smiling and poking her fingers together in embarrassed delight.
"That's great!" Kiba said, drawing her closer with an arm and hugging her fiercely around the waist, as he was still sitting down. "I can't think of a better choice. Except maybe Shikamaru, he's bitchy enough to be a woman."
"Ah, troublesome," muttered the young jounin as he stood up to talk to her sensei. "Congratulations, Hinata. You deserve it," he said with a hint of a smile before walking out of the room.
"I also wish you well, Hinata-san, on your accomplishment," said Shino formally.
"We should all go out together," Chouji suggested. "My treat. Team 8 and Team 10 and Kurenai-san."
"That sounds lovely, Chouji-kun," said Hinata. "I'll be in touch." She headed for the front door.
"Hey, where are you going?" asked Kiba curiously.
She smiled at him. "Just like Ino-san, I've got some people to talk to."
She had checked all of the usual places, and he was nowhere to be found. But he still couldn't be there – it had been literally hours since the funeral. That would be crazy.
Hinata sighed and began her trek to the cemetery. It her was her only choice left, and she really needed to speak with Naruto as soon as possible.
He was a little crazy, she thought ruefully as she took in his form, still the grey blur in this weather that got more and more defined as she walked closer. From what she observed, he hadn't moved from his spot since the funeral, which had ended well over three hours ago. They had left about two hours ago, which means he had probably been standing in the rain for that long.
She approached without hesitation for once; all her courage had been pushed to the surface by Ino's confession and her talk with Kurenai. She couldn't afford to be afraid right now – as a shinobi, her time on the earth was limited. It had taken her far too long to realize that.
He looked up, startled at both her presence and the lack of stuttering and blushing. His blonde hair was completely plastered to his face and neck, and his dark clothes were beginning to cling to his skin. Raindrops peppered her face when he flicked his head up to look at her.
"Sorry," he muttered.
"It's fine," she said, wiping the droplets away from her face with her sleeve. "Here."
Reaching into her pocket, she took out another umbrella that was folded up neatly and gave it to him. He looked at her in surprise, but soon it melted into a smile.
She blushed slightly at his use of the familiar –chan suffix. Her father would definitely not approve, she thought with a slight smile.
"Do you have a minute?" she asked him quietly. "I'd like to talk to you."
"Sure. I'm all ears," he tried for a grin but couldn't quite manage. Asuma's death was weighing on his conscience.
"I-I… Naruto-kun… this is…this is really hard for me to say…" she said nervously. Where was all that courage she'd had in abundance not two minutes ago?! "B-but… I … I really … ever since I was eight…"
Oh, screw it, she decided in her head. Hinata threw down the umbrella, reached up on her tip-toes, put both hands on each of his cheeks and kissed him. It wasn't a spectacular first kiss by most girls' standards – his lips were cold and wet, and he was rather unresponsive – but it was Hinata, and she was kissing Naruto, and at the moment, that was all that mattered.
Hinata was slow to pull away, but she couldn't look at his face. Instead, her hands slid down until they clutched the fabric of his funeral attire and she laid her forehead against his chest. The entire time she kept her eyes closed.
"Ever since I was eight, I had a crush on you," she said quietly and slowly, trying not to stutter. "It was a bit more than just a crush I guess… I admired you for your attitude…how you never gave up… and I even took your nindo. I was inspired by everything that you did. You made me think that even I could have some sort of worth, a use. But I could never gather up the courage to approach you, even though I wanted so much to be your friend. I was afraid that you would find me lacking in some way. So instead, I just… sort of stalked you… hoping to gain that bravery for a moment so that I could tell you how I felt. But I never did.
"Then I was talking with Ino today, and she said that if she had died today instead of her sensei, she would have died regretting that she didn't tell the people important to her that she cared about them. And Kurenai-sensei always tells me to live without regrets. So I came to find you so that I could tell you how I felt. I care about you, Naruto-kun. It's more than just a silly crush. I really, really, really like you. And I just… I just wanted to let you know."
Hinata pulled away from him finally. Her eyes still avoided his face.
"Bye," she finished lamely. Picking up her umbrella, she turned to leave. As she weaved in and out of the headstones, she felt a certain sense of release. He finally knew. He finally knew… what an awful coward she was. But at least she had told him now, instead of on her deathbed fifty years later. He'd probably be so old then that he'd die of a heart attack.
"Hinata! Wait up!"
She froze and whirled around, hoping against hope that he was actually calling to her and that she hadn't just imagined it. But there he was, sprinting toward her with a small grin on his wet face. He was holding her umbrella to the side, defeating its ultimate purpose. Naruto skidded to a stop right in front of her and she blushed. His grin just got bigger.
They stood in a strange silence that was not awkward, and almost comfortable.
"You're pretty cute for a stalker," he said eventually, prompting an apple-red blush to appear on her cheeks.
"A-ah, Naruto-kun, I hope you don't think that I –"
"And as a stalker," he interrupted her, placing two fingers on her lips to silence her explanation, "You probably know all about me… but I don't really know anything about you. Would you please take a walk with me?"
"N-Naruto-kun…I'd love that," she said shyly, looking up at him with demure eyes. His breath caught for a moment. How had he never noticed how thoroughly bewitching this girl was?
"I would too," he said, catching his breath. "Tell me about… everything."
Guys, Gaara proves his existence through killing people. I prove mine with reviews. Help?