"Eh...s'interesting...but, how did you get info like that?" Kiba wondered aloud, scrutinizing his team-mate. Hinata glanced away from Kiba's inquisitive eyes, drumming her fingers atop her other hand's thumb.
"Well, I was with Sakura-san and Ino-san on a mission..."
His eyebrows rose with disbelief.
"Since when did you three randomly get sent on a mission? How come there was no superior to command you-?"
"Eh...and since when did we go on a mission?" a bemused and blond headed girl asked Hinata from behind.
"O-oh, Ino-san, ah..."
"Eh? There was no...are you making this stuff up Hinata? Cause, considering what you've just said, I dunno why you all of people would do so..."
"You? Innocent little Hyuuga Hime...lying?" Ino's mouth contorted into a sadistic grin and Hinata's already pale skin lost colour. The other girl wrapped her arms around Hinata's neck, while Kiba watched in hopeless confusion.
"I wasn't lying," she replied to Ino, a little put out at the doubt.
"Then what's this about a non-existent mission?"
"Hmm...better yet, tell me what you heard on this supposed mission~"
'Ah! Ino-san...the very last person I can divulge a secret like that to...'
"Hinata, what're you hiding?" Kiba questioned, approaching her.
Hinata's eyes popped out of her head and, sensing her distress, Ino's grip tightened.
'Ino-san and Kiba-kun, surely...'
"C'mon Hinata~ Fess up to your dear friend Ino~"
Kiba placed his hands on her shoulders, schooling his expression into one of indifference, though on the inside he was laughing uproariously at Hinata's terrified demeanour, like she was being circled by carnivorous predators.
'...They...they surely wouldn't gang up on-'
"We asked you nicely~ Now, Imma tickle you!" he declared.
"OOH. KIBA, LEMME FLANK HER RIGHT SIDE. YOU HAVE LEFT."
"WHAT? Please don't!"
About ten minutes later, the area was noisy, Ino's sides were split, Hinata was mortified and hung her head in shame while Kiba was hunched in some corner, moping.
"You...you of all-you kicked poor Kiba in the-remind me not to tempt your defense mechanism ever again," Ino told Hinata between her ungracious roars of laughter.
Unable to reply, she just seemed to sink further into the chair she was apparently trying to disappear into.
Ino glanced over at Kiba, who had not moved after crawling to that spot and rolled her eyes. "Don't act like your pride is shattered. You should know the quiet ones," she paused to flash the other female a grin, who in turn promptly flushed, "are the most unpredictable."
"K-Kiba-kun, forgive me. I overreacted and I promise I will never lay a hand on you again."
"I bet he's too scared to even try to test your sincerity," Ino explained, her howling of laughter resuming. "I bet all of this is a result of repressed emotions. Oh lord, that was the funniest thing I've seen in a while, unless you count Naruto's latest attempt at wooing Sakura."
"Oh, you mean him singing? What was so bad about that song?" Kiba had reached his feet and returned to them, abruptly over his fear of ticklish Hyuugas. He also sounded rather grumpy.
"Well, Naruto's voice is no angel's, but the song didn't help," Ino declared. Kiba frowned and, noting the hostility, Hinata's gaze swapped between the two.
"The song was decent," he grumbled.
Ino frowned slightly and arched a brow at Kiba.
"Has that dog's barks made you kinda deaf? That song-"
"I-I enjoyed that sleepover at your house with Sakura-san recently, Ino-san!" Hinata suddenly exclaimed, trying to defuse the anger.
Ino blinked at her sudden outburst, before she smiled.
"Yeah, that was fun."
"You went to a sleepover?"
"Yes...that was the..."
"Hinata?" Kiba prompted gently.
"...That was the 'mission' I mentioned."
"Oh," Kiba and Ino chorused. They exchanged glances, and then their facial expressions tensed.
"Why'd you lie about my sleepover?" Ino said sullenly.
"It's because...I wasn't meant to go to it, so I told my father I was on a mission..."
"Oh Hinata, you're a very interesting character, aren't you?" Ino said, beaming with amusement.
"I bet this is just your bad influence," Kiba sighed to himself.
"Why'd ya keep sneezin' Saku-ACHOO!"
"Touché," Sakura responded, sniffling a bit, "I have a feeling we've attracted a rather symptomless cold or we're being talked about."
"Oh? Us two...together?" Naruto closed his eyes and reddened a bit, smiling. She stared blankly at his reaction, before resting her hand against her forehead and deciding to leave him to his fantasies.
"Anyway, I need to go and pick something up from Ino. She said to meet her at Ichiraku."
"Didja willingly leave it with her?"
"Course not. My hair bands just have a habit of disappearing whenever I go to her house for a sleepover," she commented dryly. "Of course, I'm gonna draw on her with my permanent marker if she's done anything."
The two were walking as they talked, but Naruto halted without reason. Sakura mimicked his lack of movement and cast him a semi worried look. Her look turned exasperated when she saw a very clear pout on his tanned features.
"Why didn't ya invite me?"
Upon discovering why his feelings were hurt, Sakura couldn't help but crack up.
When she realized he appeared offended, she went right up to him, pressing a finger under his chin so his head straightened. He went visibly red at their close proximity.
"Tell me, did you want to be stormed by girly shit and have your hair," her other hand cupped his cheek, before sliding into his mass of yellow strands and twisting one around her finger, "braided?"
"I'd only let Sakura-chan do that," he admitted.
The pinkette seemed relatively startled for a second, before she grinned at him and she tugged his hair.
"Be careful of how obvious you are, or I might just take you up on that offer."
"Why try and be subtle when I've made my affections blatantly obvious?" he queried. She reddened a bit at his statement and monotone way of saying it.
"That-oh, it's Ino. C'mon Naruto."
"Are you nervous about somethin'? Cause your fingernails are digging into my scalp."
'Yes. I'm not used to you being this mature and upfront with your, ah...'
"...I have a distinct feeling she's dyed my hair band blond, or something," she lied with expertise. "No, let's go to Ichiraku. I'm sure you can endure the few steps with your injured scalp, my future Hokage~"
"SHE SAID WHAT?!"
"Ah, Ino-san! Please keep your voice down. They're right outside!" Hinata pleaded.
Kiba rubbed the back of his head, followed by tilting it to the right.
"So, Sakura said that in her sleep?"
"The ultimate confession!" Ino said in a louder, but hushed compared to earlier, voice.
"Do we tell Naruto?" Kiba asked them.
"Ah...but no one is meant to know. We should just allow them to get together naturally..."
"...Where did that uber cool, adventurous 'I-shall-leave-without-tellin'-dadeh-where-I-actually-am-and-knee-you-in-the-balls' Hinata go?" Ino whined.
Silenced by her embarrassment of the earlier event, she turned to look at Kiba earnestly. He sighed at her puppy dog expression.
"I'll go with Hinata on this one, cause-"
"I'm a pushover," Ino interjected, lowering her tone.
"Are you tryin' to imitate me? It won't work Ino, cause-"
"Imma kinky boy. I get whipped by Hyuuga Hime's-"
"Ino-san!" she cut in, hiding her beet red face in her hands.
"Don't give Hinata those images, dammit!"
"What on earth?"
"Sakura-chan, if she's like this, who knows what happened to your hair band..."
"Who wants to know..."
"I have something you may wanna know," Ino chirped.
Sakura regarded her warily.
"Can I just escape with my hair band?"
"No. Come with me."
Dejected, she allowed herself to be steered away, which left Naruto a little lost and wary. Hinata's eyes darted around the area, and Kiba, staring at him, was furious. Naruto caught on and winced.
"You and Hinata break up?" he asked bluntly with a sympathetic downwards slant to his lips.
He was alarmed when Hinata seemed to freeze, and Kiba's brow twitched.
"First you demoralize my song that I spent ages on for you...and then you...assumptions..."
"Oh...so you're still in the denial ph-"
"Sakura, you should not better than to shout yourself silly in a rude manner."
"Aww crap. Sakura-chan is angry, Kiba is angry..." Naruto began to perspire and scanned for a place to hide.
"I-I would never say something like that," Sakura whispered harshly, a tremendous crimson tint to her face.
"Not awake, anyway," Ino laughed in reply, completely the opposite of empathetic to her friend's dilemma.
"Hinata wouldn't lie about that though...oh God. I...ok, I'll just forget it. And, Ino, if you dare test my nerves and even approach Naruto with a too friendly grin-"
She was already tottling back. Sakura gaped after her.
Ino was grinning.
"Hey, Naruto; what size-"
"-are my hair bands?" Sakura interrupted, having caught up.
"Um...kinda small?" he told her helplessly.
"I wonder if Naruto'll be told about Sakura's confession about him," Kiba said to Hinata quietly.
Of course, Naruto heard, and his heart rate doubled.
"Why're you so red?" Ino giggled. "You have foresight?"
"Ino, shut up," Sakura hissed through gritted teeth.
Both immediately stilled at his the odd way he spoke.
'Oh God,' Sakura thought.
'Oh yes,' Ino thought.
"Y-yes?" she said, failing to steady her nerves.
"Ooh, suspense makes Sakura stutter."
Sakura's glare shut her up.
"Do you love me?"
Her heart sped up to a rapid rate, and she placed her hand over it to try and settle the pulse.
"...Right, well," Ino started with an uncharacteristically serious edge, "I'll leave you guys to it."
She maneuvered her way to Kiba and Hinata, but not before giving Sakura a wink.
"Do you love me?" he repeated, the hope in his eyes stressed by her lack of reply.
"Such a thing to ask...at Ichiraku's of all places," she murmured.
"So, when are we gonna tell Naruto Sakura saw him in his boxers and liked it?" Ino said.
Kiba and Hinata looked horrified, but their mortification was utterly levelled by Sakura's. Naruto merely blanked.
"They're still here," Hinata mentioned.
"Wha?" Ino spun around to see them. "Oh...eh, I thought they'd go somewhere other than Ichiraku's to have a conversation like this. My bad."
"When I get through this, I am going to strangle you with my hair band," Sakura said venomously.
"Sakura-chan, you know I love you, right?" Naruto finally spoke after a while.
"...I know." She looked away so he could only glimpse a small portion of her the large blush spanning her features.
"Do you love me?" he said for the third time, though it was apparent his steely resolution from earlier was crumbling.
"I...you...to you, I..."
'C'mon Sakura! Don't you know how handy Naruto's kage bunshin would be to your future relaxation?!' Ino's fists curled in the tense atmosphere.
'Sakura-san...what will you say? Are you two going to get married soon after this? Are you going to have whiskered, pink haired sons?'
'Wow, I hope Sakura says she does. That'd stop his constant travels to me for help. Hmm...' Kiba's musings paused as he glanced at Hinata, whose eyes sparkled. 'I wonder what's on her mind.'
"Well, we've been very close since you got back from that training with Jiraiya...haven't we?"
Naruto smiled sheepishly at her in response.
"Get on with it," Ino hissed.
"And...it's not like...people haven't pointed out some of their opinions on the matter." Yamato's odd smirk from a painful mission came into her mind's focus, and her reddened face was not fading well thanks to the very image. "And I have had lots of time to think..."
Unable to process the fact she may actually return his feelings, Naruto's head began to pound, and dizziness swarmed his senses.
"Sakura-san, you can do it."
"Yeah, she will," Kiba said cockily.
"I think, because you've always been there for me, and just because you're you in general, over the course of our time together, I've-"
"Naruto makes a pretty big noise when he falls to the ground," Ino dead panned.
"I don't think hearing Sakura liked him in his boxers helped either," Kiba grinned.
Hinata seemed to be the only one aware of Sakura's absolute mortification that her very own boyfriend? Had the audacity to faint when she was about to confess.
"You...you're an idiot," she explained to his unconscious body in a low voice.
And then smiled.
He awoke a little later with no recollection of his question. Oddly enough, he did recall the tidbit about Sakura finding him rather attractive trapezing around in his boxers, and asked what her favourite colour was so he could be prepared for next time. Ino had nearly died with laughter. Kiba followed suit, while Hinata lit up crimson, along with Sakura.
Of course, Sakura had yanked his ear in anger, so the boy was admiring her damage in the mirror, when he noticed something very obvious on his forehead.
"Ah, Sakura-chan?" he asked her rushing out of the bathroom. She started at him expectantly, and he pointed to his forehead. "D'you know why in big, bold red 'YES' is on my forehead?"
In return, she grinned toothily.
"It's an answer to something, and it doesn't look like you'll forget that part, at least."