Well, this is a Christmas gift for Aqualoner! Merry Christmas, Aqua!

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.


meet in the Ninja Academy.

(She is a tiny, stuttering thing, spun of glass and coloured in pale pastels, a mockery of the brave Hyuuga name she was born under. There's silk on her skin and fear in her eyes where there should be pupils, and her voice is the barest of whispers. She is little more than a frightened mouse to her family, her peers, herself. She is a failure.)

meet in Iruka-sensei's class.

(He is a loud, brash wild thing, solidified sunshine stuffed up with great dreams that no one believes he can achieve. There are rags on his body and scars no child should bear, and when he shouts, he makes it echo, because that's the only way anyone will hear him. He is little more than a buzzing fly, an annoyance, for he has no family, he has no friends, and he knows nothing of himself. He is a dropout.)

are seated next to each other.

(Fate is strange, and destiny likes irony, and the mouse and the fly sit beside each other, one voice too stuttering to be heard over the din, and one too loud to hear what is actually being said. The world laughs and they cry and their hopes go unheard, lost to world that sees only what it wants to see.)

, on his tenth birthday, Hinata slips a package under the desk to Naruto.

(Even now, she loves him. He is her sun, her star, her blazing, guiding light that sees her through the darkness of hours. His voice gives hers strength and lets her be heard, even if no one pays attention. His smiles lend hers courage, and her frightened lips curl up when she is alone. The warmth of his body next to hers each day makes her raise her head, if only the smallest bit, to look at him. He makes her think she might just be able to become that girl she's always dreamed of being.)

's a small packet of cookies, homemade; it's the first present Naruto has ever gotten.

(He is stunned; in his hand, in a small, carefully wrapped package, are small, sugary treats. They are slightly burned, and the sprinkles are going off on his hand. The paper was left over Christmas paper and the ribbon was just a piece of twine, but none of this seems to matter to him, because it's for him.)

he asks her why, all poor Hinata can stutter is: " I-It's yo-you birthd-day, n-ne?"

(She gives him a soft little smile, the smile he taught her how to use without ever saying a word, and looks at him with eyes that are soft as clouds. And Naruto's heart gives and odd sort of thump, and all he can think about is that he's never really looked at the girl in the seat next to him. He wonders if she's always had such beautiful eyes.)

Hiashi learns whom Hinata is sitting next to in class, he is furious.

(The next week, the two are separated, Naruto brought closer to the front, so that he can have an eye kept on him at all times. This is the excuse given, and it is given out loud, so everyone can laugh. Hinata doesn't laugh. She looks down at her desk and bites her lips and tries very hard not to cry.)

8. After two weeks, Naruto has all but forgotten his pretty seatmate.

(Sakura has a much more outgoing personality. It's all too easy to let go of the dream he had in those first few weeks. Naruto is not stupid. He knows why he was moved. He knows who Hinata is. He knows why, no matter how much he may have liked to believe it, that wish of his is impossible. Naruto is not stupid. But if he let anyone know that…)

9. No one sees the hopeful glance Naruto casts up at Hinata the day they are assigned teams.

(He walks in, Iruka-sensei's hitai-ate firm around his forehead, his heart still thundering in his chest and a beam like the sun on his face. He passes by a desk in the back, and the light reflects off the short black hair of the person in it, and Naruto remembers the taste of slightly burned cookies and a loving smile that made his cheeks burn.)

next time he sees her is the Chuunin Exam.

(Kiba is at her side and barking louder than his hits can deliver, and Shino is behind them, carefully observing the crowd. Something hot and something cold collide in his gut as Kiba puts a friendly arm around her shoulders and gives them an encouraging squeeze. He doesn't even notice when Sakura gets into a fight with Ino over Sasuke.)

has always been the one Hinata went to for love advice.

(Older, stronger, cooler, beautiful Tenten who has at least half the Hyuuga boys –strength was a major turn on- drooling after her. She sits with shaking Hinata and fixes her short hair and asks how things are going with 'that guy'. She laughs when Hinata blushes and stutters, and hugs the girl from behind, and tells her a secret: All guys like strong girls.)

knew she could never beat Neji – she knew it; that didn't mean she wasn't going to try, though.

(Spin, duck, dodge, catch, spin kick, repeat. It's a dance. Maybe not one Hinata knows too well, but one she knows nonetheless. She'd rather there was someone there to hold her hand and keep her steady, but she's out on the dance floor alone with her partner, and one wrong step could kill her. Still, Naruto's eyes are following her every move, and maybe, just maybe, that's enough to get her back on her feet again.)

first time Naruto really sees Hinata is the instant she gets back up.

(There's blood dripping from her lips and she's clutching at her side like there's a slow fire eating up at her insides. She's shaking and trembling and she can barely stand up anymore. Her shoulders heave with her deep, panting gasps, and she wobbles, trying to stay upright. But her eyes are burning and her face is set and her stance is strong, and Naruto realizes that there is some strength under all that silk.

calls him strong on his way to his match with Neji, and Naruto feels like he could beat Orochimaru.

(No one – at least, no one of his peers- has ever really acknowledged that he is strong. Sasuke might do it privately, and Sakura will delude herself into believing it's luck, and Ino and Chouji and Neji and Gaara all think he's weak and will always remain weak. But Hinata believes in him – he makes her strong?- and somehow, at that moment, it's worth more to him than his dream.)

15. He wins, because he can't bear to let Hinata down.

(An oath in blood, and promise of a lifetime, his first but not his last. He swore he'd beat his opponent to prove to the world that everyone could change their destiny. He made a promise, and a promise is worth his life. And besides, Hinata thinks he's strong, and who is he to let down someone who believes in him?)

16. Naruto finds that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

(Hinata faints when they meet up again, after his journey. She's older and taller and stronger and very pretty, but she takes one look into his eyes and she back on the ground, her face red. And Naruto, who is confused and scared that he has done something to offend her, can't help but notice that age has only made Hinata more beautiful.)

17. When Akatsuki comes looking for the Jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi, they find a steel eyed Hyuuga, blocking their path.

(Hinata slips into her stance, and the glass-spun girl at long last fades away into her heart. In her place is a true shinobi – and more, a true kunoichi- of the Leaf, with unyielding eyes and the promise of pain to any who dare oppose her. Sasuke takes her on, surprised and yet not, by the fierceness with which she defends her – their?- home.)

18. He beats her, but not before she shuts down every tenketsu on his left arm.

(" I won't let you pass unscathed." That was the promise she made to him when she slipped down into her stance, her eyes eerily like Naruto's that day in the Valley of the End. A shiver runs over him, because all around him, the ninja he thought he knew are starting to looking like his old teammate, eyes blazing and lips full of promises that will not be broken.)

19. When Naruto comes swinging into the fray, he meets a very tired, very battered, but still standing Hinata.

(She's worn out and sleepy and she can't decide if she's just dreaming up the whole things. Her arms are sore and bleeding and she thinks her stomach might have been hit. Naruto catches her mid fall as she stumbles forward, and when she looks into his face, she forgets there's a war going on, forgets she's bleeding, and forgets that he might not feel the same way and kisses him.)

20. Naruto is stunned.

(Of all the things he expected to find when he came back, a bleeding and hurt Hinata was not it. There are wounds that look like sword stabs and she's muttering about red eyes, and then he can't think anymore, because she's looped her arm around his neck and hauled him down and kissed him.)

It takes him a split second, and then he kisses her back.

And somewhere in the distance, a twinkling laugh is heard.

Well, there you have it.

And while you're over on my profile, go read the recent fic I put up! I need reveiws before I put up anymore.