Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto

The annual school prom was coming up in a few weeks. The entire Konoha High student body started feeling the event after posters have been plastered on every bulletin board. It was the time of the school year where people's romance blooms or hearts break. It was also the time when the rumor mill wheels around healthily.

Yamanaka Ino headed the student end of the event.

"I'm kinda excited for our prom!"

"The theme might be wild…"

"As usual, she's the star."

The blonde sighed audibly in front of the Student Prom Team, which consisted ten of her schoolmates, including the brunette and senior student, Tenten—last year's prom head, for support. The blonde wore a tight-fitting black long sleeve top and leather pants. A bangle-style necklace dangled around her neck.

"There goes a new trend,"

"She's so thin,"

"I heard she's bulimic."

"Yosh, so from the preliminary survey, our schoolmates agreed on having the prom on the fifteenth—Friday." Ino started, reading off a few statistics from her cue card. "The matter left in our hands before we pass it on to the administrators is the theme. Let's have our suggestions written on a piece of paper and we'll narrow it down later."

"I think the prom queen has just been crowned this early."

"I wanna ask her out."

"Well, at least my boyfriend's not cheating on me…"

"By the way, we will not entertain the 'masquerade' idea. Scrap it out, used too much already,"

Ino sat back down at the edge of the newsroom-style meeting area. While waiting for her teammates to finish writing down their pegs, she snatched her cellular phone from her pocket.

'One unread message

Shika'

She bit the tip of her lip before pressing the button to open the text.

What time do you get off?


"I don't want it. It's troublesome."

Nara Shikamaru sighed as he walked by Grand Avenue, having come from a meeting with a few old and draggy bastards. It was an offer they knew he would refuse at all costs, but gave to him without exactly giving him an option, really. He never said yes, yet there he was, doing whatever it was that they commanded him to do.

Why me?

The worse part was, it was even presented as an opportunity to the entire class. The worst part is, they actually believed in that bullshit.

Sneaky, controlling bastards

He never even wanted to be in that class in the first place. He was pretty sure he slept through all the exams needed to get into the special class, yet there he was.

Konoha High picked the ten of them. There was no exam that needed to be passed. It was all written down with their surnames.

He, on the other hand, did not come from a family of rich business moguls, unlike the rest of his classmates. He came from a family of hacienderos—people who enjoyed the peace and quiet lull time, away from the metro. They were never into the whole corporate thing. It was only when his father was appointed as chief military strategist in the country's major defense system that they moved into the metro, his father reuniting with his best friends, Mr. Akimichi and Mr. Yamanaka.

He sighed, halting as the pedestrian light turned red despite the lack of cars passing.

A few years after that, he was engaged to Yamanaka Ino.

He didn't complain much. Actually, he was in a way relieved. The arrangement gave him less things to mind about the future, having a sure wife. He met Ino (along with Choji) a lot of times before, whenever their fathers have a reunion.

She was a loud, extremely competitive, girl who was, in a nutshell, his exact opposite. She cared too much about her appearance and generally everyone else's. She got involved in anything she sets her eye on. She was spoiled, and made no effort of hiding it. During their first year in school, she and Sakura had the most troublesome crush for Uchiha Sasuke, much like the rest of the female population. The two of them competed at everything to gain the Uchiha's attention, most of which he remembered sleeping through.

He heard, though, that they got the entire school's attention. Except Sasuke's.

A few months of trying passed and they figured that things weren't working out with the guy. He knew that if he had an inch of care to what they were doing, he might have even told them the truth about Sasuke's preference, but he decided it was none of his business and was too troublesome anyway. Their competition ebbed down to academics, and Sakura started to give Naruto a little more credit than the rest of her lifetime where she ignored him. Ino, on the other hand…

…got engaged to him.

She tamed down with her obsession with boys after that, but made him aware of all the other crushes that she was getting. To be fair, for a rich spoiled brat, Ino was very dedicated and loyal. She spent almost all of her free time with him, despite his nonchalance and total lack of cooperation. She always made effort for him. The best part of it, however, was that their friendship never changed.

She was still the wild Ino who always nagged him, but after their engagement, started showing signs of affection, which for all he has known about romance never felt like it was obliged or planned by their parents.

She made it feel natural.

That's why when he found himself actually listening to her rants every time she invaded his private alone time watching clouds, and whenever there was an event, he already expected her to come and wake him and dress him up, and when he found himself waiting for her every time she was late for something or before going home, no matter how unchangingly troublesome everything was…

…it was ideally a happily ever after.

He sighed, crossing the street as the green man lit up after what seemed like forever.

Ideally, he thought while mumbling to himself, flipping his cellular phone as he read a reply that he has been waiting for.

"Troublesome,"


Itchy

Hinata subtly reached for her upper torso from the black tube dress that she was wearing. It took the maids almost five minutes to force her to take her coat off for the restaurant. Her aunts, Hanako and Aiko, returned for her earlier in order to help her dress up nicely.

Today is their first date. And nobody has said a word in thirty minutes.

She looked up to him and flinched when his cold and piercing eyes met hers. Quickly, she retreated her hands from scratching.

"A-ano," she attempted to start a conversation, eyes fixed on the table with their untouched food. The term "silence" itself was an understatement for what was going on between them, and she was getting only more and more uncomfortable with how Gaara fixed his unreadable eyes on her.

Has he been looking for long?

"If… you have something to say p-please say it."

No response. At all. Except for that same look.

She slightly shifted, reaching for the water goblet and drinking from it. She put it down, and still his eyes were glazed on her. "I-is there anything you w-want to say? Please…"

"Would it matter?"

She almost sighed in relief when he said those words. "…what do you mean?"

"What we say or feel or think—nothing matters," he said blankly. "Not in this setup. So why pretend?"

She watched him speak.

"We can save ourselves the effort of liking each other, which is clearly not the case."

"Th-that's no—"

"That saves for your part." He said, still not moving a strand of hair from where he sat. "I don't like you."

Hinata looked down at the confession, not knowing what he meant and how to respond. He was still eyeing her like daggers, yet so blankly at the same time. She absently played with her fingers and the hem of her skirt from below the table.

"And you're aware that this whole thing is just forced on the both of us,"

She nodded slowly.

"You know how they want this to go. You know they will eventually get what they want. It will all happen with or without our cooperation with each other. We're wasting time for them." And after a very long time, he averted his gaze to the window outside. The eerie chatter from the other tables and the sound of the violin quartet filled the silence between them. "There's no use saying things. It won't go our way."

"B-but…" she started, noticing that he looked back at her. "…but it makes it bearable, at-at least." She gripped the hem of her skirt.

"What do you mean?"

"A-at least now… we both know what we feel and…"

"And know that it doesn't change a thing."

She shook her head. "N-no that's not true!" She objected. "Now maybe we… can do something about it. If… if we tell them how we feel. Th-they'll understand."

"What makes you think so?"

"W-we never tried. Now th-that we're aware of how we feel, w-we should let them know. If we don't say something… th-then it might be too late."

He blinked slowly, leaning in towards the table. For a moment, he continued watching her, but something in his eyes changed. "I understand." He said to her directly. "Communicate,"

She nodded.

"So if we're aware of how we feel about something, we should tell the ones who can do something about it…" he said, as if pondering.

She nodded again, and then met his eyes. There was an undeniable shift in mood. Gaara seemed to be more interested in having a conversation.

"So Hyuuga," he begain. "Have you taken your own advice?"

"W-what do you mean?"

"Do you tell people how you feel about them?"


"It can no longer be denied, fellowmen, that the Hyuugas took our land as they grit their teeth in competition with Vincent Krauss who was set to take hold of it in a peaceful manner, which was planned and was agreed upon by all parties involved."

Sasuke heaved a sigh. Owing Lee his breakfast and dinner, he was obliged to come to the union meeting, still held in the boy's residence. The meeting tonight was attended by not less than thirty people, some of them hearing the speaker from the window outside the house. When he was there, he couldn't stop himself from listening. The speakers were extremely loud and rather passionate and charismatic. The workers and demolition victims continued to speak against the Hyuugas, which was not to his surprise, after the sudden demolition. Today, however, they spoke of the Krauss.

It almost didn't surprise him that he was being packaged as "the good guy."

Rock Lee took the empty space beside him. "Sasuke-san," he started.

Sasuke faced him. "Hn,"

"In light of the recent tragedies, our springtime of youthful justice only calls us to follow through with this meeting." The thick-browed boy started to say as the speaker in front continued to discuss things about the Hyuugas. "There would be a… conspiracy and…"

He nodded sideways. Obviously,

"…and I know that you have some friends in that family but I put my full trust and confidence in you, Sasuke-san."

He shot Lee a look

"We would like to request for your help regarding this long-term mission, Sasuke-san."


Uzumaki Naruto.

She had always loved him from afar. She couldn't even remember when or how or why. It was probably his brightness—his blond hair and blue eyes, and the way he lights up every tile he steps on. It was probably his uplifting and empowering words which saved her countless of times from herself.

Back when they were children, she remembered Naruto being outcasted because he couldn't read and write. They were probably seven then, and he was always laughed at for not catching up to the lessons the rest of their grade were tackling. He remained at the bottom of their batch for a very long time.

She never figured out what it was that hindered him from bringing out his potential, but one thing about Naruto-kun was that he never gave up. Everyday, she would pass by the library and find him there during his break times and even after dismissal, studying. During the first few years, he finished around two books a week. After those, he was able to read faster than almost any other person she has ever known.

During the times that Naruto was gaining his academic prowess, he started taking up basketball, which at first he was extremely rough with, unable to dribble at the very least. He worked hard on it, too, and eventually became known as the Rebound King in their district.

He always eyed Sakura-chan, always had a crush on the pink-haired girl, who always in return rejected him over and over again.

But he persevered. He never gave up.

And much to her pain, it only made her look up to him even more.

He changed, at the same time he didn't. He was always that bubbly, determined, and trusting boy that she…

always…

"Hinata-chan?"

Hinata almost jumped at his call. Naruto threw the basketball towards the ring and missed, which the blond quickly reacted with a step back. He was practicing alone in the school's gym.

"Yeah?" He walked closer to her.

She held the small box behind her harder, feeling her face heat up as Naruto stopped right in front of her, wiping the sweat off his face. "A-ano…"

Thump… thump… thump..

"Hinata-chan, are you okay?" The blond threw his hands over Hinata's forehead, causing the heiress to redden even deeper, momentarily clogging the rest of her senses.

This is it. This is it.

In a quick motion, she stretched her arms out, holding the box that she intended to give Naruto, towards him. She slightly bumped his chest in the process, but he laughed it off.

"I.. ano…" She tried her best to think of any possible excuse, not seeing herself anywhere near ready to say what she felt. "…f-for your game long a-ago, it's a… congratula—"

"Whoa, Hinata-chan this is really nice!" He said, holding out the basketball keychain. "But wait a sec, Hinata-chan, you already gave me something like this, didn't you?"

She blinked.

Oh right.

She asked Mai to hand it over when Sasuke was in the hospital.

Dumfounded, she was only looking at Naruto, ready to explode in embarrassment any time soon.

"But hey, what the heck right? Two of good things can't be bad at all!" He exclaimed, holding the keychain up high. "I should tell you, I feel—"

Tell? Feel?

"—really lucky to have you as a friend, Hinata-chan! You spoil me, really. Thank you." He flashed a smile before leaning in to give her an embrace.

"I like you!"


He took the magic cleaner from its plastic case and then began wiping the countertop. It had been forty minutes since his shift started, and nobody was entered the store to buy something.

Well, nobody except for the white-eyed girl that walked through the store isles, not seemingly looking for something.

He arched an eyebrow. Why is she here?

He eyed her once in a while, not looking up from where he was cleaning.

They stayed at the demolished area for about thirty minutes the other night. It seemed that the heiress had a lot of things to say, despite her stuttering. And after all the favors she has done for him, he felt only compensatory that he kept her company then. Yesterday, they continued getting advice from each other for their case studies, having a few unrelated conversations like Tesla and Edison.

He momentarily remembered his conversation with Lee the night before. The union is bent on throwing the Hyuugas once and for all, and with Vincent Krauss planning to land into the country by next week, they have almost solidified their rebellion. It involved conspiring with the workers of Hyuuga Corps. He figured that Rock Lee was bent on keeping him involved with the union because of his connections within Konoha High. Also, he already saw Hyuuga Hinata with him when she visited his house the other night.

It was none of his business, and frankly, none of his care.

He decided to keep involved with the union, however, just to make sure that he… because she she

"I know she's your friend, Sasuke-san, but I still trust that you will not let us off…" Rock Lee said. "Maybe, perhaps you can even help us in the future."

"Hn," he said, finding it useless to explain the circumstances.

…she isn't like them.

He did his best to hide his surprise when the next time he tried to look up to check on her, she was standing right in front of him.

"…hi?" she greeted him.

"Do you need anything?" He arched an eyebrow.

She looked around the counter, going through a few pieces of packed chocolate. Tensely, her hand picked a piece of ripe, evidently oversized banana. "…this," she said, not looking at him, "p-please,"

He eyed her for a moment, close to dumbfounded. He grabbed the fruit from her hand and punched it in. "Is this all?"

"Hai," she replied, handing him a bill.

He snatched a piece of plastic bag under the counter and waited for the dot matrix to finish printing the receipt.

"D-don't put it in a plastic bag!" She objected right before he placed it in with the receipt. "It's… bad… for nature."

His eyes continued to glaze on her, preventing a twitch that formed somewhere on his face. "This is a genetically modified banana."

They found themselves in another conversation after that, mostly regarding the harmful effects of human intervention with genetics. Hinata ended up buying soya milk in a paper carton and a piece of donut.

"I told him." She spat out. "I told N-Naruto-kun."


It was interesting. She was one of the quietest people in the world. He was the other one of the quietest people in the world. But when they were together, it was almost difficult to suppress a conversation.

"He said he l-liked me too and… but…"

If there was one thing about the Hyuuga, she was easy to read when she's right in front of you. Like a book. And right now, she was in pain.

"Why did you do it?" He asked rather sternly. And why was she telling him? She knew. She was the only one who figured his… liking… for the blond.

"I just… I realized that if we have something t-to say to someone, we should say it."

He arched an eyebrow. "Right," he took the magic cleaner from the countertop and placed it back inside its container. The Hyuuga still hasn't picked up her purchase, staring at the space between them. "And you have something to say to me?"

She shook her head. "J-just wanted to let y-you know." She said. "Since you als—"

"Don't get there." He said. "And forget about that."

She nodded. This time she began playing with her fingers. "Y-you should, too."

He smirked audibly. That was when another customer entered the premise.

He shook his head as he walked through the narrow streets of their area, finishing the carton of soya milk that the Hyuuga forgot to claim before she left. There was a soft light that illuminated out of their house. He figured that Fugaku was home.

Tell him, he thought and almost laughed at the heiress's suggestion. And be as pathetic?

His attraction for the blond was almost instantaneous. Naruto was the only person in the world who gave him a challenge. He had read somewhere (for a need of rationalization) that his reaction towards this was probably his need for ventilation—ventilation from his own suppression. With the blond around, he was able to win and watch someone lose.

It was a convenient secret that he carried. It made him better—the best, actually—in school. It kept him distracted from his troubles at home. It gave him a reason to talk when he felt like it. It made him feel unreachable. And nobody ever noticed.

Nobody except, apparently, for Hyuuga Hinata.

Sasuke stopped by their door, snatching the keys from his bag. He shook off his previous thoughts as he heard a few grumbles from inside their house.

When he opened the door, he was welcomed by his father, and entered a night which he thought he had already escaped from.


A/N: Hi guys! Thank you so much for supporting this fic :D. I know I've been terrible at updates and so I can't exactly ask you all the favour of dropping a review, but it would really mean so much to me to hear your thoughts. Also, if you have things you wish to see in the next chapters, please don't hesitate to suggest! I'd like to add a few scenes that you guys have in mind (hoping of course that it wouldn't change the plot of the story entirely haha!), as a way of saying thank you to all those who haven't given up on me. Thank you all so, so, so much and I'm excited to hear from you!