Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any of its characters in any way, shape, or form. No infringement is intended and never will be.
Description: After Naruto returns from defeating Nagato, one of the first people he sets his eyes on is the girl he never realized had feelings for him, at least until it was almost too late. (manga spoilers)
"Naruto!" Sakura rushed forward, quickly embracing him as he walked through the tents signifying what was left of Konoha. His cheeks and clothes were caked in dirt, mud, and blood, his eyes like dark pools of both wonder and unknowing, yet knowing everything without a spoken word. He blinked up at Sakura as she smiled at him, her head tilted slightly to the side as she said, "We were worried about you, you know. You disappeared for a few weeks."
Defeating Pein was no easy task – in fact, it was a painful task, one that Naruto had help with. While the ones who helped him fight Nagato (Shino, Ino, Chouji—just to name a few) returned to what was left of Konoha, Naruto had to clear his head. This was the man who killed his mentors—Jiraiya and Pa Frog—the man who potentially killed his first mentor before all of them, Kakashi. This was the man who threatened Iruka's life, who almost took Hinata's.
And, with his own two hands, he had finished the duel between him and his exact opposite. The man whose idealogies and thoughts were completely foreign to his own. Nagato had messed with his head in more ways than one, and though Naruto was able to finish the fight in a matter that proved peace was above all, Naruto knew that this was the fight—the battle—the pains—that would change him from the boy he once was into the man he was now.
"Where is she?" Naruto asked, glancing at Sakura as the pink-haired girl turned away from him. She gave him a warm yet innately melancholy smile, one that said all too well what her inner-thoughts were. She was happy without a doubt—happy that her comrade and best friend was alright, happy that he came home, but was worried. Concerned that maybe he hadn't come back as the Naruto she knew and grew up with, but a changed, colder Naruto. When she gave that smile, Naruto merely grinned back and rubbed the back of his head, giving her his own wide, horizontal crescent-moon grin, showing a jaw-full of pearly whites (also unfortunately caked in mud, sick). "Don't worry, Sakura. I won't do anything perverted to Hinata."
"Dumb-dumb," Sakura snorted after whapping him upside the head. Naruto winced and blinked up at her, but she only gave him a lop-sided grin. "So you really are the same. Good. She's actually over at the new Hyuuga residence. Yamato and a few others who specialize in the earth element were able to re-form some of Konoha no-prob, though as you can see a lot of it still needs to be rebuilt."
That was also true. That was one of the first things Naruto noticed when he arrived—there were wide wooden arches and metal beams extending over what was at one time Konoha. To the far end of the village—closer to the Hokage mountain—there were a few fully-rebuilt buildings and homes, but nothing much. Yet, for the few weeks Naruto was gone, it was enough to make him smile.
"Thanks, Sakura," he said, his eyes shutting as he grinned his typical Uzumaki Naruto smile. Sakura only returned his expression with a nod, and Naruto sped past her toward the new Hyuuga residence.
When Naruto arrived, he found himself surprised by the lack of insides the Hyuuga residence held. He knew it was just newly-built and none of the homes were really furnished with anything homely yet, but even so, because the Hyuugas were one of the most pristine and famous of bloodline families – or families in general – he'd assumed that as soon as the Hyuuga residence was done, they'd turn it into what it used to be, chop-chop, andalé andalé andalé!
However, there was nothing in there but a cold, empty solace. He stared for a few seconds, standing in the midst of clean wooden floors and bare white walls. The only piece of furniture in the wide area was actually a desk next to the sliding door, but even that was naked all but for a gold-laced picture frame resting at the center of the desktop. Naruto took a few hesitant steps forward, his brow furrowed as he reached forward to grip the picture frame in his hands.
It was a picture of Team Kurenai from before Sasuke set off to train with Orochimaru, before Naruto trained with Jiraiya away from Konoha, before Sakura became Tsunade's apprentice. Kurenai, as the mentor of the three twelve-year-old ninjas, stood in the back with a small corner-tip smile, her hand resting on the top of Hinata's head. Hinata, who stood in the middle, had a face that reminded Naruto of the pink pork in his Ramen. Completely, utterly flushed, her teeth lightly biting her bottom lip, her hands folded behind her back. Kiba's hand was resting on her shoulder as he grinned greedily at the camera, while Shino was on the other side of Hinata with his typical expressionless face.
Naruto smiled at the picture. In a lot of ways, it was just so... them.
"Naruto?" It was a small voice, one that Naruto didn't quite recognize. He turned around to see a young girl with long dark hair the shade of Hinata's, her eyes that cold motionless purple that seeped into one's mind like an endless abyss. Her movements were quiet yet somehow intricately displayed, something not quite graceful yet silently dancing in a duet of danger and deadliness. Naruto watched as she tilted her head to the side and repeated, "You're Naruto, aren't you?"
"Cha," Naruto said through a smirk. "Uzumaki Naruto! Believe it!"
The girl smiled back at him. "Hyuuga Hanabi. I'm Hinata's sister."
"You?!" Naruto's jaw almost dropped. The younger girl giggled quietly, one of her hands reaching up to cover her lips as she closed her eyes in a lift of blissful emotion. Naruto eyed her suspiciously. "You're too old to be Hanabi!"
"Psh, last you saw me was a long time ago, remember?" Hanabi again giggled. Naruto backed away just a few inches—he didn't like it when girls laughed at something he said, even if they were Hinata's sister. However, she was still Hinata's sister, so she couldn't be all that bad, right? Hanabi merely smiled at him and tilted her head to the side. "If you're looking for Hinata, she's upstairs. I think she went to check out our new balcony."
Naruto nodded at Hanabi in thanks, then moved toward the nearby staircase. They spiraled upwards in a similar fashion to Naruto's emblem, ending at the second floor which was just as bare as the first. All the sliding doors were open, the windows sucking rays of light from the sun like leeches. White light splayed all throughout the Hyuuga residence, leading Naruto through their endless halls of endless toasty sunbeams. By the time he ventured through a few doors, something dark—something contrasting the white light—caught the corner of his eye. He craned his neck to see he was just a few hallways short of the balcony, where he could see strands of hair weaving through gentle gales of wind, pulling lightly, pushing softly, then pulling back again.
The closer Naruto ventured, the more he saw. And, before long, he found himself sliding open the only closed sliding door in the house.
The person he saw in front of him was the person he least expected. Her hair continued to billow in the breeze, however the weather also caught the edges of a soft green dress and tugged it in the same direction as her hair. The dress wasn't overly long—about knee-length—showing bare legs that shined in the sunlight. In the same fashion, naked arms reached forward as lithe hands gripped a white railing to hold herself to it, her face tipped toward the cloud-strewn sky as her gaze danced with the blue of the heavens.
Naruto expected to see the Hinata he'd always known, the Hinata who wore a gagzillion layers of clothing everyday, the Hinata who disliked showing a part of herself that someone could regard as "not normal" or "not beautiful enough". He expected the Hinata who shied away from everyone, believing she was somehow lesser or more abnormal than them.
True, she was more abnormal than most people. But then again, so was Naruto, and he refused to believe that either of them were lesser.
And perhaps, Hinata now believed the same.
He expected the old Hinata.
Instead, he found himself staring at a Hinata who wasn't afraid to show who she truly was anymore.
"Good morning, Naruto," she whispered, her face turning toward his as she gave him a smile both ethereal and weighted with calm reserve. "I..." She bit her bottom lip, red tagging her cheeks until she silently shook her head and turned back to the aether above. "I'm glad. I was hoping... you were okay."
"Hinata..." His eyes widened, his feet suddenly feeling pinned to the floor by mammoth pegs. "Hinata."
His voice came out somehow both gently and heavily, something that felt guttural yet it forced his heart to pump liquid heat throughout his body. Hinata's smile only grew warmer, and finally, she fully turned toward him.
Then, without another word, without a stutter, without any word from him, she leaned forward and kissed his forehead.
"Thank you," she said. "For everything, Naruto."