Series: Naruto, belongs to Kishimoto-Sama
Author: Lynns (Inu-Hugger and Mysteriousgirl)
Let's Take It Slow
Her eyes slowly skimmed the ceiling, counting the tiles above her one final time in an attempt to get some sleep.
"One hundred and ninety . . . again," whispered Hinata.
It had been two weeks since the six paths of Pain had attacked and destroyed the village, and only a week ago since she had woken up. While she was unconscious, Yamato had rebuilt the hospital in record time for everyone who had been severely injured. Tents were also set up outside for anyone who had minor injuries. Out of everyone in the hospital, herself, Kakashi, and Chouji's dad had been the worst off. All of them had been on the brink of death, and it was all thanks to Tsunade and Sakura that any of them were still here.
Rebuilding of the village had begun immediately. The Kazekage, Gaara of the Sand, had sent out as many ninjas and medics he could to lend them a hand. Even Kankuro and Temari had come to help them out.
During her two week stay in the hospital, so far only her teammates, Neji, and Sakura had come to visit her. Her mind wandered to her conversation this afternoon with Neji . . . .
"Hiashi-sama has requested that only a few people may visit you and for a guard at your door at all times. He wants you to recover as quickly as possible," said Neji, pouring her a glass of water. "He and Hanabi-san are on their way back and should be here tomorrow night."
Hinata had simply nodded. Her father had become less strict and harsh over the years, but to simply disobey an order he had given was practically like committing suicide.
"Has he . . . attempted to see me at all?"
Neji sighed softly, his eyes shifting to the door where Koh was standing guard before continuing. He knew exactly who she meant. "No, I'm afraid he has not."
Tears threatened to fall but she quickly wiped them away with the back of her hand.
"Why haven't you come, Naruto-kun?" Hinata whispered to herself, eyes closing. "I want to see you, just to make sure you're okay."
Even though she had confessed her feelings to Naruto, Hinata wasn't expecting to hear an answer from him, or at least not one right away for that matter. At the time she had only wanted him to know the truth, that there was someone out there that did love him. However confessing to him on the battlefield hadn't been her ideal choice, but under the circumstances if she were to die by the hands of the enemy, Naruto at least had the right to know about her feelings.
Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard the soft sound of tree branches being rustled as if someone was jumping on them. She had been hearing it for the past week but had ignored it since it was probably just the wind. However, tonight she knew the wind was at a stand still, seeing as her window was slightly open and the curtains had not moved.
Someone's outside? Has someone actually been watching me the past week?
Slowly, Hinata crawled out of her bed, grabbed her crutch, and shuffled across the floor, lightly brushing the curtain out of the way so she could have a glimpse outside. Even though none of her legs were broken, Sakura had suggested she use a crutch for balance since the strength in her legs hadn't fully returned from being in bed for over a week. The full moon shone brightly in the night sky, and at the foot of the tree closest to her window was the one person she had hoped would come visit her. Naruto was pacing back and forth and even with her window open she could barely hear what he was saying to himself.
After quickly thinking it over, Hinata turned her gaze to door and activated her Byakugan. She had been expecting to see someone, but there was no one there.
I thought Neji-niisan said he would be guarding my door tonight . . . so why . . .
A soft smile spread across her face as she shuffled out the door and into the dark hallway. Again there was no one there, and the only sound that could be heard were Kakashi's snores in the room across from hers. Closing the door behind her she made her way down the hall, hoping the stairs wouldn't cause her too much trouble.
"So, Hinata, nice to see you back on your feet! You know about what you said two weeks ago, I . . . argh, god damn it! That sounds so stupid!" hissed Naruto, hitting the tree trunk with his fist. He closed his eyes in frustration and tried to slow down his breathing. It had been a week since she had woken up, and the first thing he was told was that he couldn't see her right away. Direct orders had been given from Hiashi who had heard of what had happened to Konoha and his daughter. He had almost picked a fight with the Hyuuga guarding the front door, but Neji had pulled him away and lectured him to calm down.
"Unfortunately, you can't see Hinata-sama right now."
"What the hell are you talking about? I have to talk to her! Come on, Neji, can't I just see her for a few minutes? I'm sure you can keep that small of a secret from her father?"
"And what pray tell do you plan to talk to her about, Naruto?"
His eyes widened. Averting his gaze with the Hyuuga, his eyes stared at the ground while trying to think of an answer. "I-I really haven't . . ."
"First, think about what you are going to say. I am the only one she has told about what exactly happened between the two of you during the fight with Pain. Upsetting her right now is not-"
"You think I would do something like that?!"
Neji raised his hand, silencing the blond ninja. "Just think about what you're going to say to her."
The Hyuuga turned to return to the hospital, "Oh, and one more thing: do not think of coming at night to see her, even though her window is open and I am the one guarding her."
Naruto chuckled softly, "If that wasn't a dead give away . . ."
He turned and looked up at the window to Hinata's current room. For the past week, he had been standing here or in the branches above, contemplating on what the hell he was going to say to her. An hour ago, Neji had left his post at Hinata's door, eyeing him with a glare that practically said, 'You better not be here when I come back.' He clenched his hands into fists, his nails digging into his palms as he remembered the fight with Pain and Hinata's words shocking him so much he was speechless. As soon as the words had left her mouth, everything mysterious about the girl was suddenly clear in his eyes - the way she blushed and stuttered whenever he was around, the fainting spells, and her geniality towards him.
All the girls acted like that around Sasuke . . . I guess I just never thought it could happen to me, so I never noticed.
"Damn it, I still don't know what I'm going to say to her . . ."
It was difficult to find the words when he himself did not know what exactly it was he felt for her. All in all she was one of his precious people – Nakama – but had he ever seen her as more than a comrade? He had never really had a long conversation with the Hyuuga Heiress, but because they shared the same pain of wanting acknowledgement and being called failures, they had formed a bond. Through the years, he had kept his eyes on Sakura, oblivious of Hinata's feelings. At first he saw her as dark, plain, and timid when they were children . . .
But now she's really pretty with her long midnight hair. She doesn't dress like Ino and Sakura-chan who show off their bodies, but . . . A blush spread across his cheeks at a comment Kiba had made about how the size of her chest had nothing to do with the bulkiness of her large coat.
And yet she was the first, the very first person to say she loved him. After hearing those words, he was overwhelmed with the feeling of want, happiness, fear, and confusion. For years, he had hoped and dreamed for those exact words to be said to him, but now that they had been said – he had no idea what to do.
"Why can't I figure out what to say to her?"
"Y-You could start by saying hello, N-Naruto-kun."
Naruto whipped around to see Hinata standing behind him. She was leaning on her crutch for support as her other hand was on the hospital wall for balance. A blush spread across his cheeks as he took in her black tank top and sweat pants.
"W-What are you doing outside? You m-must be freezing!" stuttered Naruto, shrugging off his orange and black jacket. The blush didn't disappear from his cheeks as he walked over to her and placed the warm jacket on her shoulders. His fingers brushed against her soft skin, which only caused his face to turn redder than before.
"T-Thank you . . ." whispered Hinata.
Naruto smiled softly before shifting his gaze away from hers. "So, why are you up? Shouldn't you be sleeping?"
Hinata's face became as red as Naruto's, her gaze moving down to her feet, "I c-couldn't sleep, and then I heard you outside . . ."
Scratching the back of his head Naruto shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."
Hinata shook her head, mumbling a soft "it's okay" that Naruto barely heard. He stared down at the girl before him, still at a lost of words. Sighing softly he tried to make conversation, "W-Would you like to sit with me, Hinata?"
She looked up at the blond ninja, the blush growing on her cheeks. "Where would you like to sit, N-Naruto-kun?"
His eyes scanned the area, looking for the non–existent bench that used to sit outside the hospital. Finally, the thick branch on the tree he had been pacing under caught his attention. "How about up there?"
After she nodded, Naruto wrapped his arm around Hinata's waist, pulling her close to him and propping the crutch up against the side of the hospital. "Hold on."
In a single leap, they reached their destination. Naruto gently set Hinata down before taking a seat beside her. Silence persisted between the two, neither of them really knowing what to say to the other. Naruto stared up at the sky, scratching the back of his head while Hinata stared down at the ground, her fingers fiddling with the material of her sweat pants.
"W-Were you injured badly after the fight with Pain?" asked Hinata, keeping her gaze on the ground.
"Just a little; I've had to take it easy for the past few weeks," whispered Naruto. Whenever he was around Hinata he never felt the need to show his tough side and could always be himself. "What about you? How are you feeling after Pain . . ." He couldn't finish. The incident was still fresh in his mind when Pain's chakra blade had pierced her body.
Hinata's hand came to rest on her chest, and Naruto saw the scar from where she had been stabbed. He hadn't noticed it until now. "It s-still hurts just a little bit, but Sakura-chan healed me, so I know I'm going to be okay. I've still got s-some bruises here and there, and I'm still a bit sore."
Naruto's eyes narrowed with guilt. If only he had been stronger, more aware of Pain's power . . . hell, had he not left the village, none of this would have happened.
Hinata noticed the pained look on his face and without thinking she placed her hand on his shoulder, "D-Don't blame yourself, Naruto-kun. It's my own fault for j-jumping in like that. I shouldn't have . . ."
"Stop. Don't ever think like that," whispered Naruto. He was both nervous and glad that they were finally talking about what had happened, "If you hadn't done that – even though I did transform - Pain would have captured me and it would have been . . . just like what happened with Gaara, so please don't think like that." Naruto turned his head to look Hinata in the eye. "Y-You're not scared of me, are you?"
Hinata's eyes widened.
"They said I was pretty scary looking. Something about a fox skeleton and then almost going completely nine-tails, and I . . ."
"No. I'll never be scared of you, Naruto-kun," Hinata whispered without stuttering once. "I've known about the nine-tails since I was a child. My father told me and never once have I been scared of you."
A sort of warm feeling of acceptance fell over Naruto. It was something he had never felt before, not even with his own teammates.
Hinata took a deep breath and continued, "I-I meant what I said before I attacked Pain." Her hands clenched on top of her legs. "I've always admired you, had a crush on you, and later realized that it wasn't just a crush but something more. And I would have m-maybe said something sooner, but I . . ."
"Hinata . . ." interrupted Naruto, "How long have you felt this way about me?"
"Since the first day I saw you at the academy. Whenever I looked at you, I would always feel this intense and warm feeling in my heart. I watched you from . . ." Hinata dipped her head down, and, before he could respond, she whispered ever so softly to him, "I'm sorry, Naruto-kun."
Naruto tilted to his head to the side. "Why? Hinata, you have nothing to be sorry for."
"Back in our academy days, I-I knew you were alone and didn't have any friends . . ."
Blue eyes narrowed slightly as the painful memories slowly entered his mind. The cruel taunts and harsh words from the other ninjas was something that was burned in the back of his mind.
"I-I wanted to be your friend so much. I wanted to play with you and talk to you . . ." Naruto shifted closer since her voice was just barely above a whisper. "But I was such a coward, and I thought maybe you wouldn't w-want to be friends with someone like me who was always making mista-"
Hearing his stern voice caused Hinata to raise her head, but she kept her eyes downcast, unable to look into his.
"Please don't apologize for that."
"It's okay, Hinata. I don't regret anything that happened in the past, no matter how painful it was."
Nodding softly, Hinata shifted her gaze to look at Naruto out of the corner of her eye, his own staring up at the full moon above them. Silence fell between them, but it wasn't awkward at all – almost peaceful.
"Hinata, I have to be honest . . . like I always have been with you." His gaze fell on her own, piercing blue against soft lilac. "About what you said two weeks ago – I don't-"
"You like Sakura-chan, right?" interrupted Hinata. She had always known Naruto harbored deep feelings for his teammate; it had been obvious to everyone.
His eyes widened momentarily before the hand closest to hers lifted to scratch the back of his head, a trademark sign that he was getting nervous. "I don't really know what it is I feel for Sakura-chan anymore. Maybe it's just a crush, maybe it's something more . . . but then again I've been asking her out for years, and she's always said no. I guess it's time I moved on, but, in all honesty, I don't know what love is."
Hinata nodded softly, knowing perfectly well why he didn't know anything about love.
"However, when I'm around you . . . I feel at ease," he whispered softly. Memories of seeing her before the final round of the chuunin exams flashed before him. On the way to his fight against Neji, he had walked to the training grounds and found Hinata standing there. For the first time in his life he had let his guard down. Telling her why he acted tough all the time to hide the pain of failing. "You were the first person that I ever told why I act tough all the time, and I showed my weakness in front of you. I was so down that day, but then you . . ."
His hand left the back of his neck, slowly to rest on top of hers; blue eyes still locked on lilac ones, "You cheered me up by telling me how I was a proud failure and that true strength is making mistakes but having the guts to get back up."
Hinata was too distracted by his words to notice his hand on hers.
"You always seem to leave me speechless. Back then you did and when you jumped in to save me from Pain it happened again." His hand lightly squeezed hers, finally getting Hinata's attention that Naruto was holding her hand. "I want . . . I want to find out more about you, Hinata, and whether we just end up staying friends or perhaps something more. . ."
A dark blush slowly spread across Naruto's cheeks, his eyes finally leaving hers to stare at the ground below. Hinata's cheeks were redder than his while she stared at their hands. His on top of hers. She could feel the calluses and blisters on the palms from all his training on the back of her hand. How many times had she always dreamed and imagined his hand holding hers? Taking a deep breath and gathering all the courage she could muster, she turned her hand in his. Interlocking their fingers together and lightly squeezing back.
"We can start out slow, Naruto-kun. J-Just talking like this is a good start," she whispered softly, holding onto his hand as if it were a life line.
Naruto squeezed back just as hard, scooting closer to her, "Slow would be nice. I really don't want to start anything serious until this whole mess is over."
"R-Right, and even if you do come to realize that you s-still like Sakura-chan, we will always be friends."
His trademark smile appeared. "Thanks Hinata!"
Their eyes left each other's to stare back up at the full moon, and the comfortable silence returned as they listened to the sound of the night.
"Oh! I almost forgot!" said Naruto, reaching up on the branch above them and grabbing a small bouquet of Lilacs. Smiling, he passed them to Hinata who grabbed them with her free hand. "I found these outside the village today, and they reminded me of your eyes."
Hinata brought the flowers up to her nose, sighing contently as the soft aroma from them relaxed her even more. "Thank you very much, N-Naruto-kun."
Resting the flowers on the branch beside her, Hinata was about to suggest she return to her room before anyone noticed she was missing, but then a thought came to mind.
"Have you been s-sitting outside my window the past week?"
Naruto stiffened slightly, a guilty smile spreading across his face. "Y-Yeah that's been me. I've wanted to talk to you, but I wasn't sure on exactly what to say . . ."
"Didn't anyone see you?"
"Sakura-chan did a few times, and Neji did today. Both told me to grow some balls and just go see you instead of hiding in this tree."
Hinata giggled softly and turned her head to look into his eyes again. A soft blush dusting her cheeks as she once again summoned up her courage. "Tomorrow, would you like to go for a walk with me, Naruto-kun? We could talk some more, and I want to get to know more about you too."
Naruto's eyes widened slightly before his face cracked into a grin, "Are you asking me out on a date?"
The blush spread like wild fire across her face, and all Hinata could do was nod.
He laughed softly. "Sure. I have to help out with rebuilding the village first, but after I'm done, I'd like to go for a walk with you . . . that is, if you're allowed to leave the hospital?"
"I think going for a walk would be fine, but I just can't overdo it. As long as it's before my father comes back, then everything will be fine."
Smiling softly, Naruto released Hinata's hand to stand up. He raised his arm up to stretch out his body before kneeling down to offer his back to Hinata. "Let's get you back into bed. Can't have you tired for our walk tomorrow."
Returning the smile, Hinata nodded and crawled onto Naruto's back, her arms wrapping around his neck. He could feel the heat radiating off her face as his hands reached down to pass her the bouquet of Lilacs before grasping her thighs. Naruto jumped down from the tree and headed back into the hospital at a slow pace. His own face was beet red, feeling her chest pressed into his back. I think having both my sensei's as perverts has rubbed off on me the wrong way . . .
Sakura's hand shook as she watched Naruto and Hinata walk back into the hospital. Her breath coming out in short shaky pants while her other hand was clenched against her chest.
She had come to check on Hinata but discovered that the Hyuuga Heiress was missing. Slightly panicking, she was about to search the hospital, but movement and voices outside caught her attention. Drawing back the curtain slightly, she watched as Hinata and Naruto sat in the tree talking. What had happened between them during the fight with Pain was a mystery to everyone. She had seen Naruto outside of Hinata's room countless times and could not figure out what the hell he was so nervous about. At first, she had thought it was just Naruto feeling guilty that Hinata had gotten hurt on his behalf. Practically everyone in the village except for Naruto himself knew that Hinata had a crush on him, which was obviously the reason she had gone down to help him. However, as she watched them talk, and saw as Naruto grasped Hinata's hand in his . . . it was obvious that something had changed. Had Hinata confessed to Naruto before she was struck down by Pain? But as the two continued to talk and move closer to each other, it became clear that she had . . .
But what Sakura could not figure out was why did it bother her so much when Naruto handed Hinata a small bouquet of flowers and then knelt down to let her climb on his back? Her body shook with jealousy and betrayal as if Naruto had just cheated on her. Naruto had always been asking her out for dates, and, like always, she refused. The date requests had lessened a lot since he got back from his training mission with Jiraiya.
Sensing that Naruto and Hinata were getting close, she opened the window wider and darted outside. Landing on the tree branch that moments ago occupied the said couple, Sakura quickly hid herself in the leaves and watched through the open window.
The door opened and Naruto carried Hinata to her bed, turning to set her down.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Hinata."
"Have a good night, N-Naruto-kun."
Sakura could see the red blush quickly spread across Naruto's face, as he reached down to grasp Hinata's hand, brought it to his lips and lightly kissed the back of it.
"You too, Hinata. Sleep well."
Once again Sakura's hand clenched against her chest, Why? Why does it hurt? I don't have those kinds of feelings towards him . . . do I? Or is it that I'm jealous that he . . .
She concealed herself more in the trees, watching Naruto stroll out of the hospital, a great big smirk plastered across his face as he hummed an unknown tune.
Neji finally returned, hoping he had given Naruto enough time to talk with Hinata. Upon seeing the said blond ninja and the big smirk on his face he knew the answer to his question. Naruto didn't even notice the Hyuuga as he walked by, still humming and smirking. Shaking his head, Neji walked back into the hospital to return to his post but stopped momentarily to regard the female medic kunoichi hiding in the trees.
"Does it hurt because the one you yearn for isn't here? Or is it because deep down you've always had hidden feelings for your other teammate?"
His statement was met with silence.
"Either way you need to move on and stop sulking in the past, let go . . . even if it will be painful." Neji didn't even wait for a response as he headed back into the hospital. Climbing the few staircases he returned to his post at Hinata's room. Opening the door slightly, he peeked in to find her fast asleep and a small smile on her lips.
Even when times are tough and everything around you is going downhill, good things will arise from the ashes.
In case any of you are curious, yes the first chapter of this fic is from my first Naruto one shot. In fact my other two one shots 'When It Rains' and 'Facing Your Heart' are going to be the next few chapters. I decided to combine the three shots into one fic and continue on with the story. I won't remove the original ones because I'm lazy.