A look at the Kunoichi, whom I love. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto

Rule #1: Stand your ground. / Hold your position.

The wind whistles around her, but all she hears is the steady rip rip and slice slice of the kunai slashing through the hair she's spent years growing. The girl's grip is rough and her hand is steady but she can feel it tremble just a little when she yanks the black knife and severs her long locks.

Strands of pink tumble to the ground, brush over her eyes and tickle her cheeks. Memories, memories assault her; the things she locked up so long ago, in order to catch Sasuke-kun's eye:

Ino smiling, handing her a flower (" It's means friendship." " And that one?" " Eternity. I'm saying we'll be friends forever!")

Ami, shocked, being pushed back by a steady hand (" You don't scare me anymore, Ami. I see what you are now." " And what's that, Forehead Girl?!" " Just a sad, scared little girl who needs to pick on others to make herself feel good." " Why you-!")

Suzume-sensei pushing her glasses up on her nose, looking out to the gathered kunoichi (" Nothing but a man, my girls. Remember that. Nothing but a man.")

And Sakura lets go of her weakness, and lets go of her fear, and rushes forward, eyes alight and hard as the kunai she buries into her enemies arm.

(And years later, Sakura steadies her feet and digs in her heels. She gathers the chakra until it crackles over her clenched fist like thunder – God's wrath, woman scorned; Hell cowers in fear- and yanks her hand back like she did on that day in the forest so long ago. Only this time, she's kept her hair short, and the only weapons she needs are her fists. She shatters Sasori's puppet to clay and dust, and skids away, smirking at his stunned face.)

" Don't count me out!" (I won't back down to the likes of you.)

Rule #2: Use everything in your immediate vicinity. Anything can be a weapon if you put your mind to it.

She flickers up into the spiral. She flickers, because that is the only way to describe her movement. There is no constant stream of motion, no steady rhythm to each jump she takes to reach the top. She flickers, over and over, disappearing and reappearing in the blink of an eye.

The scrolls turn and twist about her, shooting pillars of carefully crafted writing (ancient, old, timeless) into the sky above her. She flips up into the air, the roar of the wind in her ears and the pounding of her heart thrumming in her head. Below her, the gasps of her peers echo up, and a brief smile lights her face.

" C'mon, Tenten! Show them the bright flames of your youth! Burn them away!" That's Lee, bright, exuberant Lee, with his megawatt smile and his powerful kick. She smiles.

" Yosh! You see, Kakashi, the blazing flame of the flower of my team! You will be hard pressed to find a fighter to match her!" Gai-sensei, senselessly bragging to empty air. It warms her.

" Geez, that's incredible! Kickass!" Sweet, bumbling, little Naruto from the orphanage. Somehow, his praise makes her cheeks burn and her smile grow to a smirk.

She flicks her wrists and twists her body, and saturates the air with gleaming metal, the wind screaming over their racing bodies as they hurtle with deadly force at her opponents.

Maybe she loses her match to Temari, but a loss has never weighed heavily on Tenten's mind. A loss is just a chance to grow and change, and find new little ways of sneaking under an enemies attack.

(She learns to use weapons with more heft than easily knocked aside kunai and shuriken. She learns spears and swords and nunchaku. She plucks ninja out of the sky with well-placed arrows, and stops them dead with a sling and a stone that is just the right size to kill. She spins wooden poles and twists morning stars and breaks bones with heavy clubs. She learns and grows and changes and laughs when Gai-sensei points out a dagger to her in the shop window and asks if she owns one.)

" I'm not done!" (The world is my weapon.)

Rule #3: Keep your mission objectives in mind. Amended: Protect your comrades. Never senselessly abandon them the death.

She rushes in headfirst. It's a stupid thing to do. It's a very stupid thing to do. But then, she supposes, she can simply blame it on instinct. She's the leader of the group (who would oppose her? Her boys like peace and quiet), but she's not the thinker. She never claimed to be the thinker. She never wanted to be the thinker. She lives by her emotions, by the wrenching of her gut that heralds a disaster. Her motions come from a deep ingrained instinct, her words from her heart; so yes, it's a stupid thing to do.

But Ino never claimed to be brilliant.

So she dives in, without thought or provocation, and slides to a stop in front of Sakura (bloody, battered, bruised. But her hair is short and her eyes are gleaming and there is a strength in her Ino can't ever remembering seeing before.) She hides the girl from view, concealing her behind Chouji's girth and her curves and Shikamaru's slumped shoulders. Hissing words about their war and their hate and who's going to look good in front of Sasuke-kun, Ino eyes the pink strands that litter the forest floor and feels a sliver of pride. (Because Sakura is still her friend, her girl, and Ino isn't about to let some Sound punks mess with what's hers.)

Shikamaru agrees with her actions in his usual rumble: Geez, you're troublesome." Ino hears the whisper behind it. (I knew you were a good person Ino.)

Chouji cowers and stutters, and hisses at her from dragging him into it: " Are you crazy?! We'll be killed!" And Ino understands his meaning. (If we have to die, then it has to be protecting someone. I don't want to die for nothing.)

Sakura's murmur is almost lost to the wind, but Ino is used to catching her whispers: " I-Ino?" And her heart thunders at the question. (Why are you here? After all the horrible things I said to you, why are you protecting me?)

(She grows up after Sasuke leaves. She drops the –kun, because how can she refer to him so affectionately when Neji has a hole in his gut, Shikamaru is crying, Kiba is getting stitched up, and Chouji is thin and frightened and unable to fight because of him? How can she call a boy –kun after she sees the look in Naruto's eyes when she stops by the hospital? She lets it go easily, because Ino knows it didn't hurt her the same way it hurt Sakura, and she only said she liked Sasuke, not loved him. So she moves on and grows up and perfects her techniques. She learns to turn a man's mind against him without leaving her body, and she learns to stitch skin back together next to Sakura, and she learns that dying isn't so bad if it's not meaningless.)

" I said I would never lose to you, remember?" (Even now, I'll be the one who protects you, got it?)

Rule #4: Go for the kill. No mercy.

She is not gentle. It was never within her to be gentle. Her homeland is rough and harsh and unforgiving, with whipping winds and hot days and scorching sand as far as the eye can see. Perhaps something of her environment is reflected in her biting words and cold glares, but she thinks that she blames her father for it all.

A cruel leader, and an even crueler man, Temari grows up with no kindness and no mothering. She must play mother to her half orphaned brother and the whole orphan monster who shares her blood. She remembers Gaara, squalling and shrieking, still sticky with the bloody after birth, screaming as the sand beast wrestled in his mind, and wore it down to bare nothingness. Temari remembers shoving Kankurou behind her and swearing at her father and cursing her mother to whatever high heaven or low hell her soul was allotted for leaving them with such a mess to clean up. Temari learns early on that Gaara doesn't understand kindness, and shies away from any love (has she any to give anymore?) with a violence matched only by his bloodlust. She learns early on that gentleness with Gaara will not do, and sometimes, she must hide her fear behind a mask of cold indifference and watch as her baby brother (what kind of a word is brother anyway? She has no means to define it) crushes men to bloody paste with his sand.

" Shut up before I kill you." Gaara hissed to her one night when she dared to ask if it was nightmares that kept him up. She flinched, and backed away, and never asked again, both from fear and anger at his rebuke, but sometimes, when she plays the words over in her head, she thinks she can hear a strained, broken plea of a child, almost lost to the howling desert.

" Don't piss him off. You're all I have left." Kankurou murmured this once in the dead of night as they traveled to Leaf. Temari nodded, and never brought it up again, but sometimes, she wonders if he was saying that he loved her, or if he needed her to be his last shield against Gaara's madness.

" You're a really fierce fighter." The girl from her preliminary match said in passing when they met on the street once. Sometimes, Temari ponders the compliment in those words and the challenge in those gleaming brown eyes.

(It isn't until after the invasion and Leaf lies burning but still alive, and she and Kankurou have hoisted Gaara up over their shoulders that Temari begins to understand kindness. Gaara leans against her, and he is warm and alive and more human than he's ever been, and he whispers the barest little words to them – I'm so sorry- and Temari's fear vanishes. Because now she – at long last, finally – has two brothers to protect and care for, and while she never had a mother to teach her, she will try her best to be mother to both her boys. Gaara runs back to Konoha to help when their darling Uchiha abandons them, and she goes flying after, slashing her way through enemy after enemy, because she can. She may be learning kindness and understanding gentleness, but the ferocity that governed her for so long is not a habit so easily cast aside.)

" When you see all three you'll know; you've lost the match." (I'm not going easy on you. That's just not my style.)

Rule #5: No matter what, get back up. If you must go down, go down fighting.

All it takes is a split second and one raucous cheer that leaves the stadium echoing with his voice for everything she's ever known or understood to change. Her quivering ceases and her heart thunders and the elation of He's watching me he's watching me he's watching me makes her dizzy and lightheaded. A step forward, a mile gained, a kinsman shocked. His mouth doesn't hang open, but his eyes widen barely a fraction of an inch, and thick, fast hatred floods them when she refuses to back down.

Hinata twists and moves and spins and ducks in ways she never knew she could before. She bends full over her waist, back ramrod straight and parallel to the floor, her face smeared with sweat and her heart thundering like a storm in her ears. She catches his glowing hand with her own and rams it back at him and grows with each little step she takes forward. The mouse in her retreats and the lioness she's waited her whole life to be springs to the forefront, roaring and snarling, fangs bared and stance set. Blood leaks past her lips and over her chin and down her front and splatters on the floor, drip dripping like red rain. She smiles and stands back up, because that's the last thing anyone (anyone, really? Naruto smiles down at her, and Hinata realizes that maybe he knew she'd get up all along) ever expects her to do, because it's more than anyone thinks she can do. Failure little Hinata, hauling herself back to her feet inch by painful, slow inch, holding her side, gasping in pain and fire blazing in her unyielding eyes.

" She's got nothing left!" Sakura screams, but Hinata can feel Naruto smirk. You're wrong. She's got just enough left to prove you all wrong.

" Hinata, please stop. You're at your limit." Kurenai-sensei whispers to the dead air, fearful, but Hinata can feel Naruto's eyes on her. The only limits are the ones you place on yourself. C'mon Hinata, I believe in you.

" You're finished. You were finished before the match even began, Hinata-sama." Neji-nii-san hisses coldly, but the ring in Naruto's voice is still echoing in her mind, and her muscles suddenly don't' feel so heavy anymore. Fate is nothing. You show 'em all, Hinata.

(The rush of the wind and the crack crack of the dusty, battle-worn ground echoes in her ears. Her heart is a drum, beating faster and faster and louder and louder until she can't even hear the call of the birds overhead, can't feel the whip of the wind in her face. But the feet she uses to disturb the dirt are sure, and the hand she raises against Pein is strong, and the look on her face is that of fire and strength and a steadiness the Akatsuki leader either can't understand, or has forgotten how to. Naruto lays behind her, screaming some nonsense about how she should run, and Hinata wonders vaguely if this is how Sakura-chan felt, staring down the Sound Trio in the Forest of Death, or how Ino-chan felt, holding Shikamaru as he cried, or how Tenten-nee-san felt, tentatively returning Neji-nii-san's furtive kiss. Fear and anger and hope and strength dance through her mind, her eyes fixated on her enemy's and her palms alive with the swirling, deadly chakra she's learned to control and use. For once, her heart does not fail her, and for once, her stance is steady, and for one, breath-taking instant in time, her courage wells up and overtakes her, and the frightened mouse of a failure at long last vanishes into the past, and the lioness who pulled herself back to her feet, bleeding, battered, but not beaten takes her rightful place.)

" Because…I love you, Naruto-kun…" (You make me strong; so watch me now, and I will show you how strong I am.)

The reason I had Hinata's ideals change because of Naruto is not because I think she is nothing without Naruto. Hinata, in my view, jsut needs a little boost from someone, for a single person to believe in her, and she can do anything. If jsut one person has faith in her, Hinata can grow to become the strongest she's ever been. And who better than Naruto, whom she admires so much? If he has faith in her, then she feels confident and powerful. And besides, she said it herself: Your smile saved me. It's not that Hinata needs Naruto to be strong. He just helps to bring out the strength in her that was already there.

Just wanted to clear that up.

Hope you liked it.