NaruHina is just so sweet, it's almost sickening; this is too cute to be morbid. I needed to cheer myself up; so sue me.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Dedication: To Dessie, because you're cute when you're jealous. To Erika, because you're a babe, and I love you. Also, to cherryluver19, slyefoxfury and Shubhs. All five of you have reviewed all the chapters in this series. I love you all.
P.S.: I still like my new pen name. It's the smex. Just like Hades. And House. Oh ye-s. Oh, and Erika, I stole a line from you. Find it!

---

Hinata is (special-special-special) different. That is the first thing people notice about. They notice that she is different.

She is weak, in some eyes.

She prefers to let them think this; because of it, they underestimate her, and when they are bleeding on the ground, she thinks that perhaps, that underestimation cost them the fight, and sometimes, more then that.

But then again; Hinata hates fighting.

She is (special-special-special) not a pacifist; she simply thinks it is not worth her time. And Hinata Hyuuga has never been one to indulge in wasted pastimes. She has a life to live.

There are things about herself that she keeps secret (but doesn't everyone have secrets? Of course they do), and Hinata is no exception to this rule.

But her secrets hide in the way she smiles, the way she moves, the way she speaks. The sadness is always there, so close to the surface that Hinata can't control how (special-special-special) she acts, sometimes.

She can't control how she acts, because she doesn't even know whether she's feeling anything at all.

So sometimes, Hinata feels like a doll; beautiful, polished, and meant for nothing more then sitting on a china self, protected and sheltered from the elements.

But the real Hinata is not like this. The real Hinata is (special-special-special, like shooting stars and rainbows) gritty, and has worked for so long to be of worth.

Hinata thinks that all kunoichi must work to prove their worth, because women do not have a man's natural strength.

But men do not have women's natural grace; and if there is one thing Hinata has, it is natural grace. She has it in spades. She may not be a classical kind of beauty, but she is graceful.

And when Hinata dances (because you do, sometimes, at night; that affinity for water came from nights dancing on the moon's reflection), the whole world holds still, and waits for her to stop moving. Because the world does sort of wait for her.

Time is a catching thing, though, and Hinata is terrified that it may leave her behind, in the dust of the centuries where she will be forgotten. That is the worst thing, to Hinata; to be forgotten.

She was forgotten enough as a child to want it to never happen again. Always looked over for Neji, and then Hanabi (oh, the horror. Your little sister will have something that you neverwanted in the first place; you almost cheer-cheer-cheer-) after him. Hinata loves her almost-siblings, and does not want to see them hurt.

But Hinata is selfish; selfish in ways that she doesn't even want to think about, because if she does think about them, she ends up thinking about blue eyes and blond hair and whisker scars and-

And then she remembers that he's not hers, and was never hers in the first place.

That thought hurts, and so Hinata leaves the Hyuuga compound at one in the morning, because she does not know what else to it. She has a feeling that Sakura will be at the hospital; Sakura is always at the hospital. Always.

Hinata slips through the double doors, and is greeted by her best friend's exhausted face.

"Hinata, what are you doing here?" Sakura asks, and Hinata finds that she is (special-special-special) wincing at the rough, so fatigued (so tired-tired-tired) tone of Sakura's voice.

"Sakura, how long have you been awake?" Hinata asks, all calm, collected concern.

"Too long," Sakura murmurs, and Hinata ushers her out the door without another word. Sakura will rely on her, because Sakura always relies on her.

Everyone has a breaking point, and Hinata knows that Sakura has reached hers.

It makes Hinata wonder when she will reach her own breaking point. She also wonders if it will be as painful for her as it seems to be for Sakura.

She almost does not want to know.

---

Hinata is (special-special-special) doodling when she finds out that Ino's team in back. She jumps up, and allows another nurse to take over for her.

She is worried about that mission when it is given to Ino; Hinata has seen missions like that before, and she knows that they never end well. Tenten was assigned, too, but Hinata knows exactly why Ino was assigned.

Ino is beautiful, and a mission like that one needs someone beautiful. Men are so easily influenced by beauty; Hinata knows this.

She almost feels sick when she see's Sakura confronting a bruised-around-the-throat, empty-eyed Ino. And then Hinata knows that she was right; it was that kind of mission. But Kiba is there, and Hinata smiles.

Kiba is a good person (just not your type, no matter how much you both wished him to be-), and Hinata thinks that he will make her old friend happy. They both deserve it, anyways.

And then Hinata sees Tenten, and all worry for Ino leaves her body.

Tenten is covered in blood, and there are tears streaming down her cheeks. She nearly staggers into Sakura's arms, and (cries-cries-cries; you've never seen Tenten cry before; it's almost scary-) she's shaking.

Hinata shakes her head, and takes Tenten out of Sakura's arms. She will take her home, and get her cleaned up.

And so she does. After Tenten has some hot tea, and is in the shower, Hinata writes a note, and takes her leave. Tenten has never been the type to want company.

Hinata goes home, and is not surprised to find Neji gone. She knows he is as worried about Lee as Tenten is, but he simply shows it differently.

And Hinata has always been able to read people; in a family like the Hyuuga, one must be able to read others almost perfectly. Hinata was always been (special-special-special) especially gifted at this.

Hanabi has yet to acquire that ability, which is why she is still not head of the clan. Hanabi is only twelve -there is a five-year difference between them-, and no twelve-year-old should have to read people.

But then again, no twelve-year-old ought to be head of a clan that would rip her apart, given the chance.

Hinata knows her father thinks that Hanabi is stronger then she; mentally stronger, if not physically. But Hanabi is Hinata's sister, and Hinata knows her sister's mind better then she knows her own.

Hanabi is still simply a child, no matter what anyone says.

And Hinata does care for her, in a broken, motherly way. Hanabi never got to know their mother, and Hinata thinks this may have changed her.

It certainly changed her father (but you don't want to think about that, because before mother died (before she had Hanabi, really), you were your daddy'slittlegirl. You miss that-).

Hinata shakes the thoughts off. She does not need to think about this, right at this second. There are things to be done; things to be done at the hospital, things to be done at home, things to be done.

And thinking about her mother always hurts.

Her fingers link together, and she studies her hands for a moment. They are a painter's hands, an artist's hands; exactly like her mother's. She remembers that about her mother.

Hinata hates herself because she is so much like her mother, and yet nothing like her at all. Hinata's mother was assertive, and unafraid to face down her father.

She hates herself because she can not be her mother, and it's only the most painful thing ever. Hinata can not be someone who she is not.

Even is she is (special-special-special) the best she can be, she will never be her mother.

---

The next day is hectic, for Hinata. She wakes early, and runs to the gates. Naruto (you can't even say his name without blushing - why do you even try-) has been gone now for a day.

Hinata knows where he has gone - it is where he always goes. After the Uchiha boy, again.

Hinata also knows that when he comes back, dragging Uchiha Sasuke behind him, he will be laughing. He will have lost plenty of blood, and both will nearly be dead, but he will be laughing, because he is Naruto, and that is all there is to it.

And of course, being Hinata, she is right.

She is at the hospital when the explosions start. She has not seen Sakura or anyone all day, and has been tending to some files that needed to be filed properly.

Hinata has always been (just so special-special-special; everything you do is as closetoperfect as you can make it. Not Ino perfect, because that kind of perfect is unhealthy-) a perfectionist.

And so when her fingers almost slip, and she almost places the wrong file in the wrong place, she places her hands on her hips (almost grumpily; you can hear Hanabi giggling in the back of your head-), and waits the rocking of the walls out.

After it has finished, and the files are properly filed (that's a strange thought, isn't it? Files properly filed-), Hinata walks down to the front, and glares at the nin who are sheepishly grinning at Tsunade-sama.

Of course Tsunade-sama would be here before Hinata would; she is Tsunade, and Hinata wants (wish-wish-wishes) to be exactly like her. Tsunade is strong, and able to scare idiot people.

Hinata is not amazed. She is (special-special-special) awed, and when Tsunade-sama later passes b her with an approving nod, Hinata smiles to herself, and silently cheers.

So maybe she is not a waste of space.

The explosions go on for another little while, and the next time Hinata looks out the window, she is not surprised (that's a lie, you weren't expecting him back yet; and liesareboring-) to see Naruto dragging a dark-haired boy behind him.

Hinata's whole face turns bloodless when she realizes how much blood is pooling around him. She shrieks at one of the underlings (giggle; that's what Sakura calls them - it kind of sticks, doesn't it-) to go an get them, idiot, they're going to die!

The underlings rush off to do as their told, and Hinata knows Sakura will be down in a minute. She also knows that Sakura will allow no one to tend to Sasuke but Sakura herself, so she tells the underlings off when they start trying to work on him.

And then Sakura appears, sees the Uchiha, and goes into healer-mode.

Hinata herself is already in said mode, because it is hard for a healer to see someone that they love on the healer's table. And Hinata does love Naruto (even though you can't admit it to him, which is stupid, did you know-)

Tsunade-sama is standing over Naruto, roundly verbally abusing him. He is grinning, just like Hinata knew he would be.

And then Tsunade-sama leaves, and nods at Hinata. Hinata takes this to mean that she is trusted with Naruto's well-being, and if she screws it up, there will be blood.

So Hinata sets her jaw, and decides not to screw it up.

The green healing-chakra comes to her fingers easily, and Hinata is proud. It took her forever how to learn this art, and now that she knows it, she will never allow a friend to die, again, ever.

Her mother would have been proud. For that matter, Hinata is proud. For a half-second, she wonders if her father is proud of her, too.

"N-Naruto-kun, where does it h-hurt?" Hinata asks softly, her face heating slightly (because you hate that stutter; it only shows up around him-).

He grins at her, and Hinata thinks she will be blinded by the brightness of that smile. She thinks it would be a good blindness, even though, in her clan, it is a sentence akin to death.

"Here, and here, Hinata-chan. My arms, too."

"You'll h-have to take y-your shirt o-off, N-Naruto-kun…"

So he strips his shirt off, right then and there and Hinata's vision goes red around the edges. She forces the blood back, and knows that her entire face is as red as if she had caught fire. It's a horrible thing, she thought softly.

"Hinata-chan, are you okay? Your face is red. Do you have a fever?"

She laughs weakly. "No, I-I'm fine. Really."

He frowns slightly, and Hinata finds herself wishing for his smile again. "Well," he says slowly, "If you're sure… I don't want you getting sick or anything!"

"I w-won't get sick."

"Promise?"

The single word shocks 's never made a promise to not get sick before. Actualy, she's rarely made promises before. In a kunoichi's world, promises don't always go over so well; they're often not kept, especially when the kunoichi ends up dead.

Hinata almost shivers, and nods at Naruto. "P-Promise."

"Okay," he says, and finally lets her do her job.

She knits muscle and flesh together, bone and sinew. She replenishes the blood in his veins, and frowns when she sees the tattoo on his stomach. What did that mean?

Naruto catches her wrist when her glowing-green fingers brush his stomach.

She looks up into his face, and he is looking at her like he has never really seen her before; it is almost the same way he looked at her after she'd nearly been killed.

"Hinata-chan…" he says, his voice oddly quiet and sincere "Do you know what this is?"

She shakes her in response, afraid of what he is about to tell her. Is it killing him? No, it can't be killing him, it has to be something else-

"Seventeen years ago, a giant fox attacked Konoha."

Hinata blinks and nods. She knows this story - of course she does; every child is told it many, many times over, to instill fear and respect.

"The Fourth defeated it."

She also knows this. She nods again.

"You would know. They said that he defeated it by sealing it away, at the cost of his life. What they don't tell you is that the thing he sealed it into was his own son."

She stares at him. "Oh, N-Naruto-kun…"

"That son was me. I just - I just wanted you to know, so you know what you're getting into."

"Getting into?"

He shrugs and grins at her. "If you still want to be friends with me. I know your dad doesn't like me all that much," he paused and then continued. "Well, that and - and I was sort of hoping that you would…"

"I-I would what?"

"Date me?"

He asks it as a question, with a wince attached. But Hinata's whole world has stopped, and she is standing somewhere in limbo. This is only a dream come true (so speakup, girl! Don't leave him hanging!-).

And then she smiles at him. "I'd l-love to d-date you."

His face lights up like a lantern, and he throws his newly-healed arms around her, nearly pulling her onto the hospital bed in the process.

She is somewhere between laughing, and passes out from the blood rushing to her head. She takes a deep breath, and hugs him back.

He grins down at her, and says "You know, Hinata-chan, I think you're really pretty."

She smiles, and thinks of her mother, and of Hanabi, and, yes, even of her father, and smiles again.

"Y-You know, N-Naruto-kun, I'm not finished h-healing you…"

He looks alarmed. "Oh, right, I forgot!"

So then he lets her go, and Hinata goes back to carefully closing his wounds with chakra. She doesn't care what anyone says - she is allowed to love who she wants to love, and if her father does not deem it appropriate, she will remind him that he married her mother against the clan's wishes.

And Hinata knows, without a doubt, that she will be allowed to do as she wishes. Even if she has to go to Tsunade-sama to get permission (and you know that Tsunade will side with you, because she adores Naruto, and she wantsyou to be happy-) to over-ride her father's wishes, then she shall.

Hinata is (special-special-special) not going to be held down by those who know nothing about her; she is kunoichi, and kunoichi fight and win and survive on sheer power of will.

And when Naruto finally falls asleep in response to the strain that healing puts on the body, a few hours later, Hinata brushes her fingers through the hair that flops across his eyes.

She knows that everything will be alright.

And Hinata, being Hinata (so special-special-special), is right. Everything will be fine.