AN: Gah, I haven't updated in two years! I had initially planned on finishing this two weeks after the eighth chapter too :(
I wasn't really satisfied with the result, though. I mean, I knew what I wanted to do, but just didn't really know how to sit down and hammer through it. So now, two years later, I decided to sit down on a Saturday and just finish this as a gift to myself. It's not as great as I hoped it would be, but I don't hate it either, so I guess it'll have to do. For all those who followed, thanks for sticking with me through this! The support means SO much! I would love if you told me if you liked or hated the ending and why. Especially if you hated it. Hope it's not too disappointing!

(Also, if you wanna read some great NaruHina stories, check out Perpetual159's page. She's got a great collection and it's pretty active)

Sakura watched him stare at the sunrise as he held Hinata's limp hand. He squinted slightly as the rays shone into his eyes, heavily ringed in gray. The brilliant beams splashed orange on his unkempt mane. Despite that he looked weary and disheveled, his sorrow gave him an ethereal quality. He was almost god-like just he spoke, and she knew it was not meant for her.

"This time of day is really nice, don't you think? I wish I could take you somewhere. Maybe to Shikamaru's hill. And you can bring a sweater because it'll be kind of cold out. We haven't really gone on a date outdoors."

"But I only have one wish now, and you already know what it is," he said as his fingers traced her thin wrist, squeezing every now and then to make sure her meager pulse was still there. She had always been small, but she looked tiny now. It seemed like she became smaller with each passing day as the life drained out of her. He was holding on to her with all the strength he had left.

"Or maybe...maybe I have two. I wish we could go back. Back to that night, you know, with the rain and all? I would ask you to be with me. No secrets. No one else. It'll be just be the two of us against the world," he said in a dreamy voice.

"But we can't just go back now, can we? When will I get another chance to tell you that I want to be with you? I know you've done so much for me and I'm sorry I never realized it until now."

Sakura recalled Tsunade's words and it almost broke her heart.

Her condition is critical, and we will do our best to ensure her survival. However, even if her condition stabilizes, there is a significant chance she will never be able to activate her chakra again. Needless to say, if that happens, her career as a ninja is finished. The Hyuuga have left her completely in our charge, and it will be our prerogative to decide whether to continue to put her on life support. Her safety is our priority but keep in mind that it may not be what she wants. Without her chakra, she will live half the life she used to.

"Hinata, I need you to do one more thing for me," he said, licking his cracked lips.

"I'm selfishly begging you to live. Even if we can't be together, even if you have to marry someone else, you still need to live. I promise I'll do my best to make you happy, no matter what." The panic was rising in his voice.

"See, you can't leave me because I don't know what will happen if you're not here."

Speaking in his hushed voice, he looked like he might fade away. He hadn't cried for the past month. But he also had not left, or trained, or showered. He barely ate to sustain himself. He just watched her and wasted Sakura could no longer fight it. He sounded so hollow just then, as if he really might disappear at any second. She slowly entered the room, afraid to break the somber and sacred atmosphere. She saw his shoulders tense when he noticed her presence. She approached him slowly, like one would a wounded animal. She hadn't seen him cry in a long time and hated herself for those times she never comforted him before, back when he was hers to reject. She slowed her pace to a crawl, beseeching him to let her comfort him. Thankfully he accepted, and when she got close enough, she wrapped her arms around him and only then he gave himself up and cried.

"Naruto, you should have seen her. She was brilliant and beautiful. You would have been so proud. If it weren't for her, Ino would have died."

"I wish she didn't have to be brilliant, Sakura. I just want her to be safe. I wish she had never gone to Grass. I need her, Sakura. She has to be okay."

She cried with him now, because this time his pain was hers as well.

"What's gonna happen? What am I supposed to do?"And then her treacherous heart spoke.

"Naruto, I love you," she blurted out, terrified because she wasn't lying.

"Please come home with me. She'd never want to see you like this. She would have hated this"
Why are you talking like she's already dead?"

Sakura wished she could go back in time also - back to when a hug from her was all the medicine his heart needed. Her heart broke now because she meant nothing more to him than a sister.

"No matter what happens to her, I'll take care of you. Please let me, Naruto..."

"Stop talking like that! She can't die! Don't you see that? You won't be able to take care of me if she dies because that can't happen! That world just can't exist. It wouldn't make sense. Why would the universe finally bring us together when we'd been perfect for each other all along? Do you know how I hear my own voice inside my head? Well, that voice is constantly talking to her. Even when I'm not with her, I imagine myself talking to her. How can the universe take away someone who's so perfect? We're two of a kind and I need her. Trees can't grow without water. Don't you see? Life can't be that bad."

This was it then. She knew she had lost him to Hinata forever. Hinata had spotted the diamond in the rough before she did. Now there's only one thing she could do for him.

"Naruto, I need you to move."

Just get out. I need room."
If you love her, you will leave this room."

She worked like a mad demon. It was an uphill battle and even the most esteemed medics had nearly given up. But they are not Sakura Haruno, she thought. She desperately hoped she was right this time, that she really was special, that she really had the potential to surpass Tsunade. This was the time to be arrogant.

I'm counting on it, because Naruto needs me now more than ever. I won't disappoint him this time. It's my turn to be the hero.

Her clothes and scrubs were drenched in sweat. She was exhausted beyond belief, but also relieved and proud. Hinata was not yet in the clear, as her condition had not yet been stabilized. But it seemed like she was not going to die. And now it looked like her metabolism was helping her fight the poison rather than speed up its effects.

It was a risky procedure, but brooding about it for several moments after Naruto's forced exit from the room, it was a risk worth taking. She knew Hinata would never have wanted to stay alive like this forever. Her family had practically disowned her, Tsunade had said, and Naruto was giving up on himself, not to mention smelling like hell. Sakura knew Hinata would have wanted this.

Just a little more and you'll be safe. An image suddenly appeared in her mind, one of Hinata with her mind and body barely functioning and constantly drooling, and she shuddered. But never mind what Hinata will be like afterwards, she just needed to stay alive for now.

If you manage to be okay after this, take care of Naruto, like I never did. You can have him for this lifetime. But he will be mine in the next one, and the thousand lifetimes after that too.

Hinata dreamed that it was raining outside. The edges of her slacks became wet as she walked barefoot though the puddles. The light drizzle produced dew on her face and arms, and she felt like she was losing grip on reality. Or whatever this was.

She desperately wanted to fall asleep in the gray abyss and collapse in the dirty water. Within her dream, she dreamed that she was in a sunny field of yellow wheat. She could smell the grass and pollen. She wanted to get lost in it forever.

But she had to see that face again, that face which shone like a sun rising only for her.

She reached for his face in in the field of wheat. Then in the wet mist. But she realized he was still so far away. Her limbs moved so slowly, like she was wading through molasses. And in her third person view, she looked beautiful, unlike her normal self. She looked graceful and fairy-like, masking the fear and frustration underneath and the fear of never seeing the sun again.

Hinata's ward was now full of medics, all of whom were in awe of the miracle-working medic nin. Tsunade had been furious at first. The chances of successfully pulling off what Sakura attempted were 40 to 1. Not necessarily impossible, but certainly improbable. Attempting it proved some degree of recklessness. But the older woman could not help but stand in awe. Her student had finally surpassed her. That part was not so surprising. But who could have thought it would be so soon?

When Tsunade declared that Hinata's condition was no longer critical, Sakura gained the courage to bring Naruto into the sank into a chair next to the bed and held her hand (a bit warmer now), as if he needed to replenish the life force that he had lost by being away from her. As Sakura explained what she had done, mirth slowly crept into his eyes before they rolled back inside his head and he passed out. Even as he lost consciousness, his hand never lost its grip on Hinata's.

"Dork," Sakura murmured. She headed home to get her well-deserved rest.

Hinata awoke feeling extremely uneasy, as if she had just missed an extremely important deadline or had just failed to keep a promise to her father. But she couldn't recall what the cause of her discomfort was. When her eyes focused, she realized she was not in her own bed. She was surprised, rather pleasantly, that she was being held by her hero, who gazed at her with lover's eyes.

"Thank you," he said.

"For what?"
For coming back to me."It was then that her memories flooded in. Memories of the ambush, of her return to Konoha and the intensely blinding pain that followed, and rather foggy recollections of being operated on by Sakura. But all of that did not matter now because all she could see was his beautiful but haggard face.

"Naruto, are you alright?"

"I am now."

"I feel like I should be afraid of my family barging in at any minute now..." But she saw him wince and caught the pain in his eyes, which told her more than enough.

"Oh. They're not coming then."
I'm sorry, love."

A big wave of disappointment washed over her. If her clan did not even send any servants to wait her to gain consciousness, then it means the irreparable had already happened. Her body was so badly damaged that she was deemed unfit for nin service. She would be sealed and barred from the clan. But then a small feeling of relief slowly blossomed in her heart. She can be with Naruto now, without fear of further repercussions from her family.

What is it?"
Can I stay with you for a bit then?"

He tilted her chin towards him. "You don't have a choice. I'm not letting you out of my sight." And he placed a gentle yet lingering kiss on her lips, insinuating what was to come.

The road home was long. Even while using a cane, she had to stop often to rest, as her muscles had atrophied significantly during her month long hospitalization. And when she walked, it felt as though she was grinding glass straws inside her knees. Naruto had insisted on carrying her on some stretches of the road. She had been too mortified to oblige him, but between the two of them he got his way more often. Unbeknownst to her, he had felt rather strained walking while carrying her, as his body had also deteriorated during her bed rest.

When they finally arrived at Naruto's home, they showered together – more for Naruto's sake than Hinata's, since she had at least gotten sponge baths. They both saw how thin the other had gotten. Hinata traced her fingers over his chest, which had lost much of its muscle, and over his protruding ribs. His face had become gaunt and he looked so much older now. And he too noticed that she had gotten even paler (he had previously thought it was impossible). Her hair, which he loved, had gotten thin and lost its luster. But she was here and could not be more beautiful to him. When they finished their shower, they curled up on his bed. He was shamelessly naked, while she was enveloped in a large towel. His wrapped one arm around her bony shoulders, and she insinuated her head on the crook of his neck. He felt himself stirring and knew that it would be visible soon.

He started to kiss her to divert her attention from his growing want. Oh, how he loved those lips, so full and so giving. He wanted to wait, and he will wait, but his ache was becoming unbearable. He felt terrible, but he needed physical validation. He needed to know that everything will be back to they were seven months ago—that she will be just as alive and well. He wanted to pleasure her until she became so mortified because she cried out so loud. He wanted all those things back again.

The blush on her face and neck told him that she had become well aware of his intentions. He eased off, but placed one last kiss on her throat, hoping to arouse her as well. Her eyes were questioning him, beseeching him.

"Tell me what you want," he said, in a voice so low it almost her she could see the storm brewing in his eyes. Despite her fears and sadness and pain, her insecurities melted away. Even now, when her worst fears had come true – and she had become absolutely useless, he was still there and he still wanted her.

"Naruto, can you..."

"Anything, just ask."
Can you make love to me?"He didn't need any more encouragement. He unwrapped her towel carefully, like he did with her letters when she had been away. He did the best he could to take her as slowly as possible because she still looked so fragile. But she quickly became insistent, and he moved almost as fast as he usually did when they were together. And it was the best he had felt in a long time because underneath him she was on fire and alive. As they looked in each other's eyes, they found more than lust or affection. They found relief in the possibility that everything will be okay again. After their climax, their limbs remained entangled and they savored the euphoric haze that washed over them.

They laid like that without speaking for a while, grateful that the sun still rises in the east and the moon still revolved around the earth. He finally broke the silence.

"What are you thinking, love?"

"I'm wondering what I'll do now. I don't have a job. Even if I wasn't that good at it, being a ninja is what I've known for most of my life."

"It doesn't matter. I'll take care of you. I promise."

"Naruto, I can't weigh you down. I won't do that. You're far too good and far too brilliant for that to happen."

"But I can still be great. Do you want to move somewhere else? We can be farmers or merchants. We can get a house somewhere in the country, and you can have your vegetable garden in the back. You'd like that wouldn't you?"

"Naruto, you're so incredibly special. You're a blessing to this village. And I can't keep you all to myself. It wouldn't be fair to you nor to the village that has made you the man you are. This is what you love. You belong here."

"I belong with you. No matter where that is. There are plenty of brilliant people in Konoha. They can find someone else. Besides, Old Nade might not even make me Hokage in the end."

"We both know that's not true."

"No, this burden will not be yours. Naruto, you have far more important things to worry about than being with me. You were born for greater things. Ever since I was a child, I've always known that someone like you doesn't come by every generation. You're almost—"

"Hinata, it doesn't matter where we are. It will work out. You know why? It's not because I'm special. It's because there's something special about us. No one else has what we have." He placed her hand on his left breast and his hand over her heart, relishing the way his touch made her skin feel prickly.

"Do you feel this? Can you feel what is going on inside me? Because I'm pretty sure no one else can. Maybe a lot of people feel connections, but ours is different - I just know it. Things will work out. I know that the same way I knew you wouldn't leave me. Our love is greater than the two of us. It has a life of its own. One day, when we're both gone, it will still be around."

"But you know about—"

"Yes, I know what will happen to you. I can understand if you don't want to be with me if you can't have children. But there's no way in hell, I'll let you marry someone who won't be good to you. And don't think about running off either because I'll follow you wherever you go."

"You already know that I will never be with anyone other than you."

"Good, then it's settled."

"But are you okay with not having children?"

"It's okay. We can adopt Konohamaru."

"...Konohamaru has parents and is four years younger than us."

"Okay, but all I know is that I want you to be with me for the rest of our lives. There's no one I respect, love, and trust more than you."

And under the moonlight, he pulled out a ring with an enormous diamond that shone like the sun. She nearly cried. It was flashy, brilliant, and slightly obnoxious. Just like her beloved Naruto.

"I chose it because it reminded me of you. Don't worry about how I got the money. When I told Granny, she let me have my pick from her collection. You know, the First proposed to his wife with this ring. Cool, huh?"

Time seemed to slow down. It seemed like a dream. Like the fantasy that she has played over and over in her mind since they were both children. But reality had always been more surreal than even her most fantastic dreams.

"Be my wife. I promise I'll always protect you and take care of you. I'll always put you first. Trust in me, Hinata. Naruto Uzumaki's body and soul are yours and he will love you until he turns into dust. You are my everything. Will you marry me?"

She couldn't answer and she couldn't stop shaking. He had to hold her wrist steady to put the ring on her. It should have been a good fit several months ago. But due to her dramatic weight loss it was a little oversized. He promised that would change in a few weeks though. Their near future held plentiful servings of ramen and cinnamon rolls and red bean soup. Still, he felt awkward without a confirmation.

"Uh, can I assume that's a yes?"

"Naruto Uzumaki, I have loved you ever since I was a small child. I've dreamed of this moment for years. Of course I'll marry you. I promise to love you and protect you as well as I can for as long as I live. And in your darkest hour, I will not abandon you."

"And in your darkest hour, Hinata, I promise that I will face your demons with you and spit in their faces."

They arrived a bit late at the Hyuuga compound. It was customary to arrive early when seeing clan members with high standing, but Hinata was having an off day so they had to walk more slowly, as Naruto insisted that she take her time. If they were being summoned for bad news, then why hurry? After all, they had already known what was going to happen.

They navigated through the maze of halls and meticulously crafted gardens. Naruto felt uncomfortable walking past the servants and branch house members who stood on either side with blank stares. He wondered how Hinata had managed to live here her whole life without going crazy.

They arrived at the great hall and were told to wait for an indeterminate amount of time. Naruto was about to ask Hinata if it was payback for their being late when the high clan members started to come in from the far door and seated themselves on either side of the hall. Hiyashi Hyuuga then emerged at the front of the pack flanked by Hanabi Hyuuga. They all knelt and seated themselves, Hinata facing Hiyashi and Naruto facing Hanabi. It made Naruto feel uneasy. He did not feel any better when Hiyashi spoke.

"Hinata Hyuuga, do you know why you have been summoned?"


"Since the establishment of Konoha, the Hyuuga clan has provided this village with only the finest shinobi. We have defended this village from countless enemies, suppressed countless rebelions, and prided ourselves in doing so. There has never been a member of the main house, much less and heir, who has not been a fine shinobi. It remains our legacy.

I understand that prior to your six month mission, you had made substantial progress in your training. And should your reconnaissance mission have been successful, you would have been nominated for the jounnin exams. However, due to the unfortunate incident that has left you in your present condition, we have noticed that you are no longer fit for duty. And because of your elevated standing in this clan, we cannot allow you to bring us further dishonor."

"You guys realize that even the Hokage will think you're an idiot if you seal her for this, don't you?"

"Hush, child, you may only speak when spoken to!"

"I can speak whenever the hell I want!"

"Shhhh," Hinata reminded him. She gave a weak smile, telling him everything will be alright.

"Moreover," he continued, "clan policy dictates that any clan member who pursues a romantic relationship outside the clan must be sealed. The Byakugan is a rare and precious gift that is coveted all over the ninja world. The blood of those who carry it must never be tainted by impure blood. Those who disobey will be punished with infertility. Hinata Hyuuga, do you understand why we must seal you?"


"Then Hanabi Hyuuga will perform the sealing ritual." The two of them could tell by the slight flare in Hanabi's nostrils that even she was unprepared for this.

"Hanabi, please proceed. Naruto Uzumaki, only clan members may attend the ritual. Please wait outside."

"No," he growled, the fury threatening to erupt. "Not even if you have to—"

"Father," Hanabi interrupted, "perhaps he may be useful in case Hinata does not survive the process. We cannot cremate her on our grounds."

"Fine. Proceed."

"Wait, what do you mean if she doesn't survive? Just what exactly do you do when you seal someone? I won't let you bastards—"

"Naruto, please," Hinata whispered. "I'll be fine. I've always been much stronger than they think. Trust me, the sooner I go through with this, the sooner we can move on. I think I'm actually looking forward to this" She gave such a bright smile that it chased his fears away.

When Hanabi was an arm's length away from Hinata, they both stood up, Hinata supported by her cane and Naruto's arm. Hanabi's face was impassive as always, but her consternation was almost palpable.

"Naruto, please give us some room," she said. Naruto released Hinata's hand and took several steps back.

"It's okay, go on," Hinata said to her. She drew her bangs back with her free hand.

Then Naruto almost screamed. The process was simple. To the untrained eye, it looked as though Hanabi simply placed her palm on her sister's forehead. Through their chakra, Naruto and the clan saw Hinata's heart rate at 190 beats per minute and her temperature going past feverish due to her fried nerves. He couldn't move. He was in trance as he watched the ritual. That was until he saw her knuckles going white as she gripped her cane. The cane brought him back to himself. But as soon as his muscles began to move it was already over. He the faint traces of smoke from Hanabi's palm.

He was already in motion when Hinata began to collapse. He caught her easily, and her cane clattered to the ground. Her bangs covered most of her forehead, but he could see the fresh wound on her skin.

"Are you okay, love?"

Despite her labored breathing, he could see she was relieved. "We can be together now. There's nothing more they can do."

Then Hiyashi spoke again.

"The sealing ritual has been completed. You shall no longer taint our blood line. You shall no longer step foot on this compound. Your children shall not possess the Byakugan because you will not have children. You have shamed us all, and for that you shall no longer call yourself a Hyuuga."

"Old man, don't talk to my wife like that."

Hinata bowed. "Hanabi, I thank you. Please be well."

"When I become Hokage, you'll reverse this. I swear to it."

And they left the great hall.

On their way back, they made frequent stops, and Naruto took her to a dango shop for a prolonged break. They ate and sipped their tea slowly, and Naruto wondered how such a dreadful thing could happen on such a wonderful, sunny day.

"How are you feeling?" he asked.

"Fine," she said, smiling slightly. "How are you?"

"Fine." He said. Something bothered him though.

"Do you think you'll ever regret…you know…"

"No, of course not. You're everything to me."

"Hey, can I ask you to promise me something?"

"Anything, Naruto," she said as she chewed on her second skewer.

"If I do something that bothers you, you need to tell me. I don't always know these things."

"Um, sure."

"See, I want to get to know you. And I mean really really know you. I wanna know you better than anyone else. I wanna know you as well as you know me. To be honest, it kinda bothers me that Kiba knows you better than me," he grumbled.

Hinata was surprised. Perhaps this was the first time Naruto showed a hint of jealousy. After years of being envious of Sakura and feeling insecure, he was jealous of Kiba of all people? That boy was closer to her than even Hanabi. He was like a little brother. Before she realized what she was doing, she giggled.


"Um, nothing"

"Hey, what is it? Tell me!"

"It's nothing,"

"Don't make me come over there—"

And the post-sealing afternoon was filled with tickles and kisses and a lot of food.

They married not long after that day. It was a simple ceremony, but many people attended. Most of the village knew and liked these two, and even the Sand Siblings came to pay their respects. Hiyashi Hyuuga was not present. The ceremony took place on the third training ground, with Tsunade presiding. With Neji and Shino's concession, Kiba gave Hinata away. A small after party consisting of the newly married couple and their friends took place at Ichiraku and continued to Yakiniku Q, where upon Ino's constant prattling, Shikamaru was coerced to treat them all to barbecue. When they returned to their apartment, Naruto insisted on making love several times to just christen the occasion.

Since Hinata was not able to activate her chakra, and could no longer take on any real ninja missions. For this reason, she resigned and turned in her forehead protector personally to Tsunade. And after two weeks of playing housewife, she grew restless and felt guilty that Naruto's modest salary was supporting the two of them. She then started working as a custodian and waitress at Shushuya, which at night turned into sleazy joint targeted at upper middle class men. Naruto had vehemently disagreed at first, but she said to him,

"Naruto, you told me once, that I should get my way more often—that I should tell you when something is bothering me, remember? I need you to trust in my ability to take care of myself."

He grudgingly obliged, but one night he stopped by and sat in one of the barstools that faced away from her and spied on her. There were lecherous and drunken middle-aged men everywhere, who often flirted with or sometimes groped the waitresses. But they were nothing but polite to Hinata. It was only when Kiba explained it to him that he finally understood, "She's got this kind of wise, damaged quality about her. That's why they don't touch her."

It put him a bit more at ease but he still did not like her working there. That was why he saved him his money for over a year. And on her twenty-fourth birthday, he bought her a small plot of land for growing vegetables. She had always liked growing vegetables, she had said once. He told her to quit her job, and farm her vegetables instead. And she did.

At first, working a patch of land by herself (especially when she still walked with a cane) was difficult, but she managed. She worked hard, and she was patient with her vegetables and had an uncanny sense of what they needed. For that reason, her crop yield was enormous and she managed to earn back the money Naruto spend on her plot of land. And for the next several years, they were able to live comfortably because she earned more money than he did. That is, until he became Hokage.

It was the first time Naruto wore the red and white robes he had longed for since he was a child. And next to him stood his beautiful wife. She had long since been able to walk without her cane, but she used it now because she was fond of it for some reason.

As he viewed his village from the top of the Hokage Rock, he realized he finally had everything.

To no one's surprise, his decree against sealing was put in effect several months after he became Hokage. Hiyashi Hyuuga was clearly not happy about the ruling, but he had never been one to question the Hokage, even if the Hokage happened to be a feckless brat with the an urchin's etiquette Hanabi, on the other hand, had been secretly delighted. They may have been estranged, but they were still sisters.

Hanabi came to their home two days after the decree, asking for the honor of performing the seal reversal on Hinata. Needless to say, Hinata and her husband obliged.

The process was far more lengthy than the sealing itself, and just as painful. Naruto worried but not as much as he did the first time, because his wife's organs had fully recovered and she was much stronger now. When it was completed, the scar disappeared almost completely. One would only notice if it one knew what to look for.

"I apologize," Hanabi said. "The reversal was not fully effective. I was not able to restore function to your ovaries. It may be due to your fragile condition when we performed the sealing in the first place."

"So she's still barren," Naruto asked?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so. But you are no longer under any control by the main house. Or any house for that matter."

"That's good. Thank you Hanabi," Hinata said as she hugged her sister. Hanabi awkwardly returned the embrace before excusing herself.

"I have to go now."

Perhaps of all those that were affected by the decree, Neji was the most grateful. They knew this because he started stopping by their house for tea on a regular basis for seemingly no reason. He laughed more often too.

One day, they spoke about their own experience with the seal reversal. Neji's had been completely successful. When Naruto told him that Hinata's had only been partially effective Neji said to him, "But at least the two of you chose to be free. And with that choice, you freed the rest of us as well."

Once, Sakura dropped by on one of Neji's visits. She had not seen the couple in a long time because she was so busy either healing seriously wounded nin, researching, or training her assigned mentees, who were the best of the newest generation of medic nin. There was light banter with Naruto and serious talks about clan politics with Neji. And then she asked the two Hyuuga about the seal reversal. The two of them explained the process, as both were somewhat familiar with the procedures.

"That's really interesting," Sakura said.

"Yeah, too bad it didn't work out completely for everyone," Naruto said.

"Naruto, it's okay. It was still a wonderful thing you did."

"Hinata, do you mind if I do a checkup on you? It might actually be helpful for my research."

"Um, of course."

Sakura positioned herself behind Hinata and performed a chakra scan. The four of them sat in silence for a whole minute.

"Oh hmmm, this is really fascinating…" said Sakura

"What?" asked Naruto"

"Nevermind, you wouldn't understand."


"Zip it, dork! Can't you see this is grown up time and I'm working?!"

"You can't talk to me like that…I'm the Hokage," Naruto grumbled dejectedly. The two Hyuugas smirked.

When Sakura finished, Hinata asked if it was a new internal scanning method, as she felt more tingling than usual.

"Nope," she answered. "It's probably because you haven't gone for a checkup with me for a long time, you bad girl. Alright, everyone, it's been fun, I should be going now. Lots of work to do."

"Please come by again soon, Sakura. We really don't see each other often enough," said Hinata, who meant what she said after years of friendship with the woman she used to envy.

"Yeah, okay, see you all soon." Sakura grinned deviously as she left their home and Neji, who had the best chakra control and detection of the three remaining people, raised an eyebrow.

Hinata woke Naruto up rather early on the morning of his 31st birthday. She prepared him a birthday breakfast that consisted of ramen and (unfortunately) vegetables because he really should be watching his health now that he was officially in his thirties. She excused herself from breakfast rather often and since he had to leave for his meetings, he did not see much of her that morning. Later on in the evening, a messenger came by to let him know of a few errands she asked him to run. They were small things, like placing purchase orders for composting supplies. The messenger claimed Hinata could not do these herself because she was not feeling well.

But Naruto knew Hinata had always been a rather poor liar, and she had gotten worse since she stopped being a ninja. So when he arrived home, and found part of the village hiding in various furnitures in the Hokage residence to yell "Surprise!" he feigned his best "Oh my gods, you guys shouldn't have!" He mingled a lot, ate a lot, and laughed a lot. He made obnoxious jokes with his friends. He was having a good time, but he really wanted to find his wife because they hadn't had sex in over a week. It was his birthday, so there was no way he was not getting any tonight. But as he drank more, it became increasingly harder for him to find Hinata, so he headed out and waited to be found.

He stumbled along to Ichiraku, where old man Teuchi gave him an order of kitsune ramen on the house. "For the aging birthday boy," he had said. He had just finished his last bite, when he felt a familiar pair of arms wrapped around his waist and heavy breasts against his back.

"I knew you'd be here."

"What took you so long, baby?" he asked, still a bit tipsy.

She ignored his question, "Come on let's go somewhere else tonight.

"Huh…" He felt himself being led away from the ramen stand. "Don't walk so fast." He did not pay attention to where they were going, but they wound up at his old apartment. "Oh, this is where we're going?" She opened the key and they entered their old home. They did not visit the apartment very often but sometimes they came when they wanted to get away from all the grandiosity of the Hokage residence.

"Naruto, I have a surprise for you," she said with suppressed excitement.

"What is it? Is it sex? I hope it's sex because we haven't done it in a really long time. C'mon, please let it be sex," he said as he started to take his pants off.

"Um, before you do that, you should know—" But his lips were on hers as his hands dexterously unfastened her robes. She was already in her undergarments by the time she managed to take hold of his wrists.

"Um, Naruto…"

"Yes, love? Dear gods, I love you," he growled lustfully, eying her breasts and tempting her. But no.

"It's not that I don't want to, but I'm not sure if we should."

"And why is that?" He bit her lower lip and started to unfasten her bra.

"I'm…p—urk—" she choked as she pushed him away, covered her mouth, and ran to the bathroom.

He snapped out of his stupor, followed her to the bathroom, and banged on the door "Hinata, are you okay?"

Between retches, she managed to say, "They say it's only supposed to happen in the morning—URK."

His eyes lit up as realization dawned upon him. This was by far the best birthday gift he had ever gotten.