Title: Born of Fire

Claimer/Author: This story is written by and belongs to Emmy Kay.

Disclaimer: Naruto and all affiliated characters belong to Kishimoto Masashi. This story is written without permission and for personal/fan/nonprofit entertainment purposes only.

Ch3 - Blown Away

Gasping, shaking, Hinata woke up, the sheets twisted around her. She flailed around, making sure that she was still the lone occupant of her childhood bed. She caught sight of her bedside clock. With a pained groan, she collapsed onto the mattress. It was still several minutes before the most-irritating-alarm-in-the-world was set to wake the dead. She stretched out an arm and switched it off.

She could not believe she had such a hot dream. A mind-melting, bone-charringly hot dream. So hot that the sensation remained with her strongly into consciousness, heating her skin so much that the top of her head felt uncomfortably prickly. It was her and a blond man, whose very smile she could feel against her skin, as he assured her that everything that happened between the two of them would stay between the two of them - and she had proceeded to feel so warm and sugary and spicy and yummy and rising and rising as if she were about to just deliciously split open at the seams - and she wanted to, so very much - and - and then she woke up.

She rarely dreamed and never were they sexual. The most exciting dream she had ever had before was something to do with forgetting an important ingredient while "The Joy of Cooking" spewed pages out at her. It wouldn't have taken Freud to figure out the meaning behind either dream.

With a sigh, Hinata tried to pull herself together. It was time to get up and get ready for work at her new job. Which would have been exciting and interesting on its own - then to top it off with this morning's dreamtime special. While she normally bathed after work - she felt a cold shower was a better idea for the beginning of the day.

Hinata walked out of the house in the early hours of the morning, thinking about the meals she was going to put together that day at the firehouse. She slid her knife case onto the passenger seat and started the car. At least, she tried. It wouldn't start. Uh-oh. She tried again, really cranking the key, hoping to hear the rrr-rrrr of the starter motor turning the engine over. Nothing doing. She dropped her forehead against the steering wheel. She didn't have the words for it. Just...crud. Crud.

She had intended on taking the car to a mechanic soon, but she just hadn't had time. She thought for a moment. There wasn't anybody else at the house right now - which meant no other vehicles she could try to start up her battery with. Hanabi was on her honeymoon - so her car was at the airport. Hinata had no idea where her father was. Probably working. That would be just like him. Attend his daughter's wedding one day, get up early to go to work the next. The housekeeper wouldn't arrive for a couple of hours yet.

A stray thought suggested that she call Naruto at the firehouse. At the very idea, she started to blush. She could not believe what had come out of her mouth yesterday. Sure, it was fun and funny. For the two seconds it took to realize that she would have to see Naruto again. Every day. At work. For the rest of her career at the firehouse. What was she thinking? Play with fire - and you burn yourself.

Last night she had resolved to put the rather awkward issue behind her, regardless of that stupid stupid thing she said as she was driving away. She was looking forward to going to work, for the first time in a while. At least, she was, before that damn dream. Now, she wondered if she could look him in the face. Honestly, she couldn't believe she could speak to him without regressing into a socially backward 12-year-old, unable to speak coherently while twiddling her fingers.

She couldn't call him now and say, "Jump me." Too needy. It made her sound like some kind of sex-crazed fiend. She was not a sex-crazed love fiend. Far from it. As a matter of fact, she hadn't had a proper date in years – her sex drive had gone past neutral, beyond park and into broken-needing-a-new-transmission territory. Although, she had to admit, unlike her actual car, her sex drive seemed to have magically reappeared fully repaired, primed, revving to go. That dream made no mistake about that. That damn damn, warm and yummy and sort of still a little unsatisfying, must-have-some-more dream.

What other choices did she have? She had to get to work. She needed to work. Just because Naruto and she were both working in the same place didn't mean anything. They could act professional. All she had to do was put it into the proper mental place. Right? Right.

Maybe she could say, "I need a jump, please?" No. Still too needy. "I require assistance with a jump?" She was so dumb, she couldn't even believe she was rehearsing ways of asking Naruto to jump-start her CAR. She had to get a grip. She was a Hyuuga. Hyuugas were not sex-crazed love fiends. Wouldn't be proper. She shook her head over her own dorkiness, then she went inside to use the phone. Maybe she'd get lucky and it wouldn't be Naruto at all. Maybe it be somebody else at the firehouse who picked up the phone.

"Konoha Fire Department," drawled a voice whose lazy, sarcastic sound was not changed by any hour of the day or night.

Hinata leaned against the table in relief. She was in luck. "H-hello? Is this Shikamaru?"


"This is Hinata Hyuuga. The new cook?"

"Yeah. I remember."

"Um, I need some help. Please. I've got some car trouble - if you don't mind, do you think you could bring down that portable car battery booster?"

There was a pause on the other side of the line. "Yeah. Where are you?"

As she told him the address, Hinata could hear him scratching down the street and number. "Okay. Be there soon."

"Thanks so much - I really appre - "

"No problem." Shikamaru hung up without any extraneous courtesies. He didn't believe in them. In his specialty as arson investigator, he felt he didn't have time for that. He considered the small piece of paper - the address was in a really nice part of town. Seemed weird - the new cook from such a swanky area.

The sound of enthusiastic yelling broke through his musing. That guy, Shikamaru thought with some annoyance, he can't leave well enough alone. All some of us want is some peace and quiet early in the morning and then he comes around, making all that noise, causing all that trouble. A sly grin touched the corner of his lips as an idea came to him. He turned, the slip of paper with the address firmly in his hand. "Hey, Naruto - "

"Hey Hinata," Naruto called out cheerfully, hanging out of the door of his serviceable SUV, beaming his special brand of morning sunshine. He parked in front of the enormous 4 car garage, just off the side of Hinata's most underwhelming yellow compact.

She smiled back, a little nervously. "Hello, Naruto." This was not the person she was expecting. She was itchingly aware of how embarrassed she was by everything. The words she had left him with yesterday. Her beater car's inability to keep a charge. Visible proof of living at her father's house. The dream she had this morning. She felt her face heating. "Where's Shikamaru? I think I spoke to him on the phone?"

"Yeah - he said he was in the middle of something. I was free, so I came right over." He stepped out of the car.

"Oh." The reality of the situation landed with a thud at Hinata's feet. Great. Naruto was as cute as she remembered from yesterday. Cuter, with his wind-blown hair and larger-than-life enthusiasm. Better and better. Her whole life, she had been a terrible sucker for animated, comic boys. Why couldn't she have a thing for tall, dark and handsome with a broody demeanor hiding secrets of vengeance like everybody else?

"I hear you got a little problem that maybe I could take care of for you?" Naruto's grin seemed so happy and guileless.

Maybe he forgot about her little parting shot from yesterday, Hinata thought hopefully. She relaxed, and smiled back. "I need a little jum-" she froze, horrified by what she was about to utter. She cleared her throat. "I mean, my car won't start."

"Sure. I'll get the portable booster and jump your - " then he swore, smacking his forehead with an open palm. Then he blushed. "Sorry about that. For the swearing." Naruto stuck his head back into his car, while she stood by perplexed. "Nope, not there." He checked the trunk. "Not there either." He turned to her, apologetic. "You got cables?"

She shook her head. For all its architectural beauty and immaculate appearance, Hinata could virtually guarantee nothing so humble or useful as a set of jumper cables would be contained in that garage.

"Me neither," he said ruefully. "Can I use the phone?"

After she showed him the way into the house, he called the firehouse. "Hey there, Shikamaru. Yeah. I know I forgot. It was right by the door? Could you get someone to bring it? Thanks." He hung up. Naruto looked around, noted the gleamingly new-looking black and white marble floors, the divided stairway sweeping up to a prominent second floor landing, the high ceilings in the entry hall and whistled. "Nice place you got here," he chatted, his voice loudly echoing off the hard, cold surfaces.

"It's my dad's house," Hinata explained, embarrassed. She was sure most people stop living with their parents by the time they reach her age.

"Yeah? That's great."

"Not so great, I'd like to move out as soon as possible." She wanted to make that perfectly clear.

"Why? This is a great place." He stopped by the large Louis IVX table in the center of the hallway, curiously eying the large arrangement of artfully arrayed bare branches lying across it.

It appeared Naruto was not able to take a hint. She tried something a little more direct. "It's not my style."

"I bet there's lots of room here - "

"Do you want something to drink?" Hinata interrupted. At his nod, she led the way into the kitchen. The room was similar to the rest of the house in that it was decorated with the finest materials. There's where the resemblance ended. It was the finest kitchen decor - of a generation ag0. Bright yellow sunflowers were painted along the beige walls, worn orange and red tiles stretched into the room underneath chunky maple cabinets. Hinata was immediately more comfortable as she reached for the handle of the big white refrigerator. Then she poured him some orange juice.

She turned and apologized. "Sorry - I don't want to live with my father any longer than necessary," she confided. "After living away from them for so long, I need my own space. It's a little hard for me to talk about."

"That's okay." Naruto snapped his fingers. "Hey, there's this guy I know – he just told me that there's an apartment in his building open. Let me give you his number. You got some paper?"

Hinata pulled out a pad of paper that was attached to what looked like an old middle-school wood shop project, complete with crookedly nailed-in shelf at the bottom.

Naruto pulled the pen from his upper-arm holster and wrote for a minute. "He and I went into training together. He's a bit weird, but a nice guy."

"I really appreciate it," Hinata smiled, accepting a smudgy scrap of paper with a number and the name "Kabuto."

"No, that's okay." He peeked through a window. "Here comes Shikamaru. Good old Shikamaru."

Shikamaru sighed dramatically as he got out of the car. He was about to go off-shift, but because of that knuckle-head, here he was in the fancy-schmancy part of town on an errand Naruto should have been able to do by himself. Shikamaru thought he had so cleverly palmed off the job onto a junior officer. He had to remember that sometimes, being clever didn't count for much around Naruto. He barely admitted to other reasons for coming by; to spare someone else from being pulled off active duty, to avoid newly-single Ino's incessant chatter, and his curiosity about Naruto's more-enthusiastic-than-usual desire to help out the new cook. Still, coming all the way out here was a pain.

Naruto and Hinata were waiting outside by the garage. Naruto waved ebulliently, "Good old Shikamaru, thanks -"

"It is really nice of you to bother," Hinata added.

"Yeah, yeah," the senior firefighter shrugged it away. "Let's just get this done."

Hinata stood by the car while Naruto slid in behind the wheel and popped the hood.

Shikamaru leaned in, mechanically looking for the battery, the booster pack resting on the car frame, the clamps in both hands. He suddenly froze.

"Just tell me when you're ready," Naruto yelled, his hand on the key.

"Wait - holy shit! Naruto - fucking stop!"

"What?" Naruto's smile dropped off his face at Shikamaru's next, tensely bitten-off words.

"Just get out of the car -"

"Yeah?" Naruto shoved the door open.

"-carefully!" Shikamaru jumped back, eyes wide in panic.

"What?! What?!" Naruto demanded.

"Get down! It's a BOMB!"

There was no sound. As if she were locked into slow-motion, Hinata turned towards Shikamaru. Suddenly, 200 lbs of solid muscle slammed into her, throwing her down to the ground sideways, crushing the air out of her ribcage. She had instinctively raised her hands and found them against Naruto's chest.

She took a breath. It hurt - the gravel digging into her shoulder and side; the opposite side where she was hit during the tackle; the heaviness above her; the confusion inside her head at all the yelling. She started to panic, shoving up against the immovable force laying on top of her, kicking out. With great economy of motion, Naruto grabbed her hands and tucked them to her side, under his body. He covered his own head with his arms. His voice coarsened by adrenaline, he said in an oddly intimate, quiet way, "It's okay. I've got you. Be still. It's okay. I'll take care of you."

Hinata stilled, believing.

It seemed like forever. Forever for....nothing. Nothing happened. No explosion, no flames, nothing.

When Shikamaru finally called out to them, Naruto stood, and then helped Hinata up. As Naruto was dusting himself off, Shikamaru had gone to his car and was speaking into the radio. Naruto looked over at Shikamaru - who gestured briefly at Hinata.

"Let's go," Naruto said, taking her arm.

"What's happening?" she asked as she was led, unresisting, into the house.

"Shikamaru's going to call for backup - I've got to get you out of the immediate area - somewhere safe. Maybe on the other side of the house."

Hinata immediately headed for the kitchen.

"Sir - you've got to see this!" declared the first assistant to Hiashi Hyuuga, rushing into his office, pointing to the television on in the lobby outside.

Hiashi looked up to see an aerial view of his front lawn ringed by a variety of emergency vehicles, and a secondary circle of news trucks. Startled, Hiashi barked, "Turn up the volume!"

"--Local News 9 chopper, reporting at the residence of Hiashi Hyuuga, long-time member on the Konoha City Council. Repeat, a bomb was found in the car of his daughter. Both of the Konoha Fire Department and the Konoha Police Department are on the scene. This appears to be a single bomb. There is no indication there are any more bombs anywhere on the property."

"Any signs of who could have done this?" the anchor asked.

"No - but detectives with K-9 units and the Fire Department with bomb-sniffing dogs are on scene presently." The camera focused sharply on a lanky, silver-haired man with a kerchief tied around his mouth walking behind several dogs over the property. Behind him stood a man with a bowl haircut in a grass green suit, frowning. Kiba stood at alert, his gigantic white dog sniffing at the house's foundation.

"Can you speculate why or how or even who has done this?" Scenes of a yellow car being systematically dismantled flashed across the screen.

"Your guess is as good anybody's. But Councilman Hyuuga is a very important figure in local politics. He has been part of several controversial votes recently- "

As a ground-level camera panned across the property, Hiashi noticed a split second of film of his daughter looking out of a window. He sighed and reached for a phone.

Hinata started the oven. She thought she ought to have some food on hand, having inadvertently invited the entirety of Konoha's emergency forces over to her father's house. Just in time for breakfast, too. She unearthed her mother's enormous party percolator from way back in a storage cabinet and started coffee. She didn't know much about what likes and dislikes people had yet - but she had a healthy respect for the amount of coffee that could be consumed during any event - never mind the full quantity that emergency services must require to stay on its feet. At least, she thought grimly, the fire department won't be missing a meal from their new cook.

She had initially turned the radio on, but was so upset about the local news coverage that was mostly about her, Hinata switched to her favorite classical music station. From time to time, she peeked out the window. It looked like Shikamaru was in charge, as he had the radio constantly to his face. After the rest of the police and fire department appeared, he was in constant consultation. Naruto was ably seconding; initially directing traffic to then barring the roads, then cordoning off zones of safety. She saw him greet the other people in uniform.

Sakura had arrived with the fire department's ambulance. "How are you?"

"Okay," Hinata replied, rinsing various plates, dirty platters and bowls too big to go in the dishwasher. She had always, from before she could remember, found refuge in the kitchen and in small acts of domesticity. She really didn't know how she felt. She was alarmed, she was scared for Naruto and the rest of the emergency personnel. And yet. There was something about the seriousness of Naruto's demeanor, his abrupt switch from 'aw, shucks' to calm control as the situation changed. Something about the way he changed from a gorgeous yet distinctly goofy guy to someone she instinctively trusted with her life. Something really...attractive. Was it possible now, that in this most dangerous and confusing of times she actually felt a bit - turned on? She could have died, for heaven's sake. It was so wrong. And so cliche. "Mini-muffins will be ready soon," she offered.

"After the scene's been called off," Sakura demurred.

They both looked out the window at the nearly empty yard. Two people in heavily padded suits knelt at a distance, alternately peering at a computer monitor or a remote-controlled little box on on treads that was slowly making its way out to Hinata's car.

"What's happening?"

"The police demolitions experts, Anko Mitarashi and Shino Aburame, are going to try to detonate the bomb to make it safer. I think."

Hinata cooked, baked, and stewed, passing time. Sakura and she listened to the radio and looked out the window.

The little robot worked, its single arm moving around the engine compartment. It seemed like several attempts were made, as parts of Hinata's car started to litter the driveway. After a few hours, one of the bomb squad pulled off her helmet and scratched her head. She walked towards the car carrying a heavy-looking box, then retreated. The robot approached the box, placed something in it, and dropped a lid on it.

Shikamaru entered the kitchen to announce, "The area has been cleared of all danger, and people can now get in and out of the neighborhood. We're just going to be around until all the vehicles are gone."

Hinata sighed in relief. "Shikamaru - thank you so much - "

Shikamaru shrugged, "Don't worry about it. It was good somebody could recognize -"

A shrill beeping from both Sakura and Shikamaru's pagers interrupted. "Available Konoha Fire to 12 Main Street - Repeat, available Konoha Fire to 12 Main - "

"Sorry, Hinata - " Shikamaru and Sakura both ran outside.

"Hello," called a silver-haired man as he entered the kitchen. "I'm Detective Kakashi Hatake and this is Detective Ibiki Morino - we'll be handling this case." He nodded to a tall, solidly built man with several diagonal scars running over his face.

"Hello - would you like something to eat? I've got mini-quiches, muffins and biscuits. Coffee?" Hinata offered.

"Oo - cookies," and the baked goodie disappeared under the dust mask. "Delicious."

"You should take more - " she gestured to the mound of baked goods sitting on the kitchen table. "I made all of these. Maybe take it with you." She moved to start boxing it up.

"The guys at the station will think this is great," Kakashi said, his voice pleased.

Ibiki cleared his throat.

Kakashi blinked. "Right. We're going to have to ask you some questions."

Abruptly, Ibiki asked, "Do you have any enemies?"

"Enemies?" Hinata gasped. "Oh, no."

"Do you think you were targeted?"

"I don't know."

"Do you think your father was the target?"

"I - I don't know."

"Would there be any reason to suspect any of your father's past associates?"

"What? No. I don't know."

"Could you tell us the events leading up to your discovery of the bomb?"

"You don't have to answer that, Hinata," interjected a cool, deep voice, followed by the appearance of a two men in the kitchen doorway; one of whom could have passed as Hinata's brother, the other with startlingly dark eyebrows under a severe bowl-cut.

Ibiki inclined his head towards the men. "Good morning, A.D.A Hyuuga. Mr. Rock Lee, Esquire."

"I am sorry, Detective Ibiki, but she has legal counsel now, so please direct any further questions towards me," Lee said firmly but politely.

Neji turned to Hinata, "You must not speak to the press on your own," he instructed. "Your father or I will speak for you."

After Ibiki's abrupt questioning, Hinata felt unsteady. She was pleased that Neji was there, even if he was his usual cool self. It turned out that being a bit chilly and self-possessed were really useful things when you're dealing with the police.

"When can Miss Hyuuga get her car back?" Lee asked.

"You won't be getting your car back. Sorry," Kakashi said. "It's important piece of evidence. We're going to go over it with a fine-toothed comb - looking for anything the bomb-maker would have left behind. Fingerprints, unique bomb-making materials, anything like that."

"Oh, okay," Hinata replied. "I've just got to figure out bus routes or something - "

Neji looked at her as if she were particularly dense. "You can use Tenten's car."

"Won't she need it?"

"She's on a trip right now." The way Neji was speaking did not invite any further questions about Tenten's travel activities.

"Oh," Hinata said, nonplussed. "Thanks."

"You can thank her when you see her," Neji replied. He dug a ring of keys out of his pocket, picked one and unclipped it. "Besides, it's not that nice a car," he added carelessly, tossing the key onto the kitchen counter. "Use it whenever."

She accepted the key, trying to remember that she would have to go next door to get Tenten's car. The detectives and Lee bid their farewells.

After mentally casting about trying to find a socially acceptable topic, Hinata asked, "How's Hiro?"

"At the babysitter's." After a moment, Neji said, "about that thing from your last job - I wouldn't worry about it. You can ask Lee."

"Thanks, Neji. If there's anything I can do to pay you back for all this help -"

"Don't mention it - it's for the good of the family," Neji dismissed her, not looking particularly interested in her gratitude.

"Okay," Hinata retreated into silence.

Neji's cell phone rang. "Yes?" He suddenly sighed, in tired resignation. "You have to go? Of course. No, no problem. I'll pick up Hiro right now so you can leave as soon as possible." After a bare moment's hesitation, he turned toward his cousin. "There is something you can do for me."

Hinata fell asleep quickly that night, exhausted. The rest of the day had passed in a flurry of activity; babysitting, soothing the frantic housekeeper, avoiding the phone, avoiding the press. Her father had arrived home late, as usual. She barely had a word with him before he excused himself off to bed.

She woke up after a few hours, feeling cold. She shifted around in bed, finding only the coolness of the sheets. In the darkness, she stared up at the ceiling. She had no idea what a bomb could have meant. Who would want to do that to her? Why? Could it have been for anyone else in the family? Hanabi? Her father? It finally struck home, after all these years of living away, just exactly how important her father was. What did it all mean?

Finally, she got up. In a last attempt to get back to sleep - she'd settle for a dreamless doze - she dug through her dirty laundry bin, pulling out the ridiculous "Bringing the Heat" t-shirt she had worn back from the firehouse the other night. Hinata had really meant to wash and return it, really she did, just not yet. She rubbed her cheek on the soft, worn cotton, inhaling the scent of masculine soap. Before sleep claimed her, she could hear Naruto's voice saying, "It's all right. I've got you."

A/N -

District attorneys are prohibited from practicing law outside their professional appointments - but since I bent this for the first chapter....sorry.

Chapter for perpetual159 - without whose challenge this section would never have been finished.

Working on plotting - plotting - plotting. Please let me know how you think it's proceeding.