Hey guys. I'm not quite sure why I wrote this. I'm honestly not very into Naruto but since reading the manga chapter where Hinata confesses I've been following her role in the story quite avidly. I really wanted to write something for my other stories but I've hit a mental road block because a lot of stuff has been happening in my life and I just don't feel the old bond that I had with the characters. Which is really discouraging. However, I am trying to work on those stories… But my desire to write inspired me to write this rather long one-shot because I feel that Hinata never gets the credit she deserves for her involvement with Pein plus the fact that Naruto seems to have completely forgotten her confession, which bugs me to no end.

Overall I have no idea if half the terms I used are right, therefore, if they're wrong criticism is welcome since I do not follow the series enough to know exactly how to describe the attacks. Most of this oneshot is Naruto reflecting on his relationship with Hinata. (At least the relationship I have created. :P) I allowed Hinata to develop more of a backbone through a series of events. I am welcome to any critiques offered about my writing style, and I look forward to hearing comments, good or bad.

I will admit I had fun writing this because I allowed the characters to grow and learn during the oneshot, which is kind of the phase in my life I am going through now. Fumbling making lots of mistakes but learning and growing.

I hope you enjoy this oneshot.

- Naruto reflecting on pass events

- Present Time

Nine Years

It was some sort of cruel trick of irony that she was dying in his arms. Probably pay back for all the wrongs he'd done, especially to her. He clutched her petite frame closer using the fox's chakra to keep them warm till help arrived.

"N..naru...Naruto-kun..." her hand clung plaintively to his jacket as she shivered uncontrollably.

"Shhh," he admonished. She should not be wasting her strength on him, let alone words, she should be conserving it. The twenty five year old shinobi had done a lot of stupid things in his life but he would never forgive himself if this one made it onto the list.

He still found it hard to imagine that it had been nine long years since his sixteen-year-old self had battled the Akatsuki. Nine years since he became the toad sage. Nine years since he learned to have complete control of the fox. Nine years since he found out who his parents were. Nine years since he became Konoha's youngest Hokage, and nine years since she confessed. He dearly wished he could add her to that nine year count but his own stupidity had rendered that impossible.

She had terrified him. Scared him more then any other opponent he had ever fought, because she didn't want anything. He couldn't remember an experience more frightening then when she had taken that blow from Pein. Her body hitting the ground with an eerie, bone crushing thud followed by the deafening sound of metal cutting flesh. It was hard to pinpoint why he had lost complete control, even when questioned later he couldn't provide an answer as to why the "death" of someone he considered merely an acquaintance had affected him more then the death of his own sensi, the mortal injuries of countless friends, the destruction of his beloved village, and the comatose state of Tsunade, someone he considered a mother. No, it had been the weak failure of the Hyuuga clan who he, and everyone else, had called weird for most of her life that had elicited a blindless rage in him that nearly took him and the remaining villagers to their graves.

He regretted never responding to her confession but he couldn't find the words. He was so confused, and then Sakura had confessed. He could see that it was half-hearted and he knew that she was saying it just so he wouldn't pursue Sasuke but some secret part of himself had been overjoyed at her confession no matter the intentions behind it.

Slowly Hinata's confession had been forgotten as he fought with Sasuke, trained with Killerbee, and eventually eliminated the entire Akatsuki. He didn't have time to think, to sort out his feelings, besides Sakura liked him and that was what he had always wanted. Right?

He heard a gasp which shook him out of his thoughts. Despite his strong grip, Hinata had wriggled enough to look over his shoulder and her eyes had widened at what she saw. The chamber, which had once been filled with Naruto, herself, and about five dozen enemy ninja, now contained no other distinguishable mass. She weakly turned her head toward Naruto, he avoided her gaze shifting his body so that the room was once again obscured from her view. He didn't want this to be the last thing she saw.

When those ninjas had broken through her defenses attacking any undefended areas he had stopped breathing. Those selfish murders had converged on Hinata like vultures trying to claw her eyes out, she had defended herself killing at least a dozen before she had been fatally wounded in the chest and fallen. Seeing her body crumple to the floor had snapped his remaining self-control. There were very few battles where the fox cooperated and gave him his chakra freely without complaint but Kyuubi had immediately funneled chakra to him when he had lunged for the closest ninja crying bloody murder. Kyuubi would never admit it, but Naruto knew that to the fox Hinata was more then a friend and comrade and despite his cries about pitiful, fragile humans he valued the dark haired woman's life. If the fox had simply taken over Naruto' s body Hinata would also have been completely eradicated in the fight. Not that Naruto had been merciful. After completely pulverizing the remaining bodies, dead or alive he had used a fire jutsu to completely burn them. No one and nothing was identifiable.

Running over to Hinata he had quickly picked up her body cradling it close to his. Summoning clones he ordered them to run through the maze of underground tunnels and try to find any allies especially those with medical experience. He cursed himself for never learning more then simple first aid as her body's life source slowly pooled on the floor.

She tried to look at him irritably but it was very hard since she was bleeding to death.

"Are they all..."

"Dead? Yes." No point in sugar coating it, she didn't need her Byakugan to see that, "Now stop talking you're wasting your energy."

"Doesn't matter," she tried to smile, "You're here."

"Lot of good it does you," he huffed, "I can't even do anything."

He could never do anything, especially when it came to her. After the battle with Pein she had made him into a coward. He hated it. He hated the way he got tongue tied when she tried to talk to him, he hated the way he avoided her whenever he could, and he hated the way he ignored her whenever they had to sit in the same room. It had never been his intention to treat her that way but since the confession he had been unable to even look at her without hearing the sickening slash from the battle. So slowly days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. Until he completely forgot about confronting her about her words and chose instead to pretend they never happened.

As they had predicted one of them would die in their final brawl and Sasuke had been the loser. It had been a cold day when he had carried Sasuke's lifeless body into the village but after mourning the death of their fallen ex-comrade the village had broken out into joyous shouts praising the Konoha 11 who in the process had defeated the remaining members of the Akatsuki as well as Orochimaru's henchman, Kabuto. No one got more praise than Naruto and Sakura who through steadfast determination had preserved over the village's greatest enemies. During the ceremony Sakura had kissed Naruto full on the lips sending whatever thoughts he had about questioning the motive behind her confession out of his head. They instantly became known as the strongest couple in Konohagakure and with Tsunade claiming that she was definitely too old to be dealing with half-wits' problems Naruto's dream to become Hokage was realized. He could remember Hinata's face, smiling at him from amongst the frenzied crowd. He couldn't even remember what Sakura was wearing.

It had been after the ceremony when the clan heads had come to pay their respects that Hiashi Hyuuga arrived accompanied by his eldest daughter. After simple formalities Hianta was left behind with Naruto to clear up any remaining issues and paperwork.

"Congratulations," she had managed to choke out while looking at the floor, "You fulfilled your dream." He proudly placed a hand over his heart,

"It's my ninja way. I couldn't break a promise to myself." Taking a deep breath she met his eyes,

"I'm glad you and Sakura are happy."

"Huh...oh yeah." Her confession at that moment decided to flood into his mind rendering him speechless. He realized how hard it must be for her to say that and he regretted not talking to her sooner, and mindlessly the words spilled out.

"Sorry for not responding to your uh...battle cry... I've been really buzy," he gestured weakly around the room as if it was an alibi, "I mean I like you but just not like-like you, yah know. But we can still be friends. Good friends."

"Thank you for your honesty, Hokage-sama," by now she had stood up and proceeded toward the door, "I only wish for your happiness."

"Huh. Yeah, whatever," and then the door closed. He still hit himself over the head for that sentence. That insensitive, cold hearted remark that completely disregarded how hard it must have been for her to be around him. His happiness? What about hers? He had never been an articulate person, and he lacked finesse but even with his very limited vocabulary and manners he should have been able to come up with a much gentler answer. Honestly, how she loved him he would never know.

His eyes returned to the suffering woman. Why was he spending their possible last moments together remembering all the terrible, hurtful things he'd done to her? He should be hugging her, comforting her not taking a trip down memory lane. She'd never say anything though. Never question his silence. He moved his left hand so he could run it through her hair blanching when he realized it was covered with blood; her blood was staining his cuticles. He tried to move his hand away but she feebly guided it to her face, placing his calloused fingers on her cheek.

"Keep it there," she whispered, "Please." He nodded.

"You just have to hang on a little longer," he whispered trying to reassure her, but mostly himself, "Help is coming." He groped for the bottom of his jacket and successfully ripped off a portion.

"No," she cried struggling against him as he shredded the Hokage robes into bandages, "Don't. Your robes."

"I don't care." He used the fabric to treat some of her minor wounds, he wasn't mentally prepared or, more importantly, medically trained to treat the fatal wounds to her chest. But he patted some fabric around the embedded weapons hoping to ebb the flow. If this was anyone else it would be pointless to treat the wounds let alone sacrifice the robes to save an obviously dying ninja, he didn't care. This was his battlefield and his choice. He had too many regrets to not do this one selfish thing, then again, he had always been selfish.

True to her word Hinata had remained his friend, despite their first awkward meetings they eventually grew more comfortable around each other. Since Naruto had an unfulfilled promise with Neji hanging over his head, he had unfinished business with the Hyuuga clan. However, despite both his and Hinata's displeasure at the use of the bird cage seal and their adamant arguments for its removal Hiashi stood firm. After every failed attempt it became very common to see the two of them together dejectedly eating ramen while they tried to figure out another point against the practice that would convince Hiashi to discontinue it. Hinata turned out to be an asset when dealing with other clan heads as well; her manners and knowledge of clan practices got him out of more then one embarrassing mistake. Without realizing it he began to monopolize her time, coming to her for advice, especially with Sakura.

It had completely slipped Naruto's mind that Sakura was the jealous type, you think he would have known after watching all the fights between her and Ino over Sasuke but apparently he had forgotten. Too enthralled by her beauty he had sugar coated her flaws to point of being nonexistent. The problem is that Naruto was now Hokage and there was an expectation and hope that he would eventually have children. Girlfriend did not mean permanent, so girls were trying to seduce poor Naruto left and right. It probably didn't help that he was spending a lot of time with Hinata someone who was known to be suicidally infatuated with him.

But to be honest in a conceited manner Sakura didn't worry about Hinata trying to steal the most eligible man in Konohagakure away from her because the heiress would never do anything to make Naruto unhappy, even if it made her absolutely miserable. The problem was dating Naruto was not the same as being friends with Naruto and she was finding it very hard to cope with some of his habits. But her pride would not allow her to break up with THE Hokage and she felt she owed it to herself and him to keep the relationship going.

Naruto sought Hinata's advice because he had limited experiences with women and asking his girlfriend to tell him what to do usually got him injured. No matter how much it hurt her, not that he noticed, she did her best. Suggesting gifts, and showing him romantic spots (areas she herself had always envisioned visiting with him) , however all this did nothing to impressive the pink haired woman. Naruto was so preoccupied with his problems that his drive to remove the bird cage seal slowly faded and the weekly meetings with the clan head turned into monthly.

However, that all changed the November day when Hiashi walked in not accompanied by Hinata but Hanabi for their monthly meeting.

"Is Hinata-chan sick?" Since they were close friends Hinata had allowed Naruto to call her in a more intimate manner.

"No." That answer caused alarms to go off in Naruto's empty skull. Why wasn't the clan head offering another explanation for her absence?

"Well?" he asked pointedly, "Where is she?"

"She has been disinherited and disowned. Hinata proved unworthy of being both a ninja and a leader. Therefore, Hanabi has taken her place."

"Pardon?" Naruto was having a hard time processing this information.

"Hinata has been kicked out the Hyuuga clan and has had the cursed seal placed upon her. I am annoyed that I must explain this to you, Hokage-sama. By now you should know-" The words died on his lips when the office was filled with an inferno of chakra, and four tails erupted from a seething Naruto.

He was overridden with guilt. He had forgotten his promise to abolish the seal and now it had been placed on...on...Hinata! The thought made him sick. There was very little that was stopping him from completely obliterating Hiashi except the fact that he needed him to sign the documentation of abolishment.

"What do you think you are doing?" sputtered Hiashi who chose to hide behind his own daughter rather then bravely face down the Hokage.

"You've got a choice the seal or your head." It was a quick decision. After that it had been a frenzy with the main family and elders trying to think of anyway to reverse the order, but Naruto didn't budge. Hell would freeze over before that happened. He had personally been there when the branch members had had the seals removed, craning his neck trying to find the one face that had inspired this change amongst the group, but she wasn't there.

It wasn't until after all the branch members had given him thanks and dispersed that Neji approached him.

"Thank you."

"I didn't do it for you," he might as well be honest. Neji shrugged sitting beside him. Naruto grew irritated, "Well?"

"What?"

"Where is she?"

"Who?"

"This is not the time for you to develop a sense of humor, Neji." He growled, "Where's Hinata! Don't tell me the elders did something to her?"

"No."

"You're making it really hard for me not to knock you into next week."

"She's gone." Naruto's face paled.

"What do you mean?" he asked, fearing the worst.

"She left Konoha the minute she was free of the main family. True, she did not want to be disowned but she did not resist her sentence. She only took a bit of cash and immediately left the village." Naruto's stomach plummeted.

"Why?" It was then that Neji divulged the type of childhood and life Hinata had been living up to that point. With each word Naruto's face darkened. He may have only met his parents once but they had both told him they loved him, Hinata had never heard those words. She had been beaten, insulted, and belittled her entire life and he as her friend had ignored her plight, yet selfishly come to her to help him with his problems never offering any help in exchange. He should beat himself into oblivion.

After Hinata's departure his relationship with Sakura evaporated. He liked her but all she did was complain, not that it was new. She nagged him about his table manners, the fact that he only ever wanted to eat ramen, the state of his clothes because he never had time to change before their dates…it never ended. He got enough complaints from the villagers he did not need any more on his time off. It was too tiring to have every aspect of his being ridiculed. Besides they both didn't feel comfortable around each other, at least not doing things couples were supposed to do. Sakura had morphed into an older sister and neither could imagine doing anything more then hugging each other.

Therefore, luckily, the split had been amicable and painless. He definitely didn't want a pissed off Sakura, since as the head nurse at the hospital, she was the only one who could heal his battle wounds. With their friendship still intact it seemed like nothing had changed except for the empty feeling in Naruto's chest.

It was getting harder for her to breathe. Her chest heaved unnaturally as she coughed. He lightly kissed her forehead in comfort, exactly where the scar was. No matter how many times he told her to remove it she refused. She wore the bird cage seal like a battle scar and displayed it proudly. He hated it. Although he had insisted (forced) the clan to burn all documentation of the seal, a few still knew how to administer and use it, at the risk of their lives. But he constantly worried that somehow the information would be told to someone who could seriously harm her, but she still refused.

"When we go back you're getting that thing removed."

"No." Even in death she was being stubborn.

"Please."

"Make me." What was taking the rescue team so long? He was Hokage for Kami's sake that gave him just a little priority on the "People to Save" list. But the minutes seemed to be dragging on, and her face was getting paler. If there was ever a time he wished his amazing healing abilities and stamina could be transferred to another human being it was now. He traced the seal again, then her eyes, her nose, and, finally, her lips.

"Sorry."

"For...what?" she rasped.

"Everything."

Six months after Hinata left no one had heard any news and the council was pressuring Naruto to stop wasting man power on a wild goose chase. She wasn't a traitor or someone who needed to be found, as one councilman put it "the weak little Hyuuga failure" and "the village was better off without such women." Needless to say that councilman was in intensive care courtesy of an irate Naruto who had found his comment less then tasteful.

It soon became common for the Hokage to be found sitting atop the Hokage monument scrutinizing the village gate, looking for any hint of purple. Didn't matter if it was sunny or rainy (he owned an umbrella), whether he had lots of paper work (he had a lap and a lamp), or whether he was starved (Ichiraku delivered) after five he would go up there and watch the gate, sometimes the citizens, but mainly the gate. He had never imagined that Hinata's disappearance would affect him this much, to the point where he considered giving up his position for the sole purpose of going out and searching for her. He couldn't sleep for worry and all the hurtful, meaningless words he said to her haunted his subconscious. He was very thankful for his job because from eight in the morning to five at night it provided unlimited distraction, but after five he punished himself by letting his thoughts wander back to her.

When a year went by someone finally confronted him about his unusual habit, but it wasn't the person he had been expecting. Shino one day had approached him as the sun set behind the trees and looked at him distastefully.

"You're sitting in her spot." Naruto looked at the bug user confused.

"Huh."

"Hinata." Naruto jumped up as if he had been burned. Turning around to examine the bench.

"When you were away on your training mission with Jiraiya this is where she would sit watching for your return, praying you were okay, and hoping you'd grown stronger like you wished. She was always thinking about you." Naruto was shocked this was the most the man had ever talked to him, and the most emotion Shino had ever displayed since Naruto had met him.

"I know that."

"Really?" The hooded man almost sounded sarcastic.

"Yes, really. Well maybe not the whole sitting up here for three years bit, but I know she loves me."

"Loves is present tense." He had said loves? Didn't he intend to say loved? Was he still hoping that somewhere out there the girl he had ignored, insulted, and hurt still loved him?

"Ugh," he grunted bringing both his hands up and rummaging them through his hair, "This sucks!" Shino said nothing and instead pointed at the wooden bench. Following his finger Naruto noticed a small heart engraved onto the surface with a hastily written N + H inside. In fact, he began to notice that there was more then one.

"That's her seat."

"I get the point," sighing her turned towards the man, "Did I hurt her?"

"Yes." Thinking it and hearing it were two very different things, Naruto decided that he didn't like the truth very much.

"Hokage-sama, if and when, Hinata returns to the village as her teammate and friend I will no longer stand idly by while she hurts herself or gets hurt by others."

"What are you implying?"

"Few men are worthy of someone like Hinata." With that Shino had turned his back leaving Naruto with his thoughts. Bemused he sat back down on Hinata's bench. Shino had actually threatened him. Deciding that Hinata wouldn't mind sharing he leaned back allowing the last rays of sunshine warm his face.

Two years seemed to go by painfully slow after his meeting with Shino. By now Hinata had been gone from Konoha for over three years and there still had not even been a whisper of her existence. It became too hard for Naruto to go and sit on that bench and so like in childhood, he hid his misery through training. He attacked nightly trainings like Tsunade attacked her sake, without abandon or constraint. It became a common sight for a dirty, haggard Hokage to walk through the village in the wee hours of dawn get treated by a very irritated Sakura, go home, shower, and sleep fitfully for a few hours before going to work with a smile plastered on his face. He really was lonely.

Naruto had grown up into a man over these three years. His voice was much deeper and the timber more pleasant to the ears then his high-pitched twelve year old squawk. With his excessive training regime he was toned and well built. He was the heartthrob of the village and the council was pressuring him to settle down and start his clan, but he still refused. He was waiting for someone special to return, and she did. Eventually.

Naruto had been very disgruntled when a visiting ninja had been shown into his office to request permission to rest a few days in the village. Even Ino, his secretary at that time, hadn't recognized her. The council had once again been pressuring him to get married, now he knew what it felt like to be Hinata constantly pushed around by pompous pricks who never sought out the best match but only the most powerful alliance without any consideration for the feelings of either party.

"What business do you have?" he had said a little too gruffly. Usually this task was given to other office workers but apparently this ninja posed a security threat and he was to assess whether that was the case or not.

"None."

"What do you mean none?"

"I have no urge to partake in any activities within the village." Was the answer he'd received.

"Do you not plan to breathe?"

"If that is what must be done." He looked up from his paperwork to examine the person who found the floor very interesting.

"Then why are you here."

"To earn my jounin vest." Naruto coughed loudly. What was this person, crazy? First, off they didn't even belong to the Hidden Leaf Village and second, the date to take the test had passed.

"And how do you propose to do that?" He asked incredulously. He could be ridiculous too.

"If I beat the Hokage that should be more the sufficient."

"What da'ya mean if?" Naruto's body might of grown but wisdom had yet to catch up with him. He was still arrogant, believing himself impervious to any loss.

"Pride comes before the fall, Hokage-sama."

"That's it you look me in the eyes this instant," when the ninja did nothing to move he barked, "That's an order." And all of a sudden he was face to face with the eyes he'd been seeing in his dreams for over three years. Pale lilac orbs surveyed him.

"Hin...Hinata!" He nearly fell out of his chair. What a transformation! If it wasn't for the eyes and the bird cage seal which was displayed on her forehead he wouldn't have known her. Her hair had been cut short, even shorter then when they were twelve, it was as short as Gaara's but not quite as haggard, even her lovely side bangs were gone. Her outfit was entirely black and she wore heavy boots as opposed to sandals. Various weapon pouches were attached to a belt at her waist and a dagger was fashioned securely against her leg. He noticed there was no identifying tags, Konoha or otherwise.

"That is my name."

"What are you doing here?" Perhaps not the best choice of words.

"I just told you," she said, "I'm here to earn my jounin vest by defeating you."

"I can't fight you." He really was digging his own grave.

"Why."

"Uh..."

"Hokage-sama if you do not fight me you dishonor you and your entire village," her face took on a nasty expression, "Are you that afraid that you'll lose to the meek disowned Hyuuga."

"I never said that."

"Fight me."

"No."

"Fight me."

"No."

"Wuss." It was so on.

The fight had decimated three training fields by the time it was concluded. Whoever or whatever had trained Hinata in the last three years had done a good job, exceedingly good. Naruto had planned to finish the fight with one good hit to knock her unconscious. His goal was to get this whole mess over with so then he could focus his attention on more pressing issues, like convincing the nineteen year old woman to stay. His plan might of worked if he could only land a hit. By the time he had activated sage mode she had already shut off the tenketsus in his arms and was beating him savagely, weapons littered the field. He could barely dodge her swipes, if Kyuubi wasn't around he probably wouldn't be either. Once in sage mode he completely forgot he was fighting Hinata and was throwing Great Ball Rasengan at her as if his village was under attack.

He had no idea when but she had snuck up behind him and shut of a key tenketsuin his spinal cord, which stopped the flow of chakra and physical motion from his neck down. He had fallen to the ground, unable to retaliate.

"Do I get my vest now."

"I suppose." After he had conceded she slung one of his arms over her shoulder and drug him toward the village where Sakura stood waiting her hands glowing green.

"Here's your boyfriend back," Hinata had said after placing him on the ground gently.

"Boyfriend," Sakura looked confused until she realized who had carried him into the village, "Hinata, we broke up three years ago. Would you mind unlocking his chakra points." With a few quick jabs Naruto regained control of his limbs and shot up quickly. Ignoring his aching body the words flowed out of his mouth uncontrollably,

"Hinata, Sakura and I broke up. I mean we just didn't work and no matter how hard we tried we couldn't work. After you left Hinata we both decided to break it off. I'm really not seeing anyone, I swear."

"And why would that concern me?" He paused in his rambling to look at her. He couldn't exactly blurt out her love for him in public, even if everyone knew, however it seemed like she had genuinely moved on. Now that he thought about the battle it seemed impossible that the old Hinata would ever ask to challenge him plus bear to hit him, but she had. She'd kicked his butt. So instead of saying something that would embarrass them both he asked the one question he wanted, no needed, to know the answer to.

"Are you staying?"

"Yes."

Even he was growing weak. He had considered simply picking her up and running for help but worried that moving her would only aggravate the injuries and he sure as hell wasn't going to leave her alone. Occasionally clone memories seeped into his subconscious revealing in most cases rocks which had poofed them out of existence, but the memories were getting farther between. It seemed pointless to summon more clones with his remaining chakra when they wouldn't make it to the search party in time. He'd rather die in this cavern then have his friends come too late.

His hand held her limp one coaxing her to keep her eyes open, she did so with steadfast determination. He didn't offer her hollow words of hope but he offered his support which was all she had ever wanted anyways.

"You'll be ok," she whispered.

"I won't," he said stubbornly, "You're my everything." Somehow even with blood loss her face managed to flush.

"You're romantic now of all times."

"I was always romantic."

"Uh-huh, you were a real Casanova."

The courtship between Hinata and Naruto had been surprisingly long considering the fact that it was transparent that Naruto really liked Hinata and everyone still assumed Hinata liked Naruto. But since her little excursion outside the village Hinata had gained some perspective. Fawning over Naruto was not an effective approach to life and after his rather rude dismissal of her confession she had endeavored to better herself. Now she was a confident woman who had trained under various masters over the course of the last three years, acted as an assassin, and perfected numerous jutsus. So when Naruto asked her out she hadn't blushed and fainted dead away, she had looked at him confused and said the one word that she never thought would ever pass her lips,

"No."

"..." He had been left speechless so confident that his feelings would be reciprocated, had she really gotten over him in these last three years?

"Naruto, what do you know about me?" He was so surprised he could hardly put two words together. What did he know about her?

"What do you mean?"

"What's my favorite color? My favorite flavor? How often do I brush my hair?"

"You really don't have much hair anymore to brush."

"That's not the point!" She had internally been overjoyed at him asking her out but she wasn't going to feel abandoned again. Those months she had spent by his side as his advisor had been so gruelingly bittersweet. Watching him fawn over Sakura had been heartbreaking, he knew everything about the pink haired woman but what did he know about her, Hinata? All those years they'd been together and he couldn't even remember a single aspect of her personality! She grew indignant, she craved his love but she would not be tricked by kind words! He would have to earn her love again, like in childhood.

So Naruto was faced with an awkward situation no matter how much he wanted to be with Hinata she wouldn't let him! At least not until he could prove that this wasn't just some selfish whim because of her prolonged absence. So they had to begin as friends, mainly sparring partners. It made sense because aside from Sakura she was the only other person who had genuinely defeated him, and her training offered opportunities for him to expand his skills. So they began meeting regularly to train and eventually they began spending time together after these training sessions reacquainting themselves with one another.

It was after a particularly brutal session in which the winner had been determined once Naruto had pinned Hinata to the ground with a kunai to her throat that both had become uncomfortably aware of their feelings for one another. Poor Hinata was sprawled out beneath Naruto panting, her lips parted and neck exposed looking absolutely appetizing and it had turned off the rational part of his brain that had been chanting no touchy.

It was in that rather intimate position that he stole her first kiss. Pushing his lips against hers fervently hoping for a response, and she had responded. Her lips moving against his and her hands tangling in his hair to pull him closer. When they had parted, panting she had looked at him teasingly.

"No fair."

"Hey it's been a whole year," he huffed trying to capture her lips again. She dodged, "Please let me take you out on a date." He was unbelievably infatuated with her. He had never felt like this towards Sakura. Wanting to spend every second, alone, with another human being. He wanted Hinata to be his and no one else's. Especially those Jounin who had been checking her out the last time they ate ramen together.

"I don't know." Smiling slyly he attacked the other unexposed part of her body, her neck. Kissing it tenderly he reveled in the feel of her soft skin against his chapped lips. His male ego swelled at the fact that she wasn't resisting. However, he had forgotten that his partner also had a mouth.

He let out a low groan as Hinata kissed his pulse point. Dear Kami he was heaven at least until Hinata pushed him off her.

"Naruto, no." She really used that word a lot.

"But," he whined, "You were enjoying it too."

"Ask again."

"Ask what!" Now that Naruto had had a taste of pure bliss he was addicted. Why was Hinata being so difficult! She was blushing and she obviously had enjoyed the contact and the time they had been spending together.

"I know everything about you Hinata. I know you use lavender shampoo. Your favorite flavor is cinnamon. You love the color blue, like my eyes. You are unbelievably stubborn because you won't remove that stupid seal! I even know your bra size!" Hinata looked aghast for a moment she had never told him that, what so of perverse means had he used to get that information?

"Uh…okay maybe the last one was a bit too much information." Hinata began to laugh. It was infectious and soon both of them were lying side by side laughing. When they had finally been able to breathe normally again, Naruto said,

"Hinata will you go on a date with me?"

"Yes." The two years he had dated Hinata had been a dream. Since she was disowned there was no need to worry about compliant from the Hyuuga clan and it was very easy for Hinata to move in with him. Since she had been living a nomadic lifestyle during her three years of training she owned very little, during her first year back she had simply slept in the woods or, when forced, bunked with some of the female members of the Konoha 11. He'd known after one year together he was inescapably in love with her (not that he wanted to escape) and that he wanted to marry her it just took a whole year to work up the courage to propose.

"Do you remember how I proposed?" he asked Hinata trying to keep her from falling asleep, "Come on. It's not time for bed."

"Har...hard...," she took a shuddering breath, "To..for...forget."

"Hey I tried very hard." He pouted, "Hinata stay awake."

"Mmmm..."

He really had tried to think of something romantic. That was probably why it had taken him a year. His brain just could not process romance. He had the ring burning a hole in his pocket for eight months before he could finally muster the courage to pop the question. Not that he hadn't tried. He'd sat in Ichiraku and thought of placing the ring in her ramen. What if she choked? He'd thought of doing it atop the Hokage monument. What if she fainted and fell off? He'd considered doing it at the Academy. What if someone he knew saw him? He'd die of embarrassment. Slowly he had depleted all his options. In utter defeat one night he had started banging his head on his desk, and to his horror it was Hinata who had walked in. She had been on a mission for the last week and was coming to hand in her report when she discovered her boyfriend of two years trying to give himself permanent brain damage.

"Naruto-kun what are doing?"

"Hinata what do you like about me?" Before he had broken up with Sakura he had posed the same question to her. He decided that her answer would determine whether he invested anymore time into their relationship. Sakura had given him an immediate and quick response, everything. Everything. Bullshit. If she liked everything about him why did she beat him into the ground every time he did something stupid, why did she belittle his shortcomings, and why would she insult him? It was impossible to like everything. Her answer had pretty much ended any romantic inclinations he had held for her.

But Hinata wasn't giving him answer. Instead she was deathly quiet looking at him worriedly as he might have actually lost his mind. After a few moments she moved forward sitting on the Hokage desk to look at him carefully.

"Well you're not perfect Naruto, despite thinking you are." He stuck his tongue out, "I love your confidence and your smile they strengthen me and encourage me to keep fighting this battle called life. However, you do things that drive me crazy. You snore when you sleep, your table manners are atrocious, and you don't know the meaning of the word quiet. But these are the qualities that make you, you and I wouldn't change them for the world. Because I love you no matter your faults, if you can accept me and all my problems I can accept you and yours. Does that answer your question?" He was so happy. Her love was sincere, so sincere. She hadn't looked away and she hadn't avoided the question. She loved him! Well, technically, still loved him! What more could he possibly ask for. So in the middle of his office he blurted out the question that had been plaguing him for months.

"Hinata ex-Hyuuga I love you more then anything, even ramen. Will you marry me?" He earned himself a searing kiss in response which threw all rational thought out of his head. Her report was thrown to the floor along with all the other paperwork on his desk as he stood up placing his hands on either side of her body leaning down to dominate the kiss. He was not very good at romance but this was definitely better then all his ideas combined.

It was with great joy the entire village celebrated the marriage of Naruto Uzumaki and Hinata Hyuuga, of course no one had been happier then the happy couple and their friends who had celebrated with them long into the night.

This had been Hianta's last mission before maternity leave. It was suppose to be a simple reconnaissance mission charting the underground tunnels, although he had insisted that he go along with her. Easy or not he was not letting her go without him. That was probably one of the reasons she had gotten herself so badly injured, protecting their unborn child, making sure no hits came close to that area.

At two months the baby bump was hardly noticeably if she had the energy she could have used the Byakugan to check the condition of their child but either from exhaustion or fear she had not done so. He miserably ran his hand over the bump urging her, kissing her, begging her to stay awake, stay with him. They deserved more then three years of wedded bliss, they were supposed to be together till they grew old but it looked like fate was taking her away. Nine years. Three to realize how much she meant to him, three to date her, and three to be married to her. He didn't want just nine years. He wanted a hundred, a million. He wanted infinity.

"Please Hinata." And then she was pulled from his grasp. He nearly tore the arms off of that person. What stopped him were the eyes, the white pupilless orbs of Neji bore into his as he pulled his cousin from Naruto's grasp and moved her toward the outstretched hands of Sakura. Who immediately went to work with the aid of Ino.

The rest of the Konoha 11 assembled in the chamber watching intently as the two medic ninjas tried to heal the fallen lady. It was hard to offer support to Naruto he might be about to lose the family he had finally obtained. He shook his head trying to rid himself of the tears that were threatening to fall.

The silence was suffocating and the atmosphere tense as seconds turned into minutes. Time didn't matter to Naruto the only thing that mattered was the two lives that were at risk.

It was with eerie calmness that Sakura hands stopped glowing retracting from the woman's prone body.

"Well." Everyone held their breath.

"I've done all I can," Naruto's heart thumped painfully, "She might wake up in a few hours or days." The grin that split Naruto's face quickly fell as he asked his next question,

"And the baby?"

"Without an ultrasound I can't determine anything," said Sakura sadly, "But you can move her now." The reassuring hand of Kiba was placed on his shoulder,

"Let's go, Naruto." Carefully he picked up the love of his life bridal style and led his comrades out of the cavern. When her eyes opened he'd be there, and when they were told the condition of the child he would be beside her. She'd spent her whole life trying to walk beside him and it was time he returned the favor.