Soul Fire a NaruHina fan fic

Volume 1

Chapter 1: First spark

The noon day sun shone softly through the windows of Hinata's hospital room. It had been three days since she had awoken back in Konoha after her mission to the Land of Lightning. Though she and her team had recovered the stolen scrolls from the three rogue cloud ninja, the mission had been far from easy. Reaching for the glass of water beside her hospital bed, Hinata was reminded why she was there. She winced, clutching her abdomen as she felt fire shoot through her left side. The pain wasn't nearly as bad as it had been; at least she could walk around now without too much discomfort. But she still couldn't go home without a doctor's permission.

The hospital room seemed lonely somehow. The plain white walls and unending quiet made her feel even more alone than usual. Her team mates had already been sent away on another mission before she had awoken from her surgery. Aside from one brief call-in by her cousin Neji, she'd had no visitors, other than the daily checkups from Sakura Haruno the medical ninja.

Sakura, her old classmate from the academy, another of the so called 'rookie nine', now one of the most accomplished chunin in the village, trained by the Fifth Hokage herself. But most importantly - to Hinata at least - she was on the same team as Naruto Uzumaki.

Naruto Uzumaki. Just thinking about that plucky blonde haired ninja always made a tingle run down her spine. It seemed like such a long time since she had last laid eyes on him. He'd been back in Konoha only a few months after his special training with Master Jiraiya, one of the legendary Sannin. She'd thought about him every day since he'd been gone, and even more since he'd been back.

As she lay back on her hospital bed her thoughts returned to the first time that she'd seen him after his long absence. He'd grown so much, both in stature and in handsomeness, she thought to herself with a smile. She felt a familiar warmth grow in her cheeks, spreading across her face and down into her shoulders. She'd tried to hide from him, but he'd found her so quickly. For over two years she had only seen him in her memories; then suddenly he was right in front of her. His voice was so much deeper now, as he spoke her name, so much more masculine. The warm feeling spread into her chest, down her back, and settled in her belly. It seemed to make the pain from her wound subside a little. His face had changed too, his jaw was more firm, and his cheeks had lost the chubbiness of youth. And the whisker marks that had once seemed so cute, even comical, had become darker and more pronounced. Now they made him look rugged, almost fierce. But despite all the other changes, his eyes were still the same. If she remembered nothing else, she would remember those dazzling cerulean orbs, which seemed to sparkle with an inner fire. She shivered contentedly as the tingling sensation ran through her again. Everything around her was forgotten, even the pain of her wound disappeared as she lost herself in a daydream. She closed her eyes and smiled; a secret smile that nobody ever saw; a smile that she saved just for herself, and maybe someday, for him.

Hinata jumped when a knock at the door jolted her back into reality.

"Hey, Hinata, it's time for your check-up," The pink haired kunoichi chimed as she entered the room.

"Oh uh, g-good afternoon, Sakura," Hinata replied as she tried to regain her composure.

The young medical ninja fixed her with an appraising stare as she placed her medical bag on the side table. "Well, looks like you're feeling better," she noted with a smile. "Perhaps you'll be ready to go home today."

'Better?' Hinata thought to herself in puzzlement. She didn't feel any better than she did yesterday.

"You lost an awful lot of blood, you know. But it looks like you've started to get some colour back in your face," Sakura said, still beaming. Hinata suddenly realised how much she must be blushing from her little daydream.

"Have you had any more visitors?" Sakura asked as she began her examination. Hinata felt her sense of loneliness return. Her silence seemed to answer Sakura's question. "Oh... well your father and sister did come to see you after the surgery, but you were still unconscious."

Hinata was all too aware of her father's coldness toward her. She thought for a brief moment if he would be more interested in visiting were it Hanabi lying in a hospital bed. But she immediately banished such thoughts, refusing to blame her younger sister for her father's feelings. She quickly tried to change the subject to something she knew would help her forget her loneliness. "Um, Sakura, how is... Naruto doing?" she asked, whilst carefully avoiding eye contact.

"Naruto?" she replied, with a quizzical look. "Why are you asking about him all of a sudden?"

"Oh, well I... I just heard he was taking the chunin exam again," Hinata mumbled, trying desperately to keep the blood from rushing to her face.

"Ah, that's right. You missed seeing the final competition the other day, didn't you. Wow, you missed out on a great show. None of the other competitors even came close to beating him." Sakura eagerly began recounting each of his matches as she continued the examination. Hinata hung on every word, trying to picture the events in her mind. "He's grown so much stronger over the past few years," she continued. "I don't think anyone expected him to become so powerful."

'Nobody but me,' Hinata thought to herself. 'I always knew he was going to be stronger than anyone else. Once he makes up his mind there's nothing in the world that can stand in his way.'

"What's so funny?" Sakura asked with a sideways glance. Only then did Hinata realise she'd been smiling.

"Oh, um... n-nothing." Hinata once again felt warmth in her cheeks.

"Hmm... alright then." Sakura's questioning stare only caused the warmth to grow. "Well, I'd say you're ready to go home."

"Huh?" The sudden change of subject caught Hinata off guard.

"Your wound is healing well," Sakura continued. "Normally I would keep you under observation for another day or two, but you certainly have more colour in your face, and you seem more cheerful too." Again Hinata avoided eye contact. "Just make sure you take it easy. No training or exercise of any kind for at least a week. Just take things slow, okay?"

"Oh, y-yes of course. Thank you Sakura." Hinata wasn't really sure if she was well enough to go home, but she wasn't about to tell the real cause for all of the colour in her cheeks.

With her medical bag packed, the pink haired kunoichi started making her way to the door. "You just take care of yourself. See you later."

"Uh, w-wait Sakura." One question was still in her mind. "Um, do you… do you think Naruto will um… finally become a chunin?" She managed to ask.

With a quick glance at the door Sakura stepped in and leaned close to Hinata's ear. "You know what?" she whispered with a sly grin. "I wasn't supposed to tell anyone this, but Lady Hokage has already made the decision. He's going to be promoted to chunin today."

Hinata barely managed to stifle a squeal of delight. "That's wonderful! He's waited so long," She whispered back, allowing herself to smile this time.

"Just don't tell anyone else. Bye," Sakura said, still grinning as she closed the door behind her.

Hinata lay back down on her hospital bed, bathing in the warmth of the afternoon sun. And again she let herself drift off into a daydream about the boy with the sparkling blue eyes.

The evening sun washed the village of Konoha in an orange glow. Naruto Uzumaki stood atop the cliffs above, a smile of achievement written firmly across his face.

"Just you watch, Konoha village. Today I'm a chunin, next I'll be a Jonin, and then I'll be Lord Hokage," He said quietly, to nobody in particular. He closed his eyes basking in the sunlight, and took in a deep breath through his nose. A slight grumble emanated from his stomach, and he smiled even wider. "Time to celebrate!"

In seconds he was down amongst the houses and shops, racing through the village streets toward his destination. "Ichiraku's, here I come. Mmm, I can already taste it." He chuckled to himself, and ran even faster. So fast that he didn't see the dark haired girl until it was too late.

Hinata gasped in shock when the orange blur appeared from around the corner and barrelled headlong into her from the side. The girl's usually quick reflexes were hampered by her wound, and she had no time to get out of the way. Her pack was knocked off her shoulder into the street, and she almost followed it. She tripped over her unknown assailant's feet and fell to her knees. Her wound flared. Hinata gripped at her side with both hands, squeezed her eyes shut and winced from the pain.

"Aw man, I've really got to watch where I'm going," Naruto scolded himself as he rolled into a sitting position. He looked around and found the person he'd collided with. "Huh? Hinata, is that you?" Scrambling over to her on all fours, he reached out a hand to steady her. "Hinata, I'm so sorry! Are you okay?"

The voice seemed familiar. Hinata hadn't seen who'd run into her, she'd been lost in another daydream about... she froze, her eyes still shut tight. Was she imagining things? Suddenly she felt a hand on her arm, holding her up.

"Hinata. Hey, Hinata." Naruto gently shook her. 'Aw man, I hope I didn't hurt her,' He thought worriedly. 'Why won't she say something?'

'It's him... It's really him!' Hinata felt a tightness in her chest. She swallowed hard, and forced herself to breathe. Hesitantly she opened her eyes, and there he was. That messy blond hair, those whisker painted cheeks… and those eyes.

"Hinata?" 'Why's she looking at me like that?' the boy puzzled as the wide eyed girl stared at him, her mouth hanging agape.

Blood flowed into Hinata's face, her chest tightened again, she couldn't breathe. She could feel her heart beating like a drum, echoing in her ears like thunder. Her head felt light, her vision blurred, she could tell it was happening again. But as she felt herself falling forward, something else snapped her awake. The stabbing pain shot through her again. She grimaced as she clutched at her abdomen, squeezing her eyes shut once more.

'Oh man, she's really hurt!' the boy thought. "Hold on Hinata, I'll get some help." He scrambled to his feet and turned to leave.

"No..." Hinata squeaked. "I... I'm fine..." She drew in a deep breath, as the pain began to ebb. "It... it's not your fault."

Naruto spun back to face her. Only then did he notice the bandages under her jacket. "Oh man, that looks serious! What happened?"

"It's nothing... just... just a scratch." She reached for her pack.

"Hey, let me give you a hand." Before she could say another word, he scooped the pack up onto his shoulder and lifted her gently to her feet. "So you've been in the hospital, right?"

Hinata nodded, keeping her eyes on the ground, fearful of what could happen if she looked into those eyes of his again. Her heart was still pounding in her chest. His touch made her tremble, and her knees barely had the strength to hold her up.

"Whoa, you look exhausted!" Naruto exclaimed when he saw her struggling to stand. "Hey, I'll bet you haven't had a decent meal in a while. That hospital food is lousy," He continued with a chuckle. "Actually I was just on my way to get some ramen. How 'bout I buy you some?"

Hinata's heart skipped a beat. 'Is he... is he asking me on a... date?' Slowly her gaze drifted up to meet his. She tried to speak but couldn't find the breath. Her vision blurred, her head swam, and her knees finally gave way.

Naruto almost fell over again, as Hinata's unconscious form slumped into his arms. "What the...? Hinata? Hey, Hinata! Oh man, what is with this girl?" He was suddenly aware of how many people had been watching them, and noticed that many of them seemed to find their situation quite amusing.

An old man strolled past with a fishing pole over his shoulder. "Fine catch you've got there, boy." He chuckled, grinning from ear to ear. Naruto just gawked at him in confusion. The old man laughed even louder as he continued along his way.

Hinata had never felt so content; cradled in the branches of a tall tree as it gently swayed backward and forward in the wind. She snuggled in closer to its trunk. It felt so warm and soft somehow. She wanted to just lie here forever, but something kept tugging at her mind. She was sure there was something important that she needed to do, something she wanted to do. Her half conscious mind tried to grasp what it was that was so important. It would have been easier to think if something wasn't jabbing her in the side. Then it came to her. "Naruto."

The boy stopped in his tracks. "Hinata, you awake?" They hadn't gone far since he'd started carrying her.

Groggily, she opened her eyes. 'Is this a dream?' she thought as she realised what was happening to her. If it was a dream, she didn't ever want to wake up. How many times had she imagined being carried in his arms?

"You had me worried there." His voice held a mix of concern and relief. "Just relax. I'll take you back to the hospital."

"No!" she almost shouted. Heat filled her cheeks. "No... I-I'm fine... really." She couldn't possibly let this chance slip by, no matter how much she wanted to stay there cradled in his arms. "I j-just need to c-catch my breath."

"Oh, okay." Gently, he lowered her onto her feet. "Well, you sure picked the right time to wake up." He pointed a finger over her shoulder with a grin. "My favourite ramen shop. That's if you're sure you're up to it."

"Yes, I'm sure." She nodded vigorously. She imagined she would still have said yes, even if she'd been at death's door.

'So it's finally happened,' Iruka thought to himself happily, as he made his way through Konoha's streets. 'He's made it to chunin, after working so hard for so long. And I'd bet my headband that I know just where he's going to be tonight.' He chuckled to himself. He turned the corner toward Ichiraku's, but stopped short half way. 'Wait a minute, he's already with someone; and it's... a girl?' Iruka's eyes widened as he took in the scene. Naruto, sitting at Ichiraku's, talking, laughing, and joking, with a young woman in a lavender jacket. 'Well well, looks like Naruto's growing up faster than I thought.' A smirk spread across his face as he slipped into the shadows and made his way closer. 'I wonder who the lucky girl is.'

"Here you go, Naruto. The first bowl's on the house, for you and your... friend."

"Thanks, old man." Naruto didn't seem to notice the emphasis that the owner placed on the word friend, or the way he and his daughter were giggling behind their backs.

Hinata, on the other hand, was acutely aware of the attention they were receiving. She could barely summon a polite smile as the steaming bowl was placed in front of her.

"So, are you two celebrating Naruto's promotion? Or are you here for another reason?" Ayame asked, with a cheeky smile.

Hinata's face turned ten shades redder at the obvious implication.

"What do you mean?" Naruto asked, around a mouthful of noodles. "Of course we're here to celebrate my promotion."

Ayame giggled. "What, just the two of you? Didn't you invite anyone else along?"

Naruto shrugged. "Actually, we just sort of ran into each other, and I thought I'd invite her along."

"Oh, you just 'ran into each other' huh?" She eyed each of the teenagers in turn. "What a coincidence. Are you sure you didn't run into each other on purpose?"

Naruto just goggled at her, while Hinata tried her best to hide behind her bowl.

"Okay, Ayame, that's enough," old man Teuchi said. "Why don't you go wash some dishes, so they can eat their ramen in peace?"

Ayame sighed, but her smile didn't falter. "Okay, dad." She gave the teenagers a wave before disappearing into the back of the shop. "Have fun, you two."

It was taking all of Hinata's strength of will to keep her mind from turning down the path that Ayame had so clearly presented. Having 'fun'with Naruto was the last thing she needed to think about if she wanted to stay conscious.

Naruto happily drained the contents of his bowl. "Hit me again, old man," he called to the chef. Then he noticed Hinata's bowl, sitting in front of her, untouched. "What's the matter, Hinata? Did the old man get your order wrong or something?"

"Oh, n-no it's not that." The girl shook her head vigorously. She looked down into the steaming broth and inhaled its spicy scent. A faint rumble from her stomach told her just how hungry she actually was. "E-everything's fine, really. This looks delicious." There was something calming about the aroma. She snapped her chopsticks apart and took another deep breath of it. "Thank you for the food." She said, and started eating.

Hinata wasn't sure if it was because of the ramen, but she quickly began to feel more relaxed. She listened as Naruto gave his (clearly exaggerated) version of how he'd completed the final exam, while he emptied three more bowls. Then he asked the girl about her own chunin exams, and she somehow managed to tell him all about them. She was ashamed to admit that it had taken her three tries in the end, until Naruto reminded her that it had taken him that many tries just to graduate from the academy. She could hardly believe all this was happening. This was the first time she'd actually had a real, normal conversation with him. It was a simple thing, to sit and talk with another person. But for her, to be sitting and talking with him was like a wonderful waking dream.

'Hinata Hyuuga?' If Iruka could hardly believe his eyes before, now he was ready to pinch himself. Naruto Uzumaki, the boy everyone rejected, even hated, was on a date with Hinata Hyuuga, heiress to the most powerful clan in the hidden leaf village. What on earth would people think? More importantly, what was her father, Lord Hiashi, going to think? 'Boy, Naruto, you always were good at getting into trouble,' Iruka shook his head silently as he stared at the young couple, 'but this may just be the biggest mess you've ever gotten yourself into.'

After a moment, though, Iruka just smiled to himself and shrugged. 'Well, they should at least be allowed to enjoy it for now. I guess I can congratulate him on becoming a chunin, tomorrow.'

But as Iruka turned to leave the two in peace, he spotted something coming down the street toward them, and knew that their evening was about to become anything but peaceful.

"HEY, BOSS!" An eager young voice called out. Naruto and Hinata both turned to face the three young ninja as they burst in through the curtain. "Boss, boss, congratulations, boss!" the boy with the long scarf shouted, grinning from ear to ear "I just knew you'd make it to chunin this time, boss, you're the best!"

"Oh thanks, Konohamaru." Naruto returned the boys grin and scratched the back of his head sheepishly.

"We saw all your matches in the final competition, didn't we guys? You were so cool. Like when you... huh...?" The kid trailed off as he suddenly noticed Hinata. "Hey, who's this?"

"Oh, this is Hinata. Hinata, this is Konohamaru. He's the third Hokage's grandson."

"And soon to be the seventh Hokage!" the kid proudly announced.

"Not until I'm done being the sixth," Naruto retorted, as he forcefully ruffled the boy's hair.

Hinata giggled as she watched the two of them roughhouse. Then suddenly she became aware that another of the young trio was staring at her. She turned her attention to the cute little girl with rosy cheeks.

"Wow, she's really pretty," Moegi said, with a shy giggle. "Is she your girlfriend, Naruto?"

The two teenagers froze. Silence descended upon the group, broken only by a few muffled choking sounds from Konohamaru as he tried to free himself from Naruto's headlock. Naruto slowly turned to face Moegi, then Hinata. "G-g-girlfriend...?" Naruto stuttered as he locked eyes with her. Silence reigned for another moment as the two simply stared at each other, their faces growing redder by the second.

"GIRLFRIEND! I never said she was my girlfriend!" Naruto insisted. He dumped Konohamaru to the floor and waved his hands frantically in denial. "I was just... and she... and then we... so I... and... and..."

"Hey, wait a minute..." Konohamaru said, hopping to his feet. "I thought you liked that bossy pink haired girl with the huge forehead."

"Huh… you mean Sakura?"

Hinata tensed. 'What? He likes... Sakura?'

"Yeah that's her." Konohamaru continued. "You told us you liked her, years ago before you left with that weird old man."

'No... that can't be true.' A cold shiver ran down Hinata's spine.

"I thought she was supposed to be your girlfriend," the boy concluded.

Hinata froze. Her heart fell into her knees. She felt moisture well up behind her eyes as she stared at him, silently begging him to deny what had been said. 'She can't be. No, please say it's not true.'

Naruto grinned sheepishly and scratched the back of his head again. "Well uh... I guess I did kinda say that, yeah."

Hinata's heart shattered. The tears burst forth as the words she'd been dreading sank in. She couldn't stand hearing any more. She wanted to get away, to hide, to curl up somewhere that nobody would ever find her. Turning her back on him, she ran out into the night.

"Huh... Hinata, hey where are you g..." Naruto stared after her, dumfounded.

"Hey she left her things behind." Said Udon, spying the pack she'd left next to her seat.

Another figure chose this point to step in from the shadows. "Nice going there Naruto," He droned sarcastically.

Naruto turned to regard the newcomer. "Huh...? Iruka sensei?"

"So are you going to go after her or what?"

"Uh, go after her? Why, what for?" Naruto stared at him, wearing a confused look.

Ayame re-emerged from the back room and directed a sour look at the young man. "Oh come on, Naruto. Couldn't you tell there was something wrong with her?" She scolded, slapping him across the back of the head with a dish cloth for added emphasis. "Anyone could see how hurt she is?"

A look of realisation suddenly sprang onto the boy's face. "Oh no, you're right! I can't let her run off like that!"

Smiles of relief spread across Iruka and Ayame's faces. They were short lived.

"She just got out of the hospital. She's supposed to be taking it easy." Franticly, Naruto scooped up her pack and sped off after her.

"Naruto, that's not what... ugh," Iruka groaned as he watched him disappear around the corner. "Just when I thought he was starting to grow up."

Ayame sighed heavily. "Well, that's Naruto for you."

"Hey boss, wait urk...!"

"Hold it right there Konohamaru," Iruka said firmly, as he gripped the young ninja's scarf. "This is one mission that Naruto needs to handle on his own."

Hinata didn't know where she was running, nor did she care. She just wanted to get away from him, from everyone, from everything. Her wound flared with pain from the running, but she barely noticed. The pain in her heart was a thousand times worse. She ran through Konoha's streets, her eyes overflowing. All she wanted to do was run and hide, as she'd done so many times, find a place where nobody could see her and let the tears carry away her pain.

She kept on running, beyond the last of the houses and into the trees. Soon she found herself in a clearing. Through eyes blurred with tears she recognised the three wooden logs of the old training grounds. Gasping for breath between the sobs she curled up with her back against one, and buried her face in her knees.

'How could I be so foolish? How could I miss it? He's liked Sakura this whole time, since before he left to train.' She sobbed uncontrollably as the tears ran in rivers down her face. 'I should've known from the start. They're on the same team; together all the time.'

Hinata shivered as an icy wind blew in. The last faint glow of twilight faded, leaving her sitting in cold empty darkness, the moon and stars hidden behind a veil of cloud.

'Of course he likes Sakura, why wouldn't he? She's so kind and pretty and confident.' The freezing wind began to seep through the bandages and into her wound, chilling her to the core. 'She's nothing like me. She's strong and brave, like him, but I'm so weak and shy and fearful. I'll never be like her. I'll never be good enough for him.'

Hinata rocked back and forth, clutching her abdomen, shivering as the cold spread through her. A distant peal of thunder heralded the approach of rain.

'Aw man, a storm's coming.' Naruto sped through the woods, his keen eyes following the trail of footprints. 'I've gotta find her quick, before we both get soaked.'

He paused for breath as the trail led him out of the trees. 'Man, it's dark out here and cold too.' He shivered as a gust of wind whipped past. 'I still don't get why she ran off like that. And why would she come here?' peering out into the darkness he made out the familiar shape of the three wooden logs. 'Hey, the old training grounds. This is where we talked that time before my match with Neji.' His mind turned back to the memories he had from three years ago. 'She'd always seemed so weird before, but after what she said I realised what a nice person she was.' He strained his eyes to pierce the darkness around him. 'I remember her standing right over...' just then he noticed a faint sound coming right from where he was looking, his eyes made out a figure curled up against one of the logs. "Hinata!"

Hinata jumped as she heard someone calling her name. She turned to face them but immediately turned away again when she realised who it was.

"Hinata, hey, Hinata." He ran over but stopped short when he saw her turn. "Uh, Hinata, are you okay?"

She couldn't bear the thought of answering him.

"Hinata?" He crouched beside her and reached out to put a hand on her shoulder. She recoiled from his touch. 'What's wrong with her?' he thought. 'It's like she's afraid of me.' Then he spotted the faint sparkle of moisture on her cheek. "What's wrong, have you been crying?"

She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to hold back the tears. She didn't want anyone to follow her, him least of all. She just wanted to hide herself away and cry.

He could see the pained expression on her face. "Oh man, your wound. You must be really hurt. Do you need some help?" Again she gave no answer. "Aw, I wish Sakura was here, I'm sure she could help you."

That name on his lips. Was it really true? She had to know for sure. "S-Sakura," she forced out the words, barely keeping the tears at bay. "Is she r-really your g-girlfriend?"

"My girlfriend?" He grinned sheepishly and forced a chuckle "Well that is what I said."

Hinata felt all the pain and sorrow welling up inside her again. 'So it is true.'

But his laugh soon faded into a sigh. "But I guess it's not really the truth. I mean I like her and all but... she's not really interested in me like that, I guess."

Hinata's eyes snapped open. 'What... she doesn't like him?' She fixed her gaze on the ground, still not willing to look into his face. 'What does that mean?'

"Uh, I could probably go find her if you need some help."

She shook her head weakly.

Again thunder rolled in the distance as the rain grew closer. "Hey, Hinata, we'd better not stay out here much longer. We'll both freeze if we don't get under cover." He stood, and held out a hand. "Come on, let me walk you home."

She hesitated at first, but she knew he was right. At least at home she could curl up in her warm bed. She took his hand and let herself be lifted to her feet. Another freezing gust whipped around them. She hugged herself tight, trying to keep the cold at bay. Clenching her eyes shut against the wind, she found herself shivering uncontrollably.

"Here," he said as he slipped something around her shoulders, "looks like you need this."

She looked to find it was his trademark black and orange jacket. "B-but... you..."

"I'll be fine," he said, though he shivered himself as the wind picked up again. "Don't worry. You need it more than I do."

She felt guilty taking it, but it felt so warm. She pulled it tight around herself as they slowly made their way back to the lights and shelter of the village.

The streets were beginning to clear as night set in. The two made their way toward the Hyuuga mansion in silence.

More than once the boy turned to say something but stopped short, mouth hanging open, when he saw the sorrow and depression in her pale lavender eyes. 'Aw man, how can I cheer her up?' he puzzled 'I just wish I knew what the problem was. She seemed fine back at Ichiraku's, so what went wrong?'

Hinata walked alongside him, head down, eyes firmly on the path in front of her. 'He likes her, but she doesn't like him. Maybe if he knew, then he might... No, I can't! What if he doesn't like me too? What if he just laughs at me?'

'Did I say something, or do something, to make her cry? Maybe I should say sorry, but what for?'

'I couldn't stand it if he laughed at me and thought I was stupid for liking him. I'd just want to die if he said he doesn't like me.'

'Maybe it was really just her injuries. So then what would Sakura or Grandma Tsunade do?'

'But when we talked all those years ago, back at the training grounds, he said that he likes people like me.'

'Well I guess they would... No way, I can't do that!'

'After all, isn't never knowing just as bad?'

The first trickle of rain began to fall as they approached the wall surrounding Hinata's home. They took shelter under an awning near the gate. To both it seemed like an eternity as they stood facing each other, both reluctant to make eye contact. Naruto handed over her pack; she took it without a word.

The boy shuffled back and forth. 'C'mon I gotta say something.' The girl was just staring at the ground between them. Finally he spoke. "Hinata, I'm sorry I... uh..." he trailed off, scratching his head, trying to think of something better to say. "I... I hope you feel better soon," he offered, but she didn't answer. The boy didn't know what else to do. He only had one idea left. 'I guess I can't screw it up any more than I already have.' He swallowed hard. 'Well, here goes.'

'I have to say it,' thought Hinata. 'I have to find out now, or I might never get another chance.' She took a deep breath and slowly lifted her gaze to meet his. "N-Naruto..." but the words caught in her throat.

He stepped in closer, his hand reached out to brush aside her hair. Eyes closed, he leaned in toward her and gently pressed his lips against her forehead.

Hinata's heart was doing back-flips. Her body turned to stone. Her face felt like it was on fire. She stared wide eyed into nothing, as her mind tried to comprehend what was happening.

'What am I doing?' Naruto quickly took a step back, his face flushed. He'd never felt so uncomfortable in his life. "Uh, well g-gotta go. Bye, Hinata." And with that he dashed off into the night.

"I... I..." Hinata stood frozen as the boy faded into the darkness. "I... lo..." All her strength melted away, her eyes went dark. She barely noticed herself falling as she silently breathed the words. "I... love... you."

Authors Note: This story has already been published, by me, on deviantART. I did not steal this. Check my dA account if you don't believe me.