(A/N: An idea I've been tinkering with, thought I'd test the waters.)

Edited 9/18/12 for spelling

Disclaimer: I don't own anything, more the shame.

A Fox's new skulk

Chapter One: The Bloody kit

A bird masked ANBU called Sparrow perched on a roof watching as a child in an orange jumpsuit weaved through a crowded street market. Stumbling behind him were the victims of his latest prank, apparently he had taken offence at a local dive bar where old merchants spent their days.

Truth be told Sparrow enjoyed being detailed to watch the blond boy. It was both easy and entertaining. He only needed to intervene if shinobi became involved or Naruto was caught by the villagers, something he hadn't seen yet. Though there had been a few close calls.

Sparrow moved to follow the odd display, wondering if he should do something about the men's public drunkenness. Blocks away another figure mimicked Sparrows movements, waiting for his chance to act.


Naruto laughed as he ran down a side alley that smelled like drunks had used it the night before. Mixing tabasco sauce into their sake had worked out better than he had planned. The bars patrons had been ready to rip into the bartender before one had seen him watching from across the street.

He stopped and waited for the merchants to catch up; it looked like he had lost a couple dozen on his stroll. Over the years he had come to enjoy the chase as much as the prank. And sometimes they made it to easy. The merchants blocked the alley glaring at him; he leaned against a brick wall with faded graffiti. They were waiting for more of their friends to catch up before they made a move, but that didn't stop them yelling at him. "Damn it you know how much high quality sake you ruined?"

"I know there was nothing high quality about that toad slim you were drinking. Besides I did you a favor. Don't you know it's shameful to be drinking this early?" Naruto said thumbing his nose at them, several looked ready to explode.

"The only shameful thing here is you! But we know how to fix that don't we boys!" The remainder of his drinking buddies roared and charged down the alley.

Naruto jumped onto a trashcan and grabbed a fire escape, climbing towards the roof. The merchants tried to follow. The first few to reach the trashcan knocked it over, the garbage stained their clothes. They didn't seem to mind the smell of rotten fruit and fish. More of them pushed against their friends shoving them onto the ground with the trash. A few had the idea of standing under the fire escape and jump towards the ladder. None of them managed more than a few inches.

One particularly inebriated man glared at Naruto and took a swing of sake, the same sake they had been chasing Naruto for. He spit out the tainted liquid on another merchants back who spun around and punched him. Soon everyone who could stand was throwing their fist. Naruto watched until he heard a whistle on the street. Someone had noticed the drunkards finally and sounded the alarm.

Naruto ran across the roofs heading for a small park near the academy to lay low for a few hours. Someone was bound to come looking for him for starting that mess, that was if any of them remembered why they were there in the first place.

He settled into the crock between some branches to take a nap while he waited. He dozed as the afternoon passed quietly. He had decided it was safe to leave his hiding spot when a hand shot between the branches grabbing his ankle and pulled him from the tree.

He landed hard, rolled and sprung up ready to fight. A person in all black and a cheap festival mask watched him. Naruto talked while he planned his escape. "What's the big idea pulling me out of the tree like that!"

The figure cocked its head, then pointed behind Naruto. The blond shinobi drew a kunai. "You think I'm gonna fall for that?"

Something struck his shoulder, he sprawled on the ground. His arm went numb. Struggling he got back to his feet facing the mob of drunken men, they seemed to have picked up quite a few sober people along the way, most were armed with broken boards and branches. Naruto watched as they spread out so he couldn't run. He figured it was time to try a bluff.

Quickly Naruto went through a series of hand signs. They didn't mean anything but he was betting the mob wouldn't know that. "You guys want to fight? Fine I can spare some time to kick your butts."

"Cut the crap. We all know you can't use ninja stuff for the crap of a ninjas worth of shit." A drunk said, swaying as he shouted in Narutos general direction.

Another one hit the first drunks head. "Knock it off Deisui; you're making us look bad."

"Hey why don't we knock the demon off instead!" Someone shouted, the mob cheered and closed in around Naruto.

He ducked the first swing of a board but another caught his leg. Feeling was returning to his arm but all he had was a pins and needle sensation, which was for the best as he used his arm to block a thick branch.

He rolled and kicked sending two attackers to the ground. Behind them was a break in the crowd and he ran for it. A large drunken man stumbled into his path and brought a rotten stick down towards his head. Naruto grabbed the branch and yanked it from the surprised man.

Wire wrapped around his wrist and pulled him back. It bit deep into his skin slicing through muscle. It felt like his bones were being cut. Droplets of blood flew from his wrists as he was hauled towards the tree at an incredible speed. He slammed into the bark hard enough to bruise a rib.

The masked shinobi drove a three pronged kunai into Naruto's hands trapping him against the tree, then stepped back as the mob descended. Naruto couldn't hold back a scream as his hands were shredded.


Hinata walked out of the academy, she had spent the past few hours studying in the school's library. It wasn't as comprehensive as her clans but she was less likely to meet anyone from her family there. And the slight chance she might run into her fellow student Naruto didn't hurt either. Though the only time she had ever seen him in the library was to hide after a prank had backfired.

She smiled at the memory of him ducking under the table she was sitting at. Several shouting people following moments later. Their screams of anger died when they saw Hinata. They quickly bowed and apologized before leaving almost as quickly. Naruto had popped up, flashed her a grin and thanked her. Then ran in the opposite direction. It was the only time she could remember having been glad to have been born in to the Hyuga clan.

Her smile faded as she once again thought about how even the small amounts of time she was with Naruto was about to end. They were almost ready for the Genin exam. There was no doubt about her passing; the exam was more of a formality. The academy wouldn't dare hold a Hyuga back no matter how poorly they might preform.

Naruto on the other hand had already taken the test and failed multiple times. Which if Hinata was honest with herself about she wasn't to upset with. Because it gave them the chance to be on the same team if he passed this time. Not that she deserved to be on the same team as him, not when she had just admitted to herself she was glad for his failure. As much as she wished they could be on the same team she'd never wish for Naruto to be saddled with a useless backstabbing Hyuga like herself.

She shook those thoughts from her mind. She was going to be on someone's team and she had to try and pull her weight. Naruto never let his failures get to him, he just kept pushing through and she had to as well. A slight detour led her to a park where her cousin Neji sometimes trained his Byakugan. Distance markers had been set up in the park and surrounding neighborhoods.

Hinata activated her own Byakugan and began looking for all the markers. Her father demanded that she not only be able to find people but objects as well. The Byakugans natural tendency to focus on chakra made this exceedingly difficult. But one chakra network in particular caught her eye. When she was eight and had first began to train with her Byakugan her father had taken her to the hospital and made her watch the patients in the ICU as their chakra networks had flickered, dimmed and faded. As they died.

She had been forced to watch for hours again and again until she had finally collapsed from exhaustion. The chakra she saw now looked like theirs, pulsing and dimming. The person was close, in the park. She hesitated, if she went for help they might die before someone came. If she went to help she'd lose time but she might be able to do something. She knew the academy's basic medical techniques. Naruto would help them. She ran towards the chakra signature.

What she found caused her to stop short and simultaneously want to vomit and faint. Naruto was leaning against a tree. A three pronged kunai had been driven through his hands so he couldn't fall over. His arms, face, shirt and lap were covered in blood from deep cuts on his wrists. He moaned weakly and tried to shift his position. The wire wrapped around his wrists bit deeper bringing fresh blood. The goggles he always wore were caked with blood, one lens cracked. A broken sake bottle lay next to him, its jagged end covered in blood leading back to a deep twisted gash on his side. His face, what she could see of him under the blood was swollen and discolored, one eye completely forced closed. The metallic scent of blood stung her throat.

"Naruto-Kun." She rushed forward and pulled the kunai out of his hands. The wire cut deeper as he sagged forward. She quickly cut the wire with the kunai; once he was free he toppled over. Hinata pulled the bandage off her leg that most shinobi wore under their kunai pouch and used it to stop the worst of his bleeding from his wrists.

She scooped him up in the position taught at the academy for transporting a severely injured teammate. She ran from the park jumping onto a nearby roof and moving towards the hospital. Hold on Naruto-Kun, I will get you help. Just hold on, please hold on. I know you can do it! Please please please don't leave me alone again. She moved at a speed that would have put any other student to shame.


Hinata burst through the doors into the hospital. "Please help, Naruto-Kun was attacked!"

Several nurses and doctors turned to look at her but no one moved to help. A few looked away ashamed. More pretended to not have heard her. The worst though were the ones that actually looked glad to see Naruto in such a state. "Please he needs help or he'll die!"

"Serves that thing right." Said a patient sitting in a chair near Hinata. Because her hands were busy with Naruto she kicked his chair and sent him sprawling on the ground. He gave a startled cry and was prepared to shout his outrage, until he saw he eyes. As quick as he could he crawled backward out of the room. A few nurses joined him, starting to question which of the children before them had the demon.

"You heard the girl!" Shouted another doctor striding into the room, no one moved. "That's an order! Anyone who doesn't want to follow it is dismissed here and now!"

Suddenly everyone was rushing to get a gurney and equipment. The doctor and a nurse eased Naruto off of Hinata. She collapsed from exhaustion before they had him secured on the gurney.


Sarutobi, the Third Hokage, sat attempting to paint a panoramic view of the village in one of his rare free moments between the tedious paperwork that seemed to be breeding in his office. He should really have someone look into it. Anko tended to enjoy strange and dangerous creatures.

Sarutobi removed his pipe from his mouth and sighed. He was having difficulties capturing the wonder he once saw, just another sign he had been at the job for too long. A masked ANBU agent appeared next to him. "Hokage, sir. There is an issue with Naruto."

"What is it this time? Did he slip more red dye into the woman's showers at the academy?" Sarutobi said. He had actually found that prank enjoyable.

"I am afraid not, he was brought to the hospital earlier in critical condition. We are." The ANBU agent never finished. Sarutobi was already moving with a speed that should have been all but impossible for anyone, let alone a man of his advanced age. Even his personal bodyguards were unable to keep up, much to their dismay and embarrassment. It would take barrels of sake to keep anyone who saw their failure quiet.


The doctor was writing a few last notes on Naruto's papers when Sarutobi appeared in the hospital room. "What is Naruto's condition?"

"Stable, but it was close this time. Massive blood loss, deep lacerations on his wrists. Luckily, somehow his ulnar artery wasn't severed. Stabbed through both hands with a kunai. Stomach cute with a bottle. Three bruised ribs, dislocated shoulder and in general having the crap beat out of him. By all rights he should be dead. It's the third time in two years he's been in this situation." He paused to make sure they were alone. "There is one other thing; it appears that beyond his natural healing a mild healing Jutsu was applied to keep him alive before he was found."

Sarutobi sank into a chair. He hadn't imagined things were that bad, not after he had assigned an ANBU to guard the boy. He would have to look into why they hadn't intervened. "Who brought him in?"

"A young girl, she can't be older than Naruto. She brought him in through the front doors covered in his blood. It was, interesting. I've treated a few Hyuga in my time but the look she gave another patient when they said that Naruto had gotten what he deserved would have put any of her clan to shame." The doctor said.

"Is she still here? I would like to thank her and hear how she came to find him." Sarutobi said.

The doctor gestured to a small couch partially hidden behind a curtain, Hinata lay on it unconscious. "Physically she's fine but she passed out as soon as we had Naruto. We really weren't sure what to do with her so we decided to let her sleep for now."

Sarutobi looked at the sleeping girl. She lacked the scowl most Hyuga's seemed to have, and their clan was not known for generosity within the village. That along with the fact most people would simply have ignored Naruto had stirred his curiosity. He set a hand on Hinatas forehead. No mark, a member of the main branch. As her eyes fluttered open he recalled who she was. Hinata, the eldest daughter of the clans head. It was also then he realized he had been actively avoiding the Hyuga clan over recent years. Rarely seeing them outside of the council meetings. He could hardly believe how much Hinata he grown.

Hinatas eyes fluttered open, stared at the Hokage for a moment before she recognized him, she nearly fell off the couch as she tried to sit up and bow at the same time. "H-honorable Hokage-Sama!"

"Calm yourself, there is no need to be so formal." He reassured her. Seeing a flustered Hyuga was quite a sight.

"Yes sir." Hinata said. At least he hasn't called me out for my mistake and disrespectful greeting.

"I understand you are the one who brought Naruto here. Please tell me how you came to find him." Sarutobi said kneeling down so their eyes were level.

"Yes sir, Hokage-Sama." She said. Starting with walking to the park, practicing, noticing the dying chakra, finding Naruto, and bringing him to the hospital. She was tempted not to mention how she acted but was sure he had already been informed of her dishonorable behavior and withholding any information was a grave crime. She watched the Third's face as she spoke but it was an almost perfect mask. She barely caught the flicker of emotion when she mentioned the kunai.

"Are you positive the kunai had three prongs?" Sarutobi said. Only his years of council meetings allowed him to keep his face calm.

"His injuries support the claim." The doctor said.

Sarutobi nodded and turned back to Hinata carefully watching her reaction. Thankfully she did not seem to realize the significance of the weapon. "Thank you. I have one last question. Why did you help him?"

"I, I am afraid I do not understand the question honorable Hokage-Sama." Hinata said.

"It is no secret that many of your peers dislike Naruto. As shameful as it may be I feel many would have ignored Naruto in his distress. So why didn't you?" Sarutobi said. In truth he thought several might have assisted in some way but for his purposes it was better that Hinata did not know that.

"I couldn't. I, I am sorry if I have done something wrong but I would do the same again. Naruto has done nothing to deserve his treatment. He has pulled a few pranks but he is always working hard, training into the night to try and become a shinobi. Anyone who would willingly leave someone, especially Naruto-Kun in that situation has no business being a shinobi!" She hadn't realized she had raised her voice until she finished. Oh Kami I yelled in front of the Hokage, I yelled at the Hokage! What will my father do when he finds out about this? Will he even get the chance? The Hokage could simply arrange for me to disappear after my actions.

To her surprise though the old man was smiling. "It's not often that I have heard it put in such terms but you are correct. Thank you for helping him when he needed you."

"It, it was nothing honorable Hokage-Sama. Naruto-Kun would have done the same for me." Hinata said. Thanking her ancestors that he had not taken offence. Given her treatment by the elders though she suspected that her ancestors would be as disappointed as they were.

The Hokage looked at Naruto, his face wrapped in bandages. "Yes, I think that he would."

"Honorable Hokage-Sama. Who, who would do something like this to Naruto-Kun?" Hinata said.

"I have a few ideas but that is a matter for me to deal with. For now you should return to your clan." He rested a hand on Hinatas shoulder. "You have done a great service to the village today."

"T-thank you, honorable Hokage-Sama. Is, will Naruto-Kun be alright?" Hinata said looking at her crush covered in bandages; at least he seemed to be sleeping peacefully.

"Yes, you saved his life today, not many can say they have done as such." He said. Hinata bowed again and paused to look at Naruto wrapped in thick bandages one last time, she didn't linger knowing the Hokage was observing her.


The Hokage waited until Hinata had left and signaled one of his guards, an ANBU called Cobra. The oversized hood on his jacket bagged around his neck mimicking a cobra's hood. Sarutobi used him for sensitive errands. "Retrieve the kunai used against Naruto and locate Sparrow."

Cobra bowed and disappeared. The Hokage retired to an office he kept at the hospital for such incidents. It was only a few minutes before Cobra returned, followed by Sparrow. Cobra presented the bloody kunai to the Hokage. "I found Sparrow near the kunai under a powerful Genjutsu."

"Sparrow report." Sarutobi said examining the kunai.

"I followed Naruto as he fled from the victims of his latest prank. He was able to escape them with relative ease. The last sighting I had of him was in the late afternoon while he concealed himself in a tree. I have no memory after that until Cobra discovered me." Sparrow said. He was embarrassed that he had been caught in a Genjutsu, even such a powerful one. He had always considered himself fairly adept at them himself.

Sarutobi frowned and dismissed Sparrow. He began a series of minor Jutsus designed to gather information about an item including the people who had handled it recently. The military police had designed them decades ago. Sadly most were lost with the Uchiha clan. When he finished he leaned back, there were no traces of whoever had used it against Naruto. "What do you make of this Cobra?"

Over the years Sarutobi had come to use Cobra as a sounding board for complex problems. "I believe we have two separate problems. There have been guards who simply refused to help Naruto or even positioned him for ambushes. This problem has decreased since he began the academy and his skills at avoiding capture have increased. Even I have had difficulties following him because of his unorthodox movements. The larger problem is the systematic attack against him and those guarding him. Considering the methods and severity of the attacks it appears that the goal is torture rather than death. The culprits are skilled, waiting until he has a new guard and a group of civilians after him before using non-lethal Genjutsu to incapacitate his guards." Cobra said.

Pulling out his pipe Sarutobi placed it in his mouth without lighting it. "Post a new guard while he is here."

"Yes sir, sir, is that really one of the Fourths?" Cobra said.

"No, it is the same design however it lacks the seal he placed on all of his kunai. Not many people would know that, however nearly everyone would recognize the design." Sarutobi said. Fate had a cruel humor to use it against Naruto. If a civilian had found it things could have become even more difficult. As it stood he was dealing with someone or a group that was acting directly against his laws.


The Hyuga compound, because really it was its own fortress within the village, was only a few blocks from the hospital. In fact the whole Hyuga compound was surrounded by businesses and public buildings. Few people wanted to live near an entire clan that could see through walls whenever they wanted. Though as a rule the Hyuga's rarely looked beyond their own ramparts.

Hinatas jacket was covered in Narutos blood so she stopped off at a laundry mat one of the branch members had told her about. Her father demanded perfection, which included remaining clean while achieving it. He thought to get dirty was beneath the Hyuga. As a result several members of the clan, her included, stashed spare clothes there. The owners of the laundry mat, an elderly couple, didn't mind because they received a good deal of business in exchange for their silence.

Hinata quickly changed into clean clothes and left her old ones to be washed. The elderly woman gave her an odd look when she handed over the blood stain jacket but didn't ask questions. The arrangement was business and nothing more.

The branch guards at the gate gave Hinata a slight nod as she passed them. She had hoped to avoid her father and sneak to her room. But as soon as she opened the front door she found him waiting. "You are very late. The academy let out several hours ago. Explain."

"I-I am sorry. I was, training, a-and lost track of time." Hinata knew her father would scold her for sinking so low as to help someone outside of the clan. Despite what the Hokage may have said to her.

"Do you have anything to show for your training?" He said, not bothering to keep the contempt from his voice.

Hinata thought of Naruto in the hospital, still alive, the Hokage's smile. He would see those things as weakness. "No father, I do not."

"I expect nothing from you and yet you continue to disappoint me. You will receive no meal tonight. I would like to have an elder spar with you since you clearly wish to improve, futile as it may be but the elders will be joining your sister and I for an important dinner." He said. Hinata nodded. She remembered when she had accompanied him and her clan to such events. But it had been years since she was instructed to come. Now she was an embarrassment, to be hidden away.


In her room Hinata sat with her legs drawn up hugging a pillow. She tried to focus on Naruto, ignoring the voice in the back of her mind that told her she was a failure, a disappointment. Even the distance she could see was frowned upon by her clan. But on a whim she turned her gaze towards the hospital and Narutos room; surprisingly she could just see him. Not as clearly as if she were there but enough to watch the slow rise and fall of his chest.

Someone else entered the hospital room. Hinata watched them even though she couldn't tell what they were doing. I'm sure it's just a nurse, or someone checking on him. Her instincts told her to investigate. It was ridicules, but Hinata climbed out her window and made her way along the roofs towards Naruto's hospital room. The second figure had left when Hinata crouched on his window and pushed it open. If only I could do this well when my family was watching.

As soon as she entered the room something tingled in her nose, a smell she recognized from one of her family's numerous lessons on poison. If there was any doubt Naruto lay on the bed, white and gasping for breath. Blue veins stood out along his throat.

Hinata ran down the hall, towards the nearest nearest chakra signature that wasn't a patient. She rounded a corner and found the doctor who had treated Naruto.

He blinked in surprise. "Visiting hours ended several hours ago."

"Naruto-Kun's been poisoned!" Hinata said.

The doctor ran past her into his room, checking Naruto's pulse and his strangled breathing. He hit a button on the wall. Somewhere else a buzzer went off and feet ran towards them. The doctor gave the nurses instructions, while one went to get an antidote the other got a ventilation bag and compressed Naruto's chest while the doctored used the bag to force air into Narutos lungs. Hinata watched, she didn't want to see this but she couldn't bring herself to leave. These could be his final moments. All the possibilities of them together began to fade. Her eyes blurred with tears and her throat tightened. Her front was burning, her back freezing. Stupid, you're not crying for Naruto, you're crying for yourself! And all the chances you will be losing! What kind of person are you? If you'd come sooner he'd be alright!

The second nurse returned and jabbed a needle into Narutos arm. For several minutes nothing happened, then he began to breathe on his own again. The doctor sighed with relief, then noticed Hinata was still standing in the corner. "That's twice you've saved his life. What were you doing here though?"

Hinata explained, blushing when she admitted she had more or less been spying on Naruto.

"Well I suppose it was good that you were watching him, he'll be fine but without you and his resistance who knows." The doctor said.

"R-resistance?" Hinata said. The time it took to build up a resistance to poison even with constant exposure was long, not to mention the vast differences in poisons.

"This, isn't the first time something like this has happened. I don't want to impose, it being so late, but would you stay and watch him for a few more minutes? I need to see who was on duty tonight, and clearly Naruto's guards aren't going to help." The doctor said.

"O-of c-course." Hinata said sitting in a chair by the bed. She watched the slow even breathing of her crush, staring hard to reassure herself that he was alive. Every so often she'd check the halls and surrounding floors with her Byakugan but everything seemed calm.

The longer the doctor was away the more daring Hinata became, scooting close to Naruto, resting her hands on the bed, moving some hair out of his face. The swelling from the attack had already disappeared. Absently she traced the whisker marks on his cheeks. Her mind stared to wonder, she imagined leaning over him, lowering her head until her lips touched his.

Hinata jumped back, her face burning at the thought. It took several minutes for her to calm down. "Naruto-Kun. I don't deserve to be with you, but just for now, just for a few minutes let me pretend." She gently lifted his hand and rested it against her cheek.


The Hokage was woken in the middle of the night by news that there had been another attempt on Naruto's life. He had hurried to the hospital where the nurse responsible for poisoning Naruto had been caught and detained by other members of the staff.

Sarutobi looked over her sadly. She was young, in her early twenties. Her mother had died on the night the Kyuubi attacked. She glared at the Hokage. "It's a monster! A God damned monster! After everyone it killed, after everyone who has suffered because of it, how can you keep it alive! Is it some sick pet to you?! It should be disemboweled! Its guts feed to the crows and the crows burned! You're not a leader! None of you have ever been leaders! Grow a pair of balls and end it! Or let someone else do it!"

Sarutobi motioned for ANBU agents to remove the ranting girl. The doctor watched her as they lead her away. "I am sorry, I knew her parents, it never occurred to me she might actually try something like this."

"It isn't your fault." The Hokage said sinking into a chair. "If you suspect the worst from everyone that is all you will ever find. If there is any blame it lands on me and how I have dealt with this matter. Before I go I would like to check on Naruto myself."

"Yes sir." The doctor said. They were both surprised when they discovered Hinata, asleep, resting her head on Narutos arm, with a light blush and a smile the Hokage couldn't remember having seen on her, or any Hyuga's face before. He motioned that they should leave the two alone.

"Has there been any sign of the ANBU guard?" Sarutobi said. Two attacks in one day, things were quickly becoming worse. Not to mention he was down another ANBU.

"Not that I am aware of." The doctor said.

"Cobra." Sarutobi said. While there was no noticeable movement the Hokage felt Cobra move to locate the missing guard. He returned quickly.

"The ANBU left to guard Naruto left his post to investigate a nearby alarm. He felt the boy was safe within the hospital. I believe he was honest." Cobra said.

"I doubt the timing was coincidence." Sarutobi said, it was too neat. The nurse did not appear to be working with anyone but he would make sure she spoke to someone from the interrogation and torture department. It would probably be a good idea to send the ANBU as well. They were trained to resist torture but it would send a message. "Place the ANBU on a leave of absence and make arrangements for him to questioned. Also I am placing you on duty as Narutos guard for the next few days. We can not afford another attempt on his life."

"Yes sir, Hokage." Cobra said.


Narutos whole body throbbed, especially his hands and wrists. Every heartbeat felt like someone was hitting him with a hammer. The smells of bleach and cheap disinfectant stung his nose and there was a strange pressure on his left arm. He cracked open an eye, wincing at the bright morning light. Why did they paint hospital rooms white? Did they think people liked how bright it made the room? He was suddenly aware that his head was pounding along with the rest of his body. Those drunks must have really done a number on me this time. I haven't felt this bad since they caught me messing with those festival fireworks.

He looked over and found a sleeping girl sitting next to his bed, her head on his arm. Her face was flushed but she had a small smile. He pulled his arm free. The girl stirred. "Naruto-Kun."

Naruto frowned wondering how she knew his name. He shook her lightly. She looked at him with sleepy eyes. "Good morning Naruto-Kun."

"Uh, good morning, who are you?" He asked, his pain pushed aside for the moment.

His voice seemed to snap her out of her grogginess. In a second her face went tomato red, she jumped back and dashed out the door. She poked her head around the corner. "Y-you're awake, that's, good."

Naruto starred at the girl, she looked familiar. Then it hit him. "You're the weird quiet girl from the academy!"

Hinatas heart sank. H-he thinks I'm weird?

"Now Naruto that's no way to talk to the person who has saved your life twice." The doctor said.

"Doc!" Naruto said.

The doctor walked into the room, ushering Hinata in. "This young lady found you in the park and brought you here, then informed me when a nurse poisoned you."

That explains why I feel so crappy, wonder what kind they used this time. He smiled at Hinata. "Thank you."

Hinatas blush doubled and she fainted.


When she came around she was still in Naruto's hospital room, lying on his bed. The one he had just been in himself. She fought to keep from passing out again, once was embarrassing enough. Instead she looked around, Naruto was sitting by the window looking out. When he saw her moving he gave her a giant grin. Most of his bandages had been removed and the ones on his hands were thinner allowing him to move his fingers.

"You scared me, just fainting like that. Doc says its cause you spent most of the night keep an eye on me." His grin faded and he looked slightly confused. "How come?"

"Because I, I didn't want to see you hurt again." Hinata said, unable to look at him. I get a few words with Naruto and this is all I can say? Father is right, I am useless.

Naruto watched Hinata confused. I wonder why she doesn't want to see me hurt. Seems like everyone else enjoys it. He thought bitterly. His mind turned to his freedom from the hospital when the doctor walked in.

"Well Naruto, it looks like you're well enough to leave." The doctor said looking over his chart.

"B-but he was half dead yesterday!" Hinata protested. He might look better but no one could heal that fast.

"Well yes, but Naruto is a quick healer. We gave up trying to explain it years ago. He'll still need a few days of rest but if we kept him here he'd just cause trouble." He gave a knowing look at Naruto.

Naruto looked away. "Those bedpans had holes in them already."

The doctor snorted to cover up a laugh. "Since I know you want to get out of here may I suggest you treat this young lady to lunch as thanks for all the help?"

"Sounds like a plan! You're Hinata right?" Naruto said.

She nodded, to surprised to speak. He did know her name! And he was inviting her to luck, just like a date! She struggled to remain calm at the thought.

"Great, let's go eat!" He grabbed her hand and pulled her from the bed. As they moved down the hall everyone seemed to ignore them, or rather Naruto. Most turned or looked away, the worst looked through him.

They were almost at the front entrance when Naruto caught sight of a flash of pink hair. "Sakura-Chan! Hey Sakura-Chan! What are you doing here?"

She glared at Him. "If you must know I came to see Sasuke-Chan. He's here having is eyes examined. As the most important person in the village we have to make sure he's in peak physical condition, but then again it's Sasuke so how could it be anything less than perfect."

"So you want to come to lunch with us?" Naruto offered oblivious to her condescending tone.

Sakura laughed. "Why would anyone want to be seen with you? You probably scared the little weirdo into coming. Why can't you figure out no one wants you here?" She raised her fist and swung it at Narutos head.

Hinata stepped forward and brushed the punch aside. Sakura stumbled and starred at her pale eyed classmate. "I wouldn't mind being s-seen with Naruto-Kun. In fact I w-would enjoy it. And I am happy to have him here."

"What the hell?" Normally she would have written it off as an annoyance, but Sasuke was further down the hall watching with mild interest. She refused to back down in front of him. Hinata had started to shake, the moment of courage gone. Sakura cringed, she wasn't a bully by nature but she had to look strong in front of Sasuke. She threw another punch, this one aimed squarely at Hinatas face with a silent apology.

Naruto caught the punch. Sakura blinked in surprise. He had never done that before. She hadn't even thought he could stop her. "Do not hurt Hinata-San."

Sakura pulled her hand back, giving Naruto a fearful look before dashing away. As soon as she was out of sight Naruto clutched his hand "Ow ow ow ow! Damn I thought she was going to break my arm!"

"Are, are you alright Naruto-Kun?" Hinata said. Without thinking she grabbed his arm examining it for further injury.

"I'll be fine." He assured her.

"T-thank you." Hinata said. I can't believe he did that, he protected me. Of course he did, that's just the kind of person he is. If I was worthy of my clan he wouldn't have had to. Suddenly she realized she was manhandling his arm and let it go with a choked noise.

"I was just returning the favor for helping me." He took her hand again and led her out of the hospital.


Sakura walked down the hall rubbing her hand, she wasn't really hurt, just surprised. Sasuke finished talking to a nurse and turned to leave. She walked faster. "Sasuke-Kun! How did it go?"

He gave her an icy glare, but it only sent shivers down her spine. He didn't seem to notice. "Fine, how else."

"That's great! So would you like to go out to lunch with me?" Sakura said trying to match his quick pace.

"No." He said walking out the sliding doors.

"Oh. Alright. Then how about lunch? Or dinner? We could go see a movie." Sakura said.

"I have to train." Sasuke said.

"Oh right, want me to help you? We could spare, or something." She blushed imagining where a sparring session could lead if she tripped at the right time and they ended up on the ground.

"No." Sasuke said.

"Alright, then. Let me know if you change your mind!" She called after him clutching her fists. This was Narutos fault. She had been hitting him since they started the academy, why did he have to grow a backbone now. Wait that wasn't right, she could barely remember her first few days at the academy when she was teased and he had offered to share his lunch with her. Before her mother had warned her away from him and begun asking questions about Sasuke. But that didn't matter.

Damnit! If he hadn't embarrassed me in front of Sasuke-Chan we would be training together, then lunch, he would invite me back to his place and we could. Sakura blushed as red as Hinata at the possibilities and hurried home to write down her fantasy for later enjoyment.


Hinata didn't know where Naruto was leading her, nor did she care. Just being able to walk like this, so close to him was more then she had hoped for. He laughed and talked the whole time, nothing important just random things. It was so different from her clan where talking was serious and formal.

She smiled and nodded politely, amazed at how lively he was. Just yesterday he'd been all but dead. It seemed that nothing could keep him down or get rid of his good humor. But she did notice how people glared at him, shop owners moved to block their doors and parents pulled their children away as if they feared he would eat them.

Naruto pretended not to notice but Hinata saw him falter, just for a second. He stopped in front of a small ramen stand. He went in and took a sat at an empty stool, Hinata hesitated a moment before following.

A young woman behind the counter smiled at them. "Good morning Naruto."

"Hi Ayame." Naruto greeted her.

"So who's this? Don't tell me you've already gotten a girlfriend?!" Ayame said teasing her favorite costumer.

Hinata made a squeaking noise as she forgot how to breathe. Naruto just laughed. "No this is Hinata-San, from the academy, she helped me out yesterday so I'm treating her to lunch."

Hinatas mind was in chaos, she had imagined Naruto as her boyfriend many times but to hear someone else say it. It was almost too much, was that what they looked like? There was a chance of it now, small as it might be. At least she was talking to him, and evening eating with him!

Suddenly there was a bowl of ramen in front of her; she couldn't even remember what she had ordered. She took an experimental taste. Miso, and it was delicious. As she ate she watched Naruto. He was already on his third bowl. Laughing with the woman and the older man in the kitchen. It was so different then when they were in class. There everyone either ignored him or badmouthed him. Here though, they listened and laughed. They talked to Naruto like he was just anyone else. And it showed as he opened up more. She realized that in class even though he was just as goofy he was also more guarded. She wanted to be able to see this side of Naruto more often. Maybe he'd open up to her like this soon, if she worked at it. Then maybe they could become more.

"Hinata-San? HINATA-SAN!" Naruto said.

"Ah! I'm sorry! What, what did you say?" Hinata said.

"I asked if the ramen was too spicy, you got all red again." Naruto said pressing his hand to her forehead checking for a fever.

"No, it was very good. Thank you for the meal." Hinata said choking out the words and trying not to faint. This day was quickly becoming too much.

"Nope problem!" Naruto said pulling out a frog shaped wallet, Hinata couldn't help but smile at it. "Thanks again Hinata-San."

"No p-problem. Naruto-Kun. So, what are you planning to do for the rest of the day?" Hinata said.

"Go home and rest, Doc might not look it but he's scary when a patient doesn't follow his orders. Guess I'll see you at the academy." Naruto said.

"Yes, g-good day Naruto-Kun." Hinata said while she watched him stroll down the street. Then walked towards her clan's compound. She could only imagine how angry her father was with her, if anyone had noticed she was missing at all. But after a few hours with Naruto whatever they might decide to do was worth it. Now she just needed to find a way to keep from being closed off from Naruto again.


(A/N: So how did you like it? Should I keep going? Or leave it as a little one shot?)