Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or its characters. This story is purely for my and my readers' entertainment.

A/N: Hey there and welcome to my first Naruto fic. The ocean of Naruto fanfiction is so vast it's been difficult to find an idea that fits an untapped niche. Then I just said, screw it, and went with whatever I wanted. So here it is. Enjoy the first chapter and I'll see you at the end for some extended notes.






1. Transference

Fear. Anxiety. Panic. These were appropriate emotions for someone in his current position. But for Naruto Uzumaki, being chased mercilessly by those intent on his demise filled him with nothing but excitement and joy. While a normal person would consider the situation somewhat of a nightmare, he was on cloud nine. He wasn't stupid—at least not common sense wise—he knew the adrenaline coursing through his veins should have arisen from dread rather than pleasure, but then he wouldn't be Naruto.

The verdant foliage whipped past his vision as he bounded from tree branch to tree branch on his exhilarating flight. He couldn't recall why exactly his pursuers sought his life, but it didn't matter. The thrill of a potentially successful evasion drove him onward. At the moment, the 'why's' were much less important than the 'how's' and 'where's'. And that was a real problem; for the life of him, Naruto could not remember where he needed to go, just that once he got there he would be safe. And he would get there; he always had before, which was why he felt no sense of fear.

Chancing a brief glance to his peripheries, Naruto spotted a new addition to the familiar scene, one that finally did elicit a small twinge of trepidation in the fearless young man. Thinking back to all the times he'd been in this scenario, he couldn't remember a single instance where this had happened before. He wasn't alone.

Granted, his faceless pursuers had always been there, but this person was different. For one, they were not one of the chasers; rather they seemed to be fleeing with him. Not only were they matching his pace, but also the frequent furtive glances towards him and their hunters made his new companion's 'prey' status rather apparent. This person also had a face, unlike those chasing them, though that didn't mean it was any easier for Naruto to discern.

Sacrificing speed to foster his curiosity, he gazed intently to his left at whom he now perceived to be the woman traveling with him. It was a dangerous pastime, considering the precarious nature of tree-hopping, but his need to know this woman overrode his normal common sense. It was driving him crazy. Despite the fact that their eyes should have met several times through glances in each others' mutual direction, Naruto could not manage to keep a coherent image of her face in his mind. 'I know her,' he thought desperately. 'Just one good look is all I need, come on!'

About the only thing Naruto could keep in his mind was her hair. Were it allowed to fall, it would have lain mid-way down the gentle curve of her back, yet due to their current speed, it trailed behind her in a magnificent standard of the deepest jet-black. The late afternoon sunlight set the midnight banner alight like a swath of blue flame. Each strand was thick and heavy, giving her mane a joyous bounce with each buffeting gust of wind. Its hypnotic dance mesmerized him.

"Naruto! Look out!" Her warning went mostly unheeded. The addition of her gentle voice to the splendor of her hair did little to snap him out of his current stupor. He had the tree trunk racing towards his face to thank for that.

"Shit!" Somehow he managed to barely avoid the intimate encounter with the encroaching beech tree. Spinning in mid-air, his foot alit on the nearest branch. Finishing his spin left him unbalanced as he tried to continue his previous trajectory. The sudden violent vibration of the wood beneath his right foot didn't really help his predicament either.

"Naruto, what's happening?" The frightened voice of his companion from the tree in front of him deepened his resolve, and even through the abrupt instability of the forested terrain, he found his balance. Looking up, he watched in horror as she flailed her arms, losing her footing. Tensing his muscles to leap to her aid, he knew he wouldn't make it in time. The world slowed down as she met his eyes one last time. Finally the recognition fell into place just as it was too late. Naruto filled is lungs to call out her name in desperation as the earth trembled harshly again…


"Five shrimp flavor, please!" Naruto started up, his body snapping up so quickly, his desk chair began tipping back, adding vertigo to his sleep induced disorientation. Windmilling his arms wildly trying to regain his balance, his chair eventually righted itself with a thunk. Shaking his head to clear his vision, the blond-haired sophomore looked around to gather his wits.

"BACCHIKOI!" A rattling vibration accompanied the vaguely mechanical exclamation. Glancing blearily at his paper-strewn desk, Naruto noticed one of his notebooks seemed to be walking across the surface of its own volition. As yet another chorus and vibration rang out, he lifted the green spiral-bound journal to find his cell cheerfully blinking, a picture of a smiling beautiful green-eyed redhead gracing the screen. Wiping a hand down his face with a final headshake to clear the last of the cobwebs, Naruto picked up the phone and hit the send button.

"Hey Babe, what's up?" He didn't even try to disguise the grogginess in his voice. Looking at the new drool stains on his Japanese history text, who could really blame him for passing out while studying? Though there was something oddly romantic about the formality of the culture and the rigid warrior lifestyle of the formerly isolated nation, ultimately history was boring. He was only taking the class to fulfill a core requirement for his degree anyway.

"Not you, apparently." The playfully sarcastic voice on the phone couldn't be more different than the soft tones of his dreamland companion, a memory that was rapidly fading except for her eyes—almond shaped and upturned, clearly Asian, and clouded pearly-white with no pupils, almost like she was blind. "Japanese History again? Or was it Music Theory this time?"

"Saks, I'm a music major." It was a conversation they'd had several times, and it frequently led to an argument. "Why would music theory put me to sleep?"

"Why the fuck wouldn't it?" she muttered a little too loud for him not to hear it. Sakura had many virtues in Naruto's eyes; subtlety was not one of them. "I swear, Naruto, I have no idea how you can understand that stuff. It's like a completely different language."

"And organic chemistry isn't?"

"Ugh! Don't remind me," Sakura moaned. "At least I don't subject myself to it willingly. It's required for pre-meds."

"Yeah, yeah…Anyway, so what's up?" Naruto repeated his initial inquiry. "Or did you just miss my sexy voice?" Sakura didn't even try to cover her snort of laughter.

"Right, sure, that was it." Naruto swore he could hear her eyes roll. "Actually, I was just wondering if you needed a study break. I've got some beef ramen with your name on it."

"Hmmm…tempting," he mused. "I am a little low on beef flavor."

"Huuuh!," Sakura sucked in air in feigned shock, "Can it be true? So what, you're down to ten cases?"

"Funny," he replied drily. "Really…I'm in stitches."

"You know," Sakura dropped her voice coyly. "Tenten just left for the gym. She'll be there for at least three hours. If you're nice to me, you might get some dessert with your ramen."

"What does she do at the gym for that long?" Naruto pretended to overlook the sultry nature of her proposal.

"NARUTO!" she huffed. "Just get your ass over here."

"Aye, aye, Cap'n! See ya in a few!" Hitting the end button on his phone, he tossed it onto his bunk as he jumped up from his chair. Lifting his arm and taking an experimental sniff brought a slight tear to his eye. A quick rinse was definitely in order. Stripping off his clothes, he wrapped his towel around his waist, grabbed his shower caddy and bolted down to the hall bathroom.

Five minutes later, he reentered his room. Drying off, he rummaged through his cleaner clothes for something relatively fresh. Luckily he still had at least three pairs of clean boxer briefs so he wouldn't have to turn an old pair inside out. He was similarly lucky with a t-shirt, but he had to settle for the jeans he'd worn for the past week. It was still warm out even though it was October so he opted for sandals since they were quicker than shoes and socks.

As Naruto turned to bolt out the door, something on his desk caught his eye. His history text still lay open to where he'd left off; the sleep inspired drool still drying on the page over a section dealing with the sanctioned underworld activities of the feudal era dynasties. His desk sat in front of the dorm room's only window, which was open to let the unseasonably warm air filter into the room. The mini-blinds wafted gently with the breeze from the window allowing a small patch of sunlight1 to settle and dance over the wet spot on the page.

For some reason he couldn't fathom, Naruto felt his heat rise at the image, almost like he was experiencing a first kiss. Shaking off the feeling, he turned back and snatched up the text to bring with him. Who knows? He and Sakura might actually spend some time studying together. Stranger things had happened.

In dämmrigen Grüften
träumte ich lang
von deinen Bäumen und blauen Lüften,
Von deinem Duft und Vogelsang.

The first verse was always the easiest. She almost never screwed up on the first verse of a song, and this was one of her favorites. She knew it forwards, backwards and sideways…at least, she did when she practiced it on her own. Singing for someone else was an entirely different story. Still, Hinata Hyuuga felt her butterflies coming to an uneasy rest in her blustery gut. She managed to keep her voice strong with its natural vibrato dominating the nervous wobble that threatened to rear its ugly head.

Nun liegst du erschlossen
In Gleiß und Zier
von Licht übergossen
wie ein Wunder vor mir.

'Yes! Second verse, same as the first!' Then she made her fatal mistake. She actually looked at the audition panel. How could she be so stupid! One of the advantages of her constant habit of wearing sunglasses, even indoors, was that she never had to look people in the eye if she didn't want to. And she never wanted to.

'So why did I have to fucking look up now? Two arias and two thirds of an art song, and now I look?'They all had horrible expressions on their faces, like they'd just smelled bad cheese…or good cheese. Some of the fancy junk her dad ate made her face scrunch up like the three professors watching her audition. Hinata's confidence began to waver as the previously sedated butterflies took to their vigorous flight in her stomach.

Du kennst mich wieder,
du lockst mich zart,
es zittert durch all meine Glieder
deine selige Gegenwart!

Her shoulders fell and her head bowed as the final strains of the piano behind her faded into the cavernous recital hall. Utter silence fell like a thick miasma, destroying any residual sense of confidence or accomplishment Hinata may have still been harboring. It wasn't as though she expected applause or anything; after all, it was an audition, not a performance. But the sheer weight of the drawn out nothingness slammed her like a kick in the face.

'Jesus! Shift a foot, drop a pencil, sniff that frickin' runny nose like you did all through my Puccini. Something, anything!' This audition was her last resort. Her father couldn't pull any more strings—or rather he wouldn't after she failed the other six auditions he'd lined up for her. He had the influence to probably just get her into any school she wanted outright, but he refused to do that just as she would have refused to accept it. It was one of the few things they actually agreed on. In all honesty, several of her previous auditions hadn't been awful, yet they were to no avail, and Hinata had her suspicions.

"Well, Miss Hyuuga." Hinata's head snapped up to look at the woman speaking. Wavy, mid-back length brown hair framed a thirty-something face resplendent with magnificent cheekbones, a demure chin and sultry lips that could make a sailor blush. The combination of the reflected stage lighting and Hinata's dark glasses tinged the woman's chocolate brown eyes a deep red. Though merely an illusion, the red irises gave the impression of a deeper sight.

"Yes, Professor…?" The years of vocal training had blessedly stripped the stutter that had plagued Hinata in her younger years almost completely.

"Yuuhi, Kurenai Yuuhi." She paused to glance briefly at her collected audition notes before meeting Hinata's shrouded gaze again. "You certainly have talent. Granted, it's still raw, but that's to be expected from an undergraduate." Her tone was even, a mask to cover any potential implications her words may have carried. Despite the businesslike demeanor, Kurenai's voice carried the effortless lyricism of one well trained and practiced in the use of the instrument.

"Thank you, Professor Yuuhi."

"You seem to be well versed in the classical repertoire, Miss Hyuuga," the man to Kurenai's right intoned in a rich, meaty baritone. "It's not often someone so young has the range and stamina for Puccini, Gounod or Strauss, much less all three in a single performance." The man was less guarded in his assessment, clearly impressed with her efforts. It wasn't a sentiment she was overly familiar with, and she found no ready reply.

"However, I'm sure you know, Babe," the other man to Kurenai's left interjected, "that our program is committed to fostering a wide range of musical styles." This man presented a rather stark contrast to the other two members of the audition panel. While the other two maintained a vaguely professorial image—Kurenai in a white blouse tucked into a maroon pencil skirt, the man to her right in a solid baby-blue button down shirt, brown corduroys, and an oversized tweed blazer, complete with leather elbow patches—the current speaker sported a much more…radical look.

His head was covered in a black bandana with pinky-sized gauges in each earlobe. A black leather trench was thrown over a black sleeveless t-shirt decorated with red demonic symbols, skin-tight black leather pants held up with a studded belt and trailing down into three-inch platform Docs. At first glance, it looked like he stepped right out of a hair-metal band…without the hair.

"You've shown us you're pretty good at the dead white-guy stuff," the rocker probed, "but this is a tough business. You gotta be able to take a gig whenever it falls in your lap, regardless the venue. So what else you got?"

The question fell on shocked ears. 'Did he really just call me, 'babe'?' Even as her mortification receded, Hinata still had no real answer to the question, certainly not one she was comfortable with giving. Telling them she didn't would be a lie, but the fact that her dad had managed to receive all the panel notes from her previous auditions made her more than reluctant to admit her secret passion. He only approved of her classical pursuits. In fact, he didn't even know her true musical love. Hinata Hyuuga was a sucker for jazz.

"Oh, stuff it, Ibiki." Kurenai managed to save Hinata from her dilemma, while at the same time inadvertently tipping her hand as to her true impressions from the audition. "The girl's only a sophomore. She has plenty of time…um…that is assuming she's accepted."

Though her mood didn't exactly brighten, Hinata felt a small weight release from her shoulders. From their comments, she certainly had a better shot here at Konoha than her previous six fiascos. "Hinata, don't listen to him, you've sung more than enough for a full assessment. Now, if you'd please come with me, there're a few things I'd like to discuss with you privately."

Her hips rocked forcefully as the pleasure exploded outward from her core all the way to the tips of her toes. Her back arched involuntarily as she shuddered and moaned coming off the sexual high. The sensation receded slowly as Sakura leaned forward placing her hand on his muscular chest with a contented smirk buried behind the drape of her sienna locks. She was still too winded to form coherent speech, but her emerald eyes affixed to Naruto's deep azure said enough.

Sakura lowered herself gently onto his gently rising chest, turning her head to listen to his heartbeat. It never ceased to amaze her that sex, be it 5 or 50 minutes, hard or gentle, never seemed to affect his body rhythms. As she listened, his heart beat slowly, his breath was gentle, and there wasn't the barest hint of sweat anywhere on his body.

"How the fuck do you do that?" She swore, if it weren't for the currently unpleasant sensation of the condom leaking down her leg, she'd think he hadn't even had a good time. Despite his lack of adrenaline, he was, for lack of a better description, a demon in the bedroom. She'd never had sex like she had with Naruto. It was like all he had to do was look at her and she climaxed.

"Do what?" Naruto replied with an innocent grin. She wasn't fooled; she constantly expressed amazement at his stamina. Not for the first time, Sakura realized how lucky she was. Most college guys had the sexual fortitude of fruit fly. She knew for a fact, her roommate was green with envy. Tenten wouldn't even talk to her about Naruto anymore.

"Fuck my brains out without even breaking a sweat. I can't even breathe, and you're lying there like you just stepped out of a bath."

"It's a gift." The slimy puddle that was forming between her legs finally reached an unbearable level, and she leaned forward for a quick peck before disengaging to find a washcloth. 'We really need to pony up and buy some better condoms.' With a contented sigh, Naruto also roused himself for his post-coital clean up. A smirk crossed his face, "So, I thought dessert came after."

"Well, you know what they say. Life's short." Finally clean, Sakura looked over to where Naruto was rummaging through her sheets for his boxers. Watching the muscular curve of his back and shoulders and his tight little ass, she silently berated herself for cleaning up too soon. Padding towards him softly, she wrapped her arms lightly around his stomach pressing her bare skin against his and tracing a light spiral around his navel. For some reason, this simple action had always been enough to instantly arouse him. She'd never forget the night she first discovered it. She walked bow-legged for a week.

Something was different today though. She felt Naruto stiffen as she embraced him, and not in the good way. It was only for a moment, and Sakura thought she might have imagined it. But when her ministrations failed to have the desired results, she knew something was wrong. She stopped her finger and urged him to turn around in her arms. Looking up into his blue eyes, she thought they looked a little haunted. "Babe, what's wrong?"

"I…" he began but stopped when he saw the concern in her eyes. For a long moment, he didn't say anything, as if he were carefully choosing his words. Sakura was getting worried, but all he managed to come up with was, "It's nothing."

"Bullshit." They'd been together for nearly a year, and she knew by now when something was eating him.

"Look, I'm serious, nothing's wrong," he mollified. "I had I weird dream before you called me. It kinda put me in funky mood, that's all."

"A dream?" Sakura looked up into the ocean of his eyes with concern. Naruto suffered from chronic nightmares, and over the time they'd been dating, she'd always felt an odd sense of impotency that she couldn't offer him any real relief or comfort. It was also a source of contention, since he always claimed he never remembered the dreams. She'd never seen anything in her life that left her in the throes of such abject terror as Naruto exhibited during his nightmares, but she was pretty sure she wouldn't forget an emotional stimulus like that, real or imagined. She understood him not wanting to talk about it, but Sakura was always a bit disappointed at his lack of trust. "What was it about?"

For a moment, she was almost ready to believe the inevitable answer. His eyes took on a searching look as though he was grasping desperately at something just beyond his reach. 'Maybe he really doesn't remember?' She nearly convinced herself until the response she knew was coming rolled off his tongue as though he'd practiced it before coming over.

"I can't remember." Sakura's emerald eyes darkened and fell in familiar disappointment. Just once, she wanted an honest answer. "But I know it wasn't one of my nightmares." It wasn't what she was hoping for but she was still shocked. In spite of herself, she looked back up into his eyes with a small smile of gratitude.

"What's that look for?"

"Heh," she laughed ruefully. "Naruto, that's the most you've ever told me about your dreams." She recognized her mistake immediately as his face grew expressionless, eyes glazed, and he pulled gently out of her embrace to find his clothing. She knew he hated talking about the subject, mostly because it almost always led to a fight. Sakura was determined to diffuse the situation this time, though. "I'm sorry, Babe, just forget about it. How 'bout I fix up that ramen?"

He paused briefly in his movements, and she suppressed a giggle as she could practically hear the conflict in his thoughts. Fight or ramen? Fight or ramen? Sakura knew which would win. Very few things captured her boyfriend's attention like the prospect of ramen. To be honest, she wasn't sure how he hadn't blown up like a balloon with the way he inhaled the stuff. One would think with so many calories and salt, he'd either be fat or painfully bloated. As she watched, she knew her plan had worked when his body relaxed and he spun around with usual cheerful grin.

"Keep 'em coming!" She didn't bother holding back the laughter at that point.

"Alright, Lover-boy. Let me get dressed, then dinner is served." He smiled even bigger and waggled his eyebrows at her goofily.

"No way! Ramen is waaay more important than clothes," Naruto proclaimed. "Besides, it'll taste infinitely better with the knowledge that a beautiful naked college coed prepared it."

"Pervert," she admonished through her smile.

"You didn't seem to mind my perversion a few minutes ago."

"Touché." Despite his playful protests, she threw on some undies, a camisole, and flannel PJ-pants before firing up the trusty electric kettle. As she retrieved the ramen packets from their make-shift pantry, she asked another dreaded question. "I don't suppose you brought any study materials with you?"

"Hmmm?" he replied absentmindedly. She looked over her shoulder and almost dropped the ramen. He already had a text book out and open. He looked up at her shocked expression, "What?"

"Who are you, and what have you done to my boyfriend?"

"Oh, haha." He bowed his head over the book again with a strange expression. Sakura crossed the room for a better look at what he was reading, but found him staring at a strange wet spot on one of the pages and running his fingers lightly over it. He almost had a tender expression on his face.

"Naruto," she began with an edge to her voice. "Why are you caressing a wet spot in your text book?"

"Huh, what?" he responded still in a daze.

"Look, I know school is stressful and internet porn can only go so far, but Japanese History? Really?" He snapped his head up at her implication with a scowl, only to find her stifling a chuckle. He threw the book aside with a mock growl and rose predatorily from the bed. Sakura shrieked in feigned fright as he chased her around the room. It wasn't much of a chase before he caught her. His arms wrapped around her waist, he lifted her off the ground and threw her back on the bed before pouncing on top of her. She giggled loudly as he buried his slightly furry face in her neck in pretend ferocity.

"Who needs porn, historical or otherwise, when I have you?" The conversation deteriorated rapidly into incoherency shortly thereafter, the ramen forgotten…at least temporarily.

Hinata tried to keep an open mind as she trailed silently behind Professor Yuuhi. She really hoped the woman's office would offer some variety over the previous dens of musical academic pursuit she'd been subjected to. Almost without fail there was at least one wall completely devoted to portraits of famous artists the denizen had worked with. It made name-dropping during private lessons that much easier to perform.

She had yet to meet a music professor, especially one who taught a performance discipline, who was secure enough in their station that they didn't constantly feel the need to boast of past exploits to hide a sense of inadequacy. Not that Hinata had much room to criticize anyone else's insecurities, but that particular act of penis measuring really got under her skin. Growing up with her father and his cohorts was more than enough to completely desensitize her to the awe of fame.

The office she entered with an ushering arm from Kurenai left the girl in a bit of shock. Of course there was a piano—it wouldn't be much of a vocal studio without one—but it actually looked well used. Most of the schools Hinata had visited, regularly updated their equipment, and from the various office spaces and practiced rooms they'd passed on their quiet trek through the corridors she had glimpsed, Konoha University was no different. Here though, was an instrument that looked at least 60 years old. The wood was scratched and pitted and places and several of the keys had lost their ivory veneers, but she could tell this piano was loved.

Apart from the centerpiece, the rest of the office was simple and inviting. The door opened flush with the left wall of the studio, hanging on which was a large mirror and a few pieces of tasteful artwork. The right wall held floor to ceiling bookshelves filled haphazardly with sheet music, compilations, records, audio equipment and books on all subjects relating to vocal performance from historical techniques to human anatomy. The far wall was mostly consumed by a large window looking out towards the large performance hall on the other side of the arts quad. Along this wall was also the desk, adorned with a few scattered papers and picture frame showing a bearded man and smiling infant. The wall adjoining the hallway shocked Hinata again; it was just a few more bookshelves and a large poster of a gothic cathedral she didn't recognize.

"That's the Duomo, it's my favorite place I've ever sung." Kurenai must have noticed her staring at the poster. Hinata sighed.

"Who did you sing with?"

"My college choir," she responded nostalgically coming to stand next to the girl. "We stopped there during a three week European tour. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. There's nothing like a choral sound in a cathedral, and the Duomo is the best." This woman was surprising Hinata. She didn't seem boastful at all, which didn't seem possible for a university vocal professor.

"What did you want to talk about, Professor?" Hinata had long since learned these interviews were much less painful the shorter they were.

"Straight to it, eh?" Kurenai cocked a skeptical eyebrow, barely forming a single wrinkle on her smooth forehead. She was a lot younger than Hinata had first thought. With a sigh, Kurenai motioned for her to sit in one of the extra chairs near the piano, while she took her own desk chair. Resting her elbows on her desk, she gazed levelly at Hinata over steepled fingers. "Hinata, why are you transferring?"

"Konoha has an excellent program, and I feel—"

"I am well aware of the merits of our curriculum Miss Hyuuga, but that is beside the point. I don't care why you would choose Konoha, I want to know why you want to leave Daimyo's Conservatory." It was a question Hinata knew was on every one of her past interviewers' minds, but no one had actually tried to voice it. She assumed her father had sent some missive ahead either giving a false rationale or suggesting it was a subject better left untouched. Either that or the interviewers still retained some sense of tact and didn't want to put her in an awkward position, in case the answer was personal. She was silent for several interminable seconds before she felt brave enough to speak.

"I'm not happy there." True enough, but far from full disclosure. Nervously, Hinata reached up to adjust her sunglasses. The large window combined with the harsh fluorescent tubes overhead lead to an uncomfortable brightness in the room that belied the cozy workmanlike ambience Kurenai was obviously trying to achieve. The garish luminescence combined with the direct gaze the woman gave her generated an uncomfortable sense of interrogation. After several moments, Dr. Yuuhi sighed and closed her eyes. Her body language spoke of disappointment, but she didn't press the issue.

"I apologize, Hinata." Warmth crept back into her voice in an attempt to dispel the somewhat chilly atmosphere. "I didn't mean to upset you. I'm sure you have your reasons, though I have to say, your father is not exactly on board with this decision."

Hinata's eyes widened behind her glasses. She wasn't surprised that her father had blacklisted her. After six relatively good auditions for six admittedly mediocre institutions all resulting in failure, she suspected there must have been some form of outside influence. He just couldn't stand the fact that his daughter would actually want to leave the most prestigious arts academy in the world and his own alma mater. No, her father's actions held no shock for Hinata, but a professor showing the coconuts to out him certainly peaked her interest.

"No, I don't suppose he is," she responded with only the thinnest veil hiding her snear. Konoha had been her last choice, not because it was the bottom of the barrel, but because it was the closest rival the Conservatory had in terms of talent and reputation. She'd been worried at her father's reaction to her attending his school's antithesis, as well as the fact that she would likely not be the top student at such a heralded institution. But having his underhandedness laid bare at the hands of one of Konoha's top vocal instructors shored up any doubts she had. If they would let her, she would come here.

"Haha!" Kurenai's outburst and bright smile caught the quiet girl off guard. "Good, I was wondering if there was any fight in you. I wasn't lying before; you have a lot of talent, but I was worried… You speak so softly, and though you have good posture, you still manage to seem smaller than you actually are on stage. Not to mention the sunglasses. Timidity doesn't really work in this field, you know. Performance is about presence, and at the moment you have very little of it. But showing anger towards a man of Hiashi's…stature shows that you at least have some fire in you. We'll have to work on that."

Hinata was lost in the woman's critique. Nothing she'd said was new; her father berated her for her lack of stage presence constantly. Her desire to rectify her shyness had landed her in this predicament in the first place, though he refused to see his influence behind her supposed weakness. She was so caught up in rehashing her failures that it took her several moments to realize what Dr. Yuuhi had really said.

"Wait, you mean…?" She tapered off, unable to comprehend the offer she'd just been extended.

"Welcome to Konoha University, Miss Hyuuga. Come January, we'll be seeing a lot more of each other…assuming you accept."

"T-thank you." Hinata's stutter always seemed to sneak a cameo appearance whenever she felt overwhelmed, which certainly described her current feelings. Not only had she been accepted, they hadn't even waited the usual two to three weeks to tell her. And they had defied her father's black mark. She paled thinking about what her father was going to say. She pushed it away, "Of course, I accept."

"Wonderful," Kurenai smiled vibrantly. "Now, despite my admonishment in the recital hall, Professor Morino did have a valid point. Part of our curriculum involves variety of style. You will study with me for the classical portion, but we need to find you a secondary discipline. However, there's no need to decide that right—" Kurenai was cut off as Hinata mumbled something. "Pardon?"

"I-I…" Hinata trailed off with an internal curse at her resurgent speech impediment. Taking a deep breath, she calmed her nerves. Her father wasn't even in the room to hear her, so there shouldn't be anything to fear, right? "I want to study jazz."

"Hmm…" A far off look stole across Professor Yuuhi's face as she thought about Hinata's request. Slowly, a conspiratory smirk crept across the woman's face. "Perfect, two birds with one stone."

A/N: Ok, so there were are. As an author, I hate writing the first chapter of a story. You always have so many ideas, but it's such a fine balance on how much to reveal in order to hook a reader without giving up the whole shebang. Hopefully I opened just enough questions to keep you interested and you'll continue reading.

I don't want to get in the habit of long author notes for each chapter, but I need to explain a few things here at the beginning. First, this is a 'real world' setting, so no one actually has pink or blue hair or red eyes. Sakura's a redhead, Hinata's Asian with extremely black hair, and Kurenai does not have creepy demonic red eyes.

The main characters in this story are Naruto and Hinata. I'm sorry if you're tired of that pairing, but I'm still rooting for them. Obviously, from this first chapter, there is going to be a significant amount of NaruSaku as well. In fact, Naruto and Hinata will probably not even meet for several chapters, dreamscape notwithstanding. This is not a harem fic. That doesn't mean there won't be multiple pairings for a character, but never at the same time. Again, this is a real world universe where such things are usually looked down upon.

Now a bit about the maturity level of this fic. They are in college, sex and alcohol are common and often not pretty. Both play critical roles in the story at various points. However, this is not a lemon fic. Just because I acknowledge and use sex and substance usage does not mean that a full on lemon is appropriate to the story. Unless it flows naturally from the narrative, as the small bit in this chapter did, I won't just throw it in.

My beta for this story is the fantastic iscreamdrizzle. She is wonderful and awesome.

Ok, now that we've cleared some things up, what did you think? Questions? Comments? Please leave a review. They feed my writing like fifteen bowls of pork miso ramen!

1For anyone who doesn't already know, the name 'Hinata' translates roughly to 'patch of sunlight' or 'place in the sun.'

2The song is Frühling by Richard Strauss. Translation below courtesy of Wikipedia:

In shadowy crypts
I dreamt long
of your trees and blue skies,
of your fragrance and birdsong.

Now you appear
in all your finery,
drenched in light
like a miracle before me.

You recognize me,
you entice me tenderly.
All my limbs tremble at
your blessed presence!