Chapter 1

Naruto Uzumaki looked up from the book he was reading. He had to give a slight smile as he heard the drumming of the rain on his roof. He had always liked the rain. Granted, he understood why a lot of people didn't like the rain: it was cold, it could really hurt when it came down hard, it was never comfortable being wet, and, really, being stuck in the rain was never fun. However, if you went out in it on purpose, when it was a soft rain, like it was that night, and when it wasn't too cold, it was actually quite comforting. He set his book aside and looked out his window. It was a dark night, obviously, but the rain made what light there was reflect and refract and made it easy to see nonetheless. "It's a perfect night to go for a walk," he thought to himself. As he opened the door to his small apartment, he had no idea his life was about to change forever.

Hinata Hyuga was crying. As the tears fell down her face, she looked up into the falling rain and felt its cooling drops run over her. This had been the worst day of her young life. She closed her eyes and let the rain pour over her, knowing she would probably end up getting sick; honestly, she didn't care. She sighed and leaned backward, feeling the solid wall behind her. She slowly slid down until she was sitting on the ground. She pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them and slowly began to go over the events of this horrible day in her mind.

First her father had forced her to spar with her sister Hanabi. She had lost. It didn't help that Hinata had been holding back out of fear of hurting Hanabi, whereas Hanabi had clearly had no such reservations. "You're a disgrace," her father had said. He turned his back on her and walked away. Hinata, tears already in her lavender eyes, rose and ran from the Hyuga compound.

She wasn't watching where she was going; in retrospect, she really should have been. Since she was just running headlong down the street, though, she never saw that boy, the one with the ice cream cone. She slammed into him before she saw him, making him drop the treat onto the ground and setting off his temper. The boy and his two cronies had dragged her into the forest and forced her onto her knees, where they demanded she apologize. She tried, crying hard, telling them she was sorry, but the boys didn't seem to think that was enough. Just before they could actually do something to hurt her, the one bright spot of this awful day came to her rescue.

"Cut it out!" a voice said. Looking up, Hinata was surprised to recognize the boy she had seen sitting on the swing at the Academy not long ago. His blond spiky hair was more than a little distinct. She had been told not to associate with this boy, and yet, here he was, coming to her defense without even knowing what was happening. As her tormentors turned to her savior and attacked him, both physically and verbally, Hinata's guardian, a main-branch Hyuga named Ko, came and scared them off. He then took Hinata's hand and led her away, forcing her to leave her savior behind, beaten and bruised, laying on the ground.

Upon arriving home, Hinata's day had only gotten worse. She had been called before her father. Hiashi Hyuga, head of the clan and Hinata's father, had looked down at her with a look of disgust on his face. "I always knew you were weak, Hinata, but this day has shown me you're a disgrace and a hopeless failure," he said. Hinata forced herself not to cry at his words; she craved his approval so much and here he was telling her she'd never earn it. He continued with his tirade. "Your Byakugan is even weaker than Hanabi's, while she is five years your junior. In spite of being a main branch Hyuga, you have no proficiency with either the Gentle Fist style or Rotation. Your moves are hesitant, your attacks are weak, and your style is sloppy. And then I hear that today you allowed yourself to be beaten and controlled by civilians." He said the final word with disgust in his voice. Hinata looked up in fear as she saw his eyes fill with more rage than she'd ever seen the stoic man show. "You are no longer Hyuga," he continued, his voice still controlled. "Your Byakugan is so weak there is no point in sealing you as you will not pass it on to your children anyway. Get out of my sight, failure."

So it was that Hinata found herself on the streets this night, crying her eyes out, getting soaked in the rain. Little did she know her day was about to go from being her worst to being one of the best of her life.

Naruto grinned as he walked down the empty streets. The rain, soft, gentle, was calming, cleansing, and overall pleasant. The soft pitter-patter of the rain on the roofs and ground had a rhythmic sound to it, and it made Naruto feel like dancing. Then he heard a different sound. Naruto hadn't been paying much attention to where he was, and he had somehow ended up in the neighborhood of the Hyuga compound. As he drew nearer to the place, he found himself hearing a sound that made his heart clench. He heard the sound of someone crying.

Naruto had always been a kind person by nature, so hearing someone in pain was like a knife to his heart. Hearing someone crying was even worse, and this was both. He didn't think, he just moved. He moved toward the sound, determined to do something about it.

Hinata was reliving every moment of her day over and over again, and her sobs racked her body painfully. Every time she got to the part where the young boy had saved her, she smiled, but then she remembered being made to leave him behind and the words of her father afterward and she cried even harder.

Naruto found the source of the sounds he was hearing rather easily. It was a small girl, her dark hair soaked, her face hidden as she sobbed into her knees. He approached slowly, hoping not to scare the girl. "Hey," he said quietly. She didn't react, seemingly not hearing him. Naruto sighed in frustration. "Hey," he said a little louder. Still no reaction from the small girl. He shook his head and moved closer to her and hesitantly put his arm around her shoulders.

Hinata jumped when she felt an arm go around her. She turned her head hesitantly and found, to her shock, that the boy who had saved her from the bullies earlier that day was now kneeling beside her and had an arm around her. Not bothering to wonder why he was there or how he found her, Hinata flung herself into the boy's arms and sobbed onto his shoulder.

Naruto was shocked when the young girl threw herself at him and cried on his shoulder, but he didn't push her away; he was too kind for that. Instead, he gently put both arms around the girl and simply held her, letting her cry. The young blond slowly began to rub the girl's back, trying to comfort her. After a few moments, he noticed her sobs weren't racking her body quite as fiercely.

Continuing to hold the sobbing girl, Naruto looked up into the rain. He sighed. The rain was so nice, but here he was having to comfort someone who couldn't just appreciate the rain. He sighed again; things could always be worse, after all.

It took a solid ten minutes for the small girl in Naruto's arms to cry herself out. Once she did, however, Naruto was stunned to feel her go completely limp in his arms. Looking down, he had to smile at how cute the now asleep girl looked. He carefully lifted her into his arms. "I better get her out of this rain," he thought. He looked around a moment and spotted a small bag that seemed like something the girl would have had with her; plus, for being on the ground in an alley, it was remarkably clean, so he figured it was probably hers. Picking it up, he walked out of the remote alleyway where he'd found the girl, who was so light in his arms he could barely tell he was carrying her, and made his way home.

Arriving to his small apartment, Naruto set the girl in his arms onto his couch gently and set her bag on the floor beside her. Then, he turned and turned a light on. Looking back at the girl, he nearly keeled over in shock. "It's her..." he said, his voice soft. He had seen this girl before; earlier that very day in fact. He had saved her from a group of kids who were bullying her. Of course, he doubted she'd ever recognize him or thank him, but he'd probably never forget that; it was the first time he'd ever saved anyone. As he watched, the girl slowly opened her eyes.

Hinata rubbed her eyes tiredly and sat up. "Where am I?" she asked. She didn't expect an answer, and she got none. She looked around. She was sitting on a small couch, which was resting against one wall of a tiny apartment. The majority of the apartment was dominated by a full-sized bed. There was a table to one side and a small kitchen area along one wall. She could see a door that she assumed led to a bathroom, and that was it. Then she looked a little closer to where she was and found a blond boy sitting on his haunches on the floor and staring at her, slack-jawed.

Naruto shook his head when he realized the girl he'd brought home with him was looking at him. "Oh, hi," he said, rubbing the back of his head. "Sorry for shocking you like this, but I found you out on the street and when you fell asleep, I brought you here to get out of the rain."

Hinata blushed and bowed as much as she could while sitting down. "Thank you," she said quietly.

Naruto gasped. "Did you...just thank me?" he asked.

Hinata giggled. "Of course. You have done me a service, and it is only natural to thank someone when they have helped you," she told him.

Naruto looked at her a little suspiciously. "Who are you?" he asked.

Hinata blushed again. "Oh, I'm so sorry! I'm Hinata H-" she stopped herself. "Just Hinata."

Naruto grinned. "I'm Naruto Uzumaki! And one day, I'm going to-"

"-be Hokage?" Hinata interrupted. Naruto looked surprised, then nodded. "So it was you! You saved me from those bullies earlier today." Naruto blushed and rubbed the back of his head again, nodding. "Thank you for that, too, Naruto," Hinata said.

Naruto gasped. Twice now in less than five minutes, this girl had thanked him for doing things for her. What's more, she didn't ridicule him about his dream of being Hokage! "So, Hinata, what were you doing out in the middle of the night on a night like this? And why were you crying? Is there anything I can do to help?" he asked.

Hinata blushed at his offer, then sighed. It took her a few minutes to fill Naruto in on what had happened to her that day. By the time the soft-spoken girl had finished, Naruto was snarling. "Naruto?" Hinata said. Said boy turned and looked at her, one eyebrow raised in question. "Don't do anything to them. I know they hurt me, but they're still my family, and I still love them. So please, don't do anything to them."

Naruto took a deep breath to calm himself down, then nodded. "All right, Hinata, I won't. But there are a few things I can do for you," he said. Hinata looked even more confused now. "First off, until we figure out what we're going to do, you can stay here with me. I know it's not much, but at least you won't be on the streets." Hinata blushed fiercely at that, then thought about it a moment. The boy was right, being here would be better than being on the streets. She nodded her acceptance. Naruto grinned. "The other thing I can do for you is help you prove your family wrong about you. I can tell you're a strong, kind person, and we're going to train like mad until you can show your family that too!" Hinata smiled at Naruto's confidence and nodded again.

"All right, Naruto, and thank you, for everything," she said. Naruto grinned. After thinking a moment, Naruto burst into a whirlwind of activity. Hinata felt her head spinning as she tried to keep up with what the blond was doing.

After a few moments, Naruto appeared in front of Hinata, a towel in hand. Hinata looked at him in confusion. Naruto handed her the towel and pointed to the bathroom; only then did Hinata realize the shower was running. "I started the shower for you. You need to get out of your wet clothes or you're going to get sick," he said. "I set an old shirt and shorts in there that I think will fit you; you can wear those until your clothes are dry."

Hinata slowly nodded, took the towel from Naruto, and went into the bathroom. She smiled at the clothes she found waiting for her. They probably would fit her, and they were in pretty good shape, considering Naruto called them "old" clothes. Stripping quickly, she stepped into the shower. She sighed pleasantly as the warm water hit her.

Naruto heard the shower open and close. "Hey Hinata?" he called. He heard her acknowledge that she'd heard him from within. "I'm going to step in there and grab your wet clothes real quick. Don't worry, I won't peek at you." Hinata called back that that was fine, and Naruto did as he'd said he would. Taking her soaked clothes into a room Hinata hadn't noticed on her brief perusal of the apartment, he tossed them into the washer that was there. Turning it on, he sighed; oh well, he'd been due to do a load anyway.

Hinata washed her hair, wringing it out by hand then soaking it again, washing out the rain water. She sighed; it always felt so much better to be clean. As she washed her body, she cringed as she got to certain spots that were still tender from her spar with Hanabi.

Naruto sat on the couch for a few minutes, then suddenly realized he'd forgotten something. Opening Hinata's bag, he dug into it a few moments, then found what he was looking for in it. Grabbing the item in question, he got up and walked to the bathroom door.

Hinata sighed as she finished her shower. She opened the shower curtain and stepped out, planning to ask Naruto about how to turn it off after she was dressed. Just as she stepped out, however, she heard the bathroom door open. Hinata froze.

Naruto opened the door, eyes on the floor, and took a step into the room. Looking up, he got an eyeful. He blushed deeply, knowing that the sight he was seeing at that moment was one he would never in his life forget. For, standing there in front of him, in all her naked glory, was Hinata.