The hell? I know. Don't ask.
Uzumaki Naruto was well aware that she was named after a very male character in a book, but this was getting a little bit old.
"Female, yes." She retorted hastily, grabbing for her pack and walking briskly away from the Fellowship, who all watched her pass with varying degrees of disbelief. This was the first official meeting between the Fellowship and Naruto, the last of the trio of ninja arriving to aid the Fellowship in their quest. And the only girl, for that matter. Behind them, Shikamaru looked less amused and more bored.
"And she's one of those 'ninja' too?" Asked Pippin, rather frightened from Naruto's enraged eyes.
Boromir between Aragorn and Legolas, sword dropped from its defensive. To say he'd been more than a little stunned when the girl had taken off her mask would be an understatement. And he hadn't exactly meant to be so surprised by the fact that she was a girl… but really, could anyone blame him?
Shikamaru made a disgruntled noise, which may have been a half-yawn. "Sadly. Don't pay too much attention to her. She's… become so accustomed to being assumed to be a boy that its sort of a sore point."
Naruto stilled some ways ahead of them, holding the small dagger-like knife in her hand dangerously. "If this is another crack at my bust size…"
Shikamaru sighed, turning away to light a cigarette into the crisp morning air. He looked up as the first sparks made whorls of smoke into the sky.
Middle Earth was terribly… vast.
There was hardly any other word to describe its plains, mountains, and lakes, all of which could be found in the Hidden Nations, but here were doubled in size and looked to be on steroids. Hell, even the sky looked bigger, and Naruto was fairly sure they shared the same one.
The only part of the grand new world that even vaguely reminded her of home was Lothlorien, the elven city which resided atop the trees. And even then, it was more large fort tree house then the sprawling metropolis of Konohagakure.
Naruto knew this was going to suck.
She hadn't the slightest idea how Shikamaru and Sasuke managed to trail along with them for this long.
When voicing her opinion aloud, she was met with the response she'd predicted. "Stop worrying about it. You're so troublesome."
Considering how many times the lazy Nara had directed that to her, she may as well have been the most troublesome person in the world.
Naruto grinned at him. "So, how long is this whole thing gonna last?"
"Long, most likely." Said the vague Nara, as usual.
Naruto made a face. "Like, a month or four? 'Cause you know, Ichiraku's opening a store in the spring, and he's handing out free coupons for the first two weeks and I really wanna be there—
"You get free ramen anyway." Shikamaru pointed out, wondering why he wasn't surprised that, once again, her mind was running on about ramen. Not her new S-Rank mission as his backup—but ramen.
"But this is a novelty!" Naruto roared. "A cornerstone into what will one day be the Ichiraku empire!"
"You're taking it a little far now."
"Hey! Ramen's a fantastic industry! Just watch, they'll be going up like, like, gofers in spring all over Hi no Kuni!"
"That doesn't even make any sense." Shikamaru deadpanned, but it was in vain.
The girl gave him a grin. "When I'm Hokage, I'm going to declare ramen the national food, and make a ramen holiday or somethin'—
"Only the daimyo can do that."
"—and I'll have all my ANBU do mission briefings with me over ramen, and have fundraisers and all that and god dammit I want some right now!"
Shikamaru, who, until Naruto began her tirade on her favorite food (and everyone knew those could go on for hours) had been lounging rather relaxingly against the subtle breeze and speckled sun that dusted out from the canopy, was officially stressed—a feet which couldn't even be achieved while being chased by orcs, or fending off a balrog. He hadn't been too concerned over sticking it out in Middle Earth for the duration of his mission, but with Naruto… well, with Naruto, he was severely worried for his mental health.
"There's a dining hall around here somewhere, why don't you find some noodles?"
That got her running.
It wasn't like she wouldn't be an asset to his mission; because undoubtedly she was. Naruto had this stupid-strength about her, if there was any way to describe it. There shouldn't have been a chance in hell that Naruto could beat out Neji—who some considered to be the best Gennin of their generation—in the Chuunin exams, or learn the Rasengan in a month, or beat Pein and turn him against his own organization, or return Sasuke, or triumph over Gai in his marathon around Konoha. Shikamaru honestly didn't understand it.
The girl was a walking contradiction.
And he'd rather not think about her; to be frank. It made his head hurt.
Though he may be the only one to figure this out.
"Y'think she could be a hobbit?" Asked Merry, as he sat between Sam and Pippin, watching with part repulsion part fascination as Naruto went for her eight bowl of soup. He'd never seen anyone even come to par with eating as much as a hobbit.
"Well, I think there's a mighty possibility." Said Sam dazedly, as his eyes watched the contents of her soup drain as if there was a cork pulled at the bottom.
The hobbits were seated in the spacious dining hall, elves sort of dance-walking around them, as the fellowship stretched their legs and took a brief respite in the safety of Lothlorein.
"Haven't run out of steam, then?"
Naruto looked up from her eighth bowl, narrowing her eyes as the Gondorian sat himself across from her.
"I always have a healthy appetite." She sniffed, looking away, quite obviously still annoyed that the blonde warrior had insinuated—not for the first time—that she was a boy.
"I apologize for my incorrect assumption earlier." He said sincerely. After all, it was simply bad manners to insult a woman, and not apologize, for very long. "I was simply… taken aback by your strength. There aren't many women in Middle Earth—if any at all—that can hold their own so well in a battle."
That, and she had been wearing a mask, for Valar's sake. How was he to know she was a woman under all that armor, and a white animal mask to boot? She was of the same build as her lithe warrior companions, or ninja as they referred to themselves as. They were slim in build, sinewy muscles toned to a honed flexibility that the brutish warriors of Middle Earth weren't accustomed to.
But now that she had taken off her mask, it was quite obvious to tell she was a woman.
"I accept your apology." She said, a little indifferently. "But make sure you don't do it again."
"I won't." He swore, quirking her a smile.
The second time, he really hadn't meant to.
"I was only trying to compliment her!" He insisted to her dark-haired companion, who stared ahead impassively.
They were scouring the planes for Rohan, lead by the great Gandalf himself, revenant from the grave. He'd thought they'd actually become closer since his brush with death on the River Anduin, where she'd held his hand tenderly as he struggled to open his eyes, a silent moment that seemed to immortalize within him, and yet she had been ignoring him ever since he'd accidentally insulted her again. Accidentally!
"She's stubborn." Sasuke said eventually, sounding a little exasperated. Boromir had been told by Shikamaru, the leader of the ninja trio, that Sasuke and Naruto had known each other since they were very young, and if there was anyone who knew how to deal with her, it would be him. But the only way Sasuke seemed to deal with Naruto was by not dealing with her at all. "But she'll cool of eventually."
And Boromir didn't like the sound of that.
He was a man of honor, and especially when he was in the wrong, he was impatient to make it right again.
They'd been fighting a band of orcs, and he'd complimented her, saying how she fought like a man. Though in retrospect, that may have been a little insulting considering she was a woman. But in his defense, he'd never fought alongside a woman before, and to say a warrior fought like a man was an honorable compliment to any self-respecting fighter of Middle Earth. And although she was a fighter, she certainly wasn't a man, or from Middle Earth.
"Or," Sasuke suggested quietly, "You could just apologize. That would work faster, and women just love to hear it."
Boromir snorted. "I suppose I should just get on my knees and grovel now."
"It would go a long way." Sasuke answered seriously, clearly not hearing, or just ignoring, the sarcasm in his voice.
Luckily, by Rohan, Naruto seemed to have completely forgiven him—or perhaps just forgotten—in the face of the corrupt king. That seemed to strike a greater nerve with her, and she wasted no time punting the slimy servant of Sauron right out of the village, literally. The man limped out of the gates, looking like he'd forever favor his right leg, much to the satisfaction of the blonde ninja.
"There's nothing I hate more than traitors." She said to him, as they sat on the stairs outside of the throne room. "Traitors, and people who abandon their comrades."
And if he hadn't been impressed already, he would have been then. There was nothing more he valued himself.
"I'm sorry for my words earlier," He decided now was as good a time as any for an apology. "I really hadn't meant to—
Naruto waved him off. "Oh, it's fine. I kind of figured you didn't use your brain before speaking, anyway."
For a moment, all he could feel was relief that she forgave him so easily, and then, "Hey!"
But Naruto laughed, and jumped off the staircase to maunder into the city, dragging a bemused Boromir with her.
And as they toured the city in the brief respite before the storm, the wind catching at her long blonde hair and the sun turning it gold in the diffused, afternoon light, he privately admitted to himself that there was nothing to fault in this flawless creature.
She was strong, beautiful and honest, perhaps a little reckless in her temerity, but that only served to further her stubborn charm.
She was perfect.
Alright, this time he may have been a bit tactless.
But to his defense, she could have gotten seriously hurt. And though she'd proven herself time and time again, to him and to their companions, the heart was fickle and deceitful above all things, and every time she dove into the fray it wanted to leap right out of his chest. And he may have been a bit crass, and let the dogmatic prejudices of his world get the better of him, but above all he'd just been worried for her.
Though saying that the battlefield was no place for a woman did earn him a right, justified left hook to the face.
And a good one, at that.
He spent the majority of the afternoon nursing his swollen jaw in the infirmary, along with all the other injured warriors. Though most of them got hurt in the action, not in the aftermath by a stunning beauty with a lethal punch.
And he'd admit that she had a certain grace, even when fighting, that none but the elves seemed to possess. And that fire, the inhuman glow that emitted from her like a demon, it almost intimidated him. The techniques those ninja did—things that no human should be able to do—they terrified him, a bit, even though it was Naruto, and there was nothing that could ever sway his adoration for her. One moment she was ducking under the blade of an orc, slicing him to pieces with her nimble, thin sword, and the next she had leapt into the air, the very air around them sucked into the palm of her hand with a brilliant blue light and a frightening roar of wind, before half of the army beneath them was decimated, and she and her companions continued onwards as if she'd one nothing spectacular.
"You deserved it."
He jerked up at the voice.
Naruto was leaning in the doorway, with a contrary expression to her face, eyes narrowed.
"I did." He agreed. No use arguing that.
She moved forward, countenance sifting gracefully, stalking with an instinctual predatory edge, his eyes drawn to the agile, slender movement of her hips.
"This is the third time, you know." She noted coolly, folding her arms.
"But this one I truly am the most sorry for," He said, rushed, "I hadn't meant a word of it—I was just, concerned for you… I'm unused to seeing you out there, where you could get hurt so easily. I—I care for you deeply, Naruto, and I couldn't stand it to see anything happen to you."
Her eyes softened at that, one hand reflexively coming to rest on his, where he held a compress to his cheek.
"I'm sorry I punched you." And then. "Actually, not really. You were being a jerk and definitely deserved it."
He nodded, a little helplessly.
"How about we call us even, huh?" She smiled then, sunny composition coming through once more. "Until the next time." For a moment, neither said anything, as he grabbed for her other hand, compelling her to move closer. She stood in the circle of his arms, looking down at him with an unreadable expression. He closed the distance between them, but only for a moment, lips stinging at the contact, staring up into the perfect stratosphere of her eyes.
She gave him a lilting little smile, sliding out of his arms and making for the door.
And then, as she left the room. "But next time, I'll aim between the legs."
Since that was just plain unacceptable, and would invariable hurt, he decided he'd try for a second opinion before opening his mouth.
This time he had the foresight to ask Shikamaru first.
After all, he was a ninja as well, and hailed from their elusive, foreign country of which he knew nothing about, and surely he'd tell him right from wrong without being grievously insulted at the same time.
Boromir wished he had the time to travel to their distant land shrouded in mystery and secret, but he had an entire world to fix and hardly any time to do it, and as much as he loved Naruto—for he knew it now, inextricably—he knew this was the right time to do it.
And maybe the only time.
The two were sitting in one of the many drawing rooms of the Gondorian palace, the morning bringing many reparations and rebuilding for the brilliant White City. In the distance, Mordor was nothing but a darkened black landscape devoid of calamitous intent, charred of life. Shikamaru was sitting cross-legged, pouring over the fascinating books of Middle Earthian culture, enjoying a cup of Konoha oolong tea when Boromir hesitantly entered the chamber.
Shikamaru had expected him to perhaps consult on the many rebuilding plans for the city, or perhaps on growing the Gondorian army, not on Konoha and marriage.
"The ring is a good idea." He conceded, feeling a headache coming on. "But not the bonding ceremony. I don't think Naruto is much into commitment."
Boromir's brows furrowed. "She doesn't… want a marriage?" He thought he'd finally figured out the warrior-woman and her very, very different perceptions than the woman of Middle Earth. He'd only assumed this was one of the few things that the two cultures shared.
Perhaps he'd been wrong.
"Oh no, no. I'm sure she does, somewhere. Trust me, this is one thing generally all woman squeal and freak out over." Shikamaru waved his confusion off. "It's just, I don't know if she's thinking about it now. Eighteen is very young in our standards, and women are much more independent in the hidden countries. That, and she's a ninja—getting married and having kids and all that stuff would mean retiring from all that."
The Gondorian blinked. "All that' as Shikamaru put it was only a logical progression to him. Bearing children and living a happy, safe life of warmth and love seemed only inevitable for a woman. Especially one of Naruto's kindness and beauty. She was a most loving woman, and had nothing but his adoration.
And yet, apparently, these were all things that clashed greatly with her lifestyle.
"I mean, you can still ask her." He backtracked, as if sensing his worrying surprise. "But I can't say for sure what her answer would be."
"She'd say no?" He asked, genuinely baffled. Not that he thought so highly of himself, but he was a man of good physical health, of stable financial standard, and one of the heroes of the fellowship. And even though he was sure all that would sound quite trivial to Naruto, there were many woman who had already come to
discuss betrothals, and many more men who came for their daughters.
Shikamaru shrugged. "Well, I dunno. It's a big difference, you know. Where we come from, and… here. And I know she's really looking forward to going home, now that everything is over. Popping the question now…" The ANBU captain trailed off. "The ring is a good idea though, stick with that."
After Shikamaru's vague, noncommittal answer, Boromir was still unsure whether he had explicit confidence in asking something so grand. It was only his stroke of fortune that, as he wandered the halls, he found the brooding companion of hers, looking like a gloomy suit of armor with his bone-uniform and many swords.
And though he and the accomplished swordsmen hadn't spoken much, he was sure that, at the very least, the blunt man would give it to him in the most frank of terms.
"…You want to propose to Naruto?" And finally, a flicker of emotion on the man's usually impassive face.
The Gondorian nodded. "That's my intention, yes."
At this, Sasuke let out a bark of laughter. Having never heard the sound—or anything even remotely close to amusement from the sullen ninja—Boromir was taken aback. "Naruto really isn't… the marrying kind of girl." Sasuke said, eventually. "She might get pissed at you for implying it all the time, but she really is like a boy. She likes all the boy things, always wants to be one of the boys—I don't think she'd take to marriage all that well." He said wryly.
"But the ring's a good choice, she'll like the blue diamond." Advised the dark-haired man, before he carried on his way to the dining hall.
A little more than disheartened, the Gondorian was beginning to think that perhaps his grand idea to propose to the most wondrous woman he'd ever met—and the only one he'd ever insulted so many times—may not be as foolproof as he'd first assumed.
He wandered a bit farther, the reality that Naruto and her fellow ninja were taking a boat back to their homeland the day after tomorrow fully sinking in. Perhaps he was rushing this. The fear of losing her had crept into him, and latched there until it bloomed into a timorous despair which he struggled fervently to rectify. In his mind, the most obvious solution had been to ask for her hand in marriage—
Though that was quickly become less and less simple as the day progressed.
The evening found him smoking a pipe with Aragorn, the newly crowned king looking a little worn from an entire day's worth of fixing and law-making, but still in jovial spirits. Middle Earth was in times of peace once more, and with Mordor nothing but a husk of darkness on the horizon, the man seemed much more at ease than Boromir had ever seen him.
"Proposal, eh?" He mused, blowing a clout of smoke.
Boromir nodded, breathing in deeply. "I had thought it the simplest solution—
"Simplest solution?" Chortled Aragorn. "Certainly not, my friend! There is nothing simple to the complexities of love—and even more so, loving such a stubborn woman such as Naruto."
"And Arwen isn't?" Boromir's brows furrowed. Aside from Naruto, she was the most stubborn woman he'd met. Well actually, Eowyn came quite close as well. But she was more than just stubborn, but reckless. And while Naruto was both, Boromir would grudgingly admit that she certainly had the strength to get herself out of any tough situation.
"No, she certainly is." Aragorn agreed. "But Arwen is from here, she understands our way of life. From what Naruto tells me of herself—and her friends—they all seem to be very independent women, none of which are married, from what I hear."
Boromir took all of this in, nodding slowly.
"But, Naruto's feelings for you are genuine, and I'm sure yours are too." Continued Aragorn with a smile. "And, I think that is really the most crucial element, don't you think?"
By the following morning, Boromir decided that the brashness that had always gotten him into trouble with the blonde woman, the brazen audaciousness that he'd been trying so studiously to avoid this time around, may just be exactly what he needed.
So, without any more vacillating on his choice, or second thoughts, he lead Naruto to the most beautiful balcony in the royal palace, a glorious hanging marble garden with the backdrop of the peachy, benign Middle Earth stratosphere, and dropped to one knee.
"Naruto," He said, clearly and honestly. "I love you. More than anything in this entire world, I want to be with you."
He looked up, not for the first time struck by her uncomprehending beauty. He felt like he could spend hours every day counting each and every sun freckle dotting her nose, to wake up every morning and watch the light efflorescence in her stunning blue eyes—and knew this was the right choice.
"Will you marry me?"
And this time, it seemed his impulsive boldness seemed to get him somewhere.
"Yes." She said, smiling.
Review, because I'm going to be stuck at work ALL DAY this black Friday (starting at midnight, grr) And I may kill myself without proper review sustenance.