It was so cold.

The light? Where was the light?

Air! Can't breathe!

It felt like his lungs were going to explode.

He took in a mouthful of water before they finally pulled him out.

This was one of the experiments that Naruto hated the most. Where they tied him up, hooked him to a chain, and would then lower into a tank of water of various temperatures. Sometimes it would be freezing cold like this one; sometimes it would be lukewarm, and other times it would be boiling hot.

As he hung there dangling in the air, coughing up water his entire body shook and possessed a blue tint to it. Every part of him was numb, he could not even feel the instruments of the doctors as they took his heartbeat, temperature, and checked his other vitals.

He watched then with half closed eyes and listened with partially ringing ears.

"All normal?" A male voice said.

"His temperature is climbing back up." Said another.

"Most normally die after the first round." This one was a female.

"He might actually be able to survive the final experiment." The first male voice said.

They spoke like he was not even there, like he had the significance of a fly. He hated that, he hated them.

All he wanted was a minute of freedom, one minute of freedom and he would make every single one of these crazy bastards pay. But…they always kept him in chains or on so many drugs that he could not even make a fist let alone a hand-sign.

He just wanted this to stop.

But it did not stop; in fact he was certain it would never stop. He was certain because they had just begun to lower him back into the cold vat of the dark water. He did not even have the strength to resist. All he could was watch as he sank into the water and take one large gulp of air before vanishing beneath the surface.


Naruto sat up from his nightmare in a cold sweat.

The first thing that he registered was that he was no longer in the arena. Instead he was once again in a room at the hospital. Next to him was a small table which had a glass of water sitting on it. He reached over and drank greedily from the glass, not realizing how thirsty he had been.

'What the hell am I doing back here?' He wondered as he set the glass down.

It was only then that Naruto noticed her.

Hinata was in his room as well. Her chair drawn up close with her head in her arms on the side of bed, breathing softly as she slept.

She looked so beautiful. That peaceful and calm look on her serene face, a few strands of her dark silk like hair were out of place. The very sight of her brought a wave of peace through Naruto.

"Hinata-chan?" Naruto said quietly as he reached over and gently placed his hand on her shoulder.

She almost immediately opened up her eyes, still looking a bit tired in the process. "Mmm... Naruto-kun, you're awake." She said happily as she sat up.

"Yeah. Hinata-chan what is going on? What am I doing here?"

The Hyuuga girl stared at Naruto for a moment. "Don't you remember?"

The blonde shook his head "The last thing I remember was getting hit by a kunai, then seeing a little red, and… waking up here." Naruto said as he rubbed his head "Why? What happened?"

Hinata was a little hesitant at first but she quickly explained what had occurred in the arena. As she did Naruto's eyes widened a bit. "What? I did that?" He said with disbelief in his voice.

Hinata just nodded. "Naruto-kun, the way you acted, how you moved, how you spoke… it was like you were a different person."

"What do you mean?" He asked as he sat up a little, a look of concern on his face.

"It was just… you did not seem like you normally did… you were scary."

Naruto had been called many many things in his life, but scary had never been one of them. And to hear the word come from Hinata's mouth… sent panic through him.

'What if… what if the Kyuubi is starting to take over?' He silently pondered. The very idea of such a thing had made Naruto a target for the ignorant fear and hatred of many villagers and had in recent years been the main cause of his nightmares. The thought that he would become possessed by that monster and made to do horrible things. To kill the people he cared and loved.

Based on what had happened to him recently, with his outburst, his horrible nightmares and headaches, not to mention the fact that the Kyuubi had been very silent recently, never once helping him in his torture. If he was loosing control, if he was indeed becoming a monster, what could be done to stop him? And what was he prepared to do to stop himself?

"Naruto-kun?" Hinata asked

That brought Naruto out of his thoughts, "Oh sorry Hinata-chan. I just don't remember any of this. It's a lot to take in all at once." He placed a hand over his face. "Something is terribly wrong with me."

It was then that Hinata quickly took his other hand and held it tightly. "Naruto-kun, I am here for you." She told him, every word sincere and filled with kindness.

The blonde drew his hand away from his face and his crystal blue eyes looked with her mother-of-pearl white ones.

The two of them began to slowly draw closer to each other.

"Hinata-chan..."

"Naruto-kun..."

They drew ever closer, their lips were a mere inch apart when suddenly the door to the hospital room opened. The two of them quickly drew apart as Tsunade walked into the room.

"Hokage-sama!" Hinata said as she respectively bowed her head, trying desperately to hide her embarrassment and a touch of anger.

"Hey Obaa-chan!" Naruto said, more casually.

"Good to see that you are up gaki." Tsunade said, though both of them could hear the seriousness in her voice.

Both of them looked at each other and then at her. "What is wrong?"

Tsunade sighed heavily. "Naruto, I have some bad news." She said as she handed him a pink slip of paper, remembering what forced her to give it to him in the first place and hating it.


(Flashback)

"He passed every single test that was presented to him." Tsunade argued on behalf of Naruto against the council who once again stood against her.

"This is no longer a matter of the boy's skills." Homura stated coolly.

"This is more a matter of his psychological state." Hiashi stated, barely able to contain his satisfaction.

"What about it?" Tsunade demanded.

"The boy is clearly not stable Hokage-sama. You saw what he did to those men." Koharu quickly fanned herself.

"I saw him hold his own against two ANBU ninja who were unfairly and needlessly sent against him." Tsunade spat as she turned her eyes menacingly towards Danzo who did not even flinch.

"Both of whom he seriously injured and was possibly about to kill before he was stopped." Hiashi said.

"He was defending himself against adversaries who were attacking him with zero restraint. Do any of you deny that those two could have seriously hurt of killed Naruto themselves?"

No one spoke up against that.

"You all said you wanted to see how Naruto could react to a very serious threat and you saw it. Surely you don't expect him to restrain himself again EVERY threat out there. What about the Akatsuki? Is he supposed to hold back against even them?" Tsunade shouted, indignant about their illogical and downright hypocritical standards regarding the whiskered blonde.

Tsunade returned her attention to Danzo. "Just what the hell were you thinking even? What were you trying to prove?"

"I was simply testing the boy." The old man stated with an utter calm in voice.

"That was not a mere test. That was an a deliberate attack against him. You WANTED him to overreact or die, admit it."

Danzo kept a neutral face. "I apologize for what my subordinates did. I can promise you that they will be severely punished as soon as they are healed." 'Punished for losing to him that is.' He added to himself. He would not admit it, but Tsunade was exactly right in her claim.

"No, when they are healed you will send them to me. I will personally have a talk with them on this matter. They are ninja under my authority after all." Tsunade said as she cracked her fingers loudly, making her point very clear.

"As you wish Hokage-sama" Danzo said, actually being able to sound genially sorry.

Tsunade then spoke directly to the council. "Back to the matter that these tests were originally assembled for, I say that Naruto passed. I do not need council permission to authorize his promotion to chuunin."

Danzo spoke up. "Indeed you do not Hokage-sama. Nor do we need your permission to do what we view as necessary."

"What are you talking about?"

Hiashi shamelessly smirked a bit as he answered, wishing he could see the look on Naruto's face once the jinchuuriki heard the verdict.

(End Flashback)


"SUSPENDED?!" Naruto yelled as he looked at the sheet of paper that bore of the seal of the Konoha council. His hands were visibly shaking with rage as he read it.

Hinata looked at Tsunade with a look of shock and bewilderment on her face. "How is this possible?"

"Normally only the Hokage can decide this matter. However if the council has a unanimous vote then they can overrule my authority. They considered what happened in the arena severe enough to-"

"SO I AM FUCKING SUSPENDED FOR DEFENDING MYSELF?" Naruto yelled, his voice filled with anger, hatred, disgust, and something darker as he crumbled up the paper and tossed it aside.

"Naruto, lower your voice." Tsunade instructed. Though that only seemed to fan the flames.

"I will not." Naruto growled. "I did everything I was told. I passed the tests. I proved my worth as a ninja and they have the gall to-"

He was silenced when Hinata placed a gentle hand onto his own. The moment she did that he felt the anger vanish and the rage within him start to cool. "Please, Naruto-kun." He looked into her soft lavender eyes and when he did he found peace.

Naruto took a deep breath and brought his voice back to normal tone. "I am sorry Baa-chan. But my point remains and you know it. This is just another example of the council picking on me."

Tsunade looked at Hinata for a brief moment. 'She has an amazing affect on him.' She then turned her attention back to Naruto. "Listen, you have every right to be angry. I would be just as angry in your position. But suspension does not mean fired. You are still a ninja."

"How long am I suspended?" He asked, still keeping his voice calm. Hinata took another note at the form, a closer look in fact.

"Just until you have completed a full psych evaluation by an accredited counselor."

"What for? I'm not crazy."

"I do not think you are crazy Naruto. But you might be suffering from some post traumatic stress after what you experienced. There are a few tests to prove this."

The word 'tests' sent a shiver of fear down Naruto's spine. Tests sent flashes of the hellish experiments he was subjected to. "And after I complete these tests, what happens then?"

"Once that is complete and the doctor gives you the okay you will be fully reinstated. And I intend to make damn sure that it is as a chuunin." She said firmly.

"A chunnin?" Naruto said with a bit of surprise. "You mean it?"

Neither noticed Hinata frowning at the moment.

"Naruto you passed the test. Every single one of them, you deserve the promotion without a doubt." Tsunade told him with a smile.

Naruto actually bowed his head to her. "Thank you."

Tsunade smiled again, but before she could say more Hinata spoke up. "Hokage-sama, there's more on her I'm assuming you didn't see." She said holding out the note. "Read the margin at the bottom."

'Margin?' Tsunade asked, certain there wasn't supposed to be a margin, even though official notions did sometimes have them. Taking the notice, she looked at the small-printed words and saw what got Hinata so upset.

'Go fuck yourself demon. As long as we live you'll always be a mere shitstain, Kyuubi or not. I hope you die before this is lifted.'

Tsunade frowned too. "Well, this might have been just some ass blowing off steam hoping Naruto would overreact and force me to give him something worse than a simple suspension. But on the plus side, this now gives me a case against the suspension and an excuse to get rid of some of the more self-important councilmen ahead of schedule."

"So am I not suspended then?" Naruto asked.

"Sadly no. For appearances sake if nothing else we should keep that going to keep anyone from doing more than just debasing you." Tsunade suggested.

Naruto rolled his eyes. "If me being a kid didn't stop this, this isn't going to."

Tsunade grimaced at the reminder that Naruto nearly died on a regular basis during a time she had other priorities. "Even so, I can send this to the daimyo for political backing to overrule any council choice, and I do think you should use this time to get evaluated for your own good. So for now, just let them think they've won, then when the time's right, show them who really won."

"Lose the battle to win the war." Hinata summarized for her loved one, who nodded.

"Anyway, I fill out some paperwork so you can leave the hospital. I will also have an attendant give you some information before you go. If you will please excuse me." Tsunade finished, quickly eyeing the two teens before leaving them.

As she walked down the hall she could not help but smile. She greatly admired the dedication and care that Hinata showed to Naruto. And while Tsunade was not entirely sure if Naruto could tell it, she could, it was love.

It was the type of pure and devoted love that Tsunade herself had felt for Dan so long ago.

She walked down the hallway intending to leave and head back to the Hokage tower so that she could deal with the giant stack of papers on her desk. By that she meant she was going to give the stack to Shizune to deal with.

However right when she was about to reach the door she was stopped by one of the doctors.

"Hokage-sama." The grey-haired male physician said after quickly bowing, he offered her a folder. "These are the results from the tests you ordered on the Uzumaki boy from the other day."

Tsunade took the folder and nodded to the doctor. "Thank you, you may return to your duties"

The doctor bowed to Tsunade once again and quickly walked off. When he was gone Tsunade walked out the doors and opened the file. In the dwindling light she read the results and as she did her brow arched slightly in confusion.


Deep within the secret hideout of ROOT headquarters, Danzo was having a little discussion of his own.

Torune and Fu kneeled before their master, as best they could. Torune had bandages wrapped around his eyes after a surgery to remove the glass-shards from them. Fu's hand was bandaged from where Naruto had stabbed him along with his face as well after the beating he had received from the brat.

Danzo looked down at his two subordinates, his face a stoic mask. No emotion of any kind was visible and when he spoke, even his voice possessed a neutral tone to it.

"Please tell me, what was it that the two of you had been specifically trained for?" He asked.

Torune and Fu answered together. "To defeat and subdue Naruto Uzumaki, the container of the Kyuubi."

Danzo nodded "Correct. Now could either of you please explain what exactly happened in the arena."

Neither of them dared to say a word, they just pressed their faces closer against the floor. Danzo continued to stare down at them as he spoke "You failed." They cringed at the word. "I will repeat, the two of you failed. You failed me, you failed ROOT, and you failed yourselves. You know how I react to failure."

"My lord if I may-" Fu started to say as he lifted his head off of the ground, only to be silenced by a mere movement of Danzo's hand.

"Your mission was simple, to make the boy look foolish, to make him look weak when confronted by an actual adversary. To make the council realize that it is better to keep him close to Konoha and with the lowest rank possible. You were supposed to defeat him without even trying." The elder man stated coldly.

Neither of the men on the floor said anything, they dare not.

"You two, trained ANBU and ROOT agents allowed a child, a genin, to defeat and humiliate you. To humiliate me."

They were literally pressing themselves against the floor now they were bowing so low.

Danzo sighed "I blame myself, I sent doves to do the job of a hawk." He said as he tapped his cane against the ground. This was as close as he would ever get to admitting that he had underestimated Naruto. He had expected Naruto to fall apart like a house of cards, not triumph like a conqueror. He had assumed the victory would be easy, and therefore made his servants prepare for an easy fight.

Both minions kept themselves low to the ground, not daring to look at their master.

"Under normal circumstances, I would have you both killed. However, I still find that you have uses. So you may continue to live and serve me… as a token of my generosity."

"Thank you Danzo-sama." They said together.

"Dismissed." The two of them immediately vanished.

Danzo at that point sat down in his chair, feeling the weight of years. "So hard to find good help these days. Eh?" He said as he looked over his shoulder in a seemly empty and shadowed corner of the room.

"Starting tomorrow I need you to watch the boy closely. Take note of everything he does or says. If he sneezes I want it recorded. If he does anything of interest, bring him to me."

It was then from the shadows emerged a figure.

Sai kneeled. "As you command, Danzo-sama."


'It is like we are a real couple now.' Hinata thought to herself as she and Naruto walked with each other, arm in arm through the lamp lit streets of Konoha.

Naruto had insisted that he walk Hinata home, saying that it was the least he could do after she had stayed with him at the hospital for yet a second time.

Nearly every one of Hinata's fantasies about Naruto had come true in such a short time. Just two important factors were missing, the all important kiss and an actual declaration that he and she were an official couple.

But at the moment this, just being with him, just walking with him, was enough for her.

They had been walking in silence for most of the journey, simply enjoying the pleasure of each other's company. In fact Hinata had even rested her head against Naruto's shoulder as they walked.

But finally that silence was broken when Naruto asked something that had been pressing him. "Hinata, do you think I am a monster?"

Hinata lifted her head from his shoulder and looked at him, for sure she had not heard the question right. "Pardon?"

"Do you think that I am a monster?"

"Of course not. Why would you ask such a question?"

Naruto shook his head. "No, never mind. Forget I even asked." He said, realizing he had made an error and sought to change the subject.

Hinata gripped his sleeve though. "No, tell me why you would ask that question? What is wrong? If I had done what you had done, would you call me a monster?"

Naruto's eyes slightly widened. "No way. You're no monster."

"Neither are you." The Hyuuga heiress said with absolute certainty. 'Does this have anything to do with that strange Kyuubi reference in the margin?'

Naruto closed his eyes. "Thank you Hinata-chan, that means a lot to me. I was afraid because everyone just loves to hate me at the drop of a hat. This sort of thing just gives them some kind of justification."

"Why would they think that? I don't see people go around calling anyone else monsters. What makes you alone so terrible to them?" Hinata asked.

"It wasn't something I did, but something done to me." He answered, instinctively trying to delay any admittance. He feared a negative reaction from her, but he thought about the history of her behavior. 'I don't like it when people refuse to trust me just because I might take it wrong. I should give her the same courtesy I like to be given.'

With that he steeled himself and looked her in the eyes. "Hinata-chan, I'm going to tell you something that's not easy for me to say. If you think you're better off not knowing tell me now, because this isn't something you can just forget."

Hinata wrapped her arms around him. "I want to help you Naruto-kun. If there's only one person in this village you can trust, it's me. I swear on my mother's grave nothing you say or do can make me think less of you."

Surprised, Naruto didn't know what to feel, but he knew he had to repay her faith in him by sharing this secret. To refuse to now would only hurt the girl. "Okay, I'll tell you, but we need to get somewhere private first. I don't want anyone else overhearing us."

Hinata nodded. "We should head to your place. Much more private than mine."

"And friendlier too." Naruto joked, making Hinata smile.


With much discretion the two made it back to Naruto's apartment. They had to do it carefully so those that disliked their company wouldn't go crazy seeing them go to his house, and so those that were nicer wouldn't let it be known to others who probably wouldn't be so nice.

Fortunately they did make it to their destination without bother, but as far as Naruto was concerned what was to come was the real hard part.

"Hinata-chan, this is what I know." He started, seated on his couch. She sat next to him to make him feel reassured. "I was born the day the Kyuubi attacked. What they told us about the Yondaime defeating the fox was wrong. He didn't kill the fox. He sealed it away. I'm sure a smart girl like you can probably figure out where."

All the evidence went thru Hinata's mind in one second. The Kyuubi being sealed, Naruto's birth, his treatment in public, his fear of her hating him. It all pointed to one reasonable answer.

"It was you, he used you. He took you from your crib and basically forced you to keep a demon locked away for the rest of your life." She said soothingly.

Naruto nodded with closed eyes. "I never really thought of it as him using me, but it's not like I really had a choice in the matter so you're not exactly wrong."

"What about your parents? Or at least your mom? I mean, if that really was the day you were born then the Yondaime had to have interacted with your mother in order to even get ahold of you." She asked.

Naruto opened his eyes. "No one's ever told me a word about my parents."

"Someone had to know them. There's no way no one could know them." Hinata insisted.

"I think Jij knew, but he died before he could tell me. He always said he'd tell me when I could handle it."

Hinata frowned. "That's nonsense." Naruto gave her a surprised look. "He'd tell you when you could handle it? That's basically telling a child 'I know something you don't and you'll never know until I say so'. What made him think you couldn't already handle it?"

"I... I don't know, but you're right. Why couldn't I know? What was so terrible about me knowing? Did he not know and was just toying with me?"

"Did he ever tell you when he thought you'd be ready?" Hinata asked.

Naruto closed his eyes and tried to recall such information. "I think he said... when I was strong enough to protect myself and liked enough to be supported by the village."

Hinata lightly frowned. "Meaning basically when you were already qualified to become Hokage? When there was no question of your loyalty to the village?"

Naruto opened his eyes. "What do you mean?"

"I mean it sounds to me like he never intended to tell you." Hinata claimed. Seeing him about to object, she placed a finger on his lips. "Let me explain first Naruto-kun. I might be wrong, but think about it like this first before you defend the old man." Naruto nodded and allowed Hinata to continue.

"The Sandaime made it appear that he knew who your parents are. At the same time, he gave you stipulations regarding acquiring it, meaning he clearly wasn't going to just tell you. No, some condition had to be met first. The condition being that you were stronger and liked throughout Konoha. Is this right?" She asked, and he nodded. "If that's true, then it sounds like he never intended to tell you."

"What?" Naruto asked, shocked by the accusation.

"Think about it, he had to know that you were lonely and disliked by the population. Any decent person would have told you your parents so you had something positive to think about. But no, he chose to use that knowledge as a stick, to motivate you to do something he wanted you to do. He basically blackmailed you, saying that if you wanted this information, you had to do something for him first."

'That actually makes sense.' Naruto thought, even though he didn't want to belittle Sarutobi.

"Assuming this is true, the question then is what was the 'something' he wanted from you." Hinata continued. "Because you had a lot of hidden power at your disposal, once you learned to use it of course, and because the villagers openly disliked you, he must have wanted to ensure you were no threat to others. It's entirely likely that what he wanted was to guarantee that even if you got mad at people you'd never do anything about it. That your loyalty to Konoha was absolute, unconditional. So he kept this over your head, making you think that if you ever did something he didn't like you'd never know who your parents were."

Naruto only had to think it over a little. "You're right, that makes too much sense not to be true. So the old man... he never trusted me?"

"On some level of his mind, no he didn't. I'm sure he didn't hate you, but obviously he preferred you to be a victim over a victimizer." Hinata added. "I mean, why else would he let the village know about Kyuubi? It's pretty obvious the adults know but not our age group. I understand letting some people know so they can be prepared to act if something goes wrong, but everyone? Even a gossip breaking the law would have been caught and silenced before it spread too far. It sounds to me like he wanted everyone to know and mistrust you. To beat you into submission before you could do it to anyone else."

Naruto had never thought of that before. He always trusted the Sandaime to have done everything humanly possible to fix the situation because that's what hokages do. He never for a moment considered that maybe, just maybe, Sarutobi had let a few things happen instead. But now that he was considering it...

'Could he really have...? Did he? He always showed up to save me when the mobs got too much, but why didn't he act sooner? Why was it always after they hurt me but before they could kill me? Maybe the Anbu watching didn't tell him right away, but shouldn't he have corrected that? Made sure it didn't happen again? Or punish the civilians to ensure the rest never tried it? No, it happened over and over again, always the same way. Almost like he... set it up that way.'

Naruto clenched his fist, feeling more betrayed than he had when Sasuke tried to kill him. "I'll probably never know if this is true or not, but if it is, then my entire life has been this village's toy."

Hinata tried to pacify him with a hug. "Also, there's possibly another reason. What if your parents left you something? In a ninja village, parents always have some sort of inheritance for their children. A special jutsu, money, property, something worth keeping in the family. I think it's safe to say your parents were ninja, after all if they were civilians there wouldn't be such a need for secrecy." Naruto nodded, seeing her point. "So if your parents left you something, if you never knew who they were, you could never claim such an inheritance. And with it being unclaimed, who would it go to?"

Naruto's eyes widened. "The Hokage, right?"

Hinata nodded. "Technically, all unclaimed property is the property of the Hokage, but he can't use it as his own. Not right away. He has to allow a grace period to give a rightful heir a chance to make themselves known. That was the main reason the Uchiha compound never became public property, there was an heir who claimed it, and even if Sasuke-san hadn't, Hokage-sama couldn't open it to the public right away. But if there's some Uzumaki inheritance for you-"

"He would want me unaware so he could keep it to himself." Naruto finished. "Or give it to someone else, someone he felt deserved it more."

Hinata nodded. "Yes, exactly. And if that's true, then the problem's even worse. Because our current hokage, she should know some of this."

Naruto nodded. "Yeah, there'd have to be some record. I'm sure Baa-chan's silence means we're worried about nothing, but what if she's in on it? Heck what if she's only pretending to promote me and this whole test was just some way for them to monitor me? Even if it wasn't, I just know someone's trying to get me to stay genin, because Heaven forbid I outrank someone. That note you pointed out practically said so. And no offense Hinata-chan, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if your dad was trying to get me fired as a ninja altogether."

Hinata nodded. "None taken, it wouldn't surprise me either. To be honest, he's even talking of getting me removed from the ranks, but in a different way."

Naruto looked at her. "What do you mean?"

Hinata struggled to put it into words. "He didn't know I could hear him, or maybe he wanted me to overhear, but anyway, years ago he and some elders were having another one of their 'Hinata is useless' talks."

"Another?" Naruto repeated. "They do it more than once?"

The Hyuuga heiress nodded. "I've never counted how many, but yeah, it's a routine thing. This one particular talk revolved around the idea of pulling me out of the ninja ranks before I could possibly make a mistake. Meaning before I could do anything that could make anyone even start to think 'Hey, maybe the Hyuuga aren't perfect'."

"The Hyuga aren't perfect. No one is." The whiskered blonde stated.

"I know, but we're talking about people that want to believe they are, and take everything personally. Anyway, they seriously considered withdrawing me from the ranks entirely, but Otou-san had a different idea. He said I should stay in hopes that maybe I can actually improve with experience, and if I couldn't, then..." She shed a tear at the memory. "Then the enemy would kill me for them."

Naruto had never looked so appalled before in his life. "Wait, you mean they wanted you to die all so some people wouldn't think less of you?"

Hinata shook her head. "No, they don't care what people think about me. They're just convinced that people will look at me and say 'This girl is pathetic, therefore all Hyuuga are just as pathetic'. They wanted to kill me or lock me away to ensure that never happened. Obviously killing me seemed the favorable idea for a time, but Otou-san warned them that my death could not be kept secret from others outside the clan and if it could be traced back to them it would do even more harm to their reputation."

Naruto nodded in understanding. "So he decided to send you out and let someone else kill you instead, thus keeping them safe. And because of the missions we have to take, he wouldn't even have to arrange for anything, just let our work take its natural course." Hinata nodded. "These people are idiots. They don't know you at all. They underestimated you way too much."

Hinata smiled and she then reached up and gently stroked the blonde's face. "Just like they underestimate you."

For the third time that day their faces drew closer together.

"Naruto-kun..."

"Hinata-chan..."

It was then for the first time… their lips met.