ahahaha remember those other stories LOL NOPE RANDOM ONE-SHOT 4 U
good idea/awkward execution? blah. i'll let you be the judge of that. onward, gentle readers.
I'm Your Biggest Fan
He narrowed his blue eyes, careful to observe the terrain ahead of him before moving stealthily into the shadow. Surely he would be well-hidden here; the enemy would not have been able to trace him this far. Perspiration slid down his neck but he didn't notice, too preoccupied with avoiding a misstep that would give him away.
"Kyaa! Naruto-kuuuuuun! Where did you go?"
The blonde in the alleyway froze. The voice had been too close for comfort. Slowly he inched further into the safe darkness of the sidestreet, careful not to make a sound.
"Keiko-chan! Did you see where he went?"
"No luck! He managed to slip away before I could declare my undying love!"
The chattering pair walked away, and Naruto breathed a sigh of relief.
Who knew fangirls could be so much trouble?
All those years in the Academy spent envying Sasuke's popularity were laughable now. Yes, it had certainly stroked his ego at first, the way girls had thrown themselves at him. He had even taken a couple out on dates. Then it had gotten ridiculous. Girls (and guys) following him, girls (and guys) waiting to ambush him at Ichiraku, underwear being thrown at him in the street...
He had gone to his rival for help. Sasuke was now widely reviled and the former avenger liked it that way. When Naruto had explained the situation, Sasuke just shook his head and handed him a small black book that said 'Journal' on the front cover. It hadn't been much help.
Naruto opened to a random page. He recognized the date as being during their second year of the Academy.
They have taken the foyer and the living room. I have barred the bedroom door but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes... squeals, squeals in the hallway. I cannot get out. A shadow lurks in the dark. I cannot get out... they are coming.
"What the hell? There's nothing written after this!"
Sasuke nodded sagely. "I gave up. You should too. Or just betray the village. It's easier that way."
Naruto groaned. "There's got to be a better way!"
Unless he was hiding under a Transformation jutsu, Naruto's attempts to navigate the village without being molested were rare. Most people were sane, and usually gave him a place to hide if there was an incoming fangirl attack. But getting to Hokage Tower - halfway across the village from his apartment and his most frequent destination besides Ichiraku - was like planning an infiltration.
Shadow clones were useless. If he used one, he just got the memories anyway. One of his greatest trump cards rendered unusable and the Rasengan was obviously not an option. Even his transformation was limited; all the people he knew best how to imitate were his friends, and it had gotten to the point where the fangirls stalked all of them for information on his whereabouts as well.
After talking to Sasuke, he had visited with his other guy friends to ask for help.
Shikamaru, who was currently juggling the attentions of Temari, Ino, and a codebreaker named Shiho, told Naruto that he obviously hadn't figured it out yet considering his own problems. Naruto thought that it was rather a different situation: his adoring masses of fangirls really didn't know him, while the three women vying for Shikamaru's attention had all known him for a long time, or worked with him closely.
It was kind of a dick move on his part to leave the three of them in the lurch while he made up his mind, and Naruto chastised himself on seeking advice from such a person. Shikamaru was a good friend, but was inconsiderate when it came to women. And Naruto didn't want to be mean to anybody - he just wanted to walk through Konoha unmolested.
Kiba was out on a mission; Shino was engaged to a girl from another bug-using clan, a political arrangement. Kakashi was no help either: he just complained about how Naruto's youth was wasted on him. Personally, Naruto thought that he was just channeling Jiraiya's pervertedness.
Chouji wasn't much help either. He bashfully admitted that he was unused to much female attention, and anyway he was involved right now with a very nice girl who worked at Yakiniku Q. Actually, she had come up to them while they were talking, and the look of tenderness they shared compelled the blonde to look away. They obviously liked each other very much. Naruto longed for the days when he was less noticed by women, and when he only had the attention of one in particular...
But Hinata had made how she felt very clear. It was his fault, really; it had taken him nearly a year to respond to her confession. He should've told her something, anything before so much time had passed. His thoughts spiralled depressingly, and he hardly paid attention to the various advances of his adoring fans.
His wandering feet deposited him outside Iruka's door, and Naruto realized that this was just the thing he needed.
"Naruto!" said his old sensei happily. "It's been awhile since I - is something wrong?"
The blonde nodded miserably.
"Come in, we can talk."
Iruka had poured the two of them some sake, and let Naruto sip for a few minutes before speaking up.
"So... what's up?"
"Fangirls are following me around everywhere! It's the worst! I don't want to be mean like Sasuke was, but I can't go anywhere without being harassed!" Naruto said, brushing away his thoughts of Hinata for the moment. Iruka seemed to notice that he wasn't telling the whole truth, but to Naruto's relief he didn't bring it up.
"Well, have you tried picking one girl and sticking with her? If they think that you're involved, they will probably leave you alone. At least more of them will," reasoned Iruka.
"I did date a couple of girls when it first started. But it made me realize that none of them really care about knowing me," said Naruto, looking down at the floorboards. "They just want to be with a famous hero."
It had been a sobering realization. When he was younger, all he had wanted was acknowledgement - no matter what kind. He would've killed for the kind of attention that Sasuke received on a daily basis. But as he had gotten older, Naruto had realized that the admiration the fangirls showed to him was superficial. And as soon as they saw how messily he ate his ramen, they would probably run screaming in the other direction.
"It's too bad you rejected Hinata-chan," said Iruka with a sigh. "She really has cared about you since the beginning."
The words rang in Naruto's head, painfully loud. He couldn't take it. He leapt to his feet and the sake dish crashed to the floor, shattering.
"I didn't," he said in a low, raw voice. "She, she told me - that she didn't love me anymore!"
There was a long moment of silence while Iruka stared at him. "What? But - but - that day, she looked so upset after you two had talked, and you looked so guilty... everybody just thought -"
"Well they thought wrong!" Naruto snarled before he sat down and put his head in his hands.
"Naruto... I had no idea that Hinata's feelings were so... mutual."
"Her old feelings," he replied bitterly. "And they weren't! I wasn't in love with her... but I wanted to - I wanted to try. With her."
Nobody had ever said those three words to him before or since. He couldn't say that he was in love with Hinata, because he hadn't been. But knowing how had felt for him created this warmth within his chest whenever he thought of her. When he had been fighting the last vestiges of Akatsuki's supporters, he had thought of her and thought of what their first date was going to be like. Hard nights became easier knowing that somebody loved him.
Then he had come home.
"Naruto-kun, there's no need to try and spare my feelings. While I will always think of you with warm admiration and friendship, I no longer harbor r-romantic feelings for you."
Stunned and humiliated, he had quickly left her alone. He had taken up a lot of missions, diplomatic and those more run-of-the-mill, to avoid seeing her.
"Why does everybody think I turned her down?"
Iruka sighed. "Well, she wasn't seen in public for weeks after unless for work. I'd heard she looked really down, maybe even that she had been crying - there was so much gossip about you two. Plus, everyone thinks that you're in love with Sakura."
Naruto snorted at that. While Sakura would always have a place in his heart, he realized that she had never had mutual romantic feelings for him and never would; and when she had tried to use his feelings to her advantage with her fake confession of love, he realized he could never trust her with his heart. He was too guarded and had experienced too much heartache in one lifetime to trust her in that way after what she had done.
"Look, I have an idea. I know that you've been experiencing some fangirl trouble, but there's somebody else with a similar problem who might be able to help," Iruka said, clearly trying to draw Naruto out of his dark state of mind.
"Oh yeah? Who could that be?"
Apparently, he wasn't the only one who had experienced a surge of popularity after the war.
Hinata had some fans of her own.
According to Iruka-sensei, they were smaller in number than this, but just as persistent and substanceless in their flirtation. She had developed a sort of guard rotation - and between Kiba, Shino, Neji, and occasionally Shikamaru and Chouji (whom she had become close to after the birth of Kurenai's son), she almost always had somebody with her to fend her attackers - er, fanboys off.
But Thursday mornings she was unprotected. Thursday mornings were Kiba's shift to clean out the Inuzuka kennels, Shino's window of opportunity to see his fiancee (her parents were very strict), and Neji's obligation to spar with Lee. Chouji was wrapped up with clan duties, and Shikamaru worked as a codebreaker at the behest of the Hokage.
So, he reasoned, she must have some sort of technique down. Something to prevent fanboy assault. He would follow her when she had no guard, and find out what this technique was. Easy! Despite from being a bit creepy and stalkerish, it was a workable plan. Plus, he could practice his stealth skills - a difficult feat around a Hyuuga. (He ignored the little voice in his head that told him he just wanted to avoid her.)
Hinata did indeed have a following, but it worked a bit differently. Instead of the fangirls herds that followed him around in groups of two or three, one guy would come up to Hinata while she was out running her errands. But as soon as they would get close, a strange look would come into their eye, and they would walk away as if they had never meant to be there in the first place.
Clearly a genjutsu. Unsurprising, considering her former sensei. However, genjutsu were Naruto's weakest point. If he wanted the information, he would have to...talk to her.
Well, maybe he could pick up on it if he continued to observe...
So he followed her around the entire morning. It did make him feel like a weirdo and - even though his intent wasn't perverted in nature - a bit like Jiraiya. But he quickly forgot his awkwardness and just watched her. She was easy on the eyes - and not just in the way of being beautiful. Her kindness toward people she met, how she went out of her way to say hello to somebody that she knew, no matter who they were. Watching her reminded him of what he couldn't have, and why her rejection had hurt so much.
It was nearing noon, and soon Shino would meet up with her for lunch. Naruto would have to reveal himself and ask for her secret Fanboy Repellant Technique. But just was he was about to step out of the shadows and greet her, somebody beat him to the punch.
He was good-looking. Tall, with a carefully-tousled mop of dark brown hair, a squared jaw and hazel eyes. His clothes were clearly expensive, but not showy, and he walked with excellent posture.
And he broke right through her genjutsu.
"O-oh! Yoshito-san. I didn't notice you there."
Naruto noticed the catch in her voice and identified disappointment. Take that, Yoshito. The nicest person in Konoha doesn't actually want to see you.
"Hello. You might be wondering how I broke through your clever illusion - and how I knew of its existence in the first place, Hinata-san. You see, I had the repeated memory of coming to talk to you, but no recollection of the actual conversation, and so I hired a shinobi to discover the source of my problem, and subsequently found a solution."
He pulled up the sleeve of his robe, and revealed a bracelet that Naruto knew was a genjutsu-dispelling tag that would break down most minor illusions. An expensive investment, since the charm itself had to be imbued with powerful genjutsu itself.
"I...I hope I haven't offended you, Yoshito-san, but I have been receiving an inordinate amount of unwanted attention as I try to go about my day to day tasks. It's quite distracting, and I assure you, I apply such a genjutsu to all of my, um... fans, and not you in particular."
"One as beautiful as yourself is likely to endure such attentions," Yoshito said with a flirty smile while Hinata blushed. Naruto scowled, unseen.
"U-um, th-thank you. But I do have many things I need to take care of, so, if you'll excuse me -"
She tried to walk around him, but he grabbed her forearm tightly. Naruto knew she could get away if she wanted to, but instead she didn't move. Perhaps she thought that if she let him say his piece, she could leave.
Hinata's look of confusion was mirrored by her hidden watcher. "I beg your pardon?"
"I know that you're still in love with Uzumaki Naruto."
Naruto stopped breathing. Yoshito's smile now had a cruel undertone and Hinata's face lowered, hidden behind a curtain of dark hair.
"I know that your father threatened to do anything in his power to stop him from becoming the Hokage if you got involved with him. And I also know... that your clan has been pressuring you to find a good suitor. I can assure you that I am a very good match."
Hinata raised her head, and Naruto half-expected to see tears, or the typical downcast expression of the younger, less-confident Hinata. But that wasn't what he saw.
Her face was composed and her eyes steely. She threw her shoulders back and her chest forward, and stood tall in the face of Yoshito's arrogance.
"You talk of being a good match for me but you know nothing about me. Clearly your sources are outdated, or else you would have known that I am not the kind of person you can manipulate or trample on - at least, not anymore. It is true that my clan is pressuring me to settle down with a man, but as a ninja and a woman of Konohagakure, I have the final say over who I will become involved with. Wealth does not move me, but a good heart will. All you have done is put to rest your case for my hand with such finality that nothing could ever induce me to consider you a viable partner in my life."
Naruto was stunned. He would've just punched the guy in the face, but her way seemed to burn him a lot more. His fists were clenched and his face was bright red with rage and embarrassment.
The fuming ex-fanboy stormed away while Hinata looked on calmly. Naruto silently cheered her and was about to make himself known when her composure crumpled. She quickly rushed into the alleyway where he had hidden himself and, just a scant few feet away from him, slid down the wall of the building, crying.
It was the saddest crying that Naruto had ever seen. Her face was buried in her hands and she choked back her sobs and her whole body shuddered, like she was used to making her pain as quiet as possible. His feet moved without his conscious permission.
"Don't cry. Not about him."
Hinata stared up at him with a miserable expression that turned into a face of pure mortification when she saw who it was. Slowly he kneeled so that he was on her level.
"I just...want to be here for you, right now."
He smiled softly at her. Hinata hesitantly reached for him, silent tears still running down her face...
"Naruto-kun? Naruto-kun, is that your voice I hear?!" The totally not-dulcet tones of Urameshi Keiko, head of the Konoha branch of the Official Uzumaki Naruto Fanclub - yes, they were international - echoed into the alley and broke the peace between the two friends.
Now? Nowof all times they found him?
"Be completely still," Hinata hissed, her tears forgotten, leaning forward to peer beyond his shoulder and assess the situation. Now they were nearly cheek to cheek; Naruto couldn't help but notice how pretty her hair was, and how nice she smelled...
Hinata quietly cast a genjutsu, and as soon as Keiko and two of her ever-present friends came into the alley, a dazed look entered their eyes as they declared it devoid of Naruto-kun's presence and left.
The fangirls were gone, but the two shinobi were still nearly touching. Naruto exhaled deeply, stirring her hair and bringing that lovely flush to her cheeks. She didn't seem to be near tears anymore.
"So I guess you heard all of that earlier," she said in a hoarse whisper. He nodded.
"Is it true?"
Are you still in love with me?"Did your father really say that?"
Though she was still partially hidden by her hair, the edge of her smile was bitter. "Yes. He told me if I had anything to do with you that he would make sure you never accomplished your dream."
"So you avoided me. And you told me - you told me that you didn't -"
Hinata leaned back so she could look him in the eye, and grasped his hands tightly with her own.
"I couldn't be around you. It hurt me to ignore you... but the thought of me being the cause of your failure? Me, holding you back from what you had always wanted, and what you are so close to accomplishing?" A few stray tears slipped out from her eyes but she didn't look away from him.
"It was more than I could bear. It killed me to lie to you, and to myself. But anything was better than the alternative."
Naruto looked at her. He really looked at her, and he saw someone who was far too good for the likes of him. A girl - no, a woman. A woman who had died for him, who was the first person to say the words 'I love you' to him, and who was protecting him even now at the expense of her own happiness. A woman who could stand on her own two feet in the face of people who might try to put her down. She was a person truly worthy of his or anybody's respect and admiration.
He wanted her in his life.
"Let me take you out. Like, on a date."
Her bottom lip wobbled precariously and tears pooled in her eyes again. Hinata threw her arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder. He returned the embrace without a thought.
"Don't say things like that," she choked out. "It hurts..."
"I don't care what your father says," he murmured, running his hands down the silk of her hair. "You were the first person to believe in me. You were the first person to love me. You saw something in me when everybody else thought I was a worthless loser. That means more to me than a title ever could."
"But nothing," he said, tightening his embrace a little bit. "I'll protect this village anyway that I can. I'm not going to stop just because I can't be Hokage - and I'm not going to let one of my precious people suffer just for my own gain."
Hinata finally pulled away from their hug, though she still laced her fingers with his. Her gentle, sincere smile nearly struck him dumb - and what she said next brought a silly grin to his face.
"I would love to go out on a date with you. And just so we're clear... I love you."
If you review, I promise to make empty resolutions about how I'm going to update all my stories frequently and regularly.
PS. Did you like my LOTR reference?
PPS. Edit with a funny ending later maybe?
PPPS. Ugh gross this is so romantic and sweet at the end. I'm definitely going to edit this later.