Figuring It Out:
Hyuuga Hiashi is the first one to figure it out.
It is still dark when he ventures out into the clan's practice grounds, and there he is, Uzumaki Naruto, hidden in the trees and clearly spying on something with a most curious expression on his face.
Hiashi hesitates, and considers simply disregarding the boy's presence.
Regrettably, it is not possible.
By now, the whole world is aware of Uzumaki Naruto, and children invariably ask just who the blond man is with awe in their eyes.
And there is always a ready reply, from the fond, "That's Uzumaki Naruto, obnoxious idiot and village hero," to the more consistent, "The Uzumaki Naruto, our Hokage and saviour of the world."
In a way, both answers were tributes to an unusual character (one who cannot be refused or overlooked.)
So, Hiashi gathers chakra and appears before the boy, unsurprised to notice Naruto has already turned and drawn a weapon.
"Naruto-sama." greets Hiashi in a soft carrying voice and bows.
In response the boy looks stricken. Hiashi shifts his gaze as he notices a small figure startle visibly on the other side of the ground, frozen in a very familiar stance.
When he turns his attention back to Naruto, he finds nothing but an empty space.
Hiashi sighs tiredly.
For the rest of the week, he spends his afternoons writing politely worded letters to various noble lords courteously rejecting their requests for his daughter's hand in marriage.
Inuzuka Kiba figures it out when Naruto starts following her.
The first time it happens, Kiba ignores it. After the tenth, he starts paying attention.
Kiba thinks it's more than a little ironic. He isn't pleased nor is he surprised when Naruto fails to do anything else but actively tail them.
(For fuck's sake, the ANBU are ready to open investigation on them and Hinata can barely hold a kunai anymore and Shino is this close turning nuke-nin and murdering the Hokage.)
Perhaps, it is time to face the matter head-on (Kiba loves confrontation and one with Naruto is always entertaining.)
So, he corners the Hokage in a dark street and talks filth about his team-mate (Naruto is smart, but never shrewd.)
"Don't say another word, Kiba." Naruto warns, suddenly alert.
"Why not?" Kiba taunts, "It's the truth. A bitch in heat needs-"
In an instant, Kiba is pinned against the wall, and since this is what Kiba wants, he allows it. The Hokage's ANBU guards surround them, but neither Naruto nor Kiba pay them any mind.
"Don't talk," Naruto growls, "about her like that."
For a moment Kiba stares. Then he blares his fangs and growls back, "Why not, Naruto? What's she to you?"
Naruto tenses, blue eyes cold as ice; "Think of any answer you like," he says finally, "but if you or anyone speaks disrespectfully of her, I will cut out their tongues with blunt iron."
"Perhaps you should tell her that," Kiba murmurs and widens his eyes in fake innocence and doesn't stop the feral smile that bursts into his face.
Naruto narrows his gaze in horrible suspicion, and thinks that he has been tricked.
The next moment, the mutt is released and the Hokage is gone.
The ANBU linger, daring him to make trouble, but Kiba is content. As far as he is concerned, Naruto has lost the fight.
Hatake Kakashi figures it out because he is dragged into it.
Somehow, he is still 'Kakashi-sensei' to the Hokage, even after all these years and because of this; the council falsely believes he has some influence over the blond man.
Still, a mission is a mission, however silly, so he tracks down Naruto, having lunch with Sai, in this semi-crowded restaurant.
He strolls over with purpose and drawls loudly, "Do you like men or women, Naruto? Or both?"
A couple of people leave the restaurant in great speed, casting horrified looks at Kakashi and Naruto, as they pass. Naruto raises a hand to protest he has nothing to do with this madness, but as usual no one believes him.
Kakashi is not done yet, "When was the last time you had good sex-"
Naruto jumps up and grabs Kakashi's arm and teleports them away to his apartment. Once there he shoves his sensei into a chair and demands, "what do you want now, old man."
Kakashi wriggles comfortably and says, "I want you to start thinking about a family."
Naruto simply stares.
Kakashi sighs and prods, "Do you have a girl in mind? I'd be happy to be your mediator with her father."
"So it's a boy then. I don't mind. I'm open like that-"
"Will you stop?" Naruto almost shouts, "It's a girl. Definitely a girl. And I won't let you just barge into...and I'm not even sure yet... You know how the noble clans are-" Naruto stops abruptly and goes all wide-eyed.
They blink at each other. Naruto rapidly and Kakashi lazily.
"This is fine news," Kakashi says finally, eye crinkling, "I understand she's prime genetic stock, but you're not pretty bad, Naruto. Also, the Hyuuga clan owes me a lot of favours for a lot of illicit work..hmm just say the word, I'll arrange everything. It'll only take a murder or two...and a few blackmails."
Naruto tilts his head and looks at him in fond exasperation, so Kakashi tries a different tactic, "Imagine. You can have a wife then, and little blond children running around alongside Sasuke's own. And you can have a romp whenever you want. Shag like rabbits all day."
Kakashi sees the interest that flickers in Naruto's eyes and can barely resist the temptation to cock his head and make a crude joke of it.
He doesn't of course.
Because the thought of little Uzumaki brats running all over Konoha and harassing little Uchiha brats is... strangely very interesting.
Good god! Kakashi can't wait to be called Hatake-sama reverently and douse the brats with sugar and watch and laugh while their parents struggle to put them to bed. Woah! Maybe he can make them his apprentices and have them do all his reports!
The copy-ninja stands abruptly and proceeds to bodily throw his student and Hokage out of his own home.
"Kakashi-bastard-sensei!" Naruto yells, and picks himself up from the ground, "Senile old man!"
Kakashi stands at the window and looks down primly, "you're wasting time talking to me. Go, get down to business immediately." And just to make sure Naruto gets the message, he slams the window shut.
ANBU captain Sai figures it out when Naruto kills for her.
Naruto is bored, so the council convinces him to attend the wedding of, one of Fire Daimyo's numerable relatives in the royal palace. Hatake Kakashi, Hyuuga Hinata and Sai go along to control any collateral damage Naruto will invariably cause and try to prevent it from escalating into an international incident.
It's all routine, really.
The trip is expected to last four days, and with typical team-7 luck, the Hokage-sama's convoy runs into trouble on the second day itself. Momochi Zabuza's little brother greets them with enough back-up to conquer a small country.
Within the hour, there are dead bodies lying everywhere and the local medic is screaming. The air stinks of charred flesh and Naruto is still reeking with the kyubi's chakra. Amidst this chaos Hinata lays unmoving, turning paler by the second.
"Naruto." Sai calls out carefully (the enemy is dead, but the danger is not.)
The Hokage looks up, dazed. "I can't tell if she's dead." he whispers hoarsely, holding Hinata's hand in a death grip.
Sai glides over cautiously, gently takes her hand from Naruto and checks her pulse.
Kakashi-sensei looks up calmly, from where he is systematically cutting up the S-rank criminal's corpse. "Of course she's not dead, boy. It's chakra exhaustion."
There is immediate and acute relief. Naruto jerks and shifts aside. They kneel in silence and let the medic do his job.
Sai is still wary of the alarming chakra spinning around Naruto (Spinning. Burning. Hurting.)
"What is the matter?" He asks quietly.
There is no response for a while.
"She cannot die." Naruto whispers at last. The admittance is stark and tired.
Sai nods in understanding. Non-judging. (But he is startled beyond belief at the lurking helplessness in Naruto's words.)
The blond Hokage always states his wishes to save everybody deafeningly and comparing to the things Naruto has spoken in the past, this statement is nothing. Meek, even.
But the meaning of things has changed. Sai adjusts his position and thinks that Kiba-kun may be right about one thing...Women do have a way of complicating things.
"Hey Sai," Naruto says softly, "thank-you for keeping a cool head. I lost it back there."
"Anytime, Naruto." Sai replies, smiling.
"Do me a favour, Sai?"
"Let go of Hinata's hand."
Hyuuga Hanabi figures it out on her birthday.
She is sixteen today and as per the tradition; the Hyuuga clan celebrate it by throwing an elaborate fete. The whole village turns up to rejoice and toast to her good health.
Hanabi beams when the Hokage arrives, fashionably late and flanked by his team, looking pristine for once and his blueohsoblue eyes darting everywhere.
His eyes touch hers and Hanabi straightens at once and glides over to him.
"Happy birthday, Hyuuga-san." Naruto wishes her, smiling blindingly (an onslaught of colour, and Hanabi has to blink rapidly) and hands her a package.
"Naruto-sama," Hanabi replies, bowing immaculately, "I will always remain Hanabi-chan to you."
He smiles at her, blue eyes twinkling with a world of mischief.
Hanabi blinks again and scans the area. As usual, every member of her clan has their eyes trained on the golden man.
(For the effects of the Hokage are everywhere and the Hyuuga clan is the first to be hit by it. Uzumaki Naruto has reached out to them in his typical tornado fashion, shattering the high Hyuuga traditional walls and illuminating the darkness within the clan forever with his brightness.)
Although, she takes great pains to hide it from the world, Hanabi is quite fond of Naruto by now and lately just like the entire clan; she too is intent on working out the exact state of their Lady Hyuuga's interest in him.
A gaggle of children surround Naruto very soon and drag him away(Hanabi is appalled and happy that some of the kids are her pale-eyed cousins) He indulges all of them, playing their silly games and laughing, calling out every child by their correct names and ruffling their small heads, making them love him more and more.
Suddenly, Naruto stiffens, alert like a fox on a scent. It is a minute thing, but nothing can hide from the Hyuuga eye.
"Naruto-kun." The Lady Hyuuga arrives and greets the Hokage. She does not bow, just smiles that kind smile of her's that burns through Hanabi's defences easily, just like it burns through the rest of the clan's.
(Nothing can hide from the Hyuuga eye, it is true. But how did they remain blind to her power all these years.)
"Hinata," Naruto speaks softly, rubbing the back of his head, "You look...good. As usual."
Their eyes lock and many heads swivel to observe the Lady Hyuuga's reaction keenly. She holds herself with remarkable control, only turning a slight pink and lowers her eyes demurely in a way that makes Naruto swallow and begin to pale.
Hanabi has an epiphany then. It solidifies when Hatake-sama and her father exchange knowing looks. (If left to these old geezers, this could bloom into a beautiful love story in the next ten-fifteen years.
This chivalry has to stop.)
So, Hanabi clears her throat and says slyly, "You look...hungry, Naruto-sama. Perhaps you'd like something to eat?"
Naruto winces, "You're so suave, Hanabi-chan," he says, dragging his eyes away from her sister.
"Someone has to be...especially when you are not, Naruto-sama." Hanabi retorts playfully.
Hiashi-sama's lips thin, but Sakura-sempai grins and winks, so Hanabi knows it is safe to continue.
Naruto grins at her, but Hinata frowns severely, "Hanabi!" she admonishes gently, "you will not disrespect the Hokage! I hope you haven't forgotten how he saved our lives! How he saved the world!"
Naruto snaps his head to her in astonishment, and Hanabi delights at this turn of events.
"Hai hai, Oneesan," Hanabi consents gleefully, and says loud enough for all to hear, "But did Naruto-sama have to save the world wearing orange pants? That is so embarrassing!"
"Insolent brat!"Naruto mock growls and grins wider, and all the nobles and shinobi smile and nod and eye them fondly.
But Hanabi is not done yet, "...I wonder where I'll find an orange kimono for your bride on your wedding day."
(A bridesmaid's duty, and a necessity in this case, since they have no mother to stitch one for them.)
The effect is immediate. The Hyuugas all erupt into silent pandemonium. Hinata flushes scarlet and there is genuine danger of her fainting. Her father and Neji-niisan sputter at the horror of a bright orange kimono.
The silence is heavy and tense for all of five seconds, before the Hokage-sama throws his head back and laughs, "Hanabi-chan...My bride can wear whatever she desires. But, you my child, you will wear orange on my special day."
It is Hanabi's turn to sputter in horror. (It is skilfully done...a craftsman at work, our Naruto-sama.)
And before anyone else can make another entertaining comment, Naruto turns and flickers out of sight.
Uchiha Sasuke figures it out because Naruto is an ass who wants to discuss his insanity and some crap about feelings at the oddest of hours.
Sasuke is tired, after nearly two weeks of back-to-back assassinations and can barely get into bed before slipping off to exhausted slumber and preferably never waking up again.
That had been nearly an hour before, and it is three in the fucking morning now, and Uzumaki fucking Naruto bursts into his home, dressed only in boxers, shattering the wards with enough force to break down a mountain.
The front door goes flying and Sasuke blots upright, stringing out a violent flow of curses and nearly falling off his bed like he's a bloody genin (Or Naruto.)
"SASUUKE-TEME!" Naruto booms, at a precise octave that Sasuke is sure will be heard even in the freaking Sand, "get in HERE, right NOW!"
Sasuke tries to send an Ameterasu at the idiot's ass, but alas! He has no chakra to spare.
As it were, leaving a frantic (Bat-shit insane) Naruto to pace in his hall alone is never a good idea. So, Sasuke gets into a piece of clothing (like fuck he'd dress for dobe at three in the morning!) and slouches out of his bedroom to verbally castrate his best-friend and Hokage from hell.
Naruto freezes when he beholds the almost naked Sasuke, no doubt taking in his dark circles and face bruises, his unshaven chin and messy black hair standing up in every direction.
The earth tilts under Sasuke, so he hurriedly settles himself on the couch and covers his face with his pale hands.
"Okay." Says Naruto, kneeling in front of him, "Good. Ne Sasuke, I'm so glad you're back-look at me, teme- I need your help!...I think ...I am...that is to say...er, I'm feeling..oh crap! Sasuke I need your help."
Sasuke reaches out with one hand, the other still kneading his forehead, and pulls Naruto's hair. Hard.
Naruto bellows another war-cry and falls flat on his ass, massaging his head and glaring at Sasuke.
"It's three in the fucking morning, idiot!" Sasuke growls, "three in the fucking morning."
"I know that, alright? But but, fuck, Sasuke, "Naruto runs his hand through his blond head and looks lost," I can't fucking sleep."
Sasuke looks up, "if you don't start making sense, I'll shove a kunai up your-"
"She's distracting me!" Naruto almost yells.
Sasuke stands up then, "I'm going to sleep. Hyuuga Hinata hardly deserves a discussion at this hour."
Naruto widens his eyes and Sasuke sneers at the horrified pallor of Naruto's skin, "You think I didn't notice? You're as subtle as a fucking elephant."
"UWAH!" Naruto yelps and dives for Sasuke' knees, because he is shameless and a stubborn pig, "See! You know me inside out! You're my only hope, Sasuke! Help!"
"Let go, dobe!" Sasuke snarls and tries to kick, but it is hopeless. He sighs tiredly and realises if he wants to sleep anytime soon, he'd have to deal with this crap now.
"Fine!" he says and sits back, and waves a hand irritably at Naruto to continue.
Naruto straightens and nods. His face scrunches up horribly, as he opens and closes his mouth several times.
"Alright! Alright!" Naruto waves his arms manically, "Hinata's...She's shinning!"
Sasuke gives him a flat look, "She's shinning." He repeats.
"Yeah!" says Naruto, running his hand through his hair again, "yeah. She's like fucking distracting. Something flashing in the fucking landscape. I can't get her out of my fucking mind."
Sasuke is silent, so Naruto says in a fraught whisper, "what should I do? Should I talk to her or-or...I can't freaking talk to her! I don't know what to say!"
Naruto stares at Sasuke as if he's going to solve all his problems. Sasuke stares back, unimpressed. They sit and stare at each other quietly, two grown men dressed in their underwear.
When it is clear that Naruto is content to just sit there and stare at Sasuke dumbly like some sort of guppy fish, he snaps.
"What the fuck am I supposed to say?" Sasuke demands, "Do I look like the fucking Shodai? Am I leading the village into the new world, hn?"
Naruto shakes his head, "You look like a shocked porcupine from this angle."
"Then?" Sasuke snarls, "How the fuck would I know anything about wooing a girl?"
"But you're betrothed!" Naruto exclaims, "How did that happen?"
"Like fuck I know."
Naruto looks horror-struck, "you don't know?"
Sasuke sighs and mutters, "Not a damn thing."
"So-so what are you saying," Naruto is dazed, "you're saying I'm doomed?"
"Yup," Sasuke tilts his head and actually smirks, "you're royally fucked."
Hyuuga Hinata figures it out when the Hokage walks into her private quarters as if he belongs there.
She is standing on a plinth, in front of a grandiose mirror, frowning. Her handmaidens flutter about her, chatting animatedly and getting her hair into an orb and adjusting her pale lavender silk kimono, and coaxing her to choose it for the upcoming winter harvest festival.
The dress-maker is in raptures too and begs her to choose it as well. Hinata smiles at them graciously and is about to answer, when the door slides open and someone trips and falls through it.
Hinata's breath catches when she sees it is her Hokage. Her handmaidens shriek as if the end of the world is near and Naruto tries his best to calm them and explains that he has lost his way in the compound.
Uchiha-san's silhouette looms, "Silence." He orders from outside the door and he glares at the women, hushing them in an instant. They flee to the other side of the room and cluster around. (Hinata is amused again at his similarities with her Neji-niisan )
"Uchiha-san." Hinata greets, and turns shyly "...Naruto-kun. Neji-niisan's quarters are just around the corner. Further down this corridor."
Sasuke's head gives a fleeting bow and his silhouette disappears, but in front of her Naruto-kun freezes.
Suddenly, Hinata is very aware of herself, of her every fault, of her new kimono barely hanging to her shoulders, of her room, where no man, not even her own father has ever stepped foot (And now he stands there. And somehow it is not unfamiliar.)
"Hinata." Naruto whispers and her name in his mouth, is beautifully soft. Softer than the silk she wears (But his blue gaze burns, burns with a new fire and Hinata feels herself flush.)
Naruto is already near her, he is already circling her, taking in every inch, and Hinata stands petrified, unable to move or breath, feeling his gaze pierce through her without effort. (It doesn't pain her. There is power too, in feeling helpless like this.)
At last he completes his circle and comes to a stop in front of her, "will you walk with me?" he asks her. (His gaze is intense and demands her not to hide; your flaws are what make you beautifully real.)
Hinata's heart flies and she is alarmed when no words form, and no movement is allowed in her cage of silk.
Again, he rescues her, "not now." He says gently, "at the festival. I mean," he looks uncertain, and it is a strange look on him, "If you want to, that is-"
"I do." She hurries to assure him. Their eyes lock, and just like that, the world melts from her sphere of awareness.
He nods, looking hesitant. (There are things he cannot say; this will be the first and last time he has her half dressed and unable to move and still hasn't known how her lips taste.)
"Hinata-sama!" an urgent voice booms and they jump, "Is Naruto in there? Byakugan!" an instant silence and then, "NARUTO! You shameless pervert!" Neji-niisan roars, "Come out of my cousin's room right now."
"Oh fuck!" Naruto winces. He waves at Hinata and disappears in a puff of smoke.
Uzumaki Naruto figures it out on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon.
He is in the tower office for once and finalising several things for the harvest festival.
And in the middle of receiving the Kazekage and answering polite enquires woven among thinly veiled insults from the Sunagakure officials, it hits him.
He is in love with Hyuuga Hinata.
This moment has been creeping up to him for some months now, and Naruto is amused that the first time he realises this truth, he is surrounded by foreign shinobi who will jump into fighting stance if he even moves too quickly.
The truth of the matter is so incredible and so ordinary, and so right, that Naruto is stunned and thinks that maybe his brain has exploded and dribbled out of his ears in thick puddles.
But he cannot bring himself to care, right now.
Because, he is in love with Hyuuga Hinata.
"Hokage-sama." Temari calls, eyeing him funnily.
"Oi blondie!" Kankuro waves his hand in front of Naruto's face, "have you finally lost it?"
Naruto blinks, "yes." He says in a daze, and turns to Gaara, "I am in love."
The Sunagakure troops gather around their Kazakage protectively, and give Naruto looks full of dark suspicion.
Gaara sighs and nods and waves his hand and Naruto jumps out of the window in the next instant.
He finds her in the gala grounds, overseeing the decorations. A dozen or so chunin gather around her, holding huge paper sun-flowers and listen to her instructions carefully. Kakashi-sensei and other jounin are lazing about too, no doubt skipping work and getting drunk again.
Sasuke is standing beside her, glowering, but also holding a yellow flower and bright decorations and looking ridiculous because of it.
"Hinata." Naruto says softly, and everybody turns and bows at him.
Naruto looks at her. Really looks. (Dimly he is aware of Sasuke chasing off the chunin and stepping back with a knowing perceptive glance.)
"Naruto-kun." Hinata greets in confusion and steps forward with a slight frown, "is something the matter."
"No," he tells her," I mean not yet," he runs his hand through his blond head, "I have a favour to ask of you."
She looks at him in surprise, "whatever it is. I say yes."
Naruto softens his eyes, "you agreed to walk with me at the festival tomorrow, correct?"
"Yes," she is confused again.
"Will you walk with me the day after too?"
She looks at him as though afraid for his sanity, but answers evenly, "yes. I will."
Naruto takes a step closer, trembling, his eyes intense and clear, and whispers, "how about the rest of my life?"
Hinata's eyes widen and colour spreads rapidly over her face and Naruto is amazed at how much he wants to touch it.
He holds out his hand, and tilts his head in silent question (I want you, he says without saying. I hope you want me too.)
Her little hand is in him before he can blink and he gathers her carefully, not wishing to break her. (This is absurd, as she is one of the strongest people he knows.)
She comes alive in his arms.
"Can I kiss you?" Naruto demands.
She blushes sweetly and nods, standing on tip-toes to meet his lips half way.
The crowd erupts into cheers. The girls' sequel and the men roll their eyes and smile at him fondly.
But Naruto isn't aware of anything expect his thundering heart, his racing blood and her lips, warm and soft and shy beneath his. He is at peace with the world because of this girl.
This delicate girl, who has lived for him, who has died for him and who has always seen him clearly even when he was invisible, a nobody.
He straightens and pulls her close, and she comes to him freely, and he thinks he can be the king of the world now.
Later, they watch the sun go down from his apartment, "I'm yours." He whispers in her ear, and she nods, hiding her face in his chest.
The world is peaceful. It is a good day for figuring things out.
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