summary: here in town, you can tell he's been down for a while, but oh, it's so beautiful when he smiles.
dedication: to sweet serenades & gushy feelings.
notes: i only have one piece of advice— don't expect everything to happen right away. people are in pain and they have better things to do than worry about love right now. and yeah, it's going to be a really major thing (i really am not one of those people who can read, nonetheless write, a pairing fic that doesn't have any actual pairing until 20 chapters in) but there's going to be lots of character development & plot in between. so, tldr: while the major pairing is naruhina, there will be other pairings & lots of other character developments.

chapter one:
been tryin' hard not to get in trouble, but i've got a war on my mind

The war was over.

Well, in a literal sense, it was over. There was no more fighting, each shinobi had returned to their respective villages, replaced their hitai-ite, gone back to what they were doing before. Everything was supposed to be normal.

But nobody knew what "normal" was anymore, especially not in Konoha. The village, still in a state of rebuild, held an air of exhaustion as if it seeped into its people from the dirt itself. Most of the shinobi work consisted of rebuilding and guard duty around the premises of the village, because although everyone had joined together for the war, they did not feel safe.

This was where the war was not over — everyone was assaulted by the feelings of paranoia, distrust, and fear. Ninjas who had gone to the front line, who had watched people die, who had almost died, were especially affected. The nightmares of tragedy plagued them, and already over one hundred ninjas were out of commission due to stress. Tsunade had been working with them, with everyone, as best she could, but she was only one person, and there was no easy cure for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Most of them kept themselves occupied; they did what they had to, and a lot of times, that was work, work, and work. They worked day and night to forget the loss and the pain and the way they didn't quite care about living anymore.

Ino, Shikamaru, and Choji practically breathed as one entity. One was never without the other two, as their only lifelines. The three friends cried together, grieved together, and simply existed together.

Gai and Lee stuck as close as they could to each other with their same, bright enthusiasm. But anyone could see how fake the smile was that they plastered on each day, their hearts silently screaming in agony. Tenten had been cooped up in her tiny apartment for weeks, unable to accept and unable to move on. Gai and Lee visited her every day, to make her eat, make her drink, and try to at least get her out of bed though to no avail.

Kiba and Shino and Hinata, though working together during the day as part of the reconstruction crew and occasionally to sniff out petty thieves, spent a lot of time with their family. The Inuzuka's had already been a close-knit clan, but had grown ever closer with the tragedy that had devastated most of the village. The Aburame's, though not an overly emotional clan, had slowly begun to grow closer, valuing their time spent together. Kurenai, who was unable to work to take care of her newly born son, had her time monopolized by the only living memory of Asuma. And the Hyuuga's became closer through the process of grieving, slowly growing less stiff. Their pain became the thread that weaved together the space between the Main family and the Branch family.

When a pair of twins was born that fall, it was decided that neither of them would be marked with the Caged Bird Seal.

Team Kakashi, and all six members of it spent their time engulfed in each other. For the original Team Seven, with Sasuke back (willingly) in the village, they had a lot of talking to do, about everything and nothing. Sai and Yamato were mostly along for the ride, happy to be distracted from the tempest of agony that suffocated everyone throughout the village.

Everyone mourned, and everyone cried daily. It was a fact that could not be escaped— whether it was in the dead of night as they stared at ceiling, or in the middle of the day, overtaken by violent flashbacks.

Sorrow was inescapable in Konoha, and everyone simply tried their hardest to live through it.

The first order of business once the shinobi had come back to Konoha was to hold a mass funeral for those who had died in combat. While large in number, it was even larger in pain.

Neji's death had taken the hardest toll on Hinata, because although his dying words had been very clear, it took all of her courage to bow at Team Gai's feet to tell them that he had died protecting her. She still thinks that Tenten hates her for it, but after the funeral, the only people that had seen the brunette were Lee and Gai.

Neji's death had not been her fault, her father had told her specifically, that Neji had known what he was getting into just as much as she did. Her family had been surprisingly comforting about it all, reassuring her that Neji's death was righteous and courageous, and she was just as courageous for being prepared to die for the man who would save the world.

Ah, yes, the man who saved the shinobi world. Her relationship with Naruto was just as confusing as everything else was in her life. On the way back to Konoha, they had talked briefly, about as much as they could.

He said he needed time to sort out his feelings, assuring her that he did, in fact, like her, but everything was far too confusing and stressful and he didn't know if he could give her the attention she deserved at the moment. With a sidelong glance at his teammates, he had given her a look that pleaded her to understand.

She had, with a sad smile and a squeeze of his hand, because there were things she had to sort out, too. And, with a laugh, "I've waited this long, Naruto-kun, I think I can wait a little longer."

It had been one month since they had come back, and every time they passed each other on their way to their assignments they smiled pleasantly, and almost longingly, at each other, with an almost imperceptible brush of fingertips. When they could, when she wasn't occupied with her father and her sister, and he wasn't sorting things out with Sasuke, they would sit under the lamplight and just talk.

And although her love for her family had grown, he had his best friend back, and neither of them were quite as lonely as they were before, these were their favorite times. Both of them could talk and talk and talk, and the other would listen with avidness and patience.

Naruto loves the way she would get so enveloped into his stories, with a small, genuine smile that he wasn't even sure that she was aware of. Hinata loves the way that he trusted her, letting her into some of his darkest moments that he told, with a whisper and tears. But most of all, they both loved the way their hands linked together as they talked, an unspoken and natural movement.

Tonight happens to be one of those nights, because as she exits what is currently deemed as the Hyuuga Compound (which is really just the rubble from their old district, in the process of rebuilding), he is waiting for her just outside the building. He smiles warmly and holds his hand out to her.

"Want to go to dinner with me?"

This was different, she thought, with a blink of her eyes. He was usually preoccupied this time of day — it was only seven thirty, barely past sunset — and well, he had never asked her out to somewhere before. It was usually by pure serendipity that they came across each other to talk.

But with a graceful smile, she threads her fingers through his and says, "Of course, Naruto-kun."

She still blushes as she feels their fingers interlock, his warm pulse against her own. He leads her to, well, she's not quite sure where and she doesn't particularly mind, and fills the silence with an update on Sasuke.

It was mostly legal issues — no one outside of their old genin group really particularly liked him, and even that was debatable. Several of the Kages want his head. It was all Tsunade could do to just stop them from coming and taking him themselves, nonetheless try to convince them to let him live.

"It's going to take a lot of work to keep him here," Naruto says, adopting a solemn tone. "On Sasuke's part, and on all of Team Kakashi, you know? We just…we finally have him home. We don't want to lose him again."

Hinata squeezes his hand, and looks up at him with kind eyes. "You won't. I believe in you — I believe in all of you."

He smiles down at her, and although it is pained from the pure grief he holds inside himself, it's bright and beautiful, just as he always was. Hinata was glad she was allowed to see inside of him like she was — because while he was like the sun in nature, the moon always rose and night would come. When to others, he would turn on a light and put on a mask to hide his pain, for her he would sit in pure moonbeams and confess his greatest sorrows.

"Thanks, Hinata-chan."

They sit in a small booth in the back of the only standing restaurant in Konoha, which had been one of the first buildings that had been rebuilt, mostly because it was still half-standing and that it was one of the few luxuries they allowed themselves to have. They talk pleasantly among the quiet ambience of the restaurant, exchanging smiles and small brushes of feet and fingertips.

"How's your family?" he asks with a sip of tea.

She smiles. "We're…surviving, I guess. Neji's death really — it really, um, took a toll on us. But everything's actually getting a lot better, from a political standpoint within the clan. I think we finally managed to bridge the gap between families. There was a pair of twins that were born and my father announced that neither child would be sealed." She unabashedly lets a tear fall down her cheek, with a choking smile. "It's what Neji would have fought for."

Hinata wipes the tear away with the heel of her palm, and he holds her hand in his warm one. She smiles at him, a little truer this time, grateful for his support and simply, his presence.

They both wish they could talk about less serious topics, and simply dance upon light, easy discussions, but there were none. There wasn't really anything that wasn't serious — and even if there were, they would be bad ninja and probably bad friends if they didn't talk about them with each other.

She, at the very least, was grateful that they had grown closer, even if as just friends. He meant a lot to her and if he still needed time to figure things out, that was fine. There were a lot of things to be figured out, and who was she to complain? She would continue to cherish the time they spent together, because she loved him for simply him, and every moment they spent together she got to know more of that.

Their food arrives, two bowls of nikujaga, and they take their first couple minutes to eat in comfortable silence, listening to the sounds that blossom around the room instead.

Naruto is halfway done with his bowl when he sets his spoon down and looks her straight in the eye. "I have to go on a mission out of the village to convince the Kages not to kill Sasuke."

She purses her lips and nods. She had been expecting this, on some level with the topic he had brought up earlier, just not quite this soon.

"How long will you be out of the village?" she asks with a soft voice.

He sighs, and runs his hands through his hair. "I don't know yet, but Tsunade is thinking two months. Three at the most. One at the least."

Hinata averts her eyes to stare into her bowl, suddenly unable to look him in the eye. She hates it when she lets herself feel a tiny blossom of inadequacy, because a large part of her is afraid he's going to tell her that he can't possibly consider any kind of relationship with her, ever. But a larger part tells her to stop shrinking back into her old shell, and look him in the eye.

She does, but mostly as a reflexive action to the way he suddenly grabs her hand. His eyes burn with intensity and his hand is firm around hers.

"When I come back, I want to talk about us, Hinata-chan," he says, and her heart stops.

And for a moment, she is scared, she is shaking, and she doesn't want this kind of heartbreak in a world of already too much pain, but then he smiles like the sun and her world stops to simply admire him. No matter how far away, whether it was summer or winter, she couldn't help but feel enveloped in his warmth and reassured by the way her world revolved to simply see him in all of his beauty. So she smiles like moonbeams and laces their fingers together.


She is not so scared anymore.

ending notes: um, so this style is really, really different from what i usually write. i usually do not write narrative pieces like this, nor do they usually have this serious a tone. but i, personally, enjoyed writing this so please, let me know what you guys think & drop a review! thanks for reading!