"To Protect"

"Hey," Sasuke greeted nonchalantly as though him being there and eating one of Naruto's cup ramen was perfectly normal. He didn't pay much attention to Hinata, only looking back down to finish his last few bites.

Hinata gave two slow blinks, unsure what to make of the situation. She looked around, making sure she was in her home. She was. "G-Good morning..?" her voice drew out into silence. Despite the fact that this was her home and he was the one trespassing, she couldn't help but feel extremely out of place. Awkwardly, she took a seat on the opposite side of him. Her eyes traced over behind him, seeing the flowers he had gotten her. "Thank you for the flowers. They're really nice," she spoke quietly. At first, she wasn't sure if he had heard her because of his slow reaction.

Sasuke glanced up; his intimidating eyes met her innocent ones, causing her to flinch from the unexpected stare. He grabbed a napkin, gently patting around his mouth. "I hate ramen," he randomly informed.

Hinata shrank at the strange information. "I-I'm sorry…" she apologized, though she felt a little strange saying it because there was nothing for her to be sorry for. Her attention lingered on the empty bowl of what once was ramen.

"I only ate it to spite Naruto," he commented as he could see she was wondering why he'd eat it if he hated it.

A simple 'oh' left her. "That's not nice," she said, secretly hoping they'd get along in the future. "Na-Naruto-kun really wants to be your friend. So…" Her hands fisted a handful of her clothing as she wondered whether it was wise or not to talk back to the Uchiha. She looked up in surprise when she heard a low chuckle erupting in the air.

Sasuke shook his head, thinking Hinata was so naively kind. He couldn't handle women who were so innocent. It made him feel as though he'd have to tread lightly in fear of stepping on her feelings over the littlest things. "You take things too seriously." He watched in amusement, seeing a guilty shade of pink plaster on her cheeks.

Hinata pushed her chair back, rising from her seat and rummaged through the fridge, forgetting about the Uchiha. He watched her carefully from the corner of his eyes, wondering what she was up to. She had misunderstood him. Hinata had assumed he wasn't a bad guy, but this… he just liked teasing her, but she wasn't going to tolerate it. "Please cut these vegetables," she set down a plate of broccoli, carrots, and onions in front of him.

Sasuke's brow curved upwards as though he were asking her if she was serious. "No," he bluntly told outright. They stared at each other for a good ten seconds as though daring the other to make a move.

Hinata struggled to put on her meanest face, though she failed miserably. If she was going to keep her promise to Naruto, she was going to have to be firm with Sasuke and show him who was boss. She puffed her face and at the same time, she was conflicted with herself as she wanted to apologize to Sasuke for being a pain.

She stared at him, and only now did she really study his features. Hinata hadn't been one to really observe others, only Naruto. She never noticed why girls were always ogling over Sasuke, but now she could sort of understand why. His eyes were dark and mysterious, sort of alluring. His skin was fair, but not as much as hers, and it was smooth. His nose was slender and long and his lips thin. He was very handsome. However, his looks were definitely second best to Naruto's, she thought in all honesty.

At the same time, Sasuke too was studying her. Her appearance was everything he'd expect from the noble Hyuga family. White skin, long dark hair, and white orbs that held the bloodline limit Byakugan.

After a brief moment of confrontation, Hinata had decided to give up, seeing as he was too stubborn for her. She didn't have all day to pick a fight with him. Her teammates were going to get hungry.

Sasuke could see that disappointment was written all over her face. Her brows knitted towards each other and her hands were fidgeting. He twitched. "Stop that. It's annoying," he told, seeing her eyes uplift with unexpectancy at his rude comment. He grabbed the knife, scaring Hinata a little, but she relaxed as he began slicing the vegetables.

Her lips tugged upward as she seemed pleased. "Thank you," she said, walking over to the stove to cook the meat.

Sasuke glared at the cutting board, wondering how babysitting a Hyuga suddenly turned him into a cooking apprentice. Even so, it wasn't too bad. Usually, he'd be sitting at home and simply do nothing. Or sometimes he'd take a long walk or train. However, this - cooking - it was quite refreshing for a change.

Hinata carried in her arms three lunch boxes and a bag of treats. Her usual smile graced her lips as she strolled across town to get to the training grounds where her teammates were at. The busy streets of Konoha were always nice to blend in, she felt. Being the heiress of the noble Hyuga clan always made her stand out, but standing in the crowd made her feel quite… normal. It was nice.

She stopped in her tracks, feeling a few shoulders bump past her as she caused traffic in the flowing movement of people. "Why are you walking so far behind me?" she asked, looking over her shoulder and seeing the Uchiha minding his business like he didn't know her. Her face lit up, like she was expecting something, when he walked towards her. However, a look of dejection came over when he went past her. Am I a bother? she wondered.

It was most likely true. Who wanted to babysit a grown woman? She sulked, following not too far behind Sasuke.

"Hey, isn't that Uchiha Sasuke?"

"Yeah, it is… It's always rare to see him out in the open like this."

"Really? Well I'd prefer it if he never showed his face at all. Traitor…"

Hinata's face burned as she finally heard the gossipping. She followed the voices, seeing that they were coming from… everyone. Their eyes were glued to the man in front of her with hate and rejection. They looked at him the same way they looked at Naruto so long ago. There was an ache in her… She knew Sasuke heard; the villagers didn't even try to be discreet about their dislike for him. they wanted him to know - they hoped he was suffering.

Ah… she thought, so that's why he isn't walking beside me. He didn't want her to get mixed up in his business.

And all this stirred something inside of her. "Sasuke-kun," she grabbed his wrist, stopping him and everyone else. The talking stopped.

Sasuke turned around, almost hesitantly. Hinata quaked beneath his glare, but she never let go of him. She gulped, holding her ground.

"P-Please walk with me," she proposed.

His gaze remained glued to her face, watching her grow more frantic with each passing second. Why was she trying so hard to be his friend despite the fact that she was afraid of him? He mentally chuckled to himself. She looked like she'd cry any second. "Give me that." He swiftly swiped the lunch boxes out of her arm and tugged away from her grip.

Hinata gawked, unsure if he allowed her to walk beside him. She did anyway. And the gossipping ceased.

Of course people were rather curious as to why the ex-rogue ninja was accompanying the byakugan user, but they knew better than to gossip badly about Hinata Hyuga. She is the daughter of Hiashi Hyuga and the fiancee of the Hokage, Naruto Uzumaki.

Hinata looked onward, ignoring the stares they were getting. "Ano…" she quietly murmured. For some reason, she felt the need to start a conversation to try and get their thoughts off of what happened minutes ago. She could tell Sasuke was listening to what she had to say, which only made it more difficult to find something to talk about.

Sasuke eyed her, waiting for what she had to say. There were soft stutters here and there, but nothing of human language as he could tell. He sighed, hearing her twist the paper bag of treats in her hands. "Not another sound," he said and she immediately did. "I'd rather you be quiet than talk gibberish."

Embarrassment was written all over her and she quickly nodded, pursing her lips into a permanent seal for the rest of the trip.

After a walk (of absolute silence), the duo arrived at the team 8 training grounds. It was a large area surrounded by trees, much like the training area that previous team 7 worked at. The ground was uneven with patches of grass here and there, probably from the constant damage done to it from people training on it.

From a distance, Sasuke could see two distinct figures… and a dog. Rather than deal with Hinata's teammates, he'd rather leave. "I'm leaving-" Before he could though, Kiba had already taken a whiff of his scent.

"You brought him along Hinata?" Kiba asked, rushing over as though she was in danger. "Look Uchiha, I don't like you and I especially need to owe you a favor for that insult last time!" he snarled and his face flashed red in anger as the words, 'annoying dog,' that Sasuke labeled him echoed in his head.

Akamaru arrived beside his best friend, supporting him wholeheartedly while staring down Sasuke with bared teeth as well.

Shino, however, was the last to arrive on the scene, not too bothered by the once-rogue ninja. "Stop it, Kiba. You cannot win. Why? Because he is stronger than you," he stated as-a-matter-of-fact, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

This remark only further provoked Kiba into lunging at Sasuke, who, to everyone's surprise, didn't step out of the way or bother to make an effort to retaliate. The only reason why Kiba wasn't beating his fists into Sasuke's pretty face was because Hinata had stepped in the way, extending out her arms to protect the boy.

"Hinata, get out of the way," Kiba ordered, to which she shook her head. "Are you protecting him?" he asked, almost feeling like his heart was ripped out of his chest to realize that his teammate would choose Sasuke over him.

Hinata simply shook her head again. She parted her lips, "Y-You'll ruin the lunch," she told, looking at the food that Sasuke still carried.

Two slow blinks came from Kiba before he grinned, ear to ear. "Hinata's cooking!" He immediately forgot about his anger and snatched the food from Sasuke's arms, distributing a box to Shino and another to Hinata, leaving one for himself. "Oh man, this is so good! You never fail, Hinata!" Kiba said between chews and swallows as he ate messily.

Hinata couldn't help but laugh a little. "I'm s-sure Sasuke-kun is glad to hear that since he's the one who made it."

Sasuke was pleased to see Kiba choking and gagging while grabbing his throat in shock. "I agree. The dog meat I used in the dish is good," he said, intrigued to see Kiba's face turn a shade of blue he never knew existed before.

"D-Don't worry Kiba-kun, I watched him the entire time. It's beef," Hinata promised, patting Kiba's back while assuring Akamaru that his owner was going to be just fine.

Hinata sighed, relieved that no one had gotten too hurt. "Here, Akamaru," she smiled to the large beastly dog, giving him the bag of treats. He barked back in gratitude before taking the food. "Sasuke-kun," she turned him, catching him in his attempt to escape the scene. "Your share," she pushed the lunchbox into his arms. When he raised his brow, she quickly explained, "I already ate."

It was a lie. And Sasuke knew. And even though he did, he took it anyway. If she'd rather be nice, Sasuke thought, so nice that she'd starve than to have him be hungry, so be it. She did it to herself. "Suit yourself," he uttered.

He heard rumors about the famous heiress, Hyuga Hinata. She was someone who was "too nice for her own good." In essence, someone who wasn't fit to be a shinobi. In a world of survival of the fittest, she would be the first to die. Yes, she was a species close to extinction - nice people like her don't exist anymore because being nice has no benefits.

Sitting down against a tree, Sasuke ate in quiet while watching the old members of team 8 train under the hot sun. He found it boring, though especially entertaining when Kiba was tripped by Shino and landed face down in the ground.

"You're grinning, Sasuke-kun," Hinata noted the barely visible amusement on his face. He immediately covered it up with his usual poker face. "D-Do you find it funny to see others in pain?" she asked. Once again, his smirk returned. It worried her that she was going to be stuck with a sadist for a while. She leaned against a tree that was three trees down from where he was. "W-Would you like to train with us?" she asked.

A light scoff was heard from Sasuke as he patted his lips with a napkin. "None of your teammates, including you, would match my strength." It'd be easy to put the dogboy into a genjutsu to make him think he was covered in ticks and fleas, no doubt about that. In a fight of taijutsu, he was sure he'd crush Hinata easily. And using his flame techniques, it'd be easy to roast Shino's bugs in seconds.

Hinata frowned at his underestimating them. "You shouldn't judge us yet. Sh-Shino-kun, Kiba-kun, and Akamaru are all strong. Sh-Shino-kun is smart," she nodded, "a-and Kiba-kun and Akamaru both are stubborn-"

"And you?" Sasuke asked.

Hinata's eyes paled a little more, if that was even possible, and she found herself shrinking in doubt at his question. "I-I…" she stammered, losing her voice. She had convinced herself long ago that she was not strong. Compared to her sister, she was pathetic. That was what she told herself. She was weak - someone who wasn't fit to be the heiress to the Hyuga family.

However, that was the old Hinata - the insecure and no-self confidence her from years ago.

"I am strong," she said in a hushed voice, but it bore strength at the core. "I have to be." A faint smile carved its way onto her face.

Sasuke, for a very brief moment, was surprised by her sudden confidence. There was a time in his life when he felt so weak and inferior compared to Naruto. Because of that, he had sought Orochimaru for power, leading him down the path of darkness. "For what reason?" he asked, truly curious, though it didn't show in his voice or expression.

Hinata, too, was surprised by his sudden questions. Was he really intrigued with her boring reasons and views? There was a drawn out silence before she answered, "For Naruto, my clan, and the village." Yes, she had to be strong for all of them. "I think that…" she tapped her chin, thinking of a good way to put it. Her eyes lit up as she put a fist to her palm, "I think that when you have someone or something to protect, you can become stronger."

Someone to protect? Sasuke's onyx eyes met her warm ones and he stared at her, as though searching for an answer in her. What did that mean anyway? Of course, he knew what it meant, but something like that was something he couldn't relate to. His whole clan was gone - the whole village didn't even care about him - what could he protect?

Hinata flinched, afraid she had misspoken as the Uchiha bore a glare into her. Little did she realize that he was just thinking deeply about her answer. "A-anyway, that's j-just how I feel," she murmured, quickly reverting back to her soft spoken self. "So, do you feel like training now?" she asked, tilting her head to one side.

Sasuke, deciding to leave the question of what to protect at the back of his mind for later, activated his Mangekyou Sharingan, revealing the intriguing patterns inside the crimson red of his eye. "Hn, I'll show you the strength of the Uchiha. Let's see who's better: the Hyuga or the Uchiha?"

Hinata was taken back by the beauty of the Uchiha's bloodline limit. She nodded, prepared for the challenge. "I won't hold back," she promised, activating her Byakugan.

Hokage's Office

"Really Sasuke?" Naruto asked with blue eyes bulging in outrage. "I gave you a job to protect Hinata; not even a day into your job and she already has a broken arm? And nonetheless it's you who broke it?" His blue eyes bulged in outrage as he stared at his fiancee whose arm was limp and beginning to swell.

Hinata smiled weakly despite the pain shooting in her limb, "I-It's okay Naruto-kun," she said, blushing madly to know that Naruto cared for her well being so much. "I-I did quite a number on him too, so we're even."

It was true. Sasuke, who was standing in front of the desk beside her, was covered in some bruises and probably some internal damage from her. "Be glad I wasn't fighting seriously, dobe," he said dully, only irking the Uzumaki even more.

"That's all you have to say?" Naruto asked, appalled at how rude his friend could be. "What if she was pregnant-..." Naruto's face became pale and Hinata's red. "Oh my Kami! Did Sasuke hurt you baby?" he asked, screaming at Hinata's flat stomach.

Sasuke restrained a sigh. "There's no hope for this village with you as Hokage," he deadpanned.

The chaos in the room was quickly cut short when the door opened. Sakura came in with paperwork in hand, "Naruto-baka, these are unfinished-" her sentence, too, was cut short when she met eyes with her longtime, unrequited love. "S-Sasuke-kun," she said dumbly.

"Sakura," Sasuke acknowledged her presence.

"Sakura, quick! Heal Hinata and our baby!" Naruto ordered, frantic as the seconds passed. Hinata was on the verge of passing out.

Sakura was slow to react. "Oh…" Her gaze lingered on the Uchiha, but she eventually turned to the Hyuga. "You're pregnant Hinata?" she asked, surprised at the news.

Hinata, as red as the blood that rushed to her cheeks, quickly shook her head no. "I-I… I a-am not."

Placing the papers away and putting her hands on Hinata's arm, a jade green light radiated out of Sakura's palms, quickly soothing the pain from the wound and repairing the shattered bone. "Th-Thank you very much Sakura-san," Hinata told politely, bowing her head.

"Not at all!" Sakura replied, glad to be able to heal the wounded. She turned to Sasuke, "Would you like me to heal your wounds too?" she asked, her voice soft and caring.

It was clear to everyone in the room that Sakura had a deep affection towards Sasuke. Hinata blushed as Naruto glanced at her with a sheepish smile. She too had been in Sakura's situation at one point. It was her, always secretly admiring Naruto. 'Love conquers all,' she remembered Sakura saying that a lot back then. Do your best, Sakura-san, Hinata cheered on quietly.

Everyone was quiet, waiting for Sasuke's response. It was almost tense, as though waiting for an important announcement that would decide the fate of the world. Finally, he looked away, "Do what you want," he answered, taking a seat on a nearby couch.

Sakura's eyes lit with surprise, but mostly joy that Sasuke didn't push her away like he normally would. "Please put out your arm," she instructed and used the same procedure she used on Hinata on him.

Naruto turned to Hinata, "Oi, maybe our plan is working. Sasuke doesn't seem to hate me as much and he's actually accepting help from Sakura," he whispered quietly.

Hinata smiled, glad to see that she had succeeded in some ways. She didn't think it'd be possible, really, but somehow it worked. "I-I'm happy things can go back to the way they were. "

Yes, everything will be the same again. She'll get Sasuke to accept everyone again and she'll get others to accept him as well.

A/N: Let me know how you felt about this chapter! Am I pacing too fast? Too slow? Just right? I'm not making the characters OOC am I? Anyway, thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed it!