"Oh Naruto! You are just the best! My hero!" A blonde kunoichi threw a hand across her forehead before passing out dramatically into Naruto's arms. She opened one eye after he caught her and commented slyly, "Aren't your arms soooo strong!"
Recognizing the girl from the ninja academy, he looked down at her in surprise, just as three more girls threw themselves at him. The last time this particular girl spoke to him, she was yelling at him to get out of her sight line to Sasuke.
"Thank you. Thank you." Naruto replied, giddily. He was not certain how to respond to all of this intense attention. Though a little voice in the back of his head said, 'help me', he thought it might be a little impolite if he just turned and ran.
He could feel Hinata nearby though she was not among the mob of young women who had come out into the street to greet him as he left the hokage's office. He had not seen her in almost three days, not since the memorial for Inoichi, Shikaku, Might Guy, and the many other leaf ninja who had given their lives during the war.
The next few days were filled by requests for meetings with the other kage and their entourages, with Kakashi who was officially named the sixth hokage, and with all of those who were still opposed to pardoning Sasuke for his part in Madara's crimes. So in between embarrassed replies to his admirers, he searched for her frantically in the crowded street.
Noting the commotion at the center of the village, Hinata followed the others to greet Naruto but kept to the back with the less aggressive onlookers. She wanted to run to him and throw her arms around his neck too, but she hesitated not wanting to ruin his moment. He had been waiting for it for so long. This was what Naruto dreamed of from the very first moment she met him. To be acknowledged by the village like his father. To be admired by his peers like Sasuke. To be accepted completely and without question like her clan had always done for her. She wanted to cry for him, she was so happy.
Wiping her eyes, she backed up into something hard. Surprised, she looked behind her and up into Sasuke's face, as he too stood watching Naruto and his mob of adoring fans. She quickly said, "Oh… sorry, Sasuke. I didn't realize they released you... I'm so glad."
"Naruto seems to be searching for someone." Sasuke commented, ignoring Hinata's observation about his recent release from Konoha's prison. "I'm guessing that someone would be you."
Hinata looked away from Sasuke and back at Naruto, who quickly locked eyes with her, smiled, and waved, despite being pulled in about three different directions at the same time.
"I told him once that his reliance on that clone jutsu revealed his greatest weakness. His loneliness." Sasuke continued. "But after he was sealed to you, he created less and less clones. I was jealous. Because how could a loser like him have someone who loved him that much?"
Hinata followed where Sasuke was looking and came upon Sakura, who stood on the side of the street with her arms crossed over her chest, scowling at Naruto's admirers. She no longer approved of fangirls.
He breathed. "People call Naruto a numbskull. But he figured it out way before I did."
Hinata smiled up at him and said lightly. "I would have waited for Naruto even if he never realized how much I loved him. Sakura and I are a lot alike when it comes to that."
Sasuke nodded, quietly.
When she turned back to find Naruto in the crowd again, he was gone. She frowned. Where did he disappear to so quickly?
Then a calling seal opened up next to her. She smiled and said, "See ya Sasuke." But he was already halfway across the street and headed to Sakura. She jumped into the seal.
Naruto twirled Hinata's hair around his finger as she lay on top of his chest. They were leaning back against a tree in the middle of the Hyuga clan's gardens after eating a picnic lunch that Hinata spent the morning preparing.
It was mid afternoon and the sky above was bright blue without a cloud in sight. The colorful flower garden sparkled in the sunlight around their shady spot under a tall cherry blossom tree. Naruto contently dipped his other hand into the cool water of the main family's small coy pond. As beautiful as this place was, Naruto still only had eyes for the girl who snored lightly against him, as everything else always paled in comparison to her. He had been reading to Hinata when she drifted off to sleep, and though he was supposed to be meeting with Kakashi and Iruka about his plans for studying for his ninja level exams, he did not have the heart to wake her.
He wanted to take Hinata to the local park and sit on the bench by the pond, where as a kid, he often sat with Jiraiya and shared a popsicle on a hot summer afternoon like this one. And then years later, the bench became his and Hinata's spot, where they liked to watch the evening stars come out before heading their separate ways for the night. Naruto figured that Jiraiya would appreciate nothing more than him using their old place as a make out spot. There were moments when he could almost hear his old master giving him pointers in his ear.
But since returning to the village, they had been forced to give up their spot to stay hidden within the Hyuga compound. As soon as the young couple attempted to venture out into public lately, they were mobbed and separated by villagers wanting to speak to Naruto. As usual, Hinata was a good sport about it, but Naruto felt miserable every time their plans were ruined by his newly earned fame.
So now their spot was hidden behind the walls of the Hyuga compound, where no one cared about the hero of village, and they still treated him like the same old Naruto Uzumaki (better known as Lady Hinata's fiance among the Hyuga clan).
Of course, Naruto had to sneak out of his apartment in cognito to even reach the Hyuga compound across the village.
The village paparazzi waited outside of his home, day and night like predators stalking their prey, and the konoha press was known to be as stealthy as the leaf shinobi themselves. The few times he tried to sneak out as himself, he was caught, and he missed seeing Hinata that day. They had already caught on to the use of shadow clones as decoys, planting themselves in enough spots around the village to catch any of the Narutos who happened to pass by.
But the disguises had been working so far. And for some strange reason, Kakashi had an entire closet full of various costumes, wigs, and facial augmentations, even a fake mole, which Naruto was able to borrow in order to disguise himself.
"Sometimes I like a little privacy." Kakashi replied vaguely, when Naruto questioned him about his extensive quick change kit.
Naruto frowned, holding up a long purple stripe that was supposed to be worn over one's cheeks. He knew Kakashi was almost as perverted as Jiraiya, but what kind of kinky role playing was he into? And more importantly, did this mean that he had actually seen Kakashi's face without knowing it was him?
That day, Naruto made it across the village in a curly brown wig, a pair of thick brown spectacles, and the long white shirt and black trousers which he had begun to wear instead of his usual trademark sweat suit. The orange track suit, besides being ripped to shreds during the war, also made him a walking target for every fangirl within a mile's radius. But dressed up in Kakashi's disguises, Hinata was the only one who could spot Naruto instantly. He was even stopped and questioned at the gate to the Hyuga compound until he removed his wig.
Waking up and rolling over to face Naruto, Hinata rubbed the sleep from her white eyes and said, "I'm so sorry I fell asleep, Naruto. Wasn't your meeting today? Why didn't you wake me?"
Naruto pushed the hair out of her face and kissed her forehead. "Don't worry about it. I've only been home for a week. Kakashi, Iruka, and I have plenty of time for meetings, ya know. Besides you were sleeping so peacefully, I didn't want to wake you."
He would have sent a shadow clone if he had an extra costume. But after staying hidden for so long, the last time that he sent an undisguised clone across the village, the poor boy almost got torn to shreds by a mob of fangirls. Naruto did not have the heart to do that to another unsuspecting clone.
"I know, but it's so important to everyone in the village, your dream of becoming hokage. And I don't want to be the reason why you miss a meeting."
"You are just as important." Naruto replied, firmly. "And marrying you is just as much my dream now too."
He paused and looked at her seriously. "I want you to be by my side forever. Will you marry me, Hinata Hyuga?"
Hinata giggled. He asked her that same question every day. "Yes. I will marry you, Naruto Uzumaki."
Hinata smiled as he moved his kisses to her lips and then to her neck. He chose a spot where he had not already placed a hickey and went to work. Hinata squirmed and giggled as he moved his hands underneath her shirt and then traced his fingers down her spine. Once his wandering hands reached the top of her shorts and they both were breathing harder and more ragged between kisses, Naruto pulled back at bit.
"Maybe we should stop, don't you think?" He whispered huskily into her neck.
Softly, Hinata agreed, "Ummm… humm… yes", but she did nothing to resist him as Naruto forgot his original sentiment and deepened his kisses, popping the buttons on the front of her shirt. She opened her mouth accepting his tongue again as he moved his kisses back to her lips.
Both lovers jumped at the sound of Hanabi's voice. Hinata sat up like a lightning rod, buttoning back up her shirt and straightening her hair quickly. While Naruto attempted to cross his arms over his chest awkwardly, giving the appearance of busily reading the book that they had long ago tossed to the side.
"I'm up here!" Hanabi called down happily from the tree branches above them. They looked up to find her smiling wickedly at them as she hung upside down from a branch with a popsicle in her hand.
Hiashi had gotten in the habit of sending Hanabi out into the gardens while Naruto was visiting, in order to make sure anything that was not supposed to be happening was quickly broken up.
Of course most of the time, the two teenage lovers got carried away and forgot themselves until Hinata's younger sister showed up… and she always showed up.
Hinata smiled at her sister and then looked embarrassed at Naruto, her cheeks turning bright red. "Do you think she saw us?"
"Oh I saw everything…" Hanabi answered cheerfully before Naruto could reply. She giggled and licked her popsicle gleefully.
Naruto stood up and jovially said, "But good ol' Hanabi won't say anything, will ya Hanabi?"
Hanabi shrugged and continued to laugh wickedly until Naruto slipped her a coin. She bit into the coin to make sure it was real and pocketed it, before dropping her smile and saying seriously. "I saw nothing actually."
Then she hopped down from the branches and hugged Naruto. "Brother Naruto, you are going to be my favorite brother in law."
"Thanks Hanabi." Naruto smiled as the girl skipped off with her popsicle and her new coin.
Sakura slid into the seat across from Hinata and Ino with a rosy hue to her cheeks. They were all seated on the outside patio of a local restaurant. The waitress came over and took Sakura's order quickly, before slyly questioning Hinata about Naruto's current whereabouts.
"Well isn't she cheeky." Ino narrowed her eyes at the waitress's back as she walked away. "Of all the nerve. Asking you all of those questions about your boyfriend. She won't be getting a tip from me!"
"It's ok." Hinata said softly, shrugging. She hated to admit that some of Naruto's more aggressive admirers were starting to bother her bit. Sometimes she subconsciously compared herself to all of the gifts and the attention that he received from other girls. Not that she was not very aware of how much Naruto loved her, but she wanted him to have the best. And the daily bombardment of women vying for his heart was beginning to slowly erode away at her confidence.
"You're a better woman than me, Hinata." Sakura patted Hinata's hand comfortingly, before grumbling. "I would have placed a paralysis genjutsu on her mouth."
Not able to help herself, Hinata giggled.
"And? What about you, Sakura? Where have you been?" Ino asked teasingly.
"Working." Sakura answered cryptically.
"So you weren't just with a certain dark haired shinobi then?" Ino pressed on.
Sakura rolled her eyes and then leaned forward stating in a low voice, "Actually, Sasuke plans to leave the village soon… and he has asked me to go with him."
Sakura's words did not exactly describe the awkward exchange that occurred between her and Sasuke the evening before, but it was close enough. Her face turned slightly red at the thought.
Since Sasuke's return to the village, Sakura had been leaving baskets of food on his doorstep every night. He could not cook well and he was too proud to venture into any of the many restaurants or markets where the villagers could openly express their disdain for his presence in the village. Though Sakura had been working hard to avoid him, that broken part of Sasuke still tugged at her heart strings and she could not help but worry about him. So she picked the time of day when he was usually gone and snuck food to his house.
Again that evening, she waited until about six o'clock when Sasuke usually went to the hokage monument to observe the sunset alone.
Because the Uchiha compound was so far on the outskirts of the village, it was mostly untouched by Pain's attack. But the structures had sat neglected for so long that many of them had collapsed anyway. Sakura had not been back to this area since Sasuke left the village years ago, but the place seemed to be overrun by cats. She had to start placing a cover over the basket in order to prevent the cats from stealing the food before Sasuke found it. It also appeared that for some strange reason, Sasuke had been feeding them. She found small bowls of kibble along her path to his house. As she shooed two cats away from his stoop and removed the empty basket before situating a new basket in its place, she felt a hand rest on her shoulder.
In surprise, she spun around to find Sasuke scowling down at her. "So you're the one who has been leaving this clutter on my door step every night."
Sasuke walked past her and scoffed. "I should of known it was you. Anyone else would know not to show up where they aren't invited."
"Well someone has to care about what happens to you! You would starve to death out here by yourself otherwise." Sakura replied defensively. "And would it hurt to just say thank you?"
She watched as Sasuke walked into the house, leaving the door open behind him. Reluctantly, she took the hint and followed him inside. The place was bare and very dark. There was no furniture in any of the front rooms. The kitchen did not even have appliances, just a sink and a small black oak table.
Sasuke narrowed his eyes at her before eyeing the full basket in her hands. After a second, he took it from her and mumbled, "Thank you..."
"Humm?" Sakura asked smugly, as though she did not hear him.
Sasuke ignored her and began to parcel out some of the food in the basket on two plates. He took the plates to the table and put one on each side, before commanding, "Sit."
"I brought the food for you..."
"If you insist on butting into my business and intruding on my private property, the least you can do is make yourself useful and keep me company over dinner." Sasuke sat in one of the chairs and then looked at her sternly, waiting for her to sit too.
"Fine." Sakura sat down opposite Sasuke and picked up her utensil to eat. After a minute of silence, Sakura began to speak. "So... how are you readjusting? To the village I mean? It's been a long time since..."
"Don't talk." Sasuke stated bluntly.
Sakura sighed and shoveled more food in her mouth. What was she supposed to do, if she could not talk? This was the most awkward dinner that she had ever been a part of in her life. "So what's with all of the cats?"
"What cats?" Sasuke was not going to give her an inch.
Her shoulders sagged at the thought that this was technically their first date. This type of disappointment was the exact reason why she had been avoiding him. She could not help but to speak her thoughts then. "I was hoping our first dinner date together would be a little bit more..."
"Who said this was a date?" Sasuke snapped, rolling his eyes incredulously.
After ten minutes of complete silence, Sasuke finished eating and picked up his plate and Sakura'a plate, though she was not finished eating yet. Sakura opened her mouth to protest, but then thought better of it. Sasuke took the dishes to the sink and turned on the water, before commenting, "Dinner is over. You can leave now."
Red faced and thoroughly embarrassed, Sakura stood up and gathered her basket. "You don't have to be such a rude bully, Sasuke Uchiha! If you didn't want me coming around here anymore, you could have just said so."
"Really? So if I told you to leave and never come back, you would listen and leave me alone? Just like that?" Sasuke asked, skeptically. "When has that ever happened in all of the years that we've known each other?"
"Well... Well..." Sakura stammered at him angrily. "It's happening to today! I'm leaving and I'm not coming back!"
She stomped off towards the door. "You don't have to tell me twice!"
"It's good to see that you've finally learned to take direction, Sakura. But it's so unlike you to give up this easily. Is this new you the reason why you have been avoiding me recently?" Sasuke inquired, unfazed. He did not look up from washing the dishes in the sink nor did he wait for her answer. "We'll just see how long your resolve lasts while we're out searching for Itachi."
"Wait what?" Sakura stopped midstep and spun around, letting go of the door knob. "What did you just say?"
"I said I'm leaving the village in a couple of days to search for Itachi and I'm taking you with me."
It was more of a brash command than an actual request, but Sakura had no response anyway. She stood staring at him with her mouth hanging open. Sasuke dropped the last dish in the dish rack and walked over to Sakura, placing his palm flat against the door behind her head and slamming it shut again. "So? Are you coming with me or what?"
"After you just treated me like... I'll never understand you Sasuke... Why would you even want me to come?" Sakura started to stammer again, but she could not finish because Sasuke had already leaned in and kissed her on the lips. He pressed her back against the door with his body as he deepened the kiss, parting her lips with his tongue. All the while Sakura's mind was spinning, still trying to decide if she was dreaming or if this was actually real. He finally pulled back from the kiss and asked, "Does that answer your question?"
Sakura dropped the basket in her hand and quickly nodded. "Yes."
Presently at the restaurant...
Hinata frowned, almost spitting out the food in her mouth. "Really? Does Naruto know?"
"No." Sakura looked at Hinata hesitantly. "And Sasuke will be pissed that I'm telling you. He wanted to leave without any big fuss. And you know with Naruto… particularly these days, everything is a big fuss."
"But you want Naruto to know." Hinata surmised.
"Maybe if you tell him… but let him know it's supposed to be a secret." Sakura suggested. "He listens to you, Hinata."
"On most things." Hinata looked down at her hands. Naruto was not going to take Sasuke's departure well. He had been so happy ever since his best friend was back. Though Sasuke spent most of the last month and a half hiding within the old Uchiha compound, just knowing he was close by had calmed the undercurrent of restlessness that usually churned inside of Naruto. "Are you planning to go with him?"
"Yes." Sakura stated. "He came back for Naruto and for me. But now he wants to look for his brother. He believes as long as he carries the rinnegan and the last name Uchiha, he can't stay in the village long without putting Konoha in danger anyway."
Hinata perked up a bit. "Will he see Neji then?"
"Yes. Likely." Sakura replied. Then she narrowed her eyes. "But... I don't think he will want you and Naruto to come with us if that's what you're thinking Hinata."
Hinata's cheeks burned red, but she only smile at Sakura and did not respond. There was no way she was going to be able to stop Naruto from trying to follow Sasuke and Sakura, and now that she knew that they were looking for Itachi, which meant they were also looking for Neji, she could not say she wanted to stop him.
"Besides, he needs to stay and complete his training so he can become hokage." Sakura continued her argument. Hinata raised an eyebrow still not replying. That was what sealed clones were for, after all.
"What do you mean they're leaving?!" Naruto demanded as he paced back and forth in front of Hinata and Kurama deep within in his mindspace later that afternoon.
'I hate to admit it, but I think Sasuke is right to leave the village, Kid. Very few are happy to see him back here.' Kurama yawned and stretched waking up from a two week nap. The war had tuckered him out almost to a state of hibernation.
"Sasuke is not right! And who is not happy to see him back?! I dare anyone to say they're not happy to see Sasuke back home, in front of me!" Naruto raged. "I mean granted after what Madara did to him, Itachi is still wanted in most of the world and Sasuke is his brother. But Sasuke has been cleared by Kakashi... I mean Lord Sixth, and he is just as much a hero of this war as I am! Who says he's not??"
"Naruto." Hinata said his name, soothingly.
"Umm..." He stopped pacing and looked at her.
"I think Sasuke might feel guilty because he was cleared, but Itachi, Neji, and Masuku were not. They were just as much victims of Madara and Orochimaru as Sasuke."
"Kakashi cleared Sasuke. Itachi would have been cleared if he turned himself in and came back." Naruto stated. "Likely Neji would have been too."
'I think that's called magical thinking.' Kurama replied sarcastically. 'No way any of them would be pardoned. Kakashi was taking a huge risk just pardoning Sasuke. And most of the world still doesn't believe the truth about Itachi.'
"Besides, Itachi would never leave Masuku nor Neji to fend for themselves." Hinata added.
Naruto growled, frustrated. Then he had a brilliant thought, "Well Sasuke and Sakura will need our help to find them. I mean you and I are some of the best sensory ninja around, right?"
'He doesn't want your help.' Kurama pointed out.
"When has that ever stopped me before?" Naruto asked Kurama incredulously. Kurama flipped onto his back and placed his arms underneath his head. 'Don't say I didn't warn you, Kid.'
"Maybe Kurama is right Naruto." Hinata stated. "I want to see Neji just as much as you want to help Sasuke, but... maybe they want to be alone. I think Sasuke really does have feelings for Sakura. And Sakura has always loved him."
Naruto looked at Hinata and then he started to laugh. He laughed so hard his stomach started to hurt. "So... you think Sasuke has a thing for Sakura? Ha! Ha! No way! I've been around those two for years and he has never shown any interest in her. Good ol' Hinata. You always see the best in everyone..."
"Don't worry, you guys. I have a plan. I've learned quite a few things sneaking around this village for the last couple of months." Naruto pulled himelf out of the mindspace and shoved his wig down over his blond hair, placing on his brown spectacles. He grabbed Hinata's hand, "Come on! We're going to see Kakashi!"
With Konoha Ninja Network Television (KNNT) starting development in a few months, Kakashi had been drowning in a massive amount of work and a bombardment of requests.
Everyone wanted a television show on the new network, from the elderly lady who lived right underneath his flat and who quite spryly managed to corner him every morning even though she had to be pushing ninety... to Teuchi the owner of Ichiraku Ramen, who presented an entire storyboard for his cooking show idea during dinner with Iruka the other night.
The most requests had come from network producers and some very aggressive fangirls about a reality television show following Naruto Uzumaki's daily life. Kakashi had a nice chuckle over that one, as watching endless hours of a boy eating ramen and making out with his girlfriend did not exactly make for good television. What happened to just reading a good novel anyway?
Kakashi leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. It had been five minutes since Shikamaru entered the office with more paperwork and meetings to add to his plate. He never thought he would value five minutes of peace as much as he did right now. How he missed the days when he could just sit in a tree and read... alone.
He heard Naruto coming down the hall before the door even opened. Kakashi sighed. His five minutes were up.
"Kakashi Sensei!" The door flew open, banging against the wall and causing the papers, that Shikamaru had spent so much time organizing on the desk, to fly up into a white cloud of chaos.
"You can't disturb him." Shikamaru attempted to shift his body in front of Naruto, who still had on the huge brown spectacles but was whacking Shikamaru with the brown wig to get him to move out of the way. "Appointment! You need an appointment!"
"This is important!" Naruto and Shikamaru struggled for a moment in the doorway.
"Just let him in." Kakashi relented.
Shikamaru sighed and reluctantly moved out of Naruto's path. He spotted the papers on the floor and slapped his forehead. This was exactly why he use to avoid doing work. All of that organizing for nothing. "What a drag..."
"I'll clean it up." Kakashi told Shikamaru, as he stood up and moved around the desk to greet his guests. "Hello Hinata. What do you want Naruto?"
Naruto pulled Hinata into the room, placing his arm around her shoulders as they stood in front of the hokage. "I want to take Hinata on a short... vacation before I really get into my studies."
"That was what was so important??" Shikamaru demanded.
Kakashi crossed his arms over his chest. "Really? What brought this on?"
"Well... You know it's been terribly hard for us to spend any real time together lately." Naruto sighed. "Every time we go out in the village, I get mobbed. It took us thirty minutes just to get here, and that was with the wig and the glasses on."
Kakashi raised an eyebrow. "That's true. Though I'm not sure how happy Hiashi will be about you and Hinata going on a trip alone. You still have an entire year before you can get married."
"What if we take someone with us, Lord Sixth?" Hinata interjected, attempting to back Naruto up. "My father would have to agree if we were not alone and on an actual mission."
Narrowing his eyes, Kakashi stated, "This doesn't have anything to do with Sasuke's decision to leave the village to find Itachi, does it?"
He looked at Hinata, knowing she would break first.
"Well..." Hinata started, her cheeks turning red.
"How'd you know about that??" Naruto demanded.
Kakashi shrugged and walked around his desk again. Sliding into his chair, he sarcastically replied. "I'm the hokage. I know and see everything."
Shikamaru looked up from the notepad he was scribbling on and rolled his eyes.
"Well why aren't you doing something about it then??" A red faced Naruto slammed his hands on the desk. "You're just going to let him leave and take Sakura too?"
"Nope." Kakashi replied matter factly. "I'm sending in a special team to assist them and to make sure they return safely. Under the circumstances, Sasuke can leave, but Sakura is needed here in the village."
"Well, I want to be part of this team. Who's on it, by the way?"
"You and Hinata." Kakashi stated abruptly.
"I don't care what you say! I'm going to be on that team... wait what?" Naruto paused, unsure he heard what he just heard.
Hinata tugged at Naruto's sleeve, whispering. "I think he just agreed."
"You both need new sexy bathing suits if you're going on a pseudo vacation with your boyfriends!" Ino ferociously dragged both Hinata and Sakura into the next shop.
Hinata looked a bit frightened, but Sakura appeared annoyed. She still could not figure out how Naruto managed to horn in on her mission with Sasuke. She finally had him all to herself, and now suddenly, it was a group situation again.
Surprisingly Sasuke did not refuse Naruto's and Hinata's company, and he actually seemed to not care at all that their traveling group had grown from two to four. So Sakura went along with it, afraid he might change his mind, back out altogether, and leave Konoha without her if she put up a fight.
Ino appeared from behind some racks of clothes with two sets of bikinis. With a look of disgust, she snatched a plain one piece suit out of Hinata's hands and shoved the yellow suit at her. She shoved the other bikini at Sakura. "These will be perfect."
"I think this might be too small..." Hinata started, but Ino ignored her.
"You can't complain until you try it on." Ino herded both of them into the changing rooms and then stood outside like a sentinel, tapping her foot.
Sakura emerged first in the red bikini. She tugged at it. "It's kind of loose at the top. I wish I had something more to fill it out."
"Oh Forehead. You look great!" Ino admired her choice.
"You really think so?" Sakura looked down at herself, feeling more and more insecure by the second.
"She's right. You look... decent." A deep voice came from behind them. Both girls turned to find Sasuke standing among the clothing racks next to some strange kid with long wavy black hair. As his eyes intensely inspected every inch of her body, Sakura could feel her cheeks burning red in response.
"Th- thanks." Sakura stammered. That had to be the nicest thing Sasuke had ever said to her.
Then Hinata appeared out of the dressing rooms next. "Ino, I really do think this is too small."
Stopping mid step as she realized they were no longer alone, Hinata squeaked, "Naruto!"
Both Ino and Sakura turned as they realized the strange kid with Sasuke was Naruto in a disguise. But he was staring past both of them with his mouth hanging open. "Hinata... well I... I mean you..."
"She looks nice! Right Naruto?" Ino prompted.
"You sure do Hinata. You look great!" Naruto smiled brightly. He absentmindedly meandered closer to his girlfriend, as Hinata was attempting to better cover herself. She could feel Naruto's suddenly very intense intentions towards her through the binding seal. She had felt this before, but not in front of everyone. Her bright red cheeks matched Sakura's now.
Ino stepped into Naruto's path and waved her finger in his face. "Uhh uhh uhh! This is for the trip."
Sighing, Sakura felt completely inadequate after watching the way Hinata filled out her suit and the way Naruto was attempting to clamber past Ino to get at her. Dejected, she turned away only to look back up into Sasuke's black eyes. He was still staring at her, not yet noticing that there was anyone else in the room. She smiled at him. He did not smile back but raised an eyebrow before turning to walk out of the store. He called over his shoulder, "Let's go Naruto."
Naruto was still being held back by Ino. He stopped and looked over his own shoulder at Sasuke. "Huh? But we didn't get any swim trunks?"
Sasuke grumbled. "I already told you once. I won't be going swimming. This is a mission to find Itachi. Not a vacation."
The next day, Hiashi called Naruto into his office.
"Lord Hiashi requests that Mister Naruto comes alone." Ko reported to the young couple after he found them together in the garden.
Hinata and Naruto looked at each other apprehensively. "Do you know what this is about?"
Shaking her head, Hinata bit her lip, looking worried. "My father has been pretty distant since we've returned to the village -even for him."
"I'm sure it's nothing. Maybe it has to do with the mission and Neji?" Naruto leaned forward and kissed Hinata on the forehead. "Don't worry about it."
Naruto said this to Hinata, but he worried about what Hiashi had to say all the way to the back of the main house where Hiashi's office sat.
"Come in and close the door. I have a few items I want to discuss with you." Hiashi had on his "Master Fuddy-Duddy" face and Naruto already knew he was either in trouble or in for a long lecture with an even longer list of to-dos following.
The Hyuga clan leader waved Naruto forward and towards the chair on the other side of his desk. When Naruto was settled in and looking thoroughly petrified, Hiashi allowed a small smile to cross his stern face and said, "So... you and Hinata have been close for several years now. And you are officially sealed and promised to be married in a year. Which brings me to why I called you here today. I know you love each other ...flaws and all, and that is all well and good, but the fact of the matter is that you both come from two totally different worlds. And though you have enjoyed visiting each other in said worlds, I have yet to see how you plan to merge the two by the coming year."
"Well, I..." Naruto started.
Hiashi interrupted, "I'm not finished."
"Hinata has been sheltered her entire life, pampered, and well cared for. Granted, she is a well meaning girl with many useful skills, but I'm not sure how well she will do in that cramped one bedroom apartment of yours... living off of Ramen noodles. Hinata would endure it... for your sake, but it's not exactly befitting a daughter of the Hyuga main family. On the other hand, you have enjoyed excessive freedom and very little structure for most of your life, so living here in the Hyuga compound where your every move is monitored, would likely be very stressful for you."
Hiashi sat back in his chair and drummed his fingers on his desk. "So? Now that you are about to take wife... what is your plan?"
"Well... we'll just move into a house..." Naruto frowned. The truth was he had no plan. Other than on the battlefield, he never had a plan. He just kind of went with whatever life handed him at the time.
"What house?" Hiashi asked. "Neither the Uzumaki Clan nor your father has left you any land here in the village. You would have to petition the hokage for property and once land is approved, you'd have to build a house. And to build a house big enough for say... any future children, would take more than a year."
Hiashi sat up straighter. "Now I am absolutely certain after what you did during the fourth war and Pain's attack that Lord Sixth would gladly revisit any of the older maps which included land set aside for the Uzumaki clan. Not to mention foot the bill for any sized house you wanted build. But... you'd have to make a request and get the request in before the village rebuilding is complete.
Yet I hear you and my daughter are planning to leave the village again on an extended mission in a few days. And what about the wedding? The type of wedding that Hinata wants takes months maybe even a year to plan. And what happened to studying for your ninja level exams? The village is counting on you to become the seventh hokage..."
Naruto's head was starting to hurt and he was beginning to sweat. With all of these responsibilities starting to pile up on his lap, he was beginning to understand why Kakashi and Master Jiraiya never got married. And did Hiashi just mention future children? Naruto winced. "I'll leave a sealed clone behind, he can handle things while I'm away, ya know."
Hiashi sighed. "It's admirable that you requested to go on this mission with Sasuke in order to help your friend, and sealed clones have their purposes. But they are also unpredictable. You can't just leave all the responsibility to them while you go off doing whatever you please. Is that how you plan to handle your marriage? Leave a clone as Hinata's husband so you can go on adventures with your friends?"
Naruto frowned. "I can't back out of the mission now..."
"And I'm not asking you to... you just need to think long and hard during this time away if you are ready to be married. You are both very young. You can wait several more years and then you can go on as many missions as you please whenever you want."
"That's not necessary. Hinata and I are ready for this. You will see." Naruto answered confidently. But now he felt guilty because he was not as confident as he tried to appear to Hiashi. And he was starting to think that maybe Hiashi had a point.