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The Haircut

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Naruto stared at his reflection in the mirror.

He leaned in close to inspect the reflection; perhaps it was a trick of the light because as he was looking right now, his hair was… It was so… His hair was…

“So short. It’s- my hair, it’s so… It’s gone!” 

“I’m so sorry sir! I just, I’m new at this, and well, you didn’t really specify how short you wanted it; it’s not that bad.” The hairdresser stuttered, twisting her fingers, visibly distraught.

“You cut off … I said a little bit, just make it a little shorter, how hard is that to… You know what, never mind. It’s- I’ll be fine. Here.” Naruto stood, fished his wallet out of his pocket, and dropped a bill into the young woman’s hands. He stuffed the frog pouch back into his grey sweats and stalked out of the hair parlor, grumbling under his breath.

Naruto scrubbed a hand over his newly shorn hair, cringing at just how short it was. In all his life, he’d never, never, cut it this short. His signature spiky blonde locks were something that had defined him and now that they were gone… He let out a groan and flipped the hood of his orange jacket up, shoving his hands into his pockets and stalking down the road to Ichiraku’s.

Naruto arrived at Ichiraku’s and sat at the bar, calling to Teuchi for his regular order. The old man whipped up the ramen and handed the bowl over the counter, pausing slightly as he took in Naruto’s appearance. 

“Oh, sorry Naruto, I didn’t recognize you there, with that new haircut!”

Naruto grumbled and grabbed the bowl, digging into the piping hot noodles and broth. 

Slurping his way through yet another bowl of ramen (because sometimes a bad day calls for two or three or four bowls), Naruto didn’t notice that he’d been joined by a person at the restaurant. 

“Oh! Naruto!” Hinata’s soft voice floated through the air. “I thought that was you! I mean, who else would have eaten all that ramen.” 

“Hey, Hinata.” Naruto didn’t look up. He shoveled more noodles into his mouth and a bit of the barbequed pork. 

“By the way, Naruto, I really like your new haircut.”

Naruto paused mid-slurp as he looked over at the tiny blunette ninja. She blushed when they made eye contact, turning away and tucking her hair behind her ear. She continued to avoid his gaze as Teuchi handed her the ramen she ordered.

“Hey old man, add Hinata’s order to my tab.” The words left his mouth before he’d fully processed what he’d said. Not that it mattered, he’d paid for his friend’s meals before. 

“Naruto, you don’t have to do that.” Hinata squawked. “I can pay for my food.”

“No, no, it’s not a big deal. I don’t mind at all.” Naruto looked over at Hinata and smiled. He took a few more bites of ramen before he asked what had been on his mind for the past couple of minutes. “You really like my new haircut?” 

“Yes!” Hinata giggled. “It makes you look very mature, like a Hokage, and handsome.” Hinata froze as soon as the words left her mouth. Luckily, it appeared that Naruto hadn’t heard her.

“Mature, like a Hokage, huh?” Naruto smiled into his ramen. He felt his cheeks warm a little at her mention of him looking handsome; while he’d always believed that he was a reasonably good looking guy (always followed with a quick thanks to his parents for that), it was a surprise to hear it from someone else’s mouth, since no one had ever really said anything about his looks to his face. “Gee Hinata, you really do know exactly what to say to make me feel better. Thanks!” 

“You’re welcome, Naruto.” Naruto watched her blush deepen as she returned to eating her ramen.

After saying goodbye to Hinata once they’d finished their meals, Naruto meandered through the streets musing over what she’d said to him. He paused, checking his reflection out in a dark shop window. ‘Mature, handsome, like a Hokage...’ He really did look older and the cut did accentuate some of his features, for example his whiskers seemed more prominent on his cheeks than ever before. Naruto smiled and scratched at the back of his neck, continuing his walk back to his apartment.

It would take some getting used to, and when people asked about it in the days to come, Naruto simply said he wanted to try something new, that he wanted people to see him as mature and take him seriously, which in and of itself was true but not the whole reason. Naruto would eventually come to realize that the other part of his reasoning to keep the short hair was that Hinata had said she liked it; but it would be a while before that came to be, when she told him again that she liked his short hair after he mentioned on their son’s first birthday that he’d been thinking about growing it out again.