Disclaimer: The characters of Naruto belong to Kishimoto Masashi. This story is written without permission, for fan purposes only. Do not reproduce without permission.
Summary: What if Hinata had actually found the courage to approach Naruto at the Academy? How would befriending him change their lives? Drastic changes are the result of one small step.
Chapter 4: Healing Kiss
Hinata sighed as she slid gratefully into the ofuro of her own private bath. Most of the time, she did not care for the luxuries and amenities that her family’s wealth afforded. But relaxing in the ofuro and letting the hot water soothe away her aches and troubles after a long day of training was simply… divine. It was the one vice she didn’t think she could live without! As was her custom, Hinata spent this time in deep contemplation. The last three years of her life had been hard, but with Naruto’s help, she had persevered.
The day after she and Naruto had shared their first bag of Kono-Baku – she still blushed thinking about it – Naruto had dragged off her to see Iruka-sensei in his home.
It was Sunday.
Hinata had agreed to meet Naruto after her training in the Hyuuga arts was over for the day. But what were they doing here? She looked around at the residential neighborhood where Naruto had taken them. The single homes and apartment buildings were well kempt. The flower beds were well tended, the fences were brightly painted, and the streets were clean and in good repair. Several buildings down, she could see a few civilian children were playing ball. While not as upscale as the neighborhood where the old clans resided, it was not shabby either.
“Ano… Naruto-kun.” She was tugging on his sleeve to get his attention. “What are we doing here?”
“We’re here to see, Iruka-sensei,” he said, as if that explained everything. But Hinata was only more bewildered. Naruto walked up to a modest duplex and knocked confidently on the door. “Iruka-sensei! Iruka-sensei! Are you home? We need help!”
Iruka had been enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon with iced-tea and a good book when the knocking started. He sighed at the interruption. At this rate, he was never going to finish that book! He opened the door to find his favorite student on the doorstep with Hinata in tow.
“Hello, Naruto, Hinata. What can I do for you?”
Ever since Iruka realized the villagers were actively abusing and mistreating Naruto, he thought long and hard about what actions he could take, if any. In the end, he had decided against informing the Hokage (who probably knew already – not much got past the Sandaime – he was “the Professor” for a reason). Instead, Iruka gave Naruto the next best thing: an open invitation to visit him at any time (night or day) and for any reason. Iruka figured (correctly) that his support and acknowledgement would mean more to Naruto than punishing a few villagers ever could. Punishing a few villagers would not change anything; it would not stop them (or others) from mistreating him again. But knowing that there was Iruka, someone (besides the Sandaime who was often busy) who would help him, advise him, and care for him if he were ever in trouble… that meant the world to Naruto.
However, Iruka had not expected to see Naruto again so soon. He had been doing much better in class. So what was the problem?
“You have to help us, Iruka-sensei! Hinata’s family is awful! They say horrible things about her that are just not true! And…”
Several minutes later, after much loud, indignant ranting from Naruto and much blushing from Hinata – who was absolutely mortified (What would her father say if he ever found out she had exposed their family affairs to a non-Hyuuga? What would he do to her?), Iruka finally got the gist of it:
Naruto was mad. The Hyuuga thought Hinata was weak! Naruto was mad. The Hyuuga were beating her and calling it sparring! And… hey! Did you know? Naruto was mad. Naruto wanted to help. Hinata needed real training. Then she was going to show them exactly which Hyuuga was weak because it certainly wasn’t Hinata. Naruto needed extra training, too, because he was going to help her (and he was going to be the future Hokage!) Naruto would be Hinata’s real sparring partner – and not some punk who just liked to bully his younger cousin.
Iruka leaned back in his seat and thought carefully for a few moments. He was a bit surprised at how fiercely Naruto had defended Hinata. Unfortunately, he was not at all surprised at the Hyuuga “training” methods. He had suspected as much.
“Hmm… Taijutsu was never one of my strengths. But there is someone I could introduce you to. Not only is Maito Gai the foremost taijutsu master in Konoha, but he’s also worked extensively with other Hyuuga in the past. He’s very… mmm… passionate about his field of expertise. I know he’d be more than happy to help you.”
Naruto looked like Christmas had come early.
Iruka was as good as his word. He had introduced them to one Maito Gai – the self-proclaimed Green Beast of Konoha – and one of the best taijutsu masters in all of Fire Country.
“I can see clearly that theses two are in the spring time of their youth! Yosh! I will fan the flames of their youth and they will be the best taijutsu fighters of their generation or I shall run 5000 laps around Konoha!”
Passionate was not the word she would have chosen to describe him. Insane was more like it! But she and Naruto soon discovered that as quirky as Gai-sensei could be, he was also one of the best taijutsu instructors that ever existed.
Hinata and Naruto joined Gai-sensei’s workouts at 5:00AM every morning. They would spend at least two hours training with him before going to class. The first hour was usually dedicated to physical conditioning, geared towards increasing their stamina, including laps, push-ups, sit-ups and even more laps. During the second hour, Gai-sensei helped them with their taijutsu. He taught Naruto the basics of Goken. Though Gai-sensei was not a Hyuuga, he had worked (and sparred) with many Hyuuga in the past. With his passion for anything related to taijutsu, he had learned as much about Jyuuken as it was possible for a non-Hyuuga to learn – which was quite a substantial amount. (Hinata was certain that if the Hyuuga elders on the clan council were to discover exactly how much Gai-sensei knew of their fighting art… well… furious wouldn’t even begin to cover it!) In just the first month, Gai-sensei had been able to teach Hinata more about Jyuuken than she had learned in an entire year from her weekend Jyuuken instructors. And much to Hinata’s great relief, his teaching methods were significantly less painful.
Soon, Rock Lee, a third Year Academy student, joined them in their morning routine. Lee had malformed chakra coils, and could not mold chakra for jutsu. But he was still determined to become a ninja; it was his dream. In many ways, his refusal to give up on his dream reminded Hinata of Naruto. He took to Goken like a fish to water. Gai-sensei was his idol. Lee and Naruto quickly became good friends and a friendly rivalry sprang up between them. Both boys were determined to out do each other – whether it was who could run the most laps or do the most push-ups or eat the most ramen in one sitting. (Naruto won that last one.) If they could compete over it they would.
Hinata found it impossible to keep up with the boys – stamina freaks that they were – in their morning workouts. Before Hinata could despair, Gai-sensei – who was much more intuitive than most people gave him credit for – pulled her aside and told her not to compare herself to the boys.
“You are Hinata,” Gai-sensei said seriously.
“Hai, Gai-sensei.” Hinata wondered if he was going to give her another speech about fanning the flames of youth.
“No. I do not think you understand. You are Hinata. You are not Naruto. And you are not Lee. You should not compare yourself to either of them – just as they should not compare themselves to you. We each have our strengths and weaknesses – which is why most ninja are placed on teams, so that their teammates will support them, just as they support their teammates. No one is without weaknesses. Naruto and Lee will always have more stamina than you. They will always be physically stronger, as well. This is fact.”
Hinata shrank into herself, ashamed. Was her new teacher telling her she was weak? But… She tried so hard! Was it not enough? Before she could despair further, Gai-sensei continued.
“But… and listen to me carefully, Hinata… Naruto will also never have your chakra control and Lee will never have your flexibility. You are all unique. If you must compare yourself to someone, as a gauge of your progress, then you should compare yourself to you.”
“I d-d-don’t understand, Gai-sensei,” Hinata confessed.
“You should compare yourself to the Hinata of yesterday. If you can run one more step than you ran yesterday… If your chakra control is just a little bit better than it was yesterday… If you can fight harder and faster than you fought yesterday… If you can dodge today what you could not dodge yesterday – and block what you could not block yesterday… Then the Hinata you are today is a better, stronger person than the Hinata you were. If you do this… then I am proud to call you my precious student!”
Gai-sensei is proud of me? Hinata was almost overwhelmed. The last person to be proud of her had been her mother. But it had been so long since her passing that the memory was fuzzy and indistinct. Could she do all that? Could she be better than she was yesterday? Could she win against the person she was yesterday? Yes.
In true Maito Gai fashion, Gai smiled (showing gleaming white teeth) and gave her a thumbs-up.
Hinata took Gai’s words to heart – and applied the principle to her Jyuuken training.
She set small goals at every training session, including her weekend training sessions with the Hyuuga. She stopped comparing herself to her cousin Neji because she was Hinata, not Neji. She stopped comparing herself to her other sparring opponents, too. And most importantly, she stopped losing heart whenever she lost a match because it didn’t matter if she lost, as long as she didn’t lose to herself.
Gradually, almost imperceptibly, she improved.
I will not stop until I hit Neji at least once. Hinata repeated the mantra as she forced herself to get up yet again. Her body was begging her to quit. It was too tired, too spent. It wanted to collapse and recover. But… I will not stop until I hit Neji at least once! And then… she did. It was just a glancing blow to his shoulder – and more luck than anything else. It was not even a vital hit. But that didn’t matter. She did it!
“Perhaps you have been paying attention, after all,” her instructor told her, as she lay panting on the floor of the dojo. “That is all for today. I wonder whether you can repeat this feat… or not.”
Neji waited until he was gone. Although Hinata could not see her cousin’s expression from her position on the floor, she could feel his fury. His voice could have frozen magma. “Lady Luck will not favor you a second time. You are still the weakest of the Hyuuga. It has been determined by Fate. You will not succeed again.”
Neji was wrong.
Hinata did succeed again… and again... and many more times since that day.
I will not stop until I can hit Neji twice!
I will not stop until I can hit Neji three times!
I will not stop until I can avoid being hit for 5 minutes…
I will not stop until I can avoid being hit for 10 minutes…
I will not stop until I can avoid being hit for 20 minutes…
I will not stop until I can perform Hakke Rokujuuyonshou (Eight Divination Signs, Sixty-Four Palms of the Hand) 3 seconds faster than before…
… 5 seconds faster!
…7 seconds faster!
Hinata sighed ruefully. Neji could still wipe the floor with her. But each time, she made it harder and harder for him to do it. She refused to go down without a fight. A small vindictive part of her danced with glee each time she was forced to spar with him because she intended to make each victory hurt. After three years of Gai-sensei’s regimen – she actually used a light version of his regimen (Naruto and Lee used the full version) – she had a lot more stamina than the normal kunochi. Neji had to work to defeat her now. In a few more years, at the rate she was improving, his victories would no longer be so certain.
Today was a good day.
Today, not only had she won against the Hinata of yesterday, she had also won against her Hyuuga sparring opponent. First. Time. Ever. She had won against another Hyuuga! Hyuuga Katsu was from the Hyuuga branch house and unlike Neji he did not appear to bear her any ill will. Unlike Neji, he was not a prodigy; he was considered to be of average skill in Jyuuken for his age. Katsu was also two years her senior. She had managed to beat a Hyuuga!
Her instructor had even unbent enough to give her backhanded praise, though his expression remained impassive.
“You have made some progress. Continue as you have and you may yet become semi-proficient in Jyuuken. Perhaps when you become clan head, you will not horribly embarrass the Hyuuga, after all.”
Hinata realized with a start that the water was cold. She had been so lost in her thoughts that she didn’t notice how late it had become. She stepped out of the ofuro and wrapped a fluffy robe around herself. It was time for bed. She needed to be up before 5:00AM for her morning training. She couldn’t wait to tell Naruto and Gai-sensei all about her first victory against Hyuuga Katsu! They would be so proud!
The next morning, Gai-sensei, Lee, and Naruto reacted exactly as she’d expected. Gai-sensei cried happy tears for her and proclaimed her to be “a beautiful blossom in the springtime of youth!” Lee pumped his fist in the air and told that he’d never doubted that she could do it. Naruto had laughed and declared that they would celebrate by going to Ichiraku’s; then he picked her up and swung her around until she was dizzy. Hinata soaked up the approval and praise like a sponge. Celebrating at Ichiraku’s… that sounded like a date! Even though they had eaten there many times before – and even though Hinata knew Naruto didn’t mean it that way – she couldn’t stop herself from imagining that it was a date.
It was one of the happiest moments of her life. For once in her life, Hinata felt like she could conquer mountains. For a moment, she absolutely believed that one day, she would achieve her dreams – until cold harsh reality brought her daydreams crashing down.
On the way to the Academy, Naruto made a confession that wounded her heart.
“Hey, Hinata-chan?” Naruto sounded, inexplicably hesitant. “I wanted to ask you for your opinion on something.”
“What is it Naruto-kun?” Hinata asked curiously.
“I was wondering what you thought of Sakura-chan. I mean… you’re a girl, right? So just… I don’t know… what do you think of her?”
Sakura-chan? Oh no… Dread tore away the happiness she had felt just moments earlier. And… Was Naruto-kun blushing? He was! A light pink suffused his whiskered cheeks. She needed to know! Did he… Did he like Sakura?
“Why… why do you want to know?” Hinata congratulated herself for not stuttering.
“Ah! Because…” Naruto blushed harder and Hinata’s heart sank. He put his hands behind his head and looked away. “Well… because I think Sakura-chan’s kind of cute and she’s pretty smart, too. Do you think she’d go on a date with me, if I asked?”
Naruto-kun had a crush on Sakura!
Suddenly, Hinata couldn’t look at him. She swallowed the lump in her throat and blinked back tears. She didn’t speak until she was sufficiently composed and she was sure her voice wouldn’t betray her. Naruto – who was still self-conscious about his confession – didn’t notice her hesitation or her distress.
“I don’t know, Naruto-kun. Sakura and I are not close. She looks like a nice girl.”
Hinata cringed at how despondent he sounded. She had to do something! She had to say something! No matter how difficult it was or how miserable it made her.
“But… but I think that Naruto-kun should follow his heart. If… if you truly like Sakura… and if… if Sakura-chan is what makes you happy, then you should do your best and see what comes of it. You are Uzumaki Naruto. And you always do your best, right?”
Naruto visibly brightened – making Hinata feel simultaneously better and worse. Her emotions were giant jumbled mess – and she still wanted to cry.
“You’re right, Hinata-chan. I was feeling a bit depressed. But I feel better now!” Naruto grinned. “Do you mind if I go on ahead? I want to see if I can find Sakura-chan before class starts.”
Yes! I mind very much! Please… I don’t want you to go!
“Of course… not, Naruto-kun,” she murmured instead. “Good luck. Sakura is a lucky girl.”
Hinata watched him dash off. Never in her life had she wanted to be someone else so badly. Why couldn’t Naruto-kun like her, instead? She recalled her father’s words from long ago; they haunted her in her darkest moments. A defect… that’s all she was. She was lying to herself if she tried to believe any differently. Sakura was prettier and smarter. If she made Naruto happy, then Hinata could accept that… eventually. She had to accept it. She would accept it.
She would! She could accept that Naruto only wanted to be her friend – and nothing more.
It was late afternoon.
As promised, Naruto and Hinata were on their way to Ichiraku’s for a celebratory bowl of ramen. The route they usually took to get to Ichiraku’s from the Ninja Academy took them by a long stretch of road lined on one side by a tall wooden fence that was perhaps 100 yards long. When he was eight, Naruto had declared that fence perfect for balance training and proceeded to walk along on top of the fence. Fence walking was more difficult than it appeared. The depth of the fence was perhaps half an inch, at most. Naruto learned the hard way – taking many falls in the process – to keep his center of gravity centered, to look straight ahead and not at his feet (because as counter intuitive as that sounded, looking at his feet was the fastest way to lose his balance), and to place one foot directly in front of the other. Even after he’d mastered the exercise (it greatly improved his posture and balance), Naruto made it a habit to walk on top of the fence on their way to Ichiraku’s. He did it at every opportunity simply because it was fun.
When they reached that stretch of road, Naruto automatically hopped on the fence and continued along his merry way. Hinata (wisely) stayed on the ground and walked beside him.
“What a bitch!” Naruto grumbled. “I can’t believe I wanted to ask her out! Why didn’t you stop me?”
Hinata knew that was a rhetorical question. So she offered her best friend a sympathetic look and listened quietly. Naruto had been venting his displeasure since leaving the Academy.
Hinata had deliberately stayed away from class as long as she could. She waited until the last possible moment to arrive. (She couldn’t bear to watch Naruto ask another girl out.) So she had missed the drama. Apparently, Sakura had, in no uncertain terms, turned him down – violently. She seemed incensed that Naruto had even thought to ask her out because she, Sakura, loved Sasuke and wasn’t about to give any consideration to any other guy – especially not a dead last loser and a failure like Naruto.
(Thank goodness Sakura said no. Hinata immediately berated herself for her traitorous thought. All she could feel was profound relief that Sakura had turned Naruto down – though Hinata wished she’d done it more gently. I am being too selfish… but… Thank goodness!)
“I mean… yes, she’s kind of cute. And yes, she’s pretty smart. But she’s got the personality of a slug! And can you believe she called me a dead last loser? And a failure?” Naruto continued to rant. “I haven’t been dead last in three years! Three! What rock has that slug been hiding under?”
Hinata made appropriate humming noises. (She was relieved to see that Naruto was already over his crush. He did not appear hurt, just insulted.) Naruto barely noticed.
“I don’t get it! It’s not like Sasuke is all that cool. Why do all the girls like him anyways? He’s always so cold towards them. He’s such a jerk. Why do they keep going back for more? Do they want to suffer?”
“Ano… Naruto-kun. Those girls don’t really like Sasuke because they don’t really know him. He keeps all of them away. The person those girls like is the person they think Sasuke is. He is the last of the Uchiha – a rich and noble clan. To them, Sasuke is like a prince. They are attracted to the idea of becoming his princess.”
“That’s stupid,” Naruto snorted. “Those girls are idiots; crushing on that stupid jerk. At least you don’t have a crush on some stupid boy. Right, Hinata-chan?”
Hinata couldn’t help herself. She went ghost white, then almost instantly, went beet red. When she didn’t answer right away, Naruto turned to look at her.
“You don’t. Right?” he asked again. Is Hinata blushing? She is! Why would she… unless… The gears started turning and cranking in his head until he arrived at the correct conclusion (for once). His mouth dropped open in shock. “Oh. My. God. You do!”
Hinata has a crush!
The revelation was so staggering that Naruto did exactly that. He promptly forgot everything. He forgot he was precariously balanced at the top of a 6-foot high fence. He forgot how to fall safely. He forgot every last bit of his training and went staggering right off the fence. Naruto was intimately (and painfully) reacquainted with the ground.
Hinata’s hands flew to her mouth in horror. “Naruto-kun!”
“Ow… Ooh… That hurt…” Naruto moaned as he tried to sit up.
Hinata rushed forward to help him up and took inventory of his injuries. Naruto’s fall had been quite impressive. He had scrapes on both knees, both hands, and a shallow cut on his forehead. Hinata fumbled for the first aid kit in her pack. (They were studying basic first aid at the Academy this year. All students were required to carry a kit with them for class.) Hinata was glad she had it with her as she knelt beside him.
Naruto watched her clean and bandage his injuries without a word.
“Who is it?”
Of course, he would ask! She should have expected it! What was she going to say? She couldn’t tell Naruto that it was him that she had a crush on! She just couldn’t. Not after he’d told her about his now ex-crush on Sakura! He obviously didn’t feel the same way about her. She didn’t want to lose his friendship or make things awkward between them because she wanted more – so much more.
“What do you mean?” Hinata stalled desperately. She could feel the heat crawling up her cheeks.
“Who’s the stupid boy that you like?” Naruto frowned at her evasiveness.
“He’s not stupid!”
Naruto was taken aback at her vehemence. “Why didn’t you tell me you liked someone?” he asked quietly.
“I didn’t want him to find out,” Hinata shook her head. “I still don’t. He doesn’t like me back that way. I would just embarrass myself if he found out.”
“I get why you didn’t tell him. But why didn’t you tell me, at least? Aren’t we best friends? Don’t you trust me? I wouldn’t have told anyone, not even the guy you like.”
Hinata cringed at the hurt expression on his face. She hurried to reassure him. “It’s not like that at all. We are! I do! It’s just… this is a very private thing for me. I just… I couldn’t tell you,” she finished lamely.
“Will you tell me who it is now?”
“It’s not… Sasuke, is it?” Naruto looked horrified.
“Well that’s a relief! You can do much better than Sasuke, Hinata-chan. Is it Lee? He’s a pretty good guy.”
“No!” Hinata loved Naruto’s persistence in the face of overwhelming odds; it was one of the traits she loved best about him. But just this once, she wished he wasn’t so determined!
“Hey… If you tell me who it is, I can help you get together with him,” Naruto coaxed, but this only made Hinata more upset.
“N-n-no! S-s-stop it! N-N-Naruto-kun! I’m n-n-not going to t-t-tell you wh-wh-who it is!”
Naruto was immediately contrite. In the three years since they had become friends, Hinata had gradually overcome her stutter. Now, the only time she stuttered was when she was under extreme emotional distress. Naruto noticed belatedly that she was on the verge of tears. I’m an idiot! Satisfying his curiosity was not worth the price of her tears.
“I’m sorry, Hinata-chan. I didn’t mean to upset you. I’ll stop. I promise,” he said guiltily.
“Th-Thank you, Naruto-kun.”
“But if this guy ever hurts you or makes you cry, I’ll kick his ass.”
“Okay! Okay!” Naruto grinned unrepentantly. “I won’t kick his ass. How about I just break a few bones?”
Hinata didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He was threatening himself on her behalf. He didn’t love her the way that she loved him, but he did love her – as a precious, best friend. It was enough, for now. In the end, she settled for smiling weakly.
Hinata finished applying the last bandage. She was done, except for one thing. One thing that she’d always wanted to do for Naruto, except she’d never dared. Was she braver today, than she was yesterday? Was she more confident today, than she was yesterday? Could she do this one thing today, that she had been afraid to do yesterday?
“Thanks, Hinata-chan,” Naruto examined the bandages he now sported. “You did a great job fixing me up. Some of the cuts still sting a little though.”
“Wait, Naruto-kun. There’s one more thing I want to do.”
Hinata leaned forward and gently kissed the bandages over his knees. She cupped his hands in hers and gently kissed the bandages over his palms. Finally, she moved up to his forehead and kissed the bandage over his temple.
“There,” Hinata smiled shyly at Naruto. “I kissed it better. Did it work?”
That night, Naruto lay awake wondering about the mysterious boy Hinata liked.
I was just joking around earlier. If this guy ever makes Hinata-chan cry, I’m not going to kick his ass or break his bones. I’m going to fucking kill him after I make sure he’s suffered immensely.
Naruto yawned sleepily.
Going to have to hide the body though… Don’t want Hinata-chan finding out and getting upset for no reason…
And with that final thought, Naruto drifted into dreamless slumber.
(1) At this point, Hinata and Naruto are both 10 years old.
(2) This was written for the Thirty Kisses (30_kisses) community on Live Journal.
(3) 4 down, 26 kisses to go!
(4) Gah! Each chapter is longer than the one before! How’d that happen?
(5) The speech that Gai gives is based on Naruto Shippuden Episode 28 (“The Revived Beasts”). I haven’t watched that episode since October 2007 – and I didn’t go back to re-watch it since I wanted to put my own spin on it. I hope I got it right. Let me know if I totally botched it!
(6) Ah! Sorry about all the flashbacks! (There were more than 6 pages of flashbacks!) I didn’t want to have so many. Personally, I wanted to skip right into the kiss scene, but they were necessary for Hinata’s development through the time skip.
(7) [grumbles] I’m a bit unsatisfied with this kiss. In my defense: it was cuter (and fluffier) in my head! Honest! Now that I’m re-reading it… Ugh. Not enough bunnies were sacrificed to the Cute Gods for this chapter. The next kiss should be better. I hope!
(8) Please review and let me know what you think! Thanks!