It took 10 seconds for Naruto to propose.
Naruto thought his life was perfect.
Hinata had unofficially moved in with him. She still had her rooms at the Hyuuga estate, but she spent very little time in them. Most nights, she just stayed with him. He loved waking up with her in his arms. He loved returning home to her. He loved saying “Tadiama” whenever he got back and hearing her softly reply with “Okaerinasai.” He loved her. Even more amazingly, she loved him back unconditionally. It was a dream come true – and he never wanted to wake up from this dream.
He couldn’t believe how quickly the time had flown by. Just last month, they had celebrated Hinata’s nineteenth birthday with their close friends. That meant that they had been together for over a full year. Where had the time gone? He couldn’t begin to imagine how he’d ever gotten by without her. He wanted Hinata for forever. She had promised that she wouldn’t leave him – and he believed her. But…
What if someone tried to take her away?
They’d have to kill him first.
His last mission had taken him to the capitol city of the Land of Fire. He had been hired to protect a noble from hired assassins because that noble had somehow managed to piss off quite a few people. It was a cut and dry mission. Once he had captured and interrogated the would-be assassin and determined who had hired the thug, his mission was over. He had been gone less than two weeks – and he had missed Hinata more than he’d ever thought possible. It was the longest he had gone without seeing her since they had become lovers.
The mission had been nothing special. It was what he had overheard in the capitol city that bothered him. As the personal bodyguard of a minor noble, he had followed his client to various social functions where other wealthy nobles and merchants played the politics game. At one of those parties, where the wine had flowed freely, he heard an older gentleman say the name “Hyuuga.” Curious, he listened in – not that it had been difficult. The man was boasting loudly and not attempting to conceal his words.
Naruto had almost murdered him.
“You really think the Hyuuga are going to accept your offer?” asked a portly gentleman with silver hair combed over the top of his head in order to (poorly) conceal his balding crown. Naruto privately nicknamed him “Baldman.”
“Of course! My offer was more than generous! They’d be foolish to turn it away,” retorted a middle-aged man with a moustache who was wearing a tunic liberally embroidered with gold and silver thread in an gaudy display of wealth. Naruto privately nicknamed him “Showoff.” (He wanted to nickname him “the idiot showing off with the gaudy outfit,” but even in his head that name was too long.)
Baldman snorted in disbelief.
“People have been wanting to marry that Hyuuga girl for years. The clan has turned down every offer so far. What makes you think that they’ll accept yours?”
Showoff shrugged expansively and smiled knowingly.
“It’s all a matter of timing.”
“That Hyuuga girl just turned nineteen. The only reason she’s still not married is because her father’s got a soft spot for her. He’s letting her decide. Ha! As if a little girl could know which husband would be the best for her!”
“Everyone knows that.” Baldman did not look impressed.
“Ah! But here’s something you don’t know.” A smug grin appeared on Showoff’s face. “A little bird told me that the Hyuuga clan elders are getting impatient. Now that she’s nineteen, they’re going to push the issue. So I’ve made sure that my offer is going to arrive right when she’s forced to choose.”
“Not bad,” Baldman looked mildly impressed this time. “You might get lucky after all! That Hyuuga girl will make a fine wife.”
“The Hyuuga will get my money – and I’ll get the political backing of the Hyuuga clan. Everyone wins.” He laughed. “Do you know what the best part is?”
“I actually saw her once in passing. She’s a pretty young thing. I’d marry her even if she were a troll, but I think I’m going to enjoy being married to the Hyuuga heiress!”
Naruto stiffened as he finally figured out that they were talking about Hinata! His Hinata! He should have caught on earlier. Except the idea of Hinata being forced to marry someone else was so alien and sickening that he hadn’t wanted to even think it. He saw red and couldn’t contain his killing intent. That bastard was talking about his Hinata like a piece of meat! That bastard wanted to touch his Hinata in places only Naruto was allowed to touch!
I’m going to fucking kill him. Nobody is marrying Hinata… except me!
Showoff had come within a hairsbreadth of meeting the Shinigami in person that night, courtesy of Naruto. Luckily for Showoff, that last thought shocked him out of his rage before he actually attacked the man.
Him? Marry Hinata? Did he want that?
Yes! Yes! Yes!
He didn’t know why he didn’t think of it before. Marrying her would prevent anyone else from marrying her. If he married her, then no one could take her away from him. More importantly, he loved Hinata more than his life. He wanted Hinata for forever. If he married her, it would make what they had permanent and official. And he wanted that very badly.
He was almost positive that Hinata wanted the same thing, too. But…
What if I’m wrong? What if she doesn’t want to marry me? What if it’s too soon for her?
“Tadaima,” he called out as he entered their apartment.
“Okaerinasai, Naruto-kun.” Hinata met him in the foyer and gave him long kiss. “Mmm… I missed you.”
That made him smile. “You saw me just this morning, Hinata-chan.”
“I still missed you.”
“Would you like to go out for dinner tonight? I made reservations for us at the Shoki Restaurant.”
“Really?” Hinata was surprised.
The Shoki Restaurant was one of the most exclusive restaurants in Konoha. She knew from personal experience that their cuisine was excellent and that their service was unmatched. She had joined her father for business dinners there in the past. Why did Naruto want to go there, of all places? He wasn’t the type of guy that enjoyed fancy restaurants; he much preferred the casual atmosphere of Ichiraku Ramen to the formal, elegant atmosphere of a place like the Shoki Restaurant.
“Why?” she asked curiously. “Is there some sort of special occasion that I forgot?”
“Oh… um… I just thought… we’ve never been there before and you might like to try it out?” Naruto cringed at the lame excuse. Why hadn’t he thought this through a little better?
“I’ve been there before, Naruto-kun.” Hinata eyed her lover carefully. Why was he so nervous? “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing! Nothing!” His voice cracked on the last word. Naruto cursed inwardly.
Hinata raised an eyebrow, clearly skeptical.
Naruto gulped. This wasn’t going the way he’d planned at all! He was supposed take her to a nice restaurant for a romantic dinner, then for a moonlight stroll through the park, and then ask her to marry him at the park bench where she’d first confessed her love to him. He didn’t know much about romance. But it sounded romantic to him!
Only now, he realized he would never be able to get through a long dinner or a stroll through the park. He’d never last that long! The waiting and the anticipation would kill him first. He couldn’t go another minute without knowing.
“I just w-w-wanted to ask you a question.”
“What is it, Naruto-kun?” Now Hinata was really worried. Naruto – her brave unflappable Naruto – was stuttering!
Naruto fumbled for something in his pocket; his normal ninja-enhanced coordination was absent. It was a jewelry box. More specifically, it was a ring box. Naruto fumbled a little bit more and finally got it open.
It was a ring box with an engagement ring inside.
Hinata gasped and her eyes blurred with tears.
“Marry me, Hinata-chan. Please?”
It took 1/10th of a second for Hinata to say yes.
Hinata threw herself into his arms – knocking him back against the front door – laughing and crying happy tears. She showered him with kisses.
Naruto and Hinata didn’t make it to the Shoki Restaurant, after all. (Their reservation was given to another couple on the waiting list when they didn’t show up at the appointed time.) Instead, they stayed home and celebrated in the privacy of their bedroom.
This was much better than going out to a fancy restaurant. Naruto thought sleepily hours later. He lazily stroked his lover’s bare back. Hinata was already asleep, but still sighed with pleasure and leaned into his touch.
Naruto fell asleep dreaming of a future with Hinata.
(1) The Japanese have phrases/expressions that they use to greet family members when they leave or return home. Tadaima means “I’m back (home).” Okaerinasai means “Welcome home.”
(2) The Shoki Restaurant was a real restaurant – and one of my favorites. It was excellent. Unfortunately, the owners of Shoki had a baby and decided that managing a full menu Japanese bar, grill, and restaurant was too much work. So they sold it. I was very, very sad. Eventually, the owners got back into the restaurant business. But they decided that a full menu Japanese bar, grill, and restaurant would still be too much work. They revamped their menu and decided to specialize in – get this – authentic Japanese ramen. I kid you not. They opened a tiny hole in the wall restaurant in Sacramento, CA called Shoki Ramen House. If any of you live (or visit) the Sacramento area, I recommend that you check it out. Just do a Google search for Shoki Ramen House of Sacramento. I’ve been there before and their ramen is very good.