Blossoms in the Rain
Ever since she was a little girl she loved the rain; the feel of it on her lightly tanned skin, the smell of it in the air, even the sight of it. When others her age would scurry inside during a thunderstorm, she would be in the midst of all of it, dancing around to the music of raindrops and thunderclaps without a care in the world. And she had always believed that her love for the rain was a trait unique to her; that no other person in the entire world loved the rain like she did.
But as she saw him standing in the middle of Training Ground #44, head tilted towards the heavens as the rain fell; she knew that she had been mistaken; that there was at least one other person that sought refuge in the rain, who appreciated its beauty as much as she did. And so she did not alert him of her presence, for Inuzuka Hana knew, more than any other, that the rain helped soothe the soul the most in isolation.
By then everyone knew of his latest failure, the one that had crushed him more than any other. It had been his first time leading a squad of ninja on an A-ranked mission and he had been practically bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm. He came back three days later with the report; the mission had been completed, but he was the only ninja left standing. Since that day he had been shut in his small apartment, refusing to see anyone who came to console him.
And, like anyone who knew him, Hana was deeply troubled by these actions. She was used to the obnoxious, loudmouthed little kid she had gown to care about. Sure, she herself did not know him well, but her younger brother grew up with him; eventually becoming one of his closest friends.
But now Kiba was gone; ironically he was one of the ninja that died on the mission. Maybe that was why she didn’t blame Naruto for his death. After all, she believed that one of the most honorable of deaths is to die protecting one’s comrades; which was one of the reasons she only spoke of her father’s name with great reverence.
When she was only eight he had died on a mission, ironically he had died protecting her future jōnin sensei, Namiashi Raidō. Originally, Hana could not bear even looking at the man without thinking horrible thoughts about him. But eventually, she came to realize that Raidō felt similarly as she did regarding her father; that it was his own fault that Hana’s father had died. This revelation slowly caused Hana to empathize with him, and, eventually, came to respect him. Even then, at the age of 24, she went to Raidō when she was distressed or merely needed to talk.
And as she watched Naruto standing there in the rain, she began to think that maybe what he needed was not isolation, but companionship. He needed someone to bring him back to the real world; to tell him that these things happen and that there’s no way to change the past.
“The rain’s refreshing, isn’t it?” she asked as she finally revealed herself to him, walking next to him.
“Yeah, I guess,” Naruto mumbled, not looking up to meet Hana’s eyes. She sighed in frustration at his answer, and clapped her hand on his shoulder.
“Sometimes the greatest cure for grief is admission,” she advised.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, now looking at the mud beneath his sandaled feet. “Because of me Kiba’s dead,” he stated. “Because of me you don’t have a younger brother anymore.”
“You’re right,” she agreed, her tone blank. “It’s completely your fault that your teammates died; you have no leadership skills whatsoever,” she added factually as she gripped his shoulder tighter.
“If this is supposed to cheer me up it’s not working,” Naruto responded sullenly.
“It’s not,” Hana flatly stated. “I meant it when I said it’s your fault; but it doesn’t mean anyone else could’ve done better,” she added. “Everyone makes mistakes Naruto; no matter how strong or brave they are. But it’s the people who are truly strong and brave that can admit that they screwed up and live with that knowledge. And, no matter what anyone else may say, I know that Kiba was content that he could die to protect one of his best friends,” she explained soothingly. Sure, she might have lied about that last bit about Kiba, but it might as well be true. After all, what use are memories if you can’t warp them to your advantage?
Naruto then turned around to face the Inuzuka heiress and gazed into her muddy brown eyes. And for several seconds there was nothing but the sound of rain colliding with nature; then he cried. For the first time since he was a genin he cried for all the things he couldn’t do or all the missions he had failed. And she held him tightly against her, allowing herself to cry for the pain of loss, for the empathy she held for this young man, and for the foolish mistakes she herself had made.
Several minutes later both of their tears stopped flowing, and all there was in the air was the sound of rain and thunder.
“See, don’t you feel better now?” Hana asked, her eyes puffy and red from crying.
“Yeah, I do,” Naruto answered, his own cheeks tear stained. After several minutes of awkward silence, Naruto once again spoke. “Hana, if you don’t mind, can I call you…my older sister?” he asked. “I won’t be hurt if you’re angry at me for asking such a selfish thing, especially after Kiba’s death. It’s just that all my life I’ve wondered what having an older brother or sister would be like, and now, standing here crying in your arms, I feel like I have one,” he added in a whisper.
At this Hana again began to cry and held the young man even tighter, this time in pity for the shit Naruto must have dealt with if he wanted Inuzuka Hana; the brash, violent, hotheaded, loudmouthed, standard-looking, selfish, tomboy to be his older sister.
“Call me whatever you want, Naruto, as long as you come to me whenever you feel like shit,” Hana answered through her tears, smiling at the younger man.
“Alright then, Hana-onee-san,” Naruto replied.
Truly, the rain is a beautiful thing for Uzumaki Naruto and Inuzuka Hana. For not only did they dance to thunder and maneuvered in between lightning bolts, they discovered something beautiful in the steady rhythm of the droplets of water.
They discovered that the strangest things blossom in it, given the chance. And love, without contest, is the strangest feeling of all.
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Chapter notes: Disclaimer: Don't own Naruto