Uzumaki Naruto surveyed his surroundings, trying to figure out where he was, and how he had came there. It was some sort of man made cave, maybe even a corridor of some sorts. Pipes ran along the ceiling, small droplets of water forming on them, some times falling onto the wet floor, creating an eerie sound in the silence. Naruto had been here before, yet when he gazed down the corridor, with it’s inapprehensible amount of crossing corridors, he had no sense of direction at all, and no Idea which corridor to use in order to get to the nine tails, or if it really mattered at all.
Recently he had been able to use the red chakra without actually seeing the nine tails and asking for permission. This time Naruto didn’t even want to ask for it. As a matter of fact he really didn’t want to b here at all. But he felt as if he was being summoned, and since the nine tails demon, once responsible for the near destruction of Konoha, had been a life saver so many times, he felt that he might as well see what he wanted.
Without hesitating, Naruto simply took the first corridor to the right, and with a bright flash of light, he found himself outside the great barred gates that contained Kyubi, the demon fox. Beyond the gate there was only darkness, but Naruto knew that the demon fox was near. He sensed it lurking inside, just outside his line of sight, hiding in the darkness of his cage.
“Welcome to my lair once again, boy,” a dark sinister voice whispered from the darkness. “How nice of you to come visit me in my lair. I hope it’s comfy enough for you.”
“Hey, why did you bring me here, demon?” Naruto asked defiantly. He hated being here, in absolute silence with only the demon for company and the constant dripping from the ceiling. “I did not want to come here, I am in no trouble, unless someone is trying to assassinate me in my sleep, in which case I hope you let me wake up.”
The demon still had not shown himself and kept hidden in the darkness, yet Naruto could still feel his hateful glare from within the black void. Quiet at first, so quiet that Naruto first didn’t realise where it was coming from, the demon started to laugh. The cool insanity in the demons voice made Naruto want to turn around and run away, real fast. But he didn’t know if he could leave without the demon’s permission, or what he would do or feel if he couldn’t. “Fear not, little boy,” the demon said, coming to his senses. “I might be a little insane. One hundred and sixty years of solitude might do that to a mind, even a mind as old as mine.”
“What do you want?” Naruto had not turned and ran, which made him real impressed of himself. “You summoned me, and I doubt you just wanted to chat.”
“You have grown, little boy. You are no longer the heat blooded boy that first came to stand before me… Well, at least not hot blooded as you used to be, that is.” The demon laughed again, clearly amused of insulting him. “You have been using my chakra frequently over the years, yet you have never thanked me.”
“Of course not!” Naruto protested incredulously. “You are trapped within me, you would have died if I died. I did what was necessary to defend me and those precious to me, and thus also defending you, being trapped within me and all.”
The demon fell silent for a few seconds, and once again Naruto braced himself as the eyeless gaze tried to pierce through his mind. The demon can probably read my thoughts, since we share body and all. Not that it troubles me, Naruto thought. Even if he knows my secrets, he can’t tell anyone. “Yes. Those precious to you…” the demon said ruefully. Suddenly the demon stood in front of Naruto, so close to the gate that Naruto had to double check than he was not outside of it. The red eyes suddenly illuminated the room outside the gates, and the heat blazing from them made Naruto’s face break into a sweat. “We share the same body, human,” The demon continued. “We even share our thoughts. Even if you do not know how to read mine, I know how to read yours. That’s right; your guess was spot on. How else did you think I was able to lend you my chakra without you coming here and asking for it?”
The intense red light in the demons burning eyes made Naruto look away. “You can read my mind. Isn’t that swell? Well, I will have none of it, so stop reading my mind, asshole, or I will…”
“Kick my ass?” the demon laughed so hard that Naruto had to put his hands up to protect his face as the demon’s infernal breath struck him. “Boy, you cannot kick my ass, just as little as I can kick yours. I like you, you know. I like your style. Maybe I’m getting soft, maybe it’s your personality or I might even have a thing for those whiskers of yours. Maybe my own mind is mending together with your’s, making me think as a human instead of a demon. However…” The demon fell silent again, and Naruto let his arms fall from in front his face. “However, I summoned you here for a reason. Since we both share this body of yours…”
“We don’t share anything, my body is my own!” Naruto protested, although he knew this was not entirely true. But, he reasoned, to an extent it was. He was the master of his own body, and the demon was his… Rather unwelcome guest.
“Yes, well, I don’t like it much either, I assure you.” The demon said, laughing. For the first time Naruto thought he felt something other than hatred in that voice. “An unwelcome guest…” he added, most to himself. Naruto suddenly felt uncertain as of what the demon was going at. Had he finally lost what was left of his sanity?
“Boy, look at me.” Naruto didn’t really want to, but found himself looking into those red, burning eyes, and for once he saw something else, saw past the frightening eyes and saw the pain that was behind them, a pain that he knew all to well.
“You… You are lonely.” Naruto could not believe it.
“Yes… Yes I am.” The demon seemed ashamed of admitting this. “The time flow is slowed tenfold in here. While you have lived with me inside of you for 16 years, I have been here for one hundred and sixty years. All alone.” The demon was silent, lost in thought, and seemed to have forgotten about Naruto.
“You cannot be lonely!” Naruto protested. “You are a demon, you spread terror and destruction. You kill people just because… Because you want to. You don’t know the meaning of loneliness. I refuse to believe it!”
The demon gathered himself and saw deeply into Naruto’s eyes. “I do not care what you think, little human. We demons have many powers, and we might not have many friends, if any. But we can feel loyalty, and since I share your body, I must be loyal to you, even though I don’t like you much. You are not my friend, yet I must lend you my powers in order to survive. I would like very much to be your friend, little human. And do not make me say that again.”
Naruto really could not believe his ears and thought of nothing to say.
“You don’t need to say anything, little human. I know what you feel about me, and I do not hold that against you. But as I said, I would really like to get to know you, and not only by reading your thoughts. So from here on, I will summon you from time to time, just to have a little chat.”
“But,” Naruto began to protest, but found himself talking to his ceiling, eyes wide open. Damn! I am already awake. He sat up straight on his bedroll and looked out the window. It was raining outside, and he heard thunder in the distance. He tried to get his thoughts straight, as he felt confused and disorientated, as he always did after his meetings with the demon fox. What was he playing at? Friends? He was the reason why Naruto never had any friends until that fateful evening when Iruka-sensei had sacrificed himself to save him from Mizuki. What did he know about loneliness, that stupid demon? He sighed and slumped back onto the bedroll. This was just stupid. A cuddly little fox in demon clothing… Man, this was getting better and better.
He tried to sleep, but could not find any rest. He went up and put on his black t-shirt, blue shorts and the orange overall. The rain was pouring outside, but thought that it was much better out in the rain than staying here, tired, yet too afraid of falling asleep. He left his bedroom and went into the combined hall and kitchen. The room was dark, but it didn’t matter, as he had lived here most of his life and knew the way around the table. He opened the front door and stepped outside into the cool, damp night air. He took a deep breath, feeling the coolness, taking in the smells of the night and the wet asphalt. It was raining quite hard now, and he began having second thoughts about venturing into the rain. He braced himself and started walking down the stairs and left the protection offered by the roof above him. He felt the rain against his face, as it went down along the back of his nose, down his cheek and finally dropping of his chin. It felt good.
He went down the alley near his home, the alley where Konohamaru-kun had tried to “ambush” him once. He smiled at the memory. It was hard to imagine that was three full years ago, and that little Konohamaru was currently studying hard for the academy exams. Maybe he would be a genin soon, going on missions like Naruto did. He stopped, thinking also about when he met Gaara of the sand here, and the many encounters with Sakura and Sasuke. The thought of Sasuke made his stomach squirm in pain, and the relieving rain suddenly went cold as the sadness took him. Sasuke, the guy he hated the most, the guy who had always made him go of the rail, the guy who always enjoyed annoying him and get under his skin. His rival. His best friend. His brother.
Naruto shook his head and tried to suppress the sad thoughts with one of his smiles. But the smile fade away, and he continued down the alley and onto the main street of Konoha, leading all the way from the main gate to the building with the fire emblem, the seat of the fifth Hokage, Tsunade-sama.
“I will become the sixth Hokage.” Naruto promised himself. “I will show them all.”
Even though Naruto might have been accepted by most ninjas in the village, most of the normal people feared or despised him because of the nine tailed demon inside of him. When he became the Hokage, everyone would have to acknowledge him.
The thought of becoming Hokage cheered him up, and he was able to enjoy the rain again. He was soaking wet now, but he didn’t mind. He walked up the main street with self confident steps. Yes, he would become the Hokage! And when he was, he would find Sasuke for sure! He is not lost forever, I have promised Sakura-chan that I would find him. And I don’t go back on my word. That is my way of the ninja!
He decided it would be fun to do some chakra control training on the mountain face with images of the previous Hokages cut out of it. Tsunade-sama was not yet cut into the mountain, but arrangements were being made for that. Naruto laughed when he thought about how his face would look cut out in rock. It made him remember when Hinata made him rice buns in the shape of his face… Weird thing to do, that. But then again, Hinata had always been wierd, fainting and blushing without any reason. She had always stayed the same, just like him. They both looked and behaved as they did when leaving the academy, they were just taller. Sakura thought of him as immature, as she always had, but now Naruto knew she had a reason. He was immature, and he liked it to stay that way. He would not bow or squirm before people, he always spoke his mind, and he was happy about it. If other people thought of him as immature, that was their problem really.
Naruto had long since given up hope about Sakura, as she was always complaining about him and making him look bad. She was still a friend, and he had promised her to find Sasuke, but Naruto didn’t like her much nowadays. She always had her nose in a book and never paid him much attention. Sakura had become boring, and the wisdom of age had told him to just give up on her. By that time he as so accustomed to being neglected by her that he didn’t even feel sad.
He woke up when he heard running footsteps from an alley to the right. He looked around at his surroundings, trying to find good strategic spot. But he was no Shikamaru, so he just figured the best choice of action was to just snuggle up against the wall to the right and see who was running around in the middle of the night. He ran up to the wall and tried to blend in with it. The sound of running feet intensified, and hundreds of thoughts went through his mind. Maybe Konoha was under attack. If that was the case, he would defeat this attacker and warn the guards, and he would be the great hero of Konoha! Maybe then they would realise his potential, and Tsunade-sama would be forced to give him the title of Hokage! The youngest Hokage ever! That sure sounded nice. Maybe it was fuzzy eyebrows, running around trying to improve his taijitsu and impress Gai-sensei. He could join him then, and they would race trough Konoha, and he would definitely win! Maybe it was Kakashi-sensei or Ero-senin who wanted to give him a special, secret mission!
But it was neither an invading force, fuzzy eyebrows, nor one of his sensei. It was just Hinata who ran around trying to dodge the rain drops, and was obviously succeeding in this, since she was not wet at all. Wow, that was one amazing technique. Naruto just had to learn.
“Hey, Hinata!” he yelled at her from against the wall. She had not noticed him, and with a yelp of surprise she turned around, yet forgot to stop first, and tripped on her own leg. She went through the air and landed painfully on her backside.
“Ouch!” she wimpered and tried to stand up. Naruto ran up to her. “Na-Naruto-kun…”
“Oy, are you alright Hinata?” Naruto asked and gazed down on her. She still had that grey jacked that she had always had, yet it had been patched and remade some times, just as his overall. He guessed she had a few spare jackets just like he had spare overalls.
“Na-Naruto, Im sorry, I…” Hinata stuttered as she felt her face turn red and hot. She had no doubt in the world that any raindrops that hit her face would vaporize. Come on, Hinata! Think of something to say! You are sixteen, you are no child who can hide behind her father or team mates, or teachers… Oh god, Why cant I think of something cool to say? Come on, say something, anything. She opened her mouth and tried to speak, but nothing came out at first. “Ah… Ah… Naruto-kun, I… You… Would you like to train with me?” Oh, come on! How cool was that? Naruto always thought of something cool to say.
Naruto surveyed her suspiciously. “Hinata, are you sure you are alright?” he asked. “Your face is red. Maybe you got a concussion or something. Let’s go to Sakura’s place, it’s not far…”
“No!” Hinata yelled before she could stop herself. Oh god, how bad didn’t that look. He’ll tel me I’m insane. Yet Naruto did no such thing, he just nodded to himself.
“Nah, you’re right. She’d just yell at me, and make you hospitalized for a month just to make me feel bad.” What’s this? Naruto saying this about Sakura?! But coming to think about it she realised that Naruto hadn’t been following her around much lately. Maybe they are already together now? Hinata felt her heart shatter at the mere thought. “It’s better if we just go to the hospital, it’s a bit further, but I can carry you if you start feeling faint or anything…”
“I-I’m fine. Really.” She said, pulling herself together. She must regain some of her composure, or she’d look like a complete idiot. Why couldn’t he just tell him. He didn’t love her anyway, why not get it over with? But… It’s better to cling on to hope than let go and drown in despair. Oh, how she loved him. He was always so strong, and he never gave up. He was kind to people even though no one had ever been kind to him. He was always nice to her, as if he hadn’t noticed that she was different from all the other ninjas. She sighed mentally. I will never have him, but I will never have anyone else either, so what does it matter?
“Well, in that case, lets go.” Naruto said, lending her a hand. She hesitated at first, and looked up into his eyes. She had one of his biggest, most beautiful smiles. Her face got even hotter, and she felt as if she was going to faint. She didn’t have time though because Naruto drew her up on her feet and put her arm around his neck. “Are your legs OK?” he asked. “Can you walk.”
Naruto… I’m so close I can smell his hair, feel his warmth… I have my arm around…
“Hey, Hinata, don’t do that all the time!” Naruto yelled, but got no answer. “Oh, terrific.” He hoisted her up a little bit, put his arm under her legs, and lifted her of the ground. He started carrying her towards the hospital, lost in thought. Usually she recovered quite fast, but this might be the result of an injury, so he decided to take her to the hospital at once. He looked down on her face, now pale instead of the glowing red he was used to. Her trousers had been damaged just above the knee cap, but it was nothing a needle and thread could not fix. He carried her down the street, and suddenly she moved in his arms, almost as if cuddling up against him.
She was so close he could smell her now, and what a smell. It was not a perfume, since she was out running in the middle of the night; it was something… else, not even a smell, something weird that he had never felt before. She was pretty. The thought struck him like a lightning. He stopped dead in his tracks. He’d never thought of her as pretty, he had just thought of her as Hinata. He stared down at her face, transfixed by her cute face. He very much wanted her to open her eyes so he could see those pale, grey eyes she had. He felt his entire body tingle in a way he had never felt before, and he wondered if he too was going to pass out. But he didn’t. He just felt happy, happier than he had felt in a long time. He could not bear the thought of releasing his gaze from her face, he wanted to watch it forever. He bent down his head and drew in her scent through his nose. Then he smiled and looked away from her, suddenly sad again.
He had just given up on a girl who didn’t want him, and now he was in love with another girl that wouldn’t give him the light of the day. But it wouldn’t hurt anyone if he looked at her, he reasoned, and turned his gaze back to her. He had never seen such a beautiful girl, not since the day he had seen that strange spirit in the water fall. She was just… Perfect. Gah, you behave like Ero-senin! His inner voice yelled. Look at her face, not her body, idiot! He did that, once again feeling sad. Why was he sad? He hated being sad, he had had his full share of it a long time ago, and didn’t want to be sad any more.
Hinata felt her body again, and regained consciousness. She opened her eyes a little and saw Naruto’s face, just inches away from hers, as he looked straight ahead. She felt as if she was going to faint again, but she really wanted to remember this later, so she desperately clung onto consciousness. She then realised they weren’t moving, and opened her eyes a little bit more. Naruto’s scent filled her nostrils, and she so much wanted to kiss him, hug him, do anything, just be closer to him, but she dared not. Her entire body was throbbing, and she wished she had the courage to at least tell him that she loved him. And if she couldn’t tell him she loved him, she could at least tell him she liked him. She gathered courage and moved towards him, but then she realised something. The drops running down his face was not rain, it was tears. She didn’t even need the Byakyugan for that.
“Na-Naruto? Are you OK?” she asked carefully.
He jumped and looked down into her face. “Yes, I’m fine. It’s you I worry about.” He smiled, yet Hinata sensed he was not as cheerful as he wanted her to think. There was a lot of pain and grief behind that smile, Hinata knew. She had been watching him since her first day at the academy, after all.
“I am alright.” Hinata said, amazed at her own boldness. She didn’t even stutter. “B-But… Naruto-kun… You are crying…”
“Hah, nah.” Naruto tried giving here an even bigger smile, but she knew that the pain behind it had also grown bigger. “These are just rain drops, not tears.” His pain saddened her. She wanted him to tell him about what he felt about everything, what he felt about her. She wanted him to share his pain with her, and she wanted him to share hers. She wanted it so bad it hurt.
“Naruto…” she tried to think of anything comforting to say. She knew the reason for his sadness. She knew that he was sad because no one liked him, and maybe mostly because Sakura did not. So the logical thing to say would be that someone liked him. “You… There are people who like you, you know.”
Naruto went absolutely still. “What did you say?”
Hinata felt panic arise within her. What had she said? “I… Um…” She couldn’t think of something to say. Or rather, she could think of much to say, but she didn’t dare. “Sakura likes you.” She said, meaning to say ‘I like you.’
Naruto, didn’t move, and his voice was utterly toneless. “What makes you think that?”
Oh, she hated that voice! He had never talked to her that way! What had she done? She must think of something, a lie, anything that will save her from this situation without him suspecting something. “She told me.”
The smile across Naruto’s face, a small, rueful smile, together with his complete blank expression in his eyes almost made her cry. “Don’t lie to me, Hinata. I hate it when everyone thinks I’m stupid.” His voice had suddenly gone from toneless and empty till sharp and angry. Hinata wanted to faint, so she could just get out of this situation, but when she needed it, she could not, ofcourse.
“N-N-Naruto, no, I…”
“I hate it when people look down on me. I hate that more than when they fear me. ‘Look, there’s Naruto the Dimwitted, lets make fun of him, because he has no brains and cannot complete a single mission without assistance from the Hokage herself or one of the elite senins.’ I am not a fool, Hinata. I had hoped you of all people would have noticed. I actually believed that you were different from anyone else, that you were more kind than the ordinary people of this village. But you are not, are you?”
“Naruto…” She felt tears prickle behind her eyelids, but Naruto didn’t notice. He had started walking again, in silence. What should she say? She had lied to him. If she could only tell him that she didn’t mean it that way. But then she knew that he would only despise her more if he thought she pitied him. I am a coward. I always has been and always will. She sobbed, and immediately tried to suppress the next sob, but failed. Naruto cool heartedly ignored her.
“You seem to be catching a cold.” He said with his fake cheerfulness. “Luckily for you we are there.” He gently put her down on the ground infront of the hospital. The lights were on in most of the rooms and the reception, and she could already feel the warmth of a hospital bed and some dry clothing.
“Thank you.” She whispered, but he had already left. Running.
She turned around and faced the hospital building. Well, she thought, I will not give up. Giving up would be failing her way of the ninja. Naruto’s way of the ninja. She just wished it was as easy to live by that rule while standing closer than one hundred feet from him. She remembered his blank expression, and from the sadness she felt she drew strength. He could not possibly hate her more than he did right now, so following him and at least try to explain wouldn’t hurt. She looked down on her wet clothing. She would catch a cold if she didn’t get inside soon. But it would be worth it just to have tried to explain. She nodded to herself and gathered all the courage she could muster, then turned away from the hospital and ran after Naruto, towards his home. After all, she wasn’t really injured.
Chapter notes: Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.