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I'll Never Let Go by PhoenixClaw

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Chapter notes: DISCLAIMER: I do not own Naruto nor do I own any of its characters. This story was written almost a year ago now, and it still kind of makes me smile when I re-read it. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.
This story is meant to take place several days before the tournament-style finals of the Chuunin exams. Also, it is based off the English anime, something that will become obvious a little later on in the story. 8P

Why can’t I just tell him?

Hyuuga Hinata walked out from Konaha village beneath magnificent streaks of deepest blue and black offset by the shining beauty of a full moon. She had been met with another restless night daydreaming about Naruto. Or was it nightdreaming? Wouldn’t that just make them normal dreams? And in that case, shouldn’t she logically be getting a good night’s sleep, then? Why was she even having this discussion with herself? The young woman consented to a plaintive sigh, letting all the trees and creatures of the night know the troubles of the young Byakugan heiress.

Luckily, a small breeze scented with cheery blossoms and broken earth distracted her from such odd little musings, and the reason she had come out here in the first place promptly came back into focus; that of course being to temporarily stop thinking about her crush. The instant she remembered what was supposed to be forgotten, however, a bleak look encompassed her features, and a gentle coloring dabbed at her cheeks. She let out another sigh.

All I want is for Naruto to like me, but I can’t even think about him without panicking! What am I going to do…?

Despite such inner turmoil, the young woman had continued to move along her prescribed path and soon found the spot for which she had been searching. Just outside the main village, several open fields overlapped with one another, creating a criss-cross pattern of practice targets, small lakes, tall trees, and an assortment of specially designed scenarios to test specific shinobi skills. Beyond that stood a small playground for the village children, no more than a swing set, really, and it was upon this spot Hinata decided to rest her feet, if not her mind.

I just want him to notice me. Even if he doesn’t feel the same way I do, at least we…at least…

She couldn’t even finish her own thought, unsure of what might be appropriate to say, if anything at this point. The Hyuuga maiden sat herself down on one of the swings, legs dangling aimlessly, her soul laid open before the cool night air. Seconds passed, followed by minutes, and eventually it could be perceived that the moon had changed position since she left the village. Still, her thoughts remained transfixed on the singular desires of a heart brimming with love, and all the world could have passed her by before she would have taken any notice.

On a whim, Hinata let her pale gray eyes wander upward, taking in sights that the heavens had to offer; everlasting beauty of a moon anchored in darkness, perpetual shimmering of stars so very high above. Stirring passions wandered outward, than inward again, as she drank in the shadow-enclosed splendor of the night surrounding her person.

Dark, mysterious trees to her right, soft and supple sand between her toes, a smattering of lights in the village that lay directly ahead…and a young man squatting precariously on the swing mere inches from her left shoulder.

A startled shriek erupted from the young woman’s throat as she leapt to her feet. The boy in question toppled over backwards, landing unceremoniously on his bottom. As soon as Hinata determined her heart wouldn’t actually beat out through her chest, she was quick to notice the orange jumpsuit and spiky blonde hair as belonging to the one person she would never have expected to see here.

“N-N-Naruto…?”

The male shinobi looked up with a huge grin on his face, trying to dust sand off his rear while at the same time standing up. He threw an arm behind his head and laughed good-naturedly.

“Hiya Hinata! Sorry I scared you like that. I thought you knew I was there.”

He was met with a blank look of terror mixed with overwhelming emotions, but a naive grasp of the situation failed to take into account her devastating blush coupled with a stuttering acceptance of his apology.

“So…you want me to push you?”

“I…you…what?”

“Ya know, on the swing.”

“The…s-swing?”

Naruto regarded her with his infinitely charming fox-like grin, and pointed to the seat in front of her. Hinata followed his index finger and observed the contraption as if it were her first time seeing it.

“Yeah, c’mon. You get on the swing, and I’ll push you. It’ll be fun! Believe it!”

As if in a daze, the young woman did as she was told. Within moments, a pair of strong hands rested gently above her hips, and she blushed an even deeper shade of crimson.

“Ok, ya ready?”

“Y-Yes, Naruto…”

“Alright, here we go!”

For the young Hyuuga heiress, centuries began to pass in the span of heartbeats.

Every few seconds, his hands would settle upon their delicate position at her sides, and she would feel a great rush of warmth. Then, his hands would leave, and a vast emptiness would fill her heart. Luckily, his presence always returned, banishing the darkness with a depth of feeling she had only encountered in her wildest fantasies of his powerful touch.

“Are you having fun, Hinata?”

She managed to break out of her mental reserve just long enough to glance backwards and present him with an enthusiastic nod. Before turning around again, something about his face caught her attention, and she considered him a bit longer. He was smiling broadly, which was probably an understatement, but there was something about his eyes…

He was unhappy, hiding it all behind that childlike smile.

A sudden wave of guilt caught her around the throat, and she swallowed gingerly.

“N-Naruto…?”

“Yeah, Hina? You wanna go higher?”

She blushed at his words, flattered and embarrassed at the nickname he had begun calling her a few weeks back. Still, her concern for the young man far outweighed any thrill she might receive from being addressed in such a personal manner.

“N-Naruto...are you ok?”

“Of course I am! Never felt better! How high do ya wanna go?”

It seemed as if he had answered too quickly, and a deeper concern began to rise within her breast. As much as it hurt to do so, she dug her heels into the sand on the return pass. Naruto was left to brace himself against the quick decision, and he eased the girl to a stop, holding her around the waist a bit more firmly than before. When she was resting idly on the swing, he removed his hands, causing the young woman to expel a pained inner sigh.

“…What’s wrong, Hinata?”

Everything. Nothing. His question brought forth a swell of emotions within her slender frame, and she silently admonished herself a moment later. Even with a deep sadness clearly evident in his features, he still centered on her well-being. Why couldn’t she be strong like that? The only desire ever to reside in her heart was to make Naruto happy. What made it so difficult to comfort the one you loved?

Hinata sucked in a deep breath, and pivoted her body so that she was staring right into her beloved’s eyes.

“I-I know something’s bothering you, N-Naruto…do you…do you want to talk about it…?”

The young man tried to stall, flashing yet another vulpine grin. When it became obvious her look of concern would not abate, he reluctantly conceded and dropped the act.

A few moments later, Naruto took a seat beside her, allowing both legs to dangle above the ground in the same dismal manner his friend had done earlier. She must have used her Byakugan when he wasn’t looking or something; how else would she know he was upset? He figured it was dumb luck…or woman’s intuition.

It never occurred that he might just simply be an open book before the eyes of someone who truly loved him. Regardless, a dark pallor seemed to hover over his head for a few moments.

“Hinata…what do you do for your birthday?”

The Hyuuga maiden glanced sideways, a look of confusion set upon her face at the odd question. Naruto in turn shifted his gaze to look at her indirectly; part of his sight fixed on the village set some distance away.

“I…Father has me train all the time, and…it’s not such a big deal, really…”

“But don’t you do anything to celebrate?”

She had to think about that for a moment.

“Well…Neji, Hanabi and Father usually just smile and hug me. Sometimes we’ll order fresh sushi from the marketplace and have a nice dinner together, as a family…”

Hinata instantly regretted her last words, cringing at the fact that Naruto lived alone. Despite her fear, she was met with a great big toothy grin that held no indication of the sorrow he had been feeling just moments ago.

“That sounds really nice, Hinata! You’re a lucky girl to have such a great family.”

The young woman poked her fingers together, mulling over his words.

“I…I guess I am…”

It wasn't quite the truth, since any birthday celebrations like that had ended right after her mother passed away. Still, Hinata didn't wish to bother Naruto with her own personal problems. They weren't really important, and he...he wouldn't want to hear about them anyway...

Both shinobi remained silent for a time, content only to be in one another’s company with nothing but the breeze to occupy their minds. A delicate breath eventually broke the silence.

“It’s so late, N-Naruto…I-I never expected to see anyone else out here…it’s ok if you don’t want to tell me, but if something’s bothering you,” She swallowed hard. “I’d like to help...”

The young boy cast her a heartfelt expression of friendship, and she blushed at his warm demeanor. He looked away suddenly, occupying himself with the sand beneath his feet.

“I…I just couldn’t sleep, that’s all.”

She waited a few more seconds, but when no more information came her way, it became apparent she would have to draw it out of him.

“N-Naruto…why did you want to know about my birthday?”

A long, painful silence ensued.

Maybe prying had been a bad idea. What was she thinking, just going off and picking at his innermost thoughts? How selfish could she be, believing she had any right to force her will on him just like that?

He must think of me as nothing more than a prattling child. This always happens; I always make things worse. Father constantly chastises me for my weakness, and he’s right. I’m never any help, and the one person I care about the most, I hurt the worst! I’m such a terrible ninja, why do I even continue? Naruto must hate me now. I’m no help to anyone. I’m -

“Hinata…could I ask you something…?”

The young woman snapped out of her loathsome thoughts in an instant, brushing away a few stray tears. She turned to the blonde boy at her side and quelled the lump that was quickly rising in her throat.

“Of course, N-Naruto …what do you want to know?”

A pair of crystal blue eyes stared straight ahead, gazing at the village some distance before them. Hinata briefly wondered if he was looking towards the future or back into the past. Her scrutiny regarding his unreadable expression fell to the wayside as he began to speak.

“I went to see Lord Hokage today. He kept telling me to leave since he had important things to do, or something. I didn’t really care. I just kept asking him about my parents, almost like something was telling me to. All I wanted was to know more about them, I guess…”

The young man half smiled, half grimaced.

“After a real long time, he finally said that my dad had been a good man…but he wouldn’t say anything about my mom, just that she had…loved me.”

He paused for a moment, closing both eyes tightly. His features had become ashen. Hinata could feel a constriction around her heart, and she briefly entertained the notion of reaching out and stroking his cheek. Such foolishness was dispelled immediately. He wouldn’t like that, not from her, maybe Sakura or, well, anyone but her…

“I begged him to tell me more. I begged and begged until two Chunin came out of nowhere and dragged me away. When we were almost out of his office, Lord Hokage stood up and dismissed them. I was standing there all alone…”

Silence.

Naruto…what’s bothering you so greatly? I want to help, but I don’t understand. Please let me know what’s hurting you. I’ll do everything I can to heal your wounds…

The young man scuffed his foot across the sand.

“He just stood there and looked at me in such a weird way…“Your mother would want you to know.” …That’s all he said before sitting down again and looking over his papers. I didn’t understand, so…so I asked him what it was she would have wanted me to know…”

Naruto visibly bent under the strain of whatever was weighing so heavily on his mind. The Hyuuga heiress was quick to notice the tightness in his features, but other than that, it seemed impossible to…no, wait…she knew that look. It had been present on her face more times than she could ever hope to imagine.

He was fighting back tears.

The blonde boy remained in a sunken state for many moments, wrestling with the idea of telling his friend what was slowly eating him alive. He trusted Hinata; she had always been so kind to him. It would be ok. She wouldn’t laugh. He might even feel better telling her. Yeah, no doubt about it, he’d feel better. She was always so kind…

Naruto sucked in a deep breath of clean, fresh air, then exhaled.

“Lord Hokage said that…tomorrow’s my birthday.”

The young woman stiffened, her pale eyes growing wide; surprise and happiness began to overshadow one another at regular intervals. She never knew…why hadn’t this come up before? He didn’t even know his own birthday, didn’t even have parents, and here they were, talking about how great her family was…

Hinata felt ashamed.

Before she could stop herself, a small pale hand reached over and gently came to rest upon the boy’s knee. Her lips were overcome by a pained yet loving smile.

“H-Happy Birthday…N-N-Naruto…”

He didn’t even look up, refusing to acknowledge her courageous undertaking. Instead, the young man’s arm rose ever so slowly, and he laid his fingers atop those of the girl beside him. Both shinobi were encased in a crisp silence. When he did not withdraw from their touch, Hinata began to blush deeply. Naruto was actually holding her hand…

Their quiet moment together was eventually interrupted by a husky, tentative whisper.

“Can…can I still ask my question, Hinata? Do you mind…?”

Two pearlesque orbs began to shimmer in the pastel moonlight.

“Naruto…you can ask me anything…”

He finally broke contact, and she did the same a moment later, albeit with a great deal of remorse. The male shinobi turned in his seat, momentarily losing himself in the haunting beauty of her pale lavender eyes. His face was empty, a bottomless chasm waiting to be filled.

“Hina…what’s it like to be loved by someone just for being born…?”

Her heartstrings snapped…he didn’t know.

On his birthday, with no parents to speak of, he didn’t know what it meant to be loved just for who he was. Why had he asked her? How could she possibly answer? What right did she have to even try and fill that gap in his heart? She cared so much for him; so very, very much, but this…

Naruto…you mean everything to me…the strength I’ve received from watching you; all the times you stood back up and did your best. I just want to be half the ninja you are…I’d do anything for you, Naruto, anything…but this, I can’t…I…I just can’t…

The Hyuuga maiden began to weep silently; both eyes shut tight, her features strained against the release of so much pent up anguish. As her fists began to ball up in grief, Naruto jumped out of his seat and squatted down right in front of her.

“Hey, Hinata! Don’t cry. I’m sorry I upset you. That was a stupid question, I know. I’m really, really sorry…”

The young man reached out and patted her affectionately on the head.

He’s trying to console me! After what he just said…why am I so weak! I should be trying to help him, and all I can do is cry! This isn’t fair…why can’t I be stronger…?

She felt a bit of warmth near her face, and realized a moment later that Naruto was cupping her cheek. He began to wipe away tepid droplets of fear and uncertainty with his thumb.

“C’mon, Hinata. It’s ok. I won’t say dumb stuff like that ever again, I promise.”

Her eyes snapped open, shocked at his words, taking in every aspect of her love’s features.

He in turn cast forth his very best smile, making sure to hold nothing back in the hopes of getting her feeling better again.

The pain in his eyes had increased ten-fold.

A hollow numbness coursed through her mind. The only thing that even truly registered was how completely undeserving she was to have someone like him call her a friend.

“Ah, man, please don’t be upset …it’s no big deal, really.”

A wounded sparkle danced across the boy’s eyes as he thumped his chest.

“There’s no way I’m gonna let something like this get the best of the next Hokage! Believe it!”

He flashed her a goofy fox-like grin, offset by two devastatingly beautiful cerulean windows into his very soul.

“Besides, Hina, your feelings are way more important than anything that old man says! I’d definitely pick one of your pretty smiles over some dumb old question about love any day!”

At that kindhearted, innocent, compassionate utterance, those precious words spoken without a hint of fear or weakness, something deep inside the young kunoichi finally cracked. Everything that she had ever held dear about Uzumaki Naruto surged forth with all the voracious power of a maelstrom.

An agonized cry tore itself loose from Hinata’s throat, and the young woman threw herself forward with the untold strength of a bleeding heart. Both arms latched desperately around his neck, and the two of them went toppling over into the soft ankle-deep grass.

For the longest time, she simply remained there on top of him, face pressed squarely into his shoulder while violent sobs racked her frame. Naruto hadn’t a clue what made her just lunge like that, but he figured it had somehow been his fault, and now tried to make amends.

As he gingerly positioned himself a bit more comfortably between her small body and the earth beneath him, two arms rose up and cradled the young woman against his chest. One hand remained gently fixed upon the nape of her neck, while the other awkwardly traveled up and down the length of a cream colored jacket in slow, exaggerated motions. He began to coo softly in her ear.

“It’s ok, Hinata…I’m here for you…it’ll all be ok…I promise…”

He was beginning to get a chill from the cold ground, but soon berated himself for not thinking of the girl he had hurt somehow. This couldn’t be about him; Hinata came first. Still, his bottom was getting wet atop the dew-kissed grass, and the young man’s attention inexorably returned to the figure in his arms. She was soft…and warm…and…

And just a friend, nothing more.

On top of that, she was crying because he had messed up…again. Naruto could feel a constriction around his heart, and he briefly entertained the notion of reaching in and stroking her cheek. Such foolishness was dispelled immediately. She wouldn’t like that, not from him, maybe Kiba or, well, anyone but him…

She mumbled something into his chest.

“What was that, Hinata?”

A slight shift brought her face mere inches from his lips, and a few strands of navy blue hair tickled the boy’s nose. For the first time in the Hyuuga maiden’s life, she just couldn’t find the strength to blush. Her breath was like a hot summer breeze.

“…It’s not ok…”

The young woman slowly, very slowly, pushed herself up to a sitting position, in effect straddling the young man’s hips. A vacant expression had engulfed her features, and if it had at all registered that she was seated quite firmly upon his lap, she gave no outward sign.

“…No one ever told you…”

Hinata bowed her head once more, and began to sob quietly.

Naruto, on the other hand, was well aware of her positioning on his person. Despite the constant reminders of how dear her friendship was to him, he delicately squeezed out from between her legs, fearful of any male indication that he didn’t quite dislike her profoundly odd behavior.

The young man sat up, legs crossed, observing the girl before him as if through a pane of glass. Her words had obviously confirmed that she was miserable, all thanks to him…

Why does Hinata have to be so sad? I’m such a nuisance; she’s the one girl besides Sakura who’ll actually talk to me, and I made her cry! All I wanted was to be with someone on my birthday…but now that’s out too. I should’ve just kept pushing her on the swing…at least then she wouldn’t be upset…

The young woman was still sobbing in front of him, and now Naruto could feel his eyes filling up too.

I’m such an idiot! What’s wrong with me, anyway? How come I can’t ever just shut my big mouth and leave everyone alone? No one’s ever happy when I’m around…Hinata deserves better than this…

He scrubbed a hand across his eyes, and stubbornly thrust everything beneath a gleaming smile. It probably wouldn’t work, but the young man would try to cheer her up one last time. Her friendship was worth it, after all, even if nothing could be done to change the fact that everything about him was a complete waste.

Still sporting a gigantic smile, Naruto inched right up to Hinata’s prone form and took her face in his hands. With a swift motion, the young woman was suddenly grinning ear to ear, thanks to a pair of thumbs lifting up both cheeks as high as they would go.

To say the least, she blinked in surprise.

“N-Naruto! What are you-“

“Uh uh! First thing’s first; you need to smile again! I’m not going anywhere until I know you’re not upset anymore.”

He grinned broadly.

“Besides, I still have to apologize for messing up so badly, and there’s no way I’m doing that before totally making sure you won’t clobber me!”

Despite herself, the young woman couldn’t help but smile faintly at his usual antics. That was apparently enough for the male shinobi, and he patted her cheeks softly.

Naruto…you mean the world to me …I can’t be weak any longer…I can’t keep hiding behind these feelings… all I ever do is push you away…even though you’ll never know how important you are to me, maybe now…maybe now I can finally begin to tell you…

“See! Isn’t that better Hinata! If you keep frowning like that all the time, you’ll end up looking like Sasuke!”

The young woman cast an even broader smile at him, and then surprised them both when two delicate hands gingerly rose to balance the light of his smile upon her fingertips. She stroked his cheeks lovingly while a pair of soft lavender eyes began to pulse with an unknown radiance.

Naruto was taken completely off guard by her forthright attitude, and could only stare dumbly at the girl before him. A stunned expression encompassed the young man; now it was his turn to stutter.

“H-H-Hinata…?”

“…No one ever said they loved you…”

Her eyes had become pale gray sunsets, burning intensely with life and fire. He had never witnessed such a bold look of conviction, least of all from Hinata, and the male shinobi was at a total loss regarding what it could mean.

“…I will, though. I’ll tell you, finally…”

The young man wasn’t quite registering much of what she was saying to him at that point, so lost was he in the depth of her newly found strength. All he could center on was the touch of her fingertips along his jaw, the heated sensation of a smile brushing past his hands. Wait, brushing past? Why would she-

Hinata closed the distance between them in short order, catching Naruto in a delectably warm kiss. With all the sweetness of a lullaby, the Hyuuga heiress pressed both lips firmly against the object of her desires, basking in the natural warmth and mystery of his touch. The young man became a veritable statue to offset her fluid embrace.

When their brief moment of intimacy came to an end, Hinata leaned forward and rested her brow against Naruto’s forehead.

I love you, Uzumaki Naruto…now, and forever…”

So many breathtaking feelings accompanied those words, and it was a simple wonder she didn’t burst with the knowledge that things would be very different from this point on.

As she pulled back, a great uprising of warmth began to gather in her breast, and she looked onto the recipient of her love with barely contained anticipation. Naruto, in turn, slumped forward slightly, catching himself with both palms pressed firmly against the grass. His head was held low.

The world fell silent for many moments, both male and female genin trying to gather their thoughts as best they could. The young man kept both eyes on the ground, slowly shaking his head side to side.

“Hinata…why…?”

A very slight tug pulled at the corner of her mind. She shrugged it off. He was speaking of her feelings for him.

“Naruto…I’ve watched only you for many years…you mean so much to me…I just…”

She couldn’t seem to form any words that would suffice, and instead reached out to stroke his cheek once more. A single digit glided delicately from ear to jaw, finally coming to rest on the small indentation of his chin.

With eyes still cast down, he slowly, carefully, pushed her hand away.

This time, it was more of a yank on the outskirts of her consciousness, and the young woman let her warm smile melt into one of concern.

“N-Naruto…?”

At her questioning tone, his head rose up, and she gasped.

How many times had she imagined what this moment would be like; the sheer expression of warmth, understanding, and reciprocated love from Naruto? He would blush (yes, she would make him blush!), and then hold her in his arms, tears streaming down both their cheeks as they proclaimed their love for one another.

Part of that imagery had been correct.

His tear-stained features were illuminated in the moonlight, creating an exquisite vision of tortured sorrow for the young woman to behold. Across his face was plastered a terrible collage of sadness, hurt, and most striking of all…absolute betrayal.

His voice was riddled with whispered uncertainties.

“Hinata…why would you do that to me…?”

A multitude of opposing thoughts abruptly coursed through the young woman at once, blurring and reforming into meaningless nonsense before her mind’s eye. She clumsily shoved them all aside.

“N-Naruto…what do you mean? I…I just wanted to let you know you’re not alone…that I care about you. That I –“

Her words were cut short as a waxy veil draped itself over his eyes. He wasn’t even looking at her anymore. No, he was looking through her.

“You…you don’t care…no one does, did …not before…not now.”

It was the nature of his voice that frightened her the most. He was speaking in a dreary monotone; any indication of his usual energetic self had been completely stripped away.

“I know everyone hates me…I know that. I just thought you were different…”

His face, which had previously been overcome by immense grief, now arbitrated a battle between pain and confusion. In one fluid motion, the young man jumped to his feet and backed away several steps, keeping a cautious eye on the female shinobi all the while. An expression clear as glass abruptly settled upon him, and Hinata knew at once that Naruto was lost somewhere beyond her reach.

An arctic chill began to seep through her veins. This was all wrong…

“Naruto, I don’t hate you! I care about you more than anyone! Please, listen to me!”

The boy in question cast her an agonized yet vacant look, then turned his head a bit to the side and laughed hoarsely.

“Did Sasuke put you up to this? Or Kiba? You probably helped them plan it…”

Hinata could once again feel her eyes begin to overflow. This couldn’t be happening! She never meant to hurt him…how had it come to this? All she did was go out for a simple walk, and now…

The young woman could feel herself slipping down a dark well, light from the exterior of her mind growing fainter with each passing second. Her thoughts shot out in all directions, trying desperately to find some handhold on the situation.

“Everything I’ve said is true! I wanted to tell you for years, Naruto. I love you so much! I –“

“No! It’s a lie! No you don’t!

The sheer power of his words, coupled with the absolute certainty that he was correct, that he was alone, was almost too much to endure. She scrambled to her feet, pleading with a heart laid bare that he might see the truth.

A second advent of tears began to assail her porcelain features, but the grief she would feel had only just begun.

“Naruto! Please stop this! Let me explain. I-”

“SHUT UP! Just…just shut up!”

Both arms instantly shot up to cover his ears; a desperate attempt to drown out the chorus of painful thoughts and memories that were now pulsing inside his head.

Naruto!

Hinata reached out towards the fractured boy.

In the instant before he caught her arm, had twisted it painfully and thrown her to the ground, she glimpsed something deep within his being that would forever stay burned amidst her memories. A terrible suffering began to overtake the young woman, and she could not disregard what had been so plainly obvious in his beautiful azure eyes.

He was terrified of her.

That brief, all-encompassing moment of fear sent her reeling backwards. From the dejected spot she now occupied on the cool midnight grass, a plaintive expression brimming with forlorn hope echoed in the silence between them.

From his position above her, a cloud passed by overhead, and she could not see through the shadow that enshrouded his eyes. As the moments passed them by, his mouth opened and closed slightly, but no sound reached her ears. After a brief eternity beset by haunted memories, Naruto tentatively extended his hand to the fallen girl, but before she could reach out and take it, he withdrew the invitation just as quickly as it had been offered.

Another step backwards fashioned a distance far too great to be traversed by any mere words. As he turned around to face the night beyond them, the young man looked back over his shoulder, the tone of his voice saturated with a terrible remorse.

“Hinata…I thought you were my friend…”

With those last words to keep her company, a single leap took him into the canopy of trees, and he was gone.

Hinata was left alone, cold, and frightened.

A great trembling began to attack her entire body, and the young woman leaned forward, wrapping both arms around her person.

I never wanted this…I never wanted this…

As she closed her eyes tightly, a great shout was barely stifled beneath layer upon layer of crushing misery. She whispered to the night.

“What have I done?”

Her words reached no one, for there was no one left to speak to; no one left to care.

After all this time, all these years, she had managed to ruin everything with only a few simple words. Naruto was the strongest person she had ever met. Nothing ever beat him; nothing ever held him down.

But she had done just that. Hinata’s voice came out a bit stronger.

“…What have I done…?”

Her love had been the one thing to finally strike down his infallible determination to rise above and conquer all. Her love had been all that was necessary to reduce the one person she had ever felt anything for to a wretched state of disarray. Her love…

It was the greatest insult in the world.

Unable to resist the pain of a shattered heart, Hinata rolled over onto the grass and began to cry bitterly. As the moon laughed at her misfortune, all she could think about was the boy of her dreams and how much he must be hurting right now.

Naruto…I’m sorry…I’m sorry for everything…I’m sorry it was me…

An immense pain rose up from within the young woman, and she let out an agonized scream for all the stars of the night to hear.

WHAT HAVE I DONE!”


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