Naruto lay in his bed with his eyes open, even though he had been trying to sleep for hours. His mind was racing, and he was so excited. It was his first day back in Konoha, and he was already stressed out.
So many people he saw again and all of them had changed. He could feel inside of him that he had changed, but he hadn’t realized it because it had been such a gradual increase in strength. He knew that if he wanted to be truly strong, he would need to stop relying on the Kyuubi’s power. And by becoming strong, he could show that strength to the one person he cared about.
The same person kept coming up in his dreams, and kept him awake all night. As he drifted off to sleep, that same face kept came up again: the face of Hinata Hyuga. He awoke once more, just as he was about to kiss her.
“Just as I figured,” Naruto thought, “I’m too weak. Hinata would never love me; I can’t even kiss her in my dreams.” With that final thought in his head, he got up, got dressed, and started to leave. “I have to know,” he said, “I have to know if she loves me,” and he headed off toward the Hyuga compound.
As Naruto lay in bed, Hinata was working hard. She was out in the center of the compound perfecting her 8 Trigrams Protective 64 Palms. It was hard without anyone to throw the kunai at her, but she had rigged the training field. All she had to do was pull a string, and nearly one hundred kunai flew from the walls and ground to the spot where she was standing.
“I’ve got to get stronger!” she thought, “so that he will notice me.” As she finished this thought, a picture of him came into her mind. His spiky golden hair, pale blue eyes, and ****y attitude were almost enough to make her faint, even without actually seeing him. She turned a shade of red that would have made Naruto’s old jacket look pale by comparison. She knew that he had gotten stronger over the 3 years he had been gone. She knew that even though she had gotten much stronger, possibly even strong enough to protect herself against him, but that compared to him, she was a weakling. As she stood there thinking, she saw a bright silver flash. She spun and dodged it just in time to block the other one.
“Nice job, Hinata!” Kiba shouted. “I knew you could do it!”
“Of course you knew, Kiba,” Shino replied, “You would never put her in any real danger.” Hinata smiled at the confidence of her teammates. It gave her confidence, and gave her the strength to continue.
After practicing for a few hours, Kiba and Shino slumped against the wall. “I don’t know how you can do that and still stand, Hinata!” Kiba shouted. “I’m exhausted!”
Hinata smiled and replied, “I have something that drives me. It will keep me going long after my body wills me to stop. Wait here, and I’ll go get you some drinks!” She walked into the house and returned minutes later carrying a tray.
After handing them their drinks, she got up and said, “I’ve got something I need to do. You guys can rest here, I’ll be back later and then we can meet with Kurenai-sensei.”
She walked away and headed off toward Naruto’s house. She didn’t see anyone on the way, and realized that it was still very early in the morning.
About halfway between the Hyuga Complex and Naruto’s house, Naruto and Hinata bumped into each other. “Sorry about that,” they both said at the same time, “I have to go meet-!” Realizing who they were talking to, they shouted each other’s names.
“What are you doing up this early?” Hinata asked.
“What do you mean?” Naruto blurted out, “you sound like you’re always up at 4 in the morning!”
“W-well,” Hinata stuttered, “I am. I’m always training early in the morning.”
“Oh,” Naruto said, “I just couldn’t sleep… in fact, I was coming to see you.”
Hinata’s face turned red again. “M-m-m-meeee?” Hinata yelled, her mouth agape. “Well, I was going to see you!”
“Why were you coming to see me?” Naruto asked. “C’mon, let’s go talk over a bowl of ramen.” Hinata nodded, and they walked over to Ichiraku Ramen, which was surprisingly open.
“I didn’t know Ichiraku was open so early,” Hinata remarked, “and I’m always walking this way.”
“They aren’t,” Naruto replied, grinning. “I had them open early, just for us.” Hinata was stunned.
“Naruto… could he actually like me?” she thought to herself.
“Now, Hinata,” Naruto said, “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
“Wait, Naruto,” Hinata said, “I think I can say it better… without saying anything.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. His eyes opened in surprise, and then he grabbed her and hugged her tightly.
“Hinata,” he said, “I’m going to hug you as tightly as I need to, to keep you from ever leaving! I promise, while I’m around, I’ll protect you with my life.”
“Oh, Naruto… that’s why I like you, I guess. You’re always ready to protect what you love.”