I never saw Hinata as being in love with Naruto, rather I saw her as idolizing and obsessing with him to handle her pain. He was an idea, an image, like Jesus or Santa or a pop star. Something you focus on instead of reality. She's a fangirl, who thinks she in love with someone she doesn't really know.
"This is good dango." Naruto smiled at Sakura, but his smile was different. Different then before, no longer as heavy and ringing of falsehood. It used to irritate her so deeply to see it on his face, but now... now seeing this... It hurt Sakura and uplifted her all at once to see it on his face. The rawness of happiness that he never had before, it made every other smile seem like a lie.
"I'm glad you like it." She smiled too, softly, drinking in the new smile as much as she could, no matter how much it hurt to know all his previous smiles were false. "Soooo... how have you been? I know you had a severe anxiety attack a last week, Ino told me she caused it."
Naruto froze for a moment, before sighing. " She didn't really cause it so much as made it happen faster." He looked away. "I... I have been stretched really thin, like when you put too much butter on toast or too much water in ramen. I wasn't entirely myself, I think... but it's okay. I have been going to therapy with her dad, and he is amazing. He makes me feel really good about myself. I took an IQ test with him and tested near genius! He says I am probably a genius but I have some attention issues that I need to overcome."
That surprised Sakura, but not as much as it should have. Her mind went to the fight with Zabuza, and Naruto's admittedly clever tactic of turning a clone into a massive windmill shuriken. "You were never stupid Naruto, I... I believe it."
"Really, thanks Sakura." And again he smiled, lighter and more free then he had ever been in the past. "I have been training with Neji and Lee too, I guess my chakra control is actually really good but I had so much chakra before that it wasn't showing up. I needed chakra control better then yours to even notice how good I was. But now my chakra is just around that of an average jonin, higher by a little though."
"That's still a lot Naruto, like seriously a lot. No one, not even Sasuke, had reserves that large."
Naruto nodded, bashful but still happy. " I have been doing some reading, to study to retake the academy exams... I... I was the... I had the Kyuubi sealed in my body before." She gasped but Naruto continued. " The Fourth Hokage sealed it in me. It made me heal insanely fast, have a lot of stamina, strength and whatnot. I could use it's power, like I did when I fought Neji. I was reliant on it's power, so I never really mastered my own. I have to regain and learn to be a genin all over again. Neji and Lee really helped but I have to study as well and it was there I learned something amazing. I have a clan!"
That made Sakura blink. " A clan? You? But your an Orphan?"
"I know, right? I am an Uzumaki, a clan of powerful mostly redhaired ninja related to the Senju that made the village. Our symbol was the Spiral because we lived in the land of Whirlpools. I guess the Leaf added the spiral to the Leaf symbol out of friendship and to the back of our vests becasue the Leaf failed to safe their village during the second war. It was wiped out by three other major villages... "
"Wow... that's... so your parents were refugees?"
"One of them I think, would explain why I am blonde... but I really think I am a real Uzumaki. I have massive reserves even after losing my Kyuubi advantages, I still heal fast like they could...and... keep this a secret, since I want to surprise Tsuande, but I am a sensor like they were." His smile shifted, becoming a beaming ray of sheer happiness.
"So that's how you noticed me!" Sakura's eyes widened, a flair of jealousy in her heart. " I always wanted to be a sensor. Ino's one and it always made me feel so jealous. Are you training with it?"
"Yeah, with my meditation. It is easy, I can already sense like half of the village. My range is big but I am having trouble focusing on individuals."
"Wow, your just a ball of excess aren't you." She teased, shoving him aside a little. " Still that will be an insanely useful skill to find Sasuke with."
"Yeah, that's what I was thinking."
They went quiet after that, both contemplating Sasuke and retrieving him from Orochimaru. The weight of their vows strong between them, so strong in fact they never even noticed when a sad blonde walked into the room. Her beautiful green eyes fixed on them as she approached, a powerful weight on her soul making her seem less herself. Less powerful, present and excited.
Both turned to her, and it was Sakura who recognized her and her condition first. " Ino, you look terrible. What's the matter?"
And so she did, her green eyes were watery, tired circles around her eyes, her hair frizzy and worn. She lacked her typical glow of confidence, the one Sakura had envied for as long as she had known the other girl.
Ino let out a long, pained, sigh. "I... my father is disappointed in me. He would not tell me why, but he showed me... well he made me look at my own memories. It is a normal punishment, to force the person to figure out their misdeeds. He made me relieve the academy. I saw, I felt some memories... and I realized how awful I was to... to you Naruto." She bowed low, her hair covering up her face, and the tears that made their way down her face. " I hate bullies, I defended Sakura from bullies from them... but I allowed myself to gossip about you, to mistreat you, to isolate you... I allowed myself to be a monster. My father made me realize this but it is true. I am sorry, from the depths of my soul, I apologize."
Sakura turned to Naruto, only to flinch as she saw the weight of sudden anger in his eyes. It was intense, stronger by far then even Sasuke's wrathful gaze. Then it faded as cold, precise apathy overtook it. "I see... yes... you were awful, you and so many others. I wasn't much better, sabotaging our class, pranking people, being obnoxious. I'll forgive you."
His words actually struck Sakura, she recoiled painfully, wondering if this was the true Naruto behind his mask of happiness and stubborn confidence.
"I don't deserve it." Ino's words were soft, but powerful. "I... I will make up for it. I asked my father, and he has agreed that I can teach you any one thing from our clan... anything. Except heir specific training, I am sure you can understand."
That made Sakura gasp. " Naruto... she could teach you to control... that."
Naruto frowned. " That... oh that... your right. Alright, meet me tomorrow Ino at my apartment after six. I have something you can help me with, something only you really can." Then he let out a long, pained sigh followed by a false smile. "I do appreciate it though, Ino... really I do. I think your the only person to apologize for being mean to me in the Academy."
Ino finally stood up, a smile on her face but her eyes were still pained. "I am glad that I could provide something like that Naruto, you really do and did deserve more. I'll leave you guys to your meal." And with that, she left the restaurant, not seeing the looks she received from various stunned people who clearly recognized who she saw and who Naruto was.
"That was... wow."
"I know,... wows right." Naruto said, his tone duller then before.
Dinner with Sakura ended shortly, after Ino's apology, the two friends separating to go home. They left on good terms that lifted Naruto's spirit, leaving him with a smile...at least until he remembered Ino's words to him, the weight of her apology and the pain they brought to him. He had barely hidden it, the pain, the raw anger he felt. Years of memories, of gossip and abuse. Something about Inoichi's promise that he deserved better and the girl's admittance of wrong doing had shifted something painful in Naruto's heart. A well of untapped rage overtook him, leaving him almost breathless with agony and anger.
Sakura had caught it, for a moment, he saw her recoil. He doubted she understood it...
He doubted she knew that his thoughts flowed in a similar path when she brought up Sasuke.
There was a painful thought, a reminder of Sasuke's betrayal, his attempts to kill Naruto via a chidori to the chest, or breaking his neck. It was... a lot to handle. It was too much to consider, he needed to ask Inoichi about it. He would do that when he saw him next.
'Why can't things be as simple as they were before? At least I got a teacher to help me with my sensory abilities I guess.'
Doing his best to focus on and smile through that, Naruto hurried to his apartment with a pep to his step, only to stop and turn to Hinata, whom he had sensed following him the moment he left the restaurant. Actually while he was in it, trying to calm down, he had quickly meditated to focus himself and had sensed her presence. "Stop it." He said, uncomfortable with the girl's heavy eyes. " I don't really know you, stop following me."
The girl recoiled, looking away with pain in her eyes.
Naruto didn't care though, he was too frayed at the edges, worn by his own previous anger and the subject of Sasuke to care how it made the girl feel. This was the sixth time he had sensed her stalking him, looking at him with her weird white eyes. It was uncomfortable, weird and wrong. She needed to stop.
"Nnnnaruto." She squeaked out, looking away from him. "I..i... I..."
"Don't care, leave me alone. Your weird and keep on stalking me. I have no idea why you are watching me but you need to stop. I know your Neji's cousin and that he beat you up, but that's all I know about you. I didn't give you a reason to stalk me. Go away."
Without bothering or caring to wonder how she'd respond, he turned on heel and shot onto the roofs and hurried away as fast as he could.
Hinata's heart shattered, the contempt in Naruto's voice heavy on her very soul. "Stalking... I love you, why... Why Can't I tell him...?"
The words, his words, followed her as she walked away, stumbling towards her home with a pained stagger. How could she prove it to him, like Neji or Lee or even Sakura had?
'If only I could speak to him without stuttering, then I could tell him how I feel...'
Cursing herself Hinata eventually made it home, ignoring the Branch Guards who saluted her and making it to her bedroom. Laying on her back on her bed, she gazed skyward, trying and struggling to understand his contempt and how she could circumvent it. She came up empty, to no surprise, she knew he was right. She barely really knew him, she was more obsessed then in love. Putting a person on a pedestal wasn't healthy, but he was all she had that was solely hers, or rather he obsession with him was all she had.. .
Even now, with her father kinder and Neji less cruel, she had so little...
She just wanted something... she wanted to be free...
Chapter end, tell me what you think in the reviews.
This was more filler and practice with the kind of filler that makes stories fun and interesting, the kind that adds needed fluff and connection. How'd I do?"
Love, your Ninja Overlord,