Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto Masashi
Type: Alternate Universe/Romance
Hinata's fingers drummed lightly on the desk in front of her. It was only noon, however, she felt like she had been sitting inside the office for over twelve hours. Since cell phone services and the internet had finally returned last night, the majority of her morning had been replying to emails and calling back clients who had tried to contact her over the past five days. The tiresome part had been her explaining what had occurred on site and then apologizing profusely before getting down to business on what the client wanted; granted for the most part most of the questions or issues she had to deal with were quite easy. However, it was the phone call to her family that she was dreading the most. Her Uncle Hizashi, Neji, Hanabi, and her father had all tried to contact her while she had been on site.
Last night she had sent them a brief message each on what had happened but had promised to give them a call sometime today. Hinata had a sneaky suspicion on what all of them wanted from her and knew that the conversations were going to be long. As she hit send on the last email, there was a soft knock at the door that caught her attention. Hinata looked away from her laptop to see Kakashi standing in the doorway.
"Busy morning?" He asked her with a gentle smile, leaning his back against the door frame.
Hinata let out a small sigh and returned the smile. "Very busy. I knew I would have to get back to a lot of people once service returned here, but I didn't think it would be this many. However, I just finished and the only people I have left to call is my family. But, I will do that near the end of the day. I don't' want to . . ."
Kakashi laughed. "Don't worry about it, Hinata. You've already done an amazing job cleaning up and organizing this office. I can't begin to tell you how grateful Gaara and I are that you were able to come out here and give us a hand. If you don't get to any of the current paperwork today that's fine, and I have no doubt you will have it done before we all leave for days off tomorrow. So, you can go ahead and phone your family, but before you do I would like to have a word with you."
The smile on Kakashi's face disappeared and he stepped inside the small office so he could close the door behind him to give them privacy. Hinata could feel her body tensing up and her mind was now kicking into overdrive; had she done something wrong?
"I did speak with Hizashi earlier today, and by the sounds of it, your father wants you back at the head office sooner than later. Originally the plan was to have you come back next shift, finish tidying up here and then also train Temari. However, after talking with Gaara, it seems that you have pretty much done all of that this shift and if you did come back it would only need to be for a few days. Also, I know Temari has a lot of office experience as well, and could probably figure out the filing system you've created if you left her a few notes"
Hinata pressed her lips together and tried to hide the disappointment on her face. She had been having such a fun and relaxing time here on site; working with the old crew again had been amazing and it was being cut short. She understood where Kakashi was coming from, however, Hinata couldn't help but feel sad. Just as she was starting to feel like this place was home again, she would have to return to working under her sister and father. Not that that was a terrible thing, but just being here with her old friends . . . it was hard to explain what she was feeling.
Kakashi then smiled. "With that said though, I think I speak for a lot of people on our crew that the thought of you leaving so soon would be sad. I know we can be quite a rowdy bunch up here, but to Gaara and I, it seems that you quite enjoy the work you've been doing up here. If you want to come back for the full shift next week, just say the word and we will make it happen. But, if you think your work is done here and want to return to the Hyuuga Power head office, then I understand and we will give you a nice farewell tomorrow at the Safety Meeting."
Hinata's eyes widened. Hope bloomed inside her chest that she would be able to stay just a little bit longer . . . that is, if she could convince her father.
"You don't have to give me an answer right away. Just let me know by tomorrow morning what your plans are and we will go from there, but I would suggest calling your family sooner than later though. There's a huge cable pull on Pad #15 that is pretty much taking up our entire crew; even the ones working in the plant are heading out there to help. After lunch, we are all heading out there to take some pictures and I assumed that you would like to join us, but I understand if you want to stay here and keep working."
Hinata smiled. "I would love to come out and see the cable pull!"
The backshift project manager chuckled and opened up the door to the small office. "Oh! And one more thing! There is talk about possibly leaving site after work tonight and heading to the bar. No special occasion, but with it being close to the holiday season some of the guys want to have drinks together since Back Shift won't be able to make it to the Christmas Party this weekend. You're more than welcome to join us if you want to." Kakashi turned and started to walk away.
"I will think about it . . . oh Kakashi!"
The silver hair man poked his head back in with a questioning look.
"I just wanted to say . . . thank you. I really appreciate it."
Kakashi smiled. "Don't mention it. Also, be sure to take your lunch break, I don't want to hear that you've worked through without eating anything again!"
Hinata giggled softly, but the smile on her face soon disappeared as she glanced down at her phone. Her stomach rumbled softly at that moment from hunger, but she had no appetite. She needed to call her father as soon as possible and Hinata prayed he was in an understanding mood today.
Standing up, she closed the office door again, grabbed her Bluetooth headphones, and connected them to her cell phone. After finding her father's number, she hit the call button. The phone didn't even ring twice before her father's gruff voice echoed through the headphones. She remained standing to help boost her confidence; as if her father was standing in that office with her, she would want to look him straight in the face instead of sitting down.
"I was expecting you to call me much sooner than this, Hinata. Is the office work there really taking up that much of your time?"
Hinata flinched at his words and tone of voice.
Yup . . . he's definitely in a bad mood today. I just need to be stern and not stutter . . .
"My apologies father. I felt it necessary to contact all the clients that had left me either an email or voice message while service was down up here. I apologized to them and was able to answer everyone's questions or sort out any issues they were having. I wanted to make sure I got to our customers' needs first and let you know as soon as possible that it has been taken care of."
There was a small pause on the other side. "You got to all of them?"
Hinata wasn't sure if her father was happy or unpleased with her strategy of work, but when her father let out a sigh she prepared herself for the worst-case scenario.
"Good job, Hinata. You have no idea how much stress that takes off my shoulders. I'm just looking over my emails now. All the clients are happy that you got back to them as soon as possible; thank you."
She bit her inner lip and tried to hold in the sigh of relief that she wanted to let out. "Your welcome, Father. Have things been really busy at Head Office?"
The tone in her father's voice shifted from stern to pleasant; meaning he was no longer in a bad mood.
"Busy as per usual. With the end of the year coming up here I want to make sure we get everything in order. Hanabi has been working extra hard to make sure everything is finished ahead of schedule so that during New Year's Eve we have nothing to worry about. As much as I would like you to come into the office Thursday, I understand that you have been working hard up there. Your Uncle said that his workers were very impressed, and so I think you deserve to have a few extra days off. You can come in Monday and we can get things back to normal here."
Hinata frowned. This was it . . .
"Actually father, I wanted to talk to you about that. I feel that I am still needed here for a bit longer. The original plan was for me to stay here one more shift and I would like to stick with that schedule." Hinata glanced around the office, trying to see what tasks she had left to do here and maybe try to exaggerate why she needed to stay.
"Interesting. Your Uncle made it sound like you were pretty much done up there. Are they going to be in that much trouble if you're not there before the new office girl arrives? Do they need you to hold her hand through some simple paperwork?"
Her father's voice shifted back to being stern. The small, cowardly girl inside of her wanted to just give in; tell him that she would come back to Head Office and not return for another shift. However, Naruto's smiling face was at the forefront of her mind; along with everyone else's that she had grown quite close to over these last five days. Taking a deep breath, she decided to be completely honest with her father.
"Dad . . . I know you want me back as soon as possible at the head office, but I just can't do that. I know right now I'm being very selfish, but . . . being back up here has made me really happy. It's been so long since I've seen everyone up here and to me, they are like my second family. I was invited to come to the Hyuuga Electric Christmas Party this weekend and while they may not 'need' me to come back next shift, I want to come back. I want to make sure everything is in order for them and to just spend a few more days with the crew. I would feel terrible if I overlooked some important paperwork here and left the new office girl, Temari, all on her own to figure it out. But more importantly, there are people up here who mean a lot to me and I just want to spend more time working with them. I forgot how much I've enjoyed working with this crew. So please, let me come back up for one more shift, and then I will return."
Hinata's voice started to tremble a bit halfway through her speech; she had even called him 'Dad' which was only reserved for times that she wanted to have heartfelt talks with him. When she finished, Hinata waited anxiously to hear his response. After what seemed like forever, her father's voice came back over the phone.
"I'm not sure how I feel about this Hinata. The businessman in me wants to tell you to not let your emotions get the better of you and to waste your time dilly-dallying. However . . . I am also your father, and I want you to be happy as well." Hiashi's voice was almost a whisper and Hinata really had to listen carefully to what he was saying. "I understand that you want to spend more time with your friends but from a business point of view . . . wait . . . who is it?!"
Hinata waited patiently as her father addressed someone coming into his office. She couldn't tell who he was talking to, but whoever it was they were making a loud commotion. Suddenly it sounded like the phone was ripped from her father's hand and a loud bubbly female voice echoed through her headphones.
"Hey, Sis! How's the weather up there?! You're staying warm, right?"
Hinata almost jumped at her sister's excited questions; her fingers quickly turning down the volume on her phone.
"Hi, Hanabi. Yes, I am staying warm and honestly, the weather hasn't been that bad since I've been inside most of the time. I did work outside one day, but don't tell Neji or father that."
Her sister giggled. "I promise I won't. Look, don't worry about Father or Head Office. You do what you need to do up there and spend more time with the people who are important to you. Reconnect with your friends and your boyfriend as well. We will see you soon enough back here for the holidays and you can tell me everything that went on."
Hiashi's booming muffled voice could be heard in the background as he asked her younger sister what she meant by 'boyfriend' and demanded that she hand the phone back to him. Hinata's face was bright red and her mind was racing on how her sister was already in the know about her and Naruto.
"H-How . . . how do you know about that?! Only a few people up here know that we just started dating!"
Hanabi giggled again. "Oh, I have my resources up there. Let's just say that my BOYFRIEND works up there too and last night he may have let it slip on what's been happening up there. Oh Dad, stop it already! Hinata and I are adults and we can have boyfriends! Just ignore him for the time being, he's throwing a hissy fit, just like he did two months ago when you moved out into your own apartment."
Hinata internally groaned at the memory. The day she had finally moved out of the family home had been a day of very mixed emotions. She and her sister had been ecstatic, but her Father, Uncle, and Cousin had not been on the same page. They had tried to argue with her for months that she should remain at the family home and not be out on her own. However, both she and Hanabi had argued that it was time for her to spread her wings and not be sheltered all the time by the family. In fact, unbeknownst to her family, Hanabi was planning to move out after the New Year and she knew that was going to be one conversation she didn't really want to be a part of, but she would have her sisters back.
She could still hear her father in the background that Hanabi give the phone back, but she continued to talk to her. "Anyways! We have a meeting after lunch here and we will call you later! Again, don't worry about things here and you do what you need to do up there! Talk to you later, Sis!"
Very faintly she could hear her father demanding the phone back and that he still needed to talk to her. Hinata giggled a little and figured it was time to wrap things up. "Goodbye, Hanabi. And tell Father I said goodbye to him as well."
The soft clicking sound in her headphones indicated that the phone call was over. She couldn't help the wide smile that spread across her lips as she realized that most likely she would be able to stay for one more shift. While sometimes it was hard for her to convince her father on certain topics, Hanabi on the other hand just had this way about her that if she really wanted to, she could convince their father of anything; even something so ridiculous like the world was flat.
Truth be told it was something she had been really jealous about that her sister was able to do that, however, Hanabi used it to her favor the odd time as well. Like when she had wanted to go buy a car on her own for the first time (granted she had at least allowed Neji to come along with her so he could test drive it as well) and recently when she had wanted to move out on her own. Now that was an issue her father had not swayed very easily for, and it had taken Hanabi and her at least six months to finally convince him it was a good idea; so long as the apartment was nearby and less than an hour drive from the family home.
Letting out a small sigh, Hinata turned her attention to the clock on the wall. Her appetite had come back and she was now actually looking forward to her lunch break. However, she decided to hold back for now and give both her Uncle and Cousin an update before digging into some food.
Thankfully when she called her Uncle Hizashi, Neji had been in the office with him. The conversation with the two men was at first strictly business, but then for the remainder of the call was light-hearted.
"I can't wait to see you guys this Saturday at the Christmas Party. But I should really get going; I need to eat my lunch and then we are heading out to one of the pads for a huge cable pull. I will talk to you guys later!"
Taking out her earbuds, Hinata made a mash dash out of her office and towards the fridge so she could grab her lunch. Itachi and Asuma were already putting on their coveralls, so Hinata knew that she didn't have much time.
While multitasking, she was able to put on her winter gear, as well as eat most of her lunch. Stuffing the last of the protein bar into her mouth, Hinata grabbed her shaded safety glasses and hard hat before making her way outside.
The trucks were already running, everyone was geared up and ready to head over to the new pad. She spotted Sakura and Ino in their Safety Vehicle and made her way towards them. As Hinata passed by a small group of guys talking amongst themselves, someone grabbed onto her thick winter coat which almost caused her to jump from the sudden contact. Thinking it was just one of the crew members wanting to get her attention, she turned with a smile on her face to address them.
"Ah, Hinata. I thought that was you. What are you doing up here in the cold at Konoha Energy?"
Her pale violet eyes widened in shock, and with every fiber of her being Hinata had to hide the urge to run away from the man standing in front of her. She could barely make out his white hair underneath the toque and hard hat, and his soft, sultry voice sent chills down her spine, but not in a good way. He was looking at her with a gentle smile, but she was finding it very hard to keep the smile on her face.
"Oh, Toneri. What a pleasant surprise! What are you doing here? I was sent by my Uncle and Cousin to help out with Hyuuga Electric for a few shifts." Hinata kept her voice cheerful, wracking her brain on how to wrap up this conversation as soon as possible.
"I'm going to be one of the operators on Pad #15 while it's under construction and I thought I would join in to witness the cable pull."
Hinata nodded. "I see. Well, then I'll see you out there in a few minutes. I have to catch my ride." She pointed to the Hyuuga Electric Truck behind her.
"I'll see you soon, Hinata."
Pulling her arm away, Hinata walked as fast as humanly possible towards Ino and Sakura. She pulled open the back door, scrambled inside, and threw her hard hat on the floor. Both of the safety girls were giving her questioning looks but kept silent as Ino put the truck in gear and they started down the windy road towards the pad.
For a few minutes, the inside of the truck was dead silent, but soon Sakura spoke up. "So . . . are you going to tell us who that guy was? Or are we just going to ignore the fact that you looked completely uncomfortable being around him? For a moment there I thought you were going to sprint towards the truck."
Ino nodded in agreement and gave her a stern look through the rearview mirror.
Hinata sighed. "His name is Toneri Otsutsuki. He works as one of the operators for Konoha Energy, but he mostly just stays inside the office. The only time he says he goes out in the field is when there is a huge walk down for a project. Apparently, he's going to be one of the Operators on this new pad and so he wanted to come check out the cable pull."
"Ah, that name does sound familiar. I'm pretty sure Sai has mentioned him before to me; I think he's the one that is soft-spoken and mostly keeps to himself. I've never seen him around though, what about you Sakura?" asked Ino.
The pink-haired safety coordinator shook her head. "Nope, didn't recognize him at all. So how do you know him, Hinata?"
"Toneri's father owns part of Konoha Energy and is also a business acquaintance of my father. I've met him a handful of times at meetings or company dinners and he always comes over to talk with me. He can be really forward and has made it clear that he wants to ask me out. Even my father at first sort of tried pushing me to accept his invitation and at least go on a date with him. Normally the thought of me dating makes my father angry, but for some reason, he was okay with Toneri."
Sakura turned around in her seat so she could face Hinata. "I know you and Naruto are together now, but may I ask why you never took Toneri up on his offer? I hate to admit it, but he does look quite handsome and has a nice smile."
Hinata frowned. "That's just a mask he wears. He can act nice, but if you speak to him the wrong way or do something he doesn't like, then he has quite the temper. Not to mention he likes to be in control of everything and decide things for you. Granted I've only heard most of these rumors from the other office girls, but the way he blew up at the receptionist when she didn't order his coffee right was enough evidence for me to know that I never want to be with someone like that."
She looked down at her hands, thinking of the numerous times Toneri had attempted to ask for her phone number or out to dinner, but she always made an excuse not to. Every time she said no or tried to change the subject, Hinata could just see the anger in his face and the way his body language expressed how upset he was with her.
At first, her father had tried to encourage her to give Toneri a chance, but after a company meeting the two of them accidentally witnessed him having a temper tantrum with the receptionist; throwing the tray of coffees on the floor and yelling at her for getting his order wrong. Hinata's father had held her back when she tried to get involved and instead pulled her in the opposite direction; telling her it was not their place to intervene, but that he would have a word with Toneri's father later.
"So . . . you've told this guy to fuck off right? You're not just playing word games with him and dancing around the subject?" asked Ino, blue eyes piercing through her from the review mirror.
Hinata kept her eyes downward.
"Oh come on, Hinata! What's so hard about telling this guy to take a hike!?"
"Ino, calm down, and keep your eyes on the road." Chimed in Sakura, pointing to the road since Ino had almost drifted into the other lane.
"I'm sorry, but Hinata, I thought we taught you how to ditch these kinds of creeps! If you don't tell them no directly, then they think that they still have a shot with you."
Hinata sighed. "I-I have wanted to tell him no. I'm just so scared of making him mad and I have to make sure to get along with him for future business meetings. I've tried telling my father about it, but he pretty much just told me to suck it up and continue to be nice to him. If Neji and my Uncle are there then they make sure he doesn't get within six feet of me."
Ino opened her mouth to say more, but Hinata cut her off.
"Look, I appreciate you two looking out for my wellbeing, but it's okay, trust me. I don't see Toneri that often; usually about three times a year and for the times that I do see him I act as nice as I possibly can. I make sure that I'm never alone with him too. I can only imagine what he would say to me if he knew other ears weren't listening."
It looked as if her blond friend wanted to say more, but instead, she only sighed and kept her eyes straight ahead. "Fine. But if he ever does or says anything to you that you're not comfortable with, you tell us immediately! Got that?"
Sakura nodded in agreement.
Hinata couldn't help but smile at how protective they were being of her. "I promise. So are you guys going to the Christmas Party this Saturday or do you have other plans?"
With a shift in conversation, the three of them discussed their dresses for the Christmas party and also other plans they had for on their days off. Her friends teased her saying she should book a room at the Shinjuku Hotel so that she and Naruto could do the "Devils Tango" after the Party. Hinata was highly embarrassed from what they were suggesting, and her face was so red it was a surprise that the windows weren't fogging up in the truck from the heat emitting off her cheeks. Sakura and Ino laughed at her reaction, told her that they were joking, and then continued to discuss how excited they were for Home Day tomorrow.
Hinata turned her head to look out the window, her cheeks still a bright red as she tried to think of something else so that her face wasn't the color of a tomato when they arrived at Pad #15. However, instead of paying more attention to the trees or frozen lake outside, her eyes looked upon her own reflection. If anything, the redness in her cheeks intensified more when her eyes shifted down to her lips and the memory of kissing Naruto last night came back to her.
While at the time her mind had been so hazy that she couldn't think straight, but looking back at their intimate moment now was something that she would forever cherish. The scenario seemed like something out of a Hollywood movie; the full moon, the stars shining brightly, being completely alone for their first kiss, and even the part of being interrupted by someone. Just thinking about it made Hinata's body tingle all over, her fingers moving up to touch her cheek where Naruto's hand had been while they kissed.
What would have happened if Kiba hadn't interrupted us? Would we have just kept kissing each other in the parking lot? Or would he have . . .
"Hey, Hinata! Earth to Hinata! We're here!"
Hinata shook her head back to reality and realized that they were already parked on Pad #15; Sakura and Ino had their hard hats on while giving her a questioning look.
"You alright? Seems to me like you were lost in La La Land back there. If it's about what Ino and I said about you and Naruto, we were just joking." Said Sakura. "We know you guys just started dating after all and I know you don't want to rush things."
Ino nodded in agreement and reached back to grab her hand. "Take a moment to compose yourself and we will see you out there. I'm sure with how bright your cheeks are you would melt the snow outside. We'll be over there, okay?" She pointed to where there was already a group of people standing at the edge of the pad watching the cable pull.
"I-I will be out soon. J-Just need a moment." Stuttered Hinata.
Her friends smiled at her and climbed out of the truck, leaving her completely alone in the back seat. Before the truck's power turned completely off, she cracked the back window open just a smidge so the cold air could cool down her burning cheeks.
From her current position, she couldn't see Naruto at all, but she could only imagine what he was doing right now. Instructing the guys to keep their slow pace, probably cracking a few jokes and smiling at everyone to keep their morale high.
It had been his smiling face that had at first made her fall in love with him. But then as she got to know him over the years, his other quirks and other facial expressions just made her fall for him even more; like the way his lip would pout when he was sad, or how his eyes would close tightly when he was angry. However, last night she had seen a side of him that was completely new to her. The way his blue eyes had pierced into hers, his mouth opening and closing silently while trying to find the words he wanted to say; his expression had been so serious, but not in a bad way. He had had the face of a man who knew what he wanted and was determined to follow through with his resolve.
He's no longer the loud, clumsy boy I fell in love with all those years ago . . . but I am also not the shy, unconfident girl I was back then either . . .
Both of them had matured over the years; mentally and physically.
Back then the thought of just kissing Naruto would have made her faint on the spot so easily, and yet here she was now, thinking of their kiss fondly with a huge smile on her face. Right now, what was making her giddy and embarrassed was the thought of taking things to the next level with him. At first, her mind had been telling her to slow down; take things one step at a time and not rush into anything. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized that she didn't want to slow down.
We've known each other for almost seven years. I know his hobbies and his interests, I know his personality and what kind of person he is . . . so why do we need to take things slow?
As nervous as I was to just kiss him last night, once things started moving forward the more I wanted us to keep going. I wish Kiba hadn't interrupted us . . . I wish we could have kept kissing . . . I wish he would have taken me back to his room so we . . . so we could have. . .
Hinata's hands covered her face in embarrassment at the thought, but it was the absolute truth. She wanted more from Naruto. Seeing his passionate expression last night had ignited something deep within her; it was like a small fire had been burning inside of her all this time. The flame had been frail, and barely noticeable, but last night while kissing Naruto, someone had doused that fire with a gallon of gasoline so now it was a raging inferno.
I want him. I want all of him. I want all my firsts to be with him. P-Perhaps when we return home, I could invite him over to my apartment for dinner . . . or I could take up Sakura and Ino on their suggestion and book a room at the hotel for the Christmas Party.
Since the redness in her cheeks was still very visible, Hinata knew she wasn't getting out of the truck anytime soon. Instead, her hand reached into her coat pocket and pulled out her cell phone. Thankfully, she still had cell service out here and figured it would be a good idea to at least see if the Shinjuku Hotel still had any vacant rooms left.
As she scrolled through the limited number of rooms that were still available, the sound of a truck pulling up beside her made Hinata pause. Her eyes shifting over to the newly arrived Hyuuga Electric truck. On the passenger's side of the vehicle, she watched as Jiraiya stepped out, who was soon joined by Kakashi from the driver's side.
"Are you sure you don't want to join the boys for the cable pull?"
Jiraiya laughed as he pulled on his toque and hard hat. "Ha, no thanks. Being retired now means I don't ever have to do that kind of shit ever again. I can just sit back and enjoy the view while they carry that heavy ass cable across the snow. Besides, I don't think this old back of mine could take it."
Kakashi laughed along with him while also putting on his hard hat.
Hinata remained still at first as she watched the two men.
I didn't realize that Jiraiya was here on site! I thought last shift was his retirement party! I should probably get out and at least say hello to him. I haven't seen him since the last time I was up here three years ago, and I know he's a really good friend to Naruto's family.
Putting her phone away, Hinata grabbed her hard hat and toque, and was about to climb out of the vehicle, but realized her safety glasses were missing. Leaning down to look under the seat, she spotted them closer to the other side and reached for them.
"So . . . has Naruto talked to you yet?"
Hinata froze at the sound of Kakashi's voice.
Jiraiya let out a sigh. "Not yet . . . but I also haven't really talked to him about it either. I saw him briefly this morning at breakfast and the poor boy just seemed so stressed out about it. I'd bet a hundred dollars that he didn't get a wink of sleep last night. Also, something's different about him."
"What do you mean?" asked Kakashi.
"Heh, come on Kakashi, we've known Naruto since he was just a babe in his mother's arms. You know damn well that if I would have told him about the job offer last shift he would have been all over it; no hesitation what so ever. Somethings changed with him . . . it's like he doesn't want to leave. I was joking about it with him last night, but maybe he did find a girlfriend up here and doesn't want to leave her behind."
Kakashi sighed. "Well, I don't know if that's the problem. As far as I know, none of the women here on site have ever interested Naruto. For a while there he had his eyes set on Sakura, but I'm pretty sure that was more of an act; I think he just liked teasing and getting a rise out of her. In fact, the only new person who arrived on site was . . . oh . . .oh!" His right hand made a fist and hit the open palm of his left as if he had just figured out a riddle.
Hinata sat silently in the back of the truck.
"Oh what?" asked Jiraiya. "Did you figure out who Naruto is seeing?"
Kakashi cleared his throat. "Perhaps, however, I'm not going to say who. It's just a hunch after all, and if Naruto is seeing who I think he is, then he will tell us when he is ready."
Jiraiya scoffed. "Well, whoever she is had better be worth it. I don't want Naruto contemplating about rejecting this job if she's just some sleaze who is taking advantage of him. That boy deserves a nice girl who will treat him right and be understanding if he wants to accept this new job. In fact, I'm sure the moment he mentions it to her, she's going to give him an ultimatum. Either her or the job. Most women can't handle their man being away for more than a few days, I highly doubt this girl is going to be okay with him being gone for 18 months."
Kakashi laughed and patted Jiraiya on the shoulder. "If it is who I think it is, then she is one of the kindest and hardworking women I know. I would say the two of them would make a wonderful pair. However, I don't want to put the cart before the horse here. I'm only going off a hunch after all. For now, let's head over to where everyone is and watch this cable pull. I can practically hear Onoki already complaining about how cold it is."
The two men walked away, leaving Hinata behind to contemplate what she had just overheard. She wasn't sure how she should feel or what she could even do. From the sounds of things, Naruto had been offered another job that would be 18 months long . . . but did that mean he would be gone the whole time?
So many thoughts and questions started flooding through her mind as she put her toque, hard hat, and safety glasses on. Climbing out of the truck, she made her way towards the group of people watching the cable pull and took a spot beside Sakura, who was taking pictures.
The 12ft diameter cable reel was placed on a set of rollers that were controlled by a remote. Ever so slowly the rollers would turn the gigantic reel, unspooling the big cable off of it. One at a time the guys would put their shoulder under the cable and slowly walk it off the reel. The diameter of the cable was at least 6 inches and its approximate weight was 100lbs every 5ft, meaning that the further the guys were spaced apart, the more weight you carried. However, the closer they were spaced, the less weight everyone carried.
Shino was located at the reel holding the remote for the rollers, instructing the other electricians when it was their turn to jump in the cable pull line. She could just see Sasuke at the front of the line, Kiba was closer to the middle and Naruto was located near the end with six guys behind him. In total there seemed to be approximately over 60 guys pulling this enormous high voltage conductor. Only five guys remained at the reel with Shino, and once all of them had the cable on their shoulders, the crew would pull the cable as far as they could before the weight was too much. They would all then drop the cable and then return to the reel to pull more off, looping the cable on the ground before starting the pull again.
A part of Hinata wanted to walk down the hill and join in with her co-workers for the cable pull, but before she could even contemplate moving, a familiar voice sounded beside her right ear.
"Aren't you glad that you're up here and not having to break your back pulling that monstrous cable in?"
Hinata froze and slowly tilted her head to look at Toneri; who was staring down at everyone as if he were the king and they were his peasants. Turning her attention back to the cable pull, she tried to find her 'nice girl' voice, attempting to make a pleasant conversation with him. "It's actually not that bad. If anything, I kind of feel guilty just standing here doing nothing while they are doing all the hard work."
Toneri let out a small chuckle. "I suppose you are correct in a way. Is most of the crew still the same since the last time you were up here? Or is it mostly all new faces for you?"
"Most of the Lead Hands, Foremans, Project Managers, Safety Coordinators, and QA/QC I know, but I will admit that some of the Journeyman and a lot of the apprentices I don't know." Said Hinata, keeping her eyes on the crew. "The only ones I really kept in touch with was Shino and Kiba."
"Ah, I see. On the way here I was asking my co-workers about you, I didn't realize you were here to clean up the mess that the previous office assistant had caused. Are you returning next shift or is this one your last?"
Hinata was becoming a little suspicious as to why Toneri was having a normal conversation with her. If he had been acting like his usual self, he would be belittling the crew and try to get her to agree with him. But right now he was being pleasant and she wasn't sure why. "I will be returning for the next shift to wrap up the rest of the paperwork. Also, they hired someone else to take on the position, so I will be training her as well."
"Well that's so nice you were able to help them out. You are a kind person." He paused, and for a moment she thought he was done talking. Hinata tried to think of how to respond to his compliment, but she didn't have to as he raised his voice slightly as if he was trying to get the small group of people around them to tune in to their conversation. "In fact, you're the kind of person I feel would make a wonderful partner for me."
She froze and slowly turned her head to look at him to see if he was about to say the words she had been dreading for a while.
"Hinata, you and I have known each other for quite a few years now. Every time I have asked you out, you either have brushed off my request or have not given me a clear answer. Granted I know when we first met we were still young and I'm sure you wanted to spread your wings and not be tied down to anyone. Which is fine, I won't prod or ask about your previous relationships. But we aren't getting any younger; I was hoping on seeing you last Friday when my father and I stopped by Hiashi's office for lunch, but to my surprise, you weren't there. Hiashi was very vague about where you were, but you cannot believe how relieved I was to see you up here. Hinata, would you do me the honor of becoming my girlfriend?"
Her face was so red from the embarrassment of this situation that Hinata was surprised the snow wasn't melting around her feet. She was beyond horrified by what he had just said to her. It would have been bad enough if he had spoken those exact words to her in a room alone, but not only did he say these things in front of a group of people, but half of them she knew very well. Glancing around, she could tell that everyone who had heard his proposition was looking at each other very awkwardly.
Sakura's right eye was twitching and it seemed like she wanted to punch Toneri in the face, Ino was cracking her knuckles as if she were about to fight him, Gaara and Kakashi seemed shocked that someone would have the guts to say that kind of thing out loud, but Jiraiya, on the other hand, looked like he was hunched over in pain as he tried to hold in his laughter.
The other operators were whispering to each other; most of them she didn't recognize, but one, in particular, caught her attention. His blonde hair and stunning blue eyes almost made her think that she was starting at an older version of Naruto, but realization soon hit her that it was Minato, Naruto's father, that had witnessed this embarrassing moment of hers.
However, now everything was adding up.
He was talking to me nicely so that everyone here will see him as the good guy, and if I reject him now I'm the cold-hearted woman who told him no. Plus, I have a feeling this is what my father wanted to talk to me more about, he was probably warning me that Toneri was returning to site today.
At first, she didn't know what to say; her mind was still trying to comprehend what had just transpired in the last few minutes.
"Ahem, you know Toneri. That was very unprofessional and quite frankly very inappropriate to ask this young lady such a personal question in front of all of us."
Hinata wasn't sure if she should feel mortified or thankful when she heard Minato's voice. She could understand the silence coming from everyone else; Toneri was after all the owner's son and to criticize him could mean the loss of your job.
She could feel the anger radiating off of both Sakura and Ino. If she didn't do or say anything within the next few seconds Hinata knew that a fight would be starting very soon.
"I do apologize, Minato. I was so excited to see Hinata today and I just couldn't wait any longer to ask her." He was still smiling, and the fact that he didn't see anything wrong with what he was currently doing, was enough to tip her over the edge. "So, what do you say, Hinata? Will you . . ."
"No. No, I will not." Hinata said the words so forcefully that she surprised herself with how angry she sounded, but her emotional cup was spilling over the rim.
For years she had been forced to be nice to him, telling herself that he would eventually leave her alone or perhaps get the hint that she didn't want to go out with him. But it was just like Ino and Sakura had said; he hadn't understood what she had been trying to say or hint at over the last few years.
Perhaps it was because she was near people she knew that would have her back, or maybe it was the gain in confidence she had now that Naruto was by her side. Whatever the reason, Hinata tried to keep her voice calm and collective. "Toneri, I have to decline on being your partner. I take full responsibility and apologize for not being straight forward with you sooner. However, even with that said you have embarrassed me in front of everyone here today. This is a conversation that should have only happened between the two of us and not in front of everyone here. You need to apologize to everyone here for this awkward situation."
At first, Hinata tried to hold her ground as she stared up at Toneri; his normal narrow eyes were wide with astonishment from her talking back to him. But the longer she stood there, the more she realized she wanted to distance herself from him as much as possible.
Without giving it a second thought, Hinata marched down the hill towards the crew to join in with the cable pull. Many of the guys were giving her confusing looks as she walked right over to the reel where Shino was; his head tilted to the side in confusion. She watched as he looked back and forth between her and the group of people she had just left behind.
As she lined herself up with the cable so that it would come to rest on her shoulder, Shino leaned over and whispered. "Do I even want to know what he said to you up there?"
Hinata shook her head and tried to duck her chin down so he wouldn't see how embarrassed she was. Estimating that the guy in front of her was five feet away, she stepped forward and let the weight of the cable come to rest on top of her right shoulder. She slowly moved with everyone, hoping that doing something as simple as a cable pull would take her mind off what had just happened moments ago.
After four hours of pulling the cable off the reel and then routing it onto the cones, the crew was finally done for the day. Everyone around her was giving each other high fives and even some of the guys approached her to say how impressed they were that she had joined in with the pull. Hinata could only nod and thank them for their compliments.
From the top of the slop, Kakashi called down to everyone. "Great job you guys! You really impressed the customer today! I know a lot of you were hoping to head to the local bar this evening to have a Christmas celebration, however, the request to leave site has been declined! They don't want too many people off-site drinking. With that said though, we will have a group meal together after work and eat as one big huge family. As for tomorrow, the operators told us that after the Safety Meeting Front Shift will be able to leave as soon as the meeting is over! But don't worry Back Shift, there is a plus side for you as well! Since they get to leave early, we get to head back to camp an hour early and still get paid for the whole day.
"Now, you can all head back to your designated areas and just relax in the break trailers for the rest of the day! Warm-up those hands and feet, and take it easy for the next hour. You've all earned it!
There was a small cheer from the crew as they all started to make their way up towards where the trucks were parked.
Hinata finally looked over to where she had been once standing four hours ago; ever since joining in on the cable pull she had been avoiding looking in that area. Only Sakura, Ino, Gaara, and Jiraiya were left. The other operators and Konoha Energy employees were nowhere to be seen. She mentally sighed with relief as she walked up the small slope.
She turned around at the sound of her name, seeing Shino and Kiba standing by the empty cable reel and waving at her to come over. Without hesitation, she walked over to her two best friends to see what they wanted.
"Yes?" she asked. The way the two of them were looking at her made Hinata feel like she had done something wrong; especially the scowling look that Kiba was giving her.
"What in the hell did that creep say to you? It looked like you were trying to hold tears in while you were helping us." Kiba growled. "I sure hope you told him off."
"Now, now, Kiba. Calm down. First of all, Hinata, thank you so much for volunteering to give us a hand with the pull. I think your small gesture boosted morale a little bit more when the rest of the crew saw you coming to help. With that said, I have to agree with Kiba for the most part, but I'm hoping you told Toneri off in a professional way."
Hinata sighed, she didn't want to talk about what had happened, but it was best that they heard it from her instead of through gossip. Taking a deep breath she explained what had happened between the two of them and the proposition that Toneri had offered her as they followed after everyone else.
When she was done, she glanced over at her friends; Kiba had a big smirk on his face and she could tell Shino was trying to hide his smile. It looked as if the two of them wanted to say something to her, but they were interrupted by Sakura who wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
"Alright Hinata, let's get you warmed up in the truck. What you did was pretty badass, but you don't have the proper winter gloves on and you weren't signed onto the FLHA to participate in the cable pull; which could have been a problem if you had been injured or there was an incident."
Hinata laughed nervously as Sakura pulled her towards the running vehicle with Ino already in the driver's seat. She couldn't deny that her hands were freezing; in fact, they were pretty numb along with her nose and ears. As she was being towed away, her eyes looked around the pad to see if she could at least catch a glimpse of Naruto before she was forced into the truck. She finally spotted him at a nearby truck, but a small lump formed in her throat as she saw him having a conversation with Kakashi, Jiraiya, and Gaara. At that moment, Kakashi pointed in their direction and all four men were now looking at her. She ducked her head down in humiliation and tried to scramble into the back of the truck as quickly as possible.
Just as she was about to close the door, she saw that Naruto was speed walking towards her. Hinata almost wanted to grab the handle and slam it shut so she wouldn't have to talk to him about what had happened earlier.
"You alright?" Naruto asked; his face was full of concern with just a pinch of annoyance. "I hear one of the operators was giving you a tough time."
Hinata nodded, still not feeling up for telling him the whole story at this very moment.
Naruto leaned down so only she could hear him whisper, "Could you tell me about it when we drive back to camp later? Thanks for helping us out by the way. You have no idea how tough it was to keep my mouth shut and not yell to the crew 'That badass woman is my girlfriend!' I'll see you later, Hinata."
He closed the truck door for her and then walked back over to where he had been.
With the door being closed, Hinata could finally feel the full heat from the trucks vents and started to take some of her gear off so that her body could fully warm up. She took a deep breath to calm and relax herself, but when she opened her eyes, Hinata was surprised to see both Ino and Sakura turned around in their seats; both of them giving her wide grins.
"Uh . . ."
"High five girl! You showed that prick!" exclaimed Ino.
Hinata smiled nervously and gently gave her two friends a high five before Ino turned around to take them back to Tin Town. She wanted to ask what had happened after she had left to join the cable pull, but it seemed that Sakura was able to read her thoughts.
"After you walked down the hill, it was dead silent for about one minute; we were all just staring at Toneri. But then Onoki snapped and let him have it. He didn't swear at Toneri, but I lost count of how many times he called him an idiot and I'm pretty sure he would have stayed there lecturing him the whole time had Naruto's father not suggested they leave and talk about it more privately. You're probably going to get an apology from him in person, or at least that's what Onoki was demanding he does. So if they are standing outside of the trailer when we get there, don't be shocked."
Even though Hinata had been warned, when they pulled up to the Hyuuga Electric main office trailer she was still surprised to see Toneri and Onoki standing outside her office door. Gaara and Kakashi were there as well, and at first, Onoki had done most of the talking; apologizing and promising that Toneri would never do something like this again. The only words Toneri said to her were a soft 'I'm Sorry', but that was it. For the remaining few minutes, Onoki told Hinata his recollections of Hiashi and Hizashi many years ago when they were young electricians on site.
"I imagine they will deny this ever happened, but trust me when I say your Father and Uncle could be quite the troublesome pair. There were times they had the whole site tricked when they swapped places. Only a few of us could tell them apart. You tell your Father and Uncle I said hello, and that we'll have to get a drink sometime to talk about the good old days.
"In the meantime, I'd better get this one back to head office." Jabbing his thumb at Toneri who was staring at the ground behind him. "I assume we are good then, Kakashi and Gaara? I'm sure this young idiot has learned his lesson. Being publicly turned down by this beautiful woman would certainly be enough of a punishment in my books."
The two project managers glanced at each other for a moment before Gaara spoke. "So long as Toneri doesn't bother Hinata next shift while she is here on site unless it is strictly business-related, I'm sure it will be fine."
Kakashi then turned to Hinata. "Is there anything you would like to say?"
She looked at the four men around her. "Just that, with what happened today I want it to be kept between those that were present. I don't think other people need to know what occurred and I . . ." Her gaze fell on Toneri who was still looking at the ground and looking completely miserable. "Would it be too much trouble, if I asked to have a few words with Toneri? Alone in my office?"
Toneri's head shot up, and for a split second he had a smile on his face, but it quickly disappeared when he saw the stern expression that she was wearing. The three other men looked back and forth at each other for a few seconds before nodding in agreement.
"If that is what you want, Gaara and I will be in our offices if you need anything." Said Kakashi as he walked away with Gaara in tow.
Onoki grabbed Toneri by the arm and hissed into his ear. "You behave, you hear me? I'll be waiting in the truck for you. No more tomfoolery for today!"
Hinata walked into her small office just as Onoki left the trailer. For a moment Toneri didn't move, but after she opened the door a little wider and motioned him to enter did he finally walk in.
Closing the door behind him, Hinata took a deep breath and remembered the words of wisdom from her father when dealing with a difficult client.
Choose your words carefully and be very specific.
"Toneri, first of all, I do owe you an apology. Like I said before, I should have been clearer about my relationship with you. I have and will only see you as a business client, nothing more. I was always unsure of how to voice that to you without hurting your feelings. Perhaps it was because I was worried that if I turned you down, then you would no longer want to do business with my father and uncle's companies. However, I can't keep avoiding you or brushing off your requests for a date." Said Hinata, looking him directly in the eyes while she spoke.
She could tell that he was already angry with her; the way his body was completely stiff and hands clenched by his sides. Hinata wasn't sure where her courage came from, or even why she felt it necessary to say anything about it . . . but the words were already spilling out of her mouth before she could stop then.
"Secondly, you have got to get your temper under control. I understand you are upset and angry about what happened on Pad #15, but this is not the first occurrence of you saying inappropriate things to colleagues before. Toneri, I know one day you are going to take over for your father, so you need to deal with these issues now. Already people are walking on eggshells around you, and I don't think that's the kind of leader you want to be. You want them to look up to you, not be afraid of you."
Toneri's eyes widened in disbelief and he suddenly turned around to look at the wall of binders along the back wall.
Hinata on the other hand was trying to take quiet, deep breaths while comprehending what she just said.
I crossed the line! I jumped across it without any second thoughts! Oh my goodness, I shouldn't have said something so personal to him! I think Naruto is rubbing off on me in a bad way, this is more or so something he would tell someone! I hope that . . .
Her thoughts were interrupted by Toneri's soft chuckle. He still had his back to her, but when he did finally turn around his facial expression completely surprised her.
Toneri was smiling at her.
"Aside from Onoki, only a handful of operators have had the nerve to speak to me like that. I'm impressed Hinata, you've changed quite a bit since the last time I saw you." He took a few steps forward. "I will admit, I was only really asking you out because of your father's position and how beautiful you are. I saw you only as this shy little sheep that I could possibly make my partner which would gain my advantage in the corporate world. But after today, you've shown to me that you are no sheep . . . you are more like a leopard. Silent and mostly keeping to yourself, but when the claws come out you strike hard and fast. I have to admit, I find that very attractive in a woman. I do sincerely apologize for my behavior earlier today, however, is there any way you could give me a second chance? Perhaps after New Year's I could take you out for a cup of coffee?"
A light blush appeared on Hinata's cheeks, but before you she could turn him down, there was a quick knock on her office door before it swung open.
"Hey, Hinata! Are you ready to . . ." Naruto froze as he came barging into her office. He looked back and forth between the two of them before starting to backpedal out. "Sorry! I didn't realize you were talking to someone! I'll just . . . wait a minute . . . aren't you . . .?"
Hinata stepped forward and lightly pushed Naruto back. "It's okay, Naruto! We are almost done here! I'll come to the truck in a few minutes, okay?"
Naruto kept his eyes on Toneri as he leaned down to whisper into her ear. "Everything okay?"
"I promise you, everything is fine. Just give me a few more minutes for us to finish up our conversation, please." Whispered Hinata, attempting to close the door again.
Her boyfriend gave Toneri one last glare before he nodded and left the two of them alone. Hinata sighed as she closed the door and turned back to Toneri.
"Ah . . . I see. So, he's the reason you were turning me down?"
Hinata froze, but nodded her head, her cheeks becoming beet red again.
"So I never stood a chance now, did I? That's alright, I'm not one to chase after a woman once she's been taken by someone else." He held out his hand towards Hinata. "I hope in the future you and I can work well together."
She looked down at his outstretched hand and then back up before shaking it with a firm of a grasp. "I hope so as well."
"Well then, I'd better head out. I'm sure Onoki is growing impatient waiting for me. You have a good night Hinata." Said Toneri, passing by her and making his way outside.
At that moment a huge weight felt like it had been lifted off of her shoulders, but at the same time, she felt there was a lump in her throat from how daring she had been.
If father ever found out I lectured Toneri like that, I'm sure his hair would turn completely grey.
Taking a deep breath, Hinata quickly gathered her belongings and turned the lights off in the trailer since she was the last one out.
Since arriving back from the cable pull, the time had just flown by so fast; she hadn't realized how late it was, so when Naruto had come barging into her office it had taken her completely by surprise. Hinata lightly jogged to the remaining Hyuuga vehicle that was in the parking lot and climbed into the passenger seat with Naruto waiting for her.
"So . . . what the heck was going on there? Isn't that the guy that was giving you trouble at the cable pull?" He asked, his blue eyes looking at her with concern and confusion.
Hinata sighed as she pulled on her seat belt. "He is, but everything is okay now."
As Naruto put the truck into gear, Hinata went into the long explanation of what had happened to her this morning, seeing Toneri in the parking lot, to what happened at the cable pull, then finishing off with the apology she had received from the two operators and asking to speak Toneri privately.
The entire time as they were driving, Naruto had been quiet. He only glanced at her the odd time, and it worried her how expressionless he was. It made her almost feel like he didn't believe her or, he perhaps thought Toneri was someone she had been seeing before him. However, when she finished her story, a huge grin appeared on Hinata's face.
"Man, I'm so proud of you, Hinata! You handled that like a champion! I'm not so sure I would have been able to keep my cool in a situation like that! You're awesome!"
Hinata smiled and averted her eyes from his compliments. "It wasn't anything . . ."
"Oh sure it was! My parents have mentioned Toneri before and they say he can be difficult to handle sometimes. The fact that you stood up to him speaks volumes!" He reached over and grasped her hand in his. "I'm so proud of you!"
For a few minutes, the truck was silent as they drove down the snowy road back to camp. Traffic was a bit heavier than usual, and just like the night before they were most likely going to have to park in the far lot again.
Hinata took a deep breath in and relaxed more into her seat. She was so glad that the day was done and everything had been taken care of.
Well . . . almost everything . . .
It was then that she remembered the conversation she had overheard between Jiraiya and Kakashi. Naruto had been offered some kind of new job and he had yet to tell them whether he had accepted it or not. Was it a new position within Hyuuga Electric? Had Konoha Energy offered him a job? Or was it with an entirely new company altogether?
She was curious, but she didn't want to pry either. Perhaps he was still thinking about it and didn't want to bother her about it yet? Pale violet eyes glanced over at Naruto; he had a smile on his face and was humming to the tune of the radio.
"So . . . how was your day? I imagine you guys were all tired from the cable pull."
Naruto sighed. "Well, to be honest, it started out being quite the circus show. It took us forever to get the permit for the pad, and then when we finally did get it, Sasuke realized the permit issuer had signed in the wrong places. And you know what that's like, drive all the way back to the permit office to get it fixed. Honestly, we could have finished that pull much sooner, but the paperwork just took forever."
Hinata smiled. "As per usual when you want to get something fast done here on site, there's always something that has to go wrong. Oh, and how was dinner with your parents? I saw Jiraiya at the cable pull as well, did you have supper with him too?"
She suddenly realized what she had asked.
I just told myself I wasn't going to pry! Now I'm pretty much just digging for information so he has to tell me about this new job offer! Darn it, Hinata! What have you done?
Naruto's face suddenly fell and his hand tightened its grip on hers. For half a minute his mouth opened and closed silently as if trying to figure out the words he wanted to say next. This action alone made Hinata worry.
"It was good. I had a really great conversation with my parents, Jiraiya and Kakashi. Jiraiya was just more so on site to help with the one walk down in the plant; apparently, he has a nice way of smooth-talking Onoki. Tomorrow morning he heads back and . . . and . . . well, he told me about a job offer that has come up in the New Year."
Hinata felt her stomach drop.
"It's with Akatsuki Electrical and Jiraiya said it's with his old friend Orochimaru. Basically, he travels the world to electrical sites around the world and either does maintenance on their systems or updates it with his engineering skills. He's looking for another electrician to travel with him and Jiraiya asked if I wanted to go. It's something I've thought of doing for a while now, but I didn't know how to even get my foot in the door."
His fingers wrapped around her hand even tighter.
"The problem is, obviously I would be gone a lot . . . for the next eighteen months to be exact. I would be missing out on holidays, family events, and especially time with you. Jiraiya said that I would get the odd time off, but at most, it would be a week. I want to take this opportunity to further my career and even Kakashi said that after I was done with Akatsuki, there would be plenty of work for me to come back to up here; he even mentioned I might be able to get a Foreman position as well." He took his eyes off the road and gave her a soft/sad smile. "I know our relationship was going to be tough already with me being up here, but how do you feel about me accepting this new position?"
Hinata wasn't sure what to think.
Her first response was to tell him not to leave, but immediately she held back those words. It was obvious that Naruto really wanted to go and accept this position.
And can you blame him? Any electrician would be jumping for joy to accept a job like this, heck I would even go back on the tools if I was offered a job like that.
Naruto was looking at her with anticipation and worry.
The thought of not being able to see him for almost eighteen months was heartbreaking and she could feel the tears start to well in her eyes.
Stay strong! He thinks I'm going to tell him no, or break up with him, or even demand that he choose between me and the job. That's not fair to him. He's wanted to do this for years and I can't take that away from him.
Gathering all the strength she could muster, Hinata turned to Naruto and smiled at him.
"That's great news, Naruto. I'm sure you were so excited when Jiraiya told you that. You start in January then?" asked Hinata.
She needed to keep her appearance cheerful and supportive. Pushing down her emotions, Hinata continued to listen to Naruto as he explained some more details of the job, who he would be traveling with and that he would need to let Jiraiya know as soon as possible so they could get the paperwork in order.
"I'm so proud of you and I'm sure your parents are too."
"Y-yeah they were. I wasn't sure how you would react with the news, but I'm glad you're okay with me going."
"Don't worry about me, Naruto. I will be okay. I'm just so happy for you."
At that moment Naruto's expression changed; he was no longer showing his genuine happy smile, but instead it was an expression she had never seen before. If she didn't know better, it almost seemed like he was melancholy.
He must be sad and nervous about leaving me behind. I just need to keep being positive and understanding!
Hinata continued to give him words of encouragement and support all the way to the parking lot. She continued to keep a smile on her face, but as soon as they climbed out of the truck she could tell something was definitely wrong with Naruto. He was extremely quiet and seemed to be lost in his own thoughts. It was completely out of character for him to be like this, and it scared her.
Just as she was about to ask him what was wrong, a voice called out to them.
"Hey! There you are, Naruto!"
Hinata turned to see Jiraiya and Kakashi walking towards them. She suddenly felt out of place and backed up a little bit as Naruto approached the two older men. Kakashi gave her a warm smile, but Jiraiya was eyeing her suspiciously.
"Ahem, Jiraiya, you remember Hinata, don't you? She's Hizashi's Niece and she used to work up here about three years ago with us." Said Kakashi. "Hinata arrived on site this shift to help us with the hellhole paperwork I was telling you about on my days off. She's done a wonderful job and has exceeded all our expectations."
The retired electrician turned towards her. "Ah yes, I remember you. Plus she was the one that turned Toneri down during the cable pull today! The expression he had on his face when you walked away was priceless!"
Jiraiya laughed and Hinata tried to hide her face with the scarf around her neck.
Suddenly, Naruto grabbed her hand and pulled her closer so they were standing side by side. This caused Jiraiya to stop laughing and look at the pair with a questioning gaze.
"I-I talked it over with Hinata, and I've decided to accept the job offer."
Simultaneously their eyes widened, turning to Hinata and then back to Naruto who had a look of determination on his face. At first, they seemed surprised, but Jiraiya broke the silence with a loud laugh.
"I knew it! You do have a girlfriend now! I was worried about the woman you had chosen, but it looks like to me boy you've got one hell of a catch! Not to mention she's way out of your league!"
The two of them started to fight and Kakashi leaned over towards Hinata. "You're okay with him leaving for eighteen months? I know some women can't handle their boyfriends leaving them for long periods of time."
Hinata put back on her fake smile.
"I know it's something he's wanted to do for a long time, but I will be okay."
The grey-haired project manager smiled back at her. "I'm glad you're so understanding, Hinata. Naruto is lucky to have you."
Hearing those words only confirmed that she needed to keep acting strong. Deep down her emotions were swirling around like a storm and she wanted nothing more than to retreat to her room and cry into her pillow.
Kakashi finally broke up the two men fighting and they all started to make their way towards the camp. Jiraiya did most of the talking; telling Naruto about the paperwork he would need to fill out and what documents he would need to find so they could start the process of getting him ready for his new job.
The next few hours went by in a blur.
The Hyuuga Electric crew had formed a huge table circle for them all to sit together like a family at Christmas dinner. Everyone was chatting excitedly amongst themselves; the front shift wondering what the Christmas Party would be like this year, while Back Shift was more so dreading the next six days since the weather was supposed to get even colder than before.
Ino was already trying to recruit challengers for the annual shots drinking game at the Christmas party and was pretty much telling anyone who declined that they were a chicken for not taking on the Queen of Shots.
As all of this was going on, Hinata noticed that once again Naruto was unusually quiet. He had barely touched the food on his plate and even though everyone was laughing and having a good time, she hadn't seen a smile on his face since they sat down.
Seeing him like this made her worry, and with everyone being distracted, she slipped her hand down to clasp his while no one was looking.
Naruto jumped slightly and turned his head towards her.
"Are you okay?" Hinata asked softly, but loud enough so he could hear her over everyone.
He seemed surprised at first, but what broke her heart was the forced smile he put on for her.
"Oh . . . yeah I'm okay. I guess I'm just a bit sad that I won't be around like this with everyone for a while. They are quite the rowdy bunch, but they all mean a lot to me."
Hinata nodded understandingly and gripped his hand tighter to show her support.
By 7:15 pm everyone was done eating and slowly making their way out of the dining hall and towards their private rooms. As the crowd cleared, Hinata found herself standing off to the side with Naruto.
"Did you want me to walk you back to your room?" he asked.
Hinata shook her head. "No thank you. I appreciate the offer, but I'm on the other side of the camp. Besides you're probably tired from the cable pull and everything else that happened today. Plus, we both need to pack up our rooms and get ready for Home Day tomorrow."
A part of her wanted to spend more time with him, but the other part wanted to get back to her room as soon as possible so she could be alone and finally let go of the emotions she was holding in.
His face fell and he even looked really disappointed. "Right. That makes sense. Well, have a good night Hinata and I will see you in the morning."
Looking around he quickly gave her a quick peck on the cheek when no one was looking, before turning around and heading off down the hallway.
She watched his retreating back as Naruto walked away from her towards his room. Hinata bit her lip and looked down at the floor as she contemplated chasing after him, but she held back. She didn't want to be a burden on him tonight or trouble him with her emotional feelings. He already had a lot going on with just accepting the new job, and he probably wanted to be alone for a bit too.
Automatically, Hinata turned around and she started slowly walking towards her room. Fingers tightened around the strap of her backpack and she bit her lip. A part of her was ashamed that she had put on such a charade in front of Naruto; only acting happy and supportive towards him. It wasn't as if those feelings weren't a lie, but she hadn't been one hundred percent truthful either.
She was happy that he had been offered an amazing position; that he would get to learn and see so much around the world. However, there was also an overwhelming sense of sadness that he would be gone for eighteen months. While Naruto had told her he would be able to get the odd week off to come home, the hard cold truth was that she would barely be able to see him for the next year and a half. Tears welled up in her eyes once again, but she kept them in while opening the door to her hallway and walking up the stairs to the second floor. She passed by each room slowly, holding in her emotions until she reached her room.
What would Naruto think if he saw me like this? He would feel worried that I'm upset and even decline the new job if he saw how sad I am. I can't be a burden to him now . . . I have to stay strong and hide my feelings. . . . hide my feelings . . .
Hinata paused as her hand reached for the door to her room.
She had spent years hiding her feelings, and look where it ended up taking her. So much time wasted being apart from Naruto because she kept silent. Fearing the unknown of what would happen if she said the words that in her mind were taboo. Only one time she had ever been truthfully honest with him, and when that blew up in her face Hinata had gone back to being silent. What would have happened had she only just been a little bit braver? Instead of just watching him walk back into that bar, she had walked forward, grabbed his arm, and told him again how she felt for him. Maybe, just maybe things would have been different for them . . . but instead, she only stood there outside and watched as he walked away. That was the last time she saw him . . .
I kept telling myself that I was being a burden to him . . . that it was perhaps better that he misunderstood me that night, because then things could remain the same. But things have progressed with Naruto and me, now I can see what I have been missing all those years without him in my life. I don't want that ever again! This evening I could only smile and give him my encouragement; showing him that I supported him no matter what he decided, but . . . what if that's not what he needed to hear and see . . .
His expressions in the truck and during dinner had been somber, even though she had been giving him positive vibes and words, it almost seemed like it was doing the opposite effect on him.
I know I have to be there for him, but hiding what my true thoughts are . . .
A new resolve swelled within her, and Hinata knew what she wanted to do. Pressing her lips together, she opened the door to her room and tossed her backpack on the bed. Turning around immediately she marched down the hallway towards the first door on the right. Hinata only paused for a moment, hoping she wasn't interrupting them, and knocked soundly on the metal door. After a few seconds, Sakura's head poked through, blocking the view of anyone passing by of who else she had in there with her.
"Hinata?! What are you doing here? Is everything okay?" asked Sakura, slipping out of her room, but keeping her left foot in the doorway to keep it open.
Hinata opened her mouth to speak, and she could already feel her determination wavering as she realized what she was about to ask. Her face turning a bright crimson red, but she pressed on and stuttered the words out. "Y-y-you told me that S-S-Sasuke usually sleeps here with you. C-C-Could I borrow his r-r-room card so I can see N-N-Naruto right now, p-please?"
Her friend's green eyes widened in surprise for a few seconds, but soon her shocked face turned into a warm and understanding smile. Sakura disappeared back into her room for a few moments before returning and handing her the small white card.
"Hallway 'C' and Sasuke's room number is 20, while Naruto's is in 22. Just make sure I get that card back in the morning so Sasuke can check out when we leave for home tomorrow."
Hinata nodded, her face still beet red as she took the card and made her way back outside to the main hallway. It was still early in the evening and there were still lots of people wandering around; hanging out on the couches and chatting, or heading towards a different area of the camp to enjoy the games room, the gym, or the theatre room. Hinata tried to keep her head down and focused on where she was going. A few people tried to stop her and have a chat, but she politely declined and told them she was in a hurry.
Once getting closer to Hallway 'C', Hinata pulled out the card and swiped it across the scanner before entering into the hallway; not considering her surroundings and see if anyone from their crew was watching her. However, at this point, she didn't care. She needed to talk to Naruto now before any damage could be permanently done to their relationship.
Finally, standing outside room 22, Hinata raised her hand to knock on the door but froze. It suddenly dawned on her perhaps this wasn't the best strategy to talk to him. She could have just called or texted him to meet her somewhere at camp. Wasn't this being a little bit extreme? Coming directly to his room was bad, right? Was this perhaps crossing the line?
Pale violet eyes fell to the floor.
This is wrong, right? What if someone saw me in the main hallway come down here? What would they think? It seemed like a good idea at the time but I . . . maybe I should just call him and not tell him that I borrowed Sasuke's card to come see him. I mean what if the roles were reversed? How would I feel if Naruto suddenly came to my door because he needed to talk to me ASAP? I would feel . . . I would feel . . .
Hinata's eyes widened for a moment, before closing as she let out a soft sigh.
I would feel happy . . . unbelievably happy if he did that just to talk to me face to face.
Pressing her lips together in determination, she knocked on the door.
After a few seconds, she could hear footsteps on the other side, the sound of the deadbolt being twisted, and then finally the click of the handle being turned. For a split second, she wanted to run away as fast as her legs could carry her, but she stood her ground. Her nails digging into the palms of her hand to distract her from the nervousness that she was feeling.
The door opened and Naruto stood there in an orange shirt and black shorts; the fresh smell drifting from him told her that he had just gotten out of the shower. At first, Naruto's expression had been one of frustration and annoyance; his eyebrows were narrowed and a frown was formed on his lips. However, as soon as his eyes met hers it changed immediately to astonishment and even a tad bit of confusion.
"Hinata?! Is everything okay?!" He leaned forward into the hallway to see if anyone else was there with her. "What are you doing here?"
Feeling bold, Hinata said. "I wanted to talk to you some more. May I come in for a moment?"
At first, she thought he was going to tell her no; which would have been a very reasonable response. It was his private room after all, and perhaps he would suggest they talk at the end of the hallway in the emergency exit area like last time.
His eyes widened even more, which she didn't think was humanly possible, but after a few seconds, he opened the door wider and motioned her to come inside. Gathering her courage, Hinata took the five steps needed so she was standing in the middle of his room.
There was a woodsy smell in the air, which Hinata had to admit she really liked. A few piles of clothes were spread across the bed and a suitcase was open on the desk; she had probably interrupted him packing for days off. In the dimly lit room, she could see a few pictures were pinned to the wall of his family and friends, along with a small calendar.
Hearing the door finally close, Hinata turned around to face Naruto who had his back against the metal door. A deep red blush was spread across his cheeks and she could tell he was nervous, but also confused as to why she was here. Taking a deep breath, she spilled out her feelings to him.
"I wasn't being very truthful. When I said that I would be fine and that I was happy for you, that wasn't a lie . . . but the real truth is that I'm . . . I'm sad. I'm sad and angry that just when things are getting started for us, in less than a month you will be leaving and I will barely get to see you. I've waited and wanted you for so long . . . and now that we are finally together . . . I hate it. I just hate it."
Hinata kept her voice steady and tried not to raise the volume of it, but as the words came out on how she felt, tears started to pool in her eyes.
"I don't want you to go! I want you to stay here and be with me!" she walked forward and grabbed the front of Naruto's shirt, pressing her body close to his. "I want to do so many things with you. Go on dates, hang out on the couch and watch movies together . . . even mundane things like going on errands or to the grocery store are things I want to do with you. I want to facetime you while you're up here working and even come pick you up at the airport on your days off. I want you to choose me and stay!"
Tears were now rolling down her cheeks and onto his T-shirt. Naruto looked as if he had been punched in the gut and she couldn't even begin to describe the emotions that were flashing across his face. At first, he had looked shocked by her confession, but then it changed to confusion, sorrow, and even disappointment.
Her hands released the front of his shirt and the pain that flashed across his face from her action broke Hinata's heart. Before he could say or do anything, she wrapped her arms tightly around his mid-section. Holding desperately onto him as if she were to loosen her grip for one second he would disappear. Tucking her head against his chest, she took a deep breath and continued.
"But I . . . I know this is a job that will do wonders for your career. You will get to see the world and learn so much. I wasn't lying when I said that I was happy for you and that I would support you with this decision. I will be there for you." Hinata turned her head so she could look him in the eyes. "I love you, and I will miss you so much. I don't want you to go, but I know you have to. And while you're gone I will be back home waiting and missing you . . . but I will be okay."
The pained expression he had on earlier, slowly dissolved away and was replaced by a sad, gentle smile.
"I will wait for you. I'll be sure to have my phone on me whenever you want to call or facetime. When you do have time off, I will be there to give you a big hug and a kiss at the airport to welcome you home. I will be there for you. And I promise that I won't look at anyone else while you're gone. I've loved you for so many years, I can wait another eighteen months to be with you."
At that moment, she wanted to kiss Naruto, hoping that it would drive her point across to him. However, his arms suddenly wrapped around her so tightly that she was bound in place. His head leaning forward until his lips touched the top of her forehead, placing a gentle kiss on the skin. Tucking her head under his chin, Naruto finally spoke.
"You scared me there for a second, Hinata. I thought you were either going to break up with me or demand that I not accept this job . . . but I'm glad to hear that I was wrong. After I told you about it, in the truck I was happy that you were being supportive, but I was really sad and depressed that you didn't seem upset by it. I was starting to think that you wouldn't miss me at all." He took a deep breath and tightened his grip on her even more. "I don't want to go or leave you behind either. I want to do all those mundane things with you too and even so much more. I knew it was already going to be tough for us with me working up here and you in the city, but now . . . it just got ten times worse.
"When we get home tomorrow, I want to spend as much time with you as possible. I want us to have fun at the Christmas Party this Saturday, and I was so happy when Kakashi told me you were coming back next shift. This next month, I want us to be together as much as possible!"
Hinata smiled against his chest. "I would like that too, Naruto. But don't forget your friends and family either. I'm sure they would love to spend some time with you too."
He let out a small chuckle and turned his head to kiss her forehead again. "I suppose I could spare some time to hang out with them.
A comfortable silence fell over them, and Hinata closed her eyes so she could just listen to his heartbeat. At first, it was a nice smooth rhythm that could have easily lulled her to sleep. But when she released her grip on him and her fingers lightly moved across the fabric up and down his spine, Naruto let out a small gasp; his body trembling and the beating of his heart intensified.
Whether it was the setting of the dimly lit room or the woodsy smell hanging in the air or the plain fact that she and Naruto were so close together, it sparked something inside of her. They were completely alone and would not be disturbed. The day had been both physically and emotionally draining for her, and right now all she wanted to do was be as close to Naruto as possible.
Her fingers continued to gently move across the contours of his back. The way his muscles flexed under her fingertips and his arms tighten around her made her own body shiver in return. She had never touched a man before and had no idea what she was doing, but with the way Naruto was responding to her caresses, she could tell he was enjoying it.
Hinata looked up at him and almost let out a gasp from the way he was staring at her. There was a hunger behind those blue eyes. She had thought his gaze had been intense the night before in the moonlight, but now with the way he was eyeing her made her entire body shiver with anticipation.
She ducked her head down to stare at his abdomen as a blush started to slowly spread across her cheeks. Glancing briefly at the bed behind her, Hinata wondered if this was the moment she had been pondering about earlier in the day. Her first time being one with Naruto in his camp room wasn't her ideal first choice, but in the end, it really didn't matter . . .
I just want him . . . all of him . . . and I don't care if it's here . . .
Pulling back slightly, but keeping her head down, Hinata began to run her fingers across his chest, along his shoulders, down his sides, and finally stopping at the edge of his shorts. When her hands came to rest there, he whispered her name in such a way that almost made it seem he was choking. His entire body was trembling now and she could tell he was holding back.
A wave of confidence swept over her as she looked back up at Naruto, who had his eyes closed and his jaw was clenched tightly shut. Her hands moved up to grasp his shoulders while instantaneously moving up onto her tiptoes so she could reach his lips. The moment they connected, Hinata felt like her entire world was on cloud 9. Naruto's lips were warm and a little bit chapped, but that feeling she had felt the night before came crashing back into her. She wanted to feel that way again.
Hinata tried moving her lips along with Naruto's, but he wasn't responding the way he had the night before. Unexpectedly, he turned his head away from her and started gasping for air. His arms snaking around her shoulders and pulled her in for a bear tight hug with his head resting on her shoulder. At first, she thought that maybe she was doing something wrong, but the words that came out of his mouth surprised her.
"S-stop, Hinata . . . you have to stop. We can't . . ."
He was barely able to get the words out, and with the way he was quivering against her, she could tell he was using every ounce of willpower he had to keep himself in check. She wasn't sure why he was acting hesitant towards her, in fact, it only made her feel more confused. The way they had kissed last night, she could tell that he wanted her the same way she wanted him . . . so why was he not responding like she had thought he would?
Feeling determined to keep going, Hinata decided to make an extremely bold move; one that she hoped would give Naruto the message of what she wanted to do with him. Taking a few small steps away from him so he would loosen his grip and also be able to look her in the eye, Hinata took a deep breath and pulled her sweater off. She wasn't wearing anything revealing underneath, just a normal t-shirt, but after tossing it off to the side her fingers moved down to pull her shirt off.
"I want you Naruto. I want all of you here and now . . . I want to show you how much I love you . . ." she whispered, looking at him directly so he would know she was serious.
His eyes were wide as saucers and his mouth was wide open.
She felt extremely embarrassed but was determined to follow through with her plan. Just as her fingers grasped the bottom of her t-shirt and began to pull up, she was stopped. Naruto's hands clasped around her wrists; preventing her from going any further. The tightness he had on her wrists was almost painful, but not as agonizing as she was feeling from being rejected. Tears were pooling fast in her eyes that it was difficult to see.
Before she could move or say anything, Naruto slowly brought her hands up to his face where he kissed the tops of her knuckles. The gesture made Hinata even more confused, feeling his lips pressing feather-light kisses along the tops of her hands before moving to her fingertips and palms.
"I'm sorry . . . I'm so sorry Hinata . . ." he whispered softly. Naruto released her wrists, but his fingers found hers so he was holding her hands in his. "I want you too. When you kissed me like that, I could feel my self-control slipping away. You have no idea how much I just want to carry you over to that bed over there and ravish you from head to toe."
Hinata felt her cheeks burn even more, and the way he was looking at her made her believe every word.
"But not here . . . I know you're going to tell me that it doesn't matter where we do this . . . however I think it does. I don't want this to be a rash decision just because I accepted the new job and we only have a limited amount of time left." Naruto leaned down so he could kiss the top of her head. "I want our first time to at least be secluded a bit more and not in a camp room where the walls are paper thin."
At that moment, two people passed by Naruto's room and you could hear them as clear as a bell. Hinata's face became even redder at the thought of them being heard by the entire hallway had they not stopped.
Naruto released her one hand and brought it up to her face so he could cup her cheek. "You're precious to me, Hinata . . . and if you can be a little more patient, I'd like to show you how much I care for you when we get home. I . . . I wish I could say that we could just kiss or even touch each other a little bit more, but with the way I am right now, I know I won't be able to hold back. I got just a taste of you and trust me when I say I want more."
Her face was as red as a tomato and Hinata felt self-conscious from being so reckless. Naruto was right in every way. There was no rush for them to make love this very second . . . and he did bring up a very good point about doing it in a camp room; the walls were so thin that you could even hear your neighbor breathing next door.
Feeling silly now, Hinata decided to confess what she had done earlier in the day. "I-I know that I said I didn't want to rush things between us . . . but after last night, I didn't want to take things slow anymore. I've been waiting and wanting you for over three years and I just didn't want to wait any longer. I was even crazy enough to book a room at the Shinjuku Hotel for us so that we could . . . you know . . . but I will call them tomorrow to cancel it . . ."
Naruto's sudden outburst made her jump a little and her eyes widen from his reaction.
"Ahem. I'm sorry, I mean please don't do that." Naruto suddenly looked away from her and it was his turn to be red from embarrassment. "If-if you want to . . . I mean I would really like that . . . in fact hearing that you did that makes me happy . . ."
He smiled down at her; a huge grin that practically reached from ear to ear. Finally seeing his genuine smile made her glad he was back to his old self. For a few minutes, they were just content staring at each other and basking in the tender moment.
However, all too soon they realized that it was starting to get late and they both not only needed to finish packing but also get to bed. Naruto finally released her hands and reached down to pick her sweatshirt off of the ground.
"Hinata, I just wanted to say . . . you have no idea how much it means to me that you came here tonight. I was certainly shocked to see you standing outside my doorway, but deep down I was so happy. Thank you."
He pulled her in for another hug. Whenever his arms were wrapped around her like this, it made her feel so safe and warm. As if nothing in the world could harm her.
All too soon he finally released her and whispered. "Come on, I'll walk you back to your room."
Without a word, Hinata nodded and followed him out into the hallway with her hand tightly clasped in his.
To Be Continued . . .
Next will be the last chapter and I might even toss in an epilogue.