Disclaimer time – yeah, yeah, obviously I don't owe the Naruto, Hinata or anything characters or places you might recognize, so please don't sue me, I have nothing but debt anyway. Warning time – the idea behind this story was inspired by a challenge off an LJ community anichallenge, so it's going to be AU. Also, this is my first foray into the Naruto fandom, so if anyone is interested in beta-reading , I would more than appreciate it, as well as any & all criticism. Lastly, if you missed it, this story is definitely going to be Naruhina, possible other pairings – I haven't made up my mind on that score yet. I've just gotten a beta-reader, Chelsea, so this is the updated/corrected chapter. Thanks so much Chelsea this story wouldn't be nearly as well written without her help.

Chapter 1 – Time To Awaken

Naruto tightly clenched his fists as he watched Neji land yet another blow on the delicate wisp of a girl, desperately struggling to hold her own in a match where she was clearly outclassed. This wasn't his fight, he knew that he shouldn't interfere, but he was afraid that if he stood by and did nothing, then she would die and he absolutely refused to do that. The next time Hinata went down, he decided, if that bastard cousin of hers tried to continued the fight, then Neji would have to face him, and damn the consequences. Being disqualified from the Chuunin exam would suck, but after watching her reject her cousin's accusation of weakness and slowly standing up again, bloody but not broken, something inside of him violently rebelled against watching her come to any further harm.

He didn't know Hinata very well, she was too quiet and a little strange for him to really call a friend, but there was something – just special about her - that he couldn't quite put his finger on. He wasn't as stupid as everyone around him believed and for the most part, Naruto didn't care about how dense everyone thought he was. If anything, it led others to underestimate him and in the end that generally worked to his favor. But Hinata really did confuse him: he knew that she liked him, but for the life of him, couldn't understand why or exactly what to do about it. She wasn't like Sakura, whom he could easily approach, even though he knew that he didn't have a chance with her. His teammates would react in some way, usually negatively either by insulting him or hitting him, but Hinata was so shy, she'd just blush at him before running away and the last thing Naruto wanted was to scare her off.

Sakura's shocked gasp startled the young genin and as he looked down on the combatants, he couldn't repress a low snarl that promised retribution. Springing forward, he reached out, laying one hand on the wall in front of him for leverage as he leaped down to the floor and landed in a low crouch in front of Hinata's prone figure. "Back off, Neji. This fight is over."

"Get out of my way, dead last. This is clan business that doesn't involve you," sneered the older boy.

"I'm not warning you again. You want to get to Hinata, you've got to get through me and, dead last or not, I'll still kick your ass." The blonde ninja smoothly stood up, wishing that the Hyunnga genius would give him a reason to attack.

The observers in the stands exploded in an uproar, some calling for an end to the fight, most jeering Naruto and demanding not only that he leave the fighting arena, but also that he be disqualified from the exam. The examiner, however, walked past the two genins staring at each other to bend down next to the fallen girl. He slowly rose to his feet, announcing, "This fight is over, Neji is the winner. Hinata Hyuuga is dead."

The audience fell silent. Naruto heard the words, then nothing more but a dull roar in his ears that nearly overwhelmed him, and he opened his mouth in inaudible denial. He abruptly spun on his heel, turning to kneel next to Hinata, his heart rejecting the truth he saw for himself, something squeezing impossibly tight deep inside his chest. With a shaking hand, he reached out to brush her bangs out of her pale face, revealing her once luminescent eyes clouded over in a way that seemed to break something inside of him. He gently closed them, before turning back to face her killer. Sapphire eyes caught the faintest smirk of satisfaction cross the lips of Neji and he growled. He'd never felt anything like what he felt in that moment - it was pure, overpowering, murderous rage. The examiner moved between the fighters, even as Naruto lunged forward, intent on nothing less than total vengeance.

An opaque wash of red fell, obscuring his vision, so that he only dimly saw the arm flung out in front of him, before crashing into it. The impact sent him sprawling to the ground, facedown. Shaking his head, he placed his palms flat on the floor as he tried to push himself up, but faltered, falling back down. A gray fog seemed to rise up, encompassing everything as far as he could seem. He forced himself to his feet and even took a few steps, as he tried to find his opponent, but was completely disoriented. Staring at the fog, he noticed that it began to darken in a strangely familiar pattern around him. In the surrounding darkness he heard something that started as a low and distant mumble but grew louder as he began walking towards it.

"Little fox . . . little fox . . . hide far away . . . it'll never be far enough . . . "

The voice was deeply disturbing to him on a level that made him extremely anxious. It was something he didn't want to remember, but wouldn't ever allow him to truly forget. It changed from taunting him to an outright and growled command.

"Little fox . . . little fox . . it's time to awaken . . . you've slept for too long . . . "

"Naruto-kun . . . Naruto-kun . . . wake up!" Sapphire eyes snapped open to stare up into lavender opalescent ones. Gasping loudly under her watchful gaze, he painfully sucked air into his oxygen-starved lungs. Closing his eyes for a moment, he let his head fall back into the cool pillow. "Ano, Naruto? Are you ok?" Hinata ran a gentle hand through his hair, quickly jerking her hand back when he flinched and turned his face away from her touch. Pulling her knees under her, she gathered a loose sheet around her nude upper body as she leaned back on her heels, concerned about his uncharacteristic behavior.

Nothing was making sense anymore. That girl, no woman, he corrected himself – looked kinda like Hinata, sounded like her too, but she was older and why the hell would she be in bed with him and didn't he just see her die? For that matter where the hell was he? It was dark, he knew that much. It was obviously late at night, or maybe early morning judging by the light just beginning to filter through the blinds. Shaking his still dazed head, he swung his legs out onto the floor, sat up on the bed and absently opened his eyes, receiving another shock that was enough to make him want to close his eyes again. What the fuck was going on?

He abruptly stood up and stalked across the room, looking for a light switch or mirror. Passing under a naked bulb, he pulled the chain, blinking in the sudden harsh light as he found himself standing in front of a full length mirror on the back of what he absently recognized as the closet door in his apartment and watched as his own jaw dropped in the reflection. Staring back at him was an attractive young man, maybe in his late teens or early twenties. "Oh fuck!"

Naruto stared in the mirror in utter disbelief as his mind struggled to assimilate what his senses told him and what he knew to be the truth. Failing to make sense of what was happening to him, he looked at his reflection in morbid fascination. He noted that at least he was good-looking, lean and muscular, with a few random scars that he idly wondered about. He reached up, his fingers lightly tracing the black and intricately drawn anbu tattoo on his upper left arm. Pushing his longer than normal blonde hair back and off his face, he laughed sarcastically when he noticed that he still had his seal on his flat stomach. Even in his dreams, he couldn't escape that damn curse.

His eyes flickered up, hardening slightly, as he saw Hinata in the upper corner of the mirror. She was hesitantly walking towards him, a white sheet securely knotted just above and between her breasts that dragged along behind her like the train of a dress. As she came closer, he realized that at least she was wearing something, as opposed to him standing there stark naked. Glancing down he found a pair of jeans lying on the floor and quickly snagged them. He didn't bother to fasten them and they rode low on his hips. Looking up, he observed that her approach was very careful, one arm slowly stretching out, so as if not to alarm him. "Naruto-kun . . . what's wrong?"

He laughed cynically, not knowing where to even begin. "Everything, absolutely everything is wrong."

"Nani?" Her voice was soft as she slowly reached a hand to rest it lightly on his bare back as she drew up beside him. "I don't understand what is wrong. I know your last mission was difficult, but no one was seriously hurt. Did you have a bad dream or did something happen that you didn't tell me about?"

"Mission?" He repeated almost helplessly, feeling increasingly frustrated. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I don't remember any mission, I don't know why you're here, I don't even know how old I'm supposed to be. Hinata? What- what's going on?"

She froze for a moment, registering his words, although they made no real sense to her. "I don't understand what you mean. Come back to bed, Naruto." She reached out, tugging him on his arm. "We'll sit down and figure out what's wrong together."

Shaking his head in confusion, Naruto allowed himself to be led back to the bed in the middle of the room. Once they reached it though, he remained standing and resisted her efforts to get him to sit down. "Come on, it's me. I would never hurt you, you remember that much, right?"

He glanced down to see her looking up at him and pulled his arm free of her grasp, self-consciously wrapping his arms low around his waist, obscuring where his seal would be. After a moment, he noticed her nibbling on her lower lip and looking more anxious in the silence that fell, as he tried to decide exactly how to answer her question. "Na-Naruto?"

He heard the waver in her voice and winced slightly. Hinata had always been someone . . . important to him, although he wasn't exactly sure why. Remembering his dream (but wasn't it a memory? a distant voice in his head asked him), he felt that pain and fear rush back into him. Hell, he didn't know what was real or false at this point, but now that she was sitting in front of him, apparently alive and well, the last thing he wanted was to see her upset again.

Sighing, he turned around, his eyes scanning the floor until he found a t-shirt and he grabbed it, quickly slipping it over his head. He felt more comfortable mostly dressed and bare-footed. He walked back to the bed, snagging a chair along the way to sit, since joining Hinata on the bed still seemed a bit weird to him. Sitting down a few feet away from her, he noted that in addition to biting her lower lip, she was also twiddling her thumbs and that observation brought a brief smile to lips. At least, some things don't change, he wryly thought to himself. "Ano . . . "

Naruto broke in when it was obvious to him that she didn't know what to say. "I'm just really confused, Hinata, and I had nasty nightmare that didn't exactly help. . ." he paused for a moment, before shrugging his shoulders. "I don't know how to explain all this, " he waved one hand around the room, "except to say that the last thing I remember is going after Sasuke when he ran off after Orochimaru."

Hinata's jaw dropped in stunned silence. "B-but that was years ago . . ." Her voice was hushed and her eyes opened wide as she leaned back. Naruto's reaction was no less shocked. His jaw visibly tightened and his hands wrapped around the arms of the chair, his knuckles turning bone white from his grip.

"How many years?" His voice was controlled, the very precise enunciation was the only thing that betrayed how desperate he was to hear her answer.

"Nine," she whispered, flinching despite herself when he launched himself out of his chair. Her head lowered slightly as her shoulders hunched in and she clenched her eyes shut. After a moment she hesitantly reopened them to see him pacing in front of her. The chair was carelessly thrown aside, as he repeatedly raked his hand through his hair, sending the long blonde strands falling around his handsome face.

"So you're trying to tell me exactly what? That I'm suddenly twenty-one? This isn't real. It can't be real. It just can't be." He sat down on the floor, his forehead resting in his hand propped on his knee pulled up to his chest, and his other leg sprawled out in front of him. He didn't even really know who he was asking: himself or the girl who watched him with wary eyes?

"Naruto . . . " Hinata's voice caught painfully in her throat. She didn't know what was going on, but she couldn't stand to see him in this much pain. Biting her lower lip tightly, she very slowly got off the bed and keeping her movements to the barest minimum, tentatively made her way to kneel slightly left and in front of him. Refusing to think about the wisdom of her actions, she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him into her. Naruto momentarily stiffened, resisting her hold on him, before almost bonelessly melting in the warm circle of her bare arms. His arms snuck around her waist as he leaned into her at an awkward angle, his face resting on her sheet-covered breasts, so that his hair tickled her bare skin above it.

She could feel him lightly shaking as he held onto her tightly. "I don't know what is going on, but I'm here for you and we'll figure it out together: I promise you." Nothing she had been told about the mission after the debriefing would explain this . . . except - and she audibly gasped as the realization hit her - there was a point when he had been separated from his team. Obviously, something must have happened then, but what? Looking over her shoulder, she saw the lightning of the sky. "Naruto," her voice sounded abnormally loud and she winced, letting it fall to a low whisper," it's still very early; dawn is just breaking. Come back to bed and first thing in the morning, we'll track down Tsuande, Kakashi and the others on your team. We'll figure out what happened and how to fix it. It'll be ok, and then everything can go back to normal."

Naruto had to stop himself from laughing absurdly. Normal, he mentally scoffed, unsure if anything could ever be normal again. Hinata took his silence as consent and reaching around her back, she grasped his hands in her own and with a gentle, but firm grip, and pulled his hands free. Standing up smoothly, she tugged him to his feet and led him back to bed for the second time that night. Reaching the bed, he looked at it and then to the girl who stood next to him, just short of his shoulder, in a sudden and near-panicked state of confusion. Whatever Hinata seemed to believe was 'normal,' his twelve-year-old mind in this twenty-one-year-old body was just flipping out at the thought of spending the rest of the night asleep with anyone, let alone a girl and especially not Hinata . . .

When he stopped dead in his tracks, she looked up at him in curiosity. Taking in his expression of confusion, mingled with an unspoken horror, she opened her mouth to question him, before it occurred to her that right now he remembered nothing of their past and actually thought that he was - she quickly did the math - twelve years old? Oh God, if she felt so disturbed by the idea, she couldn't hope to understand what he was going through, but she knew that she had to find a way to try and make him comfortable. "Ok, if you want to turn around, I'll slip something on to sleep in. Over in that dresser," she gestured with her free arm, "you should be able to find some clean shorts and t-shirts, if you want to change. Afterwards we can decide what the sleeping arrangements should be."

Hinata held her breath, until she could feel the tension leach out of his desperate hold on her hand and his expression became more relaxed. "Yeah, that'd be good." Despite the insanity his life had suddenly become, Naruto could feel a blush burning his cheeks, when she turned to him with a bright smile. She slid her hand free of his and watched him make his way over to the dresser and start searching for something to wear, before turning to find something for her. Finally pulling out a black t-shirt and matching shorts, he glanced over his shoulder again, unsure if he expected her to be peeking at him or if he wanted to peek at her and his mouth went dry.

Somewhere in his brain, he distantly knew that staring at her was the last thing that he should be doing, but for the life of him, he couldn't tear his eyes away from the milky white skin suddenly exposed. She stood in profile, wearing only a pair of shorts that looked disturbingly like a cut-off version of his orange pants, her full breasts almost gleaming in the faint light, before she pulled on a t-shirt. Shaking his head, he forced himself to turn away and pull on whatever he grabbed. The shorts he grabbed were tighter than he would have liked and he shifted uncomfortably, all too aware and intensely embarrassed about his heavy arousal. Please don't notice, please don't notice, please don't –, "Ano, Naruto?" Her questioning voice broke his mental chant and he turned slightly, still trying to hide his hard-on, even as he pulled at his shirt, attempting to stretch it out as much as possible.

"We could share the bed . . . " she drifted off, seeing the sudden widening of his eyes, "or you could take the bed and I'll make do on the couch."

"Oh no, " he quickly jumped in, "you're the girl, so you should take the bed, Hinata. The couch would be just fine for me."

She smiled. Even under these circumstances, he was still thinking of her. "That's very sweet, Naruto, but after the mission and the night you've had, I must insist that you take the bed. It would be the only right thing to do," shrugging her shoulders.

"I can't take the bed from you." Naruto paused as she started shaking her head in an automatic refusal. "We could try sharing the bed, I suppose." The words slipped out before he could stop himself from saying them and they hung heavily in the air.

"Sure, if you're comfortable with that." He meant to shake his head no, but instead found himself nodding in agreement. Feeling awkward and stupid, he wanted to smack himself in the forehead, but decided to just get into bed and to stay on his side, maintaining a safe distance from her. Maybe this was all just a bad dream that he hadn't woken up from and hopefully he'd wake up and everything would be back to normal. Blue eyes watched as she walked around the bed to turn off the light, before she carefully slid in between the sheets on the far side of the bed. And after a long moment, he did the same.


Ok So that was the first chapter, hopefully you liked it and are intrigued enough to want some more, if so please review. If you hated me, well let me that too and why.