AN: This is the edited version. Many thanks to my beta, Thewatcherandreader.

AN: Hey hey. its been awhile eh? um 8 months i think? hahah. well life has been tough juggling school and work. i am on a couple months break till the whole shit starts anew at the end of the year so i will put out what i can in the mean time before i dissappear for awhile once more. ill let you guys know when that will happen though and i will stay true to what i said about completing this fic. for the time being please enjoy this. it has a bit of everything imo.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and i am not making any money outta this.

Will of the Flame

Chapter 23

Settling in

The two rushed forward simultaneously. Their first actions mirrored each other's; two right hooks locking in on their targets. Neither made contact or at least to their intended targets. In a deadlock both of them struggled against each other, both holding on to each other's fist and at the same trying to get the other to release their own.

"Heh faking an all out punch only to catch mine at the last second huh?" Tayuya asked snidely. Naruto ignored the question.

"Is this what you meant by channeling the proper emotions into your actions?" Naruto asked, struggling a bit more.

"I'll make sure you'll eat some fist. I still hate you. Even more so after pulling that stunt! Don't you forget it!" Tayuya snarled. She gave a hard push with both arms and leaned back, pushing off with her legs. Naruto was almost caught in surprise, but mimicked her actions. Tayuya's foot slapped his chin as both of them backflipped away from each other. Since Naruto managed to read her actions the attack didn't do much damage. Both landed a few metres apart from each other, Naruto a split second slower than Tayuya.

"Heh, you got me there. Taijutsu really isn't my thing. At least not yet," Naruto commented, rubbing his chin.

"Well too bad… being a long range genjutsu specialist once, I reinforce it with taijutsu as back up," Tayuya spat and closed the distance for the next round of exchange.

Kakashi, Sakura and Tenten watched them from afar.

"In your career as ninja, you will meet many shinobi with different causes," Kakashi said knowingly. The two girls looked at him questioningly. Kakashi gestured for them to look at the fight. The two looked back to see the married couple go at it again. Naruto had blocked one strike only to get hit by another before Tayuya spun away.

"In every case, there is not one who doesn't fight for it. Therefore emotions will always run on a high," Kakashi continued.

"That was what Tayuya was trying to say just now?" Tenten asked.

"Partly. Watch her expression as she fights," Kakashi said. The three saw Tayuya snarl as her strike missed Naruto by less than an inch.

"She looks really angry," Sakura said, uncertain about her answer.

"Yes, but she tightly contains and directs her anger. It isn't just oozing out of her. Naruto is doing a good job of defending himself, but you can see that he isn't really getting the upper-hand. Tayuya is slowly starting to overwhelm him. I'm not saying that this is how you should all fight, but should emotions arise, this is what you should do. Drawback of this, however, is that your awareness tends to be focused solely on the person in front of you," Kakashi-sensei said. He then suddenly added, "She'll land a solid hit soon."

Tayuya's kick with her left leg was brushed aside by Naruto's right leg. Naruto quickly pushed off with his other leg. Using his right leg as a pivot, he quickly spun to send a heel kick at Tayuya's head. Tayuya ducked and through the opening created by Naruto's legs, she kicked viciously. It connected squarely with Naruto's jaw and sent him sailing a few metres away to land roughly on the ground. Tayuya immediately shot a look towards the spectators. She pointed at the groaning Naruto.

"You saw that girl? Now that's how you land a fucking hit!" Tayuya hollered from far off. Tenten crossed her arms and snorted. Tayuya smirked at seeing Tenten's reaction.

"She'll good for taijutsu practice," Kakashi commented as Tayuya went over to yank Naruto on his feet. Tenten groaned.

"I would say, for the team, Sakura's taijutsu would be the best right now, seeing as her medical jutsu compliment that. I would assume that Tsunade has grounded her very well in taijutsu," Kakashi further commented. Sakura nodded, confirming the fact. This didn't make Tenten feel very good. Kakashi, as if sensing her mood, spoke up again.

"Close combat is always greatly amplified by accurate artillery firepower. In a large scale fight, Naruto and Sakura might not survive without your prowess. Even on a smaller scale, with your proficiency with weapons, you can still hold your own. Your freedom of movement is invaluable for the team. Don't forget that," Kakashi continued. Tenten looked at the grey haired jounin in surprise.

"I can understand why Tsunade chose you for this team and why Gai adored you so much," Kakashi said with a smile that showed on his eyes. Tenten felt a hand on her shoulder before she could say anything. Looking at the source, it was Sakura with a bright smile on her face.

"We'll be counting on you!" Sakura exclaimed. Tenten smiled. She felt welcome and it made her feel warm. The moment however was spoiled when Tayuya appeared dragging Naruto along.

"So, who's next?" Tayuya asked. Tenten scowled at her appearance.

Tenten was still looking grumpy after training. She was out in town, not alone however. The company she held made her feel sour.

"Could you girls help me out?" Naruto asked Sakura and Tenten after training had ended for the day and Kakashi had left. He slapped his two palms together and bowed slightly in a display of begging. Tayuya was standing behind him, her arms crossed and had a blank expression as her eyes roamed all over the place. Sakura and Tenten looked at each other then at him.

"Help you with what? We can't just say yes without knowing," Sakura said with a frown. Naruto grinned sheepishly at his team mates. He glanced back at Tayuya, who didn't acknowledge him.

"I need you both to take Tayuya shopping. She doesn't…"

"What?!" Tenten exclaimed cutting Naruto off.

The conversation continued for a short while after that, with Sakura agreeing and Tenten protesting and Tayuya keeping quiet. At the end of it, the results showed as the three girls walked side by side. Sakura was in the centre flanked by Tenten on the right and Tayuya on the left. They continued walking as Sakura looked into Naruto's frog wallet to check out what was left of their budget for Tayuya's clothing. They had already bought toiletries and female necessities when they went around, allowing Tayuya to familiarize herself with the town.

"I didn't know he had such a gay wallet," Tayuya commented dryly as she glanced at the pink haired girl who was still counting money. Sakura laughed when she heard that.

"I think Naruto got it after he learnt how to summon frogs," Sakura said.

"Frogs, huh? I still think that's kinda gay. Couldn't he have found something else?" Tayuya asked.

"He got it from Jiraiya-sama, one of the Sannin," Tenten said coldly. Tayuya glanced at her with a bored expression.

"Don't tell me you've forgotten who my former master was…" Tayuya said chuckling lightly. This got her narrow eyed stares from the two other girls. Tayuya just shrugged them off.

"I know he wasn't very well liked here. Doesn't change a fucking thing, you know? It's still a fact of life, even he is dead," Tayuya said casually.

"I don't think it's a very smart thing to talk about him here," Tenten said with a hint of hostility.

"I will talk about him if I fucking want to. After all the reason I followed him is the same fucking reason why I am married now. Che! If he was still alive he's probably be fucking foaming at his damn mouth, knowing I married his team mate's apprentice," Tayuya said with sadistic grin, finding some amusement in the fact. She paused when she saw the girls weren't next to her. Tayuya looked back over her shoulder.

"What?" She asked rudely.

"He saved your life?" Sakura asked as Tenten and herself caught up and started walking again together with Tayuya. Tayuya stared stiffly ahead with a blank look on her face to hide whatever emotions that were lurking underneath.

"Yeah. Don't bother asking for more, I'm not telling anymore than I already fucking did," Tayuya said in a warning tone. That comment kept everyone quiet after that as they went into a store. Tayuya silently picked out what she wanted, taking into consideration the budget that Sakura told her when they entered the shop. She just chose outfits that were modest and allowed freedom of movement. She knew she wasn't exactly safe here even though this was a relatively peaceful village.

"Bathrobes?" Sakura asked when she looked at some of the things she picked out. Tayuya just gave her a passing glance.

"They would be more comfortable to sleep in than the yukata I used yesterday," Tayuya replied casually. Tenten was twitching slightly. Tayuya noticed and she smirked slightly.

"What's the matter, girl?" Tayuya asked.

"Nothing," Tenten answered tightly. "And stop calling me that! I have a name for goodness' sake!"

Tayuya ignored her as they moved on to the underwear section. She had a small evil smile as she looked through the selection.

"I wonder how the pervert would react if he found out I wasn't wearing any underwear when I slept in his bed…" Tayuya spoke up. She looked back at Naruto's team mates to see their reaction. Sakura had a scandalized look on her face while Tenten was fuming.

"Anyone could tell by the way you came out of the bedroom!" Tenten replied tightly. Tayuya smirked, pleased with what she saw. Sakura looked questioningly at both Tenten and Tayuya.

"And you have the gall to call him a pervert!" Tenten added in hotly.

"Did something happen this morning?" Sakura asked. Tenten blinked when she heard the question as if realizing she was acting out of line.

"Not really. My yukata came loose in my sleep," Tayuya replied. Sakura blinked as well this time. Then she sported a look of discomfort.

"He slept on the couch," Tenten blurted out when she saw Sakura's expression. Sakura looked at Tenten with slight surprise. Tayuya smirked some more. Tenten, seeing their reactions, kept her face blank.

"But why do you call him a pervert? I know Jiraiya-sama is, but Naruto never exhibited such actions and if nothing happened, then why?" Sakura asked Tayuya thoughtfully. At this Tayuya's face darkened.

"All men are perverts," she replied tightly.

"Then by you logic, your former master must be one as well," Tenten said with an overly sweet tone.

"You're quite right, but he was gay," Tayuya replied, returning her tone with a sickeningly sweet smile. Tenten blinked in surprise.

"How do you know?" Sakura asked in a shocked voice.

"I've seen him in action," Tayuya replied casually, though this brought gasps from the other two girls. Tayuya chuckled.

"You watched him?" Tenten asked this time with the same tone of voice as Sakura. Tayuya rolled her eyes.

"Not by choice. I told you, he was a pervert and I am not saying anything more," Tayuya replied ending it off with a note of finality.

"I don't think Naruto is though," Sakura said suddenly. Tayuya raised her eyebrows at her.

"Why do you keep saying that? How come you're so fucking sure?" Tayuya asked persistently. Sakura looked a little uncomfortable at this point.

"Well… nothing happened…" Sakura said dragging out the statement. "I slept alone with him once in his arms after he comforted me about Sasuke when he came back. I was emotionally drained and I fell asleep on him. He didn't take advantage of me at all."

Tenten blinked once again at receiving this information.

"Maybe he is gay," Tayuya suggested. Sakura looked even more uncomfortable at this though she shook her head.

"I can't really explain how I know it… but really, he isn't," Sakura said uncomfortably remembering a couple of things Naruto mentioned about Kyuubi. Tayuya gave her a dubious look before shrugging. She turned to Tenten and smirked at her.

"You feel relieved now?" Tayuya asked. Tenten gave her an incredulous stare.

"Why the hell should I?" Tenten shot back. Tayuya gave her a flat look.

"Are you sure you want me to answer that?" Tayuya asked. Tenten gave her an angered look, but didn't speak up. Sakura coughed to get their attention.

"Is there something I should know? Both of you are acting really weird towards each other," Sakura asked giving them a curious look.

"She's just being an arse," Tenten said shooting Tayuya an annoyed look.

"She's being secretive," Tayuya said with an evil smile. Tenten glared intensely at her. Sakura blinked for a while as she tried to fit the pieces together. After all, she was previously known for her smarts. It didn't take her long to reach a conclusion.

"Tenten, do you…"

"Don't jump to conclusions!" Tenten snapped at Sakura. Sakura didn't take it offensively.

"I'm going to relish the look on his face when I tell him about this," Tayuya said chuckling. Tenten turned sharply towards Tayuya.

"There is nothing to tell him, you hear me?" Tenten hissed. Tayuya returned it with a challenging look.

"Just why do you insist on keeping up this fucking charade?" Tayuya asked irritably.

"Because I have nothing to gain from saying it!" Tenten spat out. This was met with silence from Tayuya other than a triumphant look. Tenten's eyes widened realizing what she said and she turned to Sakura to see her reaction. Sakura looked at her worriedly. Tenten just held her arms at her side tensely with her fists clenched. She looked down as a dark look washed over her face.

After Naruto managed to persuade Sakura and Tenten to accompany Tayuya, Naruto went on his way to meet the elders.

"You do realize that you are very late and one person short," Homura pointed out. Naruto bowed.

"Hai, my apologies. There was an accident yesterday, which I was told you were already informed of and my wife is lacking of necessities, seeing her circumstances. I asked both my teammates to accompany her while I came to personally apologize for standing both of you up," Naruto explained.

"Hmm. A little quick to regard her as such, don't you think?" Koharu asked curiously. Naruto smiled nervously.

"Well… it's already happened, so I might as well get used to it," Naruto said with a weak laugh.

"But why didn't you bring her here first before allowing her to go… shopping?" Homura asked saying the last word distastefully. Naruto looked up in thought.

"Uh… Actually I don't know. Seemed like a good idea at the time since it would be rather embarrassing for me to follow her. Especially when it comes to more… uh… sensitive items," Naruto answered stumbling a little.

"You don't happen to be trying to prevent us from speaking to her, would you now?" Homura asked staring intently at him. It didn't faze Naruto though.

"Why would I? After all, both of you have already approved the arrangement," Naruto answered smoothly.

"Well then, if that's the case, we'll see you here again together with your wife at nine am sharp," Koharu said with a smile. The smile didn't seem that friendly this time. Naruto wanted to come up with an excuse, but that probably wasn't a good idea.

"If you wish," Naruto said, conceding to their 'request'.

"Well, seeing as that issue has been pushed back, let's address the issue of what happened yesterday," Homura said sternly. Naruto paled slightly. According to what Naruto heard from Shizune, they knew exactly what had happened. He was worried for Hinata.

"Ah yes… yesterday…" Naruto said shakily. "Well as you see I am fine so nothing to worry about."

"We are glad that nothing of great consequence has happened to you. As a Hokage candidate you are very important. At the same time it is still a concern as to how and why it happened, Naruto," said Koharu.

"Hinata-chan is just as important as well then," Naruto said.

"I see she told you of it and vice versa," Homura said. His voice held disapproval.

"Hai. She is a good friend of mine. She knows how important I hold the title Hokage to be and she felt uneasy accepting the offer without letting me know that she was given nominated too. It didn't matter to me of course. Actually it made me rather happy to hear," Naruto said genuinely and it showed on his face.

"This friend of yours hit you with a Jyuuken strike yesterday and you still speak of her so kindly?" Homura asked.

"I already said that was an accident," Naruto said. He had to struggle a little to get it out amicably seeing the way Homura phrased it.

"Even so, it was no accident that she intended to kill your wife," Homura replied sternly.

"That was a rather harsh statement, Mitokado-sama. It was a mistake on her part as well as my wife. It didn't go any further," Naruto said politely, but with teeth clenched tightly. The old man was getting on his nerves.

"And had you not stepped in?" Homura asked.

"But I did," Naruto said tightly.

"But if you hadn't?" Homura insisted.

"Someone could have or Tayuya would have dodged or whatever!" Naruto blew up at the last word. Homura glared at him.

"It's redundant to ask because that didn't happen!" Naruto hollered. "Why can't you people look beyond the fucking past! God damn it! We live in the god damn present for good reason!"

Homura looked ready to burst just as Naruto had done, but a chuckle coming from Koharu interrupted him.

"My, my. This room hasn't been this lively in years. Oh don't, look at me like that Homura…" Koharu said when Homura gave her a scandalized look for finding the meeting amusing.

"Both of you have valid points. We cannot stay in the past, but we cannot use the present and future as an excuse to avoid dealing with previous mistakes," Koharu pointed out.

"It's already been handled," Naruto said grudgingly.

"Just how…"

Homura's sentence was interrupted by a knock on the door. Koharu let out a light laugh.

"Splendid timing. Don't you agree Homura?" Koharu asked as the door opened. Homura grumbled to himself.

"Pardon me for interrupting, but as you requested, I hereby announce that Hyuuga Hinata has arrived to answer her summons," the guard formally announced. Naruto paled once again.

"Let her in," Koharu said amicably. The guard bowed and stood aside, a signal that Hinata took as she came into view. The timid figure hobbled in due to her nervousness. She paused when she caught sight of Naruto. As if seeing him had given her strength, she straightened her back, taking measured steps towards the centre of the room to stand beside Naruto. She bowed gracefully as one of her stature would, showing a distinct difference from the person that entered.

"Good evening Elders. I, Hyuuga Hinata, am honoured to be in your presence," Hinata said in a display of utmost respect and deference.

"Rise child," Koharu said.

"Thank you, Utatane-sama," Hinata said straightening, but still holding herself in a deferential position.

"You could learn a thing or two from her, boy," Homura said sharply to Naruto, still seething from his outburst to the point that he actually forgot that Hinata was the reason for their quarrel. Hinata blushed slightly from the indirect praise.

"So could you, old man," Naruto said in reply, causing Homura's anger to soar to new heights while Koharu laughed very loudly. Hinata had a mixed look of wanting to laugh and fearing for Naruto's safety.

"Very lively indeed. I haven't laughed like that in years. Homura, please drink your tea and calm down. The only thing you will achieve by remaining that angry is having a stroke, so please," Koharu chided mildly. Homura did just that, but not without sending Naruto one last glare of poison soaked daggers. Thankfully Naruto didn't retaliate and kept to himself.

"Hinata, I am sure you are aware of why you were summoned here. Naruto here was just zealously defending your case," Koharu said lightly with an undertone of seriousness.

"Hai," Hinata replied shakily while trying very hard not to visibly react to hearing defending her.

"Good. I would like to hear your take on what happened to lead to the accident of you hitting Naruto with a Jyuuken strike," Koharu said.

"I am at fault…"

"As it was my wife's fault," Naruto interrupted.

"Naruto, this time you will hold your silence until I am done addressing Hinata unless I address you," Koharu said lightly, but it was definitely a warning. Naruto reluctantly conceded by bowing his head.

"Continue my dear," Koharu said to Hinata.

"Hai… I allowed myself to be provoked into acting rashly, resulting in me accidentally injuring Naruto-kun," Hinata said softly.

"Yes. We were told as such. However, we want to know the exact details that lead to the situation to escalate in such a manner. Just what happened and what was said to provoke you to act in that manner," Koharu elaborated on what she and Homura wanted to hear. Hinata fidgeted, showing her discomfort with having to discuss the matter in Naruto's presence. Naruto could tell and he was feeling uneasy for her.

"I arrived late at the end of the ceremony in time to offer my well wishes. Apparently there was already tension before I arrived and when I offered my wishes, Uzumaki-san felt it was necessary to inquire into the nature of my… relationship with Naruto-kun. I mentioned that I was a… friend to Naruto-kun. She wasn't satisfied and further inquired on how I personally viewed him. Naruto-kun interjected at this point and they quarreled. I heard Uzumaki-san converse and refer to Naruto-kun in a derogatory manner and I got angry at how she could regard him so carelessly, especially since she did refer to him as her… husband. When Uzumaki-san returned her attention to me, I demanded that she apologize to Naruto-kun for regarding him so carelessly and she refused to and pressed upon me the question of my personal view of Naruto-kun. I… professed my… affections… for Naruto-kun… and I expressed my anger and made my demand again. Uzumaki-san refused me once again in a challenging manner and I then lost control of myself and the accident occurred," Hinata recounted, struggling at the points which were embarrassing for her to admit.

"I'm surprised you fared that well in your account of the incident considering that the object of your affections is standing right next to you," Koharu commented, chuckling in amusement. Hinata turned a deep red in embarrassment and seemed to have shrunk in on herself. Naruto gave Koharu a flat stare for teasing Hinata. Homura cleared his throat to signify that they should return to the business at hand. Both Hinata and Naruto readied themselves while waiting for the Elders to continue their inquiry. Koharu turned her attention to Naruto.

"Naruto, is what Hinata said true?" Koharu asked.

"Hai, Utatane-sama," Naruto answered firmly and without hesitation. The elders sat back a little and exchanged a few glances, communicating in silence. Koharu concluded the noiseless conversation with a nod before addressing Hinata again.

"Did you strike with the intention to kill, Hinata?" Koharu asked seriously.

"I am ashamed of my actions. I admit that I attacked with the intention to hurt Uzumaki-san physically in compensation for aggravating my emotional pain, but I had no to intention to kill her," Hinata answered honestly.

"Isn't using Jyuuken as a means for that, rather… severe?" Koharu asked. The struggle on how to answer the question was visible.

"My personal pain was severe enough without having her aggravate it," Hinata answered quietly. Naruto flinched at her answer, reacting to the escalation of the stabs of guilt that he had felt since Hinata's appearance. Hinata noticed.

"Forgive me Naruto-kun. I did not mean to upset you with my answer," Hinata said regretfully. Naruto shook his head.

"I am mainly responsible for you feeling that way, so don't apologize," Naruto said sadly. Hinata was about to say something in return when another cough was heard, garnering their attention.

"You do realise the severity of your mistake?" Koharu asked Hinata.


"We still cannot leave such a mistake as is… however before your arrival Naruto made a mention of things being 'handled'. By this I assume that you have taken some corrective measure?" Koharu inquired.

"Hai, Utatane-sama," Hinata replied.

"Okay. Let's hear it," Koharu said with a hand gesture for her to continue speaking.

"After the situation and my personal conflicts had settled down, myself, with the company of Kurenai-sensei, paid Naruto-kun and his… wife a visit at… their apartment. There, we checked on his well being. After which I apologized to both Uzumaki-san and Naruto-kun for my actions."

"Hold on a second," Koharu spoke up. "You apologized to the girl?"

"Hai, Utatane-sama," Hinata replied.

"Well apologizing to Naruto would be expected, but apologizing to the girl is rather admirable seeing the circumstances. It must have been humbling. Don't you think so, Homura?" Koharu commented, glancing at her fellow council member. Homura nodded in agreement.

"Thank you. It was, Utatane-sama," Hinata said.

"Hmm. And how did the girl reply?" Koharu asked.

"In return, even if reluctant, she apologized as well," Hinata answered which was met by surprised looks from the elders. Seeing the expressions Hinata decided to carry on talking.

"I was surprised myself. However, from my observations, I believe Naruto-kun had a hand in it," Hinata said. The astounded expressions left their faces.

"It would be interesting to hear how you achieved that Naruto," Koharu said after managing to find her voice. Naruto had a flat look on his face which puzzled everyone.

"In my opinion, it's nothing special. I treated her like how she is supposes to be treated, as a fellow human being. Something which almost everyone here takes for granted," Naruto said flatly. Everyone present was aware of what Naruto was saying not only for Tayuya, but for himself and Hinata as well. Although, in Hinata's case, it wasn't as severe.

"I see. Please continue, Hinata. I assume that there is more?" Koharu asked, not wanting the tension created by Naruto to further thicken. Hinata glanced at Naruto and after seeing that he was okay, nodded.

"Other than apologize, I also thanked Naruto in recognition of what he had done and what he had saved me from. However, I felt that alone was unjust and I formally acknowledged that I owed him a life debt to which Naruto-kun accepted my acknowledgement," Hinata said, ending her speech. The Elders didn't look quite as surprised, but they seemed to be satisfied. Another round of silent communication passed between the Elders before Koharu spoke up again.

"Well… well… I can't say that I'm pleased with the situation, or rather, the occurrence of it. However, mistakes are to be expected when one is as young as the both of you. Be thankful that it did not go beyond repair. I am glad to see that initiative was present in both of you which prevented a possible uproar. These events, while alarming do not tarnish our views on both of you, but rather reinforce why we have set our eyes upon you for the candidacy. Although, it is still rather displeasing to find something like this occurring even before we have begun this properly, not that it would have been better otherwise. We are almost ready to conclude this episode with one last concern to address," Koharo said, pausing to see how both of them were taking this. Naruto looked rather relieved while Hinata was slightly tense.

"Hyuuga Hinata," Koharu formally called out. Said girl flinched as she was addressed.

"We are aware of the subtle intention that you have underlying the acknowledgement of a life debt," Koharu continued. Hinata flinched once again and Naruto glanced at her thoughtfully. "Even though it is a personal matter, your stubbornness, however well you conceal it, will not gain you any fruit to reap and may only gift you with further anguish."

Naruto had a look of slight confusion. Hinata had to calm herself before proceeding.

"Naruto-kun has already made his decision and I have made mine. I would not have been able to accept his decision had I not had something to hold on to," Hinata explained. Koharu nodded and looked at Naruto. The look on Naruto's face had taken a slightly perturbed turn.

"Well it appears that he has become aware of your intentions. This could very well backfire on you Hinata," Koharu pointed out. Hinata glanced at Naruto before giving Koharu a small smile.

"I am willing to risk it. I have faith in Naruto-kun's kindness," Hinata said. Naruto had a horrified look on his face. Koharu let out a light laugh.

"My…my… you sure do well with your subtleties. At the very least, you will do very well when you succeed your father as the Clan Leader," Koharu said with a smile.

"I am honoured by your praise," Hinata said in deference.

"Well, it looks as though we can close this chapter and move on. Naruto, there is still the issue of speaking with your wife. We will see you and Uzumaki-san tomorrow morning. Both of you may now leave," said Koharu, dismissing them.

"Thank you, Elders," Both Naruto and Hinata said. With an almost synchronized bow, they excused themselves.

Naruto looked at Hinata with uncertainty as they walked down the hallway. Naruto was struggling with himself to find something to say about the last bit of that meeting. It was almost a role reversal, with Hinata walking while exuding a carefree confidence.

"Hinata-chan I…" Naruto paused when he saw Hinata stop walking. She turned to face Naruto, that aura of confidence becoming serious, adding to the strangeness of the situation.

"Naruto-kun," Hinata started, her voice came out velvety soft, contrasting with her edgy expression. "I will not apologize for what I did. It may seem that I am taking advantage of your kindness, but I have been robbed of my chance. It is as the Elders say. This situation will not me grant me anything more, but I merely wish to hold on to what I have left. Could you at least be kind enough to allow me this indulgence? To continue on as how things were before Tayuya-san came into the picture?"

Naruto looked torn.

"Hinata-chan, this is unfair to you," Naruto said.

"Just as you decided for yourself, let me decide for myself what is or is not fair," Hinata replied. Naruto looked away, but he nodded. Hinata felt a burst of joy she hadn't felt in a while and gave him a hug.

"Thank you," Hinata whispered warmly as she quickly released him and hurriedly walked away. Naruto just stood rooted to the spot, staring at the retreating back of a girl who loved him, unsure of how he should feel.

Naruto came home to an empty apartment. He wasn't really surprised. He figured Sakura and Tenten were also showing her around to get her familiarized with the village while doing their shopping.

"Hmm… should have thought to buy dinner," Naruto said aloud to himself. "Oh well, we could probably head out for that."

Naruto decided to take a shower to freshen up. At the same time, perhaps the warm water would ease him somewhat. He still felt a little uncertain after that last exchange he had with Hinata.

His theory proved to be wrong though. Sure, the shower made him feel better physically, but it did nothing for the turmoil he felt underneath. Even though he had nodded his consent, had that been the right choice? What was he doing stringing her along when nothing would come out of it?

"Just as you decided for yourself, let me decide for myself what is fair or not."

"That's what she said but…" Naruto trailed off. He sighed as he sat on the couch. He bowed his head and with a towel he worked to dry his blond hair.

Naruto looked up as he heard the door unlocked and opened. Tayuya followed by Sakura and Tenten came into the apartment. He stared at them with his mouth hanging open a little bit.

"Orochimaru isn't gonna come by to shove his cock in your mouth, so shut it already," Tayuya said crudely as she went over to the dining table to dump some of the paper bags containing the stuff she bought. She was sporting a bruised cheek and a swollen lip which he knew didn't come from training earlier today. Sakura was fine without any visible injuries but Tenten's eye was swollen and there was bruise on her cheekbone under that eye.

"What happened?" Naruto asked his voice holding surprise.

"Closing sale can be a bitch, you know," Tayuya answered with a chuckle.

"I'm going home now," Tenten announced. She placed bags that she was carrying on the floor and calmly walked out.

"I'm going after her. I'll see you tomorrow," Sakura said hurriedly, as she also put down some bags.

"Sakura! wait!" Naruto called out. "I have to go meet with the Elders in the morning so I'll probably be late."

Sakura just nodded before rushing out. Sighing, Naruto got up and closed the door. When he turned around Tayuya was quietly picking up the bags and putting them into the room.

"So what really happened?" Naruto asked tiredly. Tayuya paused and gave him a lazy glance.

"Your team mate slugged me so I hit her back. She managed to hit me one more time before pinky broke it up," Tayuya said in a flat voice before going into the room.

"What did you say to her?" Naruto asked without any energy. He picked up what was left and walked into the room

"So it's automatically my fault?" Tayuya asked when she saw him enter. Naruto gave her a flat stare. Tayuya grumbled to herself before speaking up.

"She took offense to something I said about you. You know how I talk," Tayuya lied. Naruto didn't have a reason not to believe her, so he just nodded as Tayuya expected.

"I'll apologize to her tomorrow," Naruto said quietly.

"You don't have to say shit, alright," Tayuya replied in a huff.

"Someone has to," Naruto said, but before Tayuya could further protest he spoke up again. "Anyway, do you need to take a shower or something? I'm hungry."

"Oh, there's ramen or whatever you call it on the table. Came from the place where we ate the last time. Pinky said it was your favourite, so got it for dinner since you spent quite a bit on me already," Tayuya said absentmindedly. Naruto's face immediately lit up. Tayuya looked at him with a raised brow at his reaction.

"I can't believe I didn't notice! I must have been completely out of it!" Naruto exclaimed.

"Elders rip you a new arsehole or something?" Tayuya asked crudely.

"Talk about it over dinner," Naruto said hastily as he darted out of the room.

"So?" Tayuya asked, before stuffing some noodles in her mouth. Naruto made a sign telling her to wait as he scoffed down the noodles. Tayuya paused with noodles hanging out of her mouth as she witnessed the speed at which Naruto was eating. It didn't take long for him to finish the whole bowl. Tayuya slurped the noodles into her mouth as Naruto picked up the bowl to chug down the remaining broth.

"Ah, that sure hit the spot," Naruto exclaimed in pleasure.

"That's… fast… you didn't eat that fast the last time," Tayuya said in a disbelieving voice before she picked up some more noodles to feed herself.

"My mind wasn't really on food the last time," Naruto said.

"I… see," Tayuya said with her mouth full. She continued after she swallowed. "So what happened with the Elders?"

Naruto began narrating what happened while Tayuya listened and ate her dinner. By the time Naruto was done Tayuya had also finished her bowl of noodles.

"So, you're not sure whether you did the right thing?" Tayuya asked noticing the uncertainty on Naruto's face.

"Yeah," Naruto replied simply.

"The way I see it, she's only behaving in the same way you spoke of her at the wedding before she showed up. Shouldn't you be proud of her then?" Tayuya asked in her usual rough manner of speaking.

"Huh?" came Naruto's comprehensive reply. Tayuya smacked a hand to her forehead.

"She's not asking anything from you other than how you have been treating her before this whole thing happened. I'm surprised that she still wants things to be as they were. I seriously don't get why the hell you're complaining. Respect the damn decision she made just like how she's respecting your's," Tayuya elaborated rudely. Naruto was mildly stunned to hear that from Tayuya, of all people.

"I didn't expect you to speak for her," Naruto said, once he found his voice.

"I can't have my moments? Whatever… she's got some balls and a backbone," Tayuya said grudgingly.

"Yeah," Naruto said acceptingly, looking thoughtfully at her. Tayuya met his stare with a belligerent and annoyed glare of her own.


"I'll be right back," Naruto replied.

He stood up and cleared the bowls from the table. When he came back he had in his hand the same thing Tenten was holding the morning her whole family came by. Naruto took hold of her chair and forcefully turned it so that she would face him when he sat down on the chair next to her.

"Woah! What the hell…" Tayuya trailed off when she saw what Naruto was holding. "Uh-uh! It's just a fucking bruise. Don't you put that..."

Tayuya winced when Naruto almost forcefully placed the ice pack on her face.

"You could have been gentler, you know!" Tayuya exclaimed.

"Then don't struggle," Naruto replied. Naruto continued to hold the ice pack on her face.

"Oi… I can hold it by myself," Tayuya said awkwardly. She lifted up her hand, but it was softly pushed aside.

"Let me, okay? Tenten did this for me when I got slapped the other day. It felt nice being attended to, so I want to do it for you," Naruto said, his voice warm and gentle. Tayuya gave him a flat stare.

"Slapped? I bet you were being a pervert," Tayuya said stiffly. Naruto sighed.

"Am I acting like a pervert now?" Naruto asked. Tayuya's face showed discomfort.

"No," She said grudgingly. "Then why did you get slapped?"

"I had an argument with Tenten's parents the other day when they came here. It got out of hand and her father hit me in the heat of the moment," Naruto answered quietly. Tayuya looked down.

"Was it about the marriage?"

Naruto hesitated, but decided to be honest.


Silence fell on them then. The both of them sat there in front each other with Naruto still holding an ice pack on Tayuya's face. They didn't make eye contact, knowing a lot had happened because of Naruto's harebrained scheme which had somehow pulled through. This went on for a couple of minutes as both were absorbed in their thoughts, until Tayuya fidgeted.

"Something wrong?" Naruto asked.

"My face is numb," Tayuya mumbled. Naruto let out a light laugh as he removed the ice pack from her face. Tayuya didn't look pleased by being laughed at.

"Don't move yet," Naruto said as he fished around in his pocket. He took out a piece of cloth and a small jar and placed them on the table. Tayuya eyed the jar warily. Naruto took the cloth, held her by her chin and gently wiped the moisture from the ice pack off her face. Tayuya frowned and fidgeted uncomfortably at the action. Tayuya nodded at the jar to distract herself from the awkwardness that she felt.

"What's that?" she asked stiffly.

"This?" Naruto asked as he picked it up and unscrewed the cap.

"Ointment," Naruto continued. He dabbed two fingers into the jar. Tayuya looked at his hand in trepidation as he stretched out again towards her face. Naruto paused when he saw this.

"It's not going to hurt much," Naruto said. An angry look immediately set on Tayuya's face. She crossed her arms and stared at him.

"I'm not scared of a little pain. You know I've been through worse, so you can go ahead and do your worst," Tayuya retorted, resorting to her brash behaviour to ward off her discomfort. Naruto just gave her a small smile. He continued forward and applied the ointment on her cheek. The awkwardness returned almost immediately once she felt his fingertips spread the ointment across the bruised area. She felt Naruto's fingers brush her cheek and pause before her ear. It took all of her willpower to prevent from recoiling at the touch. Naruto's thumb rested on her cheek and began gently massaging the bruised area.

"Does it hurt?" Naruto asked softly.

"No," Tayuya replied stiffly, avoiding eye contact.

"Good," Naruto said simply, continuing with the massage.

Tayuya couldn't remember the last time she had been treated with such warmth and gentleness. Her rough, coarse behaviour only reflected the kind of treatment that she was used to. As time passed, being in this foreign experience brought up all sorts of emotions that she thought were long buried. To think that a soft touch could penetrate hard layers, built over years, of protection made her feel vulnerable. When she recognized that, it scared her. She immediately pulled back.

"That's enough," Tayuya said, her voice low and distant.

"Okay," Naruto said. He looked upon her with slight confusion at her sudden retraction as his hand still stayed suspended in the air. He slowly pulled back his hand as he pondered on what brought upon the sudden recoil. Naruto ventured another look at her. She sat there silently, her hair covering her face so he couldn't see her expression. Perhaps this was too soon, but Naruto was pure in his intentions. He only wanted to care for her, seeing the glaring similarities that they shared in the lack of warmth that they apparently missed in their past, even if Naruto didn't know the details.

"I'm sorry," Naruto said softly. Tayuya flinched at his words. She felt a tiny stab of guilt that slipped past her rebuilding walls. "You're probably not comfortable with this sort of thing. I just… we are family now. Husband and wife, which means something to me, if not you. I just wanted you to know that there is someone looking out for you."

Naruto didn't wait for a reply as he knew there probably wouldn't be any. He picked up the items on the table and went into the kitchen to wash his hands and to replace the items that he brought out. When he returned back to the living room, Naruto noticed that Tayuya wasn't there. He looked in the direction of the bedroom. The door was left ajar. Opening the door further and taking a peek, his suspicions were true. The lights weren't on, but the curtains weren't drawn and with the moonlight shining in, he could see the Tayuya's figure on the bed, with the sheets covering her. Her red hair laid limp on the bed just as still as she was. She was facing the window, giving a clear sign that she wanted to be left alone. He closed the door to leave her as she wished.

Naruto briefly wondered what he should do now. It just turned dark not too long ago so the night was still young. His eye caught sight of his swords leaning against the couch.

"I haven't been paying much attention to my personal training. Good time to catch up on that," Naruto mumbled to himself. Picking up his swords and his robe, he left his apartment.

The location where Naruto chose to train was a river just outside the village. He practiced his kenjutsu on running water. It provided an excellent physical workout while continuously working on his chakra control. A Bijuu's chakra was not something to be trifled with and continuous efforts had to be made to be able to control it. To compare it with a normal human's chakra was like the river he was standing on versus a flash flood. He also activated his Sharingan to get used to how the eyesight worked. Truth be told, while the coveted function for the Sharingan was to copy techniques, he had no intention on actively seeking out jutsu to copy. Rather, he chose to capitalise on the base attributes of the Sharingan, which were the accelerated image capturing aspects. It allowed him to see through his enemies moves. Even he had chanced upon a jutsu while fighting an enemy, it was rather pointless for him as he had to alter his style of fighting the moment he inherited the swords which allowed him the controlled use of Kyuubi's chakra at the cost of the ability to use his natural chakra at its maximum capacity, thus stunting its grow. It was a hard choice for him, but he would not waste the gift bestowed on him which came at the cost of his father's life.

After spending some time on that, he moved on to training a few techniques he created with the aid of Jiraiya and Kyuubi in the three years when he was away. There were techniques that could not be worked on without waking the whole village so it was wise to restrain himself. He continued his training with continuous movement from the terrain available to him, the river, the ground and the forest canopy, while simultaneously alternating between various techniques.

"You continue to prove to be a remarkable person," a voice spoke up.

"How did you get out of the village and how did you know where to find me?" Naruto asked agitatedly as he landed on the ground. He was tired, but he managed to keep his labored breathing under control.

"Is that just merely a small fraction of her chakra you were using?" the person asked ignoring his questions. Naruto got further agitated.

"Yes. Now answer me, Tayuya. You know how reckless it is to leave the village without my company!" Naruto shouted. Tayuya came out from the shadows of a couple of trees.

"I may be a civilian now, but don't forget that I used to a ninja not too long ago and I infiltrated this village and left without notice once before. As to how I found you, the seal kind of told me," Tayuya said touching her chest.

"While the summoning aspect of the joint seal is one way, it might be possible for her to tell the direction of where I am as a side effect," Naruto thought.

"Why did you come looking for me anyway? I would have come home in a bit," Naruto asked, sighing. Tayuya had a conflicted look on her face.

"I don't know. Just now…I became confused… you were gone for hours and … and I felt I had to look for you…" Tayuya said, her voice shaky. Naruto looked at her with concern now.

"I often stay out late to train. It became a habit since I went away. Are you okay?" Naruto asked when she started frowning again. He slowly walked towards her and when he got near enough he reached out to her.

"Stay away from me! Don't touch me!" Tayuya suddenly screamed and backed away. She looked very frightened. This was the first time that he had seen her in this manner since they met and it was so unlike her that it frightened Naruto as well. Naruto retrieved his hand slowly and looked at her very worriedly.

"Wait…. argh!" Tayuya ended off by screaming. Then, just as suddenly, she stopped and she wobbled on her feet. Naruto, with his Sharingan still activated, predicted her fall. He caught her before she could. Looking down Naruto saw that she was still conscious, but looking very dazed.

"Your hair is red like mine," Tayuya cooed as she reached up to twirl his hair. Naruto looked at her oddly.

"Uh… yeah."

"How are you feeling?" Naruto asked gently. Tayuya sat on the couch with a grim look on her face. She was cradling a hot cup of tea which Naruto made to sooth her nerves.

"Real peachy… can't you tell?" Tayuya replied sarcastically.

"Well, at least you're back to normal," Naruto said with a chuckle. Tayuya shot him a glare, but she winced and clutched her head.

"Why don't you go in and get some sleep?" Naruto asked. Tayuya shook her head.

"Okay. Anyway, after we go meet with the Elders, we'll go see Baa-chan to have you checked out," Naruto informed her. Tayuya just nodded. Naruto started to feel a little uncomfortable with her silence. He really wondered if she was okay.

"Do you know where I can get a job without much trouble?" she suddenly asked.

"A job?" repeated Naruto, a little surprised. Tayuya nodded.

"You don't really need to. Money's not really a problem if it's just the two of us. I have quite a bit stored away. It's not a lot but…" Naruto said pausing when she glared at him again.

"I need something to do. I can't always be tagging around for training and when you have stinking missions, what the hell am I supposed to do? I'm not going to be a damn housewife. Besides, you already spend enough on me. Everything here is yours. You pay the rent, for the food and now my clothes," Tayuya said irritably. Naruto scratched his head.

"I don't pay rent. This apartment is mine. Well sort of… I didn't pay for it," Naruto said. Tayuya looked at him questioningly.

"When it was decided for me to live alone, Sandaime Hokage bought this apartment. It was willed to me when he passed away," Naruto said softly.

"Oh," Tayuya just said. She couldn't really think of anything to say especially when she was staying in the house paid by the person whom was killed with her assistance.

"Yeah," Naruto said awkwardly. "Anyway, we'll look for something tomorrow after we get you checked out."

Tayuya just nodded again. Naruto just stood there, not really knowing what to say now. Having someone live with you could be quite awkward at times, especially when you had lived alone for the majority of your life.

"Umm… I'm going to take a shower and then I'm going to crash," Naruto said.

"Then you take the bed. I don't feel like sleeping yet," Tayuya said curtly.

"Uh, okay. We'll look for bedding as well, tomorrow. So no one has to sleep on the couch after tonight," Naruto said. Tayuya nodded.

"Okay, good night then," Naruto said. He just walked away. He was starting to get used to how she reacted on a normal basis.

Naruto left the door of the bedroom ajar just in case Tayuya needed anything. He climbed into bed and drew the curtains. He yawned as he laid down and covered himself. He closed his eyes and got comfortable. He was quite tired seeing as he had trained for the most part, but that was good. With everything that had been happening, perhaps things were going back to the more normal routine. Well, things were not going to end up as how they used to be with Tayuya around, but that wasn't too bad. There were plenty of awkward moments the first two days, but at least they weren't volatile anymore. Naruto hoped for that to be more accurate. There was still the meeting with the council and then the check up to go. Thinking about that got him a little worried. Things hadn't exactly been very smooth, but they were showing signs of settling down. Naruto prayed that nothing else would crop up, but that was probably wishful thinking.

Naruto suddenly felt a presence in the room. Reaching out for a kunai he kept hidden at the side of the bed, Naruto opened his eyes only to find Tayuya standing next to the bed. It was dark, but his night vision wasn't bad and even though he couldn't see her face clearly he knew it was her. Naruto gave a sigh and put back the kunai.

"Is there something you need, Tayuya?" Naruto asked, looking up at her.

"Move," Tayuya just said.


Tayuya responded by giving him a kick.

"What the hell was that for?" Naruto asked, getting annoyed.

"I said move over," Tayuya repeated. Naruto frowned, but conceded. Tayuya lifted up the covers and laid down on the bed with her back facing him. The bed was a single so both of them were right at the edge of their respective sides in order to have a small gap in between them. Naruto was still half seated on his bed. He was still wondering why she would do this.

"I don't know how you can sleep on the fucking couch. I think the bed in the damn cell was more comfortable," Tayuya spoke up as if reading his mind.

"Okay…" Naruto said awkwardly once again. "You sure this is okay with you? I mean, I could just sleep on the couch…"

"Just shut up and sleep. Don't even think of touching me. I'll fucking castrate you with my bare hands!" Tayuya hissed in a low voice. Naruto's face fell.

"There she goes again thinking I'm a pervert. Kyuubi, no funny business, alright? I know you'll be thinking of something when things like this happen," Naruto thought.

"Oh… now that you mention it…" Kyuubi trailed off teasingly.

"Promise me!" Naruto hissed.

"And what will I get?" Kyuubi asked with glee.

"We'll talk it out another time, okay? Let me sleep in peace…"

"Sure… you owe me…" Kyuubi said in a low rumbling voice.

Naruto didn't like the sound of that, but for now it could't be helped. At the very least he would gain a peaceful sleep in an awkward situation.

Or so he thought.

AN: so there you have it took me a long time to finish this but i hope it wasnt disjointed seeing i wrote it in bits and pieces over the last eight months. somehow i have a feeling people might be dissapointed after the long wait but shrugs i'll see to it that it gets better though. next chapter definitely wont take as long as this as i mentioned earlier and ill start replying via replies to reviews once again like how i used to before the whole hiatus thing took place. Despite all that i hope you enjoyed it a least a little and i hope you leave some kind of feedback both positive and negative. if its anything that would improve this fic it will prob be well rounded critcism highlighting the good and the bad.