As Naruto runs towards the Hokage Monument, he is surrounded by red aura so dark that he was barely visible, while nine tails swayed behind him. His whisker marks were thicker and jagged and his eyes had cat like pupils, but remained their normal blue color.

He was in full control and refused to allow Kyuubi to take over even the smallest bit. He's getting closer and thoughts of the years he had spent with Hinata surface in his mind. He knew this might happen, but he was positive he could protect her.

Tsunade, the Fifth Hokage, had sent them on a training mission together that lasted three years. They weren't allowed to take much, so they had to relay on each other's skills to survive. Even now, he wondered why she had sent Hinata with him, but to be truthful, he didn't care. Whatever her reasons, he was grateful to her.

After a year of training with Jiraiya, Naruto had to return to the Konoha, because the perverted Sannin was beaten rather badly for peeping on some Kunoichi and needed Tsunade to operate to remove one of the kunai. It had been the first day of October and Naruto was eating breakfast when there was a knock on his door. 'Who the hell would come this early in the morning?' The clock on the wall said it was seven o'clock in the morning.

The only reason why he was even up was because he hadn't been able to sleep. He got up and moved toward his door. The knock came again. "I'm coming!" He turned the knob and threw the door open. He didn't look to see who it was. Instead he headed back to the table. "Come in and close the door behind you." He had started eating again before the door closed.

Kakashi sat at the table a crossed from him. "Naruto, it's not very smart to just let anybody in, I could have been someone in disguise."

"Relax, there's no one who could convince me they're Kakashi, not even you Sakura."

In a puff of smoke Kakashi disappears, and in his place was a pink haired young woman. "How did you know it was me?"

"Three ways, first of all, Kakashi is lazy about everything, even the way he talks. Second, he never uses the door, he comes in through the window. Lastly, henge doesn't disguise your smell." She glared at him and he put his hands up in front of him. "I'm not saying you smell bad Sakura, I'm just saying that you have a distinct scent. Kiba would say the same thing if you asked him. He could probably find you out of a dozen look a likes." He decided to quickly change the subject. "So, what do you need Sakura?"

"I'm supposed to tell you that Godaime wants to speak with you. She said it's urgent." Her face dropped a bit. "You don't think it's about Sasuke do you?"

"It might, the only way to find out is to go see her." He saw how sad she was. "Meet me at bridge before dark, I'll tell you what I can."

She gave him a half-hearted smile. "Okay, I'll see you then." After Sakura left, Naruto finished eating before heading to the Hokage Tower.

When he arrived, he knocked on the door and entered her office. As he entered, he was surprised to hear Hinata's voice. "N…Naruto?"

Tsunade looked up from her paperwork. "Ah, Naruto you're finally here. Please sit down so we can start."

He took the seat next to Hinata, who started to blush, and went without his notice. "What's this about Baa-san? Sakura said it was urgent."

Hinata looked up, surprised by how little respect Naruto showed the new Hokage. She was even more surprised by the fact the Tsunade was smiling. "How many times have I told you that I don't like you calling me that?"

Naruto was smiling too. "A lot, but that's what he says about being called Ero-sennin, and I still call him that."

"That's true. All right, down to business. The reason why Sakura said it was important was because that's what I told her. I knew it would get you here faster. The truth is that I'm sending the two of you on a training mission for the next three years."

"WHAT?! We're at war and you're sending us on a training mission?!"

"Yes I am." Tsunade's voice was stern and her stare made Naruto go quiet. "You will be paid for the time you spend away. Half when you leave, the other upon your return. The catch is that you can only go to a village once a month for supplies, is that understood?" They both nod. "Good. Now I want you to stay in the Land of Fire, but don't stay in the same place for long, just in case there are enemies around."

"You are allowed to take some supplies with you. You can each take two changes of clothes and a sleeping bag. To share between the two of you, you can take fifteen kunai and shuriken and some food. Do you understand these conditions?" They nod again.

"Alright, you leave Friday morning. That means that you have the rest of today and tomorrow to say your goodbyes and get ready. That's all Hinata. Naruto, there is something else I need to discuss with you." Hinata said goodbye to both of them and exited the room.

Once the door closed, Naruto turned back to Tsunade. "What do you want to talk about?"

"The Akatsuki may try to acquire you again while you're gone, this isn't an order, but you should tell her. If they do show up and she doesn't know, she'll probably be too shocked to do anything to help."

Sadness filled his eyes. "I can't. Hinata is one of the few people who care about me and I'm scare she might not after she learns the truth."

"Your fears are rational, but I don't think that she'll do that." She just kept smiling. "Like you said, she cares for you Naruto."

"I'm still not sure, but I'll think about it. I'll see ya later."

He waved to her as he made his way out the door. "Later kid."

The sun was setting when he arrived at the bridge and Sakura was already there, looking into the water while she waited. "Hey Sakura." She looked up and he waved as he walked up.

"So what was so urgent?"

"It wasn't, she just said that to get me there faster. Before you ask, it had nothing to do with Sasuke." Her heart sank and he regretted that he caused it.

"Then what was it about?"

"I'm being sent away for three years on a training mission." There was annoyance in his voice.

"A training mission!" She couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"I know. How stupid is that? But it does have an upside. I have quite a bit of free time to search for Sasuke, and if I should find him, I'll drag his ass back regardless of the consequences of coming back early. Be sure to keep up with your medical training because he'll need it depending on how willing he is to come back."

"Just make sure he comes back in one piece, I can't reattach limbs."

He smiled. "I'll try. I'm gonna go and get some dinner, you want to join me?"

Sakura smiled back. "No thanks, I think I'm just going to go home."

Naruto shrugged. "Okay, I'll see ya later."

Naruto made his way to his favorite restaurant, Ichiraku Ramen Bar. As he sat down, he heard a familiar voice. "Hi Naruto. Dad, Naruto's here."

The man in the back turned around and smiled. "Hey kid, it's nice to see ya. I make you a couple bowls right away."

"Thanks old man. Hey Ayame, has Iruka-sensei been in for dinner yet?"

"Nope, but I'm sure he'll be a long soon."

Just as Naruto was getting his first bowl, Iruka walked in. He sat down next to Naruto and Ayame gave him one of the other bowls her father had just finished. "Thank you Ayame, I see your father isn't wasting any time."

"Damn right, I can't have my best customers waiting."

Teuchi starts laughing and Iruka turns to Naruto, who is already starting his second bowl. "Hey Naruto, how about for your birthday I take you out for dinner, my treat."

Naruto stopped eating. "I'd love to, but I'm not going to be here for my birthday, I'll be on a mission."

Iruka smiled. "That's alright, it can wait till you get back."

Naruto looked up at him. "You're gonna wait three years just to take me out for my birthday?"

The smile disappeared from Iruka's face. "Wait, three years?" Naruto nodded. "What about Orochimaru and those cloaked guys that are after you? Someone going with you at least right?"

Naruto nodded again. "Hinata's going with me. As for them, we going to be moving around so much, that Baa-san doesn't think they'll find us. Besides, even if they do find us, I won't let them lay a hand on her and I won't go down without fight." Naruto smiled. "If we don't eat our food, it's gonna get cold."

After Naruto ate as much as he could, he went to pull out his wallet. Iruka stopped him. "Since I can't buy you a birthday dinner, I'll buy this one." He laid the money on the counter and both said goodnight to Teuchi and Ayame. "Come on, I'll walk you home. I want to finish our conversation."

After they were a little ways away from the restaurant Iruka spoke again. "Does Hinata know?"

"Know what?"

"You know what I'm talking about."

"No, she doesn't know about that, and if I have my way, she never will."

Iruka stops in his tracks "What?! If you're going to spend the next three years with her, she should know just in case something happens!"

Naruto stops too, a few feet away. "Baa-san said something along those lines too. But it doesn't change the fact that I don't want her to know."

"Why not Naruto?"

"Does it really matter?"

"No, but I'd like to know."

"I'm afraid…I'm afraid that after she finds out she treat me the same way the other villagers do."

Iruka walks up behind him and place a hand on Naruto's shoulder. "Trust me, she could never feel that way towards you. If she finds out in any other way then you telling her, it will be much worse. Regardless, it is your decision. Good night Naruto, and good luck."

Without realizing it, they had gotten to his apartment and he watched as Iruka left.

When he got inside, he wanted just go straight to bed, but when he laid down, he couldn't fall asleep. He laid there for what seemed like hours waiting for sleep to come, but it never did and he just kept replaying the day in his head.

Henge- Transformation Technique

Baa-san- Grandma (Tsunade)

Ero-sennin- Perverted Hermit/Pervy Sage (Jiraiya)