A/N Sasuke is with Orochimaru. This after they tried to retrieve him and failed.

Discliamer:I don't own nothing


True Friends Truly Believe

Naruto sat on the tree branch thinking. He had been training again. He couldn't wait to go get Sasuke, or to try at least. They were going to try as soon as Ero-sennin returned. He sighed, looking at the sky. Then sniffed again. He sat up. He smelled Neji. He looked around. Sniffing again, he smelled Ten Ten too. He sat up in a crouch, looking around, and expanding his senses. Then he felt their aura just in time to move before Ten Ten plowed into the branch he had been on, followed closely by Neji. Naruto took a seat in a branch a safe distance away, keeping his eye on them. They appeared to be training. Actually, playing would be more like it, but that was the best way to go about it anyway. He could see them smiling slightly. Actually, it was the only time he saw them so happy is when they had each other's attention in training. Neither knew the other like them. Naruto knew that. He might act silly, but he had had a lot of time to watch people growing up. While he may not know how to react to them, he could recognize most facial expressions with complete accuracy.

As Naruto watched them bounce about, he thought back to when he had first noticed them. He had smelled them. Long before he had their aura. Moreover, it wasn't a perfume or cologne, ninja didn't wear them, but it was their actual scent. Frowning he thought back. He couldn't remember doing anything special. In fact, he was resting.

Our senses are melding together.

He tensed up and looked around. Then stopped. That voice. He had heard it somewhere before all right. Kyuubi?

The Fox chuckled. Yes, I'm still in here. Our senses are melding.

Why?

The demon sighed. During your fight with Sasuke, you were dieing. I released my chakra, healed you, and helped you fight. The side effect of such a bonded is to begin the process of completely melding my senses and power with yours. Even if the seal was broken now I couldn't leave. I'm here until you die. Naruto sat down. He did remember the fox saving his life, but he had no idea the repercussions it would have on the fox. Up until now Naruto knew, if the seal had been broken, Kyuubi would have taken over his body and released himself.

Naruto was distracted from his thoughts by a new scent. Looking down he saw Hinata. She was watching Neji and Ten Ten. She didn't seem to see him. He heard Kyuubi's chuckle.

Your female is really a strong young lady. Naruto shook his head at calling Hinata his female but he did agree that she was a strong girl. She wouldn't ever be his. Even with her father's attitude towards her lack of physical strength, she was the daughter of the central branch of the Hyuuga family. Naruto did like her, a lot. But no one would ever allow it so he let it go, just watching and encouraging her from a distance. Besides, she was scared of him. She probably had heard about Kyuubi, somewhere by accident. He saw her turn and head back towards the village. He shook his head. There were some dreams he doubt he could make come true.

Miracles can happen, my young friend. Naruto started.

Exactly since when did you start considering me a friend?

Since I've learned more about you. Before your sensei took the second seal off my first, you didn't tap into my energy. Until that happened I had no way to see the outside world. Naruto nodded.

"What are you nodding at?" Naruto jumped and nearly fell out of the tree. Looking up he spotted Neji sitting there looking at him. Apparently, Ten Ten and he had finished their training and Ten Ten had gone home. And Naruto hadn't noticed.

"Oi, Ten Ten went home?... Are you staying for more training or did you just come over to try and sneak up on me."

"I was wondering what you could be doing that had you so deep in thought that you didn't notice me. That's all."

"I-" Suddenly they both were rocked by an explosion from the village. Jumping to there feet, they glanced at each other and took off.

Once they got closer, Naruto slowed down and let Neji take the lead. Neji seemed to know the neighborhood. Naruto watched him kneel by the house that had had its front end blown out. Naruto looked around, many other ninja were arriving. None of the elite ninja though. There was an important meeting in the village of all the allied nations and all elite ninja and head of family had to attend all five days. Naruto saw Kiba and Shikamaru arrive in a hurry. Lee came from another direction. Chou had followed Gaara and Kankuro, with his usual bag of chips, of course. He also saw some Chuunin and Genin approach. However, most everyone else was either in the meeting for another twenty minutes or on a mission.

Neji was shifting through the debris with Kankuro, looking for clues and people. Naruto, Gaara, Chou and the other shinobi were watching for the intruders, and other threats. Kiba, with Akamaru, was looking around, sniffing too. At this observation, Naruto started. He should be using his new senses as well. He closed his eyes and reached for Kyuubi. He didn't see Shikamaru look at him calculatingly before looking back over the debris.

Naruto's senses expanded out. He discovered a myriad of scents and sounds.

Easy Little One. You don't know how to deal with all that stimuli yet. Let me help you filter. Naruto acquiesced and he felt Kyuubi spread a miniscule amount of chakra over his body, and covering his senses. Suddenly it wasn't so overwhelming. He opened his eyes, looked around, and began to identify sounds and scents. Once identified he dismissed them and Kyuubi would block them further. Naruto kept going, there was a scent he had to find, it had grasped his attention. Finally, he found it. He couldn't identify it; it was Hinata-chan but not Hinata-chan. Looking around, he tracked the scent to a deep pile of wood and cushions, what the shop was selling, that Neji hadn't reached yet.

He went over and began to dig. Most of the shinobi ignored him, save to compensate for his change of position. Shikamaru didn't, he was trying to figure Naruto out. He hated surprises in the middle of a mission and with Naruto, you needed all the observing you could get.

Naruto kept digging until he found a person covered in a jacket that he recognized.

"Hinata!" Digging faster, he was joined by Neji. Upon reaching the girl, Neji turned her over. It wasn't Hinata.

"Hanabi-sama." Neji muttered. He lifted her free of the debris and brought her way from the scene a little. Kankuro kept digging, joined by Chou after a look from Shikamaru.

Shikamaru and Naruto knelt around Neji as he gently checked on the second daughter to the head of his family. Shikamaru motioned to one of the Genin to go get a med unit. Hanabi began to squirm. She opened her eyes. Neji looked down at her with concern. Since the exams, he had begun to care, about Hinata if not the rest of the main branch of his family.

"Hanabi-sama, are you okay?" He asked softly. She looked at him. Suddenly she seemed very awake indeed. She grabbed his shirt collar tearfully and began to talk very fast.

"They blindsided her, she was knocked back. She pushed Hinata-onee-chan. Onee-chan covered me. The explosion. She told me to stay. Her arm was really hurt. Where is she? Is she ok-" Neji had gently begun to shake her to get her to stop and calm down, but it wasn't working. This ordeal had turned the young trainee into the eight-year-old that she actually was. Finally, Shikamaru had grabbed her shadow and she went still. She then calmed down enough.

"Hanabi-sama, calmly tell us. What happened?" She looked at him and began slightly calmer.

"I was told to spend the day with a shinobi from an Allied village. Temari-kun had helped with the mission to reach Sasuke-san so picked her. We went out to the market together. I wanted to get some cushions for father. Hinata-onee-chan came over and we decided to talk over dinner. The man hit Temari-kun first. The other one said something about Hyuuga and several more landed. Temari-kun pushed Onee-can towards me and told her to protect me. Onee-chan nodded and she was blocking attacks when she looked to Temari-kun. Then she leaped at me and covered me as an explosion blasted the front of the shop. It threw us into the cushions. Onee-chan wrapped her coat around me and told me to stay put and quiet until help came. She was bleeding a lot. She couldn't stand very well. Where is she Neji-kun?" Hanabi was starting to cry again. The medical team arrived at this point, followed by Haishi Hyuuga. He immediately went to his daughter. Naruto heard them say she was all right, just bruised. Naruto's attention was brought back when Neji slammed his fist into the ground.

"They must have taken both of them." Shikamaru nodded at the assessment. Naruto looked around as something occurred to him.

"Oi, Where's Sakura-chan. I can't believe she wouldn't be here." Shikamaru looked around.

"Yeah and Ino too." Lee agreed.

"Ten Ten wouldn't have ignored this."

"Shit!" Shikamaru's fist joined Neji's in the ground. "They grabbed all the girls. The exams, that's the connection."

"What's the connection?!" Tsunade had arrived at Shikamaru's exclamation. He turned and explained the situation to her and Hiashi as they had it from Hanabi. "The connection between the missing people is that they are all females who survived the Chuunin exams and were involved later in Orchimaru's fights."

Naruto left the group as they continued to talk. He went over to Kiba and Akamaru.

"There are too many people; I can't find the enemies trail." Naruto knelt down and shifted through the scents. That's too hard my young friend. You don't need all the people of the trail just one. He opened his eyes and looked at Kiba and thought back.

"Oi, blood is a stronger scent right?"

"Yes but we don't know if they were injured or not." Naruto went over to Hanabi. She still held Hinata's jacket.

"May I borrow that?" She looked up at him. Onee-chan liked this person. She nodded and handed it to him. The sleeve was covered in blood, enough that the wound must have been dripping at least for a while. He put it in front of Kiba.

"Hinata's bleeding. She might have been still bleeding when she left." He looked at Naruto and nodded. He sniffed around until...he smiled.

"Guys! I found Hinata-chan's scent." They looked over. Tsunade had sent people in search of the missing kunoichi but none had found them, though some had found signs of scuffles. Neji and Lee had his fists balled, Chou was punching the now empty potato bag, Kankuro was standing by Gaara, both looking slightly dangerous, and Shikamaru was looking at Tsunade for orders. She turned to Shikamaru and nodded. He turned to all of them and simply nodded his head. The eight of them took off. Shikamaru explained on the way that they would have to complete this mission on their own. Everyone else was either gone or required to be at the meeting. They all flew through the trees. Each had a grim look on his face.

They made camp at midnight. Taking turns guarding they slept a few hours before contiuing before dawn.

Naruto fell into a step behind Kiba and Shikamaru as he thought back. He had seen Hinata earlier. He should have been there. They were inside the village. It should have been safe. Calm yourself or your no use to anyone, let alone your female.

Will you stop calling her my female! I don't own her.

You want her. She has become as precious to you as a mate. You must now protect her as a mate. CALM DOWN! Concentrate. Sick of hearing the obnoxious truth from Kyuubi, he followed the advice and found himself picking up Hinata's and Sakura's trail. It made sense those were whom he was closest to. He started to spread his senses out. He was staving off panic. He wasn't sure why he was this close to panic. This wasn't the first time he was rescuing a friend.

You are bonded to the female. Since you grew up with my chakra in your body, your chakra has taken on several of its attribute including that of bonding to your mate. Since she is in danger, she might be feeling frightened or hurt. These are feelings you would be picking up on.

What! I did what?! You mean she has to become my mate?! No, that's not possible. I have to break the bond. She won't want me as her mate!! I can still break the bond, right?

Yes, you can break it. However, it wouldn't have formed if she hadn't accepted it. You might want to wait. That female of yours could surprise you yet.

None of the villagers will ever want me that way. Even if she did the vill- Hey! What's that? Naruto refocused on his surroundings. He could hear crashing through the bushes. Taking a sniff, he recognized the scent. Sakura!

He darted to the right. The other shinobi skidded to a halt as he tore off.

"Oi! Naruto! Where are you going?"

No answer,

"How troublesome."

Shikamaru motioned to the team to follow. They found Naruto a few yards away. He was approaching Sakura. She was lying on the ground, stirring slightly. He gently turned her over in his arms as the rest of the group landed around him. She was barely conscious. Her arms and legs were scratched up. Her shirt was torn in several places.

"Naruto..." Sakura voice was so faint they could barely make it out.

"Sakura-chan!"

"They said Orochimaru's men...they paid them. They were to s-s-spread fear to the enemies of Orochimaru. They wanted us... because we were the m-m-main offense against him. D-d-drugged us. W-w-will wear off."

"How will they spread fear? If they wanted them dead they could have done that in the village where everyone could see their power?" Lee asked.

"N-n-not kill..." Her eyes fell shut as she took a shuddering breath. She only got out one word before falling into unconsciousness.

"Rape."

--

They all froze at that one word. Each looked at the ground in shock. Rape. That was indeed a way to spread fear. Fear...and anger. Angry people made mistakes. The reasoning made sense. At least, it would had the boys thought along these lines.

Kankuro looked at Gaara as he saw his fist clench. He agreed, for once, with his brother. They were not going to get away with even thinking about touching their sister. Gaara looked at Kankuro, angrily. Gaara started as Kankuro nodded, just as angry. He wasn't used to people agreeing with him.

Lee and Kiba both were also looking angered. Chou was back to punching his fist though it was against another fist instead of a bag. Shikamaru schooled his expression the second he heard that. His teammate was out there. So was Temari. She saved his life recently, it was time to return the favor.

Neji fisted his hands. They had them both. Ten Ten. Hinata-sama. He had just started to come out of his little bubble of despair to find that people cared about him. He cared about them too. Ten Ten, she was his teammate, his friend, she stood by and watched him wallow in this self-pity, supporting him always. He didn't even notice. And Hinata-sama. She was trying so hard to be strong. He never would have stopped hating her if not for Naruto. Naruto... He looked over at him.

Naruto was still holding Sakura. He was shaking with anger. Rage. Neji remembered Hinata and Naruto. They always supported each other. The boy would do anything to help her and vice versa.

Shikamaru was also looking at Naruto. He could see the rage. He needed them to keep their cool. He looked at them. Of all of them, Chou was worse off from the previous battles.

"Chou, get Sakura-chan home. Explain the situation. The rest of you, we will continue." They all nodded mutely. "Oi, take care of that anger. It makes mistakes." They looked at him. He could see them all schooling their expressions. Naruto was the only one in which he could still see the rage, but with Naruto, he had learned that his emotions sometimes helped, when focused and under some control. He nodded and they took off again.

Naruto was seething. Rape!! How dare they! If they so much as touch one hair on her head.

Her? Not they? You got it bad young one. Just keep your anger where it belongs.

He was quiet a few minutes.

Naruto. If you need me to, my chakra can separate from our body. It could protect them if there is a barrier to your physical body. It would require chakra to do, and you would be fighting without my own chakra for a while, but it is possible. Naruto could practically see him biting his lip at the idea. He obviously thought this was a last ditch idea, but...Thanks Kyuubi.

--

The scent led them to a cavern. They stopped to make a plan. Shikamaru decided that Gaara and Kiba would enter first, being the fastest responders. Kankuro would keep watch. Shikamaru, Naruto and Neji would go in after Gaara and Kiba. They nodded and went into action.

As they entered, Naruto pulled Shikamaru aside.

"Oi, if the way gets blocked I have a new technique that I can send ahead to protect the girls." Shikamaru looked at him.

"What kind of technique? How long?"

"It will be made of chakra. It will last as long as I have the strength to hold it." That was all he wanted to tell Shikamaru. None of these people knew of the seal on his stomach, and he would like to leave it that way if at all possible, but as team leader, Shikamaru should know of the technique as he was coordinating the endeavor.

They entered a narrow cave when they ran into trouble. Clones, lots of them apparently. Though taken by surprise the clones regrouped and started to come at them enforce. They were all fighting to get through. Shikamaru had told them the first goal was to find the girls. Naruto was using all his extra senses and clones when he smelled a new scent. What is that scent? I've smelled it before. Kyuubi, however wasn't so impassive. The scent got him riled up. I know that one. That's arousal. You need to get in there. Just as Naruto processed this thought, Kiba echoed it.

"We need to get down there, NOW!" He was shouting over the ruckus. Shikamaru looked around. He saw Naruto at the other end.

"Gaara, shield Naruto. Naruto, do it now!" He shouted across the way. Gaara looked mildly confused but immediatly a sand ball formed around Naruto. He concentrated inward. Okay, Kyuubi. Lets go! Suddenly flaming chakra lit from Naruto. It formed a fox with too many tails and dashed down the corridor. Remember little one, you only have your own chakra to work with, and it is being drained. Naruto nodded as he tapped on the sand ball. It immediately disappeared and he leapt back into the fight.

000

Ino sat up. She had been lying in the same position for what seemed like hours. She looked over at Temari and Ten Ten. They seemed about as comfortable as she. Next to her was Hinata. She winced. Hinata was badly bruised on top of already being injured. She thought back.

--Flashback--

She had been walking back from an early dinner and going to look in the market place when she heard something behind her. Spinning around she saw a little black ball a mili-second before it exploded. The next thing she knew is she was in this stupid cave along with the other four kunoichi. Ten Ten had been grabbed on her way home from training, Sakura from her home, and Hinata and Temari from the market place. That's when those men came in. There were five of them.

"Hey some of them are awake."

"Good, maybe they can be agreeable." They all chuckled. All the girls sat up. Their hands and legs were bound and their mouthes gagged. One reached over to pick up Hinata by the hair.

"And this one. If she gets pregnant we could even claim kinship to the heir of the Hyuuga clan." The girls' eyes widened at this.

"Yeah. Those men of Orchi-whatever's paid us to have our way with the girls, but this will be fun. Then the entire tribe will fear him too."

"And us!" Hinata started squirming. She kicked his ankles hard. He yelped then backhanded her into the wall. She lay there glaring at her tormentor. Another went over to Sakura.

"I call this cutie." Sakura just glared at him. He laughed with the others. They came over. They grabbed Ten Ten first. Dragging her a little away from the others, they took her gag off. She tried to scream but a hand went over her mouth instantly.

"We can't have that." They opened a small bottle and, tilting her head up, they opened her mouth long enough to pour some of the liquid down her throat. Afterwards she sat there coughing, they put the gag back on. Throwing her to the other side of the cavern they came over to grab Temari. Ten Ten tried to keep her eyes on them but she was drooping. It was a drug. They performed the same procedure with Temari, Ino and Hinata. Hinata, though, wasn't tossed as far as the others. She was close enough that when they poured the drug into Sakura's throat, she launched herself at their knees, knocking them, and Sakura of course, over. They back-handed her and threw both girls to the far corner, where all five of them were becoming sleepy. Hinata and Sakura's eyes met. Sakura nodded. Hinata smiled through her gag and fell into unconsciousness.

They were awakened several hours later by an angry rant. The men were arguing with each other angrily. Ino looked around. Hinata was awake, barely. Temari and Ten Ten were sitting up, well as much as they could. One of the men came over.

"How could she wake up?! The amount was more than enough to knock her out." They looked angrily thoughtful for a moment then one of them grabbed Hinata by the shirt.

"YOU! She must have spit it out when this wretch knocked into me! You little Bitch!" He threw her at the wall not a foot away. She bounced off. Her shirt was now ripped and she was glaring through one eye, the other closed in pain. He grabbed her shirt and shook her hard.

"YOU will regret that!" He shoved her down on the ground and stomped off.

--End Flashback--

She hadn't awakened quite yet. Ino was getting restless. The men had already come in and claimed which of the rest of them they were to divide up. Sakura's "man" was getting the second "go" at Hinata because she was the reason Sakura escaped. Temari and Ten Ten had tried everything they could the get free but the drug made thinking and moving slow and difficult. Then they heard them return. With a shinobi, sound apparently. He sat in a corner and began making hand signs. Everytime he would repeat the signs, clones would appear. They went out the entrance. Ino was slightly confused until she heard the sound of battle. She got ready to spring into action if she could when the original men returned. Hinata had awakened in this time but had remained quiet.

"Your rescuers won't get here in time for you!" A man snarled at them. One grabbed Ten Ten and reached for her shirt top. She was squirming all she could. Two others reached for Hinata who was moving away, painfully from the look on her face. Their faces were positively scary. The last two reached for Temari and Ino when they all heard a load roar.

--

Hinata was backing away from the two men leering at her when they heard the roar. She had just hit the wall when they grabbed her arms. Suddenly something grabbed them. She looked up...at an orange fox. His tail reached out and whipped the men holding Ten Ten and Temari, and clawed the one holding Ino. The girls looked at this bizarre savior blankly. Then coming to their senses they began to roll or crawl as best they could towards him. The fox was standing over Hinata and didn't seem to move save to block attacks, though it did use it's tail to help the other girls roll over. The men finally regrouped and backed off enough to form a plan of their own. By this time all the girls had gathered in the corner. The fox looked down at them. He reached down and gently licked Hinata's cheek. She looked up at him, startled. He then turned back and began to counter the men's advances. They were getting smart and attacking from all sides, with kunai and other long distance weapons. Two of them seemed to use a lasso and they threw it under the foxes belly, grabbing Temari and Ten Ten in the process. The fox whipped out its tail to help them when a man darted in to snatch Hinata. The fox turned to her. Then a loud boom echoed. Hinata was watching the fox as it turned and jumped midair to merge with Naruto as he landed in front of the man holding her. He lunged at them, one hand fisted into his face the other down to cradle Hinata as the jerk dropped her.

"Hinata! Hinata!" He gently lowered them to the ground, "Are you alright?" She nodded to him as he removed her gag.

He couldn't believe the state he had found her in. Her shirt was torn at the shoulder and stomach and she was purple with bruises. When they had entered he had headed straight for her, knowing instinctively that where-ever Kyuubi's energy was would be where she was. Neji had entered along side him and similarily slammed into the person holding Ten Ten. He was currently cradling her in his arms and glaring at the man who hadn't been smart enough to stay down.

Shikamaru and Gaara had entered right behind them. Both had headed for Temari. While Gaara dished out exact punishment, Shikamaru grabbed Temari and jumped them out of the way. Kiba had landed next to Ino, who was still up against the wall. Lee went for the sound shinobi.

The sound shinobi seemed to decide this wasn't the place for him and left. But not without tossing a parting gift or two. The first was a seal to Gaara, who thus grabbed his head and fell into a crouch to be caught by Kankuro as he can in the room chased by clones; the second was a timer that seemed about to go off.

"This timer is attached to bombs within this part of the mountain. Bye." And he was gone. Kiba ran and came back to report the entrance blocked off. Kankuro looked up from by Gaara,

"This seal is blocking almost all of Gaara's chakra." Then the mountain exploded. The explosion didn't hit then because of a last minute sandwall then was up for a split second before Gaara fell unconscious into his brother's arms. Neji looked up.

"That rubble's coming back down as well as rubble knocked form the mountaintop." Shikamaru looked at him.

"Can you keep your defense up long enough to protect us? Most of us cannot move." Neji had been expanding his blocking technique so it could include other people, but this was alot more than he had anticipated.

"Not with the amount of chakra I have." Kiba looked at him.

"If we give you ours?" Shikamaru looked at Kiba.

"None of us has much left." Naruto looked up from Hinata.

"I do." He was looking at Neji. Kyuubi's energy was still mostly untouched because of the splitting. He could transfer that, however..."But I will need some help."

"Well hurry! The rocks aren't slowing down." It was true they could see the boulders coming from the top of what remained of the mountain. Naruto looked at Hinata. That's right Young one. You will need a person to ground you. But be sure to tell them not to touch either of you. I know

"Hinata-chan, please lean up against me here. When its over please call my name." She nodded tiredly. Turning to the rest of them, "No one else touch either of us. Ready Neji?" Neji nodded. "Go!"

Neji began his attack as Naruto reached in for Kyuubi. He began to glow firey red. He was focusing on Hinata. He had to save her. He opened his eyes to reveal vertical pupils. Hinata gasped as he looked at her. One look at her battered form and he let loose his chakra to Neji, just in time for him to expand the field to encompass the entire group. Neji nearly tripped at the amount of chakra he was receiving from Naruto. He held his form though and the rocks bounced off the jutsu.

A few seconds later, Naruto could tell he wasn't tapping into enough of it though. There was still more and he was getting tired. The jutsu began to falter. Naruto went into himself. Kyuubi, I need to kind of power from our fight with Sasuke. When you use that it pushes our melding further. Do you really want that? If it doesn't happen I won't be around to be happy I didn't. And neither will Hinata. That seemed to finalize it for Kyuubi. Hinata saw Naruto bend over slightly. She heard him begin to growl as the scars on his cheeks became more pronounced. She looked at him and saw his chakra was the orange fox from before. It reached on of its tails around her as the others all went toward Neji. She counted eight over there, but they were moving very fast. She looked at Naruto and saw him staring down at her through orange fox eyes. She felt a chill, as though looking at the fires of hell itself.

Naruto-fox bent down. The fox looked at her, "It's alright young female. He will return soon. We will take care of it. All you need to do is call him." The voice was unlike any she had heard. It was deep, way deeper than Naruto's. Deeper than even her father's. Naruto-fox reached around her and, using his teeth, he ripped through her bindings. "Do not be scared of him young female. I believe that is his greatest fear of all. That one he cares so much about will be afraid of him." Hinata looked at those firey eyes. Kyuubi looked back at her steadily. When her expression didn't change, he whined. Hinata jumped, she had never heard that sound from Naruto before. He looked so sad.

"Naruto!" She heard Kiba shout through the wind. Looking up she saw that Neji had stopped, the rock were all gone. All of the tails of chakra were now curled around her. She looked at him and said one word.

"Naruto-kun"

Instantly the orange chakra receded into his body. He slumped down slightly, before looking at Hinata and smiling his goofy grin.

"Well, that was different." She nodded, then fainted towards him. He caught her concerned. Looking around, he saw that none of the girls were conscious.

"How troublesome. Lets go make camp." Shikamaru led them to a nearby stream, still carrying Temari.

--

Neji looked down at the girl in front of him. He had been gently wiping Ten Ten's face with water from the stream. She had been hurt. He could see some bruises forming, especially where her wrists and ankles had been tied. Those bastards had really banged all the girls around. Looking over to where Naruto was giving Hinata a similar treament, his breath caught in his throat. He had been so close to loosing them both. A friend he didn't acknowledge and a cousin he hated. Now he couldn't bare his life without either of them. Ten Ten stirred in his arms. Her eyes opened to his. She smiled slightly and began to sit up. He helped her sit up. She sat there looking around at them and then started to shiver. Not knowing if she was cold or upset Neji sat next to her. Holding his arms on her shoulders he gently asked if she was alright. She nodded and leaned against his chest, still shivering. Deciding she was indeed cold he wrapped his arms around her to share his body heat. She relaxed into his arms and they sat there.

"How are the others?"

"Ino's irritated more than anything else. Temari's not awake yet, but seems similar to you, cold and slightly bruised."

"And Hinata-chan?" Neji inhaled sharply. Ten Ten looked up at him. She had seen Hinata over with Naruto, and he wouldn't be this calm if she was badly hurt, so she wasn't worried about that, but she had seen the change in her teammate after the exams. He had started to watch his cousins, and to some respect care for them.

"She looks like she'll be fine Neji. She's strong enough to survive what happened." She quietly told him. He bent his head onto her shoulder, hiding his eyes.

"I almost lost her. I barely know my cousin and I almost lost her. I- I was- I was so afriad we would find you guys, or we'd get there only to find you dead or broken. I- I- I c-couldn't bare that." He stopped at that point because Ten Ten's hands came up around his neck, pulling him into her shoulder. He held her close as he tried to believe that they were fine. Hinata was fine. Ten Ten was fine.

Naruto had carried Hinata and gently bathed the part of her he could reach. He had put his jacket on her and sat there holding her as she slowing stopped shivering. Ino was sitting next to Kiba and Lee at the fire.

"I th-th-think shivering is a side-effect of the drug they gave us. It-t-t really isn't th-th-that c-c-old out he-he-here." She shivered until Kiba set his jacket on her. Akamaru jumped off his lap and into hers. She smiled at him.

Shikamaru had held Temari, until she awoke. In which case she disagreed with the sitting arrangements and sat next to him instead of in his lap. He sighed

"How troublesome." She glared at him then shivered. She could hear her teeth chattering when she felt a jacket go around her. Looking up she saw Shikamaru looking across the clearing, arms crossed over his chest. She smiled slightly.

"So." Shikamaru could see Gaara becoming more lively, making Hinata the only one not yet awake. "What exactly happened?" The girls looked at each other. Ino began telling the story. When she got to the point where the man picked Hinata up by the hair she faltered. Temari picked it up from there, explaining what had happened up until Shikamaru had grabbed her. Most of the men present were seeing fire at this point. In fact the only thing keeping Naruto and Neji in their seats were the women in their lap. They were needed here.

Neji was angry. He had known what rape meant, but the way that was put, Hinata's rape would have had longer lasting repercussions than the others. She would be blaming herself for being a weakness in the family. Ten Ten's hand were still around the back of his neck. They pulled slightly to get his attention. In a voice that no one but Neji heard, she reminded him that they were all alright.

Gaara, Kankuro and Shikamaru all balled their fists. Kiba and Lee were the ones to react with vengence. They were standing at the end of the tale, looking the girls. Shikamaru explained that they had found Sakura and she was safe. They were all staring angrily into the night when Hinata-chan awoke.

"Naruto-kun?"

"Hinata! Are you alright?" She nodded and sat up. Then she blushed and pulled Naruto's coat closed as she realized her state of clothes. While still protecting her modesty they were far more revealing than most things she wore. She shivered slightly and leaned back against the warmth Naruto was projecting. They sat there a moment before Temari asked a question.

"What was the Fox thing? Pet?" Kiba looked at her

"No it was prue chakra, it had no scent." Hinata spoke up a little.

"I-i-it felt like N-N-Naruto-kun." Shikamaru nodded,

"But it acted of it's own accord." Naruto wasn't saying anything. He was staring into the ground tensely. Hinata looked at him with concern. Gaara looked at him thoughtfully.

"Nine-tailed fox." They all, save Naruto, looked at Gaara. He looked blankly at Naruto, "The chakra felt like kin of my demon's. A kin in fox shape. The only one around here would be the Nine-Tailed Fox, Kyuubi."

"He was destroyed 15 years ago." Ino put in.

"Nonetheless. When Naruto went into his trance to release chakra he went in a personae of the fox. It's sealed in him as Shukaku is sealed within me. Isn't he Naruto?" Naruto looked at him. Suddenly Gaara could see all the loneliness Naruto had seen because of this. Gaara was right. He saw that Naruto was shunned because of the "danger" he held. Gaara suddenly realized why he had listened to Naruto after the attack on Konoha. He recognized a kindred spirit.

"Kyuubi was sealed inside me when I was a new-born by the Fourth Hokage." He looked at them a moment, then down, then he disappeared, leaving Hinata sitting on the log. Everyone started.

"Where'd he go?" Kiba looked around. Gaara sighed. Shikamaru looked at him.

"He's afraid, isn't he? All our lives we've seen adults shun him. They know. He had very few friends before joining Kakashi's team. He's afraid he's about to loose them." He looked around the circle as he said this, stopping back on Gaara. Gaara spoke quietly, looking at the ground.

"When you are that different, and people tell you something all your life, like that you'll never be wanted, someday you might even start to believe it yourself. People can tell themselves what they wish but they won't believe it until another repeats it, like being worth something." Ino gasped.

"Do you remember what he used to say? 'Someday I'll be Hokage, and then the villagers will stop ignoring me and start treating me with respect'. Do you remember that? That was all he wanted." Everyone, save the sand shinobi, looked at the ground reveiwing all their interactions with Naruto. Kiba looked up first.

"He really did have it hard, didn't he?" Hinata looked at him.

"He would practise every day until he passed out behind the school. I-I-I saw him. He has always worked s-s-so hard to earn everything he has accomplished. I w-won't turn my back on him now." She got unsteadily to her feet. In an instant, Lee was at her side.

"He's always ok with me, yeah!" He gave her a thumbs up. They took off in the direction of Naruto. He hadn't gone far. After they had left, everyone looked at each other. Neji could see agreement in their eyes. He too, couldn't turn from Naruto. He now understood how Naruto could talk so correctly about destiny.

He had changed his.

--

Hinata and Lee stopped on the ground under the tree where Naruto was sitting. Hinata looked up at him.

"N-N-Naruto-kun" She said quietly. Neither Lee nor Hinata thought going into the tree was a good idea with Hinata in the state she was at. "Come down?" Naruto looked down. They could see him bite his lip uncertainly. "Onegai..." Her whiser brought him down. He looked at her sheepishly. Hinata looked at him a moment, then fell againt his chest.

"Don't go. Onegai." Her cried slightly as she hung on to his chest. He looked down at her head. His arms came around her.

"I'm not leaving. Besides I still have to become Hokage someday." He smiled down at her as she looked up at him. He looked over at Lee. Lee gave him a salute in his serious, goofy way. Naruto nodded, grateful. Suddenly, Hinata's legs gave out. Naruto swept her up into his arms. Looking at her concerned, they all walked back to the camp.

When they entered Ino stood up. She saw Hinata and came over.

"She's chilled. We were worried because she had the same dose as the rest of us but she is so much smaller than us and she had many extra injuries. I'm worried she may have had too much. We need to get her home." She looked at Naruto. "What you did earlier, with your chakra, could you do it again?" Naruto nodded, puzzled. Gaara answered his unspoken question.

"Kyuubi is of the fire variety, his chakra is naturally warm. If you can wrap her in your chakra, it might warm her up." Naruto felt Kyuubi's agreement and nodded, he would try.

He looked to Shikamaru. Shikamaru nodded. He looked around at the group, "Gaara, you and Kiba take point. Naruto and Neji, keep carrying the girls in your arms. Lee, carry Ino. Kankuro you take up the rear. I'll carry Temari."

"I don't need to be carried." Temari looked afronted slightly.

"How troublesome. You are drugged as are the other girls. You will slow us down and we need to get Hinata-chan back fast." Temari looked disgruntled but didn't seem ready to cause further disgreement. Shikamaru was about to order them out when Hinata stirred.

"Wait..." She was blushing. Naruto held her closer.

"Hinata? Don't worry. You'll be okay."

"Iie. I need..." She trailed off again. She looked down then at Ino. Her blush was nuclear. Ino looked at her a moment, then a light bulb went on over her head.

"Good point. We all should go. I'll help you." Shikamaru looked at his teammate, confused for once. "We've been locked in a cave for 8 some hours, we need to use the bathroom, you stupid boy!" She went to Naruto, who was now also blushing, helped Hinata to stand and they walked into the wood. Neji looked at Ten Ten, who still in his arms. She wasn't looking at him, she was blushing nuclear too. Temari can over. They helped each other into the woods.

The boys stood there waiting. Neji looked over at Naruto. He was leaning against a tree, hands in his pockets, staring at the ground. He looked as if he was waiting for someone to scream at him or something. Neji couldn't blame him. If the entire village had known about Kyuubi, then they couldn't have been willing to be around him, especially if they had lost a loved one. Naruto probably had been yelled at for this before. He sighed and walked over to him. He leaned against the same tree. He looks at Naruto out of the corner of his eye.

"Oi, a demon fox, eh?" Naruto looked at him, "No wonder you have better eyes than I." Naruto looked up at him with wide eyes. Neji was looking at him. He looked as he always does, with just a little more understanding.

Naruto looked around the circle. Gaara and Kankuro looked at him passivily, no surprise there as they had grown up with Shukaku. Lee gave his "serious" thumbs up. Shikamaru nodded. Kiba smiled and Akamaru, on his head, barked in agreement. Naruto let a small smile light his face. He finally had true friends.

They all turned when they heard the girls returning. Naruto went forward and immediatly picked up Hinata. Ino went towards Lee. Neji stopped on his way to Ten Ten to brush his knuckle against Hinata's cheek. She looked at him startled as he walked over towards Ten Ten.

Ten Ten smiled at him supportively, happily. He had a content look on his face. Then she fainted slightly and he scooped her up. Lee grabbed Ino in his arms. Shikamaru gave the signal to move, hopped over, scooped up Temari and leaped into the treetops. Temari at first was annoyed. After a while the drug kicked back in, combined with the relaxed feeling that she was safe, she fell asleep. Gaara looked at her in the corner of his eye. He then caught Shikamaru's eye. Shikamaru looked at him, then Temari, then him again. He held his eyes, not confrontational, not passive, but steady. Gaara looked forward. He wasn't used to these feelings of caring about someone other than himself, like he did Temari or Kankuro or even Naruto. He was still deciding what to do. He did know one thing. He needed to know more about Shikamaru.

Hinata was in and out of consciousness for most of the trip. One time, when they were mid-air, she suddenly tensed up. Naruto nearly fell out of the sky, but landed safely.

"What is it Hinata?"

"My sister! Is she okay? Oh my, what kind of person am I when I forget about my sister? Did you see her before you left? Is she okay?"

"Hush, she's okay. She was the one to tell us what happened. You gave good instructions. She is worried about you though." He said to her. Neji landed next to them to see what was up.

"Hanabi-sama is with her father. You will probably see them when we return, Hinata-sama." She quieted back down and Naruto caught up with the rest of the group. He nodded to Shikamaru to show everything was alright.

They halted for a brief meal at noon. Afterwards, they continued in similar fashion. They returned to Konoha an hour later. They headed straight for the medical center. When they landed, those carrying someone went in first. They were decended on by the nurses. Except for Naruto. Hiashi got to him first. Naruto stopped as he saw the father of the girl he held in his arms come up.

"Hinata!" Hiashi stopped in-front of him. He looked at Hinata a moment. He reached out to touch her face, but drew back quickly. He looked at Naruto slightly afraid, slightly angry. Naruto looked at him and realized that his chakra was still around Hinata. He withdrew it. Hinata immediatly noticed the difference and began to shiver. Naruto turned to hand her off to a nurse, while Shikamaru explained the situation to the head nurse. There was nothing to do now except wait.

They couldn't wait in the lobby, there were too many of them, thus they wandered off.

Naruto ended up wandering back towards the academy. He saw a lone swing hung from a branch in the front courtyard. He had sat in that swing and watched everyone else go home after school every day. He sat in it now. He was waiting again. This time he wasn't waiting for someone to notice him. He didn't do that anymore. He was going to make them notice him.

No, now he was waiting for news about the people that he cared about. He hadn't sat there long before he heard someone speak.

"You know, I had forgotten how much you used to sit in this swing." He looked up and saw Kiba. He nodded and looked down. Kiba sat next to him on the ground. Neji and Lee found them here.

"We decided that if we can't be in the hospital, we might as well be somewhere where they can find us when they do have news." Lee told them. Neji nodded and leaned againt the tree. Lee sat in front of Kiba and started to play with Akamaru.

They had been sitting there for some time before someone noticed that the sand brothers had joined them without saying a word.

Chou arrived a little later with a large basket of food. Not all of it was junk food either.

"My mom thought we wouldn't be eating so she made us a picnic." Kiba grinned.

"Figures you'd be the one to have food." They all sat down and eat a little.

"So this is where you all have been, quite the party." Shikamaru walked up behind them. He looked at them and then sat down, "To go home would be troublesome." He ate some rice.

Naruto looked around. Somehow, without realizing it, they had all chosen this spot to wait. The spot where he had waited all his life for something, had become a spot to share with friends. Like his worry, he didn't have to worry alone anymore. He smiled.

--

This was how they were when the academy let out. Iruka came out with the children, looks out there, and does a double take. He was used to seeing Naruto there, Naruto would come there when he needed to think. Now he saw eight people there. And Naruto was in the center of it. He smiled. Naruto had finally made a place for himself. He saw Ebisu come over. He went towards the teacher. Ebisu was looking at the small group.

"He seems to have made a click for himself." Iruka frowned. Ebisu had always held it against Naruto, just like everyone else here. Iruka just nodded. He looked, all the student had gone.

"I wonder how they would react to knowing what he is?" Iruka looked at hime sharply.

"You are forbidden to talk of it." Ebisu nodded.

"I am aware. I just wonder, that's all. I will not dishonor the Third." He turned and walked away. Some of the students hadn't in fact gone home, they had journeyed over to the group. The parents were coming up the stairs now.

--

Naruto was watching the kids ask a bunch of questions to all his friends. They weren't used to being around the academy right after it let out, so they were surprised the kind of questions that could come up.

"Are you a real shinobi?"

"Did you protect the village?"

"Do you always work in groups?"

"How do you know what to use in a fight?"

"Who do you go to to ask for help in training?"

"Are some of you back-up and some not?"

Naruto chuckled slightly as his friends actually tried to keep up with the questions. Naruto hadn't been around in a while so the kids had found new questions. He looked up at Iruka-sensei. Usually, he was smiling softly. This time, however, he wasn't looking at the kids, but rather down the hill. Naruto looked further and saw the parents coming. He sat up straight. Usually he left an instant or two before the parents could see him. The few times they had seen him weren't fun. He glanced around. He would have a hard time just dissappearing in the middle of the group now. Besides, it wouldn't be very dignified.

He became more nervous as the parent reached the top of the hill and walked towards them. They were still smiling, always a good sign. The kids looked up at their parents and waved at them. The parents came over as they continued asking questions at a rapid rate, trying to get their question in before having to leave. Naruto suddenly realized one was pulling his sleeve. he had let his attention wander, not a good thing to do around these kids, and she wanted to ask him a question.

"What is a good shinobi?" Naruto looked at her startled, as did his comrades that heard the question. The parent of this child looked at her, and in that instant seemed to realize exactly to whom her child was speaking. She grabbed her daughters arm and pulled her away.

"We're going home Kira, now." This also alerted the other parents to the quiet member of the shinobi group. They all similarily grabbed their children and rushed them away. The children waved bye to the shinobi as they left. Naruto's hands were still on the strings of the swing at this point. They were tightening as he saw the look in the parents eyes. It was the look in all their eyes, Mizuki, Ebisu, all of the ones who blamed him for Kyuubi. He stared right back into their eyes defiantly. He had learn a long time ago, he wasn't going to show them they could have that kind of power over him.

His teammates had also seen the looks Naruto had recieved. They saw him stare back at the parents. Suddenly, all the Konoha shinobi present saw the end of a school day, back when they were there. How Naruto would sit in this swing. They remembered vaguely their parents giving him a similar look. They looked at each other, each realizing the others understood. They also realized, they were in agreement, Naruto had their respect. They would have words with anyone who decided to actively deny that.

"Guys, stop it." They looked at Naruto. "I don't need people fighting my battles. I'll earn their respect someday. Because I'll be Hokage." He smiled at them and they all relaxed realizing something.

They were starting to believe he would do it.

--

It was nearing dinner when Kakashi found them. He sat in front of them, tiredly.

"Ah, I hate long politics. yuck." He looked at them. They looked at him blankly. "I was just in the meeting. For 4 hours. You guys remember?" Then as an afterthought, "Oh, and you can visit the girls now, they're all okay." At this the boys who were sitting jumped up with exclaimation. They smiled at each other and nodded to him and lept away. Kakashi just smiled and shook his head. He turned to Iruka and asked if he had plans for the evening.

--

The boys all sped to the hospital. Upon arriving there, and loudly harrassing the nurse, they found all five girls on the same floor. They had all been given the antidote to the poison. It was a rare antidote, partially because the poison it counteracted had no lasting effects so it was rarely dangerous. The antidote did make the girls very aware of chakra so they had to watch themselves for a while, and they wouldn't react normally to most justu or other toxins for a few days. By some unconscious decision each boy went to their teammate first.

Shikamaru stood by while Chou talked with Ino. She seemed to be healing nicely. The hospital was very happy with her recovery. He turned his head. After a while, he thought, he would also go to check on Temari.

Similarily, in Temari's room, Gaara watched as Kankuro asked Temari on her condition. She was thoroughly annoyed that she was beening kept overnight, but Gaara could see she was tired so he was okay with the assessment, and attributed her unwillingness to her personality, not her condition itself. He sat in a side chair way in the corner and everyone forgot he was there.

Kiba went in to see Hinata and found Hiashi in there sitting next to her. She was just staring out the window. Apparently, he had been told about the remark the bastard had made about if a Hinata had concieved, he could claim kinship to the family. It hadn't gone over well. Hiashi hadn't said anything to his daughter. He had just sat there the entire time. Likewise, Hinata didn't know what to say to her father.

When Kiba entered, he went up next to Hinata, and immediatly Akamaru jumped into her lap. He had always done that, since Kiba treated her like a little sister, having no younger siblings himself, Akamaru had always reciprocated the feelings. Hinata laughed as Akamaru performed his usual tactic of goofing around until she at least smiled. Hiashi looked at his daughter. He had never seen her laugh before. She was usually so quiet and reserved. He looked at this young man. He decided maybe to begin looking into his family and maybe a marriage arrangement for his daughter.

Lee and Neji entered into Ten Ten's room. She was lying there with her eyes closed. They came up and Neji picked up her hand. She gently opened her eyes and smiled at him. They talked about nonsensical topics for a while. Lee decided to leave after making sure she was okay.

Neji looked at Ten Ten. She was looking at her hands.

"You looked mad when you found us. We were kidnapped. It happens." Neji looked up at her, startled. She was looking at her hands still. His fist clenched.

"When we found Sakura, she was awake enough to tell us what was about to happen to you girls." He stopped. He was looking at his fists as they were becoming painfully tight. Suddenly a hand covered them. He looked up at Ten Ten. She was smiling at him.

"We are all fine. Hinata included." He looked at her startled. She sighed. "I've seen you recently. When you're at home, you watch her. SOmetimes you want to say something to her, encouragement, advise, anything. You're afraid of how she'll react. Don't worry. She's stronger than you think. She'll be fine." He looked at her. She was smiling at him.

"Ten Ten..."

"Really, she was the one that allowed Sakura to escape. She is your family. She-"

"Ten Ten." She stopped. He had been trying to get her attention. He was biting his lip. She was startled, that wasn't something she had ever seen him do before. "Hinata-sama wasn't the only one I was worried about."

"Sou ka. Well, good to know. I guess your teammate does get some of the worry to."

"Ten Ten. I wasn't worried about you because you're my teammate." He looked at her briefly, then looked down, "I was furious they thought they could touch you be cause I care about you as my special friend." She looked at him.

"As a friend?"

"My special friend." She smiled at him. He looked so adorably relieved. She nodded and he relaxed. Scooting closer to the bed, he let her head rest on his shoulder. They sat there enjoying each others company. He looked at her. She was right, he wanted to become closer to Hinata. But he could do that later, besides he had a feeling there was someone else who wanted to talk to her first.

Shikamaru was headed for Temari's room. He thought he should at least see if she was alright, she was attacked in their village after all. When he entered he didn't see the sand brothers anywhere. He sighed in relief.

"What do you want?" Temari was very much awake. She was looking right at him.

"Ahh. I just wanted to see how you were doing." Shikamaru had his hand behind his head. He was looking off into the corner frowning. "Well, since you're going fine, I'll be off."

"Wait. I have some questions." Shikamaru looked at her, "My brother hasn't told us anything. What is the story behind Kyuubi, the Nine-tailed Fox?" Shikamaru looked at her, decided it couldn't hurt and sat next to her. Gaara watched from the corner all this. He saw Temari smile slightly, and he sat back and just watched.

Naruto was practically thrown out of Sakura's room. He had gone there first, to see how she was. She was perfectly fine, thank you very much. She did tell him the entire story at that point though. Naruto was proud that Hinata had helped her in such a way. It also explained the extra injuries. Temari had skimed over it due to her lack of coherent consciousness at that point in the story. Sakura had looked him straight in the eye and told him to go and see Hinata. He just kind of stuttered his way around the idea. She was very persistant though. She told him that Hinata wouldn't reject him if he just tried. He wasn't so sure about that. Hinata had just found out about Kyuubi. Being friends with a monster-inhabited person and being that close to one are two very different things. Besides, even if she did agree, her family would probably have none of it.

He sighed. Kyuubi had been quite silent through this. He had said he was going to rest from the strain of separating one's chakra from one's body. Naruto wouldn't mind a little help right now, or at least some more encouragment.

When he entered Hinata's room, he nearly ran into Kiba exiting. Shino was right behind him, he had returned from his previous mission earlier that day. Kiba nodded to Naruto as he passed. Shino did the same and the two teammates left. Naruto entered the room. He saw Hinata lying on the bed. He sat next to her. She seemed to be sleeping. Naruto placed his hand on hers a moment before he noticed someone else was in the room. He looked up to see Lord Hiashi. The Hyuuga didn't really know what to think of this. He, of course, knew of the child who carried the Nine-Tailed Fox. He had lost several relatives in that battle. Looking at the boy he hadn't seen in thirteen-odd years, save from a distance, he wasn't sure what the child was doing here. He had known Naruto was one of the ones to bring Hinata back. Actually he had seen Naruto carrying Hinata when they arrived. Hinata chose this time to awaken.

Naruto's attention was immediatly drawn to the girl. Hinata looked at him. Then down as she blushed.

"N-N-Naruto-kun."

"Oi, Hinata, how're you doing?" She looked down.

"I'm fine." She was ashamed. Again, they had to save her again. Again she was a burden to Naruto-kun.

"Oi, Sakura told me how you helped her. That was amazing." Hinata looked up at him with wide eyes. "You were kidnapped, drugged and you still helped find a way out. That's awesome, Hinata." Naruto was smiling at her. She smiled. In a surge of energy gained from the feeling of elation she was feeling she launched herself at him.

"Thank you Naruto-kun." The force of her lunge was enough to land them on the floor. Actually, if Naruto hadn't been paying attention, it would have spun them around, but Naruto made sure he landed on bottom.

Hiashi was surprised to say the least. His self-conscious, shy daughter had just launched herself at a boy. He had seen Naruto check their spin so he would land on the ground first. Hinata was still squeezing him.

Hinata blushed when she finally realized what she had done. She sat up fast, "G-g-gomen nasai, Naruto-kun. I was just so- I mean-" Naruto was chucking.

"Don't let anyone ever tell you you don't have any strength, Hinata." He was laughing. She finally joined in, nervously. Naruto leaned forward, "However, we can't have you sitting on this cold floor." And he picked her up and put her back on her bed. She smiled. Then thought a moment.

"Naruto-kun?" She looked at him. "Could we walk down the hall to the sitting room? I would like to see some trees out the windows." Hinata seemed to have forgotten her father was there. In fact, she hadn't. She could see him out of the corner of his eye. He was looking at Naruto in a very specific way. A way she had seen a lot of times in the village before. One which she only now understood. Her father knew about the demon fox and held it against Naruto. She was looking for her father's approval, but not at the expense of her relationship to Naruto. She would allow her father to see how much Naruto meant to her now, talk to him about it later.

Hiashi couldn't believe what he was seeing. Hinata was ignoring him and talking to the demon-fox child. She was friends with him. Maybe it was time he took an active interest in who she hung around. He got up and followed them into the hallway.

A strange coincidence happened at this point. It appeared that all the girls had felt the need to be in the sitting room. It was quite large, and the boys who were not talking with one of the girls were already down there talking amongst themselves. Thus the fourteen shinobi met there and sat down. They talked about nothing of particular importance, just getting to know each other more. None of them noticed the gathering of watchers behind them. Kakashi, Iruka, Ebisu, Hiashi, Tsunade, Guy, and more, the teachers came and instead of visiting with their pupils they just watched.

Not long after this started though a loud crash was heard. The front glass of the room blew in and covered the shinobi inside. They then heard a chanting. Looking up the adults realized that not only were their bodies pulled to the floor but their chakra was sealed within them. Desperately they fought against the jutsu. Tsunade was just running through all that they could do when she remembered the antidote they had given the five girls. It would counter this effect. But they were still weak, and they had been near the window so they could be covered in new injuries. Looking over to them, her eyes went wide at what she saw. Apparently, Hiashi and a few of the other adults had had the same idea. They were equally stunned.

None of the girls were further harmed. Sakura was covered by Lee and Shino, whom had grabbed her upon hearing the noise and was closest, Ino was covered by Chou and held by Kiba, the four boys were only slightly cut, being on the far side of the table from the window. Temari was held in Shikamaru's arms, whose head was bent over hers, and they were surrounded in sand, as were either of the sand brothers. Neji had Ten Ten covered and was still kneeling over her, trying not to crush her with the weight of the new justu and Naruto was simiarily over Hinata. Hinata and Naruto had been the closest ones to the window and Hinata was looking up at Naruto fearfully.

"Naruto-kun?" He opened one eye and smiled shakily down at her.

"Don't worry about this, Hinata. I'm fine." He then lost the rest of his strength. He landed on the ground next to her, coughing slightly. Hinata gasped when she saw he had blood coming from his mouth. Looking around she saw the adults. She was about to ask for help when she grasped the situation, and the lack of effect on her. Looking at the others, she saw similar movements with all the girls from the previous encounter. Then they all stiffened.

"Well, well, it seems somehow some of you weren't caught by our justu. It doesn't matter. The rest of you will be crushed under its force soon enough including your precious Hokage." They turned to see a man standing on a giant lizard. Hinata looked back at Naruto. He was glaring at the man from one eye, the other closed in pained. He was having a hard time breathing. She could see light glancing off the glass shards in his back. Looking back at their unknown audience she saw her father fall to his knees in an effort to stave off the justu. Similarily, she recognized Guy and her own sensei as they too fell down. She gasped when she thought of others on the hospital, how many people was this effecting? She looked back down at Naruto a moment and then to her comrades. They all nodded.

Standing they faced the mans five henchmen/henchwomen. It matched up nice and evenly. Each paired off and took a stance.

Temari paired with a thin straggly man. He came at her fiercely. He opened his arms and threw kunai at her and he spread his cape. He was hopping around her quickly. She reached within herself and found her chakra still recovering, she would have to do this with it for a while. He bounced around her as she watched him warily. She kept shifting her way away from the window. She saw him glance in her brother's direction a moment before he dove for him. Gaara's sand couldn't respond to protect him. He needed chakra for that, even though it happened on it's own. She looked at Shikamaru and a light bulb went on. She looked straight at him and smiled. He was very confused. She was looking back at her opponent. He was still holding her brother. That was the first goal. She lept at him and he lept backwards, dropping Gaara. That put some distance between him and the sand shinobi. He saw her glance at Shikamaru again. His next move was to grab him by the neck. He looked at her, raising a kunai to the chuunin's throat. She understood the threat but she had planned this. She had reached enough of her chakra to wave her fan once and send him tumbling out the window to the ground below. Shikamaru was tumbling with him but she grabbed him by the wrist just out the window and pulled him up. He sat there shaking and panting, nodding to her.

Gaara wasn't sure what to think. His sister had protected him. It hadn't been an order either. He was startled to realize that she might actually care about him. Shikamaru was as startled, she had a keen mind to do that, it was a brillant plan, though he wasn't fond of the roll he personally had played.

Sakura's opponent circled her and threw fireballs at her several times. She kept bloking them with bursts of chakra. Her training with Tsunade made her control over her chakra very precise. She still didn't have much of it though. She sized up her opponent and then rushed him. Everyone watching the fight was very confused, rushing an opponent wasn't Sakura's style. Her opponent was confused as well. He took a step backward and she was next to him. She tried to hit his chest with and open palm but he grabbed her arm a centimeter away. He smiled evilly at her. Then she smiled right back and allowed her fingers to relax and just grace his chest. She shot thin lines of chakra from her fingers and he slumped unconscious. She landed evenly on her feet, rubbing her wrist where he had grabbed her.

Tsunade felt pride well in her chest at this victory. Sakura had surpassed what she had hoped. Lee had his usual sparkles in his eyes when watching Sakura.

Ino and her opponent faced off. They were staring at each for a moment before Ino began some signs. Suddenly, the enemy kunoichi went rigid. Ino's hands where in a square and her opponet turned and ran right at a wall and knocked herself out. This done, Ino turned to look after the boys around her.

Ten Ten's battle was taking much more motion. Both were flinging sharp objects through the air. Ten Ten was dodging the shinobi's kunai when she realized they were getting closer to the boys, to Neji. The shinobi suddenly had a dangerous look on his face and threw several kunai directly at Neji, who was still immobile. Ten Ten leapt in front of him, blocking all but one kunai with her last kunai. The neglected kunai sunk into her leg right in front of Neji's cheek as she threw that one at her opponent. Neji looked up at Ten Ten in horror. He didn't want to say anything to break her concentration but he was very worried about her. She looked up at her opponent and smiled slightly. Then she stumbled down to her knees, panting. She reached back and put a hand on Neji's back and tried to push herself up with no avail. She saw her opponents legs stop in front of her, he kicked her in the stomach so that she fell over Neji's back.

"Why don't you move little girl, this shinobi can entertain me now." Neji looked at Ten Ten franctically.

"Go, Ten Ten. You're still healing. Get out of his way!" He hissed at her desperately, trying to rise and help. She pushed her arms against his back and looked at him and shook her head, and turned...and shoved one of Neji's kunai into her opponent's heart. The man fell on top of her but she pushed him out of the way and turned to Neji.

"I won't leave you in battle alone if I can help it, my special friend." She pecked a quick kiss on his cheek where no one could see and turned to Hinata's fight.

Hinata's opponent had just stood there watching the other fights. Hinata had decided to do the same and not move unless absolutely neccessary. She knew that like her, the other girls were upset that they had needed to be rescued. After Ten Ten's battle had come to a close the kunoichi sighed and looked at Hinata. She smiled at her.

"I really rarely fight one-on-one battles. I prefer to just destroy. This is easier when none of my allies are mixed in with my enemies." She nodded to her leader who backed up behind her. Then she flung out her arms and Hinata saw dozens of hornets swarming. "My family made a pact with a league of poisonous hornets. These are the workers" The mist of hornets buzzed towards the Konoha shinobi. All the trapped shinobi struggled to rise, except Shino, Kiba and Naruto. Naruto looked at Hinata and saw her glance at him then shut her eyes. She slowly began her justu. She began to pick up speed as the swarm moved closer to her until her arms were a blur. She was cutting the hornets was she had the bees when she was on the mission to find the Bikochuu. She used the offensive form of Shugohakke Rokujūyon Shō. Hiashi stared at his daughter in awe. He had never even heard of this style. He looked at Naruto not a foot behind his daughter. He was smiling slightly, not surprised in the least. Hiashi realized that he may have been to hasty when he sent Hinata off to work with Kurenai. He smiles slightly as he realizes the extent of power Hinata had to pull off what she was doing. His daughter was a strong girl after all.

Neji was speechless. His meek little cousin's mouth was firmed in concentration. He had heard that she had fought during the mission with Naruto but he had never heard any details. His chest swelled with pride at his cousin's acheivement, and sorrow that it took him this long to see her true worth.

The enemy kunoichi watched open mouthed at her hornets being killed. She attacked Hinata viciously. Hinata was blocking with her justu. She had been training to go from offensive to defensive as fast as possible, then to do both. She was shakily doing it. She had completely destroyed all the hornets so was now focusing on the girl in front of her. She was blocking everything but she wasn't landing anything. She was pushed back and she fell over Naruto. She heard her enemy laugh evilly. She looked up and saw her father staring at her. She then remembered something her father used to yell at her when they were training. You can't win using only defense. But I don't know if I can beat her in close combat! She looked at Naruto. He was staring at her confidently. She nodded. I won't give up. She stood and reactivated her byakugen. She turned just in time to catch the next attack for her throat and she kept blocking and thinking. She then saw her opponent was commiting a lot more than she should. She dodged the next punch to the side and hit her chakra points in her arm and front torso. Neji's eyes widened. That was a move he had used against her in the Chuunin exams. She had copied it. He then began to watch her hand-to-hand more closely and caught a lot of his moves in them. He smiled. His cousin was paying attention to him even before he really wanted her to.

Hinata was getting desperate. She hadn't used this technique in battle enough to know all the effects and Naruto couldn't last forever under the crushing justu. She leapt far enough back to get some space and let a fire ball rip. She had seen Sasuke do a similar attack and tried to copy it. It wasn't as powerful but it did the job, her opponent was unconscious. She turned to the lizard-man. He was stunned. His arms were still in justu form but his giant lizard charged as the man had jumped off him.

Hinata began the defensive form of her justu, and blew the lizard back. It landed right on the enemy and broke his concentration, thus ending the justu. Everyone was released, and they ran towards the genin. Ten Ten helped Neji to his knees, Ino was holding Akamaru as Kiba sat up, Temari has still helping Shikamaru get over his brush with death, joined by her brothers, and Sakura was helping Lee and Shino. Hinata saw her father smile at her before she turned to Naruto. He was on his knees, coughing up blood.

"Naruto-kun." He smiled at her.

"Way to go, Hin-at-ta-" He slumped as she yelled his name and dashed for him.

"Narutoooooooooooooooooooooo!" Tsunade and Kakashi also dashed for Naruto. Hinata reached him a split second before Tsunade. She began to heal him as Hinata cradled his head. She looked over to her two pupils.

"Sakura, Ino, I'll need your help." Sakura came over and also began focusing on the injured shinobi. Ino began giving orders to all that was around. The nurses, who already knew Ino, quickly went about their work. Ino also started giving orders to some of the jounin gathered. After a glare from the kunoichi, they too did her bidding. Naruto was taken on a strecher into a room.

--

It was several hours later when everything had calmed down that found Hinata outside that door. Naruto, Sakura, Tsunade, and Ino hadn't come out recently. She was going to sit there until they did.

Her cousin came and sat next to her. Neji had been watching her help get things in order around the hospital. It turned out that the justu became progressively weaker once you were 30 or so meters away. Meaning it had only effected two other floors besides their own. It also is the reason they didn't have any help, those on the outside were still trying to figure out what was going on. Fortunately, the only serious injury was Naruto. Neji had been watching her stave off panic for the last three hours, with little success. He sighed softly.

"Hinata-sama. He will be fine."

"I should have finished it sooner. If I had been stronger I could have ended the justu earlier. I should have been able to, I mean, I-" She disolved into tears. Neji's arms went around her uncertainly. She leaned into the arms of the first family member to hug her since her mother's death.

"You were strong. You did it. Now believe in him. He will be alright." She looked up at him.

"How do you know" He looked at her.

"Because once, he convinced you to fight a losing battle. He convinced me that someone can change their own destiny. He will be fine because someday he will be Hokage." She smiled at her cousin.

"Hai, he will."

"And also, I think several of us would go to hell and drag him back here, because I for one wouldn't let him leave you and I don't think he wants to either." Neji was looking into her eyes when he said this. Hinata looked down and blushed and started to stutter. Neji lifted her chin with his finger and smiled at her. He pulled into a real hug at that point and they sat there, enjoying family.

--

Hiashi walked up an hour later. He found his nephew asleep with his head on his daughter's lap.

"Hinata-chan..."

"Father?"

"You did well today."

"Thank you." He looked at his daughter. She was staring into space, running her fingers over Neji's head. He sighed. He wasn't sure how to mend the bridge across the gulf that spanned between them.

"I like him." He looked up at her voice. "I like Naruto, father." She turned to him.

"Hinata-chan. There are some things about Naruto that you don't know yet-"

"Like Kyuubi? The Nine-Tailed Fox? Like how the entire village blamed him for that attack?" She was looking straight at him now. He was astounded. How the hell did she find out? She smiled slightly.

"None of you give him enough credit. He used Kyuubi's chakra to save us earlier today. We all are aware of it now." She looked down. "You know he used to practice every day until dusk? I saw him. He would be so exhausted, but he would get up and try again. He will never give up, because that's his way of the shinobi." Hiashi was struck by the maturity in his daughter's voice, as well as the conviction, "He showed that to me. It's my way too." She looked up at him and waited. He realized that she was offering him the chance to cross the gulf that was between them or to destroy the bridge over it. He looked at her.

"You are so much like your mother." She started at the change in topic. "Your sister is a lot like me but you are like your mother. She had her own way of doing things. I had forgotten how hard she had worked to get noticed. I may not understand you yet, but," He paused and looked at her, "I do believe in you." Hinata looked at her father a moment.

And smiled.

"That's okay. That's all I need." Hiashi relaxed. It had been a step forward.

Suddenly Tsunade came out of the treatment room. She sighed and turned to Hinata. Hinata was tense. Then she smiled. Sakura and Ino exited behind her smiling. They all nodded to Hinata. Hinata leaped up shouting joyously, at least for Hinata, completely forgetting the head in her lap. Neji, of course fell to the floor, barely catching himself. He glared at his suddenly meek apologizing cousin for a moment before he realized why she had dumped him off her lap. He smiled.

"You can see him tomorrow morning, Hinata-sama. For now go get some sleep, You're still recovering too." Tsunade nodded to her. Hinata started to protest when he legs wavered. Neji scooped her up.

"Come on. I'll put back in your bed after we tell everybody that Naruto's fine." Hinata nodded happily.

She had her father again.

She had her cousin.

She had Naruto.


A/N wow! Let me tell you WOW! I didn't think this would explode like this! 14,200 words! Um... I have another idea for continuing the story, but i don't know when I'll post. This one is definetly a one-shot though. Well...a very long one-shot. hee hee. Please do review, I would like to know if i kept the characters well in character.

Side notes;

I haven't seen past episode 160ish so that is all the information i really have to go on. Also, I know Hanabi is way stronger than this but everyone has a breaking point, and her sister happens to be hers.

9/21/08-reviewed and proofed again. changed Hanabi to being 8 cuz this stupid writer said she was 5 somehow.

the next story is "What are We?" it addresses the gang cooping with knowing about Kyuubi. Copy and paste the following to the end of this homepage url

/s/4312354/1/