A/N: Just a few words of explanation - Gaara no longer has Shukaku. Sasuke was there when he was saved and made up the power difference that Naruto didn't have since he has yet to be trained by Jiraiya. Yes, that would have a been a good chapter but it's too late now, moving on. I've already stated that Sakura has been already started training with Tsunade so it all still fits. Okay, I hope that answers some of your questions but I'll answer any other questions you guys have. Okay, that's all - READ!

Hinata and Naruto

She never went home but stayed in her office working. Tsunade didn't want to go home and pretend to sleep for she knew she wouldn't nor did she want company. She sent Lord Hiashi home to be with Hanabi. Her office was lit the whole night as she planned missions, approved and disapproved policies and was there as her shinobi reported in saying the village was safe. Tsunade sent them all home not wanting them to see her worry. Although once when she got up to go to the bathroom she found Izumo and Kotetsu half asleep in the outer office. They apparently didn't want to leave their Hokage alone.

It was as the night was nearing its hold over the village that the flutter of wings and a cool breeze caught her attention. Being fall, it was really too cool to leave the window open but the cold air helped her stay awake and she'd been waiting on the winged animal.

The hawk had been trained to specifically follow Kakashi. She'd released the bird herself after they'd left the village. Now Tsunade turned her chair around to see the bird staring at her. It seemed to realize that she waiting on it and hopped off the window sill to the arm of her chair. It trilled softly at Tsunade.

"Yes, I'll take it off. Thank you for coming home so quickly." She said and stroked its head gently before removing the message box on its back. Tsunade opened a drawer and pulled out some crackers then crumbled them on her desk. The hawk hopped over to the desk to peck and nibble on the crackers. "Okay." She said with a shaky hand. In heart she knew he wasn't dead but still the possibilities of what could have happened to him or any of them made her nervous. Tsunade shook everything out of the box. A scroll tumbled out and then something square and shiny fell onto her desk. She picked it up first and after a slight hesitation laughed. Tsunade laughed so hard that she cried and woke up her guards. They opened the door to see her smiling and knew that Naruto was safe.

In the picture sent by Iruka, Naruto was asleep lying with his head against Hinata's chest. Beside them was Sasuke holding up Naruto's hand making it show the V sign for victory. As many of his friend as possible had crowded into the frame all cheesing.

Still laughing, Tsunade read the scroll then sighed. It would be a while yet before they returned home. "You guys should go home and sleep. I'm going sleep here then get back to work. My son will be home soon and want to free up some time for him." Tsunade got up and went to the window still holding the picture. "He's going to have a belated birthday party." She looked over at Kotetsu and Izumo. "You guys can come but you'll have to bring presents! Everyone likes receiving gifts – time for Naruto to know what that feels like." Tsunade yawned suddenly feeling sleepy. "Sleep well baby, mama's waiting on you."

Jiraiya smoked his pipe and looked out into the night at nothing. He really hadn't had to do much of anything during this mission, still it felt good to be there when Naruto was saved and that wisecrack from him before he passed out made the trip worth it. Iruka and Kakashi soon joined him and his eyes tracked down Naruto.

The teenager slept curled on his side and you would think that since he was sleeping that the others would have moved off to let him rest in peace but that wasn't the case. Hinata sat next to him occasionally stroking his blond hair. Takeshi was laid out on the other side of Naruto and Sakura looked more than pleased to be watching over the young man. Sasuke, on the other side of Hinata, looked torn as to whether or not he was pleased she was finding an excuse to touch the guy. With those five in the center, the circle expanded to Neji and Tenten, Lee, Choji, Kiba and Akamaru, Shino and Shikamaru. A little off to the side were the Sand ninja. Temari seemed to be filling in her brothers what had led up to them coming to Naruto's rescue. Gaara's dark-lined eyes never left Naruto. After a while he silently led his family over to the friends and the Konoha shinobi made room for them to sit at Naruto's head. Kankuro gave Shikamaru a look when the genius took Temari's hand but the Chunin bravely held on even if her brother's look was troublesome.

Iruka lifted the camera and took another picture. At first it seemed weird to make the camera a part of his gear but now with scenes like the one before him, Iruka knew he'd carry one all the time now. "Tsunade won't like it that we're taking our time getting back, hopefully these pictures will help." He said letting the hand holding the camera fall into his lap.

"Better for them to come back on their own two feet. And face it, we ran all night at top speed to get here. We need to rest too." Kakashi said lying back with his hands behind his head. "Two days and we'll be home again."

"She'll still miss him." Jiraiya said. "He was taken from the hospital – her home away from home and right under her nose. It will be a long time before Tsunade get's over this. Naruto better be prepared to be smothered by those breasts hers!" He laughed softly as a cloud of smoke escaped from his mouth.

"You sound jealous of him." Iruka teased and knocked a shuriken away with his kunai. At Kakashi's look of surprise, "Didn't it ever surprise you how willing he was to be touched by her even if it was by her fist?" Iruka laughed as Kakashi's mouth dropped open as he stared at the Toad Sage. "Of course if he wants a chance with my son's mother, he better get a move on." Iruka said on the sly.

"What are you talking about idiot?" Jiraiya grumbled as he chewed on the pipe stem.

Iruka fiddled with the controls on the camera but his grin could be seen. "Well she and Hiashi have gotten a lot closer lately. Better hurry up old man or Tsuande will be stolen away from you!"

Kakashi sat up and pulled out his favorite book. He blinked several times then looked at Jiraiya, his eye huge. "The woman with the big breasts – is that Lady Tsunade?! Damn!" All sorts of fantasies were going through his head before Jiraiya clocked him upside his head. "Ow!"

"Idiot! You'd think of your Hokage like that?!" The old man was angry but in truth one of the women in his book had been modeled off of his old teammate. "Get your mind out of the gutter!" He hit Kakashi one more time much to Iruka's enjoyment.

Light touched his eyelids warming the flesh and intruding on the soothing darkness. He took in a deep breath then yawned sleepily. A stretch followed and while he felt a little out of sorts, there was no pain. He turned over on his side to avoid waking completely up just yet. Another yawn and he attempted to sleep a little longer but became aware of a chill and the sun seemed too bright. The sounds of wings flapping made him frown then all of a sudden… "TAKESHI!" Naruto bolted up right calling his friend's name and was blinded but at the same time he became aware of lots of bodies around him and rose to a crouch.

"Naruto, relax baby. Takeshi's safe and so are you." Hinata said with a soft smile. Love and pride filled her. He wasn't worried about himself but for those important to him.

There were laughter and chuckles all around as they watched Naruto jump up from his bedding ready to attack. He'd been sleeping like a baby but that had changed instantly.

"Huh? Hinata?" Naruto blinked rapidly then finally his eyes adjusted to the light and not only did he see Hinata but all of his friends too. Takeshi smiled and waved at him. The other man was already dressed in his normal clothes, sword and all. "Okay, I'm confused." He admitted and dropped back onto the blanket as they laughed at him.

"Yuck, I can still taste dirt." Naruto spat for the hundredth time then rinsed his mouth out with the water his father gave him. "Thanks Dad." Iruka had gone with him when Naruto went to change his clothes. Actually, all he'd had on were the bloody white pants since the shirt had been ruined. He was finally beginning to feel like himself again with his dark clothes on again. Naruto began stretching his body to finish waking up.

"Sorry about that son but all we've got for water is what we brought with us. You'll have to wait until we come up on a stream or wait until we get home to really clean up." Iruka walked over to him and tied on the leaf ninja headband. "There you go." He smiled then hugged his son.

"I'm okay Dad. Sorry for worrying you." Naruto returned the hug as it warmed him. "I knew you guys would come. Never doubted it for a second." He spoke softly into his father's neck.

"Damn straight! With Hinata in the lead too!" Iruka chuckled then ruffled his son's hair. "Let's get some food into you. We scrounged up some game but as it gets later in the season, plus the battle – animals are scarce. We left the village with only minimal supplies." Iruka said ruefully as Naruto's stomach growled.

"That's okay Dad, I'll take what I can get. Now that I think about it, the last time I ate was at the party. No wonder I'm starving." They were walking back to the camp. It was nowhere near the mess Toki and Suki had made. One of those natural clearings left by nature was where the Konoha shinobi had gathered. They'd taken turns filling Naruto in and reviving his memory of the past events before he had jumped up and ran for cover because he really had to go. Iruka had followed with his clothes.

As they rejoined the group Naruto's smile grew. He went to Jiraiya and hugged the old pervert then Kakashi. Sakura got lifted into the air and spun around. He and Sasuke traded a few blows. Each of his friends received a handshake, even Shizune. Next he went to Takeshi.

"Sorry man, I never meant for you to get caught up in my drama. At least no one but us knows your secret and we ain't telling." Naruto took the young man's hand and held it tightly.

Takeshi looked into Naruto's blue eyes and saw a friend, someone who would go to the ends of the earth for him. He grinned and shook his head sending his long ponytail into motion. "Forget it. It was an adventure to say the least. Naruto…I've never felt as close to another person like this since I lost my family." Takeshi's other hand came up to hold Naruto's. "You've adopted and been adopted – would you like another brother? I think I've finally found my new family and a place I'd like to call home." His phoenix eyes glowed and hope was written on Takeshi's face.

Wonder crossed Naruto's face then a slow but huge smile graced his face. His shoulders lifted several times before the laughter burst from his lips. "Hell yeah!" Naruto all but jumped Takeshi when he hugged him. "Welcome to the family and Konoha!"

There were more welcomes as Naruto finally let Takeshi go. Sasuke walked up to the man. "…I don't share well." He told them and some of the happy faces disappeared. "But this idiot is sometimes more than I can handle so when that happens – I'm sending him to you!" Sasuke held out his hand and Takeshi took it gratefully. The two would have plenty of time to become close friends.

"Hey! I'm not that bad!" Naruto said looping his arms over their shoulders and thrusting his face between theirs.

"See what I mean?" Sasuke said dryly then laughed when Naruto frowned.

Gaara and his siblings stood off to one side watching Naruto. Kankuro and Temari were smiling but as usual there was no expression on Gaara's face.

Naruto hadn't forgotten them and after punching Sasuke in the arm he went and formally thanked the Sand for their help especially since they did it without being asked to. Then Naruto and Gaara stared at each other.

"You okay?" Naruto asked looking quickly down at Gaara's stomach.

Gaara shrugged. "It's different. I don't…miss him but…"

"You miss the power." Naruto nodded. "But you're still Kazekage and your skill hasn't changed. You're still a master of sand." He reached out a hand to grab Gaara's shoulder.

"I am but," He looked over at Takeshi and for an instant there was flare of jealously in his eyes. Gaara breathed deeply. It was hard for him as well to share Naruto.

"You're still one of us! Shukaku may be gone but you're still one of us!" Naruto looked back at Takeshi then forward again. "I never forget my friends Gaara plus you just helped us out of a jam – that makes you the hero." He shook the solemn teen's shoulder. "You're still a good man without it." Naruto took his other shoulder and got in Gaara's face. "Okay? Don't make me punch you!"

Gaara blinked then chuckled deeply. "As if you could!" Sand curled around Naruto's wrists trapping him in place. He smiled fully when Naruto's stomach growled. The sand released Naruto. "Go, eat something Uzumaki Naruto, my friend."

Naruto covered his belly with one hand and grinned. "Right! But we'll just have to test that when we get to the village!" He taunted playfully with his fist then moved to sit next to Hinata. She'd been waiting patiently as he said his thanks and reacquainted himself with Gaara. Naruto knelt before and grabbed her face. "Hello my precious. Thanks for coming after us. You-know-who and I thank you. Love you too!" He kissed her gently but with all the love in his body. Reluctantly he let go of her mouth but kept returning for small kisses. "Damn I needed that. More when we get home." Naruto promised quietly as her lovely eyes lifted heavily.

"I'm counting on it." Hinata reached out and stroked his bottom lip then blushed when Neji cleared his throat. Everybody was watching and grinning. "Oh forget you guys!" Hinata took one last kiss before pushing Naruto away and handing him his food still blushing.

Mouth full of food, Naruto managed to get out these words. "Hope you guys were taking notes on how it's done – Neji, Shikamaru and Sasuke!" When his brother looked at him like he was crazy for adding his name – every eye looked from Sasuke to Sakura. Well except Lee.

"Hey, what about me?! Love burns as bright as the youth in me! PICK ME SAKURA!" Lee's eyes became hearts as he seemed to float on air to her side.

Pink hair and a blood red face looked over at her idiot brother. "NARUTO!" Sakura's voice echoed for miles and miles.

They started for home just after noon. Naruto made a concentrated effort to spend time with everyone who had come after them trying to show his gratitude. Part of the way he and Hinata held hands and stole kisses. Later as night fell, they decided to keep going until they reached Konoha, the three Jinchuriki walked together bringing up the rear. Everyone was curious as to what they were talking about in voices so quiet that the sound traveled no further than their own ears.

It was just an hour before dawn when they entered the gates. The group broke up each going to their homes with promises to hook up later. Five people headed for the Hokage's residence. Izumo grinned to see them all safe and sound. He opened the door for them wishing he could see Lady Tsunade's face.

Naruto entered his mother's bedroom on bare feet. She lay facing him, her blond hair loose, hands tucked under her chin. Tsunade looked like a young girl, someone to be taken care of but she was his beautiful mother. It used to bother him that she wouldn't look her age but he could care less now. Young or old didn't matter, only how much she loved him.

"Mama, Mama I'm home." Naruto sat down and stroked her hair. "Mama." He spoke a little louder and shook her shoulder.

Tsunade's eyes opened to stare at him. She felt a hand in her hair but slowly reached out a hand to touch his thigh. When he didn't vanish she surged up and clamped her arms around him. "Naruto."

"I love you Mama. I'm sorry for scaring you." He spoke as she cradled him against her chest. Naruto felt so complete being held by his mother.

"I love you too baby." Tsunade kissed his head and stroked his back. That's all they did as the sun rose over the village but finally when it seemed like Naruto was going to go sleep did she finally pull back, looked him over and nodded. "Everybody come back okay?" She held his dear face.

"Yes ma'am. Dad, Hinata, Takeshi and Shizune are in the other room. Everybody else went home. Oh and Gaara's here." Naruto yawned but chuckled through it a her look of surprise.

"Okay. Prisoners?" Tsunade got deadly quiet.

"None. Gone and buried. They had no idea who they were messing with – my family." Naruto's pride showed on his face making Tsunade laugh.

"That's right! Okay then, since you're home so early, you guys must be tired. Let's go see everyone then you can go get some sleep." It was on the tip of her tongue to ask him to stay with her but she had a feeling Hinata would want some time alone with Naruto.

Tsunade rose and let Naruto help her with her robe. She brushed a comb through her hair then went into the front room where she could smell tea but it was oddly silent. Each of them was dozing. Iruka was holding Hinata against him, Shizune was curled into a chair and Takeshi's long hair was on the floor as his head was tilted back over his chair. Mother and son laughed waking them all.

"Off to bed with! Go on! You can take the rest of the day off but reports first thing tomorrow!" Tsunade hugged Takeshi and touched his cheek happy to see him well. Shizune was thanked the same way. Iruka got a kiss when he handed over more pictures and Hinata, her soon-to-be daughter was treasured just as Naruto had been. "We'll have dinner together okay?" She said as Naruto gave her another hug.

"Sure thing Mama. Love you!" Naruto took Hinata's hand and they headed off home.

Naruto took a shower the moment he got home and Hinata joined him to be sure he washed behind his ears. He scrubbed his hair twice as she soaped up his back but her hands drifted lower and Naruto couldn't help but respond. "My ears don't hang down that low." He said then sucked in his breath.

"These aren't hanging either! I'm holding them safe in my hand. Let's see what else is defying gravity." Hinata pressed close then filled her other hand with his hard penis. "Standing tall – just the way I like it." She kissed his back as the water poured over them.

Naruto leaned into the wall. "We're supposed to sleep!" He groaned as her hands worked. "You're molesting me!" He grinned.

"And I'm going to do a whole lot more." Hinata let his sac go and with a hand on his waist, turned him around. She kept one hand on his swelling length. Finding a male nipple, Hinata sucked and nibbled on it as her hands moved in time with her sucking.

"God – you're trying to kill me! I can't – been…too long…I'm…" Naruto's body was as hard as the wall he leaned back against. He stood there and let Hinata do what she pleased. He wanted this to last but their last loving had been a while ago and he remembered just how damn good it had been. No way was he going to make it another minute.

Hinata knelt and guided him to her lips. He was so smooth she kissed the hard rod then ran her tongue over the head. When Naruto grunted out her name she took him inside her mouth and sucked.

Naruto thought he'd die from the pleasure. He held tight to her shoulders and peered at her from half closed lids. A brief smile touched his lips for as much as she was doing for him, it looked like Hinata was having fun too. Naruto shut his eyes tight and his hips jerked then all conscious thought left him as he climaxed, Hinata's name bounced off the wet tile.

Hinata giggled as Naruto slid down and sat with a wet plop into the tub. His face told her all she needed to know. He was happy, relaxed, satisfied and in love. "Now we can get some sleep. I just needed to love you first." She smiled and leaned forward to kiss his cheek but Naruto didn't move. Hinata laughed some more and stood to continue her shower. "You're going to drown down there you know!"

Sky blue eyes finally looked up at her. Wet silken thighs met his gaze. Hair so dark it was blue then the soft curve of her belly leading to her uplifted breasts. A beautiful body for a girl with a beautiful soul. His hands reached out to circle one thigh and caressed it. "I think I should at least say thank you, don't you think?" His voice was low and deep, sexy.

Hinata blinked and shivered as one hand slid up the inside of her thigh. Naruto's fingers parted her nether lips and he touched that nubbin of her desire. "N-Na-Naruto!" This time it was she who balled her fists and leaned forward over him. There was no hesitancy in his touch. One hand occupied that sensitive flesh as the fingers of his other hand slipped inside her. "NARUTO!"

He smiled. She was wet, not just because of the shower but from her own arousal. Naruto knew his lovely woman had gotten turned on while she'd been loving him and like him, she would lose it fairly quickly too. Hinata's moans and the movements of her hips signaled that she was getting close.

"…Naruto?" Hinata questioned in a small voice when his hands left her. "Oh! What?! NARUTO – OH NARUTO!" Lavender eyes wet from the shower stared as Naruto gripped her hips and knelt before her. Before she knew it, Naruto had one leg over his shoulder and his hands were cupping her bottom. Mouth wide open in shock and desire, she watched Naruto place his mouth on her. Hinata screamed.

Lips and tongue. Licking and sucking. Gentle bites. Naruto feasted on her and drove Hinata insane. He could feel her hands in his hair. He feared he'd be bald before it was all over but for her to react this way – he'd get used to not having hair.

Her hips finally stilled but against his lips her flesh still quivered. Naruto gave her one last kiss before gently lowering her leg. He stood and gently pulled her into his chest and let the water pound them clean. By the time Naruto turned off the water, Hinata's breathing had evened out. He got them out and just barely dried them off before carrying her to bed.

Hinata crawled on top of him the moment he lay down next to her. "That was…I'll be looking forward to more of that!" She teased then leaned down to kiss him. "I love you Naruto."

"I know – damn you're violent when we make love. I want you to explain it to our friends when I show up bald one day!" Naruto laughed then endured her hard pinch to his hip. "I love you too sweetheart." He sighed. "Come on – you've tired me out sexy. Let's get some sleep then do it all over again." He stroked her still damp skin.

"Sounds like a dangerous mission – I gladly accept. Sleep well my love – both of you." Hinata kissed him again then squirmed down until her head lay over his heart.

Naruto's mouth quirked at the thought of the fox and what he thought of their love making. "You too." He'd tell her all the stuff that had happened later. Right now he had all he needed to sleep with a smile on his face.

He woke two hours later. Because of his friend the fox, his body was completely back to normal by the time they'd reached the village but he'd been mentally tired which was why the peace he'd received from his mother and the love from Hinata had allowed him to finally rest his mind. He was rested but hungry yet he had no desire to move.

Naruto cupped Hinata's head. Neither of them had moved. She lay in exactly the same spot as she'd fallen asleep, over his heart. Once again his lady had to endure anxious feelings and worry about him. It wasn't fair. Because she loved him and because of who he was, events like yesterday and the day before would happen all the damn time. If he wanted to protect her and let her lead a happy life, he should give her up.

"But I can't." He whispered. "I'm too in love to let you go." Naruto ran his hand over her petal soft skin. "I could live without you but I'd have no happiness." He sighed. "All I can do is try and make loving me worth your time. I'll remember your birthday and I'll never forget the day when things changed for us – when I woke up from my Sakura stupor!" Naruto chuckled at his own stupidity. "Anyway let's see, we should date! Yeah we're about to be married but we could still date. We'll dress up and go to some fancy places then other times just go hang out at Ichiraku's or wherever you want to go. You're going to be putting up with a lot," His smile disappeared. "So whatever you want sweetheart, I'll do. I never wanna lose you. God I wish I could say I'd never cause you pain but you're marrying the boy with the demon inside him." Naruto grimaced.

"Shit, there I go getting all depressed and upset. I'm home. Everybody's safe. Hinata's in my arms. Just focus on that Naruto. Love them, protect them and be happy!" Naruto took a deep breath and let all the negative thoughts leave his mind. "Yeah…"

"I agree." Hinata said then laughed when he gasped in surprise. "You were so deep in thought you didn't even notice I was awake." She lifted her head so she could see his look of panic then with a smile she kissed his chest and lay her head back down. "Yes I heard everything. I'm sorry to know that you still worry about me loving you but I guess I can understand it." It was Hinata's turn to sigh. She was warm, almost a little too warm lying on him this way but she wouldn't move. Being close to him like this was what she dreamed about and nothing could make her move but him. She blinked as his hands held her tighter then smiled – he wasn't going to let her move.


"Do you want to know when I fell in love with you?" She asked quickly before he could say anything more than her name. Hinata sat up straddling him wanting to see his face when she told him.

"Yeah." Naruto searched her face to see if his words had hurt her. He had been lost in his thoughts when he'd spoken out loud. She didn't seem sad but thoughtful. Naruto placed his hands about her waist and stared up at his personal goddess. "Yeah, when? The academy?" He frowned remembering how loud he'd been and the stupid things he'd done to get attention. "It had to have been after I became a Genin and stopped acting like an idiot all the time. Hey!" Naruto laughed as she tickled him and since her body moved as his jumped, in delight he watched her breasts jiggle.

"You may have overdid it sometimes but you were never an idiot – not to me." Hinata placed her hands over his and stroked his strong hands and forearms. Her face showed pleasure to be touching him like this and her head was tilted to one side as she looked into blue eyes. "I love your eyes Naruto – always look at me like that."

"Huh?" Naruto blinked but when she only grinned he looked at her with his eyes wide, eyeballs rolling making her laugh. He returned the kiss she leaned over and gave him. "Thanks sweetheart and I'll do my best." He said though he didn't have a clue because he couldn't see how he'd been looking at her.

"Good!" Another laugh. "You were tiny." She sobered. "I was surprised when I learned we were about the same age. That's when I first started watching you when we were four." Hinata nodded at his look of surprise. "Right before we entered the academy. I'd see you with that bright yellow hair and blue eyes so different from everyone else's. I was fascinated." Hinata was looking at him but she was really looking at the little boy he had been.

Naruto groaned. "And I didn't see you then either did I? It's a wonder you don't hate me. I'm sorry sweetheart." His faults seemed to be piling up where his lover was concerned.

Hinata shook her head quickly. "No you didn't see me because I was always hiding. I've always been horribly shy Naruto – you know that!" She blushed thinking of all her years of shyness. "If I hadn't seen this body nude…I may have never gotten over my shyness." Still wearing a blush, Hinata looked over all she could see of him and pressed down lightly on the hardness beneath her.

"Shy my ass! There was nothing shy about you that day!" Naruto grinned and thrust upwards slightly. "You touched me! If you were shy you would have run the opposite direction!" He laughed with delight. "I'm really glad you stayed."

Hinata could feel her blushes at her wanton behavior but she didn't regret a moment of it. "Me too. Now you be still and let me finish!" She warned with a slim finger. Naruto's hips were moving and tempting her. "We continue what we started in the shower after!" She grabbed his hands as they went for her breasts. "Naruto." She said sternly.

He shrugged. "Can't blame a guy for trying. We'll hurry up then!" He ogled her beautiful body.

"Just hold on a little while longer." He took one of his hands and placed it on her breast and held it there. "Now listen. I wasn't allowed out alone much but occasionally I could go play in the park with Neji and some of the other branch family's kids. You were always alone and watching from a distance. I could tell you wanted to play too but you never came over. The kids played too rough for me so I usually sat down and watched but I could see you. You would mimic what you saw the other kids doing and smile in triumph when you did it right. I always admired that in you Naruto. Even alone with no one to teach you how – you tried and tried until you could do it too." Hinata had his attention now. His hand covered her breast but it lay still. "And then you did the thing that made me love you."

Naruto's curiosity was killing him. Some stuff he remembered with no problem and others were lost to him. He'd been in vain trying to remember a little girl with lavender eyes. And unlike the watching eyes of the Anbu or the villagers, Hinata had been watching with kind and encouraging eyes. "What did I do?" He lifted himself up on one elbow.

Hinata smiled at the irony of what happened. Somehow it made perfect sense now. "You saved a fox!" She nodded at his look of disbelief. "I was watching you watch Neji and the others when suddenly something else caught your attention and you disappeared into the trees and bushes. I followed you. There were some older kids – Genins who'd captured a fox. They'd already wounded it with a kunai and were about to kill it – practice was what they called it." Her tone deepened in disgust at those boys.

"You didn't think, as soon as you saw the crying animal you ran forward and shielded it with your body. You curled over it then yelled at them to stop and leave it alone." Hinata saw something flicker in his eyes.

"They told me to mind my own business." Naruto's eyes were blank as that particular memory came back to him. "Said I was just as worthless as the fox they were trying to kill and if I didn't get out of the way – they'd kill me too." He trembled remembering the fear those huge kids had made him feel. "I looked down at the fox. It looked like it would shake itself to death it was so scared. I couldn't leave it. It was just like me – it just wanted to live. I picked it up and held it close and…"

"And you said no. Told them just to get it over with. I was so scared for you. I almost left to go get Neji – somebody to help you but before I could – one of them threw a kunai at you expecting you to drop the fox and run but you didn't. God, I'd never seen blood before. Your arm was covered with your blood in seconds." Hinata stroked her hands down over that arm. Her hands found the spot that healed perfectly but she'd never forgotten where he'd been hit.

"You cried out in pain and dropped to your knees but you never let go of the fox – never. You cried but you looked at them daring them to kill you. Thankfully they were too scared to try anything else. Guess they knew you were not to be hurt and the fact that they had could get them into serious trouble so they ran off. Again I was torn to try and help you or get you some help. I'm sorry Naruto." She'd been unable to do anything for him.

A deep frown. "What for? It all worked out. I-I pulled out the kunai and rested there on the ground for a while." He looked up at the ceiling. "It stayed with me – the fox. I don't know if it was because he was tired or that it felt safe or what but it stayed until I could move again." Naruto smiled slightly. "Maybe he could sense my fox." His free hand touched his belly. "When I felt better I got up. I was going to take it home with me but…it jumped out of my arms, turned and looked me in the eye for a few seconds then took off. I hope it was okay 'cause it was wounded. I tried looking for it the next day but it was gone." Naruto thought of that long ago event. "Funny, I forgotten all about that until you brought it up." It hadn't been anything overly significant for him, he'd just wanted to save the poor fox but to Hinata it had been something more. He looked at her and saw tears. Naruto sat up quickly. "Hey don't cry."

"I was so scared for you that I left after those bullies did to get you help but Neji wouldn't let me. When I described you, even he'd been taught to ignore you no matter what and Father…" Hinata shook her head at her pain and anguish from that time. "I looked for you the moment we were allowed to go back to the park and when you didn't show up I knew you were dead." Her tears slid down and dripped off her chin. "But a day later I heard this laugh. It was so happy and loud. It was you. Teuchi had walked you to the park. He was holding your hand and smiling down at you. You were laughing and smiling almost beside yourself with joy. At first I was just relieved to see you alive then so happy that you were happy. I fell for you then Naruto. You'd been attacked and left for dead but not only did you survive but you could smile after all that. You were – are my hero. There was never anyone who could give me hope or courage but you. Your spirit – so battered and bruised never gave up but kept moving forward. How could I not fall in love with you?" Hinata blinked her tears away and wrapped her arms around his neck. She laid her head on his shoulder and held her one and only love.

She's loved me for twelve years! Twelve years and I never knew! I was never really alone because she was always there watching and supporting me in her silent way. Naruto encircled her back and held her gently. A more precious gift he'd never thought to receive. "I'll love you until the end of all time! Oh Hinata I hope that will be enough. What you've given me…" He cried as well too happy and grateful for speak.

"Is everything you've given me baby." Hinata pulled back and framed his face. "Never doubt my love or that being with you is exactly what I want – what I've wanted since I was four years old!" She smiled and kissed his wet cheeks. "Make love with me. Love me Naruto!" Hinata traced his lips with her tongue then slipped it inside his mouth only for it to be captured by his own and sucked.

He fell back onto the bed taking her with him. Naruto cupped her bottom and held her there against him feeling her wetness. He tortured them both by sliding her along his hardened length. "Put one on me! I need to be inside you sweetheart!" He said on a gasp then took her nipple as she leaned over him to get the condoms.

Hinata's hands shook as she ripped open the little pack. Taking a deep breath she smoothed the condom down over Naruto's sex. Once she was done, she kissed the covered head then moved to get off of Naruto but his hands stayed her.

"Just sit on it." Naruto whispered a smile on his face. Another new first for them. He nodded when she looked skeptical. "I know it can be done." Laughter mixed with desire swirled in his eyes.

Hinata laughed and remembered his 'training' by Master Jiraiya. Taking a deep breath she rose up on her knees and with help positioned herself over him. Again she took his forearms as he held her hips. Hinata nodded and slid down. Naruto pushed up.

Mutual gasps of sensation, a closing of eyes then opening to see the other smiling. Naruto pulled her forward and Hinata placed her hands on bed beside him each of them rocking their hips. "Na-Naruto! Those…books!"

"Ha! I know!" He grinned at her. Looks like the old pervert's books were good for something! "Ride me sweetheart! Take me to the stars!"

Hinata nodded. She wanted to see heaven with him too. Body in motion, she took them there.

Tsunade ordered ramen for Naruto. There were five huge bowls just for him. She had a rarely used dining room but tonight it would be filled with her new family. Although the other Chunins were becoming more than just shinobi to her, she'd limited people to the three of them, Hiashi and Hinata, Jiraiya and Kakashi. Shizune said she might drop by and Tsunade hoped she would. Her new family wasn't complete without her oldest friend.

"Mama! We're here Mama!" She smiled and moved to greet her son. Tsunade laughed to see their overly bright expressions and just a hint of a blush about their cheeks. More than sleep had happened! Tsunade took his warm hug and held her tongue. He'd been thoroughly educated about sex and its consequences; they would take care of each other.

"Feeling better?" She asked as Hinata hugged her.

"We're good. Is that ramen I smell?" Naruto sniffed the air. "I am so hungry! Can we eat?" He inched around her following the temptation of his favorite food.

"At least wait until everybody else gets here Naruto!" Hinata caught his jacket halting his progress.

"Sweetheart, I worked up a huge appetite – cut me some slack." He whispered with a grin.

"Wait." Hinata merely said but returned his grin. "So Mama Tsunade, how'd you like the pictures?" She said and kept her hand fisted in Naruto's jacket so he wouldn't run to the ramen.

Tsunade laughed at his antics. "I loved them as a matter of fact," She pulled a camera out of her pocket and took one of Naruto playfully trying to get loose from Hinata's grip so he could go eat.

"Hey! Okay what's with the pictures? Dad was snapping all the way home!" Naruto had his hands on his hips then blinked at the camera flash. "Mama."

"We want pictures of you, that's all." Iruka said as he entered the front room. "How are you son?" He asked but really hadn't needed to. "Never mind – the both of you look quite well!" Iruka laughed at their blushes and gave them hugs.

"Has our favorite little troublemaker been up to some mischief with his lady?" Jiraiya asked as he and Kakashi entered the house together.

Kakashi glanced at the couple then looked from Jiraiya to Tsunade. He looked her over like a man would and not as his superior. "She is too! Man I can't believe I never noticed before!" Kakashi's shoulders were sort of slumped over in surprise and he blinked his eye at Jiraiya. "You dirty old Toad Sage!" Iruka laughed while Jiraiya pounced on Kakashi and put him in a headlock and told him to shut up.

"What am I missing?" Lady Tsunade asked of her children who both shrugged in bewilderment. "I don't know what it is and I'm sure I wouldn't like it so KNOCK IT OFF!"

"Sounds like family in here." Shizune said with a smile. "Hope I'm not intruding." She stood hesitantly just inside the door.

"Help me from killing them." Tsunade said as she took Shizune's hand and brought her fully into the house.

"So where's Father?" Naruto asked of Hinata who looked at him in exasperation.

"I've been with you – how would I know!" She smacked his arm.

"I'm here!" Hiashi said on a laugh. "Hanabi wasn't too pleased to be left out. You'll have to come over tomorrow and make it up to her Naruto." He walked forward and took Hinata in his arms. "Welcome home. Naruto, you look well." He clasped hands with the teen and cupped his neck fondly. "I suppose you're ready to eat?" He asked when Naruto's stomach growled. "Then let's go!"

"All right! Come on sweetheart!" Naruto pulled Hinata along behind him ready to finally fill his empty stomach.

Dinner was rambunctious affair full of laughter, camera flashes, a few fists and lots of love. They also discussed Naruto's abduction and the steps needed to keep it from happening again. Naruto promised not to go all super ninja on them again without a warning first and although he'd worried them, he told them that it had been worth it. He felt better than ever having let off some steam. He even told them about what had happened with him and the fox. That reassured them the most – that boy and fox spirit were getting along. Also that the fox was helping out in other ways than just healing Naruto's wounds.

Naruto and Hinata headed back to his place late that evening with their family watching and waving goodnight. The dinner and the company, their family had enjoyed themselves and planned on making more nights like this, something they would do often.

Morning came and Hinata and Naruto met Takeshi outside the apartment and walked with him to join the others for breakfast. "Dad wants to meet with us later, seems he wants to talk about our behavior the other day." Naruto said. "He seemed alright with it last night but, well I suppose most kids would get some kind of punishment for acting up and we did a hell of a lot more than that!" He grimaced.

"Huh, punished." Takeshi said then grinned. "So I'm already being treated like family?" It made him happy.

"Check him out." Naruto said to Hinata. "He doesn't know Dad at all. He'll find just the right thing to make us regret it and make sure we never do it again. Poor fool!" Naruto shook his head only making Takeshi laugh.

"It seems only right. The others received their punishment and now we'll have our own. Do you know what Lady Tsunade decided?" Takeshi asked as he adjusted the sword on his hip.

"Nah, they wouldn't tell me said it could wait until we were back here. Guess we'll find out over breakfast." Naruto crossed his arms trying to image a punishment that would keep ninjas in line.

Hinata linked her fingers behind her back. "I'll be thinking about you guys. All of you being punished but me!" She blinked innocently up at them. "I'm just so sweet and innocent; I would never do anything to get punished for!" She laughed deeply as Naruto stopped and glared at her.

"Oh really? And what would Father say if I told him about some of your, umm risqué behavior?" Naruto raised an eyebrow and looked down at her.

Hinata's mouth hung open. "You wouldn't dare! You'd be in trouble too!" Hinata gripped his shirt.

Naruto shook his head. "But I'm the innocent party – it was all your idea and your actions!" It was his turn to look innocent.

Takeshi watched this interchange with interest his mind taking him down many roads.

Hinata pushed on Naruto's hard chest in mock disgust. "I was just teasing. Can't you take a joke?" She tried to look hurt.

Naruto pulled her back and gave her a smacking kiss then a sharp slap on her behind. "So was I and that's your punishment!" He laughed and ran the rest of the way to the restaurant with an embarrassed Hinata on his heels. Takeshi hurried behind not willing to miss a moment of fun with those two.

The topic still didn't come up until everyone was done eating and drinking tea or coffee. Kankuro slammed his cup down on the table and looked at them in sympathy but also humor. "You guys fucked yourselves." He laughed but broke off when Temari smacked him in the head.

"Don't listen to him. Just think of all the training and new jutsus you'll learn in the meantime." Temari looked at Shikamaru who didn't look too concerned in fact he just shrugged. "You do want to move up don't you?"

It was on the tip of his tongue to say no but her eyes narrowed threateningly. "Yeah, yeah I could." He said quickly then frowned when Choji laughed at him.

"Neji," Hinata reached out a hand for her brother. "I'm so sorry, I know you were planning on testing soon."

Neji shook his head. "It couldn't be helped Hinata. We did what we thought was right and this is the outcome." He looked over at Temari who was staring sternly at Shikamaru. "It's as Temari said – I'll just be a lot stronger in a year's time." And he believed this, he would not waste time being sorry for himself. "You and Naruto will move on ahead of us."

Hinata started to respond but Naruto grunted. He was sitting with his arms folded across his chest and his head down. "It's an effect punishment. As Hokage, Mama had to humble you and show you your place and she did that by sending you all back to the academy as assistants to the sensei and part of the janitorial staff. Then she's making you wait one year before you can test to be ranked Jonin. Then there's Kiba, you have to retake a few of the classes with the kids and all your missions for the next six months will all be Genin level plus the stuff everyone has got to do. Damn she's good." There was admiration in his voice for what his mother had done but his eyes conveyed his pain at what they were being denied for protecting him. "I'm sorry."

"It is only right." Gaara spoke for Naruto's sake. "You must learn this for one day it will be your job." The Kazekage said to the next Hokage.

"I know, I know but I'm still sorry you guys." He leaned forward over the table. "But only Hinata will be the one to move forward." Naruto stopped when she and everyone else asked why in surprise. "Training. I've got to train more and control the fox's chakra. It may take me a year or more and as a Jonin I'd be sent on more missions and wouldn't have the extra time needed to train." He sighed. "It may be years before I reach Jonin."

Gaara took a sip of tea. "I understand. You are right. More will come for you, the Akatsuki have my spirit already. You must become stronger Naruto." His quiet voice held them all still.

Hinata looked from one to the other then smiled. "He will be strong and I'll help him. Don't forget – we train together Naruto. I too will wait a year. We're all one aren't we?" She looked around the table and the solemn expressions cleared. They could only do so much on their own – had to do some things that way but as friends, teammates and fellow shinobi – they were one.

"It seems I will be the last to be anything." Takeshi said with a smile. "I plan to ask your mother if I can be a Konoha shinobi. I suppose I will be the eldest student ever! We can go to classes together Kiba." He laughed.

"Are you sure that's wise? We know the Akatsuki want Bijuu and even though the phoenix is not a tailed-beast, they may come after you for her power. It would be safer for you to live as you have and escape their attention." Gaara's eyes looked at the man. He had about four years on the youngest of them there yet he fit in so easily. Gaara envied that.

Takeshi brought up a hand to stroke his jaw. "That is true. The life I've led has been fairly quiet and only a few souls know of the phoenix. I have been safe living as I have but I've also been alone. The phoenix and I have helped a few people in the past and I was glad to do so but with our power it wasn't enough. There's more I could do to make the world a better place – to ease the sufferings of man and that's what I want to do. Naruto, Sasuke and you Gaara all put your lives on the line for the people you care about. I've been without people to care for until I came here." His eyes appeared to glow as he looked at Gaara. "I'll take the chance of danger if it means I'm no longer alone and have people who I can call my family." Those eyes touched on Naruto and Hinata. "I'll become shinobi and fight by his side and for Konoha. This is the life I want." Takeshi was very serious about his vow but oh so happy as well and it was written all over his face.

"Welcome to Konohagakure and to the ninja corps my brother." Naruto held out his hand and clasped Takeshi's firmly.

"Just make sure you're on time to class. Don't want those babies to have a reason to pick on us do we?" Kiba said with a smile.

They laughed at that, friends for life.

Iruka met them on the roof of the academy. He was between classes but he still felt like a teacher looking at the two before him ready to discipline them. "You mother said this was my job since she took the others to task. We discussed it and she agrees with me. It's fitting considering all the damage you guys caused." They'd come home that way over the mountains and fear had rose up in him. Fear of such power in two young men then he'd looked at them and the fear left him.

Naruto had been smiling. Takeshi laughing and holding his stomach. He knew them both. One was his and the other was becoming a close friend. There was nothing to fear from either of them. They both deserved his respect but never fear.

"Starting Monday you will go back up that mountain and clean up the mess you made. All those trees will be turned into lumber and brought down the mountain and given to the builders. You will dig up the tree roots and plant seeds for ever tree you destroyed. You can't rebuild the mountain but you will stabilize any loose rocks and make it safe again for human and animal. You will do this as well as your normal training that only the two of you can do plus all the extra training your mother has step up for you. You, my boys will be very busy for the next few months!" Iruka smiled with his hands on his hips.

Naruto's mouth hung open then looked over at Takeshi as he dropped to the floor. "I told you didn't I? He's making us regret it. Dad! When will I get to see Hinata?!"

Iruka shrugged and grinned. "I'm sure you'll come up with something." He moved forward and patted his son's jaw then Takeshi's head. "You have the rest of the week and weekend free – I suggest you enjoy it." He laughed as he walked away. Naruto was scowling and Takeshi looked shocked.

"Naruto? How do you make lumber? Is swinging an ax anything like wielding a sword?" Takeshi blinked up at him.

Naruto slapped his own face and dropped hard to the ground. "Oh brother!"

"So you guys are heading home in a few days. I'll miss you." Naruto sat under a tree whose leaves were just changing colors.

"Yeah, even though it's getting colder Dad's still got lots of work. He he'll be busy right up until the first snowfall." Koji looked down at Naruto. He tried to see the fun loving guy he'd known before but the ninja was so much more apparent now. "Am I ever going to know your secret Naruto? You were kidnapped and when you guys left us it was because someone was after you. Your dad was scared, really scared. What is it about you that makes people come after you?" Koji clenched his fist as it rested on his upraised knee. He looks like any ordinary guy – any ordinary ninja.

Naruto let out a long sigh and looked up the red and yellow leaves. "Do you seriously want to know? Look at what happened to you and your family last time and those guys just wanted to know where I was." He turned his head to look up at his friend. "It's not safe for anyone outside of the village to know. You guys don't have any way to protect yourselves. In all honesty, it might be best if you kept your distance from me. I don't want you to be used as a pawn to get to me." He stared at Koji a moment longer before turning his eyes to the training field before him. In the distance some kids were training in taijutsu. "I admit you're as close to me as any of my friends here but you're a civilian. I would like to tell you Koji but I'd worry about you. It's just not the right time. Until I've become a better ninja, it's just not safe for you to know. You see in order to stand up to these people I'll have to get a lot stronger than I am now. I've got so much to learn…" A frown crossed Naruto's face as he thought of all he didn't know. His body tensed as if in preparation to fight.

Naruto was fierce, he was determined and he cared. "It's unfair as hell! I can be trusted Naruto! I won't betray you!" The giant Koji jumped up to his feet and yelled down at Naruto.

He blinked up at Koji. "And I won't see you dead because of me." Naruto stood. "If this means I lose you as a friend then so be it. You've got a nice, normal life back home. Parents and friends and I won't have them blaming me if something happens to you. Curse me or hate me I really don't care but you'll be alive and safe Koji. Don't you see I'm trying to protect you? Would you rather I forbid you from leaving Konoha? Make you and your parents move here away from your home?" His eyes turned cruel. "You want to know so damn bad then that's what it will cost you! So Koji are you still so quick to give up your life for knowing my secret?!" He backed the taller boy into the tree.

Koji's breath was coming fast. He'd seen them fighting or training and knew just how much damage Naruto could do but that intensity had never been directed his way. He was taller but Naruto, the ninja could break him in two. In truth, Naruto scared him.

"Say something!" Naruto pushed him. "Go home or leave your home forever, that's your choice Koji!"

"You're always showing me a different side to you Naruto. I never know who you'll be but each one is you isn't it? I only knew a small bit of the person named Uzumaki Naruto, didn't I? This one is cruel and frightening but you're only doing it because you're scared for me." Koji closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened his eyes he grabbed Naruto's shoulders. "I'll go home in ignorance but you damn well better keep in touch and anything changes for the better – you will tell me! I demand to know! As your friend, I have a right to know!" He yelled stubbornly.

Naruto broke his hold easily and gripping his arm brought Koji to his knees. "Making demands of the future Hokage isn't very smart." His words were chillier than the wind that blew pulling leaves from their homes and sending them off to unknown places. "You've only seen the good ninja can do but we often have to be cruel and even kill. And yes I have." Naruto confirmed the question in Koji's eyes if Naruto had killed and saw him swallow hard. Seeing true fear in Koji's eyes, Naruto thought he'd finally gotten through to his friend. He released him and his hard face became easy again. "I'll always call you friend Koji and I will write when I can and visit too. There will be missions and maybe one of them will take me your way. That's as much as I'm willing to give, I hope it's enough." He held out a hand to help Koji to his feet.

Koji took the hand of friendship warily. Naruto's hand was warm and strong as it pulled him up. "Sorry for being an ass. Yeah it's enough, it's enough Naruto. I guess being friends with a ninja takes some getting used to. Dad tried to warn me." Koji shook his head and wiped sweat from his brow. "Sometimes you gotta know when to step back and trust in your friend – that's what he said."

"I knew I liked your dad." Naruto looked up at Koji with a touch of regret. He did want to share his secret but with the way things had been going lately, he didn't want Koji in the middle of it. A bell sounded in the distance. "Ah shit! I'm supposed to meet Takeshi at the lumber yard in a few minutes. We'll hook up tonight for dinner okay?" Naruto pulled him into a brief hug before running off with his arms behind him and in seconds was gone.

Koji watched fascinated at how fast he could move then looked down at his hand. It was large much like his father's and there was strength in it then he looked up after Naruto. "You got your parents late and I know there was a problem in your life when you came to the city but what is it that makes you so damn strong Naruto?" He looked down at his hand again and imagined Naruto's swallowing it.

"Pain." Gaara suddenly appeared next to Koji making the tall teen jump. His dark rimmed eyes never once looked at Koji but after Naruto. "Hate, neglect, abuse, death threats and all before he knew his own name."

Koji was shaking. Gaara looked no more than a child next to him but looks were deceiving. If he'd been shocked to learn that Naruto's mother was the Hokage, he was absolutely floored to learn that a guy even younger than Naruto was Kazekage – leader of a whole village! The power and respect the teenager commanded couldn't be ignored. "Kazekage! You-you know Naruto's secret?" But how? I thought it known only to those in Konoha.

"Because his secret is mine – in this we are the same." Arms folded Gaara cut his eyes to the teen for one brief second before staring back at the academy. "We fought to the death once and because of Naruto's love for his friends he was able to beat me. …When I saw the depth of his…love I knew I wanted the same and I worked hard to change. My people noticed and now I try everyday to care for each of them the way he would." Gaara turned to face Koji. "Be grateful you even know him. Don't cause him any more pain – he's had enough." He held the older teen's stare for a full minute before leaving and not making a sound on the leaves beneath his feet.

"S-su-sure." Koji stuttered blinking. They have shared pasts? They fought to the…death and Naruto won?! The Kage was supposed to be the most powerful ninja of the village and Naruto beat him?! Curiosity and fear warred inside him but fear won out. He'd give Naruto space as he'd asked for and forget the rest. "We're about the same damn age but - I'm outta my league here! Damn…" Koji knew his life would never be the same, after being in Konoha all this time, going home and back to his life would seem dull. Naruto had changed him; he was a different person now. "I have to do more, work hard and show Naruto that I'm man enough to considered one of his friends. I can't slack off not like before when he and everyone around him works so desperately to be better than they were the day before!" He couldn't be a ninja nor did he want to but he'd work harder than ever before and make his own dreams come true. "I only hope I can accomplish half as much as Naruto." Slowly he made his way back to their hotel wanting to talk to his dad about his future.

Tsunade was hosting another dinner but the kids weren't invited, they weren't even told. She and Iruka had decided they needed to discuss Naruto's future with those others who loved him. He was their son now but he had many influences outside of his parents and none no more so than Kakashi, Jiraiya and Hiashi.

At first they acted as if it were just a meeting of friends. Discussing fellow ninja friends, the fate of the Yamanakas and how the village as a whole was doing after the recent intrusion. Talking about the recent baby boom and how more were on the way keeping Konoha growing. Eventually they moved away from the table into the sitting area with sake, tea and coffee.

"I want to take him away for a few months and begin his training. It would be better to remove him from the distraction of friends and his lovely fiancée." Jiraiya said.

"Hinata wants a spring wedding, he'll have to be back by then." Hiashi said with a frown. "Though I doubt either of them will want to be parted for any length of time. Couldn't you train Naruto here?"

"He's been attacked twice now, once by Orochimaru's goons and then by some no name ninjas out to make a quick buck." Jiraiya lit his pipe then blew out a stream of smoke. "And it's no coincidence that the Kazekage showed up. His Anbu have heard rumors that the Akatsuki are making inquires in neighboring lands trying to find their next target. Gaara came to warn us. Naruto's not next but if they're on the move then it's all the more reason to train him to protect himself – away from here. I don't like separating the couple but if he wants to survive to marry her…" The thought hung in the air.

"I think he should go, as soon as possible. I still remember seeing Gaara's body after they'd sucked the Bijuu out of him. I don't want that happening to Naruto." Kakashi said first meeting Iruka's gaze then Tsunade's. His hand clenched into a fist as he thought of the extra training he would do in order to better protect not only Naruto but everyone he cared about.

Iruka cupped his hands around his tea and stared down at his reflection in the liquid. "He'd be gone for over half a year. Can you really teach him enough in that time?" Iruka's head snapped up to stare at the Sannin. "There's more isn't there, more he has to learn? There's no way you can accomplish much in that short a time! I don't want my son to be gone for any length of time but…maybe you should teach him all of it and don't come back until he learns it." He finished softly pain written all over his face.

Hiashi took a long drink of his sake. "Then you'll have to take Hinata or at least have her join up with you at some point. If it takes years to train him, as much as I'll miss her – I won't have them kept apart for that long. Shinobi families are often put through hell and missions part us often enough. These two love so deeply and I don't think time and distance will affect their love but I see no reason they can't be happy either. Hinata will work hard, of this I'm sure. Please Master Jiraiya take care of her." Hiashi bowed his head and pleaded.

Tsunade poured more sake and drank it down. "No." That got their attention. "No as his mother and no as the Hokage." She looked at Iruka and smiled to see hope on his face. "I think he should go for with Jiraiya but only for six months. You forget how determined he is, Naruto will learn much especially since he'll want to come home to Hinata."

Jiraiya let out a sigh of relief, one teen tagging along was bad enough but two and a couple at that – he'd never get any action! "Right, right – look how quickly he learned the Rasengan! In some ways he's a genius!" He laughed too loudly as he nodded his head. Nobody was fooled and paid the old man no attention.

"I want him home but isn't better he learn everything at once?" Iruka asked.

"It would be too much and besides we have to tell him who he really is and where all the new jutsu is coming from." Tsunade let out a shuddering breath. "It's your decision too but let's let him train and learn to control the fox's chakra then let him come home and get married. He'll need Hinata. If-if he doesn't hate us for not telling him sooner…then we can discuss letting them go away and learn the rest of his father's jutsus." Tsunade looked at the men with a weak smile. "I'm scared." She admitted.

Jiraiya got up and went to stand behind her chair. His strong hands clasped her shoulders. "I am too but we had to wait until he was old enough. Naruto's a lot more mature now. Who knew you'd fall for the kid so hard? Hell I love him too…sometimes I think I'm with Minato, they're so alike. He may be mad at first but you're his mother, the only one he's ever known. Naruto's big heart will forgive us." He leaned his face down to hers and pressed them together.

Surprised Tsunade jerked but then settled into the embrace and took the comfort her oldest friend gave her. She looked over at Iruka and Hiashi. "What do you think?"

Hiashi spoke when Iruka remained silent. "Yes, I agree. There's much Naruto has to learn but having to deal with it all at once might drive him away from us. They should marry and let them be a couple for a while before we tell him the rest." Still it will be hard on my daughter not to see him for six months. Oh Hinata, you'll have to be strong, so strong for him and yourself.

"I'm still worried about the Akatsuki. Waiting would be ideal but dare we?" Iruka finally said as he got up to pace. "I don't want Naruto caught off guard! As powerful as Gaara was he was unable to keep himself from being taken by them!" His brown eyes were anxious as he looked at his friends. "I've cared about him the longest. I've watched him grow up. I don't want….I don't want to lose him because we made the wrong decision!" He yelled then hit the wall.

Tsunade got up and went to him. She put her hands around him and lay her head on his back. "We can't hold onto him Iruka, he'll pull away if we don't give him the space he needs. We just got him too late." Her tears wet his shirt and she gladly stepped into him when he turned around. "This last attempt and my inability to go save him made me realize that. We love him and he just has to come back safe and sound. Besides the final decision is his anyway, he has to want to improve." She listened to Iruka's heartbeat.

Iruka held her tightly and laid his head on hers. "He'll go, it'll kill him to leave her but he'll go. Naruto wants only to protect us and training with Jiraiya will make him stronger." He said flatly as he looked at Jiraiya. "You'd better bring him back to us old man."

"Of course I will." Jiraiya promised then turned to look out the window up at the Fourth's face carved in stone. "I'd never let anything happen Naruto – he's my second chance." He said quietly.

"It's going to be a dull winter without Naruto around." Kakashi said as he propped his mask-covered chin on his palm. "Not to mention my team will be a man short. Maybe Takeshi can fill in from time to time." The guy needed some experience after all.

"Possibly." Tsuande said as she pulled back and placed a soft hand against Iruka's cheek before kissing it gently. "No doubt Sasuke will be jealous as hell that Naruto get's to be trained by Jiraiya – work closely with him Kakashi. Sakura still has much to learn as well, your missions will be cut back to doing only those necessary. And there's still their punishments anyway." She spun around to look at Iruka. "Naruto too! It'll be at least a few months before he's done cleaning and seeding the mountain. We'll have him for a little while longer." The thought lightened her heart and she smiled thinking of all she would do to spend as much time with him as she could.

They all took their seats again as the emotion wound down now that a decision no matter how undesirable had been reached. No one had much to say as they finished their drinks. It wasn't until the stars were bright in the sky that Hiashi spoke up again.

"Is everything set for Saturday?"

Tsunade smiled and nodded. "Oh yes. Satoshi was a big help. The man certainly knows his work. He was able to help the master builder with the plans and though it's temporary now – it will be useable and when Naruto returns it will be complete." She showed some excitement now as she imagined Naruto's face.

"Will you be trying it out?" Iruka laughed.

"Me?! Oh no! Not on your life! Did you try Jiraiya?" Tsuande asked eagerly.

"Him?" Kakashi laughed. "I bet he was too busy chasing after women!"

"How'd you know?" Iruka asked deadpan.

"At least I was doing more that you would have! I know my book's great but you should try living it instead of just reading it! Look what it did for Naruto!" Jiraiya cackled knowingly.

"Oh? I think I'll go get a copy and see for myself what Naruto knows. Maybe Naruto won't be marrying my daughter!" Hiashi said jauntily.

"Umm, no! Don't do that! I was just kidding Hiashi – Lord Hyuga! Ha, ha just the ramblings of an old man. Please don't – Naruto would KILL ME!" Jiraiya was half out of his seat as he put up his hands in prayer begging Hiashi.

The mood shifted and the adults that loved Naruto spent the rest of the evening laughing and reminiscing putting Naruto's departure and their worry aside.

"Why do you have to take him away to train?" Sasuke voiced the question first before anyone else could. "Naruto can train right here with us." The dark haired teen said standing to face Jiraiya moving before Naruto as if to protect him.

They were at the academy. Next week they would begin working there and earlier they'd been given the rundown on their responsibilities. As they were about to leave, Tsunade and Jiraiya showed up and made the announcement.

"To protect him and keep him focused. There's been one attack too many and he's too involved in all your lives – you'll distract him. It will take twice as long if we stayed." Jiraiya answered with his arms crossed as he stared back at Sasuke.

"Naruto?" Tsunade asked. She and Iruka stood together waiting on his reaction.

He'd joined the group on a whim and brought Takeshi with him to show him around. The young man would indeed need to attend the academy but was only expected to have to do maybe six months or so. In no way did anyone think he'd need a year to learn what it took to be a ninja, besides Takeshi had a lot of life experience and the previous weeks of training with Team 7 to back him up.

Almost as soon as the words left his mother's mouth, he'd reached for Hinata. They stood now looking at each other. He brought up a hand to brush it through her hair. Naruto could see the tremor in his hand and he blinked several times as he stared into the lavender light of his life. "I don't want to go."

"But you will." Hinata's voice was a whisper as tears left her eyes. She caught his hand, kissed the palm then held it to her cheek. "I'm so going miss you!" Hinata gave in and collapsed against him.

Naruto lifted her off her feet as he held her. He spoke into Hinata's hair and nodded. "I'll go."

"Naruto…" Sasuke complained then sighed knowing it was a lost cause. He'd tried to die to protect them and if Jiraiya's training could keep that from happening… "Dammit!" He folded his arms and stalked to a window unable to stand watching his brother cry.

Iruka and Tsunade went to the couple. "It's only six months son. You were gone almost that long when you were looking for your mother and look at what you learned." Iruka's voice broke as he gripped Naruto's shoulders.

"We'll plan your wedding while he's gone Hinata. It will be the wedding to remember. You, me, Hanabi, Sakura and Tenten, think of all the fun we'll have. The moment he comes home – you'll be his wife. Shh, don't cry." Tsunade tried to give them something to look forward to but Hinata's tears wouldn't stop. She too held Hinata as she cried.

"Let's go." Shikamaru said. "We'll see you guys tomorrow." He said though he doubted any of them heard. The pain of separation hit him hard for Temari would be going home Sunday. With her on his mind, Shikamaru left the academy almost at run.

The others followed him out silently leaving Jiraiya, Takeshi, Sasuke and the two crying couples. After a while Hinata's sobs lessened and she reached out a hand for Iruka who clasped her hand. "Wh-when?"

"Not for a while yet." Iruka cleared his throat. "He and Takeshi still have to clear that mountain, make it safe again, that should take a while. I'm so sorry Hinata! We don't want him to go either."

Naruto lifted his head and let it fall back onto his father's shoulder. "This shit sucks." He said with no heat. "Sorry Mama but it does." His eyes were closed and his tears rolled back into his hair. Feeling a light slap on his cheek, Naruto let out a watery laugh. "I said sorry."

Her fingers stroked over his strong jaw. "You're taller than me and turning into a man so quickly." Tsunade sighed. "I love you my baby boy."

Naruto opened his eyes and turned his head into his father's neck so that he could see his mother's wet hazel eyes. "I love you too Mama. Dad, you too." Another light laugh as Iruka cupped his forehead and gave him a smacking kiss on the head. He saw Sasuke still staring out the window, a statue. "And my moody brother. Sasuke – don't turn back into an ass while I'm gone okay?"

That got a bark of laughter out of Sasuke. "How about I take your place as village idiot?" Sasuke looked over at him still held between his parents. "If you don't come back stronger, I'm going kick your ass so damn bad the only part of you I'll leave alone is your face! I'll leave something for Hinata to look at because the rest of you will be in bandages!"

"I'll whup the old pervert before I'm done." Naruto promised.

"You will try and fail puppy!" Jiraiya said roughly for his tears were caught in his throat.

"We'll need to intensify our training before you leave Naruto." Takeshi said quietly. He too was feeling lost even though Naruto had yet to leave. To him, Naruto was family and to be without him so suddenly after having gotten used to seeing him every day was going to be hard to say the least.

"Takeshi…" Naruto knew what he was feeling and it tore at him. "It wasn't so damn hard last time. I didn't have you guys – at least not like this." He took a huge breath trying not to cry anymore.

"We'll live." Hinata said finally raising her head. She framed his face. "As long as we know you're safe – we'll be okay so send word okay? I'll stay at your place I think. I was there most of the time anyway while you were gone." She kissed his chin. "And don't worry about Sasuke and Takeshi, I'll keep an eye on them for you, keep them out of trouble and from fighting – sibling rivalry and all that." She winked at the boys when Sasuke scowled and Takeshi looked embarrassed. Hinata looked back at Naruto and kissed his nose. "I don't know if I can let you go right now." The love in his blue eyes threatened to drown her and she wanted that particular death.

Sasuke wanted to talk to Naruto and it looked as Takeshi did too but Hinata need to be with him now. They still had time, he could wait. "Okay, let's go." Sasuke grabbed Takeshi's ponytail as he walked by. "We'll be by your place by eight tomorrow Naruto. Umm, please be dressed." Sasuke blushed as he thought of possibly interrupting the couple.

"Huh? What's happening tomorrow? Sasuke!" Naruto called but his brothers were gone. "Mama?"

Tsunade just shook her head with a small smile. "Let's go get some ramen and then we'll let you two be alone." She moved to one side to kiss Hinata's forehead then lifted her face for Naruto to kiss her. "I know your friends will want to spend time with you but I hope you'll make time for your parents too." She finally stepped back and used both hands to wipe away her tears.

"He will – we will. We need to spend time together as a family. Dad and Hanabi will want to see you often I'm sure." Hinata did what she least wanted to do and that was let him go. "I'll go freshen up – be right back!" Hinata hurried away.

"What aren't you guys telling me?" Naruto wanted to know. "This came up all of a sudden didn't it?" Iruka was still behind him and Naruto turned to face his father. "Dad?"

Iruka's hands stuff themselves in his pockets and smiled softly at Naruto. "You're getting better at reading people son. Gaara said the Akatsuki are making a move on another of the Jinchuriki. You need to be ready Naruto or at least better prepared to face them and Jiraiya can help you do that."

Jiraiya stood staring at Naruto with no expression on his face. He almost looked like a statue since he was also unmoving. Every ounce of pain the boy had felt had cut him deeply but he had to be harsh, Naruto needed this training to survive.

"Six months isn't a long time. How am I going to learn enough in that amount of time to stand up to them?" Naruto's eyes weren't the brilliant blue they usually were but almost as dark as his cobalt shirt. He'd pushed away his pain of leaving Hinata, his parents and friends to a small part of his heart. "Are we even coming back at all?" Naruto's body hurt his muscles were so tight.

Jiraiya dropped his arms in shock. His sandals clicked against the floor as he went to Naruto. "I promise I'll bring you back Naruto. No six months isn't a long time and maybe after you're married I'll have to take you away again but I won't keep you from your family Naruto – never that." He shook Naruto for emphasis.

Ever so slowly Naruto unclenched his fists and gripped Jiraiya's arms in return. "Promise." It was a statement and a question and not until Jiraiya had promised him yet again did Naruto breathe easier. He went a little weak in the knees because if Jiraiya hadn't said that, he just may have taken Hinata and run away with her. A small separation he could handle no matter how alone it made him feel but to never come back – not possible. "Okay, okay we'll leave in a month then." Naruto said releasing Jiraiya and facing his parents again. "I'll leave Konoha in one month."

"That soon?" Hinata whispered from the doorway. She had a feeling she'd missed something important but hearing Naruto saying when he'd be leaving made her heart stop.

Naruto went to her immediately. He framed her lovely face. "The sooner I go, the quicker I can come back to you." He kissed her forehead then each eye and finally her mouth. It was barely a kiss just a brushing of lips enough to temp them both and make the most tender of connections. Naruto wrapped one arm around Hinata's waist then looked back at his family. "Let's go get that ramen then we're going home." He said squeezing Hinata.

"We don't have to Naruto." Iruka spoke up quickly. "You guys go on home, we understand." He looked to Tsunade and Jiraiya who both nodded.

"Nuh-uh. Time's precious. I need my parents now, you too Granddad while I still like you. I'm guessing after six months of your training, I'm not going to like being around you too much." Naruto laughed.

"Way to make an old man feel loved!" Jiraiya growled but he joined them with a smile.

They didn't make love that night only held each other. Quiet conversations as they lay in bed with heavy hearts. Naruto told her of his fears that Jiraiya might really be taking him away for good and how he'd been ready to run away with her first. Hinata had been so upset that she'd never even thought that and prayed the Sannin was telling the truth.

Hinata made the decision to move in with him and while he was delighted, Naruto wandered what Father Hiashi would have to say. They talked about looking for homes before he left and of course the wedding. Naruto wanted to be married the minute he stepped foot back in the village but Hinata wanted to give him time to rest first, at least a few days. As their eyes got heavy, they discussed names for their kids and they fell asleep facing each other wanting the last thing they saw was the other's beloved face.

Sasuke knocked hard on the door twice. "You guys decent?" He was trying out a new look. He was wearing clothes similar to Kakashi's but instead of the vest he had on a matching blue short jacket. It was time to start dressing warmly with the cold weather coming. He frowned thinking of Naruto training in harsh weather.

"Come on in!" Naruto yelled then raised an eyebrow at the clock. "You're early." He said as Sasuke followed by Takeshi entered the apartment. "Huh, different. That'll take some getting used to. Hey Takeshi. You guys want some tea? We were just about to start breakfast." Naruto was just filling the teapot and Hinata was moving to get more cups for them. She smiled at the guys.

Takeshi wore his normal black clothes but instead of short sleeves, his shirt also had long sleeves but it was styled the same way with the brilliant phoenix's colors of red and gold only his sword was missing. "No thank you. Hinata and Naruto don't bother, we're here to take you to breakfast." He smiled at their surprise.

"Oh so this is what you meant yesterday. Great! Do I get to pick?" Naruto grinned as Sasuke groaned.

"No ramen!" Sasuke complained and moved to look into Naruto's eyes. "You okay? Both of you?" He added looking to Hinata as she put the cups away.

Naruto paused and looked down for a moment. "Yeah we're okay but I'll tell you, the last thing I dreaded this bad was you guys finding out my secret." He sighed heavily then shook his head and looked back at Sasuke – his eyes bright once more. "I'm leaving everything in your hands big brother. Watch over my girl, make sure Mama doesn't work too hard and help Dad get closer to Mayu. Oh and Takeshi, Hinata's got some cousins she wants to introduce you to and I'll talk to Kurenai-sensei and see if she knows any available women your age. And both of need to train together – I expect both of you to be as good as me when I get back!" He clapped a heavy and on Sasuke's shoulder and nodded at Takeshi whose mouth had dropped open.

"He's determined to take care of us even though he won't be here. Just nod and say yes." Hinata laughed as Takeshi wiped some sweat off his forehead.

"Worry about yourself!" Sasuke scowled.

"You'd better get a move on too Sasuke. Lee's got his eye on Sakura and while she's been watching Takeshi, I don't think they'd make a good match. No offense Takeshi. But hey, if you like Sakura and Sasuke won't make a move – go for it!" He moved to Takeshi and gave him his nod of approval.

"Just shut up Idiot! Man, can we go now? Interfering, stupid little smart ass! You!" He pointed to Takeshi who looked nervous. "We'll talk later!" Sasuke stalked to the door and held it open. "Don't make me drag your ass out here Naruto!"

Naruto just shook his head and grabbed Hinata's hand. "I'm only trying to help him out and he gets all mad at me. Guess I shouldn't tell him about the list of other stuff I want him to do huh? You know that stuff to work on his personality so girls will like him for more than his looks."

Hinata laughed as Naruto took off running when Sasuke began to chase him. She took Takeshi's arm. "Don't worry about it too much. I promise to only introduce to the really nice girls! They'll fall big time for those golden eyes and your beautiful hair!" She teased as Takeshi said he only wanted to concentrate on his training and not women. She and Naruto had vowed to be as normal as possible and not think about his leaving. Teasing their family and friends seemed to make the pain less.

Everyone laughed as Naruto entered rubbing a sore spot on his head and cursing Sasuke for hitting him so hard. The Hyuga kitchen, dining room and front room were full of Naruto's friends. Hanabi kissed his booboo better then pulled Naruto over to the counter to help make the rice balls.

"Father." Hinata stepped into his arms.

"My daughter, are you…" He didn't finish for she nodded quickly. "Come help with the food." Hiashi kissed her head then pulled her into the chaos of everyone fixing their specialty for a weird mixture of foods but made with love and laughter.

"That was great guys! I wasn't expecting all of this!" Naruto burped loudly then blushed. "Sorry. We'll have to do this after we get our own place, uh sweetheart? Invite everybody over. It'll be a nice homecoming." Naruto finished quietly.

"Well, I might come back for that." Koji said moving to stand before Naruto and pulling him up out of his seat. "But our day's just getting started!"

"There's more?" Naruto looked around at everyone's pleased smiles. "What's going on? This isn't just because I'm leaving is it?" He didn't want too much fuss or it would make him dwell on leaving.

"Actually baby, it's a belated birthday party. Later tonight there will even be presents!" Tsuande said coming to his side and wiping some rice from his face.

Blues disappeared then reappeared several times. "But we did that at the academy when I got adopted. There's no reason to do this now. Come on guys, I don't need a party. This is fine right here." Naruto gestured to everyone around him.

"So stubborn. We want to give you a birthday party and that's that!" Iruka tousled his hair. "And while we did celebrate, I'm sorry to say we forgot your birthday so this is to keep us from guilty now enjoy it!" He put his son in a headlock. "Or I'll just tickle you into submission!"

Naruto laughed. "That's not a good idea Dad! Remember what happened the last time you tickled me after I'd eaten too much!" He was laughing as if he was being tickled as he thought back to that time.

"Oh man, that's right!" Iruka laughed too. "I think you burned away some of my nose hairs with that stuff!" He let Naruto go and covered his mouth and nose as if to stop the smell from months ago. Everyone else groaned then laughed as they got it.

"So that's what happened!" Jiraiya yelled. "I should've guessed. It took a whole day for the room to air out!" He fanned the air in front of his nose as if he could still smell it.

Naruto just shrugged then stuck out his tongue. "Whatever! Okay, okay we'll party and I really like the idea of presents." He wiggled his eyebrows but inside he was truly excited. A party and presents for him – a first. Impulsively he scooped up his mother and spun her around. "Thanks Mama!"

"Hey what about us? We helped plan it too!" Iruka said jerking his head at Hiashi, hands on his hips.

"Yo Dad!" Naruto glomped him then eyed Hiashi who was backing away. "Father!" Naruto did the same to the lord who acted like he was being attacked and yelled for Hanabi to save him.

"Alright Idiot, calm down." Sasuke said then went red when he too got glomped. "NARUTO! Geez…" He put his hand on Naruto's face and pushed him away. "If you'll stop acting the fool – Koji was trying to tell you something."

" Kobi ? Mwhat?" Sasuke jerked away his hand as Naruto talked into it. Naruto grinned and looked up. "Junior Giant, fill me in." He was happy and Naruto was sure it showed.

Koji shook his head at the nickname. "I was going to say we're going to do a repeat of the day you spent with us. Nothing but fun all day long ending up at the Hokage's for dinner and presents! This will also be like a going away party for us since we're leaving the next day. So Naruto, ready to show your friends how we did it back home?" Koji was happy and sad to be going home but his need to have fun and show Naruto a good time took precedence.

"Absolutely." Naruto said taking Koji's hand I a firm grip telling him he was going to miss him. "Let's show them how it's done." Naruto looked all around him feeling the love. "Sweetheart, let's go play!" He held out a hand for Hinata.

Soccer to start where at first it was a serious game then lapsed into nonsense when Naruto added several clones to make sure his team won. Then to Naruto's surprise one street had been blocked off for a small festival for him. Anyone could come and did but were warned that if there was trouble – it meant automatic jail time. That wasn't all. Tsunade had closed all the village gates and doubled the guards. Ibiki joined the group and he brought a few disguised Anbu to keep away any troublemakers. Naruto's mother was going to be sure nothing bad happened on this day or there would be hell to pay.

But she worried for no reason. Naruto laughed and smiled all day. He won prizes for his girls – her, Hinata and Hanabi. Hinata got a stuffed fox that she knew she'd be sleeping with when he was gone. He and Sasuke competed at a skills contest for a box of shuriken and Sasuke laughed in Naruto's face when he won. At the eating contest, yes Choji won. Naruto just walked by the Go board when he saw Shikamaru sit down but Asuma and Kakashi gave it a whirl. Shikamaru won but it was a close game with Kakashi. There was a three-legged race with Iruka and father and son tied with Hiashi and Neji. Hinata loved that one – seeing her father rushing about laughing as Neji pulled him along. She proved to have the steadiest hand when it came to catching goldfish and she even beat Neji at target shooting – her eyes proved better at tracking a moving object.

Kankuro put on a puppet show of Gaara rescuing Naruto from a failed mission all the while making his brother the hero and Naruto the hapless ninja. Temari determined not to be outdone by Shikamaru, kicked ass on the Shogi board. Gaara mostly just wandered about and watched but by the end of the day he had a mountain of prizes which nobody saw him win.

Naruto got Tsunade to join in one of the silly races like holding a egg on a spoon against the other Kunoichi. She won with Shizune coming in second. Of course she cheated a little stomping the ground just as the gun went off making one or two drop their eggs. Naruto laughed and cheered for her.

There were food booths so they didn't have to stop the fun for lunch but as the fall sun was dipping Naruto was blindfolded and led down another street. He could feel he was inside a building and wondered what his parents had come up with this time. "You guys aren't trying to trick me or something right?" Naruto was curious as he heard excited voices talking behind him. They never mentioned where he was but they sounded anxious to do whatever was coming next. "What is it?"

Satoshi removed the blindfold. "This way you'll think of us when you're here. Happy Birthday Naruto – The Uzumaki Skating Rink!"

"Whoa." He whispered. It wasn't completely finished but the rink was done and the railing. Makeshift tables and chairs were set out and there would be a place for arcade games, a small kitchen to one side even a dance floor for those who didn't want to skate. "This is…mine? My rink?" Naruto could feel tears in his eyes but smiled widely when Satoshi, Iruka and Tsunade all nodded to him. "You guys are THE BEST! Shadow Clone Jutsu!" Soon there were twenty Naruto's. Ten glomped Satoshi and the rest divvied out between his parents, Oriana and Koji.

When there was just one Naruto again he spotted the boxes of skates. He was soon passing them out and urging everyone to put them on. They kept this party private. The rest to the village would be allowed in once it was finished.

"Sweetheart, you're a natural!" Naruto said in awe as Hinata skated as if she'd been doing it all her life.

"Wow, this is fun!" She laughed skating along smoothly then tried to turn around and almost fell but Naruto caught her. "I'll have to learn how to turn and stop!" She held on to him as they rolled. All round them people were laughing and rolling and falling. "So this is how you spent some of your time away, I'm glad you had fun Naruto and that you found such good friends like Koji and Satoshi." Music was being played on somebody's portable, something upbeat but the two of them skated slowly.

"Yeah, they're really great but I never expected they would build me a skating rink! I don't know how to thank them." He spotted the giant holding a worried looking Oriana in his arms as he skated around the rink. Oriana refused put on skates so this was his way of showing her how fun it was. "If she doesn't kill him first. Hey Gaara! No fair man – use skates!" Gaara was in the rink but sand beneath his feet moved him along gracefully. Gaara just smiled then skated over to his sister and Shikamaru who mysteriously fell when some sand got into his wheels. Hinata and Naruto did fall then from laughing.

Tsunade looked at them with pleasure. There was so much her son had endured, still had to endure. She was glad to give him a day of normalcy. "Is everything ready back at the house?" She questioned Shizune as the young woman joined her looking curiously at the skaters.

"Yes my lady – they're just waiting on us." She spoke of the people preparing the food. Shizune had seen people skating before but had never tried it herself.

"Good, we'll spend another hour or so here so go and enjoy yourself!" Tsunade pushed her assistant over toward the skates. "Just don't break anything!"

Only hungry bellies got the kids out of the rink. At the Hokage's it was as it had been at Satoshi's, a buffet table filled with treats from all the best restaurants the village had to offer. Outside there was a grill for fish, eel and steaks. There were balloons and streamers and large a cake.

Naruto expressed his thanks with hugs for everybody. He ate and ate, laughed and shared stories of other things he'd done with Koji's family. Never could he have imagined a better time with everyone he cared about.

He got scrolls on strategy and a mini Go board from Shikamaru. Choji gave him several coupons to different eating places. Tenten gave him new shuriken and kunai and Naruto lorded this over Sasuke's head. Lee gave a set of leg weights and warmers and a smile to blind him. Neji gave him a framed picture of him and Hinata taken at the last party before Ino messed things up. Shino's gift was twofold. He provided Naruto with a notebook full of facts about insects since Naruto had expressed a wish to learn about them then gave him a pair of shades similar to his own. Kiba promised to help Naruto with his tracking skills as his gift. Sakura gave him a set of basic medical scrolls and a first aid kit, even if he didn't need them himself he might need them for someone else. Sasuke gave him two scrolls but wouldn't allow him to open them at the party only when he was alone or with Hinata.

"Maybe you'll show me something in six months." Was all he would say making everyone extremely curious.

Kakashi apologized and said his gift wasn't quite ready yet but Naruto could expect it soon. Tsunade gave him several disposable cameras for him and Jiraiya to use and promised to take him shopping for some warmer clothes. Iruka gave him blank scrolls so that he could write home – often and a personalized leather pouch to keep them in. Jiraiya gave Naruto a marvelous cloak in cobalt and gold. The gold was an intricate design along the collar, down the front and along the hem. Inside there were several places to store many of the gifts he'd been given. There was also an advanced copy of his newest book which Kakashi begged Naruto to give to him and Tsunade tried to destroy. Hanabi gave her second favorite big brother the latest volume of his favorite manga. Hiashi gave Naruto a set of books about the previous Hokage and their great deeds. Takeshi apologized saying his gift was not yet ready but hoped Naruto would accept two hand carved statuettes. One was of a Nine-Tailed fox and the other was Hinata, of her head and shoulders. Naruto was speechless. The polished wood glowed and looked exactly the two beings he shared his life with. He told Takeshi he needed no other gift and clasped his hand warmly.

He also received movie passes, a new green spandex jumpsuit, another small game board - Shogi and a month's worth of free ramen. Of course Teuchi made the rest of them to promise to visit a lot so he could make up the difference when Naruto returned home! Naruto received a multitude of gifts, so much so that he was going to need help getting it all home. The only person he didn't get a gift from was Hinata.

"I'm sorry Naruto, I didn't know or…" She shushed when he kissed her lips.

"I got you – that all I ever really wanted." Naruto laughed at her pink cheeks.

"Then we both got the same thing." Hinata said hugging him.

"Yeah and I'll forgive how you did it too – using that new jutsu of yours." Mischievous was all that could be said about Naruto as he spoke these words. Several people had always wondered just what finally woke up Naruto to Hinata's feelings but both had kept it a very close secret.

"TELL US, TELL US NARUTO! MAYBE I CAN LEARN FROM HINATA AND CATCH THE WOMAN I WANT!" Lee begged his eyes huge as he looked from the couple to Sakura.

Hiashi, Neji and Hanabi were instantly curious to learn of a new jutsu. "You have created a new jutsu Hinata? Please tell us what it is and how works. What does it have to do with Naruto?"

"Did you help her create this jutsu Naruto?" Neji asked and wondered why Hinata had never shown it to them after all this time.

"HUSH NARUTO! STOP IT! DON'T YOU DARE!!!!" Hinata's face and neck were beet read as she covered Naruto's mouth with both her hands.

There was doubt written on many faces but curious questions were being thrown at the couple. Naruto's muted laughter filled the room. He gently grabbed Hinata's wrists and held them behind her back making her body flush with his. "What's wrong sweetheart? Don't you want to share this with our friends and family?" Oh his smile was to die for, you couldn't help but smile with him and wish to be that happy.

"Naruto…if you tell – none – until you come back!" Hinata whispered harshly into his ear.

"Threatening me?" He whispered back. "Oh now it's on." Naruto looked directly at Lord Hiashi. He only laughed harder as Hinata hid her face in his neck and bit him. "Well of course she uses the Byakugan," He chuckled as Lee groaned and his shoulders slumped. "But after that it's a little hard to explain, after all how do you explain love?" Naruto's voice changed and he let go her wrists to raise Hinata's chin. "The Byakugan filled with all the love in her heart. What man could resist that? I named it the Jutsu of Love. That's how it went, right sweetheart?" His smile was gentle and his eyes were full of laughter and love.

"You are so bad! It's a good thing I do love you!" Hinata threw her arms around his neck and held on tight when he lifted her to his lips.

"The Jutsu of Love? I like it. I will definitely add it the list of Hyuga Family Jutsu. Good work Hinata!" Hiashi's proud happy face glowed. He had something of an idea what really happened and it tickled him to no end thinking of his shy daughter doing such a thing – it had to be love.

Neji was trying to imagine exactly what Naruto meant and it looked as if his uncle knew. He turned to look at Tenten. The Byakugan and love?

Tenten was also wondering what it meant and suddenly felt Neji's eyes on her. She watched his impassive face, veins around his eyes as he stared at her. Suddenly his face went red and he looked away quickly then back again now with his mouth open. Neji licked his lips then literally jumped when his uncle shook him.

"I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING! NOTHING! …Umm, sorry….I, ah, I think I need some water." He trembled so badly that he had to hold on to the furniture to move.

Hinata and Naruto fell over laughing. Tenten was red in the face but not exactly sure why. She'd get out of Neji if she had to use her weapons on him! Hiashi was holding his stomach thinking he'd have to teach his boy a little self control.

"What? I don't get it?" Hanabi tried to do it too but Hiashi clapped a hand over her eyes.

"Oh no! Not for a few more years little one – you'll only make yourself sick if you try it now!" He said with a warning in his voice but Hinata and Naruto were crying they were laughing so hard, even Neji was laughing now but hiding his face in his hands so that he wouldn't look at Tenten again.

Naruto's first birthday party was a complete success.

Thirty days went by in the blink of an eye. Parts of the mountain and forest looked like it was beginning anew. There were tons of new lumber and plenty of firewood for the whole village and enough to sell and make a little money. The trees were practically bare and the grass was all but brown.

The academy was full of new students plus two who were considered seniors but because of their presence, the younger kids were doing much better than usual with seasoned ninjas in their classes. The school and grounds had never been in better shape with the extra help from previous Genin, now Chunin.

As the days grew shorter, the work only grew. There was training before dawn until evening. In between doing all this, there were missions as well. Nothing dangerous but necessary. Then of course Naruto's apartment or the Hyuga estate or Iruka's small place or the Hokage's residence and even Sasuke's apartment was often full of Chunin spending as much time with their friend before that fateful day.

It was cold that morning with rain threatening in the distance. A low fog covered the ground making it seem like the world had ceased to exist except for Konoha. At the main gate, a surprising number of people were gathered there. There were lots of ninja and those villagers that had shown up at his Chunin event. There were also some curious spectators but they behaved themselves around the armed ninjas.

Naruto hugged them all who knew would miss him even Sasuke relented and held Naruto tightly before wishing him luck and standing back. Kakashi handed a beautiful young hawk to Takeshi as he hugged Naruto. The hawk named Talon was Kakashi's gift. With help from Takeshi and the phoenix, the hawk and Naruto's chakra were synced and the bird would always find Naruto no matter what.

Finally the only ones left were his parents and his lover. He held them each separately then they held him together. "Don't worry, I'll come home stronger better able to take care of myself and you guys. Don't worry too much Mama and don't drown yourself in paperwork. You've still got Sasuke and Hinata to spoil. And Dad, try and keep Mayu here a little longer or go visit her. Me and Hinata are going to be married when I get back. Let's be happy with our beautiful women, huh?" Naruto lay his head on his mother's breast one last time and inhaled her scent. "I love you Mama."

He turned to Iruka and hugged his waist. "Love you Dad." Naruto spoke into his neck then pulled away. He smiled for them then turned to Hinata. "Come here." Naruto pulled her inside his cobalt cloak. Everyone backed off giving them some privacy.

"Let me come." Hinata said as her hands traced over his chest and back. She couldn't believe this would be the last time she would get to touch him for six whole months. "I won't get in the way. I can train myself and I'll cook. Let me come Naruto." She'd told herself she wouldn't do this but the words slipped out anyway as did her tears.

Naruto kissed each cheek tasting the salt of her tears. "No." His hands tightened on her waist as a soft sob left her. "I don't know what we'll be doing or what the danger will be as I try using more of the fox's chakra. I won't endanger your life, I'm doing this so that I can better protect you and our life Hinata." One hand rose to cup her head, the other around her hips. "Wait on me sweetheart. Continue your training so that we can be the strongest damn couple Konoha has ever seen! And love me." Naruto's lips were at her ear. "Love me enough so I won't feel the cold. Love so that no matter how alone I might be that I'm not lonely. Love me so damn much that I'll always feel you're by my side no matter the distance." He felt tears leave his own eyes to wet her blue-black hair.

"I do. I will. Oh I will always love you my Naruto!" Hinata's hands held his shirt so tight that some of the seams ripped. When Naruto lifted his head she kissed him ravenously. Lips, tongue and tears. She gasped as Naruto suddenly pushed her back.

"I gotta leave now or I won't!" He cupped her cheek one last time before turning abruptly. "Talon!" The hawk screeched as she took to the air, circled then flew to Naruto and landed gently on his shoulder. "Let's go Pervy Sage." Naruto didn't recognize his own voice it was so thick with tears.

Jiraiya nodded and waved to those standing just inside the gate. "Let's do this." He and Naruto both bit their thumbs and did the summoning jutsu.

Gamakichi and another toad appeared. Sensing the emotion, Gamakichi refrained from his normal friendly greeting and just stood there waiting on Naruto.

Naruto jumped onto Gamakichi's back and looked one last time on his home and loved ones. His cloak and the tails of his headband blew in the wind. He crossed his arms over the pain in his chest. I'll see you guys soon. Be safe. Mama, Dad…Hinata… "Take me away from here Gamakichi." The toad leapt away and he continued to watch them even when he couldn't see them anymore.

Those ninja who had been there the day the Nine-Tailed Fox had attacked all gasped. Even Iruka was nearly floored by the sight of Naruto on the toad's back in the swirling fog. Almost every eye looked back at Hokage Rock then at Naruto and the uncanny resemblance he made to the Fourth just before he died. It had been an impressive sight then, a source of salvation and it was impressive now, a source of hope.

Hinata watched with tears, all the while using the Jutsu of Love as he was swallowed by the fog then wiped away her tears and held her body up straight. She walked to stand before her father. "Spar with me." The wind picked up lifting her hair. Determination sparkled in her eyes along with loss.

Hiashi wanted to comfort her but Hinata wasn't going to bow to her pain. If she wanted to spar then he would and take her to the very limit. "Come." He said and sharply turned for home with her at his side.

Iruka and Tsunade were left still staring into the fog. It had started to drizzle making it a completely miserable day. "His son is my son. So much alike – for a moment…the Fourth was alive again. What if…what if Naruto shares the same fate?" His voice was a whisper on the wind and Iruka shivered.

"Naruto makes his own fate." Tsunade felt a touch of fear deep down inside but she would with everything in her make sure that Naruto would be able to face anything that came his way. She stepped into Iruka and felt his arm about her shoulder. "Naruto will meet life head on with us there to back him up or face the danger in his place." Hazel eyes met brown ones with shared love for their son.

Iruka shook off the chill that had invaded his soul as Naruto left. The Fourth had died to protect Naruto and now as Naruto's second father he could do no less for it was like Naruto was a part of his body. "He won't fail in anything. I won't – we won't let him. We just have to –." Iruka looked at Tsunade with a crooked grin inviting her to join him.

"Believe it!" Arms about one another they turned and headed back into the village to prepare for Naruto's return.

And that's the end...Not! A few of you know that I've commited to writing a sequel to Jutsu. Naruto will find out his origins then and the wedding some of you have asked for. As for what else will happen, even I don't know! I'm still marveling over the fact that this one story has lasted an entire year and that it has done so incredibly well. Over 160,000 Hits and 22 communities and 350 alerts/favs (they're only off by a few) I'm impressed. Thanks to everyone who reviewed and offered suggestions and to anyone who read all the way through - I couldn't have done it without you! Anyway, Bloodline (the title of the second story) will start sometime in the new year so keep an eye out!