Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or some of these scenes from the anime

Chapter 3; Begin the New Journey

Shino looked at the sun shining through his window. It was sunrise. He sat up to get ready for the day. His insects came over to tell him the news from the night.

Kiba was jerked awake by Akamaru giving him an impromptu bath with his tongue. Getting ready he saw the sun peak over the trees.

Hinata was walking towards the kitchen, looking for an early breakfast. She found her cousin with the same idea.

Neji hadn't slept long and had spent much of the night with a mug of tea. When he heard his cousin move around, he left his room to eat breakfast with her.

Ten Ten sat with her parents eating breakfast. They were discussing the store without her input.

Lee just finished his early morning sparing before eating his breakfast. Panting as he started to scarf down his breakfast.

Chouji watched as his mother and father argued about sauces and meat. He simply put the clean dishes away and got out some of the restaurant's dishes for the day.

Shikamaru grumbled as his mother shrieked both male's ears off for not knowing the proper location for the dishes. He left in a hurry, trying to get out of range.

Ino helped her mother put the flowers out in the shop while her father put the dishes from breakfast away. They had to open soon.

Sakura waved good-bye to her mother as she left for the day.

As the Konoha 11 walked towards the training grounds to start their day they all instinctively looked towards Hokage Mountain. There, the final member of the group that had become known as the Konoha 11 stood on the top, smiling in the sunlight.

Today he would become someone new. Today he would leave. Today he would start on his journey towards finding Sasuke and, eventually,
himself.

000

Shino and Lee were the first at the training area. They just looked at each other and shrugged. Shino started his warm up as he waited for his teammates. Lee bounced on the spot until he decided he would do vertical push-ups.

Ino ran up with Sakura right behind her. They were giggling about flowers and the silly things people came up with as meanings for them. Shino thought it was funny that there was one from every team here. Looking over as he heard barking, he spotted Kiba playing tag with his partner, making their way here. Chouji walked up next, still chomping away at a bag of chips, breifly shino wondered where he kept them all. Hinata and Neji showed up next. They weren't talking, just enjoying the morning sunshine. Neji ignored the growl Kiba threw his way as he proceeded to his teammate, well, sort of. Lee was doing some of the craziest things around Sakura, and Neji wanted no part in that. Ten Ten and Shikamaru arrived together, already talking about the differences between kunai.

Shino shook his head at the general craziness that increased as Naruto plopped out of the tree, nearly landing on Kiba. The two of them started a scuffle even as Hinata came over to play peace-maker. Neji shook his head and grabbed his teammate and walked off with Ten Ten as they discussed what they were going to work on today. Shikamaru followed Ino as she dragged Chouji to another training yard. Sakura finally reached in and pulled Naruto out to the middle of his mini fight and proceed to rap him on the head before demanding that he stop picking fights with everyone. Hinata tried to defend Naruto and Kiba at once, which didn't work well. Naruto just sat on the ground rubbing his head. Sakura sighed before she turned to Team 8. She wanted to talk with them about their respective healing abilities. Not Hinata though. She would find the Hyuuga heiress after Naruto left. They could have today.

"Shino, could you show some more of what we spoke of last time? And before you disappear, Kiba, I would like to scan Akamaru if you two don't mind." Both boys shook their head, saying it would be fine. Naruto decided to start his warm up since they were going to talk about technical stuff. He created a dozen clones and they started a free-for-all, kicking, punching, and general tiajutsu. Hinata watched with some uncertainty from a tree nearby. She wanted to join but he probably didn't want to be interrupted. She stood by the tree and watched her beloved move.

Naruto started his workout on his own, like he had done every day since becoming part of the academy. Well, almost every day. For a short while, after the teams had formed, he would find Sasuke out here and they would spar. He brushed that thought away. As he was close to finishing his warm up, he turned and glanced at his teammate to see if she wanted to do at least a little sparring. Of course, she was deep in discussion with both boys about anatomy. He looked around when he realized Hinata wasn't with them. Seeing her standing by a tree looking at him, he opened his link with her. Startled, he felt uncertainty and desire. Both were faint but present. She wanted something and she was scared to ask, again. Sending a quick reassurance her way, he re-focused his attention as a clone made a punch for his head.

He kept Hinata in the back of his mind as he dodged. She was startled and still a little uncertain. He then felt her firm herself. Glancing in her direction he saw her activate her Byakugan and start taking out clones. Smiling, he realized that she just wanted to join him. Eventually he found himself sparring with a Juuken user for the second time in his life. Dodging her blows, barely, he and her went at it as his clones started attacking each other. Occasionally, they would attack the two original shinobi, but that was always fatal. Even though Hinata and Naruto were sparring against each other, every time a clone attacked them, they fought it together.

When it was just the two of them, they continued sparring playfully. Hinata began to incorporate her personal style in the sparring rounds. Naruto dodged through it. Pulling out his shuuriken and kunai, he began to test her defenses, which were quite impenetrable. He returned to tiajutsu, enjoying the feeling of sparing with someone who wasn't trying to one up him constantly. It was nice when he was trying to improve, but right now he really wanted to spend time with Hinata. They continued to trade moves for nearly an hour, not even realizing the time. Neither were tired. Hinata wasn't pushing herself, just having fun. Naruto simply doesn't get tired very easily. They were watching each other's bodies and eyes. It seemed like a dance to the on-lookers, which had grown slightly.

Shino had focused on them when Sakura began to ask questions of Kiba that he would know little about. Kiba had looked at them and stopped talking mid-sentence when Sakura had glanced their way. Sakura just smiled slightly at the happy looks on her teammate and friend. Neji, Lee and Ten Ten had come over and were also staring. Ten Ten had come to offer lunch at her place. Neji wanted to see if Hinata wanted to train today, and Lee had the same question of Naruto. Ten Ten miled gently as she waited politely. She had hoped they would become close before Naruto disappeared for two and a half years. Lee was thinking about the glory of youthfulness and Naruto's bravery and luck. Neji was watching his cousin. She was so happy. Not giggling or laughing like most girls when happy, but smiling and content. He could see her muscles relax and move as she stood mesmerized by Naruto. They moved as one, reading each other exactly. Neji started when he realized how much they had to know about each other's style to do this. He leaned back against a tree, the same Hinata had hidden by, and watched, quite content.

The sparring match came to an end when Naruto charged a punch and was tripped by Hinata, only to fall on Hinata. Blushing a little he felt her shyness and a new desire course through her even as he felt an identical one course through him.. Hinata looked at him, breathless, and not only from the sparring. Time slowed for the two shinobi as they moved closer together. Almost everyone watching held their breath. Ten Ten slapped a hand on Lee's mouth and Shino did the same for Kiba. Neji looked on in amazement as the couple's lips came close together only to stop still parted. They nuzzled each other's noses together instead, eyes closing in a gesture as intimate to them as any. This was when Ino came to the scene.

"Hinata?! Is this sparring or making out. You naughty girl. Gone and got a boyfriend without telling anyone." She sprinted up and Ten Ten and Sakura sighed in annoyance. Neji looked thoughtful as the newly released Lee and Kiba raced over. Lee was congratulating Naruto as Kiba yelled at him for not telling anyone. Both Hinata and Naruto were exceedingly red. Ten Ten decided that she better save them.

"Oi, My parents have invited everyone for lunch, who's hungry?" This was greeted by joyful shouts as the hungry youths followed her into town. Neji hung back, keeping a close watch on Naruto as they entered the village. He watched as he started talking to Hinata and Kiba, then carefully exited from the conversation. Neji's mind skidded to a halt. That had been deliberate. Naruto had started a conversation in order to find someone else for Hinata to walk by so the villagers wouldn't associate her with him. He was protecting them by acting like he was following but not quite part of the group. Thinking back, Neji remembered when they walked to Ten Ten's shop before. The girls had gotten quite a ways ahead. At the time he thought is was because Naruto wanted them out of hearing range so they could talk but looking back he also noted that they were also far enough away that they didn't look like the same group. He was doing something similar, except Neji wasn't that blind this time. He slowed down and came up beside the blonde.

"Naruto, when are you leaving today?" Naruto looked at him and scratched his head.

"Well, Tsunade-obaa-chan said Ero-sennin would find me around dinner, so after lunch I'm going spar with Lee, if I can find him, then to pack and then eat then leave, I think." Neji talked with him about the day as he gradually pulled Naruto back to the center of the group. Naruto balked as they reached the center. He suddenly looked around, wary.

"Naruto, you are our friend. We don't mind letting people know." Neji's voice was quiet but firm. Shikamaru placed a hand on Naruto's shoulder.

"If they don't get used to it now, they never will." Looking around, Naurto saw that Shino and Lee were also paying attention. He felt his emotions well up within him. Looking down he blushed slightly at the attention he wasn't used to. He felt a hand on his back. Turning, he saw Hinata join his side opposite to that of Neji.

"Naruto-kun." He could sense all that she was trying to tell him. Her acceptance, her care, her love. He smiled and nodded slightly to his friends. The conversations resumed around them as they walked into the market. Shikamaru and Neji saw the looks. Sakura and Lee heard the whispers. Hinata and Kiba saw Naruto's reaction. Suddenly Sakura stopped. Since she was at the front with Ten Ten everyone else had to stop too, else she'd be run over. Ten Ten looked at her friend, confused. Sakura turned on her heel, away from the old coots that had been saying things about Naruto and walked up to Naruto.

And wrapped her arms around the blonde's neck. Naruto stood there like a deer in headlights. He heard her whisper in his ear.

"You'll always belong here, Naruto."

000

Kakashi and Iruka were sitting on the roof, watching. They had been surprised when Neji noticed what Naruto did when in the village. Even more surprising was the hug from Sakura which was soon expanded to include Ino, Ten Ten, Hinata, Lee, and much to their annoyance Neji , dragged in by Lee, and Shikamaru, dragged in by Ino. After the drama relaxed they continued to Ten Ten's shop.

"They sure are growing up." Turning, the two saw Kurenai and Asuma standing next to them and Gai on the other side. Kakashi nodded to Asuma, who had spoken. They had seen all that their students had gone through and saw the bond that had formed. It would hopefully last a lifetime. They all watched as the ten genin and chunin went into the weapon store.

000

Ten Ten's parent were happy to see all of her friend with her. They had a large lunch made. Everyone was having the time of their lives. Talking, laughing, friend stuff. Naruto knew that he was going to hear from them soon. They found him when he was re-filling his cup in the kitchen.

"Naruto-san?" Naruto sighed as he looked at Ten Ten's parents. He knew they would have reached a decision about him being around their daughter. Her mother was smiling slightly. Her father was the one speaking though. "You have become a good friend of our daughter." At Naruto's nod, he continued. "She seems happy about it." Naruto just looked at him. He was pleased that Ten Ten wanted to be his friend, but what did they think.

"I was in the fight fourteen years ago." Naruto started at the change in topic. "He was terrifying. And the Yondiame showed up just when we needed him. And he performed the seal that took his life." Naruto just held the man's eyes. "He came and he could perform that seal. That was all due to someone that shouldn't have cared about Konoha. I've had a lot of time to review the past. I'm glad you are friends with my daughter, Naruto-san." His wife nodded as Naruto looked at them in amazement. Neji peeked in at this point.

"Naruto, Sakura wants to talk to you about a scan and the library, any idea what she's talking about?" Naruto nodded and followed his friend out the door. He stopped at the doorway to whisper a soft thank you to the couple in the kitchen before re-joining his friends.

The two weapon's smith watched out the window as Naruto joined the group, laughing. Their daughter was standing next to the Hyuuga boy, both relaxed. Breifly, both were transported back in time, to a similar scene. A young girl standing by the brother of the heir, all due to someone the village hated. They smiled knowing they had made the right decision.

000

Naruto spent an hour after lunch sparring and then went home to pack. He hefted his bag on his shoulder with a strong "Yosh!" and headed out to find a last meal at Ichiraku's before going to meet Jiraiya.

He found Iruka on the way. The chunin smiled at his former-student.

"I figured you'd get one more Ichiraku's before you left. On me?"

Naruto's smile could have lit the town.

000

Sakura was walking out of the library when Ino came up beside her. She glanced over at her rival/best friend. Her relationshi with Ino had been as up and down as with Naruto, and nearly as explosive. Still, they had stuck through it all.

"He's leaving soon, right?" Sakura ndded, knowing exactly who was meant. "YOu going to see him off?" Sakura smiled brightly and nodded again.

"Yup! I won't let him leave without reminding him that he had better come back." Ino snickered.

"I think Hinata can do that quite well." Sakura smiled at that. "Sakura-chan?" She cocked her head, "How did you take it, when you found out?" Sakurs was wondering what Ino had hunted her down for, now she knew. She had figured of all their friends, Ino would have had the hardest time accepting Naruto's 'inner beast'. She was just to far into the normal population of Konoha.

"Ino, I found out on a mission. I didn't have time to think about it until we got back." Ino noded.

"Yeah, so did the rest of us. That mission where us girls had been kidnapped? Most of us found out then. We also didn't give it much thought until later." Sakura frowned for a moment in rememberance of the mission that had been so annoying. She hated being rescued like that. THen she returned to the current topic.

"Anyway, the mission was Team Gai and Naruto, Hinata, and myself. It was complicated. I learned a lot though. Did you know that Naruto grew up in an orphanage? Or that when he was eight, he was living on his own?" Ino shook her head. "Neither did I. I never bothered to ask him. My parents were so against me having anything to do with him, that in trying to please them, I missed the life that my squad member, my friend, was living." Ino just looked at her. She didn't know what to say. She had always know most about her teammates. Their fathers were all teammates, after all.

"Sakura, none of us knew..."

"Hinata did. And the fact that the rest of us didn't see it just makes it worse." Sakura looked at Ino, who turned away. "Ino, did Naruto tell you how he found out about his passenger? And when?" She used 'passenger' because it was still illegal to talk about Kyuubi by name. Even in a empty training ground, which was where they stood, they couldn't risk it. She re-focused on Ino as she shook her head.

Ino was confused. Naruto hadn't spoken much about it but everyone who knew had known since the actual fight, so she had assumed he had found out as he grew up, like five or six maybe. Sakura shhok her head.

"He was twelve. He found out the day he graduated from the academy. Mizuki told him. He used what he knew and tried to convince Naruto to help him steal a seal from the Hokage." Sakura sat on the grass. She hadn't spoken to Naruto about it, or anyone for that matter. She needed to get it out. "He just told, laughing the entire time. He told Naruto he was worthless, un-wanted, evil, a monster. He told him no one cares about him. And he was right!" Ino sat next to Sakura. She was breaking down. She hadn't known what to think of Naruto containing the Kyuubi, but whenever she thought about him or saw him all she saw was Naruto, bouncing, smiling through all the crap this ignorant village gave him. He was caring about everyone, hurting no one, well, except Orochimaru, and fighting to help. She couldn't see Kyuubi in that face. "We would have lost him if Iruka hadn't been there, if he hadn't started to care. All because we weren't watching!" She was sobbing now. Ino's arms came around her. Sakura was always sensitive to the feelins of her friends, too much so. Most of her friends tried to break her of it. She yelled at her friends instead of breaking down, but she still cared nonetheless.

"I didn't know any of this when I found out. We had an advantage though. You found out after everyone had made their decision. We had the benefit of talking about it as we decided. You have to do this on your own." Sakura looked at her. Thinking back, she remembered the day she became friends with Ino. She remembered the teaching, smiles, and laughter. She remembered the contest, the insults, and the pride. "Sakura, you aren't alone though." She looked at her best friend, her arch foe, her sister.

"Thanks Ino." Ino smiled.

"No problem, billboard brow." Ino hopped down the lane smiling, counting down in her head.

"WHATTTT! GET BACK HERE INO-PIG!"

000

Naruto happily slurped his ramen as his teacher watched him. Naruto had been a surprise for him in many ways. He remembered the night he first laid eyes on the young blonde.

"You must run, Iruka!"

"No! My parents are out there. I must go! Mama! PAPA!" He was shoved under a fallen tree just before the shinobi carrying him was swept off his own feet and dashed in to a tree. Iruka crawled to him.

"I-I-Iruka-chan. You must go. They give everything. Y-y-you are the r-r-reason. Go!" The shinobi was a friend of his father and that was his last breath. Iruka looked up to see Kyuubi, tails swinging, eyes blistering red, pupiless, teeth gritted. Then a toad the size of a mountain appeared behind him. Looking up he saw Him there. He looked sad and determined. Suddenly there was a flash... Kyuubi roared, and then all was silent. Iruka stood shakily and looked around. He finally saw Him. He was stumbling out of the woods, panting heavily. He was carrying something.

"Young-one. Please. Take Naruto into the village." Iruka cradled the infant in his arms. "He is an orphan that carries Kyuubi. He carries Kyuubi for the village..." He fainted and fell to the ground. Iruka knelt next to Him and turned Him over. The crystal eyes opened to see Iruka and Naruto. He reached up to stroke the babe's cheek "Naruto, I'm so sorr-" His arm fell, breath ceased, light left His eyes, in that instant, He died.

Iruka couldn't believe that that infant became this child. No, this shinobi. Naruto was growing up. He wished he had done more back then. Third came and took the infant. Iruka quietly forgot all of it as he fell into dispair over his own loneliness. It was only when Naruto was halfway through the academy and Iruka's pupil that he remembered the words from that night.

"Iruka, you have the brat in your class now. Don't let him get away with anything. He's a tricky one." Iruka looked at Jirio. His uncle had been harsh since the death of Mother. He had hated family before the death. He hated family after. Jirio always hated family. A crutch, he called it. Even when he wouldn't take Iruka in he just said neither of them needed a crutch.

Iruka just nodded.

As he walked back to his classroom, he thought about that night. It had been years. Iruka walked into the classroom. After everyone had settled, he started his normal get-to-know-the-students game. He asked why they wanted to become shinobi. Naruto was the last person to be asked.

"So I can become Hokage for this village." Iruka's mind stopped at that statement. 'for the village' Naruto had probably meant of the village and was simply mixing words but still...

He had known that other villagers treated Naruto differently but in that statement he remembered the words said to him and decided to try and not hold Kyuubi against Naruto. At least to see what happened.

He did try. He graded him as he would any other student. However, as he grew to know Naruto, he realized that Naruto was looking for something. He was trying so hard. Iruka would leave late and still see Naruto panting behind the school. Iruka now knew he should have become his friend then, but something held him back. It was another year before he understood.

Iruka stood on the roof, looking at Hokage Mountain. Asuma landed next to him.

"Yo, Iruka. How are the brats?" Iruka chuckled as he shook his head at the joke. He looked at Asuma. He was one of the smartest jonin around.

"Ano, Asuma? What is the reason?" Asuma looked at him. Iruka was still looking at the mountain. "Yondiame gave everything for our village. So many shinobi. They protect the Hokage, the laws, and this village. Why?" He looked at Asuma as the jonin shook his head.

"You got that wrong. Hokage ain't the reason. Neither is the safety of the villagers or our laws or beliefs or none of that." Iruka looked at Asuma. "Iruka, I'm so glad you are a teacher here." With that he left. Iruka was left standing there, quite confused.

It was several days later when he had the chance to ask Gai about it. The two jonin were friends, sort of.

"Reason? It's the beauty of YOUTHFULNESS! Yeah!" Iruka sweat-dropped as he walked away sighing. Gai never could give a straight answer. He turned a corner to find Kakashi.

"Iruka?" Kakashi regarded him with one eye. "Children." Iruka looked at him, confused. "That is what you teach, ne?" Iruka watched as Kakashi was dragged away by Gai for another competition.

Later that night, Ibisu woke Iruka.

"An attack. It's hitting the west side tomorrow at noon." Iruka nodded.

"What are our orders?" Ibisu looked at him.

"You will get all the children into the mountain pass. Keep them there and watch them." Iruka looked at him angrily. Ever since he had graduated into being a chunin he had been watching the children. Even if he was a teacher, the other teachers were chunin and they still helped the main forces.

"I can do more than that. I am better than just baby-sitting you know!" Ibisu looked at him a moment.

"Iruka, I will explain once, then I will never hear you say that again." Iruka gulped at the deadly tone of voice. "There is nothing, absolutely nothing more important to the shinobi of this village than the children within it." Ibisu disappeared with that. Iruka sat there a moment. He remembered Asuma, "Iruka, I'm so glad you are a teacher here", and Gai and Kakashi, "Reason? It's the beauty of YOUTHFULNESS!", "Iruka, children." They all had been trying to tell him. Even back in the fight, "They give everything. Y-y-you are the r-r-reason" Children and the future. That was the strength behind Konoha. Iruka knew then that Yondaime had given his life for the same reason. Naruto.

Iruka had started to study Naruto at that point. He finally saw how lonely the boy was, how scared. Iruka finally understood. Iruka looked at Naruto. He saw the first time he heard Naruto's voice as that of a shinobi.

"If you touch my sensei, I'll kill you!"

That day Naruto had defended something besides himself. Iruka knew then that Naruto would become a great shinobi. He looked at Naruto.

"Congradulations, You Graduate!"

He grew so fast.

"Congradulation on passing the second exam."

He protected the village and those in it.

Iruka hurried down the hall. He had heard that Naruto was in the hospital, hurt badly. As he reached the door, a hand reached out to his shoulder. Turning he saw Kakashi.

"Easy there. He's fine." Iruka looked at him. He had to know.

"What happened?" Kakashi reguarded the chunin a moment. Sighing, he spoke.

"He met the sand's jinchuriki. He will sleep for a while." Iruka looked in the room. Nodding to Kakashi, he sat on a chair to wait out the night.

Iruka had been so proud that Naruto had fought so hard. And then afterwards, he went with the Toad sage to bring Konoha Godiame. She had helped to restore much of Konoha.

Iruka frowned, then Sasuke's betrayal. He had taken the most precious thing in the world to Naruto and spat on it, their friendship. Iruka didn't doubt that Naruto was still hurting from that wound. He had placed so much on his shoulders. Iruka knew he would chase after his best friend forever if need be. Iruka didn't think he wanted it any other way. Naruto was loyal, that was just who he was, and that was who Iruka had grown to care about. He remembered when Naruto had saved him from Mizuki. He had learned the rasengan. Iruka knew he would travel with the toad sage and learn. Iruka smiled at his former pupil.

"Naruto," Naruto looked up from his ramen, "Good luck!" Iruka smiled. Naruto, after swallowing what was in his mouth smiled.

"Believe it!"

000

Hinata was sweating as she dodged the hands that were increasing with speed, and accuracy. She was starting to feel her movements slowing as she tired. Suddenly she tripped backwards over a root. Falling back hard against a tree, she felt all her breath leave her lungs, only to be gasped back as a hand sped at her chest. She was too off-balance. Clenching her eyes a moment, she waited for the strike, only to have the hand rest gently against the center of her chest.

"We'll stop here for today, Hinata-sama." She looked at her cousin. She wished dearly to be able to keep up with him.

"No, I can continue." Neji shook his head.

"This is enough for today, besides, He'll be heading out soon." Hinata gasped. Glancing back at Neji one more time, she sped off, stopping inside long enough to change into something not soaked in sweat.

000

After Naruto had finished his ramen, he had left Iruka at the stand waving to the old man. He was heading to the gate to wait for Jiraiya. He opened his link to Hinata as he walked. He had hoped to say good bye first. It seems she was feeling the same because at that moment she rounded a corner in front of him, panting.

"Naruto-kun..."

"Hina-chan..." They just looked at each other a moment. Then Naruto did the most daring thing he felt he had ever done in his life. He pulled the Hyuuga into a hug. She gasped in surprise for a moment before her arms came around him as well. It was a simple hug, yet profound for both participants, caring yet concerned, innocent yet potent, it was all their hopes and dreams and more.

"Hina-chan...when you danced on the water three months ago I thought I'd never see anything more beautiful. Until the other night..." At once Hinata felt all the emotion Naruto had felt at standing in front of his godess. She pulled away to look at him.

"Come home, and I'll show you whatever you want to see." It was a whispered promise, one of a lifetime, and they both knew it. Naruto nodded. He turned and continued to walk.

He had only taken three steps when Jiraiya dropped in front of him.

"Ready?" Naruto nodded. They walked out of the village. On the way they saw Naruto's frieinds.

Shikamaru leaned against a pole with Ino carrying a potted flower behind him and Chouji snacking on chips besides him.

Lee gave Naruto a thumbs-up as Ten Ten smiled and Neji nodded from the roof above.

Sakura stood with Kakashi and Iruka on a balcony waving as the two senseis nodded.

Turning one last time he saw Kiba and Shino come up behind Hinata. Kiba grinned as they gave her a small shove. That started her running.

"Naruto..." He was the only one to hear her whisper as she enveloped him in one last hug. For a moment she remembered a talk she had had with him once. How Sasuke left because he thought he could find more power out in the world and with Orochimaru than in Konoha. Naruto had said he could see Sasuke's point but he didn't think he agreed with the Uchiha. Pulling back slightly, she looked into his eyes, memorizing his crystal orbs one more time. "Make sure to come home." With that order she closed the distance and the two shared a kiss.

She pulled away gently. He whispered against her lips.

"I will..." She smiled.

"You'd better." She pulled away entirely. Naruto smiled at her, his goofy smile truly happy. Waving at all their staring friends he jogged towards Jiraiya. Seeing the look on Jiraiya's face he started thinking of ways to get out of the teasing he was surely about to hear. At the gate he turned.

"I'LL BE BACK, BELIEVE IT!" And he sped off, leaving Jiraiya to catch up.

Ten Ten shook her head as she and Neji jumped off the roof, followed by Lee. Sakura joined them as Kiba and Shino caught up with Hinata. Shikamaru, Chouji and Ino came over as the ten gathered.

"There he goes."

"Hurmph."

"Heh."

"His youthfulness will fill the world."

"Yeah, then he'll come back."

"Aa."

"of course he will!"

"Hai."

"Because he's Naruto." All nine of them smiled as Hinata chuckled and nodded. They all headed home as the sun began to set. He would come back some day.

To his home.

To his friends

To his family.


Hi everyone. This is much shorter than my other chapters. I'm sorry it took so long but I only have internet on campus. and there was moving and all this other junk, so yeah.

4900 words is much closer to how much I prefer to write but this chapter, like parts of it came flowing out and parts were dragged out by their hair.

This is the end of The Last Week. The next half dozen stories will be one shots. I may not write them in order so please keep that in mind. the current order will be on my bio, at the end. It will be updated with every story.

I will reveiw this entire story next weekish.

Ja Ne

9/21/08-reviewed and proofed. much better.

Next in the series: "Who are we?" Eight days after Naruto has left how is everyone handling it. /s/4332017/1/