Summary: After the success of the Sasuke retrieval mission, the Council starts to believe that Naruto is becoming too powerful and too dangerous, and that he has to either be banished or die. But Tsunade isn't gonna stand for this.

Pairings: NaruHina centric Naruharem

My swing at PerfectLionheart's "Missing Hokage Challenge"

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Chapter 1

Kakashi and Pakkun stood in the rain overlooking the damage of the brutal battle, before them lay the two combatants, both hurt and unconscious. Pakkun ran to Naruto's side, since he could smell more blood from him, and found a sizeable hole in the blondes gut. The red chakra gathered around the area of the wound seemed to be trying to repair the damage, but even it was struggling to keep him alive.

"Kakashi, this is bad, you need to get Naruto back quick, Kakashi?" The dog turned to see his summoner crouched over the other fallen fighter, even though it was clear he wasn't as badly damaged, and had probably only passed out from exhaustion. But Kakashi still hoisted the Uchiha onto his back and went to leave, "Kakashi, where are you going?" but it was too late, the scarecrow-nin was gone. Pakkun put his ear to Naruto's chest, where he could still hear a faint heartbeat, hold on kid, I'll need help to get you back, the pug thought as he let out a series of short howls as loud as he could, Kakashi, you'll have a lot to answer for when the boss hears about this.

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Naruto was standing in the maze of sewers again, but it seemed darker than before, and the water level was lower. He slowly began to make his way through the maze to his eventual destination, his head hung low. Soon, the boy stood in front of the large cage door, and the great best that lay within.

"I hope you're grateful, brat, this little stunt of yours has left your life in the balance, with only my power keeping you alive," the fox growled, "and even my power may not be enough, if someone doesn't find you soon, we may still die! What in the seven hells where you thinking!? Why didn't you kill the traitorous bastard when you had the chance!? You could have easily taken him down, SO WHY!?"

Naruto just sat down and mumbled something the Bijuu could barely hear.

The Fox was a little shocked, and took a minute to recover, "What was that?"

The shinobi lifted his head and looked to his tenant, tears on the edges of his soulful and sad eyes, "Because I promised Sakura-chan, and I would rather die than break my word."

"Kit, you only promised to bring him back, you didn't say he would be alive."

The boy shook his head, "Even if I didn't say it, it's what I meant, so, to me at least, killing Sasuke would be the same as breaking the promise."

The fox just stared at him for a few moments, before a loud laughter filled the room, "You know, kit, for hating me so much, you really act like you are one of my kin."

Naruto's head dropped, staring at the floor, "Great, now even a demon thinks I act like a demon."

"Don't act so down, kit, it's a complement, besides, acting all sad isn't like you," a new, softer voice said. Naruto looked up to see someone new in place of the fox, a woman who was a little taller than Tsunade, with pale, unblemished skin and long, light red hair that reached down far enough to cover her breasts and genitals well enough, but that didn't keep Naruto from staring. The woman chuckled, "you know, I think it's impolite to stare, kit."

Naruto shook his head before jumping to his feet, pointing at the woman and yelling, "WHA-WHAT THE HELL!! WHAT'S GOING ON!? WHO ARE YOU AND WHERE THE HELL ARE YOUR CLOTHES!?"

"Now that's the gaki I'm used to," the woman smiled as she snapped her fingers. In an instant, her hair was back in a braid, and she had on a blood red set of furs, the top barely containing her endowments and the skirt ending a few inches above her knees. "And as to who I am who else would be in your gutter of a mind, stuck behind bars?"

"KYU-KYUUBI?! YOU'RE A WOMAN?! SINCE WHEN?"

The redhead sighed, "Since birth, baka, my kind are natural shape shifters, but I was born a natural female," she folded her arms, "those sexist bastards in your puny village just assumed I was a guy, their egos probably wouldn't have been able to handle the idea of a woman doing that much damage."

"Well, ya know, your fox voice sound like a man." Naruto pointed out, amazed he was having the most civil conversation he had ever had with the fox.

"That's only when I try to speak your human language, to other foxes I'm an unbelievable beauty," she said, giggling when she struck a pose like a pin-up girl. After a few moments, her expression became serious, "listen, kit, we need to have a talk about a few things."

"Like what, I was kinda liking this conversation, it may be the longest you, or anyone, talked to me without threatening me."

Kyuubi shook her head, "Yeah, that's one thing. I'm sorry about what you had to go through because of me."

Naruto chuckled a bit himself, "That's a bit strange coming from someone who tried to eat me when we had our first face to face."

The fox smiled seductively and leaned forward against the bars of her prison, showing her jailer a generous amount of her cleavage, "Well, give yourself a few years and I might want to eat you up again, over and over with your inhuman stamina." She started laughing when the blonde turned a bright red, but then stared up at the ceiling for a moment, "Well, kit, it seems we're in luck, someone's carrying you back to your village."

"Someone is helping me? Who is it, did they catch Sasuke?"

Kyuubi smiled, "It's not who, but what…"

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Tsume Inuzuka dashed through the forest her son had been retrieved from only a few hours ago. She had been on patrol around the village when she heard the howls for help, and she took off with her partner, Kuromaru, and headed towards the source of the plea for help, but as she got about half way there she was passed by a group of hounds going in the opposite direction at inhuman speeds. Tsume took off to catch up, and when she got close enough she could see they were Kakashi's ninken, but the large black one had an extra passenger that the small pug was keeping an eye on.

"Hey, is that Uzumaki?" she called out when she got next to the pack, most didn't pay attention, since they were more worried about their human charge and trying to get him to a doctor, but one golden orange one, with long droopy ears that hung over his leaf headband, turned his attention to her.

"Yeah, that's the pup, and we need to get him back fast, he's hurt real bad."

"Where's Kakashi, I thought he went out to bring him back?" this was answered with a unanimous growl from the ninken.

The little white one yelled, "When I see that bastard again, I'm gonna bite his damned fingers off."

The glasses wearing dog barked, "Calm down, Shiba, we have to worry about the fox pup now, boss will probably want to deal with Hatake personally anyways."

To say Tsume and her partner were surprised would be an understatement, ninken, even outside of the Inuzuka clan, were notoriously loyal, Kakashi would have had to do something serious to have these dogs baying for his blood. "What happened," Tsume dared to ask the pug who sat next to the boy.

The pug's eternal frown seemed even deeper than usual as he looked to the clan head, "Kakashi had us out to find Naruto and Sasuke," the dogs growled at the Uchiha's mention, "but when I led him to them, I saw how badly Naruto was hurt, I tried to get Kakashi to help, since there was no way I could carry Naruto myself, but he was so worried about the Uchiha, who wasn't near as injured, that he didn't seem to hear me and he took off and left the kid there in the rain. I called out for help, which I assume is why you're here," the woman nodded and he patted the large dog he sat on, "luckily Bull here was closest and we were able to get going, but I am afraid the poor kid won't last much longer without medical help."

At that moment, the only thing that rivaled Tsume's anger at Kakashi was her worry for the young boy, "But what about…"

The pug shook his little head, "even IT seems to be struggling to keep him alive, we need to get him to Tsunade, and fast," he said as they neared the village gates.

Tsume could see the village gates, and could see a head of silver hair talking to a blonde woman, and when she could hear what the silver haired scarecrow was saying, she let out a loud deep growl of her own, which was echoed by her partner as they dashed forward, Kakashi, you lying sonova bitch, she thought as she closed in on the scarecrow, her fist raised, YOU DISLOYAL, TRAITOR HELPING LITTLE…

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Tsunade stood at the gates of Konohagakure, nervously awaiting the return of a certain blonde, and worrying like crazy. Naruto was the only member of the retrieval team who hadn't yet returned. Shikamaru and Kiba were fine, Akamaru was still down, but Kiba's sister was keeping a close eye on him, Shizune was operating on Neji, and Tsunade had just stabilized Choji, so now all she could do is wait for the young blonde to return. Knowing him, he's probably going to pass out the moment he steps through the gate, she thought, with a sad smile, just before she noticed movement in the distance, but her smile disappeared when she noticed a distinct lack of orange in the group.

Kakashi landed with the medic nin that had been following him for a short while, and allowed them to place Sasuke on a stretcher, and turned to his boss, "Tsunade-sama, please, Sasuke needs help."

Tsunade glanced over the Uchiha, "he's fine, just minor lacerations and chakra exhaustion," she turned to the Cyclops with a worried look, "but where's Naruto?"

Kakashi had to think fast, in his haste to help his prodigy, he had forgotten completely about the orange clad teammate, "Uh… well, Tsunade-sama, I am sorry, but…but by the time I had arrived, he was too far gone," he saw tears forming in his leaders eyes, "I am afraid he wasn't going to make it, so I took Sasuke for healing and so Naruto's last mission could be a success." By now Tsunade had tears flowing from her eyes, "I am sorry, Tsunade-sama, but…"

"BASTARD," a woman yelled as a fist smashed into the side of Kakashi's head, propelling him into a wall, and leaving a small crater.

As he slumped to the ground, Kakashi looked up to see Tsume Inuzuka standing before him, and she looked pissed, "Tsume-san, what is this abou-AUGH," Kakashi tried to raise his arm to defend himself, only to feel an extreme pain. He looked to see Kuromaru's jaws closing on his arm, before he heard a sickening crack, and the massive hound twisted his head and flung the jonin into another wall, where Tsume began to beat him again.

Tsunade was caught off guard by the clan head's sudden assault, but before she could ask why, a small, gravelly voice spoke behind her, "Tsunade, the kid needs help," she turned to see a pack of dogs carrying one of the few people she had left, and he was in bad shape.

Kakashi's problem forgotten, Tsunade rushed to Naruto's aid, her hands glowing green as she placed them over his wound, tears still falling, "Don't you even THINK of dying here Naruto, or I…I'll," she couldn't even finish her threat, she just continued her healing, despite the screams of pain in the background. When she had stabilized him enough, she turned to the large black dog that carried him and summoned a pink slug, about the size of her head and placed it on Naruto's chest.

"Tsunade-sama, how may I help you?"

"I need you to monitor the boy's health and continue healing," she turned her attention to the dog, "and I need you to get him to the hospital, I'll be right behind you." The large dog nodded and took off as fast as he could, while carrying the pug, the slug, and the boy, with the rest of the pack following, save for the smaller white one. For a moment Tsunade prayed before turning to the bruised and beaten mess that was Kakashi, with the angry dog-woman almost ready to start in on him again. "Tsume, what is this about?"

Tsume turned to her boss and scowled, "The pug told me this bastard found both Uzumaki-kun and the Uchiha, and despite the pug's warning about Uzumaki-kun's condition, he still chose to help the traitorous bastard, he didn't even spare the pup a first glance, let alone a second. This bastard betrayed a loyal pup and tried to lie to you about it, and that pissed me off, so…"

Tsunade raised her hand to silence the younger woman and turned to the beaten Cyclops, "Kakashi," she spoke in a voice dripping with venom, "is this true?" Kakashi could only whimper before Tsunade raised her foot and brought it down with full force on his crotch, driving him into the ground, screaming. "C'mon, Tsume, I need to help Naruto." And the two women left with the large dog, leaving Kakashi with bad, but survivable wounds, but he was in incredible pain in front of his summon.

"Shiba, get help," the little white dog went to his side and… peed on the Cyclops before leaving.

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"What the heck are you talking about? Don't tell me a snake found me again, last time it took weeks to get the smell of snake guts out of my clothes."

Kyuubi chuckled, "Don't worry, kit, they're friends, even if they wouldn't be my first choice for rescuers, beggars can't be choosers."

"What do you mean not your first choice?"

"Well, foxes and dogs have a bit of a negative history, but these ones seem worried about you, so it should be alright."

Naruto was a bit relieved that something cared enough to help him, he sat down and noticed that the water was completely gone, "hey, Kyuubi."

"Yes, kit."

"I have a question, this is like, my soul, right, since you're sealed here," she nodded, "Then can you tell me why it looks like a freaking sewer?"

Kyuubi turned her back to him and leaned against her bars, "In a way, it's because of me, because of the life you lead. Despite what you want others to see, you're always in pain, you're afraid, you're scared, not knowing who to trust, afraid those who you think of as friends will leave you when they learn of me. Your mind is darkened with fear and it became this, but, believe it or not, this is better than what it used to be when you were young, it had already gotten better by the time you first came to see me since your life had gotten a bit better, maybe before long, I will have some sunlight in here, or maybe a bit more space to run around."

"But even if it gets better out here, won't you still be sealed?"

"Don't be so depressing, kit, besides, I've been trying to think of how I can get out without ending your life, but it's a no go yet," she sighed, "so, yeah, I would still be sealed, but that doesn't mean I can't go from a cage to a kennel, and have some room to stretch my legs. In that first endeavor, though, you could be of some assistance," she looked at his confused look, "I mean you can help me get out of this damn seal."

"What, if you think I'm gonna let you out just to smash up the village again, then you…" Naruto yelled before Kyuubi silenced him with a glare. He could see anger in those eyes, but, for some reason, he could see pain.

"Naruto," she spoke softly, "this is the truth, I don't want to go too far into the details, but that night I did not want to attack your village. I never had any love for them, and I hold even less than that after how you were hurt by them so much, but I had no reason or desire to attack them. I don't know who it was or why, but someone was controlling me."

"And you just expect me to believe some unknown person caused one of the most powerful creatures in the world to go on a psycho rampage?"

Kyuubi pouted, "I'm hurt, Naruto, I have no reason to lie to you, and do you know what it does to my pride to know that there could still be someone out there who could control me, who can make me do what they want against my will? Kinda the way that pink-haired wench treats you."

"HEY, don't you start making fun of Sakura-chan."

"I'll insult whoever I damn well feel like, gaki. Let me ask you something, do you know on average how many times that screw-loose little witch beats you in a given day? Between ten and fifteen times a day, and I'll tell you something else, not only would half of those beatings have put a normal person in a coma, but a few you've gotten from her would have KILLED you if not for me!" Naruto was visibly shaken, but Kyuubi continued, "I know for some reason, you care about that pink haired little rat, but enough is enough, you need to either stay away from her or tell her to back the hell off."

Naruto suddenly looked worse than when he had arrived, and the room suddenly got a bit darker, "Sakura-chan…tried to kill me, like all the rest of them?"

Kyuubi suddenly wished she had somehow been a bit more subtle, the last thing she wanted to do was drive her host into a deeper depression, "Well I wouldn't say that, she didn't do so on purpose, she just has a serious anger issue you should talk to her about, or have her see a shrink about. I think deep down, VERY deep down, she might care about you, but she has been too blinded by her desire for the Uchiha to see the damage she caused, and you don't seem to be able to get around your little crush in order to see the way she acts, or to see the others who care about you." She said thinking about the pale-eyed young teen that was obviously head over heels for the blonde.

"You seem to be worrying about a lot of things that don't really affect you, why?"

Kyuubi chuckled a little, "I'll answer your question with one of my own. Do you really know anything about kitsune?" Naruto shook his head, "Well we have several traits that we take great pride in, one of the most important of which is our sense of honor. We are bound by our word, and while some may twist the meaning words, any fox that willingly breaks their promise or oath is considered an outcast at best and an enemy at worst. Like I said before I truly am sorry about what you have been put through because of me, but what you have done today would raise any kitsune's view of you, you took the more difficult route and almost died to keep your word, that with the strength of body and will you show almost every day, along with the fact that you aren't exactly bad looking either, would be enough to catch any vixen's eye among my people, and among most humans too, the only reason you don't have a fan club of your own is probably, once again, due to me and the adults of the village. It might not mean much, but I am proud of you." Naruto was about to say something else, but she raised her hand to silence him, "Look, kit, I know you might have some more questions, and I will answer them later, but I can guess from the outside scents and the repairs that were just made to your body, you are in or close to the village, and in the slug woman's care. You have been through a lot in the past day, and you should get some rest, okay?" Naruto nodded, "come closer for a moment," she said, as he moved next to the cage she grabbed him and pulled him into a hug, his head slipping in between the bars and onto her chest as she planted a light kiss on his forehead, "sweet dreams, kit" she said as his consciousness faded.

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Naruto woke to a familiar sight, a white tiled ceiling, but there was something new that hadn't been in the room any other time he had been in the hospital. To his right, between the bed and the window, was a sleeping person, who looked like she had been there a while. She looked tuff and a bit masculine, but without the heavy jonin vest that hung on the back of the chair she sat on, she was nicely endowed, but had a good lean body. She had a feral look, with her wild, dark brown hair and the red fang marks on her cheeks, which reminded Naruto of Kiba, maybe this woman was related. Naruto's thoughts were interrupted by a shuffling on the other side of his bed, he turned his head and suddenly locked eyes with what seemed to be a large, shaggy, one eyed, black wolf dog.

"About time you woke up, pup."

Naruto bolted up and yelled, a split second before he was pushed back to his mattress and the woman held him down. Standing over him with a kunai in her other hand as she quickly surveyed the room. When she saw that there was no current threat, she looked down to the boy, "What happened, Uzumaki-kun, are you alright?"

Before Naruto could answer, the dog let a strange high yipping, almost like laughter, "My, Tsume, you're rather protective of the stray, aren't you. Are you lookin to adopt him, or lookin to get a new litter out of him."

The woman, Tsume, muttered something like "stupid mutt" before she straitened up and put her vest back on before she turned to Naruto, "Sorry, Uzumaki-kun, I heard you yell and assumed the worst, considering your past. My name is Tsume Inuzuka, and the mutt next to you is my partner, Kuromaru."

"Are you related to Kiba, how is he? How is everyone else? Was Sasuke caught?"

"Calm down kid, yes, I am related to that little baka, Kiba's my son, and he's fine. Everyone else is fine, a couple of them were in critical condition, but you came out of it the worst. And yes, unfortunately, Uchiha-teme is back in the village, your mission succeeded."

"You aren't happy Sasuke is back? Why?"

"Where do I start, we Inuzuka never really got along well with the Uchiha to begin with, they were always pompous and stuck-up, they cared only about power, no matter what they had to do to get it. They always felt like they were the best in the village, no, the best in the world, like we should have dropped to our knees everyday to thank them for being in our village. The only Uchiha I ever met that I liked was the brat's mother, Mikoto. My next problem is that this Sasuke is a spoiled, self-obsessed little punk who only cares about himself, and he tried to betray the village, and if there's anything an Inuzuka values, its loyalty. That's why we never even tried to adopt him, we never trusted the Uchiha clan, I would rather have adopted you, but the damned civilian council wouldn't let me."

"You tried to adopt me? Why? And why wouldn't they?"

She just pointed to his stomach, knowing he knew of the fox's presence, "I tried twice, the first time Fugaku, Mikoto's husband, said that putting you in 'such a savage and beastly clan' might awaken the beast in you, and the second time the bakas just said it was a bad idea to put foxes with dogs." She stopped and took a few deep breaths, "I wanted you in my clan so I could help you, the Yondaime wanted you to be seen as a hero, and that's how I see you, and why I personally beat the tar out of any Inuzuka that was found to be participating in those 'fox hunts', and I gotta say, the fact that you still stay with this village after all that those idiots did to you shows how loyal you can truly be, and like I said, an Inuzuka values loyalty. Who knows, maybe I can still get you in my clan, my daughter, Hana, is first in line for clan head, and she'll need a mate before she can become alpha, I think you would be great in a few years," Tsume said, smiling mischievously at Naruto's blush.

"I would rather you not try to marry him off without his approval, Tsume." They both turned to see Tsunade standing in the doorway, arms crossed, with Shizune beside her, holding Tonton. Both of them had serious looks on their faces as they each walked to either side of his bed, as Naruto braced himself for a hit, and Tsume seemed ready to pull the hokage off him, when the two woman hugged him and the little pig hopped on his chest, nuzzling her snout into his chin.

"Don't you ever scare me like that again, gaki," Tsunade said with tears forming in her eyes.

"Hey, Obaa-chan, Shizune-nee-chan, Tonton, I'm fine."

"No, you're not fine, you almost died, and anyone else would have in your position."

"Yeah, yeah, I already got an earful from Kyuubi on that."

Everyone's jaws dropped at that, Tsume asked, "You talk to him?"

"Her."

"What?"

Naruto chuckled a bit at the looks he was getting, "I said 'her', I was surprised too, but Kyuubi is a woman, and she's really not that bad, once you get to know her."

Shizune looked a bit worried, "Naruto, she tried to destroy the village."

"She says someone was controlling her."

"But how do you know she isn't lying, Kyuubi the most powerful bijuu, how could someone just take control of her."

Tsunade thought for a moment, "It might not be so farfetched, my grandfather was famous for being able to control a bijuu's power, and Madara Uchiha was supposed to have some way to control them as well. I guess it could be possible some powerful genjutsu or new or unknown kekkei genkai could have done it. Do you believe what she says, Naruto?"

He nodded, "She's a bit weird, but she seems to be rather nice and friendly too. I'm pretty sure she was telling the truth."

Tsunade sighed, "Well, this might be something I should have Jiraya check into, if someone strong enough to control the Kyuubi wants to destroy the village, we should at least know who it is. For now, though, Tsume, it's about time for the council meeting, so you may want to get home and wash up, you've been waiting here for a while and quite frankly, you smell."

Naruto looked confused, "Why did you have her looking after me for so long then, obaa-chan?"

Tsume softly smiled, "I was actually here on my own, kid." She said as she headed to the door, "I was worried about you, believe it or not, not everyone has to be ordered to help you. So remember, if you need some help, a sparring partner, or maybe just someone to talk to, you can drop by my clan home, okay?" Naruto nodded, "C'mon Kuromaru."

The dog waited at the door for a moment and turned his head to the boy, "Take care of yourself, pup, Tsume seems to really care about you." And the hound left.

"Well, Naruto," Tsunade said, "We will have to get going soon, too, but I want you to get some rest, so I got a jonin who was kind enough to volunteer some of her free time just to make sure you stay in bed, so behave yourself."

"Okay, but who is it obaa…"

Naruto was cut off by a person jumping through the window, "Arriving!"

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Kuromaru looked to his human partner as they closed in on their home, Tsume had been quiet the entire time as they leapt across rooftops, and usually she would strike up some semblance of a conversation, but not now.

"Tsume, what's bothering you?"

Tsume sighed, "I'm worried about Naruto-kun."

"Why, Tsunade-sama said he would be fine with some rest, thanks to his vixen friend." Kuromaru could accept the Kyuubi being a female, especially given the bitches he had encountered in his life, and was glad the pup was now on good terms with his tenant if it would help Naruto.

"Yeah, I know, but that's not what worries me. I'm worried the council might be planning something. Despite the hero he really is, I just know the damn civilians and those old as hell bastards will try something to twist this entire situation in favor of the Uchiha and maybe give them a reason to do away with Naruto."

"You're really taking a liking to this pup, aren't you?"

"What's not to like, he's a strong, loyal, caring, energetic little brat. He has stared death in the eye more than some jonin, he just got the short end of the stick in life." Tsume was quiet for a moment, "I am thinking of giving that to him, what do you think?"

Kuromaru smiled, or at least as much as a dog could, "I think the pup has proven himself more than worthy." He thought for a moment, "Hey, were you serious about marrying him off to Hana?"

Tsume thought for a moment, before shooting her partner a big, Naruto-like grin, "Are you kidding, with his personality, and that rumored stamina of his, the only thing keeping ME away from him is the fact that Tsunade might just kill me for it."

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Naruto was backed up against the wall and shaking, "Y-you're that insane, bloodsucking exam proctor!"

Anko huffed as Tsunade bopped her fellow blond on the head, "Show some gratitude, Naruto, Anko volunteered to keep you safe and to keep an eye on you, even on her day off, as a favor, so don't just insult her like that."

"But baa-chan, she really did suck my blood at the exams."

Anko huffed again as she crossed her arms, "I didn't sunk, I licked." Everyone sweat dropped, "Besides you can't tell me you where scared of little ol' me after facing scar-face Ibiki."

"Well he would have scared me more if he drank my blood," Naruto said, shuddering at the image he just put in his own head.

"It was just meant to scare ya, gaki, and you have to admit it worked."

"Naruto," Tsunade growled, "stop arguing, the fact still stands that she volunteered her own free time to keep an eye on you, even without pay. Now I have to go to the council meeting, and she will make sure you stay here and rest. Let's go, Shizune."

As Tsunade headed for the door, Shizune picked up Tonton, only to have the little pig squirm out of her grip and jump back on Naruto's bed and sat on his stomach, oinking defiantly.

Shizune shook her head a bit, "do you mind if she stays with you, Naruto, when she gets like this she's more stubborn than Tsunade."

Naruto looked towards the Tonton, only to be greeted with a big pair of sad, puppy eyes that seemed on the verge of tears. Powerless against such a cute face, he sighed and patted her on the head, "Why not," Tonton was ecstatic at his answer, and started rubbing her nose against his chin again.

Shizune smiled and moved to leave the room, but stopped at the door, "Please stay put, Naruto, you need to rest, and you don't want to worry me and Tsunade, do you?"

"No, Shizune-nee-chan."

When Shizune left, Anko sat in the chair Tsume had slept in and started picking at her nails with a kunai. Naruto spent a few minutes petting Tonton before he looked to Anko.

"Why?" he almost whispered.

Anko looked up, "What was that?"

"Why are you here, obaa-chan said it is your day off, and you aren't paid, so why are you here?"

Almost instantly Anko's expression changed from the passively bored look she was wearing to a sad distant look, "Can't you just accept someone was worried about you, Gaki?"

"But why? We never met until the exams, and this is the longest we've ever talked."

"Let's just say, we…are more alike than you realize." She began to balance the the kunai with its point on the tip of her finger, "Let me tell you a story, once upon a time, there was a gennin kunoichi who was orphaned when her parents died on a mission. She was taken as an apprentice by one of the strongest ninja in the entire village. She trained with him, learned from him, trusted him, cared for him, she even had a little crush on him. Then one day, out of nowhere, he says that they are going on a training journey, they left suddenly. Once in a while, they would stop at a strange place, he would start to include her in things, and have her assist in experiments on people that could only be described as… twisted and inhuman. She helped him because he said that they were authorized by their Kage. On some level, she knew that it was a lie, that the Kage would never allow what she had seen and done, but she was blinded by her devotion." Anko's eye started to tear up a bit, "But soon it became too much, she couldn't just turn a blind eye any longer, and when she started to speak out against them, he abandoned her, but," Anko pulled the collar of her coat, revealing her curse mark, "not before he left her with a parting gift. She suffered and screamed and cried for days because of that curse. When the pain began to leave her, she walked out of the room she was in, to find the entire building abandoned, she was alone. She eventually made it back to her village, only to find that she had been declared a nuke-nin, and was arrested and interrogated the moment she got back to her village. Her Kage believed her that she hadn't really known that her sensei had abandoned the village, same as he had done to her, but few others did. Many, both shinobi and civilian saw her like she was no different from her former teacher, like she would soon restart his perversions against nature. At best she was insulted, at worst they would try to attack her, one even tried to rape her, but she was strong enough to defend herself, and that one man never did anything concerning that part of his body again."

Naruto looked down at Tonton, whose ears had dropped with the mood, "I'm sorry, I didn't know." This woman WAS like him, she knew the glares and hateful words that plagued their lives.

Anko put on a sad smirk, "No need to apologize, kid, in fact, I should be thanking you though," she saw his confused expression but continued, "You see, the same idiots that don't see me for me are usually the same ones that don't see you for you. And it seems that they hate demons more than traitors. Usually when I was attacked, it was some drunken villager or a low level chunin, opponents I could handle," a tear formed in her eye, "but that's because the more organized groups and higher level ninja where after you, each hit you took was one I didn't have to. So I'm sorry," she wrapped her arms around the boy, her head on his shoulder, "and thank you."

Naruto smiled and hugged her back for a moment, "You know what you can do to thank me?"

Anko released him, "Aren't you a little young for that?"

Naruto tuned bright red, "No no no, I was just wondering if you could get me some Ichiraku ramen?"

"Aw, too bad," and she chuckled as a couple shadow clones popped up, "What do you want?"

"Three beef, two chicken, and four miso, please."

"Oink-oink."

Naruto smiled at the pig, "Make that five miso ramen."

The clones jumped out the window to get the boys order and the original tuned to Naruto, "Mind if I ask you a question now?" He nodded, "Why did you hold back? I've seen what you can do, you're stronger than most know, and with your furry friend, you should have been able to take the little bitch down easy."

"Kyuubi already yelled at me for that too."

Anko raised an eyebrow, "You…talk to it?"

"Her," Naruto sighed, "And I can, but only when I sleep, or get knocked out, and sometimes if I get thrown off a cliff." Anko suddenly burst out laughing, "What's so funny?"

"You…you called me crazy, and you're the one with voices in your head."

"Nu uh, it's just the one voice," Naruto replied.

Anko doubled over, and took a few moments to calm down, "Hehe…sorry, but you still didn't answer my question, why did you let yourself get so beat-up?"

Naruto's expression dropped as he looked to Tonton, who also had a curious look on her face as well, "Because…I promised Sakura-chan I would bring him back, I would have killed him if I went all out with that power."

"Sakura? You mean that pink-haired little Uchiha-fanatic from your team?" He nodded, "So you almost died to keep a promise to an abusive, sad, sorry excuse of a kunoichi? Why!?"

"Cause, I liked her."

"Liked?"

"Well…I'm just not sure anymore, I still feel like she's real important to me, but I don't think she will ever see Sasuke for what he is. And Kyuubi was mad at me for liking her, she said that some of the times Sakura-chan hit me," tears formed in his eyes,"…that without Kyuubi she could have put me in a coma, or even killed me. That thought hurt more than what Sasuke did to me."

Anko ruffled his hair a bit, "Hey, it's her loss; you seem like a good kid. If I was a few years younger, but then, spending time with people like Tsume, Tsunade, and Shizune maybe you like older women," she laughed at his blush, I swear, if that little, pink haired Uchiha slut tries anything, I do things to her that would make Ibiki puke and soil himself before passing out.

^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^------------------------------

Across town on a small bridge, Sakura Haruno sneezed as a chill ran through her very soul, What was that? It felt like…someone walked over my grave.

"Hey, Forehead!"

Sakura turned to see Ino running to her, "What is it, Ino-pig?"

"They're back, Shikamaru's team is back, c'mon let's go," the blonde girl said as she dragged her friend to the hospital. When they got there, first thing Ino did was inquiring about her teammates, and headed off to Choji's room. Sakura asked to be taken to Sasuke's room. She got there to find a pair of ANBU guarding the door, she barely managed to look in the door, seeing Sasuke wrapped in a bunch of bandages and still out cold, before one of the Anbu, a cat-masked woman with purple hair, stepped in front of her.

"I'm sorry, miss, but by the orders of Hokage-sama, no one outside of hospital staff is allowed to visit the Uchiha until his trial."

"Trial? But he was barely gone a day, they're already gonna tri him as a nuke-nin?"

Yuugao almost felt like bopping the girl, she knew of this teen and her actions to her teammates, especially towards her former charge, "Haruno-san, Uchiha fled Konoha with the full intent of joining a known enemy, with the aid of enemy shinobi, directly and indirectly almost causing the deaths of your fellow leaf-nin. Despite what leeway his family may have once had, he will go to trial. Furthermore," she added with a glare that sent chills through Sakura's spine, "He's lucky his captor was so lenient, had I been there, he would be missing a limb."

"What do you mean his captor?"

"Naruto Uzumaki, he fought the Uchiha, almost losing his life, and knocked him out to be collected by another ninja."

Sakura turned to head to see her blonde teammate, angry, I can't believe Naruto beat Sasuke-kun like that.

^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^-----------------------------

Anko's clones arrived quickly, two carrying carry-out bowls of ramen and one had an armful of dango boxes. The original started chowing down, inhaling the dumplings almost as fast as Naruto did the noodles, Tonton's bowl set on the floor as she ate at a much slower pace. When they finished, they began to talk and swap stories, Anko talking about some of her less classified missions, and Naruto about his better pranks and missions.

"You actually took out Kabuto? Even Kakashi-teme had trouble against him."

"Well, it was kind of a draw, we both went down, but I sent him right through a bolder."

Anko was chuckling when she felt a vaguely familiar chakra signature approaching, once she realized who it was, she turned to the blonde, "Hey, I'll be right back, I have to use the john." She walked out and closed the door, and, after applying a quick soundproofing jutsu to the door, she immediately hid herself from sight.

Moments later Sakura came walking down the hall and stopped at the door to Naruto's room, but before she could enter, she felt something wrap around her arms, legs and waist before she was slammed into the wall.

"Where do you think YOU'RE going, bitch?" Sakura turned her head to see the exam proctor, with a bunch of snakes coming from her sleeve.

"I came to see my teammate, ma'am," Sakura was upset, but knew better than to anger a jonin.

Anko narrowed her eyes, "Well, I don't think that's such a good idea."

"But, I'm his teammate," she said before one of the sakes on her arm hissed.

"Yeah, but you're also the reason he almost died, and someone who mindlessly abuses him, what, you think I didn't know. I'm gonna tell you something, wench, Naruto's more resilient than most chunin, and if it weren't for that and his healing abilities, a few of those hits of yours would have killed him," Sakura looked shocked, and Anko raised her other arm, and a dark green serpent slithered out of her sleeve and rested its head on her palm, "you see this little guy, he's what's called a black mamba, a type of snake that is extremely venomous. His venom will cause double vision, fever, paralysis, convulsions, coma, and then death, sometimes all within fifteen minutes of the bite. In fact, there's a little saying about them 'do you know what the difference is between finding a tiger in the jungle, and finding a black mamba?'" Sakura shook her head, too scared to speak, "If you find a tiger, you might live to tell the tale." Anko gave the snake a quick peck on the head, then turned back to the teen, "Now I want you to leave, and if I EVER find out you caused that boy any harm, physical, mental, or emotional, again, I WILL have my buddy here pay you a late night visit."

"B-b-but…"

"No buts you little bitch, that little guy in that hospital bed has been through hell time and time again, and almost DIED to keep that dumbass promise to you and bring your precious Uchiha back alive, when he could have easily killed the bastard. And he actually cared about you, and for some reason still does even despite your insults and abuse, but I'm not gonna let him put up with your crap any longer," the snakes released Sakura and she dropped to her knees, "You're a pathetic excuse for a kunoichi, and until you change your ways, I don't want to see you near him. Now get the hell out of my sight."

Sakura broke into tears and ran off. Anko just shook her head, Naruto will be mad if he finds out, but she needed a kick in the ass. She released the sound barrier and returned to her new friend and charge.

"Feel better, Anko-nee-chan?"

Anko flashed her mischievous grin and walked to his bed, "Nee-chan? How about just –chan, it won't make me sound as old. Besides," she laid next to him and pulled close, putting his head on her chest, "if I where your sister, this might be awkward."

THWUMP

The two looked to the door to see Kurenai standing beside a passed out, twitching Hinata, with a small pot of flowers clutched to her chest. Kurenai picked the girl up and placed her in a chair, before turning to Anko and Naruto and speaking in a voice that was quiet, but promised a lot of pain if she got the wrong answer, "Anko, what are you doing?"

"What ever do you mean, Nai-chan," Anko said, feigning innocence, "Tsunade asked to keep a close eye on Naruto-kun, so I am."

"It looks more like you're keeping a close something on him, but it's definitely NOT your eyes," the red eyed woman moved to the door, "Naruto, would you stay here with Hinata for a few minutes, I need to talk to Anko, alone." And she left the room.

Naruto just chuckled, "Anko-chan's in trouble," he said in a sing-song voice.

"Oh, shut up gaki," Anko grunted as she left the room behind her friend, closing the door behind her, when she sealed the door she turned to Kurenai, "Look, Nai-chan, I was just having some fun with the kid, we were just playing."

Kurenai was staring Anko down, "Anko, I would prefer you not play like that with one so young."

"Please, he's old enough to get that close to death, he can do what he wants. Besides," Anko's face turned serious, "you know how much I owe that kid in there. How many times did you help me get those bastards to back off me?" Kurenai Looked to the ground, that wasn't a subject she liked, but Anko continued, "Now imagine if the tougher bastards hadn't been busy with Naruto. I might not be here talking to you now."

"Anko, I know you feel you owe him, but you aren't the only one who cares about him, you know."

Anko grinned, "I could tell, the Hyuga seems to be hopelessly head-over-heels for the kid. But you know, she is kinda cute, and I don't mind sharing."

The genjutsu mistress sighed, "Anko, I would like it if you didn't go around trying to corrupt my students."

"Um, excuse me?" The two jonin turned to see a blonde genin.

"Hello, Ino, can we help you?"

"Actually, Kurenai-sensei, I was looking for Naruto's room, I wanted to check on him, Choji was pretty beat up and Shikamaru said Naruto's opponent was tougher than the others, and I heard he was really hurt."

Anko finally recognized the girl, "Aren't you the one who got knocked out by the pink haired wimp in the exams?" Ino looked ticked off, but just answered with a nod, "Well, he was in pretty bad condition, but he's up now, though just to set you straight, the Uchiha brat is the one who put the Chidori hole in Naruto's chest."

Ino was surprised as she followed the women into the room, from what she had heard, she thought that Sasuke had been kidnapped, but she learned the truth when she tried to visit him and the cat ANBU had told her the truth. First she was heartbroken that her crush had so willingly betrayed the village for the one who killed the Sandaime, then she was just angry that he had almost caused her teammates death, now she was just worried about her fellow blonde, she had heard he was badly injured from the ANBU, but had assumed it was from the sound-nin, to hear that Sasuke had not only used the same jutsu she had seen punch through a solid wall of sand on a leaf nin, but on his teammate! Ino almost wished she could use some of her father's mind altering jutsu on the Uchiha.

Ino was more surprised, however, that the same blonde, still wrapped in bandages, was just sitting on a table petting a small pig with a bunch of empty bowls next to him, and acting like he was never injured, "Hey, Ino, good to see you."

"Um, hey Naruto, how are you doing, I heard you were pretty badly hurt."

Naruto just waved it off, "Nah, I heal pretty fast, I'm only still here because baa-chan has Anko-chan here making sure I stay put, and Tonton stay as well, didn't you?" he said as he tapped the pigs snout playfully, getting a happy squeal in return.

Ino chuckled a little at the scene, Like a father and a baby, she shook the thought from her head, why am I thinking of Naruto as a dad? Ino's thought were interrupted by a soft 'eep' beside Naruto's bed, she looked to see Hinata was coming to in a chair she hadn't noticed, I guess she saw Naruto all banged up and fainted.

"Hey Hinata, you're awake, are you okay?" Naruto asked in his usual cheery voice, seemingly forgetting that it was him who was in the hospital.

Hinata turned her usual shade of red, "Y-y-yes Naruto-kun, I'm fine," then she remembered the flowers in her hands and held them out to him, "I-I got these f-for you Naruto-kun."

Naruto took the pot, in it were a group of small violet flowers, "Lavender flowers, thanks Hinata, these could be useful."

Hinata nodded, "You're w-welcome, Naruto-kun, I usually g-grow them for my herbal t-tea."

"Really, you'll have to make me some sometime. I figured you'd use it in those salves of yours, these little guys can be pretty good for bringing down swelling, helping bug bites, and fixing burns too."

Ino was amazed, "I didn't know you knew anything about flowers Naruto."

The boy just grinned, "I'm a man of many talents, Ino, gardening is a hobby of mine and…oh crud," he smaked his fore head and looked back to Ino, "Hey, Ino, you work at a flower shop, Right?" She nodded, "Would you mind doing me a favor, at my apartment is a small window box, would you mind taking care of it while I'm here?"

"Um, I guess I could, but I don't know where your place is."

"No problem," Naruto bit his thumb hard enough to draw blood, went through a few hand signs and brought his palm down on his lap and in a puff of smoke a small orange toad appeared on the bed next to Tonton.

"Hey, aniki, got any sna-WHOA, what the hell happened to you," Gamakichi, worried about the bandages on his friend.

"I'll explain later, Kichi, I need you to show Ino where my place is so she can take care of my plants while I'm here, Ino this is," Naruto looked up to see the blonde girl up against the far wall, "what's wrong?"

"B-b-big f-frog."

Gamakichi got a bit angry at this, "Hey, I'm a toad, not a frog!"

"Gamakichi, calm down, and Ino, it's alright, Kichi won't hurt you," he motioned her to the bed, when she was next to him, "Ino, this is Gamakichi, the older son of Gamabunta, the toad boss. Gamakichi, this is Ino, Hinata, Anko, and Kurenai-sensei. Like I said, I need you to show Ino where I live so she can take care of my flowers, feel free to grab a bag of chips while you're there, and get one for Tatsu too."

"Thanks, aniki, but are you sure you're alright?"

"Yes, I'm fine."

"You shouldn't be, you were damn close to dead." Everyone looked to the window to see Pakkun and another dog, a medium sized Doberman with a small sword on its back. Anko visibly tensed at the sight of one of Kakashi's summon dogs, Pakkun interrupted, "Don't worry Anko, I am in no way here on Hatake's behalf."

Naruto was a bit confused, Pakkun seemed to just growl out Kakashi's name, and Anko and the other dog seemed to scowl at his mention, "Hey, is something wrong with Kakashi-sensei?"

Pakkun cocked his head to the side, "You weren't told? Well, I guess Tsunade wanted to wait until you were recovered," he saw Naruto's expression become even more confused, as well as the younger girls, "There's no real easy way to tell you this kid, but Hatake…left you for dead in the Valley." Naruto's expression suddenly went south, but the pug continued, "He summoned me and the others to find you and the Uchiha. When we got there, I tried to get him to help you, but he only went to help Sasuke. Luckily, bull was close and we got you to Tsunade in time."

Naruto was on the verge of tears, Anko and Kurenai were pissed beyond belief, Ino was shocked that a teacher could do such a thing, and Hinata, she had a blank look on her face except for a slight twitch in one eye, but her mind was going a mile a minute trying to think of every possible way she hurt the jonin.

Hinata was actually the first to speak, albeit in a cold, emotionless voice, "Where is Kakashi now?"

Pakkun was surprised at the bloodlust rolling of the young woman, "Actually, he's a few floors up. When Tsunade and that Inuzuka woman found out, the woman beat the tar out of him, and Tsunade hit him with a super kick to the groin." The rage radiating from Hinata seemed to die down a bit.

"I think I should get going, I still have to get your plants before I can go home." Ino said, motioning for the toad to follow.

"Thanks again, Ino, and feel free to stop by again, baa-chan said I will be here a few days and, no offence to Anko-chan, baa-chan and Tsume, but it's nice to have people my age visit, like you two."

Ino was confused, "Wait, wasn't forehead here?"

"No… she's probably waiting for Sasuke to make up."

"She can't be, ANBU won't let anyone in to see him, or I'd have him thinking he was a little pigtailed girl for getting my teammates hurt." She sighed and went out the door, but stopped just before closing it, "Hey, Naruto… Good job." And she closed the door. Where the hell are you, Sakura?

^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^--------------------------------------

Sakura Haruno was at training ground seven, in front of the same log her teammate had been tied to, as the sun started to set. She had finally stopped crying after her experience with the snake-jonin and had been thinking about what she had been told. She had seen Naruto picked on at school, but she didn't see how that could be considered hell as Anko had put it.

But then again, we never saw what things were like for him out of school, the voice in the back of her head had been bothering her more over the past few hours.

I didn't see him out of school because he was annoying, always bugging me for dates.

You mean the same way you bugged Sasuke?

Sakura shook her head, No, that was… different.

You're right, Naruto didn't almost kill people when you turned him down.

That had to be a lie, there's no way I could have done that.

Well, you do seem to get that boost when you get angry.

Sakura stood and faced the log, then looked at her own fist, But, there's no way…Sakura thought back to all that stuff that had always pissed her off about Naruto, but for some reason, she couldn't get mad about it. She'd see him bugging her for a date, but then she'd herself doing the same to Sasuke. She see him doing something stupid, but then she couldn't help but think of something nice or encouraging he had done for her. Tears fell from her eyes again, Was that proctor right?

Anko's voice drifted from her memory, you're the one who mindlessly abuses him.

"Shut up."

You're a pathetic excuse for a kunoichi.

"Shut up!" she clinched her eyes shut, trying to ignore the memories.

You're the reason he almost died.

"SHUT UP!" Sakura thrust her fist forward and heard the sound of wood breaking, she opened her eyes and saw, along with her slightly bloodied fist, that she had almost completely cracked the thick log in half. Seeing the destruction she had caused, Sakura dropped to her knees, Wha…but, is that what Naruto has been getting hit with all this time? Oh..Oh god, she started crying more than ever, Naruto, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.

Until you change your ways, I don't want to see you near him again.

Sakura looked at her hand. It didn't feel broken or even hurt that badly, it just stung a bit. She then looked to the setting sun, I swear Naruto, I will get stronger, and I will make it up to you for what I've done.

^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^---------------------------------

First chapter end

I just want to say I have no idea how long it will be between updates.