Title: A hero's return.

Disclaimer: Naruto is not my creation, nor do I claim to have created it.

This story follows on from Naruto's return to the village of Konoha following its destruction, by the hands of Pain. Upon returning to the site of his victorious battle with the Akatsuki member, with the assistance of Hatake Kakashi, an unsuspecting Naruto is greeted by a hero's welcome. The increasing acknowledgement of the Jinchuuriki of the Kyubi has been slow, but sure, with his teacher Iruka Sensei being the first to create a 'bond' with the misunderstood youngster. Four years from this, Naruto has become a popular figure amongst his peers primarily through his determination to not give up, and to fight for his beliefs. The welcome he received from his beloved villagers allowed him to feel what he has desired all his life...acknowledgement from everyone, to the level of the Hokage.

Hinata's declaration of love for Naruto, moments before she attempts to protect him with her life, is a defining moment in the Naruto story. However, It appears that Kishimoto doesn't want to pursue it any further. At least in the Manga anyway.

The main focus of this story is to present an altered path following his return, showing the growth of a relationship between the pair.

This story runs loosely along the canon at the beginning, with significant changes later that will change the way in which the story progresses.

***Chapter 1- The Return***

Cheers rang out from the sea of men, women, and children of Konoha.

"Uzumaki Naruto, Thank you, you are our saviour."

"Three cheers for the Hero of Konoha. Hip-Hip, Hooray! Hip-Hip, Hooray! Hip-Hip, Hooray!"

"Ka-Kakashi sensei, w-what's happening?" he managed to force out in utter amazement at the site presented before him. The overwhelming wave of noise and emotion coming from the crowd brought a tear to Naruto's eye.

"I provided a detailed account of your triumph over the final Pain to the villagers. They have been waiting eagerly for your return Naruto-kun." Katsuyu stated squeakily in Naruto's ear as she perched on his shoulder.

"You are the hero of Konoha, Naruto. Thank you." Kakashi said to his young student, as he helped Naruto off his shoulders. "He's becoming more like you every day, Sensei." Kakashi thought to himself as he looked up at the stone carved face of the Yondaime.

A smile slowly began to beam across Naruto's face as it hit home that everyone he saw before him, acknowledged him as something other than the Kyubi that resided within. People began rushing towards him just with the feint hope that they may be able to touch their hero.

"What was it like? Did you really kill Pain on your own? Wow you are amazing Naruto!" This was all that could be heard from the children surrounding Naruto.

"He-he, I guess I am." Naruto laughed as he scratched his head in embarrassment.

As Naruto looked around he could see the rookie teams assembling together. He was overjoyed by the happiness and relief on their faces, even more so by the sight of Hinata, who was stood with Kiba and Shino. Although she looked beaten and bruised, everyone in front of the spiky haired blonde was. He could feel something in the pit of his stomach when he looked at her, "what is this feeling?" He thought to himself.

"Kid, you sure are dumb sometimes." He heard residing from the fifty foot cage inside his mind. "You can single-handedly defeat the man who couldn't be stopped by your entire village, but you can't figure out what this overwhelming emotion is." The Kyubi chuckled before growling at his teenage jailer.

"Shut up, you over-sized fur ball. Are you going to tell me or not?" He yelled angrily at the nine-tails.

"No" The demon chuckled as it laid down, thinking heavily about how close he had come to freedom moments ago. "Cursed Yondaime Hokage" it thought to itself before falling asleep.

Before he could wake up the annoying fox, Kiba, Lee, and Chouji began to run over to their fellow Nin, picking him up so that he rested on their shoulders. "Express your youthfulness to your fans Naruto-kun!" Lee shouted excitedly urging Naruto to speak to the villagers.

The crowd suddenly grew silent, waiting for the blonde haired Jinchuriki to speak.

'Ha-ha, god what mess has the annoying green beast got me into this time...I'm useless at speeches.' Naruto thought to himself, coughing to clear his throat, and to give himself time to think. "I-um just-um want to say that..." Naruto began to say in a rather unnatural shy manner, pausing briefly before he re-grouped and continued.

"I want to say first and foremost that I'm glad that everyone is safe." He took a deep breath before continuing with his 'speech'. "I would also like to say one other thing. Everyone here is part of a family, regardless of their clan, we are the villagers of the hidden leaf, and today everyone here showed their 'will of fire'. Tomorrow we will be given the task to rebuild our homes, but today, we should continue to celebrate that we only lost our homes, and not our lives."

The crowd appeared stunned at what they heard, not expecting such words from the supposed 'idiot' ninja, who sounded mature beyond his years. Naruto looked around at the silent crowd as it suddenly burst into rapturous applause.

"Who would have thought he could be so...eloquent. He's kind of sexy..." Tenten stated to Neji and Ino with a slightly rosy colour in her cheeks. Ino nodded with a similar tint to her cheeks as she gazed towards the grinning teen, but Neji felt slightly jealous of the blonde before him. "Why can't she say that about me." the stone-faced Hyuga thought to himself and sighed.

Naruto asked his fellow Nin to let him down, and began to walk over to Hinata-chan. Her happy and cheerful demeanour suddenly shifted as she saw the love of her life walk towards her. The lavender eyed Hyuga began to press her index fingers together as she was so very fond of around him.

"Err-Hinata-Chan, I...err...Is it okay if we ca..." Naruto stopped mid-sentence.

"NARUTO-KUN!" Hinata screamed as he collapsed into her arms. The crowd gasped as their hero lay in the young Hyuga's arms. Sakura was quick to arrive at the scene.

The medical-Nin quickly looked over her fellow team 7 member. "Don't worry Hinata, he's okay, just exhausted from this ordeal." Sakura said to reassure the extremely worried indigo haired kunoichi. The uneasiness in her facial expression began to ease as she heard Naruto snore away loudly in the background.

Kakashi and Gai-sensei appeared out of thin air either side of the three Ninja, picking up Naruto slowly so not to injure him.

"Come on, let's get you to the medical tent", Kakashi whispered in his ear so not to wake him. He was taken hastily away from the crowd, who returned to their celebrations, and somehow managed to remain upbeat considering the destruction that surrounded them. They placed him in the makeshift medical facility, followed directly by Hinata and Sakura. The pink haired medical-Nin gave Naruto a quick check-up before deciding that there was no residing damage to his body or his chakra system.

"Is...Is Na-Naruto-kun okay?" Hinata muttered quietly so only Sakura could hear.

"Yes." Sakura replied with a smile. "Try not to get too worried about him. He's strong. It won't be long before he's fully recovered. That Kyubi of his rapidly increases recovery time." Sakura said cheerfully as she placed her hand on Hinata's shoulder in an attempt to comfort her. She remained for a brief period before leaving with Kakashi and Gai-sensei to join in with the festivities. They urged Hinata to join them, but she refused to leave Naruto's bed-side, placing her hands nervously onto his as he slept peacefully. They were relatively undisturbed as, only Shikamaru (who was out cold due to the large amount of morphene he had been given for his leg), and the Godaime Hokage (who remained in a coma as she recovered from using her mitotic regeneration jutsu) were placed in the same tent, being looked after by a small number of medics, along with the revived Shizune.

"N-Naruto-kun...thank you."The exhausted Hyuga said quietly before falling asleep besides her beloved Naruto, thinking about what he was about to ask her before he collapsed into her unsuspecting arms.

A few hours later, Captain Yamato approached the hidden village at near light speed jumping frantically through the tree tops, desperate to get back to aid in the Kyubi attack. As he reached the main gates, the look of desperation quickly subsided and was replaced with a mixture of shock, and utter fear. Before him was not his pleasant village, but a crater. "Shit...I'm too late. I-Its gone. I was too late. God Damn it."The captain said angrily, collapsing to his knees as he looked at the devastation in front of him.

"What's with the manic depressed look Yamato, it doesn't fit with your ice-cold appearance."

"Kakashi-senpai..." Yamato replied as he looked up at the silver haired Jounin."...what's going on here? I-I thought everyone was dead. The Kyubi..." He asked before he was cut off.

"Don't worry about it, Naruto's fine." The copy-cat ninja said reassuringly to Yamato, who still looked confused as to what caused the village to crumble. "This was done by the hands of an Akatsuki member. Naruto saved us, he saved everyone." Kakashi said as he vanished into thin air, before reappearing next to Yamato.

"Naruto defeated an Akatsuki member who could do so much damage, singlehanded? How? Where were you Kakashi-Senpai? More-so, what happened to the Hokage?" The usually calm ANBU Captain rifled off question after question as he searched hastily for answers. Kakashi sat besides his fellow Nin as he began to enlighten him on what had transpired, and how Naruto had selflessly taken another step towards filling the void his father had left when he succumbed to the Kyubi.


"Should we tell him? He will surely kill us for bearing such news."

"No he won't, don't be such a pussy. It's not like we could have helped out."

"I take that Pain and Konan were unsuccessful in retrieving the Jinchuriki of the Kyubi." Madara said loud enough for the split personalities of Zetsu to halt their argument. The air in the darkened room, with only a single candle on Madara's desk providing any light, became still. "I'll take your silence as a no then, Zetsu." Madara said calmly as he continued looking over numerous 'classified' documents.

"He was defeated by the Uzumaki brat, and Konan disappeared with the body." The black half said confidently. "Konoha was levelled, but it appears that he used his Rinnegan to revive all those who perished, shortly before he died."

"I doubt that it will take long for the worker ants to begin reconstruction." The white half added.

"This was a most unexpected turn of events. I never imagined for the rash, loud mouthed Konoha brat to have defeated a 'god'." Madara chuckled loudly, mocking his fellow Akatsuki member as his voice briefly transformed to that of Tobi. "However, it is most unfortunate for Konan to leave with his body. For that she will have to die!" His voice reverted back to the emotionless Uchiha in an instant, sending a sudden chill down Zetsu's spine. "Let's hope that Kisame has greater success with the Hachibi."

"So, the idiot managed to defeat an Akatsuki member." The words echoed around the room before a tall figure appeared from inside the darkness. All that could be made out from amongst the black surrounding him were the red clouds on his cloak. The figure opened their eyes unleashing their Sharingan on the unsuspecting Zetsu.

"Sa-Sasuke-kun, I couldn't sense your presence at all." The white half stuttered.

"Heh, he's achieved the power of a sage, I doubt even you could defeat him now Sasuke." The black half said in an attempt to piss off the dark haired Uchiha. Light suddenly filled the room, as a wave of killing intent erupted from the young Uchiha. Chakra had formed into a lightning blade in the palm of his hand. The noise was deafening in such an enclosed space.

"Now, now Sasuke, there's no point in wasting your energy on poor Zetsu. I have someone else in mind that I think you would much rather like to kill." Madara said to his brethren Uchiha, now stood besides Sasuke holding onto his arm, forcibly disabling his technique.

"What speed...no, it was something else, I'm sure he didn't move." Sasuke stood looking confused at Madara's insane speed, before settling down to hear what Madara had planned. "I'm listening." He said intriguingly.

Nightfall had struck the village of Konoha. Various tents had been erected in order for the celebrations to continue 'indoors' as the temperature dropped. Fire element users created small fires around the crater as a source of heat as the moon light shone down upon the cheerful villagers. The cheering and laughter had not subsided, mainly through the use of alcohol, but spirits remained high regardless. Kakashi, Gai-sensei, Yamato, and Iruka were sat at a table; Captain Yamato had so kindly created, underneath the Hokage monument.

"Do you think Naruto-kun will be okay?" Iruka probed Kakashi hoping for a positive reply.

"You worry about him too much Iruka, but yes, Sakura assured me that he is just suffering from severe chakra exhaustion due to overuse of his sage jutsu." Kakashi replied, with a smile clearly formed underneath his mask. "He's already surpassed us at such a young age. He's probably even surpassed Jiraiya-sama." Kakashi added almost disappointingly that his student was possibly more capable than he was. Iruka simply smiled and continued on drinking his sake, pouring Kakashi a cup to pick up the clearly upset Jounin.

"That boy has changed so much from the academy failure he was almost five years ago. You and Jiraiya did a good job with his training Kakashi-senpai." Captain Yamato chirped in to try and pick up the Jounin.

"He's becoming more like his father every day." Kakashi began to sob, slurring some of his words as he remembered the life of his Sensei, before passing out on the table. Yamato and Iruka looked at each other astonished; laughing at the drunken figure slouched in front of them.

"YES! I have defeated you, my eternal rival at this youthfulness of a drinking competition..." Gai-sensei was cut off by the overriding urge to vomit, disappearing into the darkness before returning to make the nice guy pose, shortly prior to joining Kakashi in a state of drunken unconsciousness.

"I hope you're not hoping to join them Captain Yamato. Something tells me you're going to be needed a lot more than us tomorrow." Iruka smiled at the wood jutsu user, before it dawned on Yamato what Iruka was getting at.

Thanks to those who have taken time to write a review. I wasn't expecting any so thanks. :)

Next chapter should be up in a couple of days.

Hope everyone likes how it has begun.