Author's Notes. First story submitted on fanfiction. Hope you like it. Warning, SPOILERS during this chapter. The Story will be a Naruhina.

Disclaimer: If I owned Naruto, I wouldn't be up to my eyebrows in debt. Although that would be more impressive if they were more like Rock Lee's… or Might Guy's… (Shudder)

Chapter 1

The Return

Slowly, Naruto stumbled back down the path back to Konoha, both mentally and physically exhausted. He was only just able to make five more steps before he collapsed, boneless, to the ground. The battle had been long and the fighting fierce, yet in the end, he had prevailed. Pain was defeated and Konoha had been saved. The village may have been destroyed, but thanks to Nagato, its people lived once more and inside them, the Will of Fire still burned strongly. His precious people had survived. At least, that's what Katsuya had said. But he had to know. He had o find out whether or not their survival was not just a dream for himself. Before going any further, Naruto dragged his weary body up to a sitting position and drew deeply on the Nature Energy surrounding him, once more entering Sage Mode, not for battle this time, but for an entirely different reason.

"They're alive," he whispered, as tears began to stream down his face. "Sakura-chan, Kakashi-sensei, Shizune, Hinata-chan, I can feel them all. They're alright." He sighed in relief, finally reassured, before quickly releasing sage mode. He had used far too much chakra to keep a hold of it. Sage Mode was extremely dangerous to try and use when a person was so close to chakra exhaustion. Without his usual almost inhuman amounts of chakra, the nature energy would quickly overwhelm his own, resulting in him morphing into a frog, before turning to stone. It was a stupid, dangerous, reckless thing to do. But Naruto had had to know for himself. He had to know that those precious to him were safe. Turning, he addressed the one who was moving stealthily towards him. "You're late, Kakashi-sensei," he said with a grin. Kakashi just eye smiled at him. "Well, you know those little old ladies…"

There was only a short distance left to go before they reached the village, despite that, Kakashi was carrying his exhausted student back to the village on his back. 'Student…' Kakashi thought, shaking his head, musing about all the progress that his sleeping student had made: from dead last, to great shinobi, from the hated outcast, to village savior. "Truly Naruto, you are your father's son," he whispered, smiling underneath his mask.

"Thank you," Naruto said softly. Kakashi started.

"You know who he is?" Kakashi asked.

Naruto nodded.


Naruto had felt such despair. All his work, all his training and he had still not been strong enough. Hinata-chan… Hinata was dead and it was his fault, all his fault. No, it was not his fault. It was Pain's fault. Pain had done this, just as he had taken Jiraiya from him. No more. He had always been ready to die for those precious to him, ever since he had met Haku. Now, for the first and last time, he would heed the fox's words. He would unleash the Kyuubi no Kitsune and Pain would die. "That's it boy, give in to your anger, your grief. Take this seal off and I will give you the power to kill the one who has taken away those precious to you." Slowly, Naruto slid his hand underneath the seal, readying himself to rip it off in one moment, before a hand stopped his and pulled him away from the great gates.

"The seal is set so that if 8 tails are released, I'll appear within your consciousness. I didn't want that to happen… I never wanted to see you again Kyuubi.

"But… I looked forward to seeing how my son had grown… So I guess you could call it even." Turning around, Naruto faced the man who claimed him as his own, his father, Minato Namikaze, the Yondaime Hokage.

Naruto smiled, remembering all that his father had told him, the message, the warning, but most of all, the sound of his father's voice, the glint in his sapphire eyes so like his own and the best thing of all, the love that ran so deep within his father's voice when he spoke about how he believed in him. Then, they came out of the trees, to behold a sight that, although he had dreamed about it for such a long time, Naruto had never truly thought he would see. The villagers, all of the villagers were there, gathered together in a huge crowd: a crowd that was waiting for the return of their hero. Him. Cheering him on. They were there for him; they were there for Uzumaki Naruto.

Kakashi smiled, remembering back to the days when he had first taken on his genin team, secure in the belief that they would most likely fail the next day. At the time, he had not believed that Naruto would ever accomplish his dream. Now, it was being fulfilled before his very eyes.


"My dream is to be greater than the Hokage! I'll make everyone in the village acknowledge my existence."

"Naruto," he said. "You did good." Tears in his eyes, Naruto looked around, searching for the faces of those closest, unable to pick out their voices in the roar of the crowd surrounding him. His eyes quickly picked out Sakura, her bright pink hair making her stand out in the crowd. With a smile on her face, his teammate approached until within arms reach. The people around them quieted down, to such an extent that Naruto could hear her whispered words.

"Naruto," she said softly.

"Hai, Sakura-chan," he said, staring at the one who he had had such a crush on for longer than he cared to remember.

"BAKA!" she shouted, walloping him on the head. The crowd around them gasped, several of them almost bug-eyed from astonishment. Then, she pulled him into an embrace.

"Thank you," she whispered, the tears slowly leaking from her eyes. As she stepped away, the crowd rushed in, hoisting him onto their shoulders and tossing him into the air. He began to laugh, a true laugh and deep. Iruka, Naruto's first sensei, looked on in pride, going over nostalgic memories of this boy, no, this man, who had become like a brother to him, like a son.

Naruto's grin grew ever wider as he caught sight of his friends, the remainder of the Konoha 11. There was Lee, standing next to his sensei Might Guy, in those garish green tights, both of them standing in the nice guy pose. Down back into the crowd he went as gravity once more took hold of him and he fell back into the crowd. Next time he was thrown into the air, he spotted Lee and Guy in an exuberant, sorry, youthful, Man Hug. Naruto quickly looked away before the unbreakable sunset genjutsu came into effect. Standing next to them were the only ones able to ignore their teammates antics, Neji and Tenten. Neji wore a small, confidant smile of acceptance, but there was a worried look within his pale eyes. Tenten stood almost suspiciously close to Neji, her face set in a look of pride, with her hand resting almost comfortingly on the crook of Neji's elbow.

Once more, Naruto was thrown into the air, his eyes searching for someone in particular. Team Ino-Shika-Cho were the next ones spotted, Shikamaru leaning on his best friends arm, his leg obviously broken. The first chuunin nodded his head significantly at Naruto, signaling his respect. Anything else would have probably been too troublesome. Choji smiled crookedly, eye's closed. Ino also wore a small smile, her eyes showing a bit of disbelief. Naruto was so happy to see them. But they were not who he was looking for.

Shikaku, Shikamaru's father, noticed his wandering eyes. It didn't take him long to figure out what he was looking for. The genius never made a move as one of the ANBU, all of whom had proved so ineffective against Pain, landed at a spot free from the press of the crowd right next to him. "What is it?" he asked.

"Emergency meeting. You're to report to the council room immediately."

"What council room?" Shikaku asked wryly, waving his hand, indicating the destruction surrounding them.

"I'll lead you to it."

Naruto was getting worried. He had been tossed up eight times now and he had still seen no sight of the one he was looking for. Finally, on toss number nine, he spotted Kiba, which meant that the one standing next to him all bundled up in the hoodie had to be Shino. Naruto still had difficulty with spotting Shino when he had all those clothes hiding almost all of his skin. Kiba was also smiling, a wide smile that showed off his elongated canines. Naruto couldn't for the life of him tell what expression Shino had on his face. But he could see that not all was what it seemed, something was wrong. Tension was written in every line of their bodies. Kiba, although smiling, was distracted. There was something forced about their appearance, as if they did not really want to be there. Naruto's heart sank. He knew what was wrong. "Stop," he whispered. The crowd did not heed him. "Please, stop," Naruto said. Some of them heard his words now, but, believing him to being modest. They just grew more enthusiastic in their praise.

"STOOOOOP!" Naruto roared. Surprised, Naruto was dropped to the floor, landing with a thud onto his rear. Quickly he sprang to his feet, ignoring the small pain. "Where is she?" he asked the now silent crowd. Those closest to him could not meet his gaze. "I said, where is she?" Sakura bit her lip. "Naruto…" she said, biting her lip.

"Where is Hinata Hyuuga?"