Return of Naruto Hatake

Chapter 24: Party Time

It was a regular day in Konoha at least on the outside it was. In one certain home of the Hatake household things were a bit busy. Kakashi after a good long rest and after his welcome home moment with his girlfriend he felt a lot more refreshed. Naruto had been bouncing all morning at he had helped to set up the back yard. It was a lot easier now that Naruto had the shadow clones as the army of little ninjas went to work setting up blankets and those throw away plates. Kakashi went out to get snack food and some drinks at a local store he had gone for years.

Kakashi thought about how stressful things had been lately, with Itachi attacking the village, him in a coma, Naruto out to get Tsunade and the trouble they ran into and now all the trouble with the mission they had just gotten through, maybe this little party was just the way to get all the stress out and enjoy themselves.

It had been some time since everyone had been together in a nice setting too he figured.

An hour later everything was set up in the backyard, it wasn't the biggest yard but it could hold everyone. In the center was an old cheery blossom tree that had been there as long as Kakashi knew, Naruto had once asked if they could put a tree fort up there. He had to explain that the tree wasn't shaped properly or could hold the weight. Kakashi was sitting on the small open deck reading one of his favorite books as Naruto was nearly jumping out of his shoes. He had to mentally chuckle at how when it was something that excited him he was like a child waiting to open his presents.

There was a knock at the door and off in a flash he ran to the front door as Kakashi shook his head in amusement turning the page in his book.

Naruto ran to the front door and opened it to see Sakura there and Sasuke was with her. "Hey guys glad that you showed up, actually I'm surprised you're here Sasuke, didn't think parties were your thing."

Sasuke shrugged, "Figured it was only polite."

Actually he had been thinking about just staying away he wasn't feeling up to being social but that's what he always did and things never seemed really get better. So he had decided to at least try something different, besides if he didn't like it then he could just leave. While walking here he had met up with Sakura as they decided to walk together to his home.

"Naruto that's not very nice," she chided him.

'Yeah but kind of accurate,' he thought but thankfully didn't say anything. "Well come on in you guys you're to first to show up."

It wasn't that far away as another group started to show up the next ones to show up were three certain Hyugas. When Naruto opened the door he saw Hinata in front being flanked by Neji and Hinata's younger sister. Although he was happy to see all three there was one person he was happier to see than the others. Before anyone could speak he had pulled Hinata into a hug making the girl blush at the sudden contact but it had been some time before they had seen each other so she hugged him back.

Neji coughed into his hand although he accepted that Hinata and Naruto were an item that didn't mean he had to like seeing this kind of thing in person.

Hinata pulled back suddenly aware that they had others watching them, Naruto gave a scowl at Neji.

"Ruin the moment why don't you," he told him.

"I make no apologies," Neji said simply.

"Well come on in then," Naruto said while gently taking Hinata's hand as he led the way. "How have you guys been?"

"Busy," Neji replied. "Everyone seems to be working nearly non-stop."

Hinata nodded as her own team had been used for a lot more missions lately. "It does seem like we've been working a lot more." She was glad that she got to spend time here with Naruto as she felt the warmth of his hand in her own.

"School is going okay," Hanabi spoke up as she was in the academy. "But it gets kind of boring sometimes."

"Yeah I know that feeling," Naruto told her as he had always found the book learning part of school the most boring. He led them to the backyard as he took Hinata over to a place by the tree on one of the blankets. He was eager to catch up with her and to tell her what happened himself. Plus he got to spend time with her. They sat down together as he was just enjoying being there with her, she always had this calming influence around her.

Hinata was just overjoyed that she finally got to spend time with Naruto, they hadn't seen each other in awhile and she was enjoying just having him by her side. She felt his hand in hers as they sat down as he talked about his mission. She got a bit worried when he got to the part in the forest when they split up and what happened after that. She held his hand a little together hearing the story, she knew that as ninjas they were always going to face something dangerous but it was a worry she always had.

"You're alright thought right, you and everyone else?" She asked taking another look to see if he was hiding any injuries.

"I'm fine," He waved it off, "Although that bone guy was really tough."

He didn't want to say it in front of her knowing she might worry but if Gaara hadn't been there he wasn't sure how he would have fought the guy. All his clones hadn't been doing well and also the fact that he hadn't figured out how to get close enough to use a rasengan at the guy. His wind chakra didn't seem to help much as he had mulled things over. He really needed to work on that if he ever came up against someone like that again.

"I'm glad that you're okay," she said softy.

He looked at her and saw that worry that had been on her face. "Hey don't worry you won't lose me. I'll always come back to you I promise you that and you know that I never break a promise."

She wasn't sure why but hearing that made her feel a bit better, she knew that Naruto really did keep his promises and he would do everything he could to keep it. She smiled at him as she decided to lean against his shoulder a bit just relaxing and enjoying being next to him. Naruto blinked at her before smiling and leaning against her a bit in return.

This didn't go unnoticed as Ino and Sakura were watching the entire thing.

"Why can't I get something like that in my life," Ino sighed although she did find the whole scene cute she kind of wished that she had a boyfriend to do cute things like that with.

"First you'll need a boyfriend for that." Sakura told her with a smirk.

"Yeah well if Sasuke-kun would just say yes to a date then I'm sure I would," her friend told her.

Sakura bit her tongue on the fact that Sasuke most likely didn't like the kind of attention that Ino and a lot of the other girls in the academy who used to always chase after him. She had figured out that Sasuke wanted someone he could respect as a ninja instead. It was talking with Anko that led Sakura to that realization and although she wanted him to notice her, Sakura had pushed that aside for now to focus on her training.

Her lessons with Tsunade were very important as learning from the best was a once in a life time opportunity. But still she would have liked to have a relationship with him, now that she stopped chasing after him so much she finally got a chance to take a look at him. There was a lot of pain that he carried with him and she could tell sometimes he had to be lonely but he was too used to being alone to let others in.

Lately she had seen him open up a little but how much she wasn't certain. Looking at Sasuke now he was leaning against a wall watching everything going on.

'Well maybe he just needs someone to get him to open up,' Sakura thought to herself. "Speaking of my teammate I think I'll try and get him to start enjoying himself."

"You're not just saying that to be alone with him are you?" Ino asked her straight out.

"Ino he's on my team we get to be alone a lot of the time," Sakura told her as she walked over to Sasuke.

"You know you could try to mingle a little," she told him crossing her arms.

"These aren't really my thing," He told her as he never was one to be social, too much time alone made him unsure of what you were supposed to do. He was never really good with people at any rate.

"So then why did you come?" Sakura asked him.

He shuffled a bit as he was a bit uncertain how to answer that to her. She only looked at him and then her expression softened a bit.

"Well if you want I can stick with you at least long enough to make sure you're comfortable at least. If you prefer to be alone then I can just go back over to Ino although I'm thinking she'll come over here anyway."

Sasuke thought about that in all honesty he would prefer to stick with Sakura rather than Ino. The blonde girl would just annoy him with her constantly flirting. Ever since Sakura stopped doing that and had become more of an actual kunoichi that he could respect he preferred her presence. In fact lately he had started to see her as someone that he could rely on. That battle with Itachi she had really shown him that despite any odds she would stand with him.

He knew that if she hadn't been there that he wouldn't have lasted as long against his older brother. She had shown a real determination against the odds. He cast a look to her as decided to really look at her this time. Almost like he was looking at her for the first time, she had gotten stronger in fact she could one day become one of the strongest in the village under Tsunade.

But then he started to really look at her, her pink hair was a unique color but for some reason it suited her. She now kept her hair a decent length but it was a good look for her. Actually he was actually considering that if there was a girl he might see himself with Sakura was starting to be the one. It was much easier to be around her lately and she had stopped chasing after him.

He would wonder if things were different than how would his parents have thought of Sakura. His memories of them weren't as sharp as it used to be but he figured his mother would have liked any girl he brought home to them. She had always been very kind and understanding, while his father, well his father had been a much sterner man. In fact he might not accept anyone that wasn't a member of the clan. But as there weren't any other members left he would have to look to others if he ever wanted his clan to live on to future generations.

He wasn't sure what his father would think but he would only accept someone that he would deem worthy of the Uchiha name.

Thinking on it he thought that Sakura had the most potential but there had to be more than just that. He didn't want some cold marriage of convenience he actually wanted to like whoever he ended up with. He thought of his mother and the warmth she had brought to the family, he wanted someone that was like that. Someone that could make his home not just the place he lived but a place he felt he wanted to return to.

"You know you've been kind of quiet," Sakura told him and then saw the look he was giving her. It wasn't a look she was used to almost like he was studying her. She blushed under his gaze as she looked away. "W-what?"

"Nothing," Sasuke said as he felt something and he wasn't sure what. But if he ever wanted to find out and if he ever thought that there might be something with Sakura then maybe he should try and see. Maybe it was nothing or maybe it could be something he wasn't sure which, but maybe it was time to find out.

She had stood beside him and she had tried to help him in the past so maybe he could at least try to open up a little. He had a lot of time to think on things after their battle with Itachi and he had spent that time deep in thought about a lot of things.

"So...do you...would you like to meet up with me tomorrow?" Sasuke looked away not sure he could look at her directly.

Sakura's eyes widened as she looked at him as she wasn't sure but he might be asking her on a date?

Remember to play it cool, let them make the first move. Never look too desperate.

Those words Anko had told her about guys she remembered as Sakura had asked the older women about men before. So she took a breath to keep calm as she tried not to sound too excited.

"Uh...yeah sure thing," She kept her voice calm although her stomach was doing back flips. She took a look around as she bit her lip. Maybe she could find Anko later and get a bit more advice.

As time went on the others started to show up, when Hiruzen Sarutobi came as he was dropping off Konohamaru Naruto was eager to welcome them both here. "Hey Old Man you're finally up?"

"Well in a manner of speaking," The Former Hokage spoke up as he was leaning on a cane. He couldn't walk without the aid of it now and he couldn't move very fast. In fact walking around was tough to get around these days out of the hospital. Tsunade told him that he had to keep up physically or else he might end up bed ridden for good. It wasn't easy on his old body and he felt his age these days, he was glad he was no longer Hokage and that Tsunade was in power. The days to come he could tell were for the younger generations for them to come into their own.

So he was going to enjoy his retirement and spending more time with his family was once such thing.

"Of course, Grandpa is too tough to be in the hospital for long," Konohamaru spoke up for his grandfather.

The old man chuckled as he ruffed the boy's hair, "Go and play, I think I see that Hyuga girl you've been hanging out with."

"Huh?" The little boy looked to see the familiar Hanabi not far away as the boy broke out into a smile seeing his friend. "Oh hey Hanabi!"

He ran off as his grandfather watched as both boys went back to their friends. It did his old heart good to see so many youthful faces enjoying themselves.

"Yo, pop you want a seat?" Asuma asked his father pointing him to where the adults were sitting.

"God yes," He told him honestly that hill get here was a literally a pain to get up to this house. He rested his old bones in one of the free chairs and the relief from his body felt great.

"You're starting to sound like an old man Sensei," Jiraiya teased him.

"I am an old man," he shot back in humor to his former student. Looking around the table he couldn't help but see a few other things. His son was sitting with Kurenai the lovely genjutsu specialist and his son seemed very close. In fact he noticed how his hand went to cover hers and she didn't pull away in fact the slight body movement of her going closer told him that his son might not be single for much longer.

That was good in his opinion the boy should find a nice wife and start a family of his own and he knew Kurenai from his time as Hokage plus he could see something in the way they looked at each other. It wasn't love, at least not yet but it could grow there. The Professor looked around as Kakashi tried to ignore Gai, that man was every bit his father's son all the while he was leaning against Anko as the woman poked fun at Gai's challenging Kakashi all the time.

Again he could see the little subtleties between them he could see that these two were at a much deeper level than the previous couple. He smiled to himself going for some tea it was good to be young.

Temari looked around the party she really didn't know many of the people here personally only Team 7 really. Although he saw that boy she had faced on the final part of the exams playing shogi with his sensei she believed. She took an interest as she played the game as well, although the adult was skilled she could tell that the boy was better. She saw the older man make a mistake as she shook her head.

"He's going to beat you in eight moves now," Temari spoke up to him.

"What?" Asuma blinked at her and then looked to the board.

"Why did you have to say that?" Shikamaru groaned. "Now he's going to take forever to make a move."

"Well you could have ended it sooner," Temari told him crossing her arms.

"I didn't want to make him feel bad," he shrugged.

"Okay that's it," Asuma stood up and gestured to his seat. "Since you two are so keen how about you two start playing?"

"I don't mind," Shikamaru shrugged again.

"Fine, besides I owe you one for that fight we had," Temari sat down as they reset the board.

Asuma went to lean on the wall as he was about smoke but remembered that Kakashi didn't like that in his home. He put it away as he watched the two starting up a game, he noticed Kurenai walking over to him as he gave a small smile at that. Recently they had gone out a few times and honestly he wouldn't mind if they kept going out. She was a very beautiful woman but she was also warm and yet also fierce when she needed to be, a good combination in his mind.

"Ended things a little soon there didn't you?" Kurenai asked him.

"He was going to win, anyway I need a break," He watched at the game started up but then noticed that Shikamaru stopped and suddenly got into his thinking pose. That was interesting that she had pushed him into that already. He watched the game more closely now.

"What is he doing?" Kurenai asked him.

"He does this when he really needs to concentrate," Asuma explained to her. "I've only managed to get him into this a few times but she managed to get him to do that already."

Temari overheard it and she had to smirk, he may have outdone her before but now she wasn't going to fall for any of his tricks of misdirection like last time. This time she was going to be patient and keep an eye out for everything of him.

As the game went on there was a lot of back and forth, he had gone into his thinking pose a few times but after some time the game was nearing its end. She had seen a few of his traps this time and didn't step into them. As the game went on she grew more confident in her victory as she was soon taking control of the game.

She sat back as in just a few more moves she would win.

He made one move and suddenly the game turned. "There, I win."

"What!?" her eyes widened as she took a closer look, she couldn't believe it but she had missed something after all, she couldn't believe that she had lost again to this boy. She looked at him narrowing her eyes. "I want to play again."

He was surprised by this but apparently she was a stubborn one he thought about saying he wanted to nap but he knew she would just get troublesome if he did. With a sigh he reset the table as they got a new game starting up. Although he would admit he had never played against someone of her skill before it was a nice change of pace. Asuma had been the only one that had given him any kind of challenge outside of his father.

Playing against this girl was a nice fresh type of game, when you played against the same people you get a feel for how they play and it starts to make things predictable so with Temari the game had been different than any other player so far.

Gaara watched as Temari started playing again although it might not be apparent to anyone else he could see his older sister was having fun. Parties weren't his thing though, he had no idea how to act or behave. Then again it wasn't like he had been to a party before everyone seemed to be having fun. Then he noticed Naruto with that girl again the Hyuga one that he talked about.

Hinata, that was the name when he looked at them, they had pretty much been together since she joined the group. They seemed very happy together and again he wondered about it, Naruto was like him someone that held a demon inside and yet here he was surrounded by people that enjoyed him and even had someone in his life that cared for him.

Lately he had been getting closer to his siblings and it was nice but looking around he felt that maybe he wanted a bit more. He started walking over to the couple as Naruto was joking about something that made the girl giggle.

"Hey Gaara," Naruto noticed him walking over to them. "You having fun?"

Gaara looked around, no one was trying to kill him and although he got a few worried looks and there was some distance no one was looking at him with total fear or hatred. So given that he could say that things were going better than it could be expected.

"It's going well," Gaara told them but looked at the both of them. "You told me once that you have people who care for you. How did you do this?"

"How, uh..." Naruto came up blank he was basically just himself.

"Naruto-kun has always stood up for his friends," Hinata offered seeing him draw a blank. So she decided to say what she thought of Naruto. "He never gives up on himself or his friends."

Gaara looked at her for a moment almost like studying her. "You have no fear of him even knowing what's inside of him."

"I-I don't because...I care for him," She spoke to him getting a little nervous. "I know who Naruto-kun really is and that he's not what's inside of him. And...well...I think you're more than what's locked inside of you too."

Gaara's eyes widened for a moment as the girl said that, he couldn't remember the last time anyone said anything like that.

"What do you see when you look at me," Gaara asked her.

She fidgeted a little, "W-well I don't know you that well but you seem very lonely."

Gaara couldn't argue that point with her for most of his life he thought of nothing but himself because he thought no one else would.

"But I think that if you show people who you are, who you really are you'll get others to see it." Hinata told him honestly.

"Yeah man," Naruto grinned. "It can take some time but you can't give up. In fact how about we stick with you and you can get to know my friends so they'll be your friends?"

Gaara really wasn't sure how to take something like this, no one had been this nice to him in such a long time that he had forgotten what it felt like to have others care about you. He had never had real friends before so he was wondering what it was like to have friends. He let himself be led away by them as they started to introduce him to their friends.

A little time later Jiraiya looked around the place he had just gotten there after a very long talk with Tsunade. He had told her his plan and worked out the details with her. But first he had to look for a certain someone. He noticed Kakashi with the adults as he knew that he had to talk to him first.

Jiraiya pulled Kakashi over inside of the home away from prying ears. This was something he had talked to Tsunade about what he had planned but before they could go to Naruto first he had to talk to his father. Jiraiya motioned to a set of chairs in the living room as they sat down.

"So I take it what you have to say is important," Kakashi knew that pulling him away from everyone meant something was up but the fact that they were sitting down told him this was major.

Jiraiya could tell he knew something was up but he had no idea what, so in respect he decided get to the point of the matter.

"Yes it is," He told him leaning back. "As you know Akatsuki has been a little more active of late. I hear they're looking for the hosts and they already know of two of them. They've made attempts at Naruto already and the fact that they actually had the audacity to come into Konoha at least once tells me they don't fear any security."

"When they are ready they will come here again and next time we might not be so lucky and Naruto won't be away at the time. You got off lucky they don't normally leave survivors in their wake. They leave nothing but a bloody trail usually as mercenaries or bounty hunters but they do have a bigger plan, I just wish I knew what it was."

"So what's your plan?" Kakashi asked him cautiously.

"Naruto needs to be ready for what's coming for him, you've done a hell of a job so far but the problem is you can't protect him here." He told him plainly as he could see Kakashi about to react to that. "The last time you faced them you nearly died and ended up in a coma. Next time you might not be so lucky."

Kakashi didn't like where this was going.

"Even on a mission if I hadn't been there what would have happened when those two showed up?" He asked Kakashi.

Kakashi knew that in the best circumstances it would have ended with Kakashi ending up dead while he was fending them off giving Naruto and anyone else time to get away. At least he hoped they would have enough time to get away. Kakashi was a practical man and knew logically that he couldn't protect them if faced with those kinds of odds on his own with no backup. Then there was the father side of him that wanted to protect his son no matter what.

"What do you propose?" Kakashi asked him.

"I've thought about it and the only thing I can come up with is to keep him on the move and have no one knows where. He needs to train as well in order to get stronger," Jiraiya knew this wasn't going to be easy. "I was thinking of taking him with me. I always go around never staying anywhere and I'm one of the few people that can stand up to them."

Kakashi knew all that was true but there was a part of him that made it hard to think about. "How long?"

Jiraiya thought about it, "A couple of years at least."

Kakashi's eye widened as he looked at the man with shock, "Why so long?"

"Honestly? It would take that long at least to get the proper training in and also we need the time to prepare. He isn't the only one that needs to be ready, I feel that a war is coming and we all need to be prepared. You have your students and yourself to get ready for what's to come Kakashi."

Kakashi thought about it and on the surface it was all very logical but two years was a long time, a long time he wouldn't be able to see his son again. He knew that one day Naruto would grow up and get a life of his own but he always thought he would be there to see it. Missing two years of your child's life wasn't something you could just accept on a whim. But then there was the danger that was coming to Naruto and others like him.

Kakashi stood up and went to the window and looked out there. There Naruto was with his friend laughing and enjoying himself. If he could Kakashi would want to keep him here and train him personally he might be able to do it but then if they came for him, he wouldn't be able to protect him.

Kakashi stared out through the window as he knew he was going to make a choice that would change his life. He had made this choice over thirteen years ago when he took Naruto in, now he had to let him go. All those years of him looking after Naruto came back to him, all the good times and all the bad times.

All those memories and he wouldn't give them up for anything. He sighed as he knew that as a father he needed to make sure that Naruto had a long life ahead of him. This was the hardest choice he had to make.

"We'll wait until the party is over and then we'll talk to him about it," Kakashi told Jiraiya as he watched his son taking it all in because this could be one the last memories he would have of Naruto for a few years.

Next up Chapter 25: The Choice