Well, first things first. This story and idea were originally written by Nube De Cristal, and she gets full credit for the first few chapters of this wonderful story, as well as being my beta going forward. I am honored that she is allowing me to adopt this story and continue writing it. I hope I can do it justice.

That being said, for all of you coming from her original story (Wishing, Waiting and Hoping) please note that I will be re-writing the chapters that she has already done, with her permission and approval. Her original content will still be there, but I'm adding some additional content for plot development and future lemony goodness (Giggity!) as well as the intent into making this story more than it was originally intended. So there's something new here for everyone and I would ask that readers bear with me during this time.

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Disclaimer – I don't own Naruto. If I did, NaruHina would have been canon in issue 245.

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Chapter 1 – Coming Home

The hour was late. Kakashi Hatake, Rokudaime Hokage of the Hidden Leaf Village was tired. However, the subject of the meeting he was in required that it be shrouded in secrecy.

And that subject was one Naruto Uzumaki.

Before him sat three people. The first was Tsunade Senju – retired Godaime Hokage and currently head of the Konoha medical division. The other two were Hiashi and Neji Hyūga, the current head and heir of the Hyūga clan.

"I have asked all of you here because I have an issue that I need help resolving," Hiashi said. "Recently, I have been approached by a suitor for my youngest daughter, Hanabi. The clan elders have made their intentions known that I must do everything necessary to ensure that the union takes place. As such, it leaves me in a very precarious situation in regards to my oldest daughter, Hinata."

Kakashi looked at Tsunade. "We could avoid all this if you would just tell us what you know of the mission. After all, you're the one who sent them on it in the first place and you were the only one who received the mission report on their return."

"No. There's a reason that report was sealed. It's not my place to reveal that. You have to ask Sakura or Hinata."

Kakashi's lone visible eye hardened. "I could order you as Hokage to answer."

"And as a former Hokage I would refuse."

"I could order Sakura and Hinata to answer as Hokage."

Tsunade snorted. "And take two of the best kunoichi in the village and have them jailed in ANBU cells for an undetermined period of time? Not to mention the fact that you would leave Hinata's son bereft of his only parent."

"Be that as it may," Hiashi said "The argument is pointless and distracts from the reason we asked for this meeting. We have made a decision regarding Hinata and need the help of you both to see it through."

Tsunade looked up and said, "We?"

Now it was Neji's turn to speak. "Yes. My uncle and I came to this decision together."

"Hinata has had no suitors for her hand since her return. Her status in the village has suffered as a single parent and the name of the father is all but unknown except to a select few."

He looked hard at Tsunade at the end of his statement. She just glared back at him, not revealing anything to his Hyūga eyes.

"However, everyone in this room knows of my cousins' deep and unrequited love for Naruto. It was my suggestion to uncle that if he could be found, Naruto would be an ideal husband for her. He is a man of unquestionable honor and integrity, and he understands what it means to grow up without a father. He would care for both Hinata and her son as if he were his own."

Hiashi added, "We would also provide him with a sizeable dowry…"

"The little gaki isn't going to give a shit about that. And you're all forgetting something," Tsunade said. "Naruto left this village eight years ago a broken man. Even if we knew where he was, I'm pretty sure he isn't going to come back. He hasn't got an reason to do so."

The room was silent for a few moments before Kakashi spoke.

"I know where he is. I know how to contact him. And I'm pretty sure I know how to get him back home."

"How?" the three others said in unison.

"We tell him that one of his precious people needs help that only he can provide. That should get him home; Naruto has never refused to come to the aid of those who are precious to him."

Turning to Hiashi, he said "As for the rest…we just need to 'nudge' him to make the right choice."

"Nudge?"

"Yes, Hiashi – nudge. Naruto needs to come to the proper decision on his own. However, that doesn't mean that we can't give him the incentive to come to that conclusion."

"And just how do we do that?"

Kakashi eye smiled and said, "Simple – you goad him into it. Assuming we get him home and he agrees to the meeting, you belittle Hinata every chance you get. I'm pretty sure after about 5 minutes he'll get so pissed at you that he'll agree to the marriage just to shut you up."

Tsunade spoke. "You're playing a dangerous game here, Kakashi. If he finds out what we're planning here, it could…"

"That's why I'm making this an S rank secret. No one outside of the four of us will speak of this meeting ever again." Kakashi rose from his seat, turned and stared out the window.

After a few moments, he softly said "Besides, if there is one thing I'm sure of it's this..."

Turning around again, everyone could see the sadness in his gaze. "The best cure for a broken heart is a love without questions, boundaries or conditions. And this is precisely the kind of love that Hinata holds for Naruto."

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The first rays of dawn began to peek over the horizon, preparing every living thing for another day. The sun seemed to awaken nature itself, as it moved in harmony with all that relied on its warmth.

Naruto sat upon a rock, meditating as he did every morning in an attempt to find inner peace and tranquility. Some days this task was harder than others.

Lately though, the peace that he had sought for so long seemed elusive. Even if he entered Sage Mode, it did little to help quell his inner turmoil and find balance. And this morning, his "inner demon" didn't seem to want to help him out any towards that goal.

Kit, Kurama said, we both know that you dwell on the past. Peace does not come because of the pain that was forced upon you by the one you trusted and supposedly loved.

In recent years, he and the Kyuubi had come to a mutual understanding. They both acknowledged that they would be with each other until death took them from this world. While Naruto had actively sought this in recent years, his strength had grown so considerably that the escape that death would bring was not so easy to accomplish.

Thanks. Naruto responded. Glad you could bring that up. Again.

No problem. However, I believe your morning meditation session may be over. I sense someone coming towards our position. Not very strong and certainly not much of a threat, but it's obvious that he's looking for you.

Opening his eyes, he tensed and waited for the individual to arrive at his location. A lone man walked into the clearing wearing simple shinobi gear with a katana strapped to his back. There was no attempt at stealth; he certainly knew who Naruto was and that he was aware of his presence.

The man walked up to him and dropped on both knees to the ground and bowed low. "Lord Uzumaki, I am a messenger from Konoha. I bear an urgent message from our Hokage, Kakashi Hatake for you."

So Kakashi was Hokage now…interesting. And somehow he knew where he was.

"You've wasted your time. I have no desire to return to Konoha. Please leave."

The man rose from his bow, remaining on his knees. Holding a scroll out in front of him, he said "Hokage-sama thought you would say that. He told me to say before I left that one of your precious people requires help that only YOU can provide. The rest of the message is contained in this scroll for your eyes only."

Naruto looked upon the messenger, wondering if he should even look at it. Curiosity got the better of him and he took the scroll and unfurled it. The message was vague as to the nature of the emergency, but one name jumped off the page at him…

Hinata.

Emotions swirled up from deep within him as her image was brought forth from his memories. He remembered how kind and thoughtful she always was to him. He remembered her smile, and her flawless beauty. She was definitely one of his precious people.

He hesitated a few seconds before another voice answered his unspoken question.

We both know you've made up your mind, kit. She is too important to you to ignore the request, whatever that may be.

Naruto looked at the messenger and rolled up the scroll and handed it back.

"I'll return with you. We leave immediately."

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Naruto burst out in laughter, "That's a good joke, Kakashi-sensei."

The laughter died on his lips after realizing that his old teacher wasn't laughing and was looking at him rather seriously.

"You've gotta be joking..."

That cold eye continued looking at him, unperturbed.

"Please sensei, you're gotta be kidding me... right?"

"No, I'm not. Hiashi Hyūga expects to see you today in the afternoon. You will go and see him." And with this the Hokage returned to some papers in his hands.

A range of emotions crossed the face of the young jōnin, anger and confusion surpassing all of them. He couldn't hold back as he struck the desk with his fist, regaining the attention of his former sensei.

Kakashi raised his eye. Naruto ignored the cold look.

"I won't do it. It's unfair of you to force me...Haven't I given enough to this village? The right thing would be to allow me to choose for myself. I'm an adult, and I can..."

Kakashi interrupted him, "What? Twenty-six years old?" He arched his eyebrow. "Even I doubt it sometimes."

Naruto remained silent recognizing the tone of voice. It was uncompromising and icy, the kind that doesn't allow an argument or refusal. He saw his former sensei heave a sigh and continue with his usually laid back attitude.

"You've been away from the village for almost eight years. Even though I've known where you were for about two years or so, no one has any idea as to what you've been doing. You can't expect to find everything the way you left it. Change is the only constant, and people tend to forget what they conveniently want. Few people in the village remember what you did for them. They only remember the fear of what you represent, and I believe they need to be reminded of what you've sacrificed once again."

Naruto took a hand to the back of his neck, accepting what Kakashi told him.

"But despite everything that's happened, there's one thing that hasn't changed - and that's your dream to someday be Hokage."

His gaze hardened. "It's not a dream, Kakashi-sensei. I will be Hokage. Believe it."

"Then you have nothing to lose. I think this is an excellent proposition where both you and Hinata will benefit. At the very least you should speak with Hiashi and listen to his offer."

It took several minutes of silence while Naruto reflected on Kakashi's words. At the moment, he couldn't come up with a logical argument as to why he should refuse.

"Alright, I'll listen to Hiashi. But I won't promise anything."

"That's fair enough." the Hokage conceded.

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At the time agreed for the appointment, Naruto felt a bit nervous. But all that changed after listening to Hiashi as he sat in the office of the clan head. Anger was boiling inside him as he listened to the man demean his eldest daughter.

"Like I said, it's no secret that Hinata's reputation is not impeccable and she doesn't have that many good qualities."

Naruto gripped the chair arms with his hands, trying to hold down the impulse of jumping up and throttling the man. The stupid man wanted qualities? There were so many; she was brave, determined, compassionate...

"Besides, her beauty is average at best."

Was he blind? She was one of the most beautiful women he'd ever seen.

"And on top of it all she has the problem of that bastard son. Hinata has never revealed who the father is. I understand that it isn't appealing for anyone to take care of another man's child and be responsible for his care and upbringing. We don't even know to what lineage he belongs..."

Naruto couldn't take it anymore. If he didn't stop the asshole he would choke him to death. "Alright, I accept."

Hiashi looked at him, annoyed at being interrupted. "I don't think I've finished yet."

"And I don't need to hear anything else. I'll marry her and you can rest assured that you no longer need to take care of her and her…despicable bastard."

He quickly stood up, ignoring how Hiashi's face was turning red with anger.

"Just tell me one thing. Do you dislike your daughter so much that you would throw her at the first man who asks for her hand? Don't you think you should ask her what she wants?"

"This decision wasn't made on a whim." Hiashi straightened in his chair. "We've thought of every possibility for this situation..."

One word stuck with him in that sentence, and he raised a hand to interrupt. "We? Who exactly are 'we', Hiashi?"

"My nephew and I."

Neji? Was that possible? Naruto thought that he'd changed his attitude towards his cousin, put perhaps not. After hearing the comments by Kakashi earlier, he realized that maybe things in the village had reverted to how they were many years ago.

"If you marry my daughter, you will not only receive a large dowry as compensation..."

Naruto looked at him with interest, seeing the disgust on his face and sensing that the next thing that would be said was a bitter pill to swallow for the proud Hyūga.

"…but you will also become a member of our renowned clan."

This last comment made Naruto consider asking another question, suddenly suspecting an ulterior motive behind this proposal.

"Tell me something, Hiashi. Why exactly are you so eager to get rid of Hinata?"

Hiashi gave the man a blank stare. "Our clan has received an offer for Hanabi's hand in marriage. It would be a shame to lose this opportunity because of Hinata."

A smile appeared on the face of the jōnin, as he leaned close to Hiashi and said in a chilling voice, "Therefore you prefer that her situation didn't interfere with your...plans, is that right?

Hearing the tone of his voice, Hiashi suddenly felt threatened. He'd heard rumors that the young man in sitting in front of him had become far more powerful during his time away from the village and if he wanted to, he could get rid of him in the blink of an eye.

"In any case, she has to marry sooner or later. Having experienced it firsthand, you would know better than anybody that a child should have a father figure in his life."

Naruto regretted having asked, realizing that of course Hiashi would bring something like that up. The man infuriated him every time he opened his mouth. He turned on his heels to leave the place.

Hiashi called out as he left and said, "Well, at least we have an agreement..."

The blonde didn't bother to answer him. He wanted to be as far from him as possible, afraid that he might do something he clearly wouldn't regret. Opening the door and rushing through it, he ran into someone. Both of them fell to the ground, landing on their backside. Quickly getting back up, his first instinct was to extend his hand, offering to help up the person he had inadvertently run into.

Lavender eyes stared back at him, the shock clearly visible on her face. "Na...? Naruto-kun?"

He withdrew his hand as if burned by her touch. "Hinata." It was all he could say before leaving, embarrassed and afraid at finally coming face to face with her.

She noticed the emotions running over his face, the first - and most prominent - emotion being anger. It was then that she saw her father walking out of his office, the corners of his mouth upturned in a slight smile.

Hinata looked at him, mistrusting his motives for having Naruto there in the first place. "What have you done, father?"

Despite the smile on his face, his tone was somber as he replied, "What I should have done a long time ago."

That cryptic comment lingered in the air between them. Fear froze her heart, as she turned and ran down the hallway to her room.

Once there, she closed the door and leaned against it, trying to reign in her rapidly beating heart. What did her father say to Naruto-kun for him to run out of the place, looking angry and afraid? She placed both hands on her cheeks, feeling them flushed and hot beneath her touch. She'd heard rumors of him returning to the village, but hadn't had the opportunity to see him until a few minutes ago. And once again, her world was turned upside down.

What was this strange power he had over her? Even after all this time, just seeing him made her light headed, barely able to stand on her trembling legs. The emotion that he awoke within her was almost overpowering.

She took a deep breath and let it out, annoyed with herself. She'd thought that she would have left behind all that nonsense when she became a mother. A soft knock on her door brought her out of her musings, and she bade whoever it was to enter.

"Nii-san?" She was concerned to see the serious look on his face. "Is something wrong? Has anything happened to Hikaru?"

"No, cousin. He's just fine, I left him with one of the maids for the moment. He's eating a snack."

Hinata saw him falter, unsure of his next words with her. She had never seen him like that.

"Please walk with me for a moment, Hinata."

She nodded at his strange request and followed him as he walked to the courtyard.

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Hinata looked at her cousin with an expression full of disbelief and shock.

"I'm to marry..." she repeated, baffled and then added with a barely audible voice, "Naruto-kun?"

He nodded. "Yes. You need a husband, and your child needs a father."

Her look hardened before forcefully replying, "I believe you're mistaken. I've done just fine on my own."

Neji could not hold back the small smile that appeared on his lips. Motherhood has done wonders for Hinata. It provided her with a peculiar strength, making her somewhat willful at times.

"How could father and you do this to me? How dare you both to decide my life like this?"

"What did you expect, cousin? Uncle would not stand idly when a suitor for Hanabi came into the picture. You know that he will do everything necessary to assure the union that has been presented."

She looked away from Neji's face. An agonizing pain, one that she knew since childhood, emerged from the depths of her being, choking her.

It was the forcefulness in Neji's voice that drew her back. "All this can be avoided if you tell us the name of the father..."

Her eyes looked at him and hardened over again. "Never."

"I'm still puzzled as to why you keep protecting him."

"Forget it, Nii-san. Let bygones be bygones."

Neji raised his eyebrows. "Though, there's something I've always wondered about…why Hikaru hasn't inherited the byakugan."

Hinata pressed her lips together and looked away from him.

"His father must have very dominant genes."

Her face turned pale. She had asked Neji to practice with Hikaru from an early age, knowing fully what questions might arise because of it.

"But that doesn't mean that the boy doesn't have talent." Neji continued, ignoring Hinata's sullen silence. "Quite the contrary, he does and when he fully develops he will be a formidable opponent."

She smiled as Neji described her son, her chest swelling with pride.

"However, I wish he could take everything with a degree of seriousness, and be more mindful and alert when I try to explain things to him." And this time he looked carefully at Hinata, trying to see if a sudden expression gave something away. "Not to mention that he is so restless as well as excitable..."

Guessing what he was trying to bring up, she quickly added, "Well, you can't blame him if he is very energetic and full of life."

He sighed, never suspecting that his cousin could be so stubborn. Something told him she was not being entirely honest with him. He did not understand the reason for her strange behavior, keeping the whole business secret. But the more he thought about it the more his blood began to boil over with anger.

"If anyone dared to take advantage of you, I swear I'll..."

She looked at him with conviction and didn't let him finish. "Neji! No one has abused me."

Venting some of his frustration and trying to get a rise from her, he bitterly asked, "Is he married?"

Hinata gritted her teeth. How many times have she endured this interrogation?

"He's surely a womanizer, right?" Neji growled.

"It's useless to discuss it. I won't say anything."

"It was in the village where Tsunade-sama sent you with Sakura, right? To this strange mission that none of the three of you want to talk about. Almost a year away from Konoha...I swear that if I ever find out who he is, I will make him suffer an agonizing death before ending his useless life."

"Neji!" She yelled, before taking a deep breath to calm herself. She placed her hand on her cousin's arm. "Really, I'm thankful for your concern and..." She had to smile before she continued, "...your desire to defend my honor. You better than anyone else know that we need to leave the past behind. You have a nephew who loves you and worships the ground you walk on. Isn't that more important?"

He sighed, defeated. He decided to continue, ignoring the small deviation from the main conversation.

"As I was saying, it was evident that uncle would do something about your present situation. As such, I wouldn't have allowed you to leave with just anyone who accepted uncle's proposal. It was I who suggested that uncle choose Naruto as a possible candidate. I'm sure he'll know how to take care of Hikaru and you; he is the best choice of all that could have been taken into consideration."

"Why…Why Naruto-kun?" She asked in a small voice.

"Because despite what almost everybody in the village thinks, he is a man with a high level of honesty and integrity. And it's clear from your actions that you still care for him in some way."

"I don't want to be a burden to anyone."

"Ah, don't worry, Hinata. Believe me; he also wins in the whole situation. In addition to your generous dowry, he also has the prestige of being part of the Hyūga clan."

"You talk as if he's..."

"Accepted? According to uncle, yes…he has."

She was sure that her face has taken the highest shade of scarlet. A swirl of emotions lashed at her insides; shame and humiliation at the devious way that they decided at her back; anger that they didn't take into account her wishes. Above all this, however, there was a degree of euphoria.

Naruto-kun becoming her husband?

How many times as a child had she dreamed about that impossible event?

But after acquiring a degree of maturity in recent years, and then being a mother she thought she had left behind all those childhood fantasies. And yet, despite her belief that he would never return she had kept a piece of her heart as an exclusive property of the blond.

Then, as if someone slapped her in the face, she recalled how he had left. Now she understood the cause of his hasty departure.

"Oh, no! Nii-san, I have to talk to him!"

"Do you think you can do it without fainting?" He taunted.

Hinata looked at him somewhat annoyed, "Of course I can. It's been a long time since I lost my nerve in his presence. I'll find him and apologize to him for the inconvenience. He needs to understand that this isn't his responsibility."

Neji watched his cousin as she walked decisively towards the village, a tiny smile curving his lips. He let her go, not worried at all. Knowing Naruto as a champion of the weak and embracing any cause to help others, Hinata would be skillfully swerved from her objective.

He had a pretty good idea of how the meeting had transpired between his uncle and Naruto; betting that the latter had been on the verge of losing his temper with his uncle's arrogant attitude and constant humiliation of Hinata. As they had thought, Naruto could never swallow any type of abuse towards his precious people and had decided to accept the offer simply to help her out, achieving the goal that they themselves had set out from the beginning.

And although he knew that his cousin didn't need anyone and could take care of her or her son, Neji wanted Hinata to finally have someone who supported and listened to her. She had suffered far too much, and with the possible exception of her son, he knew she loved Naruto more than anything.

And who knows? Perhaps they had manipulated the situation in a way that things would take the right course, eventually.

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Naruto was standing on a rooftop, overlooking the village and thinking of possibilities. He closed his eyes, raising his face to the sky to feel the sun's rays stroking his skin as a soft breeze ruffled his blond hair.

Shortly after returning to the village he had overheard by chance two women talking about Hinata and the shame - or the lack of it, according to the women - of coming back with a child after going away with Sakura on the mission that Tsunade, who was then Hokage had ordered them to take.

Now that he had accepted Hiashi's offer, he was curious to know who the father of Hinata's son was.

So without wasting any time, he had gone looking for Sakura at the apartment she shared with Sasuke. Seeing her again after all these years had shaken him up both emotionally and physically, reopening old wounds and bringing back memories that he thought were forgotten. As she welcomed him into their home, he observed that she looked happy, her presence practically glowing. He couldn't help but realize that she really was beautiful.

Sakura quickly informed him that Sasuke wasn't home if he was looking for him. But as soon as he explained that he was here to see her and ask about Hinata and her son, her whole appearance changed abruptly, becoming unapproachable and unyielding…

***Flashback***

"No."

He looked at her, shocked. Why the sudden change in demeanor?

"What do you mean, no?"

"Just what I said. No. I won't tell you anything about Hikaru."

"Why? You both went on that mission; you have to know someth…"

"Naruto!" Sakura said forcefully. "I already said I'm not answering your questions. Now stop asking."

The expression on Naruto's face became hard and cold. He stared at her and said, "This isn't how I expected our first conversation in years to play out, Sakura. I'm disappointed that it hasn't gone better."

"Then get used to disappointment. You won't find your answer here. So either ask about something else, or…leave."

***End Flashback***

…And Naruto left the apartment with more questions than when he arrived. What the hell was the damn mystery surrounding Hinata and her son? He was sure that she knew something. She went on that mission with Hinata, so she had to know the whole affair. What was she hiding? And why?

There was only one other person he could ask about this. He hadn't been by to see her yet, but he was pretty sure that the conversation would mirror the one he just had with Sakura. Not that it would change his mind about asking, of course.

He was going to talk with Tsunade.

Raising his head and opening his eyes, he took off in the direction of the hospital.

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Tsunade had just finished with another exhausting day at the hospital. An open bottle of very good sake was on her desk, and she had been drinking for the last half hour. It was her way of relaxing at the end of a very hard day. Or any other day for that matter.

Just as she was about to pour herself another cup, she heard a knock on her door and told whoever it was to come in.

The door opened and Naruto walked in. She stared at him for a few seconds as tears filled her eyes, grateful to see him after all these years.

Naruto smiled at her and said, "Hey, Baa-chan. It's good to see you again."

And in the blink of an eye she was there and hugging him, crying into his shoulder.

"Gaki. I was so worried about you. I missed you so much."

Naruto knew how much he meant to her. Her life had been filled with the deaths of those she loved…first Nawaki, her little brother.

Then Dan, the love of her young life.

And then Jiraiya, one of the Sannin and her former teammate. The love of her later life. The man whom Naruto affectionately called Pervy-Sage, and was the closest thing to a father figure he ever had.

He was all she had left. And he felt a new wave of guilt for being away for so long.

After a minute, Tsunade lifted her head and let go of him. Looking him over and wiping her eyes, she smiled and said, "Well, you've certainly gotten taller. And you're not as high-spirited as you once were. I'm guessing a lot of things have happened over the last eight years…"

He laughed and said, "You don't know the half of it. Got time to talk and catch up on things? I could really use a drink right now."

She laughed, glad to have the company. "Gaki, that is ONE thing that I can provide."

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The two of them sat and talked for about two hours. Tsunade filled him in on most of what had been going on in the village; she had decided a few years ago to step down and work full time at the hospital, as well as starting an academy for medical ninjutsu for the shinobi corps. With Naruto gone, Kakashi was the most logical choice to take the job, but they both knew he was just holding the position for Naruto…if he ever returned.

Naruto talked about some of the things that had happened to him over the last eight years. He didn't need to go over it all; as Hokage he was sure Tsunade knew some of it. At least the parts that mattered.

Then he asked about all of his friends and how they were doing. She told him Neji and Tenten had gotten married. Ino, Kiba, Choji and Shino were still single. Shikamaru and Temari were still dating; apparently he thinks it's too troublesome to propose. Gaara was still Kazekage, and currently dating one of his students.

Tsunade stopped the conversation there, and sat in silence drinking her sake. Naruto bristled a bit after several seconds and asked, "Well? What else?"

"What else is there? I'm sure you already know about Sakura and Hinata."

"No, I don't."

She smiled at him. "Ah. Now we come to the REAL reason why you're here."

Yeah, he knew he had the worst poker face ever. "Okay…I did come here to talk about that, but I also wanted to see you as well. You are one of my precious people, after all."

"Thank you, Naruto. You're special to me as well."

Then there was that uncomfortable silence again. He knew she was doing it on purpose and it was beginning to make his blood pressure rise.

"And? What else?

And once again that smile. "Sorry. There IS nothing else."

"Baa-chan, you know there is. I'm sure that even though you're retired from being Hokage, there isn't much that slips by you. You knew why I was brought back here."

She smirked at him. "Maybe. And maybe not."

He let that slide. "Fine. You should know that I've accepted Hiashi's proposal and agreed to marry Hinata."

Tsunade's face lit up upon hearing this and her smile was perhaps the biggest he'd ever seen on her. "Congratulations. I know the both of you will be very happy. She's a wonderful woman."

"Thank you. But now that I've accepted his proposal and agreed to the marriage, I think I have a right to know who the father of her son is."

Tsunade lost her smile and her face became impassive. "Why don't you ask Sakura?"

He raised his voice a bit and said, "I already tried that. She shut me down and told me no – rather emphatically. Then she told me that if I continued to ask questions about Hinata and her son, then I should just leave."

"Which I'm guessing is what happened. And here you are, talking with the last person who could possibly provide you with the information that you want. Sorry Naruto, but you won't find the answers you're looking for here. I'm not THAT drunk."

"Why, Baa-chan? Why can't you tell me?"

Once again, that uncomfortable silence. But when Tsunade spoke again, her voice was soft and caring.

"Naruto."

He looked at her eyes and saw sympathy. But he also saw no chance of her buckling under the pressure.

"There's a reason why I can't tell you. But regardless of what it is, the only person who can – and frankly should tell you – is Hinata. Have you talked with her yet?"

He closed his eyes leaned back in his seat, somewhat afraid of the answer. "No."

Tsunade poured herself the last bit of sake and quickly downed it, placing the empty glass on the desk. "Then don't you think it's about time that you do?"

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He ran across the rooftops towards the Hyūga estate, lost in thought once again and reflecting on what Tsunade had said. He agreed with her that he should ask Hinata, but he was also pretty sure that the conversation would end the same way – with him angry and his questions unanswered. There had to be another way he could possibly find out what he wanted to know.

The only thought left to him was that he hadn't had an opportunity to see the boy. Perhaps his looks or some physical feature could provide him with some clue.

He didn't see the movement that pulled him out of his introspection, rather he felt it. He directed his gaze toward the small distraction. It was a small red-haired kid, who Naruto thought looked to be about six or seven years old.

The boy was hiding behind some wooden crates, his eyes peeking about above them. With a graceful somersault, Naruto fell to the ground and silently approached him.

The redhead was watching a small laundry business. Naruto recognized the place and who the owner was; she was one of the women that he had heard talking about Hinata and her immorality.

The blond tilted his head, recalling his childhood and the pranks he used to play. He was so engrossed in watching the child that when the scream of anger came from the building, it took him by surprise. Naruto lifted his face to stare as the outraged owner ran outside, looking for the culprit who was responsible.

Amid all the noise and fuss, an interested Naruto leaned over and asked, "What did you do?"

The boy jumped, certain that he'd been caught and would be punished.

"I didn't do anything," he replied defensively, while the blush on his cheeks betrayed him.

Naruto crossed his arms in front of his chest and looked at the boy with skepticism. "Right. And I don't like ramen, either."

Shocked, the redhead's eyes grew wide and he said, "You don't like ramen?"

Naruto rolled his eyes. Apparently, the kid still didn't understand the concept of sarcasm. "No, I was being sarcastic. That means I don't believe you."

Suddenly the boy stood up and retorted with enough insolence, "What if I did do something?"

The young ninja stared at the kid. The boy didn't seem to be trying to attract attention to himself like Naruto used to do when he was younger. He wasn't trying to be playful either. Instead, he seemed very angry - it wasn't at Naruto, but just what it was specifically was uncertain…

"You!"

Both of them turned their faces toward the owner of the laundromat. Instinctively, the boy hid behind Naruto.

"I'm sure it was you, brat."

It was probably wrong of him to cover for the boy, but an automatic response to protect the kid burst forth from deep inside him. Looking at the lady and feigning ignorance, Naruto asked "What are you talking about?"

"He poured ink into the water I use to rinse the white laundry."

Naruto flinched internally.

"Well, I'm afraid to say you're mistaken. He's been with me the entire morning."

He only hoped that he was doing the right thing. Naruto had always been uncomfortable lying to people – actually, he was pretty bad at it. While they had been together, Sakura had always known when he was hiding something because it was so blatantly obvious. At that moment he was feeling quite a bit disgusted with his lie, but he still wanted to speak with the boy first.

First things first, though. He needed to come up with a way for the kid to repair the damages he had inflicted. He pointed down the street and said, "However, I did see some suspicious kids running in that direction."

For a few seconds the blond thought the owner of the laundromat would refute him. After a few seconds, she turned away grumbling about how city trash always ended up joining forces. As she walked back into her business and closed the door, Naruto looked at the boy with disapproval.

"So, ink in the water. Hardly creative for a prank, and not very original. I don't want to think about how those sheets ended up. Tell me, what's the problem you have with her?"

The red headed kid scrunched his face, making a menacing scowl, "Her favorite pastime is to say really bad things about my mom."

"Your mother?"

"Yes. Hinata Hyūga."

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A/N: Okay, to everyone who came from Nube de Cristal's story, welcome. As I mentioned at the start of this chapter, she allowed me to adopt this story and continue it far beyond what she originally told me she had in mind. I'd like this story to go as far as I can take it; hopefully that will be a good, long time. I hope you all come with me for the ride.

The first few chapters of this story will contain content from the old story - my objective for these are to add some new content to go along with the old content, as well as fix the dialogue and flow. Considering English is her second language, I think Nube de Cristal did a wonderful job.

I have great plans for the direction of this story, as well as a few ideas for plot development. However, understand that I agreed to adopt this story and continue it ONLY under the pretense that Nube de Cristal would be my beta going forward for ALL future chapters. Nothing will be published without her. I think she's a wonderful writer and I'm grateful for her continued support.

As I also mentioned at the beginning of this, The first few chapters will be somewhat repetitive if you are coming from the old story so PLEASE bear with me while I get through them as quick as possible and get to the new stuff. Every chapter will have SOMETHING new, I'm just not sure how much. I already have half of the new chapter 10 written out, but unfortunately I can't publish that until the rest is redone. I should have CHAPTER 2 up and running in about a week or so.

That's all for now. Take care and stay safe.

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Serious Sam