Skikamaru was standing at the Konoha gate. Kurenai and her team of Kiba, his canine companion - Akamaru, Hinata, and Shino were walking up.
"What are you doing here Skikamaru?" Kiba asked.
"I'm waiting for the emissaries of the Sand village. They're coming for the Chunin exams again. Man, what a drag! I thought after the first couple of times the Hokage would have let me off the hook." He looked past Kiba, "Well, it seems everyone is coming back at the same time."
Kurenai's team turned around to see what Skikamaru was talking about. There was Kakashi and Guy with everyone in tow.
"Hi everyone, welcome back! How was…" Kiba stopped when he saw Jiraiya carrying Naruto. Then he saw Sasuke. He did it! Naruto finally go Sasuke back! He went up to Jiraiya and Naruto. He figured Naruto was hurt, since he was being carried. "Hey Naruto! You finally did!" But there was no answer. "Hey Naruto!"
"He can't answer you Kiba." Jiraiya said.
"Is he hurt that badly?" Hinata asked in a quiet worried voice.
Before anyone could respond TenTen came running up. "Jiraiya-sensei, the Hokage is waiting for you. Please get Naruto to her ASAP."
Jiraiya took off before anyone could say anything. But everyone knew that if the Hokage was involved it was serious.
Kiba turned to Sakura to ask her what was going on, but Sasuke stepped in front of him, "Go get Iruka and bring him to Naruto."
Akamaru growled and Kiba felt the same way. "I know you just got back, but you're not the big hot shot anymore." Kiba growled back.
"Just do it." Sasuke took off in the same direction as Jiraiya.
"What's his problem?" Kiba growled under his breath. "Why should I do that for him?"
"Do it for Naruto." Sakura said behind him. Kiba turned around. Sakura look furious, but her voice was gentle. "Naruto asked something of Sasuke, it involves Iruka-sensei. Please, bring him to Naruto."
"Sakura, is it really that bad?"
She just nodded and then took off after everyone else.
Jiraiya had just laid Naruto down in a bed when Tsunade, the fifth Hokage, come bursting through the door with Shizune following. In the room was Guy, Kakashi, Jiraiya, Sakura, and Kaien.
Tsunade hissed, "Who the hell taught him that jutsu!!" She looked around the room and saw the innkeeper. "Kaien, why would you teach him such a jutsu?"
"Hokage you know him?" Kakashi asked.
Sakura had just walked into the room.
The innkeeper spoke, "So you become Hokage. That's not the Tsunade I know. I have a question for you,. Why did you keep him from us? He has family that could have taken care of him." Kaien stared at her with stern eyes.
He looks so much like Naruto. "We had our reasons."
"He should have been raised to be a clan leader."
"Can two make a clan?"
"Do you think I'm the only one left?" Kaien stood defiant. "The Uzumaki Clan is slowly growing. But we are in hiding."
Everyone one was in shock, Sakura looked over to Naruto. He has family! Why have they never come for him?
"I stay in the public by being innkeeper Old Man Uzuki. I keep an eye out for threats to the clan. That's why I was so surprised when Naruto used Uzumaki so freely."
"Times have changed old man," Jiraiya growled.
"Not enough if you felt you needed to hide him from us."
"We weren't hiding him!" Tsunade said angrily. "He was being raised by this village. He has always been Naruto Uzumaki."
"And yet he knows nothing about us! I find it hard to believe that his parents wouldn't have told him anything about his clan!"
Tsunade and Jiraiya became very quiet and exchanged uneasy glances.
"His parents are dead." Tsunade said quietly and reserved.
Kaien didn't seem surprised. 'Of course they are. Were they starting to come to power? Or were you afraid of them establishing…"
"It was nothing like that!" Tsunade was clearly uncomfortable. You could tell by the look on her face that she was trying to decide what to say. She took a deep breath. "Uzumaki was given to him to protect him. It was his mother's name."
Everyone was in shock.
"His mother's name? Why would…" Kaien was confused.
"We have our reasons." Again Tsunade and Jiraiya exchanged uneasy looks.
"I think I have the right to know!"
" Kaien! You don't even know Naruto. Why do you have the right to know anything about him!? Just because you may be from the same clan doesn't mean you deserve to know anything!" Tsunade said.
What's the big secret? Sakura looked at Naruto again. What is in your past.
"So does he even belong to this village? Maybe you stole him…" Kaien was cut off.
"THAT'S ENOUGH!!" Tsunade was furious! She had stomped her foot and put a hole in the floor. "All you need to know is that his parents were highly valued members of this village. And when they died Naruto was raised as a member of this village. He was given his mother's name for our reasons. We didn't know that any of the Uzumaki clan existed."
Kaien started to say more, but stopped. He could tell by the look on Tsunade's face that he wouldn't get any more.
The door flew open again. This time it was Sasuke and Iruka. Everyone else was standing outside the door. This made Sakura smile. Everyone is worried about you ,Naruto.
Tsunade turned around and saw everyone crowding the door, "Ok everyone, come in."
So in came: Neji, Lee, TenTen, Kiba, Akamaru, Shino, Hinata, Kurenai, Skikamaru, Ino, and Choji.
"Skikamaru, aren't you supposed to be waiting for the representatives of the Village Hidden in the Sand?" Tsunade asked.
"Yeah, but I asked Choji to wait for them."
"But…" Tsunade pointed to Choji.
Choji replied, "But when Skikamaru told me something was wrong with Naruto I had to come. So I asked Ino to watch for them."
"But…" Tsunade now pointed to Ino.
"Well, I couldn't be left out, so I grabbed Ebisu. He wasn't training Kohnahamaru right now, so he is waiting for the representatives of the Sand."
In spite of herself, Tsunade smiled. So everyone is worried about Naruto. He's come so far.
"I don't have time for this." Sasuke's deadpan voice snapped Tsunade out of her thoughts. She faced him.
Sasuke took out the Leaf forehead protector and gave it to Iruka. Then he took out the necklace and gave it to Tsunade. "Naruto says thanks for believing in him." Then Sasuke walked over to Jiraiya, "Release me." His voice never fluctuated.
"You're just leaving?" Jiraiya asked incredulously.
"I did what he asked. Now I'm leaving."
Jiraiya started shaking with fury, "You mean his sacrifice means nothing to you?! He hoped that once you were in the village…"
"I don't care what he hoped, wanted, wished or dreamed. I keep telling you that I broke my ties with him. If any of you can't accept that it is not my problem."
Everyone had gathered around the door, so as to prevent him from leaving.
"Well, maybe I won't release that sutra and you can stand as a welcome statue at the gate entrance."
"Let him go." Everyone was surprised to hear Sakura's voice.
She was standing beside Naruto, holding his hand. She had a dead serious look on her face and her eyes welled with tears, but they didn't fall. "If you can really leave after everything Naruto has gone through for you. The years of training, searching, and sacrifice. If all of that means nothing to you, then you don't belong here."
No one had ever suspected that Sakura would say anything like that. She had always been so obsessed with Sasuke.
Skikamaru was remembering back when he, Naruto, Kiba, Akamaru, Neji and Choji set out to get Sasuke back. She had begged Naruto to bring Sasuke back, it was her only wish. How things change. But he was glad about how Sakura felt. Naruto had proven himself time and time again. Sasuke on the other hand…
Sasuke stood in front of Jiraiya, waiting.
Jiraiya reached out and removed the sutra.
Sasuke turned and walked out.
Everyone just starred after Sasuke, unable to believe that he left. "So how much time do we have?" Tsunade asked.
"Tomorrow is the third day," Jiraiya responded.
Kaien started to say something when Konohamaru burst into the room. He stormed over to Naruto. "What the hell are you doing!? You're supposed to be the next Hokage!" He punched Naruto in the shoulder. Konohamaru is the grandson of the third Hokage and a protégé of Naruto's.
"Konohamaru!" Tsunade started to scold him, but his eyes were full of tears. She put a hand on his shoulder, "Konohamaru…" she said very gently.
He pulled away and turned to look at her, "Ebisu-sensei told me that… You're supposed to be the best healer in the world! You can do something, right!? RIGHT!?"
Tsunade was shaking her head, "Konohamaru…" but he shook his head and ran out. She looked at Kaien, "Do you see what he means to this village."
Kaien just looked defiant, "I stand by my decisions."
Naruto moaned in pain and everyone stood transfixed at what took place in front of them. Naruto's body arched in pain, practically lifting off the bed. This time the blood sprayed from his mouth, splattering Sakura and Iruka. His hands were grabbing onto the bed so hard that he mattress was starting to tear.
Sakura started her healing again. This is so soon after the last time! Why is this happening!? She hadn't had time to recoup her chakra.
Ino walked over and started to help. She wasn't quite as advanced as Sakura, but she was very skilled. Then Shizune came over and finally Tsunade. It took a couple of minuets, but Naruto started to relax, except his breathing was still erratic. The four women stayed with him until he was breathing easier.
Hinata left the room. Kiba, Akamaru, Shino, and Kurenai followed her. Everyone else stood in silence not knowing how to react. Naruto had always been so strong. It was hard for everyone to see him in such pain.
"Skikamaru, please show Kaien to our guest rooms." Tsunade asked in a very subdued voice. Skikamaru just nodded. He and Kaien left the room together. Still no one else spoke or moved. Tsunade turned to the crowed, "Alright everyone, let's go home for today."
Lee looked over to Sakura and Iruka. They were still standing by Naruto. With the blood on them, they look like they've been in a fierce battle. He started to walk towards them, but Tsunade stopped him, "Hokage?"
"It's time to go for today ,Lee."
He looked past her, "Everything is going to be ok, right? I mean you performed the nearly impossible on me." Lee sounded hopeful. Tsunade shook her head. "But…" Lee tried.
"Tomorrow is going to be a long day for everyone. Let's get some rest so that we can be strong for Naruto."
Lee looked past her again. He was worried about Sakura and Naruto. He started to protest, but then he felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Guy, Lee's sensei, the man Lee most looked up to. "Come on Lee, let's go home for tonight. We will be here tomorrow for them."
Lee again, started to protest, but the look on Guy's face quieted him. Lee just nodded. He left with his team.
Everyone continued to file out until the only ones left were Iruka, Sakura, and Tsunade. Tsunade went over to them. "Iruka, go home for tonight."
He shook his head, 'I want to stay with him."
Tsunade put a hand on his shoulder. "You need to clean up Iruka. It's ok, I'll stay with him."
Iruka looked down at himself. I didn't realize how much blood I was covered in. He nodded to Tsunade, looked at Naruto again, then left.
Tsunade turned to face Naruto. For now he was fine. How long can you last. "Sakura…"
"I want to stay. I know the most of how to help when the spasms come."
"Sakura you're tired and you need to clean up. Don't worry, I'll stay with him."
"No. I'm going to need everyone at their best tomorrow. Go, get some sleep, re-charge your chakra, and clean-up."
"I can't leave him. What if something happens when I'm not here. What if…" She felt like she wanted to cry, but she had no more tears.
"Sakura, if anything happens, I will be here. I won't leave him alone."
Sakura looked to Naruto, his face still looked troubled and in pain.
"Sakura, you are going to need to be strong for tomorrow."
"Lady Hokage, don't say…" But Sakura could tell that Tsunade had prepared for the worst. I should do the same. She looked to Naruto, NO! I can't give up! Naruto never does. Sakura remembered the Chunin exam. It was the first time Naruto really showed his strength. Sasuke had wanted to hand over their heaven scroll to the grass ninja (who was Orochimaru in disguise). Naruto had stopped Sasuke. Naruto kept fighting until Orochimaru hit him with some strange jutsu. Then Orochimaru came after Sasuke. I was so worried about Sasuke. He was all I could think about, he…
Bitterness started welling up in her. Why didn't Sasuke stay! Why couldn't he care about Naruto! Not that it would have made this situation better, but it would have been easier knowing that Naruto didn't…didn't" She just couldn't bring herself to finish her thoughts. She leaned over and kissed him on his cheek. She whispered softly to him, "The first kiss you get from me and you sleep through it." She was hoping he would turn red and open his eyes. But it didn't happen. She very reluctantly left his side.
When Hinata had left the room earlier, she had stood against the wall. Why? Why is this happening? Naruto… She slid down the wall and felt something big and furry next to her. When she looked up, she got a big sloppy tongue in her face, "Akamaru." He looked at her and whined. "I'm ok."
"Are you sure Hinata?" Kiba came over and sat beside her.
She nodded, but there were tears falling.
"You can talk to us Hinata, we are comrades." Shino was standing in front of her.
"I need to be stronger, I shouldn't be crying, but…but…" The tears had chocked her up.
Kurenai came over, "You do need to be strong as a shinobi, however, strength comes in various forms." She looked over her team. She was proud of all of them. They had come along way together and individually. "I'll see you tomorrow." They will take care of each other. Kurenai left.
Kiba knew why Hinata was so upset, "Hinata, you haven't failed Naruto, there wasn't anything we could do to keep Sasuke here."
"We should have tried harder." Hinata said softly. "Naruto never gives up, but none of us did anything to stop Sasuke."
"We could have reduced the village to rubble and not have gotten Sasuke to stay." Kiba said gently.
"Sakura was right. If Sasuke couldn't recognize Naruto's sacrifice, then he isn't apart of this village." Shino said.
At the mention of Sakura, Kiba got angry. If it wasn't for that damn promise to Sakura, Naruto wouldn't be in this situation.
Skikamaru and Kaien came out. "Hey Skikamaru! What's going on?" Kiba called.
"The Hokage is sending everyone home for the day. She's going to stay with Naruto overnight."
Kiba and Shino nodded. Shino looked over to Hinata, "Did you want to see Naruto? I'm sure the Hokage won't mind."
Hinata shook her head, but didn't move.
Others started to come out of the room. When Guy's team came out, Neji saw Hinata, and went over to her.
I hope he's not gong to be mean to her, TenTen thought. Even though Neji and Hinata are cousins, the have never been close. For awhile, Neji couldn't even stand Hinata. It had to do with Hyuga clan issues. But over the years, they have gotten better with each other.
Neji looked down at Hinata and called her name. She looked up, not knowing what to expect. But Neji had his hand out stretched. She look at it, not sure what to do.
"Naruto never hid his feelings. I don't think he would want us to start." Hinata nodded, grabbed Neji's hand and stood up. "It's true we must be strong, but I have found that Naruto drew his strength from his emotions. I think that is where we will find our strength to help him through this."
Hinata nodded and smiled. Everyone else nodded as well and left as a group, except Kiba and Akamaru.
Kiba was still outside the door. Iruka was the next to come out. He didn't look around, he just looked straight ahead. He was still holding Naruto's forehead protector in his right hand which was at his side. He was showing no emotion, but Kiba could tell that he was very upset. This made Kiba even more angry.
Finally, Sakura came out. Kiba stood right in front of her. His eyes were blazing, "This is your fault!"
Sakura looked him in the eyes, but she wasn't angry or defensive.
"If you wouldn't have forced Naruto to make you that damn promise he wouldn't be like that!" Kiba's voice got louder and angrier with each word. Sakura just stood there. "Well, what do you have to say for yourself." Even Akamaru was scared, he was standing by with his head down and whimpering.
This took Kiba by surprise.
"You're right, Kiba. I've thought of that promise for days now. If I could go back, I never would have asked it of Naruto."
"Everyone else might over look it. Hinata may even forgive you, but I never will. Not just for Naruto, but for Hinata. Come on Akamaru." Kiba turned abruptly and left.
I don't blame him, he's right. All I could think of was Sasuke. I wanted him back, I felt as though my world was going to end if Sasuke left. Naruto supported me the whole time. He seemed to be the only one who understood how I felt. It was because of wanting to help Naruto get Sasuke back that I became a medical shinobi. I wanted to be able to protect both of them. But now... Sakura stopped, she hadn't even realized she was walking and had left the hospital. She was standing in front of Naruto's place.
I couldn't stand Naruto for the longest time. There was so much I took for granted, so much time wasted. And now… Tears started falling again, but these were tears of anger, not sadness. I'll never forgive myself and I'll never forgive Sasuke. Sakura took a last look at Naruto's place and went home.
In the shadows, a figure moved.
Back at Naruto's bedside, Tsunade watched over him. When she was sure that they were alone, she took out the necklace Sasuke handed her earlier. "You damn fool. Didn't Jiraiya tell you that Sasuke wasn't worth it. Didn't he tell you to forget about Sasuke. Didn't he…" She had tears welling up in her eyes. Damn it! I'm the Hokage, I shouldn't cry. But when see looked down at Naruto again, they spilled out. She lifted his head and put the necklace on him.
"This is yours. You won it fairly. I said this would be the last time I would give in to hope." She was still looking at him, "But you wouldn't want that. There are others who will carry on your dream. I won't give up on hope, but the necklace is yours." She smiled at him. "You proved me wrong and that doesn't happen often. I want you to keep the necklace to show you my promise that I'll never give up." She stayed by his side all night.