Chapter 2

By the time Naruto came around, Hinata had managed to accomplish two very important things. First, she had gathered everyone who might be able to help them with this mess, namely Tsunade, Kakashi, Ino, and Sakura. Sakura was mostly there for emotional support, both for Hinata and Naruto. Second, she had gotten Boruto and Himawari out of the house. Himawari was in class, and Boruto had left on a mission. Boruto, being actually twelve despite Naruto's first impression of him, had recently become a Genin, and his sensei, Konohamaru, had decided his team was ready for a C-rank mission, so they were likely to be out of the village for a week or so.

When Naruto awoke, he stumbled out of his bedroom and found this group sitting in the living room. Blinking in slight confusion, he was able to piece together who Sakura was from his experience with recognizing Hinata, and Kakashi hadn't changed much, but the other took him a moment to realize the blonde was Ino, but the fourth new face was completely new to him. "Hey, Kakashi-sensei," he said first. Then, turning to Hinata, he asked, "Who's the old lady?"

Tsunade glared at Naruto for this, her fists clenching without her realizing it. Then it sank in to her that her surrogate grandson didn't know her. Her fists relaxed, and she had to fight back tears as Hinata answered, "She's Lady Tsunade. She was the Fifth Hokage until she stepped down and let Kakashi take over for her."

Naruto stared at the two mentioned shinobi, his jaw hanging open. Kakashi just eye-smiled at his former student. Tsunade, however, spoke after a moment. "You mean to tell me, you don't remember me at all?" she asked. Naruto shook his head. "That's very interesting. Hinata tells us you tried to cast a jutsu last night, and when you woke up, you were like this."

Naruto shrugged. "The last thing I remember is fighting Gaara. When I first woke up, I thought I was having some weird hallucination from chakra exhaustion or something, but...well, I can't imagine all this would come from that."

Tsunade came over to Naruto. His comment about chakra exhaustion made some amount of sense. If his new jutsu was even a tenth as chakra-intensive as she suspected it might be, he actually could have had some amount of chakra exhaustion. She didn't think he was hallucinating, of course, but still, it was worth checking. Putting out her hands, they were enveloped in a green glow. Naruto fidgeted, but he knew from times he'd been in the hospital as a kid that she was doing a diagnostic on him, so he sat still.

Tsunade nodded after a moment, then said, "Well, you're not totally wrong, Naruto. You are suffering from a mild case of chakra exhaustion. I've never heard of that causing hallucinations, though. And even if it did, I doubt this case would do it. This is one of the most mild cases I've ever seen."

Naruto sighed. "Then...what the heck is wrong with me?" he asked. "I went to bed a twelve-year-old kid, and I woke up to find that I have kids myself, one of whom looked to be about ten! If this isn't a hallucination, what the heck is it?" His voice was full of frustration and no small amount of fear.

Ino spoke up at this. "Well, Naruto," she began. "It would seem you tried to cast a memory jutsu my clan and I have been helping you with. Apparently, something was wrong with it or it backfired or something, and your memory has been erased." Ino was never one to sugarcoat things.

Sakura glared. "You didn't have to put it that way!" she said. Ino shrugged. "Oh, well, I guess he was going to figure it out sooner or later." Sakura sighed and waited for what she figured was an inevitable explosion.

To Sakura's surprise, Naruto simply sat down on the couch. Hard. The look on his face told everyone he was simply...lost. His heavily overtaxed brain simply couldn't take all this. No one knew what to say or do for a moment. Tsunade was the first to regain some amount of composure. "Well, what are we going to do about it?" she asked.

Hinata sighed. "That's why I got all of you here. I wasn't sure what to do."

Kakashi spoke up then. "I will re-assume the duties of Hokage until this is straightened out. No offense, Naruto, but in your state, you simply can't do them." Naruto nodded. He was in such a state of shock, he would have agreed to damn near anything just then.

Next, Tsunade spoke up. "We should see if we can talk to Kurama," she said. Everyone looked at her in confusion and worry. "We don't know if this has affected him or not, and if it hasn't, he might be able to help," Tsunade explained.

It took everyone a moment to process this, but they all agreed after a moment that this was very true. Then Naruto spoke up, having been newly confused at this statement. "Who's Kurama?" he asked.

Everyone stiffened at this for a moment, then relaxed, realizing Naruto just didn't remember the fox's name. It was Hinata who eventually answered. "The nine-tailed fox, Naruto," she said gently. "His name is Kurama. You two...well, you became friends a while back, and you learned his name is Kurama."

Naruto gasped at this. It was all he could do to not faint. "How in the hell could I be friends with that freaking fox?!" he blurted out after a minute. "Everything I've been through is his fault! I don't...I can't..." he trailed off, unable to say more.

Hinata rested a hand on his shoulder. "Trust me, Naruto, it happened. The fox has changed. And...that's why we need to know if he's been affected by this memory business. Tsunade's right about that," she told him. "If you can, try to go into your mind and talk to the fox. See if he'll come out and talk to us."

Naruto thought about this a moment, then reluctantly nodded. He closed his eyes for a moment, and when they reopened, they had turned to the red eyes of the fox. The fox gave a toothy grin and said, "Well, it's about freaking time. I've been waiting for him to give me a chance to come out here since this morning."

Tsunade nodded. "So, what's going on in there, Kurama?"

Kurama sighed. "I'm not really sure. I saw him cast that jutsu last night, and ever since, he's been...weird. I noticed right away that his memories were...draining off somewhere, I guess. I'm not sure where they went, but by this morning, the last eighteen years were gone."

Kakashi spoke up at this. "And you remember everything, clearly," he said.

"Yes, I do," Kurama responded. "I was honestly worried at first that he would forget literally everything, but it seems to have stopped for now. I hope it stays that way."

Ino nodded and spoke again. "Is there still a drain going on?" she asked.

Kurama shook his head. "It doesn't seem like it. I think it's stopped. Hopefully it won't get any worse now," he said.

Everyone breathed a small sigh of relief at this. Then Kakashi said, "I should get going. I have...duties to take care of, apparently." With that said, he vanished in a cloud of smoke.

Tsunade sighed. "I guess that's the best thing he can be doing. He wasn't much help here, anyway," she said. Everyone else nodded agreement to that. Turning to Naruto/Kurama, she asked, "Can you sense anything else about this? Maybe where his memories went or if they're still out there somewhere or anything?"

Kurama shrugged. "I wish I could, but no. If his memories are existence, I have no idea where or how to get them back. I worry that he might never regain them."

Hinata gasped at this, then shook her head. "No," she said. "I refuse to believe that. We will find a way to reverse this. I swear it."

Ino smiled at Hinata's determination, and Sakura rested a hand on the dark-haired girl's shoulder. "Yes," Sakura said. "We will find a way. With all of us here working on this, no jutsu will get in our way." Hinata smiled at Sakura gratefully.

Tsunade smiled at her apprentice. Turning her attention to Hinata, she said, "Yes, we'll figure this out. I agree." Turning back to Kurama, she added, "You can let Naruto back out now. Thank you, Kurama."

Kurama nodded, then closed his eyes, and when they reopened, they were back to their normal blue. Naruto's face was full of shock. "You were right. He has changed," the blond said. "What in the world happened to him?"

Everyone laughed at this. Naruto was about to burst out in frustration that he hadn't said anything funny when Hinata responded, "You, Naruto. You happened to him." Naruto had to chuckle as well, realizing the irony of his question, if that was indeed the answer.

Tsunade sighed. "Well, a minor case of chakra exhaustion aside, you're physically fine, Naruto. So...I guess you can do whatever you want for today. I'll come around again later this week to check on you." That said, she followed Kakashi's example and vanished. This left just Naruto, Hinata, Sakura, and Ino in the living room.

After a moment, Sakura spoke up. "What are you two going to do today, then?" she asked.

Hinata sighed. "I'm not sure yet," she said. "We'll figure it out. Thanks for coming, you two."

Ino gave Hinata a brief hug. "I know the hand signs we had been working on," she said. "I'll start there, and see if I can figure anything out. I'll let you know if I find anything." Hinata nodded, and Ino left, though she went through the door rather than simply vanishing in smoke.

Sakura forced a smile for Hinata's sake. She was worried, but she knew Hinata didn't need any more stress just now. "We'll get to the bottom of this, Hinata. You'll see. Give us a week, and Naruto will be back to his normal, annoying self before you know it," she said. Hinata hugged her, and then Sakura also left, promising to check up on them whenever she got a chance.

Alone now, Naruto turned to Hinata. "How are you taking all of this so well?" he asked. Turning to him, Hinata raised a questioning eyebrow. Naruto continued, "If someone I loved suddenly didn't know me, I would be freaking the heck out. But here you are, just getting stuff done like it's something that happens every day. I don't get it, that's all."

Hinata took a deep breath and flopped onto the couch rather hard. "Trust me, Naruto, I'm plenty freaked out," she said, her voice full of exhaustion. "I just had to put that aside and try to get something done or I would have broken down."

Naruto took that all in. "I guess...I really mean a lot to you, huh?" he said.

Hinata blushed slightly. This was awkward, like she had to confess all over again. "Well, yeah. I love you, Naruto. I have for a long time, and I always will."

Naruto took in this and the look in Hinata's eyes. She was blushing a bit, but he could tell she meant every word. Sighing, he fidgeted with his fingers. "I'm...not even sure I know what love really is," he said.

Hinata giggled at this, remembering Sakura once telling her that Naruto likely didn't know the difference between the love for ramen and real romantic love. Naruto raised an eyebrow, not sure why she was laughing. "I've taught you what love is before, Naruto," Hinata said with another small giggle. "I think I can manage it again."

Naruto smiled slightly at this. Then he raised a questioning eyebrow of his own. "You...have?" he asked. Hinata just smiled back. Then Naruto had a thought. "Where are Boruto and Himawari?"

Hinata smiled. That was the Naruto she knew, in a way: always thinking of others. His voice had been both concerned and curious. She responded, "Himawari is in class, and Boruto had a mission today. She will be back in an hour or so, but Boruto will likely be gone for about a week."

Naruto took that one in, then said, "I guess that's for the best. At least I won't have to get used to both of them at once."

Hinata giggled. "Boruto can be a bit of a handful," she said. "And while Himawari takes being cute to dangerous levels, she can be deadly if she wants to, too." Naruto looked at her, unsure of this. Hinata told him about how Himawari had knocked both Naruto and Kurama out in a single move when Himawari was only three, which left Naruto with a newfound respect for his evident daughter.

"From what you've said," Naruto began, "it sounds like Boruto is just like me when I was his age. Or...rather, how I was when I was his age, more or less." Naruto chuckled at himself. "It still feels weird to not be twelve."

Hinata giggled. "Oh, trust me, sometimes I can't believe we're not twelve anymore, either," she said. Naruto smiled at her gratefully. She continued, "It all just...feels like a dream sometimes."

Naruto took a deep breath. He was nervous for reasons he couldn't even begin to figure out. "Is it...a good dream?" he asked.

Hinata slid closer and hugged Naruto. "It's the best dream in the world," she said back, then kissed Naruto's cheek softly. Naruto stiffened, his face turned as red as a beet, and Hinata would have sworn she could see smoke coming from Naruto's ears. With a mischievous smile on her face, Hinata leaned in close, rested a hand on her husband's forehead, and said, "You're awfully red, Naruto. Do you have a fever?"

Naruto, completely unused to being touched by anyone, especially not a girl who – despite his best efforts – he couldn't deny was a total knockout, felt his heart rate shoot skyward, developed a slight nosebleed, and fainted dead away.

Hinata dissolved into giggles. "Why is that so freaking adorable?" she asked no one in particular.

A/N: And there we go. A second chapter of this one already. Hope you guys enjoyed it, and come on back next time to see how Naruto deals with Himawari. Also, Happy Valentine's Day!