Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of the thumbnails used they are the property of Kishimoto-sensei and their respective artists.
Naruto stood next to Sakura, who had also become a Jonin and was known as the best medic nin in all the ninja countries. She had become a legend during the war and proved to be even stronger than Tsunade. She stood only a few inches shorter than Naruto and let her pink hair grow to a few inches past shoulder length. She really didn't want to mess with having really long hair again. She'd gained some bust to her figure, but it was still tasteful. She still had a short temper about certain things, but had otherwise toned down in her temper.
Not that it changed the fact that Naruto was still afraid of her kicking his ass. They had developed a brotherly/sisterly relationship, especially after Naruto had confessed that he had fallen for Sasuke. She'd been bitter at first, but it wasn't for what he thought was the reason. The truth was, she'd given up on loving Sasuke and had started to notice Naruto for who he really was. She'd grown to love him, but conceded to keeping it as a more sibling like love because she didn't want to loose him.
She had the Jonin uniform on with a red undershirt and pink mesh beneath that. She'd tied her hiate to her vest, no longer wanting to wear it around her head or on her forehead. Naruto had to admit, at nineteen, she was very attractive, but he knew he could never grow to love her as much as she deserved.
Neji stood next to her, his long black hair tied back at the base of his neck, he stood a couple inches taller than Sakura, but an inch or two shorter than Naruto. He had become an Anbu captain, having already been a Jonin. They all had to take all the exams to advance, but after the war, they'd flown through them without breaking too much of a sweat. He was clad in his Anbu uniform, minus his hawks mask. The leaf tattoo branded on the arm of everyone that advanced to Anbu was a sharp contrast to his pale skin.
Naruto glanced at him before telling himself; 'Neji is sexy as hell, but Sasuke has always been the better looking one'
Kiba, now he had changed at nineteen. He still had a boyish face, but it was sharpened, his messy hair was longer, the back of it tied back at the base of his neck and reaching the middle of his back. He'd gained sharper teeth than Naruto's already fang like canines. His nails were sharp as well as deadly, it was like looking at him in his transformed state. Akamaru wasn't allowed in the office, being that he is now the size of a horse. Kiba had toned out a lot and had a huskier build than any of the rookie nine. He was what you would call ripped and borderline of not being bulky. He stood in a chunin uniform, not really caring to take the exams to become a Jonin.
Tsunade had retired as Hokage after the war and resigned to spend the rest of her days in Tanzaku Town. She always made it a point to come and visit Naruto and Sakura and they met with her at least once a year together. Kakashi had been the one to become the next Hokage, Naruto had been depressed and pissed about that, but he figured that he did need more experience before he could make a successful Hokage. Tsunade had recommended him and had later explained that Naruto was still too young for the council to even consider him.
Kakashi still wore his mask and the Hokage robes rested on the back of his chair. He no longer wore his vest marking him as a Jonin and it had taken some time to get used to seeing him only wearing his navy blue, long sleeved shirt. He still wore his hiate over his left eye as well. There was something else that bothered Naruto about Kakashi, at least it had when it first happened, now he was okay with it. Kakashi and Iruka being together, Iruka had almost lost his job as an instructor when the villagers had not taken the news well. But then the war had started and all was forgotten, after wards, no one said anything since the Kazekage had announced that he was gay and then Kakashi was made Hokage.
The laws against gay, lesbian, or bisexual ninja's or citizens for that matter was changed. Kakashi had tried to push to allow gay marriage, but that was where the council drew the line. Not that he didn't push it with them, often referring to Iruka as his husband to piss them off. But they really didn't do anything about it, except give him a hard time over paper work and never allowing him to go on missions anymore, the reason they stated was because he is the hokage. But it was reasonable when you thought about it, but Kakashi had taken time to get used to staying within the village.
Kakashi yawned, it was nearly midnight by now. He looked at the four before him and then turned to Naruto.
"Naruto-kun, I'm sure that Sakura-chan told you."
Naruto nodded, "Yes, she told me, so where do you think he is?"
Kakashi would only require them to call him Hokage when absolutely necessary, but he couldn't help being irritated by Naruto not addressing him at all. He fixed his gaze on Sakura, "He is within Kumokagure. We are not sure where he is exactly."
She nodded, "Kakashi-sensei, I mean . . . "
He held up his hand, "That's fine. Continue."
She nodded, "Hai, well, how long will we have to search for him in Kumogakure?"
He sighed, "The council and the elders have decided that since it is the four of you going, all part of the Rookie Nine, that you will have only two months to find him."
"That's not bad, it will only take a week to get there, and then to get back."
Kakashi nodded, "Yes, but there's a condition for giving you two months to search for him."
Naruto looked at him intensely, "A condition?"
"Yes Naruto-kun, there is a condition. The council and the elders unanimously agreed that if he returned he would not face penalty because of how much he helped us during the war. But, they also agreed that if he doesn't return this time, all missions to retrieve or search for him end."
Naruto grimaced, "What? Why?!"
Kakashi sighed at Naruto raised voice and the anger in his tone.
"I'm sorry Naruto-kun, I tried to change their minds. But it seems my jests these past two years doesn't get me very far with them."
Naruto clenched his fists and took a deep breath, he really couldn't blame Kakashi. Sasuke had been his protege, he had looked after him, he did care about him. He knew Kakashi would try to push to give them more time and another chance if it came to him not returning this time.
Naruto unclenched his fist and nodded, "Thank you Kakashi-sensei. I will just have to bring him back this time."
Kakashi smiled beneath his mask, he knew Naruto would say that. But there was something that was bothering him, something else he noticed in Naruto's eyes that he couldn't place. Naruto had always been able to cloud his true emotions, even if it had taken him until the war to figure that out.
"Naruto-kun, I am not doubting you in the least. But what will you do if he doesn't return this time, if he chooses not to."
Naruto brought his fist up to the side of his head and said, his eyes burning with determination and the same expression on his face.
"I will knock that teme out cold and carry him myself."
Sakura caught on quickly to what Kakashi was really asking by the look in his eye and turned to Naruto. She looked at him with a serious expression and asked, "Naruto-kun?"
He calmed and turned to her, "Sakura-chan?"
She sighed and closed her eyes a moment, not wanting to see the hurt she knew would be in his eyes from her question.
"What if we can't bring him back?"
Naruto tensed and he turned away from her and looked at the ground. He hated being pessimistic, it always brought insecurities and depressing thoughts to the surface. He took a deep breath and said quietly, "I . . . I-I don't know . . . "
Sakura put her hand on his shoulder, "Naruto-kun, you do know what you would do. I wouldn't blame you or be angry with you if you did."
Kakashi frowned, he knew what she was saying beneath her words. He wouldn't blame Naruto either, but if he didn't return, he would never become Hokage, he would never be able to return to Konoha or Suna for that matter. Naruto gave a slight nod, "Thanks Sakura-chan, but it won't come to that. I will make sure it doesn't."
She smiled sadly at him knowing he was an unsure as everyone else about that. Neji and Kiba resigned that they would do all that they could to make sure both Naruto and Sasuke came back to the village. They didn't like Sasuke much, but Naruto had become a very valued friend to them.
All of the rookie nine were close friends, their own family to one another. It was because of the chance that Naruto might choose Sasuke over Konoha if he had to make the decision that fueled them to have a inner resolve to ensure this mission was a success.
Kakashi nodded to them and then cleared his throat to get their attention again. Once all eyes were on him again he nodded, "Okay then. You leave at dawn tomorrow, get your scroll, remember you go as a team, and check in here before you leave this time."
Neji smirked while Naruto and Kiba shifted nervously on their feet and Sakura suppressed a laugh. Kakashi tossed the thick scroll to Neji who caught it effortlessly and he glanced at them again once more.
"Hai!" Then they left in puffs of smoke at the same time heading back to their respective homes. Kakashi jumped just the slightest when a snap sounded next to him as Iruka appeared next to him. He glanced up a Iruka with a soft smile under his mask.
"You should come home and get some rest Kakashi."
Kakashi nodded and pushed his chair from the desk as he stood. He took his Hokage robes from the chair and folded them over his arm and they disappeared in a puff of smoke.