After spending the night in the hospital for observation, Naruto was released the next day. He really didn't feel ready to face the village or to go home, but they said he was physically fine, and they needed the bed. He sighed as he looked out the hospital door; he really didn't want to go out there. He shivered slightly. Then Hinata, who had been standing quietly at his side, took his hand. Naruto jumped slightly at the contact; he had almost forgotten Hinata was there. Not that he was unaware of her or ignoring her, he had just gotten lost in his own thoughts, and Hinata was being rather quiet.
The two didn't say anything; there was no need for anything to be said. Hinata taking Naruto's hand told the blond that she was there for him, and that's all that he needed. Hands still linked, the two young people made their way out of the hospital. They moved into the fairly empty streets of the village.
It was early in the morning still; the sun was barely above the village walls. The crowds that would pack the streets later in the day hadn't even begun to form yet, and for this, Naruto and Hinata were grateful. They were able to move through the village, side by side, hands linked, without anyone bothering them. Hinata made sure to never let Naruto's hand go. She could feel him trembling, and she knew he was suffering.
Hinata had told Sasuke, Guy, and Tsunade that she would take Naruto home and help him get settled in. She and her team had a mission that would take them out of the village overnight, but she wanted to make sure he was settled in at home before she left him. When they were almost to Naruto's apartment, the blond finally broke the silence. "So...where are you going to be tonight, Hinata?" he asked softly.
"My team and I have a mission," she answered quietly. "We'll be out of the village tonight, but we'll be back fairly early tomorrow morning, I believe. It's just a C-rank, so I'm sure we'll be just fine, don't worry."
Naruto took a shaky breath. "I...I'm scared, Hinata," he admitted. "I don't want to stay here without you."
Hinata closed her eyes for a moment to collect her thoughts. She had to forcibly remind herself Naruto didn't mean anything by that, just that he didn't want to be alone. "I know, Naruto," she said back. "If we hadn't already taken the mission before you got back, I would try to get out of it, but I have to go. It's just for tonight. I'll be back, I promise." Naruto smiled a little at that. Hinata couldn't resist adding, "And I never go back on my word."
Naruto looked full on at her. "Thank you, Hinata," he said sincerely. "If you hadn't been there...I really don't know that I would have made it." Naruto sighed. He hadn't told Hinata about the...revelations Itachi had laid on him about the village. He wasn't sure if he believed it, and, even if he did, he didn't want to tell anyone about that just yet. "I know...even if I had, I feel like I would have lost myself entirely," Naruto finished. His eyes were grim.
Hinata was doing her best not to tear up at Naruto's words. She couldn't believe how much the boy she had come to admire and care so deeply for had been changed by the things he had experienced. "It's really true," she thought to herself. "Your whole life really does come down to just a few moments. Those few moments that really decide who you are and how your life is going to go." She stopped herself before she could wish that she could take Naruto's place in that genjutsu. She had a feeling that she would have lost herself...probably long before she could have been extracted from it, even if someone had been there to lessen it. And...if she was being honest, she had a pretty good idea she would have been entirely alone in the hospital.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to Hinata. "Naruto...you said you heard my voice in the Tsukuyomi," she said. Naruto nodded, giving Hinata a questioning look. "How did you know it was really my voice and not just something Itachi was doing to you?"
Naruto took a breath. He remembered that moment well. "Well, at first, I did think that's what it was," he said. "I thought Itachi was trying to build up hope in me, just so he could destroy it again. Then...Itachi looked up like he was surprised, and then he said you had saved me from his worst tortures, so I knew it wasn't him." Naruto shivered; he really really didn't want to know what could have been worse than what he did see in there. What he saw was plenty bad enough, thank you very much. "I wonder how your voice broke through the genjutsu at that moment," Naruto said, thinking aloud.
Hinata gasped. She hadn't even stopped to consider that. "How did I break in there?" she wondered now. "Could it be...my love for him and my holding his hand allowed me to...speak to his heart somehow?"
Having no idea the way Hinata's thoughts were going, Naruto gave her one of his first sincere smiles since awaking from the horrors of Tsukuyomi. "Thanks, Hinata, regardless," he said. "I don't care how it happened, really, I'm just glad you were there for me when I needed you the most."
Hinata blushed. "I'm glad I could be there for you, Naruto," she said back. To herself, she added, "I have to be there for him, no matter what happens, from now on. He needed me in that moment, and I really am glad I was there, but somehow I just know he's always going to need me now. I can't fail him. I just can't."
As she was saying this, the two arrived at Naruto's building. Naruto found the key to his apartment in his pocket and let them in. Hinata looked around at the slightly messy room. She was surprised in all honesty it was as neat as it was, but, given how small the place was, she figured there could only be so much mess there. "It's really depressing he lives in such a small place," she thought to herself.
Hinata and Naruto busied themselves cleaning up the room a little and getting Naruto settled. By the time they were done, Hinata had to leave soon for her mission. Naruto didn't want her to go, but he knew she didn't have a choice. Hinata didn't want to leave him alone, either. "I'm going to miss you, Hinata," Naruto said softly. Hinata could hear that he was fighting off tears.
Coming to him, Hinata wrapped her arm around the boy's shoulders. "I'll be back tomorrow, if it's humanly possible," she said. "I promise I will. And I'll do everything I can to be by your side from now on." Naruto gave her a small smile that didn't reach his eyes, and the two embraced. Hinata whispered, "I promise, Naruto. I'll be here."
Eventually, the two parted, and Hinata left.
Tsunade was looking at a piece of paper and growling. She had been delivered this file the morning after she had declared she would take the Hokage's Hat. It listed off the names of the members of the council and how they had voted on Naruto's fate. If looks could incinerate, the paper in Tsunade's hands would have been a pile of ash long ago.
Tsunade was extremely angry that the council had tried to usurp her before she even became Hokage. Danzo was obviously behind this. Apparently, after she, Shizune, and Jiraiya had left the previous day, a vote had been taken as to whether or not Naruto should be handed over to Danzo for "special training". It was a slight relief that the motion had been defeated, but Tsunade was depressed to see just how slight the margin was. If two members of the council had changed their votes, Danzo's motion would have passed.
Looking away from the paper, Tsunade focused her attention on Shizune, who was standing in the corner of the office, waiting for Tsunade to direct her. "Shizune...it would seem we need to take direct action a bit more rapidly than I thought. The council has made their position known on this matter, and the time to act is upon us now. Call the council together, immediately," Tsunade said with authority. Shizune nodded and left. To the empty office, Tsunade said, "It'll be their last meeting."
Once Tsunade had taken a swig of sake to calm herself slightly, she looked over the list of names again. "Hm, good," she thought to herself. "Hiashi, Shibi, Shikaku, Choza, and Inoichi were all opposed to this madness." It was nice to know that she had some loyal shinobi she could trust. Looking over the list of people who voted for Danzo, she wasn't surprised to find a lot of civilian names, but she was surprised to find a few Jonin there. "I thought they had better sense than that," she thought. Then she thought better of it when she started to realize who some of them were. "Then again, I'm not really surprised. Those families always were full of idiots."
Rising from her chair, Tsunade made her way toward the bathhouses. She had to find Jiraiya, and she knew that was the most likely place he would be. Sure enough, he was there. Grabbing him by the ear, Tsunade snarled, "We have a council meeting to attend. The fools tried to usurp me last night, and I won't have it." That said, she began to drag Jiraiya away from the bathhouses by his ear.
Jiraiya eventually managed to extract himself from Tsunade's grip and walked beside her. "What happened?" he asked. Tsunade explained about the vote. "So...they're showing their cards. I'm surprised Danzo would tip his hand so soon. He seems the type to make his plays more carefully than that."
Tsunade snickered. "If I had allowed things to remain how they were under Sarutobi-sensei, they likely wouldn't have done this yet," she said. "I came in there and told them things were going to change. I shook them, and they're acting rashly. They're panicking, and they want to hold on to as much power as they can."
Jiraiya thought that over, then nodded. "You're probably right," he said. "So, what are we going to do about it?"
Tsunade laughed darkly. "We're going to show them what happens when they mess with the Hokage and a Sannin," she said. Her voice, and the grin on her face, promised no end of pain to anyone who decided it was a good idea to mess with her in that moment. Jiraiya was infinitely glad that smile wasn't aimed his direction, for once, as he also donned a grim smile as they continued on their way toward the council's chamber.
Upon arriving in the council chamber, the various council members were confused. "Why have we been called here at this hour of the morning?" one asked.
Koharu responded, "I don't think any of us knows what's going on. We were simply summoned here by that black-haired girl, whoever she is. She claimed to speak on behalf of Tsunade, but we'll see if that's true."
Homura spoke up then. "If Tsunade thinks she can summon us like dogs, she's got–"
"The authority to do it," Tsunade interrupted, bursting into the room. "If your Hokage calls you, you will answer. If you are foolish enough to disobey your leader, you can consider yourself dismissed, Homura." When Homura made no move to leave, Tsunade snickered and said, "Yeah, thought so. Now, everyone, sit down and shut up. Where's Danzo?"
"He hasn't arrived yet," Shikaku said. "He's probably up to something that will be a total pain in the ass to deal with, wherever he is."
Before Tsunade could respond, the bandaged man himself entered. "I'm here, Princess Tsunade," he said with a snarl. "I was in the middle of a debriefing when a very insubordinate little girl ordered me to come here, claiming she spoke for you."
Tsunade pointed to his seat. "She did speak for me, Danzo, now sit down and shut the fuck up." Danzo looked at Tsunade, gauging whether or not to push her, then sat down and waited in silence to see what was happening.
They didn't have to wait long. Tsunade pulled out the paper that had consumed her every thought since she received it. Slamming it down on the table, she demanded of the council, "Explain this. Now!"
Upon realizing what it was, Shibi spoke up. "Danzo proposed that he be allowed to take Naruto under his wing to cultivate loyalty to the village in the boy. Due to the traumatic event he so recently endured, some members of the council believed the boy would need training to control his emotions. Danzo proposed to train him in this in his facility."
Tsunade took that in, then said, "Yes, I got that. But what in the world possessed you fools to believe that, after I told you that things were going to change and this council would no longer be usurping the authority of the Hokage, I would be perfectly fine with you usurping me the very same day?!" she asked, her voice rising to a fever pitch by the end.
Shibi sighed. "I do not know what the others here thought, but your sentiment is the very reason I voted against this. Also, Danzo's methods of training are less than well accepted, and I for one do not believe Naruto should be subjected to them."
Shikaku spoke up then. "It's such a drag to have to be the one to say this, but I knew this was going to happen. I don't know what you morons thought would happen when you voted for the madness Danzo proposed, but this is your reward." That said, he rose from the table. "May I be excused, Lady Hokage? I have clan business to attend to."
Tsunade chuckled. "Yes, you may, Shikaku. Thank you for coming. Shibi, Inoichi, Choza, Hiashi, you all may leave as well. As well as anyone who voted against this nonsense." She waited a moment for everyone who fit that category to leave, then turned to the remaining members of the council, including both Homura and Koharu. "As for the rest of you, you are relieved of duty on this council, effective immediately!"
Danzo spoke up after the shock of this statement wore off. "You can't do that!" he said. "We were chosen and appointed by the Third Hokage due to our status in the village–"
"Did I fucking stutter, Danzo?" Tsunade interrupted. "You are all relieved of duty. That is not a request. I am the Hokage now, and you WILL obey me! As for you two," she said, turning to her old sensei's old teammates, "you may choose to remain ninja if you really want to, but you are no longer my advisers. I will choose advisers who will do as they're told. Get out of my sight. That goes for all of you!" she finished to the room at large.
Within moments, only Danzo was left in the room. Jiraiya came in once everyone else had left. "You really think it's a good idea to stay here after you've been told to leave, Danzo?" he asked.
Danzo snarled. "I am in no position to fight you over this, I suppose. You win for now, Princess Tsunade," he said, then, hauling himself to his feet, he slowly walked out of the room. Stopping at the door, he turned back and added, "I hope your actions do not bring calamity down upon you or the village."
Before Danzo could so much as blink, Tsunade had closed the distance between them, grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, and hauled him off his feet. "If you screw with me, Danzo," she said, "you will regret it. I'm already going to be looking into your files to see if you did anything at all to make Naruto's life worse. You better hope I don't find anything because, if I do, you're going to pay for it."
Danzo smiled from his position in the air. "We'll see about that, Princess," he said. Tsunade put him back down, and the man left, deciding to keep his parting comments to himself this time.
Jiraiya sighed as the bandaged man left. "He's going to be trouble," he said.
Tsunade sighed. "I hope you're wrong, but something tells me you're right, Jiraiya," she said back. "We have to protect Naruto from that madman."
Jiraiya rested a hand on Tsunade's shoulder. "We will," he said. "We will protect him. He's our family, after all. We won't let anyone hurt him."
Tsunade reached up and rested her hand on Jiraiya's. "Yes. We will protect him," she agreed. "I hope you'll help me, Jiraiya."
Jiraiya laughed. "Of course I'll help you, Tsunade," he said. His eyes were twinkling, and he was smiling, but Tsunade knew he was being deadly serious. He added, "He's my godson, too. I won't let anything happen to the kid if I can help it."
Tsunade turned to Jiraiya and hugged him. Jiraiya hugged her back. Tsunade finally broke down. She began sobbing. "Why couldn't we protect him?" she asked. Jiraiya just held her and let her cry. He knew it was all he could do for her. And it was enough.