Author's Note: Thanks to all who contributed legitimate reviews for this fic. I always knew I would get indiscriminate hatred for writing this, but everyone who enjoys reading this makes it worth posting.

Someone said that this story didn't need an epilogue and I actually agree; it was fine the way it was. But then, this epilogue is for the NaruSaku fandom, because even though pairings are not even remotely the only thing I ever cared about in this series, NaruSaku was a pairing that I saw growing together since I started reading/watching Naruto. Before the series ended, they had been a pairing I held close to my heart for nine years. This was a series I was committed to for nine years. When it ended, nothing was easy to let go of, and that's why this story exists. This epilogue is a thank you to the NaruSaku fandom for holding me together because we were all falling apart, whether it was because we cared for the pairing, Naruto, Sakura, or just the characters and series in general. This is our future.

Thank you to my Chief Beta Reader Extraordinaire, Irradiance!

Lifting the Dream by HawkofNavarre


"The next generation will always surpass the previous one."

"Today's finally the day," Naruto said. "Today, I'll officially have my dream come true!"

It was quiet around him, and he found that this was the case quite often recently. He was looking for guidance for all the things happening in his life from people who couldn't talk back. Well, maybe it wasn't really guidance, but talking to them let him think peacefully, and it reminded those who were no longer there that they were still very much a part of his life.

There was also sort of a sombre feel when he came to the memorial even though it looked so beautiful. The grass was always greenest here, outlining the headstones with planted flowers growing at their edges. Even through the winter, this clearing seemed to be untouched by the weather, though Konoha cold season was generally rather mild anyway. It was a sad place, but he liked being among the memories.

"You know, the first thing I thought about this morning when I woke up was coming to see you, because even though you probably wouldn't show it, I think you'd be more excited about this day than I am," the sage said, smiling. He sat down next to the headstone, sprawling out on his back. Glancing into the sky, he ignored the fact that there was an ANBU shadowing him about ten rows down. Today was important and he didn't mind that there were people around him trying to make sure the day went smoothly. As long as Neji didn't mind either.

"I always wanted to be Hokage because it meant that everyone would finally respect me, but I never really needed to do that to accomplish what I wanted. All I had to do was show everyone that I cared just as much for our village and our people as everyone else, but I'm here anyway. Everyone used to think that I wouldn't get here, and then everyone started thinking that I would. I even thought this was fate a few times," Naruto confessed, recalling his breakdown that day back at the memorial. "Sakura-chan had to remind me of the same thing I tried to show you."

He turned his head, staring at the name of his friend engraved onto the stone. "But in the end, both of us were living on our own terms. I think that's all we ever wanted. I just wish you could've walked further on your own path."

Over the years, he had realized just how lucky he'd been in life for things to turn out this way. As an adult, and a powerful one at that, he knew exactly how little control he had over many things in his life. Even as the leader of his village, he couldn't guarantee everything would go the way he planned. Once upon a time, he had been fighting a war he thought he could win without losing any of his friends.

Boy, was he wrong about that one.

Naruto had had as little control over that situation as he did over anything else. If he could've controlled it, he would've made sure that nobody else took that hit for him. Maybe that would've changed the present, or maybe it wouldn't have; Naruto had no way of knowing. He didn't regret being the one who was here today, but he was sad there were people he loved that couldn't truly share it with him.

"At'll be glad to know that Hinata's making progress with your uncle. You probably know already since she comes to see you every week, but I think that's pretty cool. She's really learned to stand her ground, and I know she's doing it for you," he commented, thinking about how much the Hyuuga had grown over the years. "You'd be really proud."


The sage didn't need to glance over to know who was behind him. Although this was supposed to have been a relatively private visit, his assigned guard was never too far away. Naruto had considered sneaking out this morning to get some real privacy, but had ultimately decided against it upon recalling the day he'd evaded his security detail to have a little fun with his wife on her day off. It had certainly been a good time until an ANBU had caught them both extremely...preoccupied at a forested training ground, later notified that every available ANBU had been mobilized to find him. His being missing seemed to create a lot of unnecessary worry, even when everyone knew he had enough power to blow up the world if he wanted to.

"Sounds like it's about time to go, Neji," Naruto stated as he sat up, grinning.

Right on cue, Sai placed his hand on Naruto's shoulder. "Shikamaru gave me the responsibility of making sure you are on time, so it is time to go," the artist stated dryly. "I thought you would be more excited than this."

He finally spun around, rocking back and forth in his spot as he beamed. "I am excited!" he assured his friend, though his face fell slightly. "I just... There are people I wish could be here today..."

"I understand," Sai replied, nodding. He didn't offer any words of condolence, which Naruto was grateful for. The lost physical presence of Neji or his parents or Ero-sennin were things that Naruto accepted, but bringing them back was one dream that couldn't be realized unless he wanted to wake the dead. That was something he would never do. It would be selfish and they deserved to rest peacefully.

Letting out a breath, Naruto got to his feet. "Okay, we need to go, right?"

"Yes. You realize that if you're late, Sakura will murder you," the other male stated factually.

"I know, I know," Naruto answered, laughing nervously. He rarely shirked his duties because this was something he'd wanted and he didn't need anybody to reinforce that. Then, there was the odd occasion when he could be particularly persuasive with his wife, sending a clone in his place and making her a few minutes late for work. Those were very good mornings. Otherwise, he was quite responsible with the things that had been given to him—except when it came to events. He tended to get caught up in nostalgia at times like these and that caused him to be late, something that annoyed Sakura to no end. Her temper was even shorter than usual right now because of hormones and it wouldn't do either of them any good if he did something that was stressful for her.

He smiled down at his friend's headstone. "See ya later, genius. Stick with me today."

Naruto didn't need a response to know that everyone who couldn't be here would be here today. He had shot his loudmouth off for far too long about being Hokage that he was pretty sure that he'd annoyed everyone into coming. He'd been blathering on about it to Jiraiya and his parents for months already.

With a nod, the two took off towards the tower to get ready for the coronation. They traveled at a quick pace, but slow enough that villagers were shouting greetings and congratulatory remarks at him. Naruto grinned, waving at them as he passed by. He had long since gained the respect of his fellow citizens, but it was always nice to be reminded of what he had accomplished and how many friends he had made getting to where he was today. He could see that many of them were already dressed in formal robes, ready to attend the coronation in a couple of hours. Although it was both flattering and terrible for his ego, Naruto could never get used to the kind of hero worship he received.

The duo ended up having to land on the balcony of the Hokage Tower as the entrance was surrounded by excited villagers, Sai shuffling him inside to prepare. The office was filled with Kakashi's advisors and several of his rookie friends who had been assigned to his security for today. Almost immediately as he came through the entranceway, Chouji was grabbing him and dragging him through the mass of people in the room. Naruto had barely raised his hand to greet Kakashi before he was swept away, Sai trailing behind them.

"Finally," Chouji sighed as he continued down the corridor, completely ignoring the stumbling Naruto who was trying to walk on his own. "Do you know what Shikamaru would do to me if you weren't ready on time?"

The sage frowned, putting up a very weak fight against the hand that had an iron grip on his collar. "He recruited you too? Doesn't he trust me at all?"

"Of course he trusts you, but since you chose him as your main advisor, everyone is expecting him to be responsible for you being on time today. He thinks that it would be really troublesome for him if he didn't follow through on his first responsibility as your advisor," the jounin responded. "I've gotta get you into your robes!"

"I can change his pants while you change his shirt. It will save time," Sai volunteered helpfully as Naruto reddened at the thought of anyone who wasn't a medic or his wife taking off his clothes.

"I can dress myself!" he protested.

"Perhaps if we find Kiba, he can take care of the shoes."

"Or Lee. Lee would be faster."

Before the discussion could continue, Shikamaru came running up behind them, actually looking as though he'd been running with all the effort he could possibly muster, which briefly threw all of them for a loop. Naruto even found himself released from his Chouji prison.

"Change of plans," the genius hissed as he started shoving Naruto into the nearest room. "The coronation's off."

The other three males present stared at Shikamaru in disbelief. Naruto suddenly felt like he'd swallowed a stone and it was hitting the bottom of his stomach with a resounding thud. The coronation But—but he had been anticipating this day for years! Was it something he'd done? Why was this so last-minute? The expression on Shikamaru's face was so sober that all Naruto could think was that something had gone horribly, horribly wrong.

"I—wait, but—what?" Naruto managed to spit out even as his main advisor kept pushing him into the room.

"You need to get to the hospital," Shikamaru explained, completely undeterred by question as he kept roughly guiding Naruto through the room. Naruto had no idea what exactly the other guy was trying to accomplish, but he was getting awfully sick of all the shoving.

"The hospital? Why?" he demanded, back now against the window of the room.

Shikamaru shot him a look like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Sakura's having the baby."

Oh. Oh. She wasn't due for another two weeks, but this certainly explained a lot of what was happening right now. It was no wonder Shikamaru looked so stressed out, and he barely got stressed out about anything.

Seeing the look on his face, the genius piped up again. "Yes, exactly. So get to the hospital right now. Ino's been bugging me non-stop to get you to the hospital for the last half hour."

"She didn't transmit anything to me," Chouji said, apparently mildly offended that his teammate hadn't bothered to contact him telepathically.

"You do not want to have her voice in your head. Trust me," Shikamaru grumbled as though he had a headache. "Now hurry up and get out of here, Naruto. We'll come check up on you guys later."

"I'll go with him," Sai chimed in. He stepped forward and opened the window for the both of them.

Naruto placed a foot onto the windowsill, glancing back for a moment at the males of Team 10, wanting to convey his gratitude to them before he left. However, Shikamaru shot him an exasperated look.

"Naruto, there's no need to thank us. Just go."

No further words necessary, he jumped out the window with Sai behind him.

The idea that he was about to become a father didn't seem real to him as he burst through the entrance of the hospital. All eyes landed on him immediately, a woman placing a hand on his shoulder after scurrying up beside him. He looked around in confusion for a moment before realizing it was Shizune who had come to greet him.

"Oh, good! You're here! Sakura's been asking for you," Shizune said, nodding at Sai to follow her. "I know this is terrible timing, but babies don't really wait."

"No, there's nothing more important than this," he said as Tsunade's assistant began leading them down the halls. Being Hokage had been his dream since he was a kid, but it made no difference whether this had been his dream for decades or if he had just wished for it yesterday; his child came before anything. Although he knew how much his parents loved him—and they had died to save him and the village—they hadn't been there for him when he was a kid. If Naruto had the chance, he was going to make sure that his own son or daughter never felt lonely the way he had all those years ago—and he knew that the kid couldn't be luckier than to have Sakura for a mother.

Shizune led them to the top floor of the hospital where several of the nurses and medics working congratulated him, though he wasn't really sure if they were referring to his coronation or to his child being born soon. Naruto was far too focused on trying to get to his wife anyway. He didn't need to question which room was hers when he spotted Sasuke and Karin sitting together on a bench in the hall. Karin appeared to be bandaging up Sasuke's hand as Shizune told him to wait outside for a moment. Instead, he approached his cousin and best friend.

"What happened to you?" Naruto asked quizzically.

"Sakura and contractions," he explained, leaving out all other details.

Naruto laughed nervously. The birth process could prove more harmful to him than Sakura if she was going to channel all her pain through expressions of her physical strength.

"I think she was taking it easy on you. She only fractured a couple carpals," Karin stated as she continued bandaging up his hand. She turned to look at Naruto. They had grown closer as friends and relatives through the years although their strong personalities still clashed frequently. "You know, I tried to get him to bite my neck, but he refused, and now he's also refusing to get someone to heal his hand normally."

"I'm not going to bite you just to fix my hand, and I told you I'd get it looked at after this thing is over," Sasuke replied stubbornly.

"P-please, Sasuke, you know my body's always open to you," the redhead said, blushing as Naruto rolled his eyes. Sasuke, even after all these years, still hadn't expressed any romantic or sexual interest for anyone, except for the interest of restoring his clan. Who knew if that would ever change.

Nonetheless, the Uchiha's friendship had improved significantly with Sakura since the war ended. He still wasn't much of a conversationalist in general, but it was little gestures like staying with her at the hospital until Naruto arrived that showed how much Sasuke actually valued their friendship. The fact that he didn't want to leave at all before he knew Naruto and Sakura's child was safely born only proved how much he had accepted these bonds into his life. Karin and Jūgo were also consistently around. They had stayed loyal to Sasuke just as they said they would and Naruto thought he was grateful for it.

...And on top of that, Karin still had a thing for him. She kept her preference for him so obvious that pretty much every person in Konoha knew about it and she was widely despised by his admirers for not being rejected around him like practically every other squealing fangirl.

"I'm fine," Sasuke stated, completely indifferent to Karin's implication.

"If that's the case, then you will require assistance with eating during upcoming meals," Sai pointed out casually. "Shall I volunteer?"

Sasuke leveled his gaze at the ANBU for a moment before turning back to Naruto. "...I'll get it healed after the baby's born."

The blond smirked at the idea of Sai feeding Sasuke. "Whatever you say."

Just then, the door opened and Shizune popped her head out. "Naruto! Please come in now! We're set up and the baby is on its way now!"

He nodded at her and she disappeared back into the hospital room where his wife lay, his son or daughter only moments away from truly entering the world. There was so little standing between him and something so big and it was harder to grasp than almost anything in his life.

"Good luck," Sai said supportively.

"Hopefully Sakura won't break your hand too," Karin added, her own smile of encouragement saying every well wish that could've been said. "I can't wait to be an aunt!"

Naruto sent a shaky grin to her in return, then took one last look at the man who would be "Sasuke-ojichan." He said nothing, but his eyes, black as they were, were the most expressive part of his features. The sage knew his best friend was only hoping for the best for both him and Sakura.

"Thanks, guys," he replied, taking one deep breath before walking through the door.

"Did we really make him? I mean, are you really holding a tiny person that's part me and part you?"

He was looking down at the tiny person in question who was resting in his wife's arms, eyes closed and face pink. Hours ago, he had been marvelling over the fact that he was going to be a father. Now, he was marvelling over the fact that he was a father. His child was there. His child was a real and tangible person that he could reach out and hold and feel. That thought in itself simply blew his mind.

But all of it was too real to deny. There was his Sakura-chan sitting in front of him, just staring at their child with pink locks stuck to her face from sweat and dark circles under her exhausted eyes. She was definitely not as cleaned up as she usually was, but she was still his gorgeous Sakura-chan. He loved her no matter what state she was in, and even more now because she was the mother of his child.

"Yes, Naruto. He's part me and part you," she assured him quietly, rocking the bundle gently back and forth against her body. "Do you want to hold him?"

"M-me?" Naruto asked in surprise, pointing at himself.

Despite how clearly fatigued she was, Sakura still managed to roll her eyes. "Yes, you. I don't see anyone else in the room."

He swallowed nervously, nodding before he leaned forward with his arms outstretched to take the baby from her. His wife was already the perfect mother, the way she handled her child with such love and care even in just handing him to someone else. Naruto wondered if she had learned that from somewhere, but then again, she'd always had such healing hands, even if those hands could be equally as destructive.

"He's small, but he's not as fragile as you think," she stated as she placed the baby in his arms. "He can't be. After all, you're his father."

"If that's true and he has a temper like yours, we're all doomed," he chuckled, drawing the little baby against his chest. His child was warm against him, but he felt a warmth within that he could only blame on being a giant sap. Within just a couple of hours, this kid had already turned him into a pile of mush. Naruto smiled, and then his smile grew into a grin. He wanted to pause this moment and live in it forever.

There was a knock on the door followed by the current Hokage's head peeking through the door. "Is it alright if we come in now?" he asked, his eyes just as excited as Sakura's parents had been when they'd come in for a few minutes earlier.

"Yes! Come in!" the new mother called.

Naruto shifted with a wide grin to face his former teacher and best friend, his son in his arms. Kakashi and Sasuke came through the door quietly, bearing several gifts that appeared to be from their other friends. Immediately after setting everything down, Kakashi sat down next to him to observe the baby. Sasuke, however, settled against the wall. Naruto looked at him curiously. His hand was bandaged loosely now and appeared to be healed as he said he'd allow after the birth. He watched his friend, not wanting him to stay so far away.

"You're okay?" Sasuke asked Sakura, showing almost purposeful disinterest in the child.

Sakura smiled tiredly. "I'm fine."


Rolling his eyes, Naruto carefully passed the baby to Kakashi and stalked over to where Sasuke was skittishly standing. He crossed his arms, glaring. "Alright, why won't you go near my son?"

"He's a baby," the Uchiha stated rather weakly.

Naruto examined him for a moment. Sasuke was obviously uncomfortable about the idea of being around a baby, but his reluctance to even move closer to where the baby was felt a bit deeper than just some discomfort. The man had fulfilled his sentence entirely and was back on active duty, but was still rarely sent out of the village without Naruto just because of the other villages' dislike for him. Sasuke spent most of his time with Team 7, Karin and Jūgo, and at the orphanage that had been established at the location of the old Uchiha compound. Actually, now that Naruto thought about it, for all the time he spent there, Sasuke didn't ever go near those kids either. He more just kind of...supervised.

A thought came to Naruto. "You know, you're not going to hurt him if you get too close," he told Sasuke. "Is that what you're afraid of?"

Sasuke snickered, as if the thought was stupid, then glanced off in another direction. "Kids are impressionable." brothers, or sisters or moms or dads or whomever else a child looked up to. Naruto understood in that moment. It could be easy to change a person, but it could also be hard; that type of thing depended on a lot of different factors. For Sasuke, change had been the hardest thing because he had been so engulfed in his own beliefs that he hadn't had any faith that a different way could be better. He didn't want to go near this child when there was a possibility that he could ever do something that would make the child just like he had been back then.

"Yeah, they're impressionable. Kids have to learn. My son is going to learn, but he's gonna learn good things from you, Sasuke," Naruto replied confidently.

The brooding male eyed him skeptically, but remained silent. Naruto sighed.

"Look, I wasn't gonna say anything until later with Sakura-chan, but we talked about it a while ago and we want you to be his godfather," Naruto told him, grinning while Sasuke's eyes widened.


"Jiraiya was my godfather," he continued, smiling fondly at the memory of his former teacher. He liked to think that his parents along with Ero-sennin were in the room with them right now. "And he was the closest thing I ever had to a father. Now, I don't plan on dying anytime soon, but I know this kid's godfather is going to play an important part in his life, just like mine did."

"Then why choose me?" Sasuke demanded, as if asking Naruto to remember all the pain he'd caused and bad decisions he'd made all those years ago.

"Because I trusted you'd be the person I always thought you'd become," he answered without hesitation. "Because you are the person I always thought you'd become."

He knew he was getting through when Sasuke's stoic expression faltered for just a split second. "And Sakura's okay with this?"

Naruto shrugged, giving his best friend a pat on the back. "Sakura-chan's got a big capacity for forgiveness." He gripped the man's shoulder in reassurance. "Listen, it's not like we expect anything from you. You've just always been a big part of our lives and we want you to be a presence in our son's life too."

The Uchiha sighed, but didn't look perturbed in the least. "Your kid is going to be an even bigger pain in the ass than you, isn't he."

"So you'll do it?" Naruto asked eagerly as he jumped on the positive—well, positive from his perspective—insinuation.

"Yeah. I guess."

Naruto did a fist pump, grinning. He knew he'd convince Sasuke in some way. He turned slightly, giving his surrogate brother a push towards the bed. "Great! Now go hold your godson!"

Surprisingly, Sasuke didn't put up a fight as Kakashi placed the baby carefully into the only good arm he had left. Instead, he watched the child with amusement, trying to remain nonchalant in the presence of this tiny miracle. Naruto smiled and glanced at his wife pointedly, who offered her own smile in return. It was obvious that she understood that Sasuke had accepted his position in their child's life. Today was turning out to be a wonderful day.

"Isn't it funny?" Kakashi asked wistfully. "After all these years, it's finally Sakura that's lying in the hospital instead of one of us." He was referring to the male counterparts of Team 7, who were often the ones who ended up confined to a hospital bed for several days.

"That's because if I'm the one in the hospital bed, it usually means that everyone else is dead," Sakura shot back dryly, effectively draining the humour out of Kakashi's joke. Clearly she had zero tolerance for those kinds of statements in her post-childbirth fatigue, which was understandable. "Honestly, you boys are hopeless without me."

Naruto scratched his head nervously. "Come on, Sakura-chan. We're just joking around."

He received a glare from his tired wife that shut him up immediately. "Joking around? Really? The two of you were alone for a few hours once and you blew off each other's arms," she stated pointedly.

Nobody could refute that statement.

"I just meant to say that it's interesting how everything turned out," Kakashi continued, trying to defuse the situation. "I knew something like this would eventually happen, but just think about it. The war was only seven years ago."

It was true, and such an odd thing to think about. Seven years ago, they could have still been considered children. Sasuke had still been a missing-nin then. It was the year that Neji, along with thousands of other shinobi, fell on the battlefield. It had been a heartbreaking time.

And yet, here they were, a bunch of adults running the village. A lot had changed.

"Maybe this is a little overdue..." Kakashi said as he placed his hands on Naruto and Sasuke's head, "...but I'm proud of all of you."

"We're not kids anymore," Sakura laughed as Sasuke tried to get his head out of the way, but Kakashi was determined to muss the boys' hair.

"No, you're not, but let me feel like I'm still your teacher one last time." He let out a sigh, seemingly full of nostalgia, and moved to stroke the head of the baby instead. "And this little guy, he'll probably surpass all of us one day. The next generation has a tendency to surpass the previous one. You all certainly did."

"That's right! My son's gonna be the next Hokage!" Naruto declared, puffing up his chest in pride.

"You're supposed to be the next Hokage, and look how that turned out. Your own son came to try and prevent that from happening," the Uchiha snickered as he passed the child back to his mother, eliciting a glare from the new father.

"You know, we still don't know what to call this little one. What's his name?" Kakashi asked, and the room fell into a dead silence.

Naruto shifted nervously under the scrutinizing glare of his wife. The whole name thing had been an issue between them for a while now and they had honestly just never finished their conversation about it. The fact that the baby was now born kind of pressed the matter a little more. He had been busy with the whole becoming Hokage thing and whatnot, and Sakura hadn't been very happy that he hadn't at least settled on a name—or any of the ones she'd chosen, for that matter.

Their former teacher, clearly sensing the change in atmosphere, cleared his throat, pushing a disgruntled-looking Sasuke towards the door. "Right, well, we should get going. I'm sure you're tired, Sakura. We'll let you get some rest. I know you have a lot of visitors that want to come later as well."

An image of Karin busting the door down to loudly announce her status as "aunt" made Naruto mentally groan, even if it was technically true. He could only hope that Sasuke could keep her from coming in for a little while longer. Even if he liked that she was his family, he didn't want to end up getting into some stupid fight with her in the presence of his exhausted wife and newborn child.

The door closed and Sakura immediately shot him an expectant look. "Well? What is his name?"

"I don't know," he sighed as he flopped down on the bed next to her, resting his head on her shoulder. "I'm happy with whatever name you choose."

"Naruto, I told you the name I wanted already and you were not okay with it," she stated in annoyance.

"It's a weird name!" Naruto said defensively.

"You have a weird name!" Sakura retorted, trying to keep her voice low so as to not wake the baby.

"I do not!"

"You sure about that, fishcake?"

"...Okay, okay, my name's kinda weird, but you know why my parents gave me that name," he conceded as he let his head sink back into the pillow. He had never had a problem with his name, despite knowing that it was a little strange, but ever since his mother had told him where it came from, he'd appreciated it a lot more. Since then, it had made him feel closer to both his parents and Ero-sennin even though all of them were gone.

"I know, and maybe that's why you should listen to the reason I chose this name for our son," Sakura reasoned with him, taking his left hand into her right. She leaned over and kissed him chastely, smiling. "I chose it because I want my son to be named after the best person I know: his father."

Naruto turned red at her confession. Although he and Sakura had been married for a few years already, he was still consistently in disbelief that she had somehow managed to fall in love with him, even if he'd spent several years of his life wishing for that to be true. Hearing any sort of flattery from her made him feel like he was a smitten twelve-year-old all over again. To hear her say that she wanted to name the little human being they made after him rendered him completely helpless. "W-well, I guess it's actually a pretty nice name, all things considered..."

She nodded, beaming and so preoccupied with their discussion that she was oblivious to the effect she had on him. "I thought it rolled off the tongue nicely too." Sakura gently weaved her fingers through the wisps of blond hair on their child. "Besides, I think your parents would like that it's inspired by yours."

He smiled against her shoulder, always grateful to have fallen in love with someone who cared just as much about the things that mattered to him. Even though it hadn't been under the best circumstances, he was glad that his father had been able to meet Sakura. It had given her a small connection to his parents that somehow made him feel even closer to her. And even if his mother hadn't had the chance to meet her, Sakura had the same fiery temper and unconditional kindness that his mother did, and Naruto was pretty sure that his Sakura-chan was the type of girl Kushina would've approved of. "My weird, fishcake name?"

"My idiot husband's name," she corrected.

Naruto looked out the window at the blue sky, reminiscing about a photo taken long ago. Kakashi and Sakura had been beaming while a disgruntled Sasuke and Naruto glared at each other. That had been before everything the world threw at them had taken place, back when they hadn't really been a team. He had been plagued with loneliness, craving attention and seeking acknowledgement.

He'd grown a lot since he'd been that lonely boy sitting by himself on the swings, but he hadn't seen himself as that person in a very long time. Eventually, he'd started to think of all those people in the picture as his family—something he never hoped to have as a kid. His parents and godfather were gone, after all, and even now, short of forbidden techniques, there was no ethical way of getting them back.

But Naruto was okay with that, because he knew the only thing they really wished for was for him to be happy. And he was happy, lying here beside his wife and son with countless friends all eager to join them. He was living the life in this world that his parents, Ero-sennin, Neji, and all his other comrades had fought for, and he would cherish every second of it.

"I guess it's decided then," Naruto said with a nod. He believed with all his heart that this child was going to accomplish great things and surpass his parents and grandparents in every way possible. Naruto couldn't wait to see his son take on the world, nor could he wait to be there to help every step of the way. He would be unstoppable with his mom and dad and aunts and uncles and all this love surrounding him. He would never have to feel alone.

He grinned down at his son. "Welcome to our family, Shinachiku."