I think I can give this one a reasonable WAFF alert of at least Naruto Orange or Sharingan Red. I also suggest 'Here Comes the Sun' by the Beatles (instrumental if you've got it) because it always gave me this picture of peaceful, rural life.

Interlude: The Life of a Modern Kage

By Geno Calamari

She smiled. It was one of those sorts of smiles. The kind where everything was just this close to being perfect. Life was being suspiciously idyllic these days.

The genin team she had been assigned was a good selection of intelligent and proper ninja. Careful and steadfast, they were resolute children that had all been raised properly. Yes, no one in this little group of three would be prone to doing anything relentlessly stupid or flashily heroic. They were good children, much like her own, and would grow to be fine ninja.

Kan sat grinning down at his bowl of ramen, bright blue eyes shining joyfully. The blonde boy loved ramen, his passion for the noodle soup only matched by the zeal with which he consumed it. An intelligent boy Kan was, taking after his mother in that respect. She watched as he maneuvered the chopsticks to skillfully capture as many noodles as possible. A skill learned from expert instruction and many bowls of practice.

Next to him, his older brother Kyouji was not grinning. It wasn't that he wasn't happy with the fare, far from it. If anything, he loved ramen more than his younger brother and his father combined. No, the raven-haired boy was far better at concealing his emotions than his sibling. He was the reserved and quiet one of the two. The only way to tell what he was feeling exactly was to look into his eyes. Kyouji was, humorously enough, the worst liar she had ever known. Those dark eyes always gave him away. It was rather endearing at times. Today however, Kyouji was merely unsettled.

The reason for his unsettled attitude was the same reason that his mother hadn't turned on her brightest smile.

His beloved father wasn't home yet. A man with a wide smile and quick laugh, the relative quiet of Ichiraku made his absence so much more painful for his family.

The small blonde boy was, thankfully, much too young to really worry about such things. Kyouji, on the other hand, was old enough and perceptive enough to piece the puzzle together.

"Mom," he began in his soft, even voice, "Where's Dad?"

Cocking her head, she told him the first thing that came to her, "I don't know, Kyouji. He must have been held up on the way home from Kusagakure. He'll probably be home tomorrow." He recognized the tone of voice as meaning 'the matter is closed,' and she knew that he would understand that Kan didn't need to see her worried. Worrying wouldn't do either of her sons any good, so she tried to force down her feelings.

Sadly, she had never been very good at it. Horrible images of flames and blood and death assailed her from her many years as a kunoichi. Oh god, he's never been this late before… perhaps after I put the kids to bed, I can go ask Tsunade if there's been any word… she's always in the office late…

"Mom, you're biting your lip again," Kyouji mumbled. Kan looked up from his bowl of miso ramen and stared at her with his heartbreakingly-blue eyes. His father's eyes.

The younger boy frowned, his eyes squinting, "I'm worried about Dad." Well, Kan never had much tact. But in saying that one sentence, his mother seemed to relax just a bit, while his older brother released a breath he did not know he had been holding. Someone needed to say it, and it didn't matter who.

We're all worried, Kyouji thought, it's just Kan's better at hiding it than the rest of us. It helps that the goofball can just smile all the time. A flash of envy for his younger brother took him for a second, but he let it go. He's the baby, and that's okay. Let him be open about his feelings.

"We all are, Kan," his mother said, and her smile became sort of… bittersweet? "We all are."

Kan, displaying his usual lack of tact, pushed on, "Aniki?" he turned those blue eyes on Kyouji, "Do you think Dad got hurt?" There was an awkward silence, and it seemed that even the few other patrons in for dinner were listening in.

Kyouji snorted, "Yeah, right," he joked, "Hurt Dad? Don't be silly, otouto; Dad can't be hurt by anybody." Resting his elbows on his knees, he placed his chin in his hands and brooded. Nobody. Memories came back unbidden.

Cloud Hunter-nin came one afternoon, intent on taking the last of his bloodline away from their ancestral home. They had told him awful stories about a demon with crimson eyes and said his blood was going to make Lightning so much stronger. The shinobi had called him such horrible names and threatened to kill him if he didn't comply. He had cried out, kicked and fought and bit with all his might. A kunai had found its way into his six-year-old fist and he skillfully fended off an attack by a much older and stronger shinobi.

Then his father was before him and the hunters became the hunted. On that day, his father had displayed speed, strength, and ability far beyond the ken of normal ninja. Although it would have been so much easier to kill them all, (it always is) he had left them alive.

With only the Cloud-nin team leader left conscious, his father gave a message for the Raikage himself. If they ever so much as laid a finger on his precious son, his father would bend his considerable might to razing their village.

Kyouji had always been in awe of his father. Because of that day, he had seen his father fight without the limits he used when training his sons. Kyouji's 'tou-san was a master in the ways of the ninja, and would never fail. That's why they named him Hokage, wasn't it?

Laughing just like his father, Kan nodded knowingly, "Yeah, you're right aniki. It's stupid of me to worry. Dad's the Hokage, right?" and the little blonde boy's face set in the familiar grimace of determination, "I'm gonna be Hokage someday, too."

He looks so much like Dad when he does that… The older boy canted his head sidelong to observe his brother better, "Are you sure you're up to it? It's a big commitment, you know."

"Being the Hokage means that you're the Pillar of the Leaf, the strongest ninja in Konoha!" now he was grinning cheekily and looking at his mother for approval, "I want to be the strongest ninja ever, so that nobody ever has to worry again!" he shouted, sounding proud. The old man behind the counter nodded, smiling approvingly. It wasn't surprising that the boy wanted to be Hokage; he hero-worshiped his father.

His mother, however, was once again lost in her own thoughts, He's twenty-seven… just like his father was when he died. They both held the same position… they both served for six years… the similarities are frightening… why isn't he back by now? The past exams never took this long to complete.

"Mom," Kyouji interrupted her musings again, "you're stirring."

His mother looked down. The chopsticks in her hand were swirling the broth of her own prawn ramen. She stopped, smiled softly at her son, and then stared off into space past his left ear.

He sighed. Mom gets all wistful whenever Dad's gone too long. Dammit Dad, you better get back here and snap her out of this funk soon. He rolled his eyes as his mother shifted from pensive to contemplative; stirring once again I hope I never fall in love… it makes you act funny. Already, the girls at the academy were calling him 'cute' and wanting to talk to him all the time. They were all so… so girly. It really made him wish for some intelligent conversation, or maybe a couple of games of Go with Kan.

Kan was looking down into his broth, there were no noodles left now, and sort of frowning. Kyouji hated it when Kan frowned. It made everyone sad and moody. His brother had this way of making everybody feel the same things as he did. He figured that the little boy had picked that up from Dad.

"Hey, Kan," the younger boy blinked owlishly at him, "when we get home, how about I teach you to play Shogi?" His brother was good at games of strategy, albeit reckless, and gave Kyouji some solid practice.

"I already know how to play Shogi," he stated proudly, beaming and enjoying the effect it had on his brother. It wasn't everyday that he got to one-up aniki.

Kyouji jerked, "Huh? When'd you learn to play?" he sounded a bit put out. He had wanted to teach Kan. Reminding Kan that he had won fewer games than he had lost (even if Kyouji did count instructional games against him) was often instrumental in getting him to play seriously. The boy was only six years old, after all.

"Aw, boring old Shikamaru," his mother cleared her throat expectantly, still paying enough attention to correct the manners of her children, "Shikamaru-san," the boy corrected in his best defeated tone of voice, "taught me to play when Mom asked the Nara clan to baby-sit me. He told me that it would be good for me if I could learn to concentrate, so he taught me," he leaned closer to his older brother and whispered confidentially, "I think he was just teaching me so he didn't have to watch me run around outside."

The dark-haired boy nodded, "That's how I learned to play too!" A thundercloud appeared above both boys' heads as they momentarily forgot their conversation. Their visages were grim as they turned to one another and positively glared.

"Did he let you win, too?" they asked in unison.

"Yeah, sometimes," unison, grinning, "said it was 'Too Troublesome to win all the time?'" unison, now the grins had broken into peels of stifled giggles.

"Lazy bum," their mother mumbled, now smiling at them with the smile Kyouji had learned to be her 'I'm so proud of you and I love you so much' smile.

Before Kyouji had a chance to agree, a large hand planted itself on the top of his head and ruffled his messy raven locks affectionately. His mother's eyes flicked behind him and widened fractionally.

A rich baritone voice, filled with warmth and humor, called out from right behind the booth, "Who's a lazy bum? Not me, I hope."

Kan's eyes were wide as saucers, the companion hand to Kyouji's perched atop his head. With all the enthusiasm of a six-year-old boy, the younger child went up and over the back of booth and into his father's arms. "DAD!" His small arms wrapped about his father's neck and he pulled himself as close as possible to the man.

Overwhelmed for just a second, the Hokage just smiled. His wide brimmed hat shifted on his head just a bit, giving his wife a view of his deep cerulean eyes and tanned face. The three whisker slashes that had adorned his face in his youth had not faded like other scars. Luckily, his children had not inherited those particular birthmarks.

Kyouji took a more sedate route. Placing his hand on his father's, he smiled back, "Welcome back, Dad."

"Thanks, son."

Placing his blonde son back into his seat, he took up a spot in the booth next to his wife. They gazed fondly at one another for a second before he tipped back his hat and closed for a shy kiss. She kissed back, more than happy at solid reassurance that he was back, safe and sound. He noticed her enthusiasm, She's been so worried recently…

It couldn't have lasted more than five seconds, but Kan blew a raspberry and Kyouji calmly stated that people were looking, when there was no one else around but the old man and Hatake Ayame, the 'ramen girl' and spouse of the infamous Copy-Nin Kakashi.

"Let em look," Uzumaki Naruto growled softly, "Maybe we can teach Ayame a thing or two about how it's really done." Ayame blushed crimson. His arm wrapped about his wife's shoulders and he grinned at his children. "So boys, you been taking good care of your mother?"

They both nodded, beaming. Their father was home!

"Been washing your hands and brushing your teeth and making your beds?" the nods were a little less enthusiastic. He cut a quick glance to their mother, who mumbled a quick 'More or Less.' He nodded, "Well alright then. I hope I'm not too late to eat with you, I just got back into Konoha."

"The way you eat ramen, Dad, I don't think your tardiness will be a problem," Kyouji deadpanned. All three males broke into good-natured chuckles.

Uzumaki Sakura smile beatifically. This was her family, and now it was complete.

"How'd the Chuunin exams go, Dad?" Kan asked, practically bouncing in his seat.

"They went as well as can be expected," Naruto demurred. Sakura's eyes narrowed.

Kyouji leaned forward expectantly, "Did Sarutobi-kun get promoted?"

Blowing through his nose, the Hokage removed his ceremonial hat (which he had taken to wearing everywhere) and ran a hand through his hair. "No, he didn't." He really didn't want to answer that question.

"What?" his family exclaimed. They knew Sarutobi Ittou and his parents. The kid was really good and everyone had been expecting him to get promoted on his first go. Trained by Shikamaru, raised by two Jounin parents, how could he go wrong? He was intelligent, crafty, and capable. He had a good team with him too, so why did he fail?

"Bad match up, knocked out in the first round," Naruto explained, "he had to fight the heir to the Dengeki Bloodline." Sakura winced. She had heard of Cloud's Dengeki Bloodline. A recent advanced bloodline fostered by Cloud's aggressive eugenics program, the Dengeki Bloodline could manipulate and project electric pulses with their Chakra. These pulses could scramble the nerve impulses in a normal human and played havoc with the Inner Coils system.

This bloodline was the reason that Cloud had wanted the Byakugan so badly. Combine the ability to destroy Inner Coils and scramble neurons with the pinpoint accuracy and vision given by the Hyuuga Bloodline and you got a potent and lethal combination.

Luckily, they hadn't gotten the Hyuuga. Unluckily, they had green-lighted the Dengeki bloodline project anyway. Sarutobi Ittou had run up against the first of the Dengeki to ever take the Chuunin exam.

"He was totally unprepared for what that bloodline could do to him." The Hokage placed his hat on his lap and broke into a wide smile as Ayame set a massive bowl of steaming pork and miso ramen in front of him.

"Arigatou, Ayame-san."

She smiled, but didn't move for a second, "Hokage-sama… did Kakashi…" she trailed off, the question hanging in the air.

"Oh, he just got back with me. We got in a scuffle in Kogata on the trip home and Kakashi got a few minor cuts. I told him to go to the hospital to have them checked with a medic-nin, then I ordered Neji to go with him to make sure he did it," impressed with his own cleverness, he added with a wink, "Neji needed to have his arm looked at, but he's too stubborn to go on his own."

Tension melted from her face, "Arigatou, Hokage-sama."

She was worried, too, Sakura thought, and she sympathized immensely. But what sort of 'scuffle' could the Hokage, the Copy-Nin and the ANBU Commander gotten into that had caused two of them to go to the hospital? She couldn't imagine it.

"It's just Naruto, Ayame-san," he said politely and she broke into smile. He had that effect on people.

Continuing his story, Naruto launched into a play-by-play review of the match, complete with his own wild commentary, "—and so I thought he'd bought it there when Ittou-kun managed to get a knuckle duster to his throat, but it turns out that Dengeki had been playing with him the whole time and blasted him with the full power of that damn bloodline. At such close range, there wasn't any way for him to dodge it," he shook his head sadly, "Ittou-kun couldn't stop twitching for the next two days. His parents wanted blood, I tell you. I've never seen Kurenai-san so angry before."

"Wouldn't you be screaming for blood if it were Kan or Kyouji?" Sakura asked softly, and Naruto flashed his trademark manic grin.

"I woulda gotten it, though," he beamed at his two sons, and they looked back with awe in their hearts and wonder in their eyes, "Nobody hurts my family and gets away with it. Now, as it was, I wanted to beat the kid to a pulp. The little basta-err…" he scratched the back of his neck as his wife glared, "Jerk was so damn arrogant, strutting about after he won like he was the greatest thing since miso ramen."

"I seem to remember a certain loud-mouthed little boy doing the same thing after he defeated the prodigy of the Hyuuga clan," she said dryly.

Putting on his best mock-pout, Naruto whined, "But Sakura-chan! Neji deserved to have that stick pulled out of his—" only to be cut off by the glare his wife sent his way. The 'Finish that sentence and sleep on the couch for a week,' glare. Guys, you know the one. "—and he was walking around a few hours later!"

"What happened to Dengeki?" Kyouji asked, frankly horrified at the idea of anyone beating Ittou-kun so easily.

Naruto's eyes slid away from his son, focusing on the far wall as he remembered the outcome, "Dengeki went on to win the tournament and let me tell you, the Kumokage was just so damn full of himself after that."

Sakura sighed, understanding that look in her husband's eyes better than either of her children. Yet another thing she had to wait for the children to go to bed to ask about. It wouldn't do to hear their father rant about 'Some Idiot who happened to get his hands on a Kage Hat.' He was very serious about the job, and expected his counterparts to take it just as seriously as he did. They rarely ever did.

Letting out his anger in one giant sigh, the Rokudaime Hokage checked his watch. "Hey, it's getting pretty late. Don't you think we ought to get these kids off to bed?" arching a blonde eyebrow at her, he awaited her response.

'Real smooth, passing the responsibility there,'Sakura found that her husband was grinning ever so slightly,'is this what you study in order to be the Hokage?'

Both of her sons instinctively realized that their bedtime was being determined solely by their mother and turned the dangerous Giant Teary Eyes of Pleading no Jutsu on her. You are so sleeping on the couch, Naruto. A vein pulsed in her forehead, but the jutsu did not stop.

I know, his eyes said, but it's almost worth it to see you give in.

"Alright, you can both stay up a bit longer," they looked at each other in disbelief. Their mother never bent about bedtime, she was in a really good mood today.

Grins broke out across their faces and they were already imagining how they could spend their sudden windfall of free time.

"But you're only allowed to play Shogi!" Sakura said in that tone that lets you know mom means business.

Naruto looked confused, I'll explain later, she thought back. He brushed aside his curiousity.

"It's settled then!" Naruto clapped his hands together officiously, "Let's head home."

Suddenly, a frown broke over Kan's cherubic face, "But Dad, you haven't eaten yet…" he looked down to examine his father's meal but found only a pair of chopsticks around the rim and a very deep bowl, "Wow!" the blonde boy exclaimed.

Chuckling softly at his younger son's awe, the Hokage leaned forward over the table toward him, "You think that's impressive, you should watch when Kakashi-sensei does it," he waited a dramatic pause, "with that mask still on!"

Both of his sons broke out into fits of giggles at the idea of their father's sensei eating so quickly that his mask did not move from his face. He had them eating out of the palm of his hand. With any luck, they would realize how sleepy they looked and decide to sack out for the night as soon as they got home.

Paying the tab, the Uzumaki family bid a pleasant night to Ayame and the old man, and then strode out into the night. Naruto grinned, ushering his family toward home.

"Let's go through the Nidaime Memorial Park!" Kan shouted, much to the irritation of the residents of this block. He could be so damn loud some times…

Kyouji intercepted, pulling Kan's goggles from his blonde head. "It's just quicker to take this street all the way home, you know."

"Hey! Give 'em back aniki!" Kan made a jump for them, but Kyouji pulled his hand away in time to retain control of the goggles, "Those were a present from Sarutobi-san!"

"I know that," Kyouji snorted, his other hand grasping the eyepiece of his own goggles, "Konohamaru-san gave me a pair as well." He dodged his sibling's leap again, this time coming much closer, "Tell you what, you can have them back if you beat me home."

"You're on!" Kan bellowed; he had inherited his father's strength of lung. Before either of their parents could stop them, they bolted off into the night in the direction of home.

"Should I be worried?" Naruto inquired, mildly concerned.

Sakura shook her head, "No, they've started doing this recently. Kyouji takes Kan's goggles, they yell at each other, then they set some sort of challenge or goal for them to compete in and they take off," she sidled up to her husband and leaned against him as they walked. His arm wrapped about her slim waist and he breathed in the scent of her hair. For a second, all was peaceful.

"Let me guess, Kyouji always gives back the goggles, win or lose?" Sakura mumbled an affirmative, "That's his style alright. If there's nothing to worry about then, how about you and I take that walk through the park?" his smile was inviting and she swatted his arm playfully, "It's a beautiful night."

It was, and she couldn't resist. They didn't get to spend much time alone anymore and she snapped up any moments for just the two of them.


It was a beautiful park, well-maintained, clean, and safe. But he just couldn't take his eyes off the woman in his arms.

She was gorgeous, her silken pink locks blowing gently in the night breeze, her pale jade eyes half-lidded, and a small smile at the corners of her lips.

"I wish it could just stay like this…" she mumbled, her arms about him, "forever."

He pursed his lips in thought, "Sakura-chan, I fought against Cloud-nin tonight."

Way to kill the romance, baka, she frowned, "That's not what you're supposed to say, you know. You're supposed to say 'I do to,' and then you're supposed to kiss me."

"Can I still kiss you?"

"Only if you tell me why you were fighting Cloud-nin."

He hesitated, weighing the decision in his mind, "Well, since you're such an exceptional beauty…" she rolled her eyes theatrically, "I guess I can tell you that the Raikage sent three of his strongest Dengeki after me."

The breath caught in her throat, "Dengeki, why?" Sakura was an expert in medical techniques, so she fully understood the damage a Dengeki could do to the human body.

"Because I didn't promote his pet Dengeki through the final exam. He wanted me to give the little shit the go ahead on power rather than skill," Naruto's face twisted into a sneer, "then when I told him that it takes more than a powerful bloodline limit to be considered a Chuunin, he flips out. A guy with a powerful bloodline limit is just a loose cannon until he can prove that he can give and follow orders and can handle the responsibility of a squad and keep a clear head under pressure."

"Wow, you actually sound like a leader instead of an idiot who goes off for a month at a time without consulting your wife." Oh, she hadn't meant to come off so bitchy there…

Naruto flinched as though slapped, Aw shit, she's still mad about that… his face darkened again, "and so then the Raikage had the nerve to call me a hypocrite, because everyone knew my position as Hokage was based on the fact that I'm a demon bound."

It seemed he was just warming up, for his shoulders squared and he stepped away from her to better gesture, "So then I told him that his position was based on the fact that he had married the previous Raikage's daughter and then he up and died under mysterious circumstances."

Oh yes, her husband was on a roll tonight. "So we started getting into 'the dance' when all the other Kage politely asked that we deal with our 'personal affairs' elsewhere. Long story short, he sent three really powerful nutcases after us and we had to…" he waved a hand unhelpfully, "you get the idea."

Her head was beginning to hurt, "So you dealt with them, and Kakashi-sensei got injured?"

"Yeah, the guy he fought got him bad enough that he nearly broke his back when all his muscles seized up. Neji beat his off, but when he was using the Hogosha, the electricity went right up his arm and blasted his nerves. Still kicked his scrawny ass with only one arm, though," Naruto looked thoughtful for a second.

She caught on to his look, "What?"

Cupping his chin in his hand, he stroked his day-old whiskers, "Maybe I should give him a pay raise?" he grinned at his own joke. Sometimes he was the only one who did, so he had to do it to keep up his ego. "Seriously, though. He's been mentioning resigning from the ANBU recently."

Did she ever know. Hyuuga Neji made it a point to speak in as few words as possible, except when his penchant for the dramatic kicked in and he felt it necessary to spill another embarrassing secret or dream of his in front of a live studio audience.

"What would he do instead?" The man was practically born for the job of ANBU Commander. Imagining him doing anything else was difficult.

He shrugged, "I don't know. But recently he's been doing that thing he does at Lee's Genin cell. Maybe he's going to become a Jounin-sensei?"

'That thing he does' was Neji's wordless way of saying he wanted something. He would stare intently at the object of his desire, make an occasional oblique (and snide) comment, and wait for someone to offer it to him. Too much pride to ask straight out, Neji would manipulate key individuals until he got what he wanted. It didn't matter if he wanted a specific mission or just the last serving of onigiri. Before long, Sakura figured, Naruto would probably be assigning him to the post of Jounin-sensei.

"What did you do about your opponent?"

His answer was nonchalant, "I summoned a toad on his head. Crushed him flat."

"That's not particularly glorious."

"Eh," he scratched the back of his head, just like he used to, "I figure if it works, then don't question it." Not surprising, from the man who had developed the Sexy no Jutsu.

The conversation petered out into awkward silence. There was always a moment like this whenever he came back from a long mission. When neither one of them could figure out what to say, they would wait for hours on end for the other to say something. She didn't feel that she could just take him back into her arms so easily after sleeping without his comforting presence next to her. She wanted to discourage him from leaving so casually, but it never seemed to work.

He didn't feel that she should just take him back. His penance was when she made him sweat and beg and grovel just a little bit. She knocked him down a peg to remind him to never leave her, and he always swore to himself that he would never leave her side again. Naruto had long ago learned how to break promises to himself. Never making the promise to stay to his wife meant that he never had to worry about breaking it. He absolutely hated being away from his family.

Then life found an excuse for him to go. Chuunin exam in Grass country? Need to be there? Alright, we'll send the Hokage, he's in good enough condition for the journey. Nevermind that he's the Pillar, not some freaking traveling Leaf-nin advertisement. He's not supposed to be running around out in the wilderness doing this and that with the ANBU and working with other Kage to fight criminal-nin or something like that. He's supposed to stay in his office and do paperwork till he went so stir crazy that sacrificing his life to seal a rampaging demon began to look like a mercy.

No wonder his father always led from the front. It reminded him what it was like to be alive. That's why he was the greatest of all the Hokage. Even his own son couldn't possibly live up to the pedestal they place him on, even if he made all the same moves and said all the right words. He was too deep in the hole to begin with to compare with him.

Better than the Nidaime? 'Yeah, probably' people said. No-one really remembers what he did anyway.

Better than the Godaime? 'Come on,' the people would say, 'she's a woman.' What can you say about that?

Better than the Sandaime? You walk even with that guy, kid. Don't work yourself to death so early now.

Better than the Shodaime? Dude, he's the First. You got a long way to go before you're better than him.

As good as the Yondaime? Don't make me laugh, punk. You're nothing like the Fourth. (Despite the fact you look so damn similar, you carry his mark, act just like him, walk just like him, talk just like him.) He thought he was hot shit too, boy, but he really washot shit. You're just an imitation.

Needless to say, Naruto felt pretty mixed about the job these days.

They had been standing in silence for near five minutes now and neither one of them had come up with anything to say. Silence was an important feature of their relationship. Having been together as long as they had, they could understand one another perfectly without resorting to words. It was a bond that came from near seven years of marriage and almost two decades of teamwork. They could sit together and have an entire conversation just through their eyes.

But sometimes words just have to be said, to be heard. Enough is enough.

Naruto approached her, always the bold one, "Sakura-chan? I'm sorry." He always apologized and she always forgave, never the other way around. Yet another facet of their oft-quirky relationship.

One thing that she would always give her husband: he was honest. He was never treacherous or duplicitous and had never lied to her once. Sure, he had omitted things before, but he had never lied. The guy just couldn't hide his emotions, especially if you knew where to look. So when she searched his eyes, she found a wellspring of sorrow and regret. And it made her feel bad that she had caused her husband, her life partner… her foolish, idiot Naruto to feel like that.

So she let that residual anger of his absence go. Sakura forgave him and kissed him under the pale moon in their self-made Eden. All without words. Man, they were weird.


The front door to their house was wide-open when the couple returned home, but it was of no concern. Kan and Kyouji often forgot the simplest things in the heat of their challenges. It was a nice house, spacious but still comfortable. Currently, the living room was in a state of disarray, a good indicator that the adults of the house were too busy to bother with the minor details of cleaning a room. The couch, a dark green monster which had been Naruto's bed on several occasions, dominated the large room by planting itself quite firmly in front of the television set. Against the far wall, a sitting table with four chairs, none of which were pushed in, supported a pair of empty glasses and a half-finished game of shogi.

The room was vibrant with both dark and light colors, giving a sense of a well-lived-in place. Naruto smiled. The television set was on. 'That means' He leaned over the back of the couch and found both boys leaning against one another, slumbering.

"I thought I told them they could only play…" Sakura took in image on the television screen and went quiet.

"If you can't hold it straight, then give me the camera," Iruka hissed. The image danced a bit as the man filming held the camera at arm's length away from the irritated Jounin.

"All you're doing is reading that… that…" Iruka shook a finger threateningly at the director, then gave up the search for a suitably rude word because he knew none, "BOOK!" Several people looked over at the commotion. The scarred chuunin blushed to the roots.

"Maa," Hatake Kakashi complained, "It's been a really long ceremony and my arm's getting tired."

"Just give me that!" Iruka lunged for the camera and the video jerked, showing glimpses of several people around them, the floor, the ceiling, and the infamous Icha Icha Paradise #15. Winning the upper hand somehow, the younger man came away with the item triumphantly. Kakashi came into view, only to continue reading his book as though nothing untoward happened. The sound of Iruka fuming was cut short.

"You're missing the important part," Kakashi interrupted, even though he was not watching.

The camera jerked a bit, refocusing on four people arranged in a line. On the far left, a woman with long blonde hair wore a beautiful purple kimono, her face done up in a smile. Yamanaka Ino, the maid of honor.

The man on the far right stood rigidly at attention, as though up for military inspection. His dark kimono matched perfectly with the man on his left. His forehead was bare, revealing the green symbol emblazoned into his skin. Long hair tied back in a low ponytail, the unflappable Hyuuga Neji looked distinctly uncomfortable with the position of best man.

Between them stood Uzumaki Naruto, looking mighty sharp in his dark traditional wedding kimono. Someone had tamed his 'everywhere' blonde hair and made it into something that looked somewhat formal. He was grinning one of his ear-to-ear smiles and didn't look nearly serious enough to be getting married.

Somewhere in this, Naruto's arm had snaked around Sakura's waist to draw her close again.

The fourth and final person was the bride, Haruno Sakura. She stood in a resplendent pink kimono patterned to look like falling cherry blossom petals. Her short pink hair was up and she looked nothing short of radiant. The easy smile gracing her lightly rouged face shone with joy and satisfaction.

"Not that I don't want to watch this again," Naruto broke in, "but why are the children watching it?"

Sakura flushed with embarrassment, "Well, I was watching these home movies early today," she admitted, "and I must have left it paused when the children got home from school."

"Oh," he said, nodding in agreement and falling silent again. If he knew she watched the tapes because she was longing for his company, he said nothing. He was good about not embarrassing her these days. She trained him well.

The scene had changed, the camera being handed off down the line so that someone outside of the shrine could film the newlyweds as they exited the shrine. Somehow, it had fallen into the hands of the thick-browed sensei Maito Gai. His running commentary on Naruto and Sakura's Shining Midday Brilliance and the Harmony of their Incandescent Youth Power seemed to be a bit louder than was normal for him. There was a loud sniffle, then the sound of a nose being blown at full volume. Behind the camera, he was crying. The Green Beast was a sucker for weddings.

Naruto and Sakura emerged from the shrine into the bright spring sunlight. Hundreds of gathered well-wishers did just that, though none so much as Rock Lee and his idol. Behind them came Ino and Neji, dutifully following yet maintaining a respectful distance.

Naruto's eyes narrowed, "Wait a minute…" he paused the home movie and got closer to the television.

"What?" his wife questioned, not liking the way her husband was squinting at the television over his frown. He didn't answer her, so she crouched next to him. She bit her lip, Naruto was concentrating on the television, flipping frame by frame through the video. "Naruto, are you al—"

"AH HA!" he bellowed triumphantly. Sakura face-vaulted, Kyouji snapped awake, and Kan fell off of his perch on the couch.

Getting up, Sakura glared at her husband, "What is it?" she was not particularly happy with the idea that Naruto had found a fault in one of her happiest memories.

Saying nothing, he thrust a finger at the frozen picture of the four people on screen.

There, very faintly but definitely there, were Ino and Neji, their hands clasped as they walked behind Naruto and Sakura.

"I've been looking for proof for years!" Naruto stated, unpausing the video, "And here it is! Right in my very own home!"

"If you wanted proof, I could have told you." Sakura rolled her eyes. It was a well-known secret that Yamanaka Ino and Hyuuga Neji were in some sort of intimate relationship, but no-one had ever been able to confirm it. Naruto had been at the point of sending some ANBU to trail them both before Sakura had convinced him that it would be a bad idea. That was the first time he had slept on the couch.

"WHAT!" Naruto shrieked, his fingers threatening to pull his blonde hair from his scalp, "You knew all this time?"

Nodding, "Do you think Ino could keep something like that from me?" she quipped.

"She told you?" he gestured to the television, "About them?" he elaborated unnecessarily.

"Oh yeah," his wife grinned lasciviously, "she told me everything."

"Everything?" Naruto sounded aghast. His face had taken on an interesting bluish tint.

"Everything," she confirmed, "And you should hear some of the things she has to say!"

Squinting, her husband regarded her suspiciously, "What do you mean 'things?'"

"What sorts of things, mom?" Kan asked, now wide awake as he bounced down next to the television with his parents.

Both adults went rigid, having momentarily forgotten their children were in the room. "Er…" Sakura mumbled, "I'll tell you when you're older, honey," she spoke with saccharine sweetness. For a second, Kyouji looked tempted to ask, being the older of the two, but then thought better of it by the look of pure horror on his father's face.

Dozens of people in formal clothing meandered in front of the camera. In the distance, Iruka stood in the shadow of Kakashi, using the socially-inept Jounin as a shield from dozens of hopeful women attending the reception. Maito Gai, who had finally handed off the camera to check on his favorite student, was stationed next to the punch bowl, both to keep some scoundrel from spiking the punch and to stop Lee from drinking anything mildly alcoholic. Kiba was dancing with Hinata and she seemed as surprised as he that he was good at it. Jiraiya was dogging Tsunade's footsteps, whispering something in her ear every so often and dodging her wild swings instants later.

The camera turned smoothly, catching the white-eyed best man as a courtesy to the viewer before turning back to the dance floor. An arm set a glass of punch before the camera.

"Here," he said neutrally.

"Thanks," Ino said back. The camera tilted at an odd angle to the dance floor and drifted slowly toward the table. The soft sound of Ino taking a demure sip was recorded before it returned to a proper recording position. "This has alcohol in it," Ino told him.

"Hn," Neji said nothing more. He couldn't hide the smirk on his face, though. He had a bit of scoundrel in him after all.

Time passed. The camera zoomed in through the crowd to find Ayame dancing with Kakashi as Iruka disappeared under a swarm of women trying to get him to join them on the floor. Naruto and Sakura cut a broad path through the dancers as they moved to the suddenly energetic tempo of the music. They were smiling at one another, happily locked away in a state where only they existed. His hand brushed across her cheek as they stared happily into one another's eyes. Ino sighed the sigh of the jealous.

"Seems like all our hard work paid off, huh?" Ino asked her companion, "You should relax."

Neji took a sip of his punch, "If we can get through the reception without incident, then I will relax."

"What do you mean?" the camera turned to capture the pale-faced man. He was frowning.

"We are shinobi. This is an event with alcohol. It is a volatile combination."

"Lee?" The camera caught the bowl-haired shinobi in a fine moment, gushing the manliest of tears. He had been almost catatonic throughout the whole ceremony.

"No, Gai is watching him too closely. But fighting is such a part of what we do, it is only a matter of time before someone decides to challenge someone else. And then it could escalate out of control quickly."

Ino shrugged, the motion jiggling the camera slightly, "Well, aren't you just a ray of sunshine."

"Have I ever been?" Neji quipped.

The camera came to rest on the table, "I know what you need," Ino said, "You need to dance!"

Neji hesitated, "I don't dance," he spat in the tradition of embarrassed males everywhere.

"Of course you do! You're the genius Hyuuga! You can do anything!" she appealed to his pride, which worked even better than appealing to her vanity.

There was a pause, "Dammit woman," he sighed, "You should not make a habit of this," he threatened, but could not hide his amusement.

"Consider it noted, Hyuuga-sama," the blonde teased, "Now get your rear in gear and let's get out there!" A flash of purple cut across the camera's field of view as Ino half-led, half-dragged the stoic man out to the throng of dancing merry-makers.

Naruto hit fast-forward. Kan groaned in complaint. "The rest of it isn't particularly interesting," he stated, but his family knew better.

"We didn't get to hear Neji-san's speech!" Kan whined. His father frowned. Both of the children had taken (in his less-than-humble opinion) an unhealthy liking to the arrogant Hyuuga. Perhaps he would have to curb their opinions of Neji before this whole situation got out of hand.

Sakura chuckled behind her hand as Naruto shook his head, "It's the only speech I've ever had to take notes on, and I don't relish listening to that wind-bag belt it out again."

"It was a good speech," Sakura defended the Hyuuga in his absence, knowing that being called a 'wind-bag' by the Hokage would have prompted another fiery battle between the two men. And flame knew that Konoha couldn't deal with another explosion of masculine ego.

"Yeah, it was," Naruto admitted reluctantly, "But I didn't understand a bunch of the words he used, so I say we move on." His family groaned again, but they knew better than to argue with him when he made up his mind. "And aren't you two supposed to be in bed?" Naruto added, a small smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.

Both boys looked to the other before replying, "No."

"Oh," Naruto's smile strengthened, "in that case, let's see what else is on this tape."

"Uh, Dad?" Kyouji asked from his place on the couch, "I thought we weren't supposed to sit so close to the TV." Sakura, Kan, and Naruto all stiffened, then guiltily moved back up to the couch next to the dark-haired boy. Grinning to himself, he leaned against his father's side as a strong arm encircled him.

"Now, can we watch the rest, Kyouji-sama?" Sakura asked meekly, hiding her smile behind her hand again.

He nodded importantly, "Hai, hai," the voice was gruff, but he was grinning all the same, "Continue on, citizen."


Later, after watching such momentous events as the birth of Kan (during which Naruto got clocked upside the head and the camera spent the remainder of the procedure on the floor), Naruto and Sakura's five-year anniversary (during which she had been yelling at him to put the damn camera down the entire time), Kakashi and Ayame's wedding (which had been far more relaxed than their own, probably because it wasn't planned by Neji the Human Wall) and Kyouji's academy enrollment ceremony, Sakura and Naruto herded the boys off to bed. There was much whining and pleading, but their mother would have none of it. "You've stayed up way past your bedtimes already!" she explained, "You'll never be able to get up for school in the morning if you stay up any later!"

"Aw mom," they said, in the fashion of young children everywhere who knew they could not win but still put up the expected modicum of resistance.

"No arguing," she commanded, pointing upstairs to their rooms, "Bedtime!"

"Come on boys, your mother's right." They sighed, disliking bedtime even more every step they took up the stairs, but they went. Naruto smiled after them, a soft half-smile. That was the smile he used to express happiness when he thought no one was looking and all the guards slipped down.

When they were settled in their beds, Naruto and Sakura met in the kitchen downstairs again. It was an expansive room, filled with all sorts of flashy and impressive kitchen appliances. It was well known the Uzumaki family's passion for good food and no item was too obscure or specialized to appease their palettes. Sakura had spent every day for the last seven years fighting the uphill battle to get Naruto to eat something beside ramen. Her effort was finally paying off, as the Uzumaki could now have anything in their vast repertoire and be satisfied. Sure, it may not have been ramen, in Naruto's opinion, but Sakura was so damn good at making sashimi, and Kan loved grilled eel so much, that it didn't really matter anymore what they ate. So the kitchen was naturally one of the largest rooms in their house, complete with a fully-stocked pantry prime for midnight raiding by small children.

Not that it ever worked with ninja-parents. But it was fun trying. And training wasn't really a punishment per se.

"So," she started the conversation, "what really happened with the Raikage?"

Naruto looked away, his hand scratching the back of his head, "Eh, nothing really. Some words were said, and we almost killed each other. Nothing out of the ordinary."

"Nothing out of the ordinary, indeed. What if Cloud had declared war on the Leaf over some perceived insult, Naruto?" she bit her lip, descending into the darker parts of her mind as she imagined the damage that war would cause. Who's happiness will be ruined this time around?

He sighed, catching her jade eyes with his own cerulean orbs, "We're always on the edge of war, these days, Sakura. But we have a mutual protection pact with the Sand and the Stone, so I'm not really worried about the Cloud trying anything too obvious. Even Raikage's not that stupid." He crossed his arms and leaned against the archway leading to the dining room, his gaze unfocused, "I am worried that he might try to take advantage of the peace somehow. Do something underhanded, you know?" As though ninja never did anything covertly.

"What do you mean?" Sakura asked.

He crossed the room to sit next to his wife, "Well, we've had peace for almost thirteen years now. I'm afraid that the shinobi of this country are getting…" he trailed off, unsure of what he wanted to say.

"Complacent?" she offered.

"Yeah, complacent." He sighed and rolled his head on his neck, "I'm afraid that we're losing that edge that made us able to defeat both Sand and Sound when we were kids. I'm afraid that we're not training enough, or that we won't be strong enough when someone comes at us with intent to kill again."

She had known and loved him too long to miss when he was holding back something, "That's not what you're really afraid of, is it?" she whispered in the gathering dark. The candle was burning down, guttering fitfully in its last minutes of life.

"No," he agreed, worry etched in his handsome face, "I'm afraid that when it does come for us, I…" he broke off, and she rubbed his shoulder comfortingly, "that I won't see it coming."

Ah, so that's what this is really about, she thought.

"I don't want to make the wrong decision, Sakura. I don't want people to die because of my mistakes. I'm worried that my ninja aren't good enough to cover for my mistakes."

The pink-haired woman sighed. She really wasn't sure what she could say to make him feel better about it. But she could empathize with what he felt. As a Jounin-sensei, every mission her subordinates took on worried her. Maybe they weren't good enough, or maybe something might happen that they didn't expect and they could be injured or crippled and forced to retire or worse. There was a lot of worry in teaching children to fight and kill for a living.

Her hand found his on the polished oak table, "All we can do is our best. Either that will be good enough, or it won't and someone who's best is good enough will step up." He didn't look at all pleased with her response, but he was at least thinking it over, "It's cold comfort, I know, but that's all there is to it. Now, are you going to do your best, or are you going to fritter away your best years being paranoid?"

"I'm not being paranoid," he huffed, mildly offended. His arms crossed in front of his chest.

"Of course you are, dear," her hand cupped his chin and he pouted at her, "If it comes for us, I'll be right here beside you."

His big, calloused hand covered her smaller, pale one. When he spoke his voice was low and raw with emotion, "Thank you, Sakura-chan," he mumbled, using the honorific of endearment from their childhood. Stuff like that really got to him.

Embracing her tightly, he kissed gently, a bittersweet kiss filled with longing and worry. It never did for Naruto to be worried, because when he was, it was an excellent indicator that something was wrong.

"Come on now," her green eyes took in his face, "I do enough worrying for the both of us. It's late and time for bed anyway." The candle burned out, allowing her to see her husband's glowing blue eyes clearly.

His lips turned up in a grin hesitantly, but when she took his hand and led him to the stairs he couldn't help but smile.

"I'm not sleeping on the couch tonight?" he asked, sounding genuinely surprised. The blonde man was a passable actor when he wanted to be.

Oh, that's a mischievous grin, huh? she growled low in her throat, "Just shut up and come to bed with me." Now his wife was fairly dragging him toward their room.

"So," he said as she closed the door to their room behind them, "Are you going to tell me what Ino has been saying about Neji?" his blue eyes sparkled with anticipation. Hand seals flashed, and Sakura spent no mental effort focusing on the sound-resisting seal as she pressed her palm against the door and embedded her Chakra into the hardwood. It was a ritual that she had completed many times before, useful when they had two young children and felt the need to be naughty.

"I'd rather show you," the roseate woman said coquettishly. His eyes became as wide as saucers, so she took the opportunity to kiss along his jaw. The powerful arms of the greatest ninja in Konoha wrapped about her, pulling her even closer as he began to respond to her advances in kind.

"But only on two conditions."

"Name them," Naruto husked, voice heavy with desire. He had gotten used to Sakura giving him conditions and acceded to her desires without complaint. He was a married man, after all, and married men understood these sorts of things. If your wife asks for some concessions when you're getting hot and heavy, you just shut up and do them.

"What I tell you doesn't go beyond this room." Agile fingers removed clothing with practiced ease.

"I figure what you're going to tell me shouldn't be anywhere but this room." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively and she groaned. Goofball.

Gathering her up, he closed the distance to the bed and lowered his wife onto the mattress. Her pink hair fanned out beneath her in a delicate rose halo. A light blush colored her cheeks, the same one she got whenever they were together.

You are so beautiful, Naruto gazed affectionately down at his wife. He didn't need to say it out loud, he knew she heard him.

Pulling him close, she whispered into his ear secretively, "And second," her fingers closed around the brim of his Hokage hat and pulled it from his brow cleanly, "take off the hat."

Screwing up his face in shock, the Hokage whined, "But you said you loved it when I wore the hat to bed, Sakura-chan!" A flick of the wrist and the hat sailed through the air, but its owner had much more pressing matters to attend.

"Naruto no Baka!" she gasped out as his hands began the delicious task of exploration. Promptly, all thoughts of impending war, genin cells, and advanced bloodlines were wiped from her mind by his gentle touch. Intense desire burned through her entire being as her feeling of longing, pent-up for the last month, burst forth into the darkness of the room. Her teeth nibbled on his ear, and Sakura abandoned herself to pleasure. Finally, her husband had returned, returned to her.

Somewhere, the official red-and-white hat of office lay abandoned.


Darkness cloaked them like a second sheet, but it mattered little. Spooning together, Naruto's breath warmed her shoulder as his arms held her close but loose. They were sated, but had yet to actually fall into peaceful slumber. His fingertips brushed along the inside of her hip, pressing against the bone for just a moment in a familiar gesture.

After a while, he spoke, voice parched but contented, "You took off the seal." Sakura detected no anger or disapproval in his tone, but considered her next words carefully. It wasn't really surprising that he had noticed. Naruto doted on his wife so much that he could tell the most uninteresting minutia about her day from the way she walked through the door. Deciding that the direct approach was the best, she swallowed a sudden wave of nervousness and told him exactly what she wanted.

"I want a girl, Naruto."

The seal in question was an internal form of barrier seal used to prevent conception. Birth Control no Jutsu, really. When they were first married, Sakura had gotten pregnant with Kan. After having him and going through the experience of childbirth, she decided that the next time they decided to have a child, she would be a little more careful about it. So they had talked about it, because Naruto was never anything but supportive in this decision.

Although this may have been because he was there with her when she was in labor and if you thought Sakura could be scary normally, then you have no clue how bad she was when she couldn't feel anything below her waist and kept having painful contractions you could set your watch by.

To make a long story short, Sakura didn't crush his hand or threaten him with bodily harm like other women may have. No, Sakura asked him to come closer, oddly calm and suspiciously sweet, then had Taijutsu'ed his ass down with the one arm she could get around to swing at him. He had spent the whole rest of the operation in a puddle next to her bed, but she had been happy with the results and he accepted his beating like a good boy.

They had decided on the contraceptive seal, because it was less invasive than any other procedure that Tsunade suggested and the legendary medic-nin had developed it herself. (Rumor had it, it was because she spent a large proportion of her late teens fooling around with Jiraiya and Orochimaru, and the ramifications of that were positively terrifying.)

Naruto took this news calmly, "So do I," and he didn't say any more on the subject. He didn't need to. They were funny that way, but they didn't question it. It came from trusting the other implicitly, keeping no secrets secret, and knowing their spouse better than they knew themselves. Naruto and Sakura were fucked up and complex people, but the only people who even came close to understanding them were each other. With that said, they knew that they needed each other, needed that love and understanding that only the other could provide.

'So do I,' actually means 'Yes, I agree completely and I trust your judgment. Let's have a girl,' in Naruto/Sakura speak. All of the most important decisions they made were settled in one or two vague sentences.

The problem was out of his hands now, so he left the whole mess up to his wife, who was far more capable at these sorts of things anyway. His part was done, for now, so he was content to support her from the stands.

Mentally, Naruto began to run through a list of things that he'd have to put in order soon. She'd need maternity leave permission (which he could grant on a whim) and he'd probably have to find a replacement Jounin-sensei for her team. Frowning into her hair, he cleared his mental schedule (what little of it he could remember) and decided that he would teach her team during those critical months. He'd needed to refresh on the basics anyway and the simple genin training would give him an excuse to keep the team off missions and thusly keep him around if his wife needed him. And he could spend more time with Kan and Kyouji. Sweet, bonus.

He was making plans for redecorating the spare bedroom into a nursery when he fell asleep.

Sakura closed her eyes and nuzzled deeper into the comfortable warmth of her husband's shoulder. Not sparing a thought, she dove into herself and watched the complex play of Chakra beneath the skin. Naruto would protect her; the fuzzy gentle core of her mind knew this instinctively. Last time, she had done this without explaining and worried him half to death. She hadn't known the sheer power afforded by her perfect Chakra control, hadn't realized that it would allow her to resynchronize her entire body, shift the delicate balances of chemicals and enzymes that made up her physical being. Sakura could never be poisoned, unless it killed quickly.

But most importantly, with her amazing ability she could choose the best gametes for conception. It was time-consuming, for she had to learn exactly how to test their essence for the superior traits she wanted to pass along. With Kan, she had spent over thirty-six hours diving within the Chakra structure of her womb, gently selecting the best of her ova to combine with the perfect seed to guarantee a perfect male child.

That's what Kan was, for lack of a better word; he was perfect because she had cheated the genetic crapshoot of conception. They had wanted a little boy and she had decided to give her all to produce a child that could step out of the shadow of his parents and be truly amazing. Just like his father. She had used far more of Naruto than she had of herself. In went his bloodline limit, his strength and stamina and potential and most of the personality predispositions. Kan had his father's hair, eyes, smile, teeth, ears, and skin tone but he had his mother's intellect, grace, and perfect chakra control. He also had more than a touch of demon-blood in him, but that was unavoidable. The demon's influence had simply given her more to work with. It made him stronger, faster, and sharper than any other child his age. He had gained his father's strange healing factor and unnatural resilience.

The little blonde boy was going to be strong, just like his father, so they had named him Kan. 'Strength.'

But for all of his father's influence, you could still see his mother in him. Anyone could see it when he stared off into space, or hear it in his laugh. She had given him just enough of her that nobody couldn't see the resemblance between mother and son and that pleased her.

Delicately, she selected her optimum combination from the mass of raw genetic material Naruto had provided. With a surgeon's care, she forced the zygote to form, and then gently nudged it to stick in the wall of her uterus. Finished, she released her invasive probe and came back to consciousness. With any luck, which Naruto had in spades, they would soon have a baby girl on the way.

Her eyes fluttered open. Coming back to herself, Sakura realized that she was still in the arms of her husband. It couldn't have been more than six or eight hours. She had known what she was looking for this time. Naruto's breathing was slow and even, but he still cradled her carefully, dreaming of painting and power tools and renovation projects and other things that men loved to waste their time doing. Her head split with a migraine. It had after the first time she tried this, but this time it was exponentially worse. Sakura managed to smile through the pain, just like her husband taught her to.

For inside her abdomen, she felt a tiny flicker of Chakra, almost too small for her to sense, signaling the birth of life. A profound sense of calm washed over her and Sakura promptly forgot about her headache. This time, it would be different. This time, it would have pink hair and pale jade eyes.

Hello, she projected her thoughts inward to the growing embryo, even though it would not hear them, I'm your mother.


Authors Notes:

I wanted to end this with the lonely hat, but they it struck me that it would be really cool if Sakura could use her amazing Chakra control to aid in the process of conception and the whole thing had just sort of snowballed from there. I generalized the whole damn process a bit more than I would have liked, but I felt it was necessary to preserve a lower rating. Hopefully the intent comes across in the end. I may have totally ripped off the Bene Gesserit (or however the hell you spell it) but I think Mr. Herbert's not going to care too awfully much.

So, someone's going to notice that that Kyouji kid looks nothing like either of his parents. Relax, I'll explain it someday, in another, related fic that I'm currently writing. Yeah, I don't have a title for it yet either. I'm really bad with names.

And yes, I have plans for all three children. Kan's a crazy powerful badass. And Kyouji's really amazing himself. I'm not really sure what to name the little girl yet. I'm willing to entertain suggestions, though. Remember, she's a little girl with all of the best traits of her parents, so if the folks at home could come up with a sneaky pun based on that, then give me a shout.

Ittou's parents are Asuma and Kurenai, and I'm not sure whether I want them to be married or not.

Ah yes, this one has little to no Neji in it. I'm sorry, but I worked him in where I could. And some people may have difficulty with the fact that Neji is Naruto's best man, but I purposely avoided the whole 'Where the Hells is Sasuke' explanation.

Oh, finally: I'm a hardcore Naruto/Sakura fan. I just love those two crazy kids. Their relationship is just wacky enough to evolve into some sort of crazed anime married couple. I mean, come on, she's nagging him and hitting him all the time and being super-hard-to-get, but he's showing off and preening for her all the while and just keeps coming back for more. It sounds like a courtship dance but neither of them has entirely realized it yet.

Well, that's all for this time. Review if you like.

Dengeki: Electric Shock

Ittou: Single Stroke; Sword Blade

Kusagakure: Village Hidden in the Grass

Grass-nin; Kusakage is the grass shadow. So I'm not very inventive, sue me.

Kumogakure: Village Hidden in the Clouds

I think Lightning shinobi come from here. It just makes sense. Thus, they have the Raikage. And the word just provokes seizure-like hallucinations of assholes.