Chapter 30

I still don't own any of the characters of Naruto. And do not make any money from writing this little tale.

As of the beginning of this chapter it has been…..

31 Days since Naruto found Temari.

23 Days since they arrived in Konoha & since anyone has seen Gaara

30 30 30 30

True to her word. Temari only woke up when Naruto got up to get ready for work long enough to tell him that she would be at the hospital. Followed by an order to collect her there for lunch. Much to Naruto's amusement, she then pulled the covers back up over her head and promptly fell back asleep.

So the Hokage's protégée was in a good mood that morning. That is until he arrived at the training grounds and was blatantly reminded that he had neither a training partner, nor any students waiting for him.

And just like that, he felt like a heavy weight was settled on his shoulders. One that he hadn't even realized had been lifted for a short amount of time, until it came back. Everything in him wanted to turn around and go lock himself in his apartment with the golden haired angel that somehow made him forget all his problems and sins.

It took several minutes of internal struggle before he was instead able to make himself head towards the Hokage tower. Despite the years of practice at keeping up a cheerful façade, he was hard pressed during the morning of paper work to keep said illusion in place.

If he hadn't been so busy, he might have stopped to wonder why it was he was feeling more out of sorts then usual. But as it was, he barely had time to get the usual things done before the office was swamped with parents demanding to know what had happened to their children.

And in the mass of emotion charged questions. It was inevitable that it didn't take long for someone to verbally place the blame on Naruto. It turned into a hysteric mess after that. Shouts and screams reverberated off the walls until the ANBU were called in order to clear out the now raving mob.

Tsunade was livid, as was Shizune. While Naruto simply shook his head at their words of comfort and went back to the incident reports filling nearly half of his desk. He knew the crowd was right. He hadn't been there to protect the most precious of Konoha's treasures.

It was a fact that he was always at the training grounds at the time that the battle had taken place. He hadn't left the village in a couple years. So it could be counted on that he would be there.

And this time he wasn't. And because of that, four of his kids were dead, and another couple dozen were in the hospital in dire condition.

Not since the death of his son had the big blond ever felt guiltier, or hated himself more then at that moment.

30 30 30 30 30

Kyuubi was really starting to worry about his host.

He himself knew a great deal about the weight of responsibility, and of guilt stemming from failure to protect those closest to him.

But just how much pressure could the boy take? If the kitsune was of a suspicious nature. Which of course he was. He would almost bet that the mounting incidents that were being blamed on his host recently had somehow been contrived.

They were happening too closely together, and with too much venom to simply be random occurrences. Especially considering, they had all started since they had brought the golden female home with them. Up until then, the demon had sensed that the vast majority of the village had been very accepting of the big blond.

Something wasn't right. But the kitsune had no way of warning his host. All he could do was sit in frustration and watch.

All the while wondering just how much more strain Naruto could take before he snapped under the pressure.

30 30 30 30 30

Temari finally rolled out of bed and was quickly showered, dressed and heading for the hospital. On the way she had the uneasy feeling that she was being followed. Her senses were all on alert, and for a moment she saw a tall man with long black hair, whom she thought might be the one. But then just as suddenly as she glimpsed him, he was gone.

She kept on her guard the rest of the way to the hospital. But never saw that particular man again. So she shook off him being the one, and instead made a note to be more cautious when she was alone in the future.

The details might still be a bit fuzzy in her memory. But there was no way in hell she was letting herself get attacked like she had been out on her training vacation. True, the people of Konoha were supposed to be her allies. But her interactions with the 'Fan Club' so far, told her that not everyone was to be classed as friendly until proven so.

Her instincts were warning her for a reason. And she wasn't about to ignore them.

The hospital was quite busy with visitors. No doubt because of the children still in residence there. The thought made her sad, but there wasn't much she could do other then go to her self appointed post in the maternity ward.

She didn't recognize the nurse on duty, but once she introduced herself, the woman knew exactly why she was there. In no time at all she was sitting in what she was now starting to silently call 'her' chair, holding the tiny baby girl in her arms.

Within moments, a feeling of peace settled over her. Sitting in that tiny side room, quietly talking nonsense and old stories made her feel for the first time like she was doing something important. Even as that thought surfaced she mentally laughed at herself.

She, who had fought in wars, rescued more colleges, and civilians than she could remember, helped to run an entire village. Felt fulfilled by sitting in a windowless room, holding an ill infant. It was laughable really, some would say that she had attained greatness in her profession, yet it had never really satisfied her.

It was strange, the longer she was in Konoha, the more she found herself questioning her life.

And did she really want to go back to it?

30 30 30 30

Ino leaned casually against the outer wall of a little bakery, seemingly watching the late morning shoppers while picking pieces off a sticky pastry. But under the cover of long golden bangs, she was keeping a close eye on the entrance to the hospital.

She was glad she had been able to talk her captain into letting her stay in the village and do patrol duty for the next couple weeks. She had a feeling she was going to be needed closer to home very soon. And she didn't want to raise any suspicions by requesting a leave of absence. But considering the close calls on some of her last outings. The ANBU captain had been all too happy to keep her inside the village.

He was still bugging her to take another partner. Which she refused of course, partners just got in the way of her….. side interests. Good thing she had made herself indispensable, or her threats to quit wouldn't carry any weight.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a cheerful voice calling her name. She tried not to groan in frustration as she saw Sakura thread her way through the crowd towards her. She loved her friend, she really did. But she always seemed to pop up at the worst possible moments.

That and, they didn't have that much in common any more. The pinket was deliriously happy in her marriage and with being a new mother. Something that Ino couldn't and never would relate too. Her life had taken a different path more then six years before.

"Ino! Wow, what a coincidence running into you here. I was going to ask Tsunade to see if you were in town." Sakura announced as she gained the blonde's side.

"Oh, why is that?" The female ANBU asked, straightening from her slouched position.

"Well I had a thought.' Sakura grinned. 'Even though Kakashi is starting to mend. He still hasn't regained consciousness. And well, it's kind of driving everyone crazy waiting to find out who attacked him. So I was thinking….."

Ino raised a hand to stop her. "I get it, you want some mind reading. But are you sure I've got the security clearance? You might have to get my dad to do it."

Sakura raised a brow. "Your currently one of our top ranked ANBU, even if you do keep turning down the promotions. I'm sure clearance is the least of our problems. Now asking my best friend to venture into the mind of my former sensie.' Sakura pulled a face, that could have been a grimace if she wasn't trying to hide a smile. 'That could put some strain on our relationship."

One corner of Ino's mouth curved upward. "Well considering his reading material. It could be educational if nothing else."She quipped. Although her smile was for a completely different reason. As the thought occurred that there might just be something she could learn from the Scarecrow if she was given the assignment. Maybe he knew something that could help her in other areas.

"Okay, tell you what, I'm off for the day and was going to go find some fun. But I will wait right here until you go ask the Hokage permission. As far as I know, she's still at the office."

That brought an unexpected frown to Sakura's face. "That's strange, she said she was going to be at the hospital an hour or so ago. Something must have come up." She mused aloud without pausing for breath. "Okay, I'll be back as soon as I can."

Ino simply nodded and resumed her propped up position as she watched her friend head back towards the Hokage tower.

'I wonder if Kakashi knows something he doesn't know he knows?' She chuckled to herself. Hopefully she would soon find out.

In the mean time, her gaze moved back to the hospital building, and its surrounding area. Watching, always watching.

30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 30

A cold smile curved the lips of the Kazekage as he crouched low on a thick tree branch so that he had a better vantage point of the town in the valley below him.

"Gottcha'." He growled.

It was now confirmed. The man he had been tracking was somewhere inside the settlement. There was absolutely no sign of him having left it. Meaning, he was as good as in the redheaded demon containers hands.

'Are we going to wait until dark?' Shukaku inquired. Being just as eager as his host to exact revenge for what he considered to be 'their' fallen sibling.

"I think we will wait for him to leave." Gaara responded after a few moments. "After all, we are no longer in the Land of Wind. So technically we have no right to hunt here without permission."

'Details, details.' The Tanuki grumbled. 'But I suppose you're right. Although that raises the question. How long do we wait for him to come out?'

Gaara shrugged as he moved to find a comfortable place to sit in his chosen tree. "I'm not sure, either until he shows, or my patience runs out. Whichever comes first."

The demon chuckled. 'So he will be in our hands by midnight.' He predicted. Knowing full well that his host had already exhausted his patience in the hunt to this point.

The Kazekage didn't reply, he simply focused on making sure that his chakra enhanced sand was completely surrounding the village. If his prey so much as set a toe outside of the perimeter, he would know about it.

The high noon sun was almost upon them before the Tanuki broke the silence again. 'I suppose we will be confined for an ungodly amount of time in that infernal office once we resolve this situation.' He grumbled.

'I would say that it depends on what happens when we inform Kyuubi-sama that we failed in our task to keep Temari for Naruto.' The human replied.

The Tanuki groaned. 'You would have to remind me of that terrifying ordeal. And you are right. He may just pulverize us right there.'

'It is a simple fact Shukaku.' The man returned as he fought the urge to roll his eyes at his demon's theatrics. 'Although I am less worried of his reaction then you seem to be. From the day we received our orders from him regarding this matter, we knew there was always a possibility that Naruto would never get to the point where he would consider taking a mate after what happened to him.'

The demon sighed. 'I still can't believe they were unable to find the female before she died. The fact that she was carrying his cub should have made it an easy task.'

'But you forget the fact that Naruto was not free to take the time necessary to track her properly. He refused to break the promise of silence.' Gaara reminded him.

'Yes, I remember. Master Kyuubi made it very clear that we were not to let on that he had informed us of the situation. If only we had found out sooner.' There was great sadness in the Tanuki's voice, but Gaara didn't comment. He knew the sound of regret when he heard it. And in this case, the feeling was mutual.

'But the past cannot be changed, so it is best left there.' Gaara mused. Remembering how hard it had been for the Kyuubi to get word to them about the situation. Naruto and the Kitsune had been so close at the time that the demon had been forced to wait until they were injured and Naruto slept, before he could gain control enough to speak to them.

What a shock that had been, the Kazekage recalled. In the middle of fighting off Itachi and his horde. Finding out that the man he saw as another brother had been suffering silently. Even as he admired the blondes integrity by keeping his word. He had also been angry that Naruto had not asked for help.

Taking his own advice he shook off the old memories. 'First things first.' Gaara muttered, as his gaze moved over the village sitting below them.

'Oh yes,' the Tanuki hissed with glee at the thought of the upcoming retribution. 'First things first.'

30 30 30 30 30 30

Temari hovered protectively by the doctor's side as the older man gently removed the IV needles from the baby laying on the exam table before them. The tiny infant let out several unhappy squawks at the discomfort. But hadn't yet decided if an all out protest was worth more then her usual pre-noon nap.

"I can't tell you how happy I am at the progress she is making." The medic beamed as he continued on to disconnect the heart monitor as well. "At the beginning I wasn't sure if she would last more then a few days, but now I am pleased to say that she has more then exceeded expectations in response to the treatments."

"What does that mean exactly?" The worried kunoichi asked, never once taking her eyes off her tiny charge.

"Well, her heart has healed nicely, if this continues it is quite possible that we may be able to heal it completely.' He explained as he carefully rewrapped the light blanket against the now droopy eyed babe. 'And I am quite certain that you have been very instrumental in the results Temari-san." He continued as he handed the infant back to her.

"Me?" Temari was taken aback by the announcement, settling the little one into the crook of her left arm. She finally gave the medic her full attention. "I'm not a medic, I haven't done anything."

A kind smile crossed the doctor's face. "Perhaps you didn't do the physical healing my dear. But I truly believe that by being here and giving her the attention she needs is part of what brought about this miracle."

The kunoichi had to blink back a sudden surge of liquid that threatened to spill from her eyes. "Thank you.' She finally managed to whisper. 'That is very kind to say."

A few moments of silence followed as the doctor cleaned up the table, and moved the IV stand into the corner so a nurse could deal with it later.

"What will happen to her after she is well enough to leave the hospital?" Temari finally asked. It was a question that had been plaguing her for a while. "Has any family been found yet?"

The doctor sighed. "As far as I know, no next of kin have been found. And if no one comes forward or is found by the time her treatments are finished, I suppose she will go to the orphanage here in Konoha. The Godaime has made a great many improvements to the facility since she became Hokage, so this little one will be fine I'm sure."

Temari had to bite her tongue to stop herself from declaring that such an outcome was unacceptable. But her logical side managed to keep her from making an idiot out of herself. This was not Suna, and she did not have any say here as to what happened in the day to day running of this village.

Before she could formulate a more appropriate way to continue the conversation. The door to her little room was opened with a much more force than necessary.

The doctor jumped, while Temari found she wasn't startled at all by Naruto's less then normal entrance. Although the dark expression he wore did keep her from voicing her usual greeting. In a word, he looked furious.

The doctor must have thought so too, because the poor man turned white as a sheet when the giant blond fixed him with hard eyes. "Is something wrong here?" He growled.

The kunoichi immediately realized that the doctor was so paralyzed that he had not understood the question. "The baby's fine Naruto, in fact she has improved a great deal according to the doctor here. And he was just removing the monitors and such."

When Naruto continued to look at the now trembling man as if he wanted to squash him like a bug. Temari realized that something else was bothering her roommate.

Fixing a smile on her face she stepped forward and placed a hand on his arm. "Isn't that wonderful news?" She asked softly.

Thankfully, her touch and voice seemed to shake him out of whatever it was that had set him off. And he finally gave her his full attention.

"She's doing better?" He finally asked, his voice low, even though his expression indicated that he was still interested in doing damage to something, or someone.

"Much better.' Temari assured him as she pulled him fully into the room. Thus unblocking the door so that the traumatized doctor could make his escape. If he could remember how to walk that is. 'Was there anything else Doctor?" She asked, hoping to prompt the poor man into action.

"Uh, no… no, everything looks good here. I best be getting on with….. with my rounds." The doctor stuttered as he did in fact manage to get himself out of the room without tripping over his own feet. He even remembered to close the door behind him.

"Naruto, what is wrong?" Temari asked, as soon as the barrier was in place. "You look ready to murder someone."

"Try several dozen someone's." He growled at the now closed door.

Before Temari could ask for further clarification, his brilliant azure eyes swung back to fix on her face. "Why was he in here alone with you? Are you all right?"

The kunoichi blinked at the sudden switch in topics. "Why wouldn't I be all right? He was just in here checking the baby." She was truly perplexed by Naruto's odd question.

Now it was Naruto's turn to seen unsure, and it helped to push back some of the fury he had been feeling all the way to the hospital. "It didn't bother you to be in here alone with him?" He questioned quietly.

Temari was already shaking her head before the reason for his questions, and his concern finally made sense to her.

"I guess all things considered, I shouldn't have been comfortable with the situation should I?" She gave him a rueful smile. "I can't explain it Naruto. But it's almost like that happened before you found me happened to another person. The memory is so foggy and I don't feel anything about it. If I wasn't pregnant, I doubt I would even remember it at all. And that doesn't make any sense either does it?"

Naruto shook his head, it didn't make any sense at all. Something like what Temari went through wasn't something one could usually just shrug off and forget. But he wasn't able to pursue the issue any further. Because Temari was fitting herself to his side, and giving him a one armed hug.

"What's really wrong Naruto? I can tell that you were upset before you even got here. Did something happen at the office?" She inquired gently. "You're here earlier then usual. And just who are the unlucky people you want to kill?" She tried to add a teasing tone to the last question.

Naruto blanched at the inquiry, then groaned as he hung his head. "I said that out loud?"

Worry filled the kunoichi, she could still feel the tension in his body, but it was like all the anger had been drained out of him by one question, only to be replaced by defeat.

"Naruto wha…" Her words ended in a startled eep as the big man suddenly swept her up in his arms bridle style. The movement jostled the infant in her arm, who instantly woke enough to give a displeased squawk at having her nap interrupted.

"Ow hell, I can't do anything right today can I." Naruto grumbled as the squawk was followed by a few whimpers, which were threatening to go into an all out scream from the tiny bundle.

Temari wasn't able to reply immediately as she was trying to readjust the way she was holding the baby in her new found position. Before she was even finished with that task, Naruto moved over to the rocker and settled himself in the seat with her across his lap.

The chair was almost too small for the shinobi's large frame, and the old wood groaned slightly over the unusual amount of weight. Both facts were ignored by the two adults however, as Naruto sent the chair gently into motion. While Temari crooned softly to the fussing baby hoping to keep an all out wail from emerging from the upset little creature.

After what seemed like an eternity. The fussing quieted, and a pair of pale blue eyes looked up solemnly at the two adults. Temari couldn't help but chuckle at the grumpy look on the infants face.

The sound drew Naruto's attention to Temari's lips, but he caught himself before his stare was noticed by the woman in his arms. "What?" He asked, mostly to distract himself from where his thoughts wanted to go. Again.

It was amazing to him how easily this woman could make him forget about everything else going on around him.

"When you look at her right now, doesn't it feel like she is scolding us?" Temari replied as she finally allowed herself to relax against Naruto's chest.

The blond shinobi found himself smiling as well. "Now that you mention it. I think I'm glad that she can't talk yet, or we would be getting an ear full."

"I'm so glad that she's doing better." Temari confessed in a whisper.

"I know you are." Naruto murmured as he adjusted the arm supporting her back, so that she would be more comfortable against him.

The infant yawned then, having obviously gotten over her upset. Causing the adults to share a warm smile. Temari sighed in relief, she still didn't feel very competent when it came to crying babies. Laying her head down on Naruto's shoulder, she allowed her thoughts to play back his unusual arrival.

"Will you tell me what made you mad now?" She spoke softly, both in an effort to not disturb the infant again. But also because she didn't want Naruto to feel like she was intruding. They had shared so much in the short time they had been together. But she was still not an expert in emotions.

"It was nothing that important." Naruto muttered, tilting his head so that his cheek rested against her hair. He just couldn't seem to get enough of touching her.

"Liar." Temari muttered gently.

She felt his chest rise as he took a deep breath, then slowly let it out. She kept her gaze on the once again drowsy baby in her arms, and waited for him to say something. All the while hoping she hadn't made him defensive.

Finally Naruto broke the silence. "It's just this mess with what happened to the kids. I know I shouldn't let little things get to me. Because I know that emotions are running high in a lot of people. But it's not easy to keep your cool sometimes you know."

"Yes I know.' Temari agreed, even as she mentally rolled her eyes at his vague answer. 'So what had you wanting to wring necks?"

After a brief silence, the Hokage protégé finally relented and described the scene he had experienced barely an hour before in the office. It wasn't until he was almost finished his narrative that it dawned on him just how easy it was for him to tell Temari things.

Once he was finished, Temari found herself just as angry as he had been. Sitting up so that she could look him in the eye. She had to consciously remind herself to keep her voice low.

"How could they blame you for what happened? You weren't even in the village!" She growled.

"But I should have been." Naruto told her calmly. "I am always at the training grounds at the same time. And the children come to that area because I am there."

Temari conceded that point with a nod, but the more she thought of it, the more it was starting to sound strange to her. "But where were the patrols? How could someone have gotten that far into Konoha, and do that kind of damage without someone seeing them?"

Naruto sighed heavily. "I don't think there was any outside involvement. So far there are no indicators of attackers in any of the reports."

This was news to Temari. And she chose her next words carefully, not wanting to misunderstand what he had just told her. "So, you're telling me that they did this to each other? No outside attack?"

Naruto gloomily nodded his head. "It looks that way so far."

Temari mulled that idea over for a moment, as she slightly readjusted the baby in her left arm. "If that is true. Tell me how exactly it can be your fault?"

"I wasn't there." The big blond repeated.

Temari's silver eyes narrowed at him. "My point exactly, you were not there. So why is the blame coming to you?"

Naruto gave her a slightly perplexed look. "Because I wasn't there. I should have been there to watch over them and I wasn't."

The kunoichi had to force herself to take a deep breath before she trusted herself to speak. She wasn't sure at that moment if Naruto was just being stubborn in wanting to take all the blame. Or if he truly believed that he should have been able to somehow be in two places at the same time. Because as far as she could see. Even if he had been at home, at work in the tower, the fight would have still taken place.

There were a lot of unanswered questions about what had happened. Many of which were starting to make Temari suspicious that something more was going on within the walls of Konoha. But looking at the man holding her, she pushed back the cold calculation that she would normally use in a situation like this. Reminding herself that she was not in charge of this investigation.

"I'm confused Naruto.' She finally muttered. 'Why should you have been there? You are a Konohagature shinobi, and you were sent out on a mission. What happened was horrible. But what would have been different even if you had been here?"

"Well I would have stopped it." Naruto declared. "It's the job of the Hokage to protect the village. Especially the most precious of those."

One corner of Temari's lips turned up in a sad attempt at a smile. "That is very true. But Naruto, you are not yet the Hokage." She pointed out as gently as she knew how.

He started to protest, and since her hands were otherwise occupied with the child in her arms. She silenced him the only way she could think of. She kissed him.

It was brief, barely more then a peck. But it shocked Naruto in silence, and all he could do was stare at her.

"I'm not done yet.' She informed him, fighting off a smirk due to the look at on his face. 'Even if you were the current Hokage, you cannot be in multiple places at once. Even with your amazing shadow clone abilities. You would have found out about what happened just as Tsunade-Sama did."

It took several moments for Naruto to completely absorb what she was saying, as his mind was far more interested in kissing. Finally he managed to force his baser urges aside and run what she had said over in his mind. He didn't like it, but her logic was right on.

"I don't know what else to think Temari. It happened where I always meet them to train. Why else would they have been there if it weren't for me?" He closed his eyes as he tried to block out the images of all the children he had visited in the hospital. They haunted him. He should have been able to do something.

"I don't know Naruto.' Temari replied. 'All I know is that you cannot take the blame for everything. I know that the job of a leader is to take responsibility for those that follow him. But at the same time, if a soldier can't take responsibility for their own actions, then they are not going to last long. From what I hear, nearly half of those involved were chunin rank. So why didn't they stop it?"

"Damn.' Naruto muttered, even as he stared at the woman in his arms. 'How did you come up with all that? You haven't even seen any of the reports."

Temari chuckled as she leaned back against him. "I don't sit around Suna twittling my thumbs you know. One of my strengths is analysis. I help Gaara out a lot, he isn't exactly known for his patience in unraveling complex situations."

"A man of action I guess eh." Naruto chuckled.

"Just like you Naruto." Temari returned as she snuggled closer, once again resting her head on his shoulder. "Now promise me that you will try to look at this mess objectively, without heaping all the blame on yourself. There is more then enough to go around, and should be dealt out to the appropriate parties."

Silence once again fell. While Naruto digested everything that had been said, and Temari sat hoping that she had somehow been of help. She hated seeing Naruto so upset.

Finally Naruto took a deep breath, which was released in a sigh. "I can only promise that I'll try Temari."

He didn't see the smile that curved her lips, as she snuggled closer. "Then I'll happily take that." She informed him quietly. "Thank you Naruto."

She felt the movement as he looked down, trying to see her face. "For what?"

"For being such a warm caring person. For being willing to take on anything for those that are around you. Even when it's really hard on you. I've never met anyone who is so unselfish in my life."

There was no reply to her words, so Temari closed her eyes, loving the sound of Naruto's strong heart beat against her ear. Another smile formed as she thought of just how strong that heart of his was, in more ways then one.

Naruto didn't even try to come up with some kind of a reply to the words the woman in his arms had just said to him. He was too chocked up. He had never had anyone tell him anything like that before. The impact of those few words was more then he expected. And he had no idea how to even begin to sort out all the emotions that they raised.

So instead he just closed his eyes and once again rested his cheek against the kunoichi's silken hair. Mentally reminding himself that he had to avoid starting to fall for her. Their situation was temporary.

But what he wouldn't give to keep this woman beside him. She calmed him when he was nearly in a rage. Noticed when he was upset, despite how good he had become at masking his emotions. Questioned him only in an effort to understand, not to pick apart every decision he made. Listened without judgment. But most of all, she trusted him, allowing him close, even initiating touch between them.

After the small riot had been cleared out of the Hokage tower, he had barely been able to focus. He was just so angry. While he had tried to keep the anger directed at himself, rather then those around him. He couldn't help the feeling of betrayal that burned in his gut every time something like this happened. It didn't seem to matter that he was working like crazy trying to figure out what had started the fight with his kids.

It felt like as hard as he worked, he would never be anything other then the first suspect for anything that went wrong in the village. And while at times he had used that as an advantage when helping his friends. It felt like he was being worn thinner every time it occurred.

Just like earlier when he had finally given up doing anymore work at the office. As soon as he entered the street. He couldn't help but notice the faces turning away as he approached. Then felt the angry eyes following him once he was past.

Days like today had him silently asking just what it would take to finally gain, at the very least, some form of acceptance from the general populace?

But there had been a difference this time. He had a beacon of light to head towards. In that moment, when he needed a place to clear his mind and calm his emotions. All he could think about was finding Temari and holding her. The one person who, despite knowing about his worst sin, still allowed him near her. With no strings attached.

Now as he sat there, enjoying the warmth of her body against his, while basking in her soft scent. It dawned on him, with a clarity that for some reason hadn't been there before. That this situation, this peace he was feeling couldn't last.

Temari had to go home. Probably sooner then later. She had duties and a family in another country. And just as suddenly he wondered what he was going to do when she did go. Because he wasn't sure if he could go back to being completely isolated, now that he had experienced having someone he could do something as simple as share his day with.

Yes he had friends. Kind of. But he couldn't remember that last time he had had one of them actually give a damn about him. Sure, if something went wrong and he had a meltdown like a couple weeks ago. Then they sent Iruka to talk to him.

But Naruto just couldn't shake the feeling that if it wasn't for the fact that he, with the help of Kyuubi of course. Could single handedly defend the entire village. That he would have been completely written off years ago.

And while he understood that his old team and class mates were all busy with children and spouses taking up the majority of their time. He couldn't help but wish that when one of them asked how he was. That it wasn't just a polite form of greeting, but they really meant it, and would actually listen to him.

Like Temari did.

Just like that, his thoughts came full circle. And it hit him like a ton of bricks.

He was already in love with her.

The realization stunned him. Part of him wanted to continue to deny it. While the rest already knew that it was too late. The proverbial cat was out of the bag.

Mentally he cursed himself. How had he let this happen? When had it happened? Straightening in his seat he tried to sort out the sudden onslaught of conflicting emotions. Joy, regret, peace, panic.

Predominantly panic. What if someone, namely an adversary found out? It would put her and her child in danger. He had to keep this to himself he realized. Otherwise it could destroy her life. And it would be his fault.

"Naruto?" He actually flinched as Temari's voice jarred him from his nearly panicked thoughts.

Looking down into her soft silver eyes. He felt his suddenly crazily spinning world come screeching to a halt. And in that moment he realized that there was no way he could not love her. Everything about her was perfect to him.

And he would figure out a way to keep her safe. The only way anyone would ever harm her again would be over his dead body.

Temari had been roused out of almost being asleep by the sudden tension she felt returning to Naruto's body. "Is everything all ri…." The words died in her throat when their eyes met. The intensity in his azure gaze struck an unknown cord inside of her very soul.

"Aw hell!" He muttered.

Then he was kissing her. And any thoughts of questioning him further were thrown out the window as Temari responded to him.

It was different then that night in the bedroom. This kiss was intense. Consuming, with an underlining desperation to get closer. Both felt the roll of heat wrapping around them, only the subconscious knowledge of the babe between them kept the moment to merely a meeting of lips.

It was a silent pledge, given, and returned. As both acknowledged in their own hearts, this was far more then they could truly understand. Yet both wanting more in the space of a heart beat.

How long it lasted neither one had any idea. And yet it wasn't nearly long enough when the door was opened and they were interrupted.

With a growl Naruto wrenched himself away from Temari, a part of him sensing some kind of danger. Without realizing it he snarled at the intruder as his eyes momentarily flashed blood red. It wasn't until the white uniformed nurse was disappearing from sight that his head cleared enough for him to realize what he was doing.

Meanwhile, Temari was too befuddled to notice who was standing in the entry way staring at them in unmasked horror. And the same time she really didn't care. Her world had just been turned upside down. She felt it in the core of her heart. Something very big had just changed between her and Naruto.

She just had no idea what.

30 30 30 30 30

It was the strangest thing he had seen in his entire life.

And considering that Kyuubi had lived a very long time, AND seen some pretty odd things, that was saying something.

The walls to his shrunken prison were once again glowing. Yet as his host and the female kissed. The kitsune could only stare in awe at the massive wave of white chakra that first surrounded the two of them, and the babe. But then spread out, flooding through the very walls.

How far the power went before it dissipated Kyuubi couldn't tell. Partly because of how fast it happened. And partly because he was distracted by one of the cracks in his barrier finally widened enough to allow some of the purifying chakra into his domain.

Cringing, yet refusing to retreat to a corner. He watched it coming closer, like a glittering wisp of mist. That within moments became a wave, as the crack gaped further.

But to his shock, as it hit him, it did no harm. Instead it wrapped around his body softly, like a warm blanket. Then started weaving into his own burning red chakra, thus pulling his power back through the opening and allowing it once again mix with that of his host.

He couldn't begin to properly describe the sensations as the bindings surrounding him suddenly shattered into a shower of shimmering rainbow fragments. In that moment he felt as if he was even more connected with Naruto then they had ever been in the past.

In his ancient heart he came to realize that this is what they should have been like all along. One being.

Two minds, yes. But everything else was blended into one. He felt the intensity of the love Naruto had for the female in his arms.

Their arms. And like the blending of the chakra's, the emotions and instincts wove together as well. In a much tighter web then the demon could have ever conceived. This female was no longer just Naruto's soul mate, while Kyuubi remained an interested third party in the back of the shinobi's head.

Temari belonged to them. Their mate to cherish and protect with every ounce of their considerable combined power. While Kyuubi could have taken it upon himself to eliminate the treat he felt coming from the female that had interrupted them. He chose to do no more then remind the insignificant human that he was present and on guard.

As both male and female tried to recover from their impromptu make out session. Kyuubi was not sure if Naruto had realized yet that the barrier between them was not only broken, but they were now more one then ever before.

So he decided to remain silent. No communicating at this time. He was curious to see what would transpire next. Especially considering that their mates power had done more the just blurred the lines between human and demon.

As was evident by the now perfectly whole child still sleeping peacefully between them.

30 30 30 30

"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" Ino growled grabbing her head in agony as she was forcibly shoved back into her own body. Luckily she had been sitting in a chair for this assignment, or she would be sprawled out on the floor just now.

"Ino, what happened?" Sakura's concerned voice echoing too loudly in her overly sensitive ears, had the blonde shooting a glare at the pinkette.

"Just give me a sec Forehead." She grumbled as she doubled over, fighting hard to not empty her stomach all over the floor.

Never in her life had the Mind Reading kunoichi had such a strange encounter inside of someone else. Sure she had been forced out before. By Sakura's dual personality when they were just kids. And the odd time or two after that when she came across a ninja of exceptional mental discipline.

But, this was different. Very different. There was something inside of Hitake Kakashi, that frankly scared the shit out of her.

Finally feeling like she wasn't going to hurl if she moved. Ino slowly sat back up in her chair, her eyes going straight to the comatose shinobi lying in front of her. For a few more moments she ignored the fact that not only was Sakura waiting to hear something form her. But the Hokage herself was also present.

Ino tried to find a way to describe what it was she had encountered. Because it wasn't so much of a someone, like another personality or subconscious persona. The only way she could describe it was a power field. But if it was chakra, it was unlike any other she had ever come across.

"Well Yamanaka." Tsunade's voice demanded. "What did you find out?"

Reluctant to face her leader. Ino kept her eyes on the patient. The dark patches of skin a stark reminder that she had failed to be of any help. "Nothing Hokage-sama. I couldn't get into his mind."

"What do you mean couldn't?' The older blonde demanded. 'The man is unconscious, how could you not get in?"

Taking a deep breath, Ino finally turned to face the other two women in the room. "It's hard to explain Hokage-sama. But he has some kind of mental barrier in place that literally gave a verbal warning and then kicked me out."

She rubbed her aching temples as Sakura and Tsunade shared a stunned look. As much as she wished she could get up and escape the coming query. Because she knew the two medics in front of her were not going to let her get away with such a vague answer. Ino was quite sure that her legs were going to be a little too rubbery to actually go anywhere just yet.

"A warning?' Sakura asked. 'Have you ever had something like that happen to you before?"

Ino shook her head. Trying not to jump to the conclusion that the angry look on the Hokage's face was directed at her personally. Everyone knew how frustrated Tsunade was that they couldn't figure out what was happening to Kakashi.

"A lot of people have, let's say, an internal image of themselves.' Ino tried to explain. 'Sometimes it's not even a human form. In this case, although it was vague, I would say it was definitely canine. Which makes sense given that his summons are dogs."

Tsunade nodded, looking a little less perturbed then she had a few moments ago. Which made Ino relax a bit.

"Any way, it was like I was in a white… for lack of a better word. Void, when this canine figure appeared. Then I hear this voice say. 'You do not belong to this one. Continue your search.' Then just like that, it was like being hit by a wall and I was thrown out." Ino shrugged as she finished.

She could tell by the perplexed looks on the other two woman's faces that they had no more of a clue then she did as to what the cryptic voice meant.

"And that's it?" Sakura asked, clearly disappointed.

Ino raised her hands in a helpless gesture. "Sorry. And before you ask, I would really, REALLY prefer not to try it again."

Sakura sighed heavily as she turned to Tsunade. "I really thought it would work. I don't know what else we can do but wait and hope he continues to improve."

Tsunade nodded slowly. "I suppose so. Perhaps we should get Naruto to take another look. For whatever reason, he seems to be the only one who has made any difference at all since breaking that damn barrier."

Not caring to hang around, since it seemed she would not be getting any worthwhile information out of the prone man on the bed. Ino carefully stood. "If there is nothing else Hokage-sama.' She murmured, 'I would like to go put an ice pack on my head for a while."

She could see Sakura was going to offer some form of help, but the blonde ANBU shook a finger at her. "Nothing you can do. I just have to let it pass."

"Get some rest Ino." Tsunade ordered. "And thank you for trying."

With a nonchalant wave of her hand. Ino headed towards the door without another word. She was only half way there when she felt the floor beneath her feet start to vibrate slightly, while the hair on the back of her neck stood up.

Then with no warning she felt a wave, of what she could only call energy, sweep through her whole body. Instantly she dropped into a defensive stance. Trying to gage where it was coming from. A quick glance showed her that the other two women in the room were doing the same.

But nothing else happened. As quickly as it had come, it was gone.

"What the hell was that?" Tsunade barked. "I want to know who is causing all this crap so that I can pound them into the ground!"

Sakura was already heading to Kakashi's bedside to check his vitals. "You have never encountered anything like that before Tsunade?" She asked, knowing that the Hokage had done a lot of traveling before returning to Konoha.

"Would I be this pissed if I had?" The well endowed blonde snapped. Then turning to Ino. "Tell your Captain that I want him in my office immediately."

With a bow, Ino headed out. Not bothering to mention that she was off duty. There was no such thing when something like this happened. There was a lot of strange things happening in the village lately. And Ino was determined to figure out who was behind it.

She was not even half way down the corridor when her head was flooded with information from a dispelled clone she had posted outside of the hospital after Sakura had left her to gain permission for their experiment.

It wasn't until then that she realized that her headache was already gone. Odd, but she shook it off. Until she carried out the Hokage's order she couldn't do anything else.

Picking up her pace she silently cursed blue winged birds all the way to the exit.

30 30 30 30

Sasuke looked down at the scroll he had just pulled out of his pocket to re-read the directions. Because he had to be in the wrong place. The woman sitting leisurely atop the bridge railing could not be the one the Hokage had sent him to meet.

But with a sinking feeling he saw that he was indeed in the right location. True, the kunoichi who stood as he approached was perfect for this kind of an assignment, where her skills were concerned. But it was her family connections that made him wonder if she could be unbiased once she knew more about the case.

"Fancy meeting you here Uchiha." She greeted. Although her tone was pleasant enough, Sasuke inwardly cringed at the emotionless mask she wore.

"Hyuga-Sama." He greeted. Remembering to give a slight bow even as he tried to keep an eye on her. The two of them may in theory be of the same social standing. But the Hyuuga's certainly had more clout these days then the Uchiha's, so it paid to be polite. Despite the fact that he was the one giving her the assignment.

"Why is it you seem surprised to see me Uchiha?" Hinabi asked, her pale eyes not missing a thing.

Sasuke shrugged, doing his best not to show how uncomfortable he was. "I am simply surprised that the Hokage would assign someone of your caliber to such a mundane mission." Which was true, it just wasn't the whole truth.

If it wasn't for the eyes, one would never believe she was a Hyuga he mused. He was used to Hinata and Neji, both were slim, Hinata petite even. While the current head of the clan had to be some kind of throw back. Because not only did she match Sasuke in height. She probably outweighed him by at least fifty pounds.

Fifty pounds of solid muscle. He remembered Neji once commenting that she should have been a member of the Akimichi clan with her size. Coupled with the fact that she was currently Konoha's best, and most ruthless Hunter-nin was enough to make anyone leery of her.

Hinabi tipped her head to the side. As if she was trying to look into his mind. "Mundane or not. It can't be less boring then listening to clan elders bicker over trifling issues." She finally sniffed. A flicker of annoyance briefly crossing her features before the head of the Hyuuga clan once again became a no nonsense hunter with the mere bat of an eye. "So what's the job?"

Pulling a small scroll out of his vest pocket Sasuke handed it to her. "We need to know what happened to this woman. As quietly as possible." He added.

One of the Hyuga's brows lifted in query. But she didn't say a word as she broke the seal and unrolled the parchment. There were a few minutes of silence while she read over the contents. Everything she needed was there. Service record, DNA sample, photo, date of resignation.

"We are looking for her because?" She finally asked once she had skimmed over everything.

"She may have valuable information." Sasuke told her. "But no one has heard from her in years as far as we know. Of course there is always the possibility that she may have died at some point. Either way we need to know where she is now."

Nodding Hinabi rolled up the scroll and placed it in a pouch on her belt. "And I'm assuming the reason we are keeping this quiet is to stop the rumors from re-surfacing?" A slight smirk curled her lips. Which was enough to let the Uchiha know that she knew exactly who it was she was looking for.

"That too.' Sasuke grudgingly admitted. 'Just remember. Any reports are to come directly to either the Hokage herself or myself if she is unavailable. No one else is to see or even touch this case."

The Hyuga gave him a speculative look. "Of course." And with that she turned on her heel and walked away.

Which left the Uchiha with absolutely no idea of where she stood in regards to how she felt about this case. Because if she was as against Naruto as her father had been, she had the ability to effect the outcome of the investigation, good or bad. He just prayed that she was more like her older sister then most people believed.

He knew that Hinata believed that her younger sister had softened over the last few years. Mostly due to the fact that the Hyuga matriarch had become a surrogate mother. It had been the talk of the town a couple of years ago. The hunter-nin had returned to Konoha with a toddler that she claimed had been the son of a friend.

Not surprisingly the elders of the clan had thrown a fit, not wanting some unknown child in their precious clan home. According to Hinita, Hinabi had literally beat the council into submission. She had decided to raise the child herself and would not take any opposition lightly.

It was the only time Sasuke remembered hearing of any conflict between the then new leader of the clan and the council. Hinabi for all intents and purposes was the perfect Hyuga leader.

The Uchiha had never seen the child in question, neither had anyone he knew other than Hinita. Hinabi kept the little one within her ancestral home. Word was that the boy wasn't even allowed to play with his adopted cousins. She was apparently a paranoid mother. Sasuke felt sorry for the little one, who no doubt was already in intensive training despite not being of Hyuga blood.

With a shake of his head at where his thoughts had wandered. He turned himself and headed back to work. He just hoped that Tsunade had not made a fatal mistake in choosing the Hyuga, because he would hate to have all the rumors start again.

30 30 30 30 30 30

Temari felt like there was a tug of war going on inside of her as she and Naruto strolled down the street. Part of her was all too happy with the way he had wrapped an arm around her and pulled her into his side. The feeling of his strong arm crossing her back and around her waist was comforting and gave her a sense that nothing could ever go wrong as long as she remained there.

Yet the other side of her was not being distracted by the pleasant feel of their two bodies touching from shoulder to thigh. There was something bothering the man. And she was fairly certain that it had nothing to do with the conversation they had shared earlier.

It was almost like she could feel the conflict going on inside of him. But she wasn't sure just what it might be about. She hoped that he wasn't regretting the kiss they had shared. Because even if she hadn't quite figured out what it meant for them. She didn't think she could just shrug it off, if for some reason he was feeling that way.

Neither had spoken all the way to the Café where they had been frequenting in rotation with the ramen stand. But finally the kunoichi couldn't take the strain of being silent any longer. Perhaps it was because she had gotten used to speaking her mind around the man. And therefore found it unsettling to not do so now.

"Naruto.' She gave him a slight nudge with her hip to gain his full attention, as she wished to keep her voice low. 'What is bothering you now?"

He seemed to be scanning the area around the café as he lead her to a table that sat up against the wall of the building. But at her question he immediately gave her his full attention.

Their eyes met, and Temari could see quite clearly that she had been right about him being conflicted about something. After a few moments of silence, in which she sensed that he had debated telling her the truth, before he finally answered.

"I realized something earlier Temari. But I haven't had time to properly analyze it.' He sighed as he guided her to a chair. 'Just give me some time to try to work it out in my head, I'm not ready to talk about it yet, okay."

Seeing the earnest look in his azure eyes, Temari simply nodded and allowed him to seat her before he took the chair opposite her. She felt the tension ease somewhat after that short dialogue, so she was glad she had elected to say something.

Before she could come up with another topic of conversation. A male voice greeted Naruto. Looking up she saw a slender man with long black hair walking towards their table. He was smiling, although Temari noticed that his eyes didn't seem to be mirroring his lips.

Naruto grinned and greeted the man with a hearty handshake. "Tatsu how have you been? Haven't seen you as a regular person in ages!"

"Well there has been a lot to keep me busy." Tatsu replied lightly.

Naruto nodded, as he turned serious. "Yes, unfortunately." He then turned and introduced the newcomer to Temari.

Tatsu gave a rather formal bow, while Temari merely inclined her head. There was something about this man that she didn't like. She wasn't sure what it was just yet, but he made her uneasy. But she smiled anyway. And when he accepted Naruto's invitation to join them she didn't object. She simply slid her chair closer to the wall as Tatsu grabbed one from another table and brought it over.

"So Naruto, how goes the riddle solving?" Tatsu inquired as he and Naruto sat down.

The big blond shrugged. "It's slow, a lot slower then I would like. But I've had to start retaking some of the statements, because we found that a number of them were not matching at all."

Tatsu raised a brow. "Our own Chunin and Genin lied to their superiors?"

"They are just kids.' Naruto reminded him. 'And as I've been saying for a while. We shouldn't be putting so much pressure on such young people. I really think the age to enter the academy needs to be raised."

This statement was news to Temari. And she was momentarily distracted from her wariness of Tatsu to think about what Naruto was saying. But out of the corner of her eye, she saw in of the dark haired man's brows twitch.

"I know that is what you believe Naruto. But that is how the First Hokage designed our training so that our village would be strong.' Tatsu remarked. 'I don't think age has anything to do with it. We all started that way. I think it's that the instructors are being too lenient on their pupils."

Naruto's jaw hardened, although his tone of voice gave no indication that his emotions were involved. "While it may turn out that there was some negligence that contributed to the event. I don't believe that increasing the rigidity of our training regimen is necessarily the answer."

Temari had the impression that the two men were going to break out their fists at any moment. It was obvious to her that this was not the first time this topic had arose between them.

After several moments of staring at each other, Naruto sighed. "Lets agree to disagree on this subject for today shall we?"

A few more moments of silence followed before Tatsu shrugged. "As always."

The waitress arrived and quickly took their orders. By the time she had walked away Temari felt that the air had cleared more between the two men.

Tatsu then turned his attention towards her. "So, Lady Temari. How have you been enjoying your stay in Konoha?"

It was an innocent question, nothing more then small talk. Yet Temari felt all of her instincts stand to attention. There was just something in this man's eyes that told her to be leery of him.

"Konoha is a lovely village." She replied. Although unlike Naruto, she didn't bother forcing a smile.

Tatsu did smile. "I hope that means that you will be gracing us with your presence for some time to come."

She supposed that some people would find his smile charming. She didn't. "That is very hard to say. I may be summoned back home any day. And then again, I may not."

It was rather gratifying to the kunoichi to see a small tick begin to develop beside his right eye. She gathered that this man was normally able to charm anyone he came in contact with. But she decided that even if she wasn't getting very strong negative vibes from him. Just the way he contradicted Naruto would have made her dislike him.

It was one thing to disagree with someone. But it was just the manner in which he had done it that made Temari wonder just what this man had against the blond across from her.

Tatsu made several more attempts to draw her into a more elaborate conversation. But Temari refused to cooperate. She kept her voice polite, but she made darn sure her answers didn't invite further discussion.

She finally excused herself to visit the restroom. And when she returned their food had arrived. The kunoichi didn't taste very much of her meal. Naruto and Tatsu were on to other topics, and she was thankfully left alone. The end of the meal couldn't come fast enough.

After what seemed like an eternity. Tatsu laid down his napkin and announced that he had to get on with errands, as he didn't get very many days off.

Temari watched him leave with a feeling of great relief. Once she was certain that the dark haired man was far out of ear shot she leaned towards Naruto. "How did you come to know him?"

Naruto shrugged as he paid for their meal. "We met years ago in ANBU. Worked together a lot the last couple years I was a member.' He gave her a questioning look. 'Why do you ask?"

The wind using Kunoichi couldn't help but make a face. "There is just something about him that seems off."

"It happens with his job description." Naruto stated as he got to his feet and helped her out of her chair.

Temari waited until they had left the Café before asking. "And what would that job description be?"

"He's Director of ANBU.' Naruto intoned softly. 'It's kind of a stressful job."

She refrained from rolling her eyes at the obvious statement. "So how long did you work under him?" there was an aspect of their interaction that she just couldn't seem to clear up in her head.

"A couple months. He was given the position just before I retired." Naruto replied.

"If you've worked together, why does it seem like he doesn't like you very much?" Temari asked blandly.

Another sigh. "Tatsu is very competitive. It's something that I really liked about working with him. But unfortunately its not always a good thing."

The kunoichi had to poke him in the ribs when he fell silent.

"I was offered the position of Captain first.' Naruto finally admitted. 'But as prestigious as it is. It's also a bit of a dead end. So I turned it down and suggested they offer it to Tatsu. He's great at all the detail stuff."

Temari mulled that piece of information over for a few moments. She supposed if the man was still carrying resentment, that that was what she had picked up on. "If he has a chip on his shoulder about him being second choice. How is it that you are still friends?"

Naruto shook his head. "I don't know. Although we aren't really that close, we do work together relatively often, so I guess we are both just trying to keep that work relationship going as smoothly as possible."

"I suppose that's as good a reason as any." She finally muttered. She wasn't sure if she believed that that was all there was between the two men. But she decided not to dwell on it anymore for the time being. She would just have to keep her guard up if she happened to run into him again.

30 30 30 30 30 30

He woke with a start. All senses screaming danger. Reflexes trained over decades of harrowing missions had him rolling to evade any coming blows.

The roll ended with an abrupt meeting with the floor, after going over the edge of the bed. Momentarily stunned by the impact, it took Kakashi a moment to regain his wits. When the world stopped spinning, it was instantly apparent to him that he was in the hospital.

But the first question going through his head was, why he was still alive?

Trying to get up off the floor was hampered by the fact that he had blankets tangled around his legs from his trip off the bed. After a few moments he untangled himself and using the bed as a support he managed to gain his feet.

Almost at the same time he was upright. The burst of adrenaline that had landed him on the floor started to wear off and he felt his legs wobble. Sitting down heavily he looked around the room he was in. The amount of equipment lining the walls and beside the bed told him he was in intensive care.

Since he was alone, he started taking stock of his body. His right arm was black, the sight of it made his stomach roll. Pulling back the sleeve of his hospital gown he noted that it ended just past his shoulder, with the edges looking like long streaks of ink creeping over his skin.

A cursory glance told him that the rest of his skin seemed to look normal. Slowly he raised his arm and carefully flexed his fingers and hand. Everything moved properly, but it felt stiff. Like his skin had gotten thicker and harder.

Slouching over, he rested his elbows on his knees and stared at the floor as he tried to figure out just how it was that he was sitting there at all. As far as he knew, he should be dead. Pure White Chakra was supposed to purify or eradicate any tainted version of it's self.

He clearly remembered the shock that went through his body when Temari had touched him. The pain had been instantaneous, and nearly crippling. It had taken all he had to walk around the corner from the café and teleport to his apartment.

After that, it was mostly a blur. As he sat and thought about it, a few random images flashed through his memory. Naruto, Tsunade and a glowing female figure that if it wasn't for the words that echoed through his mind along with her image. He would have dismissed her as a figment of his imagination.

She had told him to live. He remembered it clearly. But who was she? An ancestor sending him back somehow? It couldn't have been Temari, could it?

Groaning, Kakashi buried his face in his hands.

Subaku no Temari was the barer of White Chakra. And despite the fact that he had been around her quite a number of times before the day they had touched. He had never sensed the slightest hint of the pure power within her.

His mind worked furiously trying to figure out what it meant. Was it because her power was newly awakened? Or was it because it was either too high, or low for his senses to register?

All the chaos in his mind came to a screeching halt when it suddenly dawned on him that Temari was not the only member of her family. White Chakra was hereditary, and awakened by near death experiences. And Kakashi had witnessed firsthand the near death of one brother by poisoning. While the other had actually died, and been brought back by a jutsu.

Was it possible that the Kazekage of the Sunagakure prefecture was a wielder of one of the most powerful and possibly deadly types of chakra known to exist? The thought was enough to get the jonin moving.

He had no idea as of yet what he was going to do with the knowledge he had at the moment. Other then write it down before it was wiped out of his mind along with the rest of his harrowing experience of nearly being purified.

Forcing himself to his feet, he headed shakily for the door he assumed was the bathroom. The first thing he needed to do was have a hot shower, and hope it helped get his body functioning better. Well maybe not the first, as half way across the room his bladder made itself known.

He hadn't gotten far when he broke out into a sweat, as his body made it known that he probably shouldn't be out of bed. But now that he was up. The Jonin was determined to get to his destination. Bed pans were not something he liked being anywhere near, let alone use.

He pretty much collapsed against the door when he reached it. After a few moments of steadying himself, he was about to open the door when he heard a loud gasp behind him.

Turning his head he saw a nurse standing in the other doorway, staring at him like he had suddenly sprouted wings and two heads.

"You….. Your….." She stuttered, pointing at him dumbly.

Kakashi merely raised a questioning brow. Without another word, the woman turned and fled his room. As strange as the occurrence was. The shinobi didn't bother trying to rationalize her odd behavior. His bladder was top priority. He would worry about how to get back to his bed later.

30 30 30 30 30 30

The hospital seemed very quite in her small windowless room. Yet the Suna Kunoichi felt uneasy. She was back in her now most favorite chair, once again holding her tiny charge. The baby girl had not so much as stirred since she had returned from lunch.

That fact did not bother Temari, she was trying to distract herself by thinking of something to call the babe in her arms. Having realized that she had never heard or bothered to ask if the infant even had a name.

How long she sat there, her mind wavering back and forth from the dilemma of a name. To the nagging question of why she was still bothered by the encounter in the café. To replaying the events that had occurred in the very chair she now sat in alone. The time just seemed to melt away around her.

A timid knock on the door of her haven shook Temari out of her contemplation. "Enter."

The green head of hair that popped through the opening was the last thing the Suna kunoichi had expected to see. "Meeka. What brings you here?"

"Sorry to disturb you Temari-sama." The young girl shyly apologized as she entered when Temari waved her in. "I heard you were in here, and well…"

The jonin smiled, "I don't mind Meeka. This little one isn't much of a conversationalist."

Meeka slipped past Temari with barely a glance at the infant in her arms, and settled in the corner, sliding down to sit on the floor. Folding her arms across her upturned knees, and settled her chin on top of them.

Alarm shot through the adult kunoichi at these actions. In Temari's limited interaction with the young genin, she had the impression the Meeka was naturally a very cheerful, outgoing girl. So this brooding creature now settled by her feet was not the person she was used too.

Minutes ticked by without a word spoken. Raising the level of worry in Suna woman's mind. As she watched the young woman, she realized that Meeka seemed to be hiding behind her. Much like earlier with Naruto, it didn't take long for Temari to become fed up with the silence.

"What's wrong Meeka?"

The girls chin wobbled. But she didn't burst into tears like the last time they had been together. "My Aunt and Uncle hate me." She finally whispered, keeping her eyes downcast.

Temari had already heard about the anger the girls relatives had towards her, since their son had been so badly injured, while Meeka had sustained only minor injuries. The statement was not wholly unexpected. She did notice that the genin no longer had her arm in a sling. A sign that her broken arm was responding well to treatment.

"What makes you say that?" Temari inquired. Wishing much like the first time she had found herself in this situation that Naruto was there to help her.

Meeka's curled more into herself. "My Aunt told me so. She said that if people wouldn't think badly of her for it. She would kick me out on the streets."

The jonin had to remind herself to breath as anger filled her. Fighting down the urge to go find the woman and beat some sense into her head. She tried instead to come up with something to say that might be of some use to the girl sitting beside her.

"I'm sure she doesn't really mean that Meeka.' She finally started gently. 'In times of extreme stress, people sometimes say terrible things to others."

The green haired girl shook her head. "No, she never has liked me. She's always telling me that the only reason she puts up with me living with them is because my Mom was my Uncle's sister. So it wasn't her decision to let me come live with them."

Temari took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. If the woman had been that specific, she highly doubled that there was anything she or anyone else could do to change her attitude. But she was starting to hate the woman

Reaching out she gently placed a hand on the top of the riot of Kelly colored locks. "I wish I could tell you that everything is going to be all right Meeka.' She murmured. 'But I can't do that. However, I can promise you that you will never want for a place to live. Even if your Aunt did go through with her threat."

"What do you mean?" Meeka asked, finally breaking her staring contest with the tile floor to look up at Temari.

"You are now a genin. Which makes you an official kunoichi of Konoha. And as such you will be assured of lodgings, even if you can't afford to pay for them yet on a genin's wage. All you have to do if you get into trouble like that is go talk to your Hokage."

Meeka's eyes widened. "Really?"

The blond smiled. "Really. It might be bunking with other young people to start. But you would be just fine."

The girl visibly relaxed as she nodded her understanding. And for a time the two of them sat in companionable silence. Finally Meeka started asking questions about the baby Temari held. Obviously over her worry of her relatives at that moment in time.

For the rest of the afternoon, the jonin from Suna relaxed in the company of the young Konoha genin.

30 30 30 30 30 30

Tsunade was not sure why she was in a bad mood. Other then the fact that she had missed lunch. A fact that her stomach was now reminding her of every few minutes.

Really she should be overjoyed. She was witnessing miracles left, right and center. She had just been on her way back to the tower when word of the first one had reached her.

One of the Chunin, whose femoral artery had received several punctures. And had been on constant watch while needing multiple units of blood do to trouble getting the holes to remain sealed. The girl's leg was suddenly almost completely healed.

Disbelieving that such a thing could happen. When the next report came. Tsunade started going room to room along with several heads of staff in an effort to figure out what was going on.

Now the Hokage was grateful. Very much so. Although not all the patients showed quite the dramatic healing of the first one. The fact was that many of the most critical cases were now stable at the very least.

The only theory that seemed to be holding up so far was that this mass healing had something to do with that strange wave of chakra that she had felt while in Kakashi's room. All the ANBU had been able to figure out so far, was that the power was not felt by anyone beyond the hospital grounds. No one seemed to be adversely effected. And so far, only the critical cases on the first floor had been healed. Tsunade had decided that by the time all the ground floor had been covered that she wasn't needed to continue on with the evaluation.

She still had a huge pile of paper work to catch up on back at the office. Although it was going down quickly now that Naruto was back. There was still a lot. Then there was the fiasco of the near riot in the tower this morning. She still had to look into who had started that mess.

She was not going to sit back and have random accusations put all the blame for what happened on Naruto's shoulders. Shaking her head she couldn't wait to find the person who had first voiced the stupid idea.

Really. Naruto hadn't even been in the village at the time. Who in their right mind would think of such a thing? Just because he attracted a lot of the young people to the area he used to train was no excuse. All those involved in the brawl had all graduated from the academy. Some had even achieved Chunin rank. So there was something else going on, there had to be to have caused such a devastating calamity.

The Hokage just hoped it wasn't another bid by some unknown person for control of the village. Because she wasn't sure if she could handle another round of that kind of lunacy without going a little mad herself.

She had every faith that Naruto would get to the bottom of what was going on. But he couldn't do that if he was being distracted by fox hating idiots that suddenly seemed to be coming out of the woodwork after years of silence.

So after bidding the staff goodbye, the blond Godaime headed for the hospital entrance. Intent on stopping for a quick bite to eat on her way back to the tower. Stepping through the glass doors, she paused a few steps down to take in a long deep breath. What she wouldn't give to be able to take a short vacation right now. She felt like she could sleep for a year.

Tsunade never got the chance to take the next step because the door behind her flew open. And a nurse emerged so quickly she almost collided with the Godaime. "Hokage-sama…..' the woman exclaimed breathlessly. 'he… he's…' Her voice gave out and she bent over panting.

One golden brow lifted in query, she had been dealing with so much staff that day that she couldn't pinpoint where this nurse had been stationed. "Who are you referring too?" She asked, hoping to inform the nurse that there was already another doctor checking into the case, thinking that it was another of the strange healings.

After a deep breath the nurse was able to blurt out. "H….Hatake Ka… Kakashi."

Tsunade was running before the name had completely left the nurse's lips. Straight back into the hospital and up the nearest flight of stairs. A part of her dearly wanted to hope that perhaps there had been some small improvement in the Jonin's condition. But the logical side reminded her that so far there had not been any reports of such good fortune in the upper wings of the facility.

She was nearly as out of breath as the nurse had been by the time she skidded through the door of Kakashi's room. The sight of the empty bed brought her up short. For a few moments she could only stare dumbly at the mattress. The blanket had been stripped off, as if for cleaning.

But that didn't make sense, if the Copy-nin had died, there was no way the staff would have been able to remove his body in the time it took the nurse to find her.

Slowly her brain kicked back into gear and she walked over to the bed, Once she was closer, she could see the blanket in a crumpled heap on the floor on the opposite side.

"It can't be." She muttered to herself as she headed for the closed washroom door.

Not believing that she would find anything, she pulled open the barrier without any kind of announcement of her presence. Her heart nearly stopped at the sight that greeted her.

There sitting on the closed toilet lid, with one arm draped over the sink for balance was a mostly upright Kakashi.

He lifted his head and gave her a lopsided half smile that had her heart going from stone still to racing in a blink of an eye.

"Hatake, What the hell do you think you are doing?" She snapped. Now over her shock of seeing him conscious and mostly upright.

"Waiting for help to get back up." He grumbled. "I wanted a shower, but my damn legs gave up before I could get that far."

Blowing out a breath in order to keep herself from yelling. What was it about this man that always seemed to get her voice raising several levels in volume within seconds of them speaking?

"Well I'm not surprised. What made you think you should even be out of bed? Your body is in no condition for you to be pushing yourself after what happened to you." She informed him evenly as she entered the room and grabbed his right wrist to check his pulse.

She noticed the shudder that went through his body, and quickly released her hold. "Sorry, that must still be painful."

Kakashi shook his head. "Not exactly, it's just sensitive." He muttered, surprised by the jolt that shot through him at such a simple touch. It was far from unpleasant, but it was the intensity that shocked him. He couldn't ever remember reacting in such a way from a mere touch.

"Not surprised. Although I'm not sure anything could shock me after everything that has happened with you since you were brought to the hospital." Tsunade informed him. She didn't comment on the fact that she had just noticed that his left arm was back to its normal coloring.

Instead she moved to his left side. "Come on, we have to get you back in bed before you fall over on me."

Still distracted by the way his body was feeling after an innocent touch. Kakashi nodded and let Tsunade loop his left arm over her shoulders and pull him to his feet. With the ease of long practice, the Godaime fit her body against his side to accommodate his taller frame. Her right arm encircling his waist in order to steady him.

Kakashi's breath hitched, damn but she fit against him perfectly. His mind was jerked away from that line of thought when she started maneuvering him through the doorway. Although he really didn't need to help her, since Tsunade's chakra enhanced strength could easily move him. He still did his best not to put too much of his weight on her as they traversed the relatively short distance to his bed.

"So who did this to you?" Tsunade asked as they reached their destination. "We haven't been able to find any leads so far."

Kakashi was glad that he was able to turn away from her as she assisted him back onto the mattress. He hadn't yet decided how much he wanted to divulge about Temari's part in all of this. White Chakra was a very rare power. And in order to fully explain what had happened he would have to reveal a great deal of his clan's secrets. Although he had no love for most of those that had gone before him. He was still undecided. Even if it was his Hokage asking.

"Kakashi?" Tsunade prompted after picking the rumpled blanket off the floor.

"No one did this to me Tsunade." He finally informed her, after quickly making the decision to wait until he could go over everything in his mind again. And maybe talk to Temari as well, although getting close to the kunoichi right now was not a very high on his list of things to do.

"What do you mean?" The Hokage demanded as she shook the blanket out and laid it over him.

After a moment's thought of how to word his answer, Kakashi returned. "It was caused by a family jutsu. Not contagious, it was my fault."

Tsunade frowned as she gave him a hard look. She wasn't sure if she entirely believed all that. Family jutsu, maybe. The other stuff? She would reserve judgment until later.

"Well since you are finally awake. I'll leave it for now. But let me tell you Hatake, there was more then a few times we thought we had lost you." She informed him gravely. "It's a bloody miracle that you're still with us."

Kakashi nodded. "I'm just as surprised as you are."

One brow lifted as Tsunade studied him closely. "You're not telling me everything." She stated after a moment.

A smile touched the corners of the prone man's lips. "No I'm not.' He admitted. 'And I'm not going to right now, so fish all you want."

Blowing out an exasperated breath while she tried to decide if she wanted to hit him, or push him off the opposite side of the bed. He had to be the most aggravating man she knew. Tsunade looked him in the eye for a moment, then she concluded now was not the time to start an interrogation. She had to make sure he was actually healing. Being conscious was not necessarily an indication that his condition had improved that much.

Not saying another word, she moved up beside his shoulder. Placing her palms on his chest, she took a deep relaxing breath and channeled chakra into her hands to start a diagnostic. She felt the muscles beneath her fingers flex. Then a moment later Kakashi's whole body jerked.

"Shit!" Hissed the Copy-nin as he grabbed both Tsunade's wrists and quickly removed them from his body. His heart was threatening to pound right out of his chest, while heated blood rushed through his whole body.

"What?" The blond demanded and she noticed his suddenly labored breathing. "What happened?" She urged when he didn't immediately reply.

"Just give me a minute." Kakashi rasped as he tried desperately to get his body calm down. Not only was it embarrassing for a man his age to react that fast to something so minimal. But it was also scaring him a little bit. Was this a side effect of nearly being purified? Or something else?

More concerned the longer he remained silent. Tsunade couldn't stay quiet long. "On a scale of one to ten, how bad is the pain?" She barked, going into full blown medic mode. She was debating if she should call a nurse in when her wrists were released.

The silver haired man pushed himself into a sitting position with a groan. Hoping that the mask that covered his face, was enough to hide his flushed face.

"It's not painful." He finally muttered.

This announcement brought the Hokage up short. "Excuse me?"

Without thinking about it, she reached out to touch his shoulder. Instantly a hand came up to block the contact. "I really can't handle you touching me right now Tsunade." Kakashi warned.

With a huff and a roll of her eyes, the blond leaned down until their noses almost touched. "Just what is that supposed to mean?" She demanded. The short cryptic answers were starting to tick her off more then she already was.

Gazing into her chocolate colored eyes, breathing in the scent of her shampoo as is wafted over him caused something inside of Kakashi to snap. Before his conscious mind realized what he was doing. His right hand jerked down the material covering his face, while his left wrapped around the back of the blonds head. Closing the distance between their lips in the space of a heartbeat.

Tsunade's surprised gasp allowed him to quickly deepen the kiss. After the initial shock, the Godaime responded. How long had she wondered what it would be like to really be kissed by this man? Any thoughts of repercussions were wiped from her mind as hands moved from her face to her waist and she was pulled onto the bed and on top of Kakashi's well muscled body.

It was the unexpected jolt of chakra going up her spine, originating from the Copy-nin's palm pressed against the small of her back. That caused Tsunade to wrench herself away from Kakashi's lips with another gasp.

She didn't get far, since she was sprawled across his body, and his arms hadn't loosened in the slightest. Too out of breath to speak, the couple simply stared at each other. Shock was mirrored on both their faces.

With a groan, Kakashi finally released his hold on her waist and flopped back onto the pillows. "Damn." He muttered as he tried to regulate his breathing. How the hell had all that just happened? One minute he was trying to find the strength to move, and the next he was grabbing the buxom blond for a make out session.

His normal calm, thought out actions seemed to be on vacation. And why the hell couldn't he get his breathing slowed down.

"Kakashi?" Looking down at the blond, who was still half on the bed, although no longer draped over his body was the last thing he remembered doing before everything went black.

Tsunade sat dumbfounded on the edge of the hospital bed. Staring at the man who had just blacked out after their little make out session. She knew she probably should be checking his vitals, just to be sure he had simply lost consciousness. But she was still too shaken herself to make herself move.

What had just happened?

30 30 30 30 30

"In the middle of the day Ninth?" Second demanded as soon as the masked female had materialized in the dim chamber.

Kiko quickly bowed. "I'm sorry. But I didn't think this should wait. Are the others coming?"

A shake of the masked head made the nurses stomach drop. "It was decided that I should first gage if what you have to say has any merit to be heard by the others. At a more reasonable time."

"Uzumaki lied to Fourth." The white clad woman blurted out. Terrified that she would be left for dead down in these dank tunnels because she had acted to hastily. "I walked into him and the Suna woman making out. And when he looked up at me, his eyes glowed red and he growled at me." She continued so as to not waste time.

"It was clear to me that the Kyuubi was very much present. And I didn't think that kind of information should wait." Kiko finished in a rush.

The cloaked figure was silent for a moment. Then in a thoughtful voice she mused. "Well that is interesting news. And you were right to think that it needed to be reported right away."

Kiko let out a soft sigh of relief.

"However, in the future I believe that should you need to send word during the day, you should send it to myself or First only. And we will then decide how soon a full meeting needs to be called."

"Of course Second-sama." Kiko nodded with another bow.

"Now be careful leaving, there are many eyes watching for out of place things right now." The masked woman warned. And then in a swirl of leaves she left the relieved nurse alone in the dim room.

30 30 30 30 30

Ino was crouched low in a large oak tree grumbling under her breath. So much for her day off. First the crap at the hospital with Kakashi, then that weird chakra burst. Which had her having to help do a sweep of the area, it took a little bit of time to find the head of the ANBU department. Since like her. He was having a rare day off.

Then there was the damn bird. Every time she had plans. That stupid thing always got in her way. What she wouldn't give to be able to ignore the summon. But she was the one who had gotten herself into this crazy cycle, so she had no one to blame but herself.

She was brought out of her thoughts when a figure appeared at the base of her tree. Without so much as a whisper of sound.

Stepping off the limb, Ino landed in a crouch in front of the woman she had been waiting for. Straightening she smiled in greeting. "Hinabi."

The Hyuga inclined her head in her usual regal manner. "Ino, pleasant day isn't it?"

Ino lifted a brow. "I suppose,' she responded carefully. Not wanting to misunderstand the code they worked with. 'What in particular makes it a good day for you?"

"I received a mission today.' The taller woman replied, her face losing the hard edged look as she smiled. "It seems I am to find a woman this time."

It took a moment for Ino to comprehend what Hinabi was implying. Then a light bulb went off in her mind. "Finally?"

The Hyuga nodded. "Yes, finally. And it is of the highest secrecy. Not even 'He' is to know about it." She made quote marks with her fingers.

Ino blew out a breath as she tipped her head back to look at the canopy of leaves above them. "Interesting, I wonder what prompted this sudden interest in our business by someone other then Him?"

Hinabi shrugged. "Irrelevant. How long should I give it?"

The blond mulled the question over for a few moments. "It is hard to predict. Too fast could put you under suspicion. You're good, but there is such a thing as too good."

"Very good point.' The white eyed woman agreed. 'Will two weeks give you enough time to finish your project?"

With a grimace Ino shrugged. "Difficult to say. Its close, but we've been this close before."

"A re-evaluation in that time then?" Hinabi inquired.

"That is probably the best course of action." Ino agreed. "Will you be taking company?"

"Not at first, I will assess the situation. Go through the usual local inquires. Then we will see what is needed." Hinabi answered readily.

Nodding, Ino prepared to leave. "I think that is fair. Your clan is clean?"

The Hyuga snorted. "It is, do you think I will lose my vigilance after so long?"

"Not you. I am merely nervous." Ino chuckled once, then grew sober. "This has been much longer then anticipated. Every day increases the risk of discovery."

"He knows what is on the line.' Hinabi intoned quietly. 'Do not underestimate him."

Knowing Hinabi was talking of someone other then the Hokage's apperentice now, the blond nodded. "I wouldn't dream of it."

"See you in two weeks for tea," The Hyuga said in parting as she turned and disappeared into the forest like a ghost.

Feeling a mixture of relief and nervousness. Ino followed her counterparts lead and headed in the opposite direction.

30 30 30 30

Temari couldn't believe how late it had gotten a she walked through the dark streets towards Naruto's apartment. Time had gotten away from her in the company of Meeka. The girl had cheered up considerably the more they talked.

And it turned out that the Genin had a great deal of experience babysitting. Having apparently helped her mother care for neighbors children from a very young age.

So before either of them knew it. They had spent the day talking like old friends. After getting over her shyness, Meeka had peppered Temari with questions about her brothers. Apparently Naruto hadn't been kidding when he had mentioned the girl's crush on Gaara and Kankuro.

It was after supper time when the two had finally exited the hospital. Since the sun was beginning the set, Temari had insisted in walking the girl home. She didn't want there to be any problems with the relatives because of how late Meeka was returning home.

As it turned out. No one was home when they arrived. So Meeka insisted that Temari stay for tea and a bite to eat. Since she could tell that the child didn't want to be alone. The blond agreed to stay. They sat and talked until Meeka's Uncle returned home.

After a brief meeting. Temari felt that she didn't have to worry about leaving Meeka with this man. Whatever his wife's sentiments were, he did not seem to share them in regards to his niece. After assuring Meeka that she would in fact be at the hospital again the next day. Temari said good night and headed home.

She hadn't gotten half way when she felt the prickling sensation that told her that someone was watching her. And it didn't take long for her to become certain that it wasn't just one of the night patrol.

Nonchalantly she loosened her fan in its carrier, and undid the flap of her kunai pouch. There was a growing feeling of unease as she continued on. But she did her best to appear like she had no idea that she was being followed.

A few minutes later, for no apparent reason. The presence was gone.

With a frown Temari continued on without looking around. Something was definitely going on around here. Konoha did not have the same peaceful atmosphere as it did when she had first arrived. But she wasn't sure what might have caused the shift.

In no time at all she had arrived at the apartment. Opening the door, she found all the lights on. And Naruto was sitting on the floor in front of the couch, surrounded by a field of open scrolls. He gave her a little absentminded wave as she closed the door. But didn't say a word as he continued to read the paper he held in his hands.

After kicking off her sandals and removing her weapons and outer wear. Temari wandered over to his side. "You brought work home with you?" She asked. Having never seen him do that since she had been staying with him.

"Yeah,' He muttered. 'I kept being interrupted. And then there wasn't room to spread everything out. So I finally decided it was going to take too long if I kept trying to do other work and this at the same time."

Temari nodded her understanding. She didn't need to ask what he was working on. She already knew. "Can I help you at all?"

Pausing Naruto looked up at her, then at the mess around him. "No, I've kind of got everything placed in my head. So I think I should keep going on my own."

Temari shrugged. "Okay, then I'm going to go have a shower."

Naruto had already turned his attention back to the mess before him, so he didn't reply. But Temari didn't take offense, he had a lot on his mind. Trying to solve the case of what had started the fight between the Genin and Chunin.

A shower turned into a long soak in the tub. Temari found her mind wandering to a variety of mundane things as she lounged in the hot water. And before she knew it. The water was cold and she had spent over an hour in the bathroom.

Finally dried and in the t-shirt she had been using as pajama's. She padded back into the living room to see how Naruto was doing.

He was right where she had left him. Although there were now several drink cans beside him on the floor.

"Any headway?" She asked.

She noticed that he seemed to be staring at her for a few moments when he looked up from the paper work. But she shrugged it off as needing a moment to transition from reading to conversation. It was something that sometimes happened to her when she had to do a lot of paperwork. The brain slowed down.

"Not much, but I think I might know why." Naruto finally admitted as he dropped the scroll in his lap, and rubbed the back of his neck.

Temari raised a questioning brow. "Why what?"

"Some of the statements don't fit. But I think it might just be the ones where the parent was present for the questioning." Naruto explained. "I was just starting to double check that theory."

Temari nodded. It did make sense in a way. With a parent there, a young person might change their story so that they wouldn't gain their parents displeasure. "How much longer are you going to work on this?" She asked as she stifled a yawn.

Naruto surveyed the field of white laid out around him. "Shouldn't be long. You can head to bed if you're tired Temari. I wouldn't want to keep you up."

Temari thought about it for a minute. She kind of felt bad leaving him alone with so much to do. But at the same time she understood that he obviously had some sort of systemgoing, so her helping would actually be more of a hindrance. And she didn't feel like falling asleep on the couch.

Her bath had made her quite sleepy. "Okay, I'm headed for bed then. Don't stay up too long doing this. A tired mind misses more then a few hours of sleep will."

Naruto gave her a half smile. "I won't be long." He promised.

Returning his smile. Temari headed into the bedroom. She was asleep within minutes of crawling into bed.


Naruto watched Temari walk away. And it was all he could do to stay right where he was. He wanted to join her so badly. But he couldn't.

In truth he had escaped the Hokage Tower with the same excuse he had given his guest. But the truth was. After what had happened in the hospital, he hadn't been able to focus on his work at all. His mind just kept going over all the possible ramifications of someone finding out how he felt about the kunoichi. He still had no idea how he could have let this happen.

So he had made excuses, gathered all the case papers. And hid in his apartment all afternoon. Now he was doing it again. Hiding behind the work. Because knowing what he knew now. He didn't think he would be able to sleep beside Temari without doing something stupid.

He wasn't entirely sure why realizing that he was in love with the woman suddenly made his self control shaky. But he felt like it was. And right now, he didn't know if he could handle getting any closer to her. Any day now she would have to go home. She had responsibilities in Suna the same as he had here.

But that was only part of it. He knew the real reason he felt like he had to do something to distance himself from her, was the simple fact that if they became even closer and something happened to her.

He would go mad.

So for the time being. He was sleeping on the couch. Maybe tomorrow would give a new perspective. But he didn't think so. There was just no way it could work between them.

30 30 30 30 30 30

Golden eyes glowed in the dark from the peak of a three story brothel. The only indication that there was someone up on the roof in the shadow of a large chimney.

The clock in the town tower had chimed midnight some time ago. And it had also signaled an end to the Kazekage's patience. Which had lasted much longer the Sukaku had thought it would.

Now they crouched low on roof tiles while their sand crept through the building looking to pinpoint their prey. It didn't take long.

Once located Gaara disappeared in quiet swish of sand. The room he appeared in had more then one occupant. So he merely wrapped the man passed out on the bed in a cocoon of sand and teleported the two of them back into the forest.

Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that the doomed man was too intoxicated to regain consciousness. A brief conference between the Man and his Demon companion had them agreeing that it would be unfair for the man to die without feeling it.

So left in the cocoon, with only his nose and mouth uncovered. He was draped over the gourd on the redhead's back. Thus the captured missing-nin remained blissfully unaware that he was being carried even further from the place he had fallen asleep. And closer to his demise.

30 30 30 30

I know it's been forever since I have been able to update. I do intend to finish this story. But running a farm and being newly married does not give me much down time.

I hope you all let me know what you think of this chapter. It was a very busy one, and I hope the pace wasn't too rushed. – Legilmyth