Warnings: This fic will contain some spoilers (for those who didn't read the manga and only watch the anime, this is your last warning), strongly implied yaoi (ItaKaka), a healthy dose of angst, mpreg, and often very regrettable grammatical errors. If you can't handle that, then don't read.

Disclaimers: Naruto is a Japanese manga created by Masashi Kishimoto, first published by Shueisha in Japan's Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, with an anime TV series adaptation produced by Studio Pierrot and Aniplex. All trademarks and copyrights herein belong to someone else, so put that down before you break it.

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Credits: Incredible thanks for this fic go to Kiriko-sama and DirtyD, my hard-working beta-readers, that has made this story as readable as it is. Any flaws, including any other grammar/spelling errors, in this spiel are my own; any praise is to be laid at their feet.

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Chapter 4

Hidden In Plain Sight

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The Hatake mansion was located in one of the many unmarked spots in Konoha's topographic map, a fair way out of the busier part of the village, and at a distance that was enough of a long run to be good exercise and far enough from civilization to ensure there would be few---if any---neighbours. It was clear that the founder of the Hatake mansion had constructed it this way on purposes; mainly for Seclusion and Concealment from public's wandering eyes.

Unlike several other large manors, that belong to the older clans in Konoha, the ancestral home of the Hatake family looked more like an average civilian's home; a small two-story house that was rather… plain. From a bystander's point of view the house indicated nothing out of the ordinary---nothing which would give away the identity of one renowned shinobi family who owned the plain-looking house.

'Always looks underneath the underneath,' Kakashi mused when he finally reached his destination.

The location of the house create mixed feelings for the silver haired man. Should a confrontation occur here, it was a relief to know that the number of people likely to be caught in its waves were few. Although on the other hand if anything went wrong, it would be a long trip back to the village, with an even longer journey to the Hokage Tower and ANBU Headquarters. He stopped considering the risks and benefits of this, however, when he finally spotted his destination.

Between the rotting pieces of wood making up the fence, Kakashi could see how dilapidated his old home had become after many years of abandonment from its former occupants. The front lawn was untidy and in need of a good mow. The entire mansion gave off a sensation of growing disrepair, neglect, and shabbiness.

This was where he had spent a good portion of his childhood. This was where he... together with his father had once lived.

After the demise of his only living relatives, Kakashi had stayed away from his family home. Opting to rent from one of the apartment complexes that located on the outskirts of Konoha.

Hatake Sakumo might not have been a good father, nevertheless he was Kakashi's father. Kakashi had learned at an early age that his father was an important ninja, therefore he had a great duty to Konoha. As a child, Kakashi had idolized his father, nothing made the young Hatake happier than his father's praise, and nothing ever would again.

This was the reason why he had left the Hatake mansion after his father's passing. He wanted to get away from the place that reminded him of everything the only hero in his life aspired to be. And now he was coming back to his old home, seeking refuge from the prying eyes of the villagers and his fellow shinobi; a shelter and safe house for his unborn children.

Striding past the picket fence, the silver haired jounin carefully maneuvered his movements through the grass when getting closer to the house's entrance. Stepping over several trip wires and staying out of the activation zones of several elemental jutsu traps as he went.

To say that the Hatake mansion was a place of safety was a dire understatement. The whole area surrounding the house was riddled with booby traps---all of various deadly types. The deceased Hatake Sakumo had manufactured the traps proficiently, securing their family's residence and allowing them to be in a relaxed environment within their home. His father's traps were so remarkable that only he could have found them, as he was being the one that actually knew their outline. One wrong move and someone not belonging on these grounds would find themselves fried, skewered, or blown-up very, very messily.

Kakashi wasn't worried about the safety of his old family house, as the protective jutsus would put a stop to all the uninvited guests, or at least give him some time to alert for any sign of trespassers. The Hatake home ancestry was nothing but secure.

Crossing the veranda, the last Hatake formed seals to unravel the protective locking jutsus, that were cast upon the main entrance, effectively taking down all the wards guarding the house in the process. The door swung easily open with one gentle push. As he walked upon the house's wooden floors, soft creaks made by the sole of his feet rose up to fill the silence. Once again Kakashi was reminded of how long it had been since he had last laid eyes on his home.

His sensitive nose twitched at the layer of dust surrounding everything, formed from years of inattention. Everything was in various states of shambles and the fact that it had been uninhabited for years showed. The paint was chipped and the wood was black where the white paint started to peel away.

Kakashi ran a hand through his silvery tresses as he surveyed his surroundings. Yep, he thought to himself, he would still have a long way to go indeed.

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A three membered shinobi team of Konoha, consisting of one jounin and two chuunin, was patrolling the forest---five miles away from the main gate. It was a standard duty and normally one that was considered a blessed relief from the dull routine of the shinobi's lifestyle. Whether such lifestyle meant training a bunch of genins, or preparing for the intense danger of highly ranked missions.

So far the patrol had been uneventful. The forest was almost ridiculously peaceful, with its great trees towering over all the lesser life forms---humans and beasts alike. A chilly breeze stirred the branches overhead, making shadowy patterns as their leaves skittered to the forest floor and the Konoha ninjas automatically shifted their movements to match them, remaining invisible to all but the best-trained eyes.

They raced through the trees silently, weaving in and out of tree's canopies. The three man team tracked several more miles to the south, further than they normally would have. Eventually finding themselves in the part of the forest where the trees thinned out around a rocky outcrop with an old salt mine. It was a treacherous area with deep hidden caverns and sinkholes where underground streams had eaten away the salt deposits in the past millennia.

None of the three shinobi predicted meeting much of a hassle on a simple lookout assignment. Particularly not on one so close to their home village.

That was their first mistake.

The abrupt assault caught them unprepared. A scream soon followed, as a body fell to the leaf strewn ground and onto sharpened sticks. A loud "thump" echoed about, as a swinging log impacted with a stomach, crushing the owner between itself and a tree.

The last remaining Konoha ninja, the only jounin in the team, dodged to narrowly avoid an attack intended to slice his body in half. Missing its intented target, the lance embedded itself in a tree. Crouching down beneath the shadowy canopy of the trees, the jounin whirled two kunai out of his pouch, ready to defend himself against the unknown assailants that had just killed his fellow teammates. "Show yourself!" He demanded.

"For someone who will undeniably die here shortly, you sound remarkably loud. Wouldn't you rather attempt to turn tail and hide some more?" Suddenly appearing out of nowhere a slim and tall man could be seen standing next to a tree, a hand on the hilt of his spear-like weapon, and a smirk spreading across his face. He was dressed in plain, humble clothes.

"Konoha ninjas," a hooked nosed, bald man, holding a metal staff in one hand, appeared behind the startled Konoha jounin, "they sure bite off a lot more than they can chew." Like his companion, the man didn't wear any attire that signalled he was a ninja from another Hidden Village.

More than just a little taken aback, Nagai Go tightened his grip on his own set of kunai in his cool calm hands. His attackers had no identifying village marks, but that didn't mean that they weren't shinobi. They were able to sneak up and catch a group of Konoha ninjas by surprise, these enemies must be highly skilled. Or they had planned out their attack cautiously.

"Che, what do you expect from a peaceful village like them?" This time an irritated female voice carried upon the gentle breeze. A girl with red hair that shone like a new copper tile stepped out from the dark shadows of the forest. Arms crossed across her chest, she had a slight look of annoyance on her face.

Nagai Go sucked in a lung full of fresh air as he prepared himself for the showdown. He was outnumbered, and judging from how easily his opponents had taken out two of his teammates, outclassed as well. But no matter how grim the prospect of survival would be, he was not going down without a struggle. He was going to give them his all.

Sending a burst of chakra to his feet, the Konoha jounin swung backward and attacked the man behind him first. Intending to catch his opponent off guard and hit his side at the same time, only to receive the man's cold metal rod on his shin, knocking him off balance. The blow was hard enough to throw the jounin on his back, and he landed heavily on the ground. His foe immediately came upon him with a downward swing, a move meant to crush the organs in his chest and abdomen.

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Jounins are associated---by an unspoken agreement from other Konoha ninja ranks (and a handful of civilians)---with a bunch particularly consisted of weirdoes.

There was a reason for this. An intelligible, yet valid reason to explain why none of them could be classified as completely sane.

Ninja lead very complicated lives.

The life of a ninja has many hazards. More so if the subsequent ninja has survived long enough to achieve the jounin rank.

The strain of their high-risk lifestyle leaves most with only three choices. They can find ways to cope with the trauma, they can suffer a complete breakdown and be left with the mental capabilities of a stump, or they can die.

The jounins that survived so far are the first group. They took the broken pieces of their psyche and separated them into a bipolar disorder, "the killer ninja in profession" and "the normal person in everyday's biorhythm". They sealed off a portion of themselves from danger and hurt, leaving them with a ruthless killer personality on the battlefield, and a fragile, nearly childlike persona during their off hours.

However, among the seasoned band of Elites, that are the Konoha jounins, one thing remains in common with the other ninja ranks of Konoha.

One thing above all that all Konoha shinobi were infamous for, regardless their standing rank in Konoha's hierarchy.

Their Love For GOSSIPPING!

In a four-story building near where the Ninja Academy built on, many jounins were sitting inside the Jounin Lounge, relaxing after finally being freed from monotone works of seasoning their genin subordinates, completing high-risk missions which almost constantly involved combats, or, the dreaded---and the bane of existence for all shinobi---paperworks.

For a while, all were content with just sitting on one of the worn out sofas in the Jounin Lounge, sipping their beverages contentedly. For a while, that is, until one Yamashiro Aoba decided to break the tranquility by asking, "Hey, have any of you heard the rumors?"

Asuma took a long drag from his cigarette. "Well, now that you mention it, I just heard some disturbing rumors flying around lately."

"Rumors? What rumors?" Needles to say, that readily sparked the other jounins' curiosity. Especially a certain kunoichi, who had a tendency to use snake-based attacks in battle.

Aoba gleefully provided the answer for Anko's question. "The one about our most esteemed Copy Ninja."

"Ahhh, those rumors..."

By now, all of the assembled jounins were more than ready to join the conversation. After all, it was really important for them to be well-informed about all noteworthy information concerning the well-being of their beloved village.

Besides, the latest scoop that graced the top most position on the Konoha's gossip vines was way too good to miss.

Sharingan no Kakashi, according to the latest gossip in Konoha's rumor mill, finally snapped.

"Soo, what do you think about the rumors?" Namiashi Raidou, a tokubetsu jounin who sported large furrows down his left cheek, asked tentatively.

Anko let out a very unladylike snort at hearing this. "Total bullshit!"

"Agreed, he may be deified a little..." Kurenai began, before her statement was promptly cut off by a series of collective wheezes. "Okay, a lot, but Kakashi has to have something more than dumb luck or he would be dead already.

"We concede that he is talented, Kurenai," Asuma responded in-between his cigarette smoking. "Though you have to admit that he wasn't in a godlike health state the last time we saw him."

The eye-opening experience of seeing the famous Sharingan no Kakashi in such pitiful state---gagging, retching, throwing up, vomiting fiercely, and overall looking completely miserable, while making sorrowful mewls and soppy moans among the Jounin Training Area's bushes just a short weeks ago---had left a lasting impression and was etched permanently in the minds of every jounin present that had privileges to witness that special occurrence. Definitely worthwhile for the title of Most Outrageous News of the Year Award, maybe more. Give or take.

"Yeah, don't forget about the amount of hazardous missions Hatake-san has been taking on recently." Ebisu chirped. "No wonder he would get burned out from the constant stress and dangerous duties. Remember Morino Ibiki and the bath-house incident? He said it was caused by mission stress."

At this, a cumulative tremor ran through the whole assembly.

"Anyhow," Ebisu continued shakily, "I have been wondering when the day would come where even our Hatake-san would reach his limits."

Genma rolled his eyes. "Don't be silly. It is Sharingan no Kakashi we are discussing here. A man who has cheated death far too many times. Moreover, why would the higher-ups in charge of the Mission Desk assign a declining ninja confidential sorties?"

"I just can't see Kakashi-senpai ever becoming so weak, I mean, he is the Copy Ninja!" Uzuki Yugao---a pretty violet haired woman, an ANBU operative and former subordinate of Kakashi while he was still in ANBU---commented, a little more conspiratorially than Genma liked.

"Totally with you on that one…" Anko added, her voice slightly strained.

"Uhmm..." Genma couldn't fight the confused look creeping across his face.

Meanwhile, the gathered males had caught up with their counterpart's mood and responded with a familiar groan.

Asuma pointedly snorted at seeing the assorted kunoichis' dreamy expressions. "I thought all of you would have grown out of your Kakashi-Fan-Club-ness?"

To Genma's confused look, Raidou explained, "A syndicate which was founded by the resident women for the sole purpose of stalking our village's Copy Ninja."

Asuma, the more tactless one, had no problem at pointing out the obvious, "Obsessed, rabid fangirls, besotted stalker types." Which earned him a hard slap to the cheek from Kurenai who happened to be sitting next to him.

"We are not crazy fangirls!" Kurenai practically shrieked.

"We only have an aesthetic appreciation born from an astute observation for badass, mysterious, smart, unattainable, yet unquestionably gorgeous shinobi…" Yugao finished her fellow kunoichis' defense somewhat breathlessly.

"Astute observation, my ass," Genma grumbled. "You forgot to add being atrociously late, patently lazy, porn-reading addict, and openly perverted to the mix." Obviously the self-proclaimed gigolo wasn't impressed with his fellow kunoichis' infatuation.

Anko smirked. "You're just jealous."

Genma's eyes narrowed at the accusation. "I. Am. NOT. Jealous."

"Ohh, please spare me..." the purple haired kunoichi drawled, rolling her eyes in a overdramatic gesture. Off in the sidelines, Kurenai and Yugao's hums could have been translated that they also shared Anko's assessment on that matter.

Fortunately, before an argument---which would undoubtedly develop into a full-blown brawl---could erupt, the door to the Jounin Lounge slammed open with a loud "BAM!!", automatically attracting the attention of all the jounin sitting or standing within the lounge.

A slightly winded Maito Gai---who looked like he just ran non-stop from the village's border to the Jounin Headquarters (which he probably did)---stormed intentionally into the lounge and announced loudly, "The patrol was attacked near the southeast border! No one was left alive!"

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A good distance away from all ruckus brewing from the busybody which housed half of Konoha's population, Hatake Kakashi sat relaxing on a pull-out sofa. Knees folded together beneath the blanket that covering him up to his waist, with a familiar orange book dangling in his hand. A pot of green tea, a smaller pot filled with sugar, and a teacup were placed on a small table next to the comfy sofa he presently sprawled within.

He had used up the first month of his extended mission by cleaning and renovating the dilapidated mansion. Having been uninhabited for nearly twenty years, the house was buried in several inches of dust, and had a musty scent of a place closed up for far too long. It smelled of stale air, and (not just a little vaguely) dirty laundry, in short the whole place was in a pressing state of much (very much) needed repair.

It had taken a month of ceiling repairs and numerous loads of Scrubbing-Bubbles-no-jutsu to make it habitable. Another month had been spent full of laundry and merciless beatings of the power system to make it comfortable. After all the hard work he had done in order to create his current inhabitant decent enough for living in the past two months, Kakashi finally could start to enjoy the fruit of his labor.

Hence the all too convenient posture he was sporting at the present time. Curled up like a cat on a sofa that furnished the living room of the Hatake estate, he seemed so immersed in what appeared to be the same edition of Icha Icha Paradise he had started several years ago, only pausing occasionally to take a swig of his tea---his entire being radiated contentedness in waves.

Junko let out a gasp as his lips were covered by Suki-hime's soft petals. He could feel her tongue move against his lips, automatically he opened up for her to taste him. But as he got an exquisite taste of the woman who had been his secret obsession for a long time, he lost himself in the languid movements of their lips. He was being filled with the pure power of nature, his hands moved up and took hold of her, wasting no time in pulling her down on the futon with him. The shinobi shifted, pulling himself atop the princess, entangling their legs and placing his Hime underneath him, wanting to feel more of their warmth and her feminine form pressing against his own. It was positively intoxicating, to be so uninhibited with Suki-hime, to not have to restrain himself anymore, and allowing a rush of need inside of him free reign.

Swiftly he maneuvered their position so he was now sitting between her legs. Looking down into Suki-hime's beautiful face flushed with passion and raw desire, he noticed that her gaze was filled with adoration, longing, and some unnamed emotion he couldn't distinguish. All this from her as she looked up at the almost naked man who had been her savior and guardian for the nights and days of her life. Junko could feel the heat rushing across his face at the sight of her unearthly splendor. Hot, passionate desires built too soon, too fast in his body, as the result of a wanton yearning far too long suppressed. Trembling hands reached to unwrap the embroidered obi that bound the princess' kimono---

However, just as things were heating up, something small, furry, and brown-colored jumped on the slight, barely noticeable bulge of Kakashi's belly. Resting atop of the thickset covering he was residing in, it wasn't more than three seconds later when an oh-so-annoyingly voice asked, "Geeze, why are you still reading that crap you call a piece of literature? Haven't you finished rereading it for a hundredth time already?"

Unfazed, Kakashi lifted his gaze from the aforesaid crap and frowned at the small pug. "You're the one who advised me to relax and do some reading."

From his perch ontop of Kakashi's abdomen, Pakkun stared back at his summoner incredulously. "When I had said reading would do a lot of good for you, I didn't mean reading Icha Icha Paradise!"

"Why? The series is a good read!" Kakashi protested in defense of his treasured novels. The Icha Icha series were greatly misunderstood by many people. The silver haired jounin in-hiatus believed it was because of people's narrow mindedness. Those callous people labelled the Icha Icha sequences as no more than smutty little books, which were written with horrible grammar and terrible spelling. Sure, an Icha Icha novel wasn't a scroll of extreme historical significance, nor an informative, educational book for minors. It did, nonetheless, contain a brilliant weaving of adventures, mixed with great action scenes, just enough angst, and well-timed humor in its story. The adult themes written within the pages were just a bonus... All right, so they were more than a bonus. They were almost like... an incentive, but not the entire point of the tale. Seriously.

Pakkun eyed him as if trying to judge if his master was clinically idiotic or merely unable to understand what the concept of 'good' reading stood for. "I hardly consider Icha Icha Paradise as suitable reading material for your pups' development. And don't think I haven't noticed what are you attempting."

Kakashi cocked his head to the side a little bit. "Huh?"

Letting out a dog version of snort, Pakkun replied without missing a beat. "Let's drop the act now, Kakashi. That has long stopped to work since you were five years old, even back then you were more responsible than this."

Kakashi blinked.

Pakkun glared.

A moment passed in which the summoner and his summon stared at each other.


"Maybe you're right," Kakashi relented after the moment passed.

"Of course, I'm right," Pakkud said haughtily. "I had to put up with you during your adolescence after all. If by now I haven't picked up some of your bad habits and moods, it would be strange not to have done so."

Kakashi had to sigh at that, coming face to face with the truth wasn't always a pleasant experience. One of the drawbacks for having dogs as a summon, was that they were close-knit creatures in their nature of relationships. They valued the companionship of others in their "pack", which meant once they accept someone as their master, they also consider (and treat) their human master as one of the pack members. To be honest, his ninken might have known him better than any of his fellow ninjas and colleagues.

Hence, the hounding Pakkun was giving him.

"Look, it takes a mated pair to rear a healthy litter of pups, including all the other dogs, in the pack, assisting with raising the pups." Pakkun started his reasoning with a tone that all fathers use to placate little kids on the verge of crying. "Knowing the stubborn mule you are, I have no doubt you will somehow manage to raise them properly, if you intend to undertake some responsibilities starting---how about, right now?"

Kakashi looked at the small pug sitting on his belly skeptically. "I don't see how my choice in reading has to do in direct correlation with my credibility for being able to care for my own spawn."

"Hmmph, you don't happen to have even an inch of knowledge regarding the pups' condition and your body's changes, do you?" Pakkun gave him a long look. "Now may be good of a time as any other to start some real quality reading. Wasn't it you who spouted that 'what you didn't know could hurt you' speech some time ago, hmmm?"

Realizing that protesting the merits of his novels wouldn't further their conversation any, Kakashi slumped to the arm of the couch dejectedly. "Fine, fine. I will do it."

"Finally," Pakkun drawled, voice laced with smugness (and was that a hint of nitty-gritty sarcasm Kakashi was hearing?). "I'm starting to think that you're naturally obtuse, instead of only acting as such like you've claimed."

Kakashi scowled (though it was bordering dangerously close to a pout). "I don't remember asking you for any second opinions."

"No, I gave it to you for free regardless," Pakkun huffed loudly in response. "Because you don't know what is good for you."

"How very fortunate of me," the silver haired man remarked dryly.

Hearing this, Pakkun beamed. "Indeed, you ought to be grateful that I'm here looking out for your best interest. Now, stop being so difficult. Be a good, 'lil puppy and haul your scrawny hide from that couch, you've got book-learning to do." Had the pug been a human, his face would have been spurting a wide, triumphant grin for subsequently having achieved this step up over Kakashi. A feat that many would deem almost imposibble to accomplish (as stated by the majority of Konoha shinobi), but evidently not quite infeasible for his own dog summon---mainly Pakkun at most of the times the pug was summoned.

Almost one-hundred percent positive that his quiet, anticipated period of reading his beloved Icha Icha wouldn't be coming true any time today, Kakashi sighed, closed and left his novel on the small coffee table, murmuring a resigned "Yes, Pakkun. Of course, Pakkun. Whatever you say, Pakkun," in return before throwing the blanket aside and rolling out from his cozy sofa.

Having his seat moved quite abruptly (and to avoid being tangled within the cast off blanket), Pakkun scrambled from atop his summoner's belly onto the tatami mats below. "Oi, watch it!" the ninken growled.

Not for the first time (and most definitely not for the last time either), Kakashi chose to ignore the pug's undignified yelp. Making slow, deliberate steps towards what he considered the apparatus of baby-boomer propaganda which has cleverly masqueraded itself as "The Essential Guide to Conception, Pregnancy, Birth, and Everything In Between" in form of a pregnancy book, Kakashi resisted the urge to turn around and back to the safety cocoon that his beloved Icha Icha could offer.

The silver haired jounin was very fond of his reading habits. Not only did they serve as good material to squelch boredom on the normal, boring days without missions, they also fulfilled their role as a distraction. No one would bother to talk to him for longer than five minutes whenever he whipped Icha Icha Paradise out of his pocket. The unsaid message was clear; 'Uh-huh, I will not even pretend to be interested in you or in what you are trying to say. Let's cut the crap short and leave it at that, better yet, leave me the hell alone!' Unfortunately for the standoffish Copy Ninja of Konoha, there were certain exceptions to this quiet, unspoken quip---Naruto and Gai were the prime example. But all in all, Icha Icha had performed its usefulness quite beautifully.

The textbook that sat atop his living room's main table, nevertheless, was another matter entirely.

He might be a little---okay, a whole lot---biased in this opinion, as he was not even able to look past the cover of the supposedly educational book. The bright pink coverlet stood apart greatly againt the wooden backdrop of the counter. As if the pink-ness wasn't enough to give any sane, rational man a bad, severe case of nipples anxiety, the little sparkling hearts and lazy looking flowers decals (Kakashi thought they were probably daisies) that framed the garish red and bubbly handwritten title "What to Expect When You're Expecting" in romanji stuck out even from several feet away.

And he had to blame all this on Tsunade.

Kakashi's predicament had actually begun like so...

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Two days earlier, one of the rooms at the maternity ward of Konohagakure's Hospital

"A book?" Kakashi asked in a bewildered manner as he gazed at the bright pink 'thing' that Tsunade had unceremoniously shoved into his palms after he had finished their monthly appointment.

"Yes, a book." Tsunade asserted whole heartedly, nodding her blonde head while responding as if to affirm her answer.

"A pregnancy book?" Apparently, Kakashi was being unnaturaly dense this particular day.

Honey tinted eyes narrowed in a contemplative demeanor. "Yes, a pregnancy book. Every woman needs a good pregnancy book to read while they are expecting."

"I am not a woman." Chin stuck high in the air, Kakashi reminded his esteemed leader---in case the Hokage actually managed to forget his true identity.

"Oh, really?" Tsunade's response was accompanied with a pointed look toward his outward appearrance---his very changed, and very obvious not-male appearance---or more specifically, toward the slight jutting of his belly that couldn't be totally concealed beneath the loose folds of the kimono he was wearing.

Suddenly feeling self conscious, Kakashi folded his arms over his midsection, as if doing so would screen the apparent sign of his pregnancy, while inwardly trying to convince himself that he wasn't even showing that much. He had carefully picked this particular kimono for fulfilling that purpose. The minty green kimono had been slighty modified of course, there was absolutely no way Hatake Kakashi would go in a hostile environment---scratch that, any kind of environment---weaponless. The sleeves alone held a small arsenal of several cleverly concealed weapons and there were kunai, shuriken and senbon in strategic places---all where he could draw upon them should the need arise. Not to mention a few other things the disguised jounin thought might come in handy.

He... did get into a lot of fights (yes, even in Konoha), and had a penchant for winding up in awkward, potentially hazardous situations (yes, even Konoha wasn't entirely safe). Such was the fate of those who walked the path of Shinobi.

"Well," Her gaze leveled on Kakashi's face, Tsunade effortlessly rebuffed his earlier statement. "You certainly don't look like one at the present moment."

'I knew that wearing lipstick and makeup was a bad idea.' Mentally, Kakashi scolded himself for being scrupulous with his façade.

Kakashi was a detailed person. To keep track of details---no matter how insignificant they may seem---could save one's neck, especially if the said person was a ninja. This seemingly meticulous trait had saved his life more time than he cared to count while he was on countless missions.

As far as his current charade was concerned, the former silver haired prodigy had undoubtedly tried his damnedest to impersonate a pregnant woman, as expected from a jounin of his station. You could tell this from the way he created his woman illusion. His persona had long, dark hair swept up into place with silver hair sticks (which in actuality the smaller, converted versions of the senbon needles), with light, curling tendrils dusting the sides of his neck, to the way his doe-like eyes glistened from beneath the heavy fringe of seductive lashes, so dark blue they almost appeared purple (product of a simple genjutsu spell, no doubt)---the illusion even carried over to the way he moved while he was dressed in a long, demure kimono without exposing himself or tripping on his feet (complete with false breasts and a shovel load of makeup).

To top it off; he had even managed to walk, sit, stand and act like a woman.

Tsunade was most put out. She had never imagined a phlegmatic ninja like Kakashi could pull off 'pretty' so well.

A light cough. "I can see that you're so well-versed in makeup," The blonde haired woman said appreciatively, sounding amused. "And nice boobs, by the way."

She had to rub it in his face, didn't she? Shrugging, Kakashi replied in a neutral tone. "Thank you, Hokage-sama. I appreciate the compliment." Straightening his back after adjusting the obi which was tied around his waist, the shinobi in woman's clothing smiled prettily. "Well then. I have taken up enough of your time. Surely, you have more important things to attend to, I won't bother you any longer." Swiftly, he made a beeline to the exit.

"Oh no, you don't. Don't think you'll get off the hook so easily, Hatake." The hand that was already on the door knob stilled. "Nice try, but you need to work in your subtlety." Perhaps he wasn't being swift enough, in getting out of the room---or, more precisely, away from the glossy pink pregnancy book---Kakashi had forgone years worth of training experience and ninja skills he supposedly possessed. "Besides, isn't there something you conveniently forget to pick up on your way out?"

Shoulders slumped with a silent, albeit disgruntled resignation, Kakashi tromped back to retrieve the aforementioned item from where he had forgetfully left it.

No wonder Tsunade was able to detect his intention behind the not-so-quite-tactful retreat with ease; the horrid thing stood out like a sore thumb against the white papery sheet of the examination table!

"I'm not getting out of this, am I?"

The pleased smirk that graced the blonde Sennin's youthful face should have been a good enough answer. "I don't see why are you making such a fuss out of it. It's all for your own good." Hands on her hips, Tsunade continued, "Everything You Need To Know About Pregnancy, Labour And Birth has been listed in the book, Month-by-Month. Unless you're suddenly an expert on pregnancy, I strongly suggest you stop making excuses and read this book from cover to cover."

And that was a solid point, really.

Because, for the wide extent of knowledge the Ninja arts he had and the extensive amount of shinobi training he gathered, the infamous Sharingan no Kakashi was sorely lacking in the basic information about anything related to pregnancy and chidbirth.

But still, still he needed to get his point across. "It's very pink," Kakashi grumbled, even when his fingers had curled around the book.

'Thus, we get to the heart of the matter,' Tsunade deduced smugly. Outwardly though, hands remained on her hips, she replied, "It's very informative," here she fixed Kakashi with a poignant look, "which is what matters." Before he could open his mouth to retort, she added, "Moreover, as I recall, Icha Icha is Orange. But you don't seem to have any qualms about reading those inappropriate, adult content themed books in public." That said, she had to bite the inside of her cheek to refrain from bursting into laughter at the conflicted impressions playing across Kakashi's countenance.

'Figures.' Kakashi guessed he should have expected this sort of keen observation and comeback from his leader. "All right, all right, all right!" Kakashi held up his hands in submission, waved the bright neon pink book like some kind of flag. "I will check it out---" Deep down, the currently dark haired woman look alike suspected that Tsunade had deliberately picked up the most hideous, frilliest pregnancy book she could find just to see him squirm and have a good laugh at his expense.

He wouldn't put it past Tsunade (or Jiraiya) for that matter.

Tsunade's quick, cutting reply had only served to reaffirm his fleeting suspicion. "You will read that book." The leading ninja of Konoha grinned like she had won the lottery. Perhaps there were one, or two things she enjoyed almost as much as money. "I don't think you have ever read anything like it before. It is very educational. Very useful. I think that you would benefit from it, and so would your soon-to-be-children. You wouldn't want any harm come to them because of your ignorance, would you?" She dared him to disagree.

Heaving a tiny, quiet sigh, Kakashi nodded his head in a mock gesture of surrender. "Of course not, Hokage-sama. I will read it from cover to cover! You can count on it!" He consented meekly, hastily. Even if the very idea gave him a immense feeling of impending doom, but pissing off his superior was certainly not high in the list of his preferred things to do.

As the Godaime Hokage, the woman held enough power to make his life miserable.

Basically when Tsunade uttered a command; "Jump!", he was obliged to grouse back; "How high?", not questioning it.

So, with cheerful tone and a faker-than-fake smile plastered on his face, Kakashi accepted his new mission directive.

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By the time a team of ANBU Investigation Squad arrived on the scene, the ground still smelled heavily of blood. The char marks of jutsu could be easily seen and fresh chips where shurikens had hit still showed on the rocks, and were apparent to the trained eye. Two of the corpses were crushed into the trees by mallets. They looked more like stage props than implements of killing, the bodies barely resembled the form of Konoha chuunins. A third corpse, several yards away, laid on the blood-soaked soil, in an even worse condition than the previous two. The chest had been battered, shredded badly, and blood was still pouring from the gaping wound in the corpse's belly, along with the liver and loops of pink viscera.

For a moment, Yuugao was at loss as her eyes adjusted to the grisly sight in front of her. Fortunately, her squad leader had no such problem. "Report!" The man barked out an order immediately, seemingly unperturbed with the scene of death and the broken bodies of those he had once called comrades, fellow Konoha ninjas.

A harried looking chuunin, who was very relieved that ANBU had come to take control of the situation, hurried up to greet the new arrivals. "Y-yes, sir...!" the young chuunin slightly stuttered before giving his clipped report in a more steady tone. "At approximately nine o' clock this morning, a three man team---Morimoto Kouji, Takahata Isao, and Nagai Go---left in order to patrol the area surrounding the South Gates of Konoha. Standard lookout duty. They were scheduled to report back to Mission Desk at twelve. But..." The unfinished sentence, "But they never made it back," the words hung in the air and left a horrible taste in his mouth.

"Go on, shinobi-san." The ANBU Captain's voice was unusually soft, but the firm command behind the deceptively mild words was unmistakable. They couldn't afford to not give their full attention to the task before them, not while the safety of the village was at risk here.

The chuunin bowed at the subtle reprimand, and shifted his attention back to continue his report. "R-right... A hour after they failed to check in at the appointed time, a team of chuunins was dispatched from HQ. They were supposedly changed shift anyway. It was a hour later we… we've found them." At this, he bit his lip and stared down at the ground.

The ANBU Captain nodded an affirmative. "Good. Go back to the village and give your report to the HQ. We will take care from here," he said, and turned to assess his team. "I want a thorough sweep of this area. That means we're gonna be looking at every nook and cranny, hell every suspicious telltale hole that could help us to catch those bastards who did this." Glancing to the left, the bear masked ANBU addressed the only medic in the squad. "Secure the bodies. Get anything you can collect and destroy what you can't bring."

The badger masked ANBU didn't reply, instead he asked, "Is there a time for me to reassemble the corpses?" Contrary to what the common belief had thought, there was still an incredible amount of information a skilled medical ninja could take from the dead bodies. The deaths do tell tales.

"Take all the time you need," his Captain agreed. Then he raised a hand and prepared to go get it over with. "Go," came the quiet order.

A second later, the space where they had been was suddenly empty, leaving three bewildered chuunins in their absence.

"They sure didn't waste time, didn't they?" one of them asked his team.

"That's their job," answered one of his companions as she took her first step across the rocky field towards the village. "And we've also got job to do."

"Yeah, yeah." Channelling chakra to his legs, the chuunin hurried on ahead, catching up with his team easily and falling in step with them.

If this really was that serious... The sooner they got to the village, the better.

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Author's Notes:

First, I'd like to apologize for how long it's taken me to get this chapter done. As with the previous one, I've started, re-started and scrapped the entire thing so many times that I got sick just thinking about it... at the very least, this should assure people that the story was NOT dead... it was just hibernating for the winter... and spring, and part of summer.

Please let me know what you think. It's difficult for me to write sometimes and every review spurs me to work as hard as I can on it. Comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated. Suggestions and requests will also be taken into account, but this doesn't mean that I will use all of them. Don't hesitate to tell me if I did a lousy work. m(.. ..)m

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