Hello and I hope you are all well. I decided to add a final chapter as an afterthought. I honestly cannot believe that I have grown alongside this story. It has seen me through high school (as evident by the somewhat different writing style I had before) and now it seemed fitting to end it off with a final chapter as I conclude my studies as a graduate student with a Master's degree. One of my dreams has come true; I am now an English college professor. This story helped me cope with my problems and given me support through readers like you who have kept me going even after all these years. None of this would have been possible without you all. Thank you.
Droplets of sweat fell to the ground and were imbibed by the parched dirt below him. Slow and patient breathing, trying not to sound haggard after hours of strenuous activity, could be heard by the various passersbys whose attention was captured by the exercises in question. It was not solely the exercises, odd and inhumanly possible as they were, that had captivated some of the females, but the male body doing said exercises. Again, sweat trickled down well formed pectorals and abdominal muscles that could only show through years of a hardened and strict lifestyle. This disciplined man was known to many by various names. 'Lee Sensei' to his students, 'The Green Beast' to the villagers, 'Gai's kid' to older ninja, 'Genius' by said Gai Sensei, 'Idiot' by his closest friends, and as for me…
I knew Lee as…
I mocked his relatively new title loudly, causing various heads to turn my direction as I waddled over with grocery bags filled with buns, juice, niku dango, vegetables, mochi ice cream, take-out Ichiraku Ramen, and whatever else my cramped stomach and I craved.
The mere sound of that title was enough to get this man of mine into a discomfited blushing rage. His balance was not easily regained as he tried to keep his composure and continue with his one handed handstand pushups. It was not as if the other hand was much use to him, seeing as how the fool had somehow found a way to tie it behind his waist with his bandages to force him to keep focus. His drenched face turned slightly upwards to the side to give me an almost pained look pleading with me to stay silent.
I would give him no such thing.
"YOU! HUSBAND!" I called out in a demanding voice.
By this time, the idle single ladies knew better than to meander around the sensei and began to promptly walk away from the probably sensational show of taut flesh.
I could never understand how someone who had been eschewed by the female population years ago (myself included, lest I became a hypocrite) could now be devoured with wanton eyes (including my own). He had filled out nicely. His lean, yet muscular figure was the epitome of soldier perfection. Boys and men were often seen talking to him and asking for what they considered to be sage-like advice. And perhaps it was, seeing as how he was a walking advertisement for his lifestyle. The fact that he was a married man seemed to drive some women closer to him during his training sessions; no matter how secluded he thought he was. I suppose that is what made him give up and commence his training wherever he pleased.
Today, it was the training ground he often went to as a child.
Lee realized that not only was I carrying twice my weight in groceries, but that I was not about to leave him be for the time being until I had his full attention. Few people could break his focus like his wife just did.
Using his now shaking hand, he slowly brought his body weight back to his feet as he turned himself over. I heard some sighs of disappointment over the small crowd of children who had lingered even after the women and men had left.
"Come on now, you know he'll be back tomorrow so you can see how long it takes for the blood to rush to his head." I joked to the kids as they walked past me.
My attention went back to Lee and his attempts to untie his captured hand from his bandages. I was tempted to stay long enough to watch him get himself out of them, but I had no desire to eat melted mochi ice cream and lukewarm ramen when I got home. I set the groceries down.
"Here…let me help."
"You should be home…RESTING." He said sternly with a slight scowl.
"I'm fine, Lee. You worry too much.." I tried to brush him off with a wave of my hand while the other one was occupied undoing his bandages.
His free hand grabbed mine as he looked into my eyes. "SOMEONE has to, seeing as how you seem to like doing reckless things in your condition." He scolded.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, but opted to sweeten him up by bringing his hand close to me to lay a kiss on it. I held it against my cheek, its dirt and sweat going unnoticed by me.
"I'll be fine, Lee. Really. I know my limits and I know when I should rest, but I'm not tired right now. I just…" another kiss was planted on his hand, "I wanted to see you."
I felt his once tense hand relax under my cheek as he cupped it and caressed it for a bit.
"You make for an extremely adamant woman." He said with a sigh as he began to pull his hand away from me.
I held on to his hand.
"Kiss me." I blurted out.
"What? I will do no such thing! I am filthy at the moment-what kind of demand is that?" he asked in a disgusted, albeit playful, manner as he pulled his hand away completely.
Pouting had rarely gotten me anywhere beyond the age of five, but I was prepared to give it another go while I finishing untying the last of the bandages around his now free hand. I could feel him avoiding my pleading gaze while he rolled up the cloth and walked towards a nearby bench containing his training shirt, a towel, and water gourd. I decided not to follow him and opted to stay where I was with the grocery bags with the pitiful look on my face. Lee's eyes met my own for a bit and he let out a smile he had probably been hiding. He pulled at the gourd's cork until it opened with a satisfying POP! And took a few mouthfuls from the large container.
"I know what's really bothering you, Lee. And I want to tell you there's no reason to worry about it until the time comes." I assured.
I was sure Lee did not think me blind to all those times I had caught him reading books about hereditary conditions and the likelihood of passing on genes that were less than desirable to him.
Such as his lack of chakra.
He paused his guzzling and stopped to look at me with a pained expression. It was as if I had told him the "condition" had already been passed.
His lips parted, but he let out a sight first.
"I…I do not regret my life or anything that happened to me…it…it molded me into the man I am today. But…I do not…I would not wish that…on my...children." He admitted slowly, as if giving careful thought to each word. "I know…" he continued, "I know that we have talked about this numerous times…but I will still be eternally grateful for having someone who accepted me for who I am…and what…I don't have….and still be insane enough to bare me children knowing the subpar genes I have and-"
"ENOUGH, Lee." I warned, trying to make my voice as calm as possible. "There is nothing wrong with you…if our kids turn out being able to produce chakra or not an ounce of it, it doesn't change the fact that they will still be amazing human beings who will have parents who will be there for them and encourage them to do whatever the hell they set their mind to."
I had hoped that my frequent assurance would cause his anxiety levels to lower, but it seemed he was still terrified of the possible outcomes of his "condition".
He opened his mouth, yet said nothing. Raising the gourd up to his face, he appeared ready to take another swig. His hands continued to tilt the container until it appeared obvious he was not about to take a drink from it. A few drops turned to a small trickle of water that formed a mini cascade of water that fell to his face and hair, refreshing and momentarily cleansing the doused skin of sweat and dirt. He continued to drench himself until the gourd lay empty by his feet.
Grabbing his towel to dry his face and hair, he walked the few feet back to me and wrapped his arms around my now rotund and fertile waist.
"Thank you." He whispered hoarsely in an attempt to hide the emotion locked behind those words.
"Of course…I love you, Lee. I would not have stuck it out with you this long if I didn't."
"…Y-yes. Thank you." He repeated as he buried his face in the nape of my neck and lightly nuzzled me.
"Hey…come on…be happy." I pleaded, trying to soothe him by forming small circles with my hands on his still drenched back.
He released a shaky sigh that seemed to make his whole body tremble.
"I know…thank you…it is just…it is new to me. I should be worrying about someone other than myself for once."
"You're okay." I assured, hoping my confident tone would rub off on him.
A thought played with my mind that caused me to let out a giggle.
Lee pulled his head back from my neck and peered at me inquisitively, "What is so funny?"
My giggles grew in numbers as another realization dawned on me.
"Geez, we're acting like any kid I pop out will automatically want to be a Shinobi…for all we know they'll be a florist or a psychologist…"
He chuckled and brought his hand up to my neck, using his thumb to stroke my jaw line. His head leaned towards me until our foreheads were resting against one another.
"You do have a point…perhaps I am overanalyzing things." He concluded, giving way to my reasoning.
I closed my eyes and held him close. Although the light smell of his perspiration still lingered, it was a comforting one that let me know he was near me. He smelled of nature; of grass and leaves and dirt and all things that surrounded him when he trained. That familiar scent is what gave me more consolation than any amount of green tea or completed mission or ending shift.
I felt Lee's nose slightly brush against my own and I sensed him smile. We both held each other for a few solid seconds before I felt his lips slowly press themselves against mine, ever so gently, being wary of my reaction and reading the mood before taking them as their own.
We had shared plenty of kisses in our life together thus far, yet it was those type of kisses…the kind where Lee was forced to have some sort of epiphany or came to his senses…that made them more passionate and desperate in a way. Desperate for the approval that I had time and time again given freely, desperate to keep the love that he sometimes shunned when anxiety hit him, desperate to be a better man, not just for me, but other people who would soon be joining us.
His hand grabbed the back of my head as he deepened the kiss.
He had undoubtedly grown more attentive than any of the fathers-to-be in the village, save for Sai, who currently spent more time reading maternity books in the library than training nowadays, but I do not think Tenten minded all that much.
I wrapped my arms around his neck in an attempt to continue the kiss and get closer to him, but the protruding and monthly growing bump between us made it difficult for such a physical act to be possible. We slowly ended the kiss when Lee realized I was standing on the tips of my toes in a vain attempt to reach him.
"You will not be disappointed if this one turns out…like me?" he asked suddenly, his eyebrows burrowing in worry.
"I'd be proud to have a child who is just like you…"I laughed out. "Honestly Lee, stop fretting, you'll just end up stressing ME out!" I warned.
At the mere mention of causing me discomfort, he changed his facial expression to a more relaxed one.
"Let us get you home. I may have been initially concerned about the chakra condition, but the fact still remains that you should be resting instead of lifting heavy bags filled with…what is this?" he asked, bumping a bag with his foot. "Junk food? Sakura, please be sure to eat healthy things as well…I do not want you or the baby not getting enough vital nutrients.."
At this point, I could not help but roll my eyes.
"I bought some vegetable and fruit as well, Lee. But unless I give this kid some ice cream, its kicks are stronger than yours." I joked.
He chuckled and began to lift the bags with ease.
"You are…an impossible wife." He muttered.
"I love you, Lee."
"I…I love you as well, Sakura…"