Disclaimer: As usual, I don't own Naruto

Disclaimer: As usual, I don't own Naruto.

Taking the Next Step

Chapter Three

Running Away from the Issues

Naruto had never been one to run away from anything, especially not mortal danger. But with Inoichi being hot for blood and Naruto being the guy who knocked up his little princess, Naruto felt that it was in his best interest to get his ass out of and far away from that house as soon as possible.

A quick body switch with a clone waiting on the roof (a plan he'd cleverly implemented while purchasing the dessert/initial peace offering, believe it!) had gotten him out of the house easy enough. Shadow clones had then scoured the village streets and rooftops, and Naruto made to hide in the sea of orange. Inoichi had soon found him, though.

Naruto had been under the impression that his plan was rather affective when he felt small bursts of chakra returning to him as various clones poofed out of existence, but it seemed Inoichi had just been happily mauling through the Naruto horde to make it to real one. An uncomfortable wriggling sensation had been tickling his skull since he'd bolted, and Naurto now had a sneaking suspicion that Inoichi was poking and prodding at the edges of his mind in order to discern chakra expense from knocking-up novice.

Naruto was currently dashing through the crowds in the streets, a few clones nearby for the sole purpose of switching places with now. Inoichi's aim was impeccable, and his target had become Naruto's castration.

Ducking under a waving arm, Naruto slid into an alleyway for a breather. He'd known going into that luncheon that it would not be pretty, but wasn't the old man overreacting just a bit!?

Just as he was about to scout the perimeter for the enraged father and make a run for the nearest fortified shelter, Naruto felt a large hand clasp around his throat and hoist him off the ground and against the alley wall. The resulting cracking sounds as he was slammed into the plaster worried him a little.

Naruto laughed nervously, bringing his hands up in a sign of surrender as Inoichi raised his other fist—complete with newly sharpened kunai!—and grinned manically.

"That's enough!" a voice cried from the entrance to the alley just as a kitchen knife sailed through the air to pin Inoichi's sleeve to the wall next to Naruto's head. The two hazarded a glance toward the street to find a furious Himawari and an exasperated Ino.

"Both of you, back to the house! Now!" Himawari barked, and the two men quickly scrambled back the way they had come.

Naruto's eyes kept bouncing around the room—from Inoichi looming threateningly by the only exit in the room, to Himawari sitting across from them far too calmly, to Ino glaring alternately at him and her father. Naruto's every ounce of will was going into resisting his fight-or-flight instincts.

Himawari placed her hands in her lap and regarded the two in front of her with a raised brow. "When will the wedding be held?"

Ino turned her glare on her mother and added a low growl to her repertoire. "I thought we were past this already. We're not getting married; I'm pregnant."

Himawari shook her head with a sigh. "You're getting married," she reaffirmed.

Ino could feel her ill-contained temper begin to flare. "No," she muttered darkly, "We're not getting married."

Himawari's posture shifted as she crossed her legs and arms. "Yes, you are," she stated with a hard stare. "If you're old enough to have a child together, then you're old enough to take responsibility for your actions and get married."

Had Naruto just been an observer and not a crucial member of this discussion, he would have prayed to have had been drinking something at that moment so that he could spew it out at such a dramatic moment for some comic relief. But being that he was a crucial member of this discussion, he figured it was probably best that he didn't have any liquid refreshments on hand since doing that probably would have landed him in some even deeper shit right about now. He opted instead to gape like a fat, lazy koi fish begging for food at the edge of a pond.

"'Kaa-san!" Ino started to protest.

Her mother plowed on before Ino could get anything else out. "I hardly believe that Naruto-san is the type to leave you to take care of this all by yourself. He showed up here today with you to tell us the news, so he obviously cares about you."

Getting the feeling that he should jump into the conversation, Naruto proclaimed, "I love Ino! And I'd never not uphold my responsibilities!"

Himawari nodded to herself. "Good, so—"

"Didn't you hear me!?" Ino burst out, rising from the couch with her balled fists at her sides. "How many times do I need to repeat myself? We're not getting married!"

Her mother regarded Ino curiously. "What's the problem? Don't you love Naruto-san as well?"

Ino huffed at her bangs in frustration. "That's not the issue here and you—"

Inoichi, who'd been stewing silently during their exchange, took a step forward and asked, "If you love each other and are going to have a baby together, then why not get married?"

Naruto could tell by Ino's shaking frame that her temper was about to explode full force. He stood and reached out to her, his mind scrambling for something to say to her that might diffuse the situation, but she whirled away from him and elbowed past her father to get to the front door before Naruto could stop her.

Wavering uncertainly for a moment, Naruto mumbled his thanks and apologies to the Yamanakas then made his own hasty retreat. He sprinted to catch up to Ino once he was out of the house and grabbed her wrist before she could escape again.

Before Naruto could get out what he was sure would have been super-spontaneous, super-comforting line, Ino had pivoted and slapped him hard across his cheek. "Just fuck off!" she hissed and stormed off down another street. Naruto stared after her even once she'd disappeared. Her reaction was a bit shocking, but what really threw Naruto were the tears flooding in her eyes.

A/N: Oh the drama! The woe! I've been watching too many J-dramas… This chapter is all thanks to Schwarzd354, my guiding light! I don't know what I would've done without you! Well, actually I do. I would've succumbed to evil writer's block, but that doesn't sound nearly as melodramatic.

Sorry my return is such a short chapter, but I promise I'll post more soon!