Author's Note: Hello all! Things have been hectic lately (i got married, have had visa problems, a divorce (not mine) in the family...) and I'm sorry for such a delayed epilogue for this story. I don't know why but I just couldn't seem to wrap it up. I must have rewritten it 5 times. I have about 5 other short stories in the works but I didn't think it would be ok to upload them without finishing this. So here is the epilogue for the longest story I have ever written and I'm not sure I'll every be pure pleased with the ending but I can live with this. I hope you enjoy and please be on the look out for my next couple of short stories and one-shots which are all almost done therefore should be out soon.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or the characters.
Neji looked around the dark empty compound halls on his way home. The meeting had been long and extremely dull but it had been a productive day. For the first time in a long time the council was running efficiently and Neji had made the most of that opportunity. As a result he had lost track of the time and had only just realized that he had little ones expecting him to be home any second. He quickly adjourned the meeting and dashed out into the cold. The cold crisp air burned the tips of his ears and he made his way towards his quarters at a brisk pace.
Winter would soon be upon Konoha. The chilly winds were causing the lanterns hanging along the edge of the roof to flicker. It was one of the many signs of worse weather to come. He made a mental note to go pick up some new snowshoes for the boys. The sun had already faded and the shops would all be closed by now.
Deciding to do it tomorrow and also get some new scarves and gloves while he was at it he picked up his pace. He wanted to get back in time to cook dinner. His father-in-law was many things, but a good chef wasn't one of them. If he didn't rush Kakashi would burn the Hyuuga compound to the ground. The lights were on in their quarters, which meant that everyone was home.
He opened the door and smelled something heavenly which was the first tip off that Someone else other than Kakashi was in the house. He hardly had a second to gather his thoughts before the sound of stampeding little feet came rushing towards him.
Two pairs of pearly eyes looked up at him from eager round faces. The two boys latched onto his legs and while five-year-old Daiki was standing still three year old Ryuu was bouncing up and down in excitement. "Tou-san!" Their voices echoed in unison and he couldn't help but smile down at them.
He knelled down to hug his boys. "Tadaima," he said standing. He gently placed his hand on Daiki's head brushing his sons long hair back away from his face. Aside from the slightly larger than normal forehead that his wife had sported in her younger years his eldest son was essentially a replica of himself at that age. "How was the academy?"
His son straightened up and squared off his shoulders, as if giving an official report, but the smile in his eyes hinted that the day had gone very well. "We worked on kunai throwing."
The childs calm demeanor was tossed aside when his brother bounced up and down, grabbing Daiki's arm making the older boy move with him. "Nii-san didn't miss one!" he said, excitedly looking at his brother and father in admiration. It was all too clear that the young child was anticipating his first day at the academy and his chance to become a warrior like his parents. He bent down to pick up Ryuu and pulled Daiki in for a hug.
"I'm very proud Daiki," he said watching his sons face light up with pride. Both boys smiled and Neji smiled back before remembering part of the reason he had been in such a rush to get home. "Is Kakashi-gii here?" he asked leading his children into the house. He was fairly certain the man, at the very least, wasn't alone.
Daiki shook his head in an attempt to assure his father that all was well. "No Tou-san. Kaka-gii and Yukio-chan left when Kaa-san got home." The last part of his statement was said in a bright tone and Neji turned into the kitchen to see a happy sight.
Sakura turned and grinned at him putting the plates she had in her hands down on the table. "Okaeri." She moved forwards and Neji put Ryuu down. "I made dinner," she said, kissing him. They both ignored the boys and their almost inaudible sounds of childish aversion in regards to the display in front of them.
Neji wrapped his arms around his wife and looked down into her face. "When did you get home?" He asked giving her a small squeeze. It had been weeks since she'd left and he always made it a point to hold her, even if for just a short time when she returned.
She smiled up at him and squeezed him back. "A couple hours ago."
Neji looked at his children who were now quietly playing on the floor with a large puzzle. He rested his cheek on her pink hair and let out a sigh of relaxation. "You should rest."
A noise at the stove drew her attention back to the kitchen. She picked up a spoon and began stirring one of he pots. "I'm alright. The mission wasn't tiring." She assured him while she set her spoon down and mixed what appeared to be a salad in a large wooden bowl.
Neji sat down next to Ryuu and pointed out a piece of the puzzle that looked interesting. His small son shook his head in amusement and showed him the piece that would fit in the spot he had chosen. "How is the Kazekage?"
Sakura shrugged and placed the salad on the table. "Gaara is fine. He and Matsuri-chan are enjoying the wonders of parenting." A cry echoed from the other end of the house and out of the small speaker Sakura had attached to her hip. She smiled and began making her way towards the bedrooms. "Speaking of… I'll go get her. Can you watch the pot?" she asked, disappearing from view.
Neji stood and moved to check the food, as she had asked and found that it was done already. "Daiki, take Ryuu and wash your hands," he said over his shoulder and waited for the sound of the water to run before turning his full attention to arranging to food into bowls.
The sound of cooing caught his attention and he turned to place the last of the food on the table. Tsubaki was happily perched on her mother's hip resting her pink head of hair against Sakura's chest. Her bright eyes were still a little hazed from sleep but he knew that soon enough she would be crawling around her brothers while they played. Sakura placed Tsubaki in her high chair and sat down next to the baby.
After she had the bib on the small child she looked up and called out to her boys. "Alright boys time for dinner. Then it's homework for Daiki and bath time for Ryuu." When she received understanding looks from both boys she began to feed the infant. "Now how was the meeting?" she asked after Tsubaki took a bite of her mashed peas and carrots.
Neji swallowed his noodles and gave a small smile to his wife. "Productive," he said and watched as her brows rose in an entertained surprise.
A small but excited voice jumped in from the other side of the table after he'd swallowed a mouthful of food. "And boring!" Ryuu exclaimed with a large smile.
Sakura let out a hearty laugh and Neji couldn't help but chuckle as well. "Don't let Hiashi-gii hear you say that," he said slightly teasing but also unsure of how Hyuuga Hiashi would react to hearing a small child chastise the council. Ryuu giggled and nodded sharply before turning back to his dinner.
His older brother leaned over to their father and whispered, "He knows." In response Neji lifted one brow questioningly. Daiki grinned and very quietly said, "He thought it was funny."
Neji couldn't believe that his uncle, who was usually a paragon of elderly wisdom and full of words of caution, would have shared a joke with his children. "Really? Did he laugh?" he asked in disbelief. Both boys looked at each other before looking a their father with wide eyes. He reassured them with a cheeky smirk. "I didn't think so."
Ryuu held up a large piece of meat before stuffing it in his mouth. "Kaa-san this hot pot is yummy." His voice was muffled and the small boy blushed bashfully realizing he'd just broken a table rule.
Sakura continued feed the baby while she declared thoughtfully, "Well, I thought that it was about the right temperature outside for something like this." When she was done she snuck a large bite of dinner for herself after sending a quick look to her son.
At the sound of his mother mentioning the change in weather his eyes lit up. "Can we take out the kotatsu soon?" he asked with hope. It seemed to be one of their son's favorite things about winter, allowing him to curl up in the warmth and have a little cat-nap after his afternoon snack.
Neji placed his hand on Daiki's shoulder before picking up his tea. "You and I can bring it out tomorrow."
"And we should go get some new winter clothes as well," Sakura added as an afterthought. Her mind was occupied trying to convince Tsubaki that the remaining mushy green mass awaiting her was worth digesting.
Daiki took a longing glance outside before turning back to his mother with a question. "You think it will snow Kaa-san?" It was apparent that their boys were greatly anticipating what the colder weather would bring. Daiki had learning to ice-skate and sled the year before and Ryuu was dying to learn.
"Snow?!" The shout from the small boy confirmed his parents suspicions.
"Not just yet," Sakura said with a patient smile.
Neji looked over at his son's plates and at the same time answered the lingering question in his boy's eyes. "It may snow later if it gets very cold this year." He noticed a large amount of green on one of the plates. "Ryuu, eat your greens."
The little boy scrunched up his nose and appeared disappointed. Somehow his father always knew when his had pushed aside his veggies for something more appealing. "Yes, Tou-san," he said compliantly, if a bit dejected.
Daiki turned his head when the sound of the oven went off. "Kaa-san is there any dessert?" his voice was hopeful and he looked to his mother who was already getting up.
"I made cookies but I want you both to finish your dinner and do your homework first." Sakura took out dessert and placed them on the countertop to cool while the boys went about the rest of the night.
Daiki placed his chopsticks down and moved to get his bag from the hall. "I'm done," he said, coming back into the room with his school pack that was entirely too full. Neji didn't remember even bringing a bag to the academy. What on earth was Iruka teaching his students these days? "Tou-san can you help me?" The small boy pulled out a notebook and Neji looked down to find comparatively complicated theoretical problem to solve along with some basic definitions and some beginner strategies.
Suddenly he remembered a conversation he'd had with Iruka the week before. So that is what Iruka meant when he said he wanted Daiki to do some advanced work. Daiki had only just started the academy a couple months before but as it happened he was already finished with the material they would be covering for some time. Apparently Daiki had seemed "bored" and "in need of a challenge" and thus Iruka was determined to give him more advanced extra work. Neji looked down at the work and recognized some of it from his younger years when he was in a similar position. Hiashi had been sure to give him as much extra work as was needed to keep him busy.
"You get set up and I will be over in a minute." He walked into the kitchen and refilled his tea. He took a few deep breaths and took a long sip of the steaming liquid. When he was sure he had remembered the definitions correctly he walked back out and was reminded how good it felt to be home with his family.
Daiki was sitting at the table quietly looking over his papers. Sakura was in the bathroom with Ryuu and Tsubaki. There was singing and general laughter floating through the house as the splashes echoed off the tiles. The buttery chocolate smell of the cookies was wafting from the counter and he couldn't help but feel at home. Home didn't feel quite right without Sakura around and now that she was back everything seemed at peace. He gave himself a minute to soak it all in and relax. Daiki looked up from his work and looked back towards him and so Neji began to make his way back to the table. He was about to sit down when the doorbell rang.
"I'll be back in a minute." He quickly walked to the door and opened it to find the Uzumaki twin girls climbing all over their father.
"Hinata had a last minute mission. You haven't eaten yet have you?" He walked right in and Neji found Tenten and Ino standing behind him. Tenten's three-year-old daughter and Ino's little boys, four and two, were all quite pouty which brought Neji to one conclusion.
"You tried to cook didn't you?" When the two women bashfully looked away he knew that was it. "Itachi and Deidara on that last minute mission as well?" he asked with a rueful grin. With a grumble they pushed past him and sat the kids down at the table.
"Any leftovers?" Ino looked under the lid of each pot curiously. There was extra of some things but not all.
"Naruto you know where the ramen is. If you want something other than omelet rice or grilled fish you'll have to wait for Sakura to get out of the bath."
Sakura poked her dripping head around corner of the hall. "I thought this might happen. I passed the team on the way in so I bought extra food. Let me finish up bath time and I'll be right there."
It was always like this. More often than not there were visitors at their house for dinner and though it got quiet noisy at times it was rather nice to have their friends over so often. The chairs were all full and so he lifted Daiki up and sat down with the boy on his lap. The small girls and the two boys had brought a game and were playing on the table along with Naruto's girls.
After a about ten minutes of the women chatting the background and the kids playing while Neji quietly gave Daiki assistance when he needed it Sakura came back in with both children pajama clad. She set Tsubaki in a playpen on the other side of the room and guided Ryuu to the table for his dessert.
"How does every one feel about beef hot pot?" she asked rhetorically knowing that everyone would be happy with it. "And for those who had dinner the cookies are ready!" she brought out a tray of cookies and kissed Neji before bustling off to finish the hot pot. Neji leaned back in the chair and looked around at his family and friends. It was good to have everything back to normal.
He looked around to find his wife in the kitchen. She turned her head and winked at him and he did his best not to grin. He knew what that meant. He would look into that later when the kids were asleep. He felt a small pajama clad person climb onto his lap next to Daiki and he turned back to find his boys munching on cookies and grabbed one for himself. The gooey chocolate oozed onto his tongue and he enjoyed the taste of vanilla that filled his senses.
A large plate of greens found their way to the table and Sakura set a few bowls of the remaining hot pot in front of the kids. "There is more of that coming but this is to hold you over for a bit, ok?" Enthusiastic nods were her answer and she lifted Tenten's little girl who had an impish grin and blonde hair and sat in the chair next to him. She rested her head on his shoulder as the kids began to eat and Daiki continued to study a book he brought out.
"So how has everyone been since I left?" She asked her two friends as they waited for the food to finish cooking. Ino's eyes got bright and the two interrogation experts began to give Sakura every single piece of information hey had been able to get their hands on in the last two weeks. Neji settled in for the next few hours of general chitchat and catch up time, noting how Naruto was trying to add to the conversation with a mouth full of food. Neji sent him a sharp look and Naruto responded by swallowing then talking.
Sakura giggled, as did the other two women, before returning to the general conversation. He reached out for another cookie and turned to Sakura where the smell of her hair overpowered the smell of cookies. It made him feel warm inside and he prepared himself to join his friends in their chat while Daiki tried his best to explain his work to his little brother. Ryuu screwed up his face in concentration and then gave up. He grabbed a cookie and went to keep his little sister company.
Neji couldn't have been happier with his life. Everyone was at home and he felt at home now with his family surrounding him. It was all he could have asked for.
Final Comments: Thank you to everyone who has read, commented on, favorited and enjoyed this story, especially those who have been with me from the beginning and through the long hiatus. I can't thank you enough. I want to announce that I have no less than 7 story ideas that I have written out and been working on, with 3 of those almost ready to have their first chapter posted. I don't think I will be doing anything this long again, for quite a while at the very least, but we will see where these new stories take me. So once again thank you and I hope to hear from you again with my next story.