Minato, In Love

A/N: Reviews are always appreciated. Because I'm subtle like that.

Kushina Uzumaki is insane. This is the first thought that is stamped across Minato Namikaze's brain when a strawberry blur literally tackles him to the ground only moments after he feels claws sinking into his face, and then leapfrogs over him in pursuit of a runaway cat. Kushina is a jounin and way past the part of her life when she has to track down lost pets for a living, but she is doing so anyway, with a wide, manic grin plastered across her face as she manhandles a ball of grey and white fluff, adorned in nauseating pink ribbon. Her eyes are wide and bright in the late afternoon sun, their color indeterminable, and her looks like a particularly glossy birds' nest. She is barely five feet tall and Minato is terrified of her.

Somehow she cons him into buying her lunch the next week, despite the fact that he's been hiding from her and her terrifying smile with a vigor he usually only shows around training his kids and working on totally awesome new jutsu. But she tracks him down somehow, or just stumbles upon him or something, but either way, he gives a totally un-awesome yelp when she taps on his shoulder where he's hiding behind a display of gardenias in the Yamanaka flower shop, and all he can think is one, he sounded almost exactly like Rin that one time when she found a snake in her bedroll and attached herself to him until Obito could bravely capture the little thing and release it back into the bushes, and two, someone please kill him.

He takes her to Ichiraku because it's the only place he can think of. The man who works there is showing his little daughter how to add the barbeque pork just so, and she keeps shooting furtive glances at him. He grins at her, but then notices that Kushina is watching him at the exact same moment he realizes that there is a smattering of freckles all across her snub nose and cheekbones, disorderly and delicate and mortifying. When their orders come she takes one bite and her eyes roll back in her head and she moans that it's the most amazing thing she's ever had in her whole life ever, no seriously and Minato knows he's doomed.

Minato knows he's sort of good-looking the same way he knows he's sort of amazing, but he's never really been all that interested in women. They're nice and everything, and he likes a whole lot of them, but kissing is messy and groping is awkward and he could really be spending that time with his team or working on a technique or attempting to read Sensei's latest masterwork over his shoulder. It's because of this, along with the fact that Kushina makes him clumsy and stupid, that he has no idea what to do around her, no clue what to do with his hands, no words to say that aren't so, so, so incredibly lame. His team is catching on now, and they're completely awful little brats, all smug and knowing with their giggles and secretive grins and nudging elbows. He decides once again that Rin is favorite one day, because she's the only one of them who's not touched in the head and because she steadfastly refuses to laugh when he asks if his hair looks stupid, at least not to his face. Kakashi actually snickers and Obito laughs so hard he practically injures himself, so Minato buries them both up to their neck in the ground before running off to embarrass himself some more in front of the crazed Whirlpool kunoichi.

It's two weeks later, and she throws him up against a wall, and he still doesn't know what to do with his hands. Luckily, Kushina does.

Kushina has those same freckles all over her body, little constellations like spilled brown sugar along her arms and her legs and her back. Minato has tried to count them, but he always falls asleep too soon. Her body is compact and muscular, with strong legs and rough hands that Minato loves to feel on his skin almost as much as he loves the feel of his own hands on her sugar-spill skin, soft and warm and tan from the sun. Her hair is course for a girl's, although he doesn't have much to base this off of – just his few fumbles and those times when he's combed tangles out of Rin's illogically fine, cocoa brown locks. He has never told Rin this, but he loves touching her hair, and he looks for excuses to play with it when they're out on their weeks-long missions, sees the way Kakashi and Obito look on with curiosity and longing, respectively, while Rin blushes with pleasure at his attention and ducks her head. Kushina's hair is a shade of strawberry blonde that he has never seen before and he runs his long fingers through it every time he gets a chance, constantly, until she bats his hand away and makes faces and makes him love her that much more.

Oh shit. He loves her.

He loves her so much he doesn't even know what to do with it all, and he kisses her so hard her eyes (which are hazel) go wide, and then she grins against his mouth, teeth sharp against his lips.

The war fucks everything up, takes away one of his kids all at once, and takes the other two from him in fractions. He's dragging himself home after days out on the field, feeling used up and numb and he nearly died today, he watched good people die, from both sides. Kushina is sprawled across their couch, mouth hanging open, hair a hopeless mess, a scratch across one cheek, angry against her soft freckles. He sees her like that, a total wreck and completely perfect and his knees give out, collapsing next to her, face across the small of her back. He passes out like that and she drags him back to their futon with her strong arms, and holds him until he realizes that he's not ever going to let anything happen to this place that he loves, this place that gave him her.

One day she asks him how he feels about kids.

He says he loves kids, loved his team when they were little, loves little Ayame, loves to babysit for his friends.

She says that, so, that means he'd like to have some of his own some day, right? and he replies that yeah, he totally wants kids. A second later he's afraid that maybe he's accidentally scared her off, that this is way too much to throw at her so soon, that this wasn't the answer she wanted or the answer she needed. But she just shrugs and asks that it'd be cool if "someday" was in about nine months, right? And because Minato can be astonishingly slow for a genius he just says, sure, yeah, that'd be fine.

Ten minutes later he drops a cup of tea all over his pants and grabs her and swings her around their kitchen, whooping. Kushina just rolls her eyes and holds on tight.

He supposes this means they'll have to get married now. Kushina just scoffs and says "As if," before forcing him out at three in the morning to get her a plate of dango she absolutely cannot live without. Minato looks at her still flat belly and grins and sighs because this is the woman he loves and they're stuck with each other forever and he loves that.

Rin takes over all Kushina's exams, her tired face so full of determination and hope and that girl she used to be that Minato knows nothing will ever go wrong with the pregnancy because Rin simply won't allow it. He lets himself mourn for her then, for everything she's lost along the path of being a prodigy. He wants to save her, wants to comfort her with his strong hands and open arms. He wants to comb her hair for her, but he no longer knows how.

Kakashi watches the exams from the edge of the room, leaning against the door frame, arms crossed, eyes mismatched. He always watches these moments with his hitai ate pushed up, which is unusual for him, and Minato is sure that Kakashi is sharing these moments with Obito. He doesn't know anymore whether he should find comfort in this.

Some nights, he lies awake with one large hand spread wide over Kushina's swollen belly, utterly awed that there is a life beneath her soft skin, a life that is half her and half him. He hopes the baby has her freckles.

Some nights he stares at her stomach and is paralyzed with fear he has never felt on the battlefield because he still hasn't ended this war and he won't let his child live in fear, he won't. He's so, so scared that he won't be able to be a father worthy of this child, a father worthy of a life that Kushina kept inside of her.

Rumors fly through Konoha at high speed that Kushina Uzumaki took out three enemy shinobi that had infiltrated the village while on maternity leave, with nothing but a single kunai and a set of chopsticks.

The rumors are only slightly exaggerated. The rumors about the Hokage pulling out chunks of his hair in the hospital lobby and then passing out from sheer nerves are completely accurate.

His son is born in the midst of chaos, tiny and perfect with his hair - he can tell already - and Kushina's nose. He looks at his boy, his own, his only, and all he can think is how this love that is flooding him is familiar. It's that familiarity that makes him realize just how he really feels about Kakashi and Rin and Obito, how he knows that they are his children, that this fierce, feral father's love is thicker than both water and blood. He knows he loves this village more than he loves his life and he knows he loves Kushina and Naruto even more than that.

Minato loves so much it pushes out through his pores, so much it envelops him, so much he can't contain it inside himself, and when he walks out to meet the maelstrom of fire he's not afraid.