So we know what happened to Minato, but what about Naruto's mom? This is about as close to "angsty" as my writing ever gets - what do you think, is it worth continuing? Many thanks to my beta buddy Waiting4Morning - master of angst, bane of adverbs.

These characters aren't mine - in case you were wondering.


"So, does this mean you'll marry me now?"

"Minato, I said I was pregnant, not desperate." Kushina concentrated on the chopsticks in her hand. Her eating wasn't slowing down in the wake of her pronouncement. She perched on a stool in the kitchen, casually lovely – one knee propped up against the counter while she slurped her instant ramen.

Minato studied her for a moment. "Well, obviously this changes things." He forced a wry chuckle. "Babies have the habit of changing things."

She gave a familiar, barking laugh at that. "No shit! This little guy's already making himself obnoxious. Couldn't stop barfing for two weeks, then I couldn't stop eating, then barfing again – now... well, you get the picture." She scowled at the empty styrofoam noodle cup in her hand then glanced up at Minato. "Are you going to finish that?" She eyed his unfinished portion of ramen.

Minato had lost his appetite. He pushed the cup across the counter. She dug in enthusiastically. He cleared his dry throat. "So – he. You said he. What makes you think it's a – a boy?"

"Hm!" She shrugged and spoke through a mouthful of noodles. "It just is – count on it!"

Minato had to chuckle at that – leave it to Kushina to state a hunch with that much confidence.

"Actually," Kushina tipped the second noodle cup to her mouth to access any morsels she may have missed. "I don't think the kid will change too much, my love." Her tone was casual, but it made Minato feel like he had just been punched in the gut.

"You – you still mean to leave?"

"Well, obviously not right away." She flashed him a toothy grin. "Looks like you get me for another nine months at least."

He winced internally and had some trouble keeping his voice even when he spoke. "So, then what? You're just going to have our son and then run off into the sunset with him?"

Kushina paused and met Minato's eyes for the first time. Her tone was more serious now. "No – no, that's not what I was thinking." She stacked the second empty noodle cup inside the first and folded her callused hands around her knee. "I was thinking he would be better off here, with you." She let the words sink in for a moment, then continued, as if trying to paddle a boat upstream with her excuses. "He'd be better off in Konoha – son of the Hokage, a settled existence, a town that can love him and raise him. I need to do this – you know I do. I have to see if I'm truly the only one left of my family. I have to know if anyone is rebuilding back home. Mina-kun, you know I'm not the kind for settling down – for keeping house, I'm just… my love? Mina-kun, you're not listening!"

Her sharp voice pierced through his reverie, and Minato was startled back into reality. She was right, he hadn't been listening – he had heard all these excuses before. Minato's voice was harsh, harsher than he intended. "So this kid, our son, I'll just tell him, what? That his mother had more important things to do than stick around and raise him? 'Sorry, son, she was a great ninja, she just wasn't the maternal type.' Do you really think that'll fly?"

He paused, because he noticed that Kushina's face had become hard, and her eyes glistened. She held his gaze for a moment then dropped her knee and slipped off the stool, turning to busy herself at the sink. A wave of guilt crashed over Minato. "I, Kushina-chan, I didn't…" He was about to say he didn't mean what he had said, but that would have been a lie, so he let the apology hang midair, incomplete.

"Heh." She sniffled a little in her laugh, still facing the sink. "You're right, I'm a mess."

"I didn't mean…" He began again, but let it die like his truncated apology.

"You can't lie to me, friend." She turned around then and her eyes were bright. "I know it's terrible, but I can't think of any other way to be true to the oath I made to myself – I NEED to go do this. I won't go back on my word – I will find the survivors of my clan – if there are any left to find. If I let myself be at home here, if I accept a husband and a son, if I don't leave soon – there's no way I'll ever leave. You know that."

Minato could feel that his cheeks were damp with tears. "So, I'll come with you – we'll look together, as a family."

At this, Kushina actually snorted and began to chuckle through her crying. "Minato – you're Yondaime Hokage – it probably wouldn't be the best plan to go gallivanting off to the war-torn ends of the earth to help your girlfriend find her lost family."

Minato couldn't help but smile a little.

"Can you imagine?: 'I'm sorry, my people, I realize we're at war and all, but there are more important things!'" Kushina's "fearless leader" voice elicited a reluctant laugh out of Minato, so she continued. "'I get that I'm awesome, but at least you'll still have old Sarutobi, ne?'"

Minato chimed in at last: "'You citizens of Konoha are cool and everything, but this chick is great in bed.'"

Kushina grinned. "A man's gotta have his priorities, after all!"

Since they were on a roll, they continued the string of jokes until their giggles and sobs were indistinguishable, and they were both awash in snot and the sheer joy of each other's company. Eventually Minato got the hiccups and Kushina had to retreat to the bathroom before she wet herself. When she returned, they simply settled into each other's arms to rest together – their calm punctuated every so often by a hiccup from Minato and a giggle from Kushina. Minato felt at peace again – this was as things were meant to be.

Later on, they sat together on the balcony, staring out at the city, tired and headachy from spent emotions. Kushina's head was resting on his chest, and Minato couldn't tell if she was awake or not. He was stroking her baby-fine, fiery red hair mesmerized by the way it reflected the lights in the apartment behind them.

"Kushina-chan, will you come back – someday?" He murmured it into her hair, not really expecting an answer.

There was no noise for a moment, just the sound of his own breathing. He thought perhaps she had really drifted off – or perhaps that she was pretending to sleep in order to avoid the question. But before long her quiet voice came drifting back to him.

"Yes – yes, I'll be back. You can count on it – that's a promise."