The Nurture Issue

Author's Note: You know I had to redo the first Author's Note because it took Snicky about three weeks to get this to me? She says she forgot. FORGOT! Naughty Snicky.

Anyways, this is a What if Tsunade raised Naruto story?, because Tsunade is The Awesome, and there aren't enough good stories of her raising Naruto (although there are plenty of bad ones). After Tsunade my favorite characters are Sakura, Naruto, and Shikamaru, in that order, so they're the ones the story will revolve around. Deal with it.

This story will always come second to An Alternative Path. I try to update AAP twice a month, so I'll probably update this one only once a month or so. Sorry. Plus I'm bogged down with One Shot requests, homework, work, school, friends, having an actual life; my point is I don't get as much time to write as I want.

Regardless, I hope you like The Nurture Issue.

Pairings: This story is NaruSaku, JirTsu, and ShikaTema. If you don't like it then why the hell are you here? Romance however, isn't the central focus of the story, and most of it doesn't even come into play for a while.

Review Policy: I freaking love reviews. I try to respond to at least 75 percent of all reviews. I also will implement the same Omake reward policy as in AAP. The number needed is stated at the end of the chapter. The numbers will be low at first, getting higher as I get more reviews.

Forum: TNI has a forum just like AAP. Use it for questions, suggestions, discussion, whatever. Link is in my profile.

BTW: I don't own Naruto. I do own the plot and any OC's (At the moment though no OC's are planned)

A Totally Unfair Advantage

Tsunade loved Konoha. And Tsunade hated Konoha. Tsunade did everything possible to avoid coming to Konoha. But at the end of the day, she really did love Konoha, so here she was, playing doctor in a way she hadn't in years and generally being miserable and snappish to any who dared to talk to her—including patients, other doctors, and Shizune.

Tsunade walked quickly down the hall, her heels snapping as only the heels of a doctor could. The sound reverberated off the dingy walls (when were they last cleaned?) and the ugly linoleum. She was wearing scrubs she'd stolen from someone and her hair was pulled into a bun, she didn't want to risk a pigtail falling over her shoulder into a wound. Blood was damn hard to get out of blonde hair.

She stopped at the door to a room. Inside the room six beds—only two of them actually belonging to the hospital—were crammed together; each holding a different injured shinobi. Tsunade took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She counted to ten as she exhaled and opened the door, squaring her shoulders as she entered.

Once inside she began to do her rounds. Checking vitals, changing bandages, applying green healing chakra where she could afford it, reminding herself that she had to save most of her energy for the surgeries scheduled later in the day.

Every time she saw a bloody wound, partially healed though they were, she flinched. Just a little. The trained shinobi in the room caught it but said nothing. They had seen what she had done to another man who had asked about it the day before. Tsunade had not cared that he was technically her patient.

As she finally finished she stepped outside the room and continued down the hall once again. This time she stopped at a window and looked out at the view.

Tsunade was only on the first floor. And the hospital wasn't in the best location for seeing over the village. However it was easy to see the destruction. Fire damage, earthquake damage, and flood damage had brought the once glorious Konoha to its knees. It was amazing the natural disasters that the Kyuubi could cause when it wanted.

And it's not like a man can really fight against nature.

Tsunade sighed as she turned away from the depressing sight.

A week and a half had passed, but little had been done. Until money could be found and supplies acquired, buildings could not be rebuilt. Those that had been able to flee Konoha had not yet returned to take up the lives they'd left there. Robbers and gangs were everywhere, taking advantage of the situation to do as they pleased.

The shinobi, that weren't either in the hospital or being buried, were running around trying to contain the chaos. It wasn't really enough, though.

"It's a sad sight to see, isn't it, Tsunade-chan." The Sandaime stood there smiling at her fondly. They hadn't really had a chance to talk since she arrived two days prior.

"Hello, Sensei." Tsunade bowed slightly, years of learning manners as a child not yet undone by her now careless and oft times crude lifestyle.

"Hello, Tsunade-chan. You're looking well." Tsunade snorted at him.

Her fortieth birthday a few years ago had awoken in her a great fear of ageing. The thought of getting old and just fading away terrified her. She knew that if she hadn't died yet as a ninja the likelihood of her doing so was slim. Going out in a blaze of glory was preferable to fading into nothingness; old, alone, and forgotten.

So, in order to combat that strange gripping fear that grew stronger every time she looked in a mirror, she'd developed a powerful Genjutsu tied directly into her chakra pathways. She no longer had to see her progressively graying hair or each new line at the corners of her eyes or mouth.

Much to her chagrin though, she still felt herself getting older. It took a little longer in the morning for her joints to loosen, took a little shorter for them to stiffen, took more out of her to fight, took less sake to feel the affects the next day.

Getting old bites.

"I would say the same of you Sensei, but I'd be lying." Tsunade told him rather harshly. She loved and respected the Sandaime greatly, but she didn't really like him much, not today anyway. Plus the Sandaime seemed to have magically gained twenty years since she last saw him six months ago.

"These are tough times, Tsunade-chan." Sarutobi sighed. "Walk with me, please?" He held his arm out to her and she took it with only a little hesitation.

"How's your little apprentice, Shizune, was it?" Sarutobi asked her as they made their way through the halls, being greeted and bowed at by doctors, nurses, shinobi, and civilians alike.

"Yes, Shizune." Tsunade frowned as she thought about the girl in question. At sixteen, the girl was idyllic and optimistic, but that might change after seeing Konoha like this. Tsunade really hoped it wouldn't. As much as that cheerfully idyllic optimism annoyed her, she didn't want to see it gone. She didn't want to see Shizune broken. "She's a hard worker and bright but…" She trailed off feeling as though she were betraying her apprentice by what she would say next.

"But she lacks the raw talent needed for the art?" The Sandaime finished for her.

"…Yes." Tsunade agreed with a sigh. "Hard work, blind determination, and a sharp mind can only take you so far sometimes. She's better than the average doctor, the ones who aren't medic-nins, but I don't think she'll ever climb to my level, much less surpass me."

"You want her to surpass you?" He asked conversationally as they began walking up a flight of stairs.

"I want to leave at least one thing in this world that I know can carry on my name. I want to leave sometime that will be remembered long after I'm forgot." Tsunade told him.

"Tsunade, my dear, you aren't that old yet. Don't you think this talk is a bit morbid?" He smiled as he said it, leading the way down another hall.

"Sensei, the lifespan of an average Shinobi is shorter than that of the average pigeon. I don't think it's morbid to think about these things. It's practical." Tsunade replied just a touch bitterly.

"So you want to leave behind a legacy?" Sarutobi asked her.

"Yes." Tsunade nodded. "And as much as I love Shizune, I don't think she's it."

"Perhaps someone else might be, though?" Sarutobi stopped walking as they reached a door. Two ANBU stood guard at the door and a light shown from underneath the crack. "Come. There is someone I'd like you to meet." He nodded at the guards and opened the door, beckoning her to precede him.

"Who are you…" She cut off as she caught sight of what, or rather who, was in the room.

The white haired Jiraiya stood making weird faces at the bundle of blankets in his arms. Tsunade was about to ask him if he'd finally had one too many hits to the head and lost his marbles, when the bundle shifted and gurgled. Last she checked, blankets didn't gurgle.

She was standing in front of Jiraiya, peering down into the layers of blankets, before she'd even consciously recognized the action.

"Hey, Tsunade," Jiraiya said softly, "what's up?" He grinned at her but she ignored him, lifting a hand to move the blanket a little.

Brilliant blue eyes meet her gold-brown ones and she was left staring at the face of a tiny, baby boy.

"Who…" She mumbled.

"This is Uzumaki Naruto." Sarutobi said as he walked up to the threesome.

"Uzumaki…" Tsunade's eyes swung from Sarutobi to Jiraiya back to Naruto again. "Like Uzumaki Kushina?"

"Yes." The Sandaime answered tiredly. "This is Minato's and Kushina's child."

"Oh." Tsunade looked at the little boy again. He blinked at her and reached a tiny hand out, Tsunade reached out a finger as well and let him grab onto it.

"Here. You can hold him." Jiraiya said, holding the child out to her.

She took him delicately. He gurgled at her. She felt her heart clench. When had she started wanting a child so badly? Tonight? Yesterday? Some years ago? Or maybe this want was something women were born with.

"I don't understand." She murmured as she began bouncing the child lightly in her arms. "Why doesn't he have Minato-kun's name?"

"You haven't heard?" Jiraiya looked at her in shock.

"Heard what?" She frowned at him.

Jiraiya and the Sandaime exchanged glances before the Sandaime opened his mouth to speak.

"Naruto is the child Minato used to seal the Kyuubi in." The Sandaime told her, looking at the baby with sad eyes.

"What?!" Tsunade gasped in shock.

"Come on, Tsunade-hime. You know they only way to contain a Bijuu is to seal it away in to a child—the younger the better. Naruto here was born October 10th." Jiraiya smiled sadly down at Naruto, poking him lightly in the stomach to get another little gurgle.

"But his own child?" Tsunade hissed, trying not to yell while holding the small child. The child that was beginning to yawn and blink tiredly at them.

"Do you really think Minato would use anyone else's?" Sarutobi asked her pointedly.

"Well, no." Tsunade admitted, slowly rocking Naruto back and forth. "He always was ridiculously idealistic."

"There's nothing wrong with being idealistic, Tsunade-chan." Sarutobi reminded her gently.

"Sure there isn't." Tsunade sent him a harsh glare. "As far as I can see, being idealistic gets you nothing but killed."

The Sandaime and Jiraiya sighed in unison, but didn't try to dispute her statement. Tsunade's bitterness and grief was a deep ragged wound and the two honestly didn't know how to go about healing it without first rubbing salt into it, something neither wanted to do.

"Where's Kushina?" Tsunade finally asked into the silence her last statement had made.

"Kushina died in childbirth." Sarutobi told her. "It was a hard labor and there just weren't enough competent doctors to help her at the time. By the time a doctor made it to the room Kushina had already lost too much blood. The civilian helping with her labor hadn't known how to help her."

"So he's alone." Tsunade looked down into the peaceful face of the sleeping baby.

"He doesn't have to be." The Sandaime gave her a piercing look.

"What?" Tsunade felt her eyes widen as she came to realization. "No, no way. You are not foisting a baby on me."

"Wait—what?" Jiraiya looked between the two in confusion. "Wait, I'm Naruto's guardian."

"What?" Tsunade asked again as she turned to look at Jiraiya. "You?!" Her voice was full of shock.

"Yes, me. Is it really that unbelievable?" Jiraiya huffed in offense.

"Yes. Who would trust you to look after a child?" Tsunade rolled her eyes at him.

"Minato, obviously." Jiraiya responded.

"Like I said, ridiculously idealistic." Tsunade paced over towards the crib in one corner of the room. She gently placed the sleeping Naruto down and covered him with a small orange blanket.

"Hey!" Jiraiya called, only to be harshly shushed by the other two adults in the room.

"Jiraiya, do you honestly believe you could provide the level of care Naruto would need? You have duties elsewhere and you can't raise a baby on the road." Sarutobi asked him kindly. "I know you would give him your best, but I'm afraid he needs more than that."

"And you think I'd be a better choice?" Tsunade raised a perfectly arched brow at him. "I'm a gambler, remember? I drink a lot. I have a horrible attitude towards shinobi, Kages, and Hidden Villages. I travel a lot. Why would I be any better than Jiraiya?"

"Because you can afford to stay here." Sarutobi told her.

"But I don't want to." Tsunade spoke slowly and carefully, as if speaking to child.

"Tsunade, I understand your hesitation, I really do, but don't you think it's time you grew up and confronted your grief?" Sarutobi's words were harsh but his eyes were gentle as he looked at the now shocked woman.

"I—how, how dare you!?" Tsunade hissed venomously at him, her eyes narrowed and her nostrils flaring. "I lost the two most important people in the world to me to this damn village and that damn dream to be Hokage. I will not stay here."

"Tsunade, please! The child needs someone to look after him, to care for him." Sarutobi beseeched her.

"Why can't someone else do it?" Tsunade bit out stubbornly as she crossed her arms over her ample chest.

"There have already been three assassination attempts on the boy." Jiraiya told her. "I don't think there really is anyone else who could or would take him in."

"Why would anyone try to kill a baby!?" Tsunade called out in shock, a bit too loudly if the sudden cries from the crib were any indication. Clamping a hand over her mouth Tsunade quickly bustled over to the crib and leaned down into it, gently lifting Naruto up and out it. "There, there, I'm sorry." She cooed as she gently bounced him up and down. He gave a few last sniffles before quieting down.

"They aren't thinking about it as trying to kill a baby. They see it as trying to kill a monster." Sarutobi looked fondly at the sight of Tsunade rocking the little blonde boy. "I hadn't wanted the general populace to know of his status of Jinchuuriki, but trying to keep a secret with shinobi around can be harder than holding water in your hands at times. As they say, bad news spreads fast, and it wasn't long before everyone knew."

"Why didn't I know?" Tsunade commented.

"Well, you just got here, and you haven't exactly been communicative with people." Jiraiya said, scratching his chin.

Tsunade blushed lightly. She hadn't said anything to anyone unless it was 'Turn your head and cough' or 'Move, idiot!' or something of that nature.

"As I was saying though, the people are hurting, they are hurting and they are angry and they don't have anyone to take it out on except this little guy." Sarutobi reached over to tweak Naruto's foot. "We can't really blame them. You did the same thing, Tsunade."

"What are you talking about?" Tsunade frowned at him.

"You did the same thing when Dan and Nawaki died, Tsunade-hime." Jiraiya said as he laid a heavy palm on her shoulder. "You blamed Konoha for it and so you left, not caring if it hurt anyone here."

"That's completely different! Konoha was at fault! And I never actually tried to attack Konoha." Tsunade argued in her defense.

"Maybe Konoha was at fault, but you didn't just blame the village, you blamed everyone in it. And by leaving you took our best doctor, by far, from the village. How many people do you think died here that you could have saved?" Sarutobi pointed out.

"And what about Shizune? Because of your issues with Konoha, you've taken her from her home and her friends. Can you honestly say that hasn't hurt her even a little?" Jiraiya added.

"You aren't being fair." Tsunade claimed, distress evident in her voice.

"Tsunade, you of all people should know that nothing and no one is ever fair." Sarutobi looked at her, slightly disappointed.

Tsunade had nothing to say to that and merely shifted Naruto around in her arms.

"Maybe you're right, maybe I shouldn't be blaming all of them. I know I shouldn't, but that doesn't change my feelings, and that doesn't change the issue at hand! I wouldn't make a good parent for anyone!" Tsunade exclaimed.

"I don't expect your feelings to change overnight, healing takes time, as you undoubtedly know." Tsunade snorted at Sarutobi. "As for Naruto, I think you'd make an excellent parent. You know how to take care of children, and you obviously care, even if you don't want to."

"I still don't think I'm the best choice." Tsunade frowned at him.

"Yeah, but you're the only one." Jiraiya argued back. "Think about it, people aren't going to forget about the Kyuubi anytime soon, and it's not like we can force them to understand that Naruto is just a baby, nothing to do with the monster that destroyed their lives. People, civilians and shinobi alike, will come after him, and even if they don't outright attack him they'll try something I'm sure. Fear, hate, anger, and hurt don't just go away. He needs someone strong enough to protect him."

"No one can say they doubt your strength. And if people see that one of the Sannin trusts him, loves him, and cares for him, well, maybe their opinions will start to change." Sarutobi concluded for Jiraiya.

"There must be others strong enough to--" Tsunade began before Jiraiya cut her off.

"Even if some other shinobi were strong enough and didn't harbor ill will towards the boy, do you think they could stand the social pressure? You know how people act, Tsunade! You and me, we're above reproach to most people, but you're average Jounin or Chuunin isn't."

"This conversation is pointless!" Tsunade barked out. "I cannot be made to care for him for the rest of my life!"

"No one said you would have to. If it makes you feel better I'll try to find and alternative home for him." Sarutobi soothed. "Think of it as babysitting. You might only have to watch him for a couple of months or so."

Now Sarutobi didn't believe this for a minute, but he'd say almost anything to get Tsunade to agree.

Tsunade looked down at the tiny person in her arms and he smiled back up at her. Tsunade felt her heart clench and she knew she was about to do something she'd end up regretting.

"Fine. But just for a couple of months." She agreed. Sarutobi smiled and thanked her and Jiraiya whooped, taking Naruto out of her arms to spin him around a couple of times.

After reclaiming Naruto and hitting Jiraiya over the head, Tsunade left with Sarutobi to work out the logistics of her supposedly temporary guardianship.


Four months later and Tsunade knew she was doomed. Although, if this was what doom looked like, maybe it wasn't so bad, she thought as she stared into the deep blue eyes of the four month old she was trying to get to take his bottle.

"Come on, Naru-chan. Please drink it. I know its icky formula but it will make you grow up to be big and strong and handsome." She cooed to the baby but his lips remained stubbornly closed.

Tsunade sighed as she gave up, setting the bottle back in the fridge and moving back into the living room of the small house she was renting with Shizune.

"So you don't want your bottle, what do you want?" Tsunade murmured more to herself than the small child in her arms. "How about a book? You want to read a book?" She picked one off the shelf and settled herself onto the floor to read it. She placed Naruto next to her on a small blanket and flipped open the picture book to read. As she read aloud, Naruto would giggle and gurgle at odd intervals, not understanding any of the words but liking the tone of Tsunade's voice as she read.

"I'm back Tsunade-sama!" A voice called from the front door as Shizune made her way inside.

"How was the hospital?" Tsunade asked her. Tsunade went to the hospital only twice a week. They needed the money, but Tsunade still didn't like having to deal with people or the blood they would undoubtedly be leaking, so she managed to stay home with Naruto most of the time and send Shizune to get the majority of their income, claiming it was safer for Naruto to be with her and that Shizune could use the practice, anyway.

"Fine, although I'm pretty sure most shinobi are incurably stupid." Shizune sighed as she bent down to pick up Naruto. "And how is little Naru-chan today?" She said as she made a funny face. Naruto squealed in joy and tried to grab onto a chunk of Shizune's hair. The girl deftly moved her head to the side, wise to this trick of Naruto's.

"Little Naru-chan is refusing his bottle again." Tsunade muttered, rolling her eyes at the display in front of her. "What did some idiot shinobi do to himself today?"

"Wondered into his own trap that he had just set and got two kunai in the leg." Shizune sighed as she shook her head. "I wonder why they are even allowed to become shinobi in the first place."

"Simple. Cannon fodder." Tsunade told her a bit bitterly as she plucked Naruto from Shizune's arms. "Any word from Sarutobi-sensei about getting Naruto a permanent home?" She asked every day but the more time passes the more and more she secretly wanted the answer to be no.

"No. Seems no one is willing to take him in, still." Shizune sighed before gathering the courage to say something she'd been wanting to say for weeks now. "Tsunade-sama, would it really be so bad to stay here and raise Naru-chan? I love him so much, and I know you do, too. Can't we stay here?"

"Shizune it's not… It's just not that simple." Tsunade sighed as she carried Naruto into the kitchen, to try once again to feed him.

"Only because you won't let it be!" Shizune argued before softening up. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell." She bowed her head.

"It's okay Shizune." Tsunade closed her eyes in thought. "I know you care about the little rug rat. I do, too. I just don't know how much longer I can stand to stay in this place."

That wasn't completely the truth. The truth was that as time passed it was getting easier and easier to stay, to live here, and that very fact scared her. The more time she spent with Naruto, the more she felt like she was forgetting Dan, Nawaki, and her grief, and that made her feel guilty. But then, the idea of giving Naruto up to some other person made her feel guilty, too.

Tsunade didn't know what to do.

"Please, just think about it, Tsunade-sama." Shizune asked her before leaving the room.

Tsunade sighed again as she attempted to get Naruto to eat.

"Why does everything have to be so complicated, damn it."


It had been ten months since Naruto had been unceremoniously dumped on Tsunade (and to some extent, Shizune) but Sarutobi was no closer it seemed to finding a permanent home for the blonde child.

Tsunade had serious doubts as to whether he was looking all that hard or not.

Tsunade though, already knew that it no longer mattered. So today was the day that she told Sarutobi that she was staying, at least until Naruto became a shinobi (because no matter how much she might hate the idea, she knew for his own safety he'd have to become one).

Tsunade sighed as she looked over at the person who had managed to completely turn her world upside down.

"This is so your fault." She told him. He giggled at her happily.


Author's Note Reprise: Let's all thank Snicky for beta-ing this. Even if it is 3 weeks late, xD Please tell me what you think in a review, and remember, since I've just started it's your chance to put in suggestions for things you want to see happen! Next chapter will be out after AAP 17.

Snicky's Note: hehe. She's baaaack! –with a lovely production, if I must say so myself. I'm glad I'm coming along for the ride. Thanks, Zessei!


"Shizune-san?" A petite pink haired nurse stood in front of where Shizune and Naruto sat on the floor coloring.

"Yes, Haruno-san?" Shizune asked craning her neck to see Himewari's face. "Can I help you?"

"Well, I just…" Himewari tugged on the hand she was holding, a hand belonging to the tiny pink haired girl currently hiding behind the legs of her mother. "I still need to work, but my babysitter refuses to watch Sakura-chan, says she has a date, and so, I mean, you're already watching Naruto-kun, so would you mind looking after Sakura-chan as well? It would just be for a little while, I promise!"

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