The Nurture Issue

Author's Note: Chapter Two, Yo! Only took a few months too. I'm sorry! But hey I'm finally back, for both my stories, and I hope to never go on such a long hiatus ever again.

However, realistically, I make no promises.

Now I would just like to take a moment to say: Holy Cheese Monkeys! 49 reviews for the first chapter? Love you all!!

It's really nice knowing I have some real fans out there. You know who you are. The ones who read everything I put out (and review it!). You guys are tops!

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.

Alternate Universe: What does alternate universe mean? It means I can do whatever the hell I want and you have to shut up and deal with it. It's my story and I can cry if I want to… wait, that's not quite right.

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)

Childrearing and Other Suicidal Missions

"Um, Tsunade-sama?" Shizune began rather hesitantly as she walked into the kitchen where Tsunade was currently attempting dinner preparation. "Is there any reason why Naruto-kun is currently sitting in the corner glaring a hole in the wall?"

Indeed the four year old was currently sitting on folded legs in the corner of the small living room of the equally small home that the three of them shared, a dark expression on his face—or at least as dark as that of four year old could get.

"Naruto-kun is currently being punished and he will not be allowed to move from that corner until he has thought about what he's done!" Tsunade replied loudly enough to be heard by the boy two rooms away. Slightly softer, she continued: "Naruto decided it would be a good idea to give his bedroom a new paint job with his finger paints."

"Oh dear, do you think it will come off the walls?" Shizune asked a little dismayed but not too surprised. Antics like this were common with Naruto.

"I hope so, but honestly the walls do need a new paint job, and so do the rest of the rooms in the house." Tsunade sighed deeply. She just didn't have the money to do that.

"You could put in more hours at the hospital, Tsunade-sama." Shizune suggested with a frown. Tsunade insisted on only working one shift a week. She said she needed to watch Naruto but the child was old enough to be left under the care of a genin team on those few occasions Shizune wouldn't be able to watch him. Shizune might work forty hours a week at the hospital but it wouldn't be too hard to work out alternating schedules.

"We've already been over this, Shizune. I will not work anymore at the hospital." Tsunade declared firmly.

"Then why not take up the director's offer to teach a class to some of the civilian nurses and doctors?" Shizune bargained. "He said you wouldn't have to do it in the hospital if you didn't want to."

"I already have you to teach, Shizune. There is no way I could take on a whole class." Tsunade argued back.

"But we could really use the money, Tsunade-sama." Shizune implored. As a nurse, Shizune did not make nearly the amount Tsunade could have made as a doctor; and trying to feed three people, and Tsunade's various addictions, on one small salary was getting tough.

"We're doing okay." Tsunade muttered in reply.

"Barely!" Shizune threw her hands up in the air. "We're living in a rundown tiny house close to the worst part of town and just yesterday I had to beg the grocer to let me start a tab!"

"I'm sure things will get better soon." Tsunade said dismissively.

"How, Tsunade-sama, how are they supposed to get better when you are doing nothing to make them better?" Shizune groaned into her hands before moving around to the refrigerator. "I'll get started on dinner now." Shizune sighed in resignation. Silence reigned for a few minutes as Shizune chopped vegetables.

"What if…" Tsunade started frowning at the table she was sitting at. "What if I took on a couple more shifts."

Shizune looked up from the bok choy she'd been methodically shredding to gape slightly at Tsunade. "Do you really mean it, Tsunade-sama?" She asked rather breathlessly.

"It would only be a couple more shifts. I refuse to work more than twenty hours a week." Tsunade sighed as she began drawing invisible patterns onto the table with her finger. "But, if it would really help us that much for me to work a little more…"

"It would! It would help a lot!" Shizune cut in cheerfully. "Two more shifts a week would bring in…" Shizune stopped to calculate in her mind. "Oh, well, who cares, it would be a lot!" Shizune launched herself at Tsunade for a hug and then moved back to her cooking. "You know what? I think we should go out to eat tonight! To celebrate!"

"Can we get sake?"


Shizune hummed to herself a little as she dragged the small blonde child behind her down the halls of the hospital, anxiously waiting for Tsunade to get off her shift to claim him so she could begin her own.

"Would you like to color, Naruto-kun?" She murmured softly to him. "I brought your crayons and coloring books. I don't think Tsunade-sama is going to get off for a while."

"Yay! Coloring!" Naruto cheered and begun walking faster. "I'm gonna color you a picture of a bird, Shizune-nee-chan!"

"That would be lovely Naruto-kun." Shizune smiled fondly down at the child who was currently pulling her towards an abandoned corner of the waiting area close to where Tsunade was probably working. The boy roughly threw himself at the corner and made a beckoning motion with his hands, imploring Shizune to join him. She did so with a laugh and then dug his coloring supplies from her bag.

"Lookie!" The child suddenly called holding up one of the books he'd been leafing through in an effort to find a bird for Shizune as previously promised. "A fox! I'm gonna color it for Tsunade-ba-chan!"

"That's wonderful, Naruto-kun!" Shizune smiled brightly at him, before turning to glare darkly at the people in the room who had begun to mutter and shift away slightly at Naruto's loud proclamation. After giving them Tsunade's Glare of Doom ™, although admittedly not as well as the inventor of it herself, Shizune picked up a book and crayon of her own and began filling in the spots of a dog.

"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!"

"Well of course I don't mind looking after Sakura-chan, but well, are you sure that you're okay with it?" Shizune asked awkwardly.

"He's just a little boy, right?" Himewari smiled a little uncertainly. "I've seen him with you and Tsunade-sensei and he's just a little boy."

"Of course he is." Shizune smiled brilliantly at Himewari before turning to Naruto at her side. "Naruto-kun, do you mind if Sakura-chan joins us for a while?" Naruto looked up to peer at the other child suspiciously.

"She can play with us, but she better not break any crayons." Naruto spoke to Shizune, but was staring at Sakura.

"I promise not to break your crayons." Sakura mumbled while still hiding behind her mother's legs.

"Come on Sakura-chan, sweetie, you'll be fine with Shizune-san and Naruto-kun." Himewari twisted around and knelt on the floor, tucking a stray piece of hair behind her daughter's ear. "Play nice and I'll be back in a little while, okay?"

"'Kay." Sakura mumbled before turning to look at Naruto and Shizune. "Do you have any pictures of ferrets?" She asked. "They're my favorites."

"Don't know!" Naruto spoke cheerfully as Sakura sat on the floor and scooted her way over slowly. "But here, you can use this one." He held a brand new book out to her.

"I'll be back when my shift ends at five, okay?" Himewari asked Shizune who nodded in reply. "Thank you very much, Shizune-san."

"It's nothing, Haruno-san." Shizune smiled. Honestly she was just happy that Naruto had a playmate his age.

"Please call me Himewari." The woman smiled back. "I'm only a few years older than you after all."

"Of course, Himewari-san." The two exchanged good byes and the pink haired nurse returned back to work.

"Here, this is a ferret!" Sakura cheered suddenly holding out the book to Naruto.

"It looks like a rat." Naruto's nose wrinkled.

"It's not a rat!" Sakura yelled at him and then proceeded to hit the blonde over the head with the coloring book.

"Ow!" Naruto cried ducking his head under his arms. "Whatcha hittin' me for?"

"Not a rat!" Sakura repeated, hitting him again.

"Now, now you two, no fighting." Shizune deftly separated the two children as she gently admonished them.

"She started it!" Naruto accused pointing a finger at the pink haired girl.

"Nuh-uh!" Sakura shot back.





"Okay you two, stop that." The two children stopped but glared at each other rebelliously. "Now, Naruto I want you to apologize to Sakura for calling it a rat, and Sakura I want you to apologize to Naruto for hitting him." There were simultaneously cries of "But!" from the two children which Shizune ignored with a practiced air. "Now, please."

"'m sorry." Naruto mumbled sullenly.

"Sorry." Sakura replied, equably sullen.

"Good!" Shizune cheered with a smile. "Now, I'm going to go get us something to drink. What would you like Sakura-chan?"

"Um, juice?" Sakura asked in reply.

"No problem. What kind would you like?" Shizune began to stand up and take a handful of coins out of her pocket.

"Um, grape?" Sakura blinked at her. "Please?"

"Sure thing." Shizune smiled again. "Now, I'll be right back, Naruto…"

"I know, I know!" The small child waved his hand dismissively. "Don't go anywhere and if a stranger tries to bother me I scream."

"Alright, same rules for you Sakura-chan." Shizune patted both the children on the heads and walked off.

"…Um, what're you coloring?" Sakura asked Naruto after a moment.

"A fox!" Naruto told her holding up the partially colored picture. "They're my favorites!"

"Oh." Sakura took the book from his hands to look at the picture. "You're good at coloring." Indeed the fox sleeping under a tree had been colored neatly in red.

"Thanks!" Said Naruto as he took back his book.

"Excuse me? Little girl?" A kind looking woman with long curly blonde hair walked up to the two children. "I don't think you should be playing here. It's not safe." She held a hand out to Sakura and smiled broadly. "Why don't you come with me and we'll go find your parents."

"But, Kaa-chan told me to stay here, with Naruto-kun and Shizune-san." Sakura looked at the woman in confusion. "And then Shizune-san told me to stay with Naruto-kun."

"Hey! If you don't go away and leave us alone I'll scream!" Naruto leapt up from his position on the floor and attempted to insert himself between the stranger and Sakura. The woman frowned deeply, turning her attractive features ugly, and pushed the boy back to the floor.

"Hey! Leave him alone!" Sakura screamed and tried to grab the woman's arms. Everyone else in the waiting room, what few people were there to begin with, possibly not more than five, found something else to focus their attention on or simply left.

"Oh don't worry, sweetheart, I won't hurt you. I'm just going to make sure you're okay." The woman knelt down and attempted to gather up the four-year-old girl in her arms but Sakura was making it as difficult as possible for her.

Naruto had by this point jumped back up and was now taking a deep breath. "TSUNADE-BA-CHAN! SHIZUNE-NEE-CHAN! HELP!" He screamed for all he was worth.

"Quiet brat!" The woman snarled at him.

"WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?" Shizune cried running around the corner, three cans of juice in her arms. "LET GO OF SAKURA-CHAN!" She dropped the cans on the floor at the sight of a strange woman pulling on the arms of Sakura.

"I'm just trying to save her from the clutches of that—that monster!" The woman argued back, panicked.

"Don't you dare call him a monster." A tight, deceptively calm voice spoke from behind the stranger. Whirling around, the woman was met with the sight of Tsunade wearing a smock with her hair pulled into a bun, a clipboard clasped, forgotten, in her hand.

"Ah, Tsunade-sama…" Shizune gasped. "I'm so sorry. I only left for a minute to get some juice and…" She trailed off at the angry look in the older woman's eyes.

"Let go of the child." Tsunade bit out through clenched teeth. She didn't recognize the cute little pink haired girl but obviously Shizune and Naruto did. The woman did so immediately, dropping Sakura's arm as though she'd been burned by it. "Now get out. I don't ever want to see you in this hospital again unless you're bleeding out your ears." The woman turned and fled, looking back as though she feared she'd be chased.

Shizune instantly ran to Sakura's side, hands glowing with a diagnostic jutsu, desperately afraid that Sakura had been hurt.

"Are you okay, Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked from his position in Tsunade's arms. The Sannin had immediately walked over to Naruto and swept him up into a hug.

"Ye-yeah." Sakura mumbled. "Wh-what did that lady want?"

"That was not a lady." Tsunade murmured darkly in response. "Are you okay, Naruto-kun?" Tsunade looked down at the boy in her arms.

"Yep! I'm fine Tsunade-ba-chan!" The boy cheered. "Can I go back to coloring now?"

"Sure." Tsunade smiled at the child before letting him down again. "Shizune, who is this young lady?" she asked as she wondered over to the two of them.

"Oh, this is Haruno Himewari-san's little girl. Haruno Sakura-chan." Shizune explained as the little girl wandered back over to Naruto to resume coloring-in her ferret. "Himewari-san is a nurse here and she needed someone to look after Sakura-chan until she got off work. I said it wouldn't be a problem."

"No, it's not a problem." Tsunade sighed as she began peeling off her smock. "Here, take this. I'm done anyway; I just clocked out." She held out the smock to Shizune to be taken to the laundry. "When was Himewari-san returning?"

"At five, so just a little longer." Shizune told her, taking the smock in hand along with the clipboard. "You three will be okay?"

"We'll be fine, Shizune." Tsunade smiled at her. "I think I can handle watching one little girl along with Naruto-kun for a while." She smiled as she watched Naruto hold up a picture of something to the pink haired child.

"It's nice that he's making a friend, isn't it?" Shizune asked her.

"It is."


"Oh! Tsunade-sensei! I had no—I mean I'm sorry to have imposed on you so much!" Sakura's mothered bowed to the seated Tsunade in apology.

"Don't worry. I didn't mind at all. Sakura-chan is a sweet child and Naruto enjoyed having someone to play with." Tsunade looked over at the two children, who were involved in a strange game of rock-paper-scissors that used both hands and followed none of the rules Tsunade was familiar with.

"Oh, I'm glad then." Himewari smiled at Tsunade before turning and calling out to her daughter. "Sakura-chan? Ready to go home now?"

Sakura looked up and, noticing her mother for the first time, ran to open arms. "Kaa-chan!"

"Hello, Sakura-chan. Did you have fun with Naruto-kun?" Himewari asked as she lifted the small pink-haired child up into the air.

"Yeah! Can I play with Naruto-kun again some time?" Sakura had wrapped her arms around her mother's neck but was looking down at Naruto and Tsunade.

"Well, I guess if it's okay with Tsunade-sensei…" Himewari looked back towards Tsunade for an answer.

"What do you say, Naruto? Would you like to play with Sakura-chan again?" Tsunade pulled the blonde boy into her lap and hugged him lightly. She was so happy that he had managed to make a friend. Much to Tsunade's lasting chagrin and disappointment, the fact that she, one of the Legendary Three, cared for Naruto did little to ease the minds of others, and they kept their children away from him as much as they were able. Tsunade took him to the park and children were gently led away from him. They went shopping, children were ushered swiftly out the store. They were seldom rude or obvious about it, but their careful politeness hurt all the same.

"Sure! As long as she doesn't hit me all the time." The little blonde rubbed at his head where Sakura had bashed him with the coloring book.

"You started it!" Sakura accused loudly.



"Children!" Himewari interrupted. "No arguing, alright?"

"Yes…" mumbled the two sulkily.

"Well, why don't we try and arrange a play date then?" Himewari turned back to address Tsunade who had stood with Naruto dangling from her arms.

"Sure. Are you working Saturday, Himewari-san?" Tsunade twisted slightly trying to get a better grasp on the wriggling Naruto as she spoke.

"No, would you like to go to the park to see Naruto-kun on Saturday." Himewari asked her own now fidgety child. The two children were obviously bored with the adults talking and were attempting to get back to their coloring.

"Yeah, okay." Sakura answered as her mother shifted her around.

"Wonderful!" Tsunade cheered while flipping Naruto over to hang upside down in her grasp. "We will see you Saturday, around noon, is that okay?"

"Noon's fine. Chuuou Kita Park is near us. Is it near you?" Himewari caught one of Sakura's flailing hands with little apparent effort.

"It's not too far, it'll be fine." Tsunade began swinging the giggling Naruto back and forth gently by his ankles.

"Very well. Thank you very much, Tsunade-sensei. See you Saturday." With a small bow Himewari turned to leave. Sakura twisted to look over her mother's shoulder and wave energetically at Naruto.

"Bye, Naruto-kun!"


"I think we should celebrate!" Shizune cheered as she walked home with Tsunade and Naruto.

"Celebrate what?" Tsunade asked her as she snagged the back of Naruto's shirt, deftly preventing him from wondering over to a mangy stray dog. Naruto pouted at her interference but did not attempt to break free.

"Naruto's first friend of course!" Shizune flung her arms up and out, causing Tsunade to duck hastily to avoid getting smacked.

"The little brat managed to make a friend?" A familiar voice spoke from above their heads right before a figure landed crouched in front of them.

"Ero-ji!" The blonde child called out before launching himself at the older man.

"Damn it! Why the hell did you tell him to call me that!" Jiraiya turned to Tsunade, arms full of blonde child, and glared.

"It fits you so well though." Tsunade smirked before frowning as something occurred to her. "What are you doing here? You said you wouldn't be back before Naruto's birthday."

"Yeah well, plans change, Tsunade-hime." Jiraiya shrugged lazily before grabbing the back of Naruto's shirt and hefting him into the air. "Now what's this about you making a friend?"

"Her name's Sakura-chan! She has pink hair and can color good and knows a lot of fun games and likes fer-fear-" He scrunched up his eyes trying to remember the name of the animal. "Ferrets!" He yelled triumphantly. "But I still say they look like rats."

"Sakura-chan, huh?" Jiraiya broke out in a smile. "So, managed to get yourself a girlfriend huh? Not bad!" Jiraiya held up a thumb at the confused child before getting smacked hard in the head, nearly causing him to lose his hold on Naruto.

"You perverted idiot! Don't say things like that to a child!" Tsunade hissed at him rather loudly.

"Perhaps we should continue this discussion at home?" Shizune suggested rather tiredly. Jiraiya always caused her master to act like this, and an old man had just come out of his house to stare at them.

"Fine, but you can't stay there Jiraiya, there isn't enough room for your fat self." Tsunade quickly snatched Naruto from Jiraiya's hold and walked off, nose in the air.

"Just who are you calling fat?!" Jiraiya screamed in outrage as he trailed after Tsunade.

"You, obviously."


Jiraiya stood in the doorway of a tiny room watching as the four-year-old breathed deeply in his sleep. He didn't acknowledge Tsunade as she came up behind him, but a moment later he opened his mouth to talk.

"How's he been?" Jiraiya kept his voice light and soft, so Tsunade wouldn't hear the real worry in it. It didn't fool the woman for a moment.

"It's not too bad." She sighed as she tugged briefly on Jiraiya's arm before walking down to the living room, trusting Jiraiya to follow her.

"But it's not too good either, is it?" Jiraiya plopped down on a low, beat up sofa, running a large palm over his face.

"I think it's getting better. He made a friend today and her mom seems okay with him and well, he always has us, right? You and me and Shizune and Sarutobi-sensei. We'll always be here." Tsunade smiled at him.

"No, we won't." Jiraiya slumped down, elbows on knees as he peered unseeingly at the posters tape on the opposite wall. Shizune had put them up in an effort to introduce color to the dim room. "And that's the problem. We can't always be there for him. He needs people his own age. He needs people period."

"Hey, I don't know about you but I certainly don't plan on kicking the bucket anytime soon." Tsunade frowned at her former teammate, angry at his defeatist attitude and the not so subtle reminder of her age.

"Still, I never thought it would be quite this bad, especially not after four years." Jiraiya sat back suddenly and stretched, arms landing on the back of the couch.

"I did. People have long memories, Jiraiya, especially when it comes to people they love and things they hate. Hate festers, same as love grows." Tsunade shrugged lazily as she leaned her head back on Jiraiya's arm. "I'm not too worried. Naruto is a good person, I know he is. He'll make others love him, with time."

"Huh, if you say so, Tsunade-hime, if you say so."


OMAKE: Bringing Up Baby or No Rest For The Medics

"It's your turn!" Tsunade screamed to Shizune over the sounds of Naruto's cries. At five months, the child still was not sleeping through the night and Tsunade was almost to the point of drugging him to keep him quiet. Just one night! That's all she wanted, just one night of peaceful, calm, SILENT, rest.

Was that really too much to ask?

"It is NOT my turn, it's yours!" Shizune yelled back through the thin walls of the rental house. Her call was slightly muffled by the pillow she had under her head.

"DAMN IT!" Tsunade screamed before flinging her covers off her and storming off to Naruto's nursery. Her ire instantly cooled at the sight of a flailing and crying infant and she felt a small tug on her heart as she lifted him into her arms. Tsunade didn't know what was causing Naruto to wake up constantly in the night; especially when nothing seemed to be the matter like now, but she thought it might have been nightmares.

Or, she thought as the child she was holding decided to throw up all over her nightgown, he might have been sick.



Author's Note Reprise: Even though this chapter is vital to the plot, it is a little boring, sorry. The next chapter not only is a little more fun, but it introduces some more characters. It won't be out for a while though. I'm having trouble finding the time to write, what with work, surgeries, and vacations, not to mention my laptop crashed right after I posted AAP 17, and just now has it been fixed.

Remind me to post my pictures from Florida and Nashville (the anime con) for you all to look at!

Snick's Note: eheheh…seeya guy's in another month!

Names and Such: As you may have notice Naruto is referring to Tsunade as Tsunade-Ba-chan, which means Auntie Tsunade basically, rather than Tsunade-Baa-chan which means Granny Tsunade. I can't see Tsunade allowing herself to be called a mother and we all know how she feels about Granny, so I felt that Auntie was a good compromise.

Haruno Himewari is what I decided to name Sakura's mother as I do not know her real name. Himewari means sunflower. And yes, it's a completely predictable name. Deal with it. I love the name Himewari.

Himewari refers to Tsunade as Tsunade-sensei due to the fact that Tsunade is a doctor, pretty much.

Ero-ji basically translates to Uncle Pervert.