Disclaimer: Nope not my show yet. Naruto isn't mine. Got enough blasted boys already. Four of the breed is enough for any woman. Why on earth would I want another one?
Hubby: I don't know. You tell me. You're the one that keeps saying you want the copy rights.
Disclaimer: Oh yeah. . .
Chapter Thirty-One: Dinner Party
Just as the sun was setting special Anbu dispersed throughout Konoha to gather Naruto's special guests. Each Anbu had been assigned two guests and they were to escort them both there and back again should said guest wish to leave at the end of the night. They knew some of the guests would be staying while others would need to be taken back but none knew which ones.
Anko was surprised by the knock on Kakashi's door even though she had been told to expect it. Since she was his jailor, so to speak, she would go with him to the dinner as his guest. She didn't think he deserved to go but Tsunade had told her it was at Naruto's own insistence so he would be there. But she would make sure he kept to the terms of the agreement. He would not be allowed to break the rules just because his former students would be there. She had already threatened to burn his precious collection if he even tried to take one of those books along tonight. He had cringed but then smirked and told her they'd enjoy one of them when they came home if she had sex on the brain to the degree that she thought he might actually be considering taking one of the books in front of Naruto again. She'd chased him into the bedroom with a sharp kunai threatening to show him a new type of bedroom game those books said nothing about if he didn't shut the hell up. He'd made sure she couldn't get into the room and then called out, "How would you know, Anko-dear, what kind of games those books describe unless you've already read them all too?" From the hallway everything went dead silent for about fifteen seconds before he heard a low growl of pure anger. He gulped but got changed with only a mental note to quit gulping all the time around her and stay in the bedroom until the Anbu appeared to escort them to the party.
Kakashi came into the main room as she opened the door and let the Anbu into the small apartment. He looked very nice, Anko had to admit, all cleaned up in his formal kimono of silver and blue. The women would find him a hard man to ignore tonight but she would see to it he came home alone. Or at least with just her. Together the three left the apartment and went to the second stop on the Anbu's list which was Sasuke's place.
Sasuke was ready and waiting. Well, he was ready and pacing anyway. It frustrated him that he knew where he was going tonight and yet he had no clue how to get there and so was forced to wait for a guide like everyone else. He did look rather dignified in his navy blue kimono with it's red and white trim. Or rather he would have if he wasn't pacing the area like a caged tiger ready to rip someone or something apart.
Maybe it was just the fact the designer of the kimono had felt the need to ruin the dignity of the kimono by making sure everyone was well aware they were looking at the Last Uchiha. The tailor had placed a huge Uchiha fan on the back of the outfit where the standard picture was supposed to be and a smaller one on the upper left side of the breast in the front. Either way, coming or going there was no way anyone would mistake him for someone other than who he was. That kind of crap had always annoyed Sasuke. He simply hadn't thought to find a new tailor in all the years he'd been back and so when this had come up he'd had no choice but to use his old tailor for the kimono. He was regretting it now. He had only begun to realize just how many of his clothes were marked with the fan. In trying to do as Naruto had requested of him, he'd tried to find some clothes that didn't make him stand out. It had really annoyed him to see he only owned clothes with his family crest on them. No wonder everyone thought he had a large ego. The only clothes he had that didn't have his family crest was the outfit he'd worn home from the Sound six years ago. He didn't want to ever wear that again. He had gone out and bought a couple of off-the-rack outfits to wear from the shinobi stores, for keeping an eye on Naruto's friends while they waited, but they didn't do formal stuff even if he had known this was coming up so soon.
The Anbu knocked on the door and Sasuke came out before he had finished knocking. His movements were smooth but impatience, and frustration, lay behind every muscle movement. The Anbu led him back to where Anko and Kakashi were waiting and he started to speak to his mentor but Anko cut him off.
"Don't even think of it. He isn't off restriction yet. Not until Hokage-sama says so," she warned him and he simply nodded instead. Kakashi quirked his brow at Anko as if to ask permission to return the nod. She grudgingly gave it and he smirked as he inclined his head towards Sasuke. This caused Sasuke to smirk as well as the Anbu led them out of the village and towards Naruto's place. He'd never really been all that bothered that Kakashi had gotten in trouble over what he'd done to Naruto. In his eyes, the man deserved it. He may have been a good teacher at one time to Sasuke but even Sasuke would never say he had been anything of the kind to Naruto or even to Sakura. But it didn't surprise him to notice Kakashi seemed to have gotten around Anko's bad attitude well enough. And somehow he had a feeling Anko was helping him complete the jobs on his punishment list whether she had intended to or not. It was just one of the things about Kakashi. The man had a way of making people do things for him usually without them even realizing they were.
Along the way they met up with other Anbu bringing guests and Sasuke recognized Sakura and the old lady she'd been spending time with lately as well as Kurenai and Asuma, Gai and his team and several others. No one spoke, as they bounced from branch to branch over the Ninja Highway, though everyone exchanged nods of recognition as they came into contact with each other. Sakura was concentrating on helping the old lady, since she wasn't a ninja, to navigate the hops and Sasuke didn't want to disrupt her so he simply moved along beside them on the other side in case she needed help. For once, he was actually trying to do something openly to help someone else with no thought to the benefit to himself. But in his mind this was for Naruto and he would do whatever Naruto needed him to do with little to no question about it because he knew Naruto would do the same for him. It all came down to the fact he saw Naruto as his family and if Naruto needed him to do soemthing than he needed to do it because that's what family did.
They arrived with no problems and were welcomed inside the estate by Naruto. The Anbu that had escorted them all to the estate dropped away from the line of guests and took up their positions in the trees and shrubs around the house. Kiba was loud in his dress and manner as was Lee but both the young men were excited as neither had yet gotten a chance to see Naruto since his return. Everyone, in the line waiting to be greeted, saw Naruto wince but quickly cover the action with a wide smile.
"Come on in, everyone. Welcome to my home. I hope you'll enjoy yourselves tonight. I've tried to make the party as festive as I could while still making it a comfortable experience for everyone." He greeted each person by name and shook hands with every male while giving every female a soft kiss on the cheek. It took half an hour just to get everyone inside the front door but once inside they split off to find those they were most comfortable with. He received low bows of greeting from everyone who was older than he was and this surprised him. But he said nothing about it as he passed them on down the greeting line though he was becoming very curious over it. Even Kakashi bowed when he saw him in the red and yellow fire patterned kimono. His eye had gone wide and he had flushed and then paled rapidly as he took in the image of Naruto standing there. Then he had shook his head as if clearing his mind before he had bowed so low he almost hit his head on his own knees. Naruto had simply blinked and helped him straighten up again, whispering, "Don't do that again. I won't put up with it from you again." Kakashi gave him a bleak nod of the head to indicate his understanding though he misinterpretted what Naruto meant by his words.
Kiba's sister, Hana, had come with him at their Mother's insistence and she was vainly trying to keep her loudmouth brother under control much to the amusement of everyone else. She had seen right away that Naruto wasn't the same loudmouth that he used to be and she feared the way Kiba was acting was going to upset him. But Hana was older and a lot more observant than Kiba was. In the manner of the Inuzuka Clan Kiba would not settle down and gain really observation skills until he had a mate. He would remain more of a puppy than a grown-up until he had a female to calm his wild urges. So until he found a female the women of the clan watched over him. Tsume had met Naruto once already when Kiba had been becoming a pain over not seeing Naruto and she'd understood after only five minutes of conversation that the young man was vastly changed from the Naruto Kiba knew. Now Hana understood why her Mother had insisted she accompany Kiba to this affair.
Hinata was receiving compliment after compliment from everyone who saw her. She looked gorgeous in her formal kimono. The blue-violet set off the tint in her hair while the lilac sash picked up the faint color of her eyes. Both added a soft hint of color to her face and made her look even more beautiful than normal.
Moegi stood with Udon and Konohamaru. She was nervous and uncomfortable in the fancy clothes. Konohamaru was doing his best to put her at ease as was Udon but the poor girl was so afraid of ruining the pretty dress she could hardly move. Hanabi came over, as soon as all the guests had been welcomed inside, and told the boys to go away. Then she led Moegi to a chair and just sat beside her, talking and distracting her friend until the girl relaxed. In a few minutes, she and Moegi were laughing together at Kiba's antics to escape his sister's watchful eye. Hana would let Kiba get just so far before she would yank his leash and reign him back in again. He'd wait a few minutes and then try to escape again.
Naruto circulated and made sure to speak to everyone at least once before a Hyuuga servant came in to announce the meal was served. Then he offered his arm to Shizune which surprised everyone but this had been worked out earlier. He knew how Jiraiya felt about Tsunade and he was determined that the old hermit would be seen as her escort that evening. So he had informed Jiraiya that he was to take Tsunade Baa-chan into dinner and escort her for the evening. Jiraiya protested but Naruto wouldn't hear a word he said. And so now he saw Shizune to her seat and watched as everyone brought their dinner partner to a seat before seating himself.
The dinner was started off cordially enough until Sakura saw the ramen. "You got to be kidding me," she exclaimed, not realizing she might be offending anyone. She couldn't help but let the old Sakura out since she was nervous and uncomfortable because she was nervous. She might have told Naruto often while they were younger that she had better breeding and manners than he did but she'd never once been to a formal dinner party and it made her nervous to see him so clearly comfortable in this setting when she knew he hadn't ever been to something like this either. Let alone played the host of such an affair.
"Is there a problem, Sakura?" asked Naruto. In truth he knew exactly what the problem was but as the host it was his job to put his guests at their ease. Several people around the table were shifting uncomfortably wondering if Sakura was going to ruin the evening for them or if she'd get control and reign in her shrewishness. Others were looking like they wanted to throttle her.
Ignoring the look of reproach, she was getting from Mrs. Tsu, she looked straight at him. "Ramen, Naruto? At a formal meal?" She tried to keep the scorn from her voice as she chastised him over it. "Ramen is not for formal meals, Naruto."
"Why ever not when one of our guests is known for his cuisine in all the five great nations? Even in the Cloud Nation they've heard of Ichiraku's Ramen Stand. He is a world renown chef, Sakura, and as such his food is served at formal dinners whenever the host of said dinner wishes it to be. Half the times his stand is closed is because he is serving a Daimyo that evening."
"I will admit it is the best ramen but ramen isn't a formal food. Didn't anyone ever teach you formality?" Several hisses were heard and more than a few people growled at the tactless comment. Killing intent was rising from the ninja gathered at the table and the civilians were looking down at their bowls in shame to have to share their meal with such a rude uncultured girl.
But though Naruto's eyes flashed in anger, he kept his voice even as he said, "There is no such thing as a formal food verses an informal one. You are as rude as ever, Sakura. I am sorry I thought you well mannered enough to be invited tonight. If you can not mind the manners that you insist I do not have I will have the Anbu that escorted you here, escort you home again now. Not only have you insulted me you have insulted two of my guests and that is out of line. Even for you."
Only then did Sakura realize how everyone was looking at her and how her words had sounded to Teuchi and Ayame. She gasped and her hands flew to her face. "Oh, I am so sorry. I didn't mean it that way. I just thought he'd put it on the menu because he likes it so much and I could just see it flying all over the table as he eats it." She pushed back her chair and fled the table. No one bothered to point out Naruto had never made a mess when he ate his ramen.
After she left the room Naruto leaned towards Hinata who was seated two places down on his left and asked her to please go after Sakura. He didn't want the pink-haired girl to leave yet but he wouldn't put up with rudeness from her either. Hinata nodded and excused herself.
"I have tried to make this evening pleasant for everyone but as I just demonstrated, if something is not to your liking, please have the decency to either mention it in private or keep it to yourself, as it may be to someone else's liking. You are all my friends or the family of my friends and we should all be able to get along for one evening." He grinned and as he saw Hinata coming back in with a chastened looking Sakura said, "Now let's eat. Teuchi what kind of Ramen did you make for me tonight?"
"Miso, my Lord. And for Sakura, I made a pot of that vegetable shrimp she likes," Teuchi's voice was quiet as he spoke those words but they carried around the room making Sakura want to disappear through the floor when she realized he had cooked a special pot just for her.
Instead she held her chin up and said clearly, "Thank you Teuchi. I will be happy to have your ramen tonight and consider it a treat. I sincerely apologize for my ill-thought comments earlier. Clearly I still have a long way to go before I am once again ready to enter society without a minder." She turned to Naruto and bowed low keeping her head lowered as she said, "Naruto, I apologize. I was out of line to you as well as to the guests you have invited to your home. It is not and never was my place to tell you what is from what is not correct for anything." Then she turned to Mrs. Tsu and apologized to her as well. With tears in her eyes she murmured, "Clearly I haven't quite learned everything you tried to teach me yet. I am sorry I have embarrassed and shamed you with my rudeness."
"No offense taken," answered Teuchi as Ayame smiled at Sakura. Naruto beamed at her and forgave her with a nod of his golden head as was proper for a host at such a formal occasion. Mrs. Tsu just smiled gently and reached over to pat Sakura's trembling hand. They began to eat and conversation swirled around the table. Except for a loud occasional comment from either Lee, Kiba or Gai the tone of the evening was quiet but happy as everyone enjoyed the food. Chouji beamed as people said how good his family's food was and stored away the most fulsome of the compliments to tell the cooks later that evening.
The ramen was cleared away to make room for the main courses. Plates of food, chosen earlier when each person was given their personal invitation to the dinner party, were set in front of the diners. Most had chosen the bar-b-qued boneless ribs with potato salad and asparagus spears in a creamy white sauce but some had bar-b-qued burgers with deep fried breaded vegetables and brown rice.
Neji kept a close eye on his girls. Tenten found his eye often on her as she daintily tried to find a delicate way to eat bar-b-qued ribs still on the bone. Hinata and Hanabi had both selected the bone free ones and weren't having the same problem with them as she was but both noticed her difficulty and knowing Neji cared for her they pretended to have issues with their course choice as well so as not to leave her hanging. Tenten cursed herself for not thinking her selection through but when she'd been handed the menu she hadn't thought about what she would be wearing as she ate and had just circled a choice. She finally gave it up and left the ribs on her plate with a sad look. The waiter came and whispered in her ear for a second and she beamed at him. He took her plate and came back in a few moments with a selection of the boneless variety. She quickly made short work of them, smiling all the while as Hinata and Hanabi both polished off their dinners as well. Naruto nodded at seeing the interchange between the server and the efforts of the Hyuuga girls to include Tenten in their circle.
Dessert was a caramel flan served over a bed of crumbed sugar cookies and icing coated peanuts rolled in powered sugar. For those who didn't wish for something sweet they had colored rice cakes, though most had chosen the flan. It was a foreign dish and too rare of a treat not to at least try it. And of course there was coffee or tea for those who wished it.
After the dessert, they left the table and went into separate rooms to digest their meal while the servants cleared the room for the entertainment. The men sat in the library with cordials while the ladies gathered in the livingroom with small cocktails. Tsunade wasn't very happy about that as it wasn't the sake she preferred but she saw what Naruto had wanted and so nursed the small drink along and waited to be called back to the larger room. Small conversations flowered among the gatherings in both rooms and the main topic was the kimono Naruto had worn for the evening.
Tsunade smiled as she admitted he probably had no idea of the significance of the kimono he wore but she thought it was the most appropriate considering what he had intended the evening to be. This was the Namikaze Estate and he was the heir to that Estate. The kimono pointed out in an unmistakable way to everyone who had known the Yondaime exactly who Naruto was and why he was living here. In the kimono of his late Father, his heritage could not be denied by any who saw him. Sakura was growing even more pale as each minute went by and she realized just who she had spent so many years abusing and bashing for being a nobody. She grew more and more depressed as the conversations went on around her until Ino whispered in her ear, "You know, it really isn't that big a deal, Forehead. As Hokage-sama just said, he doesn't even know who's son he is so I doubt he took your insults in any way other than how you meant them."
"But that's just it, Ino. I constantly told him I was better than he is because I was higher born than he is and I'm not. I'm nowhere close to being higher born. He outranks everyone here except maybe Hokage-sama."
Ino just lifted an eyebrow. "And do you think he'd care even if he did know it? That isn't Naruto, Forehead Girl, and you know it isn't. He doesn't care a whit about a persons birth rank. A person doesn't have a choice over who brings them into this world. It's what they do once they get here that matters to him. Our ranks was only ever important to you. Well, maybe to Sasuke as well but mainly to you."
Sakura sat there thinking about it and realized she was right. It had always been Sakura who was dismissive of people she considered too low born to associate with. None of the other girls had ever done that. They had included Tenten in their circle when she would have shut her out. Same with Temari and Temari had outranked Sakura even if she was from a different village.
Jiraiya was saying much the same thing to the gentlemen in the library while Naruto had a hard time holding his jaws closed. Kakashi was watching the expressions on Naruto's face as Jiraiya spilled the beans on the kimono. He was still thinking about what Naruto had said to him when he had bowed at the receiving line. He had thought Naruto was saying it because he knew who's son he was and didn't think Minato-Sensei would appreciate him bowing and showing respect to the kid he had tried to get killed off more than once but maybe it was something else.
Naruto was just thinking, so that was why Baa-chan had insisted he wear this one. He'd have to pay her back for all this bowing he was being subjected to tonight, he thought, as his expression turned crafty. What should he do? It'd have to be something she'd never expect and something that fit the deed but what? Hmmmm. Some of his friends saw his expression and wondered just who would be his victim this time. That expression was one they all knew all too well. And none of them doubted for a second someone was going to get pranked. Jiraiya just hoped it wasn't him.
Kiba came over to him and asked, "Are we gonna play Spin the Bottle tonight? It just wouldn't be one of our get-togethers without that game, don't you think?"
Naruto smirked and then grinned as he thought about the faces of the older generation if he tried to get them to play that game. Laughing, he shook his head. "I don't think we could get Hiashi to unbend that far, do you?"
Kiba scratched his head and said, "Well, no probably not but you never know."
Sasuke had sauntered close and just frowned at the irrepressible Inuzuka. "It would be most inappropriate for tonight's gathering. This is not your typical little slumber party excuse for getting wasted and winding up where you don't belong."
"Easy Sasuke," said Naruto. "He didn't mean anything by it and was not trying to offend."
"Hell no," said Kiba. "I just thought it'd be nice to do something a little more active than standing around."
"We will be doing something else in a little bit but I can't promise it will be energetic enough for you, Kiba. For now we are just giving the servants time to clean up after dinner and then we will go back into the ballroom for the entertainment part of the party. Be patient." Naruto wandered off to talk with his other guests and left Kiba pouting next to Sasuke who determined to keep the loudmouth occupied as he tried to keep Lee out of the cordial. He had already headed the energetic Drunken Master off four times so now he roped Kiba into the task. Kiba forgot about the Spin the Bottle game as he concentrated on keeping Lee sober. He didn't want Naruto to have to go looking for a new home again and just one drop was all it would take for Lee to become a wrecking ball for this place. Sasuke turned out to have had the right idea in siccing Kiba onto Lee's tail as it gave everyone else a chance to relax and talk amongst themselves.
Gai was finding out from Kakashi just where he'd been in recent weeks as well as what he'd been doing. Kakashi was squirming as he let the information dribble out hoping not to have to actually spill everything. He might have finally come to realize just how deeply he had screwed up but that didn't mean he wanted to go losing even more of the respect he had held before Naruto's return. Gai had always respected Kakashi and his squirming now was because, if he had to tell the man what he had done to Naruto, he knew he wouldn't any more. But Gai was also one of the only people Kakashi actually did consider a friend of his.
He didn't know Gai already knew what Kakashi had done to Naruto. He had known it all along. He had tried more than once to point it out to Kakashi when the boy had still been in the village but Kakashi was lost in his rage then and wouldn't see it. And Gai knew it had been rage that had fogged his friends thinking ability. So Gai had stood by his friend and waited for him to wake up and shake the cobwebs out. Now he just wanted to talk to Kakashi. He had missed him these last few weeks and months but he had also understood what Tsunade had been doing. So, as much as it went against the grain for him, he had left Kakashi alone in his punishment, knowing Kakashi would work through it and come out the better for it.
As he drug the story out of Kakashi, he let the silver-haired man know he had known the truth all a long and didn't think anything less of him than he had before. He had been Kakashi's friend before Naruto had become a genin. He had been his friend while Naruto was his genin. He had been his friend when Naruto was missing and presumed dead and he was his friend now. "Until the day you die and I follow you to my grave, I will be your friend, Rival Kakashi," he said quietly as Kakashi finished relating the events. No one else heard him for a change but Naruto turned his head and smiled when he finished speaking.
Kakashi was sitting there staring at Gai in shock. It was clear he had not expected to keep his old friend once the man knew he had no honor. "What did I ever do to deserve a friend like you, Gai?" he asked quietly.
"I'll admit you went through a long dark period there my friend. But you were not yourself and a true frined will always know that and be waiting when you come into the light again." Gai beamed at him and Kakashi relaxed, smiling in return.
Author Note: Ok this was a much longer chapter than the last one and maybe I could have combined the two. Probably I should have but I didn't. Either way I gave you two new chapters today so enjoy them please. I know not a lot happens in either one but don't worry the action is coming. I just need to set the stage for it.