For anybody who's interesting in seeing what all the kids look like, I've drawn them up and posted it on deviantArt… so check it out, yeah?
http : / / ferousha-san (dot) deviantart (dot) com. Remove spaces and words where applicable. Pieces in particular include: "Really Intense 2nd Gen" and "The New Uzumaki Clan".
You MIGHT even find a fanfic there that's unreleased on this site. Nudge nudge, wink wink.
Final Amnesia: The Epilogue
"And how did you accomplish this kidnapping?"
"I sent a mission request to Konoha, asking for her specifically. Then I hired a group of mercenary warriors from the West. I knew that they could do it because ninja can't sense the sort of energy they use to fight. So I could surprise her."
"How did you manage to subdue your captive?"
"Sorry… it's just…"
"I know. But what matters is that I'm here now and I'm fine."
"I… enlisted the help of someone the people of the city called 'the witch'. Hanaka Fujiko. She made a memory suppressant that I used make her forget everything – forget him."
Naruto barely managed to hold back a snarl as Shigure's commentary wore on. If not for Hinata's hand on his arm, he probably would have punched the bastard's face in. No, that was putting it lightly. He probably would have torn his face off completely.
"And you did not know that Hanaka Fujiko was, at the time, working for the Rokudaime Hokage?"
"That is correct."
The city council looked down at Hitsuga Shigure with judgment in their eyes. The once-proud, well-groomed man had manacles about his wrists and ankles connected by a thin but sturdy chain. His face was slightly stubbly – he hadn't shaved in Hinata's absence - and his eyes had dark circles underneath them. It was hard for him to get words out clearly, because his jaw had been totally shattered by Naruto. Two barrel-chested soldiers stood on either side of him, both holding clubs, waiting for him to make an unauthorized move.
"The council will now discuss your future."
A brief recess was called. After only ten minutes of hushed whispering, the council – five decrepit men – returned to their chairs.
"Hitsuga Shigure, your sentence has been decided. Is there anything you wish to say beforehand?"
"Yes…" Shigure slowly rotated and the guards followed his every movement with hawk's eyes. "I just want to tell Hinata –"
"Well, you can just skip it," Naruto snarled. Only by the grace of Hinata's restraining arms saved Shigure more broken bones – or worse.
"-I want to tell her that I love her," he said resolutely, trying to get her to look him in the eye. Naruto's glare intensified and he felt his canines poke his bottom lip – when had that chakra come to the surface? Hinata did not look away from the front of Naruto's robes, despite the burning feeling of the man's gaze on the back of her head.
"That is quite enough," said the head elder. "It is time for the sentencing."
The man on the far left cleared his throat and stood up. "Hitsuga Shigure, you have committed an act of treason against your country, almost plunging the land in which we live into a civil war because of your own selfish desires. Your punishment is death by beheading."
A small, stifled cry came from Shigure. All of the ninja in the room exchanged glances. For a province that claimed to be more civilized than their own feudal system, the way they were choosing to kill Shigure was definitely on the barbaric side. The head elder now stood up as the other sat down.
"Is there anyone who wishes to dispute the sentence?"
There was a long moment of silence.
Naruto's jaw dropped as his wife stood up. She made to walk over to the elders' table, but he grabbed her wrist and tugged lightly so that she faced him.
She cupped his face in her free hand and smiled at him. "Trust me?" He nodded slowly and released her wrist.
"Mom, what are you doing?" Tsunade hissed, almost leaping up from her seat. Kazuki forced her down with one hand.
"Relax. I know that face. It means that Hinata-sensei's got a plan."
All attention was riveted on Hinata as she walked calmly to center stage. Shigure looked up at her with hope in his eyes. She ignored him.
"Honorable councilmen, how much do you know about death?"
There was silence at the table.
"As I thought. Please take these words from somebody who knows too well: death is but a mere instant of pain. Death is release from the worldly problems that plague as all. Death is so much easier compared to life! So… why kill him? If Shigure lives, he lives the rest of his life knowing that he failed his country and failed at his goals spectacularly. He's young enough… every single day of every single year until he dies, he will have to live with what happened here."
Ino whistled low. "Damn! That was a clean sweep," she muttered with approval to her husband. Shikamaru didn't say anything, but privately agreed. Tsunade was staring at her mother like she'd never seen her before. It just wasn't like her to be so – so – malicious, that was the word. She suddenly realized that was a testament to how much she cared about and had missed them. Otherwise this man would be getting off much easier than he was right now.
The old men grumbled amongst themselves, speaking just low enough so that Hinata could only catch snippets of their words as she stepped away from the bench respectfully.
"We have one condition," said the head elder. Hinata cocked her head politely. "Hitsuga Shigure must be held in Fire Country. Our own jails are crowded enough as it is. We don't need people like him cluttering them up."
Hinata frowned and turned to ask Naruto's permission, but he was already behind her and soon he had slipped an arm around her waist. It didn't escape her notice that he now stood in between her and the prone Shigure.
"If you can hold him for a few days or so, I will send along a contingent to take him back to Konoha," he said authoritatively. "Hinata has been through too much on this man's account. I do not want her to be exposed to him any longer." That, and Naruto suspected that if he was exposed to Shigure any longer, the man might not live through the night. And as appealing to him as that sounded, Hinata's plan was so much better.
"Agreed," said the head elder. "Does anybody wish to dispute thisnew sentence?"
This time everybody was silent and stayed silent as Shigure was dragged away. The sound of his whimpers slowly faded as he was dragged out of the room and down the corridor.
"And now there's something else we need to discuss," said Naruto, not moving his arm from around Hinata's waist. "And that is why you greeted eleven of my ninja – including my wife and daughter – with a group of soldiers numbering over one thousand."
"Ugh, what a pain," Sakura murmured as they exited the councilmen's chamber.
The councilors had rushed to assure them that what had happened was the mistake of a hot-blooded general who had taken a distinctive dislike to ninja and of course there wasn't that much underlying hostility toward shinobi here! That would be ridiculous. Naruto, with a grim smile, had only a few words to say.
"If I should find any of my or my allies' ninja dead in your territory, you will not like the consequences. I hope our situation will not progress to such a state, don't you agree councilors?"
Looking decidedly nervous, the men had offered them a week's rest - in the Governor's Palace, no less - a request that they immediately declined. All of them had had quite enough of the place and were eagerly awaiting the chance to get the hell out. The deal was sealed with Hinata when they realized if they were really booking it, they could make it back to Konoha in time to pick up Hotaru, Naoki, Toshi and Kushina from the Academy.
Fujiko said her farewells at the city gates after getting a new assignment from Naruto – she would be setting up camp in Kumogakure and would act as the Konohagakure Ambassador to Kumo and the Raikage. Since no current ninja really wanted a long-term mission like that, Naruto figured it was a good idea. After instating her as a Konoha shinobi officially – she looked extremely honored, and even blushed a bit – he sent her off, all of them waving her goodbye.
Team 3 decided it would be best if they left at a slower pace. They had pushed their limits when running with Hinata and then sneaking through the city avoiding detection. Even Tsunade looked tired, despite her large chakra reserves. Hizashi was in an even worse state and Shikame looked exhausted.
And then they ran into another block.
"What about Minato?" Hinata asked on the outskirts of the city-state. They had agreed not to leave the actual boundaries of the city as in the style of ninja – that is, jumping from roof to roof - but the glares they got were very uncomfortable. Now that they were really starting to leave, they remembered that they also had an infant to take care of.
"He'll be fine," said Kiba dismissively, waving a hand. When he felt the death glares of Ino and Sakura, he shut up; but when Hinata started too, he shrunk away slightly, putting Naruto, Shikamaru, and Shino in between him and the women.
"We could take him if you wanted, Hinata-sensei," Kazuki offered. "I'm sure after helping to raise six others Tsunade'll know what the hell she's doing."
Tsunade snorted. "Six? I helped with Iruka too, you know!" Kazuki rolled his eyes.
Naruto saw Hinata bite her lip and clutch Minato tighter to her chest. "I don't think that'll do," he said, face softening as Minato opened his murky, pale blue eyes and caught sight of his mother.
"If we travel at a pace that's safe for an infant, it'll take us at least a week to get back home," Shikamaru said matter-of-factly. "And obviously we're not going to go at a pace that's unsafe for Minato-kun."
"I'll pretend you said that out of care for my son instead of laziness," Hinata said with a wry grin. Shikamaru turned away, mumbling under his breath.
"I have an idea!" said Naruto. "I can use Hiraishin to take Minato home. I'll meet you there, alright?"
"Is Hiraishin safe for a baby?" asked Sakura skeptically. Hinata looked worried. "And isn't the distance too far? Do you have the seals in place already?"
Naruto only looked at her strangely. She sighed. So nothing was impossible for this man, then.
"Of course it's safe for a baby. I just want to get home as soon as possible, alright? Geez. As for the seals, there's one at my house, one at Hokage Tower, one at Ichiraku Ramen…they're all around Konoha! Hell, I gave a kunai with the seal to your husband to keep at the Uchiha Estate, why didn't you know about it?"
"You gave him one and he didn't tell me?!" As he had predicated, Sakura stormed off to the side, growling and most likely thinking up ways to punish Sasuke. Smirking, he bent down and leaned his forehead lightly against Hinata's.
"It'll be fine," he said as he gently took Minato from her arms. He didn't stir much at the change of carrier, but blinked up curiously at his father. Naruto realized vaguely that he had never held his son before – except as clone, but that of course didn't count. Minato was obviously Hinata's son; those eyes couldn't be from anybody but her. And he was definitely his son – the whiskers were a dead giveaway while his peach-fuzz hair was still a very light blonde – more a shade of Ino's than his own. He smirked to himself. So this is Hinata's lovechild with Ino! Naruto thought it was pretty funny, but somehow knew Ino and Hinata wouldn't quite feel the same.
"I'll see you in a few hours," said Hinata quietly.
"Yeah." He pulled her into a loose hug, being careful of the baby in his arms. Then he stepped back, grinned at her, and disappeared. Sighing, Hinata turned back to her Kiba, Shino, Shikamaru, and Ino.
Kakashi was never more relieved than when Naruto reappeared. Shizune, Tsunade, and Hiashi were all in the office of the Hokage, clamoring for the attention of Naruto's substitute. Moegi had given up on her secretarial duties altogether – everyone was taking advantage of the 'vulnerable' sub and there were simply too many people and appointments to keep up with - and had instead opted to go out for the day with her boyfriend, Udon.
"You need to look at this list of equipment – the hospital is practically going to collapse in on itself without these things!"
"The Hyuuga clan cannot tolerate the Uzumaki bloodline limit being called the Byakugan any longer – it's obviously not!"
"I respectfully request that the Hyuuga Clan stick its abnormally large ego up the wazoo!"
"I respectfully request that the Godaime mind her own business –"
"I respectfully request that Hiashi be informed that the Uzumaki clan is most definitely my business!"
"I respectfully request a private audience!"
"Well, I respectfully request that –"
Naruto appeared in the midst of all the chaos, gently cradling a blonde infant to his chest. He walked over to his desk without paying them any attention; his gaze was fixed on the baby in his arms. It took him a long moment before he looked up. When he finally did, he exhaled angrily and glared at Kakashi.
"Kakashi, you wimp!" he yelled, lowering his voice for the sake of the quiet babe. "How could you let these three bully you?!"
"I wasn't cut out to be Hokage," whimpered the jounin miserably. "I want my porn!"
Naruto looked at him in disgust. "Ugh. I still can't believe you're related to one of my favorite jounin. Hell, I can't believe you taught me a damn thing!" He ran his fingers though his hair distractedly before whipping a cradle out of thin air and setting the baby down inside it.
"Shizune-neechan, I sent you an approved list of the equipment that will be covered in next month's budget yesterday. Tsunade-baba, I know you are only arguing with Hiashi out of affection for me and my family, but it's alright. I don't need you to fight for me. Hiashi, I'm signing you an S-rank mission effective immediately."
"Hokage-sama?" Naruto was impressed with the way Hiashi concealed his irritation. The last time he had assigned the man 'an S-rank mission effectively immediately', it was when he came over to their house for dinner before Hinata had disappeared, and the mission was to shut the hell up. He distinctly remembered sleeping on the couch for a week.
"Take care of your grandson for the next few hours," he ordered firmly, in a tone that brooked no arguments.
"Yes, this is your grandson – or the latest one anyway; yes, I've found Hinata. Yes, it's a long story, one that I don't have time to explain at the moment. I'm going to meet back up with Sakura's team and escort them home to make sure they all make it this time. Tsunade-baba, you know I wouldn't ask this of you, but –"
"I'll substitute for you. Kakashi's completely useless," she said, eyeing the joyful jounin with obvious scorn. Kakashi nearly skipped out of the office, happy that his very brief term as the leader of Konohagakure had ended.
"Excellent, you're the best, obaa-san!" Naruto cheered. She smiled when he addressed her as aunt instead of an impolite form of 'old woman'. "I will debrief you on the situation when I get –"
"Eh?" Naruto was looking at Hiashi strangely. The man didn't ever say anything he didn't mean to. So this had to be important in some way… right?
"Nine kids. I was just thinking of the significance of that number…"
Nine ninja villages. The Rookie Nine.
Well, now he had a counterbalance to the last once. A child to negate every tail, to negate all the misery he'd ever experienced. But perhaps negate was the wrong word. His painful childhood was still a part of him – it made him who he was. Only instead of being a reminder of all the things he didn't have, it made his life now that much richer. Naruto grinned at the Hyuuga man brightly.
"Yeah! Great number, isn't it?"
Hinata bit her lip anxiously, looking ahead at Kiba, Shino, Ino, Sakura, and even Shikamaru. Scratch ahead - she was looking very, very far ahead. And though they made no mention of it, and she loved them all the more for it, she knew she was slowing them down. Over a year of doing little more than nothing all day, just being a pampered little wife, hadn't done much for her muscle tone. She was already feeling the muscles cramping. Even she, however, had pride. She wouldn't ask anybody for help. There was only one person she would permit it from, and he was already back in Konoha.
Shikamaru would consider it too troublesome to mention, and Shino and Kiba knew that she wouldn't want their pity, so Hinata was left to wonder if Ino or Sakura would crack first.
Ten minutes later, Ino stopped, prompting all those in front of her to stop as well.
"Look, Hinata –"
"Ino, shut up," said Kiba immediately. As he suspected she would – and for which Hinata was eternally grateful – Ino turned to him and started a spectacular shouting match.
"Hinata," said Sakura gently. You're slowing us down. She didn't have to say it out loud. "It would be a lot easier if –"
With a sound like thunder, something collided gently with Hinata, suspending both her and her assailant briefly in midair. Hinata looked down and saw only blonde.
A flush spread through her cheeks when she realized exactly where he was nestled. While in the village, she wore a necklace with the sealrequired for Hiraishin around her neck. Whenever she went on a mission, she left it off after Naruto had admitted that he might be tempted to summon himself to her side if he thought she was in trouble. He had given it back to her within minutes of being reunited and had said in a voice that was a strange mixture of commanding and begging that she was never to take it off again. It now presented a problem though – the necklace fell squarely between her breasts, and that was the place to where Naruto had summoned himself. Ino and Kiba forgot their shouting match and took turns wolf-whistling and catcalling.
"Naruto!" Hinata hissed, blush growing by the second. He only nuzzled closer. She could see the wicked grin on his face when he tilted his head. "Please!"
"But I'm comfyyy…"
He pulled away with a gasp, looking in her in the face with worry etched on his every feature. "Did you just stutter? Are you alright? What happened?"
She just looked at him, crossing her arms over her chest. "You're not the only Uzumaki around here, you know," Hinata said haughtily. "Do you guys mind waiting ahead for a moment?"
When their former classmates had cleared a sufficient amount of distance for the couple's conversation to stay private, Hinata dropped the annoyed act. She bit her lip and couldn't look him in the eye; instead of a crossing her arms over her chest, she hugged herself protectively, as if to ward off any negative response he could have. Naruto was frowning.
"Hinata, what's wrong? Why are you acting so like – like the twelve-year-old you?"
His face grew alarmed when her shoulders began to shake, and he knew that she wasn't laughing. "Hinata? …Hinata?!"
"After so long apart… the first thing you saw… the first thing was me kissing another man," she choked out, clutching herself tighter. "I have no idea how I would ever deal with that…If I ever saw you do that to a woman… I don't know… I just… I don't want you to think I ever wanted to do that!"
"Of course I didn't think –"
"If Minato wasn't in danger, I never would've considered, even for a second –"
"Hinata!" Naruto grabbed her shoulders firmly. "Stop it! I don't think –"
"But you…" She looked up at him and his heart clenched. Tears were rolling down her cheeks in a glittering stream. "Not once since you found me have you kissed me! I just wanted to know if you were disgusted by me now…"
Naruto gaped at her. "Is that was this is all about? You were upset because I haven't kissed you?"
She nodded tearfully.
"I hope this doesn't take too long," said Shikamaru, stifling a yawn. Ino whacked him over the head angrily.
"Idiot! Both of them have been through serious emotional trauma! And I think all of us felt the power that Hinata's absence had on Naruto. His miserable mood made us all miserable."
Sakura rolled his eyes. Shikamaru and Ino were so predictable. They always fell into the same routines. Shikamaru would bait Ino, knowing she would react; and Ino would fall for it, knowing that Shikamaru really said the things he did to cover up the fact that he cared about people. And to think that they had been married however many years and had three children.
"Forget about that," Ino huffed, flipping her hair and turning away from Shikamaru.
"Really, you two are completely ridiculous!" Sakura said, rolling her eyes again. "Honestly…"
Ino glared at her. "Says the woman who fights with her husband for the makeup sex!"
"I do not!"
"Omigod, you so do!"
"Seriously, why are they taking so long?" Shikamaru moaned, massaging his temples. "Kiba…"
"No way, man. Hinata's my baby sister. I won't spy on her."
"If she was really like your baby sister, you wouldn't let her be alone with a man."
"Geez, Shika, you're - oh, what the hell! We're going to be here all day!"
"What're you – ugh, we'll be here for hours, at least -"
"Don't they need to come up for air?"
"Sakura, they've spent years perfecting this art! You should've been there the day Hinata made jounin."
"Hinata! Naruto! Can you hear me?!"
"Don't even try it, Kiba. You know how they get…"
"Hinata, the kids are waiting for you."
The other ninja watched as husband and wife slowly disengaged, Naruto seeking Hinata's lips several more times before he finally pulled away with a ridiculous pout on his face. Ridiculous, Sakura decided, because no man that old should have a pout that adorable. Hinata's face was flushed pink and her lips were dark red; her hair was in disarray. Naruto hooked one arm around her waist and one around the backs of her knees and lifted her up easily. Hinata, with her arms around his neck, didn't look anyone in the face. She cleared her throat quietly.
"…uh, shall we?"
"Sousei no Rendan!"
Several clones hit the ground at very high speeds. The resulting crater formed had decimated an entire corner of the designated 'play area'. As first year Academy students, they still didn't have any access to the good student training areas, something that irked the two of them – and most of their classmates, who happened to frightened of the explosions they created, for some odd reason – to no end. Off in the corner, their class sensei, Umino Ikuki, waving with excitement and calling out enthusiastic praises.
A redheaded six-year-old girl surveyed the damage done with a contemplative look. "This is only so fun on clones, Toshi… I'm bored!"
Her twin looked sad. "I know… but Nao-nii and Hotaru-nee are both in classes right now, and Ikuki-sensei won't let us practice on anybody else, cause we might get them seriously hurt. What can we do?"
"I don't know, maybe you should try sitting still sometime!"
Both of the twins turned in sync and glared at the newcomers. The Uchiha triplets, much like themselves, had been enrolled in the Academy earlier than normal; however, this was because of their high intelligence levels rather than boundless energy, like Toshi and Kushina. Suzu, the oldest and the ringleader, had dark hair like their father; Mai's was a bright pink, a deviant gene of their mother's. Koto was the youngest, and she was also very quiet. She didn't really join in the verbal spars, something that her siblings often attributed laughingly to a crush on Toshi. They didn't know how right they were. All three of them possessed red eyes, a stunted form of the Sharingan.
"We'd sit still, but we wouldn't want to be mistaken for some dowdy, cold fish Uchiha brat!" said Kushina, sticking her tongue out. Other students who had gathered around – probably excited for the impending fight - laughed.
Suzu flushed angrily. The twins high-fived each other.
"At least our mom still lives with us!" Mai cut in, looking triumphant. Out of the three of them, she was the most hot-headed, though that wasn't saying much.
"…what?" Toshi asked. For once his voice was quiet, and that more than anything tipped Koto off.
"Mai-nee, I think we should just leave it alone…"
"No way! They always give us crap and I'm sick of it!" She turned back to the redheads with a smirk. "You heard me! I said, our least our mom still lives with us! Where's your mother right now? You don't even know, do you?"
"What? Does she not love you or something?"
"Suzu! Mai! Stop it!" cried Koto, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. She looked at Toshi pleadingly, as if to apologize, and he acknowledged her with a nod. But his glare on her two siblings did not let up. Both Toshi and Kushina crouched in mirror poses. They'd been learning a combination of taijutsu styles, most prominently from their uncles Kiba and Neji. It was a completely original fighting style that combined the fluidity and effectiveness of the Jyuken with an Inuzuka's raw power. The twins were ready for a fight.
Ikuki-sensei was jogging over. All of the students quickly dispersed, except for the triplets. Suzu and Mai were smirking triumphantly, obviously expecting to hear the twins given a talking-to. Decked out in a pink, chuunin-style vest and pink boots, as well as having her purple hair done up with two pink ribbons, Ikuki was a most unconventionally-attired for a ninja, even considering her parentage. For somebody who wore an excessive amount of pink, the twins found her quite tolerable. Her love of explosive things helped.
"Hey guys, I have a surprise for you!" said Ikuki warmly, bending down and grinning at them happily. The chuunin completely ignored their battle-ready state, and slowly, they loosened their stances and straightened up, looking a bit embarrassed and still angry. Ikuki almost missed the slight clearing of Suzu's throat.
"Hmm? Yea, Uchiha-san?"
"Sensei, I didn't know if you noticed, but Toshi and Kushina here were about to start a fight with us," said Suzu, sniffing haughtily as the two Uzumaki kids glared at her. "Everybody knows what a danger they are, and we could have been seriously hurt!"
"I did notice, Uchiha-san. And I would not have intervened unless your lives were truly in danger."
Suzu's jaw dropped. "W-what?! Sensei!"
"Anybody who knows anything about the Uzumaki clan knows that insulting their matriarch is tantamount to declaring war. Also… this is a little known fact, but their mother was my jounin sensei. I hold her and her family in very high regard." She smiled coldly at the two Uchiha, who now seemed quite nervous. "And now that you know my connection to Hinata-sensei, know that it's the same for me. Please, Uchiha-san, let this serve as lesson to you – own up to your words and be responsible for them. You never known when they could come back to haunt you."
She looked away from the triplets and back to the tentatively-smiling faces of Toshi and Kushina. "Now! Ready for that surprise?!" They nodded. "You're dismissed early today, somebody's come to pick up all the Uzumaki kids."
"Eh?" Kushina was confused. "But who? Ruka-nii and Tsu-nee are both on missions right now. And daddy doesn't finish until the end of the day."
Ikuki's grin widened. "Who do you think?" She looked over her shoulder with a pointed glance. The twins looked around her, one on either side.
"Where were you?"
"Why'd you leave us?"
"Were you on a super secret mission?"
"When'd you get pregnant again?"
"I thought Tsuki-chan was gonna be last!"
"How old is he?"
"Toshi! Kushina! Mom's trying to get all the groceries for dinner tonight! Be quiet!"
Hotaru was in full bossy swing, which meant her mood was very, very good. She'd been unnaturally complacent in the past year. The look on her face now was one of righteous anger.
"It's fine, sweet," said Hinata, turning around and smiling at Hotaru. She only had to lay a hand softly on her head and her daughter was immediately quiet. "Hold Minato for me?"
The girl looked on with awe as her mother entrusted her with the delicate package. Minato was a pleasantly interactive baby, and soon Hotaru was distracted enough to leave the twins alone, Hinata's main aim in giving Minato to her. Though she found it extremely hard to let him out of her arms after what they had been through.
"Toshi-kun, Kushina-chan, I will explain everything after we go home. In the meantime, please follow Naoki-kun's example, okay?"
The quiet blonde was going through the tomatoes very attentively, trying not to monopolize his mother's attention. The twins pouted. Things like 'quiet' and 'attentive' were not usually part of their routines. Hinata adopted a thoughtful look for a moment, tapping a finger to her cheek. Then she grinned.
"Uzumaki Twins, I'm assigning you a mission, effective as of this moment!" said Hinata in a sharp tone. Kushina and Toshi straightened up immediately, looking excited. "I've split the remaining items on the list in half. Whoever can get the most items first wins. Wait!" They froze, having been about to leap into the fray. "Damage to the store and the disgruntled civilians will be taken into account. Remember that!"
"What about disgruntled ninja?"
Hinata shrugged. "I think we've been past that point for a while. Now – GO!"
Ten minutes and a relatively unharmed open market later, Hotaru and Naoki summoned several kage bushin to take their purchases back the house. The real Uzumakis decided to take a leisurely stroll home, stopping to pick up Kyo and Tsukiko on the way. The usually-stoic Kyo cried quietly for a few moments, rubbing his eyes and hugging her tightly. Tsukiko, giggling like mad, was deposited into Hinata's arms by the nanny, who was cheerfully informed that her services would no longer be needed. As Hinata had recognized the woman as one of Naruto's old fan girls from his jounin days, she felt absolutely no guilt in doing this.
Finally, they had made it back home. Hinata breathed in deeply as she stepped over the threshold, smiling widely.
"So! Who wants to help me make the dinner of the century?"
The Rokudaime looked up from his document with a vague look of attention on his face. For some reason, he'd had a lot of trouble concentrating as soon as he'd returned home.
"Hmm? Yeah, Moegi-chan?"
"Um… you've been attempting to read over and possibly sign that bill into law for about an hour now… also, the Raikage's assistant dropped off a message about possibly scheduling a meeting later this week…?"
I do hope we can resume talks as quickly as possible. I am so terribly sorry that I fell ill – and so unexpectedly! Allergens are in the air – it must be all those blasted trees. Please have the air around the Hokage Tower cleared before we continue on with our peace agreements. I suspect that process may take a week, perhaps slightly longer. Do take care.
Naruto grinned. "I'll be in contact with him, don't you worry! And I think I'll just go home… I don't think I'll be able to concentrate on much else right now…"
Moegi smiled at him, obviously engaged in his excellent mood. He hadn't looked this good in months. "Oh! Choumiko-chan just back from a mission, and she just told Asuki-san who told me that Tsunade-chan's team just arrived in the village!"
"Excellent. And do you know when Iruka is expected back from his mission?"
"Eh, Uzumaki Iruka, right? According to the schedule, his mission should have been over two days ago. Then there's the travel time… so give or take half a day or so, he should be back soon. In fact, given past missions with his team… I would expect Team 17 should be back in Konoha late tonight."
Naruto's grin widened. "Thanks so much, Moegi-chan! Take the rest of the day off!"
"E-eh? I couldn't possibly - !"
"I bet Udon's waiting for you," said Naruto, his grin becoming a soft smile. Udon had been forced to retire from ninja life after a crippling leg injury. He now acted as the Ninja-Civilian Liaison for genin-level ninja. Essentially, he was a sort-of judge and mediator for genin who had had problems with civilians or the differences between civilian life and their own. Many genin who came from non-legacy families, meaning that they were the first ninja in their clan or line, had difficulty relating to their civilian counterparts, especially after the first kill.
Moegi blushed prettily. "Oh – if you insist, then okay! Thank you so much – and say hi to Hinata-san for me!"
Hinata gently guided Hotaru as she stir-fried a mixture of vegetables and noodles. Apparently, she'd been doing most of the cooking for the past several months. Her skills, though, still had a ways to go before they reached Hinata's level.
"I'm really glad you're back, mom!" Kushina said happily. Hinata smiled at her. Every five minutes, one of her seven present children would say something along those lines, and it never lost its effect.
"I'm glad to be back, sweetheart."
"Well, I'm gladder, because now Hotaru-nee can't cook for us anymore," said the redhead cheekily. Hotaru flushed with anger, which contrasted unflatteringly with her coral-orange hair, and made a grab for Kushina only to have the tricky six-year-old slip away, giggling, to where Naoki, Toshi, and Kyo were playing with Tsukiko and Minato. Hotaru fumed.
"You know she only says those things to upset you."
"I know! But it's still annoying!"
"I don't know too much about the sibling relationship, but I understand that some amount of annoyance toward the other is key."
"What about Auntie Hanabi?"
"Nothing is ever normal in the Hyuuga clan, my dear." Hinata neglected to mention that Hanabi hadn't felt annoyance to her – it had varied from a mother-daughter bond to indifference to hatred and then finally to a relatively well-balanced sibling connection. Her kids were far more well-adjusted than either of their parents. Hotaru, who was about to respond, was interrupted by the front door slamming open.
"I'm hooooome!" Tsunade bounded into the kitchen and greeted her mother with a tremendous hug that Hinata returned in full. "I'm glad you were still here when I got back," the genin mumbled into her mother's shoulder. "I'm really, really, really glad…"
"Me, too." They broke apart a long moment later. Hinata smiled and clapped her hands together. "Excellent! Most of us are here. Tsunade, get the younger kids and have them help set the table while Hotaru and I finish dinner."
"It's going to be awesome – mom made her special homemade ramen!" said Hotaru, emptying the pan of stir-fry onto a plate and covering it with tinfoil so that it retained its temperature.
"DID SOMEBODY SAY HOMEMADE RAMEN?!"
"Toshi! Kushina! SHUT UP!"
Tsunade laughed at the interaction of Hotaru and the twins, feeling lighter than she had in months. "Feel that sibling love!"
The seating arrangement at dinner was a strange affair.
Everybody was crowded around one end of the table, where Naruto, after coming home, had insisted that he not be apart from Hinata one second longer than absolutely necessary and then demanded that Hinata sit in his lap. Minato, still being an infant, needed a lot of his mother's attention and was thus positioned on Hinata's lap. Toshi and Kushina, unable to both obtain a seat on either side of their parents, shared close quarters on one seat to their left. Hotaru sat on their right, feeding Tsukiko and trying to act maturely but failing because she was excited to see her mother. Kyo and Naoki, usually the two quietest of the entire bunch, were conversing almost animatedly with each other and Tsunade, who, being the oldest present and having seen her mother more than the others, had chosen to sit farthest away, surveying the scene with a large smile.
The spread itself was one of the largest the Uzumaki clan had ever seen at their table, which was saying something. There was the stir-fry that Hotaru had helped cook, as well as the infamous homemade ramen, gyoza, sushi, a little bit of Korean-style barbeque, and onigiri, fashioned after the faces of the Uzumaki clan. For dessert, Hinata had senzai bean paste, anko, and dango. She had truly outdone herself in her own welcome back meal. As their feast slowly wound down, all of the kids grew quieter as the truth slowly set in, even the twins. All of them sat around the table and basked in the glow of a finely-cooked meal and the fact that they were a whole family once again. Or almost.
"Hinata, that was a fantastic meal," Naruto murmured into her ear, laying his nose against her neck and pulling her closer. She leaned back; Minato was cradled against her chest, fast asleep.
"You miss Iruka."
"Moegi said he should be home tonight."
"That's good -"
Everyone was instantly at attention when the door slammed open. Iruka dashed into the dining room and nearly tripped when he caught his foot in the carpet. It looked as though he had foregone medical treatment altogether – his left wrist was hanging awkwardly at his side and under the remains of his shirt they could see many bandages. He was looking at the rest of the Uzumakis like he'd never seen them before. Then his gaze locked on Hinata.
Minato was gently handed off to Naruto and the two embraced. Iruka's teammates, especially Uchiha Akane, teased him about being a 'momma's boy', and he had always admitted it with a rueful grin. He'd had the privilege of being the first child, the only one with individual attention from both parents, and it showed especially in his relationship with his mother.
"And why didn't you go to the hospital?" She asked fiercely, being careful as she hugged him so as not to aggravate his injuries. "You look awful!"
"I love you, too, mom," he said, only just managing to roll his eyes because he was so exhausted. "Where… where have you been…?"
"Let's get you cleaned up, and then I will tell you everything," Hinata vowed. Her eyes were already roaming over the damage.
"But mom!" Kushina cut in pleadingly. "We've waited for AGES! Can't we please start while you patch up Iru-nii?"
"Kushina, your brother is fresh from a mission! I will not –"
"Mom," said Iruka firmly as he looked her in eye – he was almost surpassing her in height, she realized with a pang – and placed a hand on her shoulder. "I really want to hear this."
"…Hitsuga Shigure, huh?" said Iruka quietly, dark blue hair falling into his eyes.
They had taken their conversation to the living room, clearing around the furniture so that they could position themselves on large, comfortable cushions on the floor. Tsukiko and Minato, the two youngest, were the only ones who didn't have a look of shock, horror, or relief on their faces. Everybody else was transfixed at Hinata's tale – either because of the fact that a man could stoop that low, or that nobody in the village of Konoha had thought to look in the Province, as it was called, or that their much-beloved mother was back among them once more; it was unclear.
"Don't get any ideas," Hinata said at once, looking over his cleaned up form with a knowing glance. "He's been taken care of, just like I said."
"So If I ever feel the need to vent my anger, I can just mosey on down to Konoha Maximum-Security Correctional Facility?"
"You most certainly may not, and if I – or any of my contacts within the village – ever hear about it, you will be in big trouble."
"Bigger than the time that Toshi and Kushina filled the entire Academy with multicolored gelatin and chickens?"
Hinata rolled her eyes while the twins exchanged a high five with identical grins. "Yes. Much, much more trouble. Revenge is not something I want anybody in this family in which to invest themselves. Got it?"
She went around the circle, getting a firm yes from each of the ones who had mastered speech at this point, until finally she reached Naruto. He turned his head away and crossed his arms over his chest with a dismissive noise.
"Naruto!" she hissed. "Please, try to set an example –"
"Hinata, I don't think you understand what this experience has put me through," he said, voice quiet but intense. "It was different for the kids. They had each other, and thank the gods they did. But me? I had no one. It was just me and an empty bedroom every night for a year. Do you know what that feels like?"
She flinched, and he almost took it back when he realized that no, she hadn't ever had that sort of experience and that she probably felt horribly guilty for sharing a bed with someone other than him. But he couldn't do it. He had to make her realize what her absence had done to him, so that they could all take steps to prevent it from happening ever, ever again.
"Just… don't go out of your way, alright?" she pleaded quietly, looking up at him. "If the opportunity presents itself, fine, but don't seek it out. Don't be like – like Sasuke."
"Mom?" Tsunade looked curious. "What do you mean, like Sasuke? Are you talking about Sasu-ojii?"
"That's a story for another time," said Hinata, not looking away from Naruto. He nodded reluctantly.
"I can live with that."
The Uzumaki Clan spent the night together, all curled up in the living room.
His cell was devoid of light; he was blindfolded, and the stone floor was wet. What had he ever done to deserve this? All he had wanted was to love and be loved. Was that such a crime?
"I'm glad I could meet you personally."
He didn't look up. His gaze locked on the floor. He would not give them the satisfaction of his –
"The satisfaction of your defeated face?"
Shigure looked up at the blonde woman with a stricken face. "W-what? Did you just –"
"Read your mind? Yes." She smiled predatorily. "Nara Ino's my name. I'll be your companion for this evening. And it isn't gonna be pretty – do you know how much of a pain it was to convince my husband to watch all three kids? Not cool. Not cool at all."
"Why are you doing this? A woman's disposition isn't suited for such –"
"Okay, now you've sealed the deal. But first…" Ino gestured toward the thick, steel door. It opened, and for a moment he was blinded by the light of the hallway.
"Shigure. I don't think we've been formally introduced."
His heart was thudding so painfully loud, he was sure that both ninja in the room could hear it.
"My name is Uzumaki Naruto. I am the Rokudaime Hokage. You recently kidnapped my wife and held her in your home for over a year, along with my son."
"Only out of love!" Shigure said desperately, staring down the most powerful man in the world. "I only did what I did because I –"
"Don't you think of completing that sentence!" Naruto roared, grabbing Shigure by the front of his shirt, shredding the already threadbare garment even more with his claws - they had appeared out of nowhere. They had grown so much and so quickly that they easily pierced the skin of his chest. Shigure stared into the face of his worst nightmares – an angular and bestial face, a snarling mouth complete with fangs, and eyes that showed such a complete hatred that Shigure felt his blood turn to ice. Time stopped for a brief moment, and he only began to realize the extent of what he had done.
"If you had any sort of love for Hinata – or anybody but yourself! – you never would have done what you did! Don't you ever claim love for Hinata!"
Naruto threw him backward hard so that his head collided with the stone wall behind him. His vision went starry and he slumped against the wall, breathing hard.
"He's all yours, Ino," said Naruto darkly, sweeping out of the cell. Ino smiled coldly at Shigure, and he whimpered in return.
"It's going to be a long night, Shigure…"
Outside, Naruto leaned against the wall and buried his head in his hands. As satisfying as this was, he still felt a crushing guilt weigh upon his conscience. He really couldn't live with Hinata's compromise, so he had arranged this alternative.
He had broken a promise. Maybe he had not promised outright, but he had gone back on his word. So he cried. He cried for his breaking of a promise, and for the fact that he now had a secret to keep from Hinata.
The office of the Rokudaime Hokage released a formal statement earlier today concerning the Hokage's wife's, Uzumaki Hinata's, year-long disappearance.
"Uzumaki-san was kidnapped on a mission that was set up specifically for that reason, and was held captive in the Province for several months by a man who was working not to start a war but for his own selfish ends. She was brought back to Konoha through the combined efforts of special agent Hanaka Fujiko, who now works as liaison to the Raikage and the Hokage's good friend and commander, Uchiha Sakura. It was unknown at the time but Uzumaki-san went on the mission while pregnant. Luckily, both her and the child, Uzumaki Minato, returned unharmed."
The report went on to mention the Provincial man, Hitsuga Shigure, in great detail, as well as the lengths he went to in order to keep Uzumaki Hinata captive. The full transcript will be available in tomorrow's paper.
Hinata straightened the framed article proudly, tracing the dusty pane of glass with her fingertips. That newspaper had been released almost ten years ago now, and since then she'd had no major separation from her children. She herself had not gone out of the village on a mission by herself in years.
"Hey mom, I'm home!"
Minato dropped his backpack on the floor of the kitchen, stretching his arms far above his head while he yawned a bit. Hinata smiled at him. "Welcome home. How was cram school?"
The ten-year-old pantomimed dying and Hinata rolled her eyes. "Get used to it. If you really want to rival Katsu-kun, you're going to have to put everything you've got into all aspects of your education."
Minato scoffed. "If Uchiha thinks he can beat me, he's got another thing coming! I already skipped a grade and I still dominate the class ranking."
"I believe Katsu-kun shares the top spot with you," said Hinata, looking at her youngest pointedly. "While you best him in practical examinations, he beats you on the paper tests."
"I know, which is the only reason I agreed to go to cram. In fact, the idea of beating him totally is the only thing that gets me through cram."
"Both you and your father have such one-track minds about these things. Don't you get fulfillment out of anything else?"
"Absolutely not!" said Minato, sniffing haughtily. Hinata smirked. "Oh? Not even Azami-chan?"
"What?! No way!"
Hinata laughed at the blush on his cheeks. "Whatever you say, dear. I need to go talk to your father. Will you be okay by yourself for a while?"
"Mom, I'm already ten! I'll be fine!"
"Clearly, all three of them are in a class of their own. She may not be a contender for the top spot like the boys are, but she leads her kunoichi classes and even though she's still in the Academy, she's proficient at several healing jutsu. Healing jutsu! At ten years old! Just a few years ago, we would've thought that sort of control would be near impossible for a child that young."
"Still…I would prefer that they be kept with children of their own age. Many other ninja who have graduated early have developed serious problems with depression and other mental illnesses."
"Hinata's absolutely right. Kakashi-sensei is a prime example."
"Naruto! Take this seriously!"
The Rokudaime rolled his eyes at his former teammate, causing her face to turn an even darker, angrier red. "These are our children we're talking about! You could be a little more sincere –"
"Sakura, my son is ten years old. There is no way in hell I'm letting him graduate early. I want to keep him away from death as long as possible. I know it won't be forever. But I can keep it from him a little bit longer. So really, this conversation is pointless."
"No, not necessarily," said Shikamaru. "I know that this is a hard concept for you to understand, but we're planning ahead."
"Like Ikuki-san said, they're in a class of their own. I know that I don't want Azami-chan to graduate early, but if we don't, she'll likely end up on a team with Katsu-kun and Minato-kun, if only because their skill levels far exceed anybody else in their class." Ino looked at Naruto pointedly. "So this conversation isn't pointless."
"I just don't like the idea of planning their futures for them. For all we know, one of them could easily peak where they are now, and then not continue the growth pattern we've been seeing." He let his gaze slid taunting to Sasuke and then back. Sasuke scowled in return, tensing and reaching for his katana.
"Stop it," said Hinata instantly, looking from rival to rival. "Right now, both of you! We've got other things to discuss before you destroy this poor office for the nth time. Like, if they do continue this escalation of talent and we don't let them graduate early, how can we supplement their Academy training? Obviously, they're going to outgrow the curriculum before they graduate."
"We have to be careful. Any 'supplemental' training could be viewed as favoritism." Sakura frowned. She knew a lot of people who would immediately call them on it.
"Right. And who could we have teach them? What should they be taught? Should they be trained as a team?" Ino continued.
"And do you see what comes from planning ahead? Even more confusing questions!" Naruto said, sighing. "Can we just leave this off until at least a year from now? Then they'll be a lot closer to graduating, and that's when everybody else considers the teams for graduation. Why do we have to be special?"
"I guess that's enough for today," said Sakura with a frown. She had been the one to organize the meeting, and to see it fall apart by Naruto's logic was not heartening to her.
"Finally! Everybody clear off, I've got work to do," Naruto grumbled, turning back to the papers on his desk. "Uzumaki-san, you can stay," he ordered authoritatively, not looking up as he addressed Hinata in particular.
Sasuke rolled his eyes. "We should've suspected something when he said he had work to do," he said with quiet annoyance.
"I see somebody's feeling threatened. Afraid that my son will best yours, Sasuke-kuuun?"
"Hinata's genes are his only saving grace. I have nothing to worry about."
"Alright, time to go!" Sakura said in a loud voice, grasping Sasuke's upper arm with her super strength and dragging him out of the office. Hinata took up a similar stance at Naruto's side, putting a calming hand on his shoulder.
"Do you always have to bait him?" Hinata asked, sighing at her husband's pout. "You're setting an awful example for Minato. You should hear how he goes on about his rivalry with Katsu-kun! He doesn't talk about it in front of you as much – wants to look very nonchalant about it all – but around anybody else, beating Katsu is all he talks about."
"Babe, he's following in the hallowed tradition of his forefathers! Jiraiya and Orochimaru, Obito and Kakashi, me and Sasuke."
"Did you just compare Katsu to Orochimaru?"
"If he ends up beating Minato in class rank, then yes. Yes I did."
"You are totally incorrigible!" Hinata said. She tried to look severe but instead just ended up laughing.
"You know you love it," said Naruto. He grinned and stood up, pulling her into an affectionate embrace. "Mmm…"
"Long day?" she murmured, breathing deeply.
"Yea… I'm glad Nobuyuki is coming this week."
"You didn't tell me the Raikage was coming," she accused without real venom.
They stood together in peaceful silence for a long moment. It was rudely interrupted when Kazuki barreled into the room, panting heavily. Both of them broke apart instantly, startled out of their reverie.
"Kazu-kun?" Hinata started tentatively. "What –"
"Hokage-sama! Sensei! There's been an escape from the Konoha Correctional!"
"What?" Kazuki had the Hokage's full attention. "How many? What time? Do we know who?"
"Only one, maybe an hour ago – Hitsuga Shigure!"
Hinata and Naruto locked gazes. "Minato," they said in unison. Faster than Kazuki could register, Naruto put a hand on Hinata's arm and disappeared with a flash of orange and black.
Less than a second later, the famous couple reappeared outside of their house.
The blonde kid poked his head out of the front door, looking confused. "Is something wrong?"
"Minato!" Hinata rushed forward, heedless of all else. "Are you alright? Has anyone stopped by the house, given you anything, done anything to you …?"
"Well, this creepy guy let himself in and tried to attack me, but –"
Naruto was inside the house by the time he had said 'creepy guy'. His nose and chakra-sensing capabilities led him into the kitchen. What he saw was not what he expected.
There was a creepy man in the center of it all. His long, dark hair was shaggy, unkempt, and greasy. Blood dripped from a head wound down his face; one of his eyes was bruising rapidly and it looked as though his nose was broken. One elbow was bent the wrong way completely and a broken bone had pierced the skin of his right leg. He had been tied up most effectively, and it looked as though all of this had happened at no loss to the kitchen.
"Dad, you didn't let me finish!" complained Minato as he stepped into the kitchen. "He tried to attack me, but he was totally useless. It took me about three seconds to down him."
Naruto stared at his son and was silent for a full minute.
"Three seconds? And you did this much damage? Wow! That's fantastic! And look at that leg! You must have been hitting at top speed for it to be that bad!"
Minato looked at his father hesitantly. "…you're not upset?"
"Upset? Upset? I'm proud! Do you know who this man is?"
"Really?" Minato looked overwhelmed for a second. "…AWESOME! Can we take pictures?!"
"No, you may not!" said Hinata with an uncharacteristic glare. "Our family is more classy than that, thank you very much!"
She strode into the kitchen and bent down to inspect the damage. "Though really dear, this is excellent work. Top marks. You really could graduate right now."
Minato looked at her, starry-eyed at the prospect of besting Katsuro in such a way. "Mom, can I –"
"Absolutely not. Naruto, why don't you call …somebody… and have them save our kitchen from the stench?"
"We may be classy… but we can still do our own work, princess," said Naruto as he summoned several shadow clones. Hinata stopped them in the process of taking Shigure back to prison.
"Wait. Something needs to be done." She pulled her fist back and then let it fly. It caught the half-conscious Shigure directly in the nose, and if he hadn't been restrained by three shadow clones he would've gone flying through the window behind him.
"If you're awake in there, Shigure… if you ever fuck with my family again, I will make your death slow and painful, got that?"
Naruto was smirking as his clones towed Shigure away. Minato looked at his mother like he'd never seen her before.
"Mom, that was so cool! I've never heard you swear before!"
"I better not hear you say that word, young man!" said Hinata stiffly, straightening out her clothes with much aplomb.
"But you just said it," he replied with a pout.
"That's because that man almost ruined my life and the life of one of my children, and then tried to kill one of my children. What do you do in that sort of situation, talk nicely? Hell no."
"Mom!" Minato was even more impressed.
"I may be your mother but I'm still an Uzumaki," said Hinata crisply. "And have you finished cleaning your room?"
"I'm almost done, I just -"
"Need to start? Well, go on then."
Grumbling, the youngest of the Uzumaki clan scampered out of the kitchen and down the hall to his room.
"You tell him girlfriend," said Naruto, still smirking.
"You seem pleased with yourself," said Hinata loftily, avoiding him as he attempted to put an arm around her. "Is there a reason?"
"You just continue to impress me, Hinata. That's all. I'm just glad you're mine." He scratched the back of his head sheepishly, using that look he always did to soften her up. It worked like a charm – as always – and soon she threw herself into his arms, trying to memorize the moment.
"The true beloveds of this world are in their lover's eyes, lilacs opening, ship lights, school bells, a landscape, remembered conversations, friends, a child's Sunday, lost voices, one's favorite suit, autumn and all seasons, memory, yes, it being the earth and water of existence, memory."
Well, there you go. One big chapter o' fluff and Shigure torture. This was really hard to write. And seriously, this time, ending was rushed and lame in my opinion. Will likely be revised later. Thoughts?
Lolz, Kakashi as the Hokage. I mean, seriously people! Kakashi?! NO! Stop making him the Rokudaime. That's Naruto's job. Shichidaime sounds really lame. Konohamaru can have that one. Roku's cool.
Sousei no rendan – The Barrage of the Twins, twins' barrage if you enjoy brevity. Anybody care to guess Ikuki-sensei's mother? You all know from context that she was on a team with Kazuki under Hinata. AsuKure's kid was also on their team. But that's for another one shot.
Nee/Nii – older sister and older brother, respectively. If you're going to use these in a story, please get them right. Hinata is NOT Hanabi's older brother. And Hanabi is NOT Hinata's older brother. Nee/nii always applies to the older sibling. Younger siblings are imouto, little sister, and otouto, younger brother.