From the Memoirs of Haruno Sakura III

One of the things about becoming pregnant is dealing with how others react to the news. A man can become a father at any age and the most fazing reaction will usually be from the father himself. In the village of Konoha, a man expecting a first child at Sasuke's age wasn't anything to bat an eyelash at; a woman expecting a child at mine: it turned some heads.

I thought it was going to turn my daughter's head completely around.

"You're too old!" she'd exclaimed upon hearing the news. She had evidently decided to ignore my many years of having taught her about the amazing capabilities of the human body and its ability to defy the expectations of modern medicine. "You know what people are going to think when I cart around the thing in public?"

"Don't call it that,'" I interrupted. "The 'thing' is going to be your sibling."

"They're going to think it's mine!" she continued her outburst as if I had not spoken, pacing in front of me, while her boyfriend looked on nonchalantly from across the way. Thankfully his reaction had been encouraging: he'd cracked a wide, rare, smile and dealt a surprisingly robust slap to Sasuke's shoulder, a gesture my husband merely smirked at. A younger man giving him props for his virility, you bet Sasuke was glowing! I was disappointed my own daughter wasn't being so accommodating.

"So what if they think it's yours?" her former teammate objected. "Why do you care?"

My girl pinioned him with the death glare made so famous by me and inherited by her. "You'll care when you're with me and they think it's yours too."

"Oh." To his credit, he didn't turn as white as I feared. "Well, I don't think they will. Have you seen those old photographs of the Uchiha clan? Rest assured, with strong genes like those, it's not going to look like either one of us."

My daughter made a frustrated noise. "Just for once in your pathetic existence could you be on my side?"

"Oh no," he shot back drolly, "where would be the fun in that?"

"You are such an asshole!" my daughter seethed through her teeth, stomping from the room and slamming out of the house. I cringed at the decibel of her exit, not daring to glance at my husband.

Her significant other merely shrugged with his hands and sat back against the couch. "One," he began, "two, three…" Then he pointed at the door.

On cue, it opened and my daughter poked her pink head in. "What are you doing?!" she demanded. "Come on!"

Her boyfriend ducked his head and turned his palms out in casual surrender, before he launched to his feet. He winked at our combined surprise. "Every time," he stated smugly, calmly following my spitting-with-cat's rage progeny out into the sunny afternoon. After the door shut behind them, I fell into the throes of helpless laughter. I felt the poking in my arm and turned to the man sitting beside me, a rather bewildered expression on his usually stoic face.

"Would you mind telling me what that was about?" he asked.

"Oh Sasuke-kun," I grinned, "do I really need to tell you?"

"No." He leaned over and kissed my ear. "You never need to tell me, you just do."

"I do not," I said indignantly.

"I beg to differ."

"You beg?" I sniffed, sliding my hand over his thigh, gradually heading north, whispering seductively into the shell of his ear. "Hmm, I like that idea, actually. You do it-" I nipped his earlobe "-so well."

I yelped when Sasuke lifted me from the couch and started pulling me down the hall toward our bedroom, me grinning and unresisting the whole way.

"Where's the boy?" Sasuke asked, propelling me urgently over the threshold. Always the responsible one, even when his mind was on an impending midday quickie. I'd always loved that about him.

"At a friend's house," I said, latching the door securely, "under strict orders to be home in an hour."

"Too bad." Sasuke was shrugging out of his shirt.

"Oh?" I reached below and peeled up my dress from the hem up, taking it and the slip over my head in one practiced, graceful motion. Sasuke paused to watch, because it was that elegant.

Away went the pants. "An hour isn't nearly long enough."

I lowered my gaze in a manner my husband found sultry, playfully spinning the last of my underwear across the room. "Hmm, it certainly isn't," I agreed.

Abruptly I splayed my hands on my husband's chest and gently pushed him toward the bed, and then I pushed him again, once, hard, so that he was lying flat on his back. He let me.

When it came to any kind of intimacy, Sasuke had enough trust issues to write a book thicker than my bicep, but when it came to handing his body over to me, there were no reservations whatsoever. He trusted me on a level far more than he had anyone else in his life. In spite of the terrible abuses others had made of their love for him, I had never betrayed mine for him.

"So when will we know if it's a boy or a girl?" he asked breathlessly, after the first round.

I threw an arm over my forehead, giving myself a moment to catch my own breath before responding. "I'm not sure… I can't think right now." I turned to look at him. "What do you want it to be?"

"Alive and healthy."

I smiled. "Me too… though, if I might be a little prejudiced, I'd prefer a boy."

He smiled, pleased, interested. "Yeah?"

"Mmm. Had a girl already… Besides I hear boys are easier."

"This from the girl who used to scream at her male teammates all the time for their idiocy?" he replied wryly.

I made a face at my husband. "Everyone knows you and Naruto weren't normal boys."

"We were perfectly normal boys, our being orphans notwithstanding." Sasuke propped himself up on one elbow, amazingly chatty. "Did Naruto ever tell you that we sometimes used to stay up in our tents nights during missions and speculate about girls?"

I shot him a dark look of complete disbelief. "You were distracted by revenge ninety-nine percent of the time, Sasuke-kun. I find that a little hard to believe."

"That left a one percent margin free for other things to distract me…" Sasuke moved and hovered over me, caging me between his arms, "and girls were one of them."

"Forgive me if I call bullshit on that one, sweetheart."

"You can call it whatever you want but it's true." He bent his head toward my neck, gently mouthing the skin there.

"All right." I humored him, closing my eyes under the heaven of his mouth. "Did you guys ever talk about me?"

Distracted from his nuzzling, Sasuke took up his head to briefly roll his eyes. "Naruto had a crush on you back then and wanted someone to bounce his inanities off of, yes we talked about you," he replied very patiently. Sasuke pressed the tip of his index finger in the center of my forehead and traced it down over my nose, bumping, lingering over my lips, before continuing. "I happened to be a convenient target for his midnight speculations. He kept asking me if I liked you back. I always used to tell him no." At my visible dismay he smirked. "Sakura, it was the middle of the night after days of traveling on foot, what would you have said to get a few hours of sleep?"

I chuckled and lifted my arms to wrap them around his shoulders. "Did you?"

He caught them and held them up above our heads, almost in a dance. "Did I what?"

"Like me." I laced our fingers together, the action swaying the movement of our arms, pinning mine over my head to the mattress.

He diverted attention from our play to give me an annoyed look.

I sighed, curling my fingers around his. "I just want to know."

"Why? We were kids. It doesn't matter."

"When you're a kid, everything matters, Sasuke-kun." I said. We both just gazed into each other's eyes for a few seconds. He watched me for a long time, considering. Then to my disappointment, he untangled our hands, moved over and lay beside me.

"At first, I didn't," he started at length, softly. "You irritated me in every way I didn't need. I didn't like it when you acted like I was this great hero when all I did was fail. I wanted to hate you so much and yet you were the only person I couldn't even muster the slightest negative feeling toward." He could no longer look at me now. "Even if I felt you liked me for all the wrong reasons, I still didn't want you to stop liking me. I needed you to care about me because there was no one left alive who did. I didn't know how to express that to you, except to thank you." Sasuke closed his eyes and pressed his body closer to mine, his face against my neck. "I know what I gave up in walking away from you, Sakura, so stop asking me about what that stupid kid thought back then, because I sure as hell don't care." He raised his head again, meeting my gaze, and then gently pressed a fingertip under my eye. "Sentimental old fool," he teased in a low rumble. "Haven't I made you cry enough today?"

I sniffed lightly and blinked the rest of my tears back. "It's just hormones."

"I'd believe that if I didn't know you."

"You're not a woman, how could you?"

Sasuke slid his hands north and covered my breasts with his hands, cradling both mounds in his hands generously. "If I were a woman, would we be having this conversation, like this?"

"Sure we would. Do you have any idea how hot you are? Put those looks on a female body and we'd all be done for."

My husband darkened and misunderstood my angle. "I am not henging into a woman, Sakura; we've had this conversation before. It is not going to happen. Get yourself a girlfriend if you like that sort of thing."

"Well, shoot." I pouted, pretending disappointment. "It was worth a shot." Then I fully absorbed the last thing my husband suggested. "I don't like that sort of thing. I just would like to see it. I already know what Naruto looks like… I think."

Sasuke froze and leveled me with the coldest glare ever. "You've seen Naruto naked."

"We all have. His sexy jutsu."

Exhaling loudly, Sasuke lifted his head, staring blankly at the wall. "I am actually having this conversation with you. I'm lying in bed with you and this is what we're talking about."

I giggled. "First time for everything, honey."

"Last time too. Now, shut up."

We were having lunch together at Ichiraku's, me paying as usual, when I dropped the news. Naruto thought I was trying to pull a prank on him.

"Look, Sakura-chan, if you want some vacation time, all you have to do is ask me," he chuckled. "I don't expect you to work like a dog during peace time, which this is, so don't you feel the need to make something up to get time off."

"I'm not making up anything. I can show you the stick."

"That piece of plastic you pee on? No thanks." He shoveled a spoonful of noodles into his mouth, glancing sideways at me. "Give me a little credit here. I'm married and I have two kids, I know what a pregnancy test is!"

I folded my hands in my lap and merely looked at him. He stared at me back, the arch of his golden brow perplexed and worried. Gradually it dawned on him, and his big blue eyes grew big as saucers, consequently causing his mouth drop open, and the dumpling he'd been chewing to plop back into his bowl.

"Naruto, ew, that's disgusting," I chided without heat. It wasn't like he was my husband.

He ignored my lazy rebuke at his lack of table manners. "Wait…" he exclaimed. "This is not an attempt to fuck with me? You're really pregnant?"

"If this was an attempt to fuck with you, dobe, I'd be the first one in line." Sasuke sat on the other side of his friend and gave him a single pat on the back before he sat down. At my questioning look, he said, "I figured you needed the reinforcement. I don't need him coming at me with this during our next spar."

"Pussy," Naruto muttered, slurping his ramen noisily.

Sasuke ignored him and flagged down the cook to place an order instead.

Naruto finished his bowl and then spun on his stool so he was directly facing me. "Are you sure?" I nodded. "Do you have all the necessary paperwork filled out, doctor's forms?" I kept nodding, my exasperation evident as I blew air between my lips. "I get it! I know you're the queen of this sector. I'm the Hokage; I've got to ask you this stuff. And you!" He spun on Sasuke, who was in the midst of breaking apart his disposable chop sticks. "Nice act of subterfuge, bastard, you took out the top med nin of Konoha without employing a single ninja technique. What do you have to say for yourself?"

"My kung fu is best." Sasuke twirled his noodles and dug in.

Naruto glowered at him. "I guess you'll be asking me for time off as well?"


Naruto grinned.

Then Sasuke added: "I don't answer to you. I put in my papers for leave this afternoon and my captain already approved it."

Naruto nearly fell off his chair and groaned. He didn't like being reminded of Sasuke's new line of work. The police force had its own hierarchy and for those who served in it who weren't also ninja, there was a chain of command to follow. If Sasuke went over the captain's head to ask for leave from the Hokage, he'd have caused a lot of administrative problems. When all was said and done, with the way the Konoha police force ran itself, Naruto literally could not give Sasuke an order. He'd have had to issue it to the captain first. Privately I think Sasuke enjoyed that.

"Bet the other officers aren't letting you hear the end of it," Naruto teased, elbowing his old rival.

Sasuke shrugged, smirking. "They think I'm a hero, if that's what you mean. Got a lot of 'not bad old man's today." He appeared amused. "'Old man', when I could wipe the floor with any of those snot nosed twenty year olds in a second."

"Oh you poor thing," I muttered under my breath, rolling my eyes heavenward.

"Nobody asked for your opinion, Sakura," Sasuke shot back nonchalantly, his attention focused entirely on his food.

I peered round Naruto. "Too damn bad, old man, mine are free and unsolicited so long as we're married."

"Are you giving me incentive to divorce you?"

Naruto was looking back and forth between us, unease manifest on his bewhiskered expression. He sought to break whatever tension he sensed was growing. Reading atmospheres was not one of his strong suites. "Um, do you guys want me to leave? I feel like I'm caught in the prelude of a porno just before the main characters go at it on the kitchen floor."

As one, Sasuke and I dealt a blow to either side of the head of the most powerful man in Fire Country.

"Shit, you guys made me spill!" Naruto practically wailed. You'd have sworn he'd never aged beyond sixteen the way he carried on.

I tossed some napkins in his lap, slapped the money on the counter, and spoke round to my husband. "I've got to run an errand. Could you pick up the squirt from school?" He nodded, clearly not intending to budge from his stool until he'd finished his meal. Sasuke was inordinately fond of his food and never budged from the table until he'd cleaned his plate, a quirk I found both frustrating and endearing. I kissed him on the cheek fondly, murmuring grateful noises, and went on my way. Behind me, I heard Naruto rib Sasuke about something, prompting my husband to retort, "If that were true, you wouldn't be here at a ramen stand hiding from her."

"Oh, shut up," was the withering response.

I reflected then on how truly amazing these two men were, having lived through the things they did, with all that fell between them to rip their brotherhood asunder. Naruto especially, yet there shouldn't have been any surprises there. He'd given the appearance of having let go Sasuke all these long years and behaved indifferently toward the subject of him. The second he showed his face in Konoha, Naruto immediately jumped on the chance to renew old ties with our long lost teammate. He was wary at first, as he ought to have been, but it soon faded when Sasuke agreed to every request to spend time together that he made. It ultimately made him decide that giving Sasuke a second chance was more than a trial test run on trust.

In the beginning when the Council made denigrating objections to his presence, Sasuke said nothing to them, standing silently in the back of the meeting room, while Naruto practically threw himself on the chopping block to defend him. "If you kick him out, you'll have to kick me out too!" was his inelegant, thoughtless, emotional ending outburst to the combined silence of his Council of peers and clan representatives.

"Promise?" Kiba snorted, clearly trying to hold back a guffaw. Naruto glared at him.

Hinata closed her fingers over her lips and looked away politely.

Shikamaru glanced round the room, saw he had unanimously been picked to speak for them all, and stood up to speak. "Listen, Naruto, if you tell us he's a changed man, I believe you. We actually can't vote on something like this. What we can decide is if he can join the Council and I think I speak for all of us when we say we would like to very much have him sit with us… we just need reassurance he is with us, if you understand what I mean."

Everyone was nodding. I looked down at the table. At the time, I was too biased to chime in my agreement, but I also shared their sentiments and concerns. From across the room, I felt Sasuke's gaze rest on me. I caught his eye and gave him a small smile. He sucked in his lower lip and looked away, reddening just a bit. Ino, who was also present, noticed the exchange and ribbed me about it later. I denied her teasing insinuations with a bloom in both cheeks.

In the end, Sasuke declined on representing the Uchiha clan, as he felt with their bloody history with the village, he couldn't in good faith represent what was at best only a memory. He wanted to book end his clan's legacy with quiet dignity in his own way.

"I'm retired," he told the rest of the room, "and no one is more relieved of that fact than me."

I emerged from my reminiscing when I reached my destination. I gazed perfunctorily at the sign.


I walked down the familiar gentle curves bisecting the rows of grave stones and family plots, nearly whispering the number of steps I was taking with each foot fall. I did this ritual playfully, almost cheerfully. Finally I reached the little plot in the back most area, the newly mown loam sweet in my nostrils, the green of the grass becoming under the bright sunny sky. It was a new plot, purchased beside an older one, the graves bearing the names of my parents, grandparents, and great grand parents. There were a few uncles and aunts and a cousin who had died at birth. I stopped first at these graves, pausing before the ones of my parents for a few minutes, before I finally moved on to the last marker at the end of the plot. It was the only one that did not bear the Haruno name.

But it was how he had wanted it, I smiled approaching it. My first husband hadn't known his parents. They'd died when he was three on the same mission so he'd never known their faces outside of photographs. He wanted to be buried with the family he had known and loved: Mine.

I knelt on the cushy, springy grass, sweeping my skirts between my legs. I folded my hands in my lap and gave the name stamped before me a crooked smile. "Hey. Bet you didn't expect me to show up today." I winked at the marker as if he were sitting alive in front of me. "You know what I always liked to tell you: 'I got some moves too.' Well, I've got another one for you." I spread my hands theatrically. "I'm pregnant!" Then I smiled sadly and touched his name. "Our daughter isn't very happy, though. Maybe she's already told you about it. I… wish she were. It bothers me more than I want to admit." I dropped my gaze to my lap, absently twisting around a piece of grass between my fingers. "I need her to be okay with this. It never sits right with me to be at odds with her. I don't know how to handle this." I lowered my head, exhaling slowly. "I know, why aren't I telling Sasuke about this? He knows… I just don't want to burden him with it. He's thrilled with the baby… happier than I've seen him about anything, really." I took a deep breath. "This is the part where you make some stupid joke to make me laugh."

"I'm dead, honey, there ain't nothing I can do anymore, not that I did much of anything when I was alive anyway."

I burst into giggles, imagining his face as he would have said it, adding in a wink. I found myself remembering the first time I met my first husband. It was after my final bout in the Jounin exams. I had retreated into the shade off to the side, tending to my injuries, and hydrating, listening to the sounds of the crowd in the stadium. I was thinking I would change my clothes and retreat indoors to cool off before going off with the other competitors to watch the last fight. I was patting my face with a towel when I heard someone whistle from the stands above and behind me. I ignored it at first, thinking it didn't have anything to do with me, until an empty plastic cup beaned my head. It didn't hurt, of course, but it irritated me plenty. I turned and glanced up, searching for the culprit. He wasn't making it hard for me to pick him out. A young man my age was leaning over the crowd barrier and grinning. He was a ninja; that much I could tell from his forehead protector and, from the pleased expression on his handsome face, his goal of gaining my attention had been accomplished.

We locked eyes for a while, until finally I grew tired of waiting, and put a hand on my hip. His grin grew. "Hey, what's your name?" he asked cheerfully.

I raised an eyebrow, already losing interest in the exchange. "They announced it before my match, unless you weren't paying attention."

"I was in the john, so no, I didn't hear it, actually. So… name?"

"Haruno Sakura."

He repeated it and then gave me his. "Would it be completely weird if I asked you out?"

"Yes, actually, it would be completely weird."

He shrugged. "I can live with that. So when are you free?"

"That wasn't a yes."

"It wasn't a no either."

Annoyed, I folded my arms over my chest. "I'm kind of in the middle of something here."

"I can see that. I meant, after."

I stalled. "I'll think about it."

"Think faster, then," he pointed at the judges stands, "they're going to announce the next match soon."

Two could play that game. "Oh, well, then maybe I'll just say no right now and cut my losses then, if you're going to be that impatient." I flung my towel over my shoulder and smirked at him, thinking I was thwarting him wonderfully. Instead I saw the attraction bloom even more in his dark eyes and the smile temper to one more genuine than the flirty one he'd been giving me.

"Take all the time you need," he only said, throwing me a wink. "I'll be waiting for your answer."

"Take a number then, you'll be waiting a while." I started to walk away to rejoin the other competitors.

"That's all right," he called after me, "something tells me you'll be worth the wait!"

I slapped a hand over my burning face, unable to believe this man had shouted that out to be heard by everyone within earshot. I endeavored to hurry to get out of sight, and I had hoped at the time, out of mind.

But he never gave up. I don't know what it was about me that so drew him to me in the beginning. I could tell he was hooked from the way he looked at me and I just couldn't see why. He was a med nin too, though much greener than I was, and so I wound up on more than on occasion having to play mentor to him, especially when the inevitable emergency would pop up and the rookies were needed to provide back up. I was impressed with him: for all his pursuing, he was a total professional, very talented, and kept the flirting off the battle field. There wasn't a day that didn't go by I didn't hear from him in some way. Sometimes he just wanted to talk and share a cup of tea, which I was fine with, as at the time I kept my feelings closed, arguing with myself my interest in him was neutral and in no way reciprocal.

In the end, it proved impossible. He made me laugh, his kind presence brightened my day, and when some days were harder to deal with than usual, I found myself going to his place and knocking on his door. He was as patient with me as he'd claimed to be the day we met, and the day he broke down and told me he was in love with me, I heard myself saying it back, and realizing it was true. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this man.

I stood and silently reached out and laid my hand on top of the headstone in farewell, smiling. I told his spirit, in case it was listening. "I'll see you again soon."

It's interesting the way things turn out, I thought walking out of the cemetery that day. Sasuke owned my heart and soul like no one else ever would… Sometimes I wondered what if my first husband had been alive when Sasuke decided to come home, what I would have done.

Nothing, I decided easily. Sasuke would not have pursued a married woman and I wouldn't even have thought about reviving my old feelings. We would have been only friends.

But it would have bothered me to see him with another woman, I realized with a bitter bit of self-searching, not liking what I found buried there. How selfish would that have been?

I shook my head, resolving to quit thinking about things that didn't– and would never - happen. The past was the past. Everything happened for a reason and while I may not agree or like how it did, I accepted life in its turn, no matter what path I wound up on. If wherever I was going made me happy, it was all that mattered.

By the time I reached the path leading up to my home, I saw my daughter coming down the lane to meet me. She stopped half way and we stared at one another for a moment, before she charged up to me, and pulled me into a hug.

"I'm sorry, Mom," she whispered, a hitch in her breath. "I'm sorry…"

I returned her embrace with warm affection, feeling the unconditional adoration a mother feels for her child well up within me. "It's all right." I pulled back to look her in the face, marveling at how beyond lucky I was to have a daughter like her. I palmed away the tears from her cheeks as if she were still a child, smiling gently at her. "Let's move past this. It's us, we can do that." She smiled and nodded. I slipped my arm around her and her me and we walked back to the house together.

During my first pregnancy, I dealt with more inexplicabilities about my own body than I could have imagined possible. I found out firsthand why kunoichi went on leave when they discovered they were having a baby: chakra was impossible to regulate or maintain. Developing fetuses fed on chakra about as much as they did the nutrients the mother's body supplied. Some days I had enough to mold to run up a tree, others I couldn't even feel a single flow through my channels. On top of the whole host of ailments and moods I was afflicted with, feeling my own body turn against me for the sake of the child in my womb had not been the pleasant feeling I'd anticipated childbearing would foster. The day I gave birth to my daughter was the happiest day of my life, because it meant not only was I a mother at last, I was free of this chakra sucking monster.

Yes, sweetheart, if you're reading this, that is exactly what I thought you were at the time. I believe it to be proportionate to the amount of love I wound up feeling for you, and still do, so I won't apologize. You got away with so much more than you should have in your youth and don't you think I'll ever forget that!

But this pregnancy, while it carried all of the usual hall marks of my first, was easier to handle. Because I knew what to expect I was able to prepare for it head on this time. I made sure Sasuke was properly prepped so he wouldn't run at the first sign of horns growing out of my hair. He put up with far more crap from me than he should have. I'm ashamed to admit on one occasion, three months later at six months, I felt so overwhelmed, I called him every name in the book, and a few other incoherent accusations.

I remember he just stood there and watched me impassively rant, not reacting until I put my finger in his face, and started on a new line of invective that lit the Sharingan in his good eye, and he grasped my wrist firmly, yanking me forward until our faces were inches apart.

"Shut up," he ordered me coldly, startling me speechless. "If you were anyone else, I'd tell you to fuck off. I do not care if you're upset right now, you do not get to scream in my face like that." He released my wrist and stepped away from me, the motion very deliberate. "Now I'm going to the store and picking up a few things you need and when I get back, you're going to behave like a civil human being. If not, you sleep alone tonight." The Sharingan faded. Then he just turned and walked out of the house. He could have slammed the door to accentuate his point, but the fact he did it softly only drove the point home for me. I was such a selfish bitch, I thought, why did I have to be like that to him? He took time off he didn't need to take to help me through my pregnancy and I reward that by spitting on it?

I cried for a little while, caressing my swelling womb, hating myself, until I was done. I wiped away all the tears and snot and went into the kitchen, intent on making my husband a nice hot pot of his favorite tea. By this time, I heard the front door crash open and a rapid thudding of feet across the floorboards. I turned to the sound, happy for the distraction young children provided for adult misery. I was eternally grateful for the exultations of my daughter's explosively excited appearances during the darker moments of my life, and now with my adopted son, I was finding solace in them once again.

"Sakura, Sakura!" the little boy burst into the kitchen, grinning, stopping just short of blundering into me, his eyes going to the ball of my belly. He gently embraced me, patting my baby bump absently with his small hand. "I'm home!"

I leaned over much as I could to level with him and smiled at his sweet face. "You certainly are. What did you learn today?"

He jumped over to the table and urged me to sit by pulling open a chair. I obliged, relieved to take the pressure off my feet. He'd watched his brother do this for a pregnant cousin all the time, he told me, and she always smiled and thanked him for it, so he figured I'd like it too. He tended to model a lot of his behavior on his late older brother's, and I found myself wishing I could have met the young man who'd died so bravely protecting his little brother. I liked to think, in a way, I already knew him.

He prattled off right away everything he'd learned, showing me some new fighting stances, and hand seals, blushing when I made mild corrections to a few of his enthusiastic demonstrations. "Sa-ku-ra," he complained after I'd pointed to his feet to correct his stance, "it doesn't matter how you stand, it's that it works!"

"It does matter how you stand," I disagreed. "You could fall over your own feet and then you'd be dead. You have to distribute your weight evenly."

"What's 'distribute' mean?" he asked, and after I'd explained, he pouted a bit. "Will I ever know more than you?"

"I'm afraid not." I was smiling. "At least not yet."

He fell silent, appearing to think about something. "I have a question." Curiously he just stopped and watched me expectantly until I nodded. "It's not about school," he elaborated dipping his head shyly. "I mean, it's not about jutsus or anything."

"Okay." I waited.

He took a deep breath, turning just a bit pink. "There's this girl in my class. She throws stuff at me all the time and calls me names. She trips me when we run laps and at lunch she steals the dessert right out of my hand while I'm eating it! I try to ignore her but it's hard not to… and I know you told me to be nice to girls but…" He covered his face with his hands and confessed his ultimate humiliation. "Today I couldn't take it anymore and I pulled on her hair and she screamed really loud and the instructor made me sit in the corner and then do forty push ups."

"Wow," I blurted after a long moment, correcting myself when he peered oddly up at me. "Did you apologize?"

"The teacher made me. I didn't mean it, though." The boy stuck out his lower lip. "She deserved it!"

"I'm sure you thought she did. So, what was your question?"

"How do I make her leave me alone?"

The question for the ages! I didn't want to offer solutions that probably would fail – after all, I didn't know this girl, and this was the first I was hearing of this. My first hunch was she was acting out on my boy because she liked him and, in the way of children, couldn't think of any other way to express that. It seemed always of two ways girls and boys reacted to each other: if one liked the other, they either treated that person kindly, or found every opportunity under the sun to make their lives miserable.

Suffice to say, I had no answer for the beseeching of my child, and simply decided to have him deal with the girl as if she were a bully. "Don't let her get the best of you. What she is looking for is to make you react. Ignore her when you can and defend yourself when you need to. You're only what she says you are if you believe it."

"I don't believe it," he declared bluntly, the solidity in his eyes showing me he was completely confident of what he was saying. "She's wrong."

"I know she is." I gazed on him with unmodified affection. "As long as you believe in yourself, nobody can touch you."

"You and Sasuke believe in me," he added, "my big sister believes in me and…" He patted my stomach. "So will he, when he decides to come out."

I smirked. "You still think it's a boy, don't you?"

The boy puffed his chest out. "It is."

I gently balanced my chin on my knuckles. "What if it's a girl?" I asked playfully.

"It's not a girl." He glanced at my stomach and then up at me a bit nervously. "Um, I know it's a boy. I mean, like I know." His odd behavior started to worry me and his next admission floored me. "His chakra is a boy's chakra. Boys have different chakra from girls."

I immediately dove into my memory banks, searching them. His clan had been renowned for many extraordinary abilities, cultivating their bloodline and honing talents that were passed down genetically. I recalled reading something about sensor types. Perhaps our boy was developing some sensing ability, one that could differentiate between male and female chakra? I would have to discuss this with Sasuke later and look up the family histories.

I pointed to the chair across from me. "Talk to me, hon."

He hesitated, glancing at the chair and then at me. "You're not mad?"

I smiled. "I'm not mad."

"But I spoiled the surprise."

"It's okay. Now I know what to buy for the baby's room. Tell me about boy's and girl's chakras. What do they feel like to you?"

He pulled himself into the chair and once he ascertained I was interested in what he had to say, he dove right in and started describing the things he sensed, what he felt, how he sorted them out. I took a lot of mental notes, and found myself asking a lot of questions. I was rather amazed how he handled the more complicated questions I asked. I rarely had to clarify what I was asking him, though we did have to pause a few times so I could define any word he didn't understand the meaning of. We were still going strong by the time Sasuke arrived home, and the boy immediately slid off the chair to go greet him, our discussion promptly forgotten.

Many minutes later Sasuke entered the kitchen with a bag he set down on the abandoned drawn out chair. I kept my hands in my lap along with my gaze. I didn't move or look up until my husband came around the table and hooked my chair with his foot to push me out further so he could face me better. Then he leaned down and kissed me on my mouth briefly, pausing to mutter an order: "Smile." I bit my lips and turned my head. He wouldn't let me. "You're not allowed to sulk, Sakura, as your husband, I forbid it." I fought back a giggle unsuccessfully. He smirked and drew back, satisfied with his handiwork. "Good. I would have hated to have resorted to more drastic measures."

I folded my arms over my chest. "Oh yeah?" I couldn't help retorting. "Against a pregnant woman? Bring it on."

He moved back over to the other side of the table to unpack the fruits of his journey to the market.

When he didn't respond, I wilted. "Well, darn. Guess I'll just have to live with the disappointment then. I would have loved to have seen what you'd have done."

Sasuke paused in his unloading the bag, cutting me with a shrewd stare. "You enjoy needling me far too much. One day you will discover the limits of my patience."

"And what, be sorry?" I huffed and sat back in my chair, absently laying one hand over the ball of my belly. "Too late for that one, I am sorry already. Sorry, and hungry. What did you bring me?"

Sasuke answered by setting down the small carton in front of me. It was chocolate ice cream. Next to it he set down a jar of pickles. I made an embarrassing little squeak of excitement and seized the jar, immediately twisting it open.

"Your cravings frighten me," my husband opined drolly, watching me cut up a pickle into round slices and then mix it in with the ice cream in a bowl with morbid fascination. "Common sense tells me I should stop you yet self-preservation prevents me."

I beamed proudly at him. "Smart man."

He kept watching. "You better not throw any of that crap up. I mean it. Bad enough you do that even when you don't eat anything." He finally looked up at me, looking really, really unsettled. "You're… not planning on adding anything else to that, right?"

I bit my lips together to contain the howling laughter which desperately wanted to escape them. "Maybe."

"Like what?" he asked, even though it was clear he didn't want to know.

"Oh, lots of things. Pepper, cayenne, bread crumbs, ketchup, ramen noodles…"

Sasuke looked ill. "I'm begging you to stop."

I tittered and tucked in. Sasuke immediately stood up from the table, grabbed a pickle, and proceeded to leave the kitchen.

"It's not that bad!" I called out after him. "You're overreacting!"

"You're not normal!" I was surprised to hear him yell back. "Hey, tell her she's not normal." He was talking to the boy, who he apparently had encountered between rooms.


"I'm eating pickles and ice cream!" I called back helpfully.

"Eeeew! Yuck!" groaned the boy.

I grinned and happily snarfed down my treat, ignoring the world around me.