Here is the sequal to Konoha Advent: I'll Be Home for Christmas. If you haven't read that, go do that-- this story builds on things set up in that. This is not a challenge fic, so I'm not as constrained by time or themes. Please enjoy!

[Disclaimer: My Kakashi, Kyuubi!Naruto, and Gaara plushies tell me that although I own them, I don't own the actual characters that you would recognize. Too bad, ne? And serly, if I was making money off this. . . I sure as hell wouldn't be waking up so early to get to work. . .]

Chapter 1: Whispers

The Raikage watched as the other raft left over the waves, his advisor standing silent beside him. Only the soft slap of water against wood sounded as mist and fog gradually covered the visitors now departing for their own lands.

"I think," he mused when he was sure they were out of hearing range. "that no matter what I decided, I would regret it anyway. To choose to have either all of Mist, or the might of Konoha crushing us. . ." he sighed, suppressing his vexation.

His advisor silently agreed, knowing the quandaries that plagued the office of Kage. Personally, he himself would have immediately sent word to Konoha in warning, but he was not the Raikage, only the kage's advisor, and so did not have the same limitations as the other man did.

So he kept his silence, jaw clenching slightly in concern. This did not go unnoticed by his superior.

"You will abide by my decision?" he asked, looking into the blind red eyes with concern.

The other nodded. "You have been put against your will into an impossible situation, and are doing what you must to ensure the survival of you people. I respect that, and will not put your efforts in jeopardy."

He drew breath, and let it out slowly in thought. "Besides, I believe the Misukage has decided to wake a sleeping bear. Konoha may end up hurt, but I think Mist will no longer exist in a few months. Which will render this whole situation moot."

"Indeed," the Raikage agreed.

* * * * *

Ninja villages were quiet at night, but never could one say they "slept." The watch was kept, the elders bickered into the late hours as the kage toiled over piles of paperwork, and the young tried to pack as much fun into their lives as possible. But, still, some ninja did sleep and in Konoha, those ninja also dreamed.

In the small house near the Academy, Kakashi and Iruka dreamed together, though they thought they dreamed alone. In their dream, they sat beneath a solitary tree atop a grassy hill, looking out into a night sky full of stars. They were surprised with Yondaime walked up from behind them.

"Look!" He pointed toward a part of the sky where the stars glowed and flickered restlessly. "The stars battle, only the moon shields us. A voice long silenced will cry out in the desert, the morning star will fall to the gates of Konoha, and this will be when our family, long split, must come together again."

Kakashi wanted to ask his old sensei just what in the hell he meant. Instead, he asked "When will this happen?"

Minato tore his gaze to look at them with a small smile. "After the dolphin has drowned in the rip-tide, after the fires of Heaven and Hell have danced, that is when this will happen."

"Cryptic much?" Iruka commented, hoping there were more interpretations to a dolphin drowning.

The blond grinned. "I do what I must for the survival of my people. Our people. All people, even." He sighed. "Coincidence can only be stretched so far, and our son is possessed by a demon. Read of that what you will, but like the man said, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies—"

He paused, head tilted as though listening to something far away, his face becoming serious. "Do not fear, and all will be well. They're coming."

* * * * *

Across town, in a section once held by a now nearly extinct clan, another ninja tossed and turned with his nightmare while his husbands watched with concern and, in the case of one, deep regret.

"S'suke, don't go!" the whispered plea fell from lips pale from fear. "Gaara, he's—Gaara, you can't, please!"

Above and around him, the two mentioned frowned. They both knew this dream well, and they knew that no matter how hard they might shake him, Naruto wouldn't awaken. They knew that, in his nightmare, Gaara lay dead in his arms while Sasuke ran away, smaller and smaller on the horizon. Naruto would wake up, eventually. In the meantime, all they could do was hold him, try to reassure some part of him that they were still there, and alive.

Sasuke gave a small smile when Gaara's hand covered his own on Naruto's chest, and the two shared a look of understanding.

Naruto, I swear I'm never leaving you again. Someday you'll believe it, I promise.

* * * * *

Far to the east, in the rebuilt ruins of an ancient civilization, Agnessa Chekhov, formerly of New Myshkin but more recently of the ancient port of Marseille, was finishing a season of silence under the watchful guidance of Les Filles de Sainte Jeanne. Certainly, she had not been left unable to express herself, writing copious pages of reflections and thoughts, and learning the hand language the other women used during what they called the Great Silence.

She sat demurely under the stern gaze of Mother Therese who was reviewing the final pages of the Chronicle she'd written during her silence.

"Child, after the season of silence, how are you faring?"

To her surprise, Agnessa found herself disinclined to speech, the silence having grown comforting and serene. Still, when the reverend mother asked you a question, you answered.

"I am well, Revered Mother."

The comforting silence descended again for a brief instant before the elder spoke again. "Today is the last day of your postulancy. You are free to leave, if you wish. Or, if you desire, you may enter the novitiate. What is your decision?"

Agnessa had been praying and meditating on that very question for the past four weeks, and had her answer ready. "If I may, Reverend Mother, I would like to attempt the novitiate."Attempt was the word used because many women became novices, but few went any further, most leaving for the world of marriage and families.

Yet again silence fell as the older woman nodded her agreement, picking up Angessa's Chronicle once again. "Your writings were quite fascinating—the sisters have hung on every word you have written about your life in and leaving from New Myshkin. I have a question which may seem odd, but you will understand soon enough. You write of meeting two elite ninja who went by the names Monsieur Renard and Monsieur Loup. By any chance, did you ever meet or hear of a Monsieur Dauphin?"

Agnessa translated furiously in her head. . . Mr. Fox and Mr. Wolf. . . did she know of a Mr. Dolphin? Actually. . .

"Monsier Loup did refer to his husband as—" her eyes narrowed as she translated through three languages "— 'Mon petit Dauphin.' I seem to recall that this same 'Dauphin' was Renard's first teacher, as well."

A long, deep sign met her response, and then a decisive nod. "Today is the feast of St. Maria Goretti. Tonight in the chapel you will take temporary vows and don the veil of the novice. Tomorrow, your studies and training begin in earnest. Sister Julian—you recall she is Weapons Mistress-- will wake you before dawn to begin you training. And in two weeks, we will leave for the Nation of Fire, and you will be our guide."

Agnessa blinked. "So soon?" she gasped.

Her superior withheld a snort. "I would leave tomorrow, except you must learn the basics of the sword on land, lest you learn to defend yourself in the manner of a drunken pirate!" She sighed. "You will understand soon enough but, simply put, we've been waiting a long time for you and your story. Now that you are here, we cannot wait. Your studies and training will be ceaseless, on land and sea, and they will be hard and wearying. . . but I promise you that they will be worth the effort."

Agnessa took a deep breath. "I am ready, Reverend Mother."

"No, you aren't. I'm still not ready." She replied. "But we've no choice in the matter, so put properly; we are both as ready as we can be."

Silence descended once more. It would be hard enough to find in the coming months.

* * * * *

Tsunade held the missive loosely in herd hands, chewing her bottom lip. The words were innocuous enough, believable enough, and yet. . . and yet she couldn't shake the really bad feeling she got when reading them. She raked her mind for any halfway decent excuse to refuse the request, but again and again came up blank.

She sighed in defeat. "Shizune, please fetch Iruka-sensei. I have a mission for him." Her assistant nodded. With sudden inspiration, she continued. "Get Kakashi, too. And have somebody get these others: Naruto, Hinata, Shino and . . . Sakura should do. I've got a job for them as well."