Ahm. . . noope, no excuse. Just life.

Loveletta: Yeah, I suppose that was a Christmas gift. I'd originally planned to have this chapter out right after, so was gonna say it was a Hannuka gift, but then I got picky with things, and there was editing, then delays. . . so, yeah. That would be a Merry Christmas. I suppose htis makes a late Happy Easter!

Sejitsu: I'm glad you like Yugito. I wasn't sure how her being around would be received, but seeing as she's got the ghost cat *shrugs* And yeah, Kyuubi's got a bit of Scrouge in him. . . lol. . . glad you liked that chapter, this one's got your KakaIru Metaphysical Love-fest *snickers*

Dobby123: Finally is, in fact, the proper word. glad you liked it.

Holen-Snape: I'm glad you're liking this. As for where it's going, I believe one could say it's going where no ninja has gone before. . .^_^.

Okay, so reminder y'all, if you recognize anything from anywhere else, I don't own it. New characters, however, are all mine.

Multi-dimentional theory is a mix of . . . lotsa things. Bit of string theory, bit of Kabbalah, pinch of this and dash of that, you know. . .

Chapter 10: Sexy Metaphysics

Umeko, Ringo and Yamamaru sat despondently on the foredeck of the Tiajuana Darlin', a mid-sized vessel in the middle of the Konoha fleet. Relieved of the Jonin's corpse, Ibiki had ordered them to stay on the ship until called. No battles had started, and they'd heard that maybe the negotiations would work out anyway, which was good. And yet, here they were, away from their sensei, unable to fulfill any of their standing orders, and it really seemed like they'd been forgotten. They had seen the half-pitying looks some of the shinobi sent their way, but none had said anything. They wondered if they'd somehow gotten in trouble.

Umeko was the first to notice the sandals that stopped in front of them. "Sensei—" she breathed as they stood, hesitant.

"Oh, well, nice you're so excited to see me!" Naruto grinned, opening his arms in silent invitation. Umeko fell in, wrapping her arms around his waist with a little cry, Yamamaru and Ringo more slowly joining her in their teacher's arms.

"I'm so glad you guys are okay," Naruto said. "I've been hearing from the others about what you did. I'm very proud of you all." Their arms tightened around him with that.

"Hey, hey, it's okay. . ." Naruto pulled them back, pulling out a handkerchief for them to wipe their noses with. "I know how hard it is. It's a horrible thing, killing someone. But you did what you had to do. You were protecting each other, your precious teammates. You did very well, all of you."

Yamamaru sniffled. "Everyone's been so distant since we reported, we thought. . . we thought we were in trouble. . ."

Naruto sighed, ruffling Yamamaru's hair. "That's because the first person to talk to a shinobi after their first kill should be his or her jonin sensei, to help coach you through the aftershocks. Unfortunately, I was detained, and didn't even know you were still around until this morning. It's why Gaara, Sasuke, Iruka-sensei and Kakashi-sensei are still in the back of this boat until I'm done with you."

He sat on the deck. "So, according to what I've heard, you guys took down a Jonin who threatened you. Tell me about it."

So they all sat down and told him, first with slow, stuttering starts, then faster, from the moment they left the camp until the Suna armada escorted their little boat to the Konoha fleet. Naruto was silent for a small moment after they finished.

"You all did very well. I'll be putting your names in for the next Chunin exam, I think." Surprised gasps greeted him. "You're surprised? You've proven that you can follow orders, work as a team, and bring down an opponent more advanced than you. You may not pass the first time, but even so, you'll learn a lot and grow stronger from the experience. I'm very proud of you—all of you. Now, you look famished, so go get something to eat. We'll talk more later."

Naruto watched as their eyes brightened as they ran off to the galley to finally get something to eat. They would never be the same, but Ringo and Yamamaru would be alright. Umeko. . . he frowned to himself. Umeko had held something back in the retelling, something she Ringo and Yamamaru clearly didn't know. It was natural that she would be changed from the experience, and she had always been a quiet girl, but there was still something that just wasn't right.

He walked toward the aft. "Hinata-chan, can I ask you a favor?"

* * *

Kakashi sighed in relief as the cabin door closed behind him. He was finally off duty, surrounded by competent and friendly shinobi, and away from prying ears and eyes. He stretched as he toed off his sandals, smiling as Iruka unfastened the straps of his armor.

"So, you promised me. . ." He started. He wasn't sure how exactly to say You've been acting a little weird since you died, and I was hoping you weren't going insane, or aren't just a really clever zombie. . .

Iruka smirked as though he could hear Kakashi's thoughts, and pushed him onto the bunk, snuggling up under his shoulder and pulling down his husband's mask before he began.

Iruka sighed, trying to figure out how to explain. "You've noticed that I'm . . . a little different lately. But, I'm not different, really. In fact, I can definitely say that I'm more myself now than I have ever been." He looked into Kakashi's eyes, knowing the very first issue he had to address. "I'm still me, still the Iruka you know and love, still the Iruka who loves you, just . . . more so . . . "

Kakashi frowned. "Okay. I expect more of an answer, though."

"Of course. I just wanted to get the important things out first." Iruka smiled, and snuggled back into Kakashi's chest. "I'm gonna start a little abstractly, but I promise it has a point." He felt Kakashi nod above him, the nose nuzzling into his hair. "Right. So, you know the relationship between a circle and a sphere, a square and a cube."

Kakashi nodded. "The circle is a two dimensional cross-section of a sphere, and likewise a square is a cross-section of a cube." Iruka smiled as Kakashi's voice rumbled in his ear.

"Right. One is a lesser dimensional cross section of greater dimensional reality. The next dimension, after depth, is time. So, if we took that sphere, it's forth dimensional shape would be that sphere through time, understand? Likewise, a person seen forth dimensionally would start small as a baby, grow big and then, if they lived into old age, would shrink a bit before ending, like a long snake or worm. The you of this exact moment is merely a cross-section of you through time. Outside of time, chibi-Kakashi, Grown-up Kakashi and Old Man Kakashi exist all at once. Do you follow?"

Kakashi nodded again, slowly. It was strange to think of himself as a worm shape winding through time, but it did make sense. "It's odd, but okay."

"Now, as your silhouette is the cross-section of your physical body at a given moment, and that body is a cross-section of you through time, that worm-through-time itself is a cross-section of the greater you. All of time cannot contain the completeness of Kakashi. All of this life is but a cross-section, a small dimensional part, of the true whole. The Complete Kakashi exists outside of time, a small part of it dipping into the surface of the world like you would dip your fingers through the surface of a pool. This—" he gave Kakashi's torso a soft thump with his hand "Is you, well and truly. But it is certainly not all of you."

Kakashi processed that for a few moments. "You're talking about . . . about people's souls?"

Iruka nodded. "Mmm-hmm. That's why religions since the dawn of time have insisted that there we are more than we think and yet, less. The truth of all sentience is that sentience pre-exists the universe. Humans, summons . . . if a thing has self-awareness, then it existed before it had physical form, not the other way around. So we are greater. But we cannot consider that greatness in terms of the mere physical universe, for that is a denial of our true natures. It's why the promises of physical immortality offered by Jashin are so abominable—meaning only that the awareness of that greater being is kept trapped in the physical realm like a bird in a too-small-cage. Physical immortality without transcendence, without the ability to access that higher existence, is worse than slavery. Only Hell itself is worse, for while we may be a bit cramped here in this plane, there is still goodness, truth, beauty. . ."

Kakashi nuzzled into Iruka's hair some more. "How many dimensions?"

Iruka shrugged. "I'm not sure. They get less defined the higher up you go. Ten, at the very least."

"And how does this relate to your recent. . . oddness? Are you a Buddha now?" Kakashi wasn't entirely sure he liked the implications for his love life. It would be a strange, awkward thing, being married to some sort of transcendent being. Although, if what Iruka said was accurate, they were all transcendent beings, only without such awareness.

Iruka smiled. "Well, when I died, it just meant I was not confined to a physical awareness anymore. I was briefly able to look down on the whole expanse of time in the same way a person can examine a rug on the floor. When I came back, I didn't fold myself in quite the same way to fit back into this dimension, leaving me with the ability to still see time at a slightly different perspective than most everybody else."

This, Kakashi thought he understood. "So, you can see the future now?"

"More or less." Iruka sighed. "I can see a little farther. Like, if everyone else is walking along the path, I'm walking in the trees above. I can see a little farther, I can see upcoming intersections and dangers, even the general shape farther out, but I can't see the whole thing. I also cannot see my own relationship to that path any better, since I cannot see myself from a perspective other than myself. So, I have no better knowledge that the next branch may be rotten, or trapped. . ."

"So, you can see the future, but not for yourself." Kakashi concluded, feeling Iruka nod. He bit his lip, uncharacteristically unsure of himself.

"Are we still married? I mean, our vows were until death, but . . ."

Iruka levered himself up, straddling his husband's lap, taking in the worry and hesitancy on Kakashi's face. "Kakashi, those vows were simply recognition of a bond that transcends time. You and I came to this time together for a reason. I need you to be my husband now more than ever."

Kakashi looked both relieved and taken aback. "Well, that's good. But, now that you're all transcend-y and—" Iruka placed his finger's on Kakashi's lips, moving to straddle his hips. He'd thought the Buddha line was a quip to lighten the atmosphere, not a deeper issue.

"What, do you think I have to be celibate, now?" He smiled at Kakashi's fearful nod. "Kakashi, celibacy is for those seeking the transcendent experience. Sex, after the initial high of orgasm, grounds people into the physical, and for good reason. If a person is seeking transcendence on their own, that grounding is counter-productive. But, if a person has, as you say, gone all transcend-y, they have the opposite problem. I may get lost in my gazes to the higher dimensions, but I still have important work to do here, so I need to be grounded. My hold on life is just a little more tenuous than everyone else's so I'll need to be grounded pretty regularly." He wiggled in Kakashi's lap. "I'll be counting on you, Kakashi, to do you job."

Kakashi blinked. "So. . .lots of sex?"

Iruka nodded. "I've been a bit spacey over the past few days because I haven't completely grounded yet, because you and I haven't been alone yet." He gave a serious look to his husband. "The fate of the world may rest on your bedroom skills." He deadpanned. "You up to it, soldier?"

Kakashi rubbed his chin. "Fate of the world, you say? Lots of sex with the sexiest ninja alive, who happens to be a Kage-slayer and maker of world-renowned cookies? And happens to be my adorable husband? Hmmm . . ." he pretended to think. "well, I'll have to tell Raidou and Genma they can't come over anymore while you're teaching academy. . ."

"Rogue!" Iruka playfully swatted Kakashi, the latter laughing before quickly flipping them over, lowering his weight onto his husband.

"Oh," Kakashi sighed as he nibbled Iruka's neck. "I suppose I can manage . . ."

No one dared knock on the door for the next several hours.

* * *

"You are troubled."

Naruto sighed, the soft motion of the ship relaxing him, making him reluctant to answer Gaara's not-quite-question. He looked down, seeing Sasuke's dark eyes looking at him expectantly from where he rested on Naruto's chest. Beside them, Gaara lay on his side, head propped on bend arm, unblinking.

Naruto pouted. "Whatever happened to post-sex nap-time? I liked that tradition."

"It only works if you sleep," Sasuke grunted. "You've got too much going through your brain to sleep. You should give the poor thing a rest."

Naruto smiled, running finger's through Sasuke's hair, then turning to answer his other husband.

"I don't know what all you learn as pre-Genin in Suna, but when Sasuke and I were in Academy, one of the things Iruka-sensei taught us was how to listen to the wind. The weather in Fire country can change rapidly, and it's important to be able to predict changes in the weather. It's actually one of the first ways we learn to access our chakra, and become more aware of our surroundings. Part of it is being aware of physical changes—air pressure, humidity, temperature, all of that. But it's mostly learning to listen to our intuition. By the time we're Genin, we do it without thinking, constantly."

He huffed. "But, ever since a few days ago, it's all messed up. I feel like we should be on rough seas, but the skies are clear, and the wind calm. I think . . . I think I may have messed up my sensing when I looked. . ." There was no need to ask what that meant.

Sasuke shook his head. "No, it isn't just you. I've been thinking it was worry, but you and Gaara are now safe, Kakashi and Iruka-sensei are safe, all our friends are safe . . . but I still feel like we're watching a hurricane approach the shore."

"Is that--?" Gaara tilted his head. "That anticipation I've been feeling? Like, after the first shower of the rainy season, when the monsoon has yet to truly begin but you can feel it, just over the horizon?"

Naruto eyed his husbands warily. "So, it's not that I messed up my senses."

Gaara nodded as he snuggled up to Naruto, opposite Sasuke. "Whatever it is, lack of sleep won't help us." Gaara also appreciated naps.

"No wonder Kyuubi's been so damn twitchy." Naruto muttered, eyes drooping. "He better relax soon, or I'll go friggin'—" he yawned, "Insane. . ."

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