Disclaimer: i do not own Naruto.
A/n: Jeezus. Lots of you have prob forgot about this story;sorry but uni has been crushing my soul. And i think i can admit i've been having serious writer's block. But i've kept at it, it has not been abandoned and here is another chapter. Enjoy!
Warnings: You've been here before...
It was a long time before Naruto finally set down his chopsticks, leaning back in his chair with his hands folded over his stomach, sighing loudly in contentment.
It was a peaceful visage; Iruka had sat down by now to nibble at the feast he'd created, spending most of it watching Naruto with the sort of fondness usually associated with teary eyed mother's. Naruto had shovelled down enough food to feed a small nation, and Sasuke was mildly more perky than before, having downed four cups of coffee before being able to sit up straight.
It had also been a quiet affair, not something Kakashi would normally expect from a room containing Naruto, but he guessed it was simply a sign of good food. And hunger.
It was a glorious day outside, the sun continued to bathe the kitchen in a warm, airy glow that made you think of calm days and siestas. From where he sat, lounging in his chair, Naruto looked quite happy to drift off. As Kakashi gently set his own utensils down, he shared a brief glance with Iruka over the scrubbed wooden table.
Maybe now after food, they could talk some.
Sasuke gave a light sigh from somewhere to his right, and for the first time picked up a chopstick to poke and scrounge at the scattered remains his blond mate had left for him. The moody cat looked suitably unimpressed with the meagre offering, and though he sent Naruto a sideways look, didn't complain.
Naruto yawned in reply.
"Ahh," Kakashi sighed wistfully, "it's just like when you were teenager's again."
Naruto opened one eye to glare and Sasuke grunted.
"Oh yes, definitely."
"Did you sleep well last night, Naruto?" Iruka cut in, "Those sheets were clean of course, but I haven't gotten around to washing them in a while; they may have been a little dusty."
"They were fine, Iruka," Sasuke answered for them.
Iruka pursed his lips and turned his gaze back to the blond, who was sitting so relaxed, with eyes closed and sunning himself, that he didn't appear to have heard anything.
"Naruto," muttered Iruka exasperatedly.
Naruto peered over with one eye again.
"What? I'm sleeeeepy Iruka-sensei!"
The poor man could only sigh.
"I was hoping we could have a nice long chat this morning."
"About what?" came the suspicious reply.
"About anything. It's been too long and who knows how long you'll be here. I just want to know what you've been up to and where you've been. Is that so wrong?"
Naruto groaned loudly and flopped forward.
"Iruuka!" he whined, "Don't say it like that! It's really not been that interesting- you can tell me all that you've been doing! I'll just sit here and listen, really."
"And then you'll just fall asleep on me," said Iruka flatly.
"Hehe," Naruto laughed guiltily and rubbed the back of his head with one hand, flopping forward in his chair so that the legs hit the floor with a 'bang!'
"Like I would do tha-why is Kakashi-pervert sniffing me?"
"Naruto don't change the subject-"
"But he is!"
Three pairs of eyes travelled to Kakashi's form, which was indeed, tilted in Naruto's direction.
Caught, Kakashi gave a guilty little chuckle of his own and held a hand up in surrender.
"Maa, sorry about that Naruto-kun, just wanted to check something!"
His visible eye curled up in a U-shape, but that didn't stop the suspicious glares from the rest of the table.
Sighing to himself, and not sure what he was hoping for, he lowered his hand and sent another beaming look in Naruto's direction.
"Oh! And congratulations by the way!"
The effect was immediate. Naruto froze exactly in his seat, and Sasuke stiffened like you'd shot him with an electric dart. Oh dear. He was right then.
Inside Kakashi's head, minor pandemonium that would be more related to Iruka, was set off.
Iruka leaned forward over the cooling rice bowls to stare at the two younger men.
"Eh? Kakashi what are you talking about? Naruto? Sasuke?"
Kakashi didn't hear him.
Sasuke. His chibi little Sasuke-chan...was now having cute scowling chibi's of his own to torture. They grow up so fast...he wasn't ready for this!
"I mean...it's just..." Kakashi babbled mindlessly. He'd known Sasuke was all grown up for a long time now, but. Sasuke had knocked someone up; he was a true man now. Kakashi felt like he might start crying.
It felt like an eon ago that he was standing outside the burnt, husked remains of old clan houses. The same clan that had rejected him, and Obito. He still felt young then and full of rage and resentment, and looking after a child? That was the last thing he wanted in his life.
But the law was the law, and Sasuke had stood there, managing to scowl viciously and look pathetic at the same time. He was a headstrong, rebellious, rash and irrational child; hurtful and hurting. Not that endearing. But Kakashi managed to discover the joy of being a parent, even after Sasuke decided to emancipate himself- Kakashi's reaction had been an eye roll to that, and he'd felt secure that Sasuke would always be a little childish.
But now Sasuke was having a child himself, and he was hardly a foolish teenager anymore. To have another little Uchiha in the world...would mean everything to Sasuke.
For the first time, Kakashi felt himself glaring mildly in a very confused Naruto's direction. He'd better do it right...
Yes. He'd definitely start crying if he kept thinking. He was turning into Iruka. Man up!
Kakashi gave a suspiciously thick cough to clear his throat.
He'd have to be on hand for when Iruka went ballistic...he could do this.
"Oh, Iruka-koi, I was just congratulating Naruto on the baby you see."
Iruka was completely void of expression.
Both Sasuke and Naruto seemed to have lost their voices, going curiously mute. The cowards.
"Ahh. You see I thought something was a bit off last night, but it wasn't until this morning that I worked out what it was-Naruto is pregnant you see, so he smells different than usual."
The few rice grains left tried to imitate tumbleweed.
Kakashi, a brave man, attempted to break the ice once more.
"So, when are you due?"
"Ummm..." Naruto was very articulate in times of strain.
"Late February to March. Just in time for spring."
Sasuke's voice was quiet yet strong, and even held a note of challenge to it, as if he could sense's Kakashi's internal struggle.
"Naruto-" interrupted Iruka abruptly, though he wasn't really interrupting, "are you really having a baby?"
Iruka was leaning forward in his chair, eyes intense and as large as saucers as he surveyed the blond from head to toe, perhaps searching for some sign.
"Erh," Naruto cleared his throat clumsily and held the hands over his belly perhaps a little more protectively, "Er, yeah I am actually, Iruka-sensei. Me- me and Sasuke are really happy about it."
Here he glanced almost frantically to Sasuke, trying to share the soon inevitable fallout.
Sasuke appeared stunned for a moment before trying to rally himself. But before he could even open his mouth, an odd sound filled the small kitchen.
It was a sort of a high pitched keen, that would surely draw dogs from miles around.
Naruto blinked once before he was smothered. He coughed and spluttered on brown hair as Iruka hugged him so enthusiastically that his chair was sent skittering back a few feet. Trying to regain some control, and not to choke, Naruto manoeuvred them so they were now standing- sort of- Iruka clinging to him.
It took a minute for Iruka to calm down enough for them to understand him.
"Oh Naruto, I'm so happy for you!"
All the other minds in the room boggled.
Iruka pulled back enough so that his beaming smile could be seen by all and he started o ramble at the shocked Naruto in his arms.
"I know you always wanted to know a family of your very own, and now you're having a baby- oh I just don't know what to do with myself. Does this make me a grandparent? And Naruto how far along are you, how are you doing with it? Is anything really bothering you? What are you going to do when the baby comes, will you and Sasuke finally settle down somewhere- you are right? Right? Oh and we have so much to talk about and discuss, this so big! And wonderful of course. Oh Naruto!"
Iruka proceeded to hug Naruto tightly once more to him.
"You're not...you're not...mad?" Naruto asked hesitantly from where his head was lodged between Iruka's chest, and an arm.
Iruka stared at him.
"Eh? Why would I? This is wonderful news; you must be so excited!"
Iruka smiled so warmly Naruto could only stare.
"And I already know that Sasuke will take good care of you, and the baby when it's here, so why should I worry? You silly."
Iruka sniffed a little here and hugged Naruto to him again. This time Naruto whole heartedly joined in, with tinkling laugh of joy.
Sasuke felt his eyes sting a little. He'd never quite thought that Iruka fully trusted him before. To be honest, he was a bit nervous about all this himself. To hear that Iruka, Iruka, had that sort of trust and belief in him, warmed his heart in a way he hadn't thought possible. And he gave a little smile of his own.
Kakashi remained staring.
He'd been sure that Iruka would have gone psycho and tried to kill Sasuke or something for 'corrupting' and 'defiling' his precious Naruto. Maybe Iruka hadn't realised yet how Naruto got pregnant?
If Iruka won't cry, I really just might.
It was mid morning by the time they were once again settled, this time in the living room, Iruka and Naruto jabbering away happily on the sofa about who-knows-what. Probably everything.
Sasuke and Kakashi had retreated to a safe distance on the other side of the room, leaning casually against the window. This did not stop however, Sasuke keeping his gaze in Naruto's direction. By default, Kakashi imitated him in looking over towards the sofa.
"And so then we had to get on another truck and then we-"
Naruto made some large round hand movement and Iruka nodded appreciatively.
"Lively this morning, isn't he?"
Sasuke gave a little jerk of the head at his question, and Kakashi gave a little smile at his lack of attention.
"Oh," said Sasuke a little confusedly, "yes, he is. But you know Naruto..."
Kakashi hummed in soft agreement, and sent his pseudo son a scant glance.
"I guess you want to look out for him even more now, what with the baby and all?"
Sasuke met the words with a solid stare; you really could see nothing in his coal eyes. His voice was smooth and even.
"Of course, he's a lot more vulnerable now than he would want to admit- we had some trouble already getting here."
Sasuke waved off Kakashi's raised eyebrow.
"Nothing more than would be expected, still i'm glad we no longer have to run around the countryside. Still, the situation now we're back in Tokyo is bit more delicate."
Kakashi nodded thoughtfully, keeping one eye on the two chatting on the sofa, while keeping his voice at a reasonable volume so they could not overhear them.
"I would imagine so, you'll need to find a safe place, though actually keeping Naruto out of harm's way is something I leave entirely up to you."
"Thanks," said Sasuke dryly, to which Kakashi gave a smile.
"Don't mention it. I presume you want to use a safe house?"
Sasuke gave a curt nod, shifting his weight to rest on his other leg.
"I have plans to use the one in Hibiya park, what do you think?"
Kakashi sent a glance over towards Naruto, who was grinning awkwardly, his fists clenched and up in the air, as Iruka gave the odd poke to his belly.
"I think it'll be pretty?" he lamely joked. Sasuke's frown was only a tad amusing. Kakashi sighed and folded his arms, a little irritated.
"It'll feel less confined to a person like Naruto i'm sure, and it's as good a place as any safety wise. Is there enough space?"
"There are only a handful of youkai in permanent residence there, and I think Naruto has met most of them before now."
Kakashi was interested now.
"Oh? I would have thought you might not exactly like that-isn't Gaara supposed to be around?"
Sasuke snorted, his own arms crossed. "Why would I care anything about that guy? No, I think it should be ideal, not to mention the more natural setting should help soothe Naruto some. He likes plants."
Kakashi felt a smile creep up under his mask but simply shook his head genially, and said no more on the matter.
"Still, you'll have to attend the next meeting right? The council will particularly interested to know that the Uchiha line is making a comeback."
Sasuke responded to Kakashi's smirk with a flat look.
"One child is hardly a comeback."
The silver haired wolf rubbed his covered chin thoughtfully. "Ah, poor Naruto, does he know how many babies you're going to make him have?"
Sasuke frowned, looking a little pissed off. Kakashi giggled inside; so many new avenues to tease him with, so little time.
"Kakashi, just shut up. You're growing senile in your old age already."
Kakashi went to respond, but the wily cat used this time to turn his attention away and to walk over towards his mate, who was being quizzed by Iruka on his vitamin intake.
"Naruto! It's more important than ever in your condition to have a healthy and balanced diet, you don't want to the baby to get sick do you?"
"Of course not," muttered Naruto red-faced, "but the only craving I have is for meat- if the baby needed vegetables, I would want to eat them!"
Iruka gave a put upon sigh.
"That's not how it works, and you know it. Foxes don't just eat meat you know."
Sasuke took this moment to chime in.
"He's right you know."
Naruto gave him a betrayed look as his mate flopped next to him, smirking.
"Don't worry Iruka, I'll make sure he eats fine."
Naruto glared at the cat with slitted eyes.
Sasuke's response was to simply reach out a hand to ruffle blond locks, causing Naruto to let out a grumpy noise of dissatisfaction and try to pat his hands away.
Sasuke smirked at Naruto's childish response and bathed in the hot scowl sent his way.
"You're mean Sasuke," pouted Naruto.
"Nothing you didn't know before," replied Sasuke dismissively, using the opportunity to place his arm around Naruto's shoulders, and pull him close to his side.
"Hmm, doesn't stop me hoping though," joked Naruto as he let himself slide along the sofa a couple of inches.
"So, what are we doing this afternoon?" asked Naruto perkily as he snuggled down.
Iruka sighed exasperatedly.
"Must you be entertained Naruto? Can't we just sit and relax and spend some time with eachother?"
"I suppose," muttered Naruto with a vague expression. After so long always on the move, it was hard to think of just staying still, sitting around. He felt restless and energetic already after only a few hours rest. And he didn't quite feel comfortable staying here with Iruka-it was not that he had anything against staying here, no. But he knew he couldn't stay, and he was starting to grow weary of not having a place to call home. It had been very long time since he could any place that, and with Sasuke...
He closed his eyes and buried his head under Sasuke's arm.
His scent was comforting and helped ease his energy. Maybe he could have another nap...
He felt more than heard Sasuke begin to speak, his voice sending rumbles through his chest.
"Actually Iruka, I would like to get away as soon as possible; you're not on any lists and this place is not secure. I'd rather get Naruto off to where we will be staying for the next while. And," he added as Iruka looked quite upset, "its not as if we cant visit a lot more often in future. We won't be that far."
Iruka looked appealingly towards Naruto who only smiled sheepishly.
"Sorry Iruka-sensei, but I sorta agree with Sasuke. Don't worry; we won't be running off anywhere!"
"You'd better not," huffed Iruka in a grudging agreement, moving to embrace Naruto in his arms once more.
"But at least stay for lunch."
Naruto was quick to agree and they all sat down less than an hour later for egg and tuna sandwiches with cold soup. Sasuke didn't want to seem too pushy, but he hurried the cleaning process so he and Naruto could set off into the baking summer afternoon sunshine as quickly as possible. He had to make time for the five minuter hug that Iruka refused to release Naruto from once they finally reached the door.
Sasuke had to practically grab Naruto by the arm and push him down the stairs when Iruka showed a moment of weakness. Naruto called a goodbye from up the stairwell, and Sasuke heard the door shut; Kakashi was good for something.
They hurtled out from the last steps into the afternoon sunshine, blinking blearily after the dim shade of the building. It was a perfectly sunny Saturday afternoon, and the streets were heaving appropriately.
The crowds would stop them from being followed and he didn't feel like shifting Naruto once he got comfortable, so best to move on to their new destination as soon as possible before Naruto became attached to staying at Iruka's (and Kakashi's, he supposed,) flat.
So, slipping his hand gently over Naruto's own, they set off at an amiable pace down the street.
It was a pleasant walk; the sun was shining and they walked at a sedate pace. They had little cash on them, so they decided to walk as much of the way as possible. Naruto couldn't help but stare around them with enthusiasm as he re-familiarised himself with the city streets; glorious in this weather, glass gleaming like silver fish and birds twittering and trees bursting with fleshy green leaves. They walked down the road between wooden slatted fences, the concrete hard underneath their feet, a welcome relief after rough tracks and wading through mud.
As such, they made good time on the little joinder, in fact it was more than a pleasant way to spend the afternoon, feeling more like a stroll than a journey. Sasuke had shouldered a single rucksack, full of a few things and odds and ends. Their clothes had been cleaned lovingly by Iruka, but Sasuke had said there would be more waiting for them at their new residence, so Naruto happily let him carry the remnants of their possessions.
Neither spoke much as they weaved through the web of streets, a walk that lasted several hours. Both were quite content to simply enjoy it, and Naruto hummed lightly under his breath, feeling his lips tilt into a smile for no reason.
He also didn't bother to ask Sasuke where they were headed; he'd asked several times the night before to receive no decent answer and saw no reason to continue pestering his mate, when he himself was happy enough.
The sun was on it's downwards turn when they turned onto a road with a park gate. It was still several hours until sunset, but the air had the definite golden feel of late afternoon.
The place was less crowded now, as many of the people who had thronged the streets went to cool down in cafe's and bars for sweet cool tea and ice cream cakes.
Naruto let their still joined hands swing between them as they entered under the archway of a black wrought iron gate and into the leafy expanse of a park.
Naruto liked it immediately. It had traditional Japanese beds, with areas of neatly trimmed grass, closed off with wooden fencing. A Sakura tree draped itself over, just behind an up ahead bend, its flowers long gone, but leaves still swaying cheerfully.
Naruto would have been quite intent to loiter and stare around some more, or even flop himself under one of the shadier trees, but Sasuke gave a gentle tug on his hand and pulled him off to the left, under some overhanging branches to walk down a smaller path; though still primly maintained, with white painted stones, practically glued to the ground.
Their feet made little noise as they padded down through the shaded grove of trees, and Naruto was sure he could hear the faint tinkling of water from nearby. It was all very serene, and he found himself wanting to yawn.
Covering his mouth with one hand, Naruto sent Sasuke a sideways look as they ducked under another lot of low branches and stepped out into sunlight once more.
Sasuke wasn't looking at him, but rather ahead. Though Naruto knew he wasn't really looking at that either. He was clearly lost in thought, feet on autopilot. Or maybe he was feeling as calm (and a more than a little sleepy) as Naruto. It was a sensation to enjoy after all.
They walked further on, up a small incline, and right beside a small ornamental lake. It was pretty too; jagged stones artfully arranged around the edge and the water shimmering green from the reflection of the leaves above. Though Naruto was sure, with its artfully pruned bushes and tiny trees, it would look even more impressive on a misty morning.
Naruto slowed to look better, and he felt the tug of Sasuke's hand once more. Not wanting to be deadweight, he hurried his pace a little, till they were walking side by side again. They skirted the little lake for a bit longer, before turning off onto another path practically hidden by a rather healthy and large bush. This path led them down past another patch of grass, sheltered by trees on all sides, which was blocked off by more wooden fencing- though there was a little kissing gate on one end.
Here Sasuke stopped, and looking a bit further up, Naruto could see why.
There was a house, standing right bam in the middle of the grass patch, its red tiled roof and sweet chimney being slowly swallowed by the willow-like trees swooping above it. It was a squarish-house, with a sky blue door and four windows arranged over two floors. It had white washed walls, and even a small well next to it, though this was boarded up. It certainly didn't look Japanese, but it didn't look too recent either. Something else ornamental?
Sasuke gave a casual glance up and down the path before placing a hand on the gate and pushing through. A little unsure, Naruto followed after him, gently pushing the gate back so it didn't make a huge crash on its hinges.
Sasuke walked on up to the house. Naruto followed him.
Closer to, Naruto could see the windows also had boards covering them, this time from the inside. It all looked a bit dusty and forgotten, despite its pretty, cheery front, and Naruto felt himself sad just looking at it.
Sasuke ignored the front door altogether, passing past the front, the side, and right to the back of the house. A little startled, as Sasuke still hadn't said a word, he jogged a little after him.
It was much tighter enclosed here, with the trees making a thick impenetrable wall of branches just a scant few feet away from the back wall; just allowing a somewhat barer scrap of grass to grow.
Sasuke approached the back door, which was painted the same sky blue as the front, though this one had its paint peeling in a lot more places. He raised a knocker, which was rather odd now Naruto thought about it and thumped the door very deliberately three times.
Naruto itched to make a comment.
Sasuke sent him a look.
Naruto said nothing.
Though he did smile.
He was jerked from Sasuke's rather baleful look by the sound of movement from inside the house. He should have expected it, but still Naruto couldn't help but step back in surprise. The rumble of wood sliding over each other disturbed the still afternoon air- early evening really-and the blond glanced about furtively, as if someone would jump out at any moment.
The panic eased as the door was pulled open with a thud, shuddering in its frame and a pale hand came out and beckoned sharply.
Not to argue with a hand, Naruto stepped inside, letting Sasuke enter after him and to shut the door behind him.
The light was suddenly a lot more grainy, and it took a moment of squinting to recognise the dark shape standing in the corridor they'd walked into.
"Not so loud!" came a low hiss- Naruto wasn't entirely sure who said it.
"Whoops," he laughed, rubbing the back of his head and he danced out of Sasuke's way as he shouldered up next to him.
"But, I haven't seen you in, like, forever! Where have you been?"
Naruto asked, a little anxiously, pulling of his shoes, and staring at Neji's somewhat fuzzy outline in the dark. He heard Sasuke grunt next to him as he balanced on one foot.
"Around," said Neji shiftily, "same as you I expect."
"You're so cooold Neji!"
"And you still whine a lot I see."
But the voice was light and amused, so Naruto simply grinned. Now clad in just his socks, he stepped forward and pulled the taller man into a tight bear hug. Neji appeared suitably squashed, but returned it all the same.
"It's really good to see you Neji," said Naruto, a lot more softly, and muffled somewhat.
"Same for you too- are you staying for good this time?"
"Yes," uttered Sasuke grumpily, scowling at being left out, and watched keenly as Naruto slipped his arms out of hugging Neji.
"No need to be jealous Uchiha," smirked Neji.
Neji smiled, and then turned, beckoning with a hand to follow after him.
They trod across the floorboards, which squeaked something awful, Sasuke trailing to pick up Nartuo's abandoned shoes.
Naruto had expected to go up the wooden stairs he could see curling upwards at the end of the hallway, but was surprised when Neji stopped half way and opened the door on the right, which Naruto would have usually assumed to be a living or dining room. Maybe even the kitchen.
When Neji opened the door, it revealed a room that looked mostly like the inside of a metal box; it was bare of pretty much anything with metal walls, floor and ceiling.
The only point of note were the stairs. Going down.
Naruto sent Sasuke an incredulous look, but the Uchiha merely raised an eyebrow.
The blond turned back to face the stairs, which disappeared into a kind of pit. He was immediately suspicious of the hand rails. And the green-ish tinge the metal gave off, while also not being shiny.
Narrowing his eyes, he watched as Neji marched down them, and with a shove, obviously opened another door.
Feeling Sasuke at his back, the blond slowly descended after him and stepped through to the 'bunker' beyond.
He was in for another surprise.
There was carpet for one; Naruto took a moment to wriggle his toes in it. And wallpaper, and even the odd picture on the walls. It wasn't as cold as he'd expected, and he could see a few airy doors ajar further along the long corridor. At the very end, he could spy white and black checker tiles. With the confirmation of his nose, what smelt awfully like bacon, Naruto proceeded to the kitchen with no further complaints.
Both Neji and Sasuke traded exasperated, yet fond, looks.
"Kiba! Hinata! Oh my god, I really haven't seen you guys in forever!"
Sasuke trod dutifully after his mate, only to find the blond fox hugging Hinata, who looked quite out of breath, and sort-of holding Kiba at the same time in what looked much like a headlock.
But Kiba was just as enthusiastic.
"Blondie!" he howled, "This is so awesome, I didn't know you were coming today! Oh, this is so cool! Have you been here before? Its great right? Are you staying long? What are you here for? Pleeeeaaaasssee tell me you me you didn't bring that grumpy killjoy along with you?"
"Sorry to disappoint you, mutt."
Kiba turned to stare glumly at him for all of two seconds before breaking out into a proper grin.
"Awh man, you know I'm just kidding, it's really great to see you both, alive and well you know?"
Kiba clapped Naruto on the back, and they stepped back, Hinata falling back to her feet in the process.
"Oh, sorry Hinata, are you okay?"
The little youkai nodded breathlessly, and Neji frowned at the arm Kiba placed around her shoulders.
"Why don't you sit down," he offered, to Sasuke and Naruto, indicating the rather large scrubbed table that was seated a little away from the kitchen area. Obviously, the room doubled as both kitchen and dining room.
Though excited at seeing old friends again, Naruto happily sank into one of the chairs, stretching out his legs and sighing in relief.
"That walk was longer than I thought, ne Sasuke?"
Sasuke sat next to him, unobtrusively laying a hand on the blonde's thigh and squeezing for a moment.
"It was a nice day though," to which Naruto nodded, and leant back to stare at the ceiling. It had been pasted in light, floral, but mostly white wallpaper, but you could see the edges of metal peaking out at the corners.
Though the decorators had obviously taken pains to make the underground space as airy, light and inviting space as possible, it was still inevitable; he was going to be living in a metal box for the indefinite future. He felt instantly more sympathetic for sardines.
"So, what is this place?" he asked, still looking at the ceiling.
Kiba gratefully answered, holding a knowing finger in front of his face.
"This, my friend, is our underground base at Hibiya- a living space and access to underground tunnels deeper into the city. Hidden in the park under the old keeper's house, it is hidden in plain sight, an act of genius and one of the safest safe houses in all of Tokyo. And don't worry," he added with a wink, "they let us out sometimes."
"Wo-ow Kiba, did you learn that from the back of a tour leaflet?"
Kiba lowered the finger and growled.
Hinata intervened before Kiba could launch himself over the table.
"S-so, how long are you s-staying? We h-have a lot of p-people who come by. S-sometimes for j-just a day, or l-longer...?"
Sasuke leaned back calmly into his own chair and said, "We actually plan to stay here for the time being, in permanent residence. That is, of course, that you don't mind?" he trailed off with a smirk, and Hinata shook her head with a soft smile.
"O-of course! It will b-be great to have you and N-Naruto-kun living here. T-there is plenty of s-spare rooms available."
"Then it's settled then," commented Sasuke, as if it had ever been in doubt at all.
"Awesome," repeated Kiba, "we can have some fun man- Neji is such a cold bastard and Ga-"
A cold voice cut from the far side of the room.
Kiba stuttered magnificently.
"O-oh, hey Gaara!"
Gaara was indeed standing on the threshold of the kitchen, his green eyes glaring coldly out at them all, the dark marks under his eyes framing the glare only made his stare more pointed.
"Gaara! You're here too?" called out Naruto from the table, raising a hand in welcome and sounding a lot more cheerful than Kiba had managed. He'd met Gaara a couple of times over the past few years, and when he wasn't all glaring- and angry- he was an all right enough sort of guy. Especially as he hadn't ever tried to kiss him again.
He saw the rest of the room throw Sasuke nervous looks, as if he were about to jump from the table and attack the red head. But Sasuke sat quite calmly, not at all bothered by the tanuki's presence.
For their parts, the other's in the room all seemed surprised and relieved, though Neji looked more contemplative.
"Sabaku," nodded Sasuke.
And that was it.
Naruto almost felt like laughing at the twitch in Kiba's eyebrow. Sasuke hardly felt threatened by Gaara. Yes, they had once, a long time ago, fought over him (Naruto flushed over the memory by habit) but Sasuke had fended him off at least, and it was quite clear who Naruto had chosen. He didn't think Gaara really liked liked him anyway.
And even if Sasuke still didn't like the red head much, Sasuke was too happy, proud, and god damn smug to get worked up by such a small thing. After all, Naruto was having his baby. Hah.
And Sasuke didn't think Naruto knew him like the back of his hand. Che. The blond wasn't too sure if he should be mad about this, but decided, upon reflection; it was simply funny as hell.
Still, he'd feel even better right now if...
"Oi, Neji, can I get some service here? I'm gonna die from dehydration! ...And did I smell food earlier?" Naruto looked hopeful, like a puppy and Neji could only sigh and he gave in almost immediately and went to the stove and started foisting glasses from the cupboard.
"Joining us Gaara?" he asked, as casual as he could make it.
"I'll stand," answered Gaara, which caused Neji to simply sigh. Inwardly, of course.
Naruto was back to humming again, as he tapped fingers on the table. Sasuke had his eyes closed next to him, looking almost ready to fall asleep. Resting his eyes, yes, that's right.
"Geez Naruto, I swear, are you constantly hungry or what? And before you say," interrupted Kiba, "you are waaay worse than I am!"
"I am not!" proclaimed Naruto in an affronted tone.
"Yeah you are," smirked Kiba lazily, "I mean, at least I'm not putting on weight."
Naruto visible twitched, and his hands immediately went to his shirt front. The material was baggy.
But Kiba just pointed a rude finger towards Naruto abdomen.
"Yeah, I saw it when we sat down, you've definitely put on some weight round the middle- you should be more careful, Naru-chan," teased Kiba, "youkai have high metabolisms, you must have seriously over ate."
Naruto had gone so red in the face, he appeared on the verge on turning into a tomato.
"Kiba-kun!" interjected Hinata softly, with worried eyes.
"You asshole!" screeched Naruto in a rush, the air rushing from him like a popped balloon, "I'm not fucking fat you stupid moron! I'm pregnant!"
Naruto went even redder than before, if possible, and sat straight back down in his chair, not sure when he had stood up. Sasuke had opened his eyes a fraction to stare at him in unbridled amusement. Naruto suddenly found the table very interesting indeed as silence rang round the entire room.
Kiba looked like he'd been smacked with a wet fish-that talked. And danced.
"You-you...what?" he whimpered.
Naruto put on a false grin to meet his eyes, embarrassment all over his face.
"Oh, um, yeah. You see," he coughed to clear his throat," me and Sasuke are, you know, having a baby and all, so...yeah."
Naruto nodded at his eloquent statement.
Sasuke, the bastard, said nothing. Which was really par for the course for him. Must have used up all his words yesterday. ...Bastard.
But as everyone blinked in unison, more than a little shocked at the information, Sasuke took the time to add his word.
"That's right, which is part of the reason why we decided to come back to Tokyo, he'll be having the baby in just a few months, and it's much safer here."
"I, well," even Neji took a moment to collect himself, "congratulations of course. Of course. I suppose it was unexpected then?"
"Yeah," said Naruto sheepishly, suddenly a lot more cheery than a moment ago, "but I mean, we're really happy about it too. We know it's not the best time either," Naruto gave a meaningful look around the room, " but you can't really say yes or no to time, so."
He stopped with a grin, and his glittering eyes, always so expressive, told all in the room just how happy he really was.
Sasuke gave a soft chuckle and took his hand again, which Naruto gleefully clutched with force, knowing that Sasuke was bathing in smug right about now. Not sure whether that annoyed him or not, and feeling sort of proud himself he sat there to soak up the now proper heart felt congratulations.
"Woah, I'm not sure I can believe it, but," Kiba paused, "but I'm really happy for you. Really!" He stood to shake Naruto's entire arm, looking more jubilant by the second.
Hinata also offered her own affection in her quiet way and even Gaara gave a nod from where he watched them all in the kitchen doorway.
Naruto grinned at all of them unabashedly.
"That's so great guys, it's gonna be some great months ahead of us!"
All the smiles in the room suddenly appeared a little fixed.
Sasuke smirked a smirk of so much evil, you could practically hear the maniacal laughter in the distance, as he soaked up the realisation with eyes closed.
The next few months of living with a hormonal, bitchy pregnant youkai, and then after the wonder of birth itself, a tiny bawling, youkai infant, complete with over protective mother.
In a confined space.
Even more chained than the rest of them, Sasuke took small pleasures in life.
Naruto smiled innocently at them all, no idea of the, good natured trepidation filling his friends' minds.
And so began the stay in Hibiya.
Even long after the sun had set the heat of the day lingered like a choking fog through the city streets. In hung heavy and thick, pouring out of the walls like a thick, invisible treacle. Combined with the buzz of the street lamps, the night was left hot, sticky and distinctly uncomfortable.
Despite this, Mitarashi Anko did not remove her tan coat, but merely dragged the hood further over her head as she passed under a shimmering beacon of yellow light.
She did not linger, and with swift purposed strides she was soon sweeping into the dark once more before slipping soundlessly down the mysterious depths of an alleyway.
Even with her care, her boots still scrunched against the loose gravel but she was alert, and she heard nothing as she approached her desitination. Still, she glanced around for a long moment as she paused next to an old iron door, flicking her eyes up down and around until she was satisfied she was utterly alone.
No longer hesitating, she reached out to knock on the door just once. The bang echoed in the enclosed passage but she didn't blink. She simply waited until the noise had settled back into a thick silence before knocking twice more, quickly.
This time the sound didn't completely fade, as the noise of a person rattled around the other side. A near-rusted tiny hatch was slide open with a groan and a pair of nervous dark eyes peered out.
Anko gave an impatient sigh and made a rushing motion with her hand.
A little squeak piped up from behind the door and the hatch was hastily shoved closed. The metallic crunching of locks and clinking keys followed right after and the heavy door was wrenched open just enough for the woman to slip through.
"Finally- what do you people do all day?"
The stringy, nervous looking young man who had opened the door for her swallowed heavily; he could think of a lot of things to reply to that, but he was tempered by the knowledge of what the woman had done to the last who decided to get snarky. Not wishing to wake in a hospital he bobbed his head in a submissive manner and hurried after her retreating back.
They passed cold grey walls-the concrete was crumbling in places and there was a distinct smell of damp- and soon reached another door. In contrast, it was made of a shiny, warm wood and gave little resistance under Anko's grasp as she turned the cool golden handle and made her way inside.
The room beyond was panelled in the same warm, reddish wood that gleamed of polish, and several filing cabinets lined the walls. A couple of old metal fans were perched on the large square table the dominated the room, their blades whirring around in a vain attempt to staunch the heat. The room trapped warmth as well as a furnace and all the fans did was cause a certain amount of restrained chaos as many of the various sheets of paper littering the room were blown from their stacks.
There were no windows.
The oppressive atmosphere of the room was added to by the copious amount of cigarette smoke that filtered through the air, making it so dingy Anko could barely make out the back wall. All she could see in the murk that was the other side of the table was the angry red glow of a cigarette.
Anko gave a half hearted snarl and slammed the door shut behind her; heedless to the underling she sent scurrying from out behind her, only just managing to keep his fingers intact.
A rumbling chuckle came from the other side of the room.
"Don't start on some shit like that now Asuma, I'm in a bad mood."
The glowing cigarette moved through the smoke.
"When aren't you in a bad mood?"
Anko sighed irritably.
"Just drop it, why don't you? Or even better, give me something to make it better!"
She went to sit down, dragged the chair with one hand and propping her feet on top of the table, her boots scuffing more papers. She hoped they were important.
Asuma sighed, equally tired as she was aggravated.
She stared across at him calmly.
"Now Anko, how could I possibly help you?"
Anko screwed up her nose, huffing to show her irritation turning to anger.
"Well maybe if you god damn idiots would come up with something
!" she suddenly yelled in frustration.
"It's all very well and good, me out there in the field; finally caught up with some slithery, foul little demon, and I go to my sword, and I hack and I hack! Until the fucker is bleeding everywhere! And then? The stupid shit can still escape! Those fuckers regenerate too fast dammit!"
She slammed a fist on the table, a stack of papers crashed to the floor.
"And despite knowing this, all along, you still haven't found a way to make them bleed, and keep bleeding! In that case it would be easy to finish them off, they wouldn't have any fight left, and they couldn't just crawl away either, to fight another day! How hard can it possibly be?"
She muttered darkly under her breath, scowling at the ceiling and chewing on a fingernail.
Asuma was unmoved, and simply blew out another jet of smoke. He let her stew for a few moments, observing her childish glower.
"Now now Anko, no need to get so upset," an old voice wheezed from another chair. Silver eyebrows and a wizened face loomed out of the darkness.
"And please, do remove your boots from our property."
"Tch," she spat, but removed her feet all the same, slamming them into the odd dark green carpet instead.
"Why thankyou dear."
She glowered out, letting her eyes trail over the many faces seated around the table; most many years older than her own. Concentrating, she could now distinguish most of the people round the table. The place was cramped full; it seemed all the heads were here- and that she really was the last to arrive.
Flushing just a little, she stared off to the side at the map that covered an entire wall, finding the many coloured pins far more interesting. She would much rather be out there.
"Now that Anko has decided to join us," said the same man from before, "I would like to begin straight to the heart of the matter. Time is short for us all to be in one place, and the recent discoveries made by our scientific research team are most impressive."
"You should like this Anko," interjected Asuma with grim amusement.
She made a snarling expression in his direction from across the room, but did nothing more.
The man coughed a little into on hand to draw attention, but he needn't have bothered. Apart from Anko, every face in the room was on him.
"Yes, of course. This issue stems directly from your own experience Anko; we have lost our initial advantage against the youkai, that of our surprise tactics. Though the demon menace were not expecting us they have adapted quickly and easily to a war lifestyle."
Anko's chest heaved with suppressed emotion.
"And though our weapons are specially made to rend demonic flesh, our foe's regeneration capabilities are making us slowly...lose."
Anko wasn't the only one grinding teeth at this announcement.
"They're not even bothering," she hissed fervently, eyes alight with fire, "Some of these fucker's don't even bother to fear us- they'll just run- like cowards, and wait for their wounds to re-heal. It's infuriating!"
She gave a violent twisting motion with her hands in mid-air, as if she was looking to strangel something, but no one reprimanded her on her vulgarity. Many in the room shared her sentiment dearly. It was infuriating. That such a simple advantage was taking such a toll on their resources. Their initial plan had been to annihilate the main bulk of youkai power in fast, rapid strikes. Knocking them off balance and unguarded, they would fall swiftly and silently. Afterwards, they would simply pick off remaining surviving pockets one by one until the threat was entirely eradicated.
The destruction of the Council of Elders would have been a mortal blow.
But the damn creatures had escaped, mostly. And no matter how wounded a demon-spawn was, if you didn't kill it immediately, it would simply recover itself.
They were taught from an early age to definitively end a demon's life. They would be ineffectual demon hunter's if they weren't. Only bother to injure it until it could no longer put up adequate resistnace. Do not hesitate or delay. Sever the head from the body; cause severe trauma to the brain or cause such a grievous, blood spilling wound it would die before it could possibly heal itself. How to go about these methods was in further detail later in their education.
The point was, you had to take them out in one strike, and the youkai knew this. When their first, quick fire strategy had failed, they'd been drawn into a secret war of sabotage and attrition. All the youkai had to do was retreat at the smallest hint of loss, and they would escape, often with vital information. The demon stamina was showing, and as such- they, the tenmakashi!- were losing.
The solution? Either to completely destroy their supply lines; without resources their little regeneration trick would do them little good. Or, find a way to stop the little fucker's from self-healing.
Neither was the easy option.
And neither, so far, had been successful.
And they had most certainly tried.
"Yes, yes," interrupted the speaker, trying to quell the outbreak of dark mutterings.
"But this meeting is to spread the word of a breakthrough on this stagnant front."
The room was once more silent, and even Anko turned her head back to listen better.
"You see, the research department has developed something new- this time, they were focussing not on our weapons, but on a new weapon itself!"
By this time it was clear the old man liked to listen to his own voice. Anko kicked the underside of the table with her boot.
"Well? Out with it! It's not another disappointment on metal alloys is it?"
The silver eyebrows shuffled as the man shook his head.
"No, no, this is different, this is-"
A silent hush fell on the room in a single swoop. Standing on the threshold was another man, his hunched frame balanced on a gnarled walking stick. He shuffled further into the room, coming to a halt at the head of the table, peering down at them all with a single dull eye.
Still no one spoke.
The figure pulled out a plain looking manila file, his face grave but full of a determination that seemed etched into the very lines and wrinkles of his face.
"D-Danzou-sama," whispered Anko, her suddenly tiny voice carrying through the room like the smallest of breezes. Her eyes glistened as she blinked several times.
Danzou's gaze swept through the room once more, gazing hard into the collected faces, before he gave the smallest inclinations of his head.
"Danzou-sama?" asked another, inquiring.
Danzou did not speak for several moments, but instead looked at the file held in one crooked hand with, it seemed, all the wisdom in the world.
But then he let it simply fall, landing several inches below onto the table surface with a soft smack that echoed.
"Like I said," he said simply, "the future."
A/n: You may see my writing style alter a little half-way through. As this took months to write and i've been foccussing hard on improving my style, i hope its for the better :) I hope you guys enjoyed it- several future plot points are buried in here so have fun! And i wont bother to say i'll have the next one up soon, i really have no idea. Keep in mind i have other projects on the go (i've found i prefer to pre-write stories; you guys'll enjoy it too as i really can quarantee regular updates then!) and things are busy for poor students #sniff. Oh and many thanks to my poor beta too, i can be...difficult sometimes. Ja!