A/N: Hello again everyone! Soooo good to be back in the world of fanfiction. Time to give you another little update on your fave couple, Anko and Kakashi and how they're doing with their impending addition! This story is about what happens in everyday Konoha - ninjas go on missions, ninjas work at the academy, and when Anko and Kakashi are apart, what happens then? I hope you like this - it goes back and forth between what the two are doing. I did put some comedy in too, just because I felt like it. Just a mild warning for a bit of language and some suggestive stuff, but other than that, it's "Safe!" HA! Again, I hope you like it. Enjoy!

Kakashi tried to open his eye. It seemed to be glued shut with something. He attempted to wipe away whatever the foreign substance was that was preventing him from looking around, but he couldn't feel his arms. Guess I won't see where I am any time soon. He lay perfectly still, as if he hadn't regained consciousness because his unfailing sense of smell told him that he was not alone. It also told him that he was somewhere dark, damp, and moldy. He could smell something fibrous, probably rope he thought as he tried to move his hands a fraction of an inch. The slight bite of something dry and rough confirmed that his hands were indeed tied. Luckily, they were tied in front of him, and not behind his back.

He hated it when anyone tied his hands, anyone but Anko. His breath almost caught in his throat as he thought of his wife, oh my God, Anko, he thought as he tried to calm himself and not give away the fact that he was quite aware of his surroundings. He slowed his breathing and heart rate on purpose to keep his "company" unaware of his current state.

A sudden sharp pain to the back of his calf almost caused him to cry out. Instead, he let his body go limp. He held back his surprised cry, and let himself flop slightly forward – like any unconscious person would do if they were accidentally tripped over while lying on the ground.

"Why the hell did you have to put him right there? I almost killed myself tripping over him!" a voice bitched loudly.

A deep baritone answered, "He stays right where I can see him."

"Put up one hell of a fight that one did."

Kakashi knew they were talking about him. Of course he put up a hell of a fight; he was fighting for his Village, his wife, his unborn child, and the ambassador from the Land of Birds that he had been escorting. Unfortunately, the enemy that pursued him had set up additional people ahead of him, and he and the ambassador had been attacked from two sides. Kakashi did the only thing he could do when completely surrounded with a civilian, he turned and fought.

He did well too. But any highly trained shinobi from the Hidden Leaf Village with anything close to his talent would fare well. Unfortunately, the ambassador he was escorting didn't fare as well. While Kakashi was dispatching enemy after enemy, he couldn't protect the ambassador. The man had been captured and removed from the area. Kakashi didn't know if the man was alive or dead. He himself soon became overwhelmed with entirely too many enemies, and even with the help of his 1,000 birds technique, he wasn't able to dispatch all of them. He collapsed after his chakra level had run too low.

The deep baritone voice sounded again, "Bastard did put up a fight. But I expected him to. He is the Copy Ninja after all. He'll be worth a fortune either way."

"Either way?" the other voice questioned. "I thought we were going to ransom him back to his village?"

The baritone voice spoke, "That was the original plan, but if his precious village isn't interested in paying to get him back, we'll take his head in and collect the bounty on it. Either way, we win." He chuckled low and sadistically, and Kakashi was certain he heard the sound of steel being sharpened on a stone.

He lay there silently, unable to open his eye, his hands tied, my feet are probably tied too and he pondered what his next step would be. The one thing he was grateful for was that Anko and his unborn child were safe back at home.

Anko rolled her eyes at Kurenai. The ruby-eyed Jonin wouldn't stop smiling at her and it was pissing her off. "Will you quit it already? JEEZ!" Anko practically shouted at her when she couldn't stand Kurenai's inane grinning.

"I can't help it!" Kurenai almost wailed at her best friend. "You look so CUTE!" Kurenai tried so hard to contain herself as she sat across from her pregnant best friend, who was finally sporting a small belly that definitely confirmed that she was actually 'with child.'

"You have GOT to stop looking at me like that! Are you going to continue to do this until this baby gets here?"

"I might," Kurenai said as she folded her arms across her chest and sat back against what used to be "Kakashi's couch."

Anko was having none of it. If Kurenai had learned anything about her best friends' stubbornness, she should have automatically known that adding pregnancy hormones to the mix would make Anko completely unmovable and exponentially more irritable than normal.

Kurenai got up quickly and crossed the room to where Anko sat on her old couch. She sat down next to her, still beaming. She'd decided to visit Anko because she knew that Kakashi was away on a quick escort mission and she didn't want her friend to feel alone, or need anything. Anko had had quite a scare during her first trimester of pregnancy, and she wasn't allowed to do many things that were too physical. With Kakashi being away for a few days, Kurenai wanted to make sure that if Anko needed anything, that she'd be there to take care of things for her. She hoped Anko didn't want to suddenly re-arrange the furniture though, because the love of her life as well as her muscle, Asuma, had been called to Tsunade's office along with a few others for an emergency mission. Kurenai's thoughts drifted to Asuma thinking I can't wait until he gets back. I love the way he smells after a mission – all beefy and manly and . . .

Anko glanced sideways at Kurenai and sighed heavily drawing Kurenai's attention back to her. She put her hands on her small belly - stretching one of Kakashi's white t-shirts she'd taken to wearing while he was away – tightly over the small mound. She looked out the corner of her eye at Kurenai who looked as if she were about to explode with happiness.

"WILL YOU PLEASE STOP? You're driving me insane! Have you never seen a pregnant woman before?"

Kurenai barked back, "Not up close and personal like this I haven't. Listen, you're my closest friend, and you just happen to be pregnant. Can you just let me be happy for you?"

Anko said, "Before you know it, you and Asuma will be having a little shinobi of your own."

Kurenai stood up suddenly and said, "Sooner or later," I hope she added in her thoughts. "But for now, we're focusing on you. Do you need anything? Is there anything I can get for you?"

Anko said, "I'm not completely helpless you know. I can handle things myself while Kakashi's away. He's supposed to be home tomorrow night anyway. Nothing is so urgent that it can't wait that long," except for maybe my need to see him, touch him, hold him. Anko's mind drifted to her husband who she always missed terribly when they were apart. Pregnancy hormones not only made her exquisitely stubborn, but they also made her an emotional wreck.

Kurenai sat back down and said, "Has Tsunade told you what you're having yet?"

Anko said, "No. Last week when I went in for my checkup, she said everything was progressing, and the small tear where the umbilical chord had partially detached was completely healed. She wasn't able to see if it was a boy or a girl though. She tried just about every angle and couldn't get a positive read on anything."

Kurenai said, "I heard that when they say they can't tell that it's most likely a girl." She smiled warmly at the prospect of helping Anko do a little girl's hair, all tied up with pretty bows. Then she thought again and realized that this would be ANKO's child – if she were anything like her mother, she would probably have very little tolerance for pretty bows. Instead, she'd probably be hiding poisoned senbon in her hair at entirely too young an age.

"Tsunade couldn't get to the area where she'd be able to tell what sex the baby is. She showed me on the monitor. It almost looked like the baby was purposely curled up and hiding his or her "stuff" from us."

"Oh," Kurenai sighed. "How big is the baby now? Did Tsunade say? I mean, from the size of you, you should be able to deliver any day now."

Anko sat up and shouted, "HEY! I'm only half way there yet!" She rubbed the small hardness that was her stomach and continued, "Jeez, it looks like someone cut a honeydew melon in half and stuck it on my stomach." Then Anko smiled fondly as she recalled the day that a honeydew melon caused quite a sexual tryst between her and her husband in the kitchen. Good God that was some TASTY fun she thought to herself, and made a mental note to go buy another one to have when Kakashi came home.

"You never told me how big the baby was, or didn't she say?"

Anko answered, "Tsunade took out a measuring tape and measured me from here to here," she pointed from below her bikini line to her navel, "and she said if all things are well, that we're looking at five and a half to six and a half inches right now."

"Wow." Kurenai said slightly baffled. The whole thing with her best friends' pregnancy never ceased to amaze her. Then she asked a question that she asked often to Anko's dismay, "And everything IS well now right? I mean, after the,"

"YES. So far, everything's good. Tsunade's got me going in weekly ever since…" Anko never liked to even utter the words, I almost lost the baby.

Anko had been seeing Tsunade so they could make sure every week, that Anko hadn't done anything to cause any further issues with the baby. She listened to Tsunade and followed her instructions to the letter because she knew that it was the only way to keep the small growing product of her and Kakashi's love, safe and thriving inside her.

Kurenai started to gush, "Oh, I can't WAIT to see the little kimonos for the baby! And the tiny knit booties!"

Anko smiled absently for just a moment as she thought of those things too. Then it was like a switch had turned back on and she realized that she was a deadly ninja from the Village Hidden in the Leaves. Deadly ninjas had very little time, nor tolerance for tiny knit baby booties. Unless they're for you she said as she touched the small roundness of her stomach.

Kurenai asked, "Have you, you know, felt anything yet? Anything moving around in there?"

Anko said, "I don't think so, but I'm not sure what it'll feel like if I something is moving around."

"But what did Tsunade say about that? When should you be able to feel something?"

Anko said, "She said any time now. After eighteen weeks."

"And you're twenty right?"

"Right," Anko said looking again at the round firmness under Kakashi's shirt.

Kurenai said, "I wonder if Tsunade would let you go shopping? You can't keep wearing Kakashi's clothes to work and yours obviously don't fit you anymore. Maybe she'll let me take you shopping for some 'mother to be' clothes, if she thinks it won't be too strenuous."

Anko said, "One way to find out. We'd better get to work. We'll ask here when we get there."

Kurenai offered Anko her hand to help her get off the couch, but Anko waved it away. She hated being so dependent on people. She wasn't raised this way. She was raised, albeit by a homicidal evil maniac, to be strong, relentless and yes, stubborn. Letting people do things FOR her didn't sit too well with her.

The thing Anko liked even less than being dependant on anyone was being the center of attention in public. She HATED being in the spot light. Ninjas don't like spot lights, and she felt like she was under one CONSTANTLY after having to tell everyone at work WHY her clothes were fitting so tightly.

She was half way through her pregnancy and so far things were going much better than they had at the beginning. She had much of her energy back, thanks to the horrible tasting pre-natal vitamins that Tsunade still insisted she take, and her taste buds had more or less returned to normal. Her beloved chocolate tasted like the decadent wonder that sent her spirit, as well as her blood sugar SOARING again. Tsunade did warn her, that a little is fine, a LOT is NOT fine, and Kakashi upheld this as if he were the chocolate police. He told her it was for her own good, and she knew it was, but she didn't have to like it.

The best thing she found about being pregnant was Kakashi himself. Even if she would have lost the baby, he still would have been the guiding light in her life. He'd said so himself. She was all that mattered to him in those tense minutes when they thought all hope of having a family was lost. She was the most important thing in his life and he was desperately afraid that he would lose her along with the baby. She still marveled at how they had gone from being two friends who worked together to being one couple completely in love with each other. Her heart warmed and she smiled quietly, hoping Kurenai wouldn't notice. She wanted to stay in her own private thoughts with the only man she'd ever loved for a few moments longer. She didn't want Kurenai intruding yet.

As they walked to work quietly, Anko thought, he'll be home tomorrow night, and I can't wait to see him.

Kakashi heard quick footsteps getting louder. Someone's running toward us he thought as he lay on the ground, still completely bound, feigning unconsciousness. Kakashi listened as the footsteps skidded to a halt not far from where he lay.

A frantic, breathless voice said, "Master Kuma!" The messenger panted wearily, "Master Kuma! I've delivered the message to Konoha."

The deep baritone voice said, "Have you, Matsu? What did our friends in Konoha have to say about our demands?"

The one called Matsu continued to breathe harder, nervousness now taking over where aerobic exhaustion had just been. Three other people looked up at Matsu, waiting along with Kuma for his answer.

Matsu answered, "They said nothing! I went to the gates of Konoha like you instructed. I went inside and handed the guards inside the gates your message. I told them that they were to deliver it to their Hokage immediately, just as you told me to do." He continued to breathe quickly, the anxiety he felt evident in the way his eyes flicked from person to person.

Kuma said, "And yet you are here," his deep baritone almost snuffing out the sound of the man's frantic breathing entirely.

"I am!" Matsu said. "I delivered the message and came right back!"

Kuma asked, "What exactly did these so called 'guards' do with the message?" Kakashi lay still, listening because he was quite curious as to what the gate keepers of Konoha now did with such notes. It had been a long time since he'd been assigned to guard the gates.

Matsu stuttered, "I don't understand Master. I did as you asked. I delivered your message!"

Kuma leaned closer to the now outwardly frightened man, "Yet you are HERE!" Kakashi knew exactly what Kuma was getting at, and waited quietly to see what Matsu's fate was going to be.

Another voice spoke, "Don't you get it Matsu? You delivered a message to Konoha yet they LET you return! They should have detained you and questioned you."

Kuma grumbled as Matsu realized what everyone else already knew. Matsu had more than likely, not come back alone.

Kakashi lay as still as he could. Silently, he began to mentally prepare himself for what was to come. As he lay there in the dirt, able to smell the fear rolling off the one called Matsu in waves, he heard a sching sound of a blade being quickly drawn, a strangled garbled noise, then a dull thud as something hit the ground near his feet.

A sound like a large bag of potatoes being thrown on the ground sounded as Kakashi concentrated, trying to see if his chakra had recovered much yet. Not much there yet, but maybe it'll be enough.

He listened intently for any sound that would indicate if anyone had followed Matsu back to the people who held him. All he heard was regular forest noises. Shrill bird calls, wind rustling through the leaves, crackling wood in a fire, the small movements and breathing of those sitting near him. As he listened another shrill bird call sounded that was slightly different then the others he'd heard. Kakashi almost let his captors know he was alert and conscious on purpose when he realized what that call meant. Then he thought better and continued to lie still, as he thought, they HAD to send HIM. FUCK.

Kurenai and Anko arrived at work on time. Kurenai said, "I think we should go right to Tsunade and ask her if it's ok to take you shopping."

"I don't know," Anko dithered, "We can ask, but I kind of HATE shopping."

"But you're wearing men's clothing,"

"So? They're comfortable, and," she pulled up the neck of Kakashi's white t-shirt and gave it a sniff, "they smell like him." She grinned at Kurenai who did not find that amusing one little bit.

Kurenai said, "Would you rather I go buy you some clothes to wear?"

"NO!" Anko practically shouted in her face. She knew that Kurenai who had embraced the whole fact of Anko being pregnant wholeheartedly, would buy her some kind of ridiculous kimono with gigantic bows on the front and back, or one of those STUPID mother's shirts that had a big arrow pointing to the belly area with words saying, "Baby on board" above it. "NO, that's quite alright, I'll go shopping with you. But only if Tsunade says it's ok."

Kurenai laughed evilly in her head thinking I win! "Good, we'll go in the morning."

"IF, Tsunade says it's ok," Anko reminded her.

Ten minutes later Tsunade said, "Oh dear God, YES! Take her shopping! Get her something that FITS her so she at least looks decent and slightly presentable!"

Anko looked down at her/Kakashi's clothes and said, "What? I think I look fine!"

"If you were a man!" Tsunade shouted at her. Kurenai just smirked at her sideways with an I told you so look on her face.

"How long do you think it'd be wise to have her out Tsunade-sama?" Kurenai asked.

Not fucking long Anko thought.

"Long enough to get her some things to wear to work so she'll at least look female."

Kurenai couldn't help but giggle. "How about an hour, then we'll take a break for lunch, then another hour if need be?"

Tsunade nodded quickly and said, "That should be fine. But Anko, if you experience any discomfort, or anything unusual while you're out tomorrow, I want you to come back right away and find me. I'm scheduled to be in my office most of the day tomorrow."

Anko said, "Tsunade-sama you treat me like this is your baby I'm having."

Tsunade thought wistfully about the babies she COULD have had, and said, "I am tied to that baby as is the whole village, Anko. Everyone wants the baby to be fine, and we want you to be fine as well. Forgive us if we're a bit over-excited, over-protective, and over-cautious."

Anko felt slightly chastised. "Thank you for everything Tsunade-sama. I promise I'll be careful and if anything gets weird, I'll come right back here."

"Good. Now, I do believe you both have work to do?"

Both ladies bowed slightly to their Hokage and left her offices to get started on their daily tasks.

Kakashi felt around quickly with his right fingers. His hands, though tied separately, were then tied together. His right fingers could wrap around and feel the metal plate on the back of his left glove. He congratulated himself for being so prepared; knowing that he had to act quickly for help was almost there. He tried to make his hand movements almost unnoticeable as he tried to pry a small rivet out of the metal plate that attached it to his glove. He froze as he heard movement close to him.

A nervous voice said, "We have to move him immediately. There's no telling how quickly we'll be discovered if we stay here."

Kuma agreed, "You three. Pick up the Copy Ninja. I'll try and set up some sort of trap to slow them down. Take him to the rest of the group. They always say there's safety in numbers."

Great, Kakashi thought as he felt three sets of footsteps getting closer to him. Won't be able to cut my way out of these ropes now. He made himself as limp as possible as he felt hands on his arms. He wasn't picked up off the ground completely, instead, his torso was hoisted up part of the way, and he felt his arms looped over something solid and a couple inches wide. The same thing was done with his legs. THEN he was hoisted into the air by his wrists and ankles. His shoulders and hips instantly felt like they were being dislocated as he realized he was being carried by a pole on his captor's shoulders. He looked like a slaughtered pig dangling by its feet from a spit in a butcher's window. He could do nothing, but let his head hang back and endure the searing pain in his wrists and ankles as he was bounced along with his captors' uneven steps.

He hoped help would catch up to them soon.

Kakashi heard the off-sounding shrill bird cry again and wondered if he weren't better off staying with his captors. If he thought he could still be loyal to the Village AND his wife, he would have happily avoided who he was sure his rescuer would be.

As he was bounced along, it didn't take long for his hands and feet to go numb. He knew that the weight of his body and the ropes tied around his wrists and ankles had effectively cut off all circulation to his hands and feet. At least they don't hurt anymore; they just feel like they're going to pop. Then he heard rushing steps and the baritone voice he'd become used to, "That should slow them down a little. If they're following our trail, they're going to be in for a surprise." The men who held him chuckled. "Come on, we don't have any time to waste. We've got to hide our little gold mine here before anyone can find him."

Kakashi quietly cursed him knowing that even if he were to be rescued, his hands and feet would be useless until the circulation was restored in them. His mind whirled in ten different directions, each one bringing him back to Anko. Anything he was going to attempt to do hand to grant him his freedom from his captors. Being free meant going back home to his wife. With the image of her face firmly fixed in his mind, he picked apart his first plan, until a shaking BOOM sounded from where they'd come from.

Kuma laughed and said, "Like lambs to the slaughter."

Kakashi thought oh God no...

Anko pored over registration applications for the newest class slated to begin the ninja academy in the fall. ANOTHER Hyuuga. I can't believe it. Those people breed like rabbits I swear. She gazed off, her chin in her hand, staring out the window at nothing in particular. She began to think about her own child, and how fast life moves. In just twenty weeks, her own child would be born. Then just a few brief years later, she'd be peeking in on Iruka as he taught her child the basics of the ninja way. She sighed again, not believing how maternal she was already feeling. She shook her head to clear away the fluffy thoughts, and tried to focus on the brand new Hyuuga who would soon be taught where she herself had been taught.

It seemed so long ago. She'd been a young girl when she was introduced to her academy instruction. And then Orochimaru, Orochimaru, she frowned automatically, had taken her under his wing and taken so much from her. Whole years of her childhood were missing. Large chunks of her memory were forever blotted out, all because of the sensei that had damaged her so badly.

A sudden wave of anger flashed hotly through her as she silently swore, no monster will EVER get their hands on you as she draped her arm protectively across her belly. I'll kill anyone who tries to harm my family. She thought of Kakashi and hoped that he'd be home early.

After traveling another ten minutes, Kuma said, "I don't hear them. I think I got them with the trap I set. Put the Copy Ninja down. We'll rest here." Gratefully, the men who were supporting the pole lowered Kakashi, a little too fast to the ground. He expected the pain he would feel when the back of his head hit the ground. Luckily, his immense sky-scraper hair cushioned the impact slightly. Still, he closed his eyes tightly to prevent from making a sound.

Rather than removing the pole from Kakashi's unfeeling hands and feet, the men who were carrying him, just tossed the pole sideways, and it took him with it. The hog-tied ninja lay still in the dirt again, listening intently, hoping that his comrades hadn't gotten caught in the trap Kuma had laid for them. Sadly, everything remained quiet. No shrill bird calls reached his ears.

"Ready to go home?" Kurenai called to Anko as she peeked her head into the office type room her friend was still looking at registration forms in.

Anko stretched her arms above her head and arched her back. An audible SNAP and a few short POPS later and she answered, "Yeah, I'm ready. I really don't want to be here today. I can't think for some reason."

"Probably all those applications you're looking at."


"How about we stop, get something to eat and take it back to your place? I'll keep you company for a while."

Anko was suddenly very grateful for the offer of distraction from her own thoughts. She said, "That sounds like a great idea. I would KILL for some mochi,"

"Uh, excuse me? Sweets?"

Anko's attitude flamed up as she said, "I can have a few!"

"Yeah, that's all you're getting. How about some beef negimaki?"

The thought of the steaming beef sushi had Anko's mouth watering. "Oooh, that DOES sound good. Better get me two, I'm pretty hungry. AND some mochi too."

Kurenai said, "We'll see. Tsunade doesn't want you gaining TOO much weight during your pregnancy."

"But I'm eating for two!"

"TWO, not TWENTY-TWO! Come on Anko, if it weren't for Kakashi and I being up your ASS about your eating habits, you'd weigh five hundred pounds, and your baby would probably weigh twenty!"

"Well, if you two would let me DO ANYTHING I could burn off some of the calories I'm consuming! You're both like old mother hens!"

Kurenai sighed, "You know it's only because we want the best for everyone." She glanced downward toward Anko's t-shirt hidden belly.

"Yeah, I know. Now, about that mochi," Anko flashed Kurenai a wide mouthed grin.

"Kakashi's gonna kill me if I let you have too much, but I'll make sure you get a few if you just shut up about it!"

Anko grinned wider, her mouth anticipating the sweetness the mochi would bring with it. She thought what Kakashi doesn't know won't hurt him!

The ground dampened under Kakashi. It's getting late he thought as he felt evening dew begin to gather on his still form.

"Do you think he's still alive?" one of the voices suddenly said.

Kuma took one look at Kakashi's still form and said, "He's very much alive. Don't you see his chest moving?"

"But he hasn't woken up yet."

Kuma said, "The Copy Ninja is a very dangerous man, but he has practically no chakra level. His stamina is negligible. From what I've learned about him, when he overdoes it, it takes him weeks in intensive care to recover. He'll be out for a while longer yet."

Kakashi was very happy they bought his whole 'playing possum' routine.

As he lay there feeling the cool dampness creep in, his fingers and toes began to tingle maddeningly as the circulation returned to them. He clamped his teeth together trying to stay still as a stone as his hands and feet came back to life. He was desperate to stretch his fingers and rub his toes but he knew the slightest motion would alert his captors that his chakra had in fact returned, even though only partially. I really do need some time in intensive care he thought as he bit back the urge to relieve the tingling and burning in his hands and feet.

Crashing. There was crashing to one side of them. And cracking? Kakashi thought as he took in the sounds he heard. What the hell? An elephant couldn't make that much noise! The cracking and crashing continued causing Kakashi's captors as well as Kuma to jump to their feet.

A nervous sounding voice shouted, "What the hell is that?"

"I can't see anything!" another yelled.

Kuma shouted, "You two, GO! Find out what that sound is. You," he pointed to the last remaining man with him, "go get the others and bring them back here. I have a feeling our friends may not have been caught after all."

"Hai," the men said and they were gone.

Kakashi continued to listen as the crashing and cracking sounds got less. Then he heard a short loud scream – then silence. He fought the urge to try and break free from his bonds because he knew that Kuma was still close by. Again, he lay still waiting for the opportunity he knew would become obvious sooner or later.

It happened much sooner than later when Kakashi heard the baritone voiced Kuma utter, "Wha, OOF!" and then he heard what sounded like someone being dragged through bushes while grunting and swearing.

Kakashi fought the urge again to try and move. Instead he listened as the sounds of an obvious scuffle were retreating further away from him. He almost didn't stop the startled bark that was about to issue from his throat when a familiar voice suddenly very close to the back of his head whispered, "Be quiet."

The setting sun was almost as brilliant as Anko's victoriously smug grin. Kurenai fumed, walking silently beside her. Anko finally broke the silence as they walked back to her apartment, "We didn't break any rules you know. We just bent them a little." She giggled as Kurenai still fumed.

"You know damn well you won this time, but as soon as Kakashi gets back home, I'm going to tell him what you did."

"Go ahead!" Anko challenged. "What's he gonna do? Spank me?" Anko smiled evilly at her best friend.

"You'd like that, I know, but I'm pretty sure he'll do something much more drastic." Kurenai began to smile to herself, knowing that Anko would take the bait.

"What do you mean? What's more drastic than a good spanking?"

Kurenai stopped walking and turned to Anko. She said, "He'll take away your 'privileges.'"

Anko gasped. She realized then, the depth of what Kurenai was referring to. "He wouldn't," she breathed.

"He will, when I tell him what you did."

Anko thought to herself, JEEZ KURENAI! It's not like I committed a murder – this time – or anything. I didn't rob a bank! I didn't lie or cheat or steal or nothing! Anko's smile was completely gone, and she almost frowned.

It was Kurenai's turn to smile. "And all because you couldn't control yourself."

Anko said, "You're right, I couldn't help myself. I would have been fine if they didn't have that stuff there, but when I saw they had mochi ice cream…I just sort of lost it."

Mochi ice cream, the lovely treat that she didn't expect to see at the take out food shop had made her almost lose her mind. They were delicious, sweet little creamy balls of confectionary love that reminded her SOOO MUCH of her beloved ice cream bonbons. And the WORD bonbon, her and Kakashi's "safe word," reminded her of something ELSE she loved, but that was for another time.

Kurenai said, "You should have let me order for you. You shouldn't have even gone up to the counter. I am proud of you though; you passed up the mochi ice cream and at least settled on something slightly healthier."

"I did, didn't I?" Anko was then quite pleased with herself as she squeezed the top of the bag she still held that contained not the dinner she was supposed to have, but a decadent delicious treat instead. The bag was filled with not one, but TWO orders of Ichigo daifuku, a ball of sweet mochi stuffed with a whole strawberry. Her mouth watered as she thought about eating them one after another after another until they were all gone.

"You're still eating something other than just dessert," Kurenai reminded her.

"Yeah, yeah. I will. But this is what the baby wants." Anko smiled to herself evilly because she knew this would immediately shut Kurenai up.

It worked flawlessly. Anko was a master of manipulation, and being pregnant, she would more than likely be very sour company if she hadn't gotten her way. Kurenai knew this and accepted it, promising to turn her in to Kakashi when he wass back home safe and sound.

Kakashi turned his head toward the voice behind where he lay. "Naruto? They sent you out here?"

"Be quiet Kakashi-sensei!" Kakashi heard Naruto move around front of him. He felt fingers on the ropes that bound him. Then he heard a quiet curse, and immediately felt steel where the fingers once were. Naruto began cutting through the ropes that bound his former sensei and team mate.

When Kakashi's wrists were free he immediately flexed his fingers, trying to get some normal feeling back to them again. The horrible tingling had stopped but his fingers felt dead and slow. He was worried that they would not be able to work when he needed them to.

He absently rubbed the back of his right glove over his still closed right eye. He worked it roughly trying to wipe away the grit and grime that had sealed it. He made slow progress, but eventually his eye opened a bit. Naruto continued to cut away at the bonds that held his feet when he asked in a whisper, "Naruto. Water?"

"Hai," Naruto responded, handing his sensei a small water bottle from his pouch. Kakashi reached out to take it, put his fingers around it, and as soon as Naruto let it go, Kakashi dropped it. They both stared at the small bottle on the ground.

"That is going to be a problem," Kakashi said quietly.

Naruto said, "Kakashi-sensei? Looks like your hands don't work."

"Really? I hadn't noticed," Kakashi said sarcastically as he tried to rub some life into his wrists and hands.

They both turned toward the sound where the scuffling was still taking place in the woods not far from them. The sounds of something firm hitting something heavy were evident. Fists making contact in confined spaces. Cracking branches. The occasional human grunt or sound of pain.

"Who's with you?" Kakashi asked as Naruto finished cutting through the final bonds that held his ankles.

"Asuma-sensei's got that guy in the woods. He wanted to give him a good beating."

"That Asuma. And I assume that the other member of this search and rescue mission is none other than…"


"Gai-sensei," Kakashi confirmed and hung his head. He knew that off sounding shrill bird call anywhere. That was Gai exercising his vocal chords, letting Kakashi know he was near. Of all the people to have to come and rescue m e AGAIN, it just HAD be Gai. I'd rather it was Genma, that fuck…

The thought of Genma immediately shot his thoughts back to Anko. Things had been pretty tense for quite a while because of "that fuck" not "getting it" – that Anko DIDN'T, COULDN'T and WOULDN'T ever fall for him – that she had fallen hard for Kakashi. They'd been MARRIED for God's sake! But after that, Genma seemed to accept things and back off gracefully, back into the arms of Shizune who had cautiously accepted him back into her life and hear heart. Kakashi and Genma had been casual friends before the whole "Anko" situation, and because of Genma's relentless fantasizing, there had been a permanent bruise cast on their friendship. But things were better lately, and he would have MUCH RATHER seen him on this mission than Gai.

Kakashi sighed and attempted to take the bottle of water that Naruto was handing him for the second time. He concentrated hard on actually tightening his fingers around the plastic bottle, successfully holding it upright after Naruto let it go. Naruto smiled at his former sensei. Kakashi couldn't help but smile too. This simple feat was something he needed to make sure he could do because he was far from being out of the woods yet. He pulled the water to him, and attempted to unscrew the cap. That wasn't happening anytime soon.

Naruto grabbed the water bottle and said, "Give me that. I'll help you Kakashi-sensei."

Kakashi sighed again, "Naruto, I've got to be able to take care of myself. My hands are just numb right now from being tied so long. I'll be ok soon."

Naruto handed Kakashi the opened bottle and said, "Kakashi-sensei? You've taken care of me, of Sakura and even Sasuke for so long when we were a team together. I don't mind having to take care of you once in a while. But don't make it a habit." He chuckled at his former sensei, who in turn, chuckled back.

Kakashi poured some of the water onto his right fingers and wiped them over his previously matted shut eye. "You've grown so much Naruto," he said, "you're not the same little goofball you were so long ago. I'm so proud of you." Kakashi felt an overwhelming sense of pride and approval well up inside him. It was almost unfamiliar to him. The only other person he'd ever been immensely proud of was Anko, and now, he felt the same way about his former student. He realized that since he'd found out that he was going to become a father, he looked at things a lot differently now. He looked at people differently. People were not tools to be used and discarded. Rather, they were important precious gifts in one's life that were to be nurtured and molded into productive respectable loving people. Naruto was a shining example of this. Kakashi realized that he had a part, albeit a small part, in making Naruto what he was today. And for that reason, he was immensely proud of what the goofball ninja had become.

Kakashi also realized that this is how a father would feel about his child. He smiled quietly to himself knowing that he would be feeling the same way about his own child before he knew it.

Kakashi finally asked, "Ok, where's Gai?"

Naruto answered, "He was the one who knocked down the trees. He thought that'd be a pretty good distraction."

Knocked down trees? "It sure distracted me."

"Me too. He went back to move some of the trees he'd knocked down out of the way so as not to disturb "the flow" as he put it, of the forest."

Kakashi looked at Naruto like he was crazy. He said, "That Gai. He's on a search and rescue mission and he worries about the feng shui of the forest." Kakashi rubbed his ankles. "I sure wish you guys would have brought some medical talent with you."

"Huh?" Naruto grunted.

"I hate to break this to you Naruto, but I'm going to be pretty useless in the fight."

"What fight? The fight's already over."

"The one that's coming." Naruto stared at him not quite understanding what his former sensei meant. "There are more enemies coming. The guys you got so far were a small part of the whole group that interrupted my supposedly simple little escort mission. The rest are further back that way," he pointed into the woods. "At least that's the direction the guy who ran off went in. He went to tell the others that they had company, and that company is you, Asuma and Gai."

Naruto's eyes got a little wider, "How many more do you think there are?"

"When we fought initially, there were twenty. I know I took out at least five before they got me."

Naruto said, "And those two that came to investigate the noises – I got them. And Asuma-sensei got that big guy."

"Sounds like they're not quite done fighting yet. What's keeping Gai?"

Naruto stood up and said, "Shadow Clone Jutsu!" Two perfect replicas of Naruto appeared on either side of the original. He pointed at one and said, "You, go find Gai-sensei and tell him to hurry up and get back here. You, stay here and help me." Immediately one clone leapt away into the woods in search of Gai while the other squatted next to Naruto. Each squatting Naruto began to rub Kakashi's ankles vigorously, attempting to get the blood moving to them quicker.

Without warning, Asuma cracked into the clearing. "Damn! That guy was BIG!"

"Not as big as you, you ox," Kakashi commented.

Asuma sat down hard, "He was big enough. See, size DOES matter. I kept beating him and he wouldn't stay down. He's down now, but he did get a couple shots in on me too." Kakashi noticed the bruise that was darkening on Asuma's left cheek and also what appeared to be clean slices in parts of his jonin vest. Asuma asked, "What happened to you?"

Kakashi sighed, "Overwhelmed by enemies, beaten up, and then hog tied and carried by pole. Other than that, I'm fine." The two Narutos kept rubbing Kakashi's ankles, occasionally kneading his lower calves to try and stimulate more blood flow.

"Listen," Kakashi started, "There are probably twelve or more reinforcements that are going to show up here any time now. When Gai gets back here, I saw we head back to the Village as fast as we can. I'm still in no shape to be of any help. I'm only going to hinder you if we get caught."

Asuma agreed, "Yeah, when the Great Green Leotard appears, we'll get out of here."

Kakashi suddenly grabbed the real Naruto by the back of the neck and practically slammed his face into the ground.

"GAWK! Kakashi-sensei why the FUCK did you do that!"

Kakashi whispered, "Language Naruto! And that's why I did it." He pointed to a 4-inch long glistening senbon that was stuck in a branch not far from where they both were on the ground. "We've got company."

Asuma said, "Looks like we're not going to get that chance to run."

Kakashi said, "Wonderful."

Anko popped the last of her Ichigo daifuku into her mouth and with a contented look on her face; she leaned back on what used to be Kakashi's couch. She smiled dreamily.

"You look happy," Kurenai said, still picking through her take out box of food.

"I am. But I'll be happier when Kakashi gets home tomorrow."

"I know. I hate it when they're out on missions and we're stuck here. At least if we were out on missions of our own, it'd keep our minds off worrying about them."

Anko said, "How do you think I feel! I can't even GO on a mission! I'm stuck in that Academy day in and day out, all the frikking time now! Gives me too much time to think about him."

"Worrying isn't good for the baby you know."

Anko sat up and stared at her best friend. "See, the thing is, I'm not so much worried about Kakashi. Sure, I worry a little, but it's, well, it's different than that. It's more like I miss him when he's gone. This apartment doesn't feel the same when he's not in it."

Kurenai nodded in agreement. "I know what you mean. Asuma really changes the atmosphere when he's in the room."

Anko chuckled, "More like the room's different because he takes up too much of it!"

Kurenai shot back, "Well at least the man in MY life isn't a perv who's preoccupied by porn all the time!"

Anko sighed and said, "You don't know what you're missing!" But she did know what she was missing. Who she was missing. She exhaled deeply, she truly missed her husband.

Kurenai said, "Ok, no moping around! I just thought of something. Tomorrow, you ARE going on a mission!"

"Shopping is a mission? Have you lost your mind?"

"It is to you. We're going out to find you some clothes and we're not coming back until we've got some. See? It's like a mission, and it'll keep your mind occupied for a while at least."

Anko thought about that for a minute, and didn't buy it. She still wasn't excited at ALL about going shopping for *gulp* maternity clothes, so she tried once again to get out of it.

"I'll buy the first thing I see and then I'll be done right?"

Kurenai simply said, "No."

"I'll fake an illness,"

"Don't you dare."

"I'll ditch you and come back home,"

"I'll come get you."

"I'll ditch you AND hide from you. I am a ninja you know."

"I'll find you, I'm a ninja too you know."

"I'm not going to win am I?"

Kurenai smiled and said, "No. But think of it this way, it'll at least be a little distraction for a while, and there will be FOOD! Don't forget, we're having lunch in between stretches of shopping."

Anko said, "Well, if you put it that way, I'm in!" Outside, her face beamed happily, while inside, her heart still felt a bit empty.

Naruto scrambled out of Kakashi's grip and said, "Asuma-sensei! We can't wait for Gai-sensei! We've got to get Kakashi-sensei out of here!" Another single senbon narrowly missed Naruto's head.

Asuma said, "That's a lot of senseis kid. Come on Kakashi, can you stand?"

The Naruto clone popped from existence as Kakashi sat up and prepared to try and stand. He rolled to his left hip and put his hands on the ground. He pushed with his hands and they gave out under his weight. "That's not gonna work," he said rolling onto his back.

Asuma said, "We've gotta move. Naruto, do you multiple shadow clone thing while I pick up Nancy here and carry his ass to safety."

"Nancy – GAH!" Kakashi tried to say, but Asuma had already jerked him off the forest floor by the vest and thrown him over his shoulder.

Kakashi said, "I thought you got over my ass after I rescued you from the rubble at the Shinto shrine?"

"What? You mean this ass?" Asuma gave Kakashi's ass a sharp stinging slap. "My retinas are still burned from seeing your, gag, 'stuff.'"

Naruto, wanting to get in on teasing his former sensei while he was in such a compromising position said, "OOO, OOO, OOO! Asuma-sensei! Let me perform the Thousand Years of Death technique on him!"

"NO!" Kakashi shouted.

"OVER THERE! A voice called from the shadows.

"We're out of time. Naruto, do your multi shadow clone jutsu now and keep them busy until I get him out of here!"

"Right Asuma-sensei!" Naruto shouted as Asuma leapt away with Kakashi.

Kakashi watched as the small clearing they'd just left became absolutely polluted with hundreds if not thousands of Narutos.

Anko slept fitfully. She kept waking up every hour or so, sometimes to use the restroom, sometimes because her brain was restless. That's what I get for eating all that sugar before bed!

About the forth time she woke up, she flipped on her back, and gazed toward where the crack in her ceiling was. She couldn't see it because it was the middle of the night, but she knew it was there. Then she began to think, I can't see you or even feel you yet, but I know you're there too. She lovingly placed her hands on her stomach. She still marveled at how hard it was, how protected from the outside her baby was. It was the things on the inside that worried her most. She feared that any small accident might cause damage to the baby. Even though Tsunade assured her that as long as she followed directions, both she and the baby would be fine, she couldn't help but be concerned anyway.

Out loud she said, "Enough worrying for tonight. Kakashi is fine, our baby is fine, and I'm fine. I've got more important things to worry about anyway – like going shopping – tomorrow – with Kurenai – oh God, what have I agreed to?"

Anko threw her arm over her eyes and decided to think about Kakashi for a while. His image quickly wiped away the thoughts of her having to try on outfit after outfit tomorrow while Kurenai grinned like a buffoon the whole time.

The sound of fighting filled the darkening skies. Kakashi recognized Naruto's voice in the distance, clone after clone issuing war cries in unison that shook the trees and upset clouds of formerly sleeping birds.

Kakashi did his best to keep his head up. He tried to keep watch in case any enemies slipped past Naruto's clone army. He also kept his head up because it was precariously close to Asuma's ass. He was still slung over Asuma's shoulder, and the big ninja was MOVING with no signs that he was slowing down any time soon. Kakashi was a little too close to the big ninja's posterior for comfort.

He called, "Asshola! Can you stop for a second so I can climb on your back? I'm getting bounced to death every time you jump!"

"Quit being such a pansy. We need to put more distance between us and those enemies. Naruto's got things under control, and Gai will just have to catch up with us eventually."

"Just for a second! I'm seriously not comfortable."

Asuma slowed down, and then trotted to a halt, but not before shaking Kakashi with each step he took. "Fine! If it'll shut you up, we'll try it your way." He knelt down putting Kakashi's feet on the ground. Kakashi held onto Asuma's shoulder as he tried to balance himself on his own two feet. He winced audibly as pain shot through his ankles, and he swore his right one popped back into place.

"Damn that smarts!" Kakashi looked back into the forest from whence they came. He listened, then he closed his eye and focused. He listened again.

After a moment, Asuma asked, "What is it? What do you hear?"

Kakashi opened his eye and said, "That's the problem. I don't hear anything."

"You think Naruto…"

Kakashi fell silent. He thought for a moment, then said, "We have to go back."

"You don't think Naruto can take care of himself?"

Kakashi said, "That's not it. I know he can, but he makes mistakes sometimes and gets caught. You know he's too damn enthusiastic for his own good. Probably tried to take every last one of them out, rather then just incapacitating them."

Asuma smiled, "He was probably just trying to impress you."

Kakashi corrected him, "He was on a mission with two Jonin, two senseis, and was going to rescue his own sensei. I think he was trying to impress everyone. We do have to go back." Kakashi took a tentative step back toward the woods and stumbled. His feet didn't seem to want to work right from the hours and hours they'd been deprived of sufficient blood flow.

Asuma steadied him and said, "Alright, we go back." He squatted down, "Hop on. GOD, I hate being your fucking mount all the time!"

Kakashi laughed, "You said it, not me!"

"Just hurry up," Asuma ordered, "I want to get this finished and get back home."

Kakashi climbed aboard the big ninja and thought, home. God, I wish I was home right now, sitting in a hot bath with Anko…but this mission isn't over yet. "Should I say, giddy-up?"

Asuma said, "You do and I dump you right here."

"Ok, ok. Let's just go get Naruto then."

"Fine," and the big ninja leapt back into the trees heading back the way they came.

Kakashi kept a close eye all around him. There had still been no sign of Gai, and Naruto's fight had gone quiet. Something was really not right, and he and Asuma were going right back to where all the problems were.

Kakashi whispered, "Start slowing down. We've already passed the clearing you found me in. We should be getting close to something."

Asuma said, "Can't you summon those dogs of yours to hunt them down? Pakkun knows Naruto's scent doesn't he?"

Kakashi said, "I've love to, but I'm barely hanging on to you as it is. I'll never be able to make the hand seals to summon him or any of them."

"I see. So we're going in blind?"

"Yeah," Kakashi said. "We're going in blind."

Asuma slowed his progress, leaping slower from tree to tree. "There's a lot of breakage up ahead. Must be where the majority of the fight took place."

"I see it. Holy shit, a whole chunk of the forest is broken apart. You sure Gai didn't come this way and level these trees?"

Asuma answered, "This place doesn't look familiar to me. I was with Gai when he was busting up trees."

"What did he do anyway?"

"He called it some kind of dynamic seismic punch or something. All I knew was that he wound up and punched these huge-ass trees and they literally sheered off and fell. Gai's not that strong, but damn can he focus power."

Kakashi laughed quietly, "He'll probably chock that up to 'the flames or youth' or some other horse-shit."

"Yeah, probably. Listen. Hear that?" Asuma landed on a tree branch and stood stock still.

Kakashi closed his eyes and let his acute sense of hearing take over. He heard Asuma's breathing as well as his own, which he slowed on purpose so he could concentrate. He heard as well as felt Asuma's heart beat – he was still on his back. He concentrated further away, away from the breeze that fluttered the leaves, away from the rustlings of the nocturnal forest animals, away from all of it, until he found it – labored breathing.

"To the left, ahead. About 200 yards." Asuma nodded and leapt silently forward.

Kakashi scoured the ground as they went forward. Whoever was breathing was near the ground, and having a hard time of it. Kakashi stiffened a bit when he saw a body lying prone on the forest floor not one of ours he thought. Then he saw another, lying on its back looking as if it were staring at where the moon should be beyond the forest ceiling. They were getting closer; the labored breathing was slightly louder in Kakashi's ears.

"Straight ahead," he whispered to Asuma. Asuma's eyes flicked right and left looking for any sign of where the breathing was coming from.

"Wait," Kakashi said while Asuma was in mid-leap. He closed his eyes again and when he opened them, he knew that what he'd feared had come true. He opened his eye and said, "Over there, see. Against that tree." Asuma's breath caught as he saw what Kakashi saw. Naruto was tied to a tree. Normally that wouldn't be much of a problem; anyone tied to a tree could survive for days, but the way Naruto was tied. He was in grave danger.

Kakashi wanted to tear himself away from Asuma, to fall from the trees and run to Naruto, to cut the ropes that bound him, just as Naruto had done for him. Naruto was sitting on the ground at the base of the tree with his arms stretched wide open and behind him, wrapped backward around the tree trunk where they were bound tightly. But the part that disturbed Kakashi the worst was how Naruto was otherwise bound – coil upon coil of rope was wrapped around the tree and over Naruto's throat, effectively pinning his neck against the bark of the tree. That's why Naruto's breathing was so labored – the ropes binding his neck to the tree had lessened his ability to breathe properly.

Asuma whispered, "Damn it. He's unconscious too."

Kakashi thought Naruto wake up you idiot! If you keep leaning forward you're going to suffocate! WAKE UP!

Kakashi was running out of options. His own feet wouldn't carry him, his hands were unable to perform the proper seals to summon his hound partners, he couldn't hold a weapon or even throw one for that matter, nobody had seen any sign of Gai, his former student was completely incapacitated and practically strangling himself accidentally, and he knew, he just KNEW whoever did this to Naruto was waiting for them to attempt to rescue him, effectively setting up an ambush.

GAAAHH!!!! Kakashi shouted in his own head. I wish Anko was here. She'd probably just jump out of the tree shouting "BONZAI" while sending dozens of senbon flying and shuriken whizzing. Then she'd probably roll to the side with a kunai between her teeth and slash Naruto's bonds! But wait a minute, she couldn't do that now that she's pregnant…then Kakashi lost all the focus he had. His situation looked hopeless. He'd get back safely to Konoha somehow. Back to his wife and unborn child, but would Naruto? Would Gai? He had to think of something, because he'd NEVER let anyone harm anyone he cared about, and that even included Gai.

"SPIDER!" Anko shouted and sat up out of a dead sleep. Her finely tuned ninja senses made her feel it even in her sleep. Something had crawled across her arm, and she knew from the feel of it, even though she was FINALLY sleeping, that it was a spider, and a pretty big one at that.

"Damn thing had eight legs and I felt every one of them!" She noticed that she had already leapt out of bed backward and sideways. "Ooh, I think I moved a little too fast, but I'm NOT having any spiders biting me while I'm sleeping! BASTARDS!" She stumbled around the end of the bed, reaching for the light switch, and after pawing the wall awkwardly, she flipped it on.

After the temporary blindness caused by the sudden blazing light left her eyes, she began to slink back toward the bed. She mumbled, "Fucking thing DARES to wake me up just after I get to sleep! You are going to be one VERY sorry arachnid!" She retraced her steps back to where she landed after she'd jumped off the bed. She reached absently to her side and opened the top drawer to the bed side table and pulled out a small eight sided shuriken. "Got something with eight points for you. One for each of your GOD DAMNED LEGS! Come to mama," she said maniacally as she slunk onto the bed, heading in the direction she knew the spider had run to.

She brought her left knee forward, and pulled the sheets slowly back with her left hand, smoothing them slowly to see if her eight-legged prey was hiding in them. Right knee forward, sheets smoother, pulled back further. Nothing. She cursed under her breath knowing she would tear the room apart to find that spider or she would NEVER get back to sleep. She pulled the sheet back further, still nothing. She slunk forward then, inch by inch, eyes searching for anything that moved.

The headboard she thought. That bastard is hiding somewhere on or near the headboard. She moved slowly forward on hands and knees, her eyes taking in every inch of the headboard facing her. When she was inches from the headboard, a black hairy THING with a body the size of a quarter landed on the mattress next to her hand. "HAAA!" she screamed at it, but before she could attempt to dispatch it, it sat back on its four back legs, threw its four front legs in the air and HISSED at her! "HOLY FUCK!" she yelled as she rolled onto the bed away from it, throwing her eight pointed shuriken at it in the process.

She heard a thunk in the wall, as her rolling ended and her knees hit the floor. Kneeling on the floor at the end of the bed, she turned her attention to where the "thunk" had sounded. There, in the wall, neatly between two of the rungs of the headboard was a hairy black spider, impaled to the wall by two points of the shuriken. She signed and stood up a little fast. "OW!" she said as she grabbed her lower stomach. She sat on the end of the bed breathing deeply, and the pain went away completely. Tendons, that's all it was, stretching tendons. I'm used to this by now. I know that pain. I moved too fast, stood up too straight, stretched my tendons too far and that was it. Nothing to worry about, nothing at all.

She inhaled once more, then turned and wiggled her way to the dead spider, not wanting to clean its guts off the wall or the shuriken, but she knew she would. She didn't want spider guts on the wall too close to her head while she slept. That was just nasty. She grabbed five tissues from the box she kept next to the bed and used them to pull the shuriken from the wall. The spider's body stayed attached to it. She rolled over and got another few tissues and wiped the wall clean. Then she sat up carefully, waited a minute, and then stood up slowly. No pain. Good! Then she walked to the bathroom and knocked the body of the dead spider into the toilet and flushed it along with the tissues she used to clean up after it.

She mumbled her way back to bed, "Wake me up when I'm sleeping, what was that thing THINKING coming into my room interrupting MY SLEEP, and I've got to get up in a couple hours and, DAMMIT, I have to go fucking SHOPPING with Kurenai, and I don't want to go…" she mumbled until she got to the light switch. She scanned the room quickly for any more uninvited "invaders" then she flicked the light off and got back into bed, knowing damn well that there was too much adrenalin pumping through her body for her to settle back to sleep any time soon. I can't wait for Kakashi to get back tomorrow. He's not going to BELIEVE all the shit I've been through, PLUS, all the crap Kurenai's going to put me through! Him and his escort missions. Compared to what I've been through so far, and what I'm GOING to go through, he's got it easy!

Anko looked up at where the crack in the ceiling should be in the dark, and silently cursed all things eight-legged as she waited for exhaustion to claim her.

It took it's time taking her.

Kakashi's mind was unraveling. He had too many decisions to make. Save Naruto. Find Gai. Make sure Asuma gets back home. Make sure HE gets back home. But he could accomplish none of them because they all basically had to happen at once. What's first he thought as he looked at the unconscious Naruto still tied dangerously to the tree ahead and below them. "If only Sakura were here."

"Hmm?" Asuma said.

"She could fix my hands and ankles. I'd be worth something then."

"Your chakra's still spent. You don't have anything left to contribute to a fight."

"But what's left of the enemy is still out there. They're watching Naruto. They're waiting for us to come get him."

Asuma thought a moment. "Shadow clone?"

"I can't do the hand seals. Can you do one?"

"Uh, not my specialty." Asuma went silent and thought quietly to himself.

Kakashi said, "I was just thinking, I wish Anko was here."

"Are you kidding? She's a whole lotta pregnant! You know the rules Tsunade set down with her. She can't do anything but stand up, walk and sit down!"

"I know! I'm just trying to think, what she would do if she were here. How would she handle things?"

Asuma paused, then said, "Gimme a minute."

A garbled choking sound came from Naruto, "Think quickly, we've got to save Naruto without getting killed."

"What do you think Anko would do in this situation?" Asuma asked.

"I'm pretty sure I know what she'd do." Kakashi stared off envisioning her, enraged and focused, hunting an enemy GOD she's sexy when she's angry and he said, "She'd dive in with both feet and almost get herself killed, but she'd get the job done."

"And you're not able to help right?"

Kakashi sighed. "You ARE aware that I'm still barely hanging on to your back?"

Asuma pushed Kakashi's back against the trunk of the tree they were standing in. "Get off and sit down. Don't move."

"Why? What are you going to do?"

Asuma turned to him, "What has to be done. Make sure you don't fall out of the tree. You're not going to want to be on the ground in a few minutes."

"Where are you going?" Kakashi asked.

Asuma grinned at him and said, "You'll see. I've been keeping secrets from you and everyone else." And he was gone.

Great. Kakashi thought. If he gets himself killed, then Naruto's as good as dead, I'll never find Gai in time, and I'm pretty much dead as well. He better know what he's doing. Asuma's a hell of a fighter, but he's built for and ENJOYS hand to hand combat. How the hell is he going to find the enemies that I can't find, so we can save Naruto! DAMMIT ASUMA! We can't go down like this!

Silence. All was silent. Kakashi listened hard, trying to hear Asuma, wishing he'd hear Gai's "off" bird call, wishing he'd hear ANYTHING but Naruto's choking breathing. Nothing happened. One minute passed. Then two. But before the third minute passed, a traveling gray shadow enveloped part of the forest, and it was moving toward Naruto. The forest was being burned by and enveloped in super-heated ash.

Kakashi's eye shot open wide as he saw a smoldering wall of ash progressing toward the tree Naruto was tied to. "What the hell is THAT?" he said aloud, then he heard screaming. He watched as one, then three, then seven men with partially burned clothes stumbled into the clearing close to Naruto. The ash wall passed by Naruto harmlessly, the tree he was tied to effectively shielding him from it. The burning men rolled violently on the ground, trying to put their clothes out. Kakashi could see, even in the darkness, the dark patches on their skin where their uniforms used to be. They're burned badly. Did Asuma do that? If he did, he's got some explaining to do.

The ash cloud moved on and dissipated, leaving the forest scorched, dead wood burning. Then, like a bull elephant, Asuma emerged from the burning remnants of the forest. Kakashi watched his friend stand perfectly still in the clearing, then he watched as Asuma raised his left hand.

What's he doing? Kakashi wondered. A half ram seal, and that's it? But that wasn't it. Asuma then extended his right arm down straight by his side, his right hand palm side down, parallel to the ground. Kakashi thought he was losing his mind because he began to hear soft music playing. Music? Where the hell is music coming from? Is that part of Asuma's jutsu? Kakashi watched his friend closely, as the burned men continued to moan and writhe all around the big ninja. What Kakashi saw next, he could almost NOT believe.

A Buddha looking spirit figure began to coalesce behind Asuma while the music continued to play. The spirit figure had so many arms, Kakashi couldn't count them. The figure seemed more solid every second. When it seemed almost solid, it bunched its hands into fists and seemingly all at once, pummeled them down on the burned men. Kakashi stared, dumbfounded as the burned men were quickly, almost mercifully, beaten into unconsciousness. Each one was probably grateful to be knocked out, so they wouldn't feel the pain of their burning skin anymore. When they awoke, they would probably beg for someone to kill them. Kakashi planned to be far away from them by then.

Asuma then turned in a circle, surveying everything around him. No one else moving, no one else in the clearing. Better free the kid. He walked behind the large tree Naruto was tied to and immediately using his chakra infused knuckle blades, sliced neatly through the rope that threatened to choke the young ninja. Naruto's head fell forward and his breathing quieted into slow steady breaths. Then Asuma focused on the rope binding Naruto's hands, but Kakashi was too late to stop him. He held his breath as he saw his friend's hands suddenly riddled with senbon. The rope binding Naruto's hands was rigged to release senbon from two different areas that were focused on where the knots were located – dead center at the back of the tree. As soon as it was cut, it triggered the launch of the senbon, most of which, hit Asuma in the hands.

Asuma only had time to hold his hands up in front of his face and count seven, eight, ni…before he lost consciousness. He crumpled sideways to the ground.

Kakashi finished the count, nine, ten, eleven, twelve. Twelve senbon in his hands. Naruto's unconscious, Asuma's just joined him in la-la land, GAI WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU, and I'm stuck in a tree I can't get out of without assistance! I just want to go home.

The sun's rays slipped over the window sill in Anko's bedroom and assaulted her eyes. "Noooooo," she moaned as the light woke her from the last remnants of sleep she managed to get. She rolled to her stomach and felt the firm ball that took up space between her hip bones. She hummed a little, a happy hum, knowing that her baby was safe and protected from evil things like spiders, and Orochimaru, and anything else in the world, because SHE was going to be the child's mother. Nothing would get through that could possibly harm her child.

She flipped over on her back, still smiling. "Kakashi's home tonight and everything's going to be great," she said as she ran her hand across her swollen abdomen. Then she remembered what she was going to be doing shortly and she moaned. "Oh maaaaan!" She didn't want to get out of bed for ANY reason, ESPECIALLY NOT for shopping. But she did. She managed to grumble herself to the kitchen and make herself her "prescribed" breakfast, complete with pre-natal vitamin - that she washed down with a healthy squirt of chocolate syrup – and got herself cleaned up and ready to go. She knew Kurenai would be early, but she hoped she wouldn't be TOO early. Anko wanted to retreat to fantasyland with her husband for a while.

When she was ready to go, she sat on what used to be Kakashi's couch, and thought of him, and how he would feel when he got home. She wanted to touch his skin, and feel every exposed part of him with the pads of her fingers. She wanted to bury her nose in the spot just behind his ear where his hair began. Right there, right at that spot, nothing in the whole world smelled better than him. She'd happily hold him there, breathing in the scent of that part of him until she fell asleep, or her hormones took over – whichever happened first. She didn't really care, she just wanted him home. She just wanted her Kakashi in her arms again. Even though he'd only been gone days, it seemed like months because every time he had to go on missions, he took a part of her with him. And when he came back, her heart would refill to overflowing. But the secret thing she wanted, the thing she'd NEVER admit to Kurenai, was that she just wanted him to say those three little words again. She and Kakashi had never made a big deal about them because to them, they meant so much. But when Anko heard them, the rare times they were uttered; it sent her into a blissful tailspin. She thought I just want to hear it again. That's all. I want to hold him in my arms and hear it again. Then I'll be happy. I'll be great! Just one more time…even though she knew she had him forever, she always thought, just one more time…

She waited impatiently, until Kurenai knocked at her door.

The sun began to rise and Kakashi was at the breaking point. He'd been awake for more than 24 hours already, his rescue squad was either incapacitated or missing, and his ass was getting sore from sitting on a tree branch. He was NOT happy. He kept flexing his fingers trying to get them working well enough to perform even a simple hand seal to do SOMETHING to get them out of the predicament they were all in. He surveyed the forest floor, and his saw his former student still slumped forward unconscious. His friend was also slumped over and unconscious not far from his student. Then he noticed something else. They were not alone.

He was exhausted, but he did the mental math anyway: Ok, about 20 originally right? Right. In the first fight I took out five, then Naruto and the troops arrived, and then they were down to about twelve, then that smoldering ash thingy happened and seven more were taken out, so that leaves five. Five. If I were only well enough, I could take five. I already did! I could do it again, but my damn hands and feet still don't work right and I can't save anyone! When I get back to the Village, IF I get back to the Village, I'm going to go straight to Tsunade and insisting that she mandate that a medical ninja go on ALL MISSIONS no matter how simple they may seem, because if Sakura were here right now, I'd…

His thoughts froze as four men entered the clearing.

"Well lookey here! The leaf ninjas lost a couple more last night. We need to find that Copy Ninja though – his head has quite a bounty on it."

Kakashi recognized that voice. It was one of the people who guarded him while he was still being held by Kuma.

The voice continued, "Turn the big guy over." Kakashi watched as one of the others in the clearing grunted and pushed Asuma on his back. "Who's that guy? He's a Leaf Village ninja, still breathing I see, and look at all the senbon in his hands! He fell for our trap hook line and sinker!"

One of the others said, "He wears the sash of the Land of Fire's twelve guardians!"

"You're kidding! He's got to have a HUGE bounty on his head. Probably much more than the Copy Ninja's!

Kakashi had a fleeting moment of jealousy pass over him, until he focused on what was happening in the clearing again.

"How many of us are left?" the one Kakashi was familiar with said.

"We have four conscious, quite a few on the ground here that seem to be alive, but useless. What are you thinking?"

"I think we take in this 'guardian' alive and collect the bounty on him."

Another asked, "What about the kid on the ground?"

"He seems pretty insignificant. Leave him to his own devices. No wait. Better yet, kill him. He put up quite a fight with his shadow clones. No need to keep him around to cause us any problems in the future."

Kakashi was torn. He didn't know what to do. If he caused a distraction, who would save Naruto? Save Asuma? Save him? He saw no way out.

Then the ground rumbled…

As soon as the knock sounded at Anko's door, she reluctantly returned from her fantasyland with her husband and grumbled her way over to it to answer it. She didn't want Kurenai pounding the door down she's so impatient! She warily looked out the peephole in the door and saw just what she'd been fearing, a ridiculously grinning Kurenai. She sighed heavily, then opened the door.

"YAY! Are you ready, because I'm ready?" Kurenai breezed inside, "I barely slept at all last night, I was so excited about taking you out today! Are you ready? Wait, I already asked that, but are you? I've found some GREAT places to go get stuff in and you're going to look so ADORABLE,"

Anko just stared at her. Finally she put her hand up and said, "Do you need to be slapped? You're ranting like a loon."

Kurenai took a big breath and said, "No. I'm just excited. Can we go now?"

Anko straightened up and said, "Yes. We can go now." She gestured to the door and Kurenai went right out it. An evil thought crossed Anko's mind, and she was extremely tempted to slam the door and lock it as soon as Kurenai was clear of it, but then she thought better of it. Kurenai would absolutely KILL her if she even attempted to disappoint her that much.

Kurenai was all smiles. Anko said, "Are you going to be like that all day?"

"Like what?"

"All grin-y and smile-y all damn day long."

Kurenai nodded and said, "Oh yeah. More than likely. In fact, I'll probably be even WORSE when I see you trying on maternity clothes."

"I'm going back home." Anko turned, but Kurenai caught her by the arm. "You're not going to make this easy on me are you?"

Kurenai tugged her along away from her apartment and said, "Why should I? Come on. It'll be fun. I promised Tsunade that I wouldn't keep you out too long, and THERE WILL BE FOOD!"

"Ah, there is that!" Anko said happily.

"So stop your pouting, focus on the food, and remember – Kakashi's coming home tonight. With new clothes that actually FIT you, I'm sure he'll appreciate you looking like a woman again around him."

Anko tutted, "I look like a woman around him all the time! I practically sleep naked,"

"Do shut up Anko. I don't want to know the details. CLOTHES woman. CLOTHES. Sometimes I wish you were like other women and actually LIKED things like clothes and shopping and stuff."

Anko flashed a smile and said, "But then I wouldn't be ME."

Kurenai contemplated that and smiled softly. "I guess if you were any different than you actually are, maybe we might not have become such close friends." She paused, "I guess I'm stuck with you just the way you are."

"Men's clothing and all," Anko replied.

The two women leaned into each other and laughed as they walked to their first destination.

After walking a couple of blocks, chatting lightly as they went, making fun of each other, and their men, they finally came to it, "The Blossoming Orchid," Konoha's answer to a maternity boutique where clothes and accessories could be bought for the expectant mother. Anko stood and looked in the huge glass front window at the mannequins that looked like they'd had beach balls attached to their otherwise on-existent stomachs. "I'll never get THAT big," she said out loud.

Kurenai looked out the corner of her eye and said, "You might! That's why they make these clothes roomy and stretchy! To accommodate Mommy's growing tummy!" She made an attempt to pat Anko's bump, but Anko casually batted her hand away without so much as an evil glare.

"Let's just get inside and get this over with."

Kurenai said, "I promise I won't make this too horrible for you. I just want you to look like YOU again, and not like a Kakashi impersonator."

"OK." Anko set her face, steeled herself and said, "Let's do this." She stomped through the shop doors with a smiling Kurenai in tow.

Kakashi searched the lightening forest for the source of the rumbling. Can't be an earthquake. No machines nearby – I can't smell any type of exhaust – then relief spilled over him as he realized what it MIGHT be.

The four enemies on the forest floor spread their arms out to their sides as if trying to balance themselves and prevent the earth from shaking. "What's going on? Why's the ground rumbling like that?"

The one Kakashi recognized said, "I don't know, but be on guard! Something's got to be causing that!"

Faster than any eyes could register, a green flicker entered the clearing. For the first time in over 24 hours, Kakashi sat back and said to himself, we're going to be ok. I think.

"You're not planning on doing anything hasty to those fine leaf ninjas are you?"

One of the enemies stepped forward while drawing a long knife. He said, "And who might you be?"

"Me? Who 'Might' I be? You got it half right, but let me introduce myself." Immediately, the sprightly ninja jumped into the air in a half back-flip, then he kicked off from tree to tree bouncing like an insane mongoose, keeping the eyes of the enemy on him as he went. Kakashi just shook his head and thought here we go.

"I am a protector of the Hidden Leaf Village, wooer of women, inspiration of children, stuff of legend, epitome of energy, fountain of youth, incredibly handsome unbelievably skilled, sexy gloriously handsome green devil, THE one, THE only," he struck an aggressive attack pose, "MIGHT! GAI!" His teeth gleamed as he gave a thumbs up.

The four enemies thought simultaneously, he must be joking!

Kakashi almost couldn't hold back his laughter.

Gai stepped forward and said, "I'll be relieving you of my fellow ninjas now, and I'd suggest you hurry along back to your respective village or home. Unless that is, you'd like to end up like all your friends I see scattered around this clearing."

One of the enemies said, "And who's going to stop us from doing what we want with these ninjas? You and what army?"

Gai laughed merrily. "Just me! I am an army of one! YAAAA!" He yelled and struck a "crane" pose.

Kakashi wondered if he wasn't so damn skilled, I'd wonder how he ever became a ninja. He laughed to himself, enjoying the show Gai was putting on.

Gai said, "I deeply apologize for what I am about to do to you. Please look into my eyes and see the youthful sincerity in them. And don't forget to admire my handsome manly looks while you're at it."

The enemy with the long knife began laughing hysterically. "You're kidding right?" he said. "You can't possibly believe what you're saying! You look about as dangerous as a kitten! And with that goofy green getup," the man laughed again, "there's no possibly way you could be serious!"

Kakashi stopped laughing and watched intently. He thought he shouldn't have said that. Nobody insults Gai's "clothing" and lives to tell about it.

Gai's formerly cheery face suddenly hardened. "You have a problem with my attire?"

The man said, "Well, you look like a ballerina wearing a flack vest for one, and I thought only girls wore leg warmers?" He laughed heartily. "What's with that GOOFY haircut anyway? And nobody wears BRIGHT GREEN if they're a ninja!"

Gai's right eye began to twitch. He pointed to the man who insulted him and said, "YOU! You have berated my suave fashion sense! Therefore, it's time for you to PAY! HAAAIIIII-YAAAAAA!!!!" Gai launched himself at the man who held the long knife. The man lunged to meet his advance, but Gai was gone, and one of the enemies BEHIND the man with the sword fell with a yelp.

The man with the knife turned around, trying to get a fix on Gai. He slashed at the empty air, and another of the remaining enemies fell with an audible "OOOF."

"Cut that out Gumby! Stay still so I can kill you!"

Kakashi thought DID HE JUST CALL GAI "GUMBY?" The tree shook with Kakashi's stifled laughing.

The third of the four enemies fell with a cut-off scream. The man with the long knife turned in ragged circles, trying to back away from the clearing. He stepped over bodies all the while looking for the bright green ninja that he could not find. "Come out!" he said shakily. "Come out and I'll go easy on you!"

Kakashi thought the BALLS that little asshole has! This is too comical…

The man with the long knife backed toward the forest. He crept backward, keeping his eyes forward, waiting for Gai to deliver the unseen blow that would render him useless. Instead, Gai appeared behind him, and simply tapped the man on the shoulder, then ducked.

The man's eyes flew wide open and he slashed his long knife backward, exactly where Gai's head would have been, had he not ducked. Gai then stood up straight, cocked back his fist and aimed it right for the man's forehead. The man had no recourse. Gai was too fast. The man prepared himself to take the brunt of what looked like one HELL of a punch. But Gai pulled up short, and instead of punching the man, he flicked him in the forehead with enough chakra to launch the man across the clearing.

The man sailed through the air, groaning all the way, until he hit the ground near the other side of the clearing with a loud huff.

Gai dusted off his hands, tossed his bowl cut hair back, and said, "All in a day's work, and no one to share the victory with!"

Kakashi cupped his hands to his mouth and said, "Nice job Gai."

Gai turned toward his friend's voice. "Kakashi? Kakashi! My life long rival! Were you witness to the overflowing power from my youthful loins?"

What? "Yeah. Yeah, I saw it all. Great job Gai." Immediately Gai appeared on the branch next to Kakashi.

"So my friend, why didn't you come down and assist me? Not that I needed your help, but it's always so invigorating to go into battle with a comrade!"

Kakashi said, "I wish I could have helped you, but my hands and feet aren't working quite right yet."

"Ahh, yes. I do recall seeing you bound hand and foot to a pole, before I went off to create the distraction to draw away your captors. Well, come help me tie everyone up. We'll leave for the Village as soon as Naruto and Asuma are awake, and send back a recovery team to bring all the enemies in for questioning!"

Kakashi smiled and shook his head. "You really are amazing Gai."

*TOOTH ZING* "Thank you my friend. Thank you. Come, come! Time's wasting away!" Gai leapt down and began to walk to where the enemies were sprawled all over the clearing.

Kakashi thought I HATE myself for having to do this but, "Uh, Gai?"

The green clad ninja turned and said, "Hmmm?"

Kakashi sighed. "I can't get out of this tree on my own. I've been up here for hours."

Gai leapt back to Kakashi and said, "Say no more my friend! The power of youth will deliver you safely to the ground!" He squatted down with his back to Kakashi. All Kakashi could do was drape his arms loosely over Gai's shoulders. He couldn't even feel his legs he'd been sitting so long. But that didn't stop Gai. Gai just held onto Kakashi's arms and stood up, lifting the silver haired jonin right off the branch. "And down we go!" He jumped. He landed, and Kakashi felt the shock of the ground travel right up his legs, through his spine, and he swore it shot out the top of his head.

Gai asked, "Can you stand?"

"Not so well right now, but if you put me close to some of the enemies, I can start wrapping their hands. I know I don't have the dexterity to tie knots yet, but it's coming back little by little."

Gai dragged Kakashi to where three enemies were in close proximity to one another. He laid his friend down gently next to the nearest one. "Start here. Get them wrapped up and I'll tighten and tie them. When they're all individually tied, I'll drag them to a tree and tie and to each other as well. None of them are getting away today."

None of them got away… "Gai! Wait! One DID get away! There's one more not accounted for! There were twenty total, and with the final four you've dispatched, that still leaves one out there."

"Not so my friend. Not so. Have you wondered where I've been 'hiding myself' this past day?"

"The thought did cross my mind," Kakashi answered.

"I was rounding up everyone that you, my worthy comrades, had dispatched or rendered unconscious. They're all tied to trees, and to each other. Nineteen bad guys, all waiting to be marched back to the justice of Konoha!"

Kakashi said, "And the twentieth?"

Gai almost giggled. "He I found a little further on from here. He was with your ambassador from the Land of Birds. He was assigned to guard him when all the others were dispatched. I secured the ambassador in a secret location – that we will visit on our way back home – and I took care of his so called "guard." All is well Kakashi! All twenty are accounted for."

Fucking youthful energy. But I gotta hand it to him, he did a great job. "You did good Gai."

A groan issued from behind the large tree Naruto had been tied to. It was Naruto himself and he was coming around. Gai said, "I'll tend to your student. You work on tying these guys up."

"Thanks Gai. I owe you one."

"Nonsense my friend! Just doing my job for the Village and people I love!" Gai bounded away to check on Naruto while Kakashi attempted to wrap ninja wire around the wrists of an unconscious enemy on the forest floor.

Anko scowled at Kurenai. "You can't be serious."

Kurenai smiled at her, a maternity navy blue "sailor suit" in her hands. "Please. For me. Just try it on."


"Puh-leeze????" Kurenai whined at her.

"Kurenai. Be reasonable. I would never in a million years wear anything like that at ANY time in my life and I am CERTAINLY not going to wear it while I'm pregnant!"

Kurenai was about to argue LOUDLY with Anko, when they were interrupted by a shop girl. "Good day ladies! May I help you find some things to try on?"

Kurenai jumped right in, but Anko put her hand in Kurenai's face. She said, "Yes please. This is my first baby, and I'm not sure what I'm going to need. Can you recommend some things that I will be thanking you for later on?"

Kurenai tried again to get the shop girls attention, but Anko said, "And don't listen to her. She is PURE EVIL and is trying to exploit the fact that I am pregnant."

"WHAT?!" Kurenai barked.

The shop girl said quietly to Anko, "Best friends often do that. Don't worry. You're the mom to be, therefore, your decisions are law!"

"Dammit," Kurenai grumbled. Anko laughed.

The shop girl said, "Follow me! There are a few things you'll want to have. You'll need some loose fitting pants to lounge around in; some jeans that have an expandable panel in the front to accommodate your changing belly, some light blouses are nice and fit over your belly well. Oh, and nursing bras. I'll need to measure you to make sure we get you the right size."

"Nursing bras?" Anko questioned. She turned to Kurenai, "Oh my God. I forgot all about THAT part of the baby thing."

Kurenai said, "You DO plan on feeding the child right?"

"Yes, but,"

"They say breast is best!" The shop girl smiled and nodded in agreement.

Oh God Anko thought as she said, "Ok. Show me what you've got."

The shop girl smiled and lead the way to the bra section, then said, "While we're going in "that" area, there are maternity underwear too that help support your belly – and then there's the maternity "belt" that goes around your back and under your belly. That's the one thing you will DEFINITELY thank me for!"

The young girl led Anko and Kurenai all around the shop then, filling their arms with "practical" things that any mother to be would thank her for as their pregnancy progressed.

Naruto was sitting up against the tree he'd be tied to. He was drinking water while Gai squatted next to Asuma. The big ninja was still out cold. Gai said, "I've almost got all the senbon out of his hands. I doubt his hands will work anytime soon."

Naruto said, "Doesn't look like much of anything is working for Asuma-sensei."

"He saved your life Naruto, that's why he's in the state he's in," Kakashi called from the other side of the tree. He was finished doing his part of wrapping wire, and Gai had tightened and tied the enemies to each other and to another tree. A couple of them had regained consciousness, but were causing no trouble.

"There!" Gai said as he pulled the last senbon free from Asuma's hands. "Doesn't look like there's any serious damage, just a bit of blood. Kakashi, if it's agreeable with you, I suggest you rest for a bit. Naruto and I will keep an eye on things until Asuma is able to travel. You may as well get some sleep for the journey back home."

Home Kakashi thought. Home, and Anko and a nice hot bath. "That sounds fine Gai. But aren't you a bit tired yourself?"

Gai struck a pose and said, "The flames of youth burn like a fathomless inferno in me my friend!"

Kakashi rolled his eye and then rolled the rest of himself close to where Naruto was sitting. "Mind if I nap here?" he asked his former student.

"You go ahead Kakashi-sensei. I'll keep an eye on you."

Kakashi grunted at Naruto, then put his head back, the top of his hair pushed against the tree Naruto leaned against. I remember when I had to keep an eye on you Naruto. How times have changed. Kakashi wearily closed his eye, and immediately, he dreamed of piles of bubbles. Heaps and heaps of soapy bubbles. And in the midst of those bubbles was the only woman he'd ever loved and she had her arms wide open, beckoning him to her.

Anko stood in the oversized dressing room looking at herself in the mirror. She'd taken off Kakashi's t-shirt as well as her pants. She stood in front of the mirror in her underwear and decided to get a good look at herself. She REALLY looked. At home, she didn't have a mirror that could show her every angle of her newly shaped body. She stood sideways, and looked, her hand tracing the round curve of her stomach. Wow she thought as she turned so her back faced the mirror. Look at that. You can't even tell I'm pregnant from behind. That's amazing. Then she turned to face forward and even that way you couldn't tell all that much that she was in fact twenty weeks pregnant.

"You ok in there?" Kurenai yelled from outside the dressing room.

"Keep your pants on! I'm trying to see what to try on first!"

"Do you need any help?"

Anko leaned against the door, "No, no, no! I'm fine. I've picked one!" She did NOT want her best friend coming in to help her change. She knew that once Kurenai got a good look at Anko's growing belly that she'd probably lose her mind completely.

A huge pile of clothes awaited her attention. She absently grabbed a pair of cotton pants that seemed to have extra cloth in the front. How the hell does this work? She found the tag and then stepped into the pants, pulling them up. They kept going up until they were almost under her breasts. Are these supposed to be this big? I guess they are, they're the same size I usually wear, but all this extra space in the front – will I REALLY grow into all this? She experimentally stretched the top of the pants out to see how far they would go. "Whoa, that's, just….whoa." She tried to imagine her own belly being that full, sticking out that far, and she just couldn't fathom it.

She'd done all the reading. All the material that Tsunade had given her and Kakashi, they'd gone over it all, but actually seeing it happening TO her was something else entirely. She knew she'd probably put on about 25 pounds of baby and all the other "stuff" that comes with having a baby. But she just couldn't see herself filling out those pants.

She broke away from the mirror and said quietly, "If I don't put together an actual outfit for Kurenai to see soon, she's going to break in here and, oohhhhh." Anko stood up slowly, completely stunned. Her eyes got wider as she looked around, then looked in the mirror in front of her again. She waited a moment, and just when she thought everything was ok, she gasped. Oh my God, she thought and then she yelled, "KURENAI!" In a flash the crimson eyed ninja was in the door.

Kurenai rushed in all smiles, then she saw Anko's face. "What is it? What's wrong! Oh my God, look at your belly!" Anko forgot that she'd been standing there in nothing but a bra and a pair of what she considered pretty large maternity pants.

Anko looked at her friend and said, "Never mind that right now." She put her hand on the side of her belly and looked at Kurenai and said, "Something weird is going on. I think something's not right."

"Are you in pain?"

"No. It's just, I don't know!" Anko started to panic. "You said that you'd get me out of here if something wasn't right. SOMETHING'S NOT RIGHT!"

Kurenai knew Anko wasn't faking her fear, because tears didn't threaten to fall from Anko's eyes for any old reason. She knew that Anko would NEVER fake anything that concerned the baby. So she acted quickly and said, "Put your clothes back on. I'll get you to Tsunade right away."

Anko breathed in through her nose and out her mouth. "Ok," she said as she reached for Kakashi's shirt and threw it over her head. Instantly, the smell coming from it comforted her, and caused more anxiety at the same time. She wanted him there with her IMMEDIATELY, but it would be hours yet before he'd be home.

Kurenai watched Anko's frantic search for her pants and dove into the pile of clothes to find them for her. She did quickly and held them up to her.

Anko yanked them on, then touched the side of her belly again. "We've got to hurry. I have to find out what's going on! And Kakashi,"

Kurenai said, "Don't even think about Kakashi right now. Let's calm down and get you to Tsunade. She'll let you know if you have something to worry about or not."

"You're right. Come on, let's get out of here."

As Anko and Kurenai left the dressing room, Kurenai called out to the shop girl, "Sorry for the mess we made, but we have to leave right now. We'll be back another time. Again, sorry!" She led Anko out of the shop while the girl who had assisted them stared after them.

Anko muttered, "I knew this was a bad idea. Stupid shopping. WHY! WHY did I NOT listen to myself and just stay home!"

Kurenai said, "Will you calm down already? Let's get to Tsunade. She can examine you and if anything's not right, I'll go get Kakashi myself."

"Promise?" Anko looked at her desperately.

Kurenai nodded, "I promise. And I'll drag him back here myself if I have to."

"Ok," Anko said, as she silently hoped and prayed that nothing was wrong with the baby, because something just didn't feel right.

Asuma tried to sit up, but his useless hands made him think better of that. "Holy crap, what the hell hit me!"

From a few feet away, Gai said, "About a dozen senbon."

Asuma propped himself up on his elbow and said, "Ah. Yes. I remember them now. Can't believe I let that happen. I should have known they would have booby-trapped Naruto. Is everyone accounted for?"

"But of course!" Gai practically shouted. "All enemies have been detained, the ambassador that Kakashi had been escorting is in a safe place – we'll pick him up on the way back home, Kakashi is resting by that tree next to Naruto, and Naruto himself is fine. We're just waiting for you to wake up so we can head back home."

Naruto said, "Hey Asuma-sensei. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to get out of here."

"I'm with you kid." He struggled to get to his feet, and with some help from Gai, he managed. "I feel like I've been completely drained of all the chakra I had."

Gai said, "Maybe that's what the senbon did – they probably had some sort of chakra canceling poison in them. Now THAT'S an impressive weapon!"

Asuma shook his hands, "I hate you tell you this, but I can't carry Kakashi. My hands won't grip anything."

"I will be happy to carry my rival home!" Gai announced with much glee.

Asuma said, "No Gai, you're about the only one of us in good shape right now. We need you to take the lead, and be able to fight or defend on the way home. Naruto, how about you whip up some of those shadow clones of yours and have them carry Kakashi until he wakes up?"

"Can do Asuma-sensei!" Immediately, fifteen Naruto's stood around the original, then they clambered over to where Kakashi lay quietly sleeping on the ground. They gently hefted him up not even waking him.

Then Gai, holding on to Asuma's shoulder said, "Shall we begin?" He looked as if he were about to take to the trees.

Asuma said, "Uh, Gai. I hate to say this, but we're going to have to walk home. Kakashi's out of it, Naruto's clones are carrying him, and I'm too tired to throw a punch."

Gai said, "Then let us make out way back to Konoha on foot! Onward!" He pointed into the forest and then slowly began walking forward, Asuma next to him, Naruto and his clones bringing up the rear carrying a sleeping Kakashi.

Kurenai carefully rushed Anko into the academy. Tsunade had told them she would be in her offices so they headed there immediately. Anko kept muttering, "I'm ok, I'm ok, I'm ok, it's nothing, you're ok, I'm ok," as she kept her hand on her slightly jutting stomach. They were at the offices of the fifth Hokage in moments. They didn't even bother to knock. Kurenai just pushed the door open with one hand, her other arm wrapped tightly around Anko's shoulders.

Tsunade roared, "What the he…oh no. What is it Anko? Kurenai, what happened?"

Kurenai spoke before Anko could, "I don't know Tsunade-sama. We were in The Blossoming Orchid. Anko was in a dressing room with a pile of clothes, and,"

Anko interrupted, "and I pulled on a pair of pants, and then it happened!"

Tsunade jumped up from her desk and said, "WHAT HAPPENED?"

Anko said, "I DON'T KNOW!" She was practically in tears.

"Don't say another word then. Just come with me." Tsunade turned them right around and led them down the hall to the research area deep inside the academy. Anko had been inside the secret area before – when Orochimaru's body was being held there before it was officially and finally destroyed. She cringed slightly at the thought of her evil sensei as she followed Tsunade into a side room with an exam table and a few machines.

"Be very careful Anko. We don't want a repeat of what happened to you a few weeks ago."

Anko shook her head quickly, "Believe me Tsunade-sama, neither do I."

"Are you in any pain?" Tsunade asked as she readied a machine next to the exam table.

"No, but I feel strange! I don't know what happened!"

"Lie down." Anko did as she was told. Tsunade flipped some switches and a sonogram machine hummed to life. Tsunade wasted no time. She pushed Anko's shirt that was actually Kakashi's, up and tugged her pants down below her navel. She squirted cold gel on Anko's stomach and then asked her. "Where did you feel something earlier?"

Anko's hand trembled as she pointed to the side of her stomach. "There. I don't know what it was but it didn't feel right."

Tsunade slid the wand to the area Anko indicated and immediately on the screen, images began to appear. Tsunade then flipped another switch and a loud wet sounding swishing noise filled the room. "The baby's heart beat sounds normal,"

"That's the heartbeat?" Anko listened quietly for a moment, trying to feel her own heart beat. She could feel hers, and even though it was elevated from her anxiousness, it still felt slower than the baby's. "It sounds so fast."

"It's supposed to," Tsunade reassured her.

Anko looked over at Kurenai and mouthed, "The baby's heart beat." She smiled cautiously at Kurenai who took her hand and squeezed it, all the while smiling back at her.

The tender moment passed as Anko gasped.

Tsunade barked, "What is it? What are you feeling and where?"

Anko pointed, "Just below where you're looking now!"

Tsunade readjusted the sonogram wand and more distorted images appeared on the screen. Tsunade studied it carefully and held the wand still, yet the images on the screen continued to move. Then she lifted the wand off Anko's stomach and placed her hand there instead. She waited a moment, and Anko gasped again.

Tsunade smiled and pulled her hand away from Anko's stomach.

Anko was about to go into hysterics. "Tsunade-sama, you have to tell me. I'm going to fucking lose my God damned MIND if you don't tell me what's going on with the baby!"

Tsunade began cleaning the gel off the sonogram wand and said, "You have nothing to worry about Anko. In fact, from what I just saw of your baby, it's a healthy developing child."

Anko asked, "Well what the hell was I feeling then?"

Tsunade almost laughed at her, but she held back, knowing that Anko was a first time mom who didn't know what to expect. Gently, she picked up Anko's hand and placed it on the side of her stomach. She said, "Your baby's big enough now. You're finally feeling it move around inside you, and if you press just slightly," she pushed Anko's hand more firmly against her bump, and the bump pushed back.

Anko's eyes were wide with wonder. Tsunade took her hand away, yet Anko kept hers there. She could feel something moving inside her, as well as feeling something with her hand through her skin. It all felt so weird. She was totally baffled. She looked at Kurenai who looked like she was about to cry. Anko smiled joyously at her and said, "This is the only time you get to do this, so you better enjoy it," and she took her best friend's hand and put it on the side of her stomach. A moment later, Kurenai's eyes were just as wide as Anko's.

All three women were completely relieved, quietly marveling at the wonder of the growing baby inside Anko that was now big enough to be felt inside and out. They all took one step closer to believing the baby was really real, because now they could actually feel it.

Tsunade finally broke the silence and said, "There's one more thing we could do Anko."

"What's that?"

"If you like, I could tell you what sex the baby is."

Kurenai looked as if she was going to bust. Confirmation of whether she'd be helping Anko tie pretty bows in a girl's hair, or going up a tree after a little boy almost made her grab the sonogram wand and find out for herself!

Quietly Anko said, "Not today. Kakashi's not here. He needs to be here for something that important."

Tsunade said, "That's fine Anko. But just so you know," both lady ninjas looked at her questioningly, "I already saw. I know what sex your baby is."

Kurenai blurted out, "TELL US!"

Anko shouted louder, "NO! DON'T!"

Tsunade said, "I have to respect the wishes of the mother to be," she smirked, then she turned off the sonogram machine.

Kurenai yelled, "DAMMIT!"

Anko laughed, "You're starting to sound like me!" She giggled a little more. Even Tsunade did.

Kurenai said, "How can you stand it! How can you stand now knowing?"

Anko patted her stomach and said, "I can wait, just as long as I know the baby's safe."

"GAH!!! You are so infuriating!" Kurenai said AT Anko, then she turned to the fifth Hokage and said, "So, Tsunade-sama, how about you and I go for a little walk and you can tell me what the baby is, because then I can go BUY some things for the baby and,"

Tsunade stopped her. "You know buying things for the baby before it gets here is bad luck! I'm sure Anko and Kakashi don't want any more bad luck where their baby is concerned."

Kurenai fumed. "You're not going to tell me are you?" Tsunade just shook her head no.

Anko cleaned the gel off her stomach with a cloth Tsunade handed her. Then she rearranged her clothes, she sat up. She said, "I can't wait to tell Kakashi about feeling the baby, or better yet, maybe I won't tell him, I'll just let him feel it himself!"

Kurenai said, "I want to feel it again!"

"You've had your turn! I told you, you only get one chance!"

"But that's not fair Anko! You've got twenty more weeks to go and I only get one chance to feel the baby moving! That's so mean!"

The two ladies walked out of the exam room, arguing about how many times a pregnant woman should have her stomach touched by external people. Tsunade just smiled and walked out after them, absolutely relieved that Anko and her baby were doing just fine.

Kakashi wondered whether he should fake sleeping any longer. He rather liked being carried by a whole bunch of Narutos. The ride certainly wasn't unpleasant, and it allowed him to rest his still malfunctioning feet and hands. Plus, he could feel his chakra was returning. They seemed to be moving at a decent speed, even for walking, and he really didn't want to interrupt the procession, so he let his body go limp again.

"Well, well."

Oh shit.

"Great to have you back in the land of the conscious," Asuma remarked. "How long were you going to try and fake unconsciousness?" he asked.

Kakashi grunted, "A while longer if you hadn't alerted everyone to my current status, Asshola."

Gai bounced back to Kakashi, who was still being supported by Naruto's many shadow clones. "You should put your feet on the ground my friend. No use having your limbs seize up. You've got to stay LIMBER like ME!" And just to prove his point, Gai did ten deep knee bends, and twenty jumping jacks followed by two high kicks.

"Yeah, yeah, flames of youthful vigor, I know all about it Gai." Naruto's shadow clones began to stand Kakashi up. The copy ninja put his feet on the ground and they didn't pain him, they just felt a little disjointed and disconnected.

Asuma asked, "Can you walk?"

Kakashi stretched his trunk right and left, bent his knees one at a time took a cautious step on each foot and said, "Yeah. I think I'm good. How far from home are we now?"

Gai pointed, "We're just about a quarter of a mile from where I stashed the ambassador from the Land of Birds. We'll pick him up and bring him back with us. After that, I'd say another few hours or so walking would get us back to Konoha safe and in one piece!"

And back to Anko Kakashi thought fondly. I wonder how she's feeling today, he thought, wanting to put his hands on her growing stomach and feel the place that his child was growing. He smiled thoughtfully until Asuma interrupted.

"Looks like you may have to try your escort mission with the ambassador another time. I'm sure Tsunade will want him to rest after his ordeal."

"I want to rest after MY ordeal. I'll make Genma escort him," Kakashi said.

Naruto panted, "I need to rest more than you guys do! I just had fifteen shadow clones carrying Kakashi-sensei for MILES! I'm exhausted!"

Gai said, "I'll get some rest after I jog a few laps around the Village, spar with my former-pupil Lee for a while, take a Tai Chi class at the community center, pick up my dry cleaning, challenge my own chin-up record, do my 'buns of steel' exercise tape, and have a bite to eat!"

Naruto thought that guy's CRAZY!

Asuma thought he's gotta be ON something!

Kakashi thought Gai…he'll never change.

"We're burning daylight. Let's get moving. Lead the way Gai," Asuma said.

"RIGHT!" Gai said as he happily marched his way in the direction he'd stashed the ambassador of the Land of Birds for safe keeping.

Naruto stayed back with Kakashi, dragging himself along beside his former sensei. Asuma just sighed deeply and trudged along, flexing and unflexing his hands, wishing he had a cold beer in one of them, and Kurenai's hand in the other.

Anko had had enough. Tsunade had cleared her and Kurenai to pick up where they'd left off with their shopping, but Anko thought better of that. She'd had enough excitement for the day, so she excused herself from shopping, promising Kurenai that they would try again on their next mutual day off of work. She wanted to get some terribly unhealthy food and go home and wait for Kakashi to get there.

She swung her bag of take out food, complete with a deep fried Twinkie and chocolate dipping sauce for dessert, whistling as she walked home. She was happy, genuinely happy. The only man she'd ever loved was on his way back home, she had a bag full of yummy goodness swinging from her arm, and she did NOT have to try on armloads of maternity clothes. All those things made her day turn out pretty well. But the BEST thing was the confirmation that her baby, that THEIR baby was alive and well, and now apparently kicking! She absently patted her stomach with the hand that was not swinging her lunch around.

She went into the apartment that she and Kakashi shared and walked to their kitchen table. She dropped her bag of food on the table, then went to grab some cold water from the fridge. She sat down at the table, popping open the bottle and taking a long drink from it. "Ahhhh," she said out loud as she wiped her mouth on the back of her arm. "OH!" she shouted almost immediately afterward as the baby inside her lurched to the side. "What? Oh yeah! I guess I've got to expect you moving around a lot now don't I. You probably felt all that cold water hitting my stomach – probably gave you a little start didn't it? Well here, let mummy give you something you'll LOVE!" She grabbed her deep fried Twinkie and dunked it lavishly in the chocolate dipping sauce. She took a huge bite and chewed it blissfully. If this kid is anything like me, they're gonna LOVE this stuff! She swallowed and waited, wondering how long it would take the food she was ingesting to get to the baby, and have the baby react to it.

All was still for the moment, so she put the other half of her Twinkie down. She looked down at her slightly rounded stomach and put both her arms around it. She ran her hands over it, feeling how hard it was, knowing that the baby growing inside was healthy and safe. Mummy's got you, she thought then she contemplated that word, "Mummy." She didn't remember her parents, and in not too much longer, she was going to actually BE one. The thought terrified her yet thrilled her at the same time. And your Daddy'll keep you safe too.

It amazed her that just a little over a year ago, none of this would have ever seemed possible to her. Just over a year ago, if anyone would have told her she was going to be married to Kakashi of all people, she probably would have punched them in the mouth for spouting such blasphemy! If they would have told her that she would be married to Kakashi AND having his baby, she probably would have sewn their mouth shut so they couldn't say such things to anyone else! But at that moment in the kitchen with half an ingested deep fried Twinkie and a baby inside her, she was silently grateful for the whole thing – all of it. She had a loving husband, who was going to be a wonderful father. She always knew Kakashi would be. She'd been worried at first, with how he always treated his students, but his own child, I feel sorry for anyone who tries to cross YOU she thought to her belly.

Suddenly, her belly rumbled in a bubbly way. "OHH! You like the Twinkie do you? Well then here, have some more, but PROMISE you won't tell Daddy, ok?" She patted her stomach again, then devoured the rest of her Twinkie, dribbling chocolate sauce on Kakashi's shirt in the process.

Anko ate the rest of her lunch, quietly talking to the little life inside her, telling it all about her, the Village, its Daddy, and anything else she could think of.

Gai marched into the Village gates. Kotetsu saw him coming and said, "So Gai, did the search and rescue mission go well?"

"Absolutely my friend! The rest of the troops are a few paces behind me, along with the ambassador from the Land of Birds. I'll let Tsunade know the outcome of the mission. You may want to take care of the ambassador when he makes it through the gates. I'm off to run a few laps around the village then see Tsunade!" Gai took off with a spring in his step, running easily around the inside of the village walls.

Asuma stumbled through the gates, and as soon as he could, he leaned against the table Kotetsu was sitting at. Next to him was the ambassador. "Hey Kotetsu. Can you give our friend here a hand? Set him up with some accommodations? He's going to be here for a few days until we can arrange to get him escorted properly again."

Kotetsu said, "Sure Asuma. Come with me Sir. I believe we've got a nice place you can call home for a few days."

The ambassador spoke in a shrill voice, "I don't want to be a bother."

"It's no bother. You're a guest of the Village Hidden in the Leaves. Let us show you some hospitality. Asuma?" Kotetsu said as he put his hand on the ambassador's shoulder to lead him into the Village.

"Don't worry. I'll take your place until you get back. I don't think I can walk anymore if I tried."

"Thanks man. Be back in a jiffy. Where are Kakashi and Naruto?"

"Bringing up the rear," Asuma said as he pointed out of the gates.

Kotetsu asked, "Is he hurt again?"

"Mildly. But I don't see him needing to go to the ICU."

"Yes he does." Kakashi said as he shuffled through the gates, partially leaning into Naruto, "but I'll settle for going home. Think you can get me there Naruto?"

The tired ninja looked up at his former sensei and said "What's it worth to you? I should just leave you right here with your pal. I want to sleep for week."

"How about some ramen,"

"I'll do it," Naruto cut him off.

"tomorrow," Kakashi clarified.

"Ok Kakashi-sensei. I'll be by for you in the morning."

"That's fine kid – just get me home," to my wife he added in his mind. "See you later Asuma, and thanks for coming to get me."

"No problem man. If Kurenai's at your place, will you send her to come help me home?"

"Sure." Naruto and Kakashi shuffled into the Village two very tired ninjas.

When they arrived at Kakashi's apartment building, both ninjas looked at each other. "Almost there," Kakashi said. "Naruto. You've got to do that Naruto thing you do and find some energy out of somewhere. Aren't you supposed to tell me that we're going to get up all those stairs and get me in the apartment, and then shout 'believe it!' or something like that?"

Naruto shot him a dirty look, Kakashi just smiled back. "Alright Kakashi-sensei, let's do this. Here we go!" Naruto straightened himself up a bit and pulled Kakashi through the apartment building door. They leaned on each other, while Naruto almost literally pulled them both up the stairs one by one until they were on the floor of Kakashi and Anko's apartment. "Almost there!" Naruto said as they lumbered down the hall.

They made it to the apartment door. Kakashi rested his head against it, while Naruto knocked. "I have a key," Kakashi said, "it's in my right pants pocket."

Naruto looked at him sideways and said, "Your fucking crazy if you think I'm putting my hand in your pocket so close to your,"

"Language Naruto!" Kakashi said as the door opened, and there she was, beaming back at him. The only woman he'd ever loved. Then her expression changed and she was screaming,

"What the hell happened to you?! Oh, hi Naruto. Kakashi? Oh my God, don't tell me, no wait, tell me,"

Kakashi raised his battered left hand and put his index finger on Anko's lips. "Get me to bed and I'll tell you everything." Anko slid under his left arm and helped Naruto walk her exhausted husband to the bedroom. They practically dumped him on the bed. "Thanks Naruto."

"Don't forget Kakashi-sensei,"

"I know, I know. Ramen in the morning."

Naruto smiled widely and said, "Bright and early! See you then Kakashi-sensei!" and the ninja who didn't seem to have much more energy than Kakashi bounded out of the room.

"That bastard was faking!" Kakashi muttered. Then he looked up at his wife who was sitting facing him on their bed. "Just let me look at you for a second." He pulled down his mask, and pushed his forehead protector off. He ran a hand through his crazy hair and just looked at her. She looked right back. Then Anko gently leaned forward and kissed her husband gently on the mouth.

"I missed you," she said, her hand on the side of his face.

"I thought about you a lot while I was gone," he said back to her. "Is that chocolate on my shirt? Never mind…what did you do while I was away?"

"Well let's see, where to start," Anko said as she started undoing Kakashi's vest, and helped him struggle out of it. She began to tell him about how Kurenai practically forced her to go shopping with her at a maternity clothing store and how she tried to get out of it – she pulled his boots off – and how he was NOT to believe a word Kurenai said about her not sticking to her healthy pregnancy diet, because Kurenai was a habitual LIAR – she pulled his shirt over his head. She told him it was complete TORTURE having to go and do all those horrible things, but she did learn a few things from the helpful girl at The Blossoming Orchid store.

Anko climbed onto the bed behind Kakashi and spooned her body against his – the front of her knees against the back of his, her breasts pressed against his back, her stomach against the small of his back, her arm wrapped around his waist. She kissed his left earlobe from behind and stroked his hair back. She asked quietly, "So tell me about your mission? I had such a horrible time with that damn Kurenai, your mission was probably a nice getaway. How'd it go?"

Kakashi laughed quietly and said, "The mission didn't go so well. I left with the ambassador from the Land of Birds and we returned with him."

"We? That's right, Naruto delivered you. What happened?" Kakashi went on and told her all about the fight, how the ambassador had been abducted, how he'd been captured and carried around like a pig on a stick, and how Gai had been utterly amazing, "but you've got to swear you'll never tell him that."

"I swear," she said as she snuggled into him tighter. "I'm just glad you're back home and you're safe." And as if to second that motion, Kakashi felt a bump in the small of his back.

"What was that for?" he asked.

Anko smiled. "What was 'what' for?"

Kakashi turned on his back, then faced her. "Didn't you just nudge me in the back?"


"What then?"

Anko smiled again, and took his beaten right hand, removed his glove, and then pressed it against her stomach. Kakashi looked at her, still confused as to what she was doing, until he felt that little bit of pressure against his hand. He held perfectly still, looking as if he was in shock. "Is that the,"

Anko nodded. "You won't believe what I did when I felt that the first time. I'll have to tell you that story too."

"Just give me a minute," Kakashi said. "I want to see if it'll happen again." Anko looked down at her husband's hand, then looked at his expectant eyes. It thrilled her to see how engrossed he was. She saw his eyes widen just slightly as the baby moved against his hand again. "That is amazing," he said then he turned to look at her. Anko just let him have his moment of wonder as she gently ran her fingers through his hair, putting her free hand over his.

Kakashi lay there deeply moved by an emotion he'd never felt before. His wife and unborn child lay on the bed with him, his own little family. And at that moment, he knew why he jumped in the line of fire all the time, he knew why he came home beaten up to face days and weeks of recovery in the hospital he hated so much. He did it because he loved them, he loved his Village, and he needed to keep them all safe.

A/N: So there you have it - Anko's progressing nicely, the baby's "cooking" well, and Kakashi's home all safe and sound. I hope you enjoyed this little story, and I promise you one more for sure! I already have it in mind too, so keep an eye on my profile for an update on when it'll be up! Until then, see you soon!