AN: Hi All! As promised, the next chapter is up! Sorry if I'm not posting once a week as I was when I started this story, but I'm currently sharing my computer with my husband, because his computer broke while we were on vacation this year. Saving up for another laptop for him, but until then, I've got him looking over my shoulder at his cookie game.
Thomas Drovin: It's good to hear from you. I too have become an aunt. I married into a neice and nephew on my husband's side. And my older brother had his first child about a month ago. Anyway, Kankuro and Fred should find some happiness now, but will it last when everyone finds out they're official? And what about Ronni's upcoming nuptuals? Lynne's vision? What did it mean? And when is Akatsuki attacking next? All will soon be revealed.
Remember to buy my book on Amazon!
Disclaimer: I don't own the obvious stuff. That belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.
Chapter Twenty-Three: Ready, Set, Plan
Ronni stood in the dress shop, biting her lip as she looked at her reflection in white. The dress was bright white with gathers in the skirt and a giant bow on the back. "Absolutely gorgeous. What do you think?" the dress store owner asked, her hands clasped together eagerly.
Ronni looked to Rox in the reflection who sat behind her, her face contorted strangely. "What do you think, Rox?" Ronni asked, her lips pursed.
"No," Rox answered shaking her head. "It's not you." With a frown, she looked at the store owner and asked, "Is there anything a little simpler?"
The store owner frowned in disappointment, but pointed back to the racks, "You can try hunting through our off the rack options yourself, if you'd prefer."
Rox nodded with a sardonic smile. "I think we would." She turned to Ronni and added, "I'll get you something nice."
Ronni nodded nervously, watching Rox make her way through the forest of silk and taffeta. She heard the screeching of hangers on racks as Rox sifted through the wedding dresses, trying to find the perfect one. There was a resoundingly victorious "AHA!" sounded throughout the store, and Rox came rushing back with a dress. "Found it," Rox announced handing the dress to Ronni. Before she could get a good look at it, Rox ushered Ronni back into the dressing room to try it on.
It didn't take Ronni long to slip into it, and she was back out in front of the mirror. She looked at Rox's giddy face before she looked into the mirror. The dress was a simple white silk. The top was a one shoulder with ruching all over, that gave it a rippling water look that finished at a belt. The skirt was one piece of silk wrapped around her waist and hips like a towel, hemmed and sewn into the belt, and that caused a slit to start from her knee down, leaving the dress to pool in a small train in the back. Ronni's heart skipped a beat. "Oh my god."
"That's it," Rox laughed. "Now all you need is some nice jewelry, a bird-cage veil, and some kick-ass shoes, and you're set."
Ronni nodded in agreement. She turned a beaming smile to the store owner, who seemed to be sulking. "Ring it up please."
"A-are you sure?" the lady asked with a frown.
Ronni gave her a pointed glare before answering, "Yes, I'm sure. This is perfect."
The woman shrugged before she stepped forward, "Let me get the number from the tag." Ronni lifted her arm up, fishing out the dress tag in her side.
"I'm going to look at some veils," Rox said excitedly, jumping up from her chair and rushing to the rack where three different styles of birdcage veils hung. The old woman left with the dress number as Rox came back with all three veils. "Slim pickings here," she sighed. "Which one do you like?"
Ronni eyed each veil intently until she pointed to the one on the right that had beads where the netted strings connected, and gathered in the back into an intricately designed rhinestone clip. Rox helped her put it on and the vision was complete. Rox jumped up and down excitedly as she said, "Am I good or what?"
Ronni laughed as she took herself in in her full regalia, "You are amazing."
The older lady came back, and was stunned speechless. Eventually, she sputtered out, "D-do you want to add the veil to your order?"
Ronni nodded emphatically. "Definitely," she answered, unclipping it from her bun and handing it to the owner.
The woman gestured to the changing room and stated, "If you go ahead and get changed, I can get the dress put away properly for your order." Ronni did as the woman suggested and changed back into her normal clothes, Rox following her closely to the front. Once Ronni paid, they were out the door and onto lunch.
"So, check that off the list," Ronni sighed. She pantomimed as she said, "Dress, check."
"Anything else on that list?" Rox asked.
Ronni began to tick them off on her fingers, "Finalize guest list. Finalize arrangements with the florist, musicians, and caterer. Get shoes and jewelry. And that's it … I think." She slumped at the amount left. "I'm in the home-stretch."
"Well, that's good," Rox laughed. "So invites have already been sent out?"
"Yeah," Ronni sighed as they took a seat at the dumpling restaurant. "I sent them out a couple days ago, so they should have reached most everyone now."
"Oh," Rox muttered. She hadn't seen it come in the mail.
"Shikamaru already handed me you're RSVP," Ronni stated. She chuckled as she added, "Like you wouldn't be coming anyway." Her laughter waned into a groan as she dropped her head on the table, her arms splayed out. "Ugh, I just want this wedding to be over already."
Rox looked at her friend nervously. "Aren't you supposed to be excited you're getting married?"
"Oh, I am," Ronni countered, her head bouncing comically against the table with every syllable. "It's just planning a wedding really takes it out of you. You'd never think so much shit goes into it. I mean, you'd think it was a simple 'book the vendor' and they'd just show up. But no, you have to check in with them constantly. I'm tired. So tired."
"I know what you mean," Rox replied. "I've been really tired recently."
"You're pregnant. That's a symptom," Ronni said with a scowl. "Planning a wedding shouldn't be this difficult. I've always been good at planning parties."
Rox shrugged. "Well, you are planning the biggest party of your life … ever."
Ronni pouted as she looked at the grain of wood in the table. She huffed before she added, "I told my sister she has to bring a date." Rox looked at her friend with a raised eyebrow. "I know," Ronni scoffed, "I pulled a 'your mom.'" Rox gave her friend a sardonic smile as she thought back to her mother's previous decree that neither she nor Cordi could go to Prom unless they had dates. They ended up taking their brother and one of his friends when they couldn't get actual dates. "I'm just sick of her moping around because she hasn't had a date. Maybe this will get her out there actually looking."
Fred laid out, naked on her stomach, on the floor of the Kazekage office. Kankuro laid next to her, just as naked. His fingers ran through her hair as he looked at her. Their clothes were strewn about the office haphazardly. The floor was cool against Fred's warmed skin, feeling so good. "Well," she laughed, "who knew a chunin exam meeting could be so awesome?"
Kankuro laughed, still playing with her hair as he looked around his brother's office that they had defiled … again. "I honestly think this office sees more action when I'm acting Kazekage than ever before," Kankuro joked with a smirk.
Fred chuckled as she sat up, her naked body exposed to Kankuro completely … again. She grabbed her shirt and underwear as she pulled herself up. She saw Kankuro pout as she started getting redressed. "Don't pout," She pleaded.
Kankuro smirked as he sat up and asked, "Well, why don't you stay and go for another round?"
Fred eyed him skeptically. "We just did it three times," she stated with a laugh, "in a row."
"We wouldn't be breaking any records if we did it a fourth time," Kankuro replied with a flirty smirk.
Fred shook her head as she continued to get dressed. "Your brother is supposed to be back anytime today," she stated as she hopped in her pants. "I need to be getting back to Konoha to inform Naruto about the preparations and to check in on Ronni and wedding planning."
"When is that happening, by the way?" Kankuro asked with a frown.
Fred huffed as she pulled her shirt over her head. "Three weeks," she answered as she reached down for her shoes to slide them on. "Oh, that reminds me," she sighed as she dropped her shoed foot, "Ronni's making me bring a date."
Kankuro's brow furrowed. "You weren't planning on already asking me?"
Fred frowned as she knelt down next to him, looking at the ground. "Well, we haven't really discussed what this," she started, gesturing between them, "is. And things have been going so well between us, I don't want to rush it."
Kankuro eyed her strangely, a worried feeling pitting in his stomach. "What are you saying?"
"Well, because of the prophecy and everyone else getting married and having kids right now," Fred began to explain, "if we go ahead and announce that we're officially together, they're going to really start pestering us about when we're getting married and settled down. More so than they already have, and I'm not ready for that."
Kankuro nodded his understanding. "So, mums the word?"
"Please?" Fred asked with a wince. He gave a small nod, which caused Fred to grin as she leaned forward, planting a kiss on his lips. "Thank you. You're amazing."
"So, what is this?" Kankuro asked, his face serious.
Fred smiled. "Well," she smiled, giving him a small kiss on the mouth, "as of right now we are two people who really enjoy each other," she answered, before giving him another kiss. "And who have amazing sex." She gave him another kiss, holding his head to hers. He put his hand to the back of her head, holding her in the kiss. She pulled away as she whispered, "And I really want you to be with me at the wedding."
He looked at her with hooded eyes as he asked, "You do?"
"Yes," she sighed. "Ever since Ronni got engaged, I've kinda felt old."
Kankuro gave her a weird look as he laughed, "You're only a year older than her."
"And yet," she sighed, "she's getting married first." She shook her head as she added, "I dunno, it just makes me feel like a spinster. And I could use someone there telling me I'm not."
Kankuro smiled and pulled her into another kiss, his tongue licking her hers softly before pulling away as he said, "You're not a spinster."
Kankuro went in for another kiss until a loud knock sounded on the door. "Lord Kankuro," a voice called on the other side.
Kankuro's eyes bugged as he called back, "Uhm, Hold on!" Fred laughed as she watched him race around the room, grabbing his clothes. She slid her last shoe on as Kankuro threw on his clothes. Fred grinned as she watched Kankuro struggles to pull his pants on. "C-Come in!" he called to the person at the door, fastening the button on his pants, and tying the rope around his shirt.
It opened, a Suna ninja peaking into the office. "Lord Kankuro, the Kazekage and Kazekougou have been seen coming into the village."
"Th-thank you," Kankuro replied before dismissing the ninja, trying to catch his breath as he leaned against the front of the desk. He shifted a glance over to Fred, who was trying her best to hold back a chuckle behind a smirk. His eyes followed her movements as she slowly stepped forward, reaching for the front of his collar, and tucked the tag of his shirt in, giving it a small pat and a smile. His shirt was on backwards. He let out a huff and began situating his shirt correctly as she laughed.
"I'll see you at the gates." With that, she walked out the door, her hips swaying a little, his gaze following her figure out.
"Should have known I'd get a sunburn," Cordi griped as she and her husband finished their trek back to the desert city. She was currently in her jeans, t-shirt, and ninja boots, but most of that was covered by the Sunagakuran poncho most everyone wore, covering her burnt arms, shoulders, and chest. Her face was red, shiny, and puffy from the sunburn as well, and Gaara, being the ever considerate husband, made sure a cloud of sand was hovering over her for most of the trek. "I always get sunburned when I got to the beach."
Gaara shot his currently red wife a small smile. "It's not that bad," he stated.
Cordi looked at him as if he was crazy. "Are you blind? I'm a lobster!" She eyed him skeptically before she added, "You're paler than I am. How come you didn't get burned?"
Gaara shrugged, turning to look ahead. "I've grown up in the desert. Maybe I just know how not to get burned."
Cordi scowled, turning back to face the gates they were steadily approaching. At the gate was a young woman with dark brown hair, pale skin, and a petit build, and she was waving at the approaching couple. Cordi's eyes narrowed as she asked, "Is that Fred?" Gaara didn't answer. "What's she doing here?"
"Since Shikamaru is taking over your sister's team while she's pregnant, he can't plan the Chunin Exams. So Naruto asked Fred to stay behind and finish planning," Gaara explained blankly, his gaze not wavering from the Kunoichi, noting Kankuro running up behind her, and whispering something in her ear. Fred laughed, slapping him away gently.
"Why?" Cordi asked, her dark brown eyes shifting to her husband with curiousity. "Fred doesn't know anything about the Chunin Exams." Gaara sent a look to his wife asking her if she was that dense without a word. Her brow furrowed as she looked ahead, seeing Kankuro next to Fred this time, and immediately it dawned on her. "He asked her to stay for Kankuro?" Cordi filled in. "For the prophecy?" Gaara nodded, and Cordi let out a whistle. "That's a gamble, since 'manipulation' could really be anybody," she muttered under her breath.
Gaara's gaze returned to his brother and the earthly elemental kunoichi, seeing them shift apart as Cordi and Gaara got close enough to be in hearing distance. "Let's hope our collective hunches are correct then," he whispered to his wife before shooting his brother a friendly smile. "I see you haven't destroyed the village," Gaara joked good-naturedly.
Kankuro pursed his lips, holding back a smile as he asked, "How was the honeymoon?"
"I got sunburned," Cordi groused before Gaara could answer.
The puppet master eyed his sister-in-law humorously before replying, "Yes, I see that."
"We had a good time," Gaara answered with a small smirk. "How was the paperwork?"
"Still piling up," Kankuro replied with a frown. "I'm not nearly as organized as you."
Gaara sighed. "Yes, I know."
"Oh," Kankuro started, snapping his fingers. "The council wanted to discuss something with you. When you got back."
Gaara's face fell. "Perfect," he grumbled.
He turned to his wife, who waved it off. "Go, do you're work," she said with a smile. "I was going to check on Aleera, then take a bath and a nap. I'm beat."
"Thanks," he breathed.
She put a hand on his cheek, caressing it gently as she smiled, pulling him into a small kiss. "No problem. I get you tonight though." He nodded, giving her hand a squeeze before leaving her for the kage building.
"I'll join you," Fred offered. "I should check on Cherokee, since we'll be leaving in the morning."
As he walked into his office to check the leftover flood of paperwork, he noticed his office wasn't quite how he left it. The phone, picture frames, and mug of pens and pencils were all in the wrong places. And his potted cactus had been moved from the desk to the bookshelf. He let out a sigh before scoffing. "Should have known," he said with a shake of his head.
"Everything checks out," Sakura stated, checking off the list on her clipboard. She eyed the spirit user with a smile. "Would you like to know the sex?"
"Of both of them?" Lynne asked. She was only four months along. She thought she'd have to wait a little longer.
Sakura nodded. "Yes. Of both of them." Lynne licked her lips and nodded eagerly. Sakura smiled as she announced, "You're having a boy and a girl."
Lynne's eyes went wide. "One of each?"
The pink haired kunoichi nodded with a grin. Lynne ran a shaky hand through her black hair. It had grown out a little since the Jonin Exams had ended, and was almost to her shoulders, her blonde hair starting to make their appearance in her roots again. "Sasuke should be excited," Sakura said through a smile. Lynne nodded blankly. A boy and a girl. Sakura looked at the floor before stepping back. "I'll let you get changed while I print out the sonogram."
Lynne barely registered the door clicking closed as she thought about her twins. A smile came to her lips as she thought about them, their future. Having a little girl she could dress up and play dolls with, and a little boy to carry on the Uchiha name. She let out a happy puff of air as she jumped off the table, and grabbed her clothes, darting into the dressing room and throwing on her clothes as fast as a pregnant woman could. As she straightened out her maternity blouse that Ronni had bought her a couple weeks before, Sakura came back in, a small envelope in hand. She offered the envelope to Lynne, who took it with a grin. "Thanks, Sakura."
With that, Lynne was out. She met Sasuke outside the hospital with a grin. "So, what did they say?" he asked.
Lynne looped an arm with his as they began to walk down the road, the grin not wavering from her face. "We have two very healthy babies. And they also gave me the sonogram photos and told me the sex."
Sasuke's eyes shot up into his hairline. "What are we having?"
She handed him the envelope with a playful smirk. "Why don't you look and see if you can guess?"
He eyed her carefully as he grabbed the envelope, opening it up and seeing his children for the first time. An ounce of pride swelled in him as he saw both of them huddled together. One held their hand in front of their mouth, while the other held their hands close to their chest. He felt a small smile come to his lips as he saw them. He flipped through the photos until he saw a shadow on one photo, and he felt his heart skip a beat. "A boy? We're having a boy?"
Lynne grinned, "And a girl. One of each."
Sasuke couldn't contain his excitement. He pulled Lynne into a hug, kissing her on her forehead. Surprised by the sudden show of affection, she slowly put her arms around him as she laughed. "Careful Sasuke. You're happiness is showing." He cleared his throat, and pulled back, trying his best to cover his ecstatic face with his usual stoic expression. But Lynne could see through it. She swung their conjoined hands as she stated, "We're going to have to pick names." Sasuke grunted in agreement. "I was thinking Rain for the girl."
Lynne pouted. "What? Why not?"
Sasuke shot her a skeptical look. "'Rain' does not go with 'Uchiha.'"
Lynne frowned at him, and opened her mouth to retort that it would have been Rain Belfoco, then stopped herself, realizing that the twins would be the start of the Uchiha line. Of course she'd be taking Sasuke's name. "Fine," she groused, "you try one."
He thought for a second before replying, "Salad."
"Hell no!" Lynne laughed. "Viola."
Lynne looked up thoughtfully. "For a girl?"
Sasuke frowned, seeing that they were almost to the Hokage building. "We aren't going to agree on one today, are we?"
Lynne frowned. "Probably not," she said, standing on her toes to give him a kiss on the cheek. "I'll grab a book of baby names after my meeting with Naruto." She gave his hand a squeeze before walking off to the kage building alone.
She quickly made her way to Naruto's office, giving it a knock. "Come in," she heard him call out. She opened the door with a smile. "Lynne," Naruto said with a sigh. "What do I owe this pleasure?"
"I had a vision last night," she said bluntly, shutting the door behind her as she stepped forward. Her hand naturally landed over her belly protectively, another steadying her balance on her back. Naruto gestured to a chair, getting up to help her, but she waved him off, setting herself down. "I'm pregnant, not handicapped."
"Ri-ight," Naruto smiled, sitting back down in his chair. "So, this vision…"
"It was the apocalypse. I'm sure of it," Lynne stated seriously.
Naruto leaned forward. "Go on."
Lynne gulped. "Well, we were in a field, a huge field. Thousands of ninja up against the Akatsuki, it looked like." Naruto nodded, following along. "They released the bijuu, which were fighting our dragons, as well as more dragons, which I don't think I can explain."
"More dragons," Naruto asked, a finger tapping on his desk nervously. Lynne nodded. "Do you think there are more people out there like you that the Akatsuki has gotten ahold of?"
Lynne shook her head. "I said I can't explain it. It's just what I saw. Anyway," she continued, "we were losing."
Naruto's nervous glare bore into her. "How badly?"
Lynne frowned, licking her lips before she replied, "Badly. Our forces had dwindled significantly until something happened. There was a loud boom and flashing lights, and whirlwind of some kind. Then the vision was over."
Lynne nodded with a frown as she chewed on the inside of her lip.
"That's not much to go on." Naruto continued to tap his finger against the wooden desk before he asked, "How many Akatsuki members did you see?"
"Nine," she answered.
"And the seven bijuu they have," Naruto filled in.
Naruto frowned. "What?"
"Eight. They somehow get the Eight Tails between now and then," Lynne clarified.
"Bee," Naruto breathed, his gaze far off. "We need to find out who is in the Akatsuki and their powers. Did you recognize anyone?"
Lynne nodded. "Madara, obviously." Naruto nodded, waving his hand for her to continue. "Hidan…"
"Which we already knew about," Naruto breathed.
Lynne's eyes snapped up. "We did? I thought he was dead."
"He's immortal, so no, not dead," Naruto started. "But during Tsunade's funeral, the Nara forest had trespassers. Shikamaru and Rox were late to catch the intruders, but the recognized what was dug up."
"Hidan's grave," Lynne filled in, her shock evident in her shaky voice. Naruto nodded. "Why didn't anyone say anything?"
Naruto raised an eyebrow at her. "The kage's know."
Lynne frowned at the blonde jinchuriki. "Th-they do?"
Naruto nodded. "The night of Cordi and Gaara's wedding, I sent out treaties with information of Hidan's possible return to the Akatsuki. The treaties reinstated the official alliances between the five main shinobi nations, requesting open information on Akatsuki attacks and sightings. Thankfully, Gaara signed his agreement and returned it to me before he went on his honeymoon."
"Y-you gave Gaara paperwork on their wedding night?"
Naruto scratched his head with a laugh. "I know, kind of a dick thing to do. But I needed it as soon as possible and they weren't finalized by the Konoha council until then." His face returned to its serious expression as he asked, "Anyone else?"
"Suigetsu," Lynne answered, "from Sasuke's old group." When Naruto looked confused, she reiterated, "The water guy who had the sword. Blue hair, sharp teeth." She made a formation of sharp teeth with her hands in front of her mouth.
"Right, Suigetsu," Naruto muttered, "thought he died."
"Apparently not," Lynne replied. "Then obviously, Katsumi, whom we've already had a run-in with."
He nodded, taking a deep breath. "Thanks, Lynne. I'll send this information on, see if we can get any more out of this." Lynne nodded before getting up and making her way out of his office. She had to make sure she got to the bookstore before they closed.
As Cordi and Fred got closer to their dragon's hideaway, Cordi began to feel Aleera's anxiousness. It was strange, being away from her for so long, she didn't feel Aleera's nerves as much, but the closer she got, the more obvious the dragon seemed bothered by something. "Aleera?" she called out, walking into the semi-roofed cavern behind the village.
"Thank God you're back," a gruff voice responded, but it wasn't Aleera. A green dragon stepped up from the lower caverns a frown on her face.
"What's going on?" Fred asked Cherokee.
Cherokee looked at the two women in front of her before muttering a small, "Follow me."
Fred gave Cordi a strange look. "Have you ever gone into the lower caverns?" Cordi shook her head. When Fred would visit Cherokee and Aleera, they were usually in the uppermost cavern sunning. "Me neither."
"Come on," Cherokee growled from beneath the sandy ground. Cordi stepped forward first, following the green dragon down to the depths of the lower caverns that ran beneath Suna. The air was cold, and Cordi could hear dripping from the stalactites. She lit a fireball on her hand for light when the caverns became too dark. It flickered in her hand, the light wavering unsteadily. Fred held onto Cordi's back so as not to lose her. Eventually, they saw a light Cherokee was walking towards. It took Cordi a minute to realize it was a large flame ablaze in the lower bellies of the cavern, and she could barely see Aleera's face watching something closely in the flame.
"Aleera, what's going on?" Cordi asked as they drew closer.
Aleera looked up, then back to the flame. "There's a problem," Cherokee stated, answering for her, gesturing to the flame as she settled next to Aleera, watching the pyre.
Cordi's brow furrowed, shooting Fred a confused look, who shot and identical one back to her. Cordi stepped forward, into the lit part of the cavern. She looked up, seeing a crack in the roof where they could see blue sky filtering through into the dark cavern. Cordi stepped up to the flame, not shying away from the heat like Fred was. As Cordi looked into the flames, she saw what looked to be a large deep blue and gold stone. She stuck her hand in the bonfire, feeling the stone. It was smooth as a polished marble. She felt faint as she turned to her dragon and asked, "I-is that an egg?" Aleera nodded.
"An egg? As in a dragon egg?" Fred asked, exasperatedly.
Cordi nodded, blinking back some dizziness. She looked to the red dragon, realization dawning on her. "You and Gryffin?"
"I know, right?" Cherokee laughed. "They're always at each other's throats, then you leave them alone together for a couple weeks, and bam."
"Cherokee," Fred admonished, a small smile on her face.
"He's not hatching," Aleera stated nervously, her gaze not moving from the egg. "Why isn't he hatching?"
Cordi looked at her dragon sadly. She could understand her dragon's agitation. If Cordi knew she was going to have a child, but that child refused to be born, she'd be more than a little scared. "May I?"
Aleera nodded in resignation. Cordi let out a small breath as she reached in the flame, pulling the egg out. As she held the egg in her hands, she felt the pulse of the baby dragon's heart in the egg. "He's alive," she said breathily, a smile coming to her lips. As she rubbed the egg's surface, she mused aloud, "What if because you all hatched because of us, he needs to wait until his rider surfaces?"
"That's ridiculous," Cherokee laughed. "We only hatched for you all because you were strong maternal forces."
Cordi frowned as she looked at the green dragon. "Then why hasn't he hatched? His mother's right here."
Silence overtook the group as Cordi continued to rub the egg. His heartbeat was hypnotizing, like a metronome to keep time by. "Put him back," Aleera hissed. Cordi nodded, placing the dragon egg back on the pyre. Aleera clawed up close to her flame, her eyes unwavering from the egg.
AN: Please remember to read, review, and favorite. And check out my book on Amazon!