Epilogue: All That Ends Well

Disclaimer: Not mine and I make no profit.

Sandaime Hokage Sarutobi Hiruzen leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. Due to the importance of public appearance, as Hokage he couldn't break down in public. But his nerves had been strung high ever since he had sent Naruto to Root, it had gotten even worse after he had realized that maniac Danzō had sent the boy to assassinate the jinchūriki of village that was, if not exactly allied with Konoha then at least not an active enemy. When Naruto had bounced into his office like nothing had happened, talking a blue streak of Fū-chan and Hibari-sensei and Sai and the most awesome training ever it was all he could do to not cry out of sheer relief.

He had apologized. The Hokage didn't owe an apology to any of his shinobi, but Sarutobi had owed one to Naruto. True to precedent, Naruto had forgiven as easily as he breathed.

"So this is over, at last. And your report on Naruto's advancement is most satisfactory," he said and opened his eyes. Okubo Hibari stood in front of him. A lesser woman might have fidgeted or at least stood tense beforethe leader she had participated in criminal conspiracy against, but Okubo-san seemed calm, at peace with herself. She had the bearing of a woman who had accepted any consequences.

"He wasn't an easy student, but he was the most motivated I have ever taught," Okubo-san agreed. She squinted her eyes a bit in the bright light of setting sun hitting the tower's uppermost windows. They had been strategically placed so that the sun would shine in the eyes of the person standing in front of his desk both early morning and late evening.

"He seems to have reached adequate skill level that I might tell him of his father. Give him his true heritage," Sarutobi said and it was a test. Okubo-san hadn't so far volunteered any information on Naruto's parentage and he was quite sure Danzō hadn't shared such sensitive information with his underlings, but the portrait of the Yondaime was hanging on the wall of this very office and when Okubo-san first arrived it had caught her eye.

He remembered that look, her narrowed eyes and thin mouth. She had peered at it from behind the pile of papers she had carried, then looked at him and looked almost sheepish. He wasn't sure how that should be read, but he was certain she had figured it out. The resemblance wasn't exactly subtle.

"I'm sure Naruto-kun would be thrilled to learn of his father, but have you thought he might wish to keep the name Uzumaki even after his parentage becomes public knowledge one day?" Okubo-san challenged him.

"What makes you think so?" He could see Naruto running around Konoha and shouting the truth from the rooftops, finally vindicated.

"He has been belittled as Uzumaki all his life and he resolved to make that name known to all as the strongest shinobi of Konoha. He wants to be known by his own merits, make his own name. He would feel he was riding his father's coattails if he took the name Namikaze." Okubo-san said. A small movement in her hands caught Sarutobi's attention, the closing fingers not quite disguising the slightly opened mouths.

"I see." Okubo-san might be called something of an expert on father issues, but Sarutobi was still doubtful.

"Also, he has found family from the Uzumaki side and I think he would rather keep the name of the living than the dead. If you wish to please him, you could award them a clan status. I believe the laws state a family the Hokage regards suitable may be granted that status if it has at least three active ninja and at least one of them is a man," she suggested.

Sarutobi turned his head ever so slightly, looked past the woman in green jacket – the ANBU coat had been taken from her – and his eyes glued to a Christmas card on the wall. It was a cheap thing, made of red cardboard and he might not have saved it at all, let alone hang on his office's wall, had it not been from his son. They were so estranged these days, long hours kept and bitter words said that couldn't be taken back, and so the little thing was precious to him. In white and red ink, the card read Rikudō Sennin's words: Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. Here, Sarutobi suspected, was such a conspiracy going on. A conspiracy to give Naruto a family.

"Three active ninja?" he asked, already considering the paperwork he wouldn't mind over much this time.

"Naruto-kun claims Tenko-san as family through marriage… and that is his prerogative. I also believe Uzumaki Yūgao-san will be converted to his point of view before long." Okubo-san's mouth turned into a subdued, yet exalted line. A conspiracy of love indeed.

Sarutobi's face didn't reveal his feelings, but he was tempted to lay his head in his hands and groan. Jōnouchi Tenko, another of his ANBU involved with Root. She had defected literally the last moment, after the fight against Akatsuki and the last-minute salvage of Konoha's relations with Takigakure were already over. He wasn't entirely sure her change of heart could be trusted. But on the other hand she was Naruto's kin. Distant kin surely – Sarutobi knew his family tree –and not even blood, but he knew Naruto well enough that he also knew it didn't matter the slightest to the young boy. He had family now and he would never forgive Sarutobi if that family was handed over to Ibiki-san. The fact remained that if anyone was capable of converting enemies of state so casually it was Naruto. Had Danzō still been in a state where he might have benefited of it Sarutobi would have been tempted to lock him in a closet with Naruto, just for science's sake, to resolve that age-old problem.

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object?

"I will consider the matter. Now, regarding your participation in Root…"He gave Okubo-san time to get nervous, but she didn't bat an eye. Sarutobi was an old wolf (old fox being an unpopular phrase in Konoha these daysfor obvious reasons) and he had other ways to observe living beings than simply his eyes. Her heart didn't speed up, the barely perceptible flow of discreet lightning jutsu didn't show any changes in her skin conductivity. Was this faith in Naruto's protection or didn't she care any more?

"Taking your voluntary co-operation in revealing Danzō's schemes in consideration I have decided to be very lenient with you. You will not be court-martialed. But you have proven yourself unreliable as an ANBU and so you will never hold that position again in Konoha. Please send Jōnouchi Tenko-san in as you leave," he ordered. Now Okubo-san was clearly shaken, but she took a discreet calming breath, saluted him and walked briskly to the door.

"Tell me one more thing," he asked and Okubo-san obediently turned from the door to face him again. "Why weren't you afraid of death?"

"Naruto-kun wouldn't love and admire you so much if he for a second believed you might kill a previously brainwashed person," Okubo-san said simply. That comment cut like the sharpest wind jutsu, with so thin a blade the pain took seconds to register. Sarutobi was well aware he wasn't worthy of such trust.

He gestured for the woman to go without a further word and once the door was shut with a silent click he allowed himself to lean back in his chair and sigh. He had to think of the positives, he told himself. The operation itself had been success; they had taken Danzō and his old teammates by surprise and while this hurt it was necessary hurt, like removing bandage glued to the skin by dried blood. Koharu and Homura were under house arrest and Danzō – Sarutobi still wasn't completely certain what had happened to him was an accident, but he was going to let the matter slide without formal investigation. Naruto was back in good health and Tsunade wasn't going to geld him. All was well that ended well, even if the journey there was a bit… morally ambiguous.

So, Clan Uzumaki? He wouldn't even create a new clan, simply revive an old and prestigious one. Naruto had clearly proved himself worthy of that legacy, even if he didn't know enough of the family craft to seal a paper bag shut. Proud wasn't enough to describe Sarutobi's feelings when he read the report on Naruto Okubo-san had calmly provided on top of a very classified pile. And to think he had, with some help provided by Hyūga-san and Nakamura-san, killed Hidan of Akatsuki. The same boy who had passed the preliminaries of Chûnin exams by farting and the Academy graduation exam without knowing how to make a bunshin. This proved he had been right all along, all Naruto needed was for someone to give him a chance.

He would let Naruto decide what name he wished to go by, but he had a feeling Okubo-san had anticipated the boy's preference correctly. He waited for Jōnouchi-san to arrive, but when his door opened the one standing in the doorway was Yamato-san in full ANBU regalia. His hair was in wild disarray, there was a deep scratch in his mask and his jacket had reddish spots to it, like someone had tried to wash away blood stains without soap.

"What happened to you, Lynx?" he asked. Yamato-san's shoulders slumped.

"I blame Jashin," he said. "Pink!" he cried, shaking his head. Sarutobi was beginning to wonder if anyone had anything to report he wanted to hear this evening.

Hyūga Neji returned from the mission straight to his clan's compound. It was a beautiful, tranquil place, the main building surrounded by a big tsukiyama-style garden with several carp ponds and little streams, great stone lanterns placed near them. Green shrubs blocked the view from the surrounding smaller buildings and the main house, allowing an illusion of privacy – but in the Hyūga compound it was just that, an illusion. Neji had always felt very claustrophobic there and he was grateful for his sensei's somewhat insane training regime that allowed him to spend most of his time outside.

He was, technically speaking, supposed to check in with his uncle first once he returned from a mission, but Hiashi-sama had been quite a lot more relaxed lately and Neji decided to push the envelope a bit. Hewas fairly sure Hinata-hime hadn't done anything stupid, but… He activated his Byakugan and allowed his gaze to sweep through the main house. Many in Konoha were in awe of this skill, envious, but while it was useful in battle mostly Neji found it, well, embarrassing. He saw his uncle sitting in a bathtub, having his shoulders massaged by, ahem, a female companion, he saw a very dignified Jōnin, a strict instructor of the children of the clan, posing in front of a mirror, making one grandiose pose after another and he really could have done without ever learning the cook sliced onions with kunai. He hoped direly it hadn't ever been used for anything but cooking. But he also saw Hinata-hime in the tea garden behind the house and headed there.

The tea garden was small, but showed good taste. Neji walked the stepping stones leading to the tea house. There was a small stone lantern in front of it, as well as a stone basin where guests would purify themselves before a ceremony. Hinata was sitting on its rim, with a book in hand she didn't appear to be reading at all. Neji's eyebrow was raised by the red hood she was wearing and that she was without her favorite jacket.

"I trust you have been well, Hinata-hime," he said formally, not yet comfortable with being familiar with his cousin after years of belittling and bullying her, despite knowing she might have preferred more affability.

Hinata-hime looked at him and blushed immediately beet red.

Hinata was sitting in a tea garden, minding her own business – and what business she had to mind! Privacy was very hypothetical concept in the Hyūga household and so she had a book as an excuse, but she couldn't really muster the calm of mind necessary to concentrate on it. Her mind dwelt on their ill-fated trip to the Hokage tower's cells and she felt like the world's biggest pushover. She had known it wasn't a good idea, but Sasuke-san had been so decisive and she had been so worried for Naruto-kun she had simply gone along with it anyway. To top the misery off, they had found out nothing new concerning Naruto-kun's whereabouts. So of course when she thought things couldn't get any worse Neji-niisan walked to her and asked: "I trust you have been well, Hinata-hime."

"I trust you," the words echoed in her ears, I trust you. And what Hinata couldn't help remembering…

Sasuke-san marched to the door of the cell. Sakura-san bent down to frisk the keys from the fallen guard – an ANBU, Hinata could barely believe Kiba's off-the-wall plan had really allowed them to defeat an ANBU – and gave Sasuke-san the keys. He only grunted as a response and opened the door. It was a sturdy metal door, lavishly decorated by complicated seals barely visible in the dim light and Hinata had second thoughts as to whether or not opening it was wise.

She had seen Shimura Danzō often, though never spoken with the man, and she knew that while he was a fragile-looking old man, crippled bravely defending Konoha, the way he moved wasn't that of a harmless old man.

The eyes of the Hyūga were very, very sharp.

"Ah, may-maybe this isn't…" she tried to say, but the darkness around them swallowed her voice until it was barely more than the timid peep of a mouse. The lock let out a terrible screech and the hinge was even worse as Sasuke-san slammed the door open.

The cell was small, six by six feet. The walls were bare and there was no furniture, only a mattress on the floor without any bedclothes. There was one light bulb in the ceiling, no lampshade at all, but behind a heavy metal grill. As the walls were chalked white the cell was actually quite bright. Much too bright to comfortably sleep in and Hinata was sure that was entirely intentional. The only spot of color in this sparseness was the man sitting on the mattress and raising one regal eyebrow, bruised and heavily bandaged, but resolute in demeanor

"I see I have visitors," the man said dryly as he rose on his feet. He winced in pain and it was real, but his muscles were tense in the way the preludes an attack. Hinata took a ready stance and calmed her breath; Naruto-kun was depending on her now. The door was open. There was nothing to do but to see this through.

"Where. Is. Naruto?" Sasuke-san spat the words out. He was fairly simmering with rage. Hinata couldn't see his face, but as she discreetly activated her Byakugan, layering a genjutsu over herself just as Kurenai-sensei had taught her, she could see chakra spark at the bottom of his eye balls. He had activated his Sharingan. "Where did you send him to?"

"What have you done to him?" Sakura-san asked. Hinata winced and bit her lowed lip remembering what father had told her of dealing with the council members: one should never show how interested they were, that was only going to raise the price. She gave Sakura-san as discreet a tug as she could and made a hand sign for "silence" at such an angle that Shimura-san shouldn't be able to see it. Sakura-san paid her no attention.

"How rebellious of you, barging in to the cell of our esteemed Hokage's prisoner," Shimura-san said. Butter wouldn't have melted in his mouth; Hinata wouldn't have been surprised if pearl fell from his lips. "So you wish to know where I sent our village's dirty little secret, dear children? I sent him to do the work he was born to do."

"Naruto isn't anyone's dirty little secret! He's a Konoha nin!" Kiba-kun shouted and Akamaru barked at his feet. They both bared their teeth, lips curling to reveal their gums. Like their dogs, the Inuzuka were loyal and fierce, yet gentle to their own. Kiba-kun had found out she loved Naruto-kun and he had promised to keep it a secret. He was the best friend Hinata had ever had.

"Ah, but the secrets I could share with you, children of Konoha. For example, young Sasuke…" Shimura-san begun and Hinata's heart jumped to her throat, beating like the wings of a little bird trying to escape. She didn't know how and she didn't know why, but she was absolutely, undeniably, completely sure that what Shimura-san was going to say could only lead to a catastrophe and she must stop him, in any way she could. But what could she do?

What would Naruto-kun do?

Shimura-san raised his hand, slowly, dramatically, and haste won now, the hare beat the tortoise. Quickly, efficiently, unnoticed by Kiba-kun and Sakura-san and Sasuke-san because she was standing behind them, unnoticed by Shimura-san who was looking Sasuke-san with hunger in his eyes, Hinata called genjutsu upon herself. She knew Naruto-kun better than anyone, so she believed, for she had spent countless hours following him from the shadows, watching, trying to gather her courage to talk with him. The body was easy; her face, her hair, the shape of her shoulders, the way the clothes hung from her body, flat, muscled chest, the way he stood, the way he held his head proudly high. The way his mouth curled when he didn't like something, between snarl and pout. His smell, sandy from the practice fields with a hint of sweat, metal and ramen and a hint of blood.

It was hard, but then, she was a student of the best genjutsu mistress in Konoha: Hinata remembered Naruto-kun's chakra, the boisterous, overflowing tingle of it, the merest, tiniest tint of red and heat beneath, like water from hot spring.

"Danzō," she said with Naruto-kun's voice, she said as Naruto-kun would have said. No family name. No honorific. No respect. They all whirled around, leaving their backs vulnerable to Shimura-san. But Shimura-san only stared at her, his hand frozen in the air.

"Naruto, where did you come from?" Kiba-kun was the first to find his tongue. Before Hinata could even begin to think of an answer Shimura-san's mouth twisted into an ugly grimace.

"You!" he shouted. "I should have just had you assassinated as the threat to this village that you are and been done with it! You grew without discipline, without purpose, you were ruined courtesy of the old fool! Do you have any idea what you have done? We are tools for the good of the village, nothing less and nothing more!" Spit was running down from the corner of his mouth and he was waving his arms in wide circles.

"Tools have nothing to fight for, nothing they feel passionate about. You are truly a sad, sad person if that is what you aspire to be," Hinata said because she felt it was what Naruto-kun would have said. She felt his ghostly hands around herself, felt him holding her up, lending her courage. She believed in his nindo and one day the entire continent would, of this she had no doubts.

"WE have no right to dreams and ideals of our own! Soldiers only carry out the dreams of their betters! The interests of the village should be placed above all else, even ethics and morals! Especially ethics and morals; those lead to weakness and weakness leads to destruction! You have suborned My people whom I PAINSTAKINGLY crafted into IDEAL tools for the best of Ko…"

Shimura-san said no more. He clutched his chest and his voice shimmered away into nothing but moans. His outburst, so violent and so different from his manner up to that point, had startled Hinata's companions so she was the one who stood in front of them now. She had the ring side seat to witnessing Shimura-san's mouth foam like the muzzle of a rabid dog. Oh so slowly he fell on his knees and then to the ground. Hinata allowed the genjutsu to fade with a startled, wet sob, biting her finger to keep the laugh inside. Life was great and terrible. Death had only one card to play, but death was part of life and life played with full deck and marked cards. It always had one ace up its sleeve, one more tragicomedy to play out.

In his cell, Shimura Danzō died of an apoplectic fit.

"Okay…I didn't expect that. Is he even alive any more?" Sakura-san asked. Hinata's Byakugan was still active and she could have told her that no, he wasn't.

"No, he isn't. I must compliment your technique, young Hyūga," a voice without any feature that might have set it apart from any voice in a crowd called behind them. They all whirled around.

The ANBU in a rooster mask stood behind them. Hinata canceled her Byakugan immediately, but she could see his appreciative face in a flash. She wondered what her father would do once he found out about this all.

"A perfectly natural death, impossible to prove otherwise after the fact. You are rather young to partake in political assassination, but then, your parents weren't that much older, Uchiha-san, Inuzuka-san. I believe Inuzuka Tsume distracted the mark by strip tease while Uchiha Fugaku slipped poison into his drink," he waxed on, without any obvious sign of intending to detain them now that the element of surprise was no longer on their side. "It was rather clever of you to not unmask me. I would be required to turn you over to Ibiki-san if you had," he went on. They all shivered. Hinata didn't tell him she had, even for a fleeting moment. She wondered about the look of satisfaction on his face then.

"I didn't see you, and you will never reveal to anyone I was beaten by a bunch of Genin," the man said and then picked the keys from Sakura-san's lax hand. They wasted no time, Sakura-san running first and the rest of them after her, towards the sewers.

"I so didn't need to find that out about my mom!" Kiba-kun moaned as he climbed back in.

"I, uh, I ha-have been w-well," Hinata stuttered, not able to meet Neji's face. Neji felt his mood darken at once. One didn't need to be a trained shinobi to realize something had happened. It hadn't been too disastrous as Hinata-hime was still here, out in the open and not locked into her room by her father, but then again, it might just be that she hadn't been found out yet.

"Hinata-hime, please. I realize my past actions might make it hard for you to trust me, but I am on your side. I need to know what has happened so I can protect you better." And so he would know exactly what he was punishing the Last Uchiha for, and how severely.

Uzuki Yūgao, proud ANBU of Konohagakure no Sato, was cooking. She wasn't a good cook by any standards, but as a single woman – and how remembering the happy time before those accursed Chûnin exams stung – she had to feed herself or starve. She gathered the minced carrots, onions and green bell pepper in the skillet on top of the pork and stirred. She had thought of Uzumaki Naruto when she had chosen to make yakisoba that night. Not that she had invited the young boy for a dinner, or ever intended to issue such an invitation. She didn't deserve to do so.

She had been so angry, angry and stupid. The devastation Kyūbi had left behind had been crushing. The chakra had burned, burned away the forest and the old oak trees, hundreds of years old, had flown like matchsticks in the wind. The ground shook and great chasms opened, swallowing the defenders of the village, and several parts of the great wall crumbled. It had been fire and storm, chaos and death as men and women had thrown their lives away to stall the great beast at least a little, at least half a second so the one who came after them might earn another, just a little more time for the Yondaime to arrive. Then, miraculously, it had been over.

Yūgao, thrown aside by a careless swish of a great tail, not even worth an afterthought, had wandered towards the place she had last seen the Yondaime, only to happen upon a red-haired body.

She wasn't alone there, of course, at that time the place was swarming with people running away and shouting and crying. And there laid Uzumaki Kushina, her hair red and the grass red under her and the reddest of all her stomach, cruelly torn open. The cry of a child reached her ears…

There had been rumors of Kushina-nee back in Uzushiokagure, how shewas the one. Yūgao hadn't known what to think and she hadn't wanted to ask, hadn't known how to ask. Now she knew and the worst had happened. Kushina-nee was dead, their beloved Yondaime was dead, hell, it would have been easier to count those who weren't in her shell-shocked eyes. And there had been a baby.

Yūgao hadn't ever thought Naruto-san was the Kyūbi or any such rubbish. She was from Uzushiogakure, she knew better. But she hadn't wanted to have anything to do with the boy either, had gone as far as to change her name. From "spiral" or "whirlpool", the kanji in her name had changed into the fourth month of the lunar calendar; it had gone well with the kanji for her first name: "moon flower". She had given up the name of her forefathers and pride hadn't allowed her to recant that decision even after that truly terrible nightmare where all her ancestors had reviled her for disowning them.

Now she knew her folly; it hadn't been one, great epiphany, but silently rising tide of shame ever since the Chûnin Exams where Uzumaki Naruto had been thrust to her face. She had neglected a child of her adored nee-chan for nothing but a petty need to have someone to blame. She hadn't really carried a grudge all these years, but she had been so busy fulfilling her duty as an ANBU and so wrapped in her romance she hadn't given Naruto-san much thought. And now that she had, it was too late. She hadn't stood by Naruto-san's side when he had been in need and thus she didn't deserve the privilege now that he had plenty

And then there had been a massive operation against the Root. Danzō-san had been the first to fall from grace and there were rumors of the Hokage having his entire council thoroughly vetted. Those in the know had whispered Uzumaki, Uzumaki, Uzumaki, how he had somehow been in the eye of the storm – when was there a village-wide conspiracy he wasn't part of, somehow? They whispered how he had gone missing and Senju Tsunade-sama had burst into the Hokage's office and threatened to geld him! Yūgao had been beside herself with worry, trying to scavenge what little pieces of information she could get her hands on– and this evening Naruto-san had finally returned.

"I only needed to know he would be alright," she told the bowl of ramen she was cooking. Predictably it didn't answer her; talking to inanimate objects was bad, but if they started talking back then you were in trouble. She added noodles to the skillet, poured water over them and covered the skillet, turning down the heat to low and steam for a few minutes. That was when someone knocked on her door.

She wasn't expecting anyone. This was Konoha, but a careless ANBU was soon a dead ANBU and so Yūgao didn't go straight to the door, but rather to a small cupboard to the left of it. There was a small periscope that allowed her to see who was at the door without standing in front of the peephole and leaving her eye vulnerable to a stab.

There, in front of her house in the long shadows, stood a Genin in a bright orange jumpsuit with a dark-haired boy who at first glance looked eerily similar to Uchiha Sasuke right beside him. Uzumaki Naruto. Yūgao was certain that like the sun would rise again the next morning and the moon she had named herself after would wane and the fill out again that Naruto-san knew. Somehow he found out and now he was here to demand an explanation. It was like a sentence and Yūgao was a lawful woman who believed in serving what she had reaped. She stepped back into the hallway, inhaled once, plastered a pleasant look on her face and opened the door.

"What a nice surprise, Uzumaki-san. Would you care to come in?" she asked. She hadn't intended to say that, but then she hadn't had the faintest clue what she could say to the child she had disowned.

"Of course, that's why I came here. This is Sai; he's my friend," Naruto-san said and stepped in, dragging the boy named Sai with him. Sai-san gave her a wary look and she turned her hands palms outward, a subtly submissive gesture. She didn't harbor any evil intentions towards Naruto.

"Yūgao-san, I heard from Tenko-chan you are actually Uzumaki," Naruto-san started before she could even close the door behind them. Yūgao froze with her hand on the door knob, wondering what to say, what she could say. There were so many apologies, but what she blurted out was: "Jōnouchi Tenko? But she is dead!"

"No, she was just grabbed by that bastard Danzō. She went by Tomiko for years, I think, but she is alright now. She promised to pay you a visit." Naruto fidgeted, scraping the carpet with his feet. He hadn't even taken his sandals off yet. "So, are you my cousin?" His blue eyes were shining.

Yūgao looked into those eyes and she realized they were shining not from happiness, but because of tears held back. There was a grim determination frozen in Naruto-san's silly grin and suddenly Yūgao realized just how much courage this must have taken, to come and knock to the door of the woman who had made very clear she wanted nothing to do with him. But she did, oh how she did now! Without thinking about what she was doing she gathered Naruto-san into her arms. Questions about Tenko could wait, this couldn't.

"Yes, I am. I am so terribly sorry I have been such a disappointment as a relative, Uzumaki-san. I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me one day," she pleaded. Naruto shuddered in her arms and then something changed. She couldn't see it, but she could feel; it was like the sun was shining after a rainy day.

Naruto stepped back and clasped his hands behind his back as he made the introductions: "That's great! I'm Uzumaki Naruto, my likes are my friends and Hibari-sensei and Kakashi-sensei, gardening and Sakura-chan and ramen. My dislikes are idiot people who judge others for something that isn't their fault, brainwashing masterminds and idiot parents who get women pregnant and then leave them to raise their children alone in a hostile village and the time it takes for instant ramen to cook and my dream is to become the greatest Hokage ever and protect everyone in Konoha!" Yūgao was taken aback by this info dump and she fleetingly wondered why the fathers of illegitimate children would annoy Naruto-san so, but what truly shook her to the core, what made her feel both better and yet a complete heel…

"That's it? You just forgive me like I did nothing?" Though that had been the problem, hadn't it? She had done exactly nothing for so many years. Naruto looked up at her, frowning yet not angry.

"Well, you are really sorry now, aren't you? I could carry grudge and sulk a few years, I guess, but then I couldn't be family with you so I would only hurt myself. Hate is like that; it never does any good to anyone."

Yūgao remembered Sabaku no Gaara; she had been one of those dispatched to follow the obviously unstable Suna Genin while he stayed in Konoha and she could proudly attest Gaara had never disappeared on her watch; not all could claim the same. She remembered those green eyes, hungry and rabid and hurting. Eyes that hadn't learned hate only hurt in the long run like vinegar poured on open wound. She hadn't known why a boy so young would have eyes like those back then, but in hindsight…

"We didn't deserve you, but I'm glad we have you anyway," she said. Naruto-san seemed taken aback by this and Sai-san muttered something about a compliment plan and desensitization, but before she could ask a girl's voice hollered from the street outside.

"Uzumaki Naruto, you utter jerk!" shouted one Haruno Sakura and ran straight into Yūgao's house without asking for permission, tackling Naruto with a flying hug so he fell against Yūgao and would have fallen on the floor if she hadn't caught him.

"Sakura-chan," Naruto-san mumbled as Haruno-san fisted the front of his jumpsuit and burrowed her head against his shoulder.

"You utter jerk, you disappear for days and we have to hear from Kakashi-sensei you are back because you can't come to us, oh no, and why didn't you tell us about Kyūbi, did you really think we could ever hate you? You inconsiderate ass, never make us worry so again!" she shouted and peppered him with feeble, ineffective hits to the chest; Haruno-san's hands were shaking badly. Naruto-san looked like someone had hit him over the head with a hammer.

"Sa-Sakura-chan? Y-you know about…" he stuttered, red as a tomato.

"Yes, we do now. Neji-san figured the truth out," said Uchiha Sasuke who entered her house in a much more dignified manner, greeting her briefly and taking his shoes off. "You are our teammate, didn't you think we would worry when you disappeared like that? Kami-sama knows some feeble old grandmother could have beaten you to death with a spatula." His voice was dryer than Suna's desert. Naruto-san sputtered, now in anger, but before he could say a word Yūgao laughed.

It was years of pain she had clutched close to her chest now released. Only when Naruto-san touched her face did she realize she was crying and she didn't care a whit.

"What is that smell?" Haruno-san asked. It was then that Yūgao remembered the dinner she had left simmering under a cover.

"My yakisoba," she managed to sob. Naruto-san was distraught over ramen being burned and Yūgao laughed some more. The people of Konoha had poured vinegar on their wounds far too long. Now it was finally time to heal.

What Happened to Them Ever After?

Nakamura Fū

In the end Fū was allowed to take that trip with Naruto. It was kind of a long story, but it boiled down on her Kage having it with parental complaints.

Fū attempted the sit-out strike – without actually sitting on the desk – in the mission office and much to her surprise she was indulged; either out of sheer surprise, or because the issue wasn't important enough to antagonize the precious living weapon over, or both. It was ironic that once she had decided to do her own thing she managed to get the approval of both Yukimura-sensei and Nishimura-obaasama; her teacher thought her childish cheerfulness a good sign and her caretaker found her feminine interest in children appropriate. Encouraged, Fūdecided to continue this in between serious missions as long as she could get away with it.

It turned out to be for two months and seven D-ranks. The children didn't complain, but the parents were petrified. The Takigakure Parents' Association drowned the village administration with complaints and petitions until the Kage bribed Fū to give up D-ranks by allowing her to journey to Sunagakure – under her teacher's surveillance.

Gaara was bemused when Naruto dragged Fū to him for introductions, but they ended up getting along quite well. Naruto and Yukimura-sensei got along well enough, much to Fū's relief.

Tomiko/Jōnouchi Tenko

Tenko had been declared MIA and later KIA seven years earlier so re-entering her into the village registry was a bureaucratic nightmare. She got away with, technically speaking, having gone missing with a slap to the wrist, thanks to Sarutobi still feeling guilty over his actions regarding Naruto and Naruto's support of her, but she was on parole for a year. She didn't mind. She changed her name to Uzumaki, got re-acquainted with Uzumaki Yūgao and attended counseling under the supervision of Senju Tsunade.

Yamanaka Fū

Fū was given parole, along with Jōnouchi Tenko, Okubo Hibari and Sai. After his parole was over he journeyed to Kumogakure to apologize to Nigaki Mika and the son he had never known. His son, Nigaki Hiro, turned out to be a blacksmith's apprentice instead of an aspiring shinobi. This was as much as he found out before Mika chased him away from her home with shuriken, kunai, a frying pan, ninja wire, creative use of genjutsu and expletives that would have turned Hidan's ears blue.

Fū ended up making six trips to Kumo. The first two times Mika tried to kill him, the third to geld him. The fourth she yelled at him, the fifth she first yelled and then slept with him. This led to her becoming pregnant, again, and when Fū attempted to apologize for the sixth time she held him at sword point and demanded he make an honest woman out of her. He was more than glad to do so.

Mika finally accepted apology number twenty seven.


When Uzumaki Naruto introduced Sai to his teammates he managed to insult them both by calling Sakura Ugly and Sasuke Doll; his first attempt at friendly banter was an epic fail. He occasionally trained with Team Kakashi and those occasions got pretty regular once Naruto learned that he only had to sing Hibari-sensei's praises for Kakashi to get annoyed and determined to out-do her – at least for that day. Sai attempted to befriend Nara Shikamaru in an attempt to gain intel on how to prevent Naruto from turning into a Shikamaru, much to the young chûnin's annoyance, and Yamanaka Ino was convinced that Sai was flirting with her, but Sai's opinion on this has not been asked.

Okubo Hibari

Okubo Hibari hadn't at any point disappeared from the official ANBU so her re-integration to the village wasn't a problem, but she was made to resign from her position as a punishment for taking part in a criminal conspiracy. This made her feel rather naked and disjointed, but she braved the village without her mask and befriended Umino Iruka who she bonded with over Naruto and his training. She still trained her former kohai in between missions and gleefully helped him to goad Hatake Kakashi and Jiraiya once she realized the effect she had on them.

At Yamanaka Fū's wedding she decided to give up her grudge on her father and never think of the man again. This was easier said than done, but over the course of next three years she got over the issue. She became a Jōnin sensei, since by teaching Naruto and Sai she had learned she enjoyed training the youth. The Mori clan tried to assassinate her once they learned of her existence, but the attempt was unsuccessful – and she wasn't above rubbing it to their faces by mailing the three Jōnin hitai-ite back to Iwa. In the Iwa bingo book she goes by the name Okubo the Evil Counterpart and it amuses her greatly.

Hyūga Neji

He tried to kill Uchiha Sasuke the day after he returned to the village, three point five minutes after Hinata folded and told him what had transpired between the time Neji had left the village and the time he had returned.

Uzumaki Naruto

Naruto became the first and only person ever who could honestly claim to have benefited from his time in the Root. His chakra control was better (though he was still very much in awe of Fū-chan after she told him of the biwa string exercise), he had learned a cool forbidden vampire technique to make bombs, and Hibari-sensei's voice in his head proved to be much more useful than Kyūbi's ever. Even better, he was his bright, optimistic self, a fact that hasn't ceased to intrigue Morino Ibiki. Tsunade had to forbid him from attempting to interview Naruto under pain of invasive rectal examinations.

He was honestly surprised by how much he had been missed, and by how many people. He wasted no time asking Sakura-chan for a date and was turned down as always, but even that couldn't darken his mood as he learned of the mass migration to the Hokage's office on his behalf. He will deny to the day he dies that he cried then.

Naruto was also very, very pleased to learn he could have a clan of his own. He wasted no time giving Tenko the right to Uzumaki name and badgering Yūgao into changing hers back. What he thought when Sarutobi told him of his father, well, that is a tale for another time.

AN: Finally done! This was our inspirational tale of Why Accepting Messianic People Into Your Conspiracy Makes You Too Dumb To Live. With Totally Awesome Gods That Are Much Better Than The Evil Bunny. This last chapter was betaed by wonderful Mystic777.

Yamato's mask is a cat of some sorts. I chose to make it a Lynx. The quote "Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love" is in truth from the pen of Hamilton Wright Mabie. I just borrowed it.