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"But how come Aki got to learn chidori and I get to learn … this?"

Kakashi frowned at the slightly disappointed look Toushiro was giving the scroll spread out across the grass. Pakkun let out an insulted growl at his son, and he in turn nudged the pug with his foot. "Because, Toushi, Akihana's got the right chakra to pull off lightning-based attacks. You're more earth style, like mom. Besides, this jutsu is incredibly versatile."

"Yeah, it is," Akihana piped up from where she was straddling Bull's back. She was busy tickling the large dog's nose with the ends of her braids, grinning every time he sneezed. Fortunately for her, Bull was the epitome of gentle giant and tolerated her games like a champ. "You can use it to track people an' for defense an' offense an' for carrying messages secretly an'—"

"I already know all that," her younger brother grumbled as he scuffed a shoe through the dirt of the training ground. His dark eyes were lowered and watching as he continued to dig a little trench with his foot, and a small pout curved his childish mouth downward. "It's just … everyone's gonna laugh at me."

Kakashi released a low sigh and rubbed the back of his neck. His son already had it rough, what with having inherited his mother's pink hair, though thankfully it was a much, much lighter shade than hers and was only really noticeable under direct light. But kids picked up on things like that quickly, as well as the fact that Hatake Toushiro wasn't quite as fast at jutsu memorization as his older sister. Oh, he was incredibly intelligent, definitely at the top of his class, but Akihana had inherited the famed Hatake genius in spades.

But the one thing Toushiro had that his sister didn't was dead-on exact chakra control — something else he'd picked up from his mother. And that was why Kakashi had decided to teach his son the summoning technique. Summoning was rather tricky with the amount and control of the chakra used. It was basically designed for someone with Toushiro's talents, and Kakashi knew from plenty of past experience that this was a very handy jutsu to have.

He squatted down in front of his son so that they were on eyelevel and gave his hair a good ruffle. "Listen," he said while the boy scowled and tried to set his hair right. "This is one of the hardest jutsus I've ever learned."

"You mean copied," his daughter chimed in with a snicker.

"Aki, do you want to go home and clean your room?" he called back sharply, twisting around to level a hard glare at her.

Akihana scowled back but promptly shut her mouth. If it was a choice between doing house work and watching her brother learn a new jutsu, she was going to pick the latter.

"You can't copy a summoning jutsu anyway," Toushiro mumbled back, coming to his dad's defense. It was just like the boy to take sides with whoever he thought needed help. "Since you need a contract to activate it, memorizing the signs is kinda pointless."

"Exactly," Kakashi replied, smiling proudly at his son. "This is one jutsu I had to learn the hard way."

"How come you won't teach me it?" his daughter asked as she blew a breath across Bull's ears just to watch them twitch.

Kakashi stood up and tucked his hands in his pockets while Toushiro turned with more interest back to the summoning contract on the ground. "Aki, we already talked about this."

Her bright green eyes flashed angrily as she sat up and scowled at him. It was so reminiscent of Sakura that it was frightening. "Y'mean you were serious when you said you wouldn't show me 'cause I wanted to have cats?" she demanded petulantly.

"The Hatake Clan does not deal with cats. Ever," Pakkun reaffirmed near his feet. The pug shuddered at the idea of felines invading his home.

"Well, maybe I'll be the first!"

"It has nothing to do with your choice of summons, Akihana," Kakashi said as he pinched the bridge of his nose to stave off a growing headache. Sometimes, his daughter was far too much for him to handle. "You were more suited for chidori. Toushiro's better for summoning. End of discussion. Now, if you can't sit there quietly while we do this, then Bull is going to take you home and sit there until your room is spotless. Understood?"

She grumbled an affirmative and stretched herself out across Bull's back once again.

Satisfied that she was no longer going to be a distraction, Kakashi returned his attention to his son. Toushiro was studying the scroll intently, his pale brow furrowed and his lips moving silently as he read the particulars to himself. "Hey, dad," he asked as he pointed at the contract. "What's that word mean?"

Kakashi followed the line of his finger and said, "Constituents? That means parts or ingredients. It's basically saying that if you don't follow all the parts of the contract then the summons has the right to either deny you aid or renegotiate the contract." Given the language of the contract, he was rather impressed that was the only word the six-year-old stumbled over.

"And you don't want that," Pakkun added. "Summons Unions are a real pain to deal with."

Toushiro nodded thoughtfully before stepping back and placing his hands in his pockets much like his dad. "Okay … I think I know how to do it. All I've gotta do is sign my name with blood to form a bond between me an' the ninken an' then I've gotta do the hand seals to focus my chakra an' give it a little more blood to activate it … right?"

"That's basically it," Kakashi confirmed, beaming proudly at the boy. "The trick here is to keep fueling your chakra at a steady pace. Think you can do that?"

The boy nodded, his expression one of firm determination as he pulled a kunai from his pouch and used it to cut his finger. He signed his name where the contract indicated and sucked in a sharp breath as the warm rush of chakra flowed through him briefly. He glanced questioningly up at his dad, who patted his shoulder reassuringly and said, "That's normal. It's just the ninken chakra binding to you, that's all. Just give it a couple seconds and you'll be fine."

"But why do they need to bind me?" Toushiro asked nervously.

"Part of your contract with the ninken is that they can summon you if they ever need to. They help you, you help them. Now, since this is your first time you're going to get whoever happens to respond to your summons. Eventually, you'll get attached to certain dogs and will want to use them more often than others."

"Kinda like you an' Pakkun?"

"Exactly like that. Once you find the dogs that work best for you, just write their names into the contract and the next time you use the summons they'll respond directly to you."

For the first time that day, Toushiro's dark grey eyes lit up with excitement. "Will they talk to me, too?"

Kakashi chuckled and roughed his son's hair up affectionately. "Well … your summons will have the ability to understand you, but it more than likely won't be able to talk. That's something you'll have to teach it."

"Or you could maybe learn canine," Bull suggest, his deep, rumbling voice causing the girl lounging on top of him to giggle.

"Doesn't have the right vocal range for it," Pakkun observed as he twisted his head back to scratch his chin.

"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," the copy ninja assured as Toushiro stuck his tongue out at his laughing sister. "Right now, I want you to just get used to the whole process. Once you have it down, you can go ahead and try to summon a dog."

And for the next hour or so, father and son (with a very attentive daughter watching in the back ground) practice forming seals and channeling just the right amount of chakra needed to summon a dog. Toushiro listened and asked questions when he needed to, and Kakashi gave him answers and corrected him when necessary. Once Toushiro was satisfied that he at least had the steps and seals down pat, he nodded and said, "Okay, I'm gonna give it a try."

Kakashi stepped back and motioned for his son to go for it. Almost two hours in and the boy felt ready to attempt a high-level jutsu? That was definitely impressive. It was nice to see Sakura' quick comprehension had been passed on as well.

Toushiro took a deep breath and closed his eyes to try and focus himself. Akihana, who had gotten off Bull's back to sit on the ground and rub the big dog's belly, was watching eagerly as her brother prepared himself. If Kakashi were to be honest, he was a bit anxious himself over the matter. While his son was certainly bright, he got frustrated when he didn't pick up something as quickly as his sister did. He stuck his hands in his pockets and crossed his fingers for Toushiro's success.

Opening his eyes, Toushiro used his kunai to carefully reopen the small cut on his thumb and smeared the blood along a section of the contract. The dry paper absorbed it immediately, the thick fluid disappearing as if it'd never been there. Kakashi felt the warm brush of ninken energy prickling through the air and held his breath in anticipation as Toushiro moved through the seals, working slowly and making sure each one was exactly right. The boy's chakra began slipping through the warm energy, mingling through like a draft of cool air in a room. He made the final seal, released the chakra …

And when the smoke cleared, there was a tuft of tawny fur on the ground. Toushiro scowled irritably as a breeze lifted the offending chunk of hair and carried it away.

"It's okay, Toushi," Akihana encouraged brightly. "First time I did chidori I set daddy's hair on fire 'cause I missed a seal an' turned it into a fire jutsu. So, you're already doing better than me!"

Kakashi smiled and winked at his girl to thank let her know she did well by supporting her brother. Akihana beamed back and returned to scratching a completely blitzed out Bull's chest. "Try it again, Toushiro," Kakashi encouraged. "For a first attempt, that was very good."

"How many times did it take you, dad?" the boy asked as he began over again.

"Oh … too many to count," he lied. Truthfully, he'd picked it up in two tries, but his son didn't need to know that.

Looking a bit more hopeful now that he'd learned his genius father had struggled with this jutsu, Toushiro tried it again. This time, he got the end of someone's tail and jumped back from it with a startled yelp. The tail twitched a little on the flattened grass, but thankfully there wasn't any blood.

Pakkun cringed at Kakashi's feet before walking over to sniff the stub curiously. "Anyone we know?" the copy ninja called.

"Naw," the dog replied as he placed a paw on the bit of tail. "But I'm gonna take it back with me to see if I can find the owner. Don't wanna have a ticked off ninken running around, after all."

"Okay. Apologize for us too, please."

"Will do." Pakkun disappeared in a small cloud of smoke, leaving a horrified boy staring at the spot where the tail had just been.

Kakashi went over and patted Toushiro's shoulder comfortingly. "It's okay," he soothed, taking note of the way his son was trembling. "It was just an accident, nothing more. You're releasing the gathered chakra too slowly. As soon as you make that last seal, you have to let it all out."

"B-But … what if … what if I …?"

"You won't. Trust me." He didn't know what the pink haired boy was going to suggest, but he knew it wasn't pleasant and didn't want him thinking about it. "Just keep trying, okay?"

"Come on, Toushiro!" Akihana called over to them excitedly. "I know you can do it! And then when we go back to the Academy on Monday you can show that stupid Hyuuga Hantaro what a real genius can do!"

As if his sister's words were the bolstering he needed, Toushiro's features set in grim determination as he said softly, "I'll keep trying."

Kakashi laughed under his breath and gave the boy's shoulder an affectionate squeeze. "There's a boy. I think, given how good your first two attempts were, that you'll probably get this before dinner time."

"Take longer, Toushi," his sister advised. "Mom's cooking tonight."

The boy let out a quiet 'ew' to which Kakashi gave his ear a quick pinch, despite the fact he secretly agreed with his kids. Sakura, for all her many wonderful talents, had not improved her cooking skills over the years. That was why most nights Kakashi was the one to cook. If they wanted anything edible, that or takeout were the only options.

He left Toushiro in favor of joining his daughter over by Bull. As soon as he was down, Akihana immediately snuggled close to him and Kakashi lifted his arm to accommodate her. After years of having Sakura do very much the same thing, he'd gotten used to having someone limpeted to his side. "Think he'll do it this time?" she whispered, tilting her head back to look at him. Even though she was smiling, her eyes were full of nervous worry for her brother.

Kakashi smiled back and gave her a quick hug. "Of course he will."

Akihana's eyes lit up at her dad's endorsement before she settled comfortably against him and the large dog at their backs.

The afternoon wore on with Toushiro attempting to summon a single dog with Kakashi offering tips and corrections while his sister shouted encouraging words. Every time he tried it, the results varied; larger clumps of fur, chewed up bones and toys, collars of various sizes. Kakashi could tell he was getting frustrated and was tired from using so much chakra with nothing to show for it. He glanced at the sun's position in the sky and knew his estimation of mastering it before dinner wasn't going to happen. "Toushiro, how about we take a break, have some food and come back after dinner to try again?" he suggested.

Toushiro's shoulders sagged and his head fell forward in defeat. Akihana shifted anxiously next to her father and chewed her lower lip thoughtfully. "Daddy, let him try one more time," she pleaded. "I know he can do it this time!"

"I know he can do it too, Aki, but he's tired and running low on chakra. I think if we just took a breather and—"

"Dad … I wanna try one last time."

Kakashi blinked in surprise at the resoluteness in his young son's voice. Toushiro's head was still bowed, but his hands were curled into tight, determined fists at his side. It was the same stubborn resolve that Sakura had, the one that had kept them together all these years despite the disapproval of their peers. He sighed under his breath and closed his eye as he said," Okay. Give it one last shot for today." He'd learned a long time ago the tenacity of the Haruno blood was something he couldn't hope to fight.

The boy's head snapped upward in surprise, but it only lasted for a split second before a grateful grin spread across his cheeks. A quiet giggle came from the girl clinging to his side, and Kakashi knew he'd managed to make both his children happy. Toushiro gave his shoulders a quick shake and began the process all over again; blood, seals, chakra release and …

A small cloud of smoke billowed about the boy's ankles and when it cleared … his eyes widened in disbelief.

Sitting on the ground in front of him was the fuzziest looking puppy Kakashi had ever seen. Its round black eyes looked up at Toushiro curiously as its tiny tail swept across the dirt of the training field. A sharp, high pitched yip came from it as it pounced forward to nip at his toes.

Akihana burst out laughing. "A puppy?!" she howled, clutching her sides as her dad stood up slowly and left her. "You summoned a puppy?! Don't every let that Hyuuga see it or he's gonna really make fun of you!"

"It's still a dog summon," Toushiro defended hotly as his sister continued rolling across the ground in mirth. "And puppies have really sharp teeth!"

"Yeah, for gnawing on shoes! AHAHAHA!"

"Stop laughin'!" Toushiro's indignant request went unnoticed by his sister … and by his dad as well.

If Hatake Kakashi had one absolute weakness, it was a puppy. A cute, adorable puppy with big puppy eyes and little puppy teeth and that puppy breath … He scooped the tiny fur ball up and cuddled it to his chest, oblivious to the fact that his kids were now shouting full out at each other. The small black dog blinked at him before letting out a loud bark and licking at his cloth covered nose. Kakashi took a deep breath in and grinned at the scent of puppy breath. He pulled his mask down and the next rapid lick across his nose was what did him in. It was the sound if his giggle that made the two children stop fighting in order to blink worriedly at their dad.

"Um … dad?" Toushiro questioned hesitantly as Kakashi continued snickering and cooing over the puppy in his arms. "What're you doing with my summons?"

"It's more like what's your summons doing to daddy," Akihana remarked. "Does it have some kinda novocaine gas technique in its fur or something?"

"Shut up! My dog's not poisonous!"

"Novocaine isn't a poison!"

"Is so!"

"Is not!"

"Is so!"

"Is not!"

"Alright, enough," Kakashi interrupted on the tail-end of another giggle. "Let's just all calm down and say hello to this cute … little … puppy. Yes, that's what you are, isn't it?"

Both kids exchanged nervous glances before Akihana said, "Dad, you're starting to creep me out. Should I go get mommy to have a look at you and see what Toushi's novocaine dog did to you?"

"I said, shut up!" Toushiro shouted as he shoved his sister roughly. "And stop callin' him novocaine! What if he thinks that's his name?"

"Oh, please! In order to make that tiny dog in anyway cool you'd have to name it something like Killer or Ginormous Drool Beast or something," the girl countered scathingly. The dog in question was still preoccupied with licking every in of a very besotted copy ninja's face.

Toushiro stamped his foot angry, and the chakra lingering in his system caused the ground to crack a little beneath him. "Yama-ojisan says size doesn't matter! It's how you use what you have that makes the difference!"

At that, Kakashi snapped out of his puppy-induced high with alarm. "Whoa, whoa … hold on there, Toushiro," he interrupted abruptly. "Who said what now?"

Shooting his sister one last glower (to which she stuck her tongue out), the boy said, "I heard Yama-ojisan talking to Sai-san when they came over for dinner and Yama-ojisan said that size doesn't matter, it's how you use what you've got."

Kakashi groaned and made two quick mental notes; first, to never allow Sai over for dinner again and second, to store that piece of blackmail away for later use on Yamato. Shaking his head as he continued combing his fingers through soft puppy fur, he said in a slightly strained tone, "Toushiro, I'm going to tell you something now and I want you to remember it; size does count for something. Okay?" He did not want his son repeating those words to anyone. People would assume he'd picked it up from his perverted father, and then they'd assume the boy heard his father saying it in reference to himself.

Toushiro's eyebrows furrowed in disappointment as he looked at the tiny dog in his dad's arms. "But … But Pakkun's a small dog," he pointed out.

"Pakkun's a small dog, yes, but he more than makes up for that with a large heart. Which, I'm sure, this little guy has. So … let's head home, choke down your mom's cooking and introduce her to your new summons, okay?"

"Okay! Umm … dad? Is it alright if maybe I carry him home?"

"Hm? Oh … sure." Kakashi reluctantly passed the puppy over to his son, who grinned proudly at the squirming bundle of fur as he held it close to him. Well, chances were the puppy would be with them for a while. There would be plenty more opportunities to experience the joy of a puppy licking his face.

Later that night when the kids were in bed, Toushiro with his new dog curled up with him, Kakashi was washing the dinner dishes while Sakura made them some tea. "So, obviously it went well today," she commented as she set the water to boiling.

"Mm-hm, very well," he muttered, frowning as he tried to scrape the blackened whatever-it-was off the bottom of the pan. "Sakura, are we out of the nonstick spray again?"

"… We have nonstick spray?"

That answered that question. Sighing, Kakashi added more hot water to the sink and left the pan to soak for a bit as his lover of ten years took a seat at the table. He dried his hands and couldn't help smiling as he looked at her. She'd grown her hair out a bit so that the pale pink locks brushed her shoulders, but other than that and the curves that came from having two children she hadn't changed in the least. Her green eyes were still sharp and intelligent, her smile just as capable of lighting an entire room. She was the same beautiful woman he'd fallen so many years ago, when he'd been dying in a ditch and she'd been pressing intestines back into his gut.

Sakura noticed him watching her and glanced over each shoulder in confusion. "What?" she laughed as she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear self-consciously.

"Nothing," he murmured as he joined her at the table. He held his hand out to her and she gave him the smile he loved waking up to every morning as she placed her hand in his.

"I'm beginning to think Akihana's right about that puppy putting off endorphins or something," she teased as he rubbed his lips across her digits lightly.

Kakashi shrugged indifferently and closed his eyes as she traced her nails along his lips. "She's a troublemaker."

"Only because you let her get away with it. Do you have any idea how tightly she has you wrapped around her finger?"

Again, he shrugged, completely unconcerned about the accusation. "She takes after you."

Sakura's smile was one of smug satisfaction as she stood up to switch off the whistling tea kettle. "Then I've taught her well," she tossed back over her shoulder. "I was thinking about bringing Toushiro to the hospital with me sometime next week, just to see if that might be something he'd be interested in."

"That's a good idea. He's not at all squeamish, and his chakra control is incredibly exact. It actually might be better than yours." He smiled as she gave the back of his head a playful slap while setting a tea cup in front of him.

"Arrogant bastard," she grumbled, though the affection in her eyes gave lie to her words.

Kakashi chuckled and sipped his tea. "And yet you're still with me."

Her expression was soft as she leaned forward and rubbed her hand along his thigh gently. "Like I've said, the only way to get rid of me is if you decide to leave," she said softly. "And we both know you're far too lazy to do that."

"Mm … that's true. But like I've said, I have no intention of leaving. Ever."

Sakura smiled and her eyes fluttered closed as he threaded his fingers through her hair. He kissed her, once, lightly on her soft lips, but as was always the case with her once certainly wasn't enough. She responded to him with a soft moan and a hand curled around the back of his neck to bring him closer to her, her mouth slanting against his for a better angle. He traced his tongue along her lower lip before slipping by and stroking hers in a slow, unhurried kiss that left him trembling and more than a little hard.

"W-Wait," she whispered, breaking away from the kiss. "The kids …"

"Then learn to keep your voice down," he murmured back before cutting off any further protests with another, much more heated, kiss.

That was the one to push her over the edge, and the next thing he knew she was standing and pulling him after her toward the bedroom. He shut the door and locked it, all while she sucked at his neck and tugged impatiently at his clothing. After so many times of doing this, it never ceased to excite him to feel her hands moving boldly over his body. It didn't take long for clothing to be shed and for her to be muffling her cries in the pillows and against his neck. He lost himself in her, letting go of everything except how it felt to taste her, to be inside her and feel her body clenching around his. This was what sex should be like, he mused as he gasped and moaned into the curve her shoulder. It should be with someone who knew you so well that they guessed what you needed and wanted long before you ever thought of it.

He came with her nails digging into his shoulders, her cries smothered by his mouth and his hand wedged between them rubbing circles against her clit. Sakura sagged back on the bed with a contented groan and slowly opened her eyes to smile languidly up at him. She trailed her fingers along his sweat-sheened cheek lovingly, her eyes roving over his features as if she still hadn't memorized them after their time together.

Kakashi rolled to one side of her and she wriggled back until she was firmly nestled against his chest. He brushed soft, satiated kisses along her shoulder as he closed his eyes and relaxed against the pillow. He was two breaths away from falling asleep when Sakura said, "Kakashi?"

"Hm?" he replied drowsily, blinking himself awake enough to listen to her.

"Did you seriously tell our son that size matters?"

Oh … shit. She'd obviously heard about that part. He could feel the slight thrum of tension in her body and knew that his sleeping location tonight would rely very heavily on his response. Feigning an amused chuckle, Kakashi nuzzled the back of her neck and murmured, "Of course I didn't."

Sakura hummed contentedly and turned just enough to give him a chaste kiss. "That's good. Because if size did matter, I wouldn't have broken it off with Sai to be with you."

Ouch. Kakashi winced and waved goodbye to his male ego as he said in a small, quiet voice, "Duly noted."