Title: Of Marriage and Diplomacy
: Minato/Kushina (who totally ARE my OTP now, who am I kidding?) and chibi!Naruto. Chibi!Sasuke is talked about.
T, for a couple of strong words and borderline sex. (Yay! ...or boo! if you were going for something more explicit. Sorry.)
Hm. Set in a canon!verse where Minato doesn't die after the Kyuubi attack, and the Uchihas are not murdered in cold blood, mostly because I refuse to believe that Minato would have allowed that. Complex problems need complex situations, sure, but he was called a genius for a reason, you know. Also, Kushina's nickname for Naruto was not my creation--I stole that genius tidbit from another author, whose name and/or works I cannot remember. If any of you lovely, lovely readers do know who he/she is, please drop me a line and I'll assign credit where credit is due. If it helps, one of her stories featured a Kushina who was very well and alive and returning from a wild goose chase to find any remaining members of her people when Naruto was twelve. And as always, remember to review!

EDIT: You readers are lovely! The nickname "fish-cake" is from the fics Regrets and Promises by singeivoire. Thanks especially to Ryuuki Kisaki and notgonnasay09 for pointing it out.

Kushina blinked at her son, ignoring the impatient sizzle and pop of olive oil in the pan. "What was that, fish-cake?"

Naruto met her gaze head-on, furrowing yellow brows over startlingly blue eyes. "I said, how come you and daddy aren't married?"

Why, indeed. She turned the burner off and slid into the chair opposite to the one where her son sat. Propping her chin on one hand, and asked, "Does it bother you that we're not married?"

He fiddled with his Academy textbook and slid his eyes to a passage enumerating the differences between chakra manipulation on land and water. "Not really."

"Uh-huh," Kushina murmured. "That's not what it looks like from here." She reached across the table and chucked Naruto under his chin with a gentle finger. "What's bothering you?"

He looked up sharply before his gaze skittered away again. "It's just that—that Sasuke said that you couldn't be my parents if you weren't married. He said mommies and daddies have to be married to make kids. But…" he bit his lip and looked back at her, confusion swimming in his eyes and knotting his brow. "You're not married."

Kushina sat back in her seat and surveyed her little brat. Well, Sasuke again, was it? She wasn't sure what had sparked the feud between the two boys, but ever since the first day of Academy, the little twerp had mercilessly picked on her little boy. If it wasn't that Naruto's kunai didn't hit the target dead-center, it was Naruto losing to Yamanaka Ino during taijutsu practice (and when she had asked what was so wrong with getting beat by Ino, Naruto had turned red and whined, "Mom, she's a girl," as if it explained everything, and made Kushina realize that she was going to have that little "Kunoichi are just as capable as you shinobi, and can beat your heads in with six inch stilettos of you don't watch out" talk after all, damn it) and if it wasn't that, it was something else. Well, Naruto wouldn't have been the responsible one—her little fish-cake was sweet at pie and twice as friendly. Kushina honestly didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or go after the little Uchiha brat and his family with a chakra-infused frying pan.

But now was not the time for that, though it was probably time for her to schedule an appointment with the head of the Academy and impress how bullying was not something she would tolerate. Making Minato sit in on that meeting would probably help her cause—he wasn't Hokage for nothing, and it was time he put that ridiculous hat and that ridiculously brilliant brain that sat under it to use for something other than paperwork. Besides, intimidating school administrators would be fun.

But for now, she had a confused Naruto to contend with. "And what did you say to Sasuke-kun?" Kushina asked.

Naruto pouted. "I called him a liar," he muttered in a small voice. "You're my mom. And dad is my dad." But he still looked unconvinced, intensely concentrating on twirling his pencil between his small, sticky fingers.

Oh, her little boy was so precious. "And that, fish-cake, is that. You got it right—I'm your mom and your dad is your dad. Nothing can ever make that untrue."

He peered at her. "Then…do you love daddy?"

"Of course I do. And stop chewing on your fingernails, hun."

"Sorry. And you love me," Naruto said with the serene bliss of a well-loved child, tilting his head to the side, chewing his bottom lip.

She grinned at him mischievously. "What makes you so sure?"

He rolled his big blue eyes at her. "Come on, mom. We've been over this a million times. You love me more than anything else in the world. You tell me that, like, every morning, every night, and—"

She laughed, and he giggled with her. When they had quieted, she said, "You know your dad feels the same way, right?"

He nodded, looking pensive again. "He tells me even more than you do. So…why aren't you and dad married?"

Christ. Why indeed, she thought again wryly. "C'mere, hun," she said, opening her arms to her boy. He flashed her a smile, and hopped off his chair, around the table and into her lap.

"You remember our deal, right?" he asked, twisting around and settling himself in her lap. "You can't tell anyone about this. Then Sasuke will just call me a mama's boy again, and then I'm really gonna hit him."

She glowered at the mention of the Uchiha brat. Sure, Naruto was a bouncing ball of energy that couldn't hold still for the life of him, but he wasn't malicious. Class disruptions were hardly causes for alarm, and the couple pranks he had pulled were perfectly harmless. (Well, mostly harmless, but if you were a chuunin and couldn't avoid a child's mischief—which consisted of a cleverly rigged bucket and ninja twine, and perhaps some Hawaiian punch-filled water balloons, but she couldn't be too sure—and end up in the hospital with a broken leg, well, you obviously didn't deserve your rank, Kushina thought with a disdainful sniff. Naruto had been very sweet and sorry about it, too—he'd gone to see Mizuki-sensei in the hospital with fresh flowers and everything.) He was the sweetest little thing that ever breathed, and she couldn't see why the Uchiha brat couldn't see that.

She kissed him behind his ear, breathing deeply. Her baby smelled like powder, laundry detergent and sunshine. Naruto erupted into giggles. "Moooom, that tickles."

"I don't see why you don't just punch the kid out," she muttered, and knew she was probably being a very bad mother in suggesting it and encouraging her son's violent impulses. Still, one could say a million and one things with a well-aimed punch that would take hours to express with words, and the sooner her boy learned that lesson, the better.

"That's what I said!" he exclaimed, "But daddy said that, uh, said that I had to—to solve my problems with words and not hitting people. He said that just because it worked with Neji doesn't mean it's gonna work with anyone else. I have to be—uh, what was it?—dip—dip—la--"


"That's it! Diplomatic. He said that means you solve problems with words. He said I should ask Sasuke to stop." He wrinkled his button nose in distaste while fidgeting with her earring. "He said if I'm gonna be Hokage, I hafta be good with words. Not just fighting." He pouted. "That doesn't sound like much fun."

She rolled her eyes. "Spoken like a person who went through school too fast to be bullied," she muttered. Oh, Minato. He was already grooming their son to be a slick politician, a successor to the office of Hokage, and probably the harbinger of world peace, too. She had to keep an eye them, or her eight-year-old would be learning the Rasengan next. Minato could be called many, many things, but unenthusiastic could not be one of them.

"Still," he continued, "how come you and dad aren't married?"

She blew a raspberry into his shoulder, holding him tight as he shrieked and wiggled. Stubborn little thing.

"Mooooom! Don't do that! You're not answering my question!" He twisted around to face her, and pinned her with a glare, looking for all the world like his father ready to mercilessly lay the beat-down on some poor shinobi's ass—or conquer a small mountain of paperwork, you really couldn't tell these days. She smothered a giggle.

"Why's this bothering you so much, hun?" she asked, trying to evade explaining the entanglements and quirks of her relationship with Minato to her child, mostly because she couldn't even explain them to herself with any sort of coherency. There really wasn't a reason she hadn't married the fool yet—she certainly loved him enough, and loved the little monster they had created together even more. She loved the feel of his hands, and loved knowing the location and the story behind every scar and callous on his body. She loved sharing his burdens, loved basking in his trust, loved sleeping with his comforting weight by her side. And certainly, she had felt more dead than alive, floating in a fog of indiscriminate grey, all life sapped from her body, all color gone from the world in the burning aftermath of the Kyuubi attack, when he had laid prone in the hospital, when no one knew quite what was wrong and what the shinigami had robbed him of. Only her baby, with his plaintive wailing and beautiful, scarred cheeks had roused her, and when the counsel had threatened to take him away from her…well, she understood why mother bears do not like it when others mess with their cubs. She understood with blind clarity that day.

But most of all, she loved how he still asked her to marry him. He'd ask her unexpectedly—sneaking up behind her and surprising her with a nibble on her earlobe or an open-mouthed kiss to the junction of her neck and shoulder, or when they had just finished making love, basking in the afterglow and knowing that they would have to pull some clothes on and unlock the door soon so Naruto could climb in with them if he wanted to, or completely unexpected times, like those rare nights when she'd be curled up against him on the couch and Naruto would be asleep on his belly and they'd be finishing up an old movie and it'd be obscenely late—

Every time, it was the same, breathed against her skin, his breath a ghosting, marauding sigh: "Will you marry me?"

And every time, she would smile wickedly, and say, "Not yet. Not quite yet."

And he would just chuckle, bury his face in her hair, or her neck, or her breasts—any part he could reach, really—and say, "I'm not giving up, you know. One of these days, you're going to have to say yes."

And she would cackle, "Or you'll what?"

He would respond creatively after that. Her favorite was "Or I'll withhold the sex" which just made her laugh at his sheepish expression because, quite honestly, he wouldn't even have held out a day, or "I'll stop treating you to ramen," in response to which she launched into a charged tirade about her economic independence and how she still had it, no matter how in love she was, and there was nothing he could do about it.

But how to say this so her boy would understand?

She started slowly. "You know Naruto, not all families are made the same way. We're all a little different—kind of like different types of ramen. Miso ramen is different from beef ramen which is different from pork ramen. But you know what every family has in common?"

He shook his downy blond head. "…They all taste yummy?"

She smiled and tweaked his nose. "That everyone in a family loves everyone else." Well, perhaps that was oversimplifying a bit, but she didn't think that her son was quite ready to grasp the concept of unhealthy family dynamics yet. "Like the Hyuuga—they're not like our family, are they? But all of them still love each other." Well, kind of. "And it's the same thing here—I love you and your daddy loves you, and we all love each other; that's what makes us family."

Her son considered her words carefully. "Still…"

She sighed. "Anything else, hun?"

He wiggled in her lap, twisted around, and settled again. "But Sasuke said—he said that the reason you didn't marry daddy was that you were—"

He looked genuinely upset now, with bright eyes and trembling mouth. She closed her arms around him, pillowed his head on her shoulder, and asked, "What else did the twerp say?"

"That…that you really didn't want to stay. With daddy." With me. He finished with voice little more than a whisper, curling his little fingers into the hollow of her collarbone. Kushina really, really wanted to smack the fear of god (or irate red-headed kunoichi, either was good, really) into the little Uchiha brat.

She closed her eyes and counted to ten. "Sweetie, that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Look at me, fish-cake, this is important. There we go. I won't ever leave you, or your daddy. Ever. I love you both too much to do that. It—it would probably break me on the inside if I ever did." Her voice cracked as she ran her hands through his unruly gold hair.

He remained still for a moment, and nodded. "Okay." Then, louder, "Okay." He laid a loud and wet kiss on her cheek and asked if he could have ice cream for dinner.

Later that night, after Minato had put Naruto to bed by reading Tale of the Gutsy Ninja: Children's Abridged Edition (something Minato had badgered Jiraiya-san into writing for Naruto's sake) to him for the nth time (because, according to Naruto, she didn't do the voices right and rushed through the best bits, and nobody but Daddy did it all right) and settled in to bed, she asked him to marry her.

"W-what?" he stuttered, eyes wide.

She giggled and kissed the corner of his mouth. He smelled like toothpaste. "Don't make me repeat myself. Also, I think we should schedule an appointment with the Academy director—this bullying business has gotten out of—"

He let out a breath and buried his face in her chest. "Yes," he said, muffled, "yes."

She grinned, eyes falling half-way shut as he pulled at the buttons of her flannel pajamas and left a smattering of open-mouthed kisses on whatever skin he exposed.

As though she had expected any other answer. This wouldn't change anything, not really. The love her family shared didn't need to be validated on paper.

But, she supposed, as Minato did something with his tongue that made her head fall back and eyes close, it would be nice to make it official.