"I've got two D rank missions for tomorrow," Rei told Team 7, "dog walking and catching Tora."
"Dog walking is a ninja mission?" Sasuke asked dubiously.
"Not just any dogs, these are Inuzuka dogs; they have been bred for generations to work with nin. The most chakra responsive ones are immediately paired with a member of the clan, but the others are still valuable nin animals that may develop impressive chakra abilities later, just like with humans they have late bloomers," Rei explained, knowing quite a bit about the subject.
"Nin animals?" Naruto asked as they headed back towards the bridge where Team 7 had met that morning.
"Don't you remember Iruka telling us about …" Sakura trailed off, "sorry, I forgot about the whole amnesia thing."
Naruto nodded companionably, glad she seemed to be capable of being civil … even if he did have to damn near drown her to reach that point.
Rei spent a good half hour explaining everything she knew about nin animals in general as well as the major clans in Konoha who used them.
Sasuke had finally recovered enough to shrug off Sakura's arm during Rei's lecture, although he didn't push her away when she leaned against him.
"Sounds like dog walking is a lot more complicated than it sounds when nin dogs are involved. Is capturing Tora something similar?" Sasuke asked.
"Well …" Rei considered. "Tora is the pet cat of the Fire Lord's wife; I'm not sure how many generations of breeding went into creating that monster, but it's a genius at escape and evasion. If you can take down the cat softly your team is considered qualified to take down civilian targets."
Sasuke and Naruto began to grin; they'd both been worried that D ranks were chores that people didn't feel like doing themselves when they heard what they were, but these actually sounded challenging.
"I don't suppose we can use a couple of the dogs we're walking to track down the cat can we?" Sakura asked.
Naruto raised an eyebrow and Sasuke nodded. "She may not be a dead weight after all."
"Even if we can't use the idea, that kind of outside the box thinking is very useful," Naruto replied.
Sakura blushed and looked down.
"She's going to need a lot of physical training," Sasuke pointed out as he actually took the time to examine Sakura and consider her potential as a team mate.
"Physical is easy," Naruto replied, "you can train anyone up physically, mentally however … no, in most cases you can't fix stupid, so she's already ahead of the game; we simply have to train her into the ground."
Sasuke nodded approvingly. "This team thing is turning out better than I thought it would, and speaking of training, what was that thing you did that floored me?"
Normally Sasuke wouldn't admit to being beaten, but seeing the effect it had on Kakashi, getting knocked on your ass by a technique that floored a jounin was nothing to be ashamed of.
"I just released my hold on my retsu."
"Retsu?" the three asked, confused.
"Yes, retsu," Naruto answered. "You know, spirit energy?"
"You're supposed to mix your spiritual energy with your physical energy to create chakra," Rei said numbly.
Naruto shrugged. "I know how to use spirit energy."
Rei shook her head in disbelief. "I've never heard of anyone using just spirit energy, not even the priests and priestesses whose techniques require a much higher ratio of spiritual to physical energy than ours use pure spiritual energy."
"Well, you saw how effective it was. Exposure to high levels of spiritual energy will either increase your own or cause your soul to implode," Naruto said casually, causing Rei and his team mates to freeze in horror.
Naruto's stomach growled loudly, startling the three.
"Huh." Naruto rubbed the back of his head embarrassed. "I'm thinking I'd better get something to eat."
Rei grinned and shook her head. "Well, I've got to go move the rest of my stuff. See you at home!"
Sakura and Sasuke both stared at Naruto as Rei gave him a kiss on the cheek before vanishing in a swirl of leaves.
"I know better than to ask because you have no memories," Sasuke declared just before his own stomach growled.
Sasuke didn't show any obvious signs of embarrassment. "All you can eat barbeque," he suggested.
Naruto nodded and let Sasuke lead the way.
"If you were already dating Rei sensei then why were you trying to get me to go out with you?" Sakura asked, trying hard to reign in her temper.
"Two possibilities," Naruto replied, "one… I didn't want anyone to know and it was safe to hit on you as a cover, since you hated my guts."
"And two?" Sasuke asked when it became obvious Naruto wasn't going to volunteer any more without being prodded and Sakura was barely keeping her self control.
"Harem," Naruto declared bluntly, causing Sasuke to snicker despite his best efforts and Sakura's eyes to bug out comically as they entered the barbeque place.
"Harem?" Shikamaru asked, as apparently the other six genin from their graduating class were there along with their new jounin sensei. "Discussing what Sasuke has to do to preserve his bloodline?"
"What?" Sakura and Ino shrieked in chorus.
Sakura's eyes quickly darted over to Naruto.
"Surprise and shock are allowed, I only care about intentional assaults on my eardrums," Naruto reassured her.
"I thought you had a crush on Sakura?" Kiba asked, noticing how Naruto was treating Sakura as opposed to how he normally acted.
"Amnesia," Naruto explained quickly to get it out of the way, "and how I got it is classified."
Kurenai looked concerned. "How did… Sorry, reflex. How are you dealing with it?"
"Pretty well so far, finding out I was an orphan sucked; but I seem to have Iruka as an older brother and the old man as a grandfather so it's not too bad."
"The old man?" she asked.
"The Hokage," Sakura said, "it's a pet name between the two."
"So what brought harems up?" Asuma asked, sensing some opportunities to embarrass the genin with the topic.
"Apparently I'm dating Rei," Naruto replied, "so me hitting on Sakura was either a cover or the start of a harem. Since I didn't know I was dating anyone until a couple of minutes ago it could be either one."
"You could be a two timing bastard," Kurenai suggested sweetly.
"Please, from what I heard the only way I could have been louder about my actions would be to take out an ad in the paper. Is there anyone in this town who didn't know about my apparent infatuation with Sakura?"
"Nope," came the unanimous reply from the genin around the table.
Naruto shrugged. "I'm guessing cover, although I can't imagine why I'd hide dating her, Rei is cute, knowledgeable, and probably a lot of fun to be around."
"An overprotective big sister perhaps?" Asuma asked, trying not to grin.
"I'll ask Rei. I'm sure that if I was starting a harem she'd know. I'd need her permission after all," Naruto decided.
Kurenai decided to put a little scare into the boy who was dating and probably cheating on her little sister. "Hell viewing technique!" she announced, startling everyone at the table.
Naruto tilted his head to the side as he watched the few people he was actually growing fond of fall in the doorway, bleeding from various wounds but radiating no retsu.
"I've doodled more realistic scenes in the bath," Naruto announced, "at least I think I have. Sasuke, would you consider this assault?"
Sasuke nodded. "Genjutsu is considered assault."
"Genjutsu?" Naruto asked.
"Illusions," Sasuke explained.
Asuma and Kurenai winced as they realized how deep she'd just stepped in it; assaulting another team's genin outside of sparring was considered a serious crime. If Naruto actually pressed charges …
"There is only one punishment in Team 7!" Naruto announced grandly.
"A spanking?" Ino asked, drawing everyone's eyes to the suddenly blushing blonde.
Sasuke turned to Sakura. "Sakura?" he asked, wanting to remind her of the punishment, since it had made her much more tolerable.
"The river!" she groaned.
"The river," Naruto agreed, appearing behind Kurenai and both of them vanishing, before Naruto was suddenly back with his team less than a heartbeat later.
"The river?" Asuma asked, wondering how Naruto had done whatever it was that he'd just done, since he hadn't felt any chakra at all.
Team 7 squeezed themselves in with everyone, passing Asuma money to pay for themselves.
"Assaults on team members or their eardrums are punished by being dumped into the river where we meet," Naruto explained, breaking apart a pair of chopsticks.
"How'd you move so fast?" Asuma asked.
"Clan secret," Sasuke announced, deciding to help Naruto protect his secrets until he could remember to protect them himself.
"And he shared with his team?" Ino asked, wide eyed.
"Your team is your family; your team is your life," Sasuke said, "if you can't trust your team you are already dead." Sasuke thought he might be laying it on a bit thick, but Asuma's smile and the approving nods of the rest of the genin pointed towards him getting it just right and depending on how Sakura shaped up it might actually be true he decided.
Hinata's mind was going in a dozen different directions; she knew Naruto hadn't been seeing anyone, the Byakugan was great for stalking … err watching someone wistfully from afar, and if Naruto had been seeing anyone she would have known it. Besides, Rei was supposed to be her best friend.
So logically Rei was taking advantage of Naruto's amnesia to get him to go out with her! Well, two could play at that game!
Unfortunately even the thought of what she was about to do was nearly too much for her. Feeling a bit faint, Hinata opened her medical supplies pouch and took out a small red pill, something that was usually used to help reduce elevated vital stats in poison victims. A sip of tea with the red pill and it quickly did its work. She'd never felt this calm near Naruto before. Hell, she'd never felt this calm period.
Smiling lazily she stood up and walked over to Naruto and tapped him on the shoulder.
Naruto turned and Hinata shocked the entire table by kissing him and saying, "I'll see you at your place." before she left.
Naruto and Sasuke looked at each other and nodded. "Harem!" they chorused.
Before anyone could say anything a wet Kurenai came in and took her seat. "What did I miss?"
Asuma raised an eyebrow. "What took you so long?"
"I was dropped into the river by a park halfway across town," she replied.
Everyone turned to Naruto who smirked. "I am made of goes fast."
"Apparently Naruto is dating Rei and Hinata, and Hinata knows about it and isn't upset; so best guess is Naruto actually is forming a harem," Ino said, "of course, two girls really doesn't qualify as a harem."
Before Kurenai could even think of a response, a dark haired girl rushed in and hugged him. "Naruto, thank god you're ok! I had a huge meal specially prepared for you and you didn't show up! I was worried something had happened to you."
Naruto didn't even get a word in edgewise as the ramen waitress drug him off.
"Ok, I guess three is a good start," Ino admitted.
Kurenai sighed. "I'm going to hunt down Anko. I feel like drinking for some reason."
"I'll join you," Asuma volunteered, stopping to pay for the group before leaving.
"So, why do I need a harem?" Sasuke asked Shikamaru to break the silence.
"Since you are trying to preserve a bloodline as well as a name, you need to have as many lines as possible to reinforce the Sharingan while avoiding the normal problems that crop up when dealing with inbreeding," Shikamaru explained.
"Sounds complicated," Sasuke admitted, while Sakura and Ino held back from saying anything, acutely aware that Sasuke may have to go to great lengths to preserve his family's bloodline.
"The Inuzuka are probably one of the best clans to talk to about how to go about it, because in reality there is no difference between breeding dogs and humans to preserve and enhance traits," the lazy genin pointed out.
"That sounds so cold blooded," Ino said.
Kiba decided to add his own two cents, "It may be, but duty to the clan is what allows the pups to exist and grow strong in the first place. There is time for love when duty is done," Kiba was finding Sasuke a lot more tolerable at present. 'Must be because he has something to be loyal to now.'
Sasuke found himself nodding at Kiba's words. For his clan there was little he wouldn't do.
"I'd suggest a handful of girls from very different places to minimize the risks of bad genetic crosses in the next generation," Shikamaru suggested.
"I'd suggest a handful of local girls to ensure you have the best chance of reinforcing the Sharingan," Kiba said.
Choji finally decided to speak up, "Six of one and a half dozen of the others, it's the only way to be sure."
Shino nodded. "There's a certain logic in that."
"A dozen wives," Sasuke said slowly. "I'm not sure how that would work."
"As long as you both love and care for the kids it'll work out fine," Kiba promised.
Sasuke's thoughts drifted for a moment as he thought of children laughing and playing in the Uchiha sector as they had when he was a child.
Seeing a small smile on the normally stoic Sasuke's face, Sakura made a decision. "Ino, let's go over to your place for training. Neither of us scored all that well on throwing weapons and as active ninja practical skills mean a lot more than test scores."
"Great idea, I can't get my team interested in training for anything and mom always said poisoned senbon are a kunoichi's best friend," Ino said cheerfully, grabbing Sakura's hand and dragging her off excitedly; happy to have her friend back as she'd really only gone along with being rivals to annoy Sakura in the first place.
"I'd suggest six actual wives and six host mothers," Shino said after the girls had left, "that would help keep you from spreading yourself too thin. If the host mothers are married, the children with their husbands will help provide a bit more genetic diversity to prevent negative recessive genes from causing problems. Not to mention six additional adult males will help provide security and stability for the hive … err clan."
Sasuke nodded thoughtfully and did something he was completely unused to doing, "Thank you for the advice it's been very helpful." He felt something he hadn't felt in a long time as he left … hope.
The four boys stared stunned as Sasuke left.
"Finding his place in the world seems to have removed the stick from his ass," Shikamaru eventually said, receiving a chorus of nods.
"You are not taking my Naruto without a fight!" Hinata declared coldly as Rei nervously backed away from the apartment's front door.
"I was ordered to be his bitch by the Hokage," Rei quickly offered.
"I saw a genin attacking a bunch of merchants, so I tried to stop him, but it turned out to be Naruto wearing all black. He handed everyone their ass and as punishment, since I didn't know it was him, I'm giving up some pay and acting as his team leader until Kakashi recovers. Plus I get to be his bitch for six months!" Rei finished excitedly. "My sister can't scare him off or keep us apart like she has with every other boy in the village."
"Well, I convinced him he's starting a harem and we're both in it," Hinata said firmly.
Rei swept her up in a hug. "That's great! Now I don't have to feel guilty about you being left out."
"You've lost your memory?" Ayame asked, shocked.
"How it happened is classified, but it's not that big a deal. I'm not so old that lost all that much and finding out that I have a harem is a nice surprise."
"You've got a harem?" she asked skeptically, figuring he was pranking her.
Naruto finished his third bowl and decided to tease her for her obvious yet understandable skepticism. "Are you claiming my lips aren't sweeter than chocolate?" he asked, faking hurt feelings.
"I wouldn't know, you've never kissed me," she countered with a huff, figuring she'd call his bluff by leaning forward.
"Let me fix that right now," he replied, and showed he wasn't bluffing by wrapping his arms around her and giving her a kiss that left a couple of the women who were watching breathless.
"I am so in your harem," Ayame said dreamily.
AN: Mucho gracias to godogma for typing this up!