Disclaimer: *waves Tsume flag*

Characters: Tsume, Kiba, Hana. Implied ItachiHana.

Summary Notes: This one's for all the mothers out there who've had to raise their kids on their own, and be both mother and father to them. These women are a different kind of strength altogether, and society just does not give them enough credit.

"Mummy! Mummy! Mummy! Story! Story! Story!"

Tsume sighed, lowering the paperwork she had been reading (and systematically shredding in her head), raising an eyebrow wearily at her four year old son.

"Kiba, I'm busy. Go to bed."

His response was predictable and immediate; he proceeded to pout the biggest pout imaginable, and his cat-like eyes, so like her own, dilated to monstrous proportions as he scuffed his feet and attempted to look as cute and as pathetic as possible. It tugged her heartstrings, just a bit, but she'd taught herself from the moment she'd had Hana to not fall for the sad puppy eyes. She'd been a master of them herself once, after all...still was, if Hiashi's response to them was any indication.

Still, she'd had to school herself against them all over again when she'd had Kiba. He was her image in every way, and a mother's boy, even if he'd gag and tell her to stop being mushy if she mentioned it.

"I wanna story!"

"Kiba," she sighed again, rubbing her temples, "Can't you get Hana to read you a story?"

"No!" was the adamant reply, and the pout grew.

"Why not?"

"Because I want you to read it, Mummy!"

"Alright, alright," Tsume sighed, "But I'm only reading it once, Kiba, you hear me?"

Kiba grinned and nodded vigorously in response before taking off for his room, yelling happily to his sister that he was going to bed and Mummy was reading him a story and whatever else the overexcitable four year old felt like yelling at the top of his lungs.

Tsume sighed again and shook her head, scratching Kuromaru's side with a foot before standing. The paperwork would have to wait. She made her way down the hallway, pausing when her ten year old daughter appeared at her bedroom door, her three puppies lounging around her feet with vague expressions of annoyance at being awoken by the spastic 'pup'.

Tsume was struck once again by how much Hana had grown, but at the same time, she was worried by how tired Hana looked. Far too tired for her age, really, and for a moment, Tsume hastily went through her mind all the things she could have done wrong that would make her eldest look so weary.

"Sorry, sweetheart. We didn't mean to wake you."

Hana smiled tiredly and shook her head. "I wasn't sleeping anyway, Ma."

Tsume frowned a little at that, holding out an arm in invitation. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"No, it's not important," Hana mumbled, but the way she refused to meet her mother's eye told Tsume exactly what it was that was bothering her. The Uchiha boy. Itachi. Damn the kid, whatever he was doing that was making Hana lose sleep, though Tsume admitted to herself that it was probably as much Hana's doing as it was Itachi's. Hana cared deeply for everything around her, especially that boy, sometimes a little too much.

Not that Tsume could talk, and she shook the image of a certain Hyuuga team mate out of her head. It was in the genes, clearly.

She was tempted to broach the subject with her daughter, but it was likely to dissolve into an arguement, and Hana just looked too tired to be drawn into a squabble. So Tsume held her tongue, choosing to hug her child tightly instead when Hana slipped under her arm, trying to convey all the love and support and protectiveness she could in that one embrace, like any mother would.

"Just take it one day at a time," she murmured, kissing Hana's head before releasing her. Her daughter smiled in response, her brown eyes lighting up despite her tiredness as she stepped back and began herding the Hamaru Sankyodai back into her room.

"You'd better go before he starts howling to the moon and clawing up the house," she commented, grinning over her shoulder when Kiba showed up, right on cue.

"Muuuuum!" he whined, clinging to her leg and kneading his claws into her pants impatiently. Tsume snorted and smiled, shaking her head at her daughter before lifting Kiba and carting him to his room. She smiled when he immediately curled into her body, snuggling into her neck trustingly.

"A'ight, you monster, which story will it be tonight?"