First, sorry this took so long; I got bored… and then started on the one with Shikamaru and Kurenai. Maybe I'll make a series… lol… one couple from each of the Genin nine. Ha ha. Anyhow. This took a lot longer than I thought it would, so long I've updated the author's notes several times.
Second… I would like to say: I've been watching Naruto Shippuden. Episode 134: I LOVE TOBI! (NINJA ART! Whack-A-Mole Technique!) He's fantastic. I think the Sasuke and Itachi genjutsu fight is probably my favorite fight I've seen so far. Also, obviously this story doesn't work in bits because Jiraiya is dead now and I wrote him to be alive… but whatever. 189: Sakura gets hit on by a cat. Yes. And OH MY GOD! 191: I can't write Kakashi-Sakura crap anymore… I will continue to write Kakashi-Sakura crap. But the key ninja from 191 is much better for Kakashi. *swoon at the cuteness of that relationship*
C… no… third: thank you to everyone who sent me places to watch the show… Right now I'm using Narutoget… so… that wasn't a contest or anything… but if it was… that was the randomly selected winner. (YAY!)
Fourth: thank you so much, everyone that's reviewed over the course of this story. (Except InARealPickle, who I doubt is still reading, but if you are… I don't thank you… you're ungrateful and don't know how to argue *sticks out tongue childishly*) But everyone else… thank you for reading, thank you for enjoying, and thank you for reviewing. I made a list of people who reviewed… but then I got bored and gave up because I didn't want to leave anyone out (and I'm lazy… mostly cuz I'm lazy).
Fifth: Koume was introduced in the last chapter… that's the first time you've heard of her. She was with the three ninja that ran into Genma, Kakashi, and Sakura while they were taking the baby to Shinji. That's the first time you've seen her. She was around earlier, but you didn't know that. Also, sorry if you believe Kakashi, Koume, and Zen are somehow involved in incest-ful activities, but they are not. Kakashi and Zen are not related, and the fact that Zen will be Kakashi's daughter doesn't make it incest. In order for it to be incest Kakashi would have to have sex with Koume, or Zen AFTER Sakura gives birth to her. Clearly.
I smile softly as a twig snaps a few feet away. He'd gotten so close without making a single sound (even though I knew he was here five minutes ago)… it was fairly impressive, actually. "Damn it, Shiranui," I hear Kakashi hiss, followed by the sound of his palm hitting the back of the young boy's head. The boy doesn't respond, he won't… Kakashi out ranks him… and he'd rather stay on his good side anyways.
I cover the smile as the two boys… more accurately men… step into the light of the fire, both looking a little sheepish. "You're late," I murmur, scratching the incredibly soft ears of the hound, Charlie, who sleeps soundly at my side. He practically purrs in his light sleep, his lips twitching in a smile.
"Are you surprised?" Genma's cousin asks under his breath, earning a scoff from Kakashi, who practically stomps over to my side. In a moment he's pushed the dog away, making room for himself to sit in Charlie's place. Perhaps Kakashi wants his ears scratched? I contemplate doing so, but it'd put me at a weird angle, so instead I simply rest my hand on his leg and lean my head against his shoulder. "How'd she do?" the boy asks me, sitting on the opposite side of the fire. Charlie makes his way over to the familiar lap and rests his head there, waiting less than patiently for attention of some kind.
"Ask her yourself," I say with a soft nod to the tent.
Kakashi prickles as Kazuaki turns to look towards the tent. I smile at the reminder of how protective he gets over her now that she's started dating… when she first came home with us his parenting belief was based off of the idea that Zen had done a fine job raising her so far. No ninja was really a match for her, thanks to Zen's training… and thanks to Kakashi's genetics the girl was practically a genius. Apparently Kakashi thought she was defenseless against boys though. Luckily before he says anything to stop Kazuaki from going to see Koume the boy turns back to the fire, allowing Kakashi to relax. "The kids with her?" he asks softly.
"Safe and sound and sleeping," I say with a sigh, closing my eyes and snuggling into Kakashi's arms. "Why were you so late?" I ask softly. "You were supposed to meet us at noon…"
Kakashi shrugs evasively. "Tsunade had an errand for us to run… and I wanted to tell his keeper we were coming… just to give them both some… warning… I suppose." That's fair… having the entire Hatake family sprung on you without warning was enough to drive most people crazy.
"Was there really an errand?" I ask the young boy across the fire, who nods. "Whatever," I sigh softly. I may sound angry, but really I just feel sorry for the kids. He doesn't disappoint me anymore, I'm used to it, but they still expect him to keep his promises. He probably shouldn't even make them in the first place. "Chise was so excited to see you… and Tadao was asking where you were like crazy. They wanted to stay up and wait for you."
Kakashi sighs heavily. "I wouldn't want to wake them up now." I know how tough it is for him to disappoint them like this… but it wasn't like we hadn't been there before. After Zen's reincarnation was born I went back into the field within the year. Kakashi and Koume practically never left the little girl's side. I think Koume didn't trust us to raise her mother's reincarnation. Kakashi didn't want to leave either of his daughters, since it had taken him so long to find them. However… since Tadao was born three years ago I hadn't been able to let myself leave him. I had been working in the hospital regularly, but I had only gone on two missions, and both were emergencies where an extra medic was needed. I was gone for less than twelve hours both times.
Since Chise started walking, however, Kakashi went back to work, and was gone almost constantly on missions. He'd never go on any long hauls and he'd always be back in less than a week. He'd have a few days off to spend with the kids, and then one morning I'd wake up to an empty bed and a note on the dresser. Thankfully because of my close ties with Tsunade I usually know when he'll be back and in what condition I can expect him to come back in… but I can't always tell the children. If I didn't know any better I'd think he was back in Anbu… of course even if he was he wouldn't be able to tell me. Luckily he'd never been more than a day late, so I hadn't had to come up with too many excuses for the kids yet.
"You could at least go talk to Koume…" I trail off, not wanting to tell him if he should be congratulating his oldest daughter or consoling her. She didn't want me to give him any hints.
He sighs again, leaning back and covering his eye with his free hand. "She's going to want to talk about it… won't she?" He asks quietly, probably thinking he should be expecting tears and disappointment. Not a bad guess… but definitely a wrong one. I nod. "I'm so tired…" I almost laugh at his whine, and actually do when Charlie raises his head to look at Kakashi in confusion.
"I have some good news," I whisper, moving so I'm practically on top of him. I notice Kazuaki slip into the tent where the kids are sleeping out of the corner of my eye, but I pay him no mind. Kakashi either didn't notice or didn't care. "Really good news," I repeat, kissing his chin lightly through the mask.
He pulls his mask down with a sigh, eyeing me carefully. I smile, but he just continues to watch me warily. "Are…" He scowls, not in anger, but it confusion. "Are you pregnant?"
I giggle, kissing his chin softly. "Don't sound so shocked… you know how the world works," I laugh again, shaking my head. "I'm not pregnant. It's better than that."
Kakashi pouts at that, apparently a little disappointed. Who knew the man notoriously bad with children would be disappointed at the idea of not having a fourth one. "Ok… what then?" he asks, nodding slowly.
"Chise broke her arm today," I say softly. Kakashi sits up in shock, alert and ready to kick ass. "She's fine," I laugh… "Koume brought her to the tent, and then went to come get me… by the time I got back…" I can't help but grin, biting my lip softly to try and hold it back. "Tadao healed her."
"Tadao…" Kakashi says slowly. I nod. "Healed a broken arm?" I nod again. "Our Tadao?" I just nod continuously, crawling into his lap as the smile spreads to his lips to. "Kami, our son is a genius! He's only three!"
"I know!" I screech, kissing him happily.
"Hold on now," he says, pulling away. "Maybe we should be thinking about having another child… Chise's the best in her class…"
"No she's not," I say simply, smiling. "She graduated."
He looks at me with wide eyes, frozen. "Today?"
"Yesterday morning," I confirm with a nod.
"Holy crap," he sighs, running his hand through his hair.
"We have to keep in mind," I murmur, "part of that might be Zen's power… you know she learned her transportation jutsu… the one with the blood?"
"She's a smart girl," he says with a dismissive shrug. "And our son is a prodigy… he's already healing!"
"Kakashi… kids at his age just copy what they see…" I sigh. "All his baby sitters are medical ninja, and I'm constantly healing someone these days, half the time with him on my hip."
Kakashi doesn't seem to hear me. "Just think… in a few years… when he can move around easier… he could be a huge help!"
"Of course… he won't be able to be a ninja…" I edge quietly. Sometimes he forgets his son's handicap.
Kakashi shakes his head. "That doesn't matter," he argues. "Just because he can't walk yet… he's better with genjutsu than Kurenai, and if he's already showing this much promise in ninju-"
"He'll never walk, Kakashi," I say evenly. "It's not yet… it's ever."
He watches me for a moment, and then sighs, nodding. "I know," he mutters. "It's nice to forget though, don't you think?" I smile softly. I can't agree or disagree… I can't forget like he does. "Maybe he can work in the hospital though, yeah? If Tsunade teaches him… he'll be fine."
"Maybe," I agree softly, pushing his hair out of his face. "He's only three… there's plenty of time."
"Dad?" I turn to see Koume, sticking her head out of the tent.
"Hey sweetheart," he mutters, beckoning her over to join us. "How'd you do?" He asks softly once she gets to the other side of the fire.
She stares at him evenly, lavender eyes fearlessly meeting his single eye. I keep my expression plain until the smile slowly stretches over her lips. She turns to show her right shoulder to him, pushing up her sleeve to show the angry red and black tattoo there. In a couple of days it should fade to be the same black shade of Kakashi and Kazuaki's tattoos on their left shoulders.
Kakashi grins, congratulating her enthusiastically. It was rare that a ninja trained in another country could ever be trusted enough to be let into Anbu… and the only cases I could think of were ninja from Suna or Konoha moving to the other country only after Naruto and Gaara had created peace between the two countries, or some ninja from smaller villages would move to nearby larger ones on occasion. Koume was from Iwa. Although at the moment there was no cry for war from either country, we have never been friendly with them. It had taken hundreds of psychological evaluations and constant monitoring for the five years since she came here with us, but she had finally been found to be loyal to Konoha, and accepted as into the ranks as a Chūnin, with no chance of advancement. The choice seemed obvious to her… in Anbu… she could advance. "Your mother would be so pissed," Kakashi laughs, smiling with pride.
"Don't I know it," she says with a grin, turning to look at the tattoo herself.
"Did you pass with flying colors?" He asks, leaning back against the tree behind us.
"They've been watching me for five years, dad," she says rolling her eyes, "and so much more closely since Kazuaki started helping me with training. They asked me three questions and signed the papers." Kakashi and I laugh quietly, both more than a little relieved to finally be able not to worry about the Anbu who had been watching us, or more accurately, Koume, since she followed us back from Iwa. "If you want to get some sleep, I can take watch," she says evenly. "Kazuaki said you looked tired, both of you. I've done nothing but sleep recently…" Kakashi and I look at each other carefully. She was in Anbu, and not really much younger than me… but still… "Charlie will be with me… it'll be fine," she assures us, setting her hand carefully on her summon's head. He seems to agree, letting his tongue roll out of his mouth and pant happily a few times.
I shrug, stifling a yawn, and get up to join the kids in the tent. When I turn back to meet Kakashi's gaze he just nods. He'll follow me in a minute or two. Good for him. Koume can't tell me anything important about joining Anbu, but maybe she'll be able to talk to him about it. I smile softly at the sight of Kazuaki already sound asleep and bite back a laugh at how Chise clings to him, as if she's afraid he'll disappear. When Koume first brought the boy around she introduced him as the boy who was going to help her get into Anbu. It wasn't for a few months that Kakashi noticed they were… more than friends.
Naturally he tried to kill the boy.
Naturally Koume got very angry and then, naturally ran away to go and live with the boy she'd known for only a few months. Naturally Kakashi dragged her back, kicking and screaming, and locked her in her room for a few hours, until she escaped and then locked Kakashi in one of the interrogation rooms. It was all very funny to me, he didn't agree. Thankfully Kazuaki thinks things through a little more reasonably than any Hatake and was able to convince Koume to go home and made Kakashi promise not to kill him once they let him out.
Obviously our family needed someone so level-headed once in a while, and since he was still helping Koume into Anbu, he practically became part of the family. Chise, at least, loves him. I have a sneaking suspicion that her adoration for him had something to do with how much she enjoyed Genma's company when she was Zen, but it's not really something I could bring up with anyone involved in that situation. I had a soft spot for him as well. The boy was a medic's dream. I met him for the first time when he was just starting in Anbu, before Kakashi and I were together. He had nearly died, and his leg was almost completely severed. He'd begged me to save it, and after fourteen months of countless surgeries and painfully reattaching everything that had been cut, and having to re-cut several things that healed incorrectly, he was finally functioning on a normal level. The best part was, the boy never cried, and always followed a medic's orders. He had one of the fastest recovery times on record for such an injury.
I sigh softly, looking over their peaceful faces and then turn to Tadao, who had been sleeping in Koume's arms earlier, but now he was almost shivering he looked so cold. I frown at that and cuddle next to him, kissing his cheek before settling in to go to sleep. I block out the sounds of Kakashi and Koume talking outside, they didn't want me hearing it, so I wouldn't listen.
Chise wakes us all up at the first hint of light, bouncing around the tent like a ringing alarm clock does in cartoons. I glance around to see Kakashi covering his head with a pillow, and Tadao tries to tunnel under me, escaping the sound. I sigh, noticing the absence of the two love birds and knowing that can't possibly be a good sign, before I get up carefully, trying desperately not to crush the boy who seems so desperate to be under me at the moment. Kakashi glances up as I try to sneak out of the tent, but he catches on too quickly. In a moment he's slipped past me and out of the tent.
I follow quickly, catching only a glimpse of the two before Kakashi yells at them. They had been sitting so Koume was between his legs, leaning back against his chest while holding hands. It was the definition of adorable, but once Kakashi started yelling they were suddenly on opposite sides of the dying fire, trying not to look guilty. "Kakashi," I mutter, crawling out of the tent myself. "Calm down… you're so annoying when you yell." He looks at me like I'm crazy, but I just shake my head. "It's a very unattractive quality." This was nothing new to me… Kazuaki often slept over while Kakashi wasn't home, not that I'd ever tell him that. It was kind of funny actually, how many times Kazuaki had been the one to push Koume away when she snuck downstairs to stay with him, instead of in her own room. I'm certainly not saying he's a saint, but he certainly plays the role well when he needs to.
Even now he starts apologizing like crazy to Kakashi, and promising nothing happened, or some such silly thing. But Kakashi seems to be distracted by the fact that I called him unattractive. Koume hurries to get the kids out of the tent while Kazuaki and I pack up camp. Kakashi just follows me around like a lost puppy… or like Charlie does to Koume. I glance back at Kakashi with a small smile as I picture him wearing a red collar like the one Charlie does and immediately snicker slightly.
"What?" he asks; concerned.
"I'm going to get you a collar… like Charlie's," I say with a laugh. Kazuaki shoots me a weird look, but apparently lets it go. Kakashi seems stuck between excited and confused, making me laugh more. "You're adorable," I snicker, patting him on the head as I walk by.
Apparently no longer concerned with my opinion of him, since I'd voice my positive opinion of him, he suddenly becomes useful, packing up camp while simultaneously entertaining the kids. We leave latter than we planned… that always seems to be the case these days… with Tadao on Kakashi's back and Chise on Kazuaki's and Koume and I carrying most of the supplies.
I laugh softly at the frown set on Kakashi's face as he watches the two young Anbu ahead of us, leading the way to the new Hatake vacation spot. "Kakashi," I sigh, bumping his arm with my elbow. "She's not a child… and he happens to be a very nice guy."
"He's a ninja," he scoffs, rolling his eyes at me. "Nice guys don't exist among ninjas. Not at his age anyways."
"Naruto's a nice guy," I say softly, with a small grin. "You're all right sometimes."
He sighs, shaking his head. "Naruto doesn't count… and you would never call me a 'nice guy'." I nod my head in agreement. I definitely would not. "Hey!" he calls ahead, making the three turn to look back at us, apparently done with the conversation since he'd proven his point. "Chise, I heard there's a bit of news you have to tell me…"
She squeals in shock, remembering her exciting new news, and wiggles out of Kazuaki's arms, bouncing back to fall into step next to us. We all adjust our strides slightly, to slow down to her alarmingly fast speed. For such a little thing she sure is quick. "Iruka Sensei passed me last night! Gave me my head band and everything!"
"And why aren't you wearing it now?" He asks, frowning slightly.
"I want to keep it clean," she says plainly, grinning from ear to ear as she pushes her wild pink hair out of her eyes.
"That makes sense," he says with a simple nod and a smile, darting his eye over to me. He's obviously thinking she's insane, but I speak up quickly before he can comment on it.
"Perhaps you should tell daddy why Iruka Sensei let you graduate," I say, nodding. He'll like this.
She grins, turning around to jump backwards, so she can face us. "To save his reputation!" She chirps. "I was out with Charlie and I found him sparring with who he said was one of his old students. But she wasn't any good… so I pointed out some of her mistakes. She asked if I could do better… and I did! He said he couldn't be beat by an academy student… and since I can already do all the required jutsus… and my test grades are high enough…"
"Chise, sweetheart, look where you're going," I say softly.
"Congratulations," Kakashi says with a wide smile, shifting Tadao's weight to one arm to he can ruffle her hair. "How's your arm?"
"All better!" she sticks out her tongue at Tadao, who copies the motion.
"Chise," I scold, a bit louder than before. "Turn around." Chise sticks out her tongue at me, an action I childishly return myself, but quickly returns to Kazuaki, so we can pick up the pace again.
"Thanks to you, I hear?" Kakashi mutters, nudging Tadao's knee with his elbow.
"Chise cried," he tattles softly, burying his face into his father's neck.
"I bet," Kakashi laughs. "Breaking bones hurts."
"Koume never cries," he points out. "Or you or Kazu. But Mommy cries. Did she get it from Mommy?"
I bite my lip, looking away. Tadao spent far too much time with me, and had often seen me cry in frustration, after losing someone at the hospital or Kakashi was taking a tad too long to get home. Thankfully Kakashi replies in his usual playful manner. "I seem to remember… just last week when a certain someone made a big deal out of a tiny little splinter."
"It hurt!" he complains adamantly, pulling on Kakashi's hair hard enough to make him wince.
I laugh softly, ducking my head and pulling away from Kakashi a bit to get closer to the couple up a head. We don't get there until a little after noon, and Tadao is fast asleep. Chise's barely awake. Fortunately Fusa is waiting for us, her wrinkles deeper than ever, and her smile missing one more tooth. The old lady had only gotten happier in the years since I met her at the hot springs. Each year we brought Koume and Chise, and now Tadao, here she only spoke of how much she love being the wolf's keeper… and how he only spoke of looking forward to our visit every year.
I go first, waiting patiently on the wolf's giant paw, something I had found to be the most comfortable spot in the place. "Sakura," he growls softly as I sit before him. "Is it that time of year again?"
"You know it is," I tease as Kakashi prepares to follow me with Chise. "I know you count the minutes until we get here."
"You're my family," he says with a toothy grin.
I smile softly, patting his nose. "I wish you wouldn't sit so close to him before I get down here, Sakura," Kakashi mutters, setting Chise down easily as soon as he touches the ground. He calls back up to Koume, who prepares to follow, Tadao in her arms.
"I can take care of myself," I scoff, catching Chise as she throws herself into my lap.
"Grandpa Wolf!" She screeches, jumping from my lap to his snout, to crawl up him easily. "Guess what?"
"What it is, Little Star?" he asks, playfully sniffing Zen's reincarnation as she climbs over his face.
"I'm a Genin now," she says softly, whispering in his ear. Many times he had scolded her for yelling in his ears. "Do you know what that means?" He shakes his head, careful not to shake her off. "That means Daddy will teach me the summoning jutsu." I turn to Kakashi at the same time as he looks up from taking Tadao from Koume, our eyes meeting in shock. "He promised he would."
"Wonderful!" the wolf laughs. "And have you decided on who you want your summon to be? Or will you be surprised with a first attempt. Dogs are very loyal you know, and once you choose one they will come to you whenever you please."
"I want a wolf, like you, Grandpa Wolf," she says with a grin. "Then I can be like the Princess Zenitha."
"Oh?" he asks, rolling one white eye to where I sit on his paw.
"Mama says she was like a daughter to the first Hokage. She was a strong warrior. The strongest," she looks down to the wolf's white eyes, trying to see if he understands her. "The Hokage… he had armor made just for her… because he was so impressed with her. Mommy and Daddy have it now. I think… I think in a few years…" she leans very close to his ear, so we can't hear or something silly like that. "I think it will fit me nicely."
"I bet it will, my dear," he laughs, stiffening when he hears Tadao ask Kakashi for me. "Is that Tadao?" He asks quietly. "Oh, bring me the boy." Kakashi comes over quickly, handing Tadao over to me as he keeps his distance from the wolf. They never did get along. Koume, on the other hand, leans against the wolf's side as if it were the most comfortable pillow in the world. She won't open her mouth or eyes until it's time to leave, if she holds up the tradition she's kept for the past five years anyways.
We spend the rest of the day in that hole in the ground, and most of the night, as well, telling silly stories and catching the old wolf up on the last year in our lives. Unfortunately at midnight Kazuaki calls down into the den, saying it's time to go. As Koume begins to leave with Tadao in her arms the wolf stops Chise, making me edge closer, so he can't try anything funny.
"Chise, my darling," the old wolf laughs, touching his nose, three times the size of her, gently to her chest, making her giggle. "I have a gift for you… something I think you'll like very much." I bite my lip, knowing full well what he'll be giving her, but having no idea how to stop him. "My mate, she recently had puppies, and among them… is a little one with a star on her forehead. She reminded me of you, and I thought… who better to care for and love my pup, than Chise, my own little star?"
"Really?" She asks, practically jumping for joy. "I can have her?"
"No," the wolf lightly growls, shaking his head. "You can show her to a good home, and plenty of love… but you cannot keep her. Not like that. She's no dog… but a wolf pup." He lowers his voice, softening it slightly. "Do you understand?"
"She's not a pet," Chise says with a nod. "She's a friend."
The beast laughs, making the walls shake. "Yes, my dear… that's right." He pushes her slightly with his nose again, and then nods above. "The old hag has the pup, I'm sure you'll love her."
Chise giggles, hugging his snout again before returning to Kakashi, who scoops her up easily and, with a nod to me, begins his climb to the surface. "Thank you," I say softly once he's gone.
"You hate me," he observes.
I smile softly, faking a scoff. "Never," I stifle a yawn. "I think she's too young… and would like to keep her my daughter a little bit longer… but I don't hate you. I told you, long ago, that you could give her a hound when you felt she was ready."
"I didn't give her a hound," he says evenly. "Sakumo, and Kakashi, and even Koume… to them I gave hounds. To Chise… I gave her a wolf. She will never be able to summon my pup… but my pup will never leave her side… as long as Chise treats her well."
I swallow, looking down at the ground. "Why?"
"Princess Zenitha," he whispers, glancing up at the hole in the ceiling. "I doubt very much she'll be waking up any time soon." I freeze at that, but he just laughs. "You daughter… she isn't just Hatake Chise… she's…" he shakes his head. "She's the end of three very long stories… and until a new story is created… Zen will have no reason to re-awaken. You'll have your daughter for as long as Chise considers herself to be your daughter."
"Sakura!" I don't look up to see Kakashi yelling down at me. "Hurry up!"
"Thank you," I say softly. "For everything you've done for us."
"One more thing," he says with a wolfish grin. "You should put off going back into the field. Tadao is going to need you over the next few years… after all… it's difficult adjusting to walking." My heart literally stops. I open my mouth… to ask him why he knows this… or how it will happen… but no sounds come out. "I've had a dream, my sweet one," he whispers, as if that will explain it all. "Now go… your family is waiting for you."
As if by magic I find myself floating up to the hole in the ceiling, and in a moment Kakashi has pulled me onto the grass beside him. He couldn't have used the floating trick before? I laugh softly, rolling over to kiss Kakashi securely. He seems surprised at first, but easily gives in, wrapping his arms around me securely and removing his mask, to deepen the kiss. "What's got you in such a good mood?" he asks, grinning.
"Stuff," I say with a shrug, kissing him again. "Where are the kids?" I couldn't help but notice the lack of interruption.
"Koume and Shiranui took them out to play with Chise's new puppy. Adorable, by the way, Charlie's terrified of her," we both laugh at the idea of the large hound being scared of a puppy, no matter how large it might be. "I hope she doesn't get too big… maybe the old guy's mate was a Chihuahua?"
"He said she's a wolf," I say, shaking my head. Kakashi frowns, but then shakes his head, deciding it doesn't matter and leaning up to kiss me. "I love you," I whisper as he breaks away.
He smiles and kisses me once more before replacing his mask. "Come on… we have to catch up with them."
As we head back towards Konoha Kakashi intertwines our fingers, forcing me to keep up with him. We didn't catch up with the others until the sun was just starting to come up and I smiled at the sight of Chise cradling a small puppy in her arms, while Kazuaki cradled her in his. We stop for a moment to swap around the weight we're carrying, and continue through the morning towards home. When Chise wakes up she doesn't insist on walking herself, like she normally would, probably sensing that we're in a rush, but just coos at the white and grey dog in her arms, giggling when she licks her face.
We reach Konoha just as the sun starts to set. Kakashi and Kazuaki stop to talk with the two Chūnin there, but Koume and I continue on with the kids. Once we get into the house we leave Tadao and Chise to play with the new puppy and slip into the kitchen to throw together a quick dinner.
"Sakura?" Koume asks softly as she turns on the rice cooker, biting her thumb nail lightly. "Um… I had something to ask you…"
"What's up?" I chirp, pretending to be oblivious to her discomfort.
"Um… Kazu… he uh… he asked me something a few days ago…" I glance up in shock, dropping the pan I had just picked up. No way. "I just… I want to know how to tell dad…"
I bite my lip, holding back a smile. "Did you… answer him yet?"
She turns away, just far enough so I can see her cheek twitch in a smile. "I did."
"Did he…" I glance at her hand. "Did he give you a ring?" She nods, still smiling. "Oh, Koume!" I sigh, practically dancing. "Will you let me help with the wedding? I never got one of my own…"
She sighs in relief, nodding. "Oh, thank you… I thought you'd be upset."
I scoff, shaking my head. "I'll leave that to your father."
"He'll think I'm too young, won't he?" She mutters, biting her nail. "But I'm not! I'm Eighteen, and after my childhood… I'm not too young for anything!"
"You don't have to convince me," I say easily. "When I was your age I was…" I pause, vivid images of exactly what I was doing at her age. Even though Koume's no innocent virgin, she certainly isn't anything like her mother, or even me. Her viewpoint on romantic relationships seems to be very… romantic. "Never mind. I know you, Koume, just as Kakashi does… and he'll easily admit how grown up you are… right after he throws Kazuaki out a window."
She laughs dryly. "They seem to get along better now, though," she notes, glancing at the kitchen window. "I told him who my mother was, you know?" I don't say anything. She had every right to do so; I just hope she didn't tell him what became of her mother. "He said he met her once… back when she was staying with you and Kakashi. Genma had introduced them." She shrugs. "He said I should be proud to have a mother so strong and told me that she was the kind of woman who one does not easily forget…" she trailed off, smiling at the words he had spoken next, but apparently she didn't want me to know what they were. She turns her gaze to Chise and Tadao in the next room, playing with the little wolf, currently chewing on one of Tadao's socks. "I think he's right. I think when people meet Chise for the first time… they're drawn to her because of that familiar air about her. They can't help but love her… because she and my mother share a smile, and a way of speaking… and a knowledge in their eyes that goes back to the beginning of time. It makes mere mortals feel… honored to be noticed by them."
I nod slowly, watching Chise scold the puppy for knocking Tadao over, but the puppy simply licks her cheek. "I see that some days… when I forget she's not just my Chise."
"I don't remember noticing that… when I was a kid, I mean," Koume whispers. "Why can I see it now?"
"When you were a child," I begin slowly, "she was all you knew. What was so strange about eternal eyes? Everyone had a gaze like that." I glance up to look into Koume's lavender eyes, darker now than they had been five years ago, less like Zen's and more like Kakashi's. She turns and smiles to me, and I'm startled to see she now has Kakashi's smile as well. When had that happened?
"I'm glad to see Chise has those eyes," she says with a grin. "Because I can know she's happy. She was never really happy, back when it was just us and Uncle Hiro."
I feel my jaw drop as I realize for the first time that it was not just a mother that Koume lost, but an entire, even if dysfunctional, family. I recover quickly, silently marveling at how I never noticed how suddenly alone she must have felt at our first meeting. Her mother and uncle died, and after deserting Iwa any friends she had among the ninja she would have also lost. The only constant in her life would have been the old wolf… who she had gone to see often before Zen died, simply her form of rebellion, I suppose. "Koume…" I whisper softly.
"Hold that thought," she says with a smile, going in to pry Chise's teeth out of the puppy's ear. What a strange child…
When Kakashi and Kazuaki return Chise and her puppy are playing tug of war with Koume on the other end of the rope, while Tadao 'helps' me finish cooking dinner. After dinner Kazuaki helps me clean up while Koume and Kakashi tuck in the kids, a planned action on Koume and Kazuaki's parts, I believe.
After a few moments of silence Kazuaki clears his throat, glancing at me cautiously. "So, um…"
"Koume told me," I say quickly, easing his discomfort quickly. He laughs softly, rubbing the back of his neck with a slight blush touching his cheeks. "Congratulations," I say with a wink.
"Eh, thank you," he mutters, smiling. "Uncle said I should kind of worry about Kakashi though," he mutters. He hadn't been very close with Genma before Koume came home with us… but he had more reason to talk to his girlfriend's father's best friend than he did with his uncle. "Do you think I could hide behind you when we tell him?" he asks, only half kidding.
I laugh, looking at him with understanding. "Will you tell him tonight?"
"Maybe," he says with a shrug, "we were going to play it by ear, see how happy he seems tonight."
I glance up towards the stairs, hearing Kakashi's soft voice as he talks with his children. "He's received a lot of good news lately," I say evenly. "Perhaps tonight would be a good time to tell him…" I shut up as the door at the top of the stairs closes softly and Koume and Kakashi come downstairs quickly, laughing quietly to each other. "They asleep?" I ask softly.
"I think the puppy wore them out," he laughs softly. "Her getting that puppy was the best thing that's ever happened to us."
I smile, glancing at Kazuaki and raising my eyebrows. He and Koume share a glance, but Koume shakes her head, chickening-out. I sigh, turning back to the kitchen with a shrug. "It's getting kind of late," Koume mutters, glancing up at Kazuaki through her eyelashes.
He nods, meandering towards the door. "Right," he mutters. "Well it was good to see you all," he says with a small nod to us. Koume follows him to the door, hovering at his elbow as he opens it. "Well I'll uh… I'll see you later then… Koi," he mutters, leaning down to kiss her on the cheek softly before turning to leave.
I smile at his pet name for her, glancing over to Kakashi, but he's staring at me openly, a gaze I recognize from my Genin days. That gaze says he's disgusted that my opinion of him is so low that I think I can hide something from him. "Shiranui," he says roughly, making the two at the door freeze. "Why don't you come sit down for a minute? We need to talk." They both swallow roughly, but slowly turn around, staring at his shoulders (not daring to look in his eye). Kakashi just nods to the couch. "Come on, it'll only be a minute."
They shuffle over to the couch, sitting down simultaneously. "Kakashi," I warn.
He smiles at me, a warning behind his closed eye. "Now… I know I only have one of my eyes… but I'm not blind."
Koume tries to speak first. "Daddy-"
"Hold on, just a moment," he says evenly, no traces of anger in his voice. "I'm not blind. When people start acting strange around me, I notice. Koume, for such an advanced ninja, you're not a very good actress. There hasn't been a night Kazuaki's been here for dinner that you haven't begged me to let him stay after it's far too late for him to be here, and you always go outside to say goodnight to him. You need to act as if nothing is different when you're trying to hide things, but we'll work on that. I'm also very good at collecting information. So… I really only have a few questions for you... and then you can go home. Ok?" the two nod quickly. "When were you going to tell me?"
"I-" Koume bites her lip, looking away.
"We were waiting for the right moment," Kazuaki says evenly… squeezing Koume's hand. "Koume didn't want… you to kill me," he murmurs, looking away.
"Fair enough," Kakashi says with a nod, leaning back in the chair. "Next…" he glances over at Koume for a few moments, looking her over carefully. "You're not pregnant, are you?"
"Daddy!" she gasps, blushing like crazy, burrowing her face in Kazuaki's shoulder.
"No sir, she's not," Kazuaki replies after a moment, speaking with the confidence of someone who had been prepared to answer that question. Clearly he knew Kakashi would ask it, even if Koume didn't think he would. I hadn't even thought about asking.
Kakashi's silent for a moment, as if trying to figure out exactly how sure the boy can possibly be that she isn't… I can see clearly that he's hoping there's no chance at all that she is. How sadly mistaken he is. "One more," he says after a few moments. "Why do you want to get married?"
The two pause for a moment, looking at each other before turning back to Kakashi. "Because I hate having to walk halfway across the city just to wish her a goodnight, and then have to do it again a few hours later to say good morning," Kazuaki says after a long moment. "It'd simply be much easier if she was already beside me."
Kakashi rolls his eye to Koume lazily. "Because I love him," she responds without thinking.
Kakashi stares at her for a moment longer, and then sighs. "Yeah, you'll be fine," he gets to his feet, heading towards the front door. "Walk with me, Kazu…" I smile warily at Kakashi's use of a nick-name. It either means he has accepted him as his future son-in-law… or that he's playing the part of a cat, toying with the mouse just before he eats it. Could go either way. "Koume, get to bed."
Koume and I watch as the two men leave the house, closing the door behind him. "If he comes home covered in blood we can go looking for him, ok?" I mutter softly. Koume nods, staring blindly at the door. "He'll be fine," I assure her, holding out a hand to help her off the couch. She follows me upstairs slowly, her feet dragging. "Koume… I don't have any reason to believe you might be… but I can't help but notice that when Kakashi asked you didn't answer…" she looks up at me, oblivious to what I'm talking about. "If you're pregnant."
"Please, Sakura," she scoffs. "We're not stupid."
I internally flinch at that, smiling. Of course she's not… she must have learned from her parent's mistakes. "You know, Kakashi actually took it very well, I think if you weren't dating Kazuaki, Kakashi would like him just fine."
"Has he told you that?" She asks darkly. I don't have to answer, she knows the answer. "He's going to kill him," she cries, sitting at the top of the stairs. "He looked calm!" she scoffs, rolling her eyes at me. "Of course he looked calm, he's a ninja! I'm never going to see him again!"
"He won't kill him," I argue. "There're too many rules against that."
Koume laughs dryly, getting to her feet. "I'm going to bed," she says dryly. "If he kills him… don't wake me up in the morning."
I nod, waiting until she closes the door to her room before I turn and meander to my room, going through the motions and climbing into bed with a sigh. It's not long before I hear Kakashi come in the front door, and after a few moments climb the stairs softly. I hear the kid's door open as he checks on them, and then listen as he comes into the room slowly. I listen carefully as he undresses, and then sigh at the shift of the mattress. "I didn't kill him," Kakashi assures me softly as he wraps his arms around me, kissing my shoulder.
I smile softly, snuggling into his arms. "I know. You secretly like him… don't you?" Kakashi laughs softly, apparently not inclined to respond. "What did you say?"
"A few threats, and a warning or two… and I told him that he's a smart kid… anyone who knew me might have come to me… to ask for her hand or some-such nonsense. I think he made a good decision in not doing so," he shrugs softly. "She would have hated that, and her opinion of him matters much more than my opinion of him. Plus… he's not a bad kid."
I smile, elbowing him softly in the ribs. "You like your future son-in-law," I tease.
He kisses my neck softly, biting slightly. "Now, you," he scolds, "I wanted to talk to you."
"What did I do?" I ask through a smile.
"You knew!" he whispers loudly in my ear.
I scoff, giggling softly. "For… all of two hours more than you."
"But you were going to let them leave without telling me!" he whines, nuzzling my neck with his nose lovingly, despite the betrayed tone in his voice.
"Of course I was," I say easily. "They're adults… they don't even have to tell you."
He sighs, and then sits up suddenly, towering over me. "Any you!" he hisses, frowning. "You let him stay over, don't you?"
My eyes go wide in shock. "How did you know that?" I hiss, completely caught off guard.
"Oh come on…" he rolls his eyes. "He's more comfortable on that couch than I am."
"Come on, Kakashi," I sigh, wrapping my arms around his neck. "You know, he always pushes her away when he stays here…" I smile as he sighs, probably not wanting to think about such a situation. "I think he doesn't though… when she stays at his place I mean."
I glance to the side as his hand on my right side clenches into a fist, the veins in his forearm seeming to try to pull out of the skin. "Are you serious?" he growls, his teeth grinding roughly. "You let her stay at his house? He lives alone, Sakura! And he's related to Genma! You don't know… think of all the… things he might do to her!"
"I know all the things he might do to her," I remind him softly. "Sometimes she tells me about them."
Kakashi actually looks like he might hit me for a moment, and if I wasn't so sure I could kill him if he did, I would've been worried. After a moment his expression softens, and he drops his head, relaxing until his forehead touches my collar bone. "Why do you do these things to me?" he asks weakly, wrapping his arms around me gently.
"I get bored," I say with a shrug, "and you're kind of sexy when you're angry."
He laughs, his breath fanning out over my breasts. "You'll be the death of me," he mutters, bringing his head up to kiss me softly. "I've decided I don't care though."
"That I'll kill you?" I ask, confused.
"No… about Kazuaki and Koume," he clarifies. "I mean… I care… but mostly I care that she's happy… and if he makes her happy," he seems to shiver at that, "then I will gladly accept him as my…" he probably meant to say son-in-law, but apparently decides against it, making a soft noise of disagreement, "… into the family."
"That's very brave of you," I say with a smile. "Because someday you're going to hate yourself for deciding that… but then a few months later you'll be one of the happiest men in the world." He looks at me like I'm insane, completely confused. "Well… someday they'll have children… and you're going to hate him when they tell you she'll pregnant. But then you'll be a grandpa and it won't matter anymore."
He groans, pushing himself away from me more than he pushes me away. "Don't say that word… I'm too young for that." I laugh softly, rolling over to lay on him, closing my eyes. "You know… you could go back to the field… if you get so bored."
"I couldn't do that," I whisper, blinking a butterfly kiss against his chest. "Tadao will need me over the next few years." Kakashi lifts his head in question, rubbing my back absently. "Our blind wolf says he will learn to walk, and he will need me to help him."
Kakashi freezes. "Really?" I nod. "That's… that's wonderful," he whispers, voice hardly audible.
"Are you ok?" I ask hesitantly.
"No… I mean… I'm fine… it's just… wow…" he shakes his head, staring at the ceiling.
"You were right, Kakashi," I whisper, smiling softly up at him. "He'll be fine. He'll be able to work in the hospital, or anything else he wants to do… Kakashi… our son is going to get his chance to be… normal."
Kakashi laughs breathily. "Sakura, he's a three year old with grey hair, the power to heal using Chakra, a strong grasp on the theory of genjutsu, and the ability to learn to walk even though medically he shouldn't be able to… he's far from normal."
"Well he's got you for a father… what did you expect?" I tease.
He squeezes my shoulder lovingly and we fall into an easy silence, just staring at the ceiling and listening to the house breathe as everything becomes as it should. "How did you know?" I ask after a few moments.
His eyes are closed, and his breathing is even, but he's not asleep. "Know what?" he mutters softly.
"How did you know he proposed?" I whisper. "You're observant, but you couldn't have noticed that… you would've know something… just not what."
Kakashi laughs dryly, kissing the top of my head. "Genma," he says easily. I laugh softly, shaking my head. He never did know when to keep out of things.
In the end, it wasn't I who helped Tadao learn to walk. I returned to the field when Ino took time off to have her own baby, just a few months later. Hinata spent a lot of time babysitting Tadao, since her own son was just a year younger than him. In turn, Nari spent a lot of time with him as well, and it was her who finally convinced him to stand on his own, just before his fifth birthday.
Apparently she told him if he could learn to walk, he could become a ninja like her, and then they might be sent on missions together. Although I didn't like her method, I couldn't argue with the results. On the day of his fifth birthday he walked (if not a little shakily) across the room to greet Nari when she came over for his birthday party.
Tadao started training with Gai and Lee for a few months when he was ten, and after spending a month outside of the village he returned with no hesitance in his step, and entered the ninja academy. At thirteen he graduated to Genin and demanded Nari's undivided attention in his training. He became the most sought-after medic ninja in the ranks, before he even became a Chūnin.
Tsunade was more puzzled than anyone as to how it worked; but it did. She spent years studying possible reasons why his legs worked now, when she herself had determined there was no possible way they ever would, and finally just contributed it to the fact that a Hatake man will do anything to impress a pretty girl. Having solved that mystery she handed, willingly, the title of Hokage over to Naruto, determining a father of two must be mature enough to protect a city.
Chise remained Chise, and although she had a eerie habit of knowing things she shouldn't and learning far too quickly, Zen still remained locked away. She and her wolf pup became a better team than Kiba and Akamaru. She became a Chūnin at eight, and a Jōnin at fifteen. As predicted she started wearing a mask once she realized no one ever saw her father without his, and by her sixteenth birthday she had 'stolen' Zen's armor, one piece at a time, by claiming that she needed arm guards, and why buy new ones, when Zen's fit her just fine. She adored the Neko-te Zen used to wear, and was never seen without them, usually tied at her waist just to display that she had them. To my knowledge, when she used them she never dipped them in the lethal poison Zen had used, but only a slight sedative.
Koume and Kazuaki remained happy and child-less. Although Kazuaki had to retire soon after his thirtieth birthday from a wound to the same leg he had nearly lost so long ago. He instead turned his attention to training Genin, which I always thought was what helped keep them child-less. While Kazuaki trained kids, Koume rose in the ranks of Anbu much like Kakashi had, and became the head of the ANBU Interrogation Unit after Ibiki retired, handing over the job to her knowing full well that he had trained her well enough for it. Most of the Ninja in my parent's generation found her to be charming and well mannered enough to consider her a friend, more so than a child and looked forward to seeing Kakashi in the hopes that his eldest daughter might be with him. She became easily the kind of person who could change their entire personality with no more than a shift in posture to note the difference.
Kakashi lost the use of his left eye shortly after Tadao became a Genin and spent the next four years moping. It wasn't as if he even used his eye that often anymore, but he missed it terribly. It wasn't until Tadao brought him the news of his engagement to Nari that Kakashi finally brightened up; now looking forward to the thought of grandchildren once he realized being a grandparent meant all of the fun, but none of the diaper changing. Although I was unbelievably happy for them, Tadao mostly; Nari was a knock out, I held firm to my belief that they were too young to get married. Tadao was only seventeen, and although oddly mature and level-headed, boys at that age are still… boys. Thankfully Nari agreed with me, and they waited two more years to get married, just after Tadao's promotion to Chūnin. After the wedding a drunken Kakashi told Nari (again) about her birth, and how he had been the first person to hold her, and how gross it was, to which she just laughed and argued she's much less gross now.
After the drinking and eating and general rejoicing had finished Kakashi and I walked home slowly, fingers entwined as the sun hinted at the beginnings of morning. We don't speak, but just watch as the sky begins to brighten and the world around us begins to awaken.
We stop over a bridge, watching the water flow under us and enjoying the cool morning air to clear our heads. "You know, Sakura," he begins slowly, rubbing the back of my hand with his thumb.
"Yes, Kakashi?" I ask quietly, feeling scripted.
"I'm really glad you put up with me," he mutters, watching something only he can see in the surface of the water downstream a ways. "Twenty years ago… I never imagined I'd still even be alive in twenty years, much less happy." I smile, touching my collar bone, where the necklace I had worn every day until a month ago used to sit. Now that necklace sits on Nari's collar bone. "Our son got married yesterday," he whispers, nudging me with his shoulder as we stand side by side, half leaning over the railing. "Can you believe that?"
"I still can't believe he can walk," I tease, laughing softly to myself. "I'm glad we broke lots of rules and nearly compromised a mission and caused so many problems," Kakashi laughs quietly. "It was worth it."
I watch as Kakashi smiles slowly, something I can see clearly since he had forgone his mask for his son's wedding, as he had done for Koume's, and our own when we decided to have another ceremony here in the city after Chise was born. "I want that on my tombstone… 'It was worth it'."
I smile as well, laughing softly, pushing off the railing and holding out my hand to him. "Let's go home, and go to bed," I whisper, feeling the past weeks catch up with me and tug at my eyelids. I'd take work in the field over planning a wedding any day. Hopefully Chise will give us a few years before hers.
Kakashi smirks, slipping my hand around his waist so he can put his arm over my shoulders. "Your place or mine?" he asks, earning a swift punch in the side.
Alright every one. That's it. The last chapter of Elope To Iwa. It's been great, and I love… most of you... very much. Bit of fluff there to tie everything together. TADA!
I'm so sick of this story i poster this without a final edit, sorry everyone... but i really wanted to get it up before school. It's cold here, really cold, negative 30(c) or something. I am not a big fan of cold. Snow is fine, love rain, whatever is falling from the sky is awesome. But i do not like cold. So to make me happy, and to celebrate the end of this impossible story... you should all review.
Because I know people will ask, I will probably not do a sequel. If I do it will be from Chise's POV, which will be fun. She's a deranged little girl (hehehe). If you don't want to believe she's a deranged little girl you can go ahead and do that, when I (re)created her she wasn't at all… but I've decided as an adult: definitely insane.
If you have any questions you MUST HAVE ANSWERED then feel free to ask in great detail exactly what your question is and I will send a note to your fanfic account. But don't ask stupid stuff like, "will there be a sequel?" Just add me to your author alert, and then if there is, you'll be notified.