Piece of the Puzzle
Chapter 17: Just Friends, or Something More?
Present day, Uzumaki household…
"Like I said, I've always had two dreams I wanted to fulfill." Naruto explained to his children. "One dream I shouted to everyone who would listen; that someday I would be the Hokage. The day your mother and I spent watching her siblings just reminded me that while others have fulfilled their dreams, mind had yet to come true.
"That wouldn't happen by just wishing they would; I had to make them come true. I decided to make a sacrifice and devote myself completely to fulfilling my dream of becoming Hokage, since the other no longer seemed to be a possibility. Little did I know that it would come true in a matter of time, as long as I was willing to let it…"
Ten years ago, Hidden Leaf Village…
The date was April fifteenth, and it would be a day Momo would remember for quite some time. After nearly three years of hard work, she had earned her promotion to the rank of jonin and was now one step closer to her dream of following in the footsteps of her role model and paternal grandmother, Uchiha Mikoto.
Momo looked up to her grandmother not only for being a respected matriarch, but also for being a kunoichi who served her village admirably as a skilled jonin before retiring from active duty to have a family.
Momo's parents were naturally quite proud of her, as Sakura's duties at the hospital and her later decision to start a family early kept her from attaining the rank of jonin. Despite his strength and also training under one of the Legendary Three Ninja, Sasuke's poor choices in life kept him from earning the rank as young as his daughter did as well. While he was eventually promoted to jonin, it was only after years of hard work and proving his loyalty to the Hidden Leaf Village.
Kakashi himself was there as well to give his former students' daughter her promotion. There was a slight conflict of interest, but Momo's record proved that she deserved the promotion. It was also one of his final acts as Hokage, as in a matter of days he would pass on the title to Naruto, who also had finally proven he was worthy of the highest position of power in the village.
He was only the one person missing from what was otherwise a very happy day for Momo. Naruto, the man who considered her a friend and who she had been crushing on since they first met, was not there to celebrate with them. He too had been working hard towards his own dream of becoming Hokage and had little time to spend with her, especially considering how little free time she had as well.
Aside from many C-rank missions and the occasional B-rank mission with her team, Momo was a part-time instructor at the academy during her downtime between missions.
If you were to ask Momo, she would say she was quite a popular teacher, but the truth was she was not as popular among the boys at the academy as her griping would lead one to believe. Momo did have a few admirers among the males, but like Naruto or Lee, they were highly persistent rather than strong in numbers like her father's admirers had been. Most boys of that age were just not into girls yet.
As for why Momo would want to assist in teaching at the academy, she thought of it as a good way to learn how to deal with children and believed the teaching experience would be useful should she decide to take on a genin team at some point.
Although it was more common for chunin to oversee teams so jonin could take more A-rank missions, several still took on a genin team as a method of passing on what they had learned to a new generation and giving something back to the village.
Most jonin these days though usually took on a single apprentice, usually a chunin who had proved themselves to be worthy of an apprenticeship. Momo felt honoured that she was one of the few who had been taught by Naruto, even if only for a month, as she was now part of a teaching line that included her parents and several Hokage.
Thinking of her lineage reminded Momo that Naruto would officially be recognized as the Seventh Hokage in a ceremony soon. Her family would definitely be there to support him, or at least her parents would be and Momo would be sure to join them.
It would also give Momo an opportunity to see Naruto again as it would be the first chance they would have seen each other for an extended amount of time since her parents' anniversary almost three years ago. She would definitely use that time to impress Naruto with how she had improved, and hoped he would see that she was becoming a strong, young woman instead of the little girl he remembered.
Momo's smile over becoming a jonin turned to a frown though, as she could not put the thoughts of Naruto out of her head.
She knew Naruto considered her to be his best friend, but she had hardly spoken to him in nearly three years. The emotional part of Momo felt resentful that Naruto felt so strongly for her but did not make time to see her. The thought that he was avoiding her never crossed her mind, as she could see no reason why he would.
The rational part of her mind however, knew that rising in rank was what both wanted to do and would require an immense effort to achieve. It would have been selfish of her to want Naruto to spend time with her when he could be working toward accomplishing his lifelong dream.
Momo consoled herself in the belief that Naruto felt the same way; she had her own goal to achieve and she needed to do it on her own to prove that she earned it of her own volition and that having Naruto help her would only hold the both of them back.
Naruto would be the Seventh Hokage in less than a week and he did not have time to train the kunoichi who would someday stand by his side. Any woman who desired to become the future Mrs. Uzumaki Naruto would have to step up and fight to prove she was worthy to be his equal.
Naruto gave her a month of his time to build upon the foundation for her skills, so Momo would repay him for his initial investment by expanding upon what she had learned from him in order to become Mrs. Uzumaki Momo.
Speaking of what he had taught her, Naruto once promised her that he would teach her the shadow clone technique once she was promoted to jonin. Momo knew Naruto never broke a promise, so while it was slightly underhanded, she had a way of getting to see him again and would make the most of it. If she was lucky, she would have many more afterwards.
Five days later…
Gazing down at the cheering crowd below him from the top of the administration building, Naruto was elated that his childhood dream had come true. He was now the Seventh Hokage of the Hidden Leaf Village. Kakashi, now wearing a formal kimono and an eye-patch to cover Obito's eye instead of his old forehead protector, passed on the robes and signature hat of the Hokage for Naruto wear.
The Sixth Hokage gave a simple speech before introducing his successor. Kakashi had never intended to become Hokage like his sensei, but felt he owed it to the man to hold on to the position until his son was ready. It was oddly fitting that Naruto would succeed both his father and his own sensei and become Hokage.
It was hard to tell who was happier with the changing of the guard. Naruto had finally accomplished a lifelong dream of his and was now beloved by the entire village that once hated him for something beyond his control. That was a part of his past that he felt better remained there and did not dwell on it nor did he bring it up during his own short speech, as he felt his actions would speak more than his words ever could.
Kakashi however, was able to see his former student and his own sensei's son surpass them both and was pleased the burden of leadership was now out of his hands and into those of someone who had both desired and earned the responsibility. Kakashi had no doubt that Naruto would be a great Hokage and the best yet.
Now, the outgoing Hokage could focus on catching up on his reading, something Kakashi looked forward to very much. That or writing some of his books now that he had the time, since Naruto was not inclined toward continuing to produce the works of Jiraiya that were not suitable reading material for a family.
There were many families present at this event though. While Tsunade, who Naruto had always thought of as a grandmother to him, and Karin and her children were his only living relations, and distant ones at that, there were many he felt were like family to him and they felt the same about him. That did not help to take away the sting of knowing that while he had become Hokage, he had yet to find true love and settle down like almost everyone he knew.
Among those present was Iruka, the first person to acknowledge Naruto with Ayame and their children. Konohamaru and Moegi with theirs, Sakura and Sasuke with all their brats, which included Momo, along with many others. Although Naruto seemed like he was keeping his distance from the Uchiha clan, he felt himself continually drawn back to his former team-mates and their children.
Whatever reasons Naruto had for wanting and failing to keep his distance did not matter to the Uchiha family. They considered him a part of their family, though the capacity in which he served that role differed from person to person.
Shippo and Arashi saw him as a big brother, the former loudly declaring he would become Hokage someday as well. Both Kakashi and Naruto seemed to support him, so Sasuke took it as a sign that Naruto's influence on him and his family changed them for the better, and owed him much for it.
Fuyuki loved to hear stories about Haku and the lessons his father and Naruto learned from the kind-hearted ice-user. They inspired Fuyuki to be an accomplished healer someday and be the successor to Tsunade his mother could not be.
While Fuyuki was still young, the slug tamer was impressed by him and remarked that Sakura and Sasuke's children would all go on to succeed in many areas their parents could not have. She began to document all of her accumulated knowledge to pass on as her legacy, the possible irony of leaving it all to an Uchiha not having escaped her.
Suika and Hikari acted differently towards Naruto. The older girl just smirked at him and asked him what was taking him so long. The blond thought she was referring to why he had not become Hokage sooner. The younger girl asked him many questions about politics; specifically regarding just who were the major leaders like the five Kage and the Daimyo of each nation. When Naruto asked her if she had any interest in politics, she just gave him a very creepy smile so he moved on.
Naruto had not yet spoken to Momo, leaving her as one of the few he had not exchanged any words with. Seeing as he was not interested in speaking with him, she had started to mingle with the friends of her parents and their children, who she was a few years older than.
Surprisingly, it was Sasuke who first grew tired of Naruto's actions and called him out for them.
"Naruto, I need to speak to you, preferably in private." Sasuke asked as he came up behind Naruto and whispered his request while the new Hokage was speaking to the former Team Ten.
"Huh, yeah sure. Can you wait in my office? I'll be there in a few minutes." Naruto whispered back.
Finishing up his discussion and politely excusing himself, additionally thankful that Shippo's latest attempt to ask out Himawari was providing a useful distraction, Naruto made his way to his new office to meet Sasuke.
His former team-mate was not sitting in the guest chair, or his own, to Naruto's relief. Instead, Sasuke was standing, his eyes on the door and he did not look too pleased.
"What was so important that you needed to speak to me in private?" Naruto asked Sasuke as he made his way to the desk and sat behind it, debating whether he needed to activate any security measures.
Sasuke remained standing where was, looking down on Naruto with a look of cold fury.
"Why have you been avoiding Momo?" He said outright, the hostility in his voice now clear to Naruto.
Seeing that Naruto had been stunned silent and was trying to come up with a response, Sasuke decided to continue where he left off.
"You have spoken to everyone here at least once except for Momo. Every time she has approached you either you find somewhere else to be or someone else to talk to." Sasuke said, holding back his anger as he spoke. "She's really hurt by how you keep ignoring her and if there is anything I can't stand, it's people who hurt my family. I don't care if you are the Hokage now, I won't let you continue to ignore her." Sasuke finished, giving Naruto his patented Uchiha death glare as he did so.
Naruto was still gathering his thoughts, but while reviewing his memories of earlier, he noticed he had been avoiding Momo, who he once felt happy to see. The times they had interacted were actually rather rare and Naruto had grown to appreciate them more because of that. Aside from some special events, they only briefly met for something like lunch at Ichiraku. For nearly three years though, they had hardly seen each other at all.
"I'm sorry, I had no idea..." Naruto began.
"I don't want to hear your apologies or your excuses." Sasuke interrupted. "The person you should be apologizing to is Momo. I can understand if you had decided to focus your time and efforts on becoming Hokage, but you distanced yourself from Momo at an important time in her development as a shinobi. She thinks of you as her closest friend as you are practically a part of our family, and family doesn't hurt each other like this." He said. "I'm not going to let you make the same mistakes I did."
The last sentence was spoken softly, but without any anger behind it Naruto could sense Sasuke's regret over deciding to leave the Hidden Leaf Village and his team behind to gain the power necessary to kill his brother. Sakura never stopped loving him though so maybe Momo would still want to be Naruto's friend.
"You are right." Naruto said, sighing. "I have been avoiding Momo. I could have found the time to see her, but for some reason I didn't. I go speak to her right away."
"Hmph, it's about time you got your priorities straight. That reminds me, Momo said you promised to teach her the shadow clone technique once she became a jonin. Since you missed seeing her get promoted, you can at least keep your promise to her."
"Of course, I never break a promise! I control the schedules now so I'll definitely find some time to make for Momo."
"Good." Sasuke said. "By the way, Momo's sixteenth birthday is coming up. If you do not attend it, she will never forgive you."
Having succeeded in what he came to do, Sasuke then left the office. After clearing his head, Naruto followed him out and back to the party. It did not take him long to spot Momo's long, pink tresses standing out amongst the crowd of dark hair and the occasional blond or red-head.
Getting a glimpse of the nearly sixteen year-old Momo, Naruto was unsure how he had not noticed her sooner. It was possible that he had been subconsciously avoiding her, the telltale pink hair helping him do so. Yet he was still surprised by the sight of the newly promoted Momo.
Her hair appeared even longer now and was let down loosely instead of in a bun. Gone was her father's shirt and mother's battle skirt, a nice kimono taking their place for the special occasion. She still wore the goggles he had given her, which pleased Naruto that she wore them even while off duty. Overall, Momo looked a little more like a young woman and less like the girl he remembered her as.
That realization left Naruto saddened at the thought he had missed out so much on Momo's life and being a part of it. Neither would he be able to enjoy the time they could have spent together as equals. He would have liked to see what it would have been like to join Momo on a mission as part of a team rather than as her superior.
Sasuke was right though, Naruto needed to apologize and stop making mistakes. Instead of worrying about what could have been or always thinking about a future that will never happen, he needed to make the most of the present.
Moving closer to Momo, Naruto wondered just how she would react. If she was more like her mother, she would likely slap him hard or punch him halfway across the village. If Momo was more like her father, then she would give him a death glare and ignore him until he begged her for forgiveness.
It did not take long for Momo to notice Naruto approaching her. They locked gazes, hers expressionless, although it was hard to tell when she was wearing her goggles. Naruto was still not sure how she would react, and was caught off guard by what she did.
Momo pounced on him.
Not literally though. Her expression was not blank for long, as it lit up into a dazzling smile. She ran forward and embraced Naruto, happy to see him in person for the first time in nearly three years.
Too surprised to react, Naruto was momentarily stunned. After a moment he loosened up and wrapped his arms around her back. She was a bit taller now, only being a head shorter than him which let her rest her head on his shoulders.
Momo's reaction should not have surprised Naruto as much as it did. While in many ways she was a blend of her mother and father, but she was not more like one or the other. Momo was just herself, and to Naruto, she was and always would be his friend.
Later that night, long after he and Momo had re-connected and made plans to see each other again, Naruto took the time to think about his reasons for avoiding her. While he enjoyed having someone to eat his favourite food with and talk about their interest in plants, Naruto felt something missing from his interactions with Momo. He liked how they had the friendship he wished he had with her parents when he was young, but he was not a twelve year-old boy anymore and had different needs.
Ever since the day he and Momo babysat her younger siblings, Naruto had been envisioning having a family of his own. As when he was younger, he dreamed of having it with a pink-haired woman. Only to his surprise it was not Sakura, who he was over, but an older version of Momo who became his wife and the mother of his children.
Those thoughts tormented Naruto, as he was too old to be a friend to Momo and she was currently too young for him to have any romantic thoughts about her. He could no longer enjoy the time they spent together as the vision of an impossible future kept him from enjoying the present.
It would not be fair to Momo to compare her to his dream woman, so as soon as Naruto developed those thoughts he did what he thought was for the best; he started to avoid her. He knew she would be hurt, but believed that in time Momo would find a connection with someone her own age once they had reached her level of maturity. At least that was what Naruto once convinced himself would be for the best.
Now, it seemed that Momo's feelings had only strengthened in his absence and she gained the conviction needed to keep them strong and become a jonin. It was comforting to Naruto to know that she cared so much for him and was willing to forgive him so easily.
While their time apart gave them the time to succeed in their goals, Naruto was still repeating the mistakes made by Sasuke and even Tsunade, leaving him missing out on many happy memories. He had promised to Momo's father that he would not make the same mistakes he did. It would be difficult, but Naruto would treasure the friendship he had with Momo for all it was worth and make as many happy memories as he could while it lasted.
While Momo had forgiven Naruto for their temporary estrangement, she had not yet let him off the hook. The newly promoted jonin monopolized his time to catch up on everything each had done since they last saw each other.
While Naruto did now regret his decision to estrange himself from Momo, he was still unsure how they could renew a friendship. Both of them would be moving on to new tasks. He was the Hokage now, and would spend most of his time dealing with the administration of the village. Momo would likely be taking more A-ranked missions which would keep her away from the village for weeks at a time.
There was also something else affecting Naruto's interaction with Momo. When they first met she was a young genin out to prove herself. Now, she was a fresh jonin who was much closer to Naruto's skill level, but still nowhere near a match for him.
Momo's new rank did give her additional clearances so Naruto found he could be more open with her regarding village secrets, though any concerning him were well known by now. Still, Naruto felt closer to Momo and thought he should be able to help her with her transition from chunin to jonin.
To start with, Naruto kept his promise and set aside a day to teach Momo the shadow clone technique once she had finished her own debriefings regarding what would be expected of her as a jonin while he settled into his new position.
Finding time off to teach her the technique was not a problem either. Naruto tricked Konohamaru into substituting for him, claiming that he would benefit from the experience once he became Hokage, even though Konohamaru had turned down many opportunities to succeed Kakashi. He still insisted that he would only follow Naruto in becoming Hokage.
At the present moment, while Konohamaru was doing his work for him as a few shadow clones kept an eye on everything, Naruto was with Momo in her family's training grounds, watching her as she successfully performed the shadow clone technique.
"I did it!" An excited but slightly sweaty from exertion Momo stated as there were now three of her standing together.
"Congratulations, I knew you could do it." Naruto said with pride, as Momo learned how to perform the technique faster than he did.
It was hard to judge that comparison though as Naruto could not clearly remember how he learned it in the first place; only that it was that night he learned about the Nine-Tailed Fox being sealed inside of him and Iruka showing he cared for Naruto as a person and did not hate him for his burden. Most of Naruto's memories from his younger years were almost forgotten, with the exception of some major events that helped shaped his growth.
The memories that were clearer to him were those of his time following his reawakening. He could remember the day he met Momo and her parents showed him around the village and how he marveled at how much had changed. He could remember the feeling of loss from learning of those who had passed away and the feeling of joy from meeting new people like Momo's siblings who never had a bad thought about him.
Now was not the time for Naruto to be thinking about that though; his time would be focused on Momo and showing her how to make full use of her new technique.
"For now, you should stick to the same tactics you use with your earth clones until you get used to the differences between them." Naruto said to an eager to learn Momo. "Keep in mind they aren't very durable and take a lot of chakra to create. I find they're better used as scouts or for testing an opponent's strength without directly fighting them."
Momo nodded along with Naruto's explanation, and even took notes. For a brief moment, he was reminded of how Lee used to write down anything Guy said and wondered what any children the Green Beast and Momo's mother had would be like. It was an amusing but ridiculous thought, as Naruto knew Momo's mother was meant to be with Momo's father; how else would Momo exist otherwise?
Besides, Naruto had once come to believe Lee and Ino would become a couple, expecting them to bond over how their crushes had become a couple with their rivals. It sort of made sense, but the reality of what happened reminded Naruto that he really knew almost nothing of relationships. All he knew that the best he had seen were his and Momo's parents and wished he could someday find true love like they did.
Looking down at Momo, who was ready to hear more, Naruto chastised himself for letting his thoughts slip away and tried to keep his focus on his present task.
"Since you don't have as much chakra as I do, I'd keep the number of shadow clones you make to a minimum as well. Three is a good number; any more than that is a waste since most of the time they either get in each others way or don't have anything to do."
Momo wrote that down too and Naruto could just see her plotting in her head all the ways she could use the technique to its fullest.
"For training I think you should make as many as you feel comfortable with, but don't overdo it. I can't always be there to carry you back home, although I'll try to be there whenever I can."
That got a blush out of Momo and Naruto wondered if she had been exhausting herself on purpose so he would have to carry her, but dismissed the idea since she would not be conscious to enjoy the experience.
"We should have a spar once you feel rested enough so you can try the shadow clone technique in combat, but for now I'll answer any questions you have."
The grin on Momo's face reminded Naruto of her mother; she was about to grill him on everything he knew about the shadow clone technique. It was a good thing Sakura decided to learn medicine instead of interrogation techniques. He just knew this was going to take a while...
After relentlessly interrogating him on everything he knew about the shadow clone technique, which was mainly comprised on his own experiences in using it, Naruto and Momo had lunch where they chatted about what each had done over the last two and a half years.
The most amusing part was where Momo gave a rather unladylike burp during her meal, blushed and quietly excused herself. Naruto thought it was funny and laughed, relieved that Momo took it in good humour.
It was something that neither of her parents would have done on purpose. Her father would refuse to admit it happened while her mother would have reacted similarly, but would have also threatened physical violence on anyone to keep them from speaking of it ever again.
Eventually their break time was over. It was now time for Naruto to learn just how much progress Momo had made since he trained her for the chunin exams. They began with their usual stretches and warm-ups which led to a taijutsu only spar.
While Momo's taijutsu was still a weak area for her compared to her other skills, it had improved greatly with many strong kicks added to her methods of attack. Since she was unable to use Tsunade's super strength technique, Momo had developed her own form of hard-hitting attack, focusing earth chakra into elementally conductive boots for a devastating kick.
Naruto himself had purposely been on the receiving end of one such kick to gauge Momo's strength since his shadow clones dispelled instantly upon being hit, thus were unable to pass on any useful information. After that, Naruto had been dodging all of Momo's attacks, much to her frustration.
Naruto had the feeling Momo experienced much difficulty in finding a suitable sparring partner, which was something he could relate to. Based on her style, it was most likely that she had been practicing with her earth clones.
Thoughts of setting aside more time to spar against Momo were then put aside as almost as soon as Naruto began to think of Momo's earth clones, she threw a smoke bomb to the ground and summoned half a dozen shadow clones. She was apparently eager to move on and try out her new technique.
Naruto kept his face neutral while wondering what she was planning. Momo's specialty was illusions, so she had most likely concealed herself with an invisibility illusion while moving into a vantage point where she could observe the fight; most likely the surrounding treetops.
At first Naruto thought Momo would use a similar tactic to the one he used while training her for the chunin exams; nine shadow clones in a three layer circular pattern. Instead, She settled for two; one front line and a support line.
It was a good tactic for Naruto to use but riskier for Momo. She could not afford the extra layer of support he could. Still, she needed the practice and it was a good test of her limits. With three of her shadow clones circling close by him and three more further out, all ready to attack, Naruto decided to see just what would be Momo's limit and made the first move.
Since Momo had grown fond of kicks, Naruto opted for punching and sent a right hook at the nearest shadow clone, which was running clockwise to him and took the hit in its gut.
Normally that would have been enough to dispel a shadow clone, but it was fine while Naruto felt like he had just punched a brick wall. That was when he realized that the front line consisted of earth clones, which had become very durable, but not nearly as agile. That gave Naruto enough time to get away before it could fight back.
Now back in his starting point and shaking his throbbing right hand, Naruto was forming a new plan while silently congratulating Momo for not only getting one over him, but already using shadow clones alongside her regular earth clones. She was likely even ready to learn the earth release: shadow clone technique, which had the added benefit of being able to regenerate itself but lacked the memory transfer property.
Momo's earth and shadow clones would have the advantage now so Naruto had to act fast. The shadow clone support would likely be casting illusions to distract him or send a combined fire attack at him while the earth clones kept him busy.
It was the latter approach that they went with. The earth clones moved in and began their assault while the shadow clones held their ground and prepared to launch a fireball all at once.
Normally, against a human opponent Naruto would have used his wind fist style of taijutsu, which reinforced fast attacks with minor wind strikes, leading to death by a thousand cuts as his opponents slowly bled out from many minor wounds.
That method would not work against an earth clone though, as they could take much punishment before collapsing. Naruto was now forced to step up a level and withdrew his wind sabres; a pair of hilts that could generate a blade of wind when the appropriate chakra was channeled through them.
With speed that made him appear as a blur, Naruto's wind sabres sliced through Momo's earth clones in an instant, but not before making sure the real Momo was not among them. She was somewhere close by, but not in the line of fire.
Speaking of that, Naruto flickered out just in time to avoid being roasted by a massive, three way fireball. A trio of kunai dispersed the shadow clones and Naruto wondered how Momo would react, if at all, to gaining their memories in the heat of battle.
The feeling of someone emerging from the ground beneath him to try and pull him under answered that question. Momo could either ignore the memories or process them much quicker than he could. Naruto's superb reflexes saved him from the same fate Momo's father once experienced, leaving the blond to wonder how much of Kakashi's bell test he had told her.
Jumping away and turning to look back at Momo, Naruto noted her clothes were now dirty from hiding underground while waiting to attack, not in the trees like he had thought. Looking back, Momo had never shown any aversion to getting dirty even though her style meant she normally would not have to. It was that willingness which was something Naruto liked to see in a kunoichi.
To people like Naruto or Lee, there was nothing like the feeling of being sweaty and dirty with tired and sore muscles from a long day of training. It was a sign they had pushed themselves to the best of their ability and would only get better.
By the looks of it Momo felt the same. There was something about the look on Momo's dirty, sweating and panting face to which Naruto felt inexplicably drawn. While they were just having a simple spar, both of them could feel the excitement of the heat of battle and were eager to keep going.
Momo's father once said that between two strong fighters in the heat of battle that words were not necessary. They were not needed here either, as Naruto and Momo were beginning to understand the other through their actions.
Momo knew she was no match for Naruto; he had long ago surpassed the strongest of his foes only to have his life drastically shortened to save the world. He did though, and all that was left in his story was for the hero to get the girl and have a happy ending. She could not wait much longer for that chapter in their lives to begin but was pleased that for now, they no longer had to worry about training to surpass the next threat, but could just enjoy their lives and have fun.
Right now, Momo was enjoying the sight of Naruto exerting himself during their spar and noted that in a couple more years, he would probably like the sight of her even more. Now, if only it was a little hotter out so Naruto would have to take off his coat, vest and shirt to stay cool...
Present Day, Uzumaki Household...
"I know that last little bit didn't make much sense to you," Naruto said to his children. "It will once you get older and find someone you like and can spar with like that."
Hayao appeared to be confused, but Himeko nodded as if she understood perfectly what her father meant. Naruto got a mysterious chill down his spine from that, knowing that expressing love through violence ran through her mother's side of the family.
"There was a little more to that day." Naruto said as he continued his tale. "Our spar was pretty much over after that. What was important though is the connection we made that day. Your mother proved her strength to me that day and it become one of her traits that helped me truly fall in love with her. We even still cut loose and have fun with a good spar from time to time."
What Naruto neglected to mention was that after getting married, his and Momo's spars had become just a warm-up for their "after-spar activities", which he still tried not to think about while he was watching his children; he did have to keep the story appropriate for their age level after all.
After clearing his throat along with his thoughts and taking a breath, Naruto continued his story.
"As it turned out, that was the most fun I had in years, so I took advantage of all the free time I had to spend with your mother. Aside from the thrill of a good spar, we had a lot of lost time to make up for too. I didn't think of it at first, but there was one good way for us to make sure we could be together as much as possible."
Hidden Leaf Village, ten years ago, May fifth...
As he promised, Naruto had taken a day off for Momo's sixteenth birthday and to join in the celebrations with her family. Aside from them and Momo's former team-mates, the only other guests were the friends of Momo's parents and their families. Other than her former team-mates, Momo did not appear to have any friends in her age group, not even amongst her former classmates.
Naruto hoped that as Momo grew older, she would make more friends as her level of maturity grew to match her actual age. As it was though, Momo seemed fine with things the way they were so Naruto felt no need to intervene. He did not have many close friends outside those present either.
At the moment, he was dressed in casual clothing and kept his hair concealed by a bandana so as not to draw attention to himself. This was Momo's day and he did not want the presence of the Hokage to cause a distraction.
Hiding in plain sight seemed to help as all of the attention was directed at Momo, who accepted it with the cool but polite indifference of an Uchiha, but Naruto could tell that she was enjoying the attention if it was from someone she liked. She recognized him immediately and perked up whenever he spoke to her, but regained her mask of indifference when someone else spoke to her.
Most of her decorum was lost when it came time for Momo to open her presents. Aside from practical gifts for a shinobi like extra weaponry and basic gear, she received things a normal teenage girl would like such as clothes, jewelery, perfume and even make-up. Naruto did not think she needed any of it, not that he thought much of it. He was more concerned with how she would like his gift.
Knowing that Momo would not care for much, as she could obtain anything she really wanted on her own, he decided to get something personal for her that could not be obtained anywhere else. After arduously pondering what would make for the perfect gift, Naruto found it right under his nose. It was with surprisingly little reluctance that he decided part with something important to him.
There were only a handful of objects Naruto owned that once belonged to his parents. According to the wills they had left, in the case both had passed then Naruto would be left only a few personal possessions of Kushina and Minato's (to be held by Jiraiya and given to Naruto when he was ready) while the remainder of their estate would be sold to provide funding for his upbringing. All of Naruto's expenses during his childhood were paid for under the cover of a charity that also made donations to a babysitting service and even a ramen stand.
Some of the things that Minato had left Naruto were his special kunai and custom cloaks. Minato had also written some journals that contained little information on any of his signature techniques, but gave deep insight into the man he really was. Naruto treasured them greatly.
Kushina had left some books as well that also showed aspects of her personality within the writing, but Naruto felt that considering what they were that Momo would get more use out of them then he would. It was hard to part with something of his mother's but he felt giving them to Momo was the right thing to do.
Naruto knew just when Momo was about to open the present from him, as her eyes lit up with anticipation. It helped that his was slightly larger and heavier than average.
Momo opened it carefully as she wanted to treasure it just as much an any other gift she had received from Naruto. The gift would have to make up for two missed birthdays, but she was not disappointed by what she received.
Inside an ordinary box wrapped with what else but orange gift-wrap was a set of books. Knowledge was a valuable asset for a shinobi, so whatever was contained in the books was sure to be of great use to Momo, especially if Naruto believed she would benefit from them.
Opening the cover of the closest book, Momo read the words written on the inside cover and let out a gasp.
This cookbook is the property of Uzumaki Kushina, so hands off or you'll lose them, believe me!
Momo skimmed through the book just to make sure. It was indeed a hand-written cookbook that belonged to Naruto's mother. She had heard stories from Hinata and Ayame, who heard from their fathers about just how good a cook that Naruto's mother was.
A certain recipe for salt ramen that Momo had learned from Hinata was listed in the book, along with Kushina's personal notes. Knowing the recipe like Hinata apparently did was nothing when compared to the original written in the chef's own hand and containing their heart and soul. It explained just what Kushina must have been thinking while working on the recipe and explained each step in detail.
With her new books, Momo felt she could go from knowing how to make a good bowl of ramen to becoming an excellent cook. Having such a skill would allow her to become a great wife for Naruto someday and maybe even a mother to their children as well.
That may not have been exactly what Naruto had intended when he gave her the books but he had a habit of giving her just what she wanted to accomplish her dreams without realizing it.
Her eyes were beginning to water as Momo began to comprehend just how priceless a gift she had been given and how much it must have meant to Naruto, let alone how he must have felt about her to give them away.
Momo looked at Naruto and mouthed a "thank you" to him, to which he smiled and nodded back a "you're welcome".
Most present had no idea what was in those books to draw such a reaction, but Hinata gave Naruto a smile. Even she only knew the basic recipe and not the reasoning for why it was made as it was, which was written in those books. Naruto had only shared it with her once after he inherited them in an event that made her realize she was just not the one for him. That woman had yet to come along.
It was several days later when Naruto and Momo had another spar. This time Naruto needed to let off some frustration from the headaches he experienced in dealing with the administration of the village. As he had a hard time time finding a good staff to work with he had been using his shadow clones to assist him, leading to multiple sets of memories of several hours of monotonous work added to his own each day.
Sparring with Momo helped take his mind off his worries and let Naruto just enjoy himself like he used to in the older days that were slowing becoming forgotten memories as time went by.
It was apparent Momo had been holding back during their previous spars. She was currently hidden using an advanced invisibility illusion that concealed the user's smell and the sounds the made in addition to hiding them from sight. Naruto was still not using his chakra sensing abilities to find her, as it was a much rarer skill than most believed it to be so they were focusing on working their way up from more common skills first.
At the moment, Naruto had a shadow clone standing barefoot in the field, feeling out vibrations in the ground in case Momo was hiding underground. Others were positioned in the trees and scattered around while transformed to observe the ground or treeline for changes.
An incoming memory revealed Momo's movements to Naruto. The grass several feet behind him was flattening and sprouting back up a bit at a time, moving closer to him little by little. Naruto smirked, that was the reason shinobi did not maintain there yards too well.
Moving carefully, Naruto pretended to scratch himself on his leg, keeping his hand close to his kunai pouch. Suddenly, the wind shifted and Naruto withdrew a kunai and threw it directly behind himself in one swift motion while forming a half ram seal with his other hand.
The kunai flew far, but Naruto's eyes were on the flattened grass that seemed to have an invisible weight upon it. Inhaling deeply, he let out the chakra and air he had gathered into a wind release: great breakthrough to blow his unseen assailant away.
Just then, a familiar sound coming from behind him caught Naruto's attention. He leaped away, avoiding a rasengan coming for where he was just standing. Creating a water whip in his right hand from the moisture in the air, he slashed it down upon the incoming rasengan, causing it to blow up in the hand of its wielder.
"And that is Naruto two, Momo one." He said, calling the spar.
"Hmph, fine." She replied while healing her hand. "Best three out of five then?"
Outwardly, Naruto appeared to be considering the offer. Inwardly, he was thinking about Momo's use of the rasengan. She could perform it one-handed and had a well developed earth affinity.
"You know, I think it's possible for you to add your earth element to the rasengan." Naruto said, which surprised Momo. "Given your skill, you would even be able to learn how to perform the earth release: shadow clone technique."
"Really? That's great!" Momo said, leaving Naruto to give her a sad smile.
"I know, but I don't think we have enough time to do both. I can teach you the earth release: shadow clone and show you my wind release: rasengan, but I don't know if I'll be able to help you master both."
"That's okay. I'm fine with that, really." Momo said. "I can do it on my own, but I appreciate the help." She said, trying not to turn back into a blushing little girl.
"Alright, I can see your point." Naruto said, as he nodded in acquiescence. "But don't forget that while it's okay to prove you can handle things by yourself, it's also okay to ask for help from people who care about you. While I did learn a lot on my own, the groundwork for my skills were set by all the instructors I've had, from Iruka-sensei at the academy to Kurama himself before I started working on my own." He finished, glad that Momo showed no negative reaction to the mention of the Nine-Tailed Fox's name.
"In that case, I have you to thank for helping me develop my skills as well." Momo pointed out.
"Well, you're welcome Momo." Naruto said, smiling.
"So I guess I owe you then." Momo said as soon as Naruto was finished talking "I really want to make it up to you, but I'll miss you during the times we're apart." She said as she began to pout while holding her hands together behind her back. "I really would like to spend more time with you though, but we're both so busy. You have your duties as Hokage and I'll have a lot of missions that will keep us apart." She finished as she lowered her head and made little circles in the ground with the tip of her right foot.
The "cute and adorable" act was not as effective for Momo as it used to be so she was getting as much use out of it as she could while it still worked.
"Yeah, that's true." Naruto said, cursing his weakness for anything pink and cute. "You won't get to see your family much either." He said as he cupped his chin while thinking of how to solve both their problems. "I've got it!" Naruto said as he snapped his fingers.
Momo looked up expectantly at Naruto.
"How would you like to be my new assistant?"
For a second, Momo looked excited and ready to answer in the affirmative. Then she took on a pensive look, and finally a slightly sad look.
"It's an amazing offer and I definitely wouldn't mind being able to spend all of out time together, but..." Momo said before trailing off, unable to continue.
Naruto could tell what she wanted to say though and was okay with it.
"I understand. It's a big opportunity but you are not ready for it. You want to get more experience first, right?"
Momo nodded. While she wished she could have accepted the offer she felt turning it down was the mature thing to do.
"It's okay. If I still need a good assistant in a few years then you'll still be the first person I have in mind for the job."
Smiling, Momo continued to nod. While she would have liked to be able to spend all their time together, she was determined to make sure that they would someday spend the rest of their lives together. She had waited for a few years already so she could wait for a few longer.
As Naruto and Momo began to discuss other matters, both agreed that perhaps everything had worked out for the best. While Naruto was still silently concerned that their friendship would not last, he resolved not to take it for granted and no longer worry about what might happen. No matter how much he was unable to forget his dream of a family with a pink-haired woman.
Present Day, Uzumaki household…
"Well, that was it. That's how I accomplished my lifelong goal of becoming Hokage and renewed a very special friendship. Your mother and I didn't get to see each other as often as we would have liked because of our new roles, but that just made the times we were together even more special."
Looking back, Naruto was not surprised that to see that between finally becoming Hokage and realizing he had not lost Momo as a friend that the latter would be what he considered the more important event of that year.
Becoming Hokage was once only a means to an end for him. Naruto believed that by doing so he would finally gain the respect of the people of the Hidden Leaf Village. He had unknowingly earned it after only a few years of being a shinobi. With that accomplished, Naruto turned his focus onto a more noble set of goals.
"In the years since I became the Hokage I've used the position to help improve the village's standing with the other Hidden Villages while promoting peace between the nations of the Elemental Countries. Kakashi-sensei laid the groundwork set by grandma Tsunade in improving the village to the point where I could be accepted as Hokage and prove that making allies over enemies is the true path to peace."
The world had truly become a better place with Naruto as Hokage. Kakashi had focused his efforts in office inward, improving the village itself based on the faults he had seen over the years now that he was in a position to do something about them. Naruto however, had learned to see past those and to the big picture of the relations between a Hidden Village and its home nation, as well as with other Hidden Villages and nations.
Naruto could now honestly say that he had accomplished Jiraiya's dream as well of a peaceful world for shinobi. His godfather, who he grew to love as a perverted grandfather, saw much strife in his life and wished to end it. Naruto was happy that the world was now safe as ties between nations and villages were the strongest they had ever been, and his children would hopefully never know the hardships he did as a child.
"What was your other dream, daddy?" Himeko asked, almost as if she was sensing that her father's thoughts had turned to her and her brother.
"Yeah, tell us!" Hayao said.
Naruto smiled down at his two children and squeezed them closer to him as he replied.
"It was to marry the woman of my dreams and finally have the one thing that was lost to me the day I was born; a real family. Unless you two are figments of my imagination, then that dream came true."
Hayao and Himeko looked pleased at their father's statement. He told them very often just how much he loved them and often held them close to him as if he really was afraid they would disappear.
Suddenly, a familiar mischievous grin appeared on Hayao's face. He reached out and pinched his sister on her arm.
"Ow, that hurt!" Himeko cried out.
"See, we're real!" Hayao said, his expression that of a young Naruto's closed-eyed grin, one that looked oddly out of place on him. "Ow!" He too then cried out as Himeko pinched him back.
"See how you like it!" Himeko said.
Naruto's two children then slipped out of his grips and began a pinching war. Hayao would never admit it, but his little sister was actually beating him, possibly to her more dominant Haruno heritage. Starting a fight with his little sister was bad, but losing it was worse.
As for Naruto, he was letting out a sigh at his children's antics. Sometimes they were perfect little angels, other times they were little devils. Even worse, the blond could have sworn he heard Kurama, the Nine-Tailed Fox, laughing in the back of his head at his host's woes of fatherhood.
"Okay, break it up or I won't continue the story." Naruto said as he pulled his fighting children away from each other.
Hayao and Himeko were now separated from each other as their father was keeping them apart at a distance of his arms length, but they still glared at each other. Naruto was just amazed that they still had the energy to fight despite the late hour. Whatever it was that was keeping Momo from returning must have been important and he hoped it was nothing bad. Since worrying about her would do him no good and that his wife was in capable hands, Naruto turned his attention back to their children to lighten his mood.
"Are you two going to behave now so I can finish the story? If not you can always go to bed now."
That was the correct thing to say as Hayao and Himeko's glares vanished and were replaced by angelic smiles, complete with halo. Naruto wondered if that was the result of an Uchiha clan genjutsu that their mother or grandfather taught them, which led to wondering just how bad Uchiha children had been to warrant its use.
"Do you two promise to behave now?"
"We promise." Hayao and Himeko said in unison with synchronized nods.
"Good, so where was I?" Naruto said aloud as he consulted his book. "Ah, your mother's eighteenth birthday." He said as he skimmed through the chapter.
Taking in a breath, Naruto readied himself for what he was about to say. He was going to reveal something known only to those closest to him.
"Your mother and I had renewed our friendship and she forgave me for thinking that one could not last between us. I still had no idea that she wanted much more than a friendship between us though, as I didn't think that anyone would ever truly love me." Naruto said, his voice nearly a whisper at the end as he paused to sigh at the foolishness of his past.
The admission was met by silence as Naruto wondered what his children would think of him now. An answer came sooner than he expected.
"We love you daddy." Himeko said as she shot a glare at her brother.
"Yeah, you're the best!" Hayao said, not wanting to express his feelings too much but not wanting his sister to make him look bad either.
Slowly, Naruto smiled at the children he once thought he would never had; children who loved him unconditionally, as did their mother.
"I love the both of you as well." He said as he gave each a hug and a kiss on the forehead, eliciting a happy giggle from Himeko and embarrassing Hayao. "Back to the story now. If there was one advantage to my former state of mind, is that when your mother finally felt it was right to tell me how she felt about me, it was completely unexpected.
"One of her best traits is that she never gives up, as I will always be thankful that she never gave up on me, like I almost did. I thought I would lose my best friend if something came up between us, like what happened between me and your grandparents. Your mother convinced me that not only would I not lose my best friend, but I could gain something more..."
Eight years ago, Morning of May fifth, Hidden Leaf Village…
It was Momo's eighteenth birthday and she considered it to be a very special day. Now that she was legally an adult, she felt she needed a new look. While her old outfit was a mix of her parents' styles, she wanted her new look to be all her own.
As soon as the birthday party her parents through for her was over, Momo retired to her room to try on her the battle kimono she acqured, the design of which was based on the uniform once worn by the Fifth Tsuchikage, Kurotsuchi.
It was mostly a light green colour that made for a better match with her jonin vest than her old blue shirt. It also made for a nice contrast with her pink hair, which she had taken to letting down from its usual bun when she was not on a mission.
Still a little upset she would apparenly never have a need for a bra, Momo decided to wear a mesh shirt underneath the kimono, which also had long sleeves suitable for concealing weapons. To complete the look, she wore a pair of boots with high leggings that revealed only a little bit of her thighs. Her equipment pouch was still worn over her backside while her tonfa remained in their holsters at her side.
There were only two items missing now and they were the most important. Reaching over to her desk, Momo picked up her forehead protector, which she had worn around her neck ever since Naruto gave her a pair of goggles as a gift, and put both items back on to their usual spots. She smiled at the now more fitting reflection staring back at her; that of a young woman with one of her most treasured possessions.
Pleased with her new look, Momo left her room to join Naruto for their daily spar. She could not wait to see how he would react.
To say Naruto liked Momo's new look was like saying he liked ramen. Just like how his favourite meal combined noodles, pork, broth and other ingredients, so too did Momo's new look show him that she possessed just about every trait he found attractive in a woman.
From Momo's pink hair which made her stand out and draw his attention to her, to her beautiful face that reminded Naruto of the young Uchiha Mikoto he had seen alongside pictures of his mother, to how Momo looked so very good in green and how that green kimono fit almost perfectly on her frame, to what flustered Naruto to think that Momo's butt looked even better than her mother's in black shorts and a skirt, he thought she had become a damn fine young woman.
Realizing that only made Naruto feel awkward as while he defintely found Momo attractive now, she was still just under half his age. Not only that, but she was his friend and he was not sure he could deal with losing not only her friendship but the connection he had to her parents as well.
There was a mental barrier standing between what Naruto now wanted and his willingness to act on that want. No matter how wrong it was, Naruto could not help thinking that it felt right and slowly, that barrier began to falter.
Later that night, Momo was making sure she looked her best. While she was not normally one to spend hours on her appearance, instead keeping a more natural look, the young, pink-haired woman had acquired a lime green kimono that fit her almost perfectly.
After seeing how Naruto reacted to her new uniform, green had become one of her new favourite colours. While Momo wished she could have also had her mother's pretty green eyes she would not give up the sharingan just to look a little prettier.
In addition to her new clothes, Momo had been given a pass for a full spa treatment for her birthday from her parents which she had already exploited to the fullest once she was finished with her spar with Naruto. It was the perfect way to relax after exhausting herself. Momo felt and looked better than she had in quite some time and hoped a certain someone would notice. If she was lucky she could even convince Naruto that they should learn how to massage each other and put in a hot tub in their future home.
Those were thoughts for the future though. They depended on what would happen soon so Momo shifted her focus onto ensuring the rest of her birthday went perfectly. Trying on her new kimono to see how she looked in it once more, Momo made a pose in front of a full length mirror.
"It really is a beautiful kimono." She said as she gazed at her reflection.
Turning to the side though, Momo's pleasant smile turned to a frown.
"It's a little loose in the front though. I guess it's not meant for less than average girls. What would Naruto think of this? Would he care about the size of my chest?"
A memory hit Momo then of the reaction said man had to her younger brother's use of the sexy technique.
"Well, maybe he won't mind at all." Momo said with a slight blush. "Still, I'd like to hear him say he doesn't mind. I guess I'll just have to ask him what he thinks." She said, a bit nervously.
While Momo was a brave kunoichi who would charge in to save her team-mates from certain death without a second thought, mostly due to Naruto's influence on her, when it came to asking her potential boyfriend and long time crush whether he thought her breasts were too small, that was another matter entirely.
Downstairs, Naruto was waiting for Momo in the living room with her parents. For her birthday, she had wanted him to take her out for a quiet meal at their favourite restaurant. Naruto expected that she just wanted to take advantage of her new age to legally drink but did not want to do so in front of her parents.
There was a small party for Momo held by her family earlier in the day, but as she grew older, Momo seemed to outgrow them. It was as if she was ready to move on and start her own life away from her family.
Naruto had been present for the party, having put Konohamaru in charge for the day while a shadow clone stayed with him. He had not given her his gift then, as they agreed to save it for later that night once they were alone.
At the moment, Naruto was dressed semi-formally in an orange and black kimono. Normally he preferred to avoid dressing up but felt that this was a special occasion. Momo's parents thought so as well, based on their actions.
Momo's mother had been taking several pictures of Naruto. When he asked, she said it was for posterity. He thought she was referring to how he rarely dressed up. The last time he had worn the kimono was to her and Momo's father's wedding.
Momo's father was acting odd as well. He was sitting on a couch, waiting for his wife and Naruto. She sat down next to him, who then gestured for the blond to sit in a chair across from them.
It was at that point that it finally occured to Naruto that he did not know just when he stopped referring to them by their names as he once did, but as Momo's parents. While he could call them by their first name, it now felt odd to do so. His relationship to them had changed and he was no longer sure just what it was.
He had just decided that for the moment, he would call them Mr and Mrs. Uchiha, no matter how weird it felt, when Mr. Uchiha said something that confused Naruto even more.
"What are your intentions with my daughter tonight?"
Naruto blinked and answered honestly.
"She asked me to take her out on for a nice, quite meal at Ichiraku, so that's what I was planning to do."
"I see." Mr. Uchiha, which still seemed odd to Naruto to think of him as, said. "Very well then. If that is all you have planned, then I have no concerns."
The statement was initially met by silence, as Naruto thought it was an odd thing to say and did not know how to respond.
"Yes, I'm so glad you two finally decided to take the next step." Mrs. Uchiha said, since Naruto was still silent. "I'm happy you found someone at last; that person being my dear Momo means I can be assured that you'll take good care of her. I would have preferred if you two had waited a little longer (like maybe ten years longer), but I can understand what it's like to be young and in love." She finished, holding back her tears.
Naruto was still oblivious to what Momo's parents were talking about and did not notice Mr. Uchiha telling his wife she was being too obvious as he calmed her down. While Naruto thought their behaviour was suspiscious, he had no frame of reference to understand their intent.
Naruto did not have any more time to ponder the weird actions of Momo's parents as her voice yelling out called his attention on to her.
"Everyone make way, epic hotness coming through!"
At that moment, Momo came down from upstairs. Naruto held back a gasp at the sight and did not notice Mrs. Uchiha taking a picture of her daughter and his reaction at seeing her.
Momo's long pink hair was now hanging freely instead of its usual bun. Instead of the battle kimono he had really liked seeing her wearing, Momo was now wearing a green kimono that clung almost perfectly to her upper torso but was more loose at the bottom, which opened into a short skirt that revealed her stocking adorned legs and ended in a pair of boots that were practical for a kunoichi but still fashionable; just like Momo.
Shifting his gaze back upwards, Naruto's eyes locked onto Momo's and he saw the mirth contained within them. She had caught him staring, but did not seem to mind. If it had been her mother at a younger age he had been ogling, Naruto would be trying to dodge her incensed punches.
Mrs. Uchiha had settled down considerably since her youth and was now quite flattered with the attention she occasionally recieved, having learned how to deal with it much better over the years.
Like her mother, Momo had quite a few admirers, possibly even more due to her Uchiha heritage. Yet she turned down any offers she had been given from her suitors and refused to accept any gifts. Naruto was sure that Momo was merely waiting for an offer from the right man, but was unsure why she did not make the first move herself, as she clearly liked someone.
Her mother had been attracted to her father from practically the moment they met, so Momo had likely met her crush years ago. Whoever they were, Naruto hoped they were not as stubborn as Momo's father to make a wonderful woman like her wait.
Momo's parents had left the room now to give her and Naruto some privacy. Keeping the sadness out of his smile, Naruto continued to gaze at Momo while pondering his own love life. While he tried in many ways to fill the emptiness in his life that he felt, it was a pain that still tore at him from time to time. The sight of a happy couple like Momo's parents playing with their children made Naruto realized he longed for a family of his very own to complete his life.
"You look beautiful." Naruto said to Momo.
"Thank you." She replied with a slight blush.
Naruto meant what he said and was pleased with the reaction from Momo. She could stay calm around anyone but him and he liked how he was the only one to see that side of her.
On the other hand, seeing Momo blossom from a precocious young girl into a beautiful young woman had him on edge. Naruto had to remind himself for what he expected to not be the only time that she was a good friend of his and he did not want to ruin their friendship like he did with her mother by letting an attraction keep him from being just friends with her. Naruto was sure that Momo's heart was already taken and that the best thing for him to do was to support her as a good friend should.
Strangely, Naruto did not feel any jealousy as he thought he would at the thought of Momo liking someone else, nor did he feel a pain of longing for something he could not have as he used to when in her presence. If Naruto was being honest with himself, something he was usually not when it concerned how he felt for Momo, he was definitely becoming attracted to her but did not feel the pain he associated with his crush on her mother.
That concerned Naruto greatly. Momo was like a piece of forbidden fruit to him. Not only was she the daughter of his former team-mates, regardless of the fact he had grown closer and bonded better with her than he ever did with her parents, she was also less than half his age, although she was now a legal adult and had been a jonin for the past two years. Momo was a grown woman now and could make her own decisions regarding her life, including who she wanted to spend the rest of it with.
For now, all Naruto could do was be a good friend to her; he had grown accustomed to Momo being a part of his life and did not want to lose what he had with her. Right now he would have to be a gentlemen with her and respect her wishes, whatever they may be.
"Shall we go?" Naruto asked as Momo pulled herself into his side, wrapping her arms around his left arm as she settled her head on his shoulder.
"In a minute. I want to enjoy this moment."
Naruto felt the same. While a part of him wanted to pull away from her, he let her stay by his side, enjoying the feeling of closeness they shared. He was glad she had a firm grip on his arm as he would otherwise be tempted to place it at the small of her back and see how much lower he could move it.
Letting out a content sigh, Naruto inhaled again, his senses filled with a familiar scent coming from Momo's hair.
"Momo, did you use a ramen scented shampoo?" He asked her.
"...maybe." She said coyly, looking up and gazing at him as she did so.
Damn lucky, whoever was the man Momo was after was damn lucky.
Naruto and Momo were now settled into their private booth at Ichiraku. To them it was fine cuisine and more importantly, it meant more to them than any expensive restaurant ever could. It was their favourite restaurant and held many treasured memories for them.
It was a safe haven for Naruto in his youth, as Teuchi and Ayame were among the first people he could remember to treat him with kindness.
For Momo, it was a place her father once took her when she was little where he shared stories about his youth before his career and taking care of Momo's younger siblings took up his time.
Most importantly, it was where they shared their first meal together and many more ever since.
As they were settling in and about to order drinks, Momo decided to be a little daring.
"Can we order some sake? Now that I'm eighteen I'd like to try some."
Naruto just made a pained grimace at the request.
"I've tried it before and didn't like it. It's really bitter, like all alcohol. Some made with fruits aren't bad since they're a little sweet, but they're still bitter. Even worse, sake is meant to be served hot, so it really burns to drink it."
"I'd still like to try some." Momo said, already beginning to cross her arms and pout if she did not get her way.
"Okay, but if we order a bottle you have to drink as much as you can so it won't go to waste. I'll have a little, just because drinking alone isn't fun." Naruto said, apparently speaking a little from experience.
Momo smiled in excitement. Now that she was eighteen, she was a legal adult, and could indulge in many formerly forbidden activities.
"Can you believe how many civilians think that just by becoming a genin, I could drink or smoke all I wanted? I've actually been offered alcohol by some older men back when I was a rookie genin on my first C-ranks outside the village. My instructor took the man who offered me some away before I could explain that at the age I was, drinking alcohol could be dangerous as I could only drink a little compared to an adult before risking alcohol poisoning, not to mention how it could detrimentally affect my growth. Looking back, I used to be pretty naive."
Stone-faced, Naruto held back from commenting on the incident, as he was glad nothing bad came out of it and Momo did not realize what could have happened, but did have his own views on the topic to share.
"Yeah, there's been a lot of work been done over the years to correct mistaken views like that. In some cases it helps, but in others it's better not to correct them. Did you know that most of them still think that the transformation technique is an illusion and not a solid chakra construct?"
"Then they've obviously never seen it or an illusion used properly before." Momo said, resisting the urge to snort in unladylike derision.
"That's not all though." Naruto said, continuing where he left off. "A lot of them even think my healing factor is entirely due to Kurama's chakra, even though it was established long before that Uzumaki are known for our vitality or that no other power of human sacrifice who wasn't an Uzumaki had shown any signs of accelerated healing."
Momo blinked at that statement, as if realizing something for the first time.
"That means any children you have someday will be capable of accelerated healing as well." Momo stated.
"Yeah, you're right. Hopefully they won't need to rely on it though." Naruto said, trying not to think of all the times his healing factor saved his life.
"Speaking as a woman who would hopefully be a mother someday," Momo began, wondering if it was too early to bring up the topic of children with the man she wanted to have them with, "I would be much happier knowing any children I had would be less likely to come to serious harm."
Naruto could tell that Momo was trying to cheer him up but felt that it was not working.
"That's true, but I'd be happier if a woman fell for me and not for my bloodline-limit."
Hearing him say that, Momo resisted the urge to flinch from inadvertently offending him. What happened between them on their date could lead to major changes looked in their relationship and any more slip-ups like that could make things worse. Knowing she had to be bold now, she gazed directly into Naruto's eyes and gave him a serious look.
"If a woman would rather be with you because she sees you as prime breeding stock than she deserves to miss out on the handsome, wonderful man you really are. You deserve to be with someone who truly loves you for who you are and not what they want out of a relationship with you." Momo said, truly not caring about Naruto's bloodline-limit or who his parents were, but for Naruto himself.
If Naruto was not the Hokage, he would have blushed at Momo's comments. She was a very important person to him though, and he gave her a happy smile.
"Thanks Momo. I think you're great too and the man you love will be a very lucky guy. I hope you meet someone who cares for you and not for your sharingan or as a trophy wife."
Momo did give a cute blush at hearing Naruto's reply, even if it was not the first time hearing those words from him. She had not even realized that she could be in the same position as him, sought out as breeding stock for her bloodline-limit or as a trophy wife. In her mind, becoming Mrs. Uzumaki Momo was the only possible future for her.
"Thank you." She said, averting her gaze to hide her embarrassment that she was sure she would never completely get over, not that she minded anymore.
"Still, that does bring up a couple points. Accelerated healing is only one benefit to the Uzumaki vitality. A long lifespan is the other, but it's more of a curse. I can't tell you how much it hurts knowing that I'll likely outlive everyone I knew growing up by decades. Any children I have will have to deal with it as well, but they'll have each other to help them through it. I don't have anyone."
Momo now knew Naruto was wrong, she understood him better than anyone and was now more sure than ever that they were meant to be together.
"You have me." She said, now her turn to repeat a statement of her own to Naruto.
They were now staring directly into each other's eyes again, both looking very serious.
"What?" Naruto said, almost in a whisper.
"You have me." Momo repeated once more, this time with more vigor. "You don't feel any connection to women your own age since you know you'll outlive them, plus most of them have moved on anyway, right?" She asked, getting a barely perceivable nod from Naruto. "Well, since I'm younger than you than you won't outlive me."
As Momo continued to gaze into Naruto's eyes, she felt she could see into his soul. She saw a cracking barrier inside his mind, keeping him from acting on his secret desires. With her last statement though, more cracks began to form in the barrier as Naruto's resistance began to crumble.
"I love you Naruto, I always have and I always will." Momo said, bringing out the big guns. "I want to marry you, have many wonderful children with you and grow old together like I know we can."
Momo could continue to see the wall between them crumble as she continued. When she told Naruto she loved him, he looked shocked at first. His hands began to tremble as they moved closer to her own as if to take hold of them and never let go. His eyes never parted from hers while his mouth seemed to be seconds away from erupting into a full-blown grin.
A part of Momo felt saddened that it may have been the first time Naruto had heard another person say that they loved him. She resolved to tell it to him every day from now on as she knew it to be true and hoped that he felt the same for her.
Inside Naruto's mind, the crumbling wall was threatening to break into pieces. Momo was on one side, proclaiming her love for him. Naruto, on the other, was looking at her and was surprised by what he saw before him.
When he first met Momo, she was a young girl who he had formed a connection with because of her parents. In time, they developed a connection of their own. He no longer saw her as the daughter of Sakura and Sasuke, but as Momo, who he shared with a friendship he wished he had with her parents, who had become Mr. and Mrs. Uchiha to him.
Now, she was a young woman capable of making her own decisions, like who she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. Naruto once saw a vision of his dream woman and although she and Momo shared the same shade of pink hair, she was still different from the Momo he knew and it tore him apart that he could not be the friend he thought Momo wanted to be. Now, the woman of his dreams looked just like the woman sitting in front of him confessing to wanting to be more than just his friend, but to be his lover, wife and mother of his children.
There was only the lynchpin of the barrier holding it together now and it was composed of one factor; whether or not Naruto would finally learn to be selfish and take what he wanted for himself regardless of what others thought of him. For once in his life, Naruto was selfish.
"Momo, I love you too." Naruto said, admitting his feeling to himself as much as he did to her as his hands wrapped around hers and felt the warmth of her love between them.
It only took a second after his admission for them to end up in each other's embrace. They had held each other before, but the barrier that was between them kept them both from acting on their deep desires. Now that barrier was gone and with it any inhibitions either had.
Their hands were exploring each other's bodies as their eyes never averted their gaze from each other. Naruto looked into Momo's charcoal eyes and saw a love for him that would never waver, while she looked into his blue eyes and saw a happiness at finding true love that even exceeded the day he became Hokage.
Momo ran her hands over Naruto's strong, muscular body and felt safe in that she could now let down her guard as Naruto would protect her from now on. His own were working her way through her long pink hair, causing it to fall out of place as they continued down her back and down to her buttocks. She let out a gasp of pleasure as one of Naruto's hands began to knead her bottom as the other ran itself through her now messy hair.
When Momo gasped, she became the first to look away as her eyes closed and she head titled up. Naruto maintained his stare though. He was admiring her long pink hair and how it and her lime green kimono, which he thought fit perfectly on her delicious flat chest, made for a beautiful combination. In his mind, it would only have been sexier if she had been wearing a black top and panties underneath, not that he was ready to find out. Instead, Naruto settled for enjoying the feel of his hands through her hair and on her backside, which was every bit as incredible as he thought it would be.
Soon, their eyes were upon each other once more. Their hands came to a stop, Momo's arms wrapped around Naruto's neck while his were holding up her backside. As they stared, their eyes slowly began to close as their lips moved closer until…
"Here's your order."
Ayame personally brought their food.
As she placed a large order of ramen and a small tsukemen on their table, not at all uncomfortable with her best customers near improper use of their proper table but rather smirking the whole time, Naruto and Momo, who were quite embarrassed at being interrupted, pulled away from each other and thanked Ayame for bringing their food.
"You're welcome. Now, just remember, just because this is a family restaurant where children can come to eat doesn't mean any have been conceived here. There is a proper time and place for everything. Oh, and enjoy your food!"
With that, Ayame left the mortified couple to eat their meal.
"We're going to be getting a lot of that from now on, aren't we?" Naruto asked Momo.
"It looks like it." Momo replied as she broke apart her chopsticks. "Besides, isn't it tradition to conceive a child on the Hokage's desk? We'll have to stop your office later."
Naruto's spit-take confirmed that while some things had changed for them and for the better, some would always stay the same.
Their meal, which they decided not to drink any alcohol with, had been very enjoyable. Naruto and Momo managed to keep their hands off of each other and just enjoyed the other's company while chatting about their usual topics like they always did. The only exception was now they were making plans for many more nights like the one they were having and how to control the urges they were letting out.
"I don't know if I can keep my hands off of you now that I know what I can do with them." Naruto said as he walked Momo home.
They were merely holding hands at this point, which they were content with. There were a few people who saw the Hokage and a much younger woman walking hand-in-hand, but Naruto no longer cared what they thought; he was happy with his choice.
"So what will you do now?" Naruto asked. "Now that we'll be dating I wouldn't mind if you were in the village more often."
"I was actually thinking of becoming a jonin-sensei." Momo said. "Training a new team of genin and helping them become chunin would be a good way of giving back to the village and make up for losing a jonin once I go off duty to become a housewife and start a family."
Naruto squeezed Momo's hand tighter at her last comment. Neither of them were ready to have any children yet as they wanted to spend some time as a couple first. They did agree to have their first child as soon as they were married though.
For now though, both were content to know they were loved by the other. Momo was happy that Naruto had learned to return her affections, or accept the feelings he already had while he was happy to have finally found his dream girl who came from the most unexpected source.
Any lingering feelings of resentment towards Momo's parents for their past treatment of him were long since gone. He could never harbour any ill will towards the ones whose love brought Momo into this world, and any hardships they had caused him would be more than forgiven as long as they gave him and Momo their blessing.
It was at that moment that Naruto realized that they had already done so and must have known how Momo felt about him for some time. They truly cared about him now and wanted him to be happy.
"Does this mean I can call your parents mom and dad now?" Naruto asked, feeling oddly okay with referring to them as such.
Momo gave Naruto a pleasant smile as she rested her head on his shoulders before replying.
"I guess it does. Just don't joke about calling them grandpa and grandma yet, I don't think they'll react well."
Naruto laughed at his girlfriend's joke, imagining the look on Momo's parents' faces as he told them they would be grandparents. Then he remembered that Momo's mother had super-strength and super temperament while her father had an eternal mangekyou sharingan and paled slightly. He may have been the Hokage, but he would never intentionally hurt someone he considered family.
"You know, we should definitely wait until after we're married before having sex."
"I've waited this long, I don't mind waiting a little longer." Momo said. "Besides, it'll make our first time all the more special. How many couples can say they waited, or that they were each other's first?"
Naruto nodded, giving no objections, pleasing Momo that she would be his one and only just as he would be hers.
They walked in silence from that point on. Soon enough, they had made it back to her house. It was not too late and neither wanted to say good-bye to each other yet. They stood together on the porch and stared into the night sky.
A breeze came through and started blowing Momo's loose hair about as she decided against putting it back up after they learned how much they enjoyed it when Naruto ran his hands through her hair. She now had several loose strands of hair obscuring her face.
"Here, let me help with that." Naruto said as he pulled out a comb and began to run it through Momo's hair.
With a surprisingly gently touch, Naruto had combed Momo's hair, parting it on the right, just as his mother did.
"It's still a little loose though." Momo said as he held back some of it from falling into her face again.
"I know, but in all the excitement earlier, I forgot to give you your present." Naruto said as he pulled out a small box, causing Momo to gasp. "Here you go."
With shaking hands, Momo accepted her gift. Unlike what she thought it would be, which was ridiculous as Naruto was not on one knee and they had only confessed their love after he acquired her birthday gift, it actually just contained a simple hair clip. Part of Momo felt disappointed, but also relieved.
"It belonged to my mother. I think it would look good on you." Naruto said.
Momo now understood why he had given it to her. It formerly belonged to Uzumaki Kushina and was practically a family heirloom and now he was giving yet another priceless gift to her. Naruto's mother was a woman known for her very long red hair and equally fiery temperament. Momo had never even considered that she could have anything in common with Naruto's mother; Uzumaki Kushina was one of a kind while Momo was more of mix of her mother and father.
Since she did not have a mirror to aid her, Momo handed the hairclip back to Naruto so he could put it into place. He took his comb back out and readjusted Momo's hair a bit more as some had fallen out of place again. When Naruto had finished combing aside Momo's hair and putting the hairpin in place to reveal her forehead, he did something that would become a habit for him; he kissed her now exposed forehead, making her blush.
"Naruto, why did you kiss my forehead?" Momo asked, not that she minded, as it was not the first time he had done so.
"It's silly, but it's because of your mother." Naruto replied, looking a bit embarrassed.
"My mother?" Momo wondered aloud, unsure of how to feel.
While she loved her mother very much, Momo still felt a twinge of jealousy whenever she was reminded of Naruto's feelings for her, even if they were much different from what they once were.
"When your mother was younger, she was teased a lot for her big forehead. I never thought it was big. One time I even transformed into your father to tell her she had a large and charming forehead that made me want to kiss it. I got really sick before I could though. Looking back, I should have just done it as myself. I bet I got sick because what I was doing was wrong."
"Do you think anything is wrong with my forehead?" Momo asked.
"No, I think it's a perfectly cute forehead."
Momo had never been worried about her forehead, but there was something that concerned her and this was as good a chance as any to find out.
"Are my, umm, I mean, is my chest too small?" Momo asked, a bit more nervously this time.
Naruto gulped before replying.
"I think it's the perfect size. It helps make you look really good in that kimono; like it's a perfect fit."
"Thank you." Momo said, doing a little twirl to show off just how perfectly the kimono fit her.
"You have a really nice butt too." Naruto said without thinking as he caught a glimpse of Momo's lovely backside during her spin.
She stopped twirling at that point, blushing furiously, unable to make eye contact with Naruto.
"You think so?" She asked hesitantly, making Naruto realize he spoke out loud.
"Yeah, I do." He answered as he felt his heart race faster than it ever had, even when he fought the Akatsuki.
"Naruto," Momo began as she too gulped and slowly made eye contact with him, "you've known me since I was a freshly minted genin, so tell me honestly, how do I look? Do I look more like a woman now?"
Naruto did not even hesitate to answer, as he knew exactly what to say in response.
"I think you've become a beautiful young woman and a strong kunoichi." He said in complete honesty.
The statement meant more than just a compliment to Momo, it meant Naruto had now acknowledged her as a woman first and a shinobi second. She was not a little girl anymore but a young woman who was ready to make her own decisions and endure the consequences of them.
"Thank you." She said again as she moved closer to Naruto.
Momo's heart was now racing as fast as his as she stood right before him and placed her hands on his shoulders. As she did so, Momo felt Naruto put his hands around her waist, slowly lowering them until they were caressing her delicious backside. Momo moaned in delight, pressing herself into Naruto's chest as she turned and locked her gaze upon his.
"Momo." Naruto said in a whisper.
"Naruto." She whispered back, their lips slowly moving closer until they met.
Their first kiss was by accident. This one was done on purpose and there would be no one to interrupt them. Neither was sure who closed the gap first, but both knew they finally had what they wanted for so long.
A distance away, too far for Naruto and Momo to be heard but close enough to see what they were doing, a woman with short, pink hair and a dark haired man with many distinguished looking grey locks were observing the two.
"If he hurts her, he'll regret it." Sasuke said, more out of obligation as Momo's father than genuine concern for his eldest daughter.
"Oh please, Naruto isn't the stupid kid he was when we were young and we can barely remember those days anymore. He really cares about our dear Momo and probably considers himself the luckiest guy in the world to have her now." Sakura said as she gave her husband a love tap on his shoulder, to which Sasuke used much of his control to keep from wincing in pain since his wife was surprisingly strong. "Besides, if he did do something to hurt our dear Momo, she now knows him better than us and can do a much better job getting back at him, Haruno style." Sakura finished with an evil grin that still caused Sasuke to shudder from time to time.
With that, she turned away and began to turn in. Sasuke remained for a moment, taking his time and getting a last look at his eldest daughter and former team-mate.
"Congratulations Naruto, it took you longer than any of us expected, but you finally found some happiness." Sasuke said aloud with a rare smile on his face. "You have now learned the same lesson I did, once a Haruno woman falls for you, that you may resist it at first, but in the end you'll find out it's what you really wanted all along."
While his words to his former team-mate and future son-in-law were supportive, Sasuke's final musings were more sinister.
"It seems everything went just as I planned."
Secure in the belief that the turn of events that had transpired over the day were favourable to the future of the Uchiha clan, a long held concern of his, Sasuke finally turned away from Naruto and Momo, but winced and began to rub his shoulder as he did so. He was certain that he now had a bruise there. Sasuke thought he was lucky to have Sakura's eternal love and devotion, but Naruto was even luckier since Momo did not know Tsunade's super strength technique.
Present day, Uzumaki household…
"And that was the day your mother and I confessed our love. It was something she had always felt, and something I had gradually come to discover. I once thought I had missed my chance at love, but it turned out I was one of the lucky few to get their perfect girl, it just took me some time to realize it."
Hayao and Himeko looked pleased by the long awaited relationship upgrade between their parents, although in the case of the former it may have just been because his father did not go too deeply into detail with the mushy parts. The young Uzumaki was just not aware his father had been omitting them due to their age.
Both were very pleased though to finally hear how their parents admitted their love for each other for the first time. Theirs was a house filled with love and they heard their mother and father tell them and each other that they loved them everyday.
"From that day on, we were boyfriend and girlfriend and we didn't care what anyone thought about it. Those closest to us accepted it because they knew just how happy we made each other. I can honestly say that your mother falling in love with me and having a family with her has been the best thing that has happened to me."
"Getting to marry the man of my dreams and have wonderful children with him has been the best thing to happen to me as well." A nearby voice called out to them.
There, standing outside the edge of the family room where Naruto did his storytelling was Uzumaki Momo. Her long pink hair was still combed to the side and held in place with a hairclip and her charcoal eyes shown with as much love for her family as they always had, maybe even more now. She was wearing a simple green kimono befitting a homemaker but still had the posture of a seasoned kunoichi, ready to strike out at a moment's notice at anyone who wished her harm or would harm those she loved.
In an instant, Hayao and Himeko had ran to their mother, who gave each giggling child a kiss on their forehead. With her two children in her arms, Momo walked up to Naruto and sat beside him, placing their daugher in her lap while their son moved to sit in his father's lap.
"I missed you." Naruto said as he leaned in and kissed his wife on her lips.
"Kissy-kissy!" Himeko said with a girlish squeal while Hayao looked away.
Hearing his parents' tale had strengthen his tolerance to what he felt was "mushy stuff" somewhat, but seeing his own parents kissing was still gross to him.
"Oh, you won't think it's gross when you're old enough to want to kiss a girl." Naruto said to Hayao after he and Momo ended their embrace and he saw his son's reaction to their display of affection.
Hayao looked both shocked and horrified at the possibility of liking girls someday. Himeko had a vindictive look on her face at her brother's reaction that no three year-old should be able to make, Uchiha heritage be damned.
"So, I heard you telling our children one of my favourite bedtime stories." Momo said to Naruto. "It sounded like you left off just before a very good part too."
Naruto desperately wanted to ask her how her check-up went, but did not feel it would be appropriate to do so in front of their children. Momo did not appeared to be hiding any signs of distress, in fact she seemed quite happy so Naruto figured whatever news she had was definitely not bad.
"Yeah, I was just about to tell them about how we finally got married." Naruto said, smiling in relief that Momo was fine.
"Aww, that means the story is almost over." Momo said, pouting slightly in a manner that Naruto found made it hard to resist kissing her. "Well, in that case, I'm taking over until the end! I won't need this just yet either." Momo declared, setting aside The Fruits of Our Love for the time being and addressing the children. "The story of how I knew I wanted to someday marry your father goes back all the way to the day I first met him and wanted to learn everything there was about Uzumaki Naruto."
Author's Notes: Sorry for the long wait but I hope the length makes up for it.
Another sorry if some parts scream "show, don't tell", but I feel that is a problem that every author faces. It's knowing where to summarize and where to go into detail that separates the good writing from the bad, but only experience will help an author know just where to do so. I decided to just focus on the direct Naruto/Momo interaction and leave most of the rest to the reader's imagination to help fill in the details. Otherwise, this chapter could be several tens of thousands of words long.
For those interested in Momo's new look, there is a link to a drawing of her in my profile.
As it stands, there should be two chapters left now. The next will focus on Naruto and Momo's wedding and the events leading up to it while the last chapter will deal with the births of their children.