Summary: Many years later another member of the Namikaze clan is forced to discarded his self-delusions and face reality.
AN: Last chapter. No plans for prequel/sequel.
...ooO A New Generation Ooo...
Namikaze Minato stared bemused through the window over seeing the private training ground behind the house. Uchiha Itachi was giving his eight-year-old daughter an advanced lesson in projectile throwing, techniques that were usually taught to older genins or students with the knack for weapons.
"Kagome, is Itachi really teaching Naiya-chan how to hit multiple targets in one go?"
Kagome looked up from the stove. "He's been teaching her that for a few weeks now." She walked over to stand beside her husband. "He's always teaching her something."
"Isn't she a bit young though?" Minato was torn between the urges to protect his eldest daughter and to be very proud of her.
Kagome looked faintly amused. "She is. But Itachi-kun is very patient with her. It helps that she has a longer attention span than the boys. Naruto and Sasuke always run off after thirty minutes. Naiya sticks around for the whole lesson."
"But I am surprised though." Minato admitted freely. "Itachi spends a lot of his free time here. I know he doesn't have much given his duties as an ANBU Captain. I honestly would have thought he'd rather spend it with a girlfriend."
Kagome blinked. "Anou, I haven't heard anything about Itachi-kun having a girlfriend. I know he has a lot of fangirls but no serious girlfriend." She became a tad concerned. "I know Mikoto is fretting about it. But no one has said anything about Itachi-kun having a boyfriend either."
Minato blinked and shrugged. "He is young. Probably more interested in training. I should check and see if he is interested in becoming a jounin sense. Naiya has improved a great deal under his care. I know Umino Iruka mentioned the possibility of an early graduation for her."
Kagome opened her mouth and shut it. She didn't want her baby to become a genin, a full-fledged adult, but she also knew Naiya would never forgive her mother if Kagome interfered in her shinobi career. Besides Iruka-san was very protective of his students. He would not recommend an early graduation for a student who he felt was unprepared for the rigours of being a full-fledged shinobi.
Sesshoumaru frowned as he watched his thirteen-year-old god-daughter dance at her first formal event in a young womans kimono, not a childs garments. The male she was partnered with… One of Miyagamis Gifted. Gold eyes narrowed as the taiyoukai moved towards the miko and her husband.
"Kagome. Minato. Who is that young man with Naiya?"
Kagome stared but answered readily. "His name is Uchiha Itachi, eldest son of Uchiha Fugate and heir to the Uchiha Clan. Why do you ask? Is something wrong with him?"
Minato paid close attention to the conversation. "What is it Sesshoumaru-sama?"
Sesshoumaru frowned faintly. "She is very close to him."
The parents were confused. "Yessss." Minato spoke slowly. "Sasuke is Itachis younger brother and Narutos best friend. Both of them spent a lot of time visiting and training together."
Kagome laughed softly. "Itachi was the first non-family member other than the medics to hold Naiya-chan. As soon as he found out I had given birth he skipped his Academy classes and snuck into the maternity wing of the hospital. He nearly gave the medics heart attacks!"
Sesshoumaru shook his head. "That explains it."
"Explains what?" Minato wanted to know.
The taiyoukai waved a hand at the couple in question. Naiya was young and so petite next to him, but she matched his steps with no discomfort for the height differential. Itachi easily compensated for his much shorter partner. They looked Right next to each other despite the age difference and height disparity. She with her black hair twisted in a bun secured by wooden picks, clad in a pale blue kimono embroidered with snowflakes and waves. He with his long hair secured in its usual loose tail, in dark blue kimono edged in discreet red diamonds with the distinctive red and white uchiha fan on each shoulder.
"They have Bonded." Sesshoumaru announced.
Kagome stilled. "I have heard of it but no one explained the term to me."
Sesshoumaru nodded. "It is a familiar phenomenon. Young children of comparable power and abilities form ties to each other. For two of the same gender it usually becomes close friendship or alliance ties. Between different genders it usually ends in a mating. It is one reason why youkai offspring are reared in a nursery with same clan children since Bond ties are less likely to form between relatives. They do not associate with other youkai clans until they are old enough to control their personal energies." Both humans eyes were wide open with shock. "I never expected it to happen among Ningen Gifted. Hanyous never form Bond ties due to their clashing dual natures."
Minatos voice was high and thin. "You mean…" He trailed off helplessly.
"They will mate. Marry in ningen terms." Gold eyes studied the couple. "Probably in two, three years when she is more mature."
Minato started to shake. The urge to Rasengan the pedophile…
"Don't." Kagome wrapped both hands around his bicep. "He hasn't done anything but teach and protect her. If he is going to be teaching her other more intimate things it is very clear he has been waiting for her."
Minato stilled. "What do you mean?"
Kagome stared at Itachi. "He has never had a serious girlfriend as far as I know. He made a huge fuss when Fugate suggested a marriage with one of the cadet branch daughters. If he is experienced he has been very discreet and circumspect." She stared at Sesshoumaru. "Do you think he knows?"
"Most likely." Sesshoumaru admitted. "The older half generally senses the tie first and takes steps to smoothen things out for the future." He smiled, a faint quirk of thin lips. "Look at this way Minato, he will more than likely handle any males interested in your eldest daughter. You only have to worry about Hitomi and Kasumi drawing the attention of hormonal boys."
Minato blinked at that half-full view. It was true… But it didn't mean he had to just roll over and accept it!
Kagome eyed the evil light in her husbands eyes and sweat dropped. "Minato, don't you dare! If you embarrass Naiya-chan you are sleeping on the couch! For a whole month!" She glowered.
"No buts! Naiya-chan is a chuunin and experienced shinobi! In fact I know she is going to be entering the next jounin exams. Treat her like the adult she is!"
Minato sulked and debated fighting his wife before giving in. "Oh all right. But only if Itachi helps me protect Hitomi and Kasumi."
Kagome heaved an internal sigh but did not say anything. Kasumi was only five and Hitomi was ten and still in the Academy.
Naiya sighed as she buried her nose in Itachis kimono. She could smell the faint musk and woodsy oils of his natural scent and cologne. It had been so long since she had seen him. His eighteen-month assignment in Kusa was the longest they had been apart. In that time she had passed the Chuunin Exams and begun her training for the Jounin Exams. It had given her something to focus on in the lonely months. She had her family and team and friends but they could never fill in for Itachi.
For the nth time since their parting she struggled with her growing feelings, the new-found surging instincts, her logical mind and loving heart. Could he feel for her what she felt for him? He had never said or indicated otherwise. He had always been a part of her life; a source of warmth, affection, understanding, and support. Very much like her family but very different as well. If he didn't feel the same way could they still go back to the way they were? Or would it be best to keep quiet and be happy with what she had?
No! She did not want to be quiet! She did not want to stand by and risk him being chased and caught by some other bitch!
In the end she decided to blurt it out.
"I love you."
He stilled for a brief second before resuming the dance. After several tense seconds he spoke. "In what way Naiya-chan?"
She screwed up her courage to answer. "As a lover. I know I am young and you probably don't feel-."
"Hush." His lips brushed against her forehead. Feeling a tad more relaxed by his warm calm tone she looked up at him. He was smiling down at her. "I've been waiting a long time for you. I can wait a little longer." He looked around. "Though I will have to talk with your parents first to make my intentions clear."
"Your intentions? What intentions?" She murmured in playful teasing tones.
"Why… to marry you of course."
"You aren't going to ask me?" She inquired in a dangerously sweet voice.
"Oh I will, when you are older. And you will say yes because you feel the same way I do." He answered honestly.
All ire drained out of her. What could she say to that since it was the truth.
"Oh all right. But it doesn't mean you can take me for granted. I expect the full dating experience!"
He chuckled softly. "Of course."
Sasuke stared at his brother and Naiya dancing. They seemed very comfortable with each other. A twinge of jealousy tugged at his attention. He had not been interested in Naiya as anything but a sparring partner and sempai but seeing her with Itachi reminded him she was very much a girl. And a beautiful one at that.
"Yo teme! What are you looking at?"
Sasuke turned to his team-mate and answered. "Your sister. My brother."
Naruto looked. And frowned. "Why are they so close to each other?"
"They are dancing baka."
Naruto shook his head. "No Neji and Tenten are dancing." Both boys looked at the Hyuuga prodigy dancing with his teammate at the socially acceptable distance. "Naiya and Itachi are much too close. And they've been together for more than five dances now! I want to get my turn with her!"
Before he could move a clawed hand fell on his shoulder. Both teens looked up into the cool amused face of Sesshoumaru.
"I do not think Itachi would appreciate having time with his Bonded being interrupted by her brother."
Naruto glanced at his mother and father who were just behind the taiyoukai. "Huh?"
The Yondaime looked put out. It was his wife who answered.
"Don't interrupt them."
A flicker of suspicion came to life. Sasuke looked at the couple. Naiya was practically melded to Itachis front. And he was letting her! He snuck a peek at Kagome-sama. "Are they…?"
"Most likely yes. From what Sesshoumaru tells us it is probably serious." Kagome answered bluntly. "We'd like to talk to them before discussing the timeframe for more permanent arrangements."
Naruto looked at his parents then the dance floor and then back again totally confused. "What are you talking about kaa-san?"
Kagome laughed and ruffled his spikey head. "You will find out soon enough."
And then the three adults walked away ignoring the protesting genin.
"What do you mean? What's happening?" He glared at his teammate. "What are they talking about teme?"
Sasuke snorted. "You'll find out. Just be patient baka."
"Tell me now! Or I'll post those pictures I have all over Konoha!"
Sasuke flushed lightly and struggled to maintain his composure. He really didn't want those pictures to be made public but Naruto hid the negatives too well.
Deciding Naruto would make a scene he tugged on the blondes arm jerking him into the garden. Along the way he collected several genins including Nara Shikamaru and Akimichi Chouji.
"Why do we have to join you?" Shikamaru grumbled.
"Because I'll need help restraining Naruto." Sasuke retorted sharply.
The boys blinked and said nothing. Then Sasuke leaned close to whisper something into the blonde genins ear.
Blue eyes widened comically. "THEY'RE WHAT?" He shrieked.
Inside Naiya straightened slightly away from Itachis chest.
"What's wrong with Naruto?"
Itachi chuckled. "Don't worry about him. He probably got told Teuchi Ichiraku is going out of town on vacation."
Naiya considered the possibility and shrugged. Nothing but a closed ramen stand could possibly make Naruto this upset.
Outside Sasuke was perched on top of a granite bench wearing a bored expression. Shikamaru barely managed to restrain Naruto using his kage mane no jutsu long enough for Chouji to knock the blonde flat to the ground and sit on him.
Naruto cursed and twisted and screamed but could not wriggle out from under the Akimichi. Then he glared at Sasuke.
"Tell them to let me go teme!"
Sasuke shook his head. "Not unless you promise me you won't make a scene tonight. Your parents know and will be talking with them probably tomorrow morning. Your father would never let anything bad happen to Naiya so Trust Him!"
Naruto sulked and fidgeted but in the end he gave in and promised.
Over the next few months Konoha watched the blooming relationship between the Yondaimes eldest daughter and the Uchiha Heir.
One year after that first public revelation the two clans announced the betrothal of their respective son and daughter.
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