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Chapter 23: Ren's mystery unravelled
27th of March
Swirling vines, curled up over the decorated, massif wood of a dark walnut tree. The never changing plants beautifully made their way up until they reached the end of the two meter high wood. Every now and then small flowers, some just buds, some already open or halfway there, ornamented the leaves and vines. It was as if they were entangled around a wooden pole. The carpenter had really done a magnificent job at making the plant look as realistic as it did.
Somewhere above the middle, almost on the same height as Sasuke's eyes, a small stained-glass window with lovely green combined with brown glass formed the image of a tree. Inside the tree was a small symbol of a clan.
This was an evil door. Certainly the most scariest door in his entire life. Well, the second one, but that didn't make him feel much better.
This wooden door, which he didn't see very often, which he didn't stand in front of very often; a door from which he hadn't noticed before how beautifully decorated it was, was a door which he respected. Everything about this house, belonging to this person, he respected. If not for her he might not have had a head anymore. Besides Naruto, she had been the one that had made it possible for him to stay in the village. Naruto had made him want to stay when he was allowed to stay, but she was the one that had made it possible for him to stay at all.
She was the only person to whose name he always added a suffix to (let alone call -sama) which was not without reason. He hadn't started doing that to show his good side to her, to convince her, or to make sure he could stay in the village. Not even to thank her for what she had done for him. No, not at all. He would never do something like that just to make sure he would be able to stay. No, this was pure respect. She had earned this respect and honour.
Nevertheless he hadn't expected to stand here in front of her door like this, unable to knock, unable to walk away. It had been 3 o'clock when he had come here, but he had no idea how long he was already standing there. It didn't matter, this way he could think everything over carefully.
Suddenly the door opened in front of him, and Sasuke automatically took a step backward.
"Uchiha? What are you doing, standing in front of my door in the middle of the night? Don't you know what time it is?" Tsunade asked somewhat annoyed. "I know you've been here for… a… while…" he voice died down. "Is everything alright? It's not because of Ren, is it?"
Sasuke didn't move; he didn't even look down to Tsunade.
"Come," she said softly, reaching out for his hand. Pulling him inside, she made sure he sat down on the couch. "Now, tell me what is wrong," she asked as she sat down opposite of him, looking into the worried black eyes.
Still Sasuke didn't say anything. All he did was lay his head in his hands.
"It's about Ren after all," Tsunade said, not needing to ask. "She's still ill?"
When Sasuke still didn't speak, Tsunade stood up and sat down beside Sasuke. She had never seen him like this before, and she knew he wouldn't come over to her house just to chit-chat; especially not in the middle of the night. She looked up to the clock, noticing it was already past 4.
"Sasuke, I can't help you if you don't tell me anything." Waiting for Sasuke to respond, Tsunade silently observed the raven.
He wasn't pale as in sickly pale, but maybe a bit paler than usual. It was more like a pale of being shocked. His hair was messier than normal. He obviously hadn't combed his hair; had just left the bed and had come over here. His hands always steady were shaking ever so slightly. One wouldn't notice this except when looking at him like Tsunade did now.
Suddenly Sasuke moved and looked up to Tsunade. A look of determination was on his face, which surprised Tsunade.
"It's getting worse."
Naruto found himself unable to concentrate. He was reading, but wasn't. The words didn't stay in his head.
Sasuke had left the bed sometime before 3 in the night. Naruto had woken up, feeling an empty sopt beside him. Wondering where the raven had gone to, seeing he did not return from a toilet visit, Naruto finally decided Sasuke might have gone on a last minute mission or something.
Sometimes it happened that Sasuke was informed about an event suddenly in the middle of the night, and even Naruto didn't know about what was going on until they came back home to tell him. He trusted Sasuke, captain of the ANBU-squad, enough to know that he could make the right decisions without asking the Hokage for permission first.
However, when morning had broken, the raven had come home around 8 in the morning, and had acted like nothing was wrong, like he hadn't left the house at all. He had woken Naruto up, and had made him and the kids breakfast; everything he would normally do, but Naruto knew it wasn't normal. Something was off, just a little bit. The look in his eyes, the smile on his face; even the kiss he gave Naruto before he left.
Naruto knew the raven was troubled about something, but he had no idea about what. He didn't like it that Sasuke hadn't told him.
Naruto pulled his hand through his hair.
"You seem troubled."
Naruto looked up.
"You know why," he told the figure in the door.
"You shouldn't. It doesn't suit you."
"Hm, so I heard before." Naruto crossed his arms and leant back into his chair. "You're back early."
Kakashi walked over to Naruto's desk and sat down on the corner of his desk. "I missed my kids."
"Ahw." Naruto leaned forward on his desk. "Ready for the next mission?"
Kakashi gave him a lazy look. "Sure."
Naruto laughed. "It's over there, but you will have lots of time to prepare for it, and see your adorable kids."
Kakashi didn't even bother to pick up the file with his next mission. "So, how are you?" He looked down to Naruto's stomach, which started to show through his clothing.
Naruto looked up to Kakashi and saw his stare aimed at his stomach. "Fine." He lowered his eyes.
Kakashi glanced to Naruto. "How are you?" he asked again.
Naruto looked up to his sensei once more, and then shrugged.
"Mentally?" Kakashi asked.
"Messed up, like always," Naruto grinned.
"Yes, that was the wrong question to ask," Kakashi admitted.
"You're not all that smart after all," Naruto joked. Then his smile disappeared. "Ever thought things couldn't get any worse?"
"Lots of times."
"Hm." Naruto sat back in his chair again, and looked out of the window.
Kakashi followed his look to find he was looking at the monument. "He would be proud," he said eventually.
"Huh?" Naruto turned to Kakashi. "Who?"
So Naruto hadn't really been watching the faces, Kakashi concluded. "Your father."
Kakashi raised an eyebrow. Naruto was out of it more than he had thought. "Does it have to do with Sasuke?"
Naruto turned to Kakashi. "Why?"
"It always has something to do with Sasuke when you are like this."
"Sorry for being predictable." Naruto looked out the window again. "He's not telling me something."
"Maybe he has a surprise for you."
Naruto looked around to Kakashi. "Why would he do that?"
Kakashi just stared at Naruto. "Maybe because he feels like giving you one?"
Naruto still wasn't satisfied. "Why?"
Kakashi decided not to answer anymore. Naruto could be so dense sometimes. His hand went to his weapons pouch, reaching for his Icha Icha book, but then he saw Naruto's face. It wasn't right; Naruto's face wasn't made to look concerned. Letting the book be as it was, he watched Naruto for a while longer.
"It's something else," Naruto said.
"I just know." Naruto turned to Kakashi. "I think it might have something to do with Ren being ill for such a long time."
Kakashi lifted his head. "You think he knows what's going on?"
Naruto stared into the lazy, but serious eyes of his sensei. That was exactly what he thought.
"Then ask him instead of sitting here like this." Kakashi stood up. "You're better off being straightforward, instead of cropping things up inside." He walked over to the door, opening it. "I'm going home; I haven't seen my boy and girl for a whole week."
Naruto watched him close the door behind him; still staring at it even though it had been closed for a while. Then he finally took his eyes off it and watched the clock on the wall.
"I better get home too, before Sasuke tells me I can't go to my office anymore." Letting his desk like it was, messy and filled with papers and scrolls, he stood up and stretched out. At that moment his stomach rumbled.
"Yes, I'm hungry too," he told his belly, stroking it.
Sasuke leaned against the doorframe, thinking about his conversation with Tsunade, while he stared into the darkened room.
"It's getting worse."
"What is?" Tsunade asked confused.
"Her chakra. It's hurting her more and more. While we tried to help her control it, it also… grew more violent, so to say."
Tsunade's eyes opened further. "How do you know?"
"I felt it changing."
"Why didn't you tell us before?"
"Because I didn't realize what I felt until just now, when I went to look at her while she was sleeping." Sasuke moved his hands through his hair. "I've been so stupid; I should have seen this coming! Now she's even worse than she was before I started training her."
Tsunade laid her hand on his shoulder. "You couldn't have known this would-"
"I could have been more careful! I could have taken things slower and analyse the results more carefully. Just because she didn't have any fevers anymore and was much happier… I didn't feel like being careful, I-"
"Sasuke, stop blaming yourself."
Tsunade watched him for a moment. "Have you told Naruto?"
"Not yet," Sasuke shook his head.
Tsunade had already known he hadn't, otherwise Naruto wouldn't have let him come here alone, and especially not in the middle of the night.
"You came to me first, because…?"
"I don't want him to be stressed out about this in his condition."
"He can handle it."
"No." Sasuke let his hands fall, and looked up to Tsunade. "He doesn't. Not right now. He's doing a lot better than last pregnancy, and he is a lot happier, I can tell. He likes being able to continue doing his Hokage duties, both as distraction and to be able to do his job, but I can see every evening how much it tires him."
Sasuke shook his head. "No, he's fine, he knows when to stop. Besides you won't be able to make him stop working or working less than that he thinks he can handle." He moved his head away. "He's fine, but deep inside he still isn't comfortable about all this. It's a male pregnancy, so it's not that strange for him to be uncomfortable. He hasn't told me, he doesn't even show it, to anyone, not even me, but I can tell."
Tsunade nodded slowly.
"He needs his sleep. I'll tell him when I know what to tell him."
Tsunade nodded. "Alright. Then tell me more about this chakra?"
"That's also what Mimi had said."
"Yes, she also said that the chakra doesn't suit Ren. She's right, it doesn't. In fact it's almost as if it's someone else's, but that's not true; thought it's not cooperating with her body, it's more like a poison. I tried to help her control the poison, but one cannot control poison. Instead I made things worse." Sasuke sighed. "And yes, she felt better for a time, because she was suppressing the chakra, keeping the poison at bay. However, by doing so it kept accumulating until finally the dam broke. It must have been quite the shock for her body."
"You want to treat her chakra as a poison?" Tsunade asked.
Sasuke nodded. As he told Tsunade this he was thinking aloud. "Maybe.. have you ever tried to give someone a chakra transfusion?" Sasuke looked up to Tsunade.
"A chakra transfusion. Not one that you have in mind, no."
Sasuke rubbed his face. "I need to think this over more carefully."
"I don't think you teaching her how to control her chakra could have been the cause for all of this, maybe it was partly responsible, or just the thing to make things worse, but it can't be all that bad for her."
"Maybe not. I'm just afraid that…"
Tsunade let her hand rest on Sasuke's shoulder. "That what?"
"She might never be able to use chakra, while she has so much of it." Sasuke put his hand over his mouth.
"It needs to find a safe way out?" Tsunade said thoughtfully.
Sasuke looked up. "Yes, maybe," he said as if he had an idea.
"What are you thinking?" Tsunade asked when Sasuke stood up.
"I'm not sure yet. It's as if I have an idea but it's just out of my reach. I feel that I'm close to unravelling this."
"You know what?" Tsunade asked, standing up as well. "You go back to bed, sleep some, and think about this new information again tomorrow. I'll start a new research with Shizune tomorrow, maybe we can find something useful."
Sasuke nodded. "You're right." He walked away toward the door. "Thank you."
He had tried to come up with all sorts of answers, ways to help Ren, but he had not much success. He needed to do something about this, but he did not know what. It frustrated him.
He looked over to his daughter, sleeping peacefully in her bed. She was doing a lot better than a couple of weeks ago, but she was still weak and tired quickly.
Sasuke had told her to stop doing the exercises, and maybe it was his imagination, but it seemed like she was recovering quicker.
Sasuke hunched down next to her bed and stroked some hair out of her eyes. She reminded him a bit of his mother. Her face, her eyes, the way she smiled.
Sasuke stroked the lock of hair away beyond her ear, and softly stoked the soft fur of her fluffy ear. He remembered he had been so worried she might grow a tail or fox ears, but now he thought her ears were cute. The black fur was by now covering the entire edge of her auricle.
A smile spread over his face while his fingers played with the hair.
Ren stirred, but Sasuke did not let go. Slowly her eyes, her black eyes, just like his, opened and looked up to him. "Hmtou-chamm," she muttered sleepily.
Ren then noticed Sasuke touching her ears and her eyes opened further. "What are you doing?" she asked, not moving.
"Feeling your soft ears."
Ren blinked. "Why?"
"Because I like them."
"Why?" Ren asked again.
Sasuke came closer to her. "You promise not to tell anyone else?"
"Okay," Ren whispered back.
"I'm jealous of them," Sasuke whispered into her ear.
Ren's eyes widened. "You are?"
Sasuke nodded. "They are beautiful."
Ren's hand came from under the blanket and went up to her ears, feeling the soft fur and Sasuke's hand. Then she smiled, showing a smile so sincere that Sasuke smiled too. "Really?" she blushed.
Sasuke nodded. "Really."
The blush spread and Ren looked away from Sasuke. "I like your ears too," she said softly.
"Hm, mine are so boring and plain." Ren didn't answer, but her blush didn't disappear as she shyly looked aside. "You mind I keep stroking them for a bit longer?"
Ren shook her head. "No… I.. actually like it."
Sasuke smiled. "Me too."
It was very late; Naruto realized that actually it was very early. He had worked all night. Sasuke had not agreed with it; Naruto being 'in his condition' should rest properly, but Naruto had made it clear to Sasuke that he was still Hokage, and that this meant he had to take careof the village. The 'Tsunade can also handle things' had been countered by Naruto answering she could not, because there were even things going on which she did not know of.
This was right; Naruto had worked all night on something top secret. It was nothing spectacular, but peace treaties and discussing borders and stuff were very confidential.
Naruto wasn't a man of long boring meetings, especially with old boring men, but he had been needed there. He had almost fallen asleep four times, only to be woken up by either Shikamaru or someone suddenly speaking up. Normally he was better able at (somehow) keeping his attention, but he noticed Sasuke might have been right about the 'in his condition' thing. Naruto had started noticing it too. He was more and easier tired than usual. However, that didn't bother him in the slightest; he had always liked to sleep, so he saw no problem there.
Though he had to admit, now that he hadn't been able to get the al night sleep he needed, he felt very grumpy. He had refused Shikamaru's offer to help him work through some papers that had been handed to him in the meeting, because Naruto had wanted to show he wasn't still able to work through the night.
He had to admit, as his head rested on his desk, that Shikamaru's help would have been nice. Just one more paper and he could go home.
It was not even an image of Sasuke waiting for him that called him home. All he could think of was his bed, his soft, comfortable, warm mattress.
He sighed and lifted his head. "Alright, you might have read it ten times already, but this time you will remember what it said." He clasped his hands on his cheeks, to wake him up, and picked up the paper. There wasn't even that much of information on it.
After three sentences he put it down. He started shaking in frustration and actually grumbled the paper in his hands. "I hate you!" he told the piece of paper before throwing it away. "Die!" He pulled out a kunai, ready to throw it and catch the paper in mid-air, but he stopped just in time.
He shook his head. "No, no, it's an official document, I can't do that." He lowered the kunai, grumbling.
Standing up, he felt a stitch in his back. "I shouldn't sit still for so long," he muttered, walking over to the crumbled piece of paper. He stopped in front of it and looked around, before he hatefully stepped on it, as if putting out a cigarette he moved his foot back and forth. Then he picked it up as quickly as he could, and walked back to his desk, unfolding the paper.
As if nothing had happened he continued reading, and finally finished his work. He put the piece of paper on top of the others so that Shikamaru could handle it when he would get here in an hour or two.
He tried to stretch out, but stopped when his back protested. Grumbling he got up, and started to shift things aside (his way of cleaning his desk) so he could go home.
He locked his office behind him with a seal and a key, and started to descend the stairs. His thoughts started to wonder off as he made sure he placed his feet correctly. Three weeks ago he had missed the last step, landing on his butt. Nothing bad had happened, beside his buttocks aching for the rest of the day, but Sasuke had scolded him into the ground. It wasn't until Naruto had promised he would pay more attention that finally Sasuke's frown had been slightly less… frowny.
Sasuke was easily angered lately, not only about these kinds of things. He was more easily agitated, and Naruto was certain it wasn't the jutsu's work. There was something else going on, and Naruto had a feeling what it had to do with Ren. Sasuke knew something about her, which he didn't want to, or didn't dare to tell Naruto about, but by not doing so, he was letting this thing crop up inside.
Naruto knew he had to talk with Sasuke, but he just didn't feel like doing so. He had hoped Sasuke would mention it on his own accord.
Naruto sighed; he was so tired and not to mention very hungry.
Outside, the fresh air did nothing to him, he was still grumpy as he walked home over the street.
At first Naruto had felt quite uncomfortable walking over street back home, and had tried to hide his ever growing belly from the villagers by wearing lots of layers. However, more and more villagers had started asking how he was, and mostly the women wanted to touch his stomach. Apparently the news of his second pregnancy had spread fast (he was the Hokage after all).
Naruto had been quite embarrassed when an adult man had embraced his stomach, screaming into the crowd what a wonderful miracle was growing inside him, while his wife stood angrily staring at her husband's actions.
Something about the man reminded Naruto very much of Lee. It were not the looks, the man in front of him, hugging him, was very different looking from Lee. Except for the round eyes, they were very much the same, and in combination with the man's behaviour Naruto was quite certain that this could be a relative of Lee.
Naruto had smiled at the man, trying to free himself from the kneeling man's embrace. "Could you…"
"What wonder!" the man called again, loudly. Naruto was sure he was lobster red by now.
"I'm so sorry, Hokage-sama," the woman said kindly to Naruto, and smiled at him. Then she looked down at her fresh husband and hit him hard on the head. "Let go you idiot!"
Naruto's eye twitched. Scary. This woman reminded him of Sakura.
"If I could carry children, I would love them with my whole heart, I would-"
The woman roughly grabbed the man's ear. "Yes, yes, but fortunately creating that wonder of life is bestowed on me," she said, sighed, and looked back at Naruto. "I'm so glad he can't, at least you're acting normal and are modest about it." She pulled the man away from Naruto.
Naruto grinned, knowing the woman meant well. "It's alright."
The woman pulled away her lover to the side where she put him down to scold him for making such a scene.
Naruto, still red, grinned sheepishly, not sure how to handle the situation, and started walking home again. However, the woman had come back, putting her hand on his shoulder.
Naruto turned around and looked down at her. The woman was slightly pink in the face when she laid her hands on his stomach. Naruto's blush was fully back, and he stopped breathing for a moment.
"Hokage-sama," she said. She started to open Naruto's red jacket. "You shouldn't try to hide it so much. My husband might be stupid and a bit too loud, but he is right."
Naruto watched her open his jounin vest, somehow not feeling like stopping her. Finally his orange shirt was visible and behind it his slightly swollen stomach. Her warm touch on his stomach somehow made Naruto able to breathe again. "It's a miracle and you should be proud of it. I'm proud of it." She kissed his cheek before turning away. "One day I hope I'll be able to give this idiot some children too, and that they may become as wonderful ninja's as you are."
Naruto had watched her walk back to her husband, help him get up, and as they hooked arms lovingly, they walked off into the other direction.
Ever since then, Naruto had decided she had been right. He had nothing to be ashamed of; on the contrary.
When he had told Sasuke the story that night, he had smiled and said he was grateful the woman had changed his mind.
Naruto was just happy Sasuke hadn't been jealous.
As he walked down the street, thinking of this, a smile appeared on his face. He was truly happy. The pregnancy was so different from last time… No, he had changed. The people around him had changed him, not the difference in pregnancy (although that might be a factor in it as well). He was comfortable walking on the street now. He felt great.
He even started humming, as tired as he was, the grumpy feeling he had before all gone now. He would come home, hug Ren, kiss Sasuke on the mouth and go to bed.
"Hokage-sama, Hokage-sama!" a high voice called. Naruto turned to the side to see a young boy standing in the doorway, waving at him.
"Hey there," Naruto said, walking over to the young boy. He couldn't be much older than 5 years. "How are you doing?" Naruto asked, kneeling in front of the brown haired boy.
Shyly the boy started shifting around. "Don't be shy," Naruto grinned, ruffling his hand through the boy's hair.
"I'm not!" the boy told him bravely.
"Ito? Are you ready for school? Ito?"
"Oh, your mother is calling you," Naruto said.
"She's not my mother," Ito answered softly. "But I do love her."
Naruto smiled. "That's wonderful."
A young woman appeared in the hall. "Ito, whe- Oh… Oh, Hokage-sama." Panicked the woman looked around, not sure what to do with the Hokage in front of her. She started pulling her hand through her hair, as if she tried to comb it and straightened her skirt. She gave Naruto a small but polite bow, and waited for him to speak first.
"Oh, hello." Naruto grinned. "Ito-kun here was calling me. You don't mind, do you?"
The woman shook her head. "N-no, of course not…. Hokage-sama."
Ito started giggling. "Miyo is a big fan of you," he told Naruto. The woman gasped.
"Oh?" Naruto asked, looking up to the blushing woman.
Ito, his shyness replaced by a young boy's pleasure to embarrass others. "Tou-san always says he wonders why she did not marry you instead of hi-" The woman clasped her hands over the boy's mouth.
Laughing uncomfortably, she pulled the child away from the door. "Ahahahaha… he's such a funny boy. Likes joking around."
Naruto just looked at the two for a while. Then he smiled broadly. "Have fun at school, Ito-kun." He stood up. "Hope to see you again sometime." Before he turned around he added, "both of you." He walked away. He really liked being Hokage. It was the best job in the world!
Ren sat on the couch. Next to her sat Sakumo. Both were looking down at the floor, as if they had done something bad; which was actually the case.
"You are supposed to be in bed! YOU ARE SICK! You don't go outside, WITHOUT a coat and play in the garden when you are not feeling well! Especially not climb trees! What if you had fallen down because you got unwell?"
"I didn't…" Ren muttered.
"THAT DOESN'T MATTER!" Sasuke yelled. Oh, he was so very, very angry.
Ren's lip quivered. Sakumo glanced over to her before looking back at the ground. He didn't dare to comfort her at this moment.
"Sakumo, you can play here in the living room, but without too much noise. Ren will have to take rest and stay on the couch." Sasuke took a deep breath, trying to calm himself a little.
"Yes…. Otou-chan," Ren muttered while Sakumo at the same time said, "Yes, Sasuke-san."
Sasuke angrily walked out of the room, to the kitchen.
"Wow, you were really pissed."
Sasuke looked up and saw Naruto leaning against the doorframe. "Naruto?"
"In the flesh," Naruto grinned, walking over to Sasuke.
"Home early," Sasuke said, walking to the kitchen sink. Naruto could hear he wasn't pleased with the fact that it was 'home early' (in the morning) instead of 'home late' (at night).
Naruto hugged Sasuke from behind, resting his head against Sasuke's back.
"Was I too harsh?" Sasuke asked as he put one hand on top of Naruto's.
"No, you were right. She's ill; though maybe you were a bit too concerned."
Sasuke sighed again, lowering his head.
Naruto smiled. "Something's bothering you," he finally said softly. He needed to say it; he wanted it to be out in the open.
"Of course there is," Sasuke said grumpily.
"But you're not telling me." Naruto held Sasuke more firmly, pressing his head against his back.
"Because you already know," Sasuke answered.
"No…" Naruto let go of Sasuke, who turned around. "I'm not sure I know."
The raven frowned. "What are you talking about?"
"You know I've noticed something is bothering you. I just don't know exactly what it is yet."
Sasuke lowered his eyes, realizing what Naruto was talking about.
Naruto stepped away and sat down on a kitchen chair, his hand resting on his stomach while he closed his eyes. "I'm tired."
Sasuke sat down too. "You should rest a bit," he said, laying his hand on top of the one of Naruto's that lay on the table. "You look pale. I told you not to work all night."
Naruto didn't answer, or open his eyes. Instead he entwined his fingers with Sasuke's.
Sasuke let him sit like this for a while before he stood up to make some breakfast for Naruto. "You didn't eat anything either, did you?" He did not sound angry, but Naruto knew he was doing his best to refrain from scolding.
"Hm," Naruto grumbled.
After a while he opened his eyes and leaned on the table, watching Sasuke cook all kinds of things. It smelled good, and he finally noticed how hungry he was.
He dropped his head on the table. "Hurry~"
Sasuke saw he should not scold Naruto about not having eaten enough, and instead put a plate with meat in front of him. "I noticed you haven't been eating much meat lately. Your fangs…" Sasuke pointed to Naruto's elongated teeth.
Naruto looked away as he piece by piece shredded the meat, making sure not to make eye contact with Sasuke, which confirmed to Sasuke that he hadn't.
Sasuke turned back to the stove. He realized that by not telling Naruto about what he knew about Ren maybe was an even worse plan than telling him. Now Naruto had noticed something was going on and had started to worry, because he did not know what it was that made Sasuke worry. He should just have told Naruto.
He turned around, looking at the slightly pale face due to the lack of sleep and maybe also from hunger and not having eaten meat in the last week. Sasuke pulled his hand through his hair. As soon Naruto had slept, he would talk to him.
Naruto was already waiting for more food when Sasuke gave him eggs and bread.
"Hmmm," Naruto muttered. Sasuke was glad to see the food was bringing a smile to Naruto's face.
"Oh, you have some rice too?" Naruto asked.
Sasuke slowly turned around to prepare some rice. The leftovers from this morning probably wouldn't be enough. "You like something el-" Sasuke stopped when he saw Naruto had already finished all the food. He blinked before turning around and preparing more food.
"You cook so well," Naruto complimented, rubbing his stomach. "I need a bathroom break to create more space."
Naruto was gone before Sasuke could answer. "He has more energy left than I thought."
Suddenly silvery white hair appeared around the corner. Sasuke looked down to Sakumo. "What is it?"
Sakumo smiled. "Is it okay I play outside? Ren fell asleep."
Sasuke nodded, but Sakumo did not walk away. Again Sasuke turned his head to the young boy. "What?"
Sakumo flinched, but then came closer. "Could I… have some?" He pointed to the fruit Sasuke was preparing for Naruto. Sasuke of course welcomed kids eating fruit, and handed the boy an apple. "Don't bring any mud inside."
"I won't!" Sakumo called before disappearing.
"What did you say about me still having energy?" Naruto asked, peeking around Sasuke's back as his hands snaked their way around Sasuke's waist.
"Oh, just that you have enough." Sasuke smiled as he felt Naruto's stomach press against his back.
Naruto took the bowl of rice standing there and started eating. He turned around and leaned with his back against Sasuke's back. A purring sound rose up. "You have some fruit, right?"
"Yes," Sasuke answered, handing Naruto a different bowl. He felt Naruto move away from him, and turned to see him standing next to him. "What are you doing?"
Naruto was mixing the rice and the fruit. "You have some meet? Raw is fine by me."
Sasuke blinked before denying Naruto the raw meat. Eventually he handed Naruto some ham, only because he saw no other option.
"You have some ketchup?" Naruto asked.
"Ketch…up?" Sasuke couldn't help but think that would be disgusting.
Naruto frowned as he looked up to Sasuke. "Ketchup," he said.
Sasuke hardly dared to hand him the bottle, looking in horror when Naruto put it on top of the rice with fruit and ham.
To top it all off, Naruto went to the fridge to get whipped cream. Sasuke was sure he would vomit if he had to eat that.
"Ah, this tastes so good. Why haven't I ever done this before?" Naruto asked himself as he sat down at the kitchen table.
"If you weren't pregnant, I wouldn't ever let you eat it," Sasuke said, watching Naruto happily purr.
"You know, being pregnant has its advantages," Naruto said. "Otherwise I would never have invented this meal."
Finally, after another half an hour of eating, Naruto had eaten enough. He shuffled into the living room over to his little girl lying on the couch.
He sat down next to her and lifted her up. She sleepily looked up to him before shuffling closer and hugging him, resting against his side while hugging his stomach.
Sasuke watched the two from the kitchen.
Naruto hugged her back and rested his head above Ren's. "Let's sleep together," he said.
Ren nodded. "I like that," she muttered softly.
Naruto sat crossed legged between the grasses in their garden. His orange shirt shifting with the breeze and his yellow spikes softly waved back and forth in the same rhythm.
"So, Sasuke, tell me what is wrong with Ren."
Sasuke was kneeling opposite Naruto, his legs under his buttocks; his hair also waved in the wind. "I told Tsunade about a week ago that I think the exercises I practised with Ren might have been the cause of her illness."
Naruto wanted to respond, but wisely did not, and let Sasuke finish. "And two days ago Tsunade confirmed what I thought was happening to Ren. Her chakra, it's like a toxin to her, slowly poisoning her body. The more she uses it, like when she's playing outside, the faster it spreads through her body until finally her body can't handle it anymore and she gets sick. After lying still and sleeping for a while her body heals itself."
"But how did your exercise-"
"Because I thought her to control her chakra, the poison did not spread as quickly as usual, because she kept it back more. Of course, she is still a child and can't completely lock her chakra away. She still used it, though maybe slightly more coordinated and less in smaller quantities. That doesn't mean it wasn't slowly poisoning her, and because I thought her to control her chakra, it was also able to collect more of the poison."
Naruto nodded. "That's why she has been ill for so long."
"I'm afraid she might have died if she had continued the exercises…"
Naruto looked up. "Don't say that!" Naruto had slapped Sasuke in the face before Sasuke could even realize what had happened.
Shocked he looked up to Naruto. "Don't ever say something like that again! You tried to help her!"
Sasuke blinked and rubbed his sore cheek. "I… I won't."
Naruto crossed his arms and gave one firm nod of his head.
"So, uh…" Sasuke started, a bit confused by what had happened.
"You don't have a solution to this yet, do you?"
Sasuke shook his head. "No, but I can feel I'm so close."
"Tell me," Naruto said.
"Well, it's complicated, I thought if we give her a chakra transfusion and apply a seal to the tubes and create a loop in the second order of the fourth-"
"Stop, stop, Sasuke." Naruto shook his head. "It's me you're talking to. Be simple."
Sasuke tried to think of a simple way to explain his idea. "I wanted to… make something," he said, hoping Naruto would think it was clearer than he himself thought it was, "to transfuse her chakra with… clean chakra."
"Why don't we seal it off?" Naruto asked.
"Then she won't be able to use chakra at all!"
Naruto shook his head, "No I meant why don't we close off the origin of the evil chakra?"
"Because we don't know where it comes from exactly, and because it might very well kill her."
"Then why don't we filter her chakra?"
"That's what I want to do with the chakra transfusions-"
"No, why don't we filter her chakra, not give her other chakra?"
Sasuke blinked… Was it really this simple?
"Of course, I have no idea how to do that," Naruto said, "could we perhaps-"
He stopped talking, and looked up to Sasuke. He had the same look in his eyes as Naruto. "A seal," they both said.
"We can interchange the first order with the centre and-" Naruto listened to Sasuke's explanation and actually understood where he was going with it. "And if the second and fifth link interconnect-"
"Seventh," Naruto said.
"What?" Sasuke asked.
"The second and seventh link."
Sasuke thought this over. "Of course…" He stood up. "I need paper."
Naruto smiled as he saw Sasuke walk away. Sasuke had thought Naruto about the basics and his clan's research about seals. Sasuke knew how to explain these things to Naruto and thus he was able to understand it for the first time in his life, even though he had tried reading about it over a hundred times before.
He still wasn't very good at making seals, Sasuke told him he should write more clearly, but he understood how to make and read them.
Sasuke came back with paper and ink. "Okay, this is what we have now," he said, and started to draw and write beside the drawing, which would be the beginning of a seal.
"Don't forget the third base…"
Naruto smiled and saw Sasuke smile back at him as they started forming a seal. "This will work."