Kushina had her clones drag out a MASSIVE grill while the elves prepared the meat. Sasuke had agreed to light the fire (in a small way, since she didn't want to burn the meat) so long as there was plenty of ketchup in the house.
It had been three weeks since they had gone to Suna, and this was the first free night she had off in a month. To her surprise, the repercussions of having Naruto befriend Gaara had become rather apparent, because every time there was a mission to trade plants or even come to Konoha, it was always Gaara's team who came.
Temari and Kankuro (the two siblings who were still in shock over the change in Gaara's personality) had known better than to argue over the sudden interest in the Leaf.
Baki was just hoping Gaara didn't defect, because then the Kazekage would have his head on a platter for losing the Ichibi to Konoha on top of over half the missions.
Fortunately for him, Kushina treated him like a second son (and by extension Temari and Kankuro) and mostly gave them a place to crash. If Gaara ever went rogue, he would always have a place to hide with her.
Too bad Kushina was village bound the second Minato learned she was pregnant again. She wasn't showing yet (she was only along by five months) but he attributed that to the fact that she had learned a few genjutsu tricks from Tsunade.
They weren't about to have a repeat, and the Kyuubi had already stated rather flatly that if the Uchiha bastard who set him loose before came back, he was going to eviscerate him in the messiest way possible before returning to Kushina.
For some odd reason he liked the red head, particularly when she set him on the old goat who dragged her from that battlefield and away from her son. Plus the fact was that she let him play with people as long as she got the answers she wanted.
Kushina was the third ranking best Interrogator in Konoha, right up there with Ibiki and Anko. She could have run the entire place had she not wanted to spend more time with her son and was currently acting as diplomat to any nation Minato sent her to.
When she heard someone knock on the gate, she looked outside and yelled "Come in!"
Neji appeared carrying a large amount of meat followed by Tenten who carried the vegetables. The two practically lived with Kushina and always ate breakfast in the mornings since her month long hell with Gai.
Hinata came downstairs (she lived with Kushina once the woman made it clear that she wouldn't tolerate abuse of children to Hiashi) carrying the spare plates.
Naruto came rushing in carrying the torches, since most of the food would be served at night. He also had a large scroll fill with fireworks that Kushina had given him, and she said he could set them off later.
One by one those invited filed in. Sirius came with his new wife Anko (they had married right after Kushina came back from Suna, and she had been the one to stand beside Anko), Remus came in with Tsume, Kiba and Hana (Tsume was already showing signs of her new child), Chouji came in with his parents, and Sasuke showed up carrying the music.
Recently a large number of muggleborns had come into the village and they had brought radios and new TVs with them. While the shinobi did have TVs, they were so bulky that it required chunin like strength just to pick them up, and they still used VHS format.
The newest fad to hit Konoha was the DVD, and it was already a hit. This included a lot of movies that had previously not been seen.
Iruka and Hermione were the last to arrive, and behind them was an ecstatic Yugito who had come to trade with Kushina for some more silencing seals. It took Killer B a month to get them off, and during that time there was a blissful lack of rap music coming from him.
It was the main reason why Kumo even considered opening a trade agreement with Konoha. Minato sometimes joked that the Raikage was trying to kidnap his wife again by courting her. It amused Kushina so she let the joke go.
There was a knock on the gate, and Kushina went to the front. To her amusement, Gaara had apparently gotten another mission to trade plants with Konoha. Considering each time he got plants used in medicine that were normally expensive for Suna to get, the council couldn't complain.
Every guest brought a covered dish, though Gaara's clearly had come from the store.
"Sasuke, would you do the honors?" she asked with a grin.
Sasuke's hands flew through the signs, and he created a small fireball to light the grill. Kushina waited a few minutes before she added the seasoned meat, and soon the air filled with delicious smells. Chouza offered to keep an eye on the meat for her while she got the rest of the dinner ready. He didn't know about the house elves preparing the food.
Kushina had a few of the genin help her bring the food out, and soon everyone was enjoying themselves.
Well, except for Neji because he kept glaring at Yugito...up until the point when Kushina informed him of her shinobi partner Killer B, who was the Kumo equivalent of his sensei. After that the two traded horror stories about the insane ninja they were stuck dealing with...at a safe distance of course.
Halfway through the dinner, Naruto went upstairs to get his fireworks.
Kushina smirked as she heard her son, Sasuke and Gaara arguing over which one to set off first. Eventually they came to an agreement and she warned the other guests.
When the first boom went off, everyone enjoyed the spectacle. Naruto held out the firework, Gaara steadied it with his sand, and Sasuke set it off. When the box was empty Sasuke threw up an explosive tag modified for the event, and it set off the evening with a good bang.
Minato felt sorry for their neighbors, because they were rather twitchy with having Kushina around. Then again they were some of the worst hit.
All in all, it was a rather pleasant night.
"Come on! Why can't we go to the chunin exams?"
Anko glared at him.
"One, because I heard a rumor my old teacher was there. Two, the next exam will be in Konoha. And three, we have a back log in the Interrogation department and this is the perfect time to get your training done while the other two improve their skills. Besides, this way you have a chance to totally kick the other genin's asses in a fight!"
"What's Orochimaru doin' in Suna?" asked Naruto.
"No idea, but probably capitalizing on the fact they have problems with Konoha getting over half their missions. Luckily because of your friendship with the tanuki brat, they won't bother trying to use him against us," said Anko.
"Does this mean I can bring Gaara into a game of poker during the next exams?"
"Only if you don't bet anything that would get me into trouble," said Anko immediately.
Naruto cackled, because he had a whole slew of things to bet that wouldn't get Anko in trouble with his parents. The council learned rather quickly that any complaints against Naruto had to be legitimate ones, and not related to the Kyuubi in any way, shape or form.
Otherwise Kushina got involved, and then all hell would break loose. The fact she was open about having the other half of the Kyuubi meant anyone stupid enough to keep seeing her son as the fox itself meant they had to do the same for her, which was damn near impossible.
"Hello, my name is Uzumaki Naruto and I will be your torturer this evening!" said Naruto with a cackle. He had learned it from his mother when she was being extra devious and Anko had perfected it saying it was the best insane cackle she had heard in years.
Apparently she very much enjoyed the sight of an Iwa nin wetting his pants in fear when he heard it.
Well, either that or the guy knew that Naruto was the son of the same Fourth Hokage who beat the crap out of them during the last great war. It was a toss up.
Kushina and Anko watched Naruto break out his new toys, which they had been teaching him how to use between missions. Hinata was out with Tsunade learning medical jutsu, and Chouji was working with Shizune on poisons. Kushina had recognized the use of poisons in an Akimichi could be very unusual, so she decided to capitalize on it.
Who knew what sort of damage an Akimichi could cause with their expansion jutsu and a poisonous skin? The very idea made Anko salivate. Fortunately for the rather large boy, Kushina had put her foot down on experiments with snake poison until Chouji could toughen up a bit and had a decent amount of immunity to most poisons built up.
"The baby fox appears to be doing just fine on his first time," said Anko grinning.
"I know. Dango?"
"Don't mind if I do!"
Both women munched on the dango Kushina brought with her as the familiar sound of screams filled the air. Kushina only looked back when the sound changed a little.
"What the hell is he doing?" she asked.
Anko turned back, took one look at what Naruto was doing, and started howling with amusement.
Naruto was threatening to force feed the old milk that he once had to survive on down the throat of his victim. Considering how rank it smelt, it had gone bad months ago.
The senior scribe was jotting down everything the man knew as fast as the words could come out. Naruto was a very...effective...interrogator.
Tsunade watched as Hinata used her chakra to heal the rabbit. The girl had practically breezed through the fish exercise to mammals. Hiashi wasn't happy, but considering the council had given custody of Hinata to Kushina, there was very little he could do about it.
Nearby Chouji was working with Shizune in mixing liquid poisons to use on his kunai. Since he was an Akimichi, he had a very good idea of poisons used in food. Chouza was very happy with the fact his son had found his specialty, since Chouji had always been a bit of an outcast because of his weight. It was a common problem for all the young in their clan. Chouza was just glad his son had found a team he could rely on that had never once taunted him about his weight.
It was good to see young Chouji grow into his own with the outspoken Naruto and the timid Hinata.
Kushina was grinning evilly as she prepared to throw the ball. She had enlisted the Sand trio, Gai's team, and most of the newly graduated genin and a few others to play a pick up game of baseball. According to her, even if they were genin, that was no excuse for them to act like adults all the time, hence why she decided to bring Outside sports to Konoha, with Hermione acting as the referee. She was the only one who had all the rules memorized.
She braced herself...and the let the ball fly. Kankuro was naturally wary of the almost ballistic missile quality of the ball (the bats had to be reinforced, since there was no way in hell a normal bat could handle that much force without being bent or broken) right up until the point where he slammed into it and sent it fly past Tenten.
Minato was amused that the game was girls versus boys, with Naruto leading the boys against his mother. Where Kushina found enough kunoichi to play was beyond him. Either way, Sakura had offered to catch the ball, which was odd considering she didn't really have the hand and arm strength to handle that kind of force.
"Foul!" cried Hermione. Iruka was right next to her doing a quick read on the Outside games while she did the announcing. Kakashi had managed to get out of being on Naruto's team by acting as the scoreboard manager.
Gai was in charge of insuring no one daring spiked the drinks...the last thing Kushina wanted was a rampaging Lee.
Kushina threw again. Kankuro was able to hit it, but once again it was a foul. The third ball was a strike that nearly nailed Chouji...had he not used his expansion jutsu to block the hit with a solid layer of fat.
The only rule that Kushina had been firm about was no destructive jutsu allowed. They were ninja. Chances were that they would cheat anyway, so why not have fun with it?
Needless to say the girls were less than pleased that Naruto insisted on backing his pitches with wind composition chakra to give them an extra kick. Still, it did have the interesting effect of directing most of the hits right back at him, usually at his head.
Gaara was up next. To Kankuro's annoyance, his younger brother found it ridiculously easy to get a home run, thus allowing the two others on the first and third base a chance to go to home plate without worry. Naruto gave Gaara a thumbs up.
"The boys team leads with a two point advantage. Can Kushina-sensei send the boy's out or will they continue to lead?" said Hermione grinning.
"OI! DON'T DOUBT THE RED HABENARO!"shouted Kushina at the announcer's booth. That caused a round of chuckles to erupt from the stands, since they were using the Chunin Exam stadium for this game. A few off duty shinobi and some civilians who had heard what was going on were watching from the stands.
Minato was already planning to make this an official event so the place would get more use than just the third round of the Chunin Exams. Plus it was an easy way to get his shinobi to relax with some competitive fun without any thought of killing others.
Plus it also helped their image with the civilians, who could see the shinobi playing without having to worry about any collateral damage.
Minato watched with interest as his wife sent the boys packing, only for Naruto to come up with a last minute win for their team because his bat slipped and caused a home run with all the bases loaded.
By that time the stadium was nearly packed, and the crowd was thoroughly enjoying the game.
Hermione made a quick ryo by selling rule books for all the games she had memorized.