Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto
:/ petitions. whitehouse. gov/petition/stop-sopa-2014/q0Vkk0Zr
And SOPA returns again. Maybe staking the damn thing again will finally put it down for awhile. o7
Susan smiled at me, giving Molly the Female Once-Over-a process by which one woman creates a detailed profile of another woman based upon about a million subtle details of clothing, jewelry, makeup, and body type, and then decides how much of a social threat she might be. Men have a parallel process, but it's binary: Does he have beer? If yes, will he share with me?
-Jim Butcher Changes
Naruto sat on the edge of his newly constructed dock, - genin slave labor was awesome- relaxing as the gentle breeze blew through his hair. No one was ever going to accuse him of being a quiet person but since starting his meditation training, he'd come to enjoy quiet moments like this. Perhaps especially as an escape from the daily pressures he was facing now.
Training a genin squad, even one already mostly trained was draining. Add in the training from hell the toads ran him through on a daily basis and a very pregnant, very cranky mood-swinging Temari and yes, these quiet times were nice. Not for the first time during one of these moments, he evaluated his dream of being Hokage. These sorts of pressures and worse were a certainty for the job but Naruto found himself even more determined about his goal if that was even possible. In a way, it had even shifted the reasons for the goal in a more positive direction. Young, naive Naruto wanted to be Hokage so that people would recognize and value him. A slightly more mature Naruto wanted to protect the village. Now, he still wanted to protect the village if necessary but he wanted more, to be a role model and inspiration. Someone that the younger generations would look up to and strive to be like, similar to how the Sandaime had inspired him.
"May I join you?" he heard, breaking him out of his thoughts. Looking up, he gave Ino a smile and patted the dock next to him cheerfully, ignoring the mild glare he received in return.
"Sure, have a seat Ino-chan. Sure is a very nice dock isn't it?"
"I still can't believe you made us build it," Ino grumbled, sitting down next to him and getting comfortable by hugging her knees to her chest. "It wasn't exactly exam level training now was it."
"Say what you want," Naruto said with a shrug and slight grin. "You guys were having trouble working as a squad without Shikamaru giving the orders so I forced you to do an activity that would require teamwork."
"Sure," Ino said rolling her eyes. "And the fact that you got a dock on your pond from it was just happy coincidence right?"
"Absolutely Ino-chan," Naruto replied with a dazzling smile. He studied her profile for a few moments as Ino stared off over the water. "Something on your mind Ino-chan? You seem a bit off."
"I don't know Naruto," Ino said with a sigh. "Do you think we'll be ready for the exams? We only have a bit under a month before we have to leave for Suna."
"Judging from the way you guys trashed Team 8 yesterday, I would have to say yes," Naruto said lightly. "Of course, if you really want a challenge, I could suggest a sparring match with Team 9."
Ino jerked her head over to stare at him, horror written across her face.
"You wouldn't do that to us would you?" She asked, her eyes wide and pleading.
"I'm considering it," Naruto admitted. "I'm trying to balance out how much Gai-sensei and Lee disturb me, with how much you guys could learn from sparring them."
"Ugh, too much green," Ino muttered with a shudder. "Tenten is pretty cool though.
It was Naruto's turn to shudder, a fact not missed by Ino.
"What's the matter Naruto, does Tenten scare you," she teased.
"You have no idea," Naruto replied flatly. "Do you have any idea how many times she's almost blown me up?"
"I might," Ino said with a grin. "Every time us girls get together, all she can talk about is how much she just loves your explosive tags."
"There is a reason Baa-chan won't let me sell her anymore," Naruto said with a wince. "Not since that time she stored a book of them in one of her seals and activated all of them at the same time accidentally. Baa-chan wasn't pleased at the new crater in training ground 15 and I was not happy she made me fix it without using any clones. Damn old hag."
Ino laughed at the disgruntled look on Naruto's face, the sound ringing out pleasantly over the pond. Getting her mirth under control, she propped one hand under her chin and studied Naruto, her eyes still sparkling a bit with laughter.
"You know, I actually want to thank you," she said shyly. "I know how busy you are but as hard as the last two months have been, I think our whole team learned a lot. I knew I'd have to step up my training after I tied with Forehead in the last exams but Asuma-sensei didn't ever really push us."
"I'm really not sure what to think about the jonin-sensei," Naruto admitted a bit bitterly. "The only one I know of that actually pushes their team is Gai-sensei and he's nuts."
"I know of another," Ino said with a grin. "There's this old classmate of mine, got stuck with a team right. He's stern and strict with the training and there are times we hate his guts, until we see how far we've advanced. So then we think about the good things like his willingness to always help and explain things, sometimes even stuff he doesn't have any clue about." She paused with a smug look when Naruto bristled defensively.
"It was one time," he protested. "One time! Are you ever going to let that go?"
"Since it caused Sakura to land you in the hospital, not likely, now hush I was talking," Ino said with a snicker. "I had my doubts when Asuma-sensei said that you would be taking over our team temporarily but I was wrong Naruto. You've done a fantastic job, I'm just worried about the exams I think."
"Did you just resolve your doubts on your own?" Naruto asked with a raised eye-brow and an amused expression.
"Huh, I guess I did," Ino mused getting to her feet. "Part of it was you though, I feel more confident when I talk with you." Before she stopped to think about it, she closed the distance between them and planted a kiss on his cheek.
"So, thanks again Naruto-sensei," she said cheekily.
"Sure, anytime Ino-chan," Naruto replied with a grin of his own. "Still, you might want to look behind you."
Ino flinched and slowly turned around revealing Temari standing there with her hands on her hips. Ino flashed her a weak grin.
"Hi Temari, I was just talking to Naruto about teams and was just leaving, yep just leaving."
Temari raised her hand and crooked her finger at Ino, ordering her to come to her. Ino's shoulders slumped and she moved towards Temari with the aura of a condemned prisoner.
"Ino," Temari said quietly once the other girl was standing in front of her. "I'd like to think I'm a tolerate woman, do you think I'm a tolerant woman?"
"Yes," Ino said nodding her head vigorously. "Very kind and tolerant. In fact, you are a fount of tolerance, I kid you not."
"Ino, shut up," Temari said flatly, massaging her temple wearily. "I'm not actually all that irritated at you kissing his cheek and you know I've allowed you to hug him but you've been getting a little handsy lately."
"I know, I'm sorry," Ino said dejectedly. "It's just that the more I work with him the more magnetic his personality is. I really love him Temari and I just keep falling more and more for him but I don't want to interfere with the two of you and.. it's just really hard."
Temari shot a glance up to where Naruto was pointedly ignoring their conversation before glancing back at Ino.
"Walk with me Ino," she suggested, turning around and heading back into the garden.
With a last longing glance at Naruto, Ino followed after, her curiosity aroused by Temari's desire to talk away from Naruto. Given how much effort he put into ignoring serious conversations between the girls in his life, Ino really wondered about why Temari didn't want him to overhear at all.
"I know what it's like to fall head over heels with him," Temari said once Ino caught up to her. "As much as he annoys me sometimes, I truly love my husband but I'm a bit concerned."
"About what?" Ino asked bewildered.
"When I first told him I loved him, I told him he didn't have to respond," Temari said slowly. "I know that with his childhood, it wasn't something he would really get but it's been two months and he still hasn't responded! Now I'm all fat and bloated and he has pretty girls like you obviously interested and it's just so damn frustrating!"
"Ahh," Ino said, several things becoming clear to her. "You know, I think you're over-thinking this Temari."
"That's easy for you to say," Temari shot back in a near hiss. "You don't look like this," she finished waving a hand at herself.
"Alright, enough with the self-pity," Ino replied tartly. "So he hasn't told you he loves you, big fucking deal. He showers you with attention and affection. It doesn't matter what he's doing, if you want him, you get the real him and not a clone like the rest of us. Every damn woman in the village dreams that their boyfriend, husband, partner or whatever would show them half the attention Naruto gives you."
"It's true," Yugao spoke up from a nearby bench startling both girls. Yugao gave them a cheerful smile and went back to examining the blade of her sword. "Most of the women in the village are just a bit jealous Temari-sama. Hayate-kun was an excellent boyfriend and I miss him dearly but even he didn't cater to my needs like Naruto does for you."
"Then why can't he just spit it out?" Temari asked in exasperation.
Yugao tilted her head at Temari curiously.
"Why are you asking questions you already have the answer for Temari-sama?"
Temari ignored the muffled snickering from Ino to glare at her constant shadow.
"Yes, I know, his childhood left him with issues, he doesn't really understand love, I know but would it be so bad for him to just say it?"
"If you believe you would enjoy empty words," Reynard said poking his head out of the bushes and joining the conversation.
"When did this turn into a damn convention," Temari groused before turning her attention to Reynard. "I take it you have your own input to this private conversation Reynard?"
"Indeed Temari-sama," the fox replied seriously. "Naruto-sama was damaged by the events of the past far more than he would ever admit. I have been inside his mind and there are dangerous things there beyond Kyubi-sama. Things born of the darkness in human hearts."
Ino and Yugao stared at Reynard in confusion but Temari had an expression of grim understanding.
"He repressed the emotions didn't he," she said unhappily. "That's how he avoided ending up like Gaara but I assume from what you're saying, they are still festering?"
"I am unsure," Reynard admitted. "I merely caught a glimpse when I was in Naruto-sama's mind but I would assume the cure for hate is love."
"Wait, what?" Ino butted in. "I was in his head too and I never saw anything like that!"
"One would assume that you may have been focused on Kyubi-sama Ino-san," Reynard replied calmly, causing Ino to shudder at the memory.
"As much as I do appreciate the insight, should you be speaking of your liege like this?" Temari asked, hinting what she meant by flicking her eyes towards Ino.
"I don't see why not," Reynard replied slyly. "Everyone here is involved. "A vassal," he pointed his snout at Yugao. "A mate," indicating Temari. "A potential mate," indicating Ino causing Temari to glare as the blonde gave her a sheepish grin. "And the man in the tree is more concerned than he chooses to appear."
"Man in the tree?" Temari repeated glancing around like the other kunoichi before Yugao uttered a muffled curse and pointed out Kakashi sitting in a nearby tree.
"Damn it Kakashi-sempai," Yugao called out at the man. "You could have told us you were here."
"But I hear so many interesting things when I don't," Kakashi retorted without looking up from his book. He seemed like he was about to say something else before his head snapped up and he ducked around the side of the tree in a hurry.
Temari was given only a second or two to boggle at the disappeared jonin before Gai popped up in front of her with a blindingly white smile.
"Good afternoon to you, may I inquire as to the whereabouts of your most youthful husband?" He boomed out politely giving Temari a thumbs up.
Temari muttered under her breath about random people showing up in her yard before giving the man a polite smile while kicking Ino when she hid from Gai behind her.
"Certainly Gai-san, he was just down on the dock by the pond. May I inquire as to why you need him?"
"Certainly. I wish to test my team's Flames of Youth against his team. I understand that they are becoming most Youthful."
Temari tried hard not to laugh, made harder by the sound of Ino whimpering behind her. A sudden thought struck her and she looked around curiously.
"Gai-san, I can't help but notice that you're missing Lee today. Naruto didn't challenge him to 'hide-n-seek' in the forest with his clones again did he?"
"No," Gai replied cheerfully. "Lee-kun is composing a most youthful love song for his beloved cherry blossom." His pride in his student blinded him to the horrified looks Temari and Yugao shot him or the fact Ino was laughing so hard she was crying.
"Gai-san," Temari managed to grind out, somehow still polite. "Please remind Lee that he is not allowed to serenade Pinky when I am trying to sleep. Please remind him that the next time he does so, not only will I blast him away with my fan after summoning Gamabunta to sit on him but I'll also allow Yugao to do whatever she wants to him and I'm pretty sure it involves her sword and his vocal cords."
"Err, right," Gai said, sweat-dropping at the killer intent from the two aggravated women. "I shall certainly pass that along to my student, now I must bid you farewell." With a deep polite bow, Gai made his way towards the pond and Temari held up her hand ticking her fingers down. Her timing was very accurate as the moment she dropped her last finger, a loud startled yell was heard from Naruto.
"Seriously, don't do that!"
"Oh Youthful student of my Hip and Cool Rival, I challenge you and your team! Let us strengthen our student's Flames of Youth with honorable combat!" Whatever Naruto replied was unheard but apparently pleased Gai.
"Excellent, I am pleased the Flames of Youth burn brightly within you!"
"Gah! Stop trying to hug me!"
A orange and black blur zipped by the kunoichi, followed closely by a larger green one.
"Yosh, what an excellent idea, shall we race?"
The Orange blur came to a stop revealing Naruto with a sickly horrified expression on his face as he looked around for some sort of escape. Spotting Kakashi still hiding behind the trunk of his tree, a truly evil smile appeared on his face.
"I'm sorry Gai-sensei but I would hate to take my sensei's place as your rival." He ignored the frantic gestures from Kakashi as Gai slowed and regarded him curiously. "After all, I'm Lee's eternal rival, not yours."
"I would not wish to steal my pupil's rival," Gai conceded looking somewhat sad. "If only my Eternal Rival was here so that I could challenge him."
"Well, what do you know," Naruto said pointing at a glaring Kakashi with an evil grin. "There he is now."
"Why thank you Naruto-kun," Gai said happily when he spotted a paling Kakashi. "I'll be sure to let your rival know that he should challenge you once he is done composing his new ballad for the fair Sakura-san."
"Wait, another one?" Naruto asked making a face before the rest of the message sank in. "No, you really don't have to do that," he said hastily.
"Nonsense," Gai boomed, clapping Naruto on the shoulder almost hard enough to knock him into the ground. "Rivals keep our Youthful Flames burning strong Naruto-kun." He dropped his voice to a much quieter level for Naruto only. "You still need practice against strong taijutsu practitioners Naruto-kun and Lee-kun needs experience against strong ninjutsu users. After you've advanced your taijutsu against Lee, I can teach you the more advanced Uzumaki forms."
Naruto blinked at the sudden change in demeanor and tone from Gai, reminded once again that no matter how bizarre the man acted, he was an elite jonin with the skills to match.
"Gai-sensei, how do you know Uzumaki forms?" Naruto asked taking advantage of Gai's calmer state.
"Your mother," Gai replied with a grin. "She knew of my love of taijutsu and it amused her to share with me. Now if you'll excuse me, it seems my Rival is attempting to escape!" And just like that, the normal Gai returned as he chased off after Kakashi leaving a bemused Naruto behind.
Walking over to where Temari, Ino, Reynard and Yugao were watching him curiously, Naruto grinned at them.
"So, did you guys catch the part about Lee writing another ballad for Sakura-chan?" He shuddered at the memory of the last time. "I wasn't that bad was I?"
"Writing and singing songs, no," Ino said rolling her eyes. "The rest of it, yeah pretty much but you got better. So, did I hear that right, you agreed that my team would spar with his?"
"Er, yeah," Naruto replied rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. "You know Gai-sensei, no way to avoid it really but I didn't agree to a time so if we're lucky, I can stall him until after the exams."
"Oh thank kami," Ino breathed slumping bonelessly onto one of the garden benches. "So many fashion laws being violated by that team."
"Still overly concerned with fashion Flower-girl," Temari snorted moving over to snuggle with her husband a little, mindful of Reynard's comment about love being the best cure for hate. "And here I was almost beginning to respect you as a kunoichi."
"Hey!" Ino blurted. "I've been taking my training seriously but fashion is important Fan-girl. Without fashion, we might as well be boys."
"Oh Temari-sama does like fashion," Yugao commented with a smirk. "Ask me about the time she spent two hours in the lingerie shop."
"Hey, not in front of him," Temari hissed turning a brilliant shade of red when Naruto quirked an eye-brow at her. Leaning in, she whispered something in his ear that caused a dazed look and goofy grin to appear on his face.
"Oh, Ino wants to know," Ino said childishly, mildly jealous at how easily Temari distracted Naruto. "But perhaps another time," she amended when Temari glared at her.
"That may be best," Yugao said still smirking. "Perhaps at the next kunoichi poker night?" This time it was her turn to get a glare from Temari.
"You know what, if you guys are going to be like that, I'm just gonna take my toys and go home," Temari said, starting to drag Naruto off towards the house breaking him out of his stupor.
"Hey, I'm not a toy," he protested.
"Hmm, I suppose an exchange is in order," Temari said with a sparkle in her eyes. "If you give me a massage before dinner, I'll be so very grateful."
Watching the goofy look return to his face, Ino turned to Yugao and rolled her eyes as the couple wandered off.
"And she worries that he'll be interested in other girls because she's pregnant. Did you see how fast she wrapped him around her finger?"
"It goes both ways," Yugao said with a shrug. "Temari-sama wasn't joking at all when she said she was madly in love with him. She was nearly impossible to deal with when he took your team out for that weekend survival trip. She was extremely jealous you and Sakura were with him, not that she'd admit it and mornings where she doesn't get to cuddle with him are rough."
"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Ino asked with some concern.
"It'll even out," Yugao reassured the younger kunoichi. "You have to make some allowances for the pregnancy mood-swings and that they've been married less than a year, with Naruto out of the village for a bit over two months of that time. It doesn't help what with all the women petitioning her to be allowed to be his second wife." Yugao made a point to stare directly at Ino for the last comment.
"Hey, don't look at me like that, I don't pester her about it and I try to avoid crossing any lines but yeah, as you know I really want them. To join them I mean," she said blushing a bit at her slip.
"I believe that you are probably the most compatible with them," Reynard commented from where he was laying with his head on his paws. "I believe that Temari-sama will accept you once she becomes more secure in her relationship but for now you'll simply have to be patient."
"Yes I know that," Ino replied. "But it's hard, especially since I see the seal he put on me to block off the Kyubi's chakra as a promise of sorts, you know, marking his territory."
"Oh now that's interesting," Yugao said with a raised eye-brow. "I didn't take you for the bottom but you're just full of surprises aren't you."
"And that's my cue to leave," Reynard said getting to his feet. "As little as I care about human sexuality, I do prefer not to listen to it."
"It's not a bad thing," Ino protested after the fox left. "And I have no idea what I like, it's not like I have experience Yugao-san. It's just the thought of him marking me as his is a little exciting."
"Oh, I certainly wasn't judging," Yugao replied. There were times it was fun to play like that with Hayate but I think it's the trust between partners that makes it enjoyable. If you have that trust, you can relax and be whatever the hell you want to be with them and it won't matter worth a damn elsewhere."
"Yeah," Ino said with a bright blush. "As much as I appreciate the support and advice, can we spar? My sensei just got dragged off by his wife and I have no clue where my team-mates are."
"That's cause today was supposed to be your day off but don't worry, I'd be glad to help you," Yugao said standing up with a very toothy grin. "Just so you know, I like to train with Anko."
"Ah crap," Ino exclaimed realizing what she'd just done. "I don't suppose we could talk fashion, flowers or boys instead?"
"Nope," Yugao replied, taking a test swing with her katana. "Now, I'd start running if I were you."
Naruto hummed to himself as he worked in the kitchen, He usually had his clones do most of the cooking but there were certain things he preferred to do himself, like the chocolate cake he was in the process of frosting while protecting it from Temari with his body. Which might not be healthy for him if she decided she was sick of waiting for the cake to be done, he mused as he put the finishing touches on it.
Done, he carefully lifted the platter holding the cake and presented it to the great devouring beast, er his beloved wife. Cutting out a big piece for her, he got a kick out of watching her eyes roll back in her head as she moaned in pleasure when she took her first bite.
"You would think I hadn't just made you one of those a few days ago," he teased his wife gently.
"Pregnant," Temari mumbled around between bites with a mock glare at Naruto. "Can't help it."
"Hmm, I seem to remember someone having a bit of a sweet-tooth before," Naruto retorted being careful to stay out of stabbing range.
"Sometimes," Temari admitted, eyeing the distance between her husband and her cake warily. "You're getting awfully close to my cake husband."
"You mean the cake I made?" Naruto asked innocently, shifting forward a little to subtly threaten the cake.
"Mine now!" Temari declared, sliding the tray away from Naruto. "Hey Naruto, can I ask you something?"
Some of Naruto's grin slipped from his face as he registered the serious tone.
"Sure Temari-chan, you can ask me anything."
"Well," Temari said not sure how to ask before deciding to just be direct. "Do you ever think about your childhood? Like how you felt at being treated the way you were?"
"Not usually," Naruto replied, perplexed at the question. "It's all in the past even if there are those that still hate me. I have precious people and the number keeps growing so who cares about them."
"I see," Temari replied biting her lip as she thought. "Reynard said that there was darkness in you, a darkness born of human hatred, not the Kyubi."
"Reynard said huh? So what do you think?" Naruto asked.
"Me? I think that you probably never dealt with your feelings from back then but I don't really know what Reynard means by what he said."
"Should probably talk to the fox and find out," Naruto muttered to himself as he wracked his brain for the meaning behind the words. "Yeah, I'll go have a chat with him about it sometime soon I guess," Naruto said louder for Temari.
Temari eyed the remainder of the cake wistfully and set her plate down with a sigh. Pulling herself to her feet, she slowly made her way around the table to grab Naruto's arm and drag him after her to the living room. Sitting him on the couch, she sat down next to him and tucked her feet up under herself before leaning against him to use him as a pillow.
"If you want to," she said wiggling a little to find a comfortable spot while he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "Doesn't really matter to me, I'm stuck with you no matter what."
"You make it sound like a chore," Naruto said with a chuckle, running his hand along the bare skin of her arm gently.
"It can be," Temari retorted, shifting a bit to give him a better angle for his hand. "Doesn't matter though, love you forever baka husband."
"Love you too Temari-chan," Naruto whispered, leaning over to kiss the top of her head affectionately.
Temari relaxed against him completely at the words she'd been longing to hear, drifting off to sleep under the soothing motions of Naruto's hand with a contented smile on her face.
Sometimes the most remarkable things seem commonplace. I mean, when you think about it, jet travel is pretty freaking remarkable. You get in a plane, it defies the gravity of a entire planet by exploiting a loophole with air pressure, and it flies across distances that would take months or years to cross by any means of travel that has been significant for more than a century or three. You hurtle above the earth at enough speed to kill you instantly should you bump into something, and you can only breathe because someone built you a really good tin can that seems tight enough to hold in a decent amount of air. Hundreds of millions of man-hours of work and struggle and research, blood, sweat, tears and lives have gone into the history of air travel, and it has totally revolutionized the face of our planet and societies.
But get on any flight in the country, and I absolutely promise you that you will find someone who, in the face of all that incredible achievement, will be willing to complain about the drinks. The drinks, people.
That was me on the staircase to Chicago-Over-Chicago. Yes, I was standing on nothing but congealed starlight. Yes, I was walking up through a savage storm, the wind threatening to tear me off and throw me into the freezing waters of lake Michigan far below. Yes, I was using a legendary and enchanted means of travel to transcend the border between one dimension and the next, and on my way to an epic struggle between ancient and elemental forces.
But all I could think to say, between panting breaths, was, "Yeah. Sure. They couldn't possibly have made this an escalator."
Jim Butcher Summer Knight
Ok, I didn't get to the birth of the twins this chapter, I was expecting this one to be about twice this length honestly. The problem is that I haven't updated in a month and I'm about to get really damn busy for a few weeks. I admit doing three chapters of CG:WF cut into my time for this but it's finally caught up some. So, sorry guys, got a set up chapter and then the fireworks next time. o7