I have no excuse for the delay, other than my twisted procrastinating habit and worsening memory gap.
This epilogue isn't that significant but hopefully it brings a teeny-weeny closure to the story. I was supposed to insert some spontaneous action scenes in here but I remembered I started writing this with clear intention of making this fluffy and light to cure any heartache that angsty fics bring.
I wrote this story for the BigBang challenge in Livejournal and had (originally) no plans of expanding it, but I do have several one-shots in progress that revolves around the same verse, which I'm writing to fill in some prompts for a different challenge. I don't know if I'll explore this verse further in the future. I might if inspiration strikes.
Disclaimer may be found on first chapter.
It's probably the strangest tale Naruto has heard so he decides to see it for himself. He's standing right on the spot where it all began, right where the odd looking head sculpture sprouting the water that gave him the ability to bear a child is supposed to be. But instead of seeing what everyone has dubbed 'the fertility fountain,' they find nothing but a rock wall covered in thick, slimy vines.
"I wonder what happened," Ino asks, making Naruto feel a sense of déjà vu. "It couldn't have been destroyed. It just looks like it never existed."
Having no explanation or theory to offer, Naruto just shrugs his shoulders. He wonders if the effects of the water from the fountain will likewise cease to exist. Though Tsunade has told him countless times that he may bear another child in the future, he can't help but feel a bit worried. His hand settles on his stomach. It will be nice to have another child or two.
Months crawl past without any significant event other than the Akatsuki's attack on Kumogakure. Naruto wants to go with the team that Tsunade is sending to aid the village, but Tamiko's down with a fever. Damn teething. Besides, Sasuke has forbidden Naruto to take any missions that will take him far from Konoha.
"You can't expect me to stay here all the time. How are we supposed to earn money if we don't go on missions?" Naruto complains, throwing his arms up in the air to emphasize his frustration. "Besides, Itachi is more than willing to babysit Tamiko when we're both away."
"Money isn't a problem. I've got it covered."
"But you only take C-rank and very little of B-rank missions. How can you earn enough?" Naruto purses his lips and casts a suspicious glance at his partner. "You're not doing something illegal again, are you?"
Sasuke stares at him stolidly.
Naruto narrows his eyes and folds his arms over his chest. "Sasuke…"
Seconds tick by before Sasuke offers some kind of reaction. He sighs, says, "No," and grabs Naruto's wrist, pulling him down on Sasuke's lap. The couch squeaks on the sudden force. "I shouldn't be telling you this because it's not final yet. But Tsunade has asked me to help reinstate the Konoha Military Police Force along with shinobi from other clans, even some who don't belong to any distinguished clans. She said it's probably the ideal job for me since I prefer being close to you and Tamiko most of the time." He holds Naruto's gaze and traps Naruto's chin between his fingers. "Now promise me you won't go telling everyone about it just yet."
"Alright." Naruto leans his head on Sasuke's shoulder. "But you did say it isn't final. So that means I still have to help out. At least let me go with Yamato-taichou on that mission to investigate the Akatsuki's hideout that Itachi has identified."
"Out of the question."
"Naruto." Sasuke's voice has taken a steadfast tone. "Have you forgotten? The Akatsuki – or what's left of them, at least – are on the move again and are after the remaining jinchuuriki. Which means you and Killer Bee aren't exactly safe. I have no desire to be a single parent. Don't be stubborn," he says through gritted teeth, eyebrows pinched – a clear sign that he is close to losing his temper.
Despite wanting to rebut, Naruto knows Sasuke has a point. Tamiko should be his priority. So Naruto acquiesces and sticks around the village to take care of their daughter, to watch her grow. He takes sanctuary on the tranquility that envelops Konoha but doesn't let his skills as shinobi crumble so he trains as regularly as possible.
Then Tamiko turns one and to Naruto's surprise, Sasuke agrees to let him throw a party for her. It's not as lavish as Naruto would've liked though since most of their friends are away on missions. But they did send gifts and Tamiko is ecstatic over her new toys. Itachi won't miss it for the world, of course. And Iruka is there with Kakashi and Ichiro. Sakura has taken time off from the hospital that day to help out. Captain Yamato and Sai make a poignant effort of coming back early from their mission to join them. They celebrate their daughter's special day with their little (dysfunctional) family.
That's all that matters.
"Why are we here?" Naruto sets Tamiko down on the ground. She skitters over to the riverbank where a large picnic basket sits on top of a red and white checkered blanket.
Sasuke keeps a watchful eye on his daughter while half his senses are on Naruto. "We haven't had a picnic in a while. Thought we should have one while we're on break."
They are rarely given a break these days, not since Tobi has been rumored to be recruiting new members for Akatsuki. Then there was the uproar in the village when Kisame showed up, only to pay Itachi a visit. Sasuke couldn't even begin to understand why the man wasn't detained. He might have not meant any harm, but he was still a rogue ninja.
"Tami, don't go near the water!" Naruto hollers and their little girl whirls around and toddles to the opposite direction.
Sasuke can't believe how time flies. Tamiko is already a year and a half old – eighteen months to be exact. She may be their little princess but she hardly carries a grace as a princess would. She's boisterous like her mother (Naruto hates the fact he's considered her mother) and Naruto claims she may have inherited her grandmother Kushina's aggressive nature.
"Mama, look!" Tamiko squeals, reaching up with her tiny hands and trying to catch the butterfly that flutters above her head. "Mama! Catch bu-fly."
"No, Tamiko. Leave the butterfly alone." Naruto scoops her up and brings her to their picnic spot despite her loud protests.
"No, Mama. Down." Tamiko struggles against Naruto's hold. "Me play, Mama."
"Not until you have your lunch." Naruto slumps on the blanket and tucks Tamiko on his lap. "Let's see what Papa prepared for us, okay? Maybe we have some dango. Or some rice balls," he babbles while digging into the basket and Sasuke holds his breath, wondering if Naruto will see it. "Oh, look! We've got yakisoba and yakitori. You want some?"
Sasuke watches helplessly while Naruto pulls out one container after another, his mouth going dry and his heart hammering against his rib cage. Why the hell is he so nervous? They've talked about this and Naruto has blatantly agreed. There's something nerve-wracking about making it official. All Sasuke can do now is hope that his plans won't end up in the trash.
Naruto's arm stills, lines forming between his eyebrows. Then his hand emerges from the depth of the basket, a familiar blue box resting between his fingers. Blue eyes snap up to meet Sasuke's wary gaze.
iIt's now or never,/i Sasuke thinks and, with all the confidence he can muster, makes his way to his boyfriend, his lover, his partner, his better half, his soul mate, his best friend and well, maybe still his rival.
Swallowing his remaining pride, Sasuke gets down on one knee (Kiba's idea) and takes Naruto's hand (Shikamaru's suggestion) while his eyes remain on Naruto's (Itachi's advice). "Naruto—"
"Yes!" springs out of Naruto's mouth then he flings his arms around Sasuke's shoulders. "Yes, yes, yes!"
Sasuke takes hold of him on impulse. "Baka. I haven't said anything yet."
Naruto draws back a little. "Well I kinda know because of the box, which I know has a ring inside, and the picnic and this place," he says, waving an arm in the air. "This is where you took me the first time you asked me out. Officially."
"You just ruined the moment, usuratonkachi." Sasuke huffs a disgruntled breath.
"Shut up, teme. Just put the ring on my finger already."
It's a simple white gold band with three clear gems embedded on top. Kakashi helped pick it at the same store where he got his and Iruka's wedding rings. His hand surprisingly doesn't tremble when he slides it along a slender, tan, finger.
"Mama, pretty!" Tamiko coos, her face hovering close to Naruto's hand. "Pretty."
"Yes it is, princess."
Sasuke watches his partner and his little girl – his family – and makes a silent vow to do all he can to keep them safe forever. Naruto may not be the one who brought him back to the village. But he certainly was the one who gave Sasuke a reason to stay. Now Tamiko gives him a purpose to make Konoha truly his home.
I have more to say but since this is the end of the story, I doubt anyone will care. LOL.
Thank you to all those who have read this and a special thanks to those who took time to review. I sincerely apologize for not responding to reviews. 24 hours ain't enough for my pathetically hectic life. But I do read them and appreciate every single one of your opinion.