A.N: Firstly I'd like to say no I have not died-rude! Real life has me very busy. I found out at the end of January I'm expecting my first child and I'm due at the end of September. A lot of craziness. I haven't had an easy pregnancy, in fact I've been sicker than a dog. Between that and the shock of being pregnant and preparing for the baby I have been super busy. So that is why I haven't updated. I'm still very busy, but I was going through my email alerts and trying to organize the chaos that is now my inbox and chanced upon a few reviews. It seems the general census is that something terrible has befallen me. While I'd have agreed with that opinion a few months ago, now that I'm not so sick or stressed I can clear things up. So I repeat I am alive and mostly well and will update when I have time-if I have time. Very sorry it has taken this long, but sometimes life throws you a curve ball and you just have to roll with it. Thank you for your continued support and patience it means a lot to me. I'll again remind you that I do not have a beta so please remind yourselves that when you notice something awful. Without further adieu, chapter seventeen. Reviews are appreciated! ^-^

The Cursed Sharingan: Chapter Seventeen

As much as he wanted to the great toad sage of Myoboku could not appreciate the red light district he found himself passing by. Unfortunately he had more important matters to deal with-correction, matters so important that he couldn't afford to waylay or arrive late to. It was with a longing look and forlorn glance that he strode away. The legendary shinobi had to console himself by mentally promising himself a week of debauchery and research once this whole debacle was dealt with. The Konoha ninja was en-route to his meeting spot at the border of River Country where he had been staying for the past few days. He was a little wary of having this meeting on the border of River and Rain (so close to their enemy's base), but the position was the best place to include all members involved.

He had sent a missive to Sasuke and Taka the previous day and had received a reply that they would be at the meeting place on time. It made matters easier that the group was less than a day's travel away.

The location, dangerous as it may be also lessened the burden on Nagato and Konan. It was imperative to their plans that Tobi not find anything suspicious with their actions. As such, Jiraiya decided the risk was worth taking. Even if it meant a little more caution was necessary, the sooner the meeting was concluded the better-for those two especially.

Luckily enough Konan had also sent word in her own way and the two would be arriving without issue. This lessened most of his worries, but he wouldn't relax completely until everything was ironed out and everyone returned to where they were supposed to be, with the knowledge of what they would need to do.

He unfortunately didn't have much notice to give Tsunade-hime so Kakashi wouldn't be joining this meeting. As far as information went the Copy-nin was definitely the most behind. The Sannin imagined his former team-mate was having quite the chat in her office at this moment. Kakashi would not take the news of Naruto being alive and that it was kept from him well. Despite that though, Jiraiya had faith he would see their reasoning. It is rare to reach thirty years old as a ninja and the Hatake had more than proven his skill and intelligence during his twenty plus years of service to Konoha.

After exiting the small border village he had stayed in the white-haired male switched to running at a ninja pace, no longer worried about gaining unwanted attention. It wouldn't take him very long this way to arrive at his destination.

With a sigh, his morose thoughts turned to the last member of the meeting. Itachi was fortunate enough to avoid the effort of travel. With Moritani-mura being the farthest away from the meeting, it was agreed that Sasuke would reverse summon him. The younger Uchiha brother had made sure to give Itachi a matching scroll to one he carried beforehand. The weary shinobi sighed, running a hand through his hair roughly. Itachi had him deeply contemplative and worried. The situation Nagato had brought up was both alarming and heart breaking, at the same time he couldn't help but respect Itachi even more for being able to hide an illness like that so skillfully. The Sannin knew he was not a slouch at observation-it was a perk of being a spy master with a world-wide spy network. He just knew things, simple as that. This, was something he did not know although it really should have been. He squashed down his irritation at Itachi never informing him while being his informant in Akatsuki. 'That brat could have really messed things up' he thought irately before forcing himself to focus on the present.

The situation had him worried, needless to say. Although his main focus should be on the battle Jiraiya found himself more worried about the aftermath. He really did not look forward to Naruto finding out about this. Even worse would be Sasuke's reaction. Although the younger Uchiha deserved to know as much as Naruto, Jiraiya couldn't risk something going wrong in the battle. As harsh as it sounded he needed every shinobi (and kunoichi) he had in top fighting condition. Dropping a bomb like that on Sasuke and then expecting him to fight in what was sure to be the most challenging battle he has faced to date was not something Jiraiya was prepared to do. He apologized mentally to the teen, but remained firm in his decision. 'This is more important than the desires of individuals', he thought guiltily.

So deep in his thoughts was he that he unknowingly reached his destination. He dropped into the specified clearing and after only moments he was able to sense the arrival of two others. Using that knowledge he called out his greeting. "Nagato, Konan welcome! I trust all is well?" he asked, the serious expression on his face contrasting the joyful tone of his voice.

The acclaimed god of Amekagure was the first to step out of the trees. "Tobi has finalized his plans. Konan and I are to attack Konoha in a week's time" he stated shrewdly, rinnegan gaze staring at his former sensei unerringly. Konan followed behind him her expression clearly troubled.

Jiraiya's expression darkened noticeably at the news. Feeling his stress mount once more, he ran his hand through his hair in agitation. He nodded. "Well we knew it would be soon" he replied positively, but lacking luster.

All three of their heads turned to the west sensing the approaching chakra signatures. In seconds they were joined by Taka. Sasuke landed first followed simultaneously by Jugo, Suigetsu and Karin. Jiraiya oddly wondered if they practiced synchronizing before getting back to task. "Sasuke, right on time. It would be best that you summon Itachi before we start. No need in repeating sensitive information" he stated casually, gaze scanning over taka whom he had yet to meet.

The Uchiha obeyed without a word, quickly preforming the requested action. Taka in turn scrutinized Jiraiya and the Ame duo. Karin couldn't help but feel weary of the orange haired male. His chakra was enormous and his eyes had her on high alert even knowing he was an ally.

For their part Nagato and Konan spared them with but a look before focusing on Itachi's arrival.

The older Uchiha appeared from within the smoke and with that the meeting began.

- - - - -linebreak

Despite knowing the reason for Itachi's disappearance, Naruto pushed aside her resentment and instead decided to wisely use the time practicing the seal that would get her out of that pesky barrier they intended to trap her in.

Kyuubi had previously shown her how to draw it and after practicing during her free moments the blonde was confident in her drawing of it. The only problem was whether or not she could apply it to her clones successfully and determining how much chakra to pack it with. So with the single-minded determination she was famous for, Naruto set out to accomplish these two things.

'Without knowing how soon they plan to make their move it's better that I master this quickly' she noted with firm resolve. 'They have another thing coming if they think I'm out of this fight. I will help protect everyone because I'm Uzumaki Naruto and that is my nindo' she cheered, trying to pep talk herself.

The blonde could sense Kyuubi's distant participation like the fox was watching her from within, but was still unable to get a distinct read on his emotions. Something that she wouldn't have noticed before had now become second nature to her. 'We've become closer' she noted with pleasure. At Kyuubi's answering feeling of pleasure she switched her attention to reading his mood.

'Quit your nosing around. My mood is of no concern to you. You have other matters to attend to so put your minuscule brain and even smaller attention span to use' the demon fox chided, raising his host's hackles.

'Hey! That was uncalled for. I'm only trying to get to know you better and you take that back! My brain is not small' she snapped, shaking her fist externally in her fury. Despite her fury she couldn't help but notice 'He's hiding something'.

'You would look like a moron to anyone who happened upon you at the moment. I wouldn't doubt your brain capacity if only you could master expressing your thoughts on an internal conversation internally. Just be glad that Uchiha you pant over isn't here. He would probably lose any attraction he felt at the sight' Kyuubi roasted in a masterful attempt at distraction.

Needless to say it worked flawlessly. The moron in question squawked like a chicken and flapped her hands, looking around to make sure the aforementioned Uchiha didn't just catch her faux pas in sharingan high-definition. 'Why you lousy excuse for a fox! Just when I think I like you, you have to open that gigantic mouth of yours and ruin it. I DO NOT want Itachi! Get that out of your sick brain pervert fox' she snapped, trying to cover her mounting embarrassment with anger.

Naruto completely missed Kyuubi relaxing at having diverted her attention. 'You're mistaken if you think my thoughts revolve around your perverted desires for the Uchiha boy. I have far more entertaining things to contemplate. Whether you admit the truth to yourself matters not to me. I care little whether you act on those desires or remain in your pitiful farce of denial. I see and know far more than you realize' the fox replied flippantly with a blatant air of carelessness.

Naruto couldn't help but react to the retort, lighting up with a magnificent blush. 'Blasted fox!' she thought grouchily, both hating him for calling her out on her shit and appreciating his honesty. 'This is not what I meant when I asked for someone to talk to about this stuff. I'd prefer Konan' she decided miserably. Sensing Kyuubi's continued amusement Naruto decided to focus instead on her given task.

'What you said earlier was very noble. I find it odd that you would risk your life knowing what would happen to your children should you perish. At the same time I feel I have come to understand you well. That desire to protect at the risk of yourself and your own desires is something you inherited directly from your parents. Just like your father and mother refused to abandon Konoha and gave their lives to seal me and forsake you. You too will do your best to protect Konoha and those you care about at the risk of your family. Although most are talking monkeys filled with selfish hate and pride I find that not all humans are without their redeeming qualities' the fox stated intuitively, his emotions cycling through interest, fascination, approval and happiness.

The little speech had the result of softening Naruto's inner turmoil and embarrassment and doubling her resolve. 'Thanks Kyuubi. Your approval means a lot to me. It also helps to hear that in some way I can carry out the wills of my parents. You're wrong though. There is no risk of me dying in this fight. I have a family to go home to and you'll find I still have things left to accomplish' she replied passionately, sending her demon positive emotions.

'Yes I am aware. Five more kits to go right? That is quite the aspiration. I'm sure the clan slayer won't mind if you start immediately. Humans don't tend to have long life spans, shinobi even shorter' he speculated, radiating nothing but honesty.

Despite his true intentions of helping and not teasing Naruto could not help her shock. The blonde was speechless as she tried to formulate a reply.

Taking her lack of answer as a disagreement the fox rethought his advice. 'As demanding as your hormones may be I suggest you wait until after we have taken care of the S-ranked criminal trying to extract me and enact world domination' he added wisely but unnecessarily.

Naruto just gave up at that point. 'Let's get this over with' she thought despairingly, slamming closed their link much to the fox's confusion.

- - - line break

"I want to make this as brief as we can in lieu of our undercover team members. Tobi plans to attack Konoha in a week's time. That gives us six days to prepare. Kakashi is being briefed as we speak most likely. If anything else comes up I will fill him in myself" Jiraiya started, looking meaningfully at everyone assembled.

Having their complete attention he continued. "Nagato and Konan will play their part until the last moment. The two of you will have the hardest part. You need to make sure Tobi isn't on to us. Proceed with his plan" he ordered, receiving a nod from both of them.

"As much as I hate this part there is no other choice. Ame borders Fire Country and they will enter by that border. There are small villages all along the border once you enter fire country. The biggest and most open space is here" he instructed, pulling out a map and indicating his chosen spot. "It is much farther in Fire Country than I wanted to allow him to enter, but it's best if we try to keep this battle away from civilians. A skirmish on this scale so close to the border could also draw unwanted attention from shinobi of other nations" he stated seriously, studying the map intensely. "The spot I've chosen is far enough away from any civilian towns and far enough away from the border that the only shinobi attention we risk gaining is Konoha's" he clarified, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. At this he looked up at his companions to judge their reactions thus far.

Taking his pause as an opening, Nagato spoke. "Would it not be equally bad to draw Konoha's attention? Although the Hokage is aware of our plans her ninja are not. Having the battle so close to Konoha runs the risk of having Konoha-nin returning from their missions interfering in our fight. The smallest distraction could be dire. Not to mention half of our force is made up of missing-nin, two of which are from Konoha" he stated astutely, gaze resting on Itachi and Sasuke where they stood across from him also gazing at the map.

Jiraiya nodded along with Nagato's words. "That is a spot on assessment, as usual Nagato. It is also something Tsunade-hime and I realized. She has already started drawing back ninja from missions and has put a hold on sending anyone out on new missions. Of course this has caused a stir in Konoha, but as Hokage she has some leeway. Our plan is to have this taken care of quickly before the council can get involved or her actions can cause suspicion among the other hidden villages. An action like that could be taken as Konoha preparing for war" he explained grimly. "We have no intention of ending the possibility of a war only to start another. She's counting on us" he stated simply.

Waiting another beat of silence, Jiraiya returned his attention to the map. "So X marks the spot. The ambush will take place here" he stated, once more pointing to the area. "We will attack in groups. Kakashi and I will take Tobi. Our goal is only to separate him from Nagato and Konan. Taka will attack Nagato while Itachi attacks Konan. This is only a ruse. Tobi must not sense betrayal. Nagato and Konan will be our metaphorical ace in the hole. It needs to look real but take care not to exhaust yourselves and be stingy with your chakra" he advised, pausing for them to take it in.

"Would it not be better for those two to join the ambush? If we attacked as one and took him out quickly it would be easier" questioned Sasuke, thinking that the quicker they finished him off the less there was a chance of Naruto showing up.

Jiraiya turned his attention to the younger Uchiha. "You might think so, but in my experience a shinobi like him will be on his highest level of alert when we attack" he answered much to the confusion of the younger shinobi.

"What's the point of an ambush if he expects it?" questioned Suigetsu snootily, expression clearly annoyed.

Jiraiya smirked at his brash response. "Any half decent shinobi expects an ambush, but most won't think to expect an ambush within an ambush" he retorted wisely, making all four teen shinobi of taka stare at him with varying degrees of awe. Nagato, Konan and Itachi were also impressed to a lesser degree, but hid it much better.

"I doubt Kakashi and I will be able to take him out on our own, but the plan will be a success if we can force him tor reveal some of his abilities or possibly his identity" he stated optimistically. "We still don't know for sure that he is not Uchiha Madara and that possibility alone is frightening" he added gravely. "I organized the teams and targets specifically. There are three reasons Taka will attack Nagato and not Itachi. Nagato is able to control multiple bodies and as such a larger team will help. The second reason is that you four are the most used to fighting alongside each other. It would hinder us as a unit to separate you or force you to work with people you are unaccustomed to working with. The third reason is Itachi. I know my attempts to defeat Tobi will not be successful. I will need Itachi's help. In his words 'Only a sharingan user can defeat another sharingan user'. While not true for regular sharingan users it is a correct analysis for a mangekyou sharingan user. Although Kakashi has one he will not be a match for a full blooded Uchiha's mangekyou sharingan. So Itachi was chosen to 'take out' Konan because it would be more believable that he defeated her when he comes to aid us. Had he defeated Nagato quickly and came to help us the jig would be up. As subordinates of Tobi, even with the secrecy most ninja use to jealously guard their techniques he will have some knowledge on what the two of you are capable of" Jiraiya explained, meeting his former pupils gazes. "Correction all three of you" he stated, turning his attention to Itachi who was also grimly aware of this fact.

"Once Itachi is helping us the goal is to take him out. We move from testing his defenses and studying him to full out trying to kill him. I'm not sure what this man is capable of and it is eating away at me. I usually have a lot more to go on before planning an assault like this. My normal plan is to have my target under surveillance and learn some of their abilities before attacking. We don't have the time. Unfortunately we aren't that lucky. That is why all this caution is necessary. On the off-chance that this is Uchiha Madara I have no doubts that it will take the combined force of all of us to put him down permanently" he stated seriously, making everyone react slightly. "Even if he isn't Madara we don't know what to expect. We have to expect the unexpected. That's why Nagato and Konan are staying in the reserves until we know just what kind of monster we're dealing with" he finished.

"If we aren't able to finish him off how will the others know to intervene?" questioned Itachi, drawing Jiraiya's attention.

"We're going to all have a seal. It's a linking seal-it's not permanent. We will be able to send chakra pulses through it. If or when we need reinforcements I will send a pulse through the seal that will recall the others" he answered. "If I am unable to do so either you or Kakashi will send the signal" he added, meeting Itachi's eyes meaningfully.

The assembled ninja's stayed silent for a tense moment before Jiraiya disturbed it once more. "There will be another meeting in two days. Instead of meeting in the middle of the Ame/Rivers border we will meet closer to where they both intersect Fire Country. I'd like Itachi and Taka to be there. Nagato and Konan can skip it for obvious reasons. You two know what to do. This meeting is simply to run through things with Kakashi and get him introduced to the others and on board with the plan. I imagine he will need to deal with working alongside Sasuke and Itachi again. We don't need any surprises so everything must be resolved before then" he explained his eyes drifting to Itachi. "Tsunade will also accompany Kakashi. Although she won't be able to stay long she will reverse summon herself to join the meeting and take care of some matters" he added cryptically, gaze staying on Itachi.

"I have finished the barrier seal that I'm going to use on Naruto. I will put it up on the fifth day" he decided, closely watching their reactions. Konan and Nagato remained expressionless, but he was able to sense conflicting emotions from the other five. Surprisingly Itachi wasn't his usual stone faced self which indicated just how bothered he was by the plan. Despite this, the Sannin knew he had no worries about anyone interfering with the plan. They all realized why it must happen despite not liking it, himself included. 'She will be safer this way' he repeated mentally, squashing his indecision.

"Any other questions or concerns?" the sage asked, waiting expectantly. When no one answered he nodded decisively. "Good. I will see some of you in two days. The next time I see Nagato and Konan will be at the ambush spot. I'll need to place the seals on you before you leave" he stated, already pulling out his sealing supplies. He quickly started inking the seal on Nagato's forearm since he generously decided to go first. The others watched with interest as a bisected circle appeared on this skin with swift strokes. Jiraiya placed one hand over the seal and with his other hand made a single hand sign. With a small pulse of chakra it was completed. He repeated the process with Konan. "I don't need to tell you, but keep it covered and be careful" he ordered, eyes tight with worry.

The two nodded and departed silently back into the Hidden Rain village. With one last look at the five younger ninjas left, Jiraiya also turned and departed the opposite way into River Country.

Itachi turned to Sasuke and Taka. "I'll see you in two days Otouto" he said quietly, summoning himself back to Naruto's home.

Sasuke turned from staring at the spot Itachi disappeared from. "Let's head out. With Tsunade recalling Konoha ninja it will be safe to make camp along the Fire Country border" he ordered, turning to lead the way. 'I'll feel better with some distance between us and Ame. Seeing those four so wary has my instincts raised. Somehow this fight is not going to be as easy as I thought' he mused darkly, running on autopilot.

- - - linebreak

Naruto was fortunately able to complete her goals after shutting away her distracting companion. The blonde was quite satisfied. To speed things along she made clones to make seals and place them on other clones. Within an hour she mastered the application process. The only thing left to test was the seals endurance. Not knowing when Itachi would be back, she chose to ere on the side of caution and sent her clones away to battle it out with an order to try senjutsu on the sealed clones as well. With that completed it was only a matter of time before she received the results of her experiments and she could now focus on making up for her lack of family time.

With that goal Naruto headed inside and took a quick shower. The blonde pulled on some gray shorts and a blue tank top. She didn't bother with drying her hair, just brushed it out. She dispelled the clones she had watching the kids and made her way downstairs, smiling at the influx of memories she received at their dismissal. It seemed her clones had an eventful morning. One had managed to complete the birthday cake for tomorrow while the other played with the children. That clone weathered through coloring-in which Naoto managed to color the floor-thankfully it came off, dress up with Satomi and a ninja version of hide and seek with all three. Naoto appeared to have pretty good aim and almost dispelled the clone with the make-shift crayon kunai he threw at her. Ninja reflexes were the only thing that saved that clone, but it resulted in Takeo throwing his own crayons at his younger brother in revenge. Somehow Satomi decided to join in and began throwing things as well. Needless to say it took more effort than she was willing to admit to put a stop to it.

At the end of it all she could only be glad no one was hurt. Nonetheless she couldn't help but chuckle. She bet that would be the last time a clone decided to sneak ninja training in playtime. It seemed she had the makings of three little future shinobi on her hands. Not a surprise, they were her kids afterall. There was also the little fact that they came from one of the oldest and most prestigious ninja clans of all time (two if you counted the Uzumaki clan), but that was nothing compared to being the offspring of the Uzumaki Naruto.

Upon reaching her children she greeted them exuberantly. All three welcomed her affections with giggles or in Takeo's case tiny smiles. After the excitement they had the blonde decided something relaxing would be best. So perusing her small movie collection she settled on a cartoon movie and the family of four settled onto the couch to watch.

Naruto sat on one end of the couch, curling her legs up underneath her. Unsurprisingly Takeo sat on her lap, claiming the seat quickly. Naoto and Satomi cuddled closely to her. Her daughter using her leg as a pillow and Naoto sprawling next to her.

The movie didn't seem to be appealing to either members of the small family, because the sight Itachi returned to was of the four of them passed out cold on the couch.

The sight warmed his heart, especially after the meeting he just had. He didn't miss Jiraiya's message to him. At the meeting in two days Tsunade-sama would be examining him. It was not something he was looking forward to. Pushing his dark thoughts away he turned back to Naruto. He was hesitant to wake her, but she couldn't possibly be comfortable in the position she was in. It was also getting close to dinner time so he decided to wake her up.

Stepping close to the side of the couch the Uchiha heir reached a hesitant hand out. Instead of landing on her shoulder, the traitorous hand curled in her hair. The long, thick locks were still damp from a shower she must have taken recently. Slowly his hand moved from touching her hair to lightly brushing her neck. That wandering hand-despite his mental protests-made it's way to her face, where he cupped her cheek lovingly. He startled slightly at the contented sigh that escaped her mouth, but did not remove his hand. His attention was then drawn to her slightly parted lips, making his throat close up with desire.

Without another thought, Itachi quietly dropped to his knees. He leaned forward slowly barely daring to breathe. Upon realizing that Naruto wasn't about to wake up he grew braver. With that bravery came his split-second decision. Before he could process his own actions, he was leaning forward, his lips meeting hers.

His whole body froze and then melted. Her lips were soft and warm. This close he could smell her freshly clean scent and the cloying smell of oranges and vanilla that wafted off of her hair. His hand rose hesitantly, cupping her cheek. Despite his racing heart and screaming conscience, he continued to keep his lips lightly pressed against hers. Truthfully he was enjoying the soft pressure of her mouth and the rush of feelings it brought him had him rashly not caring about the consequences should he be caught.

'It's worth it' he decided. His emotions were in turmoil and his hormones were raging, but Itachi couldn't remember the last moment he had that was as peaceful as this one. Realizing his eyes were closed, Itachi immediately opened his eyes. Sharingan orbs were revealed from the nest of long lashes that hid them. The tomoe in his eyes spun slightly as he took in every detail of her slumbering face from his close-up position. To Itachi nothing was more beautiful.

Unfortunately all good things must end. He was interrupted from his staring (and kissing) by a light shove to his arm. He pulled back immediately and his gaze met with another. His racing heart calmed as soon as he noticed that the eyes watching him were not blue but dark like his own. It appeared Takeo had caught him and although he was relieved it wasn't Naruto, Itachi had no idea how to handle this situation. Why, because his eldest son was glaring at him. The glare was very Uchiha and although it had little effect on it's recipient it did pose a problem.

After calmly meeting the angry stare of his son he finally decided to broach the subject. "What's wrong Takeo?" he asked quietly, not wanting to wake the rest of his family.

The little Uchiha didn't hesitate in his glare. "No touch mommy" he answered back seriously, making Itachi deliberate his next move.

"Why can't I touch mommy?" he settled on asking, studying his child's reaction intently.

"Mommy mine!" was the quickly forthcoming response from the soon to be two-year old.

Itachi sat back slightly, meeting that challenging gaze unflinchingly. 'If that glare didn't prove it, that statement just did. It seems he has strongly inherited the Uchiha's possessiveness. Now how do I correct that assessment, because Naruto is actually mine' he deducted. Deciding that trying to reason with the child would be best, he gave it a shot. "Mommies and daddies make babies like you, Naoto and Satomi. I'm your daddy and all three of you plus mommy are daddy's" he explained carefully.

Takeo's expression shifted at this. His glare turned into a stubborn expression so reminiscent of Naruto that he had to blink. "No. Takeo marry mommy. She mine" he announced determinedly, making Itachi frown.

'That's a little weird that he wants to marry his mom. Neither Sasuke nor I were like that with mother. Where did he even learn about marriage?' he wondered with exasperation. 'Am I actually getting talked down to by my infant son? Even worse his possessiveness is triggering my own. Ridiculous. I'll put an end to this quickly' Itachi decided, squaring up for a battle of wits.

"Mommy can't marry Takeo because he's her son" he explained reasonably. When there was no noticeable change in Takeo he continued. "She can't marry Naoto or Satomi either. She can't be your wife because she's your mommy".

"No care!" the little boy stated firmly, not budging in the least.

'This is getting me nowhere' Itachi mused annoyed at the situation. Unknowingly one other being was awake and paying rapt attention to this battle of possession.

Kyuubi was having a field day watching the older male argue it out with his son over who owned the sleeping and oblivious girl he was sealed within. 'What did I say? Despite my age, being right never gets old. If this doesn't prove he lusts after her I don't know what will. It's probably for the best that she does not know though. If he is as ill as they say then they are better off apart' the great demon thought. Despite that he couldn't help but feel guilty for those thoughts and also sad on the behalf of his container. Having lived in Naruto all of her life he considered himself a bit of an expert on all things Naruto. As such the fox was probably the only one to realize that Naruto didn't just want Itachi, she liked him. It wasn't love yet, not even close but a bond was there. For Itachi it was easy to see that he clearly loved the blonde, but was so socially inept and stunted he had yet to realize the true extent of his feelings. The fox sighed tiredly at the situation. Only time would tell what happened with the two. His attention focused once more on the outside as Itachi finally formulated a reply.

"Mommy can't marry Takeo because she already married daddy" the eldest Uchiha lied smoothly. He was rewarded for his reply as Takeo's face went blank. The father mentally celebrated at the apparent defeat of his child.

Kyuubi started howling with laughter seconds before Takeo burst into tears.

It was at this moment Itachi realized he made a fatal error. Naruto startled awake and Takeo's cry was joined by two more-annoyed babies who had not liked being woken up. The disoriented mother tried to shush the wailing child, sitting up groggily. At the same time she was being distracted by Kyuubi-whom for some reason found the situation hilarious. 'What the hell?' she questioned, not surprised when she was ignored. 'Takeo usually doesn't cry like this. I wonder what's gotten into him?' she wondered worriedly. "Shhh shh Take-chan it's okay. What's wrong baby did something scare you?" she cooed trying to calm him down.

Blue eyes widened upon finding Itachi crouched in front of her. The Uchiha played it off, leaning forward to scoop up a wailing Naoto. He stood and then used his free arm to grab Satomi. "It's passed dinner time. Maybe some food will cheer them up?" he suggested quietly. At Naruto's nod and grateful smile he felt a little guilty.

'I didn't expect that reaction. I underestimated him' he thought grimly, his gaze locking with Takeo's watery black orbs from over Naruto's shoulder. He stopped in his tracks upon noticing the tiny smirk the babe wore.

'Did he?' he questioned internally feeling shocked. 'He absolutely did. How underhanded, but well-played' he realized, feeling both annoyed and proud. 'It seems like my biggest competition is my toddler son. Somehow that doesn't ease my worries' he thought, finally beginning to find the humor in the situation. Going over the interaction he had to stifle a laugh. He picked up speed and upon entering the kitchen he placed both babies in their high chairs. Finally he was unable to hold it in anymore and started chuckling, his shoulders were shaking from the force of his laughs. It took him a few moments to pull himself together, but when he finally managed to both Naoto and Satomi had quieted. The former was watching him like he was crazy and the second was giggling as well. He kissed both lightly on the head before setting about preparing them dinner.

Known for his prowess as a shinobi from a young age and not for his culinary skill. He settled for spaghetti, something he had witnessed Naruto make plenty of times. Boil noodles, heat sauce, combine. Pretty easy. Fortunately enough it turned out pretty well and he was able to give the kids their dinner.

It was as he began feeding Naoto, that Naruto entered. She had a now calm Takeo with her. The little boy had exhausted himself from his crying. Takeo only had enough energy to lay his head on her shoulder, but he still clutched her possessively. The mother of three knew it wouldn't be much longer until the sandman took him and only hoped to feed him before he passed out. Itachi had yet to notice their entrance, so she was gifted with a rare opportunity to examine him off guard.

The blonde took in the scene with wide eyes. Itachi was trying to keep Naoto from making a mess with very little success and trying to keep an eye on Satomi. Both children and high chairs were covered in sauce. His face though was what made it perfect. That famous 'Uchiha cool' was nowhere to be found. His stoic expression had been taken over by one of forced patience. His lips were pressed into a thin line, his eyes were narrowed and his right eye-brow seemed to have developed a slight tick.

Naruto couldn't help but let out a laugh, making three sets of dark eyes turn to her. "Don't worry about it. When they have spaghetti I usually just let them have at it. Trust me it's impossible to contain that mess" she advised, smirking at him.

Itachi turned to take in the two children he was feeding and had to agree. So taking her advice he decided to feed himself. Naruto smiled and without fight was able to put Takeo in his empty high chair with his own helping of spaghetti. His mood had either improved or he was just too tired to put up a fight.

With all three kids settled, she took a seat at the table with Itachi. After a quiet itadakimasu they had their late dinner. Itachi decided to help Naruto wash up by frying the dishes for her.

"Thank you for making dinner" the blonde stated, turning to look at the tall male next to her. She chanced a peek at his face, only to find him avidly watching her. Feeling unnerved she continued. "I don't know what got into Takeo. He's usually so well behaved. Maybe he's coming down with something" she blabbered, tone filled with worry.

Itachi took Naruto's hand when she handed him the last dish. "Don't stress yourself. I'm sure he isn't sick. All three of them are very healthy babies. He was probably just overtly tired or in a bad mood. Sometimes it happens" he advised, not wanting her to worry over Takeo. Especially knowing the true reason for the boy's attitude.

When he took her hand she couldn't help but meet his gaze. Naruto flushed at having his full attention on her. "Y-yeah I'm sure you're right" she squeaked out. Luckily enough Naoto managed to catch her gaze across the kitchen. All three children were wiped and she used that as her excuse to run away.

"Poor things are exhausted. Let's get them cleaned and into bed. They can't be tired for their birthday party tomorrow" she fused, gently pulling away and heading to the children.

Itachi followed dutifully. "You're right. It's very late. They should be in bed" he agreed, scooping up Naoto and Satomi.

After a quick bath-which all three struggled to stay awake for-they were put to bed. They fell asleep the moments their little heads touched the crib mattresses. Having them settled Naruto turned to Itachi. "I'm going to take a quick shower and pass out. I'll see you in the morning?" she asked softly.

Itachi was trapped in the dark blue color of her eyes and softness of her voice. It took him a moment to process what exactly it was that she had said. With a nod and a quiet "good night" he left. After his own quick shower he too prepared for sleep. Even exhausted from his lack of sleep the previous night, he was still able to think of her briefly before losing consciousness. 'If only it were possible to cast Tsukiyomi on myself. I would happily relive these moments for 72 hours. Or endlessly..' he mused wistfully.

- - END