Disclaimer : Err… hi?
Rating : M.
Author's Note : So, tada… yeah, my OCD demanded a round twenty-five chapters… Mostly corrected past chapters with the problems I knew of, so if you see anything wrong, and for fucks sake double check it please, pm me the chapter and approximately where it is. I've still yet to go back and correct some names, but that will be gotten too eventually.
This is pretty much more of a continuation rather than a time skip, but there is one of those way at the bottom of the chapter. Have at.
As long as you don't make waves, ripples, life seems easy. But that's condemning yourself to impotence and death before you are dead.
- Jeanne Moreau
Minato let himself into the Nara clan head's home, looking for his sister in all but blood and bolting up the stairs to find her.
She gave him a mildly curious look when he ducked into her little office, where she normally kept the ANBU paperwork she had on hand. "Minato? What's up?"
"I… err… may need you to get over that dislike for Kirigakure no Sato shinobi in a fast hurry, sempai."
Natsumi stared at him for a long moment, then let her newly yellow right eye close and pressed the heel of her hand into it as she turned to fully face him. "Why?"
Minato flashed his godson a grin when the four month baby rolled over to make room for him on the bed he was situated on. The fact Shikamaru did it just to steal the Yondaime's warmth when he sat down was ignored. He merely helped his sister's son as the baby Nara squirmed into his lap now that he knew the blond was staying around a bit. "Kiri is going to be joining this alliance thing we've got going."
"That has nothing to do with me, still don't see what I need to conform my behavior for." She pointed out dryly, turning back to sort out more of her work into piles to be dealt with. "With luck I'll never need to actually deal with one while out of ANBU armor."
"Then…. because I asked you to?"
The former assassin turned ANBU General gave up on her work and fully faced him again. "You've never really cared before, what I thought of the other Hidden Villages. Why now?"
"…Hoshigaki gave them your name."
"Oh kami. Why Blue? I thought you liked me…"
Minato gave her a sheepish look and a crooked grin. "Well, he knew perfectly well you were giving advice to Konan-san. They did rebuild Amegakure no Sato into a mostly self-sufficient ninja village in under two years. Mist was once his home, no matter his feelings on it's soon to be former leadership. Shikaku didn't exactly sound pleased in the report, but he knew perfectly well it was a possibility when Yahiko-san allowed Hoshigaki-san the time to help Terumī-san overthrow the Mizukage."
Natsumi had also sneakily sent Konan some pictures of Nagato awkwardly trying to handle babies, both her Shikamaru and his own cousin's Naruto. There was something just adorable about a kage level badass trying to handle squirmy babies without hurting them, and the male Uzumaki survivor would probably greatly appreciate not having to deal with the babies again until they could mostly support themselves.
That level of blackmail was not something she would let her fellow kunoichi student of the Toad Sage miss out on for anything as petty as distance.
Her sneaky picture sending would have let Kisame know perfectly well what Natsumi did for the Ame Orphans, if he didn't have a keen grasp on it before that in the first place.
"So they might ask for a Konoha troubleshooter to help them, and even worse by name, when they realize they've got more work before them than our Ame fellows had to deal with." Natsumi rolled her pale, mismatched eyes at the mere thought. "Still don't see why I have to let go of my dislike. Just say no and shove a different troubleshooter on them. I'm not the only one in the village."
"Village policy is to assign named shinobi to missions that requested them."
"I'm the freaking ANBU General, I don't run missions anymore. I'm retired from active service, kouhai. I do paperwork and raise my baby, that's it. I probably won't even go back to active service when Maru-chan starts his own."
Minato thought about that point. "True… but if we want them to accommodate the whole alliance thing we need to supply a good reason for it. Invading them because we're looking for a rogue Uchiha isn't really a great position to negotiate from. You're a bargaining chip, sempai."
"I feel so loved." She ignored his slight wince at that, watching Shikamaru settle down for another nap in his godfather's lap. "While I will admit I might actually be forced to go to the Land of Water when the war is over, I still don't see why it is I need to get over my dislike for Kiri-nin."
"Can you instead deal with them as both you and they are?"
"Do you know why I hate Kirigakure, kouhai? It only has little to do with the scars carved into Shika's face, though I will admit that was how it started."
The Yondaime blinked at her a few times, bemused. "Really?"
"There's what, four… maybe five defectors from the Mist right?" Natsumi shrugged when he nodded hesitantly. "That we know of. Either way there's less than ten people, shinobi or not, that actually took a look around themselves and said this is screwed up. Their kage was butchering them, both their citizens and themselves, and they did nothing about it for over a decade. No, instead they followed blindly along and never questioned a damn thing when it was not only a bad idea but got proven without a damn doubt that it was a bad idea any they would pay dearly for it."
Minato opened his mouth, probably to try protesting that point, but in the end shut it without saying a word.
"We are shinobi, yes. We're murderers and killers, but we are also supposed to be sly and cunning. That would take a measure of intelligence, and even if most of those were killed way back when this started that should have told someone that something was screwed up. Why did we hear nothing about this ten years ago? When Yagura took the Mizukage's hat as their Yondaime and things started going south? You've heard Kisame's and Zabuza's little horror story of their academy graduation test, right?"
"This Uchiha that might be controlling the Mizukage doesn't buy them any leniency from you?"
"Nope. That's one, maybe two, Uchiha that screwed over an entire shinobi village? They might be half our size at their highest point, but that's still a thousand ninja to dupe. Possibly two people that not only got to their kage, but through their village's defenses and security on a regular basis? From their own version of ANBU to the lowest genin, they all missed this or ignored the fact it was happening."
"Yes, I rather like Kisame. Big and Blue was actually one of those few that put his foot down and did what he could, even if it was only leaving the village. Zabuza sounds like a snarly asshole, but he's okay too. He tried to kill Yagura, and might have only failed due to either the Uchiha thing or his own kage's level of skill. This Terumī-san seems to be somewhat respectable, so I'll reserve judgment on her until I formerly meet her. But Mei-san is what? Sixteen? A sixteen-year-old kunoichi, no matter the dual kekkai genkai or kage level skills, had to be the one to correct this crap? She's forgiven for the late thing, she was all of six when this started. The rest of them?"
He could only sigh at her. "Alright… can I trust you to not cause an international incident then?"
"I'll even promise to be nice. I'll take someone along when I go out to Amegakure for sensei, and teach them some what I know in troubleshooting. Then that someone can come with me to Kirigakure when they finally start putting their rebuilt village back into action. He or she can do most of the talking."
"I suppose that would be best, if you are unwilling to compromise your views." Minato frowned slightly, looking down at his sleepy godson. "Though, if you put it like that…"
"Don't let me poison your view of them, kouhai. Some of them might actually be half-way decent, and someone in your position should judge them base on what they are like and their personal history. I just don't like them because they have or had the mentality of sheep… even worse sheep with power." Natsumi wrinkled her nose at her own thought. "My dislike stems from my knowledge of another lifetime's history, and that kind of crap makes this alliance thing were trying to build to fulfill sensei's prophesy take even longer. He's not a young man anymore, and I dearly hope you and his other students can get this done before his time comes."
He gave her a slightly bewildered look. "Sensei's not old, sempai."
"He is over forty. Ten or twenty years, ten to get everyone else and twenty just to ensure there's no major issues and everything works out? He'd be sixty by then."
They both blinked at each other, then Minato cringed a little at her pointedly disappointed look for swearing in front of her baby.
"I'm telling Shika."
"Like you've never done it, sempai."
"I haven't yet. It's been you and the hime so far, swearing in front of my little Maru-chan." Sniffing at him, she plucked her baby out of his lap and let him settle back in her arms. "You're a bad influence, kouhai."
Shikamaru didn't particularly like mom's ANBU General armor plates, the only time he would ignore it was when she purred for him or when he absolutely had to deal with it to get fed. He didn't look too pleased to get removed from his godfather's comfy lap into mom's armored forearms for no apparent reason he considered good.
Panther might be able to work out of her own home for now, but she did have to pop into ANBU headquarters occasionally. The older ANBU agents had decided to twist her there but not policy for running their black ops division and tell the rookies that Panther-sama was a ghost, because no one would tell them that Panther-sama was actually a new mother if they didn't figure it out themselves. Given the random occasions she went in for either distributing the work she finished or picking up more, when Shikamaru napped under one of her Leopard Summon's eye, that theory was currently gaining popularity for the new crop of ANBU agents coming into their shadows.
Everyone else in ANBU might get a kick out of that rumor, but that was how the screwy traditions and views in their shadow guard inevitably got started. Like the one about the ancient Tiger-sama that ran their teahouse being the Bear-samas' mother that was popular way back when Panther had been a rookie. She still wondered if that was true or not.
The twin Bears might be old-timers, but that former Tiger was ancient for a kunoichi.
Natsumi wasn't at all surprised that Shikamaru gave her the stink-eye for moving him, armor wasn't at all comfortable in any lifetime. "Don't pout at me, break time. Let's go play with something else other than kaa-chan's paperwork."
She was pretty sure he didn't understand her, but he had got the point of 'getting picked up and moved when mom got up' meant they were leaving her office room. Instead of fussing for the armor thing he gave a grumpy, mismatched look to Minato.
Konohagakure no Sato's Yellow Flash, the Yondaime Hokage and all around terror of Iwagakure, smirked at that demanding look aimed at him. "I'll hold him while you change, sempai."
His ANBU General, retired ANBU assassin specialist and the woman that all but raised him, gave him a look of his own. "Yeah? Only if you stop swearing in front of my baby, kouhai."
Shikamaru didn't seem to rightly care as long as he got attention and not mom's massive pile of paperwork.
"I am back on active duty." Mikoto announced brightly as she set Sasuke down next to Kiba.
Baby Uchiha instantly squirmed away from the Inuzuka baby, scooting himself over more to where the Nara heir was trying to nap. Shikamaru gave both him and Ino, who was patting at him with all her baby strength to see what that would do, a rather disgruntled look for the latest interruptions to his drowsy napping. Naruto merely yawned after peering at the new person, going back to his own nap after snuggling down into his swaddling blankets a bit farther.
Her baby seemed to refuse to purr for Ino after she drooled all over him the last time he did it. It would be a tossup if he did it near Naruto or not, it seemed as if every time he did so for another baby something happened that made him rather prefer mom to do it for them all if they had company. The only one he would do it for was little Chouji, and only because the Akimichi heir drooled on the floor instead of him.
"Yeah? Congrats." Natsumi paused in her push-ups, balancing on one hand to distract Ino with a brightly colored bird plushy Mayuko had left to amuse her daughter.
The Yamanaka heiress gleefully abandoned the former assassin's son in favor of the stuffed mockery of a bird, shoving a bit of beak into her toothless mouth to gum. Shikamaru managed to snag one of the floppy pillows that caged the babies from escaping their little section of the Inuzuka clan alpha's living room, pulling it to stall Sasuke's forward movement in order to protect him and Naruto from getting crowded from their spots. Mikoto's second son didn't seem to care at all, he just wanted to get away from Kiba.
Natsumi could sympathize, Tsume's second child would chew on anything and he wasn't even teething yet.
"I've got a question… or more like two." The genjutsu mistress informed her after another moment of watching the baby drama that the former assassin was in charge of while the others recovered their physical skills and muscle tone outside in the cold winter air.
"How do I pick up my genin team?"
"Go to the academy and inform Hiruki-sensei you're fit for duty again, he'll arrange it for you once you give him a time and place for them to meet up with you." Natsumi went back to her push-ups when it seemed all five babies were content with their new arrangement.
Kiba was a little occupied with his own feet, meaning Sasuke managed to scoot away free and clear in time to not cause the little Inuzuka puppy any distress at a pack mate seemingly abandoning him.
"Secondly, we… the clan I mean, seem to have watchers we don't know about…"
"Pint-sized ANBU that follow you or Itachi-chan around when you have Sasuke-chan?"
"Yes? Do you know about it then?"
"I put them on it." The ANBU General finished her upper body exercise and moved into a kneeling position to look up at the wife of the Uchiha clan head. "Mikoto, those pint-sized ANBU? They're way too young for our life, I needed something somewhat important but not dangerous to sic them on for a few years. So baby clan heir guard duties, but there were more of them than baby heirs so you got a set of them too."
"Who spotted them? They had to be good, those little gakis can hide from even me if they wanted to."
"Your little genius? Should've known he'd be able to do it." Natsumi thought about that, because that was a rather impressive feat to spot former Ne operatives when they didn't want to be. Say what you would about Shimura Danzō's methods, but he had been one hell of a shinobi and his handpicked troops reflected that. "Tell Itachi-chan that they're Natsu-oba-san's shadows she's lending out for baby guards, and tell Fugaku that he can ask me himself occasionally. I like him somewhat myself, he can be an awesome shinobi if a little stiff sometimes."
"Baby guards?" Mikoto repeated instead of commenting on that last statement, a small smirk on her face as the tension in her faded slightly. "Cute, Natsumi."
"The youngest is like… seven. The oldest is fifteen. I don't want to have to break them in order for them to survive ANBU life." The ANBU General sighed heavily, raking a slightly clawed hand through her mostly loose hair. "They'll eventually get swallowed up, don't get me wrong, just for now I'd rather they be doing something mostly innocent than get into the nasty business we tend to handle."
"Yeah… I can't tell you that story without the Sandaime-sama's permission. But seven."
Mikoto nodded, a little shakily but still. "I see. Thank you for clearing that up then."
Natsumi managed a slightly lopsided grin for her. "I have you babysitting my babysitters. Weird, right?"
"Sounds rather typical for the things you get up to, neko-chan."
"We would like to be informed, though, if you could."
"Informed?" Repeated the former assassin rather blankly, blinking up at her. "Mikoto? ANBU doesn't talk much to anyone but the Hokage. I don't think even Shika's noticed the guards yet, and I haven't told him."
The genjutsu mistress stared back. "But… you haven't?"
"You're the first to ask for clarification, actually. I was expecting it from the Hyūgas first," Natsumi gave that a dismissive shrug, "if they were confused, anyways. They usually check out the chakra etched tattoos and only ask if those aren't present. Aburames tag them and track them back to one of the entrances of ANBU HQ, Inuzukas memorize scents and recalls them when they lurk around, and most of the other clans have gotten into the habit of checking with that ANBU guard stationed at clan compound gates for confirmation if they notice either ANBU patrols or guarding shifts taking place."
She frowned, probably trying to wrap her mind around the information that the ANBU General didn't inform her husband of everything ANBU got up to.
"Speaking of, we never had this conversation and you still don't know about that seven-year-old thing. As far as you know, it's just a midget ANBU agent."
That caught the Matron of the Uchiha clan off guard, she blurted out a guilty sounding snicker before she could control herself. "Right, yes. Midget ANBU then."
The former assassin rolled her mismatched eyes at that.
"Still, thank you Natsumi."
"Sure. You going to head out? Tsume and Mayuko are out near the west end of the compound, sparring practice I think they said. The hime stated she was on chakra control exercises too, she should be somewhere near the kennels and that pond over there. I think she intended to melt the ice with katon jutsus first before attempting to water walk."
"Sparring sounds fine."
"Snare them both in a genjutsu for me, please. They didn't even leave me Kuromaru for help in watching the kids."
Mikoto's lips curled up into a wicked smirk at the request. "Of course."
Shikamaru knew perfectly well his father was missing.
He pouted every nap time dad didn't manage to drop what he was doing to swing by to coddle him for it, and that had been before the war managed to pull Shikaku away from them.
"At least he got over trying to cry for tou-chan." Natsumi remarked quietly to Momo, a little tiredly.
The civilian, who managed both her baby and her husband's clan in his absence, gave the wife of the Nara clan head a similar weak smile. "Chouji-chan still does it when little Shikamaru-chan isn't around for nap times."
Cats purred both when they were happy and upset. Shikamaru did the same, so when he missed his father at nap time he purred to himself for the comfort or fussed for mom to do it for him.
A purring Maru-chan was practically the best way to put other babies to sleep, when he so sourly consented to doing if mom wasn't nearby, only Natsumi herself and her Summons could do it better. Being six months made him stronger than being three months, premature birth or not. He hadn't quite managed the repeating word sounds part of babyhood, but he could sit up if he wanted.
He almost never wanted to, but that was beside the point.
Three months ago Shikamaru's purr was a little vibration and almost inaudible, now it was audible at close range and sometimes made him a little cross eyed when he did it too long.
Eight-month-old Chouji was using her son as a purring teddy bear, ear pressed to Shikamaru's back as the purring lulled them both to sleep even without their fathers.
"So… I have a hypothetical question."
Natsumi blinked at her fellow mother. "Oh?"
"Yes… say one of your parents are worried you don't know how to run a shinobi clan, insists on attempting to help and won't take no for an answer." Momo suggested a little dryly, looking fairly annoyed to the kunoichi's expert eye.
"Well… which parent?"
"Really? I kinda don't care at all for mine, he knocked my kaa-chan up and ran for it. I would-"
"No, then. Uhh… kaa-chan."
"Momo, you had five years to learn the ropes as Chouza's girlfriend. If informing them of that doesn't work, explain the situation to Chou-sama and ask for his help." The former assassin leaned forward to catch the civilian woman's eye. "Chouza had no problem leaving you in charge as he took on a new theater of war for Minato, because for some reason my kouhai wants to save Kiri from itself and we need the intelligence our husbands' team can gather. If your husband had no problem with leaving you the reigns of the Akimichi clan while he's gone, your parents should not have any doubts. If he had any, Chou-sama would be in charge and not you."
She fiddled with her fingers uncertainly. "Is that what I should do?"
"I don't really know. I've never had that as a problem, Eri-kaa-chan actually asks me for help when she needs it."
Rolling that over in her head, the civilian could only shrug after a moment. "I'll talk to Chou-tou-sama then. Thank you."
"Sorry I can't help much more, I've never actually dealt with purely civilian families well the one time I had to. I've done those that were either mainly mixed or just taking on a civilian or two, if at all."
Momo merely grinned at her. "It's alright. You do try, which I think is really great of you."
"If you insist." Natsumi allowed with a measure of amusement, giving her a slight grin in return.
"Is he going to keep your eye coloring then, sensei?"
"Possibly. It doesn't look like he's losing either color, and if it hasn't by now he might just keep that."
Ibiki eyed her son and his mismatched eye coloring, ignoring that Shikamaru was giving the interrogator a nasty look of his own.
Natsumi's baby hadn't ever met her former students before in his life, they had been deployed well before she had been expected to give birth, and he was old enough to no longer ignore that there was strange people around he hadn't ever met. Instead, Shikamaru was rather grumpy at getting poked awake to see the two jōnin and two chūnin that made up Cell Nine.
She did wonder if he even recalled his own father, but that tended to get her depressed a bit.
The only reason why the former assassin's son wasn't getting irritable at these new people was because he was safely cradled in mom's arms, and Gai really was just that affable to not trigger baby crying with his normally enthusiastic behavior.
"How's Earth looking, anyways?"
"It's… eh." Nawaki could only really shrug, a slight frown on his face. "They're stalling, really. I suppose they might be hoping that we're too busy with invading Kiri to really focus on them, but they're not trying to take advantage of that either."
"Hiruzen-sama did inform them of why, they're sort of honor bound to wait it out right now. The moment we pull back out of Water they may end up trying something." Natsumi informed him dryly with a sigh. "It was part of why Shibi got sent out with you, foiling any attempts to sabotage or spy on our own defensive arrangement in Iwagakure no Sato's front yard."
"We did run into a few of those." Gai acknowledged, just as dry as his old jōnin-sensei. "Shibi-sama did not seem too pleased on those occasions."
Koichi snorted at all of them. "He didn't seem pleased at all, for that matter."
"Shibi has a year old baby heir, guys. Take a wild guess as to why he wasn't happy with getting deployed."
The four of them blinked at her, then looked down at the baby in mom's lap.
Shikamaru, who still got grumpy around naptime without dad magically appearing to nap with him, gave them all a flat stare back.
Ibiki snorted at Nawaki, who flushed lightly.
"Shut up. It's not like you knew that either."
Koichi grinned at his best friend, slightly evilly. "Nawaki, very sorry to tell you this, but we at least knew he was irritable. Taicho just filled in the blanks of why he was."
"He managed to annoy Shibi-sama, sensei." Gai told her in what should have been a quiet tone of voice, but again carried easily to his subordinates. "We still wonder how he managed that."
"I wonder how you managed that. I go up to him and poke him every time I see him, all the man does in return is stare at me for a moment." The Senju diplomat flushed deeper but stubbornly kept his mouth shut, Natsumi rolled her eyes at him. "Give it a month, then go apologize. Shibi doesn't hold grudges."
"Like you, sensei?"
"Shut up Ibiki, and go answer the door."
He glowered at her, but got up when a knock did sound on the Nara clan head's front door.
The former assassin was not surprised at her new guests. "Hey Shibi, Shiori-san. Shino-chan! I haven't seen you in a long while."
She did have to grin at them, because little Shino-chan was dressed up as a miniature of his father.
What was with shinobi and making their children dress up as a mini-me copy?
Shibi inspected her other guests, then little Shikamaru. Natsumi's son inspected him back just as blandly.
"May we impose on your availability, Natsumi?"
"Sure. How long do you need?"
"A few hours at most."
The ANBU General nodded, beckoning him and little Shino over to her. "I can do that. Have fun, Shibi."
Setting his son next to the kunoichi, the Aburame head gave her an incline of his head in acknowledgment before returning to his wife to lead her out.
Ibiki only waited for them to get a distance from the house before giving her a strange look.
"Assassin, former or not. Who would you want guarding your baby if you need a bit of time to yourself?"
"That wouldn't mean you're good with kids, taicho." Koichi opinioned from his impromptu staring contest with the little Aburame heir.
Natsumi privately bet little Shino would win that, even if he was without the glasses most of his clan tended to wear for now. "We also share a goddaughter, Koichi. He's watched me watch Hana-chan in her baby years too."
The oldest baby in the room tilted his head slightly, still staring at the former ANBU saboteur.
Her old rookie did in fact blink first, looking a little put out and unnerved by the intensity of the Aburame heir.
Now that baby Shino had proved himself superior to the chūnin, he looked around for his parents in this room of strange people. He turned big, scared eyes on the only one that looked even remotely sympathetic when he couldn't find them.
Shikamaru clumsily patted him on the arm from his spot in his mom's lap, offering the stuffed stag he had gotten from his jiji-sama a few months ago.
Shino accepted it with all due solemnity, hugging the thing to his chest and warily watching the rest of the shinobi in the room who were watching him.
Natsumi had to bite her lip in order not to laugh.
She had to wonder if her baby boy would ever get that back.
With her old students finally home, Natsumi had babysitters of her own to abuse in the times she didn't want to stick the grandparents or her friends with her baby.
Ibiki might have given her the holy grail of flat looks for getting Shikamaru shoved on him, but Gai had cheerfully agreed for the whole cell and got them all stuck with watching their old jōnin-sensei's son for her. Shikamaru had all but screamed at the seeming abandonment, making both Nawaki and Koichi cringe at the Nara heir's volume.
He didn't fuss often, but when he did it seemed as if he could shatter eardrums.
Master Tatsuo, the blacksmith Sakumo collaborated with to fashion her katana's blade, grinned widely at the former assassin that ducked into his shop. "Natsumi-sama! I was wondering when you would find the time to visit."
"I'm sorry it took me so long, but I bore Shikaku a son and little Maru-chan takes up a whole lot of time."
The civilian waved her apology away. "I heard, do not worry about that. I know perfectly well how much time a newborn takes up."
That was the first Natsumi had heard of him having a child. "Oh?"
"I have a daughter, myself." Tatsuo informed her proudly, taking the offered katana to inspect. "She's only just a few months from turning two, my little Tenten-chan."
The ANBU General blinked at him, then frowned slightly. "Tenten? I might have heard this before, the name sounds familiar anyways. Kashi-chan might have told me that before he left the village."
"With all that you shinobi do for us, and all I've heard about you in the last few years Natsumi-sama, I am not surprised you forgot." He gave her a wry grin as he pulled his masterwork out of it's sheath. "I am rather pleased you did hear before this."
"Sorry, really. Congratulations though. Will you train her up to take over for you?"
"I will give her the option, yes, but that is not something I wish to saddle my daughter with." Tatsuo told her, only slightly sadly. "A female blacksmith would have to struggle with establishing herself as respectable, even if Tenten-chan would be my only apprentice."
"Kick her over to us, then. We'll ensure she has a place."
He gave her a wry look for that, her attempting to recruit his daughter before she had even escaped the diaper part of babyhood. Natsumi just grinned back at him.
"A kunoichi blacksmith would be less odd, you know."
Tatsuo merely shook his head, lifting the katana he forged with Sakumo to check the curve and see if she had managed to kink the blade yet.
She hadn't yet, because that was one durable sword she had, and it wasn't likely it would be now she retired from mission running… at least until someone else took up Sakumo's katana.
Preferably her son, if at all possible. Maybe even a daughter, if Shikaku gave her one.
Fugaku got shifted out to replace Shibi in Earth; Hizashi replaced his own brother in Lightning so he could come home and greet the newborn Hinata, the heiress of the Hyūga clan; but Natsumi didn't know who exchanged Cell Seven out in Water for Kakashi and his teammates to come home.
Midori cried, she was that happy to see her brother.
The toddler might not be speaking complete sentences yet, and just devolved into finger painting when the former assassin or her mother tried to teach her to hold a brush to write with, but she knew that the young man who had her hair color would drop anything for her and did so the moment he got home to play with her plushies instead of greeting his mother or crashing on his bed to sleep for a good few hours.
She probably wouldn't measure up to her prodigy elder brother in intelligence, but she had a bucketful more of creativity than him in place of that.
Kakashi quite frankly didn't give a damn, he maintained he got the smarts and his sister got the rest of the family skills.
Natsumi dryly asked where that left her in the family, the ass patted her on the head and claimed she was the pretty one.
Now taller than her or not, the former assassin gave him a sucker punch to the jaw for that.
Eri just sighed over their behavior, cradling a purring and fitfully napping Shikamaru. "Children, behave. Or Ri-chan is going to demand you let her do that too."
They both looked at the little girl, who was watching them intently.
Kakashi pulled his half facemask down, rubbing at the yellowing bruise on his jaw. "Don't do that, imouto-"
All three adults rolled their eyes at her.
"Ri-nee, it's naughty." He continued as if she hadn't demanded a different form of address.
"Don't look at me, that's all your fault." Natsumi ignored the wry stare he gave her as his little sister processed that.
Kakashi had taught Midori to call the former assassin Mi-nee, which made her want the tag as well before she understood what it was signifying. Her continued demand was all his problem to fix, if she had to be the one to explain what they were going to train Midori for well before the little daughter of her old taicho was of age to decide what she wanted to do herself.
He seemed to understand her stance on it even without being told, huffing at the ANBU General instead of needling her for not doing anything about that.
"How long until you have to go back, Kakashi-kun?"
"Maa… a few months, kaa-chan."
"Three or four?"
"Still only three, nee-chan." Kakashi gave them a boneless shrug. "Even if we were out there a little longer than usual."
"Yeah… are you actually going to follow that or are you and Obito-kun going to pick up missions again a month in?"
Her fellow kenjutsu user paused, thinking about it. "I don't know. Depends mostly on Rin, I guess. She said she wanted to put in more hours at the hospital, and without her it's just… eh."
"Tell me about it."
It was always awkward when a team broke up, even if only for a mission or two. Missing teammates was jarring for the remaining members, because their developed habits and quirks suddenly didn't cover everything the team needed and adjusting to that was hard the first time. It was why Konohagakure tried to assign full teams to missions if at all possible, to keep that kind of thing from happening too often and killing some of their less experienced shinobi teams or cells before they could adapt to such things. Therefore it was much more likely to get someone added to a team instead of replaced temporarily, unless injury or unavoidable complications required you to pick up a temporary replacement for longer than a month or two.
That was part of why she encouraged Gai to pick up as many taijutsu styles as he could, he now could temporarily replace tai users that got put in the hospital without too much of that jarring happening for that injured or out of commission tai user's other teammates.
Cell Seven might have already experienced getting their jōnin-sensei taken away from them before Minato became the Hokage, but that might have just made it even more unlikely that they would consent to be broken up later on. The Yondaime probably greatly appreciated that, his old genin team continuing to watch each other's backs now that he would be mostly unable to do it for them.
Given how Team Seven started out, Natsumi was that close to declaring it a damn miracle.
Team Nine did almost everything they could to remain together until their jōnin leader couldn't lead their reformed Cell anymore. Unless a jōnin-sensei let the team go, that was usually what happened to jōnin track genin teams that survived their first years intact.
Midori got bored with nothing happening, shoving Shikamaru's plushy of a leopard Jiraiya somehow got hold of at Kakashi to play with.
The former assassin sighed and wondered if her son would end up keeping any of the little stuffed animals he had been presented with since his birth. Shino stole the stag, he refused to give it up when Shibi and Shiori came back to pick him up the night she watched him for his parents. Midori might not want to let the kitty go, she seemed to adore it more than her own baby did.
"So… purring, nee-chan?"
"Kashi-chan, unless you want to try holding your own against me in a full out kenjutsu spar, shut up."
"But it's so cute."
"I have to agree with him, neko-chan." Eri calmly derailed any further arguments between her children, petting her first, and purring, grandchild as she did so. "It is cute of both you and little Maru-chan."
"I don't think Maru-chan will thank me for it a bit later on, Eri-kaa-chan. Shika already threatened to throttle my cats for it, and almost every time he does it around one of the other babies they tend to drool on him." Natsumi rubbed at her lips, trying not to smirk. "But it is adorable, isn't it?"
Kakashi waited until Midori got distracted with Shikamaru by Eri deciding to read them a storybook to ask about her eye.
"Chakra stain, or so Tsunade-sama said. I'm going to need your help with that, too."
"Blindness is a problem when that happens, apparently. If when we spar and you note I tend to miss things coming at me from the right, tell me. Tsunade-sama said she could keep it from deteriorating if we catch it early."
"But you're not sure?"
Natsumi thought about it. "I'm still a little confused by what exactly happened that night it occurred, but it fits the symptoms and is possible…"
He nodded thoughtfully in return. "Count on me, nee-chan."
"If only for the possibility of teasing me for being a baba, I'm sure."
"Of course. I would be appalled if you thought I had any other reason to help you out with that."
She gave him a level glare. "Assume I just called you a bad name, Kashi-chan."
"Your restraint is appreciated, Natsu-nee." Kakashi informed her cheerfully with a fanged grin. "Assume I am properly horrified at being called said bad name."
Eri had to put the book down to stifle her laugh at their conversation.
Natsumi knew perfectly well her husband and his team was out tracking down the possible Uchiha sighting in Water Country, but that didn't mean she dearly wished he would return well before their son started experimenting with sounds or trying to walk.
It also meant she was practically counting days until he returned, they should really only have another two months out there. It wasn't like Kirigakure would be able to mount an effective resistance, not with a rebel faction back by the Leaf and Kisame returning with two other Swordsmen of the Mist to pitch in just because.
In preparation of Shikaku's homecoming, she was starting to restock all of his favorites in the kitchen. Finding potatoes and snow peas in the middle of the spring thaw was a little tricky, but she did at least know where she could get some in a few months for his preferred nikujaga.
There was also the damn cherry preserves he refused to stop sneaking she should probably replace.
Shikamaru didn't like getting babysitters any better than he liked it the first time, but at least Obito had some experience in helping Kakashi and Eri with Midori and Rin was interested in the genetic eye coloring three generations of Natsumi's family had or has. The attention at least distracted him from mom's running to prevent him from crying at her leave taking.
If she had any more children, it wouldn't be likely they would inherit that. Complete Heterochromia was a rare genetic trait, it was slightly impressive it showed up three times already when Shikaku's Nara coloring was probably more dominant that her own.
Then again, with things like the Hatake silver hair and Nohara Rin's purple, rectangle cheek markings being dominant genetic traits that were passed on despite what traits their other parent had, it was maybe just as likely all her children would have that eye coloring. It would be interesting to find out, anyways.
Natsumi carefully kept the smirk off her face as she was let into the Uchiha clan compound, giving the guards posted a nod in thanks and flashing the ANBU agent on duty an 'all clear' sign to keep him there.
She didn't know why, but the only cherry preserves Shikaku snuck was the ones made up by a lovely old woman on the edge of the Uchiha clan. Uchiha Madoka made up preserves and sold them to support herself, and while that massive amount of experience show in the quality of her preserves the former assassin actually preferred the ones Shibi's clan made up and gave out on special occasions.
Of course, that just meant Natsumi could keep the Aburame preserves for herself as long as she got Shikaku the one he preferred. Which, while the sneaking thing was slightly annoying, she didn't mind doing.
Now if he would only tell her when he ran out.
It might be the early days of spring, but it was still cold enough that the ANBU General was wrapped up in a thick coat that covered her Nara clan jacket and kept her narrowed, mismatched eyes on the ground to keep the biting wind out of them.
That was probably why she got assumed to be random Uchiha kunoichi number three and not recognized as not-Uchiha.
As far as the ANBU General knew, the events of the night of the Yondaime son's birth had been declared an S-ranked secret until such time as they either figured out who the hell had sent the plant men and the Uchiha proxy or little Naruto-chan wanted to tell someone about his freeloader. Fugaku and Mikoto had been told, once Inoichi failed to get much out of the eye-less, bloody skull that was left after Fiona got through with the interloper that tried to murder Natsumi's otouto's small family.
More importantly, the head of the Uchiha clan had agreed with that after being given all the remains they could scrape up.
The leading Uchiha couple should have been the only Uchiha in Konohagakure no Sato that knew one however distant relation of his had been involved in that night.
"What do you think, Uchiha-san?"
Natsumi cracked her light blue eye open and gave the man a bland look. "I think I'm interested to know how you know an S-ranked secret only the Uchiha clan head and his wife should know of, and why you're discussing it in the middle of the day in a street, of all things."
The Uchiha, who seemed to be dressed as any member of the clan tended to dress themselves, blanched.
He might have taken a step back, to run or fight or whatever he intended to do, but he didn't get far.
Yakumi and Naori, a couple Natsumi had only infrequently met before, stood behind him and gripped both arms before he could try anything.
Uchiha Yakumi was one of Fugaku's jōnin lieutenants in the Military Police force, he had actually started out running the station established just in front of the Nara clan compound back when the wife of the Nara clan head survived the assassination attempt on her life. Naori was a chūnin kunoichi who still ran missions, and was an ANBU agent by the name of Sparrow who was always respectful of Panther-sama.
Natsumi trusted them to ensure this Uchiha didn't get away or try to harm her, enough to bend forward to catch his eye and glare. "I think T&I, as well as the Yondaime himself, will be just as interested in the answer to that question. What I would like to know is how long you've been spreading misinformation, because there have been quite a few little misconceptions I've heard of from this clan over the years. I like Uchihas, and I'm not happy someone's been trying to sabotage them."
"Natsumi-sama." Yakumi muttered lowly, to catch the former assassin's attention. "What…?"
The ANBU General sighed and straightened up, to address the whole street. "Any concerns should be taken to Mikoto-sama, as she is fully briefed on the situation. We do not know for sure, therefore all of you should trust her or Fugaku-sama to handle it when we do know. As it is, you are not suspected of harboring rogue elements. This seems to be something external, long lost branch or stolen eyes or what have you, so rest easy. This should be the last you speak of it unless you address your clan head or his wife with any concerns. This is an S-ranked secret, please keep it that way."
Nara Natsumi was a familiar sight, seeing as she tended to wander in and out of their compound rather easily. Considering all she did was refer them to Fugaku's door if they had questions, the request was treated as an order and accepted as such. Although the shinobi side of the Uchiha clan could be prickly assholes when they wanted to be, they were in a civilian district and if Naori, one of their own kunoichi, nodded firmly in acceptance they would go with that.
"Breaking S-ranked secrecy as declared by the Yondaime, Yakumi-kun. Please alert Mikoto-sama, I'll grab the Yondaime to help figure out what else he should be charged with."
The MP nodded firmly, cuffing the man's wrists together.
"Be careful, as well. I don't know how he knew that, but I would like to know."
He paused at that, then dragged chakra suppressors out and attached those too.
Natsumi nodded, checking the sky for the general time. Shikamaru had never really liked her leaving, not since she got put in the hospital on him, and she should probably go pick her son up and then talk to Mikoto instead of buying the preserves she had been here for.
She gave her black ops subordinate a grin, flicking her ANBU code to get her to follow her fellow Uchiha and guard his back.
Sparrow nodded sharply to Panther-sama, following her boyfriend as they left.
Natsumi sighed heavily and resigned herself to picking up the preserves some other day.
Minato got summoned by Natsumi's hiraishin kunai instead, because it took her a while to convince Shikamaru to let her go.
"I don't think this is an emergency, sempai."
"It's enough of one that I'm alarmed, does that count?"
The Yondaime sighed but nodded to her point, turning to the current head of the Uchiha clan. "Mikoto, who is this anyways?"
"We do not know."
They stared at her, long enough so the usually serene and unflappable Uchiha kunoichi flushed slightly.
"His claims of belonging to the Kita district were proven false, and no one there recognizes an Uchiha by the name of Junji."
"We picked him up in the Minami one, though." Natsumi gave the man restrained in the Military Police Headquarters a contemplating look. "Think he claimed Kita just because it was farthest and therefore unlikely to be checked?"
"Okay, this is the second time you've been taken advantage of because of your clan's size." Minato scowled at the same man his sister figure was considering. "We need to stich that up somehow."
Mikoto sighed at that, but her reaction was missed when the Yondaime turned to his ANBU General.
"Can you seal the compound?"
"Shika asked that once, but the power draw alone would probably kill me. Not even with you and the hime would we realistically survive it."
"But that's your lethal security measures. What about one that just marks out non-residents?"
Natsumi tapped her carefully trimmed fingers to her lips as she thought about it. "Erm… depends on who else we have available. What do we want this to do?"
"Just something visible, a mark or something that would fade after leaving the Uchiha compound."
"Like what, a dot on the forehead? That's… a little… rude, don't you think?"
"How about a band around the wrist then?"
"Easily hid, that."
"Back of the hand?" Mikoto suggested after she recovered from that abrupt shift in topics.
"Fingerless gloves." Natsumi refuted easily. "Those are standard gear for ANBU anyways."
"Well, we wouldn't want ANBU to get outed like that." Minato rolled his eyes at her, shifting to rub his jawline as he thought about it more. "What about a band around the neck? High, like over the collar of those shirts most Uchiha wear."
"Back of the neck," the Uchiha genjutsu mistress suggested next, "easy to hide and show if challenged."
She snapped her fingers. "That'll work. I'll get the hime to help, we'll have something in as little as a month for consideration, if at all possible."
The Yondaime nodded sharply, turning back to this latest upset in the village. "Right, so now this one."
"He is not Uchiha, no matter what he claims."
"You don't mind if we feed him to sempai's oldest student?"
Natsumi blinked a few times. "Oh, right."
Minato rolled his eyes at her that time, turning back to Mikoto to hear her answer.
She could only shrug. "He is not one of ours, his presence is suspicious to say the least. I would have asked them to check him anyways since we cannot find any record of him."
"Next question, is he genetically an Uchiha or not?"
All three of them inspected the man from behind the one way mirror.
Natsumi thought so, if only because they had already run into a rogue Uchiha member once before and Shikaku was supposedly hunting another.
The Uchiha Fiona had dealt with had both the eyes and the looks of one, this one seemed to just have the looks of one without the eyes or chakra coils of a shinobi member of the clan. That damn Uchiha that tried to release the Kyuubi no Youko might have been supremely unhelpful in confirming or denying the Madara suspicions; but his rather violent reaction when Panther and Jiraiya postulated how a seventy or eighty-year-old Madara might still be annoying everyone could have been confirmation or just irritation at their gossiping in his face instead of treating him like a threat.
She had to wonder if they would get anything of note from this one. If Madara had a lot of children to search for a good heir for his fucked up plans; those weaker ones might have been discarded or killed. Then again, it could just possibly a random Uchiha clansmen that had either been abducted or born outside the village who Madara and the plant men had caught and brainwashed into their way of thinking… or one of those missing Uchiha civilian spies from ANBU. They were still missing that one from way back when, and Ne didn't have the records for Panther to be sure ROOT was the cause of that one.
Question of the day; where did Madara's revenge stop and Danzō's meddling begin? Was it before that one civilian ANBU spy got screwed over by a blank masked Dog, or was that afterwards?
Either way, he seemed to have been given tasks to irritate or mislead the Uchiha clan that cast Madara out into doing something supremely foolish.
Like say, think they were being continually slighted and marginalized by the village they defied him for and get them to contemplate a coup.
Danzō might have just taken advantage of that in another life, instead of catching it and solving the damn issue.
"Possibly, distantly if at all though." Natsumi finally suggested dryly. "But just because he looks like one doesn't exactly mean he is one."
"The hospital should be able to tell us, right?"
"DNA profiles aren't that accurate yet."
Both Minato and Mikoto blinked at her and spoke at the same time. "Yet?"
"It'll get better, they just need a wider pool to test and compare to."
"But it will?" The Yondaime prompted after a moment.
"Possibly, if it remains rather popular. It just might, because it would be an easy way to prove or disprove supposed bastard children and identify suspects by blood they leave behind in crime scenes if the scent trails aren't intact enough for the trackers."
The Uchiha's Matron pursed her lips at the other kunoichi. "When were you going to mention that?"
"When it got better, or Tsunade-sama decided if she would keep the process and make it mandatory for all shinobi. As it is, we've got less than a fifth of the village marked out with that. It won't be much help to you and the MPs for another few years yet."
She accepted that easily, turning to knock on the door she had secured behind them so they could discuss the record-less Uchiha that had been caught spreading misinformation in her clan's compound. "Yakumi-san, take him to T&I and into the care of Morino Ibiki. Tell him his sensei said hello and she would like to know where this one came from, as well as his motivations for this little… rebellion of his."
"Sparrow!" Natsumi snapped out, ignoring the start Mikoto and Yakumi gave at her tone. "Follow and put some of Stag's guards on him. Do not allow him to escape."
"Hai, Panther-sama." Naori nodded sharply, patting the MP Officer on the back to tell him she would be back momentarily.
Mikoto blinked a few times. "She's?"
"You never saw or heard that."
Sighing, the genjutsu mistress gave the former assassin a wry smile. "What was that, Natsumi? I don't think I heard you."
"Odd how that works, isn't it?"
"I've got paperwork waiting, ladies." Minato interrupted before that could go any farther. "Are we finished?"
"I am, Mikoto?"
"I have nothing more for you, Yondaime-sama."
"Not you too." Said Yondaime groaned, rubbing a hand over his face. "Just Minato, please. I have enough people Yondaime-ing me."
"And, apparently, Hokage-ing him too." Natsumi chipped in brightly, following their cringing kage into the office section of the MP Headquarters to pick up her very grumpy son. "You should have heard him the first time I did it to him."
Mikoto gave a laugh, saving Sasuke from the MP rookies… or saving the poor rookies from Sasuke.
Given that even Shikamaru looked rather disgruntled with this series of events, at getting abandoned again after mom picked him up from Cell Seven's watch, Natsumi wasn't going to bet on either option.
Shikaku got home a month early.
Natsumi was instantly suspicious as she sat upright on their bed, even if she was beyond happy to see him in the flesh. "You're not home for good, are you?"
He sighed, shifting their keenly curious son to the other side where he seemed to want to go. "I'm afraid not, Natsu. We ran into a bit of a roadblock and we're just back to pick up a few things before going back out for another month or so."
"That's not fair." She blinked a few times rapidly, because she was not going to cry over that. Even if he just got home and managed to surprise her and their son out of a nap. "Hubby mine, what the heck do you need to pick up from the village you can't get… Minato?"
"Yeah. We need an fūinjutsu master and some serious backup." Shikaku glanced over when Shikamaru managed to brace himself up enough to inspect the left side of his face, where two old scars still scored livid and curved lines into him. "The Yondaime fills both, wife of mine. Turns out their jinchūriki is none other than Yagura himself, which means we need something to both fight and contain that. So we've got the options of letting Terumī-san kill him and releasing the three-tails out into the sea or grabbing Minato and have him seal the bijuu into something for the time being."
Natsumi sighed heavily as their son started patting his father's face clumsily.
Shikamaru spent another moment to be sure, then he started crying as he hugged his no longer missing father around the neck.
"Remind him that Fiona's gone, hubby mine. He can't do the Dead Reaper Seal, and we no longer have a dead woman to do it for us."
"Yeah, I- … what?" Shikaku, who had been rather distracted trying to figure out why their baby boy was crying, snapped his head around to stare at her instead of trying to comfort Shikamaru.
"Fiona? You know, that soul of a dead woman that became my Kurama kekkai genkai alter ego?" Natsumi waved a hand to indicate her now yellow right eye. "She's not here anymore… if even was in the first place. Either way, we can't do that cheat again."
She blinked at him a few time. "Shika, we were locked in my head for the equivalent of two days. Yeah, I recall her showing up. I even had to argue for most of those two days to get her to help us."
He stared a moment, then started patting their son on the back in hopes that would calm him down. "So… what was she?"
"That's still squicky. I'm not entirely sure if she was based on what I knew of my own past life or if she was wholly separate of me and was only just kicked awake somehow. Either way, for what she did for us I'm tempted to just say it was her and let her memory rest in peace." Natsumi couldn't really decide, either.
Fiona had wished to be forgotten as much as she could be, so that's what she would do. It was what Natsumi had wished far back when she had been physically three, under the sour realization of all she had loss and the crushing depression that came afterwards, heaped on top of the loneliness getting stuck in the orphanage had left her with. That had probably hit the dead soldier like a ton of bricks all at once, without the ANBU reconditioning and two decades of life to put between everything helping her cope with it all.
If she had more time to think of it, she would have probably stuck the reformed soldier's mental state into something similar to hers. That would have probably broke Fiona less than getting restarted right at the point Natsumi realized she had been killed. That was, if she had any control over that in the first place.
"You are probably the only one I know of who had to argue with yourself in order to save someone's life, wife mine."
"Yeah… you know what? Shut up, husband mine."
Shikamaru flatly refused when Shikaku tried to pry him off to see what was wrong with him, gripping his father even harder and almost wailing in the man's ear. "What in the heck, Maru-chan?"
"He missed you, silly." Natsumi gave him a tired grin. "I almost thought he wouldn't recognize you, but apparently he does enough to know you're the tou-chan he missed every time he was put down for a nap. It's going to suck when you leave again, Shika, he's not going to be happy."
He took that into account, stopping his attempts to get a look at Shikamaru and instead simply hugging the baby back. Their son gave up the screaming, but continued with the death grip on his father's neck as he sobbed.
"Aw hell, Natsu. I'm sorry."
"You know, it's been me everyone thought would swear in front of him but it turned out to be everyone but me swearing in front of him." She gave him a lopsided grin, laying back down and gesturing to the other side of their bed. "Do you have time for a nap?"
"I'm a Nara, I always have time for a nap." Shikaku claimed airy.
Shikamaru refused to give up the grip he had on his father until he fell asleep.
Natsumi had been right.
Shikaku might have gotten three days free, and spent most of that time reacquainting himself with his son, but the day he left Shikamaru kept looking for him.
When it sunk in, that dad was gone again, their baby got more than a little grumpy.
She could only sigh at his betrayed little pout. "Trust me, kiddo. I know full well what you feel. At least tou-chan's coming home again… or at least he better be."
"My husband's going to be gone a fraction of the time, and I already miss him." Kushina confessed bitterly, giving Naruto the bottle to play with since it seemed as if he wanted to. Even if it was empty. "War deployments are supposed to be more fun than this. Kick some rear, explore a bit, camp out for a few months, then go home and rest up."
"It's only fun if you're not leaving anyone behind." Mikoto informed the both of them, a touch of regret coloring her own tone. "As you found, leaving children behind just turns it into a bitter experience."
"Right… before this gets anymore soppy, planning time ladies." Natsumi grabbed the nearest distraction, which happily was the very fūinjutsu design they were here to discuss. "Mikoto, does the Uchiha clan compound need any more room? Planning it in now is easier than amending the seals later."
"Our size for right now will work for the current generation, but we will need some more room in as little as a decade."
"There are apartment complexes just west of you…" Kushina cocked her head, looking over a basic copy of a Konohagakure map. "Who lives there?"
"A few small families, mostly."
The wife of the Yondaime, who had twiddled her thumbs for all of a week before throwing herself into some of the village's internal works once she knew she wouldn't be allowed to run missions anymore, nodded slowly. "We can shift them, probably."
"How?" The ANBU General asked her archly. "Mainly from what I've seen, most people rather resent being told to move."
"The former Kurama clan compound. Most of those homes are wrecks, we tell them if they fix it up for their first year's rent they can live there instead." The former jinchūriki shrugged, tapping her finger on the space marked out as the location they were discussing. "What remains of that clan didn't even inhabit even half of it all before they were disbanded, and even if Tsunade-sama declares the rest of those currently in the hospital helpless we can stick them in the main house and rent out the rest of them. We'd have to tear down the compound walls, but that's not too difficult."
Natsumi wrinkled her nose at the topic, staunchly ignoring the wary look Mikoto gave her for it.
"If that doesn't work, we can always give up Training Grounds Thirty-Eight to you."
"Thirty-Eight? What is that one?"
"It's sand, mostly. Not like there's really any need for that one."
"If we host Suna-nin, there is. I recall Komushi sneaking off to sit in that one a few times a month just because it was sandy and if he ignored how wet it was it was almost like being back in the desert at night."
Kushina bit her lip and thought a bit more. "Well, we can't do north, there's a clinic in there and closing one of those is all bad news. Especially for emergency reasons. South has the compound's gate and the start of the residential district, which would be even more difficult if we tried."
The former assassin thought it though. "Best scenario would have the hime talking to those families when asking them to move."
Mikoto frowned at her. "Why Kushina?"
"Because you're the Uchiha Matron and she's the Yondaime's hime. It's the difference of being told to move because you're in the way and being asked to move to help develop the village more." She almost looked insulted, right on up until Natsumi poked her in the stomach. "Don't even. We only just got the two of you talking, you are not allowed to get bitchy over this."
The ANBU General suddenly blinked, then slammed her head into Kushina's table they were crowded around. "Oh… oh heck."
"Yes! I am forgiven!" Crowed the redhead kunoichi loudly, punching a dainty fist into the air. "Ha! Take that, Natsumi. You swore in front of your baby."
"Nu-ah. I might have sworn once, but you're on two hime. Everyone else is forgiven, not you."
"What! No!" She sank back into her seat, batting suspiciously wet eyes at the Nara kunoichi. "That's not nice."
Mikoto looked between them, then at their youngest children hanging out while their mothers plan out more security for the Uchiha clan. Sasuke, Shikamaru, and Naruto looked rather disturbed over what the Yondaime's wife had been so excited over, and were still warily watching her with wide eyes.
She had to huff a laugh, no matter how unwilling that was.
"Alright, back to topic. Please. Natsumi, can you explain that a bit better?"
"Err, sure. Sorry. It's like a land developer demanding a farming family move so they can make an onsen, if you ask. You might have reason for it, but as far as they can see you'd be booting them just because you can. The hime, on the other hand, is Minato's wife and he's like… way popular. She gives the request, they won't immediately suspect whoever would benefit just because and instead look into it if at all. We're going to take advantage of her Hokage connection to do this painlessly… hopefully."
The genjutsu mistress nodded slowly, a thoughtful look on her face. "Alright, I can see that."
Kushina fiddled with the paperwork they were looking over, giving her former best friend, hopefully not so former sometime soon, a wary look of her own. "So… if that's straightened out… this seal will still take a few of us if we add even more space. It's not as intensive like most of Natsumi's usual works, but it's also lesser in effect. We need to wait for Minato to return, at the very least. Probably for the war to stall out again, as well."
"What about Tsunade-sama and sensei?"
"You want to risk draining the Yondaime, the Head Medic, and our Spymaster all at the same time?"
"Added to you, me, and possibly…"
Kushina raised an eyebrow at the trailing off. "Possibly?"
"An Ame-nin with massive chakra stores. I wonder if Kisame would mind lending us a hand. Nagato too."
She wrinkled her nose. "My cousin I can see, but Hoshigaki?"
"He's water natured like me, hime." Natsumi drew the fūinjutsu proposal she had worked out across the table to see it better. "If we get raiton, probably from Kashi-chan, we can do an elemental draw instead of simply natural chakra absorption. That would cut requirements down a whole lot."
"Doton from Jiraiya-sama, fūton from my husband, suiton from you, katon from me, and raiton from a Hatake?" Kushina considered that. "Diverse, that."
"Nagato and Tsunade-sama for stability while we do so, and Kisame's been called a tail-less tailed-beast so he's good for pure power."
"Will he help?"
"He wants me to do Kirigakure no Sato a favor once the war's over, so probably."
The Whirlpool Princess almost wiggled in her chair. "This will be awesome, like one of the massive Uzumaki works."
"We need a whole lot of prep time."
"Still will be awesome."
"I think I should be concerned." Mikoto opinioned, warily eyeing the plans the two fūinjutsu masters were pouring over. "What do you require from the clan, then?"
"A day out, really. When we're sealing the compound, it will be easier if no one is in there." Kushina shrugged at the look that earned her. "Then you need somewhere to put a master sigil, someplace still accessible so you can add residents as they are born into the seal matrix. That way if someone that isn't recognized by the fūinjutsu seal crosses the boundaries they will get a temporary mark of a leaf on the back of the neck."
"Restrict access for the first week or so," Natsumi chipped in, "while the seal builds up additional power to handle any massive influx of visitors to mark out. After the first rainstorm it'll be fine, though."
"And given we may just be into the rainy season when we're ready to put it up, it might not even take a week."
"Fall?" The Uchiha's Matron blurted out, looking rather surprised. "This has to wait until fall?"
"Well, yes." The Nara kunoichi gestured to the sheer size of the Uchiha clan. "That is about three times more than I can safely seal alone, Mikoto. Even with Minato and the hime, we'd still be stretching it. Sensei added in would give us a very bad case of depletion at best, him and Tsunade-sama would be just at chakra exhaustion for all of us. But if we get Nagato and Kisame? Probably just a very tired feeling, if we can pull this off."
"It's… it's things like this that make me damn whoever it was that murdered off my clan." Kushina tacked on, tiredly rubbing at one jade colored eye. "You'd need all of five chūnin Uzumaki clan members to pull it off twenty years ago. Instead we're going to need seven, only three of which can be even remotely called Uzumaki and four or five of which can be safely labeled as kage-level."
"And that doesn't include the sheer difficulty in getting all that power to work together and not implode." Natsumi finished sadly, leaning back from the table to stretch out her back. "Which will take at least a few weeks to work out if we can at all or not."
"Kisame is water, and Natsumi will handle that." Reassured the redheaded kunoichi, as the genjutsu mistress looked rather alarmed at that. "She's used to working with Minato, who's used to working with Kakashi-kun, Jiraiya-sama, and me. Jiraiya-sama's used to working with Tsunade-sama. Nagato is an Uzumaki, we have a predisposition to work together in our chakra natures. There might be some trouble getting it right the first few times, but that familiarity will only help. That's why she said we're going to work it out before attempting this."
Natsumi tapped her fingers to her lips. "I wonder if Komushi can make it out here to see it?"
"This would be more effective if you can figure out that Uzumaki carving thing too." Kushina informed her haughtily. "If you can do that, I'll invite your old apprentice."
"I've been trying for years though, I still haven't made any headway in that."
She sighed sadly at that news. "Maybe it's just something we'll never see again, Natsumi."
"I'll get it one of these days, but knowing my luck it'll be the day I get fed up with it or try something stupid." The former assassin shrugged it off. "Ah well. So, plans to work on."
Kushina grabbed the paper with the village's layout on it. "I'll talk to the Council of Clans tomorrow, to get this started. Since it is repossessed clan land, we're going to need permission to turn it into simply residential housing."
"I suppose I'm stuck scripting five elemental seals to be tied into this fūinjutsu array." Natsumi sighed a bit herself, as if she didn't do enough paperwork already.
"Sit there and look pretty?"
Mikoto bestowed the ANBU General with a terrifyingly pleasant little smile. "I'm sorry, Natsumi. Can you repeat that?"
"Will you allow me a running head start if I do?"
Kushina giggled, which set off Naruto. Who probably didn't know what his mom thought was so funny but just wanted to laugh with her.
Sasuke seemed to sense everything adult was over with and demanded his mother's attention.
Shikamaru sighed at the whole thing, merely rolling over to continue to nap if at all possible. He might have given her a grumpy look for picking him up, but willingly held onto mom's fūinjutsu design if they at least left the Yondaime's home as it seemed they were doing.
Koichi bolted into her house, his younger brother hot on his heels.
Shikamaru looked pretty damn bewildered at getting suddenly picked up and shoved into the younger Sarutobi's arms.
Natsumi felt for him, really. She was a little bewildered what brought the two of them running for her as well.
"Taicho, we need some help." The ex-saboteur claimed, warily looking around.
What exactly he expected to find in the Nara clan head's study was a little beyond her as well. "With what?"
Koichi sank into the couch the former assassin usually lounged on when Shikaku had to deal with the clan's paperwork, Asuma following suite after hesitating a moment.
"So… you know how the Daimyo put out a call to replace some of the fallen Twelve Guardian Ninja after that latest assassination attempt? The one Bull's squad ended up foiling?"
"Asuma got an invitation to join… but we need a way to explain that to Otou-sama." He sheepishly scratched the back of his head, giving her a weak grin. "But… he already figured out Asuma's planning on pitching in there since he's filling in for the Yondaime for a month or so."
"So you're dumping this on me?"
"You got him to accept me trying ANBU! I still have no idea how you did that."
"I have no idea how she did that either." Asuma put in, still looking a little wary of his father's wrath even behind Natsumi's formidable seal work. "Just please do it again, please?"
"ANBU is a slight bit different than moving out for a decade." Natsumi informed the both of them rather archly, giving up on her fūinjutsu designs for the duration of this conversation. "Asuma-kun, you do know if you do this you won't be coming back for a whole ten or so years, right? You have to be jōnin to leave the village for something like this and when you come back, you'll probably be shoved with a genin team right off the bat."
The Sarutobi wind user nodded with a sigh. "I know. But…"
"It's something you can do that won't be affected by your clan name, right?" The ANBU General rolled her mismatched eyes at his surprised look. "It's the same reasoning your aniki went in ANBU for, Asuma-kun. However, that was a whole lot closer than the capital and Hiruzen-sama could at least see him between missions."
He flushed at that point, scratching his cheek sheepishly. "Err, yeah. I got that. There's always letters, though."
"Asuma-kun, Hiruzen-sama's pretty much regretful over how little time he had to spend with you two over your childhoods. He finally got a little more free time since passing the hat to someone else, and you're instead going to run off on him?"
"It's not like I will never come back." Asuma protested with a measure of confusion. "There will be a dozen of us, I'm guessing a few of us would get leave for a few week stretches."
"That is still majorly different than the war deployments, when we get a few good months free afterwards." Natsumi sighed at them. "But you're not running from him, right?"
"Of course not."
"I am pleased to hear that." Hiruzen interjected from the doorway. "Now, may we discuss this calmly?"
The former assassin blandly ignored her old rookie's alarmed look, instead plucking her still vastly confused son out of the younger Sarutobi brother's arms. "I think we'll make lunch, Maru-chan. Oden sound good, gentlemen?"
"Just how long was he standing there anyways, taicho?"
"About the same time you decided Maru-chan would make a good meat shield." Natsumi informed her old subordinate easily.
Koichi flushed slightly at that reminder. "Err… yeah, sorry about that."
Hiruzen and Asuma were still talking, but Koichi didn't seem upset by what he had heard at the beginning and still seemed rather content to just watch her attempt to feed Shikamaru some kabocha puree. The oden was still cooking, she had the time to do it.
He didn't really seem to like it too much, but put up with it because she normally gave him some of the less chunky parts of the cherry preserves as dessert if he managed to eat what somewhat solid food she gave him.
Like father like son, why it had to be the Uchiha made preserves and not anything else was still beyond her.
There was also the suspicion her baby was starting the dreaded teething part of babyhood, because the squash was on the cool side of too warm and he seemed to be actually chewing on it. Well, trying to at least.
Baby lips were not very flexible in keeping food were it should be, most of the food ended up on her son and not in his tummy.
Shikamaru would need a bath, after this.
It made Natsumi wonder if she should spring the money for one of the electric fridges available now, or if waiting a bit longer for a better model was the way to go. Icy cold things would help him a bit with the teething process, when it started getting swollen or his first tooth broke free of his gums. From what Momo informed her and Mayuko, teething was a horrible process for babies.
Her baby didn't seem too fussed with it just yet, he just chewed on his few remaining plushies when possible or fingers when not. His or mom's, it didn't matter a whole lot to him.
"So, what do you think this will end with?"
"If you're expecting a happy ending, you've gone to the wrong kunoichi." She gave up on the squash, he wasn't really eating it as much as gumming the death out of it. Shikamaru did eye her sternly until she grabbed the jar of cherry preserves for his reward for putting up with her trying to feed him semi-solid foods. "Hiruzen-sama really does want to spend time with you two, and Asuma-kun getting this done right now will be disappointing to him."
"It's an honor to be invited to become one of the Twelve." Koichi pointed out, still watching her as she grabbed a new spoon for the preserves.
"Yeah, so is having the Sandaime Hokage as an otou-sama. You'd think you'd be proud of having him as it, not chaffing at the shadow he casts."
Her old rookie flushed a bit, frowning at that. "We are… it's just getting a good measure of our own skills without that shadow making it stretch more than we're good for."
"Koichi, you survived a year as an ANBU saboteur. No one has managed to do that, not even the last saboteur Konohagakure no Sato had." Natsumi reminded him rather dryly. "If that had to be what you used as a measuring stick and trying out for a position as one of the Twelve Guardian Ninja is Asuma-kun's, I shudder to think what Maru-chan will attempt to prove to himself he is a good shinobi."
Shikamaru gripped the handle of the new spoon, guiding his treat into his mouth rather happily.
"Your son does have one heck of a legacy to live up to." The former Mongoose acknowledged, grinning when said son gave him a curious look in return for being spoken to. "That will be interesting."
"Hopefully he won't learn what I do for the village until he's about twenty, though I'm aware that's a bit unrealistic of me." She opinioned, only slightly sadly. "While I'm not ashamed or anything, ANBU is…"
"Screwed in the head?"
"…does Kakashi know?"
"What taicho and I did for most of our careers?"
Natsumi tilted her head, letting her neck crack since it was getting a little stiff. "I don't think he knows for sure yet… but he probably has a suspicion at the very least. I still call the honorable Sakumo-taicho… well, taicho, and he's seen my ANBU tattoo before."
Koichi tapped a rhythm out on her counter with his fingers, a kind of ANBU gibberish meant to confuse anyone attempting to work out what certain patterns translated to. "You know he's probably planning on asking you to help him into it."
"Yeah, but not until he's sixteen at the earliest will I let him get into that life."
"I'll let him know."
Natsumi gave him a wry look, he merely grinned back.
"What? It's only another year at most, the major parts of the war will be over by then."
"And ANBU will get an upswing in nasty, backstabbing missions." The ANBU General informed her old squad mate blandly. "I've done this before, Koichi. Speaking of… guess what?"
"You're a captain now, congrats."
The eldest Sarutobi brother blinked at her a few times. "I retired."
"Yep, but you still survived a year as a saboteur and that got you an automatic captaincy after the paperwork gets processed. Guess what retired captains do."
He sighed heavily. "Really, taicho? You're going to stick me with some of that?"
"Hey, I let you leave before you formally made captain. Just so you didn't have to try to figure out how to train up another captain in order to get out." Natsumi poked him on the forehead, sticky squash coated fingers or not. "Be happy I let you squirm out of that much and help out with some of that unholy legion of paperwork we're trying to murder every day."
Pulling a face at that, whether over the sticky smear now on his face or for the imagery of demonic paper was up in the air, Koichi shrugged at her. "Alright."
Shikamaru, finished with sucking off all the cherry flavored jelly/syrup he could, threw the spoon on the floor.
Natsumi sighed at her baby, then again when her old rookie picked it up.
Her baby boy took back the spoon and threw it again with a grin.
Koichi blinked at him. "Really?"
"He'll do that as long as you pick it up for him."
The officially chūnin ranked scout gave her a look, then gave Shikamaru an alarmed one when he started pouting at him.
"And if you pick it up for him, he will expect you to play 'pick this up' with him until he gets bored."
"…now you tell me."
"You're the one who had to be ever so helpful. Sucks to be you."
Shikamaru sniffed miserably, Koichi sighed and picked the spoon back up again.
Natsumi laughed as he threw it yet again.
Namikaze Minato was the Yondaime Hokage for a reason.
He got the Kiri assault division returned to Konoha rather quickly, considering he spent all of a bare week in the field with the Ino-Shika-Chou Intelligence team before helping Terumī Mei take down Yagura and overthrow the more obstinate Mist shinobi that hadn't given a damn their kage was three sheets to the wind crazy. Exactly what happened to the three-tailed turtle demon that was Kirigakure no Sato's bijuu was only known to him and the new Mizukage, and would probably stay that way.
Most of the rest of the month had been helping the sixteen-year-old kunoichi firm up her hold on the Bloody Mist, and dealing with the first of the violent objections to her rule.
Minato also brought back a confirmation that Kisame would help out the fūinjutsu laying for the Uchiha clan in return for Natsumi actually going out to Kiri and helping them in a few years instead of Mei having to pay through the nose for that.
"It was stupidly easier than his royal furriness." Konohagakure's Yellow Flash informed his ANBU General, who rolled her ghost pale eyes at him.
"I would hope so, we don't exactly have living dead women just lying around to be sacrificed for that."
Minato nodded, a little hesitantly. "Shikaku told me you recalled that…"
Natsumi blinked at him, a little confused. "What?"
"She's… gone, right?"
"As far as I know, yeah." The former assassin nodded slowly, thinking. "According to all the Kurama notes I've read about an alter ego, they're not supposed to go away after they manifest. They're supposed to lurk about, either in reality or in a user's subconscious. But Fiona's no longer part of me, or stubbornly ignoring everything just because she can. Either way, there have not been any dead ghosts hanging around for the last half year or so."
His shoulders slumped a bit. "Ah."
"I wanted to ask… never mind." Minato shoved a hand through his hair, giving his desk a disinterested look. "Here's to hoping Ito-san's done his usual thing and processed this already."
"He's working out then?" Natsumi asked instead of asking what he wanted to know. He'd probably get shifty on her if she asked right out.
"Like a charm. Hiruzen-sama's a bit put out at you for that."
"And I'm very sorry, but he never told me it was a problem."
The Yondaime huffed at her. "Yeah well, you don't have to hear him grumble about it. Shouldn't you be with your husband?"
"Maru-chan caught sight of his tou-chan before I did, he's not going to let Shika go for anything. Not even kaa-chan." Natsumi grinned faintly, a little exasperated but mostly fond. "They're bonding in their alone time, and not just because he needed a change in diaper and I'm sick of the one doing it."
Minato started snickering, giving her a mock serious look for a whole second. "For shame, sempai. Dumping your heroically returned husband with baby diaper duty."
"Yes, bad me. Oh how shall I cope with said shame?" She actually gave that some thought, much to his amusement. "Rather well, now that I think about it."
He snorted at her, rubbing a hand over his face. "I shudder to think what the hime will do in revenge for getting pulled out of the village, now that I've seen what you've done to your own husband."
"Probably nothing quite so vindictive, honestly." The former assassin gave him a sharp grin. "I fed him some mashed version of the baked beans I made for you when you were sick a little before you all finally reached the gates. He likes them, but they do terrible things to him to say the least."
Clapping the hand that had been rubbing his face over his eyes instead, Minato tried hard not to laugh at the trouble his Jōnin Commander was probably in right then.
"Ask your question, kouhai."
He sighed at that, dropping the hand to both place a secrecy seal and look at her. "Did she like us at all? Fiona pretty much killed herself instead of getting to know us, and that seems…"
"Minato, you have to remember what she lost. For her the last time she closed her eyes her whole squad had been ambushed and killed, something she failed to prevent as their team leader. When she opened them again, she was less than a ghost attached to what could charitably be termed a cold-blooded murderer… or at least, that was the kindest thing she called me. Even with all that, the depression Inoichi had to condition me out of and the loneliness you pulled me from that hit her like a runaway doton jutsu, Fiona still helped us out. It was just… a little much to expect her to be able to handle it all herself. I had all of you, and you all barely got me functioning enough for ANBU to finish the work you started."
Minato nodded to show he heard, but he was staring out over the village from his office window.
"Added to that, I used you to convince her."
"My memories of you. I used that to convince her to help." Natsumi gave him a crooked grin. "She died again so Naru-chan could know his tou-chan, so the hime would have her husband, and so I'd still have you as my otouto. Fiona said you were probably the best hope we had, if our bloody world would have something even remotely resembling the peace she once knew in her childhood."
"Aa…" He floundered slightly, a pleased but embarrassed flush going up his face. "Well… good?"
"Kind of makes you feel guilty, right?" She rubbed at her right eye, which ached a little. It happened, and she was paranoid it was the degrading of the optic nerve that caused it.
"Should we… add her to the Memorial Stone?"
The ANBU General shrugged. "That's up to you, but she wasn't technically a kunoichi."
"She was KIA. Again, even."
"We can't have the Memorial Stone bear a name that's not even in our language."
"What did Fiona mean, then?"
"White, or fair."
The Yondaime nodded at that, pulling a sheet of paper over to him to write it down so it could be added. "Kōsei Shiro, then."
Natsumi gave him a bemused smile. "If you insist. That sounds male, though."
She rolled her mismatched eyes, missing his slightly guilty flinch at his own words.
"So, did you find that Uchiha guy out there with the former Mizukage?"
"We got hints, but not whoever it was himself." Minato informed her, stretching out a little. "Shikaku thinks the black plant thing warned him, or one of the many white ones did it. Anyways, Tsume's next to leave and she'll be tasked with hunting what happened down. Mei-sama has given her permission to wander the breath and width of Water Country to find out."
"…she's not going alone, right?"
"Oh hell no… though Shibi might get slightly annoyed with me."
Ten Years Later
"Well, that's six different shades of creepy." Obito informed his teammates almost pleasantly while looking up at Hashirama's Artificial Body, which seemed to grow out of a very twisted looking tree that was completely subterranean.
"No one said Madara was at all sane, nee-chan even called him a crazy old coot once." Kakashi informed him cheerfully in return, stepping around the dismembered limbs of the damn plant men that seemed to love sprouting out of just about everything. The Sword of Kusanagi lopped a few more heads off as he went, because if you didn't remove the heads the white plants would try to continue to move. "And if she's the one calling someone else crazy, you know it has to be bad."
"Hurry it up, will you?" Rin asked almost in exasperation. "We're going to be late as it is. Torch the sucker and let's go."
"I thought this should have a little more formality to it." Their Uchiha teammate protested, swinging a hand to include the whole panorama of the underground they had investigated. "This was a mad old man's attempt to screw everyone over, which almost worked."
Their kenjutsu master teammate used his legendary sword to decapitate yet another plant man, ignoring that the team's medic was pouring what looked and smelled to be an herbicide over the ground they had covered already. "Yeah… no. If we're late, I will never forgive you."
Obito flushed slightly. "I'm always late!"
Rin whirled on him, placing her hands on her hips and glaring. "We are not, so hurry it up already."
He glared at them from behind his ever present goggles, taking a deep breath and forming the hand seal for his most violent katon jutsu. "Katon: Gōryūka no Jutsu!"
The fire dragon's head he spewed out spiraled over and around the tree with eight hands, causing the whole thing to be set alight. The three of them had a moment to admire it, before Kakashi had a thought.
"These plant things are flammable, right?"
Rin blinked at him. "Supposedly… yeah. They're more plant than man, but even then they don't contain the same amount of water."
"And we just got finished dumping a lot of flammable herbicide on the ground too?"
"I think I know where he's going with this." Obito claimed, looking at his feet and the liquid they had gathered while they had gone spelunking. "We should probably run."
The medic squeaked as she realized what the other two were talking about. "I didn't pack enough burn ointment for this!"
"Lesson learned, now let's go." Kakashi bolted back the way they had come, not needing to look to know his teammate were with him. "I blame you, Obito!"
"I blame whoever came up with this plan!"
"I blame you both, someone should have realized pouring flammable liquid inside a cave then starting a fire was not a good idea!" Rin ducked what looked to be a root, ignoring that Obito vaulted over it instead. "No, I blame Kakashi! He's supposed to be the genius!"
Said genius huffed, mostly to himself, as he resealed the Legendary Grass-Cutter into the storage seal for it inked into his forearm nearly fifteen years ago when he won the sword from his sister. Then he grabbed his teammates and used the hiraishin kunai Raido and Genma had with them up on the surface to get them to a safer location. The two former ANBU agents blinked at the sudden reappearance of the jōnin they had been stuck with for this mission.
"Was it there?" Genma asked around his senbon.
"The black thing? No, he didn't show up." Kakashi allowed his unappreciative teammates hit the ground, sniffing at their grumblings for using the Yondaime's signature teleportation trick on them. "We found a whole nest of the white ones, though."
"Lit the suckers on fire, too." Obito boasted, wincing when Rin smacked him upside the head. "Ow… what I do this time?"
"What haven't you done is a better question."
"Is it pick on Obito day again? So soon?" The Hatake clan head rubbed his hands together. "And it's not even my birthday."
"You three are weird." Genma informed them all blandly, ignoring his long-time mission partner sighing over his blunt comment.
Obito snorted at him, readjusting his goggles. "You haven't seen anything yet, Genma. Give it a week, then call us weird."
"From what exploration we managed to do, all while being attacked mind you, there was the desiccated corpse of an old man attached to the statue thing."
"Kakashi… somewhat serious please. I've had enough of strange today."
"Little Naru-chan managed to get his hands on the Forbidden Scroll, and learned the kage bunshin no jutsu before he was caught at it." Natsumi answered for the Yondaime, a strange grin affixed to her lips. "Given what his chakra levels are like, he can crank those out like no one's business. Kushina-hime is aghast no one told her that was possible at his age, or that it's pretty much ideal for an Uzumaki's chakra stores instead of the standard E-ranked bunshin clone the academy prefers you to do."
Minato pinched the bridge of his nose, looking almost pained at the reminder.
Obito whistled, impressed. "Damn… Kakashi, you can do what? Five of those at most?"
"Yes." The silver haired shinobi gritted out, looking rather upset his old sensei's son managed to upstage him yet again. "Now shush, Obito. The adults are talking."
Rin sighed at them both, using a bit of iryou-nin jutsu in a way probably not intended to render the Uchiha on their team silent. "Kakashi, I'll do this to you as well if you do not get on with it. We're going to miss the beginning if you don't."
The Dog Summoner rolled his eyes at her, turning back to the Hokage and his ANBU General. "The corpse was given over to T&I, we lit it all on fire because we're mostly sure it was some kind of attempt to harvest the Mokuton kekkai genkai from the honorable Hashirama-sama. It had his face, anyways. The official count of the White Zetsu we managed to destroy is still pending upon Raido and Genma actually getting a look into the cave system under the Mountain's Graveyard."
"For the sake of brevity, good." Minato claimed, getting up from his desk chair. "We'll revisit this later, like preferably in an hour or two."
All but bouncing, Rin exited the Hokage's Office first, followed by her teammates. One of which was rather desperately trying to get her attention to un-paralyze his vocal cords and the other snickering over his misfortune.
Minato sighed heavily, shoving a hand through his blond, spiky hair. "Do you think she does it on purpose or is it just…?"
"Rin? I think she is doing it just to irritate him." Natsumi informed her kage dryly. "They are dating, that just might be her getting back at him for some slight or another."
"Poor Kakashi's stuck in the middle of that."
"Poor my ass. He finds it amusing as all fuck." She refuted easily as he got up to follow his old students out of the Hokage's Tower complex. "Kashi-chan maintains he's going to be an eternal ji-chan, and leave the baby things to me and Midori-chan. I think he's just keen on avoiding the pregnancy hormones and baby messes, OCD little bastard."
"Eri-sama will not appreciate the slight on her honor."
"She knows perfectly well he's a bastard child too. She just managed to marry taicho shortly after his birth, which is why everyone forgets that."
Minato rolled his eyes at her, leading the way out of his office.
They did have an academy graduation to witness, which was why Natsumi let him get away with that one without needling him more.
The ANBU General let Kushina corral her husband and all but bodily drag him to the front to see their baby finally graduate the academy and become a genin, instead she wandered over to where her own husband had rather skillfully contained their five-year-old daughter.
Shikaina blinked wide brown eyes innocently up at mom, making Natsumi suspicious. "Alright, what did you do?"
"Someone decided your fūinjutsu ink was pretty… and poured it all out on the floor of the study before Eri-baa-chan caught her at it." Shikaku answered for their daughter, voice as dry as Suna's wind. "There's a very large splotch of wood stained black, which doesn't seem to want to be cleaned up."
"…that might be chakra burn, hubby mine. That ink did contain a fair bit."
The Jōnin Commander blinked at her, a twitch to his mouth. "So…?"
She sighed at him, thinking of how much fūinjutsu ink she had made up and what that would do if just poured out. "We're probably going to have to replace the floorboards. I'm not that good at that…"
Shikaku poked their daughter in the belly. "I believe you owe kaa-chan something, Aina-chan."
"Is that a question, Aina-chan, or a statement?" Natsumi asked archly.
Her baby girl wilted a bit. "Gomen, kaa-chan."
She would feel slightly bad about making her daughter cringe if the former assassin didn't know Ino had taught Shikaina all the best ways to get something out of her parents, like bat big eyes when she was in trouble with Shika-ji and pout cutely when she had to face Sumi-ba-chan for something. Mayuko merely laughed when Natsumi complained to her the first time, claiming it was Panther-sama's own fault for wanting a daughter.
"Right… well, Maru-nii should be almost done. You two wait here, I've got to go ask Kashi-chan for a favor."
Shikaina perked up at the mention of her brother, giving Shikaku a bit of trouble to keep her where he could see her and not into something that would make either parent cringe. He gave her an arch look over their daughter's head.
Natsumi merely beamed at him, leaving him to it and threading her way to where she could see the Hatake clan head's rooster mop of silver hair.
Obito waved two fingers at her, resigned to his girlfriend's excitement of waiting for the latest medics to graduate the academy to present themselves to her. Rin had been pitching in rather frequently for the chūnin iryou-nin Ryoko, who was getting a little on in years to be continually patching up ninja trainees. The former Horse was seriously contemplating giving up her day job and maybe tending a herb garden somewhere quiet.
Kakashi gave her a flat look. "No, I will not take on your gaki and his genin team."
"You can't do that anyways, Kashi-chan. You made me an official honorary Hatake, and I couldn't take you on as a genin even before that when I was still unofficial." The ANBU General gave him a flat look of her own back. "No, I need a different favor."
"I need you to take on Minato's gaki and his genin team."
He stared at her.
"You already said 'alright', pick the new Team Seven up in a week." Natsumi grinned at him, patting her otouto on the cheek as she did so. "Thanks, Kashi-chan. We appreciate it."
His Uchiha teammate almost hit the ground, laughing hard enough he got shushed by his girlfriend.
"Oh come on, nee-chan! I don't want a team of gakis!"
"You are neither the head of a mid-sized or larger clan, nor the head of a department." She sniffed at him, mock seriously. "…or a medic. You have to take one, at the very least. Obito-kun, I'd stop laughing or I'll stick you with one this year too. You already have until next year to pick one yourself, the year after you're getting stuck with one."
Kakashi made a frustrated gesture, which also included an ANBU hand sign for 'clarification'. "Why me?"
"Tradition, honestly." She crossed her arms under her chest, not before flashing him 'protection' and 'guard', and smirked. "I did it for the Sandaime, guess what you're doing for the Yondaime."
He, Obito, and Rin might have tried ANBU themselves and gotten out a bare three years later; but they did still have ticks and habits that stayed with them ever since. That had made Natsumi depressed in a way, because that meant in his other life he probably had broken himself on their missions or in ANBU itself. The Hatake clan head was a prickly bastard, always sarcastically biting and a bit of an asshole as well, but if you stuck it out with him he would probably cheerfully murder for you if you ever asked.
The one time Gai got into more trouble than he could handle, Kakashi was the one to bolt to his side and bail the taijutsu master out. All because the little Turtle SOS Summons her old genin student adored so reached him first.
"You never really left, though."
"I was on the bench at the time, recovering from injury." She shrugged at him, a wry kind of twisted smirk on her lips. "Face it, Kashi-chan. You're going to be a jōnin-sensei, suck it up and get over it."
"Well… if I can't screw with tradition, can I screw with their heads?"
"Of course. That's practically the best part of being a jōnin-sensei. You have seen my Ibiki work, right? I'm so proud of him."
Obito, who had probably only half followed the conversation, snapped his head around fast enough to crack it. "Natsumi-sama… what are you telling him?"
"Fun things." She grinned at the suddenly pale and goggled Uchiha, flicking her fingers at the two shinobi in an ANBU gesture of thanks. Rin was still trying to warp reality by will power alone to see which of the trainees she helped train up did graduate or not. "I'll see you three later."
The ANBU General wound her way back through the throng of parents and academy trainee supports gathered to either celebrate or commiserate with their academy students, waving slightly to the newly promoted jōnin Midori and her boyfriend Uchiha Shisui.
That had been hilarious in spades, when Midori-chan presented her choice for a future husband to her brother for approval.
Kakashi took his irritation out on Obito, though, so while unnerved the shunshin specialist did at least escape that confrontation without much damage.
Whether or not the couple would survive the three years the Hatake clan head had wrangled out of his sister for any possible wedding would be interesting; because while Kakashi adored his beloved baby sister, Eri would greatly appreciate getting her silver haired grandchildren already if she already had one with mismatched eyes from Natsumi… and if Kakashi was trying to avoid the whole fatherhood thing, that left just Midori to appease their mother.
She didn't get more than halfway back to where she left her husband and daughter before she got ambushed, by her own old genin team themselves.
Koichi grinned at her, carefully skirting around so he didn't put her in his shadow. "Taicho! What a surprise to see you here."
"My son is graduating. Yes, quite the surprise." Natsumi grinned at Konohamaru, who was pretty content to keep his father between him and the crazy Nara kunoichi. "I think the question would be what are you all doing here?"
Gai fidgeted with his fingers, giving her a suspiciously overly shiny grin. "Sensei, may I ask a favor from you?"
"Yes… Tenten-chan's kaa-san is… uh… no longer with us."
"She died a few years ago, Gai, what…" Natsumi thought about it, blinking at him after a moment. "You want me to talk to her?"
"My student requested, if I wished to help her, for a kunoichi to speak to." He gave her a thumbs up, and a 'good guy pose' he had once seriously asked about copyrighting.
The ANBU General nearly dented Kakashi's head for sticking that idea into Gai's head, and then again when the silver haired asshole decided to try and find the taijutsu master's limit for weird shit.
The green bodysuit and orange leg warmers? All Kakashi's fault… even if Gai decided he rather liked the look and kept up with it even after the expiration of the limit the kenjutsu master set.
"Alright then, bring her by and well go get tea while you bond with your other students." Natsumi glanced to the blanked faced Ibiki standing slightly behind his old teammate. "Did he really need this much backup to request my help with something?"
"He decided to do this right when we were supposed to be catching up." The interrogator informed her blandly. "Then, of course, Koichi brought along his gaki and we couldn't do much of anything really fun."
"You know, you can have one of your own if you really wanted." The technically retired ANBU captain informed him archly in return for the slight against his son. "I'm pretty sure that kunoichi you work with, the one with the purple hair, wouldn't mind jumping into bed with you."
"Ooh… what's this now?"
Ibiki's face went as hard as stone, glaring at his old teammate. She sensed great blackmail material was afoot.
"Purple hair and in T&I? This wouldn't happen to be little Anko-chan, would it? Uchiha Mikoto's old kunoichi student?"
Natsumi's lips curved wickedly at his flat stare, one that might intimidate most of what passed through the Torture and Interrogation Department but not her or anyone else that knew the jōnin well.
"Alright, fine. I'll stop picking on you. Where's Nawaki, anyways?"
"Mission to Sunagakure no Sato." Koichi shrugged, scratching the side of his face. "Something about the trade route from Earth to Wind."
"Nice to know you care so much for your old teammates, Koichi-kun." Rolling her mismatched eyes at his admonishing look, she flapped a hand at Gai. "Bring your kunoichi student over in two or so days, but you really should be catching up with them. They did set aside time to do the whole bonding thing with you, you know."
Koichi and Ibiki blinked at her, then cringed when Gai almost burst into tears for his unthinking slight against his old genin teammates. The vow to make up for it through physical strength training jolted the both of them into trying to find something to derail his attention on to.
Natsumi left them to it, pleased that the taijutsu master would get revenge on his fellow jōnin for not inviting her to their catching up day. She was still their jōnin-sensei, no matter how old or skilled they were, she liked to know they were alive sometimes.
By the time she managed to relocate her husband and daughter, the academy had let out the newest graduates to the appreciative clutches of their families. Shikamaru glanced up at her with the same eye coloring he had been born with, quirking a wry smirk for her. "I did it, kaa-chan."
"I see that, Maru-kun." As he did copy her in wearing the hitai-ate of a Konohagakure shinobi, it was tied to his left bicep. "Now, you know perfectly well if you break your kaa-chan's heart by getting killed… I'll kick in the door to the Shinigami's realm and kill you myself, yes?"
Shikaku huffed a laugh at her. "No you won't. You'll lecture him to death about how sloppy he had to be to get killed in the first place."
"Point remains, he'll still be dead."
"Maa… I can just feel the love." Shikamaru rolled his eyes at them both, letting his little sister grip onto his arm to see the shiny and engraved metal that was so fussed over. When she started pulling on his arm, it was another thing entirely. "Imouto, what?"
Shikaina pouted at him, yanking on his left arm again. "Up."
"You're getting too old for that." Denied the Nara heir, but he did roll his eyes again and crouch so she could get a piggyback ride from him. "Happy now?"
"She won't ever take your 'no' seriously if you cave in so easily, Maru-kun." Natsumi informed her oldest child dryly, smirking. "If you keep doing that, she'll keep demanding to be carried even when you both are old and grey."
Shikamaru gave her a lazy look and a boneless shrug that made his little sister giggle. "It's less troublesome to just go with it."
"Tell me about it." Shikaku muttered, coughing and giving his wife a grin when she narrowed her eyes at him. "Yes, wife mine?"
"You still owe me another child, Shika."
He blinked at her. "We already have two."
"Three, hubby mine. You owe me three. Maru-kun, Aina-chan, and one more. Maru-kun popped my kidney and you missed most of his first year, he doesn't count."
"Thanks, kaa-chan." Their eldest informed her dryly. "I'm forever going to hear about that, aren't I?"
"Yes, get used to it."
Shikaku rubbed his scruffy jawline, frowning. "Wait, does that mean I owe you another gaki or two more?"
"Yes." Natsumi grinned at his look for her unhelpful comment.
AN#2 : Bit short of my usual word cap, but eh.
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