XII.

The screams of code: AMBER were really starting to get annoying, and Naruto had half a mind to scream "Shut the hell up and let me work!" if it wouldn't have gotten him hit by Sakura. She and Ino, along with Tsunade, were trying to keep Shikamaru from running after Kankurou and Naruto to rescue the newborn girl, even if he knew the impracticality of it. Naruto was the best tracker around and Kankurou was pissed with a father's vengeance. Whoever had taken baby Momogi was certainly going to die a horrible painful death at the hands of Kankurou, if not Naruto.

Because no one messed with Naruto's friends like that. No one ever hurt Naruto's friends without getting hurt in return with severe interest. Naruto caught the scent amidst the running bodies, and without a word to Kankurou, bounded down the hall, out a service entrance. He paused only to study a discarded uniform and wait for Kankurou to catch up before the pair was bounding away, moving as fast as only jounin can. The abductor had a good, almost two-hour lead on them, and if any rescuing needed to be done, it needed to be done two hours ago. They moved with a single minded intensity, Naruto pausing to catch the scent, urging Kyuubi's haste, getting grumbles in return but compliance as well, because even as combative as Kyuubi was, he understood the importance of getting the little girl back.

Trees passed like shadows, Kankurou suddenly halting, nearly forcing Naruto to slam into him. They didn't have to speak to each other, Naruto's electric blue gaze easily finding what Kankurou was staring at. A group of nin, missing nin, the same Kankurou and Shikamaru had described in the report he'd seen on Tsunade's desk when delivering his own. He felt more than saw Kankurou's movement, and in an instant he knew that these missing nin wouldn't survive.

It didn't take long to get the wanted information out of them and leave the corpses behind.

Naruto made a mental note to never piss off Kankurou to the point the elder jounin was riding the killing edge in full force.

The pair ran through the woods, bounding and flying through branches and over streams, Naruto halting this time for the scent had grown increasingly strong. He gestured to Kankurou, and the puppet master moved into the shadows at the blonde's side. Naruto sniffed the air, Kyuubi heightening his senses, and Kankurou gripped his shoulder suddenly.

"You were growling," Kankurou whispered.

"Down there." Naruto replied, not even bothering to apologize. "The scent's strong down there, by that old dock we found last summer."

Kankurou nodded, remembering the experience. A game of jounin-tag that had gotten out of hand, the group had stumbled upon the dock, newly constructed. At the time, it wasn't of consequence, but now, both were regretting leaving that dock untouched.

"We go down, slowly." Kankurou said. "As quiet as we can. I don't want anything to happen to Momogi."

"Nothing will happen to her," Naruto whispered. "I won't let anything happen to her. I promised Shikamaru."

Kankurou nodded and followed Naruto out of the tree, down to the loamy earth below. He knew that when Naruto promised something, it was most certainly going to be kept. It was a trait he liked in the blonde, something that made him willing to follow Naruto instead of lead. Kankurou loosed Karasu from its pack then, strengthening the chakra threads that controlled it, sending it ahead of them when Naruto paused. A boat was docked there, laden with supplies for a good week's trip down river, supplies for an adult human and an infant. So, this bastard had planned this. Kankurou tamped down the growl that wanted to escape and nodded, letting Naruto pick their way forward, the two creeping slowly through the wood to the break that started just before the beach.

Someone was talking, talking over a baby's beginning cry, though the wailing was muffled. As if the infant was in a basket with a lid or something. Kankurou felt his lips twitch into a snarl and watched Naruto creep forward. The younger jounin wasn't using his customary tactic of creating numerous clones and attacking head on, which Kankurou had honestly thought he was going to do. When Naruto paused, though, Kankurou saw for a brief instant the widened whisker-like scars on the blonde's cheeks, and the normally electric blue gaze a vivid red. It was only a moment, but it was enough that whoever was talking emerged to see what had caused such a fluctuation in chakra. Kankurou really snarled then, recognizing the woman.

Naruto, apparently, recognized her too, for he let out an inhuman growl and charged. Kankurou wanted to stop Naruto, but he realized the blonde was providing distraction. He was giving Kankurou time to go in and rescue his daughter. The puppet master didn't waste the moment afforded him, darting from his hiding place to the boat, leaping aboard and following his daughter's cry. He should've known the trap, should've seen it. He heard the click just as he found Momogi, his beautiful little girl staring at him with wide emerald eyes, her face wet with tears. No time to stand mesmerized, Kankurou scooped up his daughter and bounded off the boat, just before the whole thing went up in flames. Father and daughter landed in the water, Kankurou constructing a globe of chakra around the infant girl to keep her from breathing in water. Momogi still cried, frightened, and Kankurou did his best to quiet her. But he had to surface, otherwise Naruto would go crazy.

And Kankurou wanted the pleasure of murdering Chisuru himself.

His head broke the surface just in time to hear Naruto's scream of denial, and waterlogged as he was, he moved into the blonde's view. The scene before him certainly took Kankurou back a moment, staring at the tails that were forming in that red chakra of Naruto's. Almost five tails were visible, but Naruto wasn't in the midst of transformation. No, this was a tandem attack, Kyuubi lending Naruto his strength, their anger fueling the burning red chakra. In an instant, it was gone, Naruto bounding over to Kankurou, another cry of denial echoing, this time from Chisuru.

When Naruto reached Kankurou and Momogi, he was blue-eyed again. Kankurou handed his daughter to the younger jounin, hushing the girl before she started to cry again. Naruto stepped back, out of range of any attack, Momogi held firmly to his chest.

"There's something you ought to know, Chisuru," Kankurou started as he moved slowly toward her, fingers twitching to get Karasu in place.

"You have no idea what you've done!" Chisuru screamed. "That child is mine by deed and I intend to raise her! She is my wonderful experiment and I demand her return!"

Kankurou had to laugh, he had to. "There's something you ought to know, Chisuru," he said again, moving ever closer, ignoring the chakra-laced kunai that were thrown at him. Naruto had worn her down, broken her left leg and her arm, more than likely shattered her ribs, and had done some internal damage as well. Chisuru didn't have a chance in hell against Kankurou. Another time, the puppet master would've let her live. Another time, he would have let her walk away. But not now, not this time.

"There's something you ought to know," Kankurou said for a third time. "You can fuck with my village. You can fuck with my brother and my sister. Hell, you can fuck with me."

He was close, his fist rocketing out to connect with Chisuru's jaw, breaking the bone and rendering speech useless for her. Another fist caught her in her already broken ribs, shattering them worse. When she dropped to the ground, he kicked her over, so she could see him. He kicked her again to roll her, until she lay perfectly where he wanted her.

"You can fuck with Konoha, but I don't advise that, because they'll fuck you over twice as hard." He heard Naruto snort, but ignored the blonde's realization of the double entendre, "But you never-"

He loosed one chakra thread.

"Ever-"

Another loosed.

"Ever-"

The last. Karasu's interior blades snapped open beneath Chisuru, the blades slicing easily through her flesh, decapitating her and removing her limbs, her guts, everything. They snapped back in, cutting her flesh to tinier pieces. Kankurou bent then, grabbing Chisuru's head by her hair, hoisting it up to eye level, knowing some spark of consciousness must still be in there, turning that head to survey the damage Karasu had done to her scheming body.

"Ever fuck with what's mine."

He dropped the head then, looking to Naruto as he pulled up Karasu from the sand, packing it away in its case again, moving over to Naruto and his daughter. Naruto watched him with a mixture of respect and awe, and Kankurou only shrugged. He picked Momogi up, out of Naruto's arms, and held her against his chest, watching those beautiful intelligent eyes move over his face, taking in the sight of blood.

"She didn't cry," Naruto said as they walked back to Konoha, "She didn't cry, not once, at the sight of blood."

Kankurou laughed and looked at the sleeping child in his arms, wrapped in Naruto's obscenely orange coat to keep her warm. "What do you expect? She's my daughter after all."

"Shikamaru's too." Naruto reminded, as they entered the hospital close to dusk. No one hindered the pair, no one demanded to know who they were, why they were here, bloody and bruised, carrying a child. Sakura met them at Shikamaru's room's door and Naruto hung back, letting Kankurou enter by himself, carrying baby Momogi who squirmed in her sleep.

"Let her keep it," Naruto said when Kankurou looked apologetically at him. "I can always get another."

The room was silent when Kankurou entered, and he found Shikamaru on the bed, watching him. He moved over to his lover and sat carefully beside him on the bed, gently shifting their daughter into her mother's waiting arms.

"I never doubted you," Shikamaru whispered to Kankurou as he gazed at Momogi's sleeping face. "I never doubted you'd fail."

Kankurou leaned in, capturing Shikamaru's mouth for a brief moment. "I'd never fail you. I'd never fail you or Momogi."

Shikamaru smiled, his lips trembling as he let himself cry, even as Kankurou hugged him, even as Kankurou settled in the bed beside him, arms wrapped around Shikamaru as Shikamaru held their daughter. Kankurou whispered things to him, loving, insignificant things, but it was enough to lull Shikamaru to sleep. Kankurou watched his family, and looked up toward the growing night. Night held significance to all living things, especially for ninja. For night was the time of silence, the time of renewal, and even though the night was as fragile as stained glass, even the shattered night, the shattered glass, could be repaired. Kankurou looked down at Shikamaru, looked down at Momogi, and knew the shattered glass that had been his family before had been repaired by the birth of this wonderful little girl.

~ Owari ~