This chapter is going to be Legen... wait for it... dary! Legendary!
Hello, my faithful readers and welcome to Chapter 21. What can I say about this except for BIGGEST CHAPTER EVER! I obsessed over this for a couple of weeks, and even though it's longer than any other one I've ever done I had to make sure I waited to release it because of the last part. You'll know what I'm talking about when you read it, and I expect a shitload of reviews for this chapter because of it.
As always, I'd like to give the standard thanks and shout-outs to various people for helping me with my story - there's a bunch of them this time! As I mention every chapter, reader interaction is very important to me and although this is MY story, great ideas can come from anywhere.
Thank you to fellow author Titokhan for helping me out, as well as my anonymous beta for his continued efforts and support. You guys help make my job so much easier, and it's appreciated.
Raja-Ulat: Came up with many ideas regarding Sakura and her supposed claim to the monopoly on Sasuke. Thank you so much!
devilzxknight86: Your idea about Jace inspired me to create a new character for the Mienai Segi based off of that. It also fits in with how I adjusted the story based on suggestions from MattWilson83. As a bit of foreshadowing, the character will be female and her name will by Nyx. I'll let your imagination fill in the blanks, but thank you so much for the suggestion!
firetemplar415: There's a Might Guy part in here based off of one of your suggestions. I hope you like it.
Lord Farsight: I will be putting in a piece later in the story based on your idea regarding the Mienai Segi and the Akatsuki. Thank you!
Hektols: I put something in to explain why the Mienai Segi think Gideon is the second strongest. Hopefully you think it's plausible. And there's a part in there to address your Sakura/Hokage comment. Your suggestions always rock!
Arcana37210/Kingkakashi: A lot of the tweaking and foresight for the Shikamaru/Temari part was done with the both of you in mind. I know it won't be perfect, but I hope you appreciate what I tried to do.
MattWilson83: This is going to be a big one. Quite a bit of this chapter was tweaked, written or re-written based off of suggestions, ideas and banter back and forth between me and him. I won't get into specifics because it'll give away what you're going to read, but suffice to say that most of what I wrote through the first half of the story is because of him. I hope this chapter meets with his high expectations.
I can't thank him enough for his help, as well as giving me a shout-out on his DeviantArt page, which to me is kind of like winning the lottery. According to him, I've actually helped inspire him to start writing FanFiction again and he's got a new story called Shadows. If you haven't read it - or his graphic novel NaruHina Chronicles on DeviantArt - you need to check them out. It's phenomenal stuff.
And for all you DeviantArt artists, there will be a small note at the end for you. So stick around.
This chapter is dedicated to the following authors who have made mention of my story in their own recently. Of course, I've recommended them all before but it goes without saying that you have no idea what you're missing if you don't check them out!
weirdismyname - Beyond and Heiress' Purpose: Just got updated. A phenomenal story with tons of NaruHina goodness.
Softwinds - The Ring That Binds: I can't stress enough how much I love this story. The latest chapter just released was probably one of the most heartfelt, emotional and loving things I've ever read on FanFiction. It was beyond awesome, and I get choked up every time I read it, which is a lot.
gigiree123 - A Reluctant Return: I'm going to preface this by saying that I am now the beta for this story and helped out a TINY bit with the latest chapter, but that should only serve to get more people over to read this excellent piece of work. The latest chapter is extremely powerful and superbly written. Read it! Read it! Read it!
cherryxbutterfly - Breaking Point: I recommended this story last chapter and it's coming to a close soon, so read it before it's all done! For anyone interested, she has a NejiTen story on her new profile, MsTenshiLady. First chapter just came out.
And last, but not least I would like to thank YungHime for writing such a superb penultimate chapter for her story By Your Side. It tugged at my emotional heartstrings more than once. Kudos to you for such exceptional work.
So here's this chapter's disclaimer. Not a movie, I just thought I would go with a bit of humor this time. Hope it makes you laugh.
Disclaimer – I don't own Naruto. And could you please tell me who you are and what you do?
Achmed – Good evening…infidel. My name is Achmed. I am a terrorist.
Disclaimer – What kind of terrorist?
Achmed – A terrifying…terrorist. Are you scared?
Disclaimer – Not really, no.
Achmed – SILENCE! I KEEL YOU! (+1 if you get the reference).
Chapter 21 – Expect the Unexpected
When Naruto came into the office the next day, he told Kakashi to come back after one o'clock since most of what he was going to be doing that morning consisted of relatively minor decisions that he could handle on his own. If a major issue came up he'd send someone to get him, but otherwise he was free to leave until then.
The imprint his backside left in the couch didn't have time to disappear before Kakashi was out the door.
Naruto chuckled at his former sensei, before opening his top right drawer and pressing a button. Almost instantly, an ANBU wearing a Tiger mask appeared in front of him.
"How may I be of assistance, Hokage-sama?"
Naruto handed him a piece of paper. "I need you to bring everyone on this list to my office as soon as possible please. Also, I want to be informed as soon as Shikamaru Nara and Temari Sabaku leave the village for Suna."
Tiger nodded and then disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
Naruto sighed. In a sense he was dreading the meeting that was coming, but now that he was Hokage he needed to act like it. He just hoped that at the end of what he was about to do, his friends would be understanding about his position in all of this.
From behind his desk, Naruto watched as his friends filed into his office. Ino and Choji had arrived first, followed closely by Shino. Kiba and Mina arrived next, with Akamaru in tow. Lee walked in right after that, proclaiming to everyone how his flames of youth were burning brightly today before Arekusu silenced him with an elbow to his ribs.
Neji and Tenten were the last to walk through the door, but Naruto noticed something different about the couple. Neji was being a bit more attentive to his wife, and Tenten was walking a bit gingerly, favoring her left side as well as seeming a bit pale. However, despite all of that she seemed to have a healthy glow about her which could only mean one thing.
"Congratulations, you guys." Naruto said heartily. "Looks like Neji started making good on his request at the wedding. I'm guessing Tenten is about two months along. When's your due date?"
Neji and Tenten froze at the statement, wondering how Naruto could have found out so quickly. They had only told a select few people, and those that knew were told to keep the information very low key, and not tell anyone else.
"Naruto, how…how did you know I was pregnant?" Tenten asked hesitantly.
"Well, besides the fact that Neji is showing a bit more attention to you in public than usual, your face gets this twinge whenever you walk on your left leg. That tells me you're experiencing some lower back pain, and then there's the fact that you're a bit more pale than usual, which means you are more than likely feeling a bit nauseated." Naruto shrugged nonchalantly. "My guess, when combined with all the other changes I noticed, would probably be morning sickness. Although, I hope everyone in this room knows about it. I'd hate to think I just blurted out something so personal, like I did with Gaara and Matsuri at the wedding."
Neji sighed in resignation. "Yes Naruto, everyone in the room knows about it, thank Kami. And the baby is due about a week or so after my birthday. But just like everyone else, we would ask that you keep the knowledge to yourself. The two of us have very important reasons for keeping it confidential."
Naruto was suddenly curious as to what Neji was talking about. Better to have that discussion another time, he thought, and not when everyone else is here. Nodding in agreement, he then turned to look at the rest of the group.
"I'm betting that everyone would like to know why I've summoned you here."
"We figured that you just wanted to rub it in our faces about how you finally made Hokage. You've only been bragging about it since you were eight." Ino said with a smug grin on her face.
Naruto smirked at her. "Actually Ino, that wasn't my reason at all. But if you'd like, I can do that after this meeting so that you can tell everyone you weren't wrong."
Everyone laughed at his comment, with the exception of Ino who glared daggers at the newest Hokage.
"No, the reason I brought you all here is because yesterday I got an unexpected visit from Lady Tsunade. Apparently, there's been quite a bit going on between everyone here and a certain pink-haired kunoichi since I left on my mission…"
***Flashback – Late Yesterday Afternoon***
It was five o'clock, and Naruto was ready to go home for the day. With Kakashi hanging around to help with some of the larger decisions, along with his ability to make as many shadow clones as he needed, he'd carved through the mountains of paperwork that had been waiting for him on his first day in office.
He'd been just about ready leave – just like that morning, he could have used the Hiraishin no Jutsu to get home – but once again, he felt some face time with the villagers would be in his best interest. It might take him longer, but it would be worth it in the long run.
And then there was a knock on his door and he bade whoever it was to enter. Needless to say, he was surprised when it opened and he saw Tsunade standing there, since he wasn't expecting to see her today.
"Hey," Tsunade said gingerly. "I was wondering…umm, if you could talk. To me. For a little while."
Naruto sat frozen in place as he considered her request. The last time they'd spoken, it hadn't gone very well and he'd left her office, angry and bitter over what she'd done. Hopefully, the reason she was here was because she finally realized how much pain and suffering her actions had caused, and she felt some remorse over it.
Besides, now that he was Hokage he couldn't just throw a hissy fit and refuse to talk with someone. It was his job to be available to anyone who needed him, no matter what the circumstances.
"Sure. Come in." He said, in a very businesslike manner.
Tsunade noticed the lack of warmth in his voice and cringed inwardly. She knew she deserved that, and so much more. She closed the door and sat down in front of him, her hands fidgeting nervously.
"So. What brings you here today?" He asked bluntly.
Tsunade tensed. Considering the subject of their last conversation, she needed to be very careful with her next set of words, so that Naruto wouldn't get the wrong impression of the reasons why she was here.
"I'm…I'm not sure if you know, but yesterday Kakashi visited Sasuke and Sakura in the hospital. Apparently, there were some questions he didn't have the chance to ask Sasuke before he had to leave unexpectedly, and he wanted to see the baby as well."
"Sasuke was fine…more than fine, actually. He was practically doting over their brand new daughter, but Kakashi noticed immediately that something was off with Sakura. She seemed very listless and distant, far more so than what's normal for someone who just gave birth a few hours earlier. He said it was almost like she was numb to her surroundings."
Other than raising one eyebrow, Naruto showed no outward expression at the news. "That's extremely out of character, especially for someone like Sakura. She's always been pretty… expressive with her opinions and emotions, and I'd think that she'd be shouting from the rooftops about the fact that she finally has the baby she always wanted. Why the sudden change in personality?"
Tsunade relaxed a bit. The conversation was going better than she'd thought; although she did find it a bit unnerving that Naruto hadn't shown any emotion at the mentioning of Sakura's name.
"Kakashi was concerned for those exact same reasons, so he came to me afterwards and asked me to have a private talk with Sakura, while Sasuke was meeting with you earlier today. He wanted me to subtly play the role of a psychologist hoping that I could find out what was wrong, and then report that information back to you. Besides, I haven't seen her since you left the village, and he felt it might be… therapeutic for us to chat for a bit."
"You didn't see her once during the entire time I was gone?" Naruto asked curiously. "What have you been doing for the last two months?"
She inhaled deeply before letting out a shaky breath. "Well, the day after our…meeting, I started drinking. Probably far more than I ever have. Most of the first month was lost to memory blackouts; I can only remember bits and pieces of it. Your wife found me at that point and…well, pretty much threatened me into sobering up. I haven't had a drink since then, and I've been avoiding Sakura at all costs because she was pregnant and I basically have anger issues."
Even though his face remained stoic, inwardly Naruto was shocked. He wondered what Hinata had threatened her with that caused Tsunade to swear off alcohol. Whatever it was, it must have been truly frightening.
"So you went to see Sakura this morning at Kakashi-sensei's request, and talked with her. What did you find out?"
"She's suffering from a severe state of depression, Naruto." Tsunade said, the concern evident in her voice. "I'm not sure you're aware of this – seeing as you've only been back for a day – but while you and Sasuke were gone, the rest of your friends had a meeting and decided to tell everyone in the village about what Sakura did. They wanted her to feel some measure of what Hinata had to deal with for the past eight years."
"She's basically been treated like an outcast since then. Neji even went out of his way to involve the other clans, convincing them to influence the local businesses to either inflate their prices, or refuse to sell her anything. As soon as Temari told Gaara about how Sakura was planning to give Hikaru up to an orphanage in Suna, he immediately banned her from their village."
"But even with all the effort your classmates put forth to make her suffer, she still feels there's someone else who shoulders more blame for everything that's happened to her than all your friends combined." Tsunade pointed a finger. "And that person is you."
Finally showing some emotion, Naruto glared at Tsunade and asked, "Me? How the hell am I to blame for any of this?"
"Her thought process is extremely twisted Naruto, but it's because things have always revolved around you – from her vantage point at least. Her dream – or plan, depending on how you look at it – has always been to marry Sasuke and help him restore the clan. She wanted to be the center of his world; the focus of his attention. She wanted to be the reason for positive change in his life, and despite her best efforts she never made that happen. Yet in the short time you've been back in the village, you've inspired Sasuke to become far more than what he was, albeit unintentionally. He now considers you to be family as much as her… and she doesn't like any of it."
Naruto could honestly say that he wasn't surprised in the least about what Tsunade had just told him. Sakura had always been one to place blame on others rather than herself, and once again it appeared he was a convenient scapegoat for her troubles. He briefly wondered if things would ever change, or if it would always be this way between them.
He frowned as he glanced at Tsunade out of the corner of his eye. He wondered where all this was leading; and a pit formed in his stomach as he guessed what the answer might be. However, now that he was Hokage he couldn't assume anything. He needed to hear the reasons why before rendering a decision.
"That's a pretty detailed explanation Tsunade, and it's probably a lot more than what Kakashi-sensei wanted you to give me. I'm sure that wasn't by accident, which makes me wonder what the reason behind it all is. Care to say what you expect from me out of all this?"
"She asked you to do what?"
It was Neji who spoke. Despite the monotone of his voice, those who knew him could tell he wasn't very happy with what he just heard, and the look he gave Naruto was cold and calculating.
As Naruto looked around the room, he noticed that this sentiment was shared by Ino, Kiba and Shino. The rest were either shocked or stunned speechless.
"Like I just said…She asked me to speak with everyone here, in order to get you to lay off Sakura, and stop making her life miserable. And I happen to agree with her reasoning."
"There's no way. There's no possible way you could be asking that of us." Ino said incredulously. "Are you out of your fucking mind, Naruto? You want us to just lay off Sakura, after everything she did?"
"I have to agree with my friends on this." Lee added, nodding towards Ino. "The way Sakura treated you was most unyouthful."
"Unyouthful? How about malicious? Or vindictive? Because no matter what way you look at it, it fucking sucked!" Ino practically shouted. "And what about Hinata? Are you even considering her feelings in all this? You weren't around all those years when she was being treated like shit by the villagers and her clan, and it could have been stopped at any time if Sakura had just opened her big fucking mouth and said something. You have no idea what she went through, or the pain she had to endure…"
Naruto slammed his hands down on the desk, cutting off Ino and her rant. The aura of power he was giving off was palpable, causing the temperature in the room to drop several degrees. A shiver went down their backs as they stared wide eyed at their friend and classmate, who stood up slowly while glaring balefully at Ino with eyes that had turned the darkest cobalt blue.
"I think you're forgetting exactly who you're talking to, Yamanaka." Naruto growled menacingly. "And your accusation about me having no idea of the pain my wife had to endure is WAY off base." He raised his right hand and pushed some chakra into it, making the seal visible. "Do you know what this is?"
Ino nodded nervously, feeling cowed after her initial outburst of anger. "Y-Yes. Hinata has one just like it. She called it an amalgamation seal."
"Do you know what it does?"
"She…She said it allows the two of you to feel each other's emotions." Ino responded timidly.
"That's right." He pointed his finger and swept it across the room. "I'm connected to Hinata in a way that none of you will ever know or understand. During the first four months of our marriage, I was the one who held Hinata as she broke down and cried over what she had to endure. I felt those emotions like they were my own. When she hurt, I hurt. Her pain was my pain."
"Not a day goes by where I don't feel some level of guilt for ignoring her feelings towards me when we were young. I blame myself more than you can possibly imagine for not being there during the last eight years when she needed me most, despite the fact that it wasn't my fault, and had no idea what was going on."
"So think whatever you want about me." Naruto spat, baring his teeth at the group. "But don't ever question the loyalty or concern I have for the most precious person in my life. Do I make myself clear?"
Everyone in the room nodded vigorously, afraid to utter a word.
Naruto sat back down, lowering the amount of chakra pressure he was emitting into the room until it was gone. Everyone there relaxed a bit, as the oppressive feeling eased and the cold feeling that permeated the room vanished.
From that little display, they were all reminded that even though he was their friend, there was a reason why Naruto was now the Hokage.
"Now to answer your question, there's a very good reason why I'm asking everyone here to stop making Sakura's life miserable. Lady Tsunade informed me that because of your – let's just say, group efforts – since I've been gone, Sakura has gone into a state of severe depression, and her value to Konoha as a jōnin kunoichi is being questioned. As Hokage I have to use every resource available to me and like it or not, Sakura is an excellent fighter, as well as one of the best medics the village has to offer. I won't let an asset like that go to waste, simply because everyone here holds a grudge against her."
There was a pregnant pause as everyone thought about what Naruto had just said. While it made sense from a strategic point of view, none of them found it to be morally acceptable in any way.
"I get what you're saying Naruto, but I'm still having a hard time with this." Kiba said guardedly, echoing what everyone was thinking. "I mean, you're basically asking us to forgive and forget what Sakura did to you and Hinata, and I don't think I'm ready to do that."
"Oh don't get me wrong, Kiba. Nobody will ever forget what she did, and I'm not asking anyone in this room to spoon-feed forgiveness to her either. And she's got a long way to go before she earns any sort of redemption from me. All I'm asking is that you stop making things worse for her, before things go past the point of no return."
He turned to the only person in the room best qualified to answer his next question. "Tenten, you're the closest thing we have right now to a mother in this room, so let me ask you something. What if by your actions, you caused Sakura to have a complete mental breakdown? One so bad, that we were forced to remove her brand new daughter, perhaps permanently. How would that make you feel? Would you want to be even partially responsible for that?"
The look on Tenten's face became slightly apprehensive. She lowered her gaze, as her hands came up to stroke her belly. When her eyes came up, they were slightly moist as she shook her head. "No, Naruto. Despite what she did, I wouldn't want something like that to happen to Sakura."
Naruto turned his gaze back to the rest of the group. "Like I said…I'm not telling anyone here to forgive or forget what Sakura did; all I'm asking is that you stop making things worse for her." His expression became stern. "But as Hokage, I AM going to order you to tell every business your clans have influence over to start dealing with Sakura once again. And no raising prices just for her, either. I dealt with enough of that type of discrimination when I was younger, and it's not happening while I'm in charge. Does everyone understand?"
They all nodded, even though they weren't happy with the content of the conversation. But they also realized that considering the history between him and Sakura, their friend had been placed in a very difficult spot, since he was now the Hokage and had to look at both sides of the issue.
"Okay, then. You're all free to go. However, I'd like Mina to remain behind. Kiba, you and Akamaru are more than welcome to stay and listen in on the conversation if you like."
The rest of the group filed out of the office, closing the door behind them. Kiba and Mina continued to stare at Naruto with slight trepidation, wondering why the Hokage needed to see her, of all people.
Naruto looked at them both, and a lopsided grin broke out on his face. He reached into one of his drawers and pulled out a file, holding it up for everyone to see.
"As you know, this village maintains a record of every ninja and kunoichi, regardless of their status. This one happens to belong to Mina." He set the file down on his desk and began to read. "Mina Mikon. Kunoichi of the leaf village. Moderately skilled in taijutsu, with a slight fire affinity. Ability to perform a specific jutsu that disconnects emotion. When utilized, strength and stamina are increased, and pain receptors within the body are shut down. This allows the user to become a completely focused fighter. Currently ranked as chūnin, but the data listed here suggests that promotion to full jōnin probably won't be possible within those parameters, even taking your specialized jutsu into account."
"However…" Naruto continued. "…it also says here that you excel in the field of medical justu. On six of the missions you were assigned to, you performed data analysis and research outside of the normal parameters which minimized injuries to your squad, while saving the life of one of your fellow chūnin on two separate occasions. The jōnin in charge praised your abilities, and noted that your true strength and passion reside within these two areas, as the results of both were exceptional."
He closed the file and raised his eyes to stare at Mina. "Your skills as a kunoichi are notable, but it's your other qualifications that I'm specifically looking for. Having said that, would you be interested in a job as my personal assistant?"
Kiba and Mina blinked in confusion, looking at each other quickly before turning back to Naruto.
"Assistant?" Mina said tentatively. "You…You want me to be your personal assistant?"
"That would be your official title, but you'll be doing more than simply managing my schedule and keeping random people from barging into my office whenever they feel like it. I want a skilled medic close by, just in case something happens. But in all honesty, it's your ability to perform research that I need the most."
"I've pretty much had it thrown in my face that when it comes to Konoha law, I'm not even close to being an expert. Like I told Shikamaru yesterday, going forward I want to make sure that things are done for the benefit of the villagers, and not to increase the power or line the pockets of greedy council members. There are other things I have in mind, but those aren't important right now. However, in order to make this happen I need someone on my staff that understands Konoha law down to the smallest detail, and can exploit legal loopholes if needed."
"As an extra incentive, I'll be giving you a raise in pay. And since you won't be sent out on dangerous missions anymore, it opens up quite a few…opportunities in your life. I'm sure Kiba knows what I'm talking about." Naruto said, looking pointedly at his friend.
Mina wrinkled her forehead in confusion and glanced at Kiba, who was staring at Naruto impassively. He might not be the smartest guy around, but in this case he knew exactly what his friend was referring to, even though Mina apparently didn't.
"I'm…I'm flattered Hokage-sama, but surely there are better candidates than me." Mina said.
Naruto shook his head. "None that I can trust with something as important as this."
"But how can you trust me? I mean, no offense but we don't really know each other that well."
"You're right. But I know him," Naruto said, motioning his head towards Kiba. "and if he vouches for you, that's good enough for me."
"But you already have an assistant. We passed her on the way in."
Naruto snorted. "Her? She's a holdover from Hiruzen's time in office. Kakashi only brought her back because he wasn't planning on spending very much time as Hokage before I took over. She was never very nice to me and frankly, she should still be in retirement." He got up from his seat, grinning impishly. "But if that's the last excuse you have, we can fix that problem right now."
Kiba and Mina watched as Naruto walked over and opened the door to his office, sticking his head out into the hallway.
"Hey! Old hag!" He yelled.
"What?" A crotchety voice answered back.
"You're retired again! As of now!"
"Good! I didn't want to work for you anyway, brat!"
Naruto closed the door and walked back over to sit down at his desk. "And just like that, we have an opening. So how about it? Will you take the job?"
Mina was silent for a moment, as she thought about the offer. However, she was broken out of her musing when she felt something touch her arm. Looking up, she saw Kiba staring intently at her and he nodded, wordlessly giving her his thoughts about the matter.
"Then…Then I accept the job Hokage-sama," She said, bowing her head slightly. "and thank you. Not only for placing your trust in me, but for giving me the opportunity to do something that I love."
"You're welcome, Mina." He scribbled a quick note and handed it to her. "Now, before you sit outside my office I want you to go over to the archives and find anything you can about this particular subject. I'm going to make a proposal at the next council meeting, and I want to be ready for anything they might throw at me."
She opened the note and her eyes grew wide for a second, before she folded it back up and nodded. "Understood, Hokage-sama. This shouldn't take very long; I can be back within an hour."
"That's fine. I'm heading over to the hospital to see Sasuke and Sakura; you two can stay here and talk if you like. When you leave, please make sure you close the door behind you." And with that, he vanished in a flash of yellow light.
Naruto appeared at the front door of the hospital, and proceeded to walk through the hallways on his way to the private wing of the maternity ward, where Sakura no doubt had a room and Sasuke would be waiting.
Now that part two of his master plan was in place – that being his hiring of Mina to perform in-depth research into Konoha law – he decided to make good on his promise yesterday to talk with his brother about the idea he was going to present to the council. And while he was there, he figured he'd kill two birds with one stone and tell Sakura about the conversation he'd just had with their classmates. And just maybe his gesture would allow Sakura to start making amends for what she'd done.
Naruto scoffed at the thought. He wasn't going to be overly optimistic where Sakura was concerned. And it also brought to mind the second half of the conversation he'd had with Tsunade…
***Flashback – Later Yesterday Afternoon***
"I appreciate you bringing this to my attention, and I promise I'll speak to everyone tomorrow. Now, it's been a long day and before you walked in, I was heading home to see my family. Is there something else you needed, or…?" Naruto asked, trailing off at the end. Tsunade was just sitting there, and he could tell by the expression on her face that she wasn't finished talking to him yet.
Naruto watched as she looked down at her hands, which were folded neatly in her lap as she chewed her bottom lip in what he thought was a very Hinata-like manner. After a moment, she stood up and walked around the desk, before kneeling down in front of him and reaching out to take his hands in her own.
As she raised her eyes to stare at him, Naruto saw that they were completely filled with tears. She blinked once, and they began to roll down her face, while her lower lip trembled. She'd thought about this for weeks, wondering what she would do once the moment came, but now that it was finally here, Tsunade felt afraid. She took a deep breath, steeling herself to go through with what she'd promised Hinata over a month ago.
"I'm sorry, Naruto."
The guilt and regret in her voice was so palpable that Naruto actually felt it himself, and it took a fair amount of effort for him not to flinch from it.
"I am so…so sorry. For everything I've done. Because she was my disciple, I…I treated Sakura more like a friend than anything else. With her, I lost sight of the fact that I was the Hokage, and I…I gave in to whatever she wanted. You're the most important person in my life, and I…I should have done something…ANYTHING…to stop her. Or find out what she did to make you leave the village like that. It's my fault that you suffered all those years. It's my fault that you tried to kill yourself. I'm…I'm to blame for it all, because I let it all happen, and I'm sorry Naruto…I'm so sorry…" She finished, as she buried her head in his lap and cried in uncontrollable sorrow.
Her sobbing wrenched at his heart, but Naruto refused to break – mainly because she was right. He wasn't trying to be cruel or malicious, but the fact remained that the two people most responsible for what he'd gone through the last several years were Sakura, because of what she did and Tsunade, because of what she didn't do.
Despite all of that, he wasn't a cold hearted monster either. Other than with Hinata, he'd always felt uncomfortable dealing with situations like this and unlike Sakura, at least Tsunade was trying to make an effort.
He reached out to awkwardly pat her on the back, trying to offer some level of comfort. "Tsunade, please stop crying. I…I can honestly tell you're sorry, and I accept your apology. But you need to stop this."
She raised her head to stare at him; her eyes already red and swollen even though she'd only been crying a couple of minutes. Her cheeks were stained with tears, and she sniffed a few times before asking, "What…What can I do to make this up to you, Naruto? I'll do anything you ask. Please…Please just tell me…"
Unfortunately, Naruto already knew the answer to that question. "To be honest, there's really nothing you can do for me Tsunade. The past can't be changed, and I don't think I'll ever forget everything I've gone through because of it. The only things I've ever wanted were a family who loves me, and finally becoming Hokage. Now that I have both, I really don't need anything else."
Tsunade's world shattered at hearing those words. He'd basically just said that forgiveness was beyond her grasp.
Naruto saw the crestfallen look on her face and said, "But doesn't mean there isn't any hope. While there's nothing you can do specifically for me, there are two things I can think of that would be a good start. First of all, I want you to keep an eye on Sakura and make sure her depression doesn't get any worse. You can do it under the guise of being her daughter's pediatrician. If anything major happens, you'll let me know immediately and I'm not returning her to active duty until you give me the all clear. And second, I'd like you to start medic-nin training with Hinata for a few hours a day. That'll help in getting me to forgive you."
Her face brightened a bit, and she sniffed again before wiping the tears from her cheeks. "I…I understand Naruto, and I'll do whatever it takes to make this up to you. And I realize it's a bit early to ask, but…but when will I know you've forgiven me?"
"When I start calling you Baa-chan again…" Naruto said, giving Tsunade a slight but warm smile, "…that's when you'll know."
He turned the corner and found the door to Sakura's room open. As he looked in, he noticed that Sakura was sitting up, holding her daughter while Sasuke relaxed in a chair next to the bed. Naruto could tell he hadn't slept very much in the last twenty-four hours.
Such is the life of a brand-new parent. He thought to himself. Better not mock him about it. I'll probably be in his shoes before too long.
He knocked on the door frame to catch their attention and walked in. Unsurprisingly, the expression on Sakura's face didn't change but Sasuke gave him a small, but tired smile.
"Hey, dobe. How's your first day on the job been?"
Naruto shrugged noncommittally. "Eh, you know. Hired some people. Fired some people. Had to deal with quite a few idiot civilians that came to me with stupid, minor requests. Thought about making ramen the official food of Konoha. Thank Kami for shadow clones, though. They make dealing with the mountains of paperwork somewhat bearable."
The corners of Sasuke's mouth twitched slightly. "Right. I think you have an advantage over the other Kage in that regard. So, are you here for the obvious?"
"Among other things, but yeah…I wanted to stop by and see the newest member of Team Uchiha." He walked over to the side of the bed and nodded in the direction of the baby. "Could you show her to me, Sakura?"
She stared blankly at him and blinked a few times, before reaching up to peel back the blanket. The baby was sleeping so he didn't get to see her eyes, but the head of pink hair was a bit of a surprise.
"She looks just like you. What did you name her?" Naruto asked inquisitively.
"I didn't. Sasuke-kun named her Mikomi." Sakura said flatly.
He raised one eyebrow and looked at Sasuke. "Her name means hope. I'm assuming you did that on purpose, and it wasn't just something you picked at random."
"Yes, I did. She's going to be a constant reminder of the hope I have for the future. It seemed…wrong somehow to name her anything else." Sasuke furrowed his brow. "But you just said you came here for other things as well. Would this be about that idea you needed to discuss regarding the council?"
Naruto nodded. "That's one of them, yes. At the council meeting next Wednesday, I want to try and give part of the Uchiha clan compound back to you, along with a good portion of the clan funds. I know everything was reclaimed by the village when you – umm, left all those years ago – but I think it's past time at least some of it was returned to you. I've already got someone combing through Konoha law to find any loophole I can to make it happen. All I need is for you to make the initial proposal, and I'll take care of the rest."
His eyes grew a bit wider, as Sasuke stared at Naruto in disbelief. "I…I don't think that's possible. Kakashi-sensei and Lady Tsunade tried on several occasions to get the lands and funds released, but the civilian council voted unanimously against it every time. You know they're going to bring up my history. Are you sure you want to try something as ill-fated as this?"
"Yes." Naruto didn't even hesitate to answer, and his voice was resolute. "As far as I'm concerned, you've proven your worth to the village. I just have to find a way around the civilian council's greed, that's all." He motioned his head in the direction of the baby. "And now that Mikomi is here, I know she'll stack the deck in your favor."
"Besides, what kind of Hokage would I be if I let my brother raise his clan in a small apartment?" He asked, smiling warmly.
Sasuke hesitated for a moment before giving Naruto a lopsided smile in return. "Well if you can pull off a boast like that, then I'm going to have to make you Mikomi's godfather as a way of saying thanks…Naruto."
"And I just might take you up on that offer…Sasuke."
They were so engrossed in talking with each other that they failed to notice the slight eye twitch Sakura developed for a brief second, but it was gone by the time Naruto turned to look at her.
"Now as to the other reason why I'm here, it concerns you, Sakura." Naruto stated. He decided to keep this next part a bit vague, since he didn't need Sakura knowing that Tsunade was his source. "During one of my debriefing sessions yesterday, I was told about what's been going on while Sasuke and I were out of the village. And I want you to know that as of now, that's going to stop."
Her expression hardened. "What exactly are you talking about, Naruto?"
He groaned inwardly. Trust Sakura to ask for a detailed explanation, but he wasn't going to give her one. "Don't play coy with me, Sakura. You know exactly what I'm talking about when I say 'what's been going on while we've been out of the village'. But as to the rest, I had a meeting this morning in my office with the rest of our classmates. I basically ordered them to stop making things worse with the villagers, and you won't be excluded from any businesses in Konoha going forward. I've also made sure that those businesses don't inflate their prices just for you anymore, either."
She paused, and then narrowed her eyes at him. "Why would you go out of your way to do something like that for me?"
Gee, Sakura. You're welcome. "I have my reasons as Hokage, Sakura. Let's just leave it at that." He said solemnly. As expected, she wasn't making this easy on him, and now he kind of understood why Tsunade drank so much while she was in office. Sometimes being Hokage was a thankless job.
He turned back to Sasuke. "Sorry about this, but I have to go – first week in office and there's too many things to do. Try and get some rest, and I'll talk with you early next week about the proposal for the council. And once again, congratulations to you both." Then he vanished in a flash of yellow light.
The room was silent for a moment before Sasuke said, "Well, I certainly wasn't expecting something like that from the dobe. And I'm still doubtful he's going to get the council to agree to anything, but knowing his luck he just might make it happen."
And now we have something else that's happened because of Naruto. Inner Sakura said sarcastically. Sasuke-kun should have asked our opinion before he offered to make him Mikomi's godfather, but if we say something now it'll only make us sound bitter and ungrateful. Of course, that's only if he pulls off that stunt he's planning with the council, but you and I both know he'll definitely make that happen.
"You're absolutely right." Sakura said, responding to both statements. "Knowing Naruto, he'll definitely make it happen."
Naruto reappeared back in his office. He'd barely been gone half an hour, and Kiba and Mina had both left at some point. He walked over to his chair and sat down, wondering if he'd have time to relax before the next major event happened.
The door burst open and Freyja barged in. "Okay Gabriel," She said gruffly. "we need to talk."
Thirty seconds. That had to be some kind of record.
"Good morning, Freyja. Here to finish the conversation we started yesterday?"
***Flashback – Previous Night***
"Care to say that again, Gabriel?" Freyja asked incredulously. "I think I had something crazy in my ear."
"Then I'll repeat myself, Freyja. I said that if I'm going to offer you and Reira sanctuary, I want you to register as a kunoichi of Konoha. If this village is going to protect the lives of you and your daughter, you're going to do the same for them. It's as simple as that."
"Other than that, give me one good reason why I should tie myself down to this village." Freyja growled defensively. "You're strong – stronger than me – but what assurances do I have that you can protect me from someone who ranks higher than you in the Mienai Segi?"
Naruto sighed. He should have known Freyja was going to be a major pain in the ass about this. "I tell you what, Freyja - I'll make you a deal. If you decide to become a kunoichi of this village, then I'll tell you the reason why people used to call me a monster. And it's the same reason why I can protect you and Reira. I think that's fair. Don't you?"
Freyja glared at her fellow Mienai Segi member. "Quit acting so conceited, Gabriel. You know that's the reason I'm here, but before I answer I want to know why you're even asking. You know the code of honor I live by. We don't even need to have a discussion about this. You could just order me to do it, but you're not doing that. So the question is, why?"
"Because if I did, then the gesture would be meaningless." Naruto said, as if stating the obvious. "As Hokage, I can order quite a few people to do any number of things, but I won't force someone into servitude. This is a decision you need to make all on your own."
Freyja narrowed her eyes at him. For most of her life, no one had ever wanted or needed her opinion, which is why she'd developed a very abrupt and rough personality. Why should she care if nobody else did? But now someone who she'd begrudgingly given a great amount of respect to was asking HER to make a major decision – one that would affect both her and Reira's lives going forward.
Naruto watched her for about fifteen seconds; her eyes darting about as she mused over his request. He knew she was struggling with it, so he decided to remain quiet and give her time to think things through. Wordlessly, he summoned three shadow clones and went back to work on some of the paperwork on his desk.
Surprisingly enough, it took almost fifteen minutes before Freyja said something.
"Fine, Gabriel." She said brusquely. "I'll become a kunoichi of this village. Reira deserves a safe, stable place to grow up in. But you're going to be the one who's telling Saladin my Mienai Segi days are done. Got it?"
"Got it. And since you were so nice in agreeing to my terms, I'll keep my end of the deal." Naruto said, grinning mischievously as he leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up on the desk. "Do you know what a jinchuuriki is?"
Freyja paused for a moment before raising one eyebrow. "They're basically people who are used as containers for demons, right?"
"Right. Now, are you familiar with the tailed beasts?"
"Uh, yeah. Saladin told me about them once. There's supposed to be nine of them, each with a different number of tails. That guy Madara Uchiha captured them all during the fourth shinobi war in order to create the Juubi. Word has it that they were all killed at the end."
Naruto raised a finger. "That information is only partially true. There are nine tailed beasts, and at one point Madara Uchiha did capture them all to create the ten tails. But what most people don't know is that you can't kill a tailed beast. Even if you take out the host, it'll just reform after a period of time. And there were two jinchuuriki that actually survived the war. The Raikage's brother, Killer B holds the eight tails. And the nine tails…" He pointed a finger at himself. "…is held by yours truly."
His words stunned Freyja, as she stared at him in disbelief. After a few seconds, she narrowed her eyes and said, "Bullshit."
He shook his head. "Nope. No bullshit. I'm the real deal. And I'll prove it right now." Naruto then reached inside himself and tapped into Kurama's chakra. Immediately, his appearance changed and he was cloaked in golden flames, with various symbols from the sage of the six paths covering his body.
Freyja was staring at Naruto in awe. In all the years he'd been in the Mienai Segi, she couldn't remember him ever showing anyone this power – she even wondered if Saladin knew of it. The transformation was impressive enough, and although she wasn't a sensor type she could tell this power was separate and distinct from what she knew belonged solely to him. In a strange way, it almost felt like he had a raging furnace of chakra burning at his core and she could tell he was keeping it restrained because otherwise, he'd probably be setting off every alarm in the village. And if you added this power to what she knew he was already capable of, his boast about being able to protect both her and Reira wasn't so farfetched after all...
Thinking he'd proved his point, Naruto powered down and summoned one of the ANBU, who appeared within seconds in his office.
"How may I serve you, Hokage-sama?" A woman with a Raven mask asked.
He gestured towards Freyja. "Escort this woman over to the Department of Shinobi Management. She needs to register as a kunoichi of Konoha and take the village oath. Give her any assistance she might require, but don't leave her side until she's finished."
Raven nodded her head. "Understood, Hokage-sama."
Naruto grinned impishly at his associate. "Oh, and Freyja…After you're done, please make sure to wear that nice, shiny hitai-ate they give you in a prominent place. I look forward to seeing it at the house later on tonight."
It was noon, and Mina was sitting outside the Hokage's office. The top of her desk was strewn with books and scrolls she'd gotten from the village archives, covering what she thought was every possibility for reverting ownership of property and funds that have been seized by the village back to their original source.
From what she'd already found in such a short period of time, she knew it wasn't going to be easy.
Her concentration was broken as she noticed someone coming down the hallway, dressed in a long overcoat – which she found extremely strange, considering how warm it was outside. At first she thought it might be someone from the Aburame clan, but as the person came nearer, she realized it was the Hokage's wife, and her face sported a sly grin.
"Good afternoon, Hinata." Mina greeted her cheerfully.
"Oh! Hello there, Mina." Hinata replied. "I'm a bit surprised to find you here. Where's Fuyuko?"
"If you're talking about that woman who used to sit at this desk, Hokage-sama fired her this morning and hired me in her place." Mina suddenly looked a bit uncomfortable. "I…I guess he didn't like her very much, and he needed someone to do detailed research, in addition to managing his schedule. Both Kiba-kun and I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to do something I love, and Hokage-sama offered me a raise besides. I gratefully accepted."
"Well, congratulations Mina. It sounds like my husband has quite a bit of faith in you, and I know you'll do an excellent job for him. Speaking of which," Hinata inquired, looking past Mina. "is Naruto-kun in his office?"
"Yes, he is."
"Is anyone in there with him?"
A bit confused as to why she was asking, Mina shook her head. "Um, no. He's by himself."
"Thank you." Hinata replied, her grin growing a bit larger as she walked past Mina's desk and continued down the hall towards her destination.
Mina watched as Hinata opened the door to the Hokage's office and walked in, not even bothering to knock. But the last thing she saw before the door closed behind Hinata puzzled her, as she noticed that despite the heavy overcoat, her legs were bare. And she wasn't wearing sandals, but rather a pair of black strapped three inch heels.
"Hey Hinata-hime. What brings you here today?"
"Hello, Naruto-kun. I was wondering if you were – umm, free – for lunch."
"Sure. How about we go to Ichiraku's? Or if you're not in the mood for ramen, there's a new sushi place right around the corner…"
"I was thinking maybe we could have…lunch in your office today."
Their conversation was carrying into the hallway, and Mina couldn't help but overhear them, as she sat dumbfounded at her desk. Kiba had told her on more than one occasion that during their younger years, Naruto had been an oblivious, knuckleheaded idiot but she'd seen none of that during the meeting earlier that day. His presence had been commanding, and despite how awkward the subject had been, he'd rendered a decision with the wisdom you'd expect from a Hokage.
However, she now understood what Kiba had been talking about, because the obvious emphasis Hinata was placing on the word lunch was sailing right over his head.
"Oh! Then you want to have it delivered? Because you're not carrying any bags of food, and I… I… I… I… HOLY SHIT, HINATA! What the hell is that?"
"It's lunch, Naruto-kun. Do you like it?"
"I think the nosebleed I have is enough of an answer, don't you? Where did you get that?"
"From a store called Naughty Kunoichi. It's over in the Red Light District on Jiraiya Street."
Mina knew that place. Ino shopped there all the time, and had tried on several occasions to get her in the store. She'd actually peeked in once, but after seeing what was in the glass case by the door she decided that her shy nature probably wasn't ready for whatever else might be inside.
"You…You bought this all on your own? And wore it down here, with only an overcoat covering you up?"
"I disguised myself with a henge until I walked into the building. I wanted to surprise you with something...special, Naruto-kun. Didn't I do a good job?"
"Once again, let me point out the tremendous nosebleed I have as your answer."
"Then why do you have that look on your face? I thought you said you liked the new, confident side of me. Don't you find what you see attractive?"
"Well, of course I do Hinata, but…but…this is the Hokage's office!"
"So what? You're the Hokage."
Mina couldn't argue with that logic.
"Why are you inching away from me, Naruto-kun?"
"Because Hinata, we can't do this here!"
Between the sultry seductiveness she heard in Hinata's voice, and the frightened terror that she heard from Naruto, Mina was blushing heavily, while trying not to laugh at the images running through her mind of the Hokage being chased around the office by his scantily clad wife.
"And why not?"
"Because…Because what if someone hears us? Or comes in here unexpectedly?"
"You have privacy seals that you can use to make sure that doesn't happen. You might want to put them up, so Mina can't hear us."
"Mina? Oh shit, Mina! She can hear everything! I need to… Hinata, stop – stop staring at me like that… Just let me get back to my desk before you… Kami, that feels soooo gooood… No! Bad Hinata! Quit trying to distract me so I can put up the privacy…"
That was the last thing Mina heard before the room went silent. She sighed, thinking it would probably be awhile before Hinata came out of the room, and in the meantime she might as well get some work done. She turned back to the books and scrolls on her desk, humming to herself and trying not to think about what was going on in the office down the hall.
In exactly one hour and twelve minutes, the door opened up and Hinata walked out. Her hair was a bit mussed, and if the smile on her face was any indication, that wasn't the only thing that was out of place.
Once she was standing by the desk, Hinata turned her head to stare absently at Mina, while trying to smooth her hair out with her hands.
"Mina, can you do me a favor? Please tell Naruto-kun when he calls you into his office that I'll be back tomorrow. With dessert."
Mina nodded and watched as Hinata continued to walk slowly down the hall, with a look on her face that she'd seen many times before on members of the Inuzuka clan. About five seconds after she was out of sight, she heard the voice Hinata had told her to expect.
"Mina! I need to see you in my office!" Naruto bellowed out.
She walked over to the door, wondering what she was going to see once she opened it. She hoped for something hilarious and not disturbing.
Needless to say, she wasn't disappointed.
Naruto was sitting behind the desk with his hair completely disheveled, as if he hadn't combed it in over a week. A smear of lipstick started at the left corner of his mouth and trailed its way across his whiskered cheek and down his neck, stopping at the collar of his shirt – which incidentally, he was now wearing inside out. He had a haunted look on his face, like he'd just been outsmarted and didn't know exactly how it happened.
"How was lunch, Hokage-sama?" Mina asked with barely suppressed mirth.
The haunted look disappeared, and Naruto glared at Mina out of the top of his eyes. "You are not to breathe a word of this to anyone." He said commandingly. "Not Kiba. Not Neji. And especially not Ino. Understood?"
"Understood. And I assume the same rules apply for tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow? What are you talking about?"
"Hinata told me to tell you when you called me into your office that she'd be back tomorrow. With dessert."
Naruto stared at her for a few more seconds and then he groaned, burying his face in his hands. "Maybe...Maybe I can find somewhere else to be tomorrow at lunch. There's gotta be something I can..."
Mina interrupted him. "I wouldn't recommend that, Hokage-sama." She said, shaking her head.
His face came up. "Care to tell me why not?" He asked, confused.
"Well, I saw the look on Hinata's face when she left and it was pretty obvious, especially to someone like me who's dating Kiba." Mina blushed slightly and then continued, "It's...It's the same look Inuzuka clan members get when they're hunting something, and I know from experience that getting in between a predator and their prey is a very bad idea. Trust me when I say that if you try and hide from your wife when it comes to this, you're only going to make things worse for yourself in the end."
Before he could answer, one of the ANBU appeared in his office. It was Tiger, the same one he'd summoned this morning, who couldn't help but notice the current state of his Hokage.
He glanced back and forth between Naruto and Mina a few times before finally asking, "Hokage-sama, what..."
"It's definitely not what you think." He said forcefully, interrupting the ANBU before he could finish his statement. "My wife came by my office today, and I'll tell you the same thing I told Mina. You are NOT to mention this to anyone, under penalty of the worst D-rank missions I can find for a month."
Tiger quickly agreed, shuddering internally at what those missions might be. Visions of Tora flashed through his mind. "Understood, Hokage-sama."
"Now, what do you have to report?"
"You asked to be informed when Temari Sabaku and Shikamaru Nara left for Suna. They departed about twenty five minutes ago, but I couldn't notify you at that point because the privacy seals on your office were still in place."
"Good. Have Yoshino Nara brought to my office." He said, and then before Tiger could leave he added, "And take the scenic route getting back here. I need to make sure no one else sees me like…THIS."
All things considered, the last week passed as quickly as could be expected. For once, paperwork hadn't been a problem in the Hokage's office, as Naruto had just summoned as many clones as needed to take care of whatever they threw at him by the end of every day. It also helped that during their first meeting on Wednesday, he told the civilian council that the days of them passing their paperwork off on him was now at an end, and if he found something on his desk that one of them should have personally taken care of, the council member responsible would be fined and the amount would double for every incident going forward.
The paperwork was reduced by a third seemingly overnight, and the fines he levied the next day over some forms that had been 'mistakenly' left behind took another two inches off the stack. As an added bonus, he donated the money he collected in fines to the local orphanage.
Mina had proven her worth several times over, completing the research he'd asked for her by Thursday and giving him a solid plan of attack at the next council meeting. If everything worked out, Sasuke would have full use of his land and clan funds with no future interference. He just hoped the council was stupid enough to fall for his plan. The civilian council certainly was, but the shinobi council – with individuals like Inoichi and Hiashi – were another matter entirely.
And Hinata…well, she came back the day after meeting him for 'lunch' and brought him 'dessert'. Two days later, she ambushed him in the shower under the pretense of just 'washing his back' and 'conserving water'. The day after that, it was during a private picnic she'd planned at an isolated waterfall, where she'd provided him with a repeat performance of her dance from the bikouchu beetle mission all those years ago.
The food was quickly forgotten after that, and some of the things they did probably scared the local wildlife.
He didn't know what to make of her relentless pursuit of him and their…amorous activities, so he simply chalked it up to a combination of her missing him tremendously for the two months he was gone, and the newfound confidence she'd acquired while training under Kakashi.
So he was actually looking forward to relaxing a bit during his three-day trip to Suna…once the business he was going there for originally was concluded. He just hoped Gaara would negotiate in good faith, and wouldn't ask for anything outlandish or demand too many concessions in return.
At nine o'clock on Friday, Naruto – wearing his brand new Hokage coat modeled after his father's – and one ANBU guard wearing a Jackal mask appeared in a flash of yellow light at the front gates of Suna, just as he'd promised Shikamaru and Temari. Gaara was there to meet him, along with a few members of the village council, and as soon as he saw Naruto he walked forward and extended his hand.
"Welcome to Suna, Naruto Uzumaki Namikaze, Hokage of Konoha." Gaara said, one corner of his mouth twitching almost imperceptibly. "I see that you finally made good on your childhood boast."
"Well, I prefer to just think of it as waiting for the right moment…" Naruto said, shaking Gaara's hand warmly. "…along with the maturity necessary to be Hokage that I lacked when I was younger. It's good to see you again, Gaara."
"And you as well, Naruto."
"I just need a minute before we get started." Naruto turned to Jackal and said decisively, "Remember, minimal stops and maximum stealth. Keep your chakra signature as low as possible. No fires; cold meals only. Get to your destination and deliver the message, and don't take any weapons inside the cave. Get the reply and head straight home." He gestured towards the front gate. "You have your orders. Get going and good luck."
Jackal bowed his head. "Understood, Hokage-sama." And with that, he turned around and sprinted out of the village.
"So Gaara, I know I was here about five months ago for your wedding, and I'm pretty familiar with Suna but it's the first time I've been here as Hokage." Naruto said, sporting a lively grin. "Think you can give me another tour?"
Gaara's spirit sagged. Something like that would take up most of the morning, and there was no way he could refuse the request, otherwise Konoha would consider it an insult to their newest Hokage.
Resigned to a morning of boredom, Gaara looked at his friend and shrugged his shoulders in defeat. "I suppose we can do that, Naruto. Where would you like to head first?"
"Actually, there's only a few places I have in mind at the moment. The first stop I'd like to make is the best jewelry store in all of Suna."
Gaara's eyes widened almost imperceptibly in surprise. "Jewelry store? Are you purchasing something for Hinata while you're here?"
"Not really. I have something else in mind that I'm going to need your help with. We can discuss it once I buy what I need and we get to your office."
"Are you sure? The walk to the jewelry store will take some time."
Naruto shook his head. "Unless you're interested in discussing your family business out in public, then the answer is no."
Gaara paused for a second and then nodded, agreeing with his friend. "Then let's get to the jewelry store along with your other stops, as I'm eager to hear whatever it is you wish to discuss."
As they walked through the village, many people stopped to stare at the man walking side by side with their beloved Kazekage. And it wasn't because of what he was – the coat on his back told everyone that he was the Hokage – rather, it was because of who he was.
In Suna he was known simply as Naruto, but his name was spoken in revered tones by the villagers in their twenties and older. He'd become as important to them as their Kazekage, because he'd saved their leader twice – once when he was a boy at the chūnin exams in Konoha, and the other was when the Akatsuki had captured him to extract Shukaku.
He saved the Kazekage from madness and despair, showing him what it meant to protect those precious to him. And he was Gaara's first true friend.
Naruto found the scene to be reminiscent of the first day he'd walked through the streets of Konoha as Hokage. Men and women bowed, and some even offered their hand in friendship. When told by their parents who he was, children smiled and ran up to hug him…one boy even went so far as to challenge him to a spar.
Even though his parents were aghast at the boldness of their son, Naruto smiled and played along, kneeling down in the middle of the street and mock-fighting him, letting him get in one good hit and then collapsing dramatically in defeat. As the boy ran back to his parents, asking excitedly if they saw him beat the Hokage they nodded, wordlessly mouthing 'thank you' to Naruto, who smiled and gave them a carefree wave as they walked off.
Konoha would always be his home, and as Hokage he'd protect the village with his life if he needed to. But he considered Suna like a second home to him, because the people there could look beyond their prejudices to see him for the person he was, and not the demon he contained.
It was around two o'clock when Gaara summoned Shikamaru to his office. He'd been spending as much time as he possibly could with Temari lately, since once he left with Naruto to go back to Konoha, it'd be quite some time before they saw each other again.
However, as he walked into the Kazekage's office he was surprised to find Naruto there, sitting down with his feet propped up on the desk. He'd known that Naruto was going to be in Suna today, but was confused as to why he would be here for his meeting with Gaara.
"So Matsuri actually demanded in the middle of the night that you go to Konoha and get her some Ichiraku ramen?" Naruto asked incredulously.
Gaara gave him a small nod. "Yes, along with five jars of garlic pickles from that organic food shop near the Yamanaka compound." He said discouragingly. "When I pointed out that we have those items in Suna, she said that the ones in Konoha were better. I then candidly told her that I would NOT be making a four day round trip to Konoha just for ramen and pickles and she ran away crying, saying I must not love her as much as she thought."
An amused grin appeared on his face and Naruto asked, "So what did you do? Frozen personality or not, there's no way you could let something like that go."
"I…I sent one of my ANBU to get the items for Matsuri." Gaara said abashedly.
Naruto broke out in laughter over his friend's predicament. He knew he shouldn't be taking pleasure in Gaara's suffering, but damn if that wasn't funny.
As he was wiping the tears from his eyes, Naruto finally noticed they had a visitor. "Hey, Shikamaru! Just the person we wanted to see." He waved his hand towards the chair on the other side of Gaara's desk and said, "Come on in and sit down."
Shikamaru closed the door and walked over to the empty seat. He dubiously looked at his childhood friends, who also happened to be two of the most powerful men in the elemental nations.
"So, I'm curious. Why did you two need to see me?"
Naruto placed his feet back on the floor, and the merriment disappeared from his face. "We'd like to ask you a few questions Shikamaru, and we expect you to give us honest answers."
"Also, you are not to make one joke or use the word 'troublesome' during any part of the conversation." Gaara added with certitude.
Shikamaru could tell they were dead serious about whatever the subject matter was, and that if he even entertained the notion of lying or evading any of the questions, the search parties would probably never find his body. He nodded, letting them know he understood the gravity of his situation.
"I would like to know how you feel about my sister." Gaara asked pointedly.
Shikamaru blinked a few times, not expecting the question and taken slightly aback. "I'm…I'm sorry Gaara, but could you be a bit more specific? In what way are you asking how I feel about Temari?"
"Even though I believe you're smart enough to figure it out, I'll humor you a bit." Gaara said, his eyes piercing and his tone blunt. "Do you love my sister or not?"
Shikamaru had a hunch that's what Gaara was getting at, but was hoping to avoid something like this. Frankly, it was embarrassing to be talking about his feelings towards Temari with…well anyone, but especially her brother who also happens to be the Kazekage.
"Well…of course I love her. Would I have dated her all this time if I didn't?"
Gaara's eyes bored into Shikamaru. "Then why haven't you asked for her hand in marriage before now?"
Shikamaru squirmed uncomfortably under his gaze. If there was one thing Gaara excelled at, it was intimidation. But he had a very good defense against the question.
"Well, there's a few reasons actually. Besides the fact that Temari is pretty much royalty here – being your sister and all – she's a jōnin level kunoichi with a wind affinity. If I asked her to marry me, there's no way Suna would just up and let her leave…she's too valuable to the village."
"Almost all of those reasons hold true for me as well. I'm a jōnin with a bloodline limit, and if I leave Konoha then my clan leaves with me. But even discounting all that, I've been told on more than one occasion by Tsunade and Kakashi – and I'm guessing you share the same sentiment as well, Naruto – that my intelligence makes me far too valuable of an asset to the village for anyone to even consider the option of me leaving. So despite my feelings for Temari, the two of us are basically at an impasse."
Naruto and Gaara exchanged a glance, before they nodded at each other in unspoken agreement.
"Well then, that's not a problem anymore." Naruto said, as if somehow stating the obvious. "You'll be happy to know that Gaara and I negotiated a deal, and Temari now has the option of leaving Suna and becoming a kunoichi of Konoha if she wants to." He took a scroll out of his coat and tossed it to Shikamaru, who caught it in midair. "We're not telling you all the conditions we agreed upon, but that document has the important parts. I suggest you open it up and read it."
Shikamaru opened the scroll and began to read. After several seconds, his eyes went wide and he looked at Naruto in shock. "This…This is a marriage contract."
Naruto grinned roguishly, relishing the fact that he'd caught the Nara off guard for once. "That's right, Shikamaru."
"Who wrote this agreement?" He asked, as he continued scanning the document. "There's no loopholes, no gray areas for interpretation…nothing!"
"I had Hinata draw it up." Naruto said, somewhat smugly. "The Hyūga clan are quite…meticulous about their legal documents, don't you think?"
"And what's with this part?" Shikamaru demanded, pointing at a specific section. "You've got a clause in here that says Temari and I have to produce an heir within a year!"
"Um, actually that was your mother's idea. Not mine." Naruto said, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.
"Although, I agree with Yoshino and am in full support of the idea." Garra added.
Shikamaru groaned. "I should have known that you'd bring my mother into this." His eyes finally reached the bottom of the page, where he noticed that Yoshino had signed the document, and he grinned exultantly. "Ha! But it doesn't matter anyway, because my mother approved this thing. If I don't sign it myself, it's not legal and binding."
Naruto wagged a finger at him. "And that's where you're wrong, Shikamaru. I brought up the same point when Kakashi-sensei showed me the document that made me Hokage, and he informed me that Konoha law says that when the clan head is out of the village or unable to perform his or her duties, their spouse becomes their duly authorized representative. Since you don't have a spouse, it falls to…"
"The former clan head or their spouse." Shikamaru said, his eyes widening in realization. He looked back down at the signature. "That's why this thing is dated after I left the village last week. You waited until Temari and I were gone so my mother could legally sign it, you sneaky bastard."
"You have the right to refuse, of course." Naruto said, ignoring him and mimicking the words Kakashi used on him last week. "But you should know that if you do, I'm obligated to tell Yoshino that I gave you the chance to marry Temari, and you refused."
Shikamaru's eyes widened in horror. "Naruto, you - you know what my mother is like. She'll kill me!"
"Probably. She made it very clear in our meeting that she's quite fond of Temari, and it's a sore subject with her that you're still not married. I've been told it's a running joke in the village."
"You should also be aware that I am under the same obligation as Naruto, whereas I'll be informing Temari that you were offered the opportunity to marry her, and found a way to refuse." Gaara said dryly.
They didn't think it was possible, but Shikamaru's eyes widened even further. "Gaara, Temari will definitely kill me if my mother doesn't do it first!"
"Naruto and I have considered that possibility, yes. But knowing my sister, killing you would be letting you off easy. When she's - inspired, Temari can be very creative when it comes to physical interrogation tactics, and I shudder to think of what she'll dream up in regards to you." Gaara said, as a shiver ran down his back. "I doubt that even Tsunade would be able to patch you up afterwards."
Shikamaru actually started to tremble slightly at the thought, and then his eyes shot towards Naruto. "You can't let that happen! You just hired me for an important job. You need me!" He shouted desperately.
"I've got Shino waiting in the wings. He might not be as smart as you, but I'm sure he's more than qualified to do the job."
Taken slightly aback at Naruto's offhand remark, Shikamaru stared at Naruto in confusion. "I…I need to know. Why are you doing this to me? Have I offended you in some way? Pissed you off past the point of no return?"
Naruto sighed sympathetically. "Actually, it's just the opposite Shikamaru. I used to think just like you. Seven months ago, I didn't need or want anyone else in my life. I was okay with the way things were, and I planned on living the rest of my days alone." His tone became wistful, and a faraway look appeared in his eyes. "But then Kakashi-sensei sent me a message saying Hinata needed my help. It wasn't until I got back to Konoha that I found out the real reason why he needed me back in the village, which was to marry her. I won't lie; at first I was opposed to the idea but looking back on it, marrying Hinata and finding out about Hikaru are two of the best things that ever happened to me."
"I was wrong. I needed that push in the right direction." He reached into his pocket and produced a small, velvet box which he tossed to Shikamaru. "And I think you do too."
"What's this?" Shikamaru asked, opening the box.
"It's called a fire opal. Opal has a special meaning to the people of Suna; it represents true love and happiness. Gaara told me that this version is actually quite rare in the elemental nations, and I thought with Temari moving to Konoha a fire opal would be more fitting. You know, with Konoha being in fire country and all. Consider it a very expensive gift from your Hokage."
"The jeweler sized the ring for Temari. You may use it the next time you see her to propose." Gaara stated decisively. "I would recommend that you make it the most heartfelt, honest and sincere thing you've ever said. Convey to her that she is your most precious person, and try not to use the word troublesome in any part of it."
Shikamaru stared at the ring for a moment before closing the box and twirling it between his fingers, thinking about what Naruto had just said to him. While it was true Naruto and Gaara had backed him into a corner, he'd also taken the job as Advisor to the Hokage without thinking about the consequences, which was very unlike him. He didn't know if his relationship with Temari would survive so much time away from each other, and here he was being given a chance to fix it – permanently – and he was fighting it.
He wondered why. And the more he thought about it, the more he realized it was that…he was afraid.
Shikamaru liked predictability. It was easy to understand. You always knew what would happen, and could plan accordingly.
He was afraid of change. Afraid of the unknown. Afraid of the future. And if he married Temari and had children, he'd have to deal with the ensuing chaos his life would become. It was either that or lose her, possibly forever.
He wasn't sure which one scared him more.
Finishing his thought, he pocketed the ring and saw that his friends were staring at him expectantly. And then, just as he opened his mouth and was about to say something, karma struck – and Temari walked into the office.
"Shikamaru! I thought you were taking me shopping before we went to dinner!" She said crossly. "What're you still doing here?"
He glared at the other two men in the room. You knew she'd show up here, didn't you? His eyes seemed to say.
We have no idea what you're talking about. Naruto and Gaara eye smiled back at him. Kakashi would have been proud.
Shikamaru pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration, before walking over to stand in front of Temari. His hands came up to grasp her shoulders and he stared straight into her eyes.
"Temari." He said, his gaze questioning. "If I asked you to give up Suna for me, would you do it?"
She furrowed her brow in confusion. "What are you talking about, Shika?"
"I'm talking about this." He waved his hand around the room. "All of this. If I asked you to give up your life in Suna for me, would you do it?"
After a moment of silence, her confused look turned into a full blown scowl. "Have you been drinking?"
His eyes went wide at her accusation. "No! No, I haven't…"
"Then where the hell did that come from? You know there's no way I can leave Suna, so why are you even asking?"
"For a minute, suppose…just suppose there was a way. And I asked you to do it. What would you say?"
She narrowed her eyes at him. "I'd wanna know exactly what way you're talking about."
Shikamaru took an exasperated breath. Stubborn blondes with their thick skulls and stubborn attitudes. He thought to himself. I'd use the word troublesome if I could get away with it. Guess I should just get this over with.
Temari watched as Shikamaru smiled at her – a warm, genuine smile – like he'd suddenly had an epiphany and was at peace with whatever decision he'd just made. The look in his eyes gave her hot flashes and cold shivers at the same time. It was strange to see and yet so powerful, that a lump formed in her throat and she swallowed heavily against the emotion.
"Temari Sabaku. Suna-hime. My desert rose." Shikamaru began. "When we first met, I had no idea you would impact my life this much. You're there for me when I need you. You've seen me at my best and my worst. You love me despite my laziness, and you've stayed with me longer than anyone could ever reasonably hope to ask anyone else."
"I acted thoughtlessly and carelessly last week, when I accepted the job Naruto offered me without considering you or your feelings." He said dejectedly. "We survived the hell of the fourth shinobi war, but I doubt our relationship would survive so much time apart because of my duties. You're my best friend, my other half and I honestly couldn't imagine my life without you."
Temari's mind was reeling. Shikamaru had just said more romantic words to her in one minute than in the entire time she'd known him. There was only one reason she could think of as to why he'd be saying all these things, but it didn't make any sense because both of them knew she was still bound to Suna.
"Gaara is giving you the opportunity to leave Suna and come with me to Konoha, if you want. It just depends on how you answer my next question." He dramatically reached into his pocket and pulled out the box, dropping to one knee and opening it for her to see the ring. "Temari Sabaku, will you marry me?"
Temari stood frozen in place, stunned speechless and her eyes were as big as dinner plates. The last thing in the world she ever expected to happen…had just happened. Her layabout boyfriend had finally proposed. For a brief moment, she'd entertained the thought of beating him senseless, since he was probably doing it knowing there was no way she could ever say yes, but if she just heard correctly…
She blinked and turned her head to stare at Gaara, eyes still wide in disbelief. "Is…Is what he said true?"
"Yes, Temari. An agreement has been reached, and you now have the chance to leave Suna if you want." He smirked at his sister, who was still staring at him dumbfounded. "You will have to marry the Nara to do so, of course. But your happiness means everything to me, Temari." Gaara's look became thoughtful as he finished, "And I'm sure it would have meant everything to Kankuro as well."
Temari's eyes filled with tears, as she heard the loving words from her brother. She turned back to Shikamaru, who was still holding the ring and kneeling in front of her expectantly. After a few moments she reached down, taking his face in her hands and drawing him into a standing position.
"Then I say yes, you lazy bum." She said, grinning happily as the tears fell down her cheeks. "I'll give up my life in Suna – in exchange for a lifetime with you."
As the two kissed passionately in front of them, Naruto grinned devilishly at Gaara and nodded, signaling his friend to press the button on his desk. Almost immediately, the side door in his office opened and a troupe of people walked in. Various arrangements of desert wildflowers were placed around the room, and a bouquet that matched them was pressed into Temari's hands, while another person pinned an elaborate headpiece into her hair. Matsuri actually waddled in, immensely pregnant with a bouquet of her own to stand next to Temari, while Naruto stepped up to stand next to Shikamaru. Gaara stood between the two of them and began to read from a book he'd removed from his desk.
"We are gathered here to…" Gaara intoned.
"Wait a minute!" Temari exclaimed, interrupting him. "What the hell is going on?"
"Well Temari, I should think it's pretty obvious. Since you can't leave Suna unless you're married, Shikamaru set this all up…" Naruto waved his hand around the room. "…in the off chance you'd say yes to his proposal. That way, you'll have a few days for the honeymoon before the two of you leave with me on Monday when I go back to Konoha."
Temari glanced skeptically at Shikamaru, who smiled lovingly at her and quickly nodded – all the while realizing Naruto was trying to give him complete credit and help him score some extra points with his soon-to-be wife.
The rest of the ceremony went as planned and for his part, Naruto was feeling guilty at having given Shikamaru very little choice in the matter of his marriage to Temari, but at the same time he was pleased with himself that he saved a relationship, and brought happiness to two of his friends' lives.
***Time Skip – Late Sunday Night***
"Hikaru! Wake up!"
"Huh? Wuzzat?" Hikaru mumbled, his mind still in a fog. He opened his eyes and saw his mother's face, and then looked at the clock to see what time it was.
It was eleven o'clock at night. He'd barely been asleep an hour, since he'd snuck out of the house earlier to set up his latest prank on Hiashi, and now his mother was gently shaking him awake.
"Mom? Is something wrong? Are we being attacked?" Hikaru asked, suddenly concerned.
Hinata shook her head. "No, sweetie. I need your help with something." She moved aside, and Hikaru saw several gallons of paint sitting on the floor, along with a few brushes.
Hikaru looked back and forth a few times between the items and his mother. "Mom? I'm…kinda confused right now. If nothing's wrong, then why'd you wake me up? And what's the paint and brushes for?"
Looking at Hikaru's tousled hair and befuddled expression, Hinata couldn't help but think of another boy she fell in love with so many years ago. Smiling, she reached out and brushed the hair back from his eyes.
"You know Hikaru, even though you don't look very much like your father, you still remind me of him in so many ways. And I'm counting on that tonight."
Hikaru watched as his mother grinned mischievously, and it unnerved him since he'd never seen that look on her face before.
"Your father's coming home tomorrow morning, and before he gets back I need you to play a prank for me. If you get in trouble, I'll accept full responsibility and personally complete any punishment they give you. But I need you to do a good job, because this is very important. Will you help me out?"
Hikaru didn't even hesitate. How often does someone get the chance to play a prank with no chance of being punished? "Why sure, Mom. You know I'll always help you if you need it. What's the prank?"
As Hinata explained what she wanted him to do, Hikaru's face lit up like a spotlight. This is gonna be good, he thought to himself. Dad's gonna be so surprised, and I wish I could be there tomorrow when he finally sees it.
At nine o'clock the next morning, Naruto appeared in his office in a flash of yellow light. He'd used Kurama's chakra to power his Hiraishin no Jutsu and transported Shikamaru, Temari and himself back from Suna in an instant. Good thing he'd checked to see if that would work on the way there with the ANBU he sent to deliver the message to Saladin.
He'd dropped the newlyweds off at the front gate and gave Shikamaru an extra day to talk with his mother and get things in order before starting his new job. Even though a day probably wouldn't be enough time, it was all he could spare at the moment.
As he expected upon his return, his desk was covered in paperwork. He sighed, realizing that menial tasks like this came with being the Hokage. But at least he knew a technique to help ease the strain.
"Shadow clones, do your thing!" He shouted excitedly, spreading his arms out in front him. Five of them poofed into existence, and he joined them in getting to work on the stacks of paperwork that threatened to overwhelm his desk.
After an hour and a half, he dispelled the clones because the paperwork was pretty much gone and all that was left were minor requests from the civilian council, which he would put off until tomorrow when he had a chance to talk with Shikamaru. He was celebrating mentally, and wondered if he might actually be able to get in some training before the next major crisis.
The door to his office flew open, and Hiashi barged in. "Uzumaki! I demand that you do something!"
Kami hates me, Naruto thought. That's what it is. "Good morning, Hiashi. What brings you here today?"
Hiashi thrust his hands out in front of him. The palms had hair on them. "This is what bring me here today. Do you know how this happened?"
Naruto looked at Hiashi's hair, and noticed that a slight part of one side was missing, which meant that someone had pulled a prank on the Hyūga clan leader and put glue in his shampoo. Hiashi must have been pretty lucky to catch it before washing his entire head in the stuff. And even though he knew it wasn't very sympathetic, he couldn't help but make a joke at the man's expense.
"Well, I've got a couple of ideas. But if you don't stop what you're doing, you'll probably go blind."
Hiashi jerked his hands back and glared at the man in front of him. "You're not funny, Uzumaki."
Okay, that's twice he's called me that. Naruto thought. The first time I was willing to let it go, but I think he needs a small reminder of where he is and who I am. He increased the chakra pressure in the room and pushed out a small amount of killing intent, freezing Hiashi in the middle of his tirade.
"You need to adjust your attitude Hiashi…" Naruto said, his tone of voice dangerously low. "…or I'll follow through on my threat from the day of the wedding to feed you to the Kyuubi."
Hiashi blanched, as the memories of that moment came flashing back. There were very few times in his life he'd ever experienced something as terrifying as that.
Yes, that moment was quite funny. How about you keep raising your chakra pressure and killing intent until we scare him enough so that he soils himself?
Naruto chuckled internally. That probably wouldn't be a good idea, Kurama. Besides the fact that it would more than likely scare the shit out of everyone working in the tower, I'm the Hokage now and I can't be doing something like that to important clan leaders. Even though I agree that would be hilarious.
I suppose you're right. And besides, I wouldn't want to eat him after that.
"Hiashi. I think you're forgetting exactly where you are right now. This is the Hokage's office. I'm the Hokage. You can call me Naruto or Hokage-sama, but don't use Uzumaki or Namikaze when you're talking directly to me ever again. Understand?"
Now, Hiashi was not weak by any means, and there was a reason he was still the head of the Hyūga clan, even after all these years. But the feel of the power Naruto was emitting made it very clear why he was the Hokage, and it would be a good idea not to piss him off, because the young man probably could eliminate him without very much effort.
He bowed his head submissively. "My…apologies, Naruto." He said, struggling to get the words out. "I'm just…angry and frustrated at my current situation. And I'm…requesting your help."
Naruto lowered his chakra pressure and killing intent, and then smirked at his father-in-law. "See? That wasn't so hard now, was it?" He gestured to the chair in front of his desk. "Please sit down and tell me your troubles, Hiashi. What exactly do you need my help with?"
Hiashi sat down in the chair and proceeded to tell Naruto about the pranks he'd been subjected to over the past month and half. Replacing the deodorant in his dispenser with cream cheese. The incident with Tora and the catnip. Substituting a roll of 40-grit sandpaper for his toilet paper. Filling his dresser drawers with kinky ladies undergarments. And everything else up to the glue he found in his shampoo that morning.
"At first I thought she might be targeting the whole clan, but apparently it's just me. Somehow, I've pissed this woman off and I don't know who it is or why, and any attempts to catch her have been unsuccessful. She evades the women I post as guards and if the men happen to spot her, they get severe nosebleeds and pass out."
Naruto raised one eyebrow in curiosity. "Okay, two questions. First, how do you know she's a woman? And second, why are the men getting nosebleeds and passing out?"
"She was spotted on several occasions by my guards. She's about four feet tall with dark hair – we've never been able to determine the exact color – and it seems she's a nudist, because she runs around the compound completely naked." Hiashi shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I've been told by those that have seen her that she's very well…umm, proportioned."
Female… Naked… Dark Hair… About four feet tall, which was too short for who he was thinking about… "Was Konohamaru in the village for every one of these pranks?"
Hiashi blinked in confusion, and then thought about the question for a minute before he shook his head. "No. Looking back, half of the time he was away from the village on missions. Why?"
Naruto's mind was churning with suspicions, but that last piece of information was the clincher. "Because I'm pretty sure I know who it is. Hikaru's the one who's been playing pranks on you."
Hiashi stared dumbfounded at Naruto. "That's impossible! It's a woman, not an eight year old boy that's been terrorizing me! And even if he was disguising himself with a henge, the Byakugan would have seen right through it!"
"Sorry, that's incorrect. He's been using the Sexy Jutsu to disguise himself, and the technique is a true transformation, not just a simple henge. So even if someone used the Byakugan, they'd still just see a naked woman and not Hikaru. Konohamaru is probably the one who taught it to him, since the only other ones who know how to do it are Moegi and Udon, and I can't see them being involved in this."
Hiashi's expression turned to shock, then anger and finally rage. "Naruto." He spat through grating teeth. "You will speak to your son and have the pranks stopped immediately. Also, I demand an apology from the boy and expect that you will punish him severely for his actions."
Naruto shook his head. "Sorry, Hiashi. I'll be speaking to Hikaru and you have my word that as of now, the pranks are going to stop. But as far as the rest, the punishment will be mild and not severe, and you won't be getting an apology from him. And if you want to know why, it's because of the conversation you had with Hinata at my house while I was away."
Still angry, Hiashi narrowed his eyes at Naruto and asked, "The conversation? The one where I apologized to my daughter? What exactly does that have to do with what your son did?"
"I'll get to that in a minute, but let me ask you a question first. We both know that children are born to the Hyūga clan occasionally without the Byakugan. If that'd happened to Neji, would your brother Hizashi have loved him any less?"
"I'm still not understanding where you're going with this, Naruto."
Naruto held up his hand. "Just humor me for a minute Hiashi, and answer the question. If Neji had been born without the Byakugan, would Hizashi have loved him any less?"
Even though asking about his brother brought up painful memories for him – even to this day – Hiashi knew that Naruto was doing this with a specific purpose in mind, and he didn't have to think too long about what his brother would have said.
"No." He said, shaking his head. "No, he wouldn't have."
"And whether he had the Byakugan or not, would it have changed your decision to adopt him when your brother sacrificed his life for yours?"
The answer was even more immediate. "Absolutely not. Neji is Hyūga no matter what."
Naruto knew he had Hiashi hooked at this point. He just needed a bit more enlightenment. "And what would you do if someone came to you and said he wasn't?"
His expression turned hard and he glared at Naruto. "I would make sure they paid for their indiscretion in broken bones and blood…" He trailed off as he suddenly realized where the conversation had been steered.
Naruto smirked and said, "I'm guessing the light bulb just came on, Hiashi. Hinata told me you said during the conversation that you didn't consider Hikaru to be family – the reasons why don't really matter as far as I'm concerned. So Hikaru got angry and did exactly what you would have done and made the person responsible suffer. He just did it a whole lot less violently."
Hiashi tilted his head in thought. He begrudgingly agreed to himself that Naruto had a point. He'd basically set himself up for this. But still…
"And besides, why should it matter if Hinata gave birth to him or not? She was everything to Hikaru you'd expect a mother to be. And even if you could use that whole 'he's not truly your son' bullshit Hinata told me you said, he's still MY son. And unless I'm mistaken, I'm still a member of your esteemed clan, even if I don't know what Hinata's current status is after hearing the truth."
That subject had been a matter of debate at the last few clan council meetings. Even though everyone felt ashamed at how Hinata had been treated, the elders came down on both sides of the issue. Hiashi agreed with the group that wanted to reinstate her, while the other ones stubbornly refused to change their minds, even knowing they were wrong.
"All Hikaru wants is to be acknowledged by you for who and what he is. To be treated like family despite where he came from." Naruto's voice became a bit melancholy. "I know how he feels, because that's all I ever dreamed about when I was a kid."
"Hiashi, are you aware of your – umm, upcoming family expansion?" He asked, purposely leaving the question open ended.
Hiashi nodded. "Yes. Both Hanabi and Tenten are pregnant, and due within a week or so of each other."
So he knew. That made things for Naruto a bit easier. "Hiashi, I'm going to be blunt with you. It's no secret around the village that you were a moderately terrible father to Hinata and Hanabi. But now you've got a rare second chance to do things right, except this time as a grandfather. You already have Hikaru, and in a few months you'll have two more children that'll call you ojii-san someday. Now, are you going to take advantage of this opportunity, or are you still going to have that inflexible stick up your Hyūga ass and think you did a good job, when everyone clearly knows you didn't?"
At hearing the words Hiashi glared coldly at Naruto, who returned the stare calmly while sitting at his desk, unafraid of the Hyūga clan leader.
For his part, Hiashi was seething on the inside. He was well aware that his abilities, or lack thereof as a parent were widely known around the village. Many branch members, as well as a few of the younger Hyūga council members, had expressed their opinion on the matter to him many times over the years but he'd swept those concerns under the rug, unforgiving and uncaring as to what people thought of him.
However, that façade had begun to crack the day he apologized to Hinata. There were quite a few descriptive words to explain how badly he'd treated her over almost eight years before finding out the truth about Hikaru, but the long and short of it was that Hinata didn't deserve the majority of what she'd endured, and not only had he let it happen, he'd participated in her suffering.
A revelation like that was a hard pill to swallow, even for someone like him.
And another large part of his wall had come tumbling down when he'd learned that Hanabi and Tenten were pregnant. True, there were some – uncomfortable issues with Tenten that needed to be addressed, and as much as he hated to admit it, Naruto was right. Despite his outward behavior, he was kind of looking forward to being a grandfather, and he didn't want people remembering him for how much of an asshole he was to his own children.
Angry that he'd been outsmarted once again, he slammed his hand down on the desk in frustration. "Damn it, Naruto! How the hell do you do that?"
Naruto gave him a confused look. "What're you talking about, Hiashi?"
"How do you always manage to twist things around with your words, so that other people see your side of things and agree with you?"
Naruto shrugged. "I don't know. I've always had that skill, I guess. It's pretty much how I got everyone's help in the fourth shinobi war, and…"
The two of them were interrupted by a loud twanging sound – like someone had just used a gigantic slingshot – and Hiashi watched through the windows of the Hokage's office as a green object flew through the sky over the village.
"FLAMES OF YOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUTH!"
"What is that?" Hiashi asked, activating his Byakugan to see it better, his eyes following the object as it rushed towards the Hokage Monument. He then spotted another green object moving in the same direction, however this one was running rapidly along the rooftops of Konoha.
"GUY-SENSEI! I WILL CATCH YOU ON TOP OF THE HOKAGE MONUMENT! IF I FAIL, I WILL DO TEN THOUSAND PUSH-UPS! YOSH!"
Naruto buried his face in his hands. "I know what it is, Hiashi. And my advice is that you turn off your Byakugan and look away, before you're scarred for life."
"LEEEEEEEEEE…." Might Guy shouted, his voice fading into the distance as he got farther away from the tower.
"GUUUUYYYY-SENSEEEEEIIIII…" Rock Lee responded, his voice fading as well.
And then, even though it was ten-thirty in the morning and it went against everything Hiashi thought was possible, a sunset appeared over the whole village.
"LEE-KUN! WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU ABOUT SUBJECTING OTHER PEOPLE TO THE SUNSET JUTSU?" Another voice shouted, intruding on the moment.
"I'm sorryyyyy, Arekusuuuuuu…" Lee's voice responded, wafting over the village.
His head still buried in his hands, Naruto summoned one of the ANBU to his office. A man in a Boar mask appeared.
"Yes, Hokage-sama?" Boar asked.
"I'm sure you saw the same display everyone else in the village just did." Naruto said, raising his face to look at Boar. "What the hell was that all about?"
Boar actually flinched a little bit. "Ah, well…Might Guy thought his 'flames of youth' had gotten smaller lately, so he's been thinking up extreme training scenarios to…umm, reignite them. And of course, Rock Lee decided to help."
Naruto groaned. Trust those two to come up with something as psychotic as launching themselves across the village. "Find Might Guy and Rock Lee and tell them that any more 'extreme' training has to be done outside of the village, where no one will have to see their sunset jutsu. And make sure they stay away from training ground twenty-six, because that's my territory. Okay?"
Boar bowed and said, "I'll make sure they know, Hokage-sama." And he disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
Naruto looked back at Hiashi, and was a bit taken aback to see the Hyūga clan head actually smirking at him.
"Umm, what's so funny Hiashi?" He asked hesitantly. "You're kinda creeping me out…"
Hiaishi's smirk grew into a full-blown grin. "I just find it a bit ironic that several minutes earlier, you made a point of mentioning that my family will soon be expanding." He pointed over Naruto's left shoulder and asked, "Have you bothered to look at the Hokage Monument today?"
"No, why?" Naruto asked, swiveling his chair around to look out the window. Everything looked the same as it always did, except…
He noticed that someone had painted the Hokage Monument. To be more specific, the area above his face. It wasn't much, just a simple phrase in big black letters that said…
"Since you didn't mention it earlier, I'm going to assume you didn't know before now." Hiashi said, with a hint of amusement. "I guess congratulations are in order, Naruto."
Hiashi expected some sort of response to his words – an acknowledgement of his offer of congratulations, a shout of joy – hell, even a mumble of confusion would have been something. But there was nothing.
"Naruto, did you hear what I just said? I offered you…"
Hiashi then noticed that it had been about fifteen seconds since Naruto had first looked out the window and since then, he hadn't moved one bit. Or flinched. Or even looked like he was still breathing for that matter.
Hiashi was starting to get concerned and then Naruto's chair began to tip backwards slowly, the chair creaking with every inch of movement. It continued that way until it reached the tipping point, sending Naruto and the chair crashing to the floor.
Hiashi casually watched the entire thing happen, and after Naruto hit the floor with a resounding thud, he waited a few more seconds before he got up and walked around the desk.
He laughed at the sight.
Naruto was lying on the floor, his eyes rolled up into his head with a euphoric grin stretched across his face. Hiashi had seen his daughter do it enough times to realize that Naruto had fainted from emotional overload.
Hiashi turned around and began to walk out of the office, chuckling the entire time. He reached the door and just before he opened it, he turned around and said to the catatonic Hokage…
"You know Naruto, I think I may have made a mistake all these years in my judgment of you as far as my daughter is concerned. It's obvious from this display that the two of you are absolutely perfect for one another."
A/N: So there you have it! Hinata is finally pregnant and everyone knows about it, so stop asking me when it'll happen! And that reason is pretty much why this chapter is so big and taken a bit longer to release. I had to put that part in at the end, otherwise my faithful readers might have led a riot in revolt, since you've been waiting quite a while for that.
So now we're going to do some Credit Where Credit Is Due at the end of the chapter. I normally don't do this, but I didn't want to ruin the story at the beginning by revealing who was responsible for what:
The fire opal idea was a variation of one used in Love's Never Easy by Ayrmed. She gave me permission to use it. Thank you so much!
Mina Mikon is the OC of MattWilson83. And Arekusu is the OC of shock777 on DeviantArt. 'Nuff said.
MattWilson83 gets credit for the opening part where Naruto talks to the rest of his classmates. The part where he visits Sakura in the hospital was tweaked based on his ideas. Mina getting hired as Naruto's personal secretary was also due to his suggestions, and the wording for her description came directly from him. And last but not least, Hinata seducing Naruto in his office was inspired by one of his latest artworks, Attracting Naruto.
Which leads me to my request for all artists and DeviantArt members out there I promised at the beginning of this story. The outfit Hinata was wearing in Naruto's office was this (you know what to replace the stars with):
www . amazon . *** / LOCOMO-Halter-Bottom-Purple-FFL015 / dp / B0097AX006
I'd like someone to draw Hinata in this outfit. We can even make this a contest if you guys like, and all the artwork (with your permission) will be posted on my DeviantArt account. There's nothing there right now - since I'm not an artist - and I'm even willing to go so far as to pay a commission for the winner. The one rule I have is that you have to be AT LEAST as good an artist as MattWilson83. If all you can draw is stick figures or color between the lines, then please save us all the agony and don't try.
As far as the story goes, as the title suggested I hope everyone got a taste of the unexpected. Naruto is acting like a Hokage should. Hinata is being more bold. Freyja is now a kunoichi of the village. Shikamaru and Temari got married and she'll be pregnant soon (man, she's gonna be irritable). Naruto knows Konohamaru taught Hikaru the Sexy Jutsu and has been using it to prank Hiashi. And Hiashi is going to try and remove that stick up his ass and be a good grandparent. Care to guess what's going to happen there?
And now that all that stuff is out of the way, we can get back to some NaruHina family interaction, which I know my readers are going to love. Yay!
So what's coming next? Well, two more Mienai Segi reveal themselves. You already got the name of one of them at the beginning of the chapter, but they'll both play an integral part in what's going to happen with Gideon. Naruto sees Hinata about being pregnant. Naruto confronts Hikaru. And quite a few other items will be thrown in for good measure. So stay tuned!
Recommendation time! Okay, I have several stories I want to recommend but I'm trying to continue my theme of paying it forward to stories that don't have that many followers or favorites, despite the fact that the authors are incredible writers and do excellent work. I had one in mind, but I gotta wait until that author gets beyond four chapters. However, lately I've been very much into The Fox and the Lioness by KittyKatChan96. Naruto comes back from his training with Jiraiya and isn't so oblivious for once to Hinata's feelings for him (which is how it SHOULD have been in the manga anyway). Things get heated almost right from the start (chapter 2 and it's rated M for a reason, people) and the progression is fantastic. Fair disclosure, there are several parts in the story where it's suggested that Sakura and Kakashi will be getting together but if you have no problem with that then do yourself a favor and give it a chance. There's TONS of NaruHina goodness running through it and the latest chapter was an emotional rollercoaster – I loved every minute of it.
Here's the link, as usual remove the spaces and you know what to replace the stars with:
www . fanfiction . *** / s / 8933423
REVIEWS! So, last chapter I hit one of my personal goals of 1,000 reviews. I know stories that have twice the followers/favorites as mine that don't have that many, so I think it speaks to the readers I have and how passionate they are about what I write. I can't thank you guys enough for your encouragement and support, because it's these things that drive me to continue to write, even when I get writers block or have a bad week. I power through those things because I don't want to let anyone down, and knowing that you all enjoy what I write is a great motivator.
And based on how long this chapter is - and the fact that I didn't keep anyone else waiting for the Hinata pregnancy reveal - I'm expecting a TON of reviews for this one. Am I being greedy? Yeah, probably. But why not go for broke, I always say!
So take some time and leave me a review, because there's no better way to say 'thank you, I appreciate the time you take out of your life to write this interesting piece of work' than seeing those words of encouragement fill my email inbox. And as I mention every chapter, the more reviews you leave the faster the next chapter gets out.
That's all for now. Take care and stay safe.