I do not own Naruto

Chapter 21

The Hokage kept the promise he made to himself. He set aside time once a month to visit the superintendent of the Mental Health Clinic. The meetings were held with great discretion. Initially, he had attempted to talk about his feelings to Iruka, but he had been vehemently spurned and yelled at not to 'be an idiot' and to 'do things properly' and 'stop bothering me while I'm working.' So on and so forth.

He spoke to Ayame about it, after he felt a certain amount of internal revelation had been made. She only kissed his forehead and made him a sandwich.

Kakashi's love at first-hallucinatory-sight had been quixotic. So he buried the feelings deep down, as he did many things, to concentrate on the village's very serious problems. From a strict, rude adolescent he had turned into a dutiful friend and patriotic shinobi. It was all very good and helpful, but along the way, he missed something. Something important.

And it wasn't the love of a woman—despite it being quite appreciated.

Along the way it may have slipped his mind to live for himself. Circumstances had called for it. But now…what had once been a hope deferred became a desire fulfilled.

Kakashi wanted a wife. He wanted children. He wanted a home with warm meals waiting for him after a long day and he wanted a silly companion to tease and bicker with. Most of all he didn't want his life's purpose to only be a village's protector. As he hoped the gift of peace allowed for the pursuit of happiness amongst every citizen, he also wanted it for himself. As he should.

He and his counselor were still working on the peculiarities on how to go about it all.

Protective over his little family? Very good. Exhibiting jealous tendencies over loved ones? Normal. Causing bodily harm to any man who had ever uttered the moniker 'Aya-chan'? Not very good. Reading explicit literature in front of others? Not normal.

And then there was his wife. The Ramen Girl. Imagined seraph. Happy civilian. Daishukujo. Mother of his child. Hatake Ayame.

"Kakashi-san?" She was breastfeeding, legs crossed on the couch. They were waiting for others to arrive. She had wanted to host the surprise party for Naruto, congratulating him on making jonin.

"Yes?" Kakashi flipped another page of the book he was reading. It was a mildly rated fiction about a young alchemist who brings a dead body—from the remains of many—to life, only for the creature to have no soul. It sounded more like a botched Edo Tensei. He made a mental note to pigeon Orochimaru to see if the sannin had ever read it.

"I hope Akira-san and his musicians come visit again. We never saw their performances in the village," her tone of voice became babyish, nuzzling Kanna, "because of dis wittle one." Ayame flinched in pain as she then maneuvered the baby onto her other breast. They had recently begun to interchange bottle feeding and nursing so Ayame wouldn't always have to wake at night.

At three months old, a tuft of silver hair had sprouted out the top of his daughter's head. Her mother made sure to use headbands to tame it. Kanna now sported a large red bow to match a poofy red dress. It flounced when her little legs kicked.

"They'll eventually come again…Kanna-chan, be nice to Kaasan." He often said this teasingly to his child. Ayame using her body to feed the baby was not always so easy, and at times incredibly painful for her.

"Ata ta ta!" Ayame brow pinched and eyes watered. "Kanna-chan, listen to Tousan."

Hatake Kanna. Three-month-old baby. Interested only in milk and her mother. She tolerated her father because he often held her in his arms throughout the night when her mother was none the wiser. And she enjoyed giggling during bath time and when people stared too long.

Their friends arrived and Kanna was passed around, all within the peripheral of her parents. Naruto was especially happy when he showed up with Hinata, tears in his eyes at the grand gesture. It didn't take long for the blond to point out that there was a second cake with another name. Ayame was the only other person surprised.

There, next to the orange frosted cake, was a flowery pink and white one with strawberries. It read 'Ayame, congrats on graduating from your Daishukujo studies.'

Shikamaru had decided his idiot pupils should graduate from his class together. He said something or other about going on an extended vacation to Suna.

One armed and doubly multiplied in scars, Tanako Raiden could not be a happier man. He was surrounded by old friends and new comrades, one of which was a very pretty, purple haired kunoichi. Ichiraku children ran around and chased each other while men played cards and filled their bellies with sake and meat. Outside the glass doors, the Hokage had gotten involved in some sort of drinking game with a man dressed in leotard. The women gleefully gossiped and fawned over the new baby (but it was Teuchi who fawned the most).

To the side, he and Ayame sat eating cake. She watched Kanna from afar, content to let the family have their moments with her. Even Yumi seemed passive, who was once more becoming reserved with her sister. Per usual, it was likely due to jealousy. Ayame was good about it. She always had been. 'She only has boys,' she excused.

Ayame poked the stub of Raiden's shoulder. "You're really okay with this?"

He laughed at her boldness. "I'm glad it's gone."

"There are other ways to get rid of a toothbrush tattoo."

He grinned at the old joke. "I guess you're right."

"I'm just glad you're alive and home."

"Yes." He took another bite of cake and talked with his mouth full. "I'm relieved you and Kanna-chan are, too. Thank you for believing in me, Aya-chan—err, sorry. Ayame."

She shook her head. "Kakashi-san got to you, too, huh?"

"Uh, something like that." Raiden had asked the Hokage how he could ever repay him, and the man readily told him to address his wife plainly. And then he threatened him to never again speak of the Ichiraku family to distrustful crime lords or villainous scourges of the earth. "Jealous men have their uses."

Ayame shrugged. "I don't mind it." She gave him a pointed stare. "That Matsu guy seemed to think I was your girlfriend."

"Erm. Yeah. Sorry about that. We sorta worked together back in the day—before I knew what I got myself into. I thought I could trust him." Until he realized Haruhi had been more then a maid.

"I think I understand. I'll call you only Raiden, then. We're both getting too old for anything else."

"What about 'niisan'?"

"My husband would have a heart attack."

He scoffed with humor. "Fine." It's not like he wanted to contend with a Hokage's jealousy any more than he unknowingly had. His new leader was unapologetically possessive. Likely more than even Ayame grasped. She could be such a dummy. Rumor had it that the Hokage set a handsy Menrui Yuu straight, scaring the baker half to death.

Haruhi approached them with a fussing Kanna. 'Hungry,' she signed and handed the brightly dressed bundle to Ayame. The kid's bow was bigger than her freaking head.

"You have to practice speaking, Haruhi," Raiden encouraged the girl. Really. It had been selective mutism all this time.

She flushed and glanced at her feet. "…huhn…gree."

He smiled dazzlingly. "Very good."

Ayame left Haruhi and Raiden to their own devices. It was only now that she realized Haruhi was probably in love with him. Why wouldn't Haruhi fall in love with the man who had saved her from a life of torment? It seemed the poor Aoi stood no chance under Raiden's heroic shadow. At least for now.

The rogue himself had no such inclinations towards the teen mother. He would never see Haruhi as more than a child robbed of innocence. But Haruhi had stopped being a child long ago. Ayame imagined the girl kept her feelings to herself because they would only burden Raiden and even shame him. She was a hero in her own right for enduring a silent love.

"Wah!" Kanna wailed in her mother's arms.

Ayame treaded to her room for privacy. "Kanna-chan, give Kaasan a minute." The baby only screamed louder, face reddening. Ayame smiled. What a cutie.

She sat on the bed and pulled her blouse to the side. Holding her to her breast, Kanna's trembling lips frantically opened and closed as they struggled to grab hold of a nipple. She was desperate as if she'd not fed in days.

The door to the room clicked shut and a manly hand came to cradle Kanna's head. It gently guided her mouth. "There, there," Kakashi sung, hovering over mother and child. "Be nice to Kaasan."

Ayame stared up through her lashes at her husband. He wore the soft smile and softer gaze reserved for their daughter. The man was enamored. Ayame hadn't known it possible to fall more in love with him just because of his sweet tenderness towards their baby.

"Is it hurting again?" Kakashi asked, eyes glued to Kanna's mouth hard at work.

"Only at first." He always asked if she was okay.

He sat next to his wife. "Hm."

"You didn't have to come," she teased. "I can smell the sake on you. I know you're having a good time with the guys." Genma sure knew how to work a crowd and instigate a drinking competition between Gai and Kakashi.

"Ah, well," Kakashi hummed, rosiness peeking above his mask. "I lost this round."

"Are you sure you didn't throw the match just to follow us in here?"


She giggled. "I don't mind." The man's flush deepened and spread to his ears. "You know you're pretty cute sometimes."

"I'm not cute. I'm a man," he said with a soft slur which made her laugh harder. She switched Kanna to the other breast and Kakashi readily maneuvered her mouth as before.

The new parents contently watched their daughter drink herself into a stupor. Her suckling would pause, the nipple nearly falling out of her mouth only for her to flinch and rigorously suckle it back in, breath askew as if offended there existed anything else besides latching. At one point she gnawed on it.

"She's asleep," came Kakashi's hushed voice, lips grazing Ayame's ear, sending an electric zap into her heart and further down, below her abdomen. She pressed her knees together.

Ayame gulped, blushing at the power he had over her body now. "I have to burp her," she explained. She righted her shirt and stood, pacing as she tapped Kanna on the back.

Kakashi sat on the bed using his hands to lean back, his desire for her evident. His narrowed gaze was scorching.

Her cheeks were aflame. "There are people here." Kanna burped and then sighed. The sound would have been cute and worthy of praise if it didn't signal her father to stand and make his way to the door, locking it.

Kakashi peeled Kanna's little body off her mother and placed her in the bassinet on Ayame's side of the bed.

"O-oh Kakashi-san, I smell like milk and cake!" The man collected her into his arms and tossed her on the bed. She yelped when he climbed over her, yanking her thighs over his when she tried to scoot away. They'd recently gotten back to doing such things and the man was insatiable, taking full advantage of how not pregnant she was. She never thought possible half the things he introduced in their marital bed—and on other furnishings.

His hands slid up her calves and behind her knees, pushing her legs apart. "You say it as if it's a bad thing." Ayame gasped as his head disappeared under her skirt.

All was well with the village. The lockdown and ban on travel had lifted months ago and construction begun on the plateau mountain. It was a towering, flat-topped, steep-sided rock that was also known as The Hokage Rock. The Hokage Rock was a mountain overlooking Konohagakure that had all the faces of the Hokage carved into its stone wall. It was envisioned by Hashirama Senju as a symbol that the Hokage would always watch over the village.

For a long time, it was said to be bad luck for homes to be built on the expansive plateau—Kakashi thought that was just silly. It was the village's inheritance to do with what they wanted. Also new settlers wouldn't know about the superstition.

In summary, things were looking good for Kakashi. Wholesome marriage, adorable kid, prospering village—but of course there was always something:

"When Sakura asks to come with me, I'll say yes."

Kakashi frowned from his desk, putting his 'I'm the Boss' mug down. "Are you asking if Sakura can leave the village?"



"Why?" He asked without animosity, as if only curious to know the answer.

"Do you think you can make her happy?"

Sasuke closed his eyes. "No."

"Then no."

"If the Hokage says she cannot go, then she cannot go." Sasuke perused his old teacher, serious. "But who is it that is speaking?"

"What do you think?"

Sasuke's eyes finally narrowed into a glare. Kakashi held his own, unmoved.

"I see." The Uchiha turned on his heel and left.

A young man calmly stood outside Ayame's house, one eye covered by dark bangs. He donned a worn-out brown cloak and a striped bandana. "Sa...suke?"

"Ayame-dono." He gave her a small bow. She wasn't sure what was more shocking. Uchiha Sasuke at her door or Sasuke formerly using her name—or knowing her name, for that matter. She'd seen him once in all these years and it was at the graduation party.

She bounced a wailing Kanna in her arms, blatantly staring at the striking young man. "What are you doing here—I mean, how are you?" Manners. Manners. "How can I help you?" The kettle started screaming and the oven continued to beep and Ayame tried not to let her eyes get too teary. At times motherhood could be a little overwhelming.

"Wah!" Kanna cried louder, little arms and legs flailing. Ayame held her closer.

Sasuke stepped back, suddenly aware of the chaos and the noise. As if rethinking his retreat, Sasuke held out an arm. "Give her to me."

Ayame didn't think twice. Uchiha Sasuke was once Kakashi's student and Naruto's teammate, therefore it equated him as trustworthy person. Kanna was out of her mother's arms in less than a second. Ayame ran inside, shouting over the noise, "A bottle is in her room!" He had magical eyes or something, she was sure he'd find it.

Ayame shoved her hands in mittens and took out the pork shoulder, and then turned off the gas stove, removing the steaming kettle. The kitchen clatter ended and even Kanna stopped crying down the hall. Ayame leaned against the counter and breathed.

She undid her bun and made it a little less sloppy. Counting to ten, she adjusted her bra and untied the stings of her apron. Feeling less frazzled, she walked to Kanna's room. Ayame immediately smiled when she walked in. Sasuke sat in the rocking chair with Kanna nestled in his right arm, holding the bottle to her greedy mouth, eyes glued to Sasuke's handsome face. He held the bottle between the stub of his left forearm and his chest.

"Thank you, Sasuke."

He nodded, intently staring at the baby. "She's so small." His voice was so much deeper than she remembered.

"She is small for three months." But her eyes carried a tell-tale intelligence, Kakashi had said.

He looked up at Ayame. She wasn't sure she could call his expression serene, but he seemed calmer than she remembered a grumpy twelve-year-old Sasuke being. "Ayame-dono," he said, obviously wanting to talk over something.

Her smile widened. "Yes, Sasuke?"

"May I ask for a favor?" Oh. That certainly was unexpected. She'd really thought he'd come for Kakashi. He took her silence as unconfident. "I know it may be strange—"

"No!" She interrupted him, hands up. "I was just surprised. I'd like to help you in any way I can."

He gave a small upwards turn of the mouth, pleased at her words. He really was a handsome young man.

"Let him, Kakashi-san."

"You don't know Sasuke. He'll neglect her."

"He's asking permission to take her with him. That's hardly neglect." Ayame sat behind him on the bed, massaging his neck.

"Sasuke doesn't know how to treat Sakura. With Naruto, they fight and everything makes sense."

She tried not to make a disbelieving expression, but she did. "Is that like a guy thing?"

He shrugged. "It's more like a Naruto-Sasuke thing."

"Oh-kay. So, he can't do that with Sakura?"

"No. She's a puzzle he can't put together. When they were young, he was surprisingly open with her. He told her details about his path as an avenger. If he ever allowed himself to rely on Naruto or me, it was physical—for strength, for wisdom. With her, it was often emotional. I think that's why..."

"Why what?" It was fascinating to hear Kakashi talk about his students. He had so much to say. He deliberated about them with such intensity Ayame wondered if he ever talked about her like that.

"During the time he was gone, and the few encounters we had with him, he made it a point to be cruel to her. Her love irritated him. It got in the way." Kakashi rubbed his temples and she concentrated on his right shoulder. "Back then he could confront Naruto just fine and even me. But if Sakura got involved, and she made sure she did, he wouldn't have it. It was hard to watch."

Ayame saddened. "She must have suffered." She remembered Sakura's melancholic demeanor when it came to the young Uchiha. "And you're worried he'll kinda still be like that?"

"I know he's different now. It's been years," Kakashi sighed. "The truth is I don't think he knows what he's getting himself into. Even now they're only friends."

"He held Kanna-chan," she said. She didn't know why, but her throat tightened, remembering that poor young man holding a child. She didn't know Sasuke. Not at all. But she knew how precious he was to Naruto and Kakashi. "And he fed her," she said softly to her husband. She leaned into his back, chin on his shoulder. He turned his head and their noses bumped lightly.

"He looked...happy." She kissed his lips and Kakashi smiled, staring at her mouth when she parted. "He can do this. Let her go with him."

"He's found peace in his travels." He leaned his forehead against hers.

"He has," she said, "and I think he wants to show Sakura. Will you let him?" He sighed that sigh and she smiled wide.

"Yes," he said. She wooted happily, wrapping her arms around his shoulders in a hug.

"Yes!" she repeated, excited.

"Yes," he mumbled again less enthusiastically. He twisted around to gather Ayame into his lap. "Those three have me all figured out." Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura.

"How so?" she asked, curious.

Kakashi fiddled with a lock of her long, brown hair and frowned at it. "They can get me to do anything." She rolled her eyes at his sulky expression.

"Oh I doubt that." Always with the dramatics.

"Sure they can. They just have to get you on their side and it's a guarantee." He nuzzled her neck and she giggled. "Who knew."

"Who knew," she said, grinning ear to ear. Recently, she may or may not have realized she had this power over him.

"I guess your side of the family can't be the only problem."

She gave him a sarcastic look of disbelief. "Oh yes because the village as a whole has never experienced a problem from your side."


Three months later.

Sakura was basically bouncing on her heels, thumbs hooked around the straps of a green pack with white puff charms hanging from the zippers. Courtesy of Ayame, of course. She was a little scared to give a shinobi something so cute for travel, but Sakura had been so grateful Ayame was convinced she'd chosen right. She and Sasuke wore long, warm cloaks as it was February. The cold season wouldn't end until mid-next month.

Ayame shifted a sleepy Kanna on her hip. A six-month-old felt heavy after standing for so long. Mother and daughter wore matching pink bubble jackets and beanies with a pom at the top.

Sakura gazed at the baby and glanced at Sasuke, blushing. Sasuke stood there, staring off towards the dirt road that led away from the gates. He was completely ignoring Sakura's tangible enthusiasm. Ayame tried not to worry about what Kakashi had said of the young man's tendency to be emotionally neglectful.

Sasuke's mismatched gaze caught Ayame's. "Where is Kakashi?"

"Who's that?" she said without missing a beat.

He stared, unamused. Sakura sniggered, leaning closer to him. She was so happy. Sasuke zoned in on her every step as she had long bypassed the Uchiha's personal bubble.

Ayame tried not to laugh when a small turn at his lips appeared. He was happy, too. Good. The last thing Ayame wanted was to have convinced Kakashi of something that would later end poorly.

"He's late," he spoke softly to Sakura, seemingly unbothered by her proximity or the fact that someone was late.

"He is." Sakura touched his arm. "Naruto is, too."

"Hn." He did not touch her back but he did not move away from her petting. Ayame blinked slowly. This scenario sort of reminded her of Kakashi during their engagement. She would touch and touch and he'd just let her, awkwardly accepting it.

Ayame looked towards the village. Where was Kakashi? However entertaining Sasuke and Sakura's unfolding love story was, Kakashi was thirty minutes late.

"Hey guys!" Naruto said, jumping down beside her. Ayame flinched at the abrupt entrance. Kanna ducked her head into her mother's neck. Ayame smiled at her favorite ninja. She told this to Kakashi once and he'd been floored, saying her favorite ninja should probably be her husband. She just waved him off and later found him sulking until she took her clothes off.

"Kanna-chan is here!" Naruto noticed quickly. Sasuke and Sakura acknowledged the new arrival, their little moment broken.

"Yes! She wanted to say bye-bye to Sasuke and Sakura!" Ayame used the baby's tiny hand and made a little wave. Next thing she knew, team seven closed in on her—or rather Kanna—and proceeded to poke and caress the baby, talking to her as if she would respond. The three were besotted with their sensei's progeny.

"Oh! Look how she's looking at Sasuke-kun!"

Tears filled Naruto's eyes. "No, Kanna-chan! Look at me. That bastard might have a nice face but I'm way more fun."

"Hn." Sasuke smirked when Kanna giggled and offered a hand to him. He reached out to let her wrap her fingers around one of his.

"Why does it feel like I'm being rejected?" Naruto said, somber. Ayame and Sakura laughed.

Kakashi watched from afar as his students surrounded his wife, leaning into his daughter, adoration on all three of their faces. Naruto and Sakura ardently spoke to Kanna, and although Sasuke did not, he stared impassively, as if anticipating a response.

Kanna scrunched up her face and released an intense 'bah!' They ate it up.

He approached everyone, intent on sending the couple off properly. Kakashi handed Sakura an enclosed envelope while making light small talk. After nods from the men and tearful farewells from the women, Sasuke and Sakura left. It would be years before they returned.

How pretty his wife was as she held their child and waved goodbye to his precious students. What a gift she was to his life. And a gift to their village. Where once she had been a hidden gem among many who worked at a ramen stand, she was now an irreplaceable asset to Konohagakure and its future.

With the purest of intentions and respect for their advanced ages, she convinced Homura and Koharu to retire. It happened over a cup of tea.

He didn't think he could love her more after she gave birth to his child, but he had been wrong. Tsunade and many clan leaders may have also confessed their love for her during that celebration-ahem-during that withdrawal of honorable advisory. Kakashi even turned a blind eye to the temporary admirers. In the elders' place, younger folk were put in the esteemed position to counsel the Hokage. Morino Ibiki, Shizune and Aburame Shibi would be fine councilmen alongside Tsunade. Per usual, it would be on an 'as needed basis,' as all had other responsibilities besides annoying the hell out of Kakashi.

"Those two," Naruto mumbled as they started back into the village, "are they gonna be alright?"

"Probably." Kakashi grabbed Kanna from Ayame. "They're married now so they'll figure it out."


Ayame looked startled herself. "Since when?"

"Since this morning. I had to finalize the marriage certificate." It was why he had been late.

Naruto's hanging jaw closed. "I thought you were giving them money."

"Sasuke isn't exactly poor." Inheriting the wealth of an entire clan, in fact, made one very, very rich.

Naruto and Ayame exchanged equally surprised expressions and then suspiciously looked at the Hokage. "What did you do?" they both said at the same time.

"Hm. This and that," he offered. He brought Kanna to his face and kissed her forehead. She grabbed his hair and pulled, babbling.

He may have given the condition that the only way Sakura could go with Sasuke was if the two married. Remarkably, the last Uchiha had been agreeable, much to the shock and utter delight of Haruno Sakura. They hadn't even been dating. Or maybe they had—no one really knew. Not even Sakura.

Naruto shook his head at his old sensei and said his own goodbye, hopping away. Ayame reached over and grabbed Kakashi's hand, giggling when he winked at her.

Kakashi could admit when he was wrong. Pride had fallen away long, long ago. In Sasuke's own way, he loved Sakura. So it was with a sense of joy that Kakashi acknowledged how wrong he had been about Ayame.

He had thought it best not to pursue her because she was a little ramen chef with a simple life unlikely to mold with his. When she began to fancy him, he dismissed her efforts believing her love to be lukewarm and infantile. Even when they had little choice but to marry, he second-guessed her ability to adapt to a life as the Hokage's wife.

But she thrived.

She excelled in every way Kakashi believed she would fail. Her simple life not only molded with his, but it also tethered so intricately that ever should she part, he would find himself a very sad man. And her love—oh her love—was an all-consuming sweetness. The weight of it simultaneously stifled and drove him to be every good thing—for her, for Kanna, for the village, and most importantly, for himself.

"Among those whom I like or admire,

I can find no common denominator,

but among those whom I love, I can;

all of them make me laugh."

-W.H. Auden

What a ride this story has been. I want to thank everyone who put up with the hiatus. And my OCs. Though I'll admit Raiden has a special place in my heart. I hope you all enjoyed the finished product. It'd be great to hear from those of you that lurk in the shadows! XD I'm keeping my fingers crossed for fan-art! Lastly, if you get random notifications for this fic, it's because I've gone back to do edits.

Check out my one-shot "The Hatake Family" which takes place 15 years after "The Pickle Jar."

Ah! It is finished! Thanks again, everyone. God bless you! Take care and be well.