Epilogue: Twenty-Five, Rebuilding Complete
"Boruto!" came the whisper. It was full of threat, even more frightening because it came from a blood-thirsty shinobi who'd just earned the rank of jonin.
It made the boy shiver with dread.
The voice came again, but this time in a sing-song tone, "Boruto, Hanabi-neechan's coming for you!"
An answering fit of childish giggles came from the back of the sofa, which was quickly smothered by a small hand.
Hanabi advanced and found her three-year-old nephew underneath a birthday hat, still giggling, but looking up at her expectantly, his arms already reaching out for the hugs and kisses she was going to smother him with. But before that, she was going to mercilessly tickle him.
Hinata smiled at both of them as she sliced the tomatoes from the kitchen counter. Boruto was shrieking with laughter.
"Hanabi, don't get him riled up too much. You know how crazy he gets."
Too late. Boruto managed to escape his aunt's clutches and ran smack into the shelf where the missive from the Hokage had been sitting. The documents fell to the floor. The little boy stood up with a smile, completely unfazed. He was waiting for his aunt to chase him again.
"Sorry, Onee-sama!" Hanabi said as she gathered up the scrolls. She glanced at them and looked at her older sister in surprise.
"So the Hokage wants you to help out with the Five Kage Summit next month?" she asked.
Seeing that Boruto was safe and was now clinging to Hanabi, Hinata kept slicing but answered her question. "Yes, I know a lot of the dignitaries who are coming with the Kages, so Kakashi-sama and Shikamaru asked me to pitch in."
"Oh, wow!" Hanabi said, but Boruto was already demanding her attention.
"Nee-chan! Nee-chan! One more time!" he cried as he pulled at her kimono.
"Okay, Boruto," Hanabi said, dropping her voice to a scary whisper.
Boruto squealed with delight and ran away, trying to find the next hiding place.
Hinata gave a quiet laugh. She then looked over at her father on the opposite side of the living room, who was also wearing a brightly-colored birthday hat on his head. In his long, graying hair, a tiny hand was tangled and was tugging with all her might.
"Father, does Himawari need to be changed?" she asked.
"Do you?" he asked the baby cradled in his arms. She only gurgled at him and drool dripped from her mouth. He wiped it with her bib and brought her diaper to his nose. He sniffed delicately.
"No," Hiashi said with a relieved laugh, but he brought her head closer to his nose and deeply inhaled her baby-powder scent.
Outside, a few feet away from the Uzumaki house, Shikamaru and Naruto were walking, but they were ready to part ways.
"I'll see you later tonight, Naruto," Shikamaru said.
"Yeah, I'm so excited! Oh, and could we add another person to the guest list?" Naruto asked.
"Sure! Who is it?"
"Iruka-sensei said he'll be able to make it."
Shikamaru smiled. "Nice. He's been so busy since he became principal at the Ninja Academy but that's good he'll show up."
"Thanks again for having the party at your place, Shikamaru," Naruto said.
"Oh, we don't mind!" his friend replied. "Our place is big enough for everyone. You know, Konohamaru wanted to do it at his place, too, but he couldn't get it cleaned in time. He still has a lot of the Third Hokage's junk to clean out."
Shikamaru smirked at him. "It's a major pain in the ass, but Temari was happy to host your birthday party. Can't believe that Gaara and Kankuro were able to get out of their duties and come all the way to Konoha just to party!"
This time, they both laughed.
"I'm glad the gang's all here to celebrate. It's been a while since we were all together, right? Maybe years!" Naruto mused.
"Yeah, maybe even since our chuunin exams? Wow!" Shikamaru said with surprise. "Still can't believe that it's been that long."
He then added with a warning, "Oh, and Tsunade-sama's in town, so she invited herself, and the Hokage, to the party, too."
Naruto's smile widened. "Kakashi-sensei and Granny, too! That's a surprise! I'm glad they could come, but that means you guys have to keep the sake stocked for the entire night."
Shikamaru laughed louder. "Just for her, yeah. But, no worries there. Everyone's itching to celebrate so we made sure there's going to be enough sake to go around."
They reached the gates to Naruto's home and Shikamaru waved good-bye. "Later, man!"
As Naruto walked up the steps leading to his house, his eye caught something dark glinting on the side of the house, right above Hinata's flower box. He leaned down and pulled the shuriken out of the groove it had created.
"Sasuke," he murmured with a roll of his eyes and a shake of his head. So dramatic.
Most people sent notes and letters, but Sasuke had to do things his way.
I'll be there, was the shuriken message. Naruto grinned, suddenly thinking of Sakura when he'd seen her this morning and finally understanding the excitement that had gleamed in her eyes.
"There's a surprise for you!" was all she'd said when he'd asked her about her happy mood.
Well, that surprise was now unwittingly ruined by her husband.
He stepped into the house and called out, "I'm home!"
Naruto heard the happy cries of his son, then Boruto was running out into the entranceway.
"Tou-chan!" he cried out in warning before he launched himself into his father's arms.
He laughed as the little boy's arms wrapped around him, the birthday hat on his head poked Naruto painfully in the eye.
He rubbed his eye gingerly then kissed his son on the forehead.
"Tou-chan! When do we eat the cake?" he asked excitedly.
"When your mother says it's okay," Naruto said with a smile.
Boruto's face fell. "I have to wait?!"
The hardest thing for a three-year-old boy to do.
"Yes, we have to because she's going to get angry if we don't," Naruto said with a grin.
Boruto's face was solemn. "Okay, I'll wait. She's scary when she's angry."
Naruto laughed, his shoulders shaking, but he carried him into the living room. He walked into the circle of Hinata's embrace and gave her a kiss. He then met his father-in-law's eyes across the room. Hiashi nodded at him even as Himawari cooed and tugged hard again at his hair, making the older man wince. Hanabi kept her cool as she stood up to greet him, but then she beamed at him, the perpetual lock of hair falling over her eyes.
He thought he heard Kurama sigh from within.
And Naruto grinned at all of them, loving everything in this life he had built.
All right guys, that's a mic drop for me.
Thank you so much for your time, for reading this long-ass story. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Thanks again for all the lovely comments throughout, I really do appreciate it. It makes me feel inspired to write more.
Hit me with your thoughts!