Chapter 56

Due to popular demand this chapter will have a lemon in it. There will be a note labeling its beginning and ending just in case you don't want to read it. This is my first try at a lemon so please review and tell me how I did. If it goes well I may add a few more to the story soon.

(Hokage's Mountain)

"…That is a secret! What kind of lame excuse is that?" Tsunade yelled in nearly dumbfounded annoyance. She couldn't believe that this person had the gall to sneak into her office, reveal that he had information on Naru-chan and Hinata, and then refuse to tell her who he was!

"I am only going to tell you once more! Tell me who you are." Tsunade said in a deadly serious tone. Her anbu tightened their stances, awaiting her orders.

"Now now, Hokage-sama let's not do anything rash shall we? Rather than inquire about my identity I would assume that you would want to first discuss Naruto and Hinata's rather interesting conditions." He replied calmly. He didn't at all seem to fear the Hokage or her legion of highly trained anbu guards.

"What do you know about that?" Tsunade asked suspiciously.

"I know enough. However, I believe that this is a conversation that should be held with them present. If you would be so kind as to escort me to their room we can then discuss this like adults." He said.

Tsunade stared at the newcomer for a minute trying to make up her mind about what she should do. While she knew enough to recognize that this must be the mysterious person who had helped Naruto for so long in the past, she was still suspicious of the man as he evaded any questions about his identity and his actions. Still, if he could somehow help Naruto and Hinata then she was not opposed to giving him some leeway. Besides if he really meant any harm then he had more than enough opportunities to do it.

'Still, I'll keep my eye on him and I will figure out who he is.' Tsuande thought.

"Fine, let's go see them." Tsunade said as she ordered her guards to stand down. She walked to the door and opened it for him. She wasn't going to allow him to walk behind her, just in case.

"After you." Tsunade said.

"Women should always go first, especially the elderly!" He said in a jovial tone.

Tsunade's killing intent was high enough to disturb the hidden anbu, but the intruder looked as if it had no affect on him.

"I still don't fully trust you. Thus you will be within my line of sight at all times! Am I clear?" Tsunade seethed in rage.

"Crystal." He responded as he walked through the door and began the trek to the hospital.

'I am seriously going to kill him.' Tsunade thought.

"Hey Baa-chan! Hurry up!" he called back to her.

"Die!" Tsunade shouted as she rushed after the chuckling figure.

(Hospital)

"Get back here!" Tsunade shouted as she rushed through the hospital, seeking the death of the infuriating man before her that always seemed to be able to escape her reach.

"Don't tell me you're getting slow in your old age!" he called back as he continued to egg on the powerful sannin.

"Tsunade-sama!"

Tsunade was so taken with her rage that she plowed right into Shizune. She immediately got to her feet and was going to continue after the man when Shizune grabbed her by the arm.

"Tsunade-sama you must calm down. You are causing quite a commotion." Shizune pleaded with her. She didn't know what was going on but she couldn't allow an enraged Tsunade to run rampant through the hospital.

Tsunade was seething mad but slowly regained her composure. The man was now calmly standing beside Naruto's room and seemed to have lost his easy going and joking mood. Tsunade walked up to him and opened the door to walk in. She was still angry at him but was going to control herself especially if he could do something for Naruto and Hinata, who had yet to awaken from their slumber.

"Well, I see they are comfortable." He said in a serious tone as he walked over to them.

"What are you going to do?" Tsunade asked hurriedly.

"Wake them up. They've been out of it for long enough." He responded as he laid a hand on both of them. They both began to stir and suddenly awakened.

"Kaa-san?" Naruto said as he saw Tsunade in his blurred vision. Hinata was also disoriented and it took a minute before they both regained their composure and noticed the black cloaked figure beside their bed.

"You!" Naruto called out in surprise and confusion.

"Hello Naruto and Hinata." He responded as he took a step back.

Naruto was confused about a lot of things. First of all he no longer had any pain in his body from the earlier damage he himself had done. Tsunade had told him in blunt terms that he would be out of commission for a lot longer than the amount of time that had expired. Also, he was confused as to what had happened after he was attacked by those Hyuga. He had lost consciousness after the brutal attacks on his body and then remembered a warm feeling rushing through his body and then nothing.

Hinata was also confused as to what had happened. She could remember everything up to driving Itachi away. After that it was a blur.

"Hinata-chan you look different." Naruto said as he shook his thoughts off and finally noticed how Hinata had changed.

Hinata looked at herself in confusion and finally noticed her longer hair and the faint, intricate markings on her skin.

"W-what's happened to me?" She asked in a scared voice.

"Calm down Hinata. Everything is going to be alright." The man said as Naruto wrapped her up in a hug. He quickly reassured her that he didn't care about the changes and actually thought the longer hair and strange markings made her look very beautiful. After she had calmed down the man resumed talking.

"This is what happens when you release such a large amount of divine chakra all at once." He said to Hinata, much to all of the room's occupants' confusion.

"What are you talking about?" Tsunade asked.

"Naruto, I'm sure that Kyuubi talked to you about the divine chakra right?" He asked, ignoring Tsunade's question.

"Yeah, but are you saying that Hinata can use the dragon's power as well?" Naruto asked as Hinata looked on in a somewhat hopeful look.

"Not at all." He responded much to Naruto's irritation and Hinata's disappointment.

"The dragons will only obey one master and that is the keeper of the sword. Oh and by the way, I think you need this back." He said as he reached into his robe and pulled out Naruto's dragon sword. He tossed the blade to Naruto who caught it and instantly felt the warmth of the sword as if greeting him.

'Yeah, I guess I missed you too.' Naruto thought with a smile. It felt good to have the blade back by his side.

"You feel one hundred percent better don't you Naruto?" The man asked suddenly.

"Yeah I do. I don't get it Kaa-san you said that it was going to be a long time before I was fully recovered." Naruto said as he looked to Tsunade.

"I know. I can't fathom how you've recovered so quickly. You should've be out of commission for a lot longer." Tsunade said as she walked over and checked him. His chakra coils were fully repaired and functional.

"We have Hinata to thank for that." The man said as Naruto and Tsunade turned to Hinata in confusion. However, Hinata herself had a confused look on her face and also wanted clarification.

"Pull up a chair Hokage-sama, this may take a while." The man said as he pulled up and chair and sat down. Once Tsuande had done the same and Naruto and Hinata positioned themselves in a more comfortable way, he began talking.

"You see Naruto, while Hinata cannot call upon the power of the dragons, they are not the only beings under Kami's command. Didn't the fox tell you?" He asked.

Naruto thought for a moment before her recalled what Kyuubi had said when he explained the danger of mixing demonic and divine chakra. Naruto suddenly remembered that the fox mentioned another group of beings controlled by kami.

"Angels? Are you telling me that Hinata-chan can use the power of angels?" Naruto asked in shock.

"Correct." The man said simply much to the shock of Hinata and Tsunade.

"Angels? How?" Hinata asked the man. Tsunade and Naruto looked to him as well, both also wanting an explanation.

"I really can't answer that. I had nothing to do with it. I'm sure that you've spoken to the liaison for the angels Hinata. It's her that you'll have to get the answers from. Neither I nor the dragons had anything to do with your resurrection or your sudden ability to use divine chakra." He said in a solemn tone.

All three of the room's occupants were soon in deep thought. Hinata was wondering how to contact the strange woman again. Naruto was wondering what all this meant. Tsunade was simply trying to get brought up to speed on everything that had happened.

"Oh and before I forget. She gave me something for you Hinata." The man said as he reached into his cloak again.

He pulled out twin daggers. The blades were only slightly longer than that of a kunai and were slightly curved yet they were truly beautiful. Snow white in color, they had light gold marking running along them that were nearly identical to the markings that were now on Hinata's skin. He threw them to her and Hinata caught them. She, like Naruto felt a rush of warmth through her body.

"Can Hinata summon angels with them?" Naruto asked as he admired the beautiful blades.

"I don't know. Like I said I am truly just the messenger when it comes to this. Hinata will have to figure that out on her own." The man said simply as he leaned back in his chair. For the first time, Naruto thought he heard a bit of exasperation in the man's tone.

"I really hate being the errand boy for her. Oh well back to business. Naruto you have lost all of your free passes." The man said sharply as he looked at Naruto.

Though Naruto couldn't see his face, he could feel the stare of the man like a weight on his shoulders.

"What do you mean?" Naruto asked.

"Just what I said. From now on, you're on your own if you get in over your head. Truthfully you should have died in that bunker with Danzo had I not intervened. Also, while you were busy with Danzo I intercepted a few of his root anbu that were heading in the direction of your injured comrades. I dispatched them quickly. However, I'm no longer allowed to do such a thing again. If you or someone you know is in danger then I am forbidden from saving either you or them." He said grimly.

"Forbidden? Forbidden by who?" Tsunade asked as she re-entered the conversation.

"That is a secret!" He said in his usual jovial tone.

"That's it!" Tsuande shouted as she leapt out of her chair and threw a super charged punch towards his head.

All present parties where stunned when he grabbed her fist with no effort whatsoever.

"Now now Hokage-sama. Let's keep our cool." He said as he released her hand.

"I get it. I'm on my own from here on out. That's fine." Naruto said, though he did feel a slight chill that the man wouldn't be able to directly help him anymore.

"I'm not finished. The time for games is over. Both you and Hinata will need to train quickly and become proficient in using your powers. Hinata I am not terribly knowledgeable about what the angels want you for but you will still need to learn to draw upon their power. I am willing to help you both in that regard." He said calmly.

"You're going to train us?" Naruto shouted in disbelief.

"In a manner of speaking." He replied nonchalantly.

"Wait just a minute. Naru-chan, Jiraiya wanted me to allow him to take you on a three year trip so that he could train you more extensively." Tsuande told him.

"That's not a good idea." The man said suddenly.

"Oh? And why prey tell is it not a good idea?" Tsuande asked in irritation.

"Your forces are roughly cut in half after that last battle and your enemies are chomping at the bit to wipe you out. Naruto's fame for summoning Drac during the invasion has spread quite a bit and Jiraiya is known throughout the lands as the most powerful of the sannin, especially since he took out Orochimaru. That being the case you don't want two of your best war deterrents out of the village at such a time as this." He calmly explained.

He had a point. Tsunade had been getting reports from their borders that rock and lightening ninja had been seen frequently. They hadn't been hostile but they did seem to be observing just how long it took a leaf team to face off with them. It was obvious that they were testing the strength of the borders just in case the leaf was weak enough for an invasion.

The rock and lightening villages were very powerful. Konoha had been the strongest of the five great hidden villages but the Kyuubi attack and the two invasions had left them weakened. If Tsunade's numbers were right then Lightening had become the strongest in terms of army with Rock being a close second. Konoha was now third in terms of military strength with mist and sand bringing up the rear. Even with sand on their side, they wouldn't have the numbers to take on both rock and lightening villages at the same time.

He had a point though. Lightening wasn't truly an enemy like rock was. The hidden rock village hated konoha with a passion after Minato Namikaze had singlehandedly wiped out half of their invading army. He was the reason that Konoha had survived the Third Great Ninja War and the rock village was still angry over this. However, the lightening village was more or less neutral with Konoha, though they wouldn't mind taking the leaf village out if they had the chance, it was nothing personal. As long as Konoha had Jiraiya and the threat of Naruto summoning dragons, beasts that hadn't been seen in lifetimes, Lightening would be less then inclined to attack them.

"You have a point. Still Jiraiya was quite adamant about teaching him." Tsunade said.

"I'm sure something can be worked out between us." The man said with a wave of his hand.

"I want to learn how to summon the rest of the dragons." Naruto said softly.

"Oh?" The man asked.

"Yes! I want to protect my village! So far I only summoned Drac and Tetsuya through sheer instinct. If either of those two villages does attack then I can't rely on that. I need to know how to do it!" Naruto said with fire in his eyes. He would protect the village, no matter what it took.

'Naruto-kun.' Hinata thought with a blush at his conviction and the determination in his face.

"That's my Naru-chan!" Tsuande said happily.

"Agreed. You will need the rest of them soon. Still it won't be easy at all." He warned.

"What do you mean?" Naruto asked. So far he had had good luck with the dragons. Drac was easy to get along with and immediately helped him out. Tetsuya was a bit blood thirsty but she also helped him out.

"Drac as I told you was always the most accepting of the dragons. This is because he is the youngest and has the least amount of pride. Tetsuya loves her younger brother and trusts his judgment of others. The others will not be as accommodating. The dragons of wind, water and earth are very hard to work with as they take after their elements. Earth is incredibly hard to move thus he will be the most stubborn. Wind is free flowing and impossible to control and he will also give you trouble. Water, while still difficult, would probably be the best one for you to start with though we'll get to that at another time." He said as he rose to his feet.

"Rest up Naruto. Soon our training will commence and you will need your full strength for it." He said as he turned to leave.

"Wait!" Naruto said quickly.

"What is it?" He asked as he turned to look at the young ninja.

"What about the dragon of lightening?" Naruto asked as he remembered Kyuubi's quip about the only dragon that had ever been able to cause the fox any trouble in battle.

"Naruto listen to me very carefully. It would probably be best if you forgot about that one." He said in a deathly serious tone.

All three of the ninja felt a chill at his words. Hinata regained her composure first and asked a simple question.

"Why does Naruto-kun need to do that? What would happen if he were to summon the lightening dragon?" Hianta asked. She, Tsunade and Naruto expected his usual statement that it was a secret. However, he didn't seem to be in a joking mood anymore.

"Pray that you never have to find out." He said as she suddenly disappeared.

'Well, that was helpful.' Naruto thought before Tsunade rushed over and enveloped both Naruto and Hinata in a hug.

"C-can't breathe K-Kaa-san." Naruto uttered as Tsunade quickly released them both.

"Sorry about that. You two are going to make me grow grey hairs with the problems that you somehow keep finding yourselves in." She said sheepishly.

"Tell me about it." Naruto muttered as he turned to see Hinata deep in thought.

"What's wrong Hinata-chan?" Naruto asked.

"I was just thinking about the attack on us a few days ago. Those Hyuga could have only attacked with an order from the clan head." Hinata said softly and with a hint of sadness. Though she had renounced her old family, it still hurt that her father would try and kill her and her boyfriend.

Naruto wrapped her in his arms and quietly spoke to her. His comforting words eased her troubled mind and she snuggled deeply into his chest. Naruto looked over to Tsunade with an expression that showed just what he planned to do when he got released from the hospital.

'Hiashi is a dead man.' Tsunade thought to herself.

"Don't worry you two. I couldn't move against him before without evidence but thanks to Itachi I have all that I need to finally get rid of him." She said with a smirk.

"Itachi? What are you talking about Tsunade-san." Hinata asked.

"While he did kill one of the Hyuga that attacked you, the other was only suffering from the affects of the tsukuyomi which I was able to cure. Right now he is in the hands of Ibiki and will soon be providing me with all of the ammo I need to put Hiashi away." She clarified.

"That's good. He'll finally get what's coming to him. Though I still want to break his legs." Naruto said firmly.

"Still that will create a rift in the Hyuga clan. They will need a new clan heir and I'm afraid that Hanabi is still too young to take control. It's very likely that the elders will nominate someone of their choosing." Tsunade said grimly. The Hyuga elders were made up of the eldest of the main branch members and they were known for their superiority complex as well as their desire to keep the clan pure and the branch family in bondage.

"Is there really nothing else we can do?" Hinata asked in despair. The hardest thing she had been forced to do was to turn her back on the branch family. However, with Hiashi soon to be out of the head position then there was a rift that she herself could fill. Any past heir was allowed to apply for the position. However she knew it wouldn't be that easy as the elders would try and stop her and she would most likely have to fight someone of their choice for the position.

'Do I even want it?' Hinata thought as she considered what she could be losing. If she were to return to the clan than she could help the branch family, at least slightly. It would be extremely difficult for the elders to even budge over the topic of the seal. Also she would have to move out of Kurenai's house and become a Hyuga once again. That name still caused her and those she cared about so much pain. She was unsure that she would be able to handle it.

Hinata had a lot to think about, though she wasn't the only one in the hospital that had a lot on their mind.

(Iruka's room)

Iruka was still confined to his bed and was sleeping. He had nearly died stopping Anko from her crazed attack and her poisoned kunai was only an inch from hitting his heart. Tsunade had been able to provide enough assistance on the spot to keep Anko's highly toxic poison from killing him outright but it still caused a bit of damage around his lungs that forced him to remain in the hospital for a few more days. He was currently sleeping and his breathing was raspy and labored as they had had him on a system to help him breath up until a day ago. His lungs would heal but it was unclear of how much damage was now permanent.

A figure stood at the foot of his bed. The figure slowly walked over to his side and gently laid their hand on his face.

'Iruka-kun.'

Anko had been released from the hospital just a few hours ago from her own injuries. She had walked around in a desolate, broken state as she remembered what she had done during the war. Anko had always been ridiculed as being a spy for Orochimaru after he had released her. She worked long and hard to remove that stigma from her and be accepted by her peers. She had believed that she would finally be free from not only the accusations but also from her own fears.

Though she would never tell anyone, she too had been deathly afraid that Orochimaru was still somewhere in her head and that he would control her one day. However, after meeting Naruto her world had changed. She learned how to once again truly care for someone other than Kurenai who had been her only friend for the longest time. Through Naruto she had met Iruka. She didn't know it at the time but he was the best thing to ever happen to her.

'Look what I've done to you Iruka-kun. How could I do that to you? I really am a traitor.' Anko thought as a few tears escaped her eyes.

"I'm sorry Iruka-kun. I am so sorry. You'll never have to deal with me anymore." She said with a broken hearted smile as she gave him a small kiss and left out of his door.

Iruka began to awaken and his hazy mind only had one thing on it.

'Anko-chan.' He thought before he once again fell unconscious.

(Nara compound)

Shikamaru and his father Shikaku were sitting in the middle of their home with a shogi board between them. The Nara men had been at the game for a while and neither was willing to be defeated. It was Shikamaru's move and he was carefully going through every conceivable move and counter move before acting. He was just finishing up his fiftieth attack plan when Shikaku broke through his thoughts.

"Son, I've only given you a few rules to live by. What was the most important one?" Shikaku asked in son.

"To never, ever get involved romantically with a troublesome woman." Shikamaru answered in a bored tone.

"Exactly, with this in mind would you explain why you are currently dating a woman that you yourself has admitted is even more troublesome than your mother?" Shikaku asked.

Shikamaru didn't answer for a while. He had always lived by avoiding things that he considered troublesome and yet he was indeed dating Temari of the sand village. She was bossy, strong, loud and very troublesome. However, he couldn't help the attraction that he held for her.

Temari like the rest of the girls had been injured during her battle with Jugo. However, the hospital was still packed with those that were severely injured and the sand ninja wasn't that badly hurt. Thus Tsunade ordered that she and the rest of the females rest in their homes. As she was a member of another village, Temari had no home to stay at and Shikamaru had offered that she rest for a few days at his clan house.

'In hindsight, that probably wasn't the best move I could have made.' He thought. The problem wasn't that his parents didn't like her. Both were deeply grateful for how she had protected Shikamaru during the invasion, the problem was that Shikamaru's mother Yoshino liked Temari too well. Even now Shikamaru could hear the two women in the kitchen laughing and conversing as if they were the best of friends.

'Mom even told me that if I did anything to mess up my relationship with Temari that she would make me regret it.' Shikamaru thought. Yoshino immediately took to Temari and welcomed the young woman lovingly.

"Temari is troublesome, but she has a sweet side to her that makes it all worth it." Shikamaru said as he stared his father in the face. He would stand by his decision to date her, even if his father didn't completely approve. Surprisingly, his father smiled back at him.

"Exactly. You always asked me why I loved your mother and you seem to have figured out the reason yourself. I guess we are forever doomed to fall for troublesome, powerful women." Shikaku said with a sigh.

Shikamaru said nothing. He had learned a long time ago that his mother had very sharp ears and when she appeared behind Shikaku and smacked him with her iron skillet, Shikamaru could only shake his head at his father's actions.

"Troublesome am I Shikaku-kun? We'll just see about that." Yoshino said as she grabbed Shikaku and dragged him into the next room with her.

'Poor dad. He really should learn to keep his mouth shut when mom is around.' Shikamaru thought as Temari walked into the room. Her ribs were still damaged but they were swiftly healing.

"What happened to your parents? One minute I'm talking to Yoshino-san and the next she rushes out of the room with an angered look on her face." Temari asked curiously.

"Mom has very sharp ears and dad just called her a troublesome woman. She took offense to it." Shikamaru said calmly as Temari sat in Shikaku's previous seat and observed the board. She was very good at shogi though she had yet to beat either Shikamaru or Shikaku. She looked up at her boyfriend and couldn't help but wonder how things had changed so quickly for her.

She was the daughter of the fourth kazekage. She had suitors calling on her from other nations around the world and yet none of them interested her. She couldn't believe that she had fallen for a lazy, slacker like Shikamaru and yet here she was sitting in his home happily welcomed and accepted by his family. Temari had lost her mother at a young age and her father wasn't much of a parent either. Yoshino filled the void of a female companion that she hadn't even known that she missed, seeing as how she only had her two brothers and their sensei Baki. Shikaku was very caring as well and she couldn't help but fell that she had found a new family to become a part of.

Gaara and Kankuro had left a few days earlier for Suna. Gaara simply told her that she was now safe and that she could resume her duties as the liaison for the sand village. He and Kankuro had given Shikamaru and brief description of what would happen to him should any harm come to her while she stayed at his home. Also, before they left, both bowed to him and thanked him for saving her life when she had been captured.

'I can't believe that both of my brothers gave their approval for Shikamaru. Then again, he is pretty special.' Temari thought with a smile. However it soon faded as she thought about what he had said earlier.

"He called your mother troublesome? What about you? Do you think I'm troublesome?" Temari asked with a sweet smile.

Shikamaru smelled a trap but he was not going to lie to her. Also, her fan was not in the room so he didn't have to worry about her hitting him with anything.

"Yep." He said simply as he closed his eyes with a smile.

"Yoshino-san!" Temari called out. Yoshino appeared at the doorway to the next room.

"Yes Temari dear?" She asked.

"Can I borrow your skillet?" She asked sweetly as Shikamaru began to sweat.

"Of course dear!" Yoshino replied back with a smile as she tossed Temari her skillet.

'I've got to learn to keep my mouth shut.' Shikamaru thought as Temari slammed the skillet onto his head.

"Men." Temari sighed.

"Don't worry sweetie, they've got their uses." Yoshino assured her as she guided her back into the kitchen.

Shikaku had dragged his bruised body back to his son and retook his seat.

"Well it's still your move Shikamaru." He said calmly.

"Sure." He replied back as he returned his gaze to the board. Both he and his dad turned when they heard the women return to the room. They set out an array of snacks then leaned into the men to watch how the game would end. Both Nara men accepted the comfort and could only smile at the ability of their loves to both hurt and comfort them at the same time.

They were both completely whipped…and they liked it.

(Aburame compound)

Shino woke up and slowly made his way to the kitchen. He was almost fully healed from his previous wounds and now found himself in a reversed role of caring for the injured Haku. She was suffering from a severe case of chakra exhaustion as well as a few broken bones from her battle with Jugo. Still, he couldn't be more proud of her. As all of the other women admitted, without Haku there, they would have surly perished against the berserker.

As room in the hospital was only being given to those ninja that were severely injured, Haku had been discharged and told to remain in bed for a few days to recuperate. Shino's mother was not about to let her stay by herself in her apartment and had invited Haku to remain at their clan home until she was better. Neither Shino nor Shibi had a problem with this request in the slightest and Haku had become a welcome addition to their house.

Shino prepared a plate for Haku and slowly walked towards the room that had swiftly become hers. He knocked softly and walked in when he heard her invite him in. He saw her sitting up in her bed waiting for him. He walked over and set the plate down for her. She gave him a sweet smile in thanks and began to eat slowly.

Shino watched her and smiled softly at how beautiful she could be even after just awakening in the day. His insects began to buzz slightly at his heightened heart rate and Haku suddenly stopped eating and turned to look at him with a knowing smile. She had become very adept at reading his body language as well as the subtle buzzing that her personal insect would give off as his mood changed.

Shino couldn't believe his good fortune at finding someone like Haku. With only a smile she could lighten his mood and he had never believed that he could find someone like his father had found his mother. He had believed that he would remain alone for his entire life.

He looked up suddenly when he felt a soft hand on his face. Haku gripped his shoulders and brought him to her and embraced him. It was as if she could sense his thoughts and was reminding him that she was not going to disappear and leave him.

Shino brought her head up and softly kissed Haku. She closed her eyes as she enjoyed the intimacy of the act and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. She giggled softly at the way his body would vibrate slightly as his insects buzzed inside of him. Shino moved to deepen the kiss before the door opened.

"Haku-chan how are you feeling today?" Shino's mother Akiko asked as she entered. The smile on her face only broadened as she noticed the position they were in. That Shino had yet release her from their embrace displayed how comfortable he was with her.

"I am fine Akiko-san. I am still deeply thankful that you would invite me to stay at your home like this." Haku replied.

"You're like family dear. Think nothing of it. Shino-kun, your father would like to see you." Akiko said as her face became more serious.

Shino nodded and embraced Haku once more before he passed his mother to meet his father. Akiko watched him leave and then walked over to help Haku prepare for the day as the ice user was still having trouble moving from her earlier wounds.

'You really care for my Shino-kun don't you Haku-chan? You two remind me so much of myself and Shibi.' Akiko thought as she noticed hoe Haku was still looking at Shino's retreating back.

Shino walked out into the field and saw his father practicing with his multiple hives of insects. Shino's father was one of the only members of the clan to ever successfully integrate all of the special insects of their clan. It was incredibly difficult as many of the hives were naturally opposing. His father had to constantly keep the hives restrained and cooperative. It required constant training and a mental fortitude that was above what Shino could imagine.

"Father." Shino said as a greeting.

"Shino have a seat my son." Shibi said as all of the various hives of insects flew back into his body.

Shino sat down as his father finished calling back his insects. He turned to look at the rising sun and didn't speak for a time.

"You care deeply for the girl don't you?" Shibi asked.

"Hai." Shino responded shortly. His father's body language was slightly stiff as if he were indecisive about something.

"There are those within the clan that do not think that the clan heir should be in a relationship with someone possessing a different kekkei genkai. They fear that it will corrupt our own." Shibi said as he turned to look at his son.

Shino was not terribly surprised by his father's words. Shibi himself had faced scrutiny from the clan for taking a wife from another village. However, as Akiko had no kekkei genkai, the clan was more accepting of the union. However, Shino was not about to allow a few of the traditionalist clan elders prevent him from pursuing a relationship with Haku.

"It is not their concern. Logically, having Haku here provides a possibility of causing a strong blood line to form. If things even progress to that stage." Shino said though the last statement was more of an afterthought.

"Her powers deal with ice. You do realize that insects normally cannot survive such cold temperatures." Shibi said.

"I am aware. However, my insects have never been wary of her or of her chakra. In fact, they seem to like the quality of it." Shino said. The insect that Haku always keep with her never showed signs of discontent and was actually reluctant to return to Shino when he occasionally called it back to get a update on its health and development.

"You have my support no matter what happens my son. I simply wanted you to be aware of the misgivings that some have." Shibi said as he laid his hand on Shino's shoulder and left.

Shino sat for a while longer contemplating what the future may hold between Haku and his clan. If they refused to accept her, what would he do? Would he let her go or would he even leave the clan for her? Was she worth the possibility of being banished from the clan?

Shino felt that presence of Haku's insect and turned to see her limping out of the house with the help of his mother. He walked over and allowed her to lean on him as he took her to a special area of his house. Akiko watched them leave with a smile and hoped that they were able to work everything out. She knew firsthand how much pressure the clan could put on an outsider that wasn't accepted by all.

Shino took Haku to a meadow surrounded by trees and sat her on the ground. She looked at him curiously before he raised his hands and soon butterflies of all colors began to appear from the trees and flowers. Haku's bright smile and soft laugh wiped away any doubts he had as the butterflies flew around them by his commands and a few even landed on her, much to her delight. He sat behind her and allowed her to rest against his chest as the butterflies continued to fly and swirl in the air creating a beautiful scene.

'I will not let her go. I refuse to allow internal strife from the clan to dictate what I do or who I do it with.' Shino thought as he allowed his troubled thoughts to rest and simply enjoyed the peace of the moment.

(Hisagia house)

Neji stood in front of the stove trying, and failing, to make a meal for Tenten. Both were still in bad shape form their earlier wounds but Neji had had enough with simply laying around doing nothing and was desperate to do something. He had decided that he would try his hand at cooking. It was not something that he had ever truly tried before as he always had meals made for him at the Hyuga compound and Tenten and her father learned early on that it was not one of his talents.

Despite this, Neji was trying to make an effort to make something that Tenten would like. He owed her his life and was not someone who allowed his debts to go unpaid. Neji rubbed the area of his abdomen that had been hit by the arrow when he was protecting her. It was not yet fully healed and he was not sure that he wanted it to be. It was a constant reminder of just how far he would go to protect the strong female ninja.

"What have we told you about trying to cook?"

Neji turned and flinched at the look on Tenten's face. She limped over to him and roughly shoved him aside as she began to change his soon to be catastrophe into an actual edible food.

"I wanted to be of use and I hate lying around doing nothing." Neji said.

"You aren't fully healed yet Neji-kun." Tenten said as she gave his wounded abdomen a significant look.

"Neither are you Tenten-chan and yet here you are." He replied back with a smirk.

"You're both far too stubborn for our own good."

Neji and Tenten turned and saw Tenten's father, Cho, returning from a trip to the market.

"Why are you two up and about? You are both far from fully healed and I really don't feel like hauling both of you back to the hospital should you reopen your wounds." He said sternly.

"My apologies Hisagia-san. I was the one who was up first. Tenten-chan simply came to stop me from cooking." Neji said with a bow. Tenten's father was one of the only adults that really scared Neji.

"More like trying to stop you from burning the house down again." Tenten muttered. She gave a yelp when Neji poked her in her side for her comment.

"Both of you sit down and let me finish up with lunch." Cho said in a tone that left no room for an argument.

Both of the teens sat down beside one another and waited. Tenten would give Neji small glances as if she was unsure of how to pose a question that was bothering her. Neji noticed it immediately and decided to ask her about it. He had a good idea what it was about.

"What is on your mind Tenten-chan?" He asked softly as he observed her. Her body was giving off certain tells that spoke volumes to him.

She crossed her arms across her chest which was a sign that she was trying to protect herself from something. She leaned back a fraction of an inch showing that she was trying to stay away from something as well. She refused to look him in the eye which showed that she feared his reaction to what she was about to say. These were all signs that pointed to the one issue that he was sure she was having problems with.

"Did you mean what you said?" Tenten asked nervously.

Neji didn't need her to elaborate. She was seeking to know if he truly meant what he said when he had been near death after his fight with Kidomaru. He had told her that he loved her right before he had passed out from the damage his body had gone through. They hadn't been able to discuss it until now as either one or both of them were bed ridden or hospitalized.

Tenten was a proud kunoichi and despised being seen as weak. However, it was obvious that she wasn't sure that he meant what he said by her body language. Neji couldn't blame her as he had brushed her off the night before as he was unable to admit his own feelings.

'Did I mean it? We are both very young. Who's to say that she won't meet someone else later on in her life that she will care for more than me? Who's to say that my feelings are not a simply crush but actual love? I don't know the answer but I do know what I feel for her is something that I have not felt for anyone else in my entire life.' Neji thought as he grabbed Tenten's hand in his own.

"I meant what I said Tenten-chan. When I heard that you had been kidnapped, I felt a pain in my heart that I hadn't experienced since the death of my mother and father. I can't guarantee you that I will always say or do the right thing. There will be times that you will probably become quite upset with me. You actually deserve better than me. However, please allow me to be selfish just this once and say that I don't want to lose you and that I care for you." Neji said softly.

Tenten hated crying but tears proceeded to run down her face as she felt a weight lift from her chest. He hadn't come out and said that he loved her like before but she attributed that to him being a reserved person and that he wanted to be absolutely sure that what he spoke was the truth the next time that he said it. She would be patient though. She was sure of her feelings and knew that he felt the same.

"You two done yet?"

Both teens looked up and blushed slightly when Cho placed their lunches in front of them and sat down himself. He observed the two teens in front of him calmly. Tenten was simply embarrassed from being caught talking about such a thing. Neji seemed both embarrassed and slightly fearful. Despite the fact that he was a retired ninja of many years, Neji seemed to fear and respect him. It was slightly amusing but he decided to put them out of their misery.

"I guess if you have to date someone then it might as well be the guy who bled and almost died for you." He said calmly as he began to eat. The tension in the room immediately vanished as Tenten smiled gratefully at her father and Neji began to breathe again.

"I thank you Cho-san for your permission. Also, thank you for the twin broad swords. They are the reason that both of us are alive right now." Neji said as he too began to eat.

"Tell me about it. I also have a request for the two of you." Tenten said as the men looked at her.

"What is it?" Her father asked.

"I want you two to train me in taijutsu and any other skills you think will help me. I am a great weapon user but that isn't enough. In those last two battles, my skills were useless." Tenten said angrily.

Neji and Cho looked at one another and silently agreed.

"We'll help you in any way that we can." Cho said with a smile. Neji grabbed her hand a bit shyly as he nodded that he would help her as well.

'Things will work themselves out. As Naruto would say, fate has nothing to do with it. I will make my own destiny.' Neji thought as they continued to talk about what they would train her in.

(Yamanaka store)

Ino worked in her parent's flower store in a daze. She hadn't gotten a good night's sleep in a while as she continually saw Jugo's peaceful face in her mind. She suddenly dropped the vase of roses in her hand as the color reminded her far too much of the crimson blood that splattered on her after delivering the killing blow. Her father, like the rest of the clan heads, was busy trying to regain stability in the village so she couldn't talk to him about it.

'I just can't get this out of my mind.' She thought sadly as she moved to clean up the mess she had made as tears began to fall from down her face.

"Ino-chan, are you here?"

Ino quickly wiped her eyes of her tears to try and hide them from Choji. She didn't want him to worry about her, especially after he had almost died for her just a week before.

'I can't tell Choji-kun. I don't want to be any more of a burden to him.' She thought as she plastered a smile on her face and turned to her boyfriend.

"Hey Choji-kun. How are you feeling?" She asked sweetly. Her smile faltered when she saw the look in his eyes.

Choji had easily noticed that something was wrong with Ino days ago when she returned to the hospital as he was being released. She wasn't physically hurt but there was obviously something on her mind. However, she continually told him that she was okay. Choji refused to allow things to rest and had gone in search of answers. His search had led him to Sakura. Sakura told him exactly what had happened during the fight and he knew from Ino's demeanor and posture that it was weighing heavily on her mind.

"You don't have to hide your emotions from me Ino-chan." He said as he walked towards her.

"W-what are you talking about? I'm fine Choji-kun." She said as she took a step back.

Choji didn't respond as he continued to walk towards Ino until she couldn't back up any further. He could see that she was barely controlling her emotions and that she was close to breaking.

"Let it out." Choji said softly as he wrapped his arms around her.

That was all it took for Ino to break down in his arms. He held her while her emotions ran rampant through her body and he softly consoled her with soothing words. He had had a hard time accepting that he had taken a life as well when he killed Jirobo.

Ino soon began to tell Choji all about the fight and what she had learned about Jugo. Choji was stunned. All of the other girls had simply stated that Jugo was a crazed beast that they barely managed to defeat. He had no idea that the man was actually nice and that he had allowed and even begged Ino to kill him. He now knew that she was having a much harder time than he over her first kill. Jirobo was an evil man and while Choji had to overcome the experience of his first kill, it wasn't nearly as difficult as it would be for Ino. Jugo was a good man and he had helped the girls to survive. For Ino to have to kill someone like him was something he couldn't even imagine. Choji had come thinking that Ino was having a hard time accepting the death of an enemy at her hands. The truth was that she was suffering from taking the life of a kind and peaceful man who wanted nothing to do with violence.

"It isn't fair. He was a nice man and only wanted to live in peace. It's not his fault that Orochimaru manipulated his evil side to kill. I wanted to save him. I should have saved him!" Ino cried out.

"It's not your fault Ino-chan. You did all you could for him. If what you told me is right then he was actually grateful for what you did. He was able for the first time in his life to overcome his evil side through his own will power alone. You gave him the strength he needed." Choji said in a soothing tone.

"But it wasn't enough! I still had to kill him! I was too weak to save him. What if something like this happens again Choji-kun? What if I am too weak to save my friends? What if I'm too weak to protect my village? What if I'm too weak to save you?" She said softly as she began to cry once again.

"Grow stronger."

Ino looked up and saw a determination in Choji's eyes that surprised her. It was the same look that he held when he fought Jirobo. His gaze held such conviction that she was stunned silent.

"That's what I tell myself everyday Ino-chan. Every day that I wake up I plan to grow stronger so that I will never be too weak to protect those I care for. It's the same with you. If you fear being weak then grow strong. If you fear failing your friends then train hard so that that will never happen. And remember that you aren't alone either. Me, Shikamaru, and Asuma-sensei will be there helping you every step of the way." Choji said with a determined smile.

"As will I may daughter."

Ino looked behind her to see her father standing at the door. He smiled at the scene in front of him and couldn't think of anyone better for her daughter to date. Time would tell whether or not the Akimichi and Yamanaka clans were to grow closer through their union but until then he was happy with her choice. He had been very busy for the past few days and had been unable to help Ino with the problems she was going through.

"I want to grow stronger. I refuse to fail someone I care about again." Ino said as she pulled away from Choji and dried her eyes.

"That's my girl. If you want, we can train together after your team practices so that I can show you some of the more powerful of our clan's techniques." Inoichi said.

"I'd love that dad! I can't wait. I'm going to show everyone just how strong I can be!" Ino said with fire in her eyes.

"There's the Ino-cahn I've come to know!" Choji said with a laugh.

"Choji-kun can I ask you for a favor?" Ino said suddenly as she picked up the flowers she dropped.

"Sure what is it?" Choji asked. Her demeanor had changed once again. It wasn't as depressed but it did have a hint of sadness in it.

"I want to go somewhere please come with me." Ino said as she walked to the door.

Choji looked to Inoichi and the elder Yamanaka nodded his consent.

Choji followed Ino to the Hokage's mountain. He knew instantly where she was going and held her hand for support. They reached the large crater that was Jugo finally resting place. The body had long since been removed leaving an empty pit. Ino removed her hand from Choji's and continued on alone. Choji knew that she needed to do this alone and was content to wait for her.

Ino stumbled down the crater until she stood in the very spot where Jugo met his end. She placed the flowers she held onto the ground and offered up a small pray for Jugo.

'Thank you. I am sorry that I couldn't save you but through meeting you I now understand just how weak I once was. I will grow stronger so that I will never be that weak again. I do this in honor of you.' Ino thought as she climbed up the side of the crater and met up with Choji once again. She gave one final look to Jugo resting place and turned her back on it. It was time to move forward with her life. She grabbed Choji's hand and decided that she had shed enough tears.

(Training field)

Sakura watched as Rock Lee continued to push himself with Gai-sensei. Lee was by far the most severely injured of the genin and was still wrapped in numerous bandages around his chest, arms, and legs. He looked like a mummy and yet he continued to train. He wasn't truly supposed to be released yet but the hospital was filled with only the most grievously injured of the ninja and civilians from the previous invasion.

Sakura had tried to reason with Lee about resting. However, he had simply given her his usual bright smile and told her that he had to continue to train harder. He felt ashamed that he had been unable to defeat Kimimaro without suffering so many injuries. Also, he had noticed that she had received a small cut from one of Kimimaro's attacks. He had instantly fallen to his knees and begged her to forgive him. Just the thought of it caused a few tears to fall from her eyes.

'He's always trying to protect me. Why doesn't he understand that it is my fault that all of this has happened. If only I had been stronger than none of this would have had to happen to him. He's always protecting me and getting hurt in the process.' She thought. First it was in the forest of death when he fought terrible odds just to protect her against the sound ninja. Then it was against Gaara when he had fought for her honor and had been defeated. Finally, he almost died saving her from an enemy ninja while she had been unable to do anything but weep uselessly.

'No more!' She thought to herself. She was done being useless. Every time that there was a big battle, she had been all but a waste of space. She hadn't even been able to do anything against Jugo. While she and Ino were the only two to make it out of that battle with minor injuries at best, Ino had still been able to contribute. In fact, without her help it was doubtful that any of them would have survived.

'But look at me. I wasn't able to do anything. If not for the others then Jugo would have killed all of the boys and I would have only been able to watch.' Sakura thought as she watched Lee fall to one knee in exhaustion. She quickly grabbed her medical kit and rushed over. One thing that she had found that she was good at was medicine. She quickly checked Lee over and found that he had popped one of his stitches. She quickly and efficiently sutured the flesh and rewrapped it.

"You are truly gifted Sakura-chan! I am blessed to have such an angel as you looking over me!" Lee said with a large smile on his face.

"Just be more careful Lee-kun. You really need to rest. Your body can only handle so much." She said as she slightly admonished him.

"I cannot stop yet Sakura-chan! Not until I am strong enough to take down anyone who threatens what is precious to me." He said. His smile never diminished as he limped slightly back to Gai.

Gai, while agreeing with Sakura that Lee needed to rest, knew his student well enough to know that he would do no such thing. So Gai had decided to continue to train him. At least this way he knew what Lee was doing and could somewhat control the young genin to ensure that he didn't hurt himself.

Sakura sighed in frustration as she turned to retake her seat. Soon enough the training had come to an end and Gai held Lee who was barely conscious from the strain placed on his body. Sakura could only shake her head at Lee. He was so willing to push himself beyond what he should have been capable of to achieve his dream. He reminded her of Naruto in that regard.

'What's keeping me from doing the same?' Sakura thought as she walked over to check on Lee once again.

"He'll be okay Gai-sensei. He just pushed himself too far once again." Sakura said as she found nothing wrong with Lee aside from a few strained muscles.

"Yosh! You are truly a valuable comrade Sakura-san! I am sure that you will one day be able to rival Tsunade-sama with your medical prowess." Gai said as he took off in a run.

'Rival Tsunade-sama? That's an insane idea. I'm nowhere close to being as competent as the Hokage.'

'Still what's to stop me from trying? Naruto believes he will be Hokage one day. Lee believes that he will become one of the greatest ninja in Konoha through Taijutsu alone. What's to stop me from believing that I'll be on par with Tsunade-sama one day? The only question is if I have the will and determination to make it happen.' Sakura thought. She stopped walking home as she came to a decision. She turned and began walking towards the hospital. There was no way she could just suddenly ask The Hokage to accept her as an apprentice without any experience. She would start from the bottom up and volunteer at the hospital.

'I'll do it! One day I'll become a medic-ninja that will be able to rival Tsunade-sama! I will never be a burden again!' Sakura thought as her life took on a new ambition.

(Kurenai's home)

Kurenai was busy preparing everything for what was to come. She couldn't help but feel slightly nervous and had to mentally take a deep breath.

'Calm down Kurenai. You'll get through this.' She thought as she was finally sure that everything was prepared when the doorbell rang.

'Show time.' She thought as she went to answer the door.

Kakashi was waiting with a bouquet of flowers in hand. There were crimson red like her eyes and she graciously accepted them as she took in his attire. Kakashi wore stylish black pants with a button up silver shirt that was the same color as his head.

"Good evening Kurenai. May I come in?" He asked with a smile.

"By all means Kakashi." She said as she let him in. Kakashi walked in her home as she went to put the flowers in a vase. While she walked away Kakashi took the time to admire the short red dress she wore that brought out her long toned legs and showed a large but not indecent amount of cleavage.

'I can't believe that I'm about to finally get that three course dinner I was promised.' Kakashi thought happily as he took off his mask.

Even now taking off his mask was not something he was comfortable with doing. He had always worn it since he was young and his father had killed himself. It was a way to physically retreat from others as they wouldn't be able to tell exactly what he was feeling. He didn't have to worry about anyone asking him if he was upset about his father's death or how he was coping. He didn't have to worry about people seeing weakness in him. Over time he had become somewhat dependant on the mask and even wore a second over the first which had a slit in it so that he could eat without taking the masks off.

However, with Kurenai it was different. He didn't feel the need to hide from her. She could accept his weakness and would not judge him for it. It was a very comforting feeling.

"It's still a bit strange seeing you without that mask on all the time."

Kakashi noticed that he had been staring off into space for some time and Kurenai was now in front of him with a smile on her face.

"It actually feels liberating. I always wear my mask even when I go to sleep." He replied as he walked to her table and held her chair out for her. Kurenai graciously accepted.

'And who says that chivalry is dead.' She thought pleasantly as she replied to his earlier statement.

"You always wear it? Then I guess I should feel honor that you take it off around me?" She said jokingly.

"Honored? Hmm maybe." He said nonchalantly as he took his own seat and they began to eat. Kakashi had been to many different places and had tried dozens of chef's cooking and he still believed that Kurenai's was the best he had ever tasted.

As the dinner continued on they partook in light conversation as they simply enjoyed the atmosphere and each other's company. Naruto and Hinata were out on a date of their own so they didn't have to worry about being interrupted. Soon enough the food was gone and Kakashi actually helped her clean the dishes. The domestic feel of such a simple task was both strange and utterly welcome to both of them.

Soon they found themselves on the couch and Kurenai was wrapped in Kakashi's arms as they watched the small fire in her fire place warm the room. Neither spoke as there was no need for words. Kurenai then turned to Kakashi and kissed his gently on the lips. The famed copy ninja responded immediately as his hands began to slowly run down Kurenai's sides until they settled on the small of her back. Kurenai deepened the kiss as he hands began to slowly caress Kakashi's chest through his shirt. Kakashi broke the kiss and began to kiss and nibble her long neck. Kurenai let out a small moan and only spurred Kakashi on as his hands caressed her back. They began to run up her back and came to rest on her shoulders and the straps of her dress. Kakashi looked into Kurenai's eyes and her smile told him that it was okay to continue. He began to lower the straps that held the dress onto her body when there was a knock at the door.

'You've got to be kidding me!' they both thought angrily. Kurenai seemed prepared to ignore it until it began again louder than before.

"I'll get it." Kurenai all but snarled as she left the comfort of Kakashi's arms to answer the door. Kakashi could only throw his head back in exasperation at being interrupted once again.

'What have I done to deserve this?' Kakashi thought as he tried to calm his racing heart.

Kurenai marched to her door while fixing her dress fully prepared to release her pent up anger at being disturbed on whoever was at her door. She opened the door and was faced with her best friend Anko. Kurenai was still prepared to yell at the younger woman until she saw the strange look on Anko's face.

"Anko what is it?" She asked.

"Hey Kurenai! I was just stopping by to see you." She said a bit awkwardly before she fully took in what Kurenai was wearing.

"Who is it Kurenai?" Kakashi called out from the couch. He would have gotten up to check but he didn't have his mask on and Kurenai was really the only person he would allow to see his face.

"It's just Anko, Kakashi." Kurenai called back as she turned to look at her friend. She saw a pained expression on Anko's face before it was covered up with a fake smile that reminded Kurenai a lot of Naruto's.

"Anko is something wrong?" Kurenai asked with concern. Anko had not hid behind a fake smile in months. Something must have gone seriously wrong for her to do it now.

"No not a thing. Sorry for disturbing the two of you." Anko said as she quickly turned and left.

Kurenai was concerned for her friend but knew that if Anko didn't want to talk about something then it was all but impossible to get it out of her. Kurenai returned to the couch and sat with Kakashi once again. Kakashi was seriously hoping that they could resume what they had been doing earlier but could tell that the moment had passed and that Kurenai now had a lot on her mind. Still he accepted this and simply pulled her into a comforting hug as he silently cursed the lost opportunity.

'Oh well, it'll happen again soon enough. I can't help but worry about Anko.' He thought.

(Anko's apartment)

Anko rushed into her apartment and slammed the door shut before she fell to the ground with a sob. Anko hated feeling weak and vulnerable but that was exactly what was going through her after what she had witnessed at Kurenai's. Anko was going around and trying to at least get one final glimpse of everyone that was important to her before she left the village. However, seeing Kurenai and Kakashi together and happy sent a blade through her heart as she realized that she would never be able to have such happiness again without Iruka.

'It's for his own good. I'm too dangerous to be around.' Anko thought as she got to her feet and shakily began to round up her possessions. She couldn't take everything, nor did she want to. However, she was able to gather the essentials and that would have to be enough.

Anko didn't care that what she was doing was treason. She didn't care that she would become a missing ninja and hunted down by the village. Without her friends she was truly alone, something that terrified her beyond anything that Orochimaru could have done.

'It's for the best. I'm too dangerous to be around.' Anko continually thought sadly as she walked to her door and prepared to leave the village for good.

However, she was stopped when she opened the door and saw Iruka standing there.

"W-what are you doing here?" Anko asked with a stunned expression. Iruka shouldn't have been out of the hospital yet. That much was obvious as his breathing was still slightly labored showing that he hadn't yet fully recovered from his injuries.

"Where are you going Anko-chan?" He asked solemnly, ignoring her question.

"Where ever I want to! Get out of my way!" She shouted angrily. This wasn't going as planned. She hadn't expected Iruka to leave the hospital so soon nor did she expect to see him ever again. She had to make him leave quickly before she lost her resolve. It was for the best in her mind that she leave and that he never saw her again.

"You expect me to leave after hearing everything you said to me earlier?" Iruka said in a slightly annoyed tone.

"Y-you heard me?" Anko said with a cold feeling running down her spine.

"I'll never have to deal with you anymore? What did you mean Anko-chan?" Iruka asked as he walked in and shut the door behind him. Anko had backed up a step for every one he took towards her and she now felt trapped. She had to get away soon and she could only think of one thing that would make him leave.

"What do you think it means? I'm done with you Iruka. It was fun while it lasted but this is never going to work out between us. I need a real man and you simply don't measure up." She said with a cruel smile as her heart broke slightly at the words she spoke.

'This is for the best Iruka-kun. Forget about me and find yourself someone else.' Anko thought. She had to leave. She would only hurt him again if they stayed together and so she would break his heart now so that he wouldn't miss her later on.

"You know teaching Naruto for so long makes it very easy for me to spot when someone is trying to hide behind a mask." Iruka said resolutely as he crossed his arms across his chest and leaned back against the door. The message was clear and simple. He wasn't going to leave without her explaining herself first.

"Leave now!" Anko snarled at him I anger. He was being stubborn when she was just trying to help him. It was actually making her slightly angry.

"Not until you explain why you sounded like you were saying goodbye for good and why you currently have all of your important possessions bagged up. Are you planning on going somewhere?" Iruka said though his expression showed that he had already figured out what she had been planning to do and was very upset with her.

"If you know so much then why don't you figure it out? But for the last time I want you out of my home before I hurt you!" Anko said as she summoned two snakes out of her coat sleeves. The serpents hissed and venom began to drip from their fangs. Anko kept a fierce expression on her face even as she mentally cursed herself for having to resort to such tactics against the man she cared for so deeply.

However, Iruka didn't leave, nor did he respond to her previous statement. Strangely enough he began to slowly walk towards her. He was completely ignoring the serpents that were already hissing their warnings to the man. He continued on and actually walked past them until he was nose to nose with Anko. Iruka had been with her long enough to know that while the snakes looked dangerous, they wouldn't strike without a mental command from Anko. He had been willing to bet that she wasn't going to go that far to push him away.

Iruka was many things but ignorant wasn't one of them. He could already see the signs in Anko that had been evident in Naruto for so many years that he taught him. Iruka could see just form her eyes how much she was hurting from the invasion's events and knew that she was trying to pull away from those she loved. He wasn't about to let that happen.

"As I said, I'm not going anywhere until you tell me why you are trying to leave the village, your friends, and me behind." Iruka said as his expression became caring.

Anko dropped her arms as the serpents wound themselves back into her sleeves. Why did he have to be so stubborn? Why couldn't he see that she was nothing but trouble? Why was she secretly so happy that he showed up to stop her?

"Why can't you just let me go? It would be better for everyone." Anko said softly as she looked towards the floor, unable to meet his eyes.

"No it wouldn't, I need you with me." Iruka said softly as he tried to wrap her in a hug. She moved back from the comforting gesture though she desperately wanted to give in to it. However, she couldn't allow that to happen. She had to stay determined and make him see that it was for the best.

"No you really don't. All you'll gain is more pain and suffering if you're around me. Please just leave and let me go." Anko said as she met his eyes. She immediately wished she hadn't as she quickly became lost in his brown eyes.

"No." He said simply as he wrapped his arms around her and refused to let her go. She struggled briefly before she simply gave in. Despite her brain telling her that she needed to leave him to keep him safe, her heart had other ideas and was content to be selfish and cling to him.

"How can you still look me in the eye like this? I killed three konoha shinobi with my own two hands. I watched as the life drained from their eyes as I was used as a weapon for Orochimaru. I even attacked you and had it not been for Tsunade-sama being there, you would have died as well." Anko said as tears began falling from her eyes.

"That wasn't you. You could have easily killed me but you didn't. You can't blame yourself for something that is out of your control. Orochimaru used you to harm others. He's dead now Anko-chan, don't allow him to continue to ruin your life." Iruka said to her.

"I'm afraid Iruka-kun. Ever since I escaped from him and lost most of my memories I was always looked at like I was a traitor. People were always on the lookout as if trying to figure out when I would snap or if I was a double agent. Truthfully I wondered that myself many nights. I worked for years to prove them, and myself wrong and in one fell swoop it was all over. How can I trust myself anymore? Who's to say that Orochimaru didn't plant something else in my head that will show up sometime in the future! I can't take the chance that I may hurt you or someone else close to me! You've got to let me go!" Anko shouted as she began to struggle in Iruka's arms.

"As ninja out lives could end at any time. It could be tomorrow, it could be months or years from now, there's no way of knowing. However, there is one thing that I do know and that is that I want to spend all the time I have left with you no matter what." Iruka said as he gently let Anko go, grabbed her hand and knelt on one knee. Anko's breath stopped short when Iruka reached into his pocket and pulled out a small case that he opened to reveal a small but beautifully cut diamond ring.

"Anko Mitarashi will you marry me?" Iruka asked with a small smile.

Anko brain had effectively shut off once Iruka spoke that simple but beautiful question. She couldn't believe it. After everything that had happened. After she stabbed him in his chest and nearly killed him. He still wanted to be with her and he was actually proposing to her so that they could be together for life! Still, Anko was afraid of herself and what she might do one day. How did she know that things were going to work out? How could she be sure that she wouldn't snap again and go on a rampage? How could she be sure that he wouldn't one day tire of her and find someone less damaged and with less emotional baggage?

"W-we've only been dating for a few months." She stuttered softly as she gazed into his eyes searching for any shred of doubt or deceit. She found neither.

"I don't care. As ninja our life spans may not be that long. I don't want to waste anymore time especially since I found the one I want to be with for the rest of my life." He said, his smile never leaving his face.

"I-I could still snap again." She said as she felt her defenses slowly withering to nothing.

"And I could die tomorrow form some rare disease. We can't predict the future Anko-chan but I do know that I want you for as long as I can have you." He replied.

"It won't be easy being married to me. I've got a lot of emotional baggage." She said softly as she felt her last wall crumble.

"Nothing in life worth having is ever easy but it's always worth it in the end. Ever ninja has some kind of baggage. Let me help you carry yours until you're ready to throw it away. I'm not going to leave Anko-chan no matter what. Even if you refuse to marry me I will always be there for you." Iruka said as he opened his heart completely to her.

Anko opened her mouth to try and find something else to say but it was of no use. She could think of nothing else and truthfully she was done trying to run away. In a flash she saw what her life would be like without her friends in it. It would be a cold, dark, self-destructive place and she wanted no part of it. She fell to her knees and wrapped her arms around Iruka strongly enough to crush the air out of his lungs.

"I-is this a yes?" Iruka asked with a happy smile.

"Yes! Yes, I'll marry you." She said as her tears began again, but this time they were tears of joy as they sealed their engagement with a soul warming kiss.

(One month later)

The ceremony was beautiful, if a little small. The village was still trying to rebuild after the latest invasion so it was impossible for the entire populace to attend. This was just fine for the bride and groom as neither of them wanted a big wedding. The ceremony was held in a beautiful field surrounded by flowers. Iruka had chosen Naruto to be his best man while Kurenai was the maid of honor. Tsunade had found the time to come out and wed the two ninja. She was very happy that something good had come out of the pain and suffering of the previous battle and wished them the best of luck before she had to return to the tower to continue overseeing the construction of the village.

Currently, the reception was taking place in a small building that was picked out by Tsunade for its close proximity to the field itself as well as being close to the market solving any food concerns.

"I can't believe you go married so soon nii-san." Naruto commented to the smiling groom. Iruka hadn't stopped smiling since he had uttered "I do" and heard the same come from the beautifully dressed Anko.

"We're ninja Naruto. Who's to say that I won't die tomorrow on a mission? Anko is a jonin thus her missions will be even more deadly. Learn this Naruto. Don't waste time worrying or wondering what could have been. The past is history, tomorrow is a mystery but you need to enjoy today, that's why it's called the present." Iruka was with a smile as he walked over to have another dance with his wife.

Naruto was left thinking about what Iruka had said when Hinata hugged him from behind. She had been one of Anko's bridesmaids and was wearing a beautiful kimono. Naruto smiled as he pulled her close and began to dance with her as well. He looked over to see Kakashi and Kurenai dancing as well. In fact most of the genin were present with their dates and were currently dancing. Naruto smiled as he looked down at Hinata and wondered when they would be the ones to stand before one another and declare their undying love and commitment to one another by taking the final plunge into marriage.

'Oh well it's like Nii-san said, the future is a mystery. For right now, I'm going to enjoy living in the present.' Naruto thought as he held her close and simply enjoyed the moment.

Iruka danced with Anko and couldn't believe his good fortune. After his parents had died he had always sought attention from others until he decided that it was pointless. Iruka become reserved and focused on his ninja career. After reaching the rank of chunin he decided that he was content with his advancement. He taught at the academy as he truly liked working with and helping children. He never forsaw himself actually finding a woman to date and settle down with so having his own children was out of the question. He couldn't believe that things had changed so quickly and it was Anko, the sexy, beautiful and deadly Anko that he held in his arms as his wife.

'Wife. I can't believe that this has really happened.' Iruka thought happily as Anko, who had been allowing him to guide the pace of the dance decided to take control.

Anko was, for lack of a better term, giddy with joy. She was never one of those girls that thought constantly of finding their prince charming to sweep them off their feet. Anko was a practical and realistic woman. She had always thought that getting married and being bound to a single man for the rest of her life was crazy. She never saw herself as one of those girls and yet here she was smiling and holding her husband as her friends and family were present. It gave her an indescribable feeling of happiness that she never thought she would be able to obtain after being caste away by Orochimaru.

'I can't believe that I tried to walk away from this. That's not a mistake that I'm going to try and make ever again! This is almost perfect there's just one thing missing.' She thought as she looked down at her wedding ring and smiled at her husband.

'Well, we'll get to that once everyone heads home after the reception.' She thought with a sensual smirk that excited Iruka as he knew what she had on her mind. This was further made evident when she molded her body to his and felt his arousal. She leaned in close to purr into his ear.

"I hope you're ready for your wedding night Iruka-kun." She said and could feel the shudder run down Iruka's body.

"I think the reception can be cut a bit short Anko-chan." He replied as he kissed her deeply.

The reception didn't last for very much longer.

(A few hours later)

They entered Iruka's house, both still riding high on the elation they felt at being married. Anko, always the more forward of the two, took the initiative and grabbed Iruka's hand to guide him to the bedroom. This wasn't the first time that they had slept together but it would be the first time they did so as husband and wife.

(Lemon warning: Skip if you don't want to read)

Anko guided Iruka to their bedroom and literally kicked the door in. She immediately pulled him towards her and deeply kissed him. Iruka, used to Anko's forwardness, wrapped his arms around her and allowed his hands to wander along her back. Anko's impatience once again appeared as she gripped his haori and swiftly removed it. Before Iruka could make a move Anko had already opened his black formal kimono and was using her fingertips to gently rub his chest.

Iruka broke the kiss with a gasp and gently gripped her wandering hands. When Anko looked up at him in slight confusion he smiled and leaned in close to her.

"There's no need to rush my wife. We have the rest of our lives. Let's take it slow tonight." He said to her as he went ahead and finished removing his kimono top. This left Iruka naked from the waist up with him only wearing his hakama pants.

Anko shivered slightly at both the sight of the half naked Iruka as well as the way he called her his wife. It was still a joyous feeling and she understood that tonight was not to be a night of lust but also of love and affection. She took of the belt of her wedding kimono and was about to remove it until Iruka walked to her and gently did it for her. This left Anko only in her undergarments and the fire she could see in Iruka's eyes warmed her.

"You are so beautiful." Iruka said softly as he kissed her once again. Her hands rested on Iruka's chest once again but this time Iruka was also touching her. His hands started on her firm toned abs and slowly moved up her body towards her bra clad chest. She was shivering in pleasure from his gentle yet firm hands on her skin. She gasped in surprise and pleasure when Iruka broke the kiss and began to kiss and suckle her neck.

Iruka's hands weren't idle and had finally reached their destination. He softly trialed over her satin covered breasts before moving his hands to her back to unhook her bra. He backed away as he removed the obstruction and could only stare at her perfectly round globes. Her light pink nipples stood firm and erect, begging for his attention. Anko decided to break the silence by sliding down her white satin panties, leaving her gloriously naked before him.

"You seem to have too many cloths on, my husband." Anko all but purred. Iruka was snapped out of his thoughts by her comment and sought to rectify that situation. He swiftly removed his pants and boxers until like Anko he was completely naked as well.

This wasn't the first time that they had seen each other naked but it felt as if they were truly seeing one another for the first time. Anko took the lead and sensually sauntered over to Iruka. She gave him a passionate kiss before lightly shoving him back until he fell on the bed. Anko got on all fours and slowly made her way towards him until they were face to face. Iruka pulled her down until their bodies lay flush against one another. Iruka groaned into her neck at the exquisite feeling of her breasts massed against his hard chest and his arousal trapped against her belly. Anko felt a powerful heat spreading across her body and centering at her sex.

This was something that she had never had but always wanted. Anko had been with men before but it was never like this. Those were simply opportunities to forget for a night that she was alone and had no one truly special to her. They were actions of lust only while this was something monumentally different. Anko gasped as Iruka quickly spun so that he was now above her and the amount of love and lust in his eyes made her heart flutter.

Iruka gazed down at his wife. Even now the oh so simple word meant so much to him. This was the woman he would be with for the rest of his life, no matter how long or short it was. Iruka hadn't been with many women in his life simply because it wasn't who he was. Iruka had never been one who sought out another person simply for sex. Sure there were a few times when he had gotten really drunk but those were few and far between. Iuka needed more than just physical pleasure. He needed a deeper connection and he had finally found it with Anko.

Iruka stopped thinking and decided to show Anko just how much he loved her. He kissed her once again and cupped her full breasts. He broke the kiss as she let out a pleased moan of his name. He desperately wanted to hear his name spoken that way again and quickly began to kiss down her body. He lightly licked around her left nipple before taking it into his warm mouth. Anko once again moaned his name as she wrapped her hands around his head to keep him in place. She desperately wanted to feel more from his masterful tongue and lips. His hands soon began to move as well. His left hand cupped her right breast and his fingers began to tug and twist her nipple, not wanting it to be left unattended to. His right hand slowly began trace down her body until it reached her sacred area.

Anko began to twist and squirm under him and gave a light shriek of pleasure as he rubbed the lips of her sex and found them wet with her arousal. Anko gave a low hiss of pleasure as Iruka slowly entered her with one of his fingers. His thumb began to trace around her clitoris while he pumped his finger in and out her hot core. Anko began to whimper and moan in ecstasy as he switch nipples and took her right one in his mouth. He added a second finger and they soon found her special spot within her inner walls. As he began to rub against the firm module of nerve endings Anko arched into him with a sharp outcry. She moaned and continued to twitch as Iruka continued to stroke the fire within her until it was an all encompassing inferno desperately seeking relief.

"Iruka-kun." Was the only thing coming from her lips and soon enough she felt white hot pleasure erupt from her core and wash over her entire body from her head to her toes. She cried out loudly as her body clung to Iruka in pleasure. Iruka had moved from her chest to lovingly observe her face as she reached the pinnacle of ecstasy. He guided her back down and laid a short but sweet kiss to her lips. Anko's vision cleared and she was not surprised to actually find tears in her eyes from the beautiful act they found themselves in. This was what she had always wanted.

Anko took charge once again and twisted so that she was on top of Iruka. She gazed lovingly at his hard muscles and began to kiss his abs. She could feel him twitch under her and smiled at his sharp intake of breath when she grabbed his length and began to slowly stroke it. Anko was delighted at the way he moan her name as she began to stroke ever faster. She stopped suddenly and he looked at her in a beseeching fashion, desperate for more. Anko smiled as she lifted her body onto her knees and guided his length to her core. Their eyes never left one another's as she slowly lowered her body and her nether lips parted around his length.

They both gasped as nothing could compare to the feeling of completeness that settled over them. Iruka grit his teeth and was desperately trying to control the urge to thrust deeper into the moist warmth that enveloped him. Anko could feel every detail of Iruka's hardness inside of her and marveled at how they fit together so perfectly.

Neither spoke as Anko raised herself slowly and lowered onto him again. Iruka moaned as his hands moved to rest on her hips and help guide their pace. Anko slowly began to move ever faster as she moaned and gasped at the indescribable pleasure being sent through her body. Iruka was in the same position as he thoroughly enjoyed the way that his hard flesh continued to move within her.

Their movements were both primal and fluid. Anko had always thought that sex was about power. However, her coupling with Iruka proved this to be false. Both were in charge and at the same time neither of them was. Hands roamed everywhere, exploring, caressing, and discovering. The world faded into a blur of heat, passion and love as they continued to move together, both seeking their peak but also seeking to bring as much pleasure to the other as possible.

Iruka rolled over so that he was on top and continued to thrust powerfully into Anko. She wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him ever deeper into her burning hot core. Iruka moved down and took Anko's right breast in his mouth while one of his hands cupped the other full globe and his remaining hand moved between them to stimulate her clit. Anko cried out as the intense and various stimuli served to once again send her over the edge and this time with Iruka with her. Iruka cried out in pleasure as well as he reached his peak and flooded his seed into her and filled her in the deepest and most sacred of places.

(Lemon end)

Iruka rolled to the side and pulled Anko to him. Both were contently tired out and had ended their most important day with an incredibly special night.

"I love you Anko-chan." Iruka murmured.

"And I you Iruka-kun." She whispered as tears continued to flow from her eyes.

They fell asleep snuggled together and both with large smiles on their faces. It truly was a perfect day.

(Hidden base)

Itachi and Kisame stood as the projections of the other members of their organization appeared.

"I still find it hard to believe that you were defeated again Itachi. I am beginning to question your abilities." The leader said in a sharp tone.

"Hinata Yuhi displayed powers and abilities both similar and yet different from Naruto's. I would not have been able to use my full power against her as reinforcements were on the way. The next time we meet, things will go much differently." Itachi said calmly, not at all afraid.

"See that they do not." The leader said harshly with a glare.

"Leader-sama, what do you want us to do now? We could go after the brat again." Kisame said, trying to divert the leader's attention away from his partner.

"No, we will lay low for the time being and watch how events unfold. Konoha is very weak at the moment and no doubt the rock and lightening villages are thinking about exploiting this possibility. It is not yet time to implement our plan. Thus continue to track the biju you were assigned and await further orders. That is all." The leader ordered as his and the other Akatsuki member's projections disappeared.

"Well that was close. You need to be more careful my friend. Leader doesn't like the way you stand up to him." Kisame said to his partner. Kisame actually liked having Itachi as a partner and didn't want to have to be assigned another should the Leader decide that Itahci was more trouble than he was worth.

"Your concern is unnecessary Kisame. We will redeem ourselves once we capture the kyuubi container and his little girlfriend." Itachi said calmly.

"How did that little girl drive you off anyway?" Kisame asked a bit confused as Itachi had never really explained how their fight had taken place.

"I intend to figure that out." Itachi said in a dangerous tone as he turned to leave the cave.

Kisame smiled revealing his sharp shark like teeth and chuckled. Itachi seemed to be upset, that meant that things were about to get very interesting.

(End)

Here's chapter 56! Sorry for the long wait but I was having a hard time writing the lemon. How did you like it by the way? It was my first attempt at a lemon and would like your opinion. Anyway, next chapter will deal with the consequences that Hiashi has long sense been due! Who will bring him down? How will it happen? Will Tsunade ever figure out the mysterious man's identity? That is a secret!

Till next time Kyuubi123 out!