A/N - Wow, I didn't expect so many people to like this story! Thank you so much for reviewing, favoriting, and putting it on alert!

Also, I don't know why, but whenever I'm writing Orochimaru, I picture him wearing his Otogakure uniform from the Chunin Exams arc, not his usual robes. So I'm just going to add to my headcanons that that's what he wears every time he comes to Death City. (Link, just take out the spaces: : / / . / : . j p g )

Also, in case anyone reading doesn't know Japanese well:

Shiro = white

Kuro = black/dark

Hebi = snake

You'll understand when you read the chapter.

~0~

1

Orochimaru...

The sudden sound of Medusa's voice in his mind jerked him out of his intense focus on the scrolls he'd been studying, and he lifted his head. His partner wasn't physically near him, of course - she spoke through the snake she'd placed in his body - but he always reacted as if she were. Yes? Orochimaru thought back. What is it?

Come to Death City, as soon as you can. I have something to tell you.

What is it, Medusa? he asked, but when no answer came, he sighed. Would it kill you to tell me what I'm abandoning my research for?

"Kabuto, help me clear these up, will you?" he said, uncrossing his legs and getting to his feet as he rolled up the scroll in front of him. "We're going to Death City."

Kabuto detached himself from the back wall he'd been leaning against and laid down his book. "If we must," he sighed, not looking forward to dealing with his master's partner. "What does she want now?"

"We'll find out soon enough. Hurry up."

~0~

"Medusa," Orochimaru called, knocking lightly on the thick wood door and letting himself in, Kabuto at his heels. "We're here."

"That was fast, Maru," she said, emerging from the door nearest them. "It's good to see you."

"What did you call us here for?" Kabuto said curtly. "Couldn't you have just told us what you need through those snakes of yours?"

Medusa narrowed her eyes at him. "I wish I could say the same to you, Kabu-kun." While Kabuto bristled at the mocking nickname, she turned to Orochimaru with a smile. "I just have some news for you that I think would be best heard in person."

"Is that so? What's so important?"

"I'm pregnant."

As soon as he heard that, Kabuto choked. "You...You're what? You mean you two actually - What?"

"Stop spluttering like an idiot, Kabu-kun."

"Well, how was I supposed to know you two were really that serious?"

"It's not my problem Orochimaru didn't tell you what we're doing. And Maru, what's that look for? Don't tell me you forgot!"

"I didn't," he assured her, realizing his eyes had widened and his jaw had dropped, and quickly went back to an expression that didn't make him look foolish. "But how can you be certain? It's only been two weeks, a test can't tell for sure so soon."

"I don't need a test to be sure. You forget I'm a witch..." Her hand drifted down to her midsection. "I can sense its soul. It's very small now, of course, since it's in the earliest stages of development, but I know it's there."

Kabuto, having gotten over his shock, suddenly burst out laughing. "You mean you're having a baby? You? You know, I'm half expecting you to tell me this is a joke, because it sure sounds like one!"

From the glare Medusa was giving him, Orochimaru was almost surprised that Kabuto didn't melt where he stood. "It's not what you're thinking. We're starting a new experiment and we need a subject with - "

"You as a mother," he mocked as if he couldn't hear her, smirking. "How'd you come up with that idea? I think you're losing your touch!"

"Keep that up, Kabu-kun," Medusa said, leering at him with a grin that stretched her whole face, "and you're going to wake up one day with a body full of snakes."

The smirk dropped from his face. He knew she didn't joke around, and decided that this was the time to make his exit. "Hmph," he muttered, masking his nervousness with a haughty expression. "I hope you have octuplets." With that, he stalked off down the hall, planning to wait in the kitchen like he usually did when not needed until it was time to go, with Medusa's narrowed eyes on his back until he disappeared around the corner.

"Ugh...Maru, let me know the second you don't need him anymo- " She broke off when she felt Orochimaru's hand cover hers."Orochimaru?"

"It doesn't feel real..." His gaze was focused on her stomach, and his long fingers laced with her slender ones. "You don't look any different. I feel foolish asking, but are you sure?"

"I'll bet you're wishing you could gain my powers again, aren't you?" When that elicited a chuckle from her partner, she smiled again. "Trust me, I'm sure. Our experiment is underway, just thirteen months and we'll have our perfect subject."

"Thirteen?"

"Witch, remember?" she reminded him with a small sigh. "My anatomy is different from a human woman's, so my pregnancy will be very different as well. To put it simply, I'm not exactly going to enjoy the next year or so...but it'll be worth it in the long run."

"Yes," he murmured. His fingertips gently caressed her stomach. Their child was growing within her... "What do you think it will be like?"

"Daughter," Medusa answered immediately. "Witch daughter. She'd have power like mine, but look just like you."

"I asked what you thought it would be like, not what you wanted!" he laughed. "Personally, I couldn't care less what it looks like...so long as it grows up powerful."

"Well, that is the plan," she said. "We should only be focusing on that if we want this to work. Just wait, Maru, I'll make our child the strongest being in the world."

"I don't doubt it." Orochimaru leaned down and planted a kiss on his partner's lips. She'd told him, after their night together (one of many, but that one was special), all about what she planned to do with the child they conceived, and it sent shivers of excitement down his spine to think about what they were going to create. "I'll help you in any way you need, love."

~0~

Thirteen months later...

"Tiny little guy, isn't he?" Kabuto remarked.

"I'm not complaining. Ten hours in labor was certainly enough," Medusa said wearily, adjusting the blanket around her minutes-old son. "Thank you both for your help, by the way," she added, deliberately not looking at Kabuto.

"You're welcome," Kabuto answered before his master could. "Though was it necessary to hit me with the book? That's going to leave one hell of a lump on my head."

"Now, Kabu-kun, you can hardly criticize me for that. For future reference, when a pregnant woman tells you her water just broke, you don't say, 'Are you sure? No, that can't be right,' and then look through the book to find out instead of helping."

"One stupid question hardly necessitates smacking me in the face with a heavy book, you know," he growled, pushing the large ice pack up on his aching head before it fell.

Ignoring him again, Medusa turned her attention back to her son. Not the witch daughter she'd hoped for, she thought as she absently rocked the baby, but not bad, not bad at all. Kabuto was right, he was smaller than average, but perfectly healthy as far as they could tell, and while his soul wasn't purple, it was a rich dark shade of pink that was fairly close. Nothing that would make it an inadequate subject.

"Orochimaru..." She turned to her partner. After he (with Kabuto's help) had successfully delivered their child, Orochimaru had moved to the opposite side of the room and stayed there, leaning on the wall by the door not interacting with any of them. There was something on his mind, but she couldn't tell what exactly it was. "Sorry I was gripping your hands so hard, Maru," she began, "I didn't mean to leave bruises on you."

He ran his thumb over the large purple blotch on his right hand once, but said nothing. All right, that wasn't the problem, Medusa thought, but then, why had he been staring at her, silently and impassively, for the past twenty minutes? Then it hit her - he hadn't. All this time, his eyes had been locked on the little bundle of blue in her arms. "Come here and have a look at him, Maru." Her partner didn't move. "Maru, he's a newborn, he's not going to bite," she coaxed. "Come here."

Without changing his expression, Orochimaru stepped away from the wall and crossed the room to his partner. Standing behind her, he looked over her shoulder at his son. "He doesn't look like much."

"Not yet. What were you expecting?"

"Forget I said anything, that was stupid." Truth be told, now that he'd been born, Orochimaru was having conflicted feelings about this child. It was an experiment, first and foremost, of course...but it was also his own child. His son. It had been over a year and he hadn't been able to get adjusted to the idea, but now - he was a father.

It excited Orochimaru when he thought of the amazing things he and his partner would do with him, but the idea still unnerved him. The two things the boy was now - their test subject and their son - did not mix well in his mind. He had thought he would be satisfied with their child, but now he wasn't so sure.

He glanced at the expression on his partner's face as she looked at the sleeping child. She didn't look proud, as he imagined most mothers would, just very self-satisfied. Lucky her. He knew for a fact that Medusa had no misgivings about this, in fact he doubted whether there was any maternal instinct in her at all to put her off turning their child into a lab rat. Like him, she knew he might not turn out well, but unlike him her mind would not dwell on what could go wrong. So many questions ran through his head: Was their child any different than their other subjects? What if he didn't turn out like them, or like they'd planned? What if something went wrong with him? How would he think of his parents as he grew up? What if they ended up creating something they couldn't control? Had they gone too far this time?

Orochimaru forced back an annoyed huff. This was not the time to be having second thoughts; these internal musings were better for when he was back home, alone. He pushed them to the back of his mind as best he could.

"Orochimaru-sama, what do you think?" Kabuto asked, slightly dismayed by his master's reaction, or lack thereof, to the newborn.

"...I think he needs a name," he said gruffly, realizing that the three of them had never managed to come up with one.

"True. I haven't thought about it much. Any suggestions?" Medusa asked.

"Hey, Medusa, why don't you name him Arrow after you?" Kabuto suggested eagerly, grinning.

"All right, shut up now, Kabu-kun." Medusa ignored the young shinobi's indignant yelp and turned to her partner. "Any ideas, Maru?"

"Kurohebi." She raised her eyebrows questioningly, and he explained. "Shirohebi - " he pointed to himself - "Kurohebi." He laid a hand lightly on the baby's head. "White snake, black snake." Kishin Kurohebi, he thought. It sounded nice to him, especially for a spur of the moment thought. If the boy didn't turn out like his parents, he'd at least have a name that showed he was theirs.

"It sounds all right...A bit of a mouthful though."

Orochimaru frowned at Medusa's dismissive tone, and wondered why she had asked for suggestions if she was just going to reject them. "Well, I don't hear you coming up with anything."

"Give me a minute...Part of that name sounded fitting. Kuro..." Medusa said the word thoughtfully, as if testing the sound of it. "Kuro...kuro na..."

"Dark one?" Orochimaru translated.

"Crona," Medusa said with finality in her voice. "Crona. That's your name, little one."

"Hm. Not bad," Kabuto said approvingly. "Orochimaru-sama?"

"...Perfect," he said, one corner of his mouth twitching up into a lopsided smile. Kishin Crona, he thought, gently rubbing the child's head. He liked the sound of that.

~0~

"You're sure you don't need my help anymore? You can handle everything when I return to Otogakure? You know I can stay as long as you want me to."

"Orochimaru, don't hover over me. I just needed your help for a bit while I recovered from the birth. Crona and I will be fine." Medusa smirked. "Honestly, I never thought you'd be the fretful overprotective type."

"I'm not," Orochimaru said, affronted. "I only want to make sure you're all right before I go. It's taken you a month to recover, you know. Your stitches haven't even completely dissolved yet."

"That's perfectly natural, Maru, you know that. You've spent enough time away from your village already, you should go back as soon as you can." He didn't respond, knowing she was right. Though he went to great lengths to ensure his followers were loyal to him, it was never good to have the leader gone for too long. "Don't worry so much," she went on. "I'll be calling you back in about six months anyway, to help me with my first experiment on Crona. You can last without me until then, can't you?"

"...If you're trying to drive me out of the house by making fun of me, it's working." Orochimaru chuckled lightly. "All right, I'll leave now. I'll see you in a few months, then."

"I'll see you then." Medusa leaned up to press her lips to her partner's, and smiled at him as she pulled back. In the next second the smile slipped right off her face when a high-pitched cry came from the crib on the other side of the room. Orochimaru smirked at her.

"Oh, shut up, Maru. I wonder, do all children need so much attention or is he a special case?" she groused, crossing the room and taking Crona into her arms. "You're lucky I don't sleep much anyway," she muttered to him.

"You're sure you don't want me to stay a little longer?"

"This is nothing I can't handle on my own, Orochimaru. Goodbye now." Medusa turned away from him completely, giving her full attention to their whimpering child. "Shh, Crona, go back to sleep now," she cooed, gently putting her hand on the back of the infant's head. Orochimaru saw the palm and fingertips start to glow a pale purple.

"Using the sleeping spell again? Cheater," he teased.

"Goodbye, Maru."

"All right, all right..." Orochimaru turned and started to make his way out of the house. As he walked down the hallway, he listened to his partner trying to aid the slow-acting spell and lull their son to sleep.

"Hush, child," she sang softly, "the darkness will rise from the deep, and carry you down into sleep, child, the darkness will rise from the deep, and carry you down into sleep..."

A smile spread across Orochimaru's face. He'd heard this song before.

"Guileless son, I'll shape your belief, and you'll always know that the Reaper's a thief...And you won't understand the cause of your grief, but you'll always follow the voices beneath..."

He chuckled. Barely a month old and Crona was already being taught his place in the world, even if he didn't understand it yet. After voicing his concerns about the boy to Medusa, his partner had laughed and reassured him that everything would go according to their plans, she'd make certain of it. She'd spent the entire month he'd stayed convincing him she was right. Every question he had, she had an airtight answer for. She was thorough, he'd give her that. His partner had thought of everything, and he saw no way this could go wrong. Our son will become our Kishin, he thought confidently. We will change this world forever. His voice barely above a whisper, he sang along with her.

"Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty, loyalty...loyalty, loyalty, loyalty, only to her..."

~0~

A/N - The song at the end is Mordred's Lullaby by Heather Dale. Look on YouTube and there's a TON of fan videos of this song with Medusa and Crona. Here's a link to the song if you want to hear it -

Link (just take out the spaces): : / / w w w . w a tc h ? v = 4

~0~