the greatest pretenders @snowyseas
Nanadaime II

the greatest pretenders

Chapter Thirteen: Nanadaime II

It had been a few hours since Sakura left his office, but he was still trying to imagine that she was there with him, looking over documents, or even just having tea or sake together to take the edge off. He had sent Shikamaru home because he was so exhausted that he was unintentionally zoning out every five minutes. That was not, of course, without protest from the man, claiming that he still had a lot of fuel in him before it was time to leave. Naruto had shook his head and urged him to make it back home in time for dinner, but he himself sat at his desk and held Sakura's report in his hand, reading the words over and over.

Although he didn't want to admit it, he knew that she was right, and that he needed to quickly send her out to Uzushiogakure, but something in his gut was telling him not to. It wasn't because he had recently come to the realization that he did, in fact, still harbor romantic feelings for her. He knew perfectly well that she would know how to take care of herself when she was out on the field, but he still felt like there wasn't enough information that made it pertinent to act upon just yet. Sakura and Kakashi had only been to Kirigakure, and just so happened to find intel in Suiren that could be seen as evidence against whoever was engaging in human experimentation. The port town had been small back in the day, and since the Fourth Shinobi War, it flourished as a popular tourist spot, just as many other places did. However, that didn't mean that some old practices of abuse had vanished; in most cases, it was likely that they were just swept under the rug in the hopes that they would never be exposed.

The chair squeaked as the Hokage leaned back in his chair and looked up at the ceiling, sighing. He was tired. He wanted to sleep. He wanted to have quality sleep, but no matter how heavy his body felt at the end of each night, and no matter how long he closed his eyes, sleep was unable to pull him under properly. It was always only halfway, then his body would jolt him awake. He would lie awake there for hours, and during the rare times that he did fall asleep, he always felt like he needed more. It had reached a point that Hinata would make him chamomile tea to calm him down, but even those efforts were halted after a few months when she found that it hardly worked.

Insomnia is vicious, he thought to himself.

Placing the folder back on his desk, he thought of spearmint eyes and hair the color of cherry blossoms, and felt his shoulders relax. He found himself staring off into the tea room next to his office as he remembered her saying that she had already eaten breakfast before she came to work. Although Naruto admonished himself for sounding like a stalker, he couldn't help but think that it was highly unusual. His off-handed comment about her having breakfast in bed was something that just slipped out of his mouth before he could even think about it, but it was the way her face fell just the slightest bit and the way her voice got quieter when she told him that she did have breakfast at home. It made him think that something happened, and they both knew that Sasuke had come back to Konoha recently. Naruto sighed, knowing that it shouldn't bother him what his two married friends were doing behind closed doors - even if he was in love with one of them. He pondered everything that had happened in the last fifteen years, and thought that he was doing the right thing by letting her go, and letting her be with a person she loved.

Why did it seem like lately, she was more herself with him than she was with Sasuke?

Why hadn't he told her he loved her, instead of pushing her into someone else's arms?

Rubbing his temples, he knew that it was time to stop his feelings from getting in the way. He reached into the bottom drawer of his desk, where both Kakashi and Lady Tsunade had stashed drinks for nights when the job was too taxing and began to take a toll on their mental health. Of course, there were other factors involved, like how Lady Tsunade had to deal with the Fourth Shinobi War before she even joined the frontliners. She was a heavy drinker, and though he wasn't an iryōnin, he suddenly understood where her bad habit had come from. Gaara had given him an expensive bottle of sake during New Years, and told him it was from one Kage to another. He hadn't touched the bottle since he got it, which in hindsight, wasn't too long ago.

Still, after a brief pause, he pulled out two sakazuki cups and poured the liquor into them. After a moment, he heard a light knock at the door that led to the balcony of his office and he put the bottle back into the drawer. He didn't move from his spot but gestured for the man to come in, knowing that he could see. Sitting back down in his chair, he straightened his back and turned his head to watch a cloaked man walk in and take his seat across the table.

"Didn't think you were still working this late," the man said, still not removing his cloak.

"I have a lot to think about," Naruto replied, "and you're in the office. You can take that off."

Pale hands hesitated at first, then wordlessly removed the garment to reveal straight, jet black hair that almost fell into his dark eyes. He stared at Naruto's face for a few seconds, then averted his eyes to the cups on the table.

"One of those is mine, I assume," Sasuke said coolly.

Naruto picked up his own cup. "You never fail to show up if I ask you to come. It was just a matter of waiting."

"Everyone in town is mostly back home," the Uchiha commented, "but I still didn't want to be seen by anyone who might recognize me."

"Y'know," Naruto sighed, "I don't get it. The war is over. Why are you still hiding like this? It's been fifteen years. People will forgive you."

"Not all people."

The Hokage winced.

Sasuke took a sip from his cup and made an expression of surprise. "This is damn good sake. Where'd you get it?"

"A present from Gaara."

He nodded and placed his drink back on the table, then leaned back in his chair, sighing. It was quiet between the two of them, and at some point in his adult life, Naruto didn't feel the need to say something immediately. He had known Sasuke a long time, which meant that if he wanted answers, he just had to sit there long and patiently enough until the man was ready. He wasn't always this way, but in the last fifteen years, there had been some kind of kindness in the Uchiha that Naruto wished would have made itself present earlier.

"Look," Sasuke finally uttered, "as hard as it is to believe, I feel shame."

"At having saved the world from destruction?"

"And initiating it."

Naruto huffed. "You left Konoha for fifteen years because you were trying to protect it, but you've done enough to keep it from harm."

"There's the threat with utsushō."

"That doesn't mean you need to head back out there and stay away from here indefinitely."

Sasuke reached forward for his drink and took a few more sips wordlessly. He closed his eyes as he did so, possibly avoiding eye contact with Naruto altogether. The blond watched and sipped on his own drink, but he momentarily forgot that there was a time that Sasuke was better at playing the silent game. After a few minutes, Naruto sighed.

"Fine," he said, "we won't talk about that."

"Great," Sasuke replied, "then what did you call me here for?"

Because he had assigned Sakura to the utsushō mission, every now and then - when he could - he would update Sasuke on the progress. It was an S-ranked mission, but with how things were going at the moment, he felt comfortable sharing details with those he truly trusted. Sasuke was a citizen of Konoha, after all: he had a right to know what was going on in his nation. He didn't pull out Sakura's report, but rather, he kept the most important points short and concise, and decided to keep the full details of intel to himself. It was natural to do so, especially because some of the information that Sakura had shared with him had to do with scouting out Uzushiogakure.

"So it's fūinjutsu," Sasuke said slowly, "which makes it more complicated and dangerous to undo."

"In the case of Jinchūriki, yes." Naruto replied. "But in the case of human experimentation? It's fucked up."

"Sealing some kind of substance into their bloodstream? It's disgusting."

"Someone is trying to play God, obviously."

At the Hokage's statement, Sasuke stared at him, a glint akin to rage in his eyes. He sighed and closed his eyes, furrowing his brow. Naruto watched the man before him, knowing that this technique was something he picked up in the last couple of years, once he began dealing with the trauma of Orochimaru when he had left Konoha all those years ago. The Uchiha drew in a deep breath and held it for a few seconds before expelling it slowly, the knuckles of his hands even whiter than his pale skin as his hands clutched the armrests of his chair. Naruto was beginning to feel guilty, because he hadn't even divulged all the information that he knew so far.

When Sasuke opened his eyes, they were bright, red, and full of fire.

"You're hiding something," he said flatly, "so say it."

Naruto clicked his tongue. "That's all you need to know for now."

"If there's something I need to know, then you have to tell me."

"I said no."

"Naruto, I swear to God-"

It was the Hokage's turn to glare at him, kunai shooting from his eyes. It was preposterous for anyone to try and intimidate a ninja with a dōjutsu, but over the last fifteen years, it was less about intimidating Sasuke, and more about showing him that he was not - and had never been - afraid of him.

"I'm not some spy that works for you for intel," Naruto said through his teeth, "and you don't get to demand for information when your eyes are fucking glowing red."

"I'm fine."

"You're not, and unless you take another few deep breaths and calm the hell down, I'm not telling you shit."

The Uchiha's expression softened, but his brow stayed furrowed - almost as though he was trying to refuse listening to Naruto. Nonetheless, he took another few minutes to calm himself down, and slowly relaxed, his shoulders slumped in his seat. Naruto sighed.

"I know that human experimentation is hard for you to hear about," he said slowly, "which is why I need you to be calm when I tell you what's going on."

Raising his right hand to rub his face, Sasuke nodded and opened his eyes again. They were dark again, and he watched Naruto intently. There was a time that he wasn't emotionally open with Naruto, and the Hokage remembered that era quite clearly. It was strange to be looking at him now, knowing that he was a man that was different than the one who had inadvertently and unintentionally begun the Fourth Shinobi War.

"I haven't told you about the specific people they're targeting for these experiments," Naruto began slowly, "and Sakura-chan thinks that the cases that we've seen so far are just them messing around."

The silence in the room was grave, charged with horror. "What do you mean?" Sasuke asked, his voice low.

"Do you know how Jinchūrikis work?"

"They have the Tailed Beast sealed into them with fūinjutsu."

Naruto nodded. "I started doing more research after I found out where my mom came from, and I was reading even more when this connection was made." He watched as Sasuke pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and almost instinctively, he pulled out an ashtray from a drawer and set it before him. Though he had never been good at being gentle, he knew that Sasuke was one of the people who needed information broken to him in bits and pieces, because otherwise, he would shut down emotionally and not let anyone in. Being gentle wasn't just in Naruto's interest, but in other people's, as well. He took a deep breath.

"So," he continued, "not only was fūinjutsu used for Tailed Beasts, but the Uzumakis made the technique formidable enough because it required so much chakra control."

"Where are you going with this?" Sasuke said, his tone a little impatient.

Naruto remembered his mother. She had suffered throughout most of her short life because she was a Jinchūriki of the Nine Tails. Even though she was a strong woman who could still use her chakra chains to protect her newborn son even after she had lost much blood and energy, she hadn't been born with a kekkei gengkai. It was true that not all of them were dangerous the way that Sasuke's was, but the level of chakra control made those who possessed special abilities ideal targets. Fūinjutsu was created to control the parts of people that were monsters, which was why ordinary people were not likely to survive.

"Utsushō is a natural substance that makes fūinjutsu stronger."

"So it has sealing properties."

Naruto nodded.

"Why was that so hard for you to tell me? It was never like you to worry about my feelings that much."

"First of all," the Hokage retorted, "that's not true, and second of all, that's not all."

"What else is there?"

"Sasuke," Naruto said solemnly, "regular people, regular shinobi, can't survive the effects of utsushō and fūinjutsu. They will die."

The Uchiha didn't move from his spot as he processed the Hokage's words, and Naruto watched as his expression turned from one of confusion to one of absolute terror. He let out a bitter chuckle, but his eyes were afraid. A scoff came from his mouth, but he had no words to say. Slowly, a deep panic settled onto Sasuke's face, the kind that Naruto had only seen a handful of times in his entire life. The blond man closed his eyes and waited for his previous teammate to begin speaking, to begin shouting, to begin asking him questions that he knew he would have. When nothing came within the first five minutes, Naruto opened his eyes slowly to find that tears had filled Sasuke's eyes, despite the effort with which he tried to keep them at bay by clenching his jaw. He watched and felt his own throat close up, understanding the fear that Sasuke felt. Neither of them uttered a word as Sasuke slowly made the connections in his head and leaned back in his seat, staring up at the ceiling like it would tell him what to do.

"Sarada's in danger," Sasuke said so quietly, that Naruto almost believed he wasn't supposed to hear it.

"We're trying the best that we can to fix this," the Hokage uttered, "but just promise me you won't do anything rash-"

"Your children are in danger."

He winced, and his eyes trailed to a photo frame on his desk of Boruto and Himawari, laughing as they splashed each other with water in the backyard just last summer. His heart sank into his stomach, and for the briefest moment, he wished that he could ask his mother and his father what he should do.

"I know," he finally whispered, "believe me. I know."

Winters were always short in Konoha. The public would complain for a few weeks before they became accustomed to draping their coats on, but by then, the cold, biting air became softer, signaling that spring was on its way. There were a lot of things that made time seem as though it was passing too quickly before Naruto could catch his breath, but when he stood in the greenhouse behind his home, he felt like he could stop long enough to breathe out all the despair that had accidentally ended up inside his lungs. He had only begun gardening as a means of keeping his hands busy whenever his mind was racing too much, but it quickly became a hobby that he felt he could put his heart in.

Sometimes dirt made its way underneath his fingernails as he potted plants or planted seeds before each season came. The feel of the earth made him feel connected to something bigger than himself, and after the war, this became a massive relief to him. Finding him tending to his plants more often, Hinata had suggested a greenhouse was necessary for him. It gave him a different sense of purpose other than that of the Hokage, and it made him a little more human in the eyes of his family, most of all Himawari who had wandered into the greenhouse one day with a small notebook and demanded her father teach her botany. Naruto had smiled at her and laughed the first few times she asked, for she was so small, but the more she timed her arrival with his, he decided that perhaps his daughter had inherited what most would call a complicated understanding of existence. Not long after she brought her little book to make notes, he guided her hands to plant seeds and to tend to the flowers and plants, instead. She was kept busy this way in the same manner he was, except for the fact that they shared a love for each of the seeds they planted that bloomed each season. They became excited and would plan what flowers to put in the home, what flowers to give Hinata during an anniversary or her birthday, what herbs would taste wonderful in home-cooked meals.

Naruto watched Himawari now as she hummed a tune while she watered the pots that would become Bluebell flowers in the spring. Though not her namesake, he allowed a small smile to spread across his lips as his little sunflower tenaciously tended to their own personal garden.

Large, blue eyes identical to his looked up at him, a sudden thought occurring to Himawari.

"Why don't we try planting lavender next winter?"

Naruto blinked. "What's got you interested in lavender?"

"Don't you think they'd look pretty with the Bluebells?"

His eyes moved to the dark plum of her hair that had a tinge of blue, cut short into a bob but he could see that it was beginning to grow. Imagining lavenders and Bluebells next to each other, he felt his heart swell up at the thought of Himawari tending to them, beautiful and lovely as ever.

"They would," he whispered, "it's too bad spring is almost here and we didn't get to look for some seeds earlier."

She chuckled. "I say next winter, but after my lessons awhile ago, I passed by a flower shop."


"A new one that opened up," Himawari shrugged, "but I saw Auntie Sakura there."

Blond eyebrows were raised. "You saw her?"

Her nimble fingers began working on another pot of flowers that would soon bloom before she answered her father. "I said hello, and asked her what she thought of lavenders for our greenhouse."

"And what did she say in reply to that?"

Her smile widened and Naruto couldn't help but think that she looked incredibly pleased with herself. Once she was satisfied with the way she positioned the next pot of flowers that were to soon be in full bloom, she looked up at him.

"She said it would look beautiful with the Bluebells we already planted!"

"You told her we planted some?"

"Mh-hm. She was looking for some herbs at the shop, and she ended up telling me about the benefits of each flower and plant that was sold there."

Realizing his daughter was about to enthusiastically share her newfound knowledge with him, he pulled a wooden stool near him and sat upon it, leaning his back against one of the counters that held the flowers and plants he had just attended to on the other side of the small greenhouse.

"And what did you find out?"

Uncharacteristically, Himawari fell silent and although her smile was still on her face, he could see the brilliant shine of blue in her eyes fade just the slightest bit. She was only nine years old, but she was far more insightful than he had been at her age. Perhaps it was something she inherited from Hinata, but he felt his heart sink at the look on her face. Something was bothering her, but she was tiptoeing around it not because she was afraid Naruto would get angry (because he made sure to never get angry at his children), but it seemed it was because she couldn't understand something herself. Naruto cleared his throat.

"Are they for Mommy?"

She shook her head slowly.

"They can't be for your brother," Naruto chuckled, making her expression softer, "so… are they for me?"

At this point, Himawari made eye contact with him but did not shake or nod her head. She opened her mouth and closed them a few times before she finally decided what to say, but before she even could utter the words she wanted to say, Naruto was already hugging her, stroking her hair.

"You know you can tell me anything," he said softly, "even if you don't understand it. I'll help you through it."

Quietly, even softer than a whisper, she finally responded. "I heard Mommy tell Auntie Hanabi that you don't sleep sometimes."

Naruto froze, but he listened for more.

"She told her that she tried honey in your tea, all different kinds of tea, and some nights she made our dinners with herbs that she hoped would help you sleep." Her voice began to break at this point, and her tiny arms held onto her father as though she was scared. "But I know that you're out here sometimes without me. I can see you from my window."

"Is that why you were at a flower shop?"

She nodded. "I always thought lavenders were pretty, but Auntie Sakura…"

"What did she tell you?" he uttered softly.

"She told me that if we grew lavenders, Mommy could mash up the flowers or put the flowers themselves in your tea and that maybe you'd finally sleep."

Naruto did the math in his head. It wasn't too long ago that he had told Sakura he had been experiencing long-term insomnia. Considering that there was a short period of time in which winter fell upon Konoha, it meant that Himawari had been worrying about him for at least one season but couldn't find a way to quell her worries. Of course, he knew that lavenders were one of the more natural remedies for insomnia, but had never tried it because a part of him didn't entirely believe that it would work. He pulled himself back from her and saw the tears welling in her eyes.

"Himawari-chan," he smiled, "thank you for worrying about me. But why didn't you ask me earlier if we could get lavenders? I would have said yes."

"Mommy said your head is always filled with things you need to do," she replied, wiping at her eyes, "I just wanted to do something for you so you wouldn't have to think about it."


"I just wanted to heal you."

At her words, Naruto's own eyes welled up but he quickly held his daughter in his arms, hiding his tears. He murmured words of reassurance to her, telling her that he would get better, that he would drink all the lavender tea she wanted him to, that he would sleep with lavender by his pillow if it made her worry less. He stroked her hair, and soon she calmed down enough to look up at him, her nose tinged red from her crying. Smiling at her, he pushed her bangs that were now getting too long away from her eyes.

"When are you cutting your hair?" he chuckled, knowing Hinata would take her to the hair salon soon.

"I told Mommy I want to keep it long this time."


"She had long hair when she was younger, and so did grandma."

Naruto smiled. "So you want to be more like them."

"I want to be just as pretty as them."

A memory of Sakura with long hair long after she had married Sasuke flashed in his mind and he felt his heart soften. The image of his daughter replaced that memory, and he thought that Himawari would resemble his mother, though without the beautiful and brilliant strands of vermillion.

"Himawari-chan," he said, squishing her cheeks and making her giggle, "you have always been, and always will be, as beautiful as them."

She waited outside the greenhouse as Naruto turned off any electricity they used and double checked that the plants and flowers were facing a direction in which they would receive the most sunlight when the sun came up. He closed the door behind him and smiled at her, grabbing her hand that felt tiny in his as they walked together back towards the back door of the house that was connected to the kitchen. When Himawari opened the door, they found Hinata sitting at the round table that had been set up in their kitchen where the kids often had their breakfast before school with Boruto, his head looming over the homework that he had received from the Academy that day. He kept his head lowered as he wrote down a plethora of answers he came up with onto the papers he had been assigned, Hinata beside him waiting to check on his answers. At the sight of her husband and their daughter, her face softened and she managed a small smile to Naruto, her eyes the warmest he had seen them in months. He understood that the sentiment wasn't for the father-daughter time he carved out for Himawari, but it was for him doing something he loved. He gave her a smile in earnest, remembering that she had expressed to her sister that she was worried about his insomnia.

"How's the homework going?" Naruto asked as he tousled Boruto's hair.

"I don't know how you passed this exam," his son exasperated, "I'm trying hard to study and they said we can't cheat and there's all these complicated rules and I just don't get it."

Hinata and Naruto shared an amused look.

"I've told you, sweetheart," Hinata started, "it's about using your shinobi skills to pass."

Boruto scoffed and groaned. "I still don't get it."

"You'll get it the day of the exam," Naruto grinned, "believe me."

Hinata looked at Naruto then, her expression amused as she remembered how much he himself had struggled to understand the point of the exam and still managed to advance forward as a ninja with absolutely zero marks for the written portion. Naruto remembered this with a tinge of humor, still hardly believing himself that he managed to get to the next round with his exam paper completely blank. His instructors had told him years later that they were both amused and impressed by his confidence as a pre-teen who was certain of the fact that he knew nothing. Naruto moved to the fridge then, pulling out a carton of milk and pouring a glass for his children.

"You both need to sleep soon," he said as he sat down next to Hinata, "otherwise you're going to sleep in too much."

"As if you didn't sleep in all the time when you were younger," Boruto rolled his eyes playfully, "I hear stories from my friends' parents."

Hinata chuckled at their son's comment. Naruto glanced over at her for a split second, idly wondering to himself when the last time a genuine laugh or smile had graced her mouth in his presence. The thought made him neither happy or sad, but rather, it placed him in some kind of limbo where he wasn't sure what to think.

"First of all," Naruto retorted, "I was lazy. You're lucky that you didn't get that trait, and you became a more diligent person than I ever was at your age."

"Is there a second of all?" Hinata asked, still amused.

"Second of all," Naruto grinned at her, "don't believe everything Inojin's dad tells you. Sai has as many embarrassing stories as I do, and I am sure he wouldn't want his secrets exposed."

The family continued to chat that way for a while with Hinata and Naruto taking turns helping Boruto with his work until it was mostly done. There were only a few questions left, but Himawari was beginning to rub her eyes and Boruto's eyes looked as though they were struggling to stay open. At that moment, Naruto was grateful that they didn't seem to have a hard time falling asleep, but a part of him was envious of them as well as the younger version of himself. He pinched the bridge of his nose before he quickly helped Hinata clean the cups that were used and to clean the table and the counters. Both the children had already gone upstairs to get ready for bed, and so he was alone with Hinata in the kitchen. He didn't say anything as she put away the dishes, but he remembered his conversation with Himawari in the greenhouse, and so he cleared his throat as though he was clearing the cobwebs in the corners of his mind that held the things he did not want to say.

"How's Hanabi?" he asked casually, leaning against a counter. "I haven't heard about her or from her in a few weeks."

"She's okay," Hinata replied simply, "just managing the estate and such. Busier during the winters since there are a little less festivities to celebrate before New Year's."

"Summer and fall are always when she's the most feisty," he chuckled, "I would hope that being less busy means that she's going to an onsen somewhere."

"I've told her to go, but she insists on just waiting for it to snow."

"It probably won't come this year unless it's at the very end."

"You know how stubborn she can be," Hinata sighed, "once she's set her mind to something, there's no talking her out of it."

She lifted her violet eyes then from what she was doing and looked at Naruto, her expression somewhat amused. "It kind of reminds me of someone else."

"I'm not that stubborn."

"Shikamaru-san always says you refuse to take vacations because you're always trying to things done as much as you can."

Naruto winced, hoping that the woman he married that had a dōjutsu wouldn't comment on it.

"It does get pretty busy," he said quietly, "and there's always new documents or new issues that I have to attend to. I can't just use vacation days on a whim."

"Do you take naps at work?" Hinata asked as she sat back down on one of the chairs, facing him, her expression becoming more solemn. "I know that sometimes you have your shadow clones take over tasks that you can't always get to. Doesn't that tire you out? You could be overusing your chakra."

"It's fine," he reassured her, "I'm fine. Don't worry about it."

"You hardly sleep when you're at home."

The Hokage sighed, feeling as though the fatigue he constantly felt still wouldn't leave his body no matter how often he breathed out. "I am trying. It's just not that simple."

"I know," Hinata smiled sadly, "but I'm worried about you. I have some tea for you, actually." She stood up to reach into one of the overhead cabinets and pulled out a jar filled with tea leaves. "They're just chamomile, but we haven't tried it for you yet, so maybe it will help."

"Where'd you get them?" Naruto asked quietly.

"I was reading a book on gardening when I was out with Himawari just last week," she replied slowly, "and it happened to mention some herbs that can be used to help with sleeping problems."

The Hokage stared at his wife, not entirely sure of what emotion to feel. It was natural for her to be concerned about his sleeping habits and his general health, but he had to wonder as he often did over the last fifteen years, if this was one of the times she was keeping something from him. He let out another sigh as he saw Hinata grow visibly uncomfortable. He tapped his index finger on the table, more out of being pensive as opposed to being angry. It was a habit he picked up over the years to control his fiery disposition that made him impulsive, and the tapping of his finger on some kind of surface gave him at least a few moments to quell his impulsiveness. Finally, he closed his eyes, not wanting Hinata to see the emotion in his eyes.

"Are you lying to me?" he asked softly, his tone somber.

"About what?"

"How you found out about chamomile."

Hinata sighed now, and it made Naruto wonder how many sighs had to be present in a home for it to start to turn a life into decay. "I really was with Himawari, and I really did read it in a book. I have no reason to lie to you. You know that, right?"

"Is there something else you're keeping from me?"

"Like what?"

Naruto's eyes shot open, but Hinata's expression did not waver though he did see her clench her jaw just the slightest bit.

"Like you telling Hanabi about this."

Her brow furrowed then, her expression confused. She opened her mouth to start to say something, but quickly closed it. A million thoughts must have been running through her mind, because she did this a few times. In the end however, she frowned and seemed to slump in her seat.

"I didn't have anyone to confide in, and I'm worried about you."

"You don't have to worry about me."

There was a long silence after he said this, and Hinata began to fidget and rubbed the nail of her right thumb with her left thumb. She took a few deep, shaky breaths, and when she looked up at Naruto, they appeared to look like glass.

"And why not? I'm your wife, aren't I?"

"That's not what I meant."

"Then what do you mean, Naruto-kun?"

"I meant that it is something I am trying to get under control myself," he said as his daughter's face flashed into his mind, "so you don't have to worry so much."

"You've always been this way," she replied with a soft scoff (if it could be called that), "you never let anyone help you."

"I do."

"Like who?"

He paused then, genuinely trying to search his brain for someone he trusted with his life. All he could see in his mind was the color of light pink and the first two weeks of spring when cherry blossoms would fall and envelop certain lands in petals. Leaning back in his chair, he quickly sifted through his mind for someone else, anything else, that he allowed to help him.

"There are people I let help me," he said finally, "I just can't think of anyone off the top of my head."

"You're lying to me."

"I'm not, Hinata. I'm just saying-"

"I've been married to you for fifteen years, I know when you're lying."

"It's not a lie."

"You've always only relied on one person, only allowed one person to help you," Hinata said tearfully, "and even though you married me, you don't trust me like that. You trust her more than you will ever trust me, and the worst part about that is that you don't see that I would do anything for you."

"Who the hell are you talking about?" he asked, though he was certain he knew the answer.

"The beautiful, bright-eyed, brilliant, intelligent iryōnin! Who else would it be?"

"It's not that I trust her more than you-"

"No," Hinata cut him off, her tone uncharacteristically aggressive, "you do. And that's fine that you do, because I can't force you or tell you who to trust or not to trust." She stood up from her chair then, pushing it in quietly. She wiped at her eyes and sniffled, her anger seemingly dissipating. Her violet eyes seemed weary now as she looked at him, almost like she was getting tired of even looking at him. She placed her hands onto the chair and sighed, and Naruto knew not to interrupt whatever thought she was about to get off her chest.

"I am happy that you get to work with her again," she said softly, "but sometimes I wish that when your eyes light up when you talk about working with her, that they would be lighting up because you're coming home to me instead."

Hinata left him like that in the kitchen, turning off the dining room lights and the stairs lights as she went upstairs to check in on their children who were waiting to be tucked in. He had wanted to do it since he hadn't done it in a while, but he could hear his wife in her house slippers as she walked across the wooden floors and he sighed. He had been meaning to tell her that he was to go on a diplomatic mission with Sakura, because he had always been honest with her about his meetings. In the end, he figured he couldn't be too angry with Hinata for hiding secrets from him, because she knew he was keeping a big one from her.

When he switched off the lights in the kitchen and looked upstairs, he could see that Hinata had closed their bedroom door - something she never did when she was waiting for him to sleep next to her, in the same bed. He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, willing a migraine to go away. He sauntered over to the sofa in their living room and laid down, his head spinning with fatigue despite the fact that he was laying down. He thought of all previous missions he had been on when he was young, where they slept underneath the stars and he would wish upon them to be Hokage one day.

That night, he imagined looking upon constellations as he drifted off into a half-sleep, wishing that he could be oblivious to the unhappiness that his choices sometimes brought him.

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Anonymous reviews have been disabled. Login to review. 1. Repress 8109 0 0 2. Lapse 6888 0 0 3. Fragments 5697 0 0 4. Dissemble 4932 0 0 5. Family I 7189 0 0 6. Family II 8175 0 0 7. Tribute 10628 0 0 8. Apprehension 7839 0 0 9. Clandestine 7789 0 0 10. Nanadaime 8441 0 0 11. Pursuit 9655 0 0 12. Credence 5976 0 0 13. Nanadaime II 6495 0 0 14. Betrayal 5485 0 0 15. Transparency 5858 0 0