The Sequel to "A Promise To Keep". (Yes, I know I said there would be no sequel...) Naruto had craved adventure. He had missed the excitment. Now a mission of grave importance has found its way i...
Chapter One: Unfinished Business
His hands trembled and it took all of his effort to force himself to slow down and re-read that letter; to make certain he had read it right the first time. And as his eyes slid over the non-descript print he knew that he had had it right the first and second times.
It wasn't dangerous; that letter. No trap waited within; no poison on its pages ready to soak into his skin. It had come to him as a tightly sealed scroll, the word 'Rokudaime' printed clearly upon its stark white face. Kotetsu had delivered it, reporting that the letter had appeared at the main gate's checkpoint. One second the sentry had looked off in the direction of the village and the next - when he returned his attention to the desk - the scroll has simply been there.
Naruto's heart was thundering in his chest. He honest-to-Kami thought it might burst from his ribs and explode. Never in his life had he ever been so afraid. Not in all of the times he had come so close to death. Not during those times when he had felt the kyuubi taking control from him; knowing there would be nothing he could do to stop it. Not when he had watched his comrades fighting - dying - and been unable to help them.
Never had he ever known such terror.
His entire body quaked now, the paper rattling against his movements, and his reaction did not go unnoticed.
"Lord Hokage?" To say that Kotetsu was alarmed was to point out the obvious. Rokudaime had never before been so blatantly afraid in his presence. Even as a boy the blonde had displayed a fearlessness many had attributed to foolishness or insanity. Now, when such strength of will was expected of him in his current position, the sixth hokage was seemingly mere seconds from emptying the contents of his stomach onto his desk.
"Where is Hinata?" The whisper was ragged, the hokage's last shred of control barely able to keep him thinking - planning.
"With her squad, preparing them for the chuunin exams, I believe."
"Go and tell her to leave them. Tell her to meet me at her father's house. Lock down the village first. No one gets in or out without a complete inspection."
The face behind the bandages blanched. "Sir?"
"Go, Godammit!" And Naruto pushed himself from his desk, leaping out of his office window to the roof below.
No time to tell Tsunade. No time to tell anyone else.
Kami... oh Kami please, no. Please don't let this be happening...
If the letter was right, if this was really happening, he knew he was going to die.
He knew it because he would let it happen.
For him, he would die a thousand times over.
Four Years Earlier...
His heel tapped at a maddening pace beneath his desk. He frowned at the scroll in his hands, knowing that even though this mission was going to be one hell of a ride he wasn't going to get to enjoy it.
Who would have thought this would be so boring?
Because a hokage/ didn't/ go on missions. Well, not really, he corrected himself as he glanced across the office at his colleague. She had broken away twice that he knew of - both times to join him in battle, not even eight months ago. But he wouldn't be able to count on any histrionics that would steal him from this office; not since the two most dangerous threats to Konoha had been eliminated.
Hinata had told him that she was grateful he wouldn't be taking on anymore missions, and perhaps he should be, too. After all, his life was becoming increasingly complicated with every day that passed, and it wasn't going to let up. At least not any year soon, she had quipped with a wise smile.
"Naruto, knock it off." The blonde woman didn't even raise a glance in his direction. The tapping ceased but the silence brought about an overly dramatic growl from the young man.
He couldn't help but long for at least a little adventure, despite his wife's warnings, "I swear I'm gonna go stir crazy," and failed to catch the bemused look on Gondaime's face.
"You'll get used to it."
"The hell I will!" He fumed and brandished the report in his hand as though they were a kunai. "This is a retrieval mission. A rogue shinobi! Do you know how exciting these ones are? I'd snatch this job up in a heart beat! But now I gotta give it away."
Tsunade set aside her own documents and leaned over her desk towards him. "You knew all along what becoming hokage meant. There's no use in complaining now. Especially now." She waggled her fingers at him and Naruto tossed the scroll over to her wondering what that tone had meant. Brown eyes scanned the writing critically. "Who will you send?"
She was quizzing him again. Fine.
"According to the report this guy chooses to do his fighting at night and he's damn good at using the dark to his advantage, so a large chunk of Shika's talents will basically be useless. I'm thinking Neji and Kakashi with Sakura or Ino as back-up, though I'd be a better candidate." He tapped a finger to the corner of his eye as if to show exactly why he should be going.
Tsunade was quite proud at how far Naruto's tactical thinking had come. She couldn't help but admit that he was right. Naruto's Sharingan would make an excellent completion to the party and he knew it. But in his absence Sakura was a quick thinker and she'd be a good replacement.
"What about another Byakugan?"
Naruto caught the scroll as it sailed at his head and reopened it to finish his reading. "Hanabi's out on a mission already, remember?"
"That's not who I meant." Cerulean eyes flicked upward. He knew her tone had meant something more!
"What have you heard, old lady?"
"I heard Hinata made a trip to the hospital last week."
"So you know, huh?" There was no apology behind his words. "We're planning on telling everybody at that dinner thing Hinata plans to throw tomorrow; the one you've already been invited to. I'm putting off these orders until tomorrow night, in fact. We told Hiashi, but that's it." Golden brows furrowed. "You haven't said anything to anybody, have you?"
"That's not my place, is it?" She was a bit more forgiving now, having learned that she was not going to be left out of the loop. "But you may want to warn Hinata. She's not very good at hiding things. She's going to get caught again if she's not careful."
Large white teeth gleamed with relief. "Thanks, Granny." The woman, who still looked as though she were only in her mid twenties, arched a perfectly plucked eyebrow at her friend.
"Watch it, brat."
She leaned out of the largest kitchen window in their new manor, breathing slowly.
The home had been given to Rokudaime by the village when he had decided against moving his small family into the Hokage Mansion with Tsunade. He valued the woman as both a mentor and friend, but the idea of living with Gondaime was unpleasant to say the least. Tsunade had been relieved as well, and had actually been the one to push for the gift of the mansion. The sixth hokage could/ not/ continue living in his tiny apartment, even voluntarily.
Hinata sucked in deep breath after deep breath, avoiding the heady aromas coming from the main cooking area. She didn't know how she was going to finish preparing dinner when she was forced to abandon her work every few seconds or become sick from the smell of food. Sakura had offered to come by and help with the preparations, but Hinata knew that with one glance the keen medic-nin would know that something was wrong - and it wouldn't take her long to guess what.
It was a shame she hadn't thought to teach Naruto how to cook before this. She could really use the help right now.
The main doors slammed loudly and she actually managed a weak chuckle. One day he was going to wrench those doors from their hinges; she was always warning him of that.
"Hey! Where'd ya go?" Her husband boomed from the entryway. A shaggy blonde head poked into the kitchen and that wide grin flashed and disappeared almost before she had registered it. "You still feeling sick?" Now that was a stupid question, he told himself. Naruto sat down on the countertop beside her, trailing fingers across the back of her neck in an effort to sooth her.
"You take over tomorrow, okay?" She wasn't talking about cooking and her effort at making a joke wasn't lost on him.
"Yeah, okay. Hey, why don't you go to your dad's for a while and relax. I'll get Sakura to help me make the rest of this stuff, and since you'll be gone she won't know what's up." His wife raised hopeful eyes.
"Really? You don't mind?"
"I think I'd mind more if you lost your lunch into the dumplings." He laughed loudly at her horrified reaction and pulled her gently to her feet. "Go on, get out of here. I'll tell Sakura you had to go see your father about something. She knows I never really pay attention to Hiashi anyway, so she won't ask me anything about it."
He didn't have to tell her twice! She'd do anything to escape the smell of cooking meat.
"The dinner plans are under the magnet on the fridge." She relayed as she lowered herself from the counter. "Don't forget the daifuku cakes. Nothing fancy, round ones will be fine." A quick kiss and a shoulder squeeze and Hinata was allowed to leave.
Naruto scratched his head staring at the organized mess that was Hinata's cooking. It was clear that she was very neat when it came to preparing meals, but the jumble of spice jars and different sized measuring utensils had his head hurting already. There was no way he was cut out for something as meticulous as cooking.
He had to get Sakura over quickly before he screwed something up! A quick hand signal and a Naruto doppelganger leapt out of the window, searching desperately for his old teammate and leaving the original man to stand over the stove, debating on if he should touch anything in the meantime.
They hadn't bothered setting the table in the enormous dining room. In fact if it wasn't for her father and the occasional dignitaries who visited, that particular room would never know use. Their friends were never a formal group, and it would have been laughable to see Naruto at the head of some fancy table, trying to remember proper table etiquette.
Instead the hosts had moved dinner into the living room, couches, chairs and huge floor pillows providing the perfect environment for a casual dinner, with a few small tables strewn about if someone needed somewhere to set their plate.
"Hinata, everything is so good!" Chouji crammed another piece of pork into his mouth and the Uzumaki woman blushed from her floor pillow. She had barely touched her own plate, but at least she wasn't sick anymore. Tsunade's discreet gift of ginger root had calmed the poor woman's stomach just enough so that the smell and sight of food no longer sent her scrambling for the bathroom.
"I can't take all of the credit." The ever gracious woman replied. "Sakura did most of the work. She really saved the day."
Sakura swallowed quickly and smiled. "Hey, family business called, right? Glad to be of help." Chouji's praise for her efforts was obscured behind another mouthful, but Sakura understood the meaning anyway and laughed when Shikamaru moaned for the man to wait until his mouth was empty to speak.
Surprisingly in the midst of the group, rather than against some wall as was usually the case, Kakashi set aside a plate that had somehow emptied without anyone seeing that accursed mask move. "The meal was delicious, ladies. My compliments to the both of you. But I can't help but feel that there is more to come."
"Uh, yeah," Chouji spoke around his mouthful, "dessert. I saw it on the counter. Daifuku."
A single dark eye rolled, clearly amused. "I was thinking more like the reason for such a get-together."
Ino chuckled. "Yeah, I remember. The last party had Naruto dropping to his knees in front of Hinata like some love-struck puppy. So what's the news this time; Hinata pregnant?"
Hinata's eyes rounded; caught off guard, and Naruto's jaw dropped open, revealing partially chewed dumplings. Neither spoke, though the couple flicked a surprised glance at one another. He knew at that second, with that single shared glance, their surprise was blown.
"Ohhhhhh..." Sakura dropped her chopsticks and sighed into her fingers, a wide grin splitting her face. "Oh, that's it! That's it, isn't it?" And a quiet "well, well," came from the silver-haired mentor.
Neji actually failed to scowl when he turned his gaze upon Naruto. "You're going to have a child?" The two were closer than ever, yet not even Naruto's position within the village stopped the tormenting. His cousin smiled bashfully when Tenten touched the Uzumaki woman's arm.
"Man, you had to go and blow it!" Naruto huffed to the blonde woman. "And I actually had the whole announcement ready this time! I was just about to make it, too! Why do you always have-"
"No way!" Ino practically squealed and stopped her friend's rant, "no fucking way! Naruto's going to be a daddy!"
"Hey! Watch your language around my kid, Ino!" Rokudaime pointed irritated chopsticks at his friend before finding himself rocked backward when pale arms encircled his neck, pink hair tickling his cheek. This was a bit of a shock. Sakura hadn't hugged him in...well... years; he was pretty sure. Maybe not since they were kids, he thought. Not at his coronation, not at his wedding-
"Naruto's going to be a daddy." The cherry blossom whispered into his hair. And when he heard it said like that, so full of awe and emotion, something melted inside his chest. A glance at his wife as she was wrapped into Tenten's arms and it really and honestly hit him, as though he was realizing it for the first time.
He was going to be a /daddy/!
"Faster, Kasumi," Hinata's voice was sweet but firm from the sidelines, "they won't go so easy on you in the exams."
Little grey eyes narrowed and tanned little arms lashed out furiously, trying with all of their might to knock down the boy before her. This girl had determination; something Hinata treasured in her students. The girl, Kasumi, was like her in many ways, and Hinata was beginning to think she knew why she had been assigned to mentor this group. Each child was full of potential, but it was buried deep. They were all three considered ordinary by academy standards. No great weaknesses, but no great strengths, either.
Hinata knew what that was like. She knew what it was to be underestimated. To be underestimated was a dangerous thing. It could crush the spirit if one had nothing to hold onto. And these kids... they could be magnificent! She'd give them something to strive for until they found their own paths.
"That's better! Watch his hips, they'll tell you where he's going to move next!"
"Lady Hinata!" The cry was frantic enough to pull her attention from the match before her. It was Kotetsu, she noticed. With a mumbled order to her students to continue without her Hinata met the man halfway.
"I have orders from the Lord Hokage," the man reported without further greeting, "you are to meet him at your father's estate."
Hinata blinked. "Now?"
"It's very urgent. Rokudaime is... I've never seen him so upset."
She rolled her eyes. What are they fighting about now? Though Hiashi was never rude or crass enough to speak out directly against the hokage's character, his constant innuendoes and back-handed compliments had driven Naruto's temper over the edge on more than one occasion.
"Tell them to settle this one on their own because I'm-"
"He's not angry, Lady Hinata," the relationship between the two men was well known - if never spoken of - among their small circle of friends and staff, "he's afraid. He had me lock the village down before retrieving you. To be honest I've never seen him so terrified."
Hinata's mouth worked open and closed a few times before she was finally able to speak. "Take the genin back to their dorms for me." And without a word to her pupils Hinata ran for the Hyuuga manor, only one thought swimming through her head over and over and over again.
Nearly Three and a Half Years Earlier...
"More flowers?" Naruto wrinkled his nose at the bouquet Tenten was placing upon the bedside table. "What's with you people? He's a boy! You don't get boys flowers!"
"You want to tell that to Ino? These are from her shop." Sniper eyes gazed critically at the arrangement, and she turned it slightly. Hinata nodded, confirming that they were indeed beautiful. "Besides, these are for mom, not baby. Neji has his present."
They were home again and Naruto couldn't have been happier. Though the hospital had fond memories for the couple - a first kiss; a first admission of love - it was also a public facility. That meant the public had been pouring into the building at all hours of the day, trying to glimpse the hokage's new son. Naruto wasn't a private man by nature, but he also knew that Hinata was damned tired and his baby didn't need to be gawked at like an attraction at a carnival. It had taken a lot of bitching, but Naruto had finally talked Tsunade into letting Hinata finish her recovery at home, provided a medic stayed in the mansion with her for no less than three days.
They hadn't even had to ask for her.
Sakura was only too happy to volunteer.
A sound from the bedroom's entrance caught his attention and Naruto nearly choke on his laughter. Tenten's husband stood in the doorway a fuzzy red stuffed fox in his hands. To see Neji holding onto anything so childish, a man whose composure and maturity had defined him throughout his life, was beyond funny in his friend's opinion.
"Well we had to find some way of keeping the poor child from being terrified of you." The Hyuuga snorted irritably, entering the room. "To think that my cousin's child was fathered by a mongrel..." Neji glanced at the hokage from the corner of his eye and Naruto, who didn't miss the mischief in that look, responded with a wolfish grin.
"Maybe we should step outside and see who's the better man, jounin."
"You're a father now, Naruto," Tenten scolded, "it's time for you to set a good example."
"It's beyond that time." Neji bent over his cousin and presented the tiny person in her arms with the toy, "he's been hokage for nearly a year and a half."
"Alright you two," Sakura was all business as she pushed Neji back so take Hinata's vitals once more, "you can leave your quibbling outside. No fighting in front of the baby. He'll have plenty of time to learn about sarcasm later."
Naruto waited for Sakura to finish her duty and then reached down to kiss his wife tenderly; an obvious ruse so that he could take the sleeping newborn from her arms. Hinata relinquished their son without argument and snuggled down into the blankets comfortably with a look of peaceful satisfaction.
The proud father carried the tiny bundle over to Neji, affording the boy's second-cousin a clear view of a little pink face. Though his eyes were closed Neji had no doubt they would be white like his mother's. That kekkei genkai was his blood right, after all.
"Do you think he'll have the Sharingan, too?" Tenten peered over her husband's shoulder and plucked at the edge of the blanket, pulling it back from the little face a bit more. Naruto's brow wrinkled.
"I don't know, but that's a good question. What do you think, Sakura?"
The kunoichi shrugged. "We don't know how the Fushi Tensei works. There's no knowing if it grants you the ability to use a kekkei genkai or if it imbeds the trait into your genetic make-up. I guess your son will be the one to reveal that mystery eventually."
"Hey! I have a mystery I want solved right now." Tenten announced playfully, avoiding the urge to give Naruto's arm a teasing punch. "What's his name?"
Hinata blushed from her bed, aware that in all of the excitement she had completely forgotten to tell their family their son's name. Naruto only chuckled though. He hadn't forgotten; he had just wanted them to ask.
"His name is Tadashi."
"Loyalty." Neji murmured. "That's fitting, given the circumstances of your lives. You did well, Naruto."
Rokudaime regarded his son thoughtfully. He had wanted his son's name to mean something, to/ really/ mean something. He wanted the boy to know why it was he had come to exist.
Naruto's friends had saved the man's life. Tadashi's mother had saved his life as well. Without their loyalty he'd never have survived, and Tadashi would never have been born.
The little face wrinkled up from within the blankets. Tiny facial expressions already at work; already giving little hints as to what sort of person this boy would become.
"I don't think I've ever done anything so right in my life." The blonde man whispered.
It was quiet; stone-still and quiet, with no sentries at the gates and no sounds from within the compound.
Naruto flexed his fingers, trying desperately to quell their trembling. He moved cautiously, listening for any signs of life. He knew his way around the Hyuuga compound by heart now, and he knew exactly where he had to go.
All the way to the back. Hiashi's house.
Broken timbers crunched under his feet. How had no one heard this? How had no one in Konoha heard the battle that had obviously taken place here?
What the hell was this village full of shinobi doing while his wife's family was under attack?
Irrational. He knew he was being completely irrational. The Hyuuga family's home was on the outskirts of the village, their wealth affording them ample space from their nearest neighbor. It made sense that no one might have heard.
Naruto nearly stumbled at the first broken body he encountered. One of the sentries, Naruto recognized him from countless times entering and leaving the property. The man had taken a kunai to the throat.
How could someone with the Byakugan take a frontal hit like that?
Naruto hurried on through the chaos. He absently wished that Neji and Tenten had not moved out as well. Those two would have been able to save...
No. He's fine! Shut the fuck up!
"Hiashi!" He couldn't hold back anymore. It was reckless to enter an unknown battlefield so openly, but then again his personal safety wasn't the hokage's priority at the moment. "Hiashi! Godammit, answer me! That's an order, Hyuuga!" Naruto had never pulled rank on his father-in-law before. But if there was ever a time...
"Naruto!" Hinata's voice called from behind him. From the sound of it she had found the sentry's body. "Kami, what happened?"
"Find your dad, Hinata. He's got to have Tadashi with him."
Don't you fucking let me down, Hiashi!
Hinata noticed the red swirling of her husband's eyes as he scanned the shadows. The Sharingan. She brought forth her inherited trait and peered through walls as they passed.
Her father's room was destroyed. She could see that before they even entered.
Hinata pushed passed the broken sliding door that lead to her father's quarters.
Inside was a mess of broken furniture, torn walls and
She hadn't noticed before, or maybe she hadn't/ wanted/ to notice. His body lay sprawled on the floor, mostly unmarked and yet unmoving. His eyes were closed, his hands displaying vivid purple welts along his palms.
How long had he fought before succumbing?
Beside the Hyuuga family head lay a well-loved stuffed fox; a spattering of blood upon its body; a little clump of soft blonde hair lodged in matted fuzz. Naruto groaned, too terrified to feel the rage that the kyuubi was offering him.
The promise they had left behind.
You evaded us once before to your credit. Yet you became careless. You developed weaknesses. A family, and a child that cannot protect himself. You have left yourself open to us.
The boy will live for now. But his future safety rests in his father's hands.
You know what we want; what we have always wanted.
Surrender it to us and the boy will be returned to your village with minimal damage. We will not allow him to go completely unharmed. Spilled blood provides the strongest promise of our seriousness, after all.
When you are ready for what lies ahead enter the forest and make your way east. We will find you there.
You may bring the others with you if you like, though it makes no difference. They will be left behind once we come for you.
If they try to follow us we will kill the boy.
If they try to rescue you we will kill the boy.
If they try to interfere when we come for you we will kill the boy.
Are you starting to understand?
We'll be waiting, vessel of the Kyuubi.'
Naruto's eyes filled.
"Hinata, I've got to go."
His pained whisper drew his wife from her shocked numbness. "You can't... we have to help father. We have to find Tadashi. You can't go!"
"I have to." He couldn't look at her. If he looked at her he may not be able to leave her. But if he didn't leave her... "Akatsuki has Tadashi. I've got to make the trade; the kyuubi for Tadashi." Hinata's face paled until it nearly matched her eyes.
Naruto pressed the letter into her hands. "Don't tell Tsunade just yet. She'll try to stop me. Get the Kusanagi-"
"-gather the team once I've left-"
"-I won't let you do this-"
"-put the village on alert and warn Gaara-"
"-you'll die, Naruto!"
He pulled her to his chest until she couldn't breathe. Like he had needed her to point out that lovely little fact! "He'll die if I don't do this, Hinata." The full force of what was happening finally hit her and she was wailing now, a fear like no other gripping her so tightly she didn't think she'd survive it.
"Don't go, Naruto! Not yet! There has to be a way! /There has to be/!" He was quiet for a moment.
"I can't wait long. They've warned me not to make them wait. But they also said I can take the team with me, just as far as the rendezvous point. Maybe while we're on the way we can think of something."
He held no hope that there would be any other way to save their son, but he knew that if he didn't give Hinata something to cling to she wouldn't be able to let him go. She couldn't choose between the two people who mattered most in her world.
So he would choose for her.
Was this what his father had felt twenty three years ago? The hurt of knowing he had to die so that his son could live. Had this pain gone through Yondaime like a knife as well?
Naruto bent and hefted his father-in-law onto his back. "Come on. We've got to get your father some help and get together as much of the team as possible. I want to be out of the village within the hour."
Four years ago he had craved adventure. Four years ago he was chomping at the bit to get out of his office and do something risky. He was envious of his friends, who could still go on missions and use the skills they had worked so hard to hone.
Four years ago he would have launched himself head-on into a situation like this; one that required the best of the best of Konoha's shinobi.
Four years ago he'd been such an idiot!
Yeah, I know. I said there would be no more sequels after "Promise". I said that was it; it was over. I said I was putting this story to bed. So I'm a liar. Big deal. I'm the best kind of liar. I'm the kind that drops unexpected presents on your lap! ^_^
You guys asked, and asked, and actually yelled at me a few times! So when this little ditty dropped itself in my brain I figured "why the hell not?" Now this one may not come as quickly as the others. I don't have the entire story mapped out in my head just yet. So if I take a bit longer please bear with me. (Plus do you have any idea how hard I'm gonna have to work if I want to surpass "Promise"???)
Also with this chapter I tried a different format for setting up the scene. I probably won't do much more time skipping after this, but it was something different I felt like trying this time.
You know my requirements. Feedback, please! I need it like air!
Yeah... you know that I love you guys!