Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto

Unbroken Bonds

by StarMadison 0 reviews

Tragedy strikes Konoha causing Aiko's family to be torn apart. Will what remains of her family be able to overcome this tragedy?

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst,Drama - Characters: Genma,Iruka - Warnings: [?] - Published: 2007-09-13 - Updated: 2007-09-14 - 5524 words - Complete

Was suppose to be a Snapshots chapter but it took on a life of its' own. It IS not part of the Snapshots/A New Beginning Universe. Completely separate. This fic drove me up a tree in the way none of my others ever have.

Haya, Aiko, Akiko and the summon cats are all mine. Kishi owns Naruto and co.

/Humans, as a whole, don't cherish what we have; until it is lost, we don't realize just how precious it really was. /- I have no idea if any well-known person said that so for now, I'm claiming it as my own quote.

Haya's favorite flowers: I selected them because everyone uses roses, orchids and the other well-known flowers.


Wind and snow whips around the solitary figure standing in front the monument dedicated to those who died giving their lives to their village. Pale, nearly colorless fingers caress the surface, sliding down until they reach a carved name then just lingers there for a long moment before sliding further down to next name on the stone. The fingers stay on that one longer then glide downwards to the third name, halting there for a time. Very slowly, after a long moment, those fingers move on to a fourth and final name. The long ankle length coat billows outwards as another blast of snowy wind catchs its' folds and sends it flapping. After touching the last name, the hand hangs limply at their side.

A sorrowful silence lingers in this place where so many ghosts roam. Finally moving as hands lift up to pull a mixed bouquet from under the coat and slowly slide down until kneeling. Hands stretch out and place the bouquet in front of the stone. Leaning forward, ever silent, the cloaked person presses their forehead to the cold surface, tears sliding down to land on the flowers. Whispering, a voice emerges from the covering clothing.

"I'm so so sorry...I sent you all to your deaths. /Why/ did you name me your successor? Then tell me - cheerfully! - that you were going on a mission. One last mission. A suicide one. You never got to see the looks on their faces when they found out. None of them really got over your death, you know, especially our parents. No one did. You were so loved but never knew that, did you? Was it his death that finally broke you?" Breaking down, the voice falls silent as the tears come down harder then before. The wind picks up, whipping snow around the kneeling person, as the low and heavy clouds release their wintry burden. Head coming up and eyes squinted against the onslaught as a laugh edged in hysteria. Feeling as if the world around them is agreeing and paying homage to the latest in a series of funerals.

"WHY DID YOU ALL DIE! WHY! I NEEDED YOU!" Screams up at the heavens demanding answers that won't come as the snow floating down on the hysterical figure, covering them completely. "..Why....?" Dropping heavily, hands digging into the wet earth, the tears mingle with the rain.


"Go away."

"Nope. You're coming back with me."

"I said go away, Genma."

"Not without you, chibi."

"Don't call me that."

"Hai hai." Genma drags her to her feet and cups her chin in his hand firmly, forcing her to look up at him. "First off, I made several promises. To your parents and your brother. That I would watch over you and make sure you didn't do anything stupid. Standing outside unprotected in a snowstorm in the middle of winter is an act of stupidity. Now we are going back to my place and get you warmed up. Then we're going to have a nice little chat. Raidou is probably still looking for you too."

"How did you know I'd be here?"

"Where else would you be?"

Aiko stays quiet as she allows the older man to turn her away from the memorial, refusing to look at it as he forms the handseals for the transportation jutsu and both vanish in a puff of smoke. She presses her face into his shoulder as they reappear in the entryway of an apartment. Brisk hands peel her sodden coat off, tossing it to the floor before he makes quick work of their sandels then urges her across the living room to the bathroom.

"Strip and get under some hot water. I'll bring you some clothing and a towel."

Moving on autopilot, she does as he commanded and removes her clothing, dropping it all into a soggy pile on the floor. Blindly, she reaches out to turn on the shower and steps in under the hot water. Her eyes stare unseeing upwards as the water pounds down on her body, the heat of it turning her pale skin red. Aiko shivers suddenly as tears drip down her face and she lowers her head causing her long silver hair to form a curtain, shielding her from view.


Silence is his only response as she shakes under the falling water from her unending grief. A sigh comes from the other side of the shower curtain then a hand reaches in to twist the knobs, cutting off the flow; the curtain is pushed backwards, Genma standing there with a towel and steps into the tub, wrapping it around the young woman.

"C'mon, let's get you dried off and in some warm clothing." He quickly rubs the towel over her then forces her unresisting body into the clothing. Frowning, he stares at her as the clothing hangs on her slender frame, making her look half her age and shakes his head. "I'm going to have to send Raidou to your place for something. This is going to fall off you before too long." Ignoring the wet clothing and towel on the floor, he wraps an arm around her shoulders, guiding her out of the bathroom and back up the hall to the living room. Lightly pushing her down onto the couch, he drapes a blanket over her and heads for the kitchen; the sound of a door opening causes him to pause and glance over his shoulder. "Raidou?"

"Hai. Did you..." The scarred man's voice trails off as he catches sight of Aiko, his eyes flickering to his lover, his eyes asking a silent question.

A shake of the senbon-addict's head is his reply then Genma motions for him to follow as he resumes his path. Stopping by the sink, he picks up the teapot and fills it with water. Feeling his lover's gaze on his back as he lowers the pot onto the stove and turns it on. "She's not getting better. It's been almost a year and she's just getting worse. If something doesn't change soon, we're going to lose her. We can't afford that. Not so soon after losing Naruto, Haya and Kakashi. Konoha can't afford it. Losing two Hokages barely a year apart will send out a message we're weak."

"We've tried everything, Genma. There's nothing left for us to do. She doesn't want our help."

"Damnit! There has to be a way to reach her. She was at the Memorial in the middle of a fucking blizzard. Without any protection beyond that coat of her's." Genma snatchs up the pot and pours the heated water into three mugs then goes to slam it on the stove when a hand latches into his wrist. He turns his head to stare at his partner.

"Calm down." Raidou's voice is quiet as he pries his lover's fingers loose and carefully places the teapot down and wraps his arms around the other man. "Getting upset won't solve a thing, love. She needs us right now. Like we need her. We each others' last links to them. Perhaps we should see if Gai would be willing to talk with her. Or Sakura."

Eyes close as he forces his body to relax, sagging against the other man. He rests his chin on his shoulder, eyes opening to stare at the opposite wall as his arms come up to wrap around Raidou. "Gai isn't doing well himself. Kakashi was one of his closest friends but he might do more harm then good to Aiko. Sakura buried herself in her work. I can't remember the last time I saw her. If Sasuke or Iruka was here, things would be different. Aiko wouldn't be killing herself like this."

"Sasuke's death was the start of this whole thing." Raidou runs a hand over Genma's hair, pressing a kiss against his neck and pulls away. "I'll get the tea, you go make sure Aiko hasn't run off."

"Hai." Letting his arms drop, he turns and scuffled out of the kitchen, shoulders slightly drooped. Watching him walk away, Raidou wonders, not for the first time, how badly the deaths of their friends are effecting Genma. With a heavy sigh, his attention shifts to the mugs and he places two scoops of powdered green tea in each, whisking it into a foamy froth. Placing them on a tray, he heads for the living room and pauses in the doorway, sad eyes taking in on the scene before him.

Brown eyes flicker up towards Raidou, Genma holding onto their normally strong-willed leader, his hand running through her damp hair. "Chibi, this has to stop. They wouldn't want you to follow them."

Aiko slams her fists into her uncle's chest, knocking him backwards and leaps to her feet. "How in the hell do you know that?! Did they come and tell you, Uncle Genma! ANSWER ME!" She shrieks, anger and tears mingling on her face; something breaking deep inside bringing all her emotions out. "My parents are dead, Sasuke is dead, my brother is dead! And my other father is locked up in the hospital's mental ward because his mind snapped /when his entire world collapsed around him!"/ Her voice rises steadily until she's shouting, hands balled up. "He doesn't even recognize me. Whenever I go to visit him, he stares blankly and asks who I am! Me! His own daughter! No matter how often I go, it's always the same!" Red-rimmed brown eyes lock onto her uncles, body trembling and her voice cracks. "I want my family back. I'd give up anything to have them back. But I'm not so crazy to perform a sacrificial jutsu to do it. It's not fair to them and not fair to the people whose bodies would be used. I just want them /back./"

"Aiko, you have us." Raidou's gentle voice washes over them in a soothing wave. "We only have each other now. Lean on us for support until you can stand on your own again. Don't shut us out. What happened hurt us too. Haya, Kakashi and Iruka were our friends. Your brother and you the closest we'd come to having children of our own. We were and still are family. Even though we lost your parents, Naruto and Sasuke." His large hand cups her tear-streaked cheek lightly, eyes intent on her face. "Genma and I will be your strength until you find your's. The pain is still fresh but you have to stop focusing on what you lost and see what you still have, little one. Genma and I. Kotetsu, Izumo, Gai, Kurenai and Sakura. Countless others. Your parents' summons. Suma would agree if you bothered to summon her. You aren't the only one who lost them. Everyone did." Pats her cheek gently and his hand drops to cup the back of her neck. "A burden shared is a burden halved. Let people in, little one, don't bottle it up anymore. Even Jiraiya-sama has been hanging around, waiting for you to open up."

Mutely, she stares at her godfather; licking her lips she whispers softly, a ghost of her usual self racing across her face. "That's the longest speech I ever heard you give, Uncle Raidou." Wrapping her arms around him, she presses her face into his shirt and releases a muffled sob. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I thought...maybe if I cut myself off from everyone now then if -when- they became lost to me, it wouldn't hurt so much. How did Dad manage to overcome losing everyone he loved to risk it again?"

"He had your mother there for him when he needed someone to show him that it wasn't futile to keep loving. She was the one who introduced him to Iruka, did you know? Haya knew him from her Academy days. Bonds form in the strangest places, little one. One line joins with another and eventually everything is interconnected. Your mother dragged Iruka into our group, who in turn knew Genma from working at the missions desk. Genma and I were friends with Kakashi. An unbroken circle formed and we became a family." Tapping his fingers against her temple, Raidou shakes his head absently. "Not a family joined together by blood, but because we choose one another. Don't belittle your parents and brother's sacrifice, Aiko. After Sasuke died, his heart wasn't in living anymore. Your parents didn't want to die nor expected to when they went on that mission. Naruto's death hurt but they had each other, you and their friends to live for."

"Rai's right, chibi. Kakashi and Haya would have fought tooth and nail to come home alive. They loved you and Iruka far too much to not return." Approaching them, Genma drops a hand on top of her head, messing her hair up. "Cherish your memories of them. Haya will come back to kick your ass if you keep this behavior up much longer. Your mother would be disappointed to find out all you did was mourn. Don't you believe that's a better memorial for them, keeping their memory alive by living yourself? Chibi, you're the daughter of Konoha's two strongest ninjas. You're Konoha's Hokage. Live, if not for yourself and your friends then live for Konoha.

Hazel eyes rise to meet Genma's brown and a long moment of silence fills the space between them. Slowly, she nods once. "I can try. That's..all I can promise, Uncle Genma."

"That's enough for me, chibi. None of us expect you to get over it immediately. You were starting to worry me with your walking dead impersonation."


"Right. Dinner." Ducking into the kitchen, Genma escapes his lover's wrath and chuckles to himself, digging in the fridge to locate something to prepare for dinner.

Raidou eyes his niece and the clothing hanging on her thin frame. "Nice outfit, little one." His smile is amused. "Stay here while I dump your clothing in the dryer."

Resorting to childish behavior she long outgrew, Aiko sticks her tongue out at her uncle. "I hate when you call me that." Shadows still lurk in her eyes but they aren't as deep. Summoning up a weak smile for him, she drops down on the couch while yanking the sweats back up and curls against the arm of the couch. Her thoughts shift to what her uncles told her, turning it over in her head carefully. 'They're right. As much as I hate to admit it. Mourning and missing them is one thing but to put my entire life on hold and wanting to die is another thing. I...have too many responsibilities here. Too many people who are still alive that love me and would be hurt if I kept this up. Uncle Genma was right, and I don't think he knew I heard him, not only is it not fair to them and everyone else, Konoha can't stand to lose her Hokage. Not so soon after Naruto's death. Konoha has to look strong, no matter what. I've been selfish. Almost an entire year I mourned. Genma was right about that too, Mom would come kick my ass if she could. She always hated when people couldn't see past their own pain and take notice of what they still had. What did she use to say...grief has a part in everything but when it blinds you to what is around you, that's when it is no longer grief but obsession. She should know. Her entire clan was wiped out during the Kyuubi attack and her own nephew, her sister's son, was the vessel in which it was sealed. It would have been so easy for her to hate him like the rest of the village use to. Yet she took him in and raised him as her own. Dad overcame losing his loved ones. Papa did too. I can't dishonor them any longer. It'll be hard but I'm not alone." Wrapping her arms around her knees, she drops her chin on them and stares blankly at the opposite wall, lost in thought and doesn't notice her uncles watching her. 'I'll always miss them. But I have twenty-three years worth of memories.'

"Raidou?" Her voice surprises the men, eyes still locked on the wall and the many pictures covering it.


"I'll be back. There's something I have to do." Rising to her feet, she vanishes down the hallway to fetch some needed items. She locates a belt, securing her sweatpants' waistband and pulls a coat from the closet of her uncles' bedroom, slipping into it then finds a pair of boots. Stuffing her feet into the oversized footwear, she carefully moves back up the hallway. Ignoring their concerned gazes for a moment, she zips the coat up and feels a bit stupid wearing their clothing like this.


"I'll be back."


Cutting him off, she finally looks at them and tiredly smiles. "I need to say goodbye." Her eyes stay locked on Genma's, knowing instinctively that he will understand what she means. At his nod, she smiles again then vanishes in a puff of smoke.

"Genma! You're just letting her go outside like that?"

"It's something she needs to do alone. It's something she has to do herself, love, it's important. And needed. She'll be back." Sounding confident, he glances at the other man and heads back into the kitchen to check on the food. "Letting go isn't easy. For anyone." His attention shifts to the vegetables, slicing them into neat pieces, senbon bouncing with each word. "She's taking that important step to let go of the pain in order to start living her life again. Chibi has been running away from everything for a year now. The fog of grief is lifting and soon she'll be her old self again. Mostly."

A sigh comes from Raidou then the whispered, "I hope you're right."

"I am."

At the Memorial

Snow crunches under her booted feet and slowly, Aiko sinks down onto her knees. Reaching out, she brushes the snow off the flowers then stares unseeing at the large stone for a moment. Exhaling, she shakes her head. "I have to go through with this. They'd understand and wouldn't want me to die because of them." Pressing her ungloved hand to the chilly surface, she traces the names of her decreased family. "I still wish you were here, with me, but you aren't. No amount of wishing will ever return you guys. I need to let go. This is killing me, slowly. I wish I could talk to you all one last time. To tell you just how much I love you and miss you and goodbye. That's what hurt the most. I didn't get to say those words. Wasn't allowed to hear you say them in return. One last time. That's all I /really/ wanted. I'm going to. I love you, Mama, Dad, Naruto. So much. Everyday, I miss you terribly." Her voice trails off. She rises to her feet, pausing to brush the snow off her lower legs then turns to go. Her next words float backwards as a gust of wind catchs them.

"Goodbye. I love you."

Six months later

Iruka stares out of the window in the bedroom he use to share with his lovers, his body twisted comfortably on the windowseat they installed years ago. Suma sprawled across his lap as his hand runs up and down her back. Since Aiko brought sprung him from the mental ward, his memory returning in bits and pieces. His entire life coming back to him and he misses his husband and wife terribly. "Suma?"


"When....Kakashi and Haya...died, was it fast?" Hesitates on asking but the need to know overwhelming. His hand tightens on her fur, waiting for her answer.

Suma idly considers lying to her friend and discards the very thought, knowing he needs to hear the truth. Shifting her body, she faces him, green eyes sad. "I wish I could say no, they didn't. It wasn't as swift as I would have liked it to be. Kakashi drained his chakra using the Sharingan and chidori leaving Haya to defend them both. Rairu, Ukyou and I were there to give support. So was three of Kakashi's ninkins. It wasn't enough. We were seriously outnumbered. Seven against thirty-five. Five to one. Haya leapt in front of Kakashi, taking a dozen poisoned kunai meant for him. Before she collapsed, she managed to fire off one last jutsu that wiped out a dozen of the enemy. There was eighteen left and six very enraged animals. We made quick work of them after Haya fell. She was still clinging to consciousness somehow. Rairu and I got her onto Ukyou's back and Bull carried Kakashi." A shudder runs through her body, remembering her mistress's and Kakashi's last moments. "There was nothing we could do. Haya just....drifted away. The poison, whatever it was, ate her up from the inside. Kakashi would have survived if there had been a medic-nin nearby. Or maybe not. His stomach was sliced open."

Bowing his head, he cries for his lovers -and himself- having hoped their deaths had been swift and they didn't have time to feel pain. A furry nose pressing against his cheek startles him and lifts his head, staring at Suma.

"Don't. You cried your tears for them already, Iruka. You're finally recovering from their loss. It's been a year and half. If you were going to follow them, you should have done so at the very beginning. Everyone misses them still. Aiko almost /died/ because of her sadness. You became lost in your own mind for over a year. Aiko reached out to you, do you even remember? She needed you but you weren't there for her. Be grateful Raidou and Genma stepped up. Somehow, those two talked sense into the girl. She started to move on and stopped locking herself away from people." Green eyes narrowed, fur bristling, Suma snaps at the man angrily.

"That's the first time you didn't attach sensei to my name."

"......" Disbelief writes itself on her face. Tilting her head to the side, she narrows her eyes and stares at him hard. "And you focus on that?!"

"No." Rubs her ears, he shakes his head thoughtfully. "I guess what I did was something I felt like I had to in order to cope with losing Naruto, Kakashi and Haya. Naruto died barely three months before Haya and Kakashi. Konoha was still reeling from losing him then two of our strongest jounins get slaughtered in what was meant to be a recon mission." A faraway expression fills his face, head tilting backwards to rest on the wall behind him. "They were the loves of my life, Suma, and will always be. I'll be with them when my time comes but not before. Still needed here. Aiko, Genma, Raidou and the rest of my friends. My students." Pauses for a moment. "Future students. When Aiko finally allows me to go back to teaching.'

"Are you able to teach?"

"Hope so. Sitting around the house all day is quickly becoming boring. Until the flashbacks and my zoning episodes cease, I understand why Aiko won't allow me back into a classroom. Right now, I'm a danger to people. If I zoned out while teaching the kids how to throw weapons, someone might die because I wasn't all the way there to stop it." His fingers seek out the chain hanging around his neck, heavy from two rings being held suspended by it. His own wedding band holding a place of honor on his left hand again and has since he came home. Pulling the chain free from his neck, he twists the two titanium rings around the thick chain. Lifting them, he presses a kiss to both, eyes partially shut as he rests his head on the wall behind him. Remembering all the times he and his lovers watched the sunrise or sunset from this very spot.

Suma watches the man play with the dull looking rings, sorrow visible in her green eyes. Her ears flatten as she resettles herself in his lap, missing her mistress -and even that idiot known as Kakashi- terribly. Her eyes never stray from Iruka's hands, remembering the argument they had over those very rings he is touching so tenderly.


Suma's ears twitch, sprawled under the kitchen table, catching the sun's rays and enjoying the warmth spreading through her body but the raised voices above her makes her want to claw someone's eyes out.

"What do you mean, you think two rings a person is a good idea? We're not trying to open a jewelry store, Kakashi!" Iruka's voice rises in disbelief. "You and Haya are field nins. As in you are constantly getting your asses shot at by enemy jutsus! Rings are shiny. Two rings will increase the chance of someone catching sight of the sun reflecting off the metal!"

Pouting under his mask, Kakashi tries to reason with his stubborn lover. "It won't be that bad. We can wear them on chains around our necks. They'd be hidden from view by our clothing."

"No! One ring for each of us. Wedding bands aren't cheap and there's a chance you will be having to replace them often. That's money we could be saving or using for other things."

Haya leans forward, arms resting on the table and grins at the two men in her life. "Oh carry on please. I'm enjoying the show." Her comment catchs them both by surprise and as one, they turn and stare at her. "I mean it, carry on. This is starting to get good."

"What's your opinion on this?"

Iruka is clearly hopeful that she will side with him on this issue of their upcoming wedding. Her eyes dart to Kakashi who looks downtrodden and sighs, shifting in her seat. "Are you both going to make everything into a fight? This is suppose to be about all three of us and all you two are doing is picking arguments over every detail, no matter how minor. White or cream tablecloths. Sunflowers or orchids. Four or five tiers on the cake. Two or three cakes. Indoors or outside. The only thing I haven't heard anything about is the clothing! Yet."


"Maaa, you're exaggerating, love."

"Me? I'm exaggerating?" Her voice drops, becoming softer and taking on a hard edge. "I'm not the one turning our wedding into a circus. You're driving me insane with how neither of you can decide on anything without breaking out into an argument! I'm starting to wonder if this is even a good idea." Haya knocks the chair backwards and scowls at her lovers. "Have a blast. Enjoy your argument because I for one won't be here to listen to it. I'm going to stay with Genma and Raidou." Spinning, she stalks out of the room. A moment later, the front door slams shut and she is leaping across rooftops, heading for their friends' place.

"Well, that was intelligent. I applaud you both in that smooth display of human intelligence." Suma's dry voice filters upwards to reach Kakashi and Iruka's ears. "Do you boys have anymore bright ideas? Keep it up and Haya is going to kick you out." Amusement lurking in that dry and sarcastic voice.

"Shut up, Suma. You aren't helping." Iruka's voice gets closer as he rights the chair Haya had been sitting in and drops down into it himself. "We screwed up."

"Sorry, that isn't part of my contract, Iruka-sensei. I can no more shut up expressing my opinion then Kakashi can stop being a lazy, perverted bastard." She purrs the words, sounding even more amused then she did a moment ago. Climbing to her feet, she nimbly leaps up onto the table, settling herself comfortably. Ignoring Kakashi's glare, she fixes her attention to Iruka. "I, however, do have a suggestion about those rings."

Growling under his voice, Kakashi snaps at Haya's first summon. "And that would be, what, oh mistress of fleas?"

"Keep talking like that and I won't say a word, idiot, and you'll still be on Haya's bad side."

"Kakashi, please." Anguished brown eyes land on a single blue, silently begging for him to stop.

"Hmph. As I was saying. Instead of two rings each, you could get one ring that has a second ring built into it. A double ring, if you will. Very popular in some countries. I would also suggest having them made out of titanium. Incredibly durable. Enough to withstand even Kakashi. Another plus is that the metal can be made to look dull and not reflect very well, something that will put your mind at ease, Iruka-sensei."

Iruka blinks and stares at Kakashi, they silent as Suma's words sink in. "I think that's a good idea."

"Let's talk to Haya when she comes back and see what she thinks." Sounding unusually subdued, Kakashi doesn't offer an opinion of his own. His visible eye refusing to meet Iruka's increasingly confused ones.


"We've both been an ass about this. I wanted everything to be perfect. For all of us. This is the only wedding we're going to have. In my desire to control all the details, I was alienating you and Haya. More her then you. You've fought back while Haya ignored the entire issue. We never asked her opinion for a single thing. It's her wedding too."

A smile blooms on Iruka's face and he laughs. "Suma is right, you're an idiot but you are our idiot, love. Haya told me that she really doesn't mind that she hasn't been asked. As long as we don't try to pick out her outfit, she is happy to let us plan the rest. The wedding is important to her but having us in her life is even more important." Iruka quickly moves to Kakashi's side and kneels next to him. "From now on, let's compromise. Find things we all like instead of just you and I."

"Boys." She waits until they look at her and licks idly at her paw, claws spread. "A few more suggestions. Let Haya select the main wedding cake and you each get your own groom's cake. That way all of you have your favorites. For the flowers, pick the one you like best. One per person. Haya's favorite flowers are statices. An outdoor wedding would be perferred. That's common sense considering how many people will be showing up for it. Hold it at the lake. There's enough space and the house will be close enough for people to use the bathroom here." With that, she struts to the window and leaps through it.

"We have a lot to go over and change and quickly. There's only six weeks left." Iruka presses his lips to Kakashi's covered mouth, moving backwards and rises to his feet. Holding his hand out, he tugs his beloved to his feet. "Get a move on, love, you go visit the caterer and bakery. Change the cakes and order an extra. You know what Haya and I like. I'm going to see the florist and the jeweler." Smiling at the taller man, he exits their house before Kakashi can stop him.

Staring at where Iruka had been standing. Pulling a face until his mask, he vanishes in a puff of smoke to carry out the orders his chuunin lover gave him.

-End Flashback-

Feeling warm, Iruka opens his eyes, staring out of the window as he drowsily recalls the wonderful memory of his wedding day. Hand stroking the solid, purring weight on his lap, he smiles and watches the sun drift below the large lake not far from the house. 'My loves, I hope wherever you are, you're happy. Naruto, too. I'll rejoin you when it's time. Right now, our daughter needs me. Our friends want me here. Our family. I love you both.'

Aiko watches her father from the doorway, a smile on her face. Deeply grateful he recovered even though not even Akiko was positive he would. Backing away, she leaves him alone and goes back downstairs to start their dinner. Her thoughts shift to her parents and brother. 'I promise all of you that I'll watch over him. Like he watches over me. We'll be okay."
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