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She thought about the wedding her parents had planned for her. It had been intended to be extremely elaborate and her mother had spent years preparing everything. Less than what a clan or noble house could have afforded, but very high end for a merchant household. A week-long event that would have included a parade through the streets and at least three changes of clothing per day.

She knew without needing to even think of asking that Kakashi-sama would hate such an event. And yet, the marriage of a Hokage was a public event. It had to be. 

The Yondaime's marriage had been done without public fanfare and Naoki wondered how much of a bad omen had that been.

There had been lasting repercussions from the lack of public acknowledgement. 

She spent a long afternoon with Shikhako-san contemplating options. It had been too cold really for laying out in a field, but she brought blankets with her and Shikhako-san had gone along with it, without comment. Shikhako-san's presence had a way of relaxing her own mind to start making connections she wouldn't otherwise think of. 

Weddings were such a big deal that it was easy for them to become too big to even think about in any reasonable fashion. But there with the infinite sky above her, it was easier to realize what was and was not necessary. Shikhako-san had said that “the Nara way is to let the enemy do the heavy lifting. They mostly volunteer, if you give them the opportunity to come to you.”

It was true: Nara didn’t tend to attack first, at least in the exhibition matches Naoki had watched. Rumor had it that when Nara did start an offensive, it was in the dead of night and with overwhelming force. Nara were slow until they weren’t.

But it was something to think about: not deadly assassinations but allowing others to carry the weight of the event.

The next day, she went to the main Konoha temple.

She had burned incense at this temple, in honor of her parents and her first fiancé, once a week for sixteen years. Even as her reputation rose and fell, as eyes passed over her or followed her avidly, she had come here, without fuss and rarely much interaction. This day, she made her way to one of the priests and asked them, in public, to arrange for the head priest to augur the best date and time for her wedding to be held at this very temple.

Most clan weddings happened on clan grounds, but neither Uchiha-sama nor Hatake-sama would appreciate that encroachment by audience members and such an event would make security issues a major concern. The main temple was a public space, even for reserved events. Temple security was a matter of village security. The audience would include by default anyone who desired to show up, excluding none. 

The main priest had been surprised but pleased by her request. It was an honor and a recognition of the Temple that they didn’t often get. The augry, Naoki was unsurprised to find, identified a perfect day and time to fit with the priests' schedules. 

The rumors were already spreading by the time she left to speak with Kobayashi Risu, her old boss at the tea house. Naoki would not be arranging catering, but there were bound be to be crowds and if Risu-san arranged a stall for that morning, the teahouse would benefit. Her old boss nodded her understanding and said she would let all the other small food vendors know, especially those from Naoki’s family’s old neighborhood.

When she saw Team 7 that evening, she let them know the time and date of the wedding.

Uzumaki-san burst out with, “You’re the fourth person to tell us!”

Haruno-san winced.

Uchiha-sama shrugged his agreement, but then said, “My mother had a favorite seamstress. I asked her to make your wedding robes. Since you’ll be marrying as a daughter of the Uchiha.”

“Thank you, Uchiha-sama.” The thanks was both for the robes and for knowing to order the robes. She hadn’t been sure how to bring up the question with him: whether to wear new robes, or find old robes among the vast quantity of Uchicha clothing that stayed in storage.

Haruno-san said, “I’ll tell Kakashi-sensei that he needs to order his own new robes. Proper Hatake clan robes!”

Haruno-san looked a bit overly fervent about the idea, but Naoki decided that Kakashi-sama could deal with it. Haruno-san was his student after all. So she just bowed her appreciation.

The wedding, when it finally happened was large but not elaborate. It was held in the morning at the main village temple. The bride was escorted by the three genin shinobi of Team 7, one of whom was her adopted father, a boy who was still waiting on his final growth spurt to reach adult height. The groom was escorted by the Godaime, Konoha’s Sublime Green Beast of Prey (a shinobi who actually introduced himself as such), and Tenzo.

The invited audience consisted of a genin Nara, a chunin school teacher, two retired shinobi, eight civilian residents of the Uchiha clan grounds, and eight ninken.

The uninvited audience contained every single clan head, every Jounin who wasn’t currently assigned on an away-mission, and every other shinobi and civilian who could squeeze their way into the temple to witness. None of them were officially invited, but it was a public temple and since none of party members had made any attempt to keep the time or place a secret most residents of the village had, correctly, identified it as an unofficial invitation to witness a historic event.

Outside the temple had a fair-like atmosphere with stalls from dozens of food vendors congregated to sell their wares to the gathered crowd.

After the vows were said and the prayers made, the Hatake clan head and the new Hatake matriarch returned to the Hatake Clan Compound to finally move in.

Uchiha-sama had given her a storage scroll to contain her personal goods but she didn’t have much that was actually her own. She didn’t need much, but she wished she had more if only to stretch the time of putting her belongings away. It was done quickly, though, and then she went out to familiarize herself with the kitchen.

That first night at the Hatake Compound was unbelievably awkward. 

She had been there many times, once a week for months, but this was the first time she cooked dinner for herself and her husband in their kitchen. 

They'd had meals here before, but Kakashi-sama had always ordered the food in to be delivered. This time she cooked. 

After dinner, the ninken broke the awkwardness of the descending twilight by demanding brushing. She gave them all a thorough brushing but when she glanced at Kakashi-sama, he merely shook his head. He didn't want to be touched. 

"I played Sasuke-kun to sleep every night for the first six months I lived at the Uchiha compound. I sat in his doorway so he could see where I was. I shut his door only after he was asleep and I never stepped into his room. Would you like me to play you to sleep as well? With or without the door open."

"I," Kakashi-sama looked uncertain, then, "yes. With the door open." 

"Okay." She had bought herself a new lap harp for just these types of occasions and she took her time getting it out and preparing it so that he had plenty of time to get into bed. 

He was covered in blankets but also had a different facemask on. 

She made herself comfortable in the doorway, so he could watch her in profile as she played. 

She had learned more lullabies since the first time she had played for Sasuke-kun, but it had been years and she had lost some of her knack for playing for hours on end. By the second hour, her hands were cramping and Kakashi-sama's eye still glittered, aware and awake. When she finally stopped to massage her wrists a bit, he spoke softly and apologetically. "You should go to sleep." 

She sighed but nodded her acceptance. She kept her own voice low, little more than a whisper, "Would you like me to keep my door open or closed?" 

"Will it bother you if I open it to check on you in the night?" It was a kindness to ask: he could undoubtedly sneak into the rooms of sleeping civilians with ease and no one the wiser unless it ended with someone finding a body later. But this wasn't an assassination, this was checking on his wife. 

She shook her head. "You won't bother me. I may be a bit restless due to the new space, but I sleep well and return to sleep easily. I'll see you in the morning." 

"I'm sorry." 

She shook her head. "I'm sorry I can't soothe you to sleep, but it is not a matter of fault, yours or mine. There is nothing to apologize for." 

"I'll see you in the morning." 

"Good night." 

She went to bed in her own room down the hall and it was unnerving to go to sleep in a new bed, in a new compound in a new section of the village with sounds she didn't expect, with her new husband in a separate room where she knew he was present but couldn't see or hear him. But it had been a long day. She slept well and woke up with the sun peaking into her room. 

She was making breakfast when Kakashi-sama wandered in to the kitchen. She paused to smile at him, with practiced casualness.

As awkward as it was for her to be in a new place with a new companion, it had to be even more difficult for him, returning to his childhood home and being a shinobi with a new person in his space.

“I should,” he waved at his face before starting to tug at his mask. She put her hand over his to stop him and he flinched back. It was quickly hidden, but it was a flinch and she removed her hand immediately.

“I know I rely a lot on what is proper, what is the known correct action in any given situation, but this is not. In this situation, there is no ‘should’.”

“A woman should know her own husband’s face.” There was a thread of self-loathing in his voice that she disliked immensely.

She shook her head. “A woman should support her husband and make him comfortable.”

He stood, uncertain.

She offered him a smile and then said, “What do you know of Aburame mating behaviors?”

He boggled a bit at that distraction. “I have never given them any thought and now that you’ve mentioned it, I think I’ll go back to not giving it any thought at all.” Then, highly reluctantly, he added, “… what do you know?”

“Nothing. I don’t give it too much thought either despite my understanding that individual Aburame are each essentially a hive and the hives breed and the shinobi breed, and the hives are in the shinobi… But what they do or don’t do with others is beyond my purview.”

He continued to look boggled.

“We are a clan of two, the Hatake clan. And no one in all the world has the right to tell us what we should or shouldn’t do in our relationship with one another.”

“You said you were ambivalent.” Kakashi-sama said abruptly.

Naoki really hoped he would say more because she couldn’t recall what he was referring to. She had spoken to him of hundreds of things, and had been ambivalent about many of them.

After a moment, he did specify, “about physical intimacy.”

“Ah.”

“Someone said, since the pillow book, that you would have high expectations. I’m capable. If you need something physical, I can.” His words were disjointed and awkward and she wondered how many people had teased him about their wedding night.

She’d had her own fears that maybe she had read him wrong, that maybe he would want more from her than she wanted to give. Concerns that the people with their sly winks and knowing smiles might actually know more than her.

But when it came down to it, she had to settle her mind into calmness and trust her own lived experience and trust in Kakashi-sama’s honesty.

“I gave you the pillow book because it acknowledged your habit of reading porn in public, which I will not act to change, and it gave you political knowledge, which I hope will support your future position. I want nothing described in that book.”

He visibly relaxed but still said, “Gai said.”

She waited him out when he stopped.

“Gai said that a husband’s mission was to satisfy his wife in all ways. He was sure that I would do so.” He grimaced a bit. “With youthful vigor.”

Naoki shook her head. “What happens between a husband and wife is between them. In that regard alone, I am the only person in all the world who can tell you what you cannot do, and there is no one in the whole world, not even I, who can tell you what you must do.” She paused for effect and then stated, “And the reverse is true as well.”

His glance sharped. “People have been saying the same kind of things to you too, haven’t they? About your… duty… to me.”

She nodded.

“You know I don’t want…”

“They can think whatever they want. How we live our life is our decision.”

“I do like it when you brush my hair.”

“I like brushing your hair.”

“Is there anything you like? Do you like getting your hair brushed?”

“I used to go to a massage parlor every few months, before moving into the Uchiha Compound. Get my hands and feet and sometimes my back rubbed. It was nice, and it came with no expectations of anything else.”

“I can give massages.”

“I don’t want to receive anything from you that makes you unhappy to give me.”

“Trading massages is actually pretty common in Anbu, to make sure we stay in top shape.”

As it turned out, Kakashi was very good at giving massages. That night Kakashi-san gave her a massage and the ninken only complained a little bit about not getting brushed, because she was way too relaxed afterwards to do much more than wander her way to bed and fall asleep.

The evenings were more comfortable after that. Most evenings, they simply shared space, chatting about their days, lounging with the the ninken.

During the days, Kakashi-sama went to the Hokage tower, while Naoki stayed at the Hatake Compound. For the first three weeks, she mostly focused on reviewing all the documents in the main house office.

Kakashi-sama escorted her to the bank once, where she introduced him to Jinnouchi-san and he introduced her as the Hatake clan member in charge of clan finances. After that, he left all his personal financial matters in her hands. It was not nearly as much money as the Uchiha Clan finances, but it was still enough that it required attention after decades of benign neglect.

Kakashi-sama had been supremely disinterested in the general clan records and gave her free range to do whatever she wanted with those records, up to and including “set them all on fire, if you want to." 

She gave him a quelling look at that but he just smiled back at her. 

Instead of setting the on fire, she reviewed it all, learning the Hatake family history, genealogy, and contacts to whom she could potentially reach out and introduce herself. 

The records were all at least twenty years old, although at her request Kakashi-sama had also rather sheepishly given her a couple of boxes that consisted of all of the personal documents he'd had in his apartment, accumulated over the course of his adult life.  

It was honestly somewhat amusing to sort through them.

Iruka-san also looked half-amused, half-annoyed, when she made her way to the Shinobi mission office to submit some of Kakashi-sama’s old, forgotten mission reports. 

She updated the records and started new journals, filing in the prior decades as best she could. She also kept her pattern of going out into the village at least once every other day to prevent even a hint of her hiding away.

It was helpful that she had a reason for leaving the Hatake compound. As the Hatake matriarch, she needed to acquire more clothing, appropriate to her new station in life.

She went to fabric stores and seamstresses to arrange her new wardrobe and stretched the process out as much as was reasonable because it was easier to ignore the whispers and looks when she had a goal.

She was certainly used to being a subject of rumor, but there always seemed to be new levels of that to experience. The speculation of how exactly she’d seduced Hatake Kakashi with her amazing bedroom skills were sadly nothing new but the knowing leers and smirks were decidedly unpleasant.

It was generally easy enough to ignore, and in those cases where someone got a bit too aggressive, an Anbu would sometimes appear by her side to be a visible warning. People backed off when that happened.

The Anbu assigned to her protection had a good sense of what she could and could not deal with herself, though, and she learned to trust their actions. If they didn’t appear, then she could handle it herself.

“So, what does Kakashi look like without his mask?”

Naoki frowned a bit at the sense of deja-vu. Hadn’t this exact conversation happened before with this exact kunoichi? “No.”

“You can’t say it’s inappropriate for a wife to see her husband’s face.”

Naoki considered sticking to her previous response of just saying ‘no’ and then ignoring the woman, but the lack of any Anbu coming to her defense meant that they didn’t see this woman as a threat. Kakashi-sama had been concerned that no one was threatening him on her behalf, but hadn’t mentioned anything about anyone threatening her, or at least testing her, on his behalf. It seemed a concerning lack, now that she considered it.

“It is highly inappropriate for a wife to be a weakness in her husband’s defense.”

“That’s not what they teach kunoichi,” the kunoichi said salaciously.

“It is what they teach civilians homemakers.”

The kunoichi paused a moment, mid step, “Do they?”

“A wife should be part of a husband’s defense, not a break in it.”

“Huh.”

Naoki continued walking.

“So, you’re not going to tell me what he looks like, are you.”

“No.”

“Huh.” They walked together a bit longer. “I guess Kakashi really did luck out. Well, congratulations to him, then. And good luck to you.”

Then she was gone.

Naoki continued her shopping.

Once the new clothing came in, she started to make the rounds, meeting the other Clan matriarchs. It was the first time in decades that she’d met with any of the civilian merchant and guild clan matriarchs and Tsuma-sama was the only shinobi clan matriarch she’d ever had direct contact with. 

Most of the clan matriarchs were kind but watchful. The visits opened up conversations that would hopefully continue fo years and decades. Maintaining semi-unofficial ways for the clans and the Hokage to communicate.

Naoki was pleased to learn from Akimichi-sama that Akmichi Uki was well established in the capital and would welcome some direct correspondence from her as well.

Taniuchi Rea, matriarch of the carpenters guild was delighted to have a nice long tea with her to discuss the potential of a mokuton user. Naoki made a note to herself to speak with Tenzo about what he wanted in life before Taniuchi-san discovered who he was and decided to arrange his life for him. He could very easily find himself with a lover with a child on the way if he weren’t aware of the interest some might have in acquiring a bloodline the civilian way.

The meeting with Hyuga-sama was the most fraught of the visits. The Hyuga had fraught relationships with both the Uchiha and the Hatake going back generations and Naoki would have to think carefully about how to cultivate a relationship with that clan.

The Uchiha and the Hyuga had apparently had generations of quasi-conflict based on the having clan kekkei genkai that were too similar. Historical snobbery could be either the easiest or the hardest to change, since it wasn’t based on anything that could be resolved. She hadn’t bothered trying to address the issue at all while staying in the Uchiha compound, only partly because it didn’t seem important. Mostly she had ignored the conflict and the Hyuga clan in its entirety because that’s how they had been treating the last remaining Uchiha.

In contrast, the Hatake records included information about the Hyuga caged bird seal in their genealogy notes: specifically saying that no Hatake was to ever marry into the Hyuga clan and steps would need to be take if ever a branch member Hyuga wished to marry into the Hatake clan. 

No Hatake would ever allow themselves, or their children, to be sealed in such a way. Other than those notes, the Hatake left the matter of the curse alone as a potentially exploitable weakness in a foreign clan.

Naoki mulled over the ways in which the caged bird seal put the good of a small number of clan members above the good of the village. She made plans to commiserate, at some point, with the Hyuga matriarch regarding how it was a pity that no Hyuga could ever become Hokage due to that matter of split loyalties and clan weakness. 

While Naoki was making the rounds with the matriarchs, Kakashi-sama was dealing with similar visits at the Hokage tower from the patriarchs of all the clans.

And sometimes, those visits overlapped in interesting ways.

“This is Naoki-san, huh? Interesting.” The older shinobi looked contemplative, but waved Uzumaki-san away to train, leaving the two of them to converse.

"Sage Jiraiya" Naoki bowed carefully. Enough to show respect, not low enough to even hint at subservience.

"Tsunade told me that my reputation would count against me with you." 

"Reputations are introductions that we can't control." Naoki said, leaving the implications up to him. His reputation did count against him. He had left the village behind while maintaining nominal loyalty, which was worrisome. She was more concerned by the regular and very public perversion he displayed with strange women.

"I work hard to maintain my reputation." 

"Is that a defense or a confession?" 

"Your reputation is that you soften the shinobi. But your husband said that if you were ever made uncomfortable by my gaze, he would burn my eyes out of my head and assume I could continue doing my work using sage sight alone." He spoke bluntly, an obvious test.

Naoki considered his words and her husband’s threat. Most blinded shinobi struggled to stay off the disabled lists for their honor but had the safety net of being able to rely on the village for support when they needed it. Kakashi-sama had warned Jiraiya-sama that he would be blinded and forced to work through it if he spied on her. It did make her feel safe, but she kept her words to, "Kakashi-sama is Hokage." 

"You don't appear to have softened him."

She smiled at that, as if it were a compliment. It should have been a compliment, for a shinobi, although Jiraiya didn’t seem happy about it.

After a few more pleasantries, he went his way and she went hers, and she was comforted by the fact that he’d been given a line not to cross. Jiraiya-sama was too famous and too powerful for every village woman’s comfort to be taken into account, but the honor of the wife of the Hokage could be an ultimatum. She might need to make a habit of using the public baths when he was in town, to extend the protection given to her to the other women of the village.

In the evenings, she spoke with Kakashi-sama about what she had learned or what she had considered, and asked him what he could tell her about his work in the tower.

Sometimes he would run ideas by her, but mostly just sighed and said that there was a lot of paperwork involved.

It was odd being married to Hatake-sama instead of being the concubine of Uchiha-sama. In many ways, her work didn't change: the Hatake compound was significantly smaller and with fewer people, but the relationships she needed to manage became more overt and political. But living in a home with a man like Kakashi was significantly different from living in a home with a boy like Sasuke.

Kakashi-sama was used to living alone. To being alone, even when surrounded by companions, to not touching others, to not even displaying skin that could potentially be touched by others.

But he had married. He had married a woman who slept in a separate room, but who was present in his house, and he was slowly, consciously, becoming accustomed to it. He still wore his mask around the house, but sometimes he was more casual about shifting it to eat or drink in her presence rather than moving out of her line of sight.

After the first rush of trying to get everything organized, she settled into a pattern.

She spent an hour in the Hatake office in the morning, getting as much done as possible, but not allowing the time to stretch. She then spent an hour cleaning in the morning, then an hour gardening around mid-day. The afternoons were for going out, if needed, or focusing on a larger project, either in the office or on the clan grounds that needed more time, but also included at least one hour to relax. She started cooking dinner and preparing the following days lunches in the time before Kakashi-sama was expected home.

The time that Kakashi-sama was expected home, however, was getting later and later as the weeks passed. 

As Naoki settled in and became increasingly comfortable with her new position, Kakashi-sama was looking increasingly tired and unhappy with his. 

After a month, she decided that enough was enough. She was settled and it was time to do her part to support Hokage-sama as well as Hatake-sama.

She made Kakashi-sama’s favorite dinner, salt-broiled saury and miso soup with eggplant, packed it up and walking to the Tower. 

Her Anbu guard, who were normally invisible, to her at least, physically appeared to flank her as she entered the Tower and matched her pace as she made her way up to the Hokage's office. With their presence, no one dared to say anything to her. 

Kakashi-sama looked up at the door opening and was out of his seat and by her side within a moment. "Are you okay? What happened?" 

She smiled at him and finally got up the nerve to say, "Husband, you are working too hard. I've brought you dinner." 

He looked unnerved but pleased at the intimacy of her greeting. But he rallied quickly to say, "Thank you for dinner. I do need it. But I knew what I was getting into when I accepted the hat." 

"Hmm," she acknowledge as she laid out a blanket for a picnic on the floor. She pulled out the boxes of food and laid them out as well, making it clear that this would be a proper meal that he would sit down to eat, rather than inhale at his desk. 

He watched her set everything out before saying, "there's only one place setting. We've always eaten together." 

Naoki took a breath to fortify herself before looking at him, and saying, "with your permission, Hokage-sama, I will organize your desk while you eat." 

It was a gross infringement of security. 

She knew it and he knew it, but she was also beginning to suspect that he just didn't know how to manage paperwork. He had been a front line fighter for his entire career, and after a month, the Hokage desk looked like a disaster zone. 

He looked tempted but shook his head. "It's not that I don't trust you, but you just don't have the knowledge to make these kinds of decisions." 

"I won't make any decisions. I'll just organize the requests so that they're easier for you to review and make the decisions." 

He sighed again and just looked so exhausted. Finally he nodded. "I'll observe." 

"Thank you, Hokage-sama." 

"Please," he said, "please don’t call me that. Call me husband." 

She stepped next to him and carefully leaned slightly against his side so that she could feel the strength and heat of his side. "Of course, husband."

He carefully wrapped his arm around her for a moment. They rarely touched skin to skin and she had only seen glimpses of his face although she was fairly sure he was actively working on becoming less strict in the way he wore his face mask within their house. But despite all the ways others might think they weren't close, there were different ways of being intimate and this was one of them. After a short squeeze of her shoulders, he said,  "Okay, show me what you do with this paperwork, my lady wife." 

She cleared the desk first by simply moving most of the piles of paperwork to the floor. Then she had space on the desk to set her own pad of paper and pen. Then she started taking inventory, separating the remaining pile into multiple stacks. 

  • Post-Mission Reports: 23
  • Mission Requests Awaiting Approval: 37
  • T&I information reports: 15
  • Budget concerns: 7
  • Departmental Updates: 16

She was flipping through the papers too quickly to look at any of the details, just what they were in the most general sense of it. 

Kakashi-sama had finished the miso soup and started on the saury, she was pleased to see as she lifted another pile from the floor and put onto the desk to be sorted through. He was taking his time eating rather than simply inhaling it as he sometimes did. 

By the time she was finished with all the stacks, the food had all been eaten, the dishes and blanket repacked, and the window showed it was dark out. 

  • Post-Mission Reports: 338
  • Mission Requests Awaiting Approval: 435
  • T&I information reports: 178
  • Budget concerns: 98
  • Departmental Updates: 164
  • Civilian complaints: 104
  • Shinobi complaints: 54
  • Foreigner complaints: 18
  • Court correspondence: 5
  • Other Shinobi Village Correspondence: 3

Kakashi-sama looked at her list over her shoulder and then picked up the pile of 3 letters from the other Shinobi villages. "These are the most important. They should not have gotten lost in the mission reports." 

Naoki nodded, appreciative of the confirmation. 

Kakashi-sama broke the seals on the three letters, read them quickly and sighed. "I need to think about these but I can respond tomorrow. They won't be any more late then than if I do it today. Tonight. Whatever." He hesitated a moment and then said, "Will you come in with me tomorrow?" 

"Of course, husband." She practiced the new way of addressing him. He startled again but seemed pleased. "Tomorrow, while you respond to those letters, I can continue to organize the rest. The departmental updates should be organized into their individual departments so that you can review each department at once."

"That would be simpler wouldn't it?" 

"And you can also tell me if you would like the mission reports organized by rank or by location. Or by some other feature that will make it easier for you to review them for approval or denial." 

"Thank you." 

"Paperwork is a skill. I'll come in with this office as often as you'd like. But, Kakashi-husband, come home for dinner. Unless there's a true emergency, come home for dinner at the Compound and train in your own training hall and enjoy Tenzo-san's gardens. There is always more to do than you have time to do it with. So do what you can, when you can, and no more."

"I knew that.” He sighed. “That's basic mission assessment."

"Being the Hokage is just another mission. A long term one. Pace yourself." 

When they finally left the Hokage's office, the rest of the tower admin was still hard at work, at least to all appearances. From the wry look in Kakashi-sama's visible eye, she was guessing it was largely for show. She, or rather they, were very much on display as they walked out together. She would have walked slightly behind him, but he offered his arm to her and so she walked by his side, her hand tucked into his elbow.

The Anbu guards flanked them both. 

When they had left the Hatake Compound the following morning, rather than swirl away as he normally did, Kakashi-sama had offered her his arm, tucking her left hand into the crook of his right elbow. She had never seen a shinobi give anyone the use of their arm for such long periods of time, but he had shrugged and blushed a bit as he said, “I like it.”

It would not have been hard for him to realize that she actively tried to identify the things he liked.

So they walked together, her left hand on his right arm.

He was still reading a book held in his left hand.

They both ignored the whispers around them. ‘She’s slowing him down.’ ‘Why doesn’t she just let him kuwarmi her.’ ‘She’s so… civilian.’

They were testing the waters as it were. In a few weeks, maybe she would take up the habit of performing tea ceremonies again, as she once had. Speed was an amazing ability of shinobi, but timing was the more important skill and anyone, shinobi or civilian, could learn timing.

As they approached the tower, she asked, “Is there a storage room for extra furniture that the Hokage can select from?”

“Hmm. Several of them. Shall we take a tour?”

“Please.”

They walked.

The storage rooms were a crowded mess of mostly standard office furniture, but there was also some decorate furniture mixed in. They walked through all of the storage rooms without saying much, just pausing here and there so she could run a hand over some table or desk. One of the items she paused at was a large map table with the whole of the land displaying on top. It was large enough that if papers were put on top of it, it could easily fit two rows of four or possible squeeze in five in a row and a third row of pages turned sidewise.

Kakashi-sama considered it as well and explained, “The map itself is too general for much use, but the table is used to review large scale conflicts. Someone puts another map on top, showing the place we actually care about at the time.”

“I’m wondering if it might be helpful to separate out the mission reports into regional stacks rather than just the one large one.”

“Hmm.” Kakashi-sama said, but then, “Spider.” An Anbu with a spider mask appeared and Kakashi-sama just pointed at the table. The Anbu picked it up and then he and the table disappeared.

“Any other thoughts?”

“Do you mind if I try changing your office a bit?”

He waved a lazy hand to give her permission but looked significantly more curious than that lazy permission implied.

She smiled at him and then started pointing to other items she had noticed. A few decorative tables that could each a single stack of papers. A couple of bookcases to get the stacks of books off the floor. A low table that she just admired and could imagine herself performing a tea ceremony at.

Each time, an Anbu would appear, pick up the item and disappear in a small swirl.

When she had finished her second tour of the storage rooms, she had identified ten items and they made their way at her own walking pace to the Hokage’s office.

There were three high ranking shinobi waiting with various degrees of impatience to meet with the Hokage when they arrived but Kakashi-sama ignored them so she did as well. She did notice, however, as they passed, that they looked less impatient and more curious after seeing her than they had when they’d first seen Kakashi-sama.

The furniture was all in the office and Kakashi-sama squeezed her hand before letting it go from his arm. It was just like rearranging the furnishing at the Hatake Compound as she directed exactly where he should place each one. The tables created a loose series of obstacles between the entrance and the desk, book cases further back, with the tea table under the windows to one side with plenty of space for her to comfortably sit behind it.

Then she moved the piles of paperwork from his desk to the various tables. She had noticed that Kakashi-sama rarely sat at home. He stood and walked, slouched and crouched, and sometimes even lay down. But he rarely sat in a chair.

He should apply his particular habits to the Hokage’s office, and not allow the office to force him to work in a way that wasn’t his preference. Maybe if he could walk around the office and read as he moved, it would be easier for him to get through it. With different tables, it should also be easier for him to see at a glance what the priorities were.

He picked up the largest pile, the pile of mission reports, and took it over to the map table and starting sorting it himself between regions. Although, after a moment of consideration, she realized he was also reviewing them as he went.

She left him to that and started putting the stacks of books into the short bookshelves. There was still plenty of space and she made a note to herself to bring in some pieces of art and a flower arrangement.

A few of the books had bookmarks and those she placed, open, on the top of the shelves, were the top surface could be used as more small tables.

Kakashi-sama was still looking through the mission reports when she had finished putting all the books away.

“Anbu-san?”

Kakashi-sama looked up sharply at her query but didn’t say anything as two Anbu appeared: Spider and Cat. After a bit of tenseness, Spider disappeared again and Cat bowed to her.

“Is there a way to bring my tea cabinet from the front room of the Hatake main house to here?”

Cat bowed again and did some quick hand signs with Kakashi-sama before disappearing again.

“Tea?” Kakashi-sama asked, but he was smiling at her and seemed relaxed.

“I thought I’d make use of the tea table there while you reviewed the paperwork.”

“Make me a cup too.”

“I will.”

They fell into silence as they waited but Kakashi-sama didn’t go back to his own papers. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was surprising. She finally asked, “Are you… guarding me?”

It seemed so improbable, and yet…

Kakashi-sama shrugged. “Just while Cat is gone.”

“What about Spider-san? And aren’t there other Anbu here as well?” She’s virtually sure she saw other Anbu take tables although some of them were there and gone again too quickly for her to identify their masks.

Kakashi-sama smiled his teasing one-eyed smile. “There are five Anbu in the office with us at the moment. If anything happened to you in his absence, Cat would kill them all but would definitely blame me most.”

She wasn’t at all sure what to do with that.

Kakashi-sama smiled again.

Then Cat-san was back with her tea cabinet. He set it gently down by the tea table, exactly where she wanted it to go, without any direction, and then disappeared again. Kakashi-sama looked back down at the papers he had been reviewing.

If Kakashi-sama didn’t consider any of this situation a problem then Naoki wouldn’t either. She started setting up the tea table with the contents from the cabinet. She’d leave everything here in the Hokage’s office and get herself a new set for home. Lighting a small fire to warm the pot was easy with her own firestarter and a fresh pitcher of water had appeared to one side without her noticing.

She noted that Kakashi-sama had distributed a number of piles of mission reports on the map table but was taking about half of them back to the desk. He put them down but then went to the office door to summon, with apparently delight, “Ah, Yamakawa Tadahisa! And Magohachi-chan too! Perfect! Come in!”

Naoki kept her face completely calm and her eyes focused on the small fire and warming water as a sheepish and concerned assistant came in, with a small child.

“Ah, Hokage-sama,” Yamakawa-san said with a wince, “his mother is feeling poorly and Hachi-chan is really very quiet…”

Kakashi-sama spoke with bubbly pleasure that Naoki wasn’t sure if he realized made him seem all the more dangerous, as in dangerously unstable.

“I’m delighted that Hachi-chan can be here. How does he feel about stamps?”

“Ah, stamps, Hokage-sama?”

“Yes, stamps. Now, Hachi-chan, how would you like to do a day’s work, just like you father and earn a day’s pay too?”

The child looked awkwardly between his father and this strange man who was talking to him, but finally said, “I like stamps?”

“Excellent! I’d like you to sit at this big desk here, where my name stamp is, and I’m going to give you a pile of papers. Can you go through and make sure my name is stamped on each one?”

The kids eyes were big and round with growing excitement. His father’s looked like they were about to fall out of his face. Kakashi-sama looked completely pleased with himself, Naoki thought with amusement, but was also impressed herself.

There really wasn’t any reason for Kakashi-sama to spend his time physically dealing with a stamp and ink.

The child was soon established at the massive Hokage’s desk, stamping his way through the piles of paper under his father’s supervision. Yamakawa-san was then in charge of getting those stamped papers delivered to their next destinations. Having to get back to the office to ensure his young son didn’t mess anything up too badly was also keeping his deliveries extremely speedy.

More reports were being delivered but the staff of Hokage’s assistants had quickly picked up the new organizational structure and even introduced a few additional tables for issues that she hadn’t separated out before. The first assistant to come in with a whole table, a few pages sitting on top of it, looked scared but determined, glancing nervously between her boss and her boss’s wife.

Naoki kept her attention on her tea, but was fairly sure Kakashi-sama at least could sense her amusement.

Kakashi-sama met the assistant, directed her where to put the new table and read the papers on it immediately. He spent some time writing a response to it, while standing over it. The pages were then returned to the assistant for additional work, but the table stayed.

For the rest of the day, Naoki stayed mostly to one side while Kakashi-sama and the various visitors to his office, circled around and among the tables talking about various issues. She rose only to offer small cups of tea as they were done to her husband and, if they were being particularly pleasant, to whoever else was in the office with them.

The following day, Naoki stayed home at the Hatake compound and returned to her own schedule while Kakashi-sama left in the morning. He returned home even earlier than expected, checked to make sure she was doing well, and then went out to train with Tenzo.

They both came to dinner that evening.

The following evening, when he returned home at the same earlier time, looking pleased with himself, she asked if he would like to offer one of the empty houses in the compound to Tenzo.

“Would you be comfortable with another shinobi here?”

“If you are comfortable with it.” She smiled, “I’d probably give him gardening tasks to do.”

“He’d probably like that. And if I’m sending him to the capital relatively soon, it might be easier for him to have a place in the village that’s not an apartment.”

The following week Tenzo moved in, so the compound held occupied houses out of five. She was still considering the remaining three, when another resident was presented to her.

Nara-sama arrived in the afternoon, after Kakashi-sama had returned to the compound but before dinner.

“Shikaku,” Kakashi-sama greeted him, “did something happen?”

“Not yet. I came to the Hatake Compound to speak with you and your wife.”

Naoki left the house to greet him, “Nara-sama. Will you come in and have some tea?”

“Hatake-sama,” he returned the greeting. “Thank you.”

They settled, all three of them, to have tea, and it was quiet for a while before Nara-sama said, “My wife and Shikhako-chan have told me a great deal about you, Hatake-sama. I’ve been impressed.”

“Thank you, Nara-sama.”

“I’d like to give Shikhako-chan to you, if you and your husband agree.”

“A genin, Shikaku?” Kakashi-sama asked rather pointedly.

Just as pointedly, Nara-sama ignored the interjection. “Her first loyalty would be given to Akanishi Naoki. Only after that, would it go to the Nara and Hatake clans, and from there to the village.”

Nara-sama paused to let them consider that particular order of loyalties. Akanishi was the name of Naoki’s family before they came to the village and given their loyalty to Konoha. She was Hatake Naoki, but prior to her loyalty to Hatake Kakashi, she had been Kobayashi Naoki, a loyal civilian of the village. But prior to even that loyalty, she would have been Akanishi Naoki.

Kakashi-sama slowly nodded his agreement. “A genin is a good choice for that.”

It was, Naoki realized, and she really hoped Shikhako-san had been aware of this proposal. A genin’s oath of loyalty was the most flexible of all the shinobi ranks. It would take the Hokage to approve a shift of loyalty to someone outside the village hierarchy, but it wasn’t impossible for a genin.

It would give her a personal attendant who could give her access to shinobi skills that every other Hokage’s wife had had.

Then Nara-sama smirked and said to Naoki, again pointedly ignoring her husband. “You were curious about a Nara technique some years back. You were right. And I’ve made sure that Shikhako-chan is capable of it, at need.”

Naoki felt her eyes widen. She hadn’t thought of that in years: the question of question a Nara shadow user could freeze a whole land on an overcast day. Shikhako-san had said that even the suggestion of such an ability would create enemies. Now Nara-sama was admitting to it and implying that if ever Naoki needed it, she could command the ability. She really hoped it would never ever become an issue.

“Oh?” Kakashi asked.

If the Kyubi ever attacked again, she would have a suggestion. But for now, she would keep it a secret, as she had before.

“Ah,” Naoki said. “I’d be delighted to have her company. But may I ask, why this gift?”

Nara-sama contemplated her for a moment but then turned to include Kakashi-sama in his response as well. “Give my people missions that are worthy of their skill sets. Shikhako knows us. We can create as well as destroy.”

“You’ve seen the proposed new mission protocols,” Kakashi-sama stated.

Nara-sama nodded. “I’ve seen them and I want them.”

Kakashi-sama nodded. “I was planning on presenting them at the next clan council meeting. If you come to my office tomorrow, you can see them before then.”

“Thank you, Hokage-sama.”

Naoki bit back her own questions and thoughts and hopes. Kakashi-sama knew her thoughts and hopes. He would tell her what she could or should know when he was ready.

It was pleasing to have Shikhako-san as a more frequent companion, especially as she immediately assured Naoki that, “I volunteered.” Less reassuring was when she continued, “And Nara-sama knows that if he wants the changes to come, you have to stay alive. Anbu are impressive, but it’s the Nara way to include some redundancies.”

It was a month later than Kakashi-sama returned to the compound for dinner, grinning at her with his whole body. “We ran our first successful N rank mission!”

“N rank?”

“Non-militant. M rank missions are Medical, N for non-militant. There was some argument for making them P rank for Pacifist, but the jokes were a bit much even in the meetings.”

“It was successful?”

“Yes. And we think it was a test. In multiple ways. And we passed. The client was paying with someone else's money for something that they didn't actually need. They were being paid to take a risk dealing with shinobi, and see the quality of the work. The shinobi who ran the mission took the initiative afterwards to identify the shadow client. It seems benign so far. It was interesting enough that T&I now wants every N mission to include a fact-finding aspect but don't think they should have to apply any of their budget to it since there are customers paying.”

As he spoke, the original excitement leaked out of his voice until there was more irritation than pleasure. He looked and sounded tired, as he continued.

"I assigned this first mission to a pair of experienced jounin partners, since it was always going to be a test, one way or another. Now the jounin corp is arguing with each other about whether N missions are beneath their dignity or whether they should have first refusal of all N missions since any of the could be a trap but they're also a nice break from the regular. The chunin commander is unhappy that chunin weren't assigned this first N mission and given all future N missions as well. They argue that chunin are perfectly capable of protecting themselves and that the work fits in more with their skillsets. The genin corp is also sniffing around, looking like they might be willing to join the fight since the missions might well end up being more to their skill sets rather than either chunin or jounin, and they rarely get access to missions outside of the village or the pay that comes with such missions.”

“I take it they’re all mostly correct and you still have to choose?”

“We’ll probably need to divide the N missions into their own separate ranks, which will require more committees to create more protocols and more assistants to implement those protocols. Meanwhile,” Kakashi offered a tired smile, trying to add lighten his own mood more than anything else, “Naruto is trying to claim that he's a master bridge builder since he wound up building a bridge for the guy we guarded in team 7's first C rank mission. He thinks this qualifies him for all future construction jobs.”

He rubbed at his eyes, tiredly. “It's almost too much trouble to make the changes.”

"Is it?"

He sighed. "No." 

"Is there anything I can do to help?" 

"Be here. Let me complain to you. Tell me it's worth it. Tell me that not every shinobi has to be a killer." 

"Always. You can always come home to me and tell me your thoughts. This is worth it. You are making a better world." She was sincere even as she responded to his request. The struggle and the frustration was worth it. 

"My respect for the Nidaime has gone up."

"The Nidaime?"

"He established the A thru E ranking system." 

Kakashi had slumped so much by this point that it was easy enough for him to slide to the floor and place his head in her lap. The level of trust he showed her was astounding, as he closed his eyes and to all appearances went to sleep. She was virtually sure he wasn’t, just taking a short break from the rest of the world.

She wound her fingers through his hair and gently ruffled it, this way and that.

He didn’t open his eye, and when he spoke, his voice low and groggy. “There is something you can do. Come to the tower office with me once a week.”

She blinked, but said, “Of course.” She thought about asking, but didn’t.

She was fairly sure Kakashi-sama smiled as he guessed the question, and answered it anyway. “Iruka-sensei tells me that the black market price for information on when you'll be there has been inconsistent enough that he hasn't been able to tell who's trying to ensure you're presence when they present to me and who's trying to avoid it. A month or so with a regular schedule should help establish a few motives and biases.”

“Should I do tea ceremonies or play the harp or something else entirely?”

He shrugged against her lap. “Whatever you prefer.”

So one day a week, she went to the Tower with her husband.

She listened to what was happening around her but while she was there, she tried not to comment on anything until they were back at the Hatake compound unless he asked her something directly. But during a meal that was either a very late lunch or an early dinner, on a particularly busy day, she said, “If there are twenty people coming at you in a fight, I imagine you do have to deal with them all at once. But if there are twenty people coming at you in your office, tell them to stand in line and wait.”

“Some of them are emergencies.”

“Then make them tell you that: is anyone's life on the line if you don't deal with them within the next hour? And if so, why didn't they bring it you the day before?”

“Huh.”

“As the Hokage, you're the last and best fighter, but you're also the first defense: you should be dealing with problems before they become problems. If people are only bringing issues to you after they've become a problem, then that needs to be dealt with.”

“Hmm.”

“I'm pretty sure I had this conversation with Uchiha-sama years ago: about the tea ceremony and the value of timing over speed.”

“I can see why the Nara like you. I still want to know what mysterious Nara jutsu you figured out and that Shikhako now knows.” Kakashi-sama commented, carefully not asking. If he asked, she would tell him.

“I hope the situation never arises where you'll need to see it.”

He considered that. "Yeah. I hope so too." 

"Just, you need to have enough time in your schedule so that if an emergency ever does come up, you have time to address it immediately without creating even more problems."

"I'm fairly sure I've had that conversation with every shinobi I've ever had under my command: on a mission always maintain your reserves for anther fight and another after that." 

"Mm."

"I was always a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do type of commander with that." 

"Well, now you have to do as you say." 

"Or my lady wife will come to drag me home."

"Exactly." 

"Okay. Well, I think it's time to drag me home now." 

It turns out that he was the one to lever himself up and then offer her a hand to lift her to her feet as well.

Most days, however, she stayed at the Hatake compound, keeping it clean and organized and thriving in all the ways a clan compound can thrive.

The compound still had two empty residences that she was contemplating. Nowhere near the number of empty houses in the Uchiha compound, but that just made their future assignments in need of more careful thought.

She had established a regular order of Tamanaha-san’s fruit tarts to the Hatake Compound before she had even moved away from the Uchiha Compound. Shikhako-san had quietly taken over the delivery aspect so they arrived still warm.

Naoki missed having access to a clan baker, but the Hatake compound was significantly smaller than the Uchiha compound and she intending to be careful with how she grew this new clan space. 

"Do you want me to seduce an Akimachi baker to your service?" Shikhako-san asked rather dryly. 

Naoki looked over Shikhako-san. "Would you?"

"You're turning into a monster, aren't you?" Shikhako-san looked and sounded decidedly amused.

"Just taking my options into consideration. I'd never ask you to go against your desires, but since you brought it up, maybe you should visit the Akimichi Clan and see if anyone catches your fancy. You could guard cooling pies from young children or supervise rising dough." 

"I'll keep that in mind." 

The regular visits to the other clan compounds to visit the matriarchs of those clans and hosting the visits of those matriarchs to the Hatake clan grounds kept the clans in contact and maintained a whole separate network available to all participants. She could tell Kakashi-sama things that no one could tell the Hokage, and in return Kakashi-sama could tell her things that no Hokage could say.

One thing that Kakashi-sama could say to her that the Hokage could never way, was how irritating the previous Hokage was being.

“The hospital is this close to staging a revolt and I can't even figure out what the issues are. Everyone wants to go on missions? No one wants to go on missions? Some of them are threatening to leave if Tsunade leaves and others are threatening to leave is she stays. And Tsunade seems torn between taking all the missions that she doesn't have time or energy for or none of the missions at all, because, and I quote: ‘what's even the point’.”

Naoki found herself laughing slightly at Kakashi’s dramatic recitation of the problem, but could still recognize the real problem there. "Shinobi can do impossible things. Kage level shinobi such as yourself and the Godaime especially. But learn from a civilian: knowing your limits is important. Do what you can, when you can, and don't get distracted by what you can't." 

“Try telling that to Tsunade.”

"I'll have a chat with her."

"Please"

The following day, Naoki visited the hospital. There was always more to do around a clan compound but the sign of a well run one was that the work was flexible enough to accommodate priority tasks. Assisting her husband in not getting overwhelmed and assisting the village in keeping a running hospital, definitely counted as a priority task.

"Naoki-sama!" Haruno-san greeted her cheerfully as soon as she stepped into the hospital building. Then concerned, "are you okay?"

Haruno-san’s hands whipped through some hand signs and suddenly all Naoki could see what the back of an Anbu uniform. 

"Ah, sorry, Naoki-sama!" Haruno-san sounded only mildly apologetic, the kind of apology that came after someone had been forcefully prevented from doing what they wanted so they might as well apologize in the hope of getting permission after all. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay." 

Naoki raised her voice just enough to be heard over the Anbu but didn't move or ask him to move. Naoki mostly trusted Haruno Sakura to have her best interests in mind, but allowing shinobi to flash hand signs in her direction was just not a good habit to get into. "I'm doing well and have no concerning symptoms."

"Hmm, but can't I run a quick check-up?"

"I actually came to talk with Senju-sama. Is she available?" It was a courtesy request. Unless there was active surgery taking place and potentially even then, Senju-sama would be available to the wife of the Hokage. 

"Yes, she's in her office." Haruno-san spoke rather mournfully, although Naoki wasn’t sure if it was because of Senju-sama’s activities or Naoki’s own refusal to even discuss having a medical check-up.

Senju-sama was indeed in her office, but seemed to be only half-heartedly reviewing some paperwork while mostly fighting with Shizune-san about getting another bottle of sake.

Senju-sama greeted her with a glare, “Are you here to nag me too?”

“Should I be?”

“Why else would you be here?”

“Maybe to congratulate you on your success?”

“What success? All my patients die!”

Naoki considered that she had very much stepped into the middle of a conversation, but it was easy enough to go along with it. “Every mortal dies eventually, so yes, I imagine all of them do die. Eventually.”

“Then what’s even the point?” Senju-sama… whined.

“The point is how much a person can accomplish in the meantime. And you are giving hundreds of shinobi and civilians years more to their lives, and better lives for their years, by healing them.”

“Not all of them.”

"You can do anything," Naoki started before being interrupted.

"I can't bring back the dead! I can't fix everyone." 

"With surprisingly few exceptions, you can do anything," Naoki amended her previous statement, and then quickly added "But!" even as Senju-sama was opening her mouth. She gave her best glare, which wasn't much in comparison to what most shinobi could manage, but Tsunade looked amused at the attempt and closed her mouth without saying anything. "You can't do everything." 

Tsunade scowled and said rather sulkily. "I should be able to."

"As a medic, especially a battlefield medic, you must have learned how to triage." 

Senju-sama’s shoulders slumped. "Yeah."

"You are the best medic in the world, so you have to also know that the one thing we can't afford is to have you burn out. If a tool is irreplaceable, it must be cared for rather than used to destruction." 

“Why are you here?”

“And even if a tool is replaceable, you shouldn’t destroy it without reason.”

“You are unbelievably irritating. I can’t quite believe I had any part of putting you in power.” There was real bite in Senju-sama’s words but also a world of weariness. “Do you even know how many people have died since Kakashi became Hokage?”

Naoki shook her head. “No. I know how many shinobi died performing missions. I don’t know how many targets died because of those missions.”

Kakashi told her when one of his own died, because he couldn’t hide the way it pained him. He didn’t tell her about the targets because she couldn’t hide the way it pained her.

“I could tell you,” Senju-sama said. “At least a good guess. It’s not as many people as died in my first few months of Hokage. So there’s that.”

“No one can accomplish a perfect world. The best you can do, the best anyone do, is try to accomplish a better world.”

“Go away.”

“I’ll go away when you stop destroying yourself and everyone around you for not accomplishing the impossible.”

“When I made impossible demands, sometimes I get impossible results.” Senju-sama said tiredly.

“And that’s why I hear that half of the hospital staff are in love with you.”

“And why the other half hate me.”

Naoki shrugged. “It’s not how many people love or hate you, it’s having the right people do each.”

Senju-sama was surprised into a laugh. “That’s politics in a nutshell.”

They fell into silence and Naoki had to bite back the need to say more, to reiterate the points she had already made. She had spoken her piece and Senju-sama needed to come to her own conclusions.

“Okay,” Senju-sama finally said, as she levered herself up, moving like the old woman she was rather than the young one she looked like, “I’m going home. Tell Kakashi that I’ll be more reasonable on the M mission protocols.”

She grabbed Shizune-san by the arm to walk out with her.

“What’s a few dead patients, after all, when they’d have died anyway without the treatment.” It was a jab but nothing that Naoki couldn’t deal with, and hadn’t dealt with before. Naoki had never been a medic but she knew more than enough about triage, about choosing who to help and who to walk by, sacrifice for the greater good.

Shizune-san paused to look back and mouth silently, "Thank you" before being firmly pulled through the door by the Godaime.

Naoki stayed in the now empty office for a few minutes, long enough for Senju-sama to leave the premises, before she left herself.

She stopped by a market on her way home to the Hatake compound to pick up some fresh ingredients for dinner, including some stew meat for the ninken.

That evening she brushed the ninken as she told Kakashi-sama about her visit to the hospital. Maybe the conversation would do some good. Maybe not.

He lay down next to her and she shifted her attention from his ninken to him, to the ninken’s quiet complaints. But they all settled down soon enough.

After a while she found herself asking, “Why did you agree to be Hokage? You dislike it a lot.”

“It’s not so bad now that you’ve organized it and I’ve gotten used to it. And I wanted to marry you.”

“I would have married you regardless.”

“Would you?”

“I placed the order for that pillow book the same day you gave me the comb. I didn’t even wait. It took eighteen days to arrive.”

“That book….”

“Did you like it?”

“How do those nobles even stand during the day?”

“With the support of their retainers, of course.”

“The number of favors I am now owed from loaning it out is ridiculous.”

“Good.” She was pleased that he was making good use of that book. She wanted to ask again about accepting the Hokage’s office because surely it hadn’t been done for her. He wouldn’t put himself through this for her, would he? She loved being able to direct him, but that was too much. He had to know his limits because she didn’t.

He seemed to understand even without her saying anything, because he finally said, “I was almost certainly going to be forced into the Hokage’s hat regardless. It was only with you that I took it willingly. Because I could do something with it rather than just kill time before the next generation.”

“Why are you taking this seriously?”

He sighed. “I’ve done a lot of awful things during my life and somehow managed to come through it mostly sane. As sane as I am, at least.”

“Sane enough to lie here and talk about it.”

“Yeah.” He sighed. “There are others who weren’t so lucky.”

“I can imagine.”

“One of the less lucky ones was Uchiha Itachi.”

She felt her breath catch in her lungs at that. She carefully let our her breath and took another one.

“He was my trainee in Anbu. He never wanted to kill. He didn’t even really want to fight. He wanted to stay a chunin and run B and C ranked missions. But he was the heir to the Uchiha Clan. So he had to be Anbu.”

“He’s still around, isn’t he?” She had never told anyone about her brief meeting with Itachi, when he came to the Uchiha compound and she had closed her eyes and refused to acknowledge him in any way. Uchiha-sama hadn’t mentioned his brother to her at all when he returned to the village and she hadn’t asked.

“Do you want to know?”

“I think I had better.”

“Then yes. Tsunade healed him and Sasuke refrained from killing him. Sasuke offered him a house in the Uchiha compound again, although only after you move out.”

“Is that for my benefit? Or his? Or Uchiha-sama’s?”

“For your benefit mostly and for Sasuke’s a little bit. Itachi…” Kakashi sighed. “Tsunade put him back in Anbu. Gave him a mask to live behind.”

“Is that wise?” She honestly wasn’t sure. Situations like this were so far beyond her ability to understand shinobi culture and psyche.

“I hope so. Maybe living behind a mask again will help him remove the mask when he takes it off.”

She wondered if that was something that he felt, but didn’t ask.

“Anbu are known for doing the most dangerous jobs and the most deadly ones, but they also do the most long-term guard jobs. I don’t want him to ever have to kill again unless it’s in defense.”

She had to smile a bit at that. That was the shinobi philosophy, that a peace-loving person was one who only killed in defense.

“I assigned him to your guard.”

There went that smile. “You what?”

Kakashi was smiling instead. “I assigned him to be captain of your Anbu guard.”

“I…” she started, and then wondered if there was any way to put this tactfully. She couldn’t think of any way so continued regardless, “had expected him to be one of the people I would have to be guarded against.”

Kakashi blinked up at her in surprise. “No.” It was apparently real surprise, because he actually levered himself up so that he could look at her and make sure she could see him when he continued. “No. He would have guarded you whether or not I made the assignment, but this way he’ll hopefully be too busy to assassinate anyone who talks badly about you. He is possibly your biggest fan.” He smiled an elaborate eye smile at her. “And I say that as your devoted husband.”

She found herself blinking at him, not knowing what to say.

He lay back down again.

“But… how? Why?”

“Because you protected his baby brother. Because you continue to protect his baby brother.”

“Even from him?”

“Especially from him. And because, even if he can never go back to what he once was, other children who are similar to who he once was might get a chance to not grow up to be like who he is now.”

He smiled up at her again before closing his eye.

She went back to brushing her fingers through his hair.

“Thank you, Kakashi-sama,” she whispered down at him. “Thank you, husband of mine. Thank you for doing this, for yourself, for me, for Itachi. For children who will have the chance to grow up great without growing up killers. Thank you.”

She had lost a lot in the Kyubi attack: her parents, her fiancé, her neighborhood, and her faith in the protection of the village, in the concept of an easy peace that could be enjoyed without effort.

When she had first gone to the Uchiha compound, she had done so because she had to. Because someone had to and because actively trying to achieve something had to be better than passively waiting for nothing. But it had been a desperate attempt at hope rather than any true belief. But somehow, she had gained something back.

Here with her husband, who could call lightning and command armies, but instead exhausted himself creating opportunities for peace and then rested under her hand, she knew she had been given a miracle.

A peace made by hard work and constant upkeep was a peace she could trust, a peace she could work towards.