This is what falling out of love feels like - Chapter 5 - STLHero (2024)

Chapter Text

Akari smiled so brightly and innocently when they entered the hospital room of Yuuji’s grandfather. Naruto smiled faintly, watching her daughter, who dashed straight towards the vase filled with flowers of red, yellow, and white with her white teddy bear in her hand. The sight of her hyperactive toddler climbing up the chair, chubby fingers caressing the flowers, allowed her for a brief moment to forget about the overwhelming odour of ammonia. To forget the memories of her laying on the hospital bed, her nose poisoned with the horrible odour of ammonia. It was everywhere and thankfully; it never ruined her nose. But there was also a second scent in the room. A scent so familiar to her: death. Such a subtle scent known to man. Known to shinobi like her. It would be years before her daughter could become familiar with this rotten scent.

“She does seem like she can be a good distraction,” Kakashi agreed. His fingers were clasped together as his eyes focused on the white-haired toddler on the screen. “And it seems like Naruto has engrained her love of plants into her child.” His eyes drifted to Satoru, who decided not to make a comment about this particular observation. He didn’t know his future wife very well, the few things he did know about her was enough to tempt him to search for her.

Satoru shook his head and just stared at the toddler on the screen. At his future daughter. With how she clung to the teddy bear, it just highlighted to him about how young she was. How fragile she could be. He breathed in the still air for one long minute before closing his eyes. How was he going to be a father to a cute, little toddler? What if he messed the whole thing up? Dear god, what was he going to do when she brought some boy to them? Little alone the devil that was her future fiancé.

“Was Naruto in the hospital a lot?” Shoko asked, drawing his attention away from the screen.

Hinata sighed and bobbed her head. “More times than I care to admit.”

Closing the door behind her with a soft click, Naruto stared at the old man that laid on the hospital bed. The golden sunrays gave him grace, a subtle warning of what would come to him. Even from where she stood, she saw the hollow cheeks. The dull eyes. In his bedstand, there was a tray of food. Plain white rice with grilled fish. Nourishing food that had barely been eaten. Not even a single spoon. It could be a matter of days, maybe even hours before the man would close his eyes for the final time. The thought brought a grimace. Her stomach churned and she looked at her sweet daughter. In one part of the room, life was about to end, while another part of the room, held a toddler who barely started her young life.

“Your future wife really knows how to make things more depressing,” Shoko complained. She leaned her body forward and plucked out a cigarette from her pocket while everyone else bobbed their heads. His former classmate glanced at him. “Don’t tell Utahime that I’m smoking again but I need to smoke.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “She is going to find out eventually.”

She strolled to the lone seat near the bed and settled on the hard, wooden chair. “You called for me, Old Man?” she said the last two words with a chirp. “I didn’t think you would be so happy to see me again from yesterday,” he only twisted his body away from her, his eyes stared dully at the windows, at her daughter still playing with the flowers while her white teddy bear dangled on the ground. “But I think you wanted to see Akari, didn’t you?”

Her daughter looked away and focused her attention on them. “Mama?”

“Everything is fine, sweetie,” she reassured her daughter with a gentle, soothing voice. Akari stared at them for a moment, her violet eyes focused on the dying man in the bed. Her face twisted into sadness, and it was not long before her child went back to staring at the flowers, babbling whatever nonsense that 1-year-olds would babble. She looked away from her daughter and devoted her attention to the old man looking at her daughter. There was emptiness, regret, and resignation in his eyes. Regret? She supposed he missed the days when his child had been like Akari, so beautifully innocent and so beautifully small.

“Children do grow quickly,” Sakura agreed, looking dimly at Akari before glancing at Sasuke. Satoru, for one wild moment, wanted to ask them about their reasons for getting married. Their relationship, he noticed, was not a normal or healthy one. He knew in some ways that Sasuke and Naruto were together, it had been hinted after all. Yet the actual married couple didn’t have an ounce of mutual love. It almost made him concern for their child. “Sarada seems to be growing quickly, don’t you think Sasuke?”

Her husband remained silent; his eyes void of emotion as he drank in the sight of the toddler. The air around him trembled as if in grief of the sight before them, and Satoru pressed his lips into a thin line. Was the man even involve in his child’s life? Or was he like Toji? Barely involved in his child’s life. It seemed like it from the conversation that his daughter had told them. She made it clear that they were brought to change her friend’s future.

“Akari seems to be an incredibly intelligent,” Kakashi commented lightly. “She seems to be almost aware of what is going on with Yuuji’s grandfather.”

Yaga nodded. “If she’s emotionally intelligent, then it must be from her mother because Satoru lacks knowledge in that regard or else he wouldn’t make it his mission to frustrate everyone that works with him.”

Naruto maintained a smile and swallowed the lump in her throat. “I find it hard to believe she’s 1,” her eyes became just a little bit misty, her vision a little bit blurred. “It felt like yesterday when I held her in my arms, marveling just how tiny she was,” she chuckled and wiped her eyes. “Now she just wants to explore the world,” she laughed. “She might actually do that when she becomes an adult.”

The old man surveyed her daughter, an odd grief and regret lit his eyes. “Where’s the father?” she remained silent, and the old man pressed on, almost knowingly. “Does he know about your daughter? Or have you kept him in the dark?”

Everyone in the room turned their heads at him and he looked away with a grimace. Was it his fault for not asking for her number? He regrated not asking for her number. She was, he would admit, nearly perfect for him at the time. Funny. Bold. But most of all, his future wife behaved like herself, not some fake woman that pretended to be something she was not. Oh, she had been incredible too in bed and that tempted him even more to chase after her. For that one night, he felt like he did connect with someone. The only thing that stopped him from chasing after her was the knowledge that she would constantly need protection.

“We didn’t exchange numbers,” Satoru reminded them. “And clearly we met again or else we wouldn’t have more children together.” The moment he uttered those words, he remembered the fact that they did have more children and that meant he probably didn’t need to protect her. God knows that would have been his dealbreaker, the one thing that would hold him back from committing to her.

Naruto’s tongue became heavy. Her tongue glued to the roof of her tongue. The father, she realized numbly. The unknown man, who had been her attempt to feel better about herself. To forget for one wild moment of the never-ending grief that Sasuke had betrayed her in the worst possible way. For that night, she did forget about Sasuke. About Sakura. About the child growing in Sakura’s womb; the reminder of her partner’s betrayal. From her hazy memories, she recalled him telling her that neither of each other would call each other. That this was not a relationship, and if she was okay with it. She remembered smiling and telling him that was what she needed. To ensure it became true, she left in the middle of the night while he slept. One good memory for her. Except her reckless behaviour ended up with her getting pregnant. She closed her eyes and rubbed her aching temple. The father deserved to know but she didn’t want a scenario like her former teammates, where there was one-sided love. Except hers would have been worse. It would have been a marriage lacking any form of love.

“She left you in the middle of the night?” Suguru asked, his lips twitching as if holding back a bark of laugh. Shoko shared the same expression while everyone else just scrutinized him. “That must be the first time a woman left you, Satoru. She actually did the impossible, leaving you alone in a hotel room.”

Satoru nodded before letting out a loud bark of a laugh. “Imagine how I felt when I woke up and not saw her, beside me? I know we said that we wouldn’t be in a relationship but I was so tempted by her.” He blinked when Kakashi gave him a strangled look as if it was by the thinnest threat that he wasn’t going to strangle him. Satoru held his hands up in the air. “At the time, I don’t do commitment and I wasn’t going to lie to your beautiful student, telling her that we would be in a relationship! We were using each other at the time so clearly I didn’t do anything without her permission.”

Hinata came to his defense and said firmly. “Naruto is old enough to know better, Kakashi. Besides, they clearly got together and ended up getting married or we wouldn’t be in this situation.” She nodded and looked at the screen. “And clearly they fell in love because Naruto wouldn’t marry him if she didn’t fall in love with him.”

Sakura snorted. “But he’s a rebound.”

“He was a rebound one-night-stand,” Ino said firmly. “Not a rebound boyfriend. Besides, you can’t talk Sakura! You and Sasuke aren’t exactly the picture of love and don’t tell me that you two are in love because I haven’t seen him treat you the same way that he treated Naruto during their relationship.” Sakura clenched her jaw while she stared at her. “He even seems to give warm eyes to her daughter than his own biological daughter.”

“He was some pretty man I met in a bar, a rebound from my ex-boyfriend cheating on me,” she confessed with a bitter smile. It was better, she decided, to confess the truth about Akari’s father to a dying man with no friends than to a living man with friends. The living tended to gossip while the dying was focused more on enjoying every precious second, they had. “I didn’t take his number and he didn’t take mine,” she grimaced. “I obviously didn’t think I would ever need to see him again since I wasn’t planning to get knocked up.”

The old man stared distantly at the window. No, she realized, at her daughter. “You should tell him about his child,” his voice became dull and worn. “And if he chooses not to be involved, you can tell your daughter the truth without any regret,” he sighed and turned to focus his dark dull eyes on her. “Every child deserves to know their origins, to know something about their parents, even if they claimed to not want to know the truth.”

There was only silence as the heavy words echoed in the room. Naruto fiddled with her locket and closed her eyes. Oh, he spoke blunt words that she already knew from experience. Like her daughter, she didn’t have a father. She had been unaware of whom she resembled while growing up. There had been subtle clues on the Hokage Monument, on the photos of the previous Hokage, but to a hated child like her, it felt like something from a story. Unbelievable and cruel. She remembered the days, where she sat on the swing and wondered if her parents had loved her. She recalled laying on her cold wooden floors, drawing images of parents that she never knew. Her mother, she recalled drawing, would have her golden hair while her eyes would have come from her father. It would then switched every time. Her daughter would have the pleasure of knowing what one parent looked like, would have the pleasure of knowing what her maternal grandparents looked like, but her father? It would be an unfair mystery to her. She sighed.

Satoru remained silent. He couldn’t bring himself to make a comment or joke about the seriousness, not when he could see the grief in her eyes. Taking a deep breath, he glanced at Hinata. The woman trembled and sucked a deep breath while her husband comforted her. On the other side of the room, he saw Sakura and noticed the bubbling guilt in those green eyes. Something didn’t make sense if you asked him. Why was she guilty? Was there something else that she wasn’t telling them?

From the speakers, a light, airy voice came out. “Mum cares a lot about keeping a family together and making sure a child has a father figure,” A woman declared. The screen changed to reveal a female version of himself, only with blond tints to her white hair. She smiled at them, looking almost like him but her smiles, he decided, were more like her mothers. “She would even keep her mouth shut to make sure that a child would have a father even if the mother went behind her back and disrespected her.”

“Botan, didn’t Akari told you not to talk to them?” A man called out, coming onto the screen. He looked almost like Naruto except his facial features weren’t like her or his. A glance at Kakashi revealed the man blinking and pinching himself as if he was trying to get himself out of a dream.

The woman puffed her cheeks. “Must you be a stickler to the rules, Suguru?”

“If I was a stickler to the rules, I would’ve told Mum and you know how she feels about these things,” the man retorted, shaking his head. His blue eyes shifted to the screen before he shook his head and let out a heavy sigh. “C’mon Botan, we’ve some more work to do. We need to finish the job Akari and Kazue gave us before your shift in the hospital starts and before one of those insane women find out that I’m back in the village.”

“You could just get a fake partner instead of just making some excuse on why you don't want to go on a date with them.”

“And have Kazue tease the hell out of me for not finding an actual partner or have Akari give me a long lecture about how I should give love a chance?” The man wrinkled his nose and flicked his sister’s forehead, lovingly and in amusem*nt. “I already witness how much Dad and Kazue act like idiots when it comes to love, heard stories from Uncle Kakashi about Grandpa Minato, and I’m not going to become like them. I’m happy to be the cool, single Uncle for this family.”

The woman rolled her eyes. “You would actually need to be cool, Suguru and you’re just a nerd.”

“And yet I have always received an invitation and have so many admirers for my brains,” he retorted. “Being a nerd, my sweet sister, is now cool! It’s not my fault that your ex-boyfriend is a complete and utter buffoon and not a cool nerd like me.”

“Let’s get the job done,” Botan grumbled. “And just for insulting my last mistake of a relationship, I’m going to tell Aunt Ino that you’re looking for a girlfriend but you’re too afraid to ask her to work her magic in finding the perfect partner for you.” With those words, his daughter walked out with a very smug smile that was almost reminiscent of his own smile.

His future son paled and bolted out of the room. “Don’t you dare tell Aunt Ino about this!

Somehow, the screen had reverted to the original projection.

“I’ve been in that situation,” she admitted with a tired voice. He stared at her with blank eyes, and she admitted. “My parents died on the day I was born,” there was sympathy in Itadori’s grandfather eyes and she looked away. “I didn’t know their names until I was 16 and the people who should’ve told me kept me in the dark,” she exhaled and leaned against the chair. “In some ways, I understood but like you said, every child deserves to know their origins because it gives a clue to the bigger picture; it gives them a sense of identity as well.” She looked at her smiling, oblivious daughter. “I’ll look for him and I’ll tell him about Akari, for both their sake.” She chuckled. “That’s going to be fun, don’t you think? Yo, remember that one night we had? Well congratulations, you’re a Dad.” Naruto snorted. “The guy is going to freak out and run.”

“I wouldn’t run,” Satoru declared, shaking his head. His former classmate, his former teacher, and his best friend gave him a disbelieving look and he held his hands up in the air for them. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t freak out but I wouldn’t run. Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time that a woman accused me of getting them pregnant.”

Kakashi twitched. “So, you’re irresponsible?”

“Nope, they just want me to date and marry them,” he replied, rolling his eyes. “And speaking about irresponsible, I think your other two students are the more irresponsible ones. Naruto and I did use protection when we slept together and we still got pregnant, so I can safely say that we were the responsible ones.”

Suguru nodded. “Satoru isn’t that irresponsible.”

For the first time in months, the old man laughed. “Men tend to have these reactions,” his voice became bitter. “I wish my son had that reaction when his partner announced her pregnancy,” she blinked and the old man released a heavy sigh. “Yuuji is a blessing but his mother, that vile snake,” he coughed and clutched his blanket as his eyes radiated with anger, “was not someone fit to be a mother. At first, she was so kind but then she got into that accident, we thought she died,” he looked at the ceiling, “and then she popped out of nowhere, behaving different; evil and manipulative. It was like she was possessed,” Naruto stiffened and watched as the old man scoffed. “It wasn’t long before she became pregnant with Yuuji, my dimwit of a son was overjoyed and unaware that his kind wife was no longer there; the car crash changed her in the worst way,” he exhaled and looked at the window. “I knew it was his life but I knew Kaori would be the one to kill him,” his voice became bitter. “I was right. That snake disappeared, and Yuuji was left to be raised by me.”

“You don’t think that there is a possibility that someone took over her body, do you?” Sakura asked, furrowing her eyebrows together. She glanced at her husband and for the first time, the man actually gave a response. It was a nod but it was better than his usual air of silence. The woman tilted her head to the side and continued on. “You don’t think Orochimaru—”

“—I doubt that he can give birth when he takes someone’s body,” Kakashi commented.

Sasuke grunted. “With how crazy his experiments ca be, it isn’t a stretch.”

Naruto kept silent. “Why are you telling me this?” she looked at her daughter, who was now staring at them with steady, brave eyes. Any other child would have whimpered and wept at the cruel tone but not her daughter. She pressed on. “This is something Yuuji should hear from you,” she steadied her voice. “He deserves to know this, not me.”

He looked straight at her. “I know my grandson and I know he’ll refuse to hear the truth,” he let out a shaky breath and admitted with a grief-stricken voice. “My time in this world is running out, Uzumaki.” His voice became choked up. “I fear leaving this world and that my grandson will never know the truth because he’s being a stubborn mule,” they shared a snort and his eyes levelled with her. “I’m going to die tonight,” his voice became bitter. “I can feel it in my bones. I can see my wife waving her hand at me, beckoning me to join her,” Naruto’s eyes became misty as his voice hardened. “Last night, I had a dream about Jin, telling me that I was right. That the woman who gave birth to Yuuji only resembled Kaori because the real Kaori? She died that night,” his voice became grief-stricken. “I want him to know the truth no matter what, even if he refuses to listen because this is a part of his identity.”

Satoru just closed his eyes and wondered not for the first time if he was doing the right thing by obeying Megumi’s wishes. He had tried to tell him and while it seemed like in the future, he would live long enough to tell Megumi of the truth but what if he didn’t? What should he do? He exhaled and glanced at his best friend before shifting his attention to the other two silent people in the room.

“Naruto is good at getting people to listen,” Sasuke commented with a quiet voice. He just stared at the screen with unreadable eyes while everyone else remained silent. “And there’s very little chance that she would not let her student know, she might even go beyond telling the story and just dig around. That is the kind of woman she is.” There was a hint of pride in his voice, the kind of pride that made him did a double-take at him.

It didn’t go unnoticed by Sakura, who trembled and looked away from him.

In another world, she would have protested if she hadn’t known this reasoning, but now? Her heart ached for this elderly man while her mind raced with concern for Yuuji. The idea of his mother not being his mother rang alarm bells inside her brain. It tempted her to contact Karin. To contact Orochimaru. She gazed at her daughter, her sweet daughter who was crying for the old man. The old man winced and turned, a scowl on his lips. It was embarrassment and guilt, she knew. Shaking her head, Naruto scooped her daughter into her arms, patting her on the back and hummed the vague lullabies she recalled her mother singing to her in her memories. The final one she allowed her to do before she had been ripped away from her. Letting out a shaky breath, she looked at the birds on the tree branch.

I want that. The thought lingered in his mind as his eyes took in the beautiful sight of his daughter being purely loved by her mother. He knew now that he would get that future. That he would witness Naruto with their children but it didn’t mean that he didn’t want it now. The more he heard her thoughts, the more he saw her devotion to their daughter, the more he hated himself for not pursing her when he had the chance. He released one shaky breath and looked up at the ceiling.

“She is a good mother,” Shoko observed, her eyes focused on him like she knew what went through his insane mind. Of the various thoughts and plans that crept into his mind. “Akari is very lucky to have her as a mother.” The words were meant to reassure him and it did. It reminded him of all the women that he could have slept, he chose someone that treasured his child with all her heart and without any knowledge of him.

Sasuke just stared at him, looking at him with envy and then looked at the toddler on the screen with so much regret and longing. Like he wanted that child instead of his own biological child. I’m starting to understand why my kids agreed to change the future. He could only imagine the pain in the man daughter’s eyes if she witnessed the intense longing for a family that would never be his. That didn’t have her in it.

“If you haven’t told me that whole story, I would have said no,” she admitted with a quiet voice. Her eyes flickered to the cursed locket on her neck and then to the still man before her. “But I love Yuuji and I know loneliness,” her eyes looked down at her toddler, who slowly stopped sobbing. “And I know he shouldn’t be alone because no child should be alone, should not know the truth but I can’t tell him the truth until I know the whole story,” she admitted. “I think there’s more to what happened to his mother.”

The man remained silent.

“Do as you wish but I don’t want him to be alone,” he exhaled and looked her in the eye. His final plea to her, she realized. “He shouldn’t be the one to raise himself; I don’t want him to have the burden of burying me with my wife and son.”

Kakashi closed his eyes and heaved another sigh. “It’s never easy to bury a loved one,” he admitted as his eyes focused on Naruto and her toddler. “I was the one who had to help bury Naruto’s parents, and by that time…I have already buried one of my teammates. I have done the same for my other comrades but burying Minato-sensei and Kushina…” He shook his head and exhaled. “His grandfather made the right call.”

She smiled dimly. “I know.” He would not be the first body she would bury, and she doubted he would be the last.

For the first time in months, the old man smiled and closed his eyes. Her daughter wiggled in her hold, a plea for her to let her go. Naruto smiled and placed her daughter on the ground, watching with a heavy heart as Akari dashed straight to the old man. With a bright smile on her lips, the toddler climbed onto the bed and hugged him. It earned another laugh. For a brief moment, her mind wandered back to her own childhood when she attempted to hug the matron. The old woman had smacked her hard on the cheek for daring to touch her. But this old man for all his bitterness and rage, smiled and hugged her daughter back.

“Was she abused?” Suguru asked, locking his gaze on the shinobi in the room.

Hinata grimaced and nodded. “The orphanage never treated her with kindness, which was why she always refused to show her soft side during the Academy.” The woman rubbed her baby bump and offered them a kind smile. “But when she did show her soft and kind side, well you always want to treasure it because it means she trusted you to show the other side of her.” She exhaled and glanced at Sasuke. “Some people just don’t know how to appreciate a good thing until they lost it.”

The man didn’t protest against that comment.

The beauty of the moment was ruined by the ringtone of her phone.Just the two of us.That was the normal ringtone she put on her phone, an unfamiliar song that her daughter seemed to enjoy dancing to. She allowed the phone to ring for a moment or two, watching with a chuckle on her lips as her daughter squirmed her little body to the tune. Chuckling, she stared at them for another moment before pressing on the answer aspect of her phone.

“That girl and all your children are going to be so spoiled by you,” Suguru commented. Satoru jerked his head, and his best friend gave him a look. That knowing look. “You haven’t even held your daughter yet and you’re already showing clear signs that you would do anything for her.” He didn’t deny it and his best friend continued. “But with how young she is, I can understand why you would have such a strong desire for her.”

He kept silent and stated. “She is my child, Suguru. Why wouldn’t I want her? The one person that could love me unconditionally?”

His friend couldn’t answer him.

“What’s up, Yuuji?” She asked, keeping her eyes focused on the old man who kept smiling at her adorable daughter. There was soft whispers between them, her daughter babbling about Snuggles to the man. There was a light of acceptance in his eyes, a relief that his grandson would now be in the right hands. Warmth grew in her belly. That was her doing. She smiled and repeated herself. “C’mon Yuuji, what’s up?”

The boy remained silent for another moment and then cleared his throat. “I just wanna let you know that Setsuko-senpai and Iguchi-senpai are going to try to do the thing that you told them not to do.”

Naruto kept silent and reigned in her temper. Deep breaths. That was what she had to do. Except, her blood boiled up and her stomach crumbled when she thought of Kurama’s words. Those beasts. They would try to kill her daughter if they took whatever was in that box. Another deep breath and she studied the old man. The strength in his face was rapidly fading away. His eyelids were dropping. The scent of death grew stronger. It seemed like it wouldn’t be long before he took his final breath.

“Any child of mine would be endanger because of curses,” Satoru mumbled, closing his eyes and shaking his head. That was the main reason for his desire not to have kids with a normal woman or with anyone, who wasn’t as strong as him. He exhaled and closed his eyes for a moment. “I can only imagine how tiring it might have been for her when she was pregnant with Akari.”

“She clearly has a handle of it since your daughter lived long enough to get engaged,” Shoko reminded him.

That reminder made him twitch. “And how can I trust that her future fiancé can protect her or their future children?” The shinobi in the room looked offended and he looked at them dead in the eye. “I know you people might be strong but my daughters deserves a strong man, not some weakling.”

“I pity the man who ends up marrying anyone of his daughters,” Shikamaru mumbled. “Adorable as Akari may be, her father is way too troublesome for my liking.”

“I’ll deal with those two,” she reassured him as her eyes rested on her smiling daughter. “But I need you to watch my daughter for me.” She held the quick intake of breath, a sign of protest. “And don’t worry about seeing your grandfather; Akari and me are here…so you can spend time with him while you watched her for me.”

Yuuji let out a shaky breath.“Why did you go see Gramps?”

“Hmm, I’ll tell you when you go back to my apartment,” Naruto looked at the sleeping old man and added. “And tonight, you won’t return to your gramps’ place,” she paused and considered her next choice of words. “I don’t know when I’ll be back but it’ll be late enough that you won’t be able to go back home.”

There was a cruelty of her telling her student about the potential of his grandfather dying tonight. It was a conversation meant to be seen face-to-face, not over the phone.

“It seems like making her give the bad news to her colleague’s families whenever one of them died is going to pay off,” Kakashi commented, letting out a sigh. They blinked and he explained. “If she is going to become my successor, then she needs to learn how to be the bearer of bad news. Besides, she has a softer, more empathetic way of breaking bad news to them.”

“Basically she is just better at that aspect of the job than you,” Shikamaru stated with a sigh.

Kakashi didn’t deny it.

She just hoped she would return before the old man shut his eyes for the final time.

This is what falling out of love feels like - Chapter 5 - STLHero (2024)

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