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Pink Carnations and Zinnia

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Acts of Kindness:

A random act of kindness, no matter how small, can make a tremendous impact on someone else's life.

~Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart


Preparation

You are incensed that you unknowingly saved a pair of assassins who had been sent to take your life, but at ten years old, you are much better at hiding your emotions than when you were four or seven. After that startling revelation, though, you stick close to Father until the two of you are allowed to go home, which isn’t long after the medic-nin confirm that the Kumo-nin are no longer in danger of dying.

Father carries you home in his jacket. Time had been of the essence when Shibi-sama had come to fetch you, and you had barely had time to grab your sunglasses, never mind your jacket or even your sandals. At least Father has his sandals on, so you don’t have to worry about his feet. It may be spring, but the nights aren’t exactly warm.

You aren’t told much about what happened to the Kumo-nin after that, but you did hear that they were allowed to leave. According to Father, violating the new peace treaty would likely have lead to war, so even if it rankles that your attempted assassins got to live, at least you didn’t have to go to war just yet.

Your Carnivores aren’t ready for battle, or at least you aren’t proficient in the Aburame jutsu, having recently begun learning them. This incident seems to have an affect on Father as your training increases.

By late summer, you can use the Insect Sphere technique.

(you test it on a wild boar with Father as your escort and you both witness the flesh eaters strip it down the bone within three minutes

and he says that that time will only get shorter as you get better and you hope to get to the point where death is almost instantaneous)


Expanded

It turns out that Torune alters between being three to four years younger than you depending on the time of year. At the moment, he is four years younger than you are, and is for the majority of any given year. That just makes his determination to marry you worse because he’s even younger than you originally thought. Maybe it won’t matter so much when you are both older, but right now it just makes you feel uncomfortable.

Going back to your idea about getting Torune out of the Aburame compound (you found out that he’s allowed to wander the compound grounds as long as he avoids touching anyone or anything), your progress under Father’s training was encouraging. Soon you would feel confident enough in your abilities to present the idea to Shibi-sama in hopes of testing it out with Torune. If your Shapers could neutralize any left behind poisonous insects from Torune over a wide surface, then taking him to one of the parks in the village wasn’t just a pipe dream.

Why there isn’t a park in the compound grounds you’ll never know. Seriously, with how bad children can be about insects, especially those beneath the skin of other children, you’d think that the clan would have its own playground so the Aburame kids would play without being harassed, but nooooo. Father had made you a swing upon your request earlier that summer, and having played on it frequently you were sure of its, what’s the word, durability? It wouldn’t break under Torune, anyway.

Father, knowing of your plans and having decided that your skills were up to par, had to nudge you into presenting your idea to Shibi-sama. The clan head listened to your idea and silently considered your words for so long that you were certain he was going to say no. Instead, he had concerns about giving Torune false hope, which you could understand, but given that he knew that your Shapers could trump the boy’s poisonous insects, he gave the green light for you to present your idea to Torune.

The six-year-old boy had a confidence in you that you didn’t possess in yourself.

“Okay,” was his quick answer to your question of if he wanted to try.

“I knew it would work, because it’s you,” was his comment as a clearly not poisoned Shibi-sama sat on the swing and gripped the areas Torune had been touching when he had sat there just prior.

“It will work,” was his prediction as he stood with you, Father and Shibi-sama in front of a park near the river in the late evening after the rest of the children had left.

“Thank you,” was his parting sentence before your two groups split up within the compound, said with gratitude heavily laced into his words.

(with your Shapers scouring in his wake, Torune could go places and not just to parks

thanks to you, his world got bigger)


Experience

The first time Shibi-sama asks you to accompany him and his sons to a place that most definitely is not a children’s park, you nearly say no out of shock. He wants to take his sons to Yakiniku Q and to take Torune he needs to have you there too. The only good thing about his asking is that he didn’t ask in front of any of the boys, so there was no pressure on you from them.

In then end, you say yes, because how could you be so cruel as to refuse? Besides, even if Shibi-sama said that there would be no reprisals if you declined, it’s not exactly comforting even if it coming from the clan head himself.

Father was invited as well, but he had gotten a mission before the invitation was given, but he did give you his permission to go. Upon the agreed day, you didn’t go to the hospital after the academy and Tsubasa dropped you off directly at Shibi-sama’s even though Kaede was still in the village.

It was nerve wracking being inside an establishment and knowing that you were responsible for making sure no one would be poisoned in Torune’s wake. You could barely taste the meat you were eating, courtesy of Shibi-sama. Of course, being a table occupied by those of the Aburame clan, aside from the sounds of meat and vegetables grilling and the occasional sound of cups being put down, the table was nearly unbearably silent. You nearly jumped out of your skin by the time Torune broke the silence to thank both Shibi-sama and yourself for bringing him here.

It's only then that you realize you may have dug another grave for yourself. Until Torune can control his insects, wouldn’t they be calling upon you any time he wanted to go out, or when Shibi-sama wanted to take him somewhere?

You tell yourself that it’s for a good cause, but you still lament for not thinking about the bigger picture yet again.

(his boys are quiet, from Yoji down to Shino, but it warms his heart to see the minute clues in their body language to see them feeling content, such as in Yoji and Shino’s case, or outright happy in Torune’s case

he just hopes that Kaiya-kun isn’t always this tense when they go out, otherwise he might feel too guilty to ask this of her too frequently)


Earning

Outside of Shibi-sama’s sons, his daughter doesn’t have friends. She doesn’t speak of the children in her class, and most of the people she does speak of are adults. Shino, Torune and Yoji are the closest things she has to friends, and even those three are held slightly at bay.

Teijo knows that she is keeping something secret from him, from the whole clan and even the Hokage. More than anyone, he remembers the night Root first came for his daughter. He remembers seeing her skin in the glow of her first firefly, how it hadn’t changed tone despite having absorbed and reconstructed countless kikaichu from both himself and the then-human Aburame Michi. Her question from then is still etched into his memory, the one he never gave a verbal answer to but still keeps to this day.

She asked him not to tell, and his lips thus far have been sealed.

Maybe it’s wrong to conceal whatever it is she keeps secret, a new blood limit, perhaps, but Teijo didn’t want to force her to reveal it.

He nearly lost Kazue in a similar manner, forcing himself where he wasn’t wanted, coercing words out of someone important to him instead of waiting for her to reveal it on her own. Kazue forgave him with Kaiya’s birth, but now he lived with the fear that if he alienated her then there would be nothing he could do to earn his daughter’s forgiveness.

Thus, he waits.

He waits for her to speak, to confide in him the burden she bears by holding her secret alone. The longer she lives, the surer he becomes that someday, someday she will tell him. One would think that he would only grow more anxious as time continued stretching longer without her speaking, but he thinks waiting is the right thing to do. He believes this because there are times when Kaiya will do nothing but stare at him. If he doesn’t acknowledge her staring, then she will keep staring without a word until finally she looks away.

He thinks she is considering him, weighing her secret and her trust in him.

Whether the moment is this year, or next year, or ten years or more away, Teijo believes she will tell him the reason behind her question from that night.

He almost doesn’t even mind if he’s not the first she tells.


Child

Time continues to fly by, and next year looms ever closer. Next year means graduation, which in turn means the beginning of your career as a kunoichi. The threat from Kumo lingers over your head, but you try not to think about it too much because you can’t change it. Instead you focus on your Aburame jutsu and how to utilize your various kikaichu. Medical jutsu comes after that, and in last place is the Academy Three, not that you consider them useless. Switching places with an object is a useful jutsu, and it’s that one of the three which you are most proficient in. You are confident that you will be able to pass the graduation exam, so for now you are savoring what time you have left as a civilian.

Walking home in late October, alone (or at least Tsubasa isn’t within a few steps), you quietly reveled in the fact that you were no longer openly escorted from place to place. This was possibly in preparation of you becoming a genin (an “adult”) where you would likely be responsible for yourself. Such a thought would probably be unsettling if it weren’t the fact that you knew very well that Father didn’t expect you to move out for years yet.

You have the memories of a past life, but that in no way prepared you for living on your own in this less technologically advanced world, thank you very much.

Although speaking of living alone, the life skills you learned from Father would no doubt be useful for when you finally did move out, whether that was to live alone or to get married. Thinking about it, you aren’t sure if you want to try living on your own before getting married, or if you should stay in your father’s household until you jump straight into your husband’s. Although that’s years away, so never mind.

Stopping at the hobby shop where you bought your first knitting project, you purchased more yarn in anticipation of making more scarves. The boys wouldn’t be small forever, and Father had gotten blood on his scarf near the end of last winter, plus you wanted to make better scarves, so yeah, you needed more yarn. Thinking of starting with Father’s new scarf, you almost miss the sight of a yellow-haired child standing close to the side of road.

(your daughter)

You do a small but visible double-take and feel your heart jump into your throat as recognition nearly hits home.

(a word, a name on the verge of your tongue but still out of reach)

The moment passes though, and you realize that this couldn’t possibly be the daughter you left behind in another world (right?). Both she and this child are small, but ten years have passed since you were born, ten years which would have made your daughter older and bigger. This is not her.

This child is not your problem.

You keep walking, but your footsteps falter as you realize that the kid is crying and no one seems to care. Where are their parents? Do they have a sibling who should be looking after them? You don’t know who this child is, and normally you can ignore crying children, but this one has yellow hair.

She had had yellow hair.

(you had resented her existence, but she had still been yours, their first grandchild)

You turn around and—reluctantly, all the while hoping that someone else will step up—walk back to the crying child. Taking a moment to stare at the top of their head, you wait a few seconds more, but no one else comes up.

(memories flash through your mind in quick succession of a baby, a toddler, a child, all the same girl growing up before your eyes, and yet clearly having the impression that not once did you stop blaming yourself for why she was there instead of them)

Hugging your purchase to your chest, you made sure your voice was level.

“Hey, what’s wrong? Are you lost?”


Assistance

The voice startles him into looking up and that’s when he realizes he isn’t being ignored anymore. No one had stopped to listen to him and everyone had walked by even as he called out that he was lost. Naruto probably shouldn’t have run away, but the bigger kids had been really mean today. The grown ups wouldn’t help him, and finally he had squeezed out of a gap in the fence to get away. Once he had left the yard, suddenly there were new places to explore!

But… it hadn’t been great. The people didn’t help him, and even yelled at him to go away. He couldn’t find his way back, and he was hungry now. After breakfast comes lunch, but he thinks he missed it. The grown ups are always saying that they can only eat at mealtimes, so now he’ll have to wait until dinner, but if he doesn’t get back then he’ll starve!

No one would stop to help him, but now there was someone. He was wearing a jacket and dark glasses and was a just a big kid and not a grown up, but Naruto hoped he could help anyway. He sniffled out his story of being lost, and he felt worse when the big kid asked where he lived and realized that he didn’t know where the building was. He knew what it was called, though, and tried to pronounce it.

“The orphanage?”

Yeah, that was the word! He nodded rapidly, rubbing one eye.

This big kid was kind of scary. Naruto couldn’t really see their whole face. He also had long hair like a girl—wait.

“Are y-you a girl?

The big kid sniffed. “What did you think I was?”

“A boy,” he said honestly.

The big kid stared down at him before sighing. “Considering how I dress I suppose that’s fair enough. Yes, I am a girl.” She waved her hand but he didn’t understand. “Come on, I know the general direction of the orphanage.”

She was a few steps away before Naruto snapped out of his surprise and ran after her. He trailed a couple steps behind her, worried that this was some kind of trick to get him alone so she could hurt him. Sometimes the other kids did that, and sometimes the grown ups didn’t find out even later. He doesn’t want to get hurt after being lost for so long, but there’s no one else helping him so he doesn’t have a choice.

It seems like they walk forever before he finally notices the familiar building of where he lives. He brightens and even the growling of his stomach can’t dampen his relief, or rather, it doesn’t dampen it too much. Maybe he missed lunch, but now that he’s back, he won’t miss dinner or have to sleep outside like he’d been scared of.

“Here we are,” the big girl says, which is kind of stupid since he can see that with his own eyes.

Grinning now, he ran ahead before remembering to stop to thank her. He spun on his heel and bowed like he had seen some people do.

“Thank you for helping me, sister!”

Giving her one last grin, he turned and ran through the open gate, hoping that the grown ups hadn’t noticed he was missing because he didn’t want to get punished with chores or an early bedtime.

(he doesn’t realize the horror that last words impart on his benefactor)


Almost

Heading home again, this time without any unexpected detours, you frown behind your high collar as you reflect on your interaction with that boy just a while ago. Not asking him for his name had been a conscious decision. You didn’t want to know any more about him than the barest minimum, not when he had blue eyes to go with his blond hair.

(the father of your daughter had had blue eyes, you remember that much even though the rest of his face continues to elude you)

Hopefully now that he knew that getting lost was a real thing, maybe you wouldn’t have to see him again. At least, it would be easier to ignore him if he wasn’t crying.

(you had made her cry, through cold indifference and deliberate, prolonged absence)

Resisting the urge to sigh or run a hand through your now lengthy hair, you decided to put the incident out of your mind. It was a one-time thing and not something you should waste your time worrying about, not when there were scarves to knit, exercises to do to keep honing your chakra control, and a mess of others things you did with your second life.

Head held high, you walked through the compound gates and headed for home.

(trying to shake the memory of once handing your daughter to her father to hold, on a bench in park somewhere that you never went to again

and you wonder why, when you have such complicated feelings about both, how you could have let that happen in the first place

and ask yourself why, if you couldn’t love her, why you didn’t give her to the person who looked at her as though she was a—)

Your brow furrows as a word (a name) you nearly grasped escaped from you.

Pursing your lips, you raised your head and resumed your stride. If flashbacks are what you get for helping blond kids, then maybe you shouldn’t help them anymore. You’re trying to move on, and you like to think that you’ve been making progress. Here you are, ten years old, and you have people who are important to you from Father and Shino down to Amano, Shino and Nishida at the hospital, and even people like Tsubasa and Kaede whom you have grown attached to over time (and Michi and Juhi, wherever they are). When you grow up, maybe Torune will actually be your husband, or maybe it will be someone else, and you will have their child, a grandchild for your Father, and maybe someday you will even be a grandmother yourself.

You have a new life to live, so it was long past time to let go of that life you can’t get back.

Entering the house, you hear movement and call out that you are home. You get a mild call back and enter further into the house to see Father preparing tea. Taking the seat and cup he offers, you can’t help but steal glances at him from behind your shades even as you enjoy this moment of cozy peace.

(you can’t help but wonder how much it would have hurt to live if he didn’t so clearly love you as much as you loved him)


I know my heart will never be the same
But I'm telling myself I'll be okay

~Sara Evans