They walk slowly, father and daughter, a leisurely pace through the warehouse district of Konoha. Members of the Nara clan walking slowly is not and unusual sight in the village, except that these particular members happen to be Nara clan head and his internationally acclaimed war hero daughter. Those who do recognize them stare in awe, some even stand at attention, saluting or bowing.
Shikako tries not to flinch each time, tries to hold her head high instead of ducking behind her father like the shy little girl she once was, but it’s difficult. Luckily, it doesn’t happen too often; the warehouse district is mostly empty save for the genin runners from the merchant district tasked with hauling scrolls of stock back and forth.
The streets empty further as they go deeper into the district, smaller warehouses less used or possible even fully abandoned. It’s here that Dad finally comes to a stop, nicking his thumb and swiping the blood over a fuinjutsu array on one such warehouse door.
The security seal recognizes him–or his blood, at least–and unlocks. Dad pulls the door open with a creak of metal, the sound echoing. Though loud, it almost seems more of a yawn than a roar, a long slumbering beast stretching to awake.
The warehouse is empty of all but dust and rust, in great need of cleaning and modernizing, but there’s something about the space that still stirs something within her.
“Wow,” Shikako breathes, a smile stretching across her face.
Dad, quietly triumphant, asks, “So you’ll take it?”
Naruto comes home from the battlefield not quite a conquering hero, but a beloved figure nonetheless and a practical shoo-in for Nanadaime Hokage.
Of course, it could also be said that he doesn’t come home from the battlefield at all because, as it turns out, Naruto is technically homeless.
He laughs and smiles, hand scratching sheepishly at the back of his neck, but he emphatically refuses every offer of hospitality whether it be guest room, couch, or–alarmingly, three different times–a more innuendo laden offer of hospitality.
It’s not that Naruto is refusing out of pride–Shikako knows better.
“Can you help me with something?” she asks, a casual head tilt to her warehouse. In only a few short weeks, it’s already become the best place to find her at any given time.
“Of course, Shikako-chan!” Naruto agrees without even asking for details, ever so trusting and eager to give a hand to those who need it. She’d never betray his confidence in her, but a worse person would find it easy to do so.
The main space of the warehouse has been converted to a workshop, the main table covered with notes and a prototype of her newest project: a natural chakra circuit.
“You’re the only other sage I could ask about this,” Shikako explains, pointing out the flow of natural chakra and how it’s drawn in, cycled through, then emitted by the circuit. Naruto may not understand her notes, but when he syncs his chakra to the natural energy of the world around them he can feel it clearly. “And it’s just that I’ve got a mission starting tomorrow but I don’t want to leave this project unmonitored.” She pauses, as if considering, “I guess if you’re busy, I could just shut it down and try again when I come back–but then I’d have to restart, and–”
“No way! I can look after your stuff, Shikako-chan, believe it!” Naruto interrupts, grin wide and practically glowing at the prospect.
Shikako smiles back, “Thanks, Naruto,” she says and doesn’t feel at all guilty that she specifically created the circuit so she could bring him here, “It’d be best if you could stay with it overnight, too,” she instructs, guiding him to the back of the warehouse. It was originally meant for only basic amenities, but Shikako has fixed it up to be a fairly comfortable living space. “Sometimes when I have intense projects, I just sleep here instead of going all the way back to the Nara clan compound.”
Naruto’s grin begins to grow strained, a flicker of that same hesitance appearing.
“But I get it’s kind of messy,” she continues even though she knows for a fact that Naruto’s apartment was far messier, “So if you just want to use the loft, I’d understand. I was thinking about maybe starting a small garden up there, but you know me,” her shrug is casual, self-deprecating, and entirely calculated, “I’m not that good with plants.”
An almost devious gleam makes its way into Naruto’s eyes.
A week and a half later, Shikako returns from her mission and is only outwardly surprised to find that the loft has become a veritable forest. “I picked these for you,” Naruto says, showing off the flowerbed of snapdragons in a multitude of colors.
Really, Shikako is more pleased to spot the actual bed and other furniture hiding among the plants, along with the rest of Naruto’s things.
In contrast, Shikako doesn’t actually notice when Sasuke moves in.
She would have sworn that the walled office space was still filled with the unused lab equipment that she had found in the beginning–equipment that she didn’t want, but couldn’t bring herself to throw away given the name on the labels. Except during a particularly rambunctious attempt at creating three dimensional shogi with a set of Naruto’s clones and earth pillars, the both of them freeze at the sound of shattering.
Eyes wide, Shikako exchanges a glance with Naruto. Or, at least, the Naruto wearing the white Hokage robes. “Shit,” she mutters, leaping down from her pillar to the walled off space.
Instead of the shattered beakers she expected, she finds a shattered teapot… along with a completely furnished bedroom designed in blues and reds.
“What?” She asks, turning, blinking, checking to see if perhaps there were a genjutsu active. “When did this happen?”
“Like two weeks ago,” says a Naruto in a black chuunin vest, looking at her skeptically.
“Yeah, Sasuke asked if he could use this room,” continues a Naruto wearing a henge of Kakashi-sensei, vest and headband in white.
Shikako strains her memory for that conversation. Mostly what she remembers from two weeks ago was not sleeping for a few days, then finally making headway on her glacial translation of the Gelel shrine photos from Sand, then eating what must have been her own weight in gyouza, and then maybe passing out?
A set of Narutos, all in henges to be younger versions of himself in either black or white, cluster around the shards of the teapot. As if they really were his twelve year old self, one of them loudly whispers to another, “Maybe if we hide the pieces, he won’t realize it’s broken.”
“As if, dobe,” says Sasuke’s voice from behind the crowd of shogi clones.
Almost in unison, the clones begin to blame each other, which Sasuke ignores with the air of long practiced poise. Shikako is still baffled that he lives here, frankly.
Sasuke rolls his eyes and shoos away the genin clones, all of whom make childish faces back. He sweeps up the shards with a broom Shikako has never seen before, discarding them in a rubbish bin Shikako has also never seen before.
“It’s okay, I bought multiple,” Sasuke assures her, pulling out an exact replica teapot from a set of shelves on the wall. “Yoshino-san told me I should be prepared for something like this.”
“You told my mom you were moving in?” Shikako asks him, bewildered.
It’s Sasuke’s turn to look at her skeptically, “She helped me design my room.”
A/N: I have no idea why this took me so long, anon. I’m terribly sorry, but I hope you enjoy! I kind of wanted to play with this idea I used in Painted Red (To Fit Right In)–except, of course, fluffier given the lack of zombies–in that different MBTI designations have different ways of saying “I love you.”