When Haruno Sakura had invited herself to the younger-generation InoShikaChou picnic for the purpose of sharing with her best friend her guilty feelings whenever the Haruno parents gave their daughter but-we-really-wanted-to-throw-you-a-wedding looks, it had seemed to Shikamaru that they were failing to realize that the families could perfectly well throw the traditional post-wedding celebration party without the wedding beforehand, and he'd said as much.
"The yorokobi is what all the guests come to and what everyone talks about afterwards anyway," he'd pointed out. "All you have to do is put off the registration and moving in for another week or two so you can get ready for it -- you're already putting it off till those guys clean the place out enough for you to want to live there."
Ino had looked grateful -- presumably, another week or two was another week or two in which she could try to persuade the Yamanaka to release her for adoption, instead of having to wait till her majority and declare herself free of them -- and Sakura's face had settled into a familiar irritated I Should Have Seen That, It Was Perfectly Obvious Once Shikamaru Pointed It Out expression.
Unfortunately, Shikamaru had failed to realize that that meant he'd have to go to said party.
It was all a tremendous bother, really.
Unlike his mother, Shikamaru showed up late to the Uchiha conjugal celebration, and didn't bother to wear anything other than normal clothes, thus making him relatively indistinguishable from about a quarter of the guests.
A number of the genin from their year and the years above and below were there, as well as representatives of all the major clans and some of the minor, several other jounin and chuunin, Konohamaru-botchan and his two friends, a few civilians, and Shizune. Umino Iruka-sensei, surprisingly, was sitting on a table next to the drinks and buffet foods, singing and picking out an accompaniment on a biwa.
"I was starting to wonder if you were gonna skip," Chouji said earnestly, weaving through the crowd with the stately grace and dainty steps of an elephant (which his formal hakama and haori only enhanced). "You missed the announcement feast."
"Ma would kill me, and then Ino would kill me. Or the other way around. Not worth the bother, really."
Chouji nodded fervently. "Yorokobi and such are important to girls. Look at the way my mom and yours are yakking away already."
Shikamaru looked at the side of the room. The Haruno had apparently sprung for a full choudohin; it was laid out on four tables against the wall, complete with a set of pots and pans, a stack of cloth, an electric rice cooker, two toolboxes opened to display a dizzying variety of stainless steel tools, a set of cooking knives, a set of throwing knives, three cookbooks, a spice rack, a hand-held vacuum cleaner, a long-handled something that was perhaps a fur duster, and other various and sundry items suitable for setting up a new household. Near the choudohin tables, his mother was talking with Chouji's parents, all three of them in full formal wear. "Your father came? Pops bailed. Said he was going to support his former teammate and not go, so he's lying around at home watching reruns of sumo matches he's seen before."
"Dad said that it was important to go because when the Yamanaka calm down, they'll feel bad for not having gone, and at least he can tell them about it. And besides, Ino's our teammate, so we're supporting her, so they should support their son. And what's more, the Akimichi and Uchiha go way back, so we ought to be here and back up Grandpa on their account if not on Ino's. And anyway, what sort of friend would he be if he let his friend's little girl get married or whatever without any parents or friends of parents. And... actually, I think that's it."
Shikamaru nodded in acknowledgment. "Speaking of, where is Ino?"
Chouji pointed to the far end of the room, where Ino and the now-three Uchiha were seated at a low table on a raised portion of floor, resplendent in formal fixed-up costumes, speaking to a cluster of people. Three of them were glitteringly bright; the born-Uchiha, on the other hand --
"That guy went for full kamishimo?" Shikamaru asked rhetorically; now that Uchiha Sasuke had stood to greet someone, it was perfectly clear that he was wearing stiffly folded blue cloth over his charcoal-gray robe, both above and below.
"I don't believe it either," Chouji agreed. "I thought kataginu were a samurai sort of thing. Do you think I should get Ino another plate of munchies?"
"...looks like they'll be stuck there at least another ten minutes. And I think the Hyuuga have some they hang out and put on for the really formal internal affairs."
"They do," Hyuuga Hinata offered, her own long-sleeve-paneled kimono worn over at least two more layers than might have been expected. When both boys turned to look at her, she blushed and sidled away.
Chouji shrugged and headed for the food tables.
Shikamaru rolled his eyes and ambled in a hostswardly direction.
"Shikamaru, you ass," Ino said once she'd finished accepting congratulations from a gleefully scandalized basket-and-hat-seller, "where have you been? I saved you a seat. You missed the celebration feast."
"Tsunade-sama hasn't come yet, either," Sasuke pointed out from next to her.
"Hokage-sama is dealing with the unexpected envoys from the Sand-Hid Village, and sent regrets and an explanation by way of Shizune-san. Shikamaru is a lazy ass and didn't send regrets or any explanation by anyone. Besides, he even missed the o-ironaoshi."
"What'd you need to have a costume-fixing for anyway?" Shikamaru asked once he'd dropped onto the cushion next to her. "Not like you had a wedding ceremony beforehand."
"We had an announcement feast," Ino pointed out, rolling her eyes.
"In an old-style wedding party," Sakura backed up her friend, leaning behind Sasuke, "you put the outer robe on after the ceremony, and then after the feast you went back and changed the clothes under it -- "
"In case you spilled feast on the white outfit or something," Naruto butted in from beyond her.
"Naruto, shush. And then you'd change your outfit a few more times as the party went on -- "
"And the drinking got carelesser."
The newest Uchiha whirled on her new family member and began haranguing him properly, if under her breath.
"So," Shikamaru ignored the domestic dispute, "what gives with the papers?"
"They're sitting in a cubbyhole at the registry waiting on a parental waiver or my coming-of-age," Ino grumbled. "'S why I'm wearing a gold-on-brown outer robe 'stead of red like forehead-girl there."
Sakura, without breaking up her harangue, threw a yakitori skewer past Sasuke's face at Ino, who caught it.
Sasuke rolled his eyes.
Shikamaru sympathized, really.
A cough from Ino reminded him that this was his cue to admire her fixed-up costume, so he spent a moment looking at it. Brown silk open outer robe heavily embroidered with gold thread, and with the stuffed hem that ensured it draped in a perfect hemisphere. Light blue kimono with short sleeves, more gold patterns woven into it (albeit more sparsely than the embroidery) and a cloth-of-gold obi; paler blue underkimono. Her long hair had been put up with tortoiseshell and gold ornaments, and she wore a bracelet and earrings in the form of heart-shaped gems with golden wings.
"Lot of gold," he acknowledged, noting that Sakura's robes had just as much, although the base silk of the kimono and underkimono was green and pink respectively and her outer robe a nearly-buried red. The other girl wore a tiara and a ring that clearly were part of the same set as Ino's, and her shorter hair was pinned up with one long pin trailing green jewels on a gold chain.
"Sakura's mother's family are mercers," Ino pointed out, a frown line still creasing her forehead. "They were happy to provide these for us -- and look at this!"
She drew a weapon-grade needle from its tortoiseshell sheath; ten of the closest guests stiffened and didn't relax until she slid it back into her hairpin.
"I suppose they came up with those heart things too."
"It's some sort of mercer tradition that when a daughter goes as a bride, she goes wearing those." Ino lifted her arm in front of her and stared into the bangle. "Haruno-san said we should be wearing something borrowed anyway."
"This hair ornament is borrowed from one of Mother's friends from the capital," Sakura offered, leaning over slightly and trailing a fingertip down the chain. Sasuke twitched his shoulder to keep his right kataginu from being crushed.
Shikamaru ignored the byplay. "But you're not being received into the Uchiha House."
"I moved in today when Sakura did." Yamanaka Ino sounded more tired than Shikamaru had ever heard her be without a practice or genuine battle in the recent past. "They cleaned my room out for me and everything. And with or without the name, I am doing this."
"She's ours," Sasuke said unexpectedly, with a faint smirk and a deep possessive note. "By our wish and her own choice. Whether the papers go through just determines whether the register reflects reality."
"Dude, you so totally stole that from somewhere, I say," Naruto cheerfully bellowed across Sakura, "and as soon as I remember where it's from, I'm going to kick your ass."
"Save it," Sasuke grunted.
"Naruto?" Sakura said, stilling her hair ornament chain with her off hand.
"If you ever yell into my ear again like that, I'll scream into yours."
"Naruto?" Chouji said as he walked up, managing to balance three plates of food on his hands and arms somehow. Shikamaru took one of them and handed it to Ino to pass down.
"What kind of arsenal have you got up your sleeves? They look loaded for bear."
"What...? oh. No, see, this is Iruka-sensei's mom's wedding kimono."
On a closer look, the robe Naruto was wearing under his dark Uchiha haori could, in fact, be a woman's gorgeously brocaded flame-and-gold-and-ORANGE uchikake, if it had been belted rather than left open over long-sleeved kimono proper.
"He lent it to me. Only, I say, it had girl sleeves, so we fixed them."
"You cut off the sleeves of sensei's mother's wedding kimono."
"No, no, I say, we just pinned the panels up inside the sleeves with some of Iruka-sensei's five-hundred-godzillion super-plain cloak-clasp brooches."
Naruto turned some of the sleeve of his outer kimono inside out to show off one of the aforementioned pins, simple affairs of bent stiff wire with one end flattened to securely grasp the sharp pin end.
"Only, of course," the blond went on, "it makes the sleeves look a little bulky, although you can't hardly see it under the coat unless I'm waving my arms around."
"When does he not?" Sasuke muttered.
"...trust him to take shameless advantage of the fact that an enmusubi-yorokobi is the one time in your life when it's accepted if not encouraged to wear dazzling orange," Sakura echoed.
"It's hardly your wedding," Shikamaru pointed out.
"It's not anybody's wedding," Naruto argued. "It's a welcome-to-the-house party, and I didn't have one when I was added, although we both just went on living in our own apartments then anyway until we moved in here last month, so it might as well be my party too. Except I didn't bother to go fix my costume up, because it was fine to begin with, I say."
The girls shot him filthy looks.
"What'd I say?"
"If you have to ask," Shikamaru sighed, "you'll never know."
Not too long after Shikamaru's arrival, the party really got into full swing. A few people stood up and made speeches; from the dirty look Hanabi threw her elder sister once she'd wavered through her speech, most of the more perceptive attendees deduced that Hinata had significantly modified the Hyuuga oration. Iruka took a break from singing and playing for a while; Maito Gai promptly hopped onto another table and began, er, favoring the group with some traditional ondo songs, rendered lustily and surprisingly melodically. Several people got up and began dancing an ondo to them in the middle of the room, joining in the vocal part with more or less accuracy.
"I am sorry," Tenten said fervently, trying to look at all four of the hosts at once. "At least Lee didn't feel he could come."
"He threw some rocks through my window last night," Sakura told her.
"Threw rocks through your window, you say?" Naruto echoed.
"I think he was trying to throw them up at the window to wake me up and overdid it a little. Anyway, after I'd settled that no one was actually trying to kill me, he told me he was sorry but he just didn't think he could manage to come to the celebration, but if I ever needed him for anything, anything at all, just let him know and he'll come running. Then he ran off in a fit of manly tears or something."
"That's Lee, all right," Tenten sighed.
"We could almost have used him with that idiot earlier," Ino commented.
"Oh, no, Iruka-sensei handled that beautifully," Sakura contradicted. "Well, I suppose Asuma-sensei and Kurenai-sensei weren't bad either."
"What happened?" Shikamaru blinked.
"Well, some idiot decided to crash our party and suggest that we ought to be honoring the Number Four Hokage-sama's memory at it -- "
"Not that it really made any sense for him to do so," Chouji added from beyond his teammates, bemused. "Did Number Four have issues with the Uchiha family nobody told me about or something?"
"Or something," Sasuke grunted, and went back to doing his elite shinobi impression of an occluded boulder.
"And then Iruka-sensei picked up his biwa again and strummed out a song about village heroes, including the Number Four and Number Three Hokage-sama," Sakura finished.
"'Have you seen him -- Sarutobi-sama? Can you say whither he went?'" Ino quoted. "And while the idiot was still standing around boggling, Asuma-sensei and Kurenai-sensei picked him up, swung him a few times to get him going, and threw him out right through the open doors, the yard, and the open compound gates. It was beautiful."
"But still," Sakura argued, "the way Iruka-sensei just came up with that song out of nowhere -- "
"It wasn't nowhere," Naruto said. "If you listened to the tune, it was one of the Rice Land complaining songs on the records his parents brought with them when they moved here. Iruka-sensei just put it in a civilized language and stuck in the names of local people and sang it."
"Changing the words of a song on the fly is still impressive," Ino said repressively. "One of my cousins is part of a group that does that for gatherings, and he says it's much harder than you'd expect."
"...complaining songs?" Tenten asked, puzzled.
"In the Rice Land," Naruto told them, cheerfully mangling Iruka-sensei's explanation, "they think that unless enough people complain about it, nobody ever will get around to doing something about problems."
"This is, unfortunately, true," Shikamaru shrugged.
"I don't see how you get from that to songs," Chouji objected. He looked at the second of the plates he had brought on the fourth munchie run dejectedly, as if hoping that the food he had absently eaten would somehow magically reappear.
"Hey, hey, if you're going to be standing around complaining all day, you might as well make it something that's nice to listen to, I say. And they're all easy to play, too, Iruka-sensei says, not like our music where you practically need some sort of finger taijutsu just to get all the strings twanged that fast or the holes covered and opened. He sits around listening to the records and trying to play the songs back, so he should know, I say. Besides, some of them -- just a sec."
In the middle of the room, the dancers all stood still, faced inward, lifted their arms, and bellowed "EI!"
"Hey, hey, Iruka-sensei," Naruto yelled before Gai could start another ondo, "are you still stuffing your face, or can you sing the tahn-tahn song now?"
"You know, in some more civilized towns, they actually pay people to sing at weddings -- and other festivities!" Iruka called back as he opened his biwa case again.
"Those are in the soulless civilized lands, aren't they? We ninja have our feet firmly planted in the spiritual realm, I say!"
"Naruto," Sakura mutted, "where did you learn a phrase like that?"
"Jiraiya-sensei. But isn't it cool?"
The song Iruka began was quiet, oddly hypnotic, and not at all in their native tongue. It was full of bizarre fricatives and stacks of consonants that Tenten knew she'd never be able to pronounce in one breath. Its frequent refrain did sound rather like "taahn... taahn... taahn," though.
"See, this is a more cheerful song, I say," Naruto said, spreading his hands and causing his weighted sleeves to undulate wildly, "so it's perfectly appropriate to sing at a forging-relationships party."
"Do you even understand the language?" Tenten asked.
"Ah, well, Iruka-sensei told me what they were singing, and then I did."
"So does this have a name in a civilized language?" Ino asked.
"Ehhhh... 'Mawatte mawatte mawaru,' I guess. I say, the way Anko-san's doing now."
Everyone promptly turned to look at the drinks table. Mitarashi Anko, having made herself a fixture there during the early stages of the party, had now decided to abandon it in favor of spinning around and around in something that might have been meant to be a dance, the short-sleeve-paneled kimono she had donned for the occasion loosening with every step.
"Oooh, she's not going to like herself in about five minutes," Sakura caroled.
"Anko-sensei never likes herself," Shikamaru muttered.
Tenten stared at the whirling jounin for a moment more. "What, no lampshade?"
Iruka was only just finishing up the song when Tsunade finally made her entrance, trailed by two terribly earnest if somewhat pointless guards and Temari.
"What is that?" Temari asked.
"A song in the language they speak overseas," Tsunade said, bemused. "What... oh, right. The Umino were immigrants from Rice Land, it's in the census reports."
"You've heard the language they speak overseas, Hokage-sama?" Temari asked politely in the silence after the last chord.
"Spent some of my wandering years hanging out with traders from Pearl Land and points westward," Tsunade said, tossing her pale hair. "Made friends, learned the language, got included in the jokes -- the prince of Rose Land even wanted to marry me."
"But you didn't."
"The relationship wasn't big enough for him, me, his ego, his dead, my dead, and his angst. He certainly was pretty, though."
"Yeah, we have a few like that in the Sand-Hid."
"We grow them among the leaves, too," Tsunade pointed out, eyes flicking from Yukimura Kuzaemon to Hyuuga Neji to Uchiha Sasuke. "... odd choice of song for a wedding, though."
"What was it about?" Temari aske.
"A time for everything, and everything in good time," the Number Five Hokage said, still looking at Uchiha Sasuke. "Kid'd probably be much happier if it was Saki-chan up there; guess he didn't feel she could. Oh well, better go tender congratulations."
"Er, excuse me," the Sand-hidden kunoichi said, following her, "what?"
"Never mind. Long story. Without the corroborative detail anyway, it'd be a bald and unconvincing narrative."
"Oh, we spent quite a bit of time with the Pearl Land and No Land traders," Shizune was saying at the same time.
"No. Land," Kurenai repeated blankly, the sembei in her hand cracking in half.
"According to them, that is its name. And we couldn't very well go on depending on the prince of Rose Land to translate for us after she turned him down, so we learnt the language in self-defense, really."
"Turned him down?"
"He'd asked Tsunade-sama to marry him, but he was always going out and rescuing damsels in distress and righting wrongs and fighting terrible monsters, and I'd been reading this magazine, so I said to her, 'Tsunade-sama, the prince is a cousin of the Ruler-Sennin overseas and a genuine hero of the most noble and palatine variety, but "if you want someone who is a good provider, dependable, there when you need him, and socially acceptable, you'd be better off marrying the garbage collector".'"
Kurenai and Suzume laughed.
Most of the men in the group looked completely confused.
"I hope it didn't cause problems," Iruka said politely.
"Oh, no, he was perfectly nice about it all. Besides, he just thought we didn't want to deal with the Roses and their anti-princess sentiments. They've lost many potential princes that way -- and never mind that. However did you know to act out the meaning of the song, Anko-san?"
"...uhhhhhh," Anko groaned, having spared herself from flashing her peers by falling on her knees and folding forward onto Iruka's table. "...what meaning?"
"If I were an evil, evil person," Iruka said, tightening one of the biwa pegs that had slipped a little on the last song, "I would offer to sing Simple Gifts now. But I am only a moderately evil person; would you care for some deviled eggs and nattou, Anko-san? There's some wasabi you can put on them, too."
Anko lifted her head long enough to give Iruka a glare of SHARP POINTY DEATH before going back to half-lying prone on the table. She reached out to the nearest food table without looking and snagged a plain unflavored rice cracker.
"The No Land traders," Shizune said brightly, willfully ignoring the lush woman behind her, "did a minor but fairly brisk trade in Rice Land popular culture -- they showed us one of their ninja movies. The Rice Land shinobi were covered head to toe in brightly tie-dyed costumes cut to the pattern of a stagehand's 'invisible' uniform, and they wore cloth hitai-ate with 'NINJA' written on them in big overseas script."
The various jounin and chuunin gathered around the table laughed -- even Anko, who promptly winced.
"No, no," Iruka said. "I know what you're talking about -- but those are movies the Rice Land makes to be about OUR shinobi on THIS side of the ocean."
Regrettably, the eyes of the entire crowd around him flicked to Maito Gai before the people attached to them howled.
"Doesn't the Rice Land have shinobi of their own?" Kakashi asked once he'd gotten his breath back.
"When'd you get here?" Kurenai demanded, shocked out of her convulsions.
"I've been here."
"He does that," Asuma agreed disgustedly. "So are there shinobi in Rice Land?"
"Of course there are. When I was little, I wanted to be one when I grew up."
Everyone gave Iruka a look. Several, more shameless or less unobservant, gave him a second one.
"Most of the children I teach want to be shinobi when they grow up," the chuunin said irritatedly. "I think people should follow their dreams and work to make them real. I thought that was why we were all here."
Half the group around him reacted to the voice of didactorial authority and nodded shamefacedly. Sarutobi Asuma turned and looked at where his former protegees were carrying on a conversation with Tenten and the three Uchiha (well, Ino was carrying on a conversation with them, Shikamaru was occasionally roused to say something, and Chouji nodded encouragingly in between mouthfuls from his buffet plate). Hatake Kakashi swung his arms back and stretched.
Gai, apparently, hadn't heard, as he failed to break off from giving Neji and an older woman in blue (a modiste from the capital, Iruka vaguely remembered; some sort of old schoolmate of Haruno-san's) would-be Useful Advice in order to favor the assembled entertainment-table crowd with a speech on unforsakable wishes, aiming for the goal, and never giving up, never surrendering, nor becoming sidetracked.
"Although, to be fair," Iruka went on after a relieved glance at the Wild Green Beast, "I was really disappointed that we didn't have talky pens or blowgun wristwatches."
"Have what?" Suzume asked.
"Shinobi in the so-called civilized lands overseas are supposed to have all sorts of nifty gadgets to help them in sneaking around and finding things out and winning deadly fights. They dress like prosperous Rice Land merchants or warriors' children; are erudite and athletic and elegant; go out of their way to help women in distress; know eleventeen ways to kill you with their little finger; go up against rival nations or evil organizations bent on world domination or mad scientists; and have the gadgets I mentioned, code numbers, and round beds that tip up and spill them into their own private onsen or snarky outlander partners that dress in close-fitting black and are at least twice as intelligent as they are."
"And this is common knowledge?" Asuma said.
"It's on television. Same place I learned that upper-level shinobi are perceived as being very desirable and attractive and have as many satisfying sexual encounters as they like." Iruka's gaze was level and earnest.
Most of the jounin nodded sagely.
Kurenai looked at Iruka skeptically.
Anko half-raised her head. "Encounters with the distressed women or the snarky partners?"
After congratulating and chatting with a woman with three cameras and a man whose expression suggested that he wasn't sure whether to radiate pride or suck all round him into snarling protective irritability -- the Number Five Hokage had introduced them as the "bride"'s parents -- Temari and Tsunade finally made it to the hosts of honor themselves.
"Congratulations, Uchiha-san... tachi," Temari said, beaming at some of the few Leaf-hidden she knew by sight in her best diplomatic fashion.
"Eh, they're all Uchiha now," Chouji said, smiling uncertainly. "Or as good as, anyway."
The various Uchiha thanked her at the same time, more (Sakura) or less (Naruto) politely.
"You've got a good thing going here, brat, I hope you know," Tsunade said. "Congratulations, boys. Commiserations and gratitude, girls. My best wishes to you all, and I hope you are happy and prosperous and have many healthy children."
"What's 'commiserations' supposed to mean?" Naruto demanded suspiciously.
"It's a girl thing," the Hokage said. "Men aren't supposed to get it."
"We didn't know about this wedding thing of yours when I left," Temari offered, relaxing somewhat, "but on behalf of our Kazekage and all our village, I wish you peace and long life."
"We shall have neither," Sasuke told her brusquely. "We are shinobi in a dangerous era... and prospective parents of a multitude."
"Way to ruin the mood, jerk," Naruto snarled.
"Save it," Sasuke grunted.
"Well, anyway, thanks again," Sakura said, shooting a frantic glance at Ino, "but it's not a wedding."
"It's a conjugal celebration party," Ino explained.
"What's the difference?"
"Nobody's getting married, but we're adopting Sakura-chan and Ino-chan," Naruto explained, calming down a bit. "See, we want there to be more Uchiha, particularly more Uchiha with cool bloodline limits, not like those fuckwit asshats in Water Land who throw out perfectly good shinobi. Speaking of which, we ought to do something about that, I say."
"I have already made it clear that our village accepts anyone who is free to come," Tsunade said, irritated. "What more do you expect us to do, sail across the ocean and invade?"
"You could, oh, put ads in all their newspapers or something, I dunno. Hiromi-chan didn't know you'd take her until she got here. Or have people sneak around and rescue them."
"I think the Mist-hidden might object," Tsunade and Ino pointed out at the same time.
"We might do something about that ourselves," Temari said thoughtfully. "It seems like a worthy cause, and the practice might come in handy."
Tsunade's face turned an incredible assortment of colors in quick succession.
"Anyway!" the Sand-hidden envoy said brightly. "What does adopting kunoichi have to do with bloodline inheritance?"
"So we wanted kids, I say," Naruto cheerfully returned to the original topic, "and the quickest way to get them would be for Sasuke-yarou to go round and knock up women. We could always adopt them once they got born, I say. Except neither of us -- nor Saki-chan -- knows raising kids for shit, so I figured we could adopt in some committed and dedicated moms first, and that would cut down on the paperwork."
"He was drunk off his ass at the time," Shikamaru commented.
"Yeah, but Sasuke still thought it was a great idea in the morning and I didn't think it was half bad. And I'm the Head, so I get to decide these things."
"You're the what?" Temari blinked. Word of Naruto's adoption had reached the Sand-hidden long since, naturally, but this was unexpected.
"Well, I'm the only one who wanted to, so everything sort of wandered over to me. Saki-chan says it's good practice."
"Although the drunk decision-making is probably best got out of the way early," Ino hissed at a level that was a bit too loud to only be heard by Sakura.
"Oh, in the past," Temari contradicted the other blonde, "the warrior caste of the Wind Land would say that all important decisions should be considered first drunk and then sober."
"See?" Naruto announced to the world at large. "I knew it was a good idea, I say. Plus both our ladies will be the first to tell me if I'm getting something wrong with the parts of the dad thing that want more work than making sure the kids know they're precious and shit, I say."
Sakura and Ino both nodded firmly.
"That makes a frightening amount of sense," Temari said, stepping over the table and making room for herself to sit (with her back against Chouji's shoulder and her feet in Shikamaru's lap). "We should do that ourselves. If we could find anyone willing to deal with Gaara. Which we can't. Drat."
"Maybe some of the Mist-bloodline-limited you nationalize would," Ino said, twitching her knee away from the other blonde's foot. "They've probably dealt with worse if they survived this long."
"Yes, but I doubt many of them will be any good at raising children," Sakura pointed out. "Particularly problem young adults. They'll have had far too much to do just trying to keep from getting slaughtered by their own."
"This is sounding more and more as if someone should go teach them a lesson," Temari observed, stealing one of Shikamaru's yakitori.
Chouji cautiously moved his fresh plate a little farther away, although he didn't quite believe she was in the habit of reaching behind her with her left arm.
"Well, you can try it if you want," Naruto said across the other three hosts. "I just don't think it'll work, I say. I mean, Sasuke and me could go round to the Hyuuga Mansion and kick all their asses round the courtyard until our feet fell off and twice on Sunday, and it still won't make them want to listen to us tell them how to run their house. Or do anything we want unless we're standing over them with kunai and shit."
Tsunade sighed (which amplified the "visual suspense" aspect of her costume) and seemed about to say something approbatory, when a high voice cut in from Naruto's left.
"You couldn't 'kick my father's ass' if you tried till you were blue in the face," the little Hyuuga girl who'd been at the chuunin matches that time said from behind three dessert-piled-plate-carrying young genin, "and my elder sister would listen to you without so much as a preliminary spar."
The other children turned their heads and shot her dirty looks before settling into the not-quite-adequate space left of Naruto at the table.
"Don't underestimate Naruto-no-niichan!" the boy sitting next to him said. The boy was wearing heavy goggles shoved up over his hitai-ate and looked vaguely familiar to her limited view. "... or that Sasuke, either."
"I'm not underestimating," the Hyuuga retorted. "I'm being honest."
"Maa, Hanabi-chan, Konohamaru-kun," Sakura said quickly, "this is my party. Please behave yourselves."
"I will if she will," Konohamaru grunted.
His two friends nodded firmly.
"Whatever," Hyuuga Hanabi said, folding her arms across her chest.
"Your father isn't here?" the Hokage asked her.
"There was Clan business that could not wait, Hokage-sama," Hanabi said politely. "He sent myself and oneesama in his place."
"Hinata-chan was here earlier," Naruto agreed. "She made a speech and everything. Where'd she get to?"
"Over there," Ino said, waving a hand in the appropriate direction, "talking to Kiba."
Naruto leaned well to the side in order to see around Tsunade's hips. "He's crowding her again. He's not trying to, like, bully her or anything? Hinata-chan used to be his teammate, that's just all kinds of wrong, I say..."
"No, of course not," Sakura said. "He likes her."
"He's doing that 'Behold. My. Studliness' thing," Chouji agreed.
"He likes Hinata-chan? As in likes likes? I say, how did you know?"
The Uchiha and Konohamaru-tachi promptly cringed on Naruto's behalf.
"He's still not too bright about these things, is he?" Temari observed.
"In a word," her backrest agreed, "you said it."
"That's three words."
"He's a heavy tipper," Shikamaru told her.
"And Shino and his parents were around here somewhere, too, but I lost track of them," Sakura said.
"Easy to do," Shikamaru muttered. Sasuke might have, too, as his lips moved but Temari didn't hear anything.
"And Hiromi-chan didn't come at all," Sakura went on.
"She wants Sasuke-san," Konohamaru's female teammate pointed out, "and she cordially hates Saki-san and wishes she'd drop dead. Or better yet, get some disease with huge horrible pustulent scarring blemishes."
"Waitasec, Moegi, how's that work?" her teammates both said, blinking.
"Hiromi," Ino said with a far too sparkling grin, "doesn't know about Saki-chan."
"She doesn't?" Chouji said. "Shouldn't someone tell her?"
Konohamaru and the other boy nodded fervently. Moegi shook her head dubiously.
"You want to be the one to tell her that she's been making a complete fool of herself for the last month and a half in front of half the shinobi in the village?" Tsunade said, immensely amused.
"Wise decision," Shikamaru said, reaching over Temari and clapping Chouji on the shoulder.
"Who's Saki-chan?" Temari said.
"She's my woman," Naruto told her with self-satisfied masculine smugness.
"As might be expected of my big brother and greatest rival," Konohamaru said equally smugly. "He gets to score the most beautiful and modest doll in the village. An absolute fox, and legs out to here."
"...Saki-chan isn't exactly the fox in that relationship... " Sakura murmured.
"Eh? Did you say something, Sakura-san?"
"Anyway," the last of the genin team pointed out, "he not only gets the amazingly lovely and perfect Saki-san, now he's shacking up with two of the hottest and most talented kunoichi babes in the Fire Land. Truly, Naruto-no-niichan is the bomb."
"The bomb," Moegi echoed sagely.
"The bo -- Udon," Konohamaru finished, irritated. "I can have a harem of hot chicks when I'm that old if I want to."
"Ah, but the question is, I say," Naruto stroked his chin in conscious imitation of the Number Three Hokage (marred only slightly by its nudity), "what hot chicks would be in it?"
"I could have Hiromi-neechan -- "
"Oh, geddoudahere," Udon said. "Dream on."
"And maybe Moegi would -- "
Moegi shot her teammate a LOOK.
"Ha!" said Naruto. "I get to live in a house with three genuine sex goddesses. Oh, and Sasuke-yarou."
Sakura's hand shot out and thwacked him in the ribs with his own weighted haori sleeve.
"What'd I say?"
"Naruto-no-niichan, you're SO -- what are you staring at me like that for?"
Hanabi nodded in Konohamaru's face once before straightening back up. "Botchama has good bones," she announced. "When you are Uchiha-san's age, you may speak to my father. It's too bad about the personality, but you might grow out of it."
Moegi, Udon, and Naruto laughed shamelessly. Sakura and Ino attempted to hide their giggles. Tsunade didn't bother.
"I'll leave you to it," she announced, and swept off to either Shizune or the drinks table, detouring round a t'ai-chi-ch'uan-compatible class that the modiste in blue was conducting in the ondo-cleared space.
"Um," said Konohamaru. "Er. No thanks. Ebisu-sensei says never to chase a woman much smarter than you are. You won't catch her, or worse, you might."
Moegi hit him upside the head.
"What'd I say?"
"... so where is Saki-san?" Temari was saying at the other end of the table. "Did she come to this celebration?"
"No," said Shikamaru.
"Not exactly," Ino corrected her former teammate.
"Not as such," Sakura modified her best friend.
"Yes and no," Naruto finished. "It's complicated."
"I suppose so," Temari grumbled.
There was a short awful silence, broken only by Iruka attempting to sing "Sobakasu" (and tripping over the lyrics every tenth word or so) and the random noise of thirty different conversations at once.
"So, um, everyone's really done you proud," Konohamaru changed the subject with the subtlety of a rhinoceros. "The Hokage-sama came, and Shizune-san came, and Ebisu-sensei came, and people belonging to the families of half the Council, and Iruka-sensei. And all those people from outside the village that the Haruno know, AND Sha-kishi here."
"Temari," the 'Sand-lady' said promptly. "Sassaniya Temari."
"Miyoshi," the boy answered, "Miyoshi Konohamaru."
"My parents went to school in the capital," Sakura seized the topic, "so five of their friends from then came here for the yorokobi and have been staying with my parents. Oh, and Kakashi-sensei's here. Around. Somewhere."
"He's standing by the table where Iruka-sensei's sitting," Hanabi volunteered, still facing Konohamaru and Naruto, "trying to look down Anko-san's open kosode and read a book at the same time." Her voice dropped to a hush. "It's a dirty book. Even more so than oneesama's."
"Hinata-chan reads dirty books, you say?" Naruto said, absolutely flabbergasted.
"She has a whole bunch by a Gyokurantei -- "
"Ohhh," all the girls at the table promptly said.
"Those aren't dirty books," Ino said instructively. "Those are romance novels."
"They all just go through so much," Moegi sighed, "and then they find each other and comfort each other at last. It's so romantic."
"And when they do find each other again," Sakura sighed, "the men behave like rational human beings and not like, you know, guys. It's beautiful and lyrical and leagues away from 'dirty books.'"
"I don't know... " Temari said. "What about the part in How Sublime My Samurai where Yoshitaka comes home from the wars and O-Sachi's in the bath and he grabs the honey and the marbles and the bergamot oil and she grabs the silk tasuki and the whipped cream and -- "
"That was a beautiful scene!" Ino retorted, leaning over across Shikamaru.
"Oh, it was," Temari agreed. "Hot as hell, too."
"Jiraiya-sennin was here for a little, too," Udon offered.
"He came to congratulate me. I am the shiznit, I say," Naruto said complacently.
"Oh, grow up," Sasuke muttered.
"Oh YEAH? What's that you said?"
"Save it," Sasuke grunted.
"... is he still here?" Sakura interrupted them desperately.
"Past the entertainment table, sitting in a corner behind the food tables, scribbling in a notebook," Hanabi reported.
"I think you lot inspired him," Shikamaru observed.
The chopsticks in Sakura's hand broke in half. Sasuke's lips curled back from his teeth. Ino's hand went to her hairpin needles.
"If that -- that toad-hermit thinks he can put our private lives in a book for anyone to laugh or perv over -- " The voice was Sakura's, and the mouth and gesturing hand were Sakura's, but the chakra animating them was somehow... off.
"The Gama-sennin writes books?" Temari asked at the same time.
"He writes the ones Kakashi-san's reading now," Chouji said. "I was really surprised when Naruto told us."
"Nah," Naruto told his household. "He gets inspired by all sorts of things, but by the time they make it into the stories, they're pretty unrecognizable, I say."
"And how would you know this?" Ino asked. "Have you ever read one?"
"What?" said everyone at the table but Temari and Sasuke. (Temari, to be honest, was enjoying the interplay -- it was better than the puppet theater. She couldn't read Sasuke well enough to tell whether he were similarly amused.)
"I went on that training trip with him, I say? And it was just the two of us, so he wanted someone to look over his stuff and make sure he hadn't left any paragraphs out by mistake and tied up all the loose ends. If there's a sex toy on the table on page 38, Jiraiya-sennin says, it had better be used by the end of the book, or better yet, the end of the chapter. And there I was, and he was training me out of the goodness of his heart, so in return I had to read his stuff and tell him places to make corrections, I say."
"And you actually thought this man would be an appropriate godfather?" Ino shook her head slowly.
"Only for a few seconds. I thought better of it!"
"Shikamaru and I are going to be godfathers to their kids," Chouji told Temari proudly. "Oh, and Iruka-sensei and Hinata-chan. Well, Hinata-chan isn't going to be a godFATHER, but you know."
"I understand," Temari agreed.
"So are you still reading those over?" Konohamaru asked eagerly.
"Nah. I was okay at finding loose ends and such, but I royally suck at are-you-sure-you-want-to-use-this-word-here-and-not-that-one, and I'm not too great at did-you-set-this-up-ENOUGH and matching verbs. Iruka-sensei always used to mark me down for that on my homework. So when we were on our way back, I told the ero-sennin that he should get Iruka-sensei to beta-test his smut for him, and he could pay him or something."
Sakura opened her mouth, closed it, opened it again, and finally said "Words fail me."
"Like you said," Ino agreed.
"Hey, hey, you're good at all that writing setup stuff," Naruto said brightly. "I bet you could get Jiraiya-sensei to pay you to beta-test it. He says you can never check for mistakes too many times, and it's not like he won't get paid enough from the finished one to afford you, I say."
This time, words did indeed fail Sakura. Ino threw her hands up and slumped sideways onto Shikamaru.
"Odd as it may seem to you," Shikamaru said, moving his arm slightly out of the way of his former teammate's bosom (such a bother), "not everyone wants to be paid to read unrealistic erotica, or indeed feels the need for it."
"You should talk," the Uchiha Head grumbled. "You're the one who came to our party so you could spend it hitting on incredibly hot blondes."
Ino jerked straight up, turning cherry-red.
The other two Uchiha both glared at Naruto.
"Hey, hey, I'm taken, not dead!"
Sakura hit him upside the head. "Don't you understand -- "
"Of course not," Sasuke interrupted her, standing up. "The dumbass never understands anything."
"Oh, is. that. so?" Naruto spat out, standing up himself. "Bring it on, tightass!"
"There are kimono racks in the back where the girls were changing," Sasuke hissed. "Meet you out in the courtyard in two."
"Oh, yeah, Iruka-sensei's mother's wedding kimono," Naruto said. "As soon as that's off, you're going DOWN."
"If you want your ass kicked so badly," Sasuke quoted as he raced after his head-of-house, the latter shedding haori as he went, "bend over and say please."
"You seem to have been abandoned," Shikamaru's mother commented, coming up to the table as the two Uchiha boys dashed away from it.
Ino held up a hand tiredly. "Don't start. Just... don't even start."
"How about 'Eien Blue'?"
"No, sorry, Hokage-sama," Iruka said, "don't know that one either."
"If that's the one from the show with the space giant robots fighting aliens, I might be able to sing it, but I couldn't play it."
"Afraid I don't know it."
"This?" Iruka slammed his hand down on the biwa and belted out a phrase in an outland tongue.
"Isn't that you just sang from that manga show about the flying submarine?" Shizune asked.
Iruka spun the upper half of his torso around. "You've seen that?"
"The No Land traders had the reels, so they showed it the day after the Rice -- what are Rice Land shinobi hidden in? Just rice?"
"Merchant's offices and retail shops, usually," Iruka told her absently. "Reels? They had actual film reels?"
There was a thump outside.
"They put them in a projector and ran it," Shizune said, bemused.
"I want." Iruka's eyes seemed to take up a good third of his face -- an interesting trick, given that he was using no arts whatsoever. "I waaannnnnt. My videotape is fuzzing out, I've watched it so many times. I waaaaaaaaannnnnnnnntttttt."
"Really!" Genma stared at him. "Aren't you embarrassed, a grown man like yourself -- "
"Hit him for me, somebody," Anko said, her open kimono edges barely staying on the side of decency as she retied her obi behind her back.
Kurenai obediently elbowed Genma in the gut at the same time as Kakashi whacked him upside the head with Icha Icha Dormitory.
Something might have gone thump outside, but what with the interior disturbance, no one noticed.
"This is the Leaf-Hid," Anko went on, disgusted. "We leave normality at the village gates. And you call yourself shinobi!"
"Sleep. Snot," Kakashi added helpfully.
"That is why my parents chose to immigrate," Iruka pointed out, hauling himself back under control with a ferocious blush.
"Anko-san," Kurenai said slowly at the same time, "are you wearing shorts under your kimono?"
"They're comfortable," Anko shrugged. Her kimono failed to fall off, to general disappointment.
Kurenai dropped her head into her hand with a thump (coming from outside).
"That's Anko-sensei for you," Shikamaru said, wandering up and snagging one of the last of the strawberries.
"You've called her 'sensei' a few times today," Temari observed from behind him.
"Yeah, I've been learning stuff from her. She's giving me special lessons." Shikamaru sat down on the table next to Iruka.
"What sort of stuff?"
"Well, I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you, and your brother would probably object, and then he'd attack us to teach us a lesson, and we'd have to attack back, and while we had our pants down for that pissing contest the Otohibiki or whatever Snakelicious is calling himself these days would most likely come up from behind and do us the way the monkey did to the miller's wife. Such a bother."
"So what's this movie of yours about?" Tsunade asked.
"Pepper Land," Iruka and Shizune chorused.
"Fire! Explosions! Need for urgence -- ah, damn," Iruka continued. "I used to have that entire thing memorized, but it's gone right out of my head."
"It's a teaching thing," Suzume offered. "The more time you spend shut up in a classroom, the more it drives everything you're not directly teaching right out."
"I'll drink to that," another of Mrs. Haruno's friends remarked in mannish speech, having been standing on the sidelines for a while. "I never learned half as much on school grounds as I did off them. Umino-san?"
"Yes?" Iruka blinked.
"I was talking with Aoi Moujuu-san -- "
Most of the assembled shinobi snorted. Iruka supposed that, being from out-of-town, she couldn't be expected to realize that Maito Gai was not in fact called "Mr. Wild Green Beast."
" -- and he mentioned that you'd been born somewhere else and come here later. So I was wondering, why?"
"My parents," Iruka began, slowly, "felt very strongly that in their rush to become civilized, the lands where they were born had lost a certain spirit, a soul that we who live here still have. And after valiantly trying to force Rice Land and its neighbors to change and grow and getting themselves wanted in five states because of it, and seeing Rice Land becoming in many ways more stiff and more restrictive and not a place they wanted to raise children -- they packed me up and moved here, where men were men and women were women -- "
"And the sheep were scared."
"ANko-san... anyway, they wanted me to grow up in a place that valued the abnormal."
"That values it up to a certain extent, and then BANG," Kurenai muttered.
Something banged outside.
"Eh? Was that something important, Hinata?" the jounin asked her protegee, who had been staring at the wall shutting the reception room off from the courtyard for some time.
Hinata shook her head, blushing.
Sakura stood in the doorway, scowling fiercely. She didn't seem to be actively frightened, so it was most likely something the genin could take care of.
"They hardly knew that when they came," Iruka pointed out, drumming his fingers on the biwa neck. "And they wanted to change here, too. So Dad went into the academy -- we were in it together for a while, although he got through faster -- and Mom didn't. Mom was not in any way, shape, or form a shinobi, except for the enduring part."
"The woman's idea of subtlety," Suzume said dryly, "was to throw a brick through a glass window in full view of fifty people."
"Hey, sometimes that's the most efficient way to get the job done," Anko pointed out.
"And... then they died. And I graduated, and I went on serving the village they died for. And that's all, really."
"Yeah, I understand about having a place to protect," the civilian woman nodded. "I just wanted to try and understand Sakura-chan better; it's like only yesterday I was getting letters boasting about how she was the best in the class at long division."
Something thudded outside and made a thumm noise for a bit.
"Yeah, you definitely want to talk to Iruka," Anko agreed. "He's the one who taught Sakura-kun and the others how to write reports, and to come back alive, and what there is to come back for."
"I didn't realize you and Iruka-sensei were on such good terms," Genma commented.
"Oh, shuddup. We did a few jobs together recently." Anko put her hands on her hips and glared. "Besides, he's a better human being on his off days than most of us'll ever be."
Iruka blushed fiery red. Not for the first time, he wished that he had inherited the deeper blood vessels as well as the darker skin.
A half-naked Naruto crashed through the wall and landed on a former buffet table, one that was currently being used as a repository for used wicker plates.
"Sorry?" the blond said before vanishing with a pop.
"What is going on?" the Number Five Hokage demanded.
Asuma looked through the new wind-hole. "Oh, it's just Naruto and Sasuke having a fight in the courtyard in their underwear."
"That brat," Tsunade muttered.
Jiraiya exploded up from the corner. "All grown up and engaging in her very own voyeurism!" he proclaimed, clapping a mortified Hinata on the back. "You must be so proud, Kurenai-chan."
'Kurenai-chan' muttered something decidedly uncomplimentary.
"All I wanted," Haruno Momoko declared from the room's entrance, "was to throw my daughter a wedding. One yorokobi. Was that too much to ask for?"
"Considering this lot," Nara Yoshino told her, "very nearly so."
"There, there," the modiste and martial way instructor said, patting Momoko on the shoulder. "These things happen. You wouldn't believe how many wedding kimono get damaged in 'accidents'; at least these men of Sakura-chan's had sense enough to take them off."
"They should have left a bit more on," Moegi said, eyeing her battling sempai critically.
"They should have taken it all off," Tenten purred, leaning over the smaller girl to get a better view.
"Here, give me that," Anko said, bustling over, the ends of her obi (tied in a four-in-hand knot) flapping behind her. She grabbed one of the cameras from Mrs. Haruno and began snapping pictures just as Naruto flipped Sasuke into the fishpond.
"I'll kill them," Sakura was mumbling under her breath. "I'll kill them dead. Of death."
"Get Saki-chan to make him sleep on the couch," Ino said. "That'll punish them both, all right."
"Oh yeah, and just how do you suggest we manage that, Ino-pig?"
Ino buffed her nails on the quilted border of her overkimono. "I'm sure I can manage something."
"Sasuke doesn't do well with people," Kakashi said mournfully as the rest of the guests crowded towards the doorways or the windows, a few intelligent ones throwing the screens all the way open. "I'm surprised he stuck it out as long as he did."
"He should have gone off with the o-ironaoshi and let Saki-chan handle the rest of the party," Iruka agreed. "I've seen that done on a TV show."
"What is going on with Saki-san?" Temari demanded indignantly. "I keep asking, and nobody will give me a clear explanation."
"We all have masks in our team," Sakura offered, hands doubled into fists. "I try to keep up the polite and mannered Sakura, and Naruto -- well, you were there for some of the bits I wasn't, you probably knew about that before I did -- and Sasuke's mask is so good his true self was growing to fit it, so he got another one."
"With frills, and lace, and The Boots, and tight things you can't move in, but it lets him be Saki-chan," Ino added. "I think if he hadn't had her he'd have gone right round the twist by now."
"Saki-chan's got her own, um. Issues," Sakura went on. "And neither one of them will do more than grudgingly admit the other exists, much less that they're, well, himself. But you get used to it."
"That is absolutely..."
"As a coping mechanism," Ino said fiercely, "it's much better than 'I will kill anyone who might possibly be important to me so I won't feel the pain of losing someone important to me.'"
"...there is that," Temari agreed. She blinked. "Wait, so that means Naruto and Sasuke are screwing?"
"Well, not right now," Chouji said.
"Damnit," said Aburame Shiori.
"Great-Grandmother!" Shino gasped.
"I'm old and widowed, not dead. Now, if I were only ninety again..."
"Two warrior nymphs and a sex god," Temari muttered. "Uchiha Sasuke, you lucky bastard."
"Seconded," Shizune and Hinata said quietly before blinking at each other, startled. The younger girl went from red to crimson.
"Oh, here, I can't stand it," Jiraiya said. He snatched the camera from Anko's hands and began taking pictures at a furious rate. "Crummy subject matter or not, there's a right way to take voyeuristic photos."
"And where do you think you're going?" Tsunade asked, grabbing Haruno Yousuke by the shoulder.
"They upset Sakura-chan," the pink-haired girl's father explained. "I'm going to beat some sense into them."
"You're not even a ninja," Kurenai said blankly. "They'll cream you, and they might not have enough experience to pull their punches properly yet."
"Ahhhh... " Kakashi began.
"That doesn't matter," Yousuke said very reasonably. "They can't just hurt my little girl like that and not be reprimanded. Please let me go."
"Ah, the measure of a man!" Maito Gai, Splendid Wild Green Beast of the Leaves, proclaimed, his teeth audibly sparkling. "Never give up! Never surrender! Courage, indeed, is when you're sure you were defeated before you began, but you begin nevertheless and see it through to its end, come what may!" He clapped Haruno Yousuke on the other shoulder, nearly sending the thinner man flying.
"What he said," the woman who'd asked Iruka about his past agreed, stepping up beside Gai. "I'm gettin' fired up!"
"...isn't that from Iruka-sensei's congratulations to Hinata-chan after her first chuunin exams?" Shino asked Kiba, who shrugged.
"Father. Really. I can handle this," Sakura said desperately. "You released me to stand on my own two feet. This is part of that."
"HOUSENKA NO JUTSU!"
"Hey, hey, you want to burn your own house down, that's your business, but we're living here now too, I say! O-IROKE NO JUTSU!"
The half-naked blond forming hand seals abruptly became a fully naked blonde, before the blonde hair enveloped 'her' body and grew spikes.
"As might be expected of my student," Jiraiya announced, trying to get more pictures of whatever the battle hair wasn't covering. "I tell him he doesn't have enough hair to pull that off, and he finds a way around it."
"This, too, is inevitable," Neji announced ponderously.
"Sock it to him, Naruto-no-niichan!" Konohamaru and his teammates called, jumping up and down.
"Beat him like a red-headed stepchild, Uchiha Sasuke!" Kiba roared.
"K -- k -- Kiba-kun!"
"That's men for you," the modiste told Tsunade. "Even the best of them."
"Believe me, I know."
"Do I ever," Anko chimed in.
"Believe me," Sakura -- or possibly Sakura -- snarled. "When I get done with those two, they'll wish they'd never been born."
"I'm sorry. It's just -- you'll always be my little girl." Haruno Yousuke pulled his daughter into a hug, and Momoko joined in. "Always."
Yamanaka Ino blinked fiercely.
Chouji stepped up behind her and hugged her.
"Hey," Gai's civilian admirer said, tapping Ino on the bracelet. "Keep your courage up, huh? We florists have to stick together!" She winked.
"So, Iruka-sensei," Shikamaru said, not having bothered to stir from his new perch. "I don't suppose you know any cheerfully depressing songs?"
"Actually, I do," Iruka shrugged. "And considering their luck couldn't get much worse at this point -- I'm going to strangle that boy for this, but I think I'm going to have to get in line -- "
Shikamaru looked at Ino. "Oh yeah, you're definitely going to have to take a number and get in line."
" -- I might as well sing it. It was insanely popular in Rice Land before I was born."
"Some yorokobi," Akimichi Chouta muttered, looking from his son and grandson to his grandson's friends.
"I shall walk with face upturned," the ridiculously perky tune drifted to them, "numbering the blurred stars..."
"I... I d-don't know," Hinata told her fellow Clan's head. "H-half the Uchiha s-seem to be enjoying themselves..."
"... spring days come to mind on this lonely night... "
"So they do." Aburame Shiori sent an assortment of beetles to appropriate one of Haruno Momoko's other cameras and have it ready as soon as the Gama-sennin ran out of film on the one in his hands. "I certainly am."
"... Happiness lies above the clouds; happiness lies above the sky...
There are a number of Wedding Peach in-jokes.
A "choudohin" is a set of gifts you give your daughter on the occasion of her marriage. I don't know if the Japanese have gone to bridal registries since, but this was sort of the predecessor for them; it was generally displayed at or before the wedding in order to impress the neighbors.
"if the... reflects reality" is from Eric Hallstrom's "Ranma and Akane: A Love Story; Side Arc 3: Interconnections; Part A: Small Victories."
"... and then I did" is from A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh.
Noland is from Queen Zixi of Ix, by L. Frank Baum. I've made some references to others of his imaginary lands and his concept of a civilized country, too.
I like '60s Western spy shows. ^_^
Shizune's magazine was HERO: The Journal of General Job Adjusting, Issue 4 (the special Halloween issue), included in the documentation for Sierra On-Line's Quest for Glory 4: Shadows of Darkness.
"In a word, you said it" is from Rocky and Bullwinkle.
"never to chase a woman much smarter than you are" is from An Oblique Approach, by Eric Flint and David Drake, at one point where Hermogenes is reflecting on advice from his uncle.
I couldn't remember if Konohamaru and Temari ever had surnames, and some poking around online didn't dig any up, so I gave them some. There were two "Miyoshi" in the Sanada Juuyuushi (which also included such notorious ninja as Flying Monkey Sasuke and Mist-Hidden Saizou).
Temari's comment on the relative filth of romance novels comes from Esther Friesner's Majyk series; I can't remember if it was in the second or third one offhand, but I know it was Scandal teasing Kendar.
"...and ask nicely" is from that fanart whose artist I can't recall.
"Manga," in Japanese, refers both to stuff on the page and stuff on the screen.
The Japanese equivalent of "the pot calls the kettle black" is "Sleep (that salty stuff that collects at the corners of your eyes, usually in your sleep) laughs at snot."
The songs herein referenced were once sung by Dion, the Byrds, assorted Shakers, Make-Up, Sakai Noriko, Stan Rogers, Pink Lady, the Beatles, and Sakamoto Kyu.
And "Ue o Muite Arukou" is insanely peppy.