Title: tentatively titled Aftermath
Series/Genre: A Woman’s Honour; genderbent
Notes: this is a series of scenes that take place in the year after A Woman’s Honour ends. It’s meant to be a glimpse of the year after the Kyuubi attack and to set things up for the second story in the series, which starts when Naruto is three years old. This is not complete, and I haven’t started on the second story though I have some plotting done.
Warnings: It’s an anime about ninjas and child soldiers. Seriously. Violence, bloodshed, mind fuckery, physics taking it up the ass.
Synopsis: Glimpses of the village as it recovers from the Kyuubi attack; life moves on, people endure, and wounds heal.
Hiruzen glanced out the window and sighed. “Damn you, Minato-kun. I’m far too old for this job, which is why I gave it to you.”
For a few years, Hiruzen had managed to believe that he might retire and die as an old man in his bed, instead of as Hokage, for his village. Perhaps his student, Tsunade, was right, and that all who sought the Hokage’s hat were doomed to die for it.
He was an old man, but still a ninja, so he heard those approaching before the door slid open and a young, wounded ninja acting as his secretary said; “Sandaime-sama — Mitokado-sama and Utatane-sama to see you.”
“Thank you, Yori-chan.”
“Hiruzen,” Koharu said. “I am sorry for Biwako.”
He closed his eyes. His wife of thirty years, not yet buried; the village needed a strong leader, not a grieving old man, and he knew it. But is was hard, very hard.
Homura nodded his head, less demonstrative than either of his teammates. “Now, as advisors, we must —”
“You are not the Advisors to the Hokage any longer, friends; you were retired when Minato-kun took my seat, and replaced.”
Koharu frowned. “And you are Hokage again.”
“Yes,” he tapped out his pipe and began refilling it. “And, though my retirement was sadly cut short — your has not been.”
“Hiruzen,” Homura said sharply, “you must have advisors.”
“And I do — Hyuga Hizashi, and Inuzuka Gaku. Minato-kun followed tradition and asked his own teammates to advise him.”
“And the third post — the one that you held for Minato-kun?”
“I have yet to decide,” Hiruzen admitted. “It should be someone who balances the other two out. Hizashi-kun is calm and collected, Gaku-kun forthright and impulsive.”
“Obviously,” Homura declared, “you will have to place Danzo back in his role. I have completed the paperwork to have him released, you need only to sign.”
“That is not possible,” Hiruzen said, only a little regretfully. “Danzo was executed a year ago.”
“What!” Koharu shouted. “How could Minato! Danzo only did what was best for the village!”
“Minato-kun did not believe that inciting war with Iwa, redirecting vital supplies from the war effort for his own aims, assassinating some of our most powerful shinobi — those who were potential Hokage candidates — and killing half of his own recruits was in the best interest of the village,” he said dryly. “Danzo was executed for acting against the village in a time of war, theft, and treason. The Root ninja were incorporated into ANBU — who, nearly to a man, offered to execute Danzo for what he did to their comrades.”
“You should have —”
“I was not informed until it was done. Minato-kun felt I was compromised in this matter, and was sorely disappointed in the way I’d handled Danzo in the past.” He puffed his pipe. “Something about not acknowledging culpability, lack of oversight, and deliberate blindness not negating responsibility. Also, betrayal of those who died for the village. Minato-kun had a great deal to say to me that day,” he remembered, “and very little for some time afterwards.”
“It was not his place to judge.”
“As Hokage, it was exactly that,” he told Homura. “He also pointed out that all four of us had grown so used to each other, that we no longer spoke nor listened. Instead, we merely worked around each other. And he was right.”
“Hiruzen,” Koharu began.
“No. It is time for you both to step aside and let the new generations act. This is the way of the world, and the way of shinobi. I would do so if I could — but I seem to be lacking in potential Kage candidates.” He gave them a sardonic look. “Danzo killed most of them, and ran off the rest.”
Kakashi checked the wires and ropes one last time, then raised her hand up high. “Ready — lift!” And closed her hand into a fist.
Half a dozen chunin used chakra to help them lift several tonnes of steel beam and hold it, suspended. Beneath was a huge stone slab, the remnant of the exterior wall of a four storey building.
Kakashi and another ninja examined the slab carefully, ignoring the heavy metal poised above their heads. The ninja, a chunin named Sato who worked with the Barrier squad and had a talent for fuinjutsu and mathematics, used chalk to mark the surface.
“Here,” Sato swiped an x near the centre of the stone. Kakashi tapped lightly, using the merest hint of chakra; after a heartbeat, the chakra bounced back and told Kakashi about the state of the inside and underneath of the stone.
“Agreed. Step back now, Sato-san.”
“Yes, Jounin-san.” He paused. “Are you sure this will —”
“Yes,” she lied. It should work, but Kakashi could only imitate the skill needed to pull this off. Her chakra control and the fact that the technique’s creator had taught it to her were the reason she was leading this rescue effort. If this failed, they would have to dig by hand and with a few judicious uses of earth jutsus.
The injured, trapped people buried within wouldn’t survive the use of large-scale jutsus — and possibly not the time it would take to go by hand.
Kakashi rested her second knuckles lightly against the stone, breathing slowly, and gathering her chakra.
“Out of the way, Kashi-chan.” Hands gripped her shoulders and tugged her aside, firm but gentle. Dazed — two days without sleep and the slow onset of chakra exhaustion paired with grief — it took her a moment to register the familiar kunoichi.
“Jiraiya, do something with that girl — I’ll take a look at her in a moment.” The Gama Sennin — no longer a towering figure thanks to her recent growth spurts, but still broad and comforting and smelling faintly of smoke and perfume and ink — patted her shoulder and then shoved her into a seated position on the ground.
Orochimaru brushed passed her, the same lavender yukata and long curtain of hair as when she’d seen him last, and raised his arms. From his sleeves, hundreds of snakes emerged and slithered off, diving into the rubble before them and darting down the shattered street before disappearing in the wreckage.
“They’ll find survivors so we might concentrate our efforts,” the Hebi Sannin told his teammates.
“Good,” Tsunade-sama nodded. “I’ll send my own summons out in a moment; though Katsuyu be more help with the iryo-nin. Step back.”
Sato crouched beside Kakashi and asked, “Is that —?” The Senju drew back her fist and didn’t just shatter the slab of rock — but turned it to dust with a single strike.
“Yes,” Kakashi drawled, “those are the Sannin.”
The dust cleared, and Kakashi saw that Tsunade was pale and swaying. Since the woman had strong chakra reserves and looked fairly well rested — hemophobia, she realized. Rumours of the iryo-nin’s fear of blood hadn’t been exaggerated.
“Hime?” Jiraiya reached out to grab her, only to be shaken off.
“Iryo-nin — three patients; one adult, two minors. Prioritize the bleeding wounds, then the crush injuries. Check for head injuries,” she snapped, and a pair of ninja darted past her to vanish in the hole at her feet, soon joined by a summoned slug.
Tsunade was still pale and a little glassy eyed when she knelt by Kakashi, but the woman’s beautiful face was set in calm lines. “Hold still, brat.”
“I’m as tall as you are, Tsunade-sama,” she managed as a green-cloaked hand ran over her.
“So are those two,” she nodded at her teammates, “but that doesn’t mean a damned thing. Chakra exhaustion — you need a meal and a two hour nap, minimum, before you use any more chakra.”
“I should —”
“Do what you’re told, brat,” Jiraiya-sama interjected cheerfully.
“The village —”
“You will spend less time resting now, than recovering from collapse,” Orochimaru-sama said cooly, “and, therefore, be of more help to your village. Act your rank, not your age, child.”
Nearby, a pair of chunin laughed, then ducked away from the Hebi Sannin’s golden-eyed glare. It was odd to see anyone but the Hokage treat one of Konoha’s most powerful young jounin as a foolish kid, instead of an awe inspiring figure.
“Are you going to the hospital, Tsunade-sama?” Kakashi asked, resigned.
“I’m no use in surgery right now, but I can consult, and take on minor injuries to free up others. Why?”
“Would you check on my teammate? Nohura Rin — yesterday was supposed to be her last shift before her maternity leave. She’s nine months pregnant, and the father —” Kakashi exhaled. “Obito’s been missing since the attack.”
The Namekuji Sannin gave her a gentle look. “I’ll look in on her.” That look sharpened. “But only if you rest.”
“I should check in at the Hatake compound anyway,” she sighed. “And Hitomi-ba-chan will kill me dead if I don’t let her see me.”
“Forget chain of command,” Jiraiya-sama muttered. “Terrifying women are the best way to get people to obey.”
“You idiot — it took you long enough to learn that lesson. Pity Tsunade had to give you permanent brain-damage first.” Several snakes returned, slithering up the Sannin’s legs, hissing. “There is no one living left in this building; an earth jutsu can be used to remove the wreckage from the street.”
Kakashi nodded to sato, hovering nearby. “Take care of that, then everyone should take a two hour break before presenting themselves to the mission office for a new assignment.”
“I’m not —” but the chunin had already left to execute their orders. “Team lead is not the same as being a taicho,” she grumbled.
Jiraiya-sama chuckled. “Get used to it, brat, you’re one of the elite.” After a moment, he asked softly, “Minato? Kushina?” Kakashi looked away; the Gama Sennin sighed shakily. “And the baby —?”
“A girl. Naruto. Sensei — he sealed the Kyuubi in her using the Eight Trigrams Seal. The fact that there’s a jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi has already gotten out so —” Kakashi shrugged. If Jiraiya-sama disagreed with her actions in regards to their godchild, tough. “I made sure that her parentage got out as well, at least among the clans and ANBU by announcing it in a Council meeting. And claimed her as my ward, in accordance with the relationship between the Uzumaki and the Hatake clans.”
For a long moment, the Sennin stared at her blankly; slowly, a smile formed, and grew into a grin. “Of course you did, brat, because the best way to manipulate people —”
“ — is to leave them confused, baffled, and guessing.”
“Why tell a lie, when a distraction will work even better?” he laughed. “Nice to see Minato passed on that lesson — and unsurprising that you learned it so well, Kashi-chan.”
“When do you think people will stop calling me that?” she asked Orochimaru-sama.
“Ten minutes after it stops exasperating you.”
“You ought to know, right Orochi-kun?”
“One day, Jiraiya, I will kill you. And that day will be a happy one.”
“Well, then that day is not today, Orochi — because this day is far from happy.” The Sannin looked around at the destruction with world-weary eyes — being veterans of two Shinobi World Wars meant they’d seen their share of shattered villages, though never before Konohagakure. “Alright then, let’s get to work.”
“Food and a nap, Kakashi,” Tsunade-sama declared, pushing up her sleeves. “Come see me before you —”
Pakkun raced down the street, leaping over rubble, and skidded to a halt at Kakashi’s side. “Boss — Obito! They found him in the East District — he’s alive but trapped!”
Tsunade-sama grabbed her vest before she made it two steps. “No chakra! That includes using chakra to race across the village at double time!” Kakashi found herself thrown on to Jiraiya-sama’s broad back. “Carry her, Jiraiya. You, ninken — lead the way.”
“Another kid, Commander? Is this one an emotionless zombie, too?”
Kakashi studied the masked shinobi who’d asked the ANBU Commander about her. He was shorter than she was, and had a shock of blue-black hair above his raven mask. “Commander?”
Kakashi used a shunshin to appear behind Raven, kicked his knees out from beneath him, and pinned his face in the dirt. “Do emotionless zombies get pissed off when you call them a kid?”
He bucked her off, then flung a handful of kunai at her. She blocked them with one of her own. “Commander, you said I’d get better in ANBU. So far, all I’m seeing is an insulting loudmouth who can’t back up his words. I have a genin teammate who serves the same purpose.”
He lunged forward, tanto drawn; Kakashi leapt over him, trying to strike at his back, only to met his blade point again. “Well, you aren’t as slow as you seem, I guess.”
“The rookie thinks she can play with the elite?”
“Play is all you’re doing, sempai.” Dodging a flaming bullet, she slammed her heel on the ground, making it shake and crack under his feet, then drove her fist towards his mask.
“No broken bones on Wolf’s first day,” the Commander declared.
“Wolf? Really?” another ANBU asked. “No one’s worn that mask in years.”
“This one is more canine than human.”
Raven had gotten her in a hold; she slammed her head back into his, caught his wrist and twisted, and threw him over her head, then leapt after him, dodging his shuriken as she did. “Shuriken? You do want to play. My turn.”
“Nice shurikenjutsu,” someone said. “She’s keeping the lightning at low voltage, right?”
“Since Raven isn’t dead or pissing himself, probably.”
“Ouch — be no one’s ever substituted her into her own jutsu before.”
“Bet no one will manage it again — this one learns fast.”
“Fast enough to put Raven through a wall, anyway.”
“Oh, like that’s hard — I did it twice last week.”
“Raven really needs to learn to keep his mouth shut. Every time he speaks, someone punches him.”
“What are you doing, sempai?” The question is asked in a dead, flat tone.
“Attempting to elicit an emotional reaction.”
“I have none.”
‘Then this shouldn’t be a problem, should it?” Kakashi continued to prod Ocelot, a former Root named Kinoe, in the back.
“We are meant to be listening to the Commander’s announcements.”
“You mean you can’t do two things at once? Really? Are you sure you’re ANBU?”
Several more pokes. “Sempai?”
“I’m sorry, Kinoe — you’ll have to make me.”
“That’s — annoying.”
The commander looked over as one of the Root lunged at Inu, and snorted. “Inu, if I’d known you could get them to react like this, I’d have tried harder to recruit you.”
“No problem, Commander.”
“What do you know,” Boar muttered. “Irritation, not compassion, is the way to healing human suffering.”
“Or at least pissing someone off enough to overwhelm their indoctrination,” Horse laughed. “We’re keeping the kid, right? I like her.”
Kakashi dove aside as the air where she’d been standing distorted wildly, twisting into a dark hole against the sky, only to contract rapidly —
— and explode as it collapsed.
“Oops?” Obito-baka offered.
“New rule,” Kakashi said dryly. “No using modified explosive tags, incomplete elemental jutsus, or advanced manifestations of a kekkei genkai on a teammate, sensei, or comrade without thorough testing first.”
“Who said you get to add to the team rules, Kakashi-chan?”
“I outrank you.”
“We’re all jounin!”
“But I’ve had more time at rank, baka — also, you just tried to blow me up with your freaky, forbidden Sharingan.”
Obito-baka opened his mouth to argue, then eyed the damage to Team Minato’s favorite training ground. Rubbing the back of his head, he said, “Okay, fair point —”
“What are you two idiots doing?”
“Rin-chan! We were just —”
The iryo-nin planted her hands on her hips and glared at both her teammates. “Nevermind, I don’t want to know. Obito-kun — I have a shift at the hospital, so it’s your turn to watch Sachiko. Besides, you’ve trained long enough today.”
“Only an hour, Rin-chan!”
“Which is plenty, Obito! You only got out of the hospital a month ago! It will take time to rebuild your stamina!”
Rin looked upset; Kakashi, who had spent two months helping her teammate take care of a new baby, a seriously injured partner, while juggling hospital shifts and recovering from labour — the Kyuubi attack had put to paid her maternity leave, though Rin had received pay in lieu of, and a guarantee of six months of minimal duties when the village was further recovered — threw a small rock at Obito-baka. The older jounin dodged it and turned to glare at Kakashi, the scars on his face and neck pulling oddly.
Obito-baka had been half-crushed under a broken building during the Kyuubi’s rampage of the village. Luck had seen the worst of the weight distributed enough to avoid crushing his internal organs or killing him outright, but he’d been trapped and left to watch as shinobi and civilians died around him; long months of recovery from his injuries and the surgeries afterwards, unable to do much in the way of caring for his girlfriend and new child, had only increased his sense of frustration and helplessness.
Kakashi understood, and was willing to help him train to recover his strength and increase his skill; Obito grieved for Sensei and Kushina-nee-chan too, and was as eager to find and kill the man who’d murdered them — more so, perhaps, as the bastard was a Uchiha, one who claimed to be Madara no less. But she also understood Rin’s fear of him pushing too hard, too fast, because Kakashi had been the one that Rin had cried her own grief and fear and frustration and pure exhaustion out onto; Rin-chan had also lost Sensei and his wife, had nearly lost her child’s father, and had faced the human suffering of the aftermath every day at the hospital.
“Come on, Obito-baka; I found a few new jutsus amongst some scrolls I liberated on my last mission. I’ll let you see them if you make dinner.”
Rin-chan gave her a grateful look behind Obito-baka’s back, then cleared her face. “That’s good — Sachiko-chan is already at the Hatake main house. One of your orphans, Iruka-kun, is watching the babies.”
“Iruka-kun is not one of my orphans, and don’t give him any ideas — it’s hard enough to break him of calling me ‘Hatake-sama’.” Rising and brushing herself off, she seized her teammates’ vest. “Have a good shift, Rin-chan! Don’t kill any patients!” And shunshin’ed away before the iryo-nin could fling anything sharp and poisoned at her.
When she reached her clan lands, she dropped the Uchiha, who grunted. “Damnit, I hate it when you do that.”
“Then why do you let me?”
“You say that like I can stop you!”
“Isn’t that the same thing?” She avoided his shove. “Baka — you know how worried Rin-chan is about you. Don’t stress her out by trying to do too much.”
“I feel useless, Kashi — the village needs all it’s shinobi and I’m just —”
“Recovering as fast as you can without setting your return to full duty back by weeks or months? Taking care of your daughter, thus freeing up a skilled and experienced iryo-nin to serve extra shifts in the hospital? Not worrying your teammates with stupid, reckless behaviour — like attempting to use an advanced clan jutsu without knowing the repercussions.”
“I’m sorry,” he snapped, stalking towards her house. “Though I’m starting to regret not blowing you up.”
Calmly tripping him, Kakashi sat on his back and pinned him. “Baka — I meant to you. You have no idea the chakra drain your new and improved Red Eyes of Doom have, or if they can damage you! Why haven’t you spoken to Mikoto-nee-sama about your new Sharingan?”
“Because it’s forbidden!” He bucked her off and sat, glaring at her. “And because not everyone calls the Head of one of Konoha’s noble clans nee-sama, Bakashi!”
“Fine then — Uchiha-dono.” She frowned at him. “When you end up sitting as Clan Head at twelve years old, you get invited to call people by less formal names, Obito-baka. And she and Kushina-nee-chan were friends.”
“She’s still my Clan Head,” he muttered, no longer angry. “Mangekyo is a forbidden technique, Kashi-chan. It has been since Madara turned on us and was stricken from the clan registry. If I confess to having it — will I get banished? What about Sachiko? And Rin?”
“Baka — if your clan is stupid enough to do that — and Mikoto-dono isn’t, though I wouldn’t put it past some of the Uchiha,” because some members of the Hyuga and Uchiha clans seemed to compete for the title of Arrogant, Self-Defeating Assholes, “then you do what shinobi without clan do — raise your daughter and live your life without a district full of relatives staring over your shoulder. Oh,” Kakashi said brightly, “is this because you think Rin-chan won’t marry a clanless loser? Is that why you haven’t asked her yet, even though I know you’ve been planning on it for months?”
“You are such a bitch, Kashi.”
“An S-ranked one, Obito — and you’re a kage-level baka. What are you waiting for?”
“Maybe I was waiting to see if I’d be permanently crippled and useless as a shinobi, a father, and a husband?”
“Baka,” Kakashi snapped, leaping on him to pin him again, glaring down at her idiot teammate. “So, what? You’d have just kept going as you were — letting her take care of you and Sachiko?”
“No! I would have —”
“Left her to raise your daughter alone? To avoid being a burden?” She saw the truth on his face. “Not for long, baka, because I’d have forged a marriage certificate, made sure she was listed as your beneficiary, and killed you dead. And then,” she added cooly, twisting the kunai, “after I made Rin-chan a member of the Hatake Clan, or at least a vassal, I’d have vetted one of the shinobi who would be circling a smart, pretty kunoichi without a boyfriend, and made sure she married one who would treat her properly.”
Obito lunged up, going for her throat; Kakashi threw him into a nearby tree. “Shut up, Kakashi!”
“Make me, Obito-baka! You selfish prick — not everything is about you!” She caught his shuriken and flung it back. “You’d break the heart of a woman who’s loved you since she was twelve, leave her to raise a baby, and make her cry because you feel like less of a man? I always knew Rin-chan could do better, baka, but that’s —”
“Shut up!” He leapt, landing on top of her and plowing them both into the ground. “Shut up, shut up, shut up! You don’t know what it’s like, Kakashi! I couldn’t do anything — I was useless!”
She punched him hard enough to break his nose. “Fuck you, Obito! Sensei sent me away rather than letting me help! He killed himself and I knew what he was doing and he made me promise! Rin spent all night at the hospital, helping everyone she could, not knowing if we were alive or dead! You aren’t the only one!”
Blood running down his face, Obito stared up at her from the ground. She was panting, furious, the helpless grief that was a constant companion welling up to choke her. Why did Obito get to wallow in his misery while Kakashi had to pick up and walk forward? Naruto, Rin, her Nara relations, comrades, the village and ANBU all needed her to be strong but she didn’t feel strong, just broken.
“Ano — Hatake-sama?”
“Don’t call me that, Iruka-kun.” Taking a deep breath, she turned to face the Academy student — one of several orphans too old for the too-full orphanage, Academy students and young genin farmed out to stay with the clans affected by the Kyuubi attack. Kakashi had given over several buildings in the Hatake compound to refugees — no one else was using them, after all — and as a result, had wound up housing half a dozen of these orphans. Since housing is currently at a premium, thanks to the ruined buildings, single shinobi or those who have reliable housing are well down on the list for apartments; Kakashi anticipates having these kids for another six months to a year.
Umino Iruka was one of the most reliable of them, solemn and grieving instead of angry. The anger would come, Kakashi knew, but hadn’t yet, and Iruka was happy enough to take care of Naru-chan for brief periods in exchange for a place to stay and a few kind words. And if Kakashi occasionally showed him a technique, or encouraged him to train until he could sleep through the night without dreaming — well, she’d been where he was.
“Sorry, Kakashi-sama,” the boy said softly, eyeing a bloody Obito warily. “Is something wrong?”
“Obito-baka and I are merely expressing the depth of our feelings, Iruka-kun.” He gave her an incredulous look. “When you end up on a genin team, this will make perfect sense, Iruka-kun.”
“If you say so, Hata — Kakashi-sama.”
“I do, and as your sempai, I am always right — that you know of.” That got her a faint smile, which was more than he usually showed. “Is Naru-chan awake?”
“No, but Sachi-chan is.”
“Alright, then, lead the way. Don’t worry about him,” she said when the boy glanced at Obito-baka, still lying on the ground. “I’m sure he’ll have the sense to wipe his face and come inside. Eventually.”
Half an hour later, Kakashi was holding a baby in one arm and setting the rice to cook with the other. Iruka-kun had left, possibly to train or do homework or eat, and most likely to brood or visit the Memorial Stone — Kakashi had found him there a few times when she’d visited — and the kids all stayed in a different house, being relatively independent and old enough not to want a stranger hovering over them or worse, trying to play at being a parent to them when their own were dead.
“What else are we having, Sachi-chan? Well, me — neither of you can eat solid food, yet, and can I say that I cannot wait? There is something distinctly weird about holding a container of another woman’s breast milk — scratch that, anyone’s breast milk.”
“You suckled like everyone else, Kashi-chan,” Yuu chuckled from nearby; Naru-chan propped against the canine, contentedly gnawing on her fist.
“Thanks for that, Yuu.”
“Always, puppy. Eat some vegetables. And fish — you still haven’t gained back any of the weight you lost recently, and you’ve grown an inch.”
“That, Sachi-chan, is proof that Yuu spends too much time with your Kaa-chan, who will kill me if she finds out all I ate was plain rice. Again.” Resigned, Kakashi dug into the refrigerator. There was a container of leftover grilled eggplant — no, that was from last week —
“I can cook something.”
“Only if you’ve stopped bleeding, baka.”
Obito-baka snorted and nudged her out of the way. “You don’t hit that hard, Kashi.”
“I don’t hit you that hard — anymore — but it can be arranged.”
Emerging from the fridge with a handful of vegetables — when had she managed to buy fresh vegetables? must have been one of the kids, or her Obachan — and a container of soup stock, her teammate quickly assembled a miso soup and set it to heat gently, before retrieving a pair of fish and seasoning them for the grill.
“I don’t suppose you have any sake.”
“One — fifteen. Two — the dogs don’t like the smell of it. Three — if I need an emotional crutch, I train until I pass out or pound on you. Why would I have sake?”
“You’re a jounin, Kashi-chan,” he countered. “An adult under the law — as you remind people often. You’re allowed to drink alcohol.”
“Baka — I have a baby, half a dozen kids, and seven summons who need me sober.”
“Some people drink it for the taste.”
“Some people think natto is edible. I am among neither of their numbers. If you want to drown your sorrows, asshole, do it somewhere else.” She dropped his daughter into his arms and walked over to her own. Naru-chan grinned around her fist at Kakashi, waving her free hand happily, and some of Kakashi’s temper eased.
“That’s not what — damn it, Kashi, you’re stone cold.”
“If you can’t apologize without alcohol, you don’t really mean it. Kind of like a marriage proposal.”
“She always knows where to stick the kunai,” he muttered. “I’m sorry.” Kakashi glanced over at him; rather than sheepish or put upon, Obito looked regretful.
At some point in the last half-dozen years, Obito had gone from a cute, stocky boy to a broad-shouldered, stocky man. The scars, still pink and fresh, made him look a little dangerous — though the adorable baby in one arm did counter it somewhat. He wasn’t as tall as Kakashi — few jounin were — and had managed to maintain his sense of humour — unfortunately — while gaining the strength to back his goals and childhood boasts. Kakashi might be hailed as a genius — but Obito was one of the few shinobi in Konoha who could challenge her.
“You’re still such a boy, Obito-baka.”
“And you’re still a brat, Kashi-chan.” He jiggled the baby, making her giggle. “Can you watch Sachi-chan tomorrow night?”
“Unless I get a mission, and then I’ll take her to the Nara district with Naru-chan.”
“Thanks, Kashi.” He grinned. “There’s something I need to ask Rin.”
“Boys are very slow, Naru-chan,” she told her daughter. “But they figure it out eventually.”
“Are you out of your — ahahahaha,” Obito cut himself off with a nervous laugh. “What I mean to say, Hokage-sama, is —”
“Are you out of your mind, Sandaime-sama?” Kakashi finished dryly.
“Respectfully, Sandaime-sama,” Rin added with a mild sweetness that her teammates knew well, and feared. “When was your last medical checkup, and can I schedule you another?”
Around the Hokage’s audience chamber, three dozen jounin alternatively grinned, gaped, and glared. The youngest of the assembled ninja were horrified by the lack of obedience and deference — this was the Hokage! The Shinobi no Kami! Their more experienced sempai were entertained, as it was rare to see young ninja speak up and out so calmly.
The handful who remained, envious or resentful of younger ninja who had already reached their strength, found only one more reason for jealousy.
“Thank you, Rin-chan, for your kind concern for this old man’s health,” the Hokage smiled around his pipe. “As for the rest — what is so mad about including three of my finest jounin among the pool for this years’ graduates? And ones who so exemplify the bonds and strength of Konoha’s genin teams?”
“You mean three ninja who spent the first two years they were on a team together routinely trying to kill each other?”
“And look how far you have come, Kakashi-chan!”
“Yes, Sandaime-sama — we’re even better at trying to kill each other than ever. Though, there is less collateral damage nowadays,” she added.
“I saw what those lunatics did to Training Field 41 last week,” a Uchiha jounin muttered to an Inuzuka. “That’s less?”
“Should have seen them five year ago,” someone else chuckled. “Five training fields in one week — and a running battle down Market Street.”
“He started it.” “She started it!” Obito and Kakashi glanced at each other. “Sensei started it.”
“And I finished it,” Rin added, “with a trap seal, five poisoned senbon, and a water jutsu.”
“Isn’t she the nice one?” a newly promoted kunoichi asked.
“Yes,” Kakashi answered brightly.
“Comparatively,” Obito smiled, showing a number of teeth.
“Nice ninja’s are the ones who kill you quickly, Ai, instead of letting you bleed out slowly,” a scarred veteran patted his young kohai on the shoulder. “And never piss off a iryo-nin, especially one who makes jounin by twenty.”
“Aw, Tadeo-sempai, you say the nicest things!” Rin cooed. “Especially since I tied you to your hospital bed with ninja wire and used sedative laced senbon on you four times to keep you in the hospital where you belonged the last time you came home injured!”
“That’s why she’s the nice one,” Kakashi explained. “Obito would have let him escape and collapse from his injuries, then rubbed it in his face for life —”
“You will never live it down, Kashi.”
“ — and I would have used a paralytic poison instead of a sedative — and possibly burned his clothes, so if he did manage to escape, he’d have to do it naked.”
“I see,” the young jounin managed, eyeing them all warily. “Thank you for taking good care of my sensei, Noharu-san.”
“It was my pleasure, truly.”
“You see, children,” Sandaime-sama said happily. “Why would I not wish for a new generation to benefit from such skill and wisdom?”
“To prevent them from being infected with insanity?” someone muttered.
“But it doesn’t make sense, Sandaime-sama — Kakashi’s in ANBU, she won’t have time to — ow!”
“Baka — say it louder next time, Kumo didn’t hear you announce my place in the secret ninja force.”
Obito-baka rubbed her shoulder. “Oh come on! It’s not like I told everyone your mask is —” Kakashi flicked a shuriken at him, which he dodged. “Alright! Sorry! Honestly, Kakashi, it’s hardly a secret you’re in ANBU — most people know who is ANBU, or was — they just don’t know what mask they wore, or what missions they ran. It’s kind of hard to explain how a skilled jounin suddenly isn’t available for missions, but is often out of the village.”
“I’ve had three people ask me how you’re settling in ANBU, Kakashi,” Rin offered. “He’s not wrong.”
“He’s always wrong, even when he’s right; it’s a team rule.”
“Stop making up new team rules, Kashi!”
“Make me, baka. We’re here to fill space,” she explained. “This graduating class is the last one who joined the Academy during the war, so the class size is massive — at least sixty kids. That’s more than thirty pre-genin teams to be tested. Outside of wartime, only half to a third of teams pass, and the rest either fail out, retry, or go into the general corp, but considering the fact that we lost a disproportionate number of in-village ninja this year, we need half of those kids to pass to help fill in the ranks in the coming years.”
“That hair always makes me forget the Nara blood,” Tadeo-san said dryly. “And then she opens her mouth.”
“You say something, sempai?”
“Not a thing, kohai; as you were.”
The Sandaime chuckled softly. “Please, continue Kakashi-chan; your comrades are eager for enlightenment.”
She sighed, slouching further in her vest. “Fine — by filling the ranks of potential with unusual candidates, those who will actually make good sensei are freed to be paired with teams that have a better chance of passing. You and I and Rin-chan will get groups that aren’t expected to succeed; we can test them, fail them, and go back to our duties. Well, Rin-chan might get a group with iryo-nin potential,” she mused, “but rather than teaching them herself, they’ll be mentored by the hospital staff as a whole. Only combat iryo-nin come up through the genin corp.”
A number of people, including Obito, looked at her with dawning understanding; the Hokage chuckled. “There are times, Kakashi-chan, when you remind me greatly of your father and uncle. Now that the explanation is out of the way, I will pass out the team assignments.”
“What’s the word for ‘failed with prejudice’?”
“um. . . pass?”
A room full of jounin turned to stare at the sheepish Uchiha. Kakashi sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Baka — you realize that you were given a group expected to fail, right?”
“But Kashi-chan! They tried so hard — and it isn’t fair that people expected them to fail because they’re all civilians! No one even gave them a chance — they even put two girls on the team, which is a sure sign it was never expected to work!”
“Your team had two girls, baka.”
“Only because Sensei was chosen especially to be your sensei, Kashi! Besides,” he huffed, “I tested their teamwork, and they worked as a team. So, they passed.” He nodded decisively. “Team Four, passed, Sandaime-sama.”
The elder Hokage studied Obito for a moment, then smiled. “Team Four, containing Watsuki Kenshin, Takeuchi Usagi, and Fujimoto Ume, under the command of Jounin Uchiha Obito — passed.”
Rin was watching her boyfriend with an exasperated, affectionate smile. Kakashi slouched and said, “Yeah, I’m sure absolutely nothing will go wrong.”
“Shut up, Kakashi-chan, I’ll be an awesome sensei!”
“You know there’s more to being a jounin sensei than treating them to lunch and free babysitting, right?”
“I know that! If you can take care of a bunch of orphans —”
“I provide a house and make sure they don’t die, Obito-baka; I’m not raising or teaching them.”
“So failed that I can’t adequately describe it.”
“ — then I can teach a team to be awesome ninja!”
“Really? Not by example, you can’t.”
“Team — no sparring in my office, please; take it outside.”
“Sorry, Sandaime-sama.” “I’ll kill my teammate later, Sandaime-sama.”
The Hokage chuckled. “Please do — and no explosions, please. Team Eight.”
Kakashi followed the sounds of chaos and fighting — familiar, in her line of work — into the yard of the main clan house and studied the scene before her. “Maa maa, kids, so much energy!” Two of the wrestling kids — Iruka and Anko, she noted with a bit of surprise — froze, while Mao, Ren, and Shou continued to fight. “Well, if you have this much energy, I suppose I should help you with it.” She bit her thumb and summoned her ninken.
All of them.
“Let’s play a game, kids. It’s called — Hunter and Prey.” Her eyes vanished in a bright, hidden, smile. “Since this is your first time, you get a ten second head start.”
Isamu shock himself and barked a laugh. “Ten, nine,” the kids all stared at each other, wide eyed. “Eight, seven —”
“ — six —”
The kids bolted; Kakashi reached out and snagged Iruka’s shirt as he passed; the boy hung limply in her grip as the countdown finished and seven ninken trotted off happily. “Now,” she said mildly, “what was that about?” He only shrugged, refusing to meet her eyes. “Really? Because normally, you’re the voice of reason, or the one to break up a fight. Using chakra to enhance your voice is clever, by the way, most people only ever think to enhance their senses or their limbs. Still nothing to say?”
Iruka only shrugged and made a faint nuh sound.
“Alright then.” Still holding him by the shirt, Kakashi carried him inside the house and dropped him on the floor by the table. Nearby, Naru-chan was rolling happily, making noises that no one else could understand but seemed to entertain her mightily based on the frequent gurgles of laughter. “Sit, Iruka-kun.” He scooted himself as far from Naru-chan as he could while remaining at the table, and very deliberately didn’t look at the baby.
Ah, she realized, and went to make tea.
“So, who told you?” she asked as she set the pot and cups on the table minutes later. “Go, on, drink.”
“Mizuki-kun,” the orphan muttered, accepting his cup.
“Ah. So, what did he say, exactly?”
“That Naru — that she is the Kyuubi,” Iruka murmured. “It’s inside her.”
Kakashi took a sip of tea. “Well, then, Mizuki is a moron.” Iruka jerked his head up, gaping at her. “And the Academy needs a section on fuinjutsu, because Naru-chan is not the Kyuubi — she’s the reason it’s imprisoned.”
“No one can kill a bijuu, Iruka-kun; not the Shodai, not Mito-hime, not the Yondaime. They are forces of nature, chakra given form and awareness. But, you can seal one — in a living being.” He glanced at the baby, pale and clammy. “Mito-hime did that, sealed the Kyuubi in herself, but she died. So where did it go?”
“Is that why it came back that night? Because Mito-hime was dead?”
“No, it would have only taken a few years to reform if that was the case. Mito-hime passed her burden on. To a relative; a Uzumaki, with their resilient bodies and strong life force and sealing arts.” She nodded at his gasp. “Kushina-nee-chan came from Uzushiogakure for that reason, before her village was destroyed in the Second War.”
“But — how did it get out? If she was strong, and the Yondaime was her husband — why did they —?”
“Fail?” He froze. “They didn’t. But I did.”
She glanced over at her goddaughter, her Sensei’s baby. Naru-chan was wriggling her way towards Kakashi, so she set down her cup and picked up the infant. Five months old already, had it really been that long since that night? “I failed, Iruka-kun, because I couldn’t kill the man who attacked Kushina-nee-chan as she gave birth. I couldn’t stop him from kidnapping Naru-chan, luring Sensei away, and tearing the Kyuubi out of Kushina-nee-chan.”
“Someone — someone let it out on purpose?” he managed, gasping for breath. “They — Okaasan — Otousan — why?” Kakashi reached over and shoved his head down between his knees.
Comforting people is easier than killing them Kakashi-chan, Rin’s voice in her head said dryly. Try being a person instead of a ninja for a minute. Hesitantly, she patted the boy’s back.
And found herself with a lapful of crying boy and a baby whose bottom lip began to quiver in sympathy.
I am never taking Rin-chan’s advice again, she thought. Killing people is much easier than this.
After several minutes of patting both their backs and making meaningless soothing noises, the storm seemed to have abated. Like most boys his age — and Kakashi, come to think of it — he was embarrassed by the show of emotions and busied himself with wiping away tears and pretending interest in his cold tea.
“So Naru-chan is like Mito-hime? And Kushina-sama?”
“The — power of human sacrifice?” He glanced at the baby. “But, how could the Yondaime sacrifice his own daughter?”
“Because a Uzumaki was the best choice for containing the Kyuubi, and because he trusted his own child to be strong and brave enough to protect her village. The village he died to save.”
“And you.” She cocked her head to the side. “He trusted you to take care of her.”
Promise me, Kakashi; promise me you’ll stay safe and take care of Naruto.
“Yes, he did.”
“Is that man going to come back?”
“Konoha is standing and the Kyuubi is contained; yes, he’ll come back. And I have one of Sensei’s kunai waiting for him,” she added flatly. “Next time, I won’t just blind him with it — I’ll shove it through his skull.” He got to his feet. “Maa maa, Iruka-kun; where are you going?”
“To train.” He patted Naru-chan on the head as he passed. “I’ll be back later, Kakashi-sama.”
“Well, Naru-chan,” Kakashi said, “that could have gone worse, I think. Maybe Rin-chan is right.” She met her daughter’s wide blue eyes. “Let’s not tell her, ne?”
Kakashi knelt on the floor, ignoring several dark looks and the blood red eyes of those who surrounded her; she was immune to nasty looks with Sharingan eyes.
Since she was at the Uchiha Clan’s meeting hall as the Hatake Clan Head and not a jounin, she wore a kunoichi’s formal wear — a knee-length battle kimono, leggings and mesh armour, and her kunai and shuriken discreetly hidden within her kimono instead of in pouches. The Hatake White Chakra Sabre was worn at her side; her usual blue-black mask was a silver-grey to match her obi, and her long tail of hair was in a half bun, pinned up with senbon.
Mikoto-nee-sama gave her a warm glance and an approving nod before her face went neutral; behind her, the Clan Heir, Itachi, knelt. The boy was seven, and wore a shiny new hiate-ate under his long bangs.
“Hatake-sama, I have asked you here so the Uchiha might hear directly from you about the night the Kyuubi was released on the village,” the Clan Head spoke over the last chatter of her gathered clan — the Elders, and all the active and retired ninja of the Uchiha clan. “You have given evidence to the Hokage and the Council that the attacker was not a current member of the Uchiha clan, but a traitor to the village and clan. I would hear all you can remember, so we might uncover his identity and bring him to justice.”
“A lie to disenfranchise the noble Uchiha,” an elder muttered.
“Quiet, Mura,” someone else hissed. “The village believes a Uchiha unleashed the Kyuubi — Hatake’s words make them accept that it wasn’t one of us. If we try to deny it, they’ll quickly wonder if we were complicit!”
“She’s jealous of our doujutsu,” a chunin drawled. “This is plot to undermine our power.”
“Why would I be jealous of the Sharingan, Uchiha Yuuma?” Kakashi asked mildly. “I can beat most of you without it. Few Uchiha use their Sharingan to it’s full potential instead of as a crutch, and even though it permits you to copy ninjutsu, most of you never bother to master those jutsu.”
“You arrogant bitch.”
“Obito — am I a bitch?”
“An S-ranked Alpha bitch, Kakashi, which is why we love and occasionally want to kill you.” Her teammate lounged nearby in defiance of the seiza posture the rest of the room took; his own Sharingan gazed lazily over the mutinous-looking members of his clan. “And Yuuma can barely use a fire jutsu, much less dozens of them from all five elements the way you can.”
“Criticism from a failure is practically a compliment, Obito-kun.”
“I made jounin in under ten years, Yuuma, and you don’t qualify for A-ranks outside of wartime.”
“You were promoted by your sensei.”
“Are you accusing the Yondaime of favouritism, Yuuma-san?” Kakashi asked gently; the man flinched. “Ah, I must have misheard.”
“The Yondaime —” Elder Mura began, and faltered under Obito, Mikoto, and Kakashi’s flat glares.
“If you’ve all finished insulting a jounin and Clan Head in my presence,” Mikoto snapped, “I would continue. Hatake-sama — did you see the face of this attacker?”
“Once I shattered his mask, yes.”
“And you damaged his eyes?”
There was a wave of sound through the room; the loss of one of their eyes was a fate worse than death to the Uchiha. More than one had committed seppuku, or deliberately gotten themselves killed in battle after losing one or both of their eyes.
“I slashed both his eyes separately; the left with a kunai and the right with a kunai enhanced by my White Chakra. He might, with an exceptional iryo-nin, be able to save the first but the second is permanently destroyed. Plus — it’s hard to hide scarring around the eyes.” More than one person glanced at her face and the thin scar across her left eye, proof she’d nearly lost an eye herself but for Rin.
“Obito.” Mikoto extended a stack of papers; her teammate rose fluidly to his feet and retrieved them “This is the registration of every Uchiha who has served the Shinobi Forces or the Military Police since the founding of the village. Will you see if you can recognize the attacker?”
“Of course.” Obito dropped beside her, offering each page one at a time and accepting the rejected ones. Carefully, Kakashi examined each image.
“The attacker claimed to be Madara, correct?”
“His exact words were: ‘I am Madara, little girl. You think you’re a match for me?’”
Obito snorted. “Is that when you shoved a kunai in his eye?”
“She hates being called a little girl; always did,” he told his Clan Head. “Even when she was knee high to a midget.”
“I was six — what was your excuse?”
“I was ten!”
“You aren’t anymore, and you’re still short.”
“I’m a perfectly respectable height, Kashi-chan, we can’t all be freakishly tall!”
“Rin-chan is short too; poor Sachiko-chan will be a midget for real.”
“Sachi-chan will be the exact perfect height because she’s exactly perfect! Not a weird freak of nature like any baby you have will be!”
“Speaking of babies, Obito-kun,” Mikoto-nee-sama interrupted sweetly, “you have yet to add yours to the clan rolls — and your wife. You do intend to correct that oversight — don’t you?”
“Ahahahaha — you see, Mikoto-dono — it’s like this —”
“He manifested a forbidden Sharingan and thinks he’s going to be banished from the clan.”
“I fucking hate you, Kakashi.”
Mikoto held up a hand as several Uchiha startled, turning red gazes on her teammate. “Wait — Obito, you manifest the Mangekyou? When was this?”
He rubbed the back of his head. “Ah — during the Kyuubi attack?”
“That was five months ago!” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “Did you murder a family member or friend?”
“Deliberately place same in harm’s way so as to witness them die?”
“Of course not!”
“Refrain from aiding someone that you could have saved so as to watch their demise?”
“For fuck’s sake — no!” Obito was gaping at his Clan Head, part aghast, part furious. “What kind of stupid —”
“It’s not the Mangekyou that’s forbidden,” Kakashi explained. “It’s the method of getting it that is — or at least, the shortcut. The Sharingan manifests in conflict — fear for your life, or something similar. The evolved Sharingan requires something else. Helplessness or despair. You were trapped and forced to watch others die — I imagine seeing a loved one fall, or performing a mercy killing can cause it manifest as well.” She glanced up, ignoring the dropped jaws. “Someone probably tried to gain more power quickly by shortcutting — killing someone close to them. That’s what’s forbidden.”
“Seriously, Kakashi, how do you do that?”
“I use my brain for more than holding my skull in the right shape, baka. Are you going to stop being paranoid now, and ask for help training your new eyes? Or do I have to do something drastic?”
Mikoto laughed. “As entertaining as that would be — Obito, you’ll come to the main house twice a week and read what we have on the Mangekyou or train with one of the three people who currently have it. And you can bring your family for dinner tomorrow — right?”
“Yes, Mikoto-dono,” he said weakly.
“Found him,” Kakashi said quietly.
“What? Who?” Obito demanded. “What’s his name?”
“Uchiha Taika,” Kakashi murmured, staring down at the image in her hand. “Missing, presumed dead. Traitor, murderer, and dead man walking.”