"Why are all these- these children surrounding me?" Orochimaru is not-at-all-hiding behind his teammates. Small creatures, that may someday grow up to be competent shinobi, surround the trio. One even tried to touch his hair. With its sticky hands. The seals on his skin ensure that he will not be able to do anything close to a jutsu, unless allowed by Tsunade or Jiraiya. Somehow, a child assumes that the ink-prisons are 'super pretty pictures'. He would hiss at them, but the younglings think it's cool.

The sensible parents are shooing them away. Sure, they're glaring at him in a way that makes him want to dissect them, but at least they are not children.

"But toads are so much cooler!" Orochimaru can hear Jiraiya arguing with a little girl, and losing the battle.

"But the snake-man saved me and the boy I like!" Well, at least there are some positives to his sudden fame.

.

Obito cannot feel the ink on his skin, but he can feel the power of it all the way to his bones. They are powerful but not powerful enough to suppress the mokuton. That does not matter anymore though because, through a series of operations that he was unconscious for most of, every single cell has been ripped out of him and broken down to its barest elements.

He is like a toy that has all of its stuffing ripped out and put back again, but not as good as before. It is a naked feeling.

He is nothing more than human now, and it scares him.

.

"Obito. You have no idea what it is like to be dead."

He laughs at the irony. Of all the things he has experience with, being dead may be the one he knows about the best. Under that rock, seeing Rin die, having his last chance of peace being ripped away… He has died many times.

"I died with Rin. I could have brought my heart back, I could have felt alive again."

"No. You have never been truly dead."

Obito does not expect the voice to be as biting as it is. She was not exactly kind to him before, but never did she have that mixture of sadness and rage that he knows all too well.

"Heh. Then tell me exactly how it fucking feels." He says this without expecting an answer. Certainly not one like she gives.

.

"It is not bad, per say. It is more forgiving than life, as long as you forgive yourself." Sakura remembers how much she hated herself when she looked down at what Sasuke was doing in her name. In a way, the evil that brought her back was also her absolution. She got to say goodbye. Rin will not get that chance. "Watching as your loved ones destroy each other, and themselves in the process, makes it so hard to rest peacefully."

She can see Obito wince at that. Then, he scowls, as if he is certain that she is lying. She is not, but she understands how one would think that; it does sound a bit fantastical to know what actual death is like.

Sakura does not know if she even wants to try and reason with him. A half eaten box of Pocky lies on his bedside table, and she picks it up. She lays it in Obito's palm, and he grips it before the snack falls. Maybe there is hope for him.

"If you are not going to do this for yourself or Kakashi, do it for her."

The door closes before he can respond to her words.

.

"Where the hell are you taking me?" He gets no answer.

Obito is being led by Kakashi. The man's hand is wrapped around his wrist, although the seals that have been placed on him are more effective in keeping him restrained. Somehow, he knows that this is more for the man leading him than anything else.

Eventually road turns to dirt and grass. They make a few turns before Kakashi comes to a sudden stop. Obito almost crashes into him. Too busy cussing at him, he does not notice the hand being removed from his wrist until it is around his hand.

"What the fu-" He stops in the middle of his yell. Kakashi holds his hand against cool stone and brushes it over the indents. His fingertips feel their names; Rin's, Minato-sensei's, and his own.

Below his palm is the cold memorial of the dead, and above is the warm and calloused hand of a man who is still alive. Obito thinks that there is some symbolism here, but he does not bother trying to sort it out.

"Uh, well. I visit every day, and I thought I may as well bring you along. It's… soothing to talk to people who'll listen."

Even though it is a jilted and awkward explanation, it makes him understand a little bit more about Kakashi. Maybe someday he will forgive him fully, and maybe he won't. Either way, this is a step closer.

.

"Mr. Tuna! Your sword is licking me!"

Kisame sprints towards the voice and prays that Fishcake isn't dead. So many people would be after his ass if the boy got killed while under his watch. He does not want to have to deal with several S-rank shinobi along with those Ichiraku. Those two are terrifying.

He turns so fast that he almost falls, and he rushes into the side room. Hopefully he will be able to salvage most of the body from Samehada. He hears a crunching noise. Shit!

He body tackles the sword and misses, landing on his face and sliding against the wooden floor. It is thankfully clean.

"Oi, Mr. Tuna? Are you alright?" Fish cake is sitting there with all of his body parts. He smiles and waves with one hand while the other is petting Samehada. Sitting on his lap is a bowl of…

"What the hell are you feeding my sword?"

"It's a Team Seven special that I made! Tomato and Pocky flavored ramen!" Then, he takes a big bite and smiles. Either this child is a great actor, or he likes it and something is very wrong with him.

He decides to battle this crazy with crazy.

"Swords are allergic to too much ramen."

.

Out of the corner of his eye, Sasuke sees two plush dinosaurs sitting next to each other. He knows that he may be considered too old for them, but they were given to him by his brothers; he'll keep them forever.

.

The Uchiha household used to be so empty that it hurt. Sasuke only stayed out of a stubborn denial and a broken heart. Every night he would stare at the blank spaces where family used to be, and turn the sadness into hatred.

The Uchiha household used to be empty, and he couldn't fill in all of that nothingness.

It's strange and wonderful now, because somehow this house has become full once again. The people that are here are no replacement for what he has lost, but they don't need to be. Even if his parents no longer live here, it does not mean that he loves this family any less.

"Otouto." A deep voice takes Sasuke from his thoughts. Itachi is there, and he is holding a Konoha hitai-ate. The metal is shining and has no markings, other than the stylized leaf.

Somehow Sakura is suddenly there, and she hugs Itachi while dragging him along too. The group hug sort of grows, and somebody tips over. They all fall to the floor, and he can hear the grumbles of those unwillingly forced into the pile of affection.

It's chaotic and loud almost everyone here is strong enough kill three of him. Almost half of these people are former missing-nin.

Sasuke would not trade them for the world.

.

"I guess there will be a next time, otouto."


ALSO:

The Kage Summit has arrived. Tsunade has heard the humors, but did not know what to believe. When she sees that there are six seats, she knows. She sends a few hand signals to her ANBU companions, and the 'Itachi Duo' as Orochimaru likes to call them, settle into a position with hands by their weapons.

The Otokage arrives not two minutes later, flanked by his own guards. One has grey hair and the other is a dark brunette. Their leader has too much of his a covered to see any distinctive features. When he lowers the hat, he has a smirk on his face. "Remember me?"

Nobody remembers him. "Shino! It's Shino, remember? Team Eight?"

"The one with the dog?" The pink ANBU tilts her head.

"Goddamn it. This is why I left." He gets pats on the back from both of his companions.