Hey look, I'm not dead.
The Warhammer 40k fandom has dug its many claws into me. Thanks, If The Emperor Had A Text To Speech Device. Help.
Shisui plays agony aunt. Yuyu plots destruction. Danzo lies his ass off.
Poison: Liar Liar
Shisui was used to being the kidnapper, not the kidnappee.
Granted, ANBU show affection and instill punctuality and awareness by descending upon their subordinates/teammates from on high and dragging them off. Shisui had been young and scrawny enough when he joined that it had been done more times than necessary. If they hadn't been just as willing to release him without bargaining or highly cryptic prophecies he would have started researching Dragon ancestry.
(There had been cuddling. Of the ANBU variety, which meant plausible deniability and cloak draping and sharing of food for 'poison-testing'.)
This particular situation did not quite ascribe to formula, probably because Yuyu Aburame couldn't have picked him up if she tried. (He is determinedly not thinking about what her version of cuddling would entail.) He surrenders to being hustled into the unclaimed patch of ground adjacent to the Aburame compound out of curiosity and waits as she comports herself.
"I need advice. About Kimimaro."
Shisui blinks. Considers. No, too few facts and no context. "What happened?"
Despite the clipped, short, sentences, he can tell by what she's not saying that there's way too much emotional baggage here for him to unpack. So he reverts to good old ANBU-issue throw-the-baggage-back-from-a-different-angle therapy.
"So, from the very beginning, Kimimaro treated you differently and you didn't know how to deal with that. So you tried to scare him, because you know how to deal with scared people and you'd feel more comfortable."
"So you start embellishing your strength a little, act out a bit, but he still continues to accept you as is."
"And you came to me, why?"
Silence. Stillness. Then; "Why is he doing this? Why is he different? You are good with human behaviour, you will give me answers."
Shisui doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. If this is what books and people meant when they said that there were no female Aburame Clan Heads, why they were always in T&I or Intelligence or Administration, it was far more simple than the misogyny/tradition he had always ascribed it as. It was because female Aburame didn't understand people.
Better start this off basic.
"Based on what little I know of what he went through at Orochimaru's hands, he's used to being manipulated. He's used to a certain lack of privacy. Biological...oddities," Shisui shoots a pointed stare at Yuyu, "don't phase him. He didn't fear you to start with because you don't seem scary."
Despite the visor, she's looking at him like he just cracked the ultimate riddle.
"How do I tell him...something very important...without making him scared of everyone."
Oh no, she expects him to solve her problem as well.
"First, explain that what you're going say is going to be scary, give him time to prepare. Tell him that you are still the same person he thought you were. If speaking or being face to face with each other is going to be awkward, write it out as a letter. A small gift probably wouldn't hurt."
Is...is she writing this down?
She's writing it down.
"And...Yuyu-kun? It might be an idea to tell him that you don't do normal human emotions very well."
She blanches, makes to object, but he holds up a hand to stall her. "It's just an idea, you don't have to do it. But it could make any needed future confessions or apologies a lot easier. Just saying."
After a careful pause, she secretes the notebook in a pocket and bows slightly in gratitude before disappearing into the undergrowth without another word.
Shisui suppresses the urge to bang his head against something. That had been nerve-wracking. And frustrating. Was this what the Hokage felt like after days of doing this? Mediating for people? Urrrrgggghhhh.
On the other hand though, Shisui hadn't done too bad at it.
Not bad at all.
Early this morning, I had been roused by an ANBU, allowed to dress, and spirited away to the Hospital room where Kakashi-Shishou was thrashing and screaming thanks to a second neurotoxin which had been administered.
In the heat of the moment and before they could explain, I definitely did not attempt to stab one of the medics.
A then extremely high Kakashi then proceeded to cuddle-pile me with almost single-minded determination. Even when asleep. Thankfully, a ninjutsu for this exact scenario exists. A couple of cramped hand-signs and a poof of air and chakra overflow later, and Kakashi was left hugging a pillow. Inoichi was now holding myself, quickly setting me down.
And the tea in the Hospital Cafeteria tastes vaguely of soap.
"What are you thinking about?" Inoichi asks softly, from where he's sat across from me.
"That the stains on the inside of this cup are probably older than the Sandaime."
He snorts quietly, setting down his own cup.
"Jokes aside, I...," I search for the right words. "It feels like this whole thing has dragged on for months, rather than a few days. And...Thank you, Inoichi-san. I know you didn't have to do as much as you did for me and I know that you're stressed out, but it means a lot to me. Thank you."
Elbows on the table, he surveys me over loosely folded hands. If he wore glasses, I'm sure they would be glinting a blank white. "Now Kakashi's out of immediate danger, what are you going to do?"
My throat tightens. What am I going to do? I know he's only talking about Kakashi, but...
I'd thought I was being careful, loosening a few pebbles of foreknowledge here and there. Playing it safe because I didn't want to commit. Some part of me still wants to hang on to the reliability of distance, the sacrosanct of canon.
But life isn't supposed to be safe.
People don't get stronger when they play it safe.
I want to protect these people, not poke at them for my own benefit like mould on a petri dish.
And if the avalanche has already started, I might as well start throwing boulders.
"Right now?" I finally reply to Inoichi. "I speak to a few people. Collate my information. Find evidence. Set up defences. But I will need to talk to you later."
His Clan wasn't one to look down upon marrying outside the bloodline; welcomed it, in fact. There were rules, and security measures though, because they learned from mistakes of the past.
It did mean that, despite the strength of blood, sometimes children took more after the outsider parent than the Clan one. Especially when it came to certain outsiders. Oh, they were loved. Cherished. Trained. Protected. They just...had different strengths and traits, or lack of.
Hayama had the hair, the build, the eyes. But not the instincts, the mind or the Lightning chakra.
Together with the appropriately-ironic name of Shirakumo that he chose himself, it enabled him to pass to those not in the know as just another shinobi with mixed ancestry.
The Senju blood in him, as much as he viewed it as lesser, did also gain him that smidgen of extra respect from Konoha and made them overlook his true Clan affiliation.
It also meant that he could coerce security around Kakashi's room to look the other way and stop their ears for a while while they talked business.
"A blessing in disguise," Hayama mused. A twofold blessing, in fact; now the Council wouldn't shit themselves over losing a Sharingan. Praise the Sage.
"Doesn't feel like a blessing," Kakashi mumbled as a medic silently prodded at his arm and manipulated it.
"When your nervous system got shut down and then rebooted, the Sharingan got it's connection to your chakra and brain rewired. Properly. Hopefully you should be able to turn it on and off as it is meant to now, and in the meantime, that's a massive drain on your chakra lifted."
"I know, I can feel it."
"And congratulations on accidentally reinventing the Denki Ningyo no Jutsu, it's a very difficult Clan Technique to master and you did it while dying and not knowing it existed."
"I didn't want Kimimaro to find me...on the floor..."
Hayama shut his mouth. "Shit. Sorry, I didn't think."
"Shirakumo..." Kakashi paused, then signaled for the medic to leave and waited for them to do so. "I don't remember ever thanking you for arranging things after father died and I never thought about how hard it was for you. So, thank you."
"Kid," Hayama's voice was gruff as he took a deep breath. "I know it seems strange to say this, but...you look better since I saw you last."
"Hm," Kakashi hummed, knowing what Hayama meant. "I feel better."
"Then, when this is all over, I think it's time you visit the Clan Stronghold. You might be your own pack, but you have neglected your strengths and your heritage"
"When this is all over," Kakashi affirmed with a glare. "And not just this whole crisis, I want to see Kimimaro make Chunin first." Then he relaxed a little. "You know, Hokage-sama said something similar to me, about me working to better myself."
"So he does have a brain. He's still unworthy though."
"Your Shishou is alright?"
"He's alright. He's good. He's safe," I sigh, lying down under the kotatsu.
She sighs too. "Good. I'm glad."
The room is toasty warm and far from the traditional aesthetics favoured by the Uchiha and Hyuuga. The buildings extend far underground, for one. Walls and corridors are curved like the tunnels they are and branch off at odd angles from each other and even double back or reconnect. Rounded moon-doorways dominate and floors are wooden but made of layered compressed pulp rather than planks. There is electric lighting, but sometimes supplemented by bioluminescent insects and moss. For all that the structure is simple, it doesn't mean that the interior is stark and spartan. Far from it.
Heavy weaves, curtains and drapes hang in every room, disguising bare walls and the rich colours adding closeness. Furniture in all kinds of shape and material scatter about and giant beetles meander along the walls as gourds of insects dangle from ceilings in soft woven nets like strange misshapen fruit.
There's one on the ceiling above us now, actually, some sort of fuzzy bees gently buzzing in and out with unknown purpose.
And it almost fittingly reminds me of what I want to ask.
"Have children with Kekkai Genkai or valuable skills and Affinities been going missing lately? I had a thought."
Yuyu jerks. "You know about it?"
"You do know about it?" I ask.
"It was one of the things I wanted to talk to you about today. One of my younger cousins, inheritor of a rare and deadly strain of kikaichu, was taken in as a ward by Shibi-san. Elder Danzo wanted Shino-kun and Torune-kun went in his place. I will have Torune back," she finished with a distinct buzzing growl.
"Kabuto was Orochimaru's spy, but he didn't start that way," I said softly. "Kabuto was a gifted infiltrator, but Orochimaru kept him confined to Konoha instead of more fitting missions, because Kabuto had sources inside. And," I bared teeth, "who's to say the missing children stay in the Village?"
Chittering, a deep, echoing roll, sounded from Yuyu and her monstrous apparition curled into sight. "You know things." It isn't an accusation, but it's wary all the same. "How?"
I tell her everything. Well, the version Itachi came up with, about reincarnating backwards from the future. It's certainly close enough and I almost prefer it to the truth.
"-ROOT was disbanded, but Danzo Shimura kept it going in secret. Gifted children stolen or coerced away and broken into tools, their silence kept with seals on their tongues.
Orochimaru often lamented being driven out of Konoha; about the valuable equipment he had to leave behind. Equipment people would have noticed him buying and hence must have been bought for him."
Yuyu is quiet now, but no less angry. "So you are a target. But Kakashi-san protects you. And if Kakashi-san was out of the way?..." She suggested menacingly.
"It's possible. But it doesn't fit? Kakashi-shishou was dying, would have died. One of Konoha's strongest nin, murdered. There would have been uproar within and opportunistic ploys from without. All for me?"
"Kimimaro." Yuyu's voice is stern, flat. "Whether he is implicated with the poisoning or not. Whether he wants you or not. He is still a kidnapper, a bloodline thief, with possible links to a known traitor and criminal. Not to mention that building his own secret shinobi force loyal to him would be more than enough circumstantial evidence for conspiracy to treason in itself."
She's definitely set on Danzo. Far be it from me to dissuade her, I certainly wouldn't care if Danzo died. In fact, it would take care of a lot of things.
But if she goes after someone who seems to be a loyal elder and without apparent provocation, it'll be her head on the chopping block.
"I agree, something needs to be done. What's your plan? Please tell me you weren't just going to rampage across the Village in an attempt to eat him alive?"
She pauses in a very telling way. For fucks sake.
"Look, Yuyu-chan. Let's try and keep collateral damage to the minimum and not paint ourselves as the aggressors. Do you even know where ROOT is? Can you track Torune's kikaichu?"
She shakes her head, somewhat mollified. "No, he is barricaded from my senses, by seals specifically attuned to Aburame."
"Well...," I sigh, remembering what I thought about throwing boulders. "I might just have the beginnings of a plan of my own. First, I need to check something with Tenzo. Then you and I are going to Inoichi Yamanaka and telling him everything."
"What would you say, if I told you that I knew who poisoned Kakashi Hatake?"
Itachi very carefully did not react. Did not so much as blink out of turn even as he stayed kneeling.
Shinobi knelt before the Hokage only momentarily out of respect, then stood upright in readiness. Danzo, though, liked his subordinates to remain kneeling. Itachi never used to think anything of it, grateful for how it let him easily conceal his face. Now, it raised invisible hackles along his back.
"I would ask how you came by this information."
A snort. The ominously quiet tap of a cane on the polished wooden floor.
"One of my Yamanaka operatives was confronted by an unknown Uchiha in a one-eyed spiral mask and put under genjutsu, to possess Yashiro Uchiha and in turn genjutsu the assisstant bartender into poisoning the drink. The poison itself was supplied by the unknown Uchiha. Yashiro Uchiha was then killed. My operative was able to escape at the last second though not without sustaining injury from the backlash."
The man's voice then softened. "I know it all seems very convenient, but you know my motives, Itachi-kun. I wish for a strong Konohagakure. Even if Hatake is too stubborn for his own good, I would never seek his death and weaken the Village."
The words about Kakashi ring of truth in Itachi's ears. Danzo truly doesn't want Kakashi dead. The appearance of an unknown Uchiha also rings of truth.
"I understand, Danzo-sama. I too wish for the Village to be strong."
It's the right thing to say; Danzo resumes talking.
"Unfortunately, I cannot keep quiet about this forever. I will be questioned at some point. I can omit certain things to protect the anonymity of my operatives, but I will have to disclose fully the Uchiha who pulled the strings behind the scenes. The Uchiha Clan will come under even more scrutiny and perhaps blame.
Unless I can give them a name, Itachi-kun, point them towards a sole Uchiha with that kind of power and capability. Perhaps...Madara?"
"Madara is dead."
He died at the hands of the Shodai Hokage. But. There was a broken man in a mask that Kimimaro had told him about and Itachi trusts Kimimaro a hell of a lot more than Danzo.
"Ah, not so," Danzo said smugly, triumphantly. "On the night of the Kyuubi attack, the bijuu was already contained, when a masked Uchiha stole it and controlled it. The legends of Uchiha controlling the bijuu through their doujutsu is no mere myth. The time before that, the night the concept of Jinchuuriki was brought into reality out of desperation, Madara Uchiha used the Kyuubi as a weapon against the Shodai Hokage in their final battle. There is little doubt that Madara has returned somehow, and that he is manipulating the Village against one of it's honoured founding Clans."
Everything Danzo is saying rings of truth. Itachi keeps the knowledge of the incorrect facts to himself. "I...I had no idea, Danzo-sama," he gasps, feigning surprise and awe. The benefit of being known for being taciturn; people are more likely to believe him if he's emotional about it.
Danzo almost preens. It's sickening. "It is up to us, Itachi-kun, to save the Uchiha Clan, if and when Madara finds a way to strike. And he will. His attempt to frame the Uchiha Clan for murder has failed and he will be impatient. I propose that, being not yet certain of the dispositions of the former coup de tat supporters, we prioritize saving the children. If Madara is able to control a bijuu, let alone a Yamanaka with their robust mental defences, this may mean killing Uchiha. You may be reviled for these actions, Itachi-kun, but it is for the greater good of Village and Clan."
Everything is different, but what Itachi knows, what Kimimaro has told him...some of what Danzo is implying is familiar at least. He can work with that. "I understand, Danzo-sama."
"Failure! Yes, it didn't work out quite the way we planned, did it?"
Zetsu sighed at the packet of powdered Goldenchain seeds, that they had secretly swapped for the far more deadly Nerveweed. If only the brat hadn't been so observant. If only the Nara hadn't gotten involved. If only the Green Beast hadn't been so fast.
If only Tobi hadn't been watching Konoha far more closely than Kiri, due to news of Hatake apparently spawning, and caught Danzo's puppet just after the attempt.
Zetsu's clever slight of hand, all for nothing. Had made it arguably worse, in fact.
That blasted Wolfspawn was the last fragment of Obito remaining, both literally and figuratively. As much as that obsession was useful, it was also unnecessary baggage.
As long as Kakashi Hatake lived, Tobi would never reach his full potential.
Oh well. Hatake lived a dangerous life after all; Zetsu would have been happy with an unfortunate accident, but Danzo's powerplay had provided a happy coincidence.
Best to lay low and ride out the storm for a while.
Zetsu could wait.
Anything, for Mother.
As a notice, I am now relocating this fic to Ao3. I will still leave it here on , but only the Ao3 one will be updating. I've just come to prefer the layout and tag system of Ao3 over the past few years and feel like a clean break rather than just crossposting.
I've also been very busy writing fics for the Warhammer 40k fandom and my priority will still be those, but Dem Bones is no longer a dead fic.