The third hokage was blessed with distinct foresight. He got it from aptitude and experience in his long career as an active shinobi, later as the hokage. Yet he was not prepared for the recent events. It was absolutely unforeseen and baffling. Shikaku had taken a few minutes to digest what had happened in front of him. Both Kakashi and Obito had been stunned to silence. And he was still processing it all when he walked into the hokage's office with his son in his arms. Mikan was carrying Naruto because Obito was too shaken and Kakashi was calming him. The hokage was doing paperwork and raised his eyebrows at the group. "So I take it that something really odd must have happened for the jounin commander, head medic, one of our top jounins and a seemingly underdog nin to be here together. With the kids." He couldn't help but notice that the kids, covered with blankets, were naked beneath. He saw various degrees of bafflement on everyone face except Mikan, whose expression was the calmest. Naruto was chewing the edge of his blanket and watching his toes wriggling with all the curiosity of a young one and Shikamaru was, well, asleep. "Mikan, I think you should explain." Shikaku said finally. "I think sandaime sama should see it first. Then I can explain." She nudged Shikamaru awake while Obito coaxed Naruto and in front of his eyes, the two children morphed into a fairly big black cat and a fox kit. "Is that? Oh, a black panther. I haven't seen one in a long time. And a fox kit. How fitting." He managed to say after they changed back a few minutes later. "Why don't you take the kids to Biwako, Obito? I'll send her a message. I don't see anything wrong at a glance. But you should get them checked. Kakashi, go with him. Shikaku, as my advisor, ask my secretary to schedule a meeting for all the clan heads this evening. No exceptions." "Hai hokage sama." Shikaku walked out. "Bat, horse, owl, leave us and make sure the surroundings are secure and no one comes in. Nothing leaves this room." As the room emptied, Sarutobi looked at her. His gaze spoke volumes. Just like it did after news of the destruction of Uzushio. "This is something that I never thought would happen. But it is happening Mikan. And now it is time to tie all the loose ends." "I agree, hokage sama. This was long overdue." "As Tobirama sensei's student, I got a lot of information regarding Uzushio and even went there once. Black panthers were endemic to it. It was also there where I first saw foxes with such vibrant colors. Not like the ones in earth country. And then sensei showed to me the prophecy. Forgive me for not coming clean to you regarding its existence. But it was necessary." "So the prophecy exists!" Mikan took a sharp breath. "It does. And if its saying is finally coming true, then we will have to prepare for similar reports of the kids in your son's generation shifting into animals. Mikan, I also wanted to talk to you regarding Obito. Have you seen any marked changes in him lately?" "I wanted to tell you about the same thing, hokage sama. In his recent spars he's beginning to show more taijutsu moves which match with the ones which were practiced in Uzushio. I have noticed that those moves are really polished but he keeps performing them unconsciously. It's like a reflex for him. Each move was flawless and executed with such precision that you would feel as if Obito were a master practitioner of this form with near perfect muscle memory. But it makes no sense, because as far as my memory goes, he has never been to Uzushio. I'm not certain what this entails. However, it could involve the sharingan because I have never heard Kushina mention anything about this, and she had seen him fight too. Kakashi swore that Obito woke his sharingan when he almost got crushed by rock boulders at the Kannabi Bridge, not before that, and I fought him after this whole incident. I whole-heartedly believe this has something to do with his sharingan." Hiruzen let out a sigh. "Things are getting incredibly complicated, Mikan. What you just said, could change a lot of things. Konoha could not make it in time to help Uzushiogakure. Believe me, when we managed to reach our port, it was virtually impossible to cross the sea. It was as if it was physically trying to hinder us from going to Uzushio. It gave rise to a storm which lasted for a few days. We haven't been able to access the island since then. Why, you will see it when you go there. I think it is high time that Obito learns about our observations. You could go to Uzushio and take him along; I have a feeling that you two will be able to enter it unhindered." "Hokage sama, I am still not sure how to approach Obito about the matter. However tough he tries to show himself as; he is a sensitive person at heart. I don't want to hurt him." Mikan looked unsure; Hiruzen had not seen her look this vulnerable except after hearing of Uzushiogakure and Kushina's death. Both of these topics were sensitive for her. "We are human. And we make mistakes, miscalculations, misunderstandings. It is also us who make things better or worse. Sometimes we need to make a leap of faith, even if we don't want to. I will tell you one thing. If this does not come out how you want it to, you have us, people you can fall back on. So does Obito, but he is still not sure. You need to convince him. I cannot ask this from Kakashi, he is just as confused as Obito. You and only you can do this." Mikan's conviction was visible on her face. "It will be done Hokage sama." As the silencing seals were taken off, they could hear something outside the office. Both of them came out of the office to see a very worried Chouza Akimichi and a handful of ANBU as well as office staff trying to keep him from barging into the office. Before Hiruzen could say something, Chouza spoke, "Hokage sama, I can't find my son anywhere! I have personally looked everywhere he could be, the other clan members are searching in other places as I speak. Mikan, you are here too! Please find my son!" he looked close to tears. "Chouza san, please calm down. I'm sure we will find him." Mikan said. "Could you take me where he was last seen?" "Oh dear, I should go too." Hiruzen said. As they shunshined out of the office, Chouza took them towards the Yamanaka main house. As they neared it, they could hear a commotion. Something was wrong there too. It seemed to be coming from inside. They rushed in, only to see a hysterical Inoichi and his distraught wife, who were imploring their daughter to run out of the room. The three year old in question was pouting, snuggled between a black panther and what looked like a mountain bear. "So he came here." Startled, she looked beside her to see Shikaku. "Took my eyes off him a moment and he bound off. Figures I would find him here. I guess that mountain bear is Chouji." "It's him. No doubt about that." It took some time for the Yamanaka and Akimichi clan heads to wrap their heads around the situation. They did not dare question it though. They knew not to question Mikan, having learnt it the hard way. After a lot of coaxing from the parents as well as Ino, who had shifted into a leopard halfway through, all of them morphed back into the little kids they were. Inoichi had had the shock of his life before, when Ino had refused to move away from the black panther and bear. Notwithstanding his pleas, she had told him, "Papa, you silly! It's Shikamaru and Chouji." Of course he had not believed her then. The matter had now become something else entirely. He had never been more alarmed. Even Shikaku was showing signs of stress. Only Mikan remained calm and cool throughout it all. She was kind of their anchor. He could only wonder what the Uchiha and Hatake kid were going through, if they could even be called kids now. While they were plenty young, war had made adults of them a long time ago.
Kakashi was getting ready to wake Naruto from his afternoon nap when he heard the main door being slid open. "Is anyone there?" the voice did not belong to any of his friends. "Coming." He made his way towards to the front, armed, only to see Uchiha Mikoto in all her glory with her younger son on her hips. "Uchiha san, please come in, Obito is not here. What can I do for you?" "Thank you Hatake san." She set Sasuke down and helped him slide off his shoes. "Please call me Kakashi. Sasuke kun, Naruto is till sleeping, mind waking him up for me?" the boy instantly brightened. According to Obito, he and Naruto had become very good friends over a short period of time. "Kakashi san, it is you I want to talk to. It will take some time for Obito to come; he is at the hokage's office. It is best in both of your best interests that I have personally come to tell you this. When Obito comes back, he might try to tell you this, if not, then please try to pry it out from him. It is important for the three of you. But I believe that you need to have an idea about this situation beforehand." Kakashi had had a feeling that it was going to be something related to Obito. He was not entirely sure, but he had an idea as to what it could be about. The resentment of the Uchiha elders regarding their living arrangements was not exactly subtle. They had even tracked him down on one occasion and tried to make him leave Obito. He had told them no in their faces. "I understand." Nodding at that, Mikoto continued, "I will not beat around the bush. Obito is being pressurized by the elders to marry and bear children for the family. They already have a grudge on both of you regarding the sharingan you have and they don't miss a chance to harass Obito about it every time. This time things have come to a head. The elders have given him an ultimatum to either leave you and Naruto to marry into the clan or leave the clan. Now, before any questions, let me tell you one thing. I have no doubt that Obito will leave the clan and stay with you two, but the head of the elders who came to this decision, Shujiro san, is a very crooked man. I'm sure he will find a less than honorable, absolutely underhanded way to turn things around so as to force Obito to return to the family. While I have no doubts that you are capable enough to fend off most problems in your way, Naruto is but a child, and Shujiro san will go for him if he cannot target you. You may not show it, but you love the child as much as Obito does. As the clan head, my hands are tied in this matter and so is the hokage's, in a way. Also, Obito is my only remaining cousin from my mother's side, the rest are all dead. He deserves all of your love and attention. Don't let him down." Kakashi's face showed no emotion, were his feelings for Obito that apparent? His face had already hardened at the thought of Obito being taken away like that or Naruto getting hurt. "I will do my utmost to see nothing such happens. Does hokage sama know of this?" "Yes he does. In fact I am due for a meeting with him now. Do you mind if I leave Sasuke here? I will take all responsibility in case there is any damage. Itachi transformed into a clouded leopard yesterday, and Sasuke, ever-admirer of his brother, managed to transform too. But he is not yet used to it, so he often causes accidental damage." "Of course not, Naruto will be very happy. We have been having similar problems; Itachi keeps Sasuke I check I'm sure. But Naruto has a lot of energy for a child of his age and prone to doing damage to the surroundings when transformed." At the door, Mikoto slipped on her shoes and stood. "Where straightforwardness doesn't work, you need to be crooked. I hope you will take this advice Kakashi." Kakashi nodded, so this was why Mikoto was chosen as the clan head, she did not have her head in the clouds and she had a fair idea about clan politics which would grow over time. Mikoto left. He walked into Naruto's bedroom, while they were talking, he did not hear anything which might have indicated that Naruto was up. He could not help but chuckle, shaking his head when he saw both Sasuke and Naruto asleep, cuddled on the cot. He guessed that dinner could wait for another half an hour; hopefully Obito would also be back by then.
Walking back to the Hatake clan compound, Obito kept worrying his lower lip between his teeth, a nervous tic he had gained over the years. Shujiro Uchiha's proposition had been simple: either leave Naruto and Kakashi to marry and be bred, or leave the clan. He was fairly certain that there was a hidden catch in Shujiro's words. He was not a person who would willingly let a sharingan bearer walk out of the clan. He deemed Kakashi bearing one of his eyes a danger as well as disgrace to the clan, in reality he was a power-hungry bastard. Even within the clan, Shujiro was known for his ruthlessness. Not even children, mere babes were safe from his clutches once targeted. Obito was really worried for Naruto. He was sure Kakashi could hold his own if targeted, but Naruto was a different matter altogether. He had promised his sensei that he would take care of his son, and that was becoming very difficult. He did not want to see Naruto hurt, or worse, dead. Obito knew that faced with this choice, he would undoubtedly leave the clan to take care of Naruto. Being a non clan affiliated shinobi was not so difficult for him. What he was afraid about was Kakashi's reaction when he would hear about this. All these years later, Obito was still unsure as to what went on in Kakashi's mind. While he was really protective of Naruto, he did not quite know how to show it. This often resulted in awkward interactions with Naruto. To Naruto, Kakashi was 'doggy san' because the idiot had thought it would be good to meet Naruto in his ANBU mask when he was just learning to talk and now he wouldn't call him anything else even without the mask. Nobody spoke much in their household. While Naruto babbled a lot of gibberish, his actual words were very few. But both Shikamaru and Ino spoke clearly. Kakashi was 'doggy shan' and Obito was 'ma shan' to Naruto, very touching but embarrassing at the same time. But their relationship with each other was ambiguous at best. If he didn't come to a decision soon, things could go south. He was surprised to see Mikoto with Sasuke, preparing to leave when he entered the house. He knew Mikoto had done what he had been avoiding for the past few weeks. She wished him luck before leaving, he really needed it. Kakashi's face gave no indication as to what he was thinking. "Did Naruto eat?" he asked. Kakashi nodded, "he's asleep. Wash up, and then we'll eat." Dinner with Kakashi was awkward. He would suddenly stop eating and stare at him piercingly for a few moments before starting to eat again at random intervals. It was unnerving. It was as if he was waiting for Obito to say something first. Unable to stay still and bear it anymore, Obito finally started, "Um Kakashi, I had something to tell you." The almost instantaneous "I know" managed to freak him out even more. Kakashi was speaking without any incentive, which was not normal; "I know you have been given an ultimatum to either leave us or leave the clan, and that the man who came up with this idea would do anything to keep you in your clan and have you bred like a bitch. And that Naruto could potentially be in danger if you leave the clan." Obito winced, he had expected a lot of things, but he had not expected Kakashi to sound this angry. And it wasn't a good idea to be near him when angry. Already the hairs on his back were straightening and he could hear faint crackles in the air. Kakashi was mostly apathetic to things around him; however he couldn't control himself when he heard it all from Mikoto. By all means, Obito should have been the one to tell him this, instead it was Mikoto. He did not like it at all. Picking up things from body language was something he had learnt a long time ago. Therefore it was long apparent to him that Obito was keeping something from him, as it was clear from Mikoto's words that he would probably have bypassed the whole issue and he would never have learnt of it till it was too late. "I had my reasons Kakashi, I was still trying to decide-" "I understand that you are in a dilemma. Did it not occur to you to at least approach me about this? Taking care of Naruto is not a one man job. We are taking care of him together!" Kakashi's voice was gradually rising in volume till Obito felt like the whole room was vibrating with his voice. Obito felt like burying himself when Kakashi finally stopped his rant. He looked like he was waiting for him to say something. Obito could not quite fathom what more Kakashi wanted to hear from him, he knew everything he was going to tell him. He had received his message; it was evident from Kakashi's actions that he only cared for Naruto. To be frank, it was enough for Obito. Previous experiences had given him the view that he did not deserve most things. So the thought of Kakashi even considering him was far-fetched. When Kakashi stormed out of the house, Obito calmly collected and washed the dishes, had a bath and slept beside Naruto's cot that night. Kakashi did not come back the next day or the after that. Obito did not find him on the Hokage Mountain. He was not at the memorial. Naruto kept asking him where he was; "I don't know where doggy san is sweetheart" Obito told him for the umpteenth time. His patience and sanity kept dwindling at an alarming rate. Naruto refused to eat without Kakashi on the third day, no amount of pleading could make him eat. "Naruto chan, please eat." "No! Brin' me doggy shan. Doggy shan play with 'unai with me. Want doggy shan!" Naruto ran out of the dining room. Obito was almost hysterical when he barged into Mikan's office at the end of the day. "Obito what's wrong?" he broke down on hearing that; it had been a long time since someone had asked him such a question. He babbled on about everything that had happened in the past few days. Mikan listened. "Obito, look at me. You deserve every good thing that ever happened to you. All of us make mistakes. You love Naruto very much don't you?" he choked out a yes and continued, "but I don't know what is right and what is wrong. Not anymore. Kakashi hates me, now Naruto hates me too. I don't know what to do. I have been making a fool of myself since I was born." "I know you love Naruto and that you like Kakashi. But he is being an idiot if he is being like this. I am aware that it hurts but I want you to block it all for a moment, I will find Naruto and see if I can make him eat something. Go home, have a nice bath and sleep. I will give you a tonic if you need one. Kakashi is emotionally constipated, and I am sure he did not mean what he said. both of you are a bit unstable now. Take some time for yourself." As she escorted Obito out of the room, she saw Shikaku standing at the waiting area for patients, Kakashi at his side. On closer look, one could see he was bound to the floor by his shadow. "I wonder if any of you know why I found him in a bar in tea country. You should have seen how he ran when he saw me. I almost lost him." Kakashi's eyes were fixated on a very interesting spot on the floor, he wouldn't look at Obito. Mikan quickly tried to move him away as he flinched on seeing Kakashi. "Aunty!" the shout made them look at the door. It was Ino, she was crying. "Aunty, two meanies took Naruto and Shikamaru away. We were playing hide and seek, I was hiding. Naruto was looking for us, and then those meanies came and took him away. I couldn't find Shikamaru, so I came here." she started sobbing again. Obito's world fell apart that very moment. It happened in an instant, the panic, the fear and then he saw red. By the time the hokage learnt of this, four blurs were racing through Konoha, a sensor at their lead. Mikan and Shikaku wisely kept distance from Kakashi and Obito. The latter two were not really in their senses anymore, animals in a human body. They gleaned the descriptions of the men from Ino. They matched with the descriptions of two A class missing nin from Iwa, Matashi and Taiko. They were gaining on the duo, who were rapidly moving towards the forests on Konoha's outskirts. The Nara couple parted ways with them at the entrance of the forest as Mikan sensed a different chakra signature. Whoever had taken the kids, they were going to pay.
Racing through the forest, Kakashi's mind was set on one thing, to kill the ones who had taken their cub; Obito and his cub. Both Obito and he dodged incoming attacks without breaking a sweat. As they intercepted the duo of missing nins, Obito's lone sharingan was whirling, looking for Naruto. "Where is our child? You took our child. You hurt him. Pay!" those were the last words Matashi would ever hear, for his hand was torn from his body the next moment, he saw a thousand crows pecking out his eyes and trying to eat his innards, he saw maggots crawling inside his own body, eating him from inside out. A few seconds later his body had been reduced to a bloody mess of flesh and blood, a result of using his own jutsus on himself. Taiko never had a chance, impersonating a dead missing nin was risky as it is, and the silver haired guy before him looked deranged. When Kakashi was done, one could not really make out what was left of the body. The scant fearful shrieks which were heard throughout the forest were unfortunately only heard by the animals.
When Naruto woke up, he did not see the bad men, but he saw that icky red thing which sometimes covered doggy shan when he came home. That red thing was everywhere. He struggled out of the hollow of the tree he was in. He did not know this place. Fighting the urge to cry, he toddled towards the place where there was red everywhere. Then he saw both ma shan and doggy shan there, he thought they had forgotten about him. But they were his mama and dada too, Shikamaru had told him that. Ma shan was covered in that red thing too. They were looking for him, he ran towards them as fast as his little legs could carry him. "Dada, mama!" he was tackled into a hug immediately, both mama and dada was crying, he was crying too. Shikamaru's mother had told him that it was okay to cry though, so it was okay. His father and mother were here, they had come to find him, just like in those stories mama read to him every night. Naruto was safe; their cub was safe and sound. "Mama me is showwy, me did not eat! Dada bad guy came, give me owie!" he cried. "It's okay baby, we are not angry. We are so happy that you are safe!" Obito had never felt this relieved before, Kakashi was holding on to both of them, making soothing croons. It was not over; they still had to find Shujiro. Shujiro Uchiha was going to be a very dead man when they would catch up with him.
Shujiro was very pleased with himself as he made his way through the forest; back to the secluded holiday cottage he had bought for this purpose. The sleeping Nara boy in his arms added to his delight, the boy was going to look absolutely beautiful in his bed tonight. It was an added bonus, those mercenaries had no interest in him, and so the child was his for the night. It was too late when he realized that he was caught in a shadow binding technique. He was sure that his chakra was being kept from being sensed by his technique, he had not expected the Nara woman to be this strong a sensor. As Mikan Nara carefully took her sleeping son from his immobilized arms, her husband said, "They should be on the way now." "Yeah, I can feel them coming. Naruto is with them." his wife remarked. "The fox is alive?" he could not contain his surprise, the mercenaries he had hired had a very good record; nothing was going according to his wishes. Dying seemed to be a better option. "Should we kill him Shikaku?" "No. he does not deserve that mercy. It would be better if we left him for Naruto's parents. It will be a treat to watch." That night, Shujiro saw hell in the form of two young men. He cursed the smiling couple who saw his suffering till the end to hell and back. Not that it really mattered. Many seasoned members of the squad which came to clean up the remains of last night's carnage had to refrain from vomiting when they saw the remains of the two missing nins. They never recovered Shujiro Uchiha's body.
The noisy council room was reduced to pin drop silence when Obito entered the room after the hokage. No one commented on the blood stained uniform he was wearing. "I, Obito Uchiha hereby voluntarily withdraw my name from the Uchiha family register. Henceforth, my name will not be associated with any circumstances, events and incidents in the Uchiha family. I voluntarily revoke my status as a clan affiliated shinobi to a non clan affiliated shinobi." No hands were raised to the hokage's question if there were any objections. He entered the room as an Uchiha and left the room simply as Obito, not Obito Uchiha. As he raced towards the Hatake clan compound, Obito thought that the surroundings looked especially beautiful. That big house did not look so foreboding now. He saw Kakashi standing in front of Naruto's cot, he too had the blood stained clothes on. He was sleeping; someone had fed and bathed him, probably Mikan san. Obito was not in a state to talk. He stopped Kakashi, who was trying to tell him something. Then he slapped Kakashi across the face, hard. "You absolute idiot! I was freaking out here. What if something happened to you, what if Naruto got hurt?! I already lost Rin, sensei and Kushina san, I would die if I lost Naruto and you." he hissed, voice gradually lowering till he was sobbing, head buried in Kakashi's jounin vest. "I…I am sorry." It was all that came out of Kakashi's mouth after some time. The sun was pretty high up in the sky when they finished washing themselves up and treating all the wounds. They let Naruto sleep. Kakashi had a million things which he wanted to tell Obito, but he guessed it could wait as they sat on the engawa, nursing cups of an anti inflammatory blend left by Mikan san. "So you are not a part of the Uchiha clan anymore huh?" "Huh? Yes. I left the clan." Obito mumbled, looking distant. "Em, Obito, I think you are really strong. No scratch that, I know you are really strong." Oh god, Kakashi was absolutely messing this up. "I want you to know that I don't consider you inferior in anyway. What I say next could mean that, so I am clarifying this." "You did consider me inferior once, don't deny it Kakashi." "I'm not. But now I don't and I'm sorry I ever did. But what I wanted to say was would you want to em, mate with me?" Obito's dumbstruck expression made him hurriedly add, "You don't have to if you don't want to. Its better if you forget I even said anything regarding this." Mating implied marriage in the future, Kakashi hoped Obito knew that. He knew he was blushing, it did not help that Obito looked like a tomato too. Finally he squeaked out something. Kakashi wasn't very sure what it was though; he could hear the blood rushing in his ears. Way to go, he had succeeded in ruining his image in front of Obito and making an utter fool of himself. He suppressed the urge to bolt; he was so not ready to face a rejection from Obito. His heart wouldn't be able to take it. "Kakashi, don't die on me!" Obito was shaking him. "Just tell me!" he almost pleaded. "Oh god I said yes, you idiot. Yes!" It was surprisingly simple. Barring the part where they repeatedly kept asking each other if this was a dream, or a very bad joke, biting the scent gland at the junction of Obito's neck and shoulders, Kakashi wondered if this was what heaven tasted like. The raised skin gave way with a soft pop and sweet pheromones filled his senses. He was kind of high on the scent for the rest of the day. Mikan did not bat an eye lid when she noticed the bandage on Obito's neck the next day, "Took you two long enough." The hokage only smiled and wished them a happy future together when he saw them leaving the registry office with the marriage certificate. Their friends demanded a party, so they threw one. Somehow it ended up involving most of the jounin and chuunin of Konoha. In the end, it was a marriage of convenience, right? Every one of their friends and colleagues always insisted otherwise, not that they would ever tell each other that. What actually mattered was that Naruto was happy.