Disclaimer: I take no credit for creation of characters, settings, etc…let credit go where credit is do.
As I Dream

By: Undecidedlycertain

Chapter One

Welcome Home Wayward Hero

"Two years Hatake." It was not a question, not a reprimand either, but the hard lines set in the fifth's face were more than enough to show her displeasure.

"Yup. Two. I see you've missed me so much that you were counting the days." His eye closed in a pleased expression, but the slight downward turn of his mouth never changed. He too was unhappy about being away so long. A mission that should have taken six weeks – hell, six months would have been excusable – took one year, ten months, and seventeen days.

"Both targets are eliminated."

"Yes." Arito and Kazoutake, the latest threat from the elusive and dangerous Akatsuki, and one of the most difficult tracking job he'd ever encountered. Even with the Sharingan.

"You're Certain?" Tsundae looked at him levelly over steepeled fingers. They both understood the importance of this mission. It showed in the serious and alert set of both eyes.

"Absolutely."

A tense beat passed. Kakashi got the distinct impression that the Hokage was displeased with him, despite the success of his mission, but then she sighed and the moment was dispelled.

"Very well then." The pale porcelain of sake bottle clinked against lip of the chipped celadon glazed cup as Tsundae filled it to the brim. "To your success then. May the Akatsuki never recover." She raised her cup in a toast before knocking it back in one swig like a veteran.

It was nice to see that some things were just the same as he'd left them. Kakashi found himself breathing in the familiar scent of sake and ink that permeated the Hokage's office since Tsundae had taken residence there so many years ago.

It was good to be home.

"I expect your full report no later than Monday." The fifth stated with unbridled clarity, pouring a second shot. "As it is, you've been gone a long time. I'm sure you have things to take care of."

Kakashi nodded, dismissing the vague curiosity at her sudden concern with his personal affairs, and turned to leave.

He hesitated with his hand on the doorknob. "Has there been any news?"

"Mm? News?" Tsundae asked distractedly, not bothering to look up from the stack of papers she was perusing with a fiercely gleaming eye.

"Of Sasuke?"

Tsundae looked up briefly to meet his eye before returning to the work at hand. "There was a rumor, nearly six months ago now, that ninja matching his description was sighted in Wave. Naruto set out as soon as word reached us, but he found no sign of Sasuke when he got there."

"I see." Kakashi played his next words over in his head, choosing them carefully. "Naruto, is he out on a mission now?"

"No, no. He's in Konoha. Doesn't like to go too far lately anyway. Won't accept any missions that will take him away for more than a day or two unless it's an emergency. Annoying as hell, but that's Naruto for you."

There was something there, Kakashi knew for sure now, something she wasn't quite saying, but he was too smart to ask outright. Besides it was more fun to figure it out for himself. Games of intrigue always made for interesting internal discussion.

"And…Sakura." He almost didn't ask. Was nearly afraid to, but that was outrageous and unacceptable.

The sake cup banged on the desk hard enough to shatter it, yet it held with little more than a crack. The thing must have an iron form underneath the ceramic, Kakashi mused.

"You're wasting my time Kakashi." She snapped. Tsundae snatched up her papers, turning her chair to face the windows overlooking the Hokage monument, and putting her back to him.

"My apologies." Kakashi said pleasantly enough, turning the handle and opening the door silently.

"She's in Konoha as well. Living with her parents. I assume you know where that is."

Kakashi nodded without a word and headed out the door, wondering at the Hokage's more volatile than normal nature today.

And why the hell had Sakura moved back in with her parents? She loved having her own place.

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The streets were sparsely populated this time of day: past lunch, but not quite time to close up shop and head home yet. Shiranui Genma walked through the streets, his hands clasped loosely behind his head, breathing deeply. His contented smile, punctuated only by the happy bobbing of the ever present senbon, stretched to show an even row of teeth as a pretty young woman passed on the other side of the road laden with a basket of linens.

Ah. Damn, but it was good to be home. Even the air in Konoha was sweeter.

There was a crash and ruckus coming from around the corner just up ahead past Yaminaka's, accompanied by a very familiar Uzumaki – like shout.

Having no desire to swallow another senbon, Genma conscientiously sidestepped to the other side of the road, knowing exactly how destructive a hurricane like Naruto could be. His steps faultered in surprise when instead of the yellow and orange whirlwind; a two foot tall (and pantless!) little person toddled out into the street, chubby little legs moving as fast as they could go.

The child was giggling like mad, tossing occasional looks over his shoulder, his pale hair bouncing with each step. He barely looked big enough to walk, let alone run. And he was fast!

"Oi!" An exhausted looking Naruto rounded the corner not a moment later, brightening when he saw his old chuunin examiner. "Genma! Grab that kid!"

"Eh?" What was Naruto doing chasing a baby? Genma shook of the thought quickly enough. Luckily his reflexes were quick enough to snatch the pantless toddler off the ground. The kid gave him an apprising look, but did not seem frightened at being caught by a stranger. He squealed in delight and reached for the senbon, big green eyes wide and full of curiosity and wonder.

Genma pulled his chin up so the kid couldn't reach his 'tooth pick' and poke out an eye, possibly Genma's, and wondered where he had seen those eyes before. They weren't Naruto's – that was for sure.

"Thanks a lot!" Naruto gushed, resting hands on knees as he skid to a halt before Genma and the squirming baby. "He's a quick little shit, and Sakura – chan would kill me if I lost him again."

Ah. That's where he'd seen them.

Genma handed the kid over, ruffling his pale hair when he made a last ditch effort to reach the senbon with chubby open palms. He was a persistent little bugger.

"You just get back?" Naruto asked, his voice taking on a more serious edge.

"Yeah, just now actually. Looking forward to sleeping in a real bed. Preferably with company."

Naruto barked out a laugh, but his eyes retained some of their seriousness. "Kakashi?"

"Yeah. He went to report in to Hokage-Sama."

Naruto nodded, the warm afternoon glinting off his leaf headband and catching the attention of the busy toddler in his arms, who immediately started trying to climb up his captor like a tree in attempts to grab hold of the shiny metal.

"Oi! Cut it out Obito." Naruto grunted, wrestling with an opponent who was obviously besting him.

Obito.

"Cute kid."

"Ain't he, though – ow! Damn it." Giving up, the young jounin pulled off his headband and plunked it over the head of the toddler who babbled excitedly. "Well, welcome home. I need to get him home before his mama comes looking for him. She can be scary sometimes."

"Yeah. I bet."

Naruto gave a nod and started to head back the way he came, struggling to keep hold of the wriggling bundle still trying to climb up his chest, two tiny hands fisted in the hair at the sides of his head.

"Uzumaki. Congrats man. Never figured you for the family man type."

"Eh?" Naruto said, one eye squinted shut in pain as Obito tried to pull the lock of hair he was holding down enough that he could put it in his mouth. "Oh! He's not mine."

"He's – "

"I'm just watching him so Sakura-chan can rest. Obito is Kakashi's boy."

Bomb dropped, Naruto turned as though he had merely commented on the mildness of the weather and walked away.

Genma was rooted to the spot, gaping. The sun gleamed off the senbon as it cart wheeled from his shock-parted mouth to plant itself firmly in the hard packed dirt between his feet.

"Aw hell." He said to no one in particular. Naruto had already rounded the corner with Obito, but the memory of that bouncing, pale - tufted head remained. "Does Kakashi know that?"