Note: Well hello. If you find that while reading this chapter you enjoy the irony or the potential of a "good Obito" or a "living Rin" or any kind of satisfaction or commentary that might pop into your brain…leave a review. Much obliged! Oh, and please be advised this chapter contains a graphic sex scene, as well as a few other scenes that require a much higher level of maturity. Thank you. You have been warned.

Chapter Soundtrack: "Opus" by Ryuichi Sakamoto

Chapter 16- Obito's Dream

Tobi was unusually downcast today, Orochimaru thought. When he had pointed out that his clownish spy was not his normal, hyperactive self, Tobi had attributed it to a cold that he was recovering from. He had run out of energy, but had just enough left to relay some very sensitive information to Orochimaru.

They had met in a room in Orochimaru's underground hideout, standing in the flickering shadows cast by torchlight. Orochimaru had dismissed Sasuke and Koinyu, both of whom had become curious about intelligence that Tobi provided with each visit. Orochimaru often did not mind allowing the two to stay connected to the outside world in this manner, but today was different. He knew that this report was going to be rife with details he did not want his subordinates to hear.

"How many were present?" The snake sennin asked.

"Everyone." Tobi told him, "All of the Akatsuki gathered."

"Including you." Orochimaru snarked at the thought, "And what was it that they needed to discuss at such a meeting?"

Tobi paused. He took a seat at a long committee table and sighed.

Orochimaru continued to stand, waiting for an answer.

"A team from Leaf clashed with Leader." Tobi divulged, "It was kind of an accident."

"An accident?"

"Well, from what was said, I guess the Leaf team was returning from the Land of Bears…so they wanted to take a shortcut through Rain territories." Tobi tapped his finger in a line on the table, indicating a linear route, "Like that! Pein-sama said that he and his partner were on the trail of an important jinchuriki, but lost track of it on an island. When they were returning to HQ afterwards, they noticed intruders…so they waited. Pein waited to see who was getting so close…and it was those stupid Leaf ninja!"

"Just passing through…careless. As careless as they have always been." Orochimaru muttered.

"Yeah! And they put up a fight but still got punished." Tobi added, "Pein-sama said that Leaf and Star working together will be a problem…so there is now a side-project to snuff them out."

"Hoshi ninja have to be complete fools to cross the Akatsuki. They'll be wiped out faster than they can blink."

"That's what everyone is saying…"

"Tell me who the unfortunate Leaf shinobi were that encountered Pein." Orochimaru pressed on.

"Uh." Tobi paused again, swallowing.



Orochimaru looked mildly surprised, "Is he alive?"

Tobi hesitated, "I…I think so."

"And his subordinates?"

"One of the genin with him did not make it." Tobi reported, "There were two kunoichi who gave Konan problems. Pein said one of them, the little Hyuga, was troublesome. He wants her gone too."

"A little Hyuga…" Orochimaru considered it, referring back to his knowledge of Leaf's clans, "That must be the princess. There are rumors that her eyes have grown quite powerful." He licked his lips, "I may find the time to make her into a new pet-project…but if she continues to sidetrack Pein, then that will take a lot of attention off of me. Very serendipitous."

"You don't want them to lavish you with attention, Orochimaru-sama?" Tobi asked stupidly.

"No, you twit. I can get so much more done when I am not under scrutiny." Orochimaru replied, "This is quite an opportunity for me, in fact. With Leaf and the Akatsuki distracted with one another, it will remove two great thorns from my side."

"Oh yeah! It's a spectacle to behold! We should watch it and kick back with some popcorn…"

Orochimaru frowned at him. That bumbling-fool energy was coming back.

"Is there anything else of consequence I ought to know? What is the Akatsuki's next move?"

"While the Akatsuki is still monitoring the movements of uncaptured jinchuriki, we still can't do a thing with them yet. In another year or so the organization will continue with extractions." Tobi added, "We were all told that if Leaf or Star crosses us again we should terminate them immediately. I guess we're not picking the fights, but we were ordered to finish them! Only Leader can pick fights."

"Because part of being a leader is one's ability to wisely choose battles." Orochimaru agreed, "It's one of my specialties."

When Tobi proceeded to drivel on about who he wanted to make friends with most in the organization, Orochimaru coldly dismissed him. He had heard what he wanted to hear. The snake sennin had a full plate of his own to contend with, and subtracting Konoha and the Akatsuki from it for a time would be beneficial. Koinyu's attempt to beguile Haku with an entrapment seal had failed. Sasuke had cavorted with a former teammate and engaged Cloud ninja too recklessly. There were a few diatribes that needed to happen.

And so Tobi was dismissed on the condition that he return in two months with an update. The masked man bounced out of the room, beyond Orochimaru's sight, and then his brief surge of energy left him. He proceeded down a long corridor with slumped shoulders.

It was hard for Obito to accept what his old teammate was going through. It was even worse that he had to learn of it from the enemy's perspective, the Akatsuki leader known as Pein.

He had been shocked when he was ordered to attend a meeting a few days earlier. Zetsu had informed him that, as a spy, Tobi was every bit as responsible of monitoring the organization's enemies as a full member was. And so, for the first time, he stood amongst some of the most feared and high-ranking criminals in the shinobi world, gathered at the headquarters.

Jiraiya had warned him that he would find Itachi in the Akatsuki's ranks, but it still turned Obito's stomach to finally see the young man there in the flesh. He remembered Itachi as a young, talented and warm-hearted boy. At the meeting, it seemed to Obito that Itachi had become a total stranger. His silence and critical gaze were unnerving.

He had been introduced to Kisame and Zetsu before, as well as Deidara and Sasori. Obito had not, however, had the great displeasure of being introduced to Hidan and Kakuzu, another pair of merciless outlaws. They had given him the up and down with great distaste before Hidan had told him to go fuck himself.

It was more or less what Obito had expected.

Pein and Konan had terrified him. It was the first time he had ever seen them. They were veterans among the group, as well as the Akatsuki's founders. They dwelled in the Hidden Rain Village and rarely ventured out of their headquarters. Typically, if the leader had anything at all to report, they usually communicated by way of a hologram-jutsu. Today he had appeared in person to impress upon other members how he absolutely would not allow any village to raise a finger against them.

When he explained how he had taken it upon himself to trample a team from Leaf to set an example, group members were impressed and pleased. The Leaf team had been called "stupid, worthless, weak and vulnerable" and some other unfair words by the most vocal Akatsuki members. Just when Obito thought his blood pressure could not go any higher, Pein reported the unthinkable.

"The Copy Ninja had a younger Hatake with him." The leader had said, "I killed that boy and he surrendered."

Obito wanted to scream. His mind raced upon hearing those words and he was driven to distraction. Somehow he had not made a scene it front of anyone, and before the meeting was adjourned, the leader told Itachi to stay behind so he could ask him about the Byakugan. Obito could barely contain his outrage as he left the Rain HQ without parting words to other members.

'At some point Kakashi must have had a child.' Obito thought, 'And that's something special. Kakashi always struggled to be close to others…so I know that must have meant a lot to him. They were on a mission together and then they…'

His hands clenched and his chest ached. Just like that, Pein had punished Leaf by punishing Kakashi. There was no stopping it, Obito was sure, and he could only imagine how devastated his friend was. He did, on a very real level, empathize with his teammate. Obito would beg for any torture, any conceivable kind of hurt other than losing his own son.

By the time he had passed through the Land of Rain, Obito had to remove his mask for air. He was short of breath and his face was stained with tears. A secluded patch of forest with a dilapidated shrine appeared to be a safe place to stop. Obito rested on the crumbling stone steps of the abandoned holy place and allowed himself to cry.

'I really am no different than when I was a kid.' He thought, wondering what kind of grown man wept so, 'But I can't…I can't believe this happened. If anything ever happened to Rin or Yuma I'd be so lost. I'd become something horrible. Now Kakashi has to go through it...'

He was grateful that his family was safe. There was nothing in the world he would ask for beyond that. Yet Kakashi's suffering was more than he could stand, and it did trouble Obito to think of what difference he could have made if he had decided to return to Leaf. The chance had come and gone, long ago, back when Rin had suggested it at their reunion. He had been too afraid to say yes. As time passed he became more receptive to the idea while his wife became less receptive.

He and Rin had squabbled about it numerous times. Rin argued that their family was much better off being separate from village matters. Obito cited that Yuma's Kekkei Genkai was reason enough to return and associate him with the Uchiha clan. When they grew tired of screaming at each other, Obito always let it fall to the wayside. Their absence had not hurt anyone, Rin said.

But they both knew that Kakashi languished. He had not been a popular talking-point, and certainly not the reason they should go back. After all, Obito thought to himself, Kakashi would probably wring his neck if they met again. He had survived, grown, married Rin and started a family…without contacting Kakashi. The man had every reason to get upset with him if he found all that out.

'But I could've helped him. Rin and I could have helped him...' His overly emotional brain insisted, 'We weren't there for him all this time. Our place is in Konoha but we have been too cowardly to show our faces there.'

He wished to return to Leaf, hoping against hope that he would be able to escape the Akatsuki alive. If he could clear every hurdle in the way, he and his family would be happily welcomed back to the village. A normal life in Leaf might be worth the risk, in his opinion, but his better half would likely not feel the same way.

Obito continued on, mask-less, returning home while remembering how his life with Rin began.

A few months after Obito had received his new eye, Rin and Sesshu had settled comfortably in the mountaintop town of Shincha with him. As repayment for staying in Obito's house, Rin had been helping with home repairs. It had been a while since it had seen the care it deserved.

Obito had not known much about plumbing or refacing surfaces before undertaking the project. Rin had told him that the pipe that had exploded (while doing bathroom repairs) wasn't the end of the world. They shut the water off and took an entire day to rework pipes and materials…and mop the floor. A few times they needed to consult with professionals in town about how to replace parts, woodwork and general repair.

In time they had become experts in patchwork-fixes. The outside of the house was looking magazine-worthy, but inside there were areas held together by tape and gum, painted over, of course. It was progress.

Rin's gardening had turned the property into a paradise. Her only complaint was the invasion of deer that had the guts to nibble on her shrubs at night. She had given her ninken the official duty of pest-control once she had purchased and transplanted more expensive perennial flowers.

Their talents were put to use in town as well. They were able to help a few families with home repairs and maintenance, and Rin loved sharing her gardening expertise. Char was more than happy to task her with the care of his expansive, private garden since; apparently, she knew what she was doing. He was just too old to care for it anyhow.

Rin had also learned, while chatting with Obito during upkeep, about the organization he worked for. She was alarmed to hear about what the Akatsuki's motives were, but she was glad he was not very involved in their affairs. He ran errands, sent messages, spied, and generally tied loose ends. They would not trust him with anything serious for the money they paid him. They knew him as Tobi; the stupid, one-eyed henchman.

As a result, Obito had gone to work in Char's convenience store part-time to generate more income. It wasn't much, but he was able to get by and spend his time how he saw fit.

Rin was able to make money on the side by doing house-calls and traveling around to care for patients. It was a good way to afford the building materials on their checklist.

It was a simple existence and far away from shinobi concerns, in Rin's opinion.

She was also very pleased that Obito was enjoying two-eyed sight. The eye's donor, Urabe, had passed away weeks after the procedure. He had been at peace and went painlessly in his sleep, but Rin was sure she would never forget the young man's generosity and kindness.

Obito had become less shy about making eye contact with her since the transplant. He trained his new eye up successfully. He held her gaze confidently and no longer turned his head so that she would only see the unscarred half of his face. He was completely at ease with his appearance, at last.

They had established a respectful, arm's length distance around each other. They got along very well, and occasionally touched innocently, but Obito was well-behaved and courteous around Rin at all times. This annoyed her somewhat when she considered it, remembering how close they had come to each other on the day they reunited. While part of her wished for a bit more physical affection, she never brought it up to Obito, supposing it would work out eventually.

It was a typical day on their mountaintop while they worked on tilling Char's garden for a new season. For a while they worked in silence; sweating, sleeves rolled up, hair tied back. Rin had noticed that Obito had his mask secured to his hip, as if anticipating an occasion to conceal his identity. She found it odd since they had discussed their plans already: gardening all day and then making a big dinner to enjoy. She addressed it.

"Will you need your mask today, Obito?"

"Hm? Oh, well, maybe…"

"What do you mean, maybe?"

"I'm not sure when this person will arrive exactly, so I just think I should be ready." Obito told her, "Zetsu-san told me a potential new recruit will be passing through here. I was told to lead him to a checkpoint."

"A new recruit for the Akatsuki?" Rin frowned, "Don't you feel a little bad about assisting a group like that?"

"I do." He admitted, "But I've got to hope that my participating with them now might help me mess with them in the future."

"I guess you're right…"

They went back to work, bashing the soil open with hoes and rakes. The sun shone directly over their heads in the field and cicadas sang in the forest nearby. Sesshu trotted back and forth between them with a basket in his teeth. Sometimes they would pause and sip from the water bottle or blot themselves with a dry towel that the dog delivered. It was a system that functioned superbly.

Obito was thinking about stopping for lunch (they had packed sandwiches) when a disturbance shook the mountain. An explosion rang out from back in the direction of town. Rin and Obito nearly jumped out of their skins when it happened suddenly, and Sesshu bristled in fright.

Rin whipped her head around, eyes wide, "That wasn't us, right?"

"No! Well…could we have done that?" He didn't think so. Obito brushed his hands on his pants.

Sesshu set the basket down in the field before following the pair towards civilization. Obito pulled his mask on while they ran. They closed in on the tall plume of smoke.

Some screaming and shouting caught their attention when they reached the village. Rin and Obito rounded a bend to find a home and some property that had been leveled. The flames were still raging and townsfolk were tossing buckets of water onto the smoldering foundation. Obito acted quickly, warning people to step back, and then used an Earth Jutsu to smother the fire. He asked if anyone had been inside, and he was promptly informed that no one was caught in the blast. He heaved a sigh of weary relief.

"What happened?" Rin asked one of Char's neighbors, "That shook me all the way over in the garden!"

"T-That kid over there…" The neighbor whispered, "He b-blew up Junichi's house…"

"Are you serious?" Rin furrowed her brow and looked.

A crowd of people kept their distance from a blonde teen. It looked as if he and Junichi had finished a verbal altercation. Junichi was now sporting a black eye and had been thrown to the ground. The man was cowering in the dirt, terrified to look up at the young shinobi who had earlier told him to "get out of the way".

It didn't add up, Rin thought. It was only an unassuming young man: his long, blonde hair tied up and he was wearing simple clothes. She did not mistake the Rock Village headband on his forehead and quickly raised her guard. Rin doubted she would ever lose her hostility for the ninja of Iwagakure, and this was further proof of that.

She and Obito walked forward to confront the young Iwa nin.

He was grinning down at Junichi; his arms folded proudly, "Wasn't that gorgeous? Pure art…fleeting and untouchable in a single moment…"

"That was…my home…and livelihood." Junichi mumbled, sadness beginning to overtake his fear.

The young ninja glowered at him, "Hm? Well maybe if you hadn't lipped off at me before I would not have chosen that place as my next art piece. Now you know better, don't you?"

The man was cringing.

"Before I make you my next outstanding subject…you should tell me where my informant is." The Iwa nin warned, "I was told to come to this pisshole. I don't want people to tell me to meet with them and then bail on me!"

Obito stepped forward with a small wave, "You're looking for me!"

The younger shinobi's face dropped, "You…?"

"Yes! My name is Tobi. If you'll step this way I can deliver you quickly to the next checkpoint, Mister…"

"Deidara." The blonde had a satisfied look on his face, "It's about time."

Rin swiftly grabbed Obito's arm and whispered into his ear, "What are you doing? He just destroyed a square block!"

"This is the new recruit."

"You've got to be kidding me!" Her hiss was cautiously quiet.

"I'll be fine. I've been around worse types."


"I promise, Rin…I'll be back later." The man murmured, "Please help everyone here while I'm gone."

She nodded and they separated. Deidara folded his arms behind his head, all smiles, and strolled behind Obito as he led the way down the road. The villagers grimaced as Deidara's farewell echoed, "Later losers! Hmph!"

A bead of sweat rolled down Rin's neck. He had done this before, Obito had told her all about it, but she could not help but worry. She approached the last smoldering coals of Junichi's house when the man finally decided to stand up. He came to a stop beside her and choked out a sob. She smiled at him.

"Good thing I've been brushing up on restoring houses! Don't worry, Junichi. We'll get this fixed up!"

"Thanks, Rin." He rubbed his eyes with his sleeve, "I just hate to think my temper could have gotten me or someone else here blown up! He just tossed a little ball of clay at my house and then…"

"He did?" Rin muttered, "What kind of jutsu was that?" They were both stumped.

Char was patting Sesshu's head when he turned to them and spoke, "That was Deidara of the Explosion Corps in Iwagakure. He is a prodigy with the Explosion Release and quite famous for his young age." Char waggled his cane, "And he came here of all places to cause problems! Very unusual."

"He won't be back." Rin assured him.

Another villager spoke up, "My uncle told me the other day that Deidara recently defected from his village, though not before trying to blow it up, naturally!" She squealed, "It's not fair! Why do shinobi like that take it out on people like us? Why can't they all be good like you and Tobi, Rin-san?"

"I don't know." Rin said quietly, "That's why he and I are here with you. We know what you've been through, so we can definitely help each other."

Her friends smiled at her. They proceeded to halt the last of the flames and then salvage any possessions that were in the rubble. Practically nothing remained, but townsfolk assured Junichi that he would be living under his own roof again in no time. For the time being, Rin abandoned her work in the big garden. She could see to it again in a day or so, or whenever Obito returned.

She passed the rest of the day with villagers, clearing debris and hauling spare timber and building supplies to the plot. In a day or so, the carpenter said, it would be safe to build. He was sketching out a plan in the meantime. His coworkers were checking the foundation for stability. She and Junichi sat on a bench across the street, thanking townsfolk who came by to donate items.

Junichi had received all kinds of food, clothing, cutlery, blankets, bottles of wine, and other household necessities. The pile expanded and even Rin added to it, giving him a package of seeds.

"It really is amazing how everyone comes together here." Junichi marveled, "It wasn't always like this. We have struggled through very difficult times in this village, living in the shadow of Hidden Rock during the thick of the war…"

"It's had a toll on everyone."

"Yes, I've heard that even you had to fight in the war." The man recalled, "When Tobi arrived here some time ago he really had an impact. He can be silly but he looks after everyone. We've come to rely on him so much. He inspired a lot of giving and compassion in this village when it had nearly run dry."

Rin smiled, "I know exactly what you mean."

Junichi gave her a knowing look, "So…if I may pry…what is your connection to Tobi-kun?"

She was startled, "My…my connection?"

"When you came here to help Char-san you didn't have to stay. You've been looking for reasons to stay, haven't you, Rin? To be with Tobi!"

"We came to be good friends! And I like it here!"

"Ah well that's obvious! And we enjoy having you here too, but," The man shook his head, chuckling, "People here have noticed how close you two are…like you were never strangers to each other. Tobi speaks about you constantly. There isn't a person here who doesn't know how great you are, Rin!"

"He's a talker…" Rin sighed.

"Some have even said that Tobi is clearly infatuated with you." Junichi continued, "He may be a very good man to choose, don't you think? I mean, I've never seen his face, but a while ago Urabe-kun said he did and that he wasn't half bad…"

"Please, Junichi, cut it out."

"Don't you agree?" The man wondered, "Well, in the event that you don't, please don't lead Tobi-kun on. Don't break his heart or take away his cheerful spirit. He's the treasure of this village."

"I would never-!" Rin stood up, huffing, "Look you! I've promised to protect Tobi. I would never do anything to hurt him!"

"So you do care about him!"

"I do!" Rin hollered, "Fine! You can tell whoever you want! But let me work this out…I don't need gossiping townspeople to set us up! I'll come out and say it when I'm ready to say it."

Junichi looked very smug.

"Ugh! Sesshu!" Rin called to her dog and then turned back to Junichi, "Please…don't tell him. I want this to be between him and me."

"I won't, Rin-san."

"Thanks. And remember Char said you can stay with him until the rebuilding is finished."

"Sheesh! How could I forget that? I need somewhere to sleep!"

They laughed before parting and Rin went straight home. The dark of evening had arrived. She was tired and she had only eaten a bit of what had been passed around by contributors during the day. She supposed Obito would not have an opportunity to eat until he returned from the recruitment. Her throat tightened with worry. She could only imagine what it was like to regularly interact with S-Ranked criminals. Obito had a knack for it, somehow.

"Let's make dinner." Rin said sidelong to Sesshu, "A big one! And then whatever Obito can't finish we'll donate to Junichi."

"Or to me." The dog said hopefully.

Obito had passed the day escorting Deidara out of the Land of Stone. The teen's travel experience was surprisingly limited, but Obito delivered him to the checkpoint with believable aptitude. He only had to endure about a dozen insults from the young nukenin. No violence ensued either.

Once three cloaked figures emerged from the shadows in the dense forest they had stopped in, Obito squawked a goodbye (still in character) and fled. He had been instructed not to linger around official members of the organization. Even now, he only knew a handful of their identities, and he had heard that Orochimaru had quit not too long ago, 'Which explains why they were looking for a replacement.'

He supposed the three members who were handling the recruitment would force Deidara to join somehow. The youngster had no idea that there would really be nothing in it for him in terms of compensation. It was an organization that thrived on peer-pressure and ego. Members were not paid for most objectives, as far as Obito knew. If Deidara turned the offer down someone was going to make him reconsider. It was a nasty trick, but Obito felt it was fitting for an equally nasty person.

His return journey was rather quick and he refused to stop after the sun set. Obito traveled under the cover of stars, and after hours of trekking dawn was near. He had been thinking about how Junichi had lost his home. He had also been thinking about Rin.

'She totally has it all under control. I wouldn't be shocked if she rallied everyone to build a new house in one day!' Obito thought to himself, admiring the people of Shincha, 'Even if she didn't…they feel safe with her. Rin is a shinobi they're willing to trust.'

He felt a swell of pride when he thought of how effortlessly Rin had adapted. She had been a great doctor and friend to many. He had never felt happier in his life to be in her company.

Obito had slowed down, exhausted, and trudged up the mountainside towards home. In the darkness, larks called out an early morning song. A bolt of fear went through him when he thought of Rin's likelihood of being a permanent resident.

'She might leave Shincha someday. She might look for new places to see and things to do.' He accepted that fact, if a bit bitterly, 'Rin can always come back here whenever she wants to. I'm sure she knows that. I would wait…'

He caught himself having the same thought that had plagued him for weeks. He wanted to wait. He wanted to see if Rin had taken any interest in him. More than anything, Obito wanted to have his romantic sentiments returned.

He had not been proactive about expressing it, but he had at least given subtle cues to Rin of what his intentions were. Simply put, he said "we" and "our" a lot…maybe way too much. He bragged about her to everyone and picked flowers for reasons other than keeping up the "Tobi act".

After all the work she had put in on his property, Obito was convinced that the house was just as much Rin's home as it was his own. He wanted her to feel that way too. He hoped that he was being silly worrying about her possible departure, and that maybe she had no desire to leave their town at all. He wanted to be the reason that she stayed.

Until he could find a thoughtful way to articulate this overwhelming feeling, Obito planned to maintain the decorous contact between them. He'd die for the chance to kiss her, but until he knew that was acceptable he would never dare try it. If she was going to live in the same space as him, he reasoned, he should never give her a reason to feel uncomfortable.

When Obito arrived on his doorstep it was still pitch dark outside. A lamp was still lit somewhere in the house, but he doubted that Rin was still awake. He pulled his mask off and sighed. He passed Sesshu who was curled up on a rug sleeping. The dog opened a sleepy eye and acknowledged Obito with a weak tail-wag.

"Hi Sesshu," Obito whispered, "Go back to sleep, boy."

The dog drifted off again. Obito passed through the living room and then stopped, seeing a dim light had been left on in the kitchen to his left. He stared through the doorway at the decadent spread of food and treats that were left on the table; covered and waiting for him. Obito muffled a happy shriek. His stomach felt like it had been turning in on itself. He had been starving all day and night, and of course, Rin knew that.

He picked up a bowl and helped himself. Obito was grateful no one was awake to witness the inelegance of his eating. He ate more vegetables, rice and dumplings than he felt would reasonably fit in his stomach. Obito crammed down some steamed fish and grilled beef before declaring himself full. He sipped water instead of sake, knowing he didn't want to wake up with a headache and a stomach ache.

'Thank God for Rin.' Obito thought to himself. She was a lifesaver, through and through. He crept down the hallway silently and peeked into her room, as the door had been left ajar. Her face was carefree and beautiful while she slept.

When Rin had first arrived, Obito had used the space for weary travelers or neighbors…and for keeping a vast collection of literature. They had since converted it to her bedroom and cleaned it up nicely, fashioning a shelf for the mountain of books that had been homeless for so long. She adored Obito's Sumi-e paintings and had hung all of them in her room.

The dawn's first ray of sunshine was passing through her window. Rin rested undisturbed in her bed with her hand pressed underneath her cheek.

He would thank her when she woke up. Even though he had been too tired to check, Obito was sure Junichi's property was on the mend as well. He went back down the hall to his bedroom, pulled his shirt off and then collapsed on his bed. Then he slept.

The birds were singing too damn loud. Obito rolled over, hugging a pillow, and kept his eyes squeezed shut as sunlight bombarded his room. He desperately needed sleep, but his eastward-facing room was best suited for early risers. The man groaned tiredly.

"Oh, so you're awake?"

Obito's eyes snapped open.

Rin laughed, "You don't look like you want to be awake."

"Uh, hi, Rin," He said while clearing his throat, "Good morning."

"Good morning, Obito!" She looked very happy and had perched on the edge of the bed, "Did you get to eat when you came home?"

"I did," The man said, unable to help his smile, "Thank you so much for that. I thought I would have to settle for canned peaches…but you made a feast."

"I wanted to." Rin was pleased, "I thought we could finish off what we wanted and then give the rest to Junichi."

"That's a good idea." Obito agreed. He noticed that she was staring. He blushed.

Rin reached out and touched his artificial arm, curious. Obito allowed it, but realized he was half-dressed and feeling vulnerable. He continued hugging the pillow.

"This is…I have never seen anything like this." Rin said softly, lifting his arm up carefully and turning the wrist, "It works so well! Can you feel with it?"

"No. I mean, pressure sensitivity is kind of there…but it's not like feeling with skin." Obito explained.

"Do they refit you every year for when you grow?"

"Sasori did. I haven't grown in over two years so I guess this size works for me."

"I can't believe a nukenin like that would be willing to help…"

"He considers it practice for his puppets." Obito told her, "I believe he thought about turning me into one, once, but then felt it would be too embarrassing to use me."

"Thank goodness." Rin moved her hand up the limb to the shoulder, where it met flesh, "So…how do you move it?"


"That was my guess."

"I barely even think about it. It's gotten easier."

Rin nodded, "Hm. And your leg is the same?"

"It is."

"Can I see it?"

"No." He was blushing again, "It's fitted all the way up to my hip."

"And…you don't want me to look?" She was confused.

"Well no…"

"You don't need to be so shy. I'm a medic-nin." Rin told him matter-of-factly, "I want to know how your limbs work so I can help if they ever get damaged or you get hurt."

Obito totally understood her clinical perspective on the matter, but he refused to let her go anywhere near the lower portion of his body at the moment. He was sporting some major morning wood, simply from waking up, and Rin had only made it worse. He was not going to risk further embarrassment by telling her that.

"Fine, some other time." Rin relented, patting his shoulder, "I can practice with your arm to see how it works. We'll get to it eventually."

He nodded in agreement. Rin exited his room and called over her shoulder for him to prepare to finish tilling the garden soon. She then proceeded to clean up around the house in the meantime.

Obito took a moment to consider if he could get away with one of the male-habits he had enjoyed before Rin showed up. It would only take a few minutes! He had no privacy anymore and he figured Rin would not appreciate accidentally catching him in the act. With a grunt of annoyance Obito rolled out of bed, found a new shirt to put on, and thought of every unsexy thing he could.

Later in the day they had finished turning the soil and forming rows in the dry dirt. Rin explained that they would be planting vegetables for summer, and demonstrated how to add fertilizer to each furrow they had dug. He held his breath while they did it. The smell was pretty rank.

After putting down fertilizer Rin went crazy. She waved around seed containers excitedly, "Look what I got! Beans, squash, eggplant, peppers, cucumber, peas…"

"Which ones do you want me to do?"

"Planting the bigger seeds is easier so you can take these." Rin handed him two packages of what seemed to be beans, "You can work on the top-right corner and I'll start on the left."

Obito was a slow planter, he figured. Rin had finished off two rows of seedlings before he had gotten ten of his own down. She bounded forward and back in the garden and had done most of it herself, but she did not reprimand Obito for his inexperience. She told him that he would learn in time.

On their way back to the house Rin expressed how she hoped a gentle, spring rain would arrive and set things in motion. It was the only trigger the seeds needed.

"What do you want to do now?" Obito asked her.

She thought about it while they walked, "I…don't want to do anything."

"You want to take it easy today?"


"Me too."

And so they agreed they would be lazy for the rest of the day. They ate the food that Rin had prepared and stayed in the house, perusing the many volumes in Obito's collection. Sesshu had complained that they were wasting a perfectly afternoon and that people might want their assistance at Junichi's house.

"Come on, Sesshu, we can help every other day this week!" Rin countered, "We just need a little break."

"You can help them if you want." Obito reminded the dog.

Sesshu told them to enjoy their unproductive time and left the house to go into town. Someone would put the dog to work and then maybe consent to a game of fetch afterwards.

Rin and Obito sat on the floor of her bedroom with a few old volumes between them. She had moved two of her potted flowers beneath the window to catch afternoon sunlight. They enjoyed the peace of reading and did not speak for a while. Occasionally they would read aloud excerpts or quotes of significance to each other. Rin came across an unusual novel in the pile.

"What's with this book?" Rin asked, holding up a dusty hardcover, "I can't read these characters…"

"Let me see it for a second." Obito held his hand out and took it, "This was written in Hanyu, Rin."

"You have a book from Han?" Rin was impressed, "How did you get it?"

"Immigrants bring them over here. A lot of these pass through the Earth Country and into other shinobi countries."

"Can you read it?"

"No, but I should bring it into town. Maybe someone there still reads Hanyu."

Rin leaned back against the edge of the bed and stretched, "That would be interesting…to see what stories are like from the Kingdom of Han. I'd like to see that country someday!"

Obito's stomach dropped, "You want to travel that far away? You don't even speak the language…"

"Someone around here can teach me or I'll pick it up! It'd be amazing to see it." She wore a distant, happy look, "They say a lot of shinobi ancestors came from Han and settled here long ago."

"I guess it would be extraordinary," Obito agreed hesitantly, "But does that mean you would go by yourself?"

She stretched again and yawned, "I don't know. I could."

"What if I asked you not to?"

Rin was surprised, "You don't want me to travel?"

"Um, well…I think you should. It's just…" Obito pulled himself together, "I wondered if you would come back here after your trip; to live here."

Quickly she understood what he was anxious about. Rin rested her arms on her knees, smiling, "Obito. Relax. Don't you think I want to be here?"

"But if you go someday…"

She shook her head, "You don't need to worry about that. This is where I want to be. If I did choose to travel it certainly wouldn't be now, anyway. I'm still settling down."

Obito felt the apprehension he had been wrestling with transform into joy.

"You want to keep living here, Rin?" He asked.

"I do. I want to stay in this house with you, if that's alright." She became a bit shy as she admitted it, "I promise I'll contribute and I won't take advantage…"

"Hey, I know you won't," Obito waved his hand reassuringly, "But I just need to establish that if you plan on being here indefinitely…there are conditions that have to be met."

"Oh, you mean like rent?"

"Not like that."

"Free checkups?"

"No, and I'd pay you for that anyway."

Rin shook her head, "I won't accept your money, Obito!" She frowned, "But then…what do you mean?"

Obito locked his gaze with her's, contemplative, and his mouth was pursed in a thin line. She could tell he had something in mind, and he was thinking hard on it, but Obito had puzzled her as far as conditions went. Rin sat and waited for a reply, which she knew would arrive momentarily. She watched as he moved some of the books on the floor aside and shimmied closer.

He had a serene look on his face. She liked how his eyes were mismatched and bright. Just as she was entertaining the thought that whisked into her mind, 'He's a rather handsome man…' Rin felt an electric jolt of nerves go through her when Obito leaned down. Her heart rate took off when she anticipated a kiss. He was close enough for it. She hoped she did not look a gaping idiot.

Obito stopped just to look at her again. He was reading signals. Rin allowed herself to become impatient after three seconds and gave him an expectant look that queried, Well then?

He kissed her softly. The electric sensation in her chest skyrocketed, supercharged, enough to power several cities, and then leveled off pleasantly. Rin held that kiss for as long as she could, making sure he knew that she enjoyed it.

They parted and looked at each other with expressions of accord.

"That is a condition. You need to be okay with that happening." Obito informed her.

Rin was radiating excitement. She did not give Obito a verbal answer. She ran her hand up his arm, intentionally meeting skin, brushed over his shoulder, and then settled it behind his neck before pulling him down again. She initiated another kiss and let her hands roam. Obito had been so polite and respectful of boundaries since she had arrived, and she appreciated it, but this was Rin's opportunity to tell him that she wanted what he had been withholding.

He got the hint and wrapped his arms around her back, pulling her in. Rin pressed up against his chest and she swore she could feel his heart rattling his ribcage. They paused for air, pecking each other sweetly while they oxygenated.

"Obito, if that's a condition for me to stay here, then I think I know what your other conditions are." Rin announced with a discerning expression, "And I want you to know that I'm okay with those too."

He pressed his forehead to her's and chuckled. She captured his lips again, more boldly, and relished the feeling of his gentle, inquisitive touches. Rin had lost track of all thought and time. She had completed a series of kisses that satiated them both, at least for the time. Rin curled against the curve of Obito's neck, nestled comfortably under his chin. She could feel him smiling.

Rin pressed her hands on the spot just above his heart and she could feel the warmth conducting through his shirt. She closed her eyes so she could feel the steady beating.

"I love you, Obito." She told him in a small voice.

Rin felt his whole body go rigid, shocked by the words. There was tension in every stitch of him and she could feel the rhythm beneath her hands speed up. She stayed where she was, thinking that maybe Obito was not expecting such an admission. Rin had no problem qualifying it, if he was afraid that she did not mean it.

"I am a flawed person." Rin said, knowing she had developed a cynical, darker side that he had witnessed while helping Char, "I may not even be the best choice for you, but I am more proud of who I am now than I was when we left you on that mission. I wish we hadn't." Rin confessed, "Obito, spending time with you since I arrived here…it gave me peace again. You've made me feel so happy that I…I don't know how I could ever feel this way without you. I will try to be someone worthy of your heart."

"No." He said in a thick voice, still holding her tight, "Don't say that. Don't try to improve. Please don't change anything about who you are. I have always loved you, Rin."

She knew that was true. That was absolutely true. When they had been Chunin, long ago, young and foolish, she had sensed it then. Rin had only understood the depth of Obito's feelings after he had been fatally pinned beneath a boulder. She had rounded an emotional corner on that mission. Rin had held his hand for as long as she could after she had removed his left eye. She could indistinctly remember what he had told her while he laid there: Look after Kakashi for me. Tell Sensei I'm sorry. Please think about me when you get away from here, Rin…

Kakashi had to yank her away screaming before they were ambushed a second time.

These memories mingled with new thoughts in Rin's head as she and Obito reclined on the floor, unabashed, kissing passionately. Now she was thinking about how he had changed. Obito had grown into a tremendous shinobi and nobly guarded innocent people. His many positive attributes had only multiplied as he had grown up. She admired how he was steadfast and kind, in spite of his suffering.

Rin also could not deny that she found him attractive. He was an intellectual equal who appreciated her and what she did. He had a healthy sense of humor. Obito's face was, in her opinion, very good-looking and his scars were negligible. She had only seen his upper half just this morning, but Rin was fascinated by his mature build and wide shoulders. She had a feeling the rest of him would be just as tempting.

And, by some stroke of fortune, his feelings for her remained intact after all the time that had passed.

So they agreed that the conditions set for cohabitation were entirely fair.

After a few weeks Junichi was settled comfortably in his new home. He invited friends and neighbors over frequently, thanking them for their efforts. When Rin and Obito had stopped by to see how the rebuilding had gone, Junichi gave Rin a questioning look: Did you tell him?

Rin grinned at him. In response, Junichi fetched a bottle from a cabinet and poured them some wine.

"Thank you." Obito said, accepting the drink, "What's the occasion?"

"You and your girlfriend are."

Obito sat in his seat in, self-conscious and proud all at once, "How did you find that out, Junichi?"

"Easy! I just looked at her face! I'd check yours too if I could, Tobi." Junichi playfully tapped Obito's mask, "There's no use in hiding the fact that you two are in love!"

Rin gave a big, sidelong smile to Obito.

And as the months passed the whole town caught on. Summer arrived and the young couple was busy harvesting and selling vegetables. Obito became more and more comfortable with townspeople's questions. They were well-liked and respected, so he never received hurtful comments. He was, however, urged to marry Rin. "Make her an honest woman!" Char had said.

Obito would have liked to explain to people that he had dreamed of marrying her back when he had still been in the Academy. Since he could not disclose that bit of history, he would quietly admit to people that he was building up to it.

They had lived together for nearly six months. It was going well, in his opinion. He and Rin had about the same level of cleanliness, organization and rotation of chores. Their home was very functional as a result. They could both cook, which gave their schedules flexibility, particularly when Obito took off to deal with nukenin. They trained and exchanged jutsu, as always, and Obito believed that Rin was indeed everything his heart had promised him she would be. Not perfect, of course, but perfect for him.

There was also a learning curve for Obito in the time they had grown closer. They stole kisses whenever they had the chance. Their touches had remained chaste for a long while, up until the day Rin had grabbed a handful of her boyfriend's butt. He had been shocked by it, and she only gave him a mischievous, entitled look afterwards. Obito took it as a sign that Rin was interested in moving things along. He just did not know how to be cool about it.

Most days he was fine with kissing and touching, but when Rin would direct his hands to where she wanted them, he would get nervous. In fact, on most occasions he denied the contact altogether. Obito did want to touch her, but he had trained himself for so long not to act on such desires. She had, after all, lived with him before they had dated. He had exercised a lot of restraint that had become second-nature. It put him in a tricky situation that often left Rin offended or frustrated.

On one such day, after a panicked leap away from his girlfriend, Rin confronted his anxiety.

"Why won't you touch me?" The woman demanded.

"I…I want to…"

"You're full of it!" Rin shouted, pointing to the unbuttoned portion of her shirt, "You just stopped! I asked you to! I want you to! Are my breasts too small or something?"


"Then what's wrong with me?"

"Rin! Nothing is wrong with you!" Obito countered, raising his voice, "I'm still trying to get used to this…"

"So it's not me?"

"No." He shook his head, calming down, "Of course not…"

Rin stood from the sofa and folded her arms, standing directly across from Obito. A bit of her clan-breeding came out and there was a fiery look in her eyes. She'd had it. She wanted an explanation.

"I'm sorry. I just…when you arrived here I wouldn't let myself…do things like that…" Obito admitted, "I'm still figuring out that it's acceptable."

She seemed to understand. Her disgruntled expression faded a bit but she closed up her shirt, sighing.

"I hear what you're saying. I'm glad that you're that kind of person." She smiled at him, "You're a good guy, Obito."

Relief trickled back and Obito's shoulders relaxed. He had feared Rin would have an explosion, regardless of whether she understood his hesitation or not. He reached for her, intending to proceed with cuddling, but Rin brushed past him.

"Sorry." She told him, "I'm not…feeling it right now."

And his day spiraled out of control from there. Rin had left and gone into town to visit two patients. She then had intentions of tending the garden. She would be out all day. Everything that had needed Obito's attention, on the other hand, had been taken care of already…with the exception of Rin.

He and Sesshu had gone for a walk alongside the stream that wound up to the mountain's peak. The greenery was vibrant. A tall forest surrounded the clear creek, and it stretched down the mountainside and stopped at the clearing near Char's garden. The dog was attempting to comfort Obito, swearing up and down that Rin loved him, but the man was troubled.

"I messed up. I should have done it." Obito lamented, "It's not like it wouldn't be enjoyable either! It'd be great! I don't get it. Why do I have to be such a mood-killer?"

"Who could possibly fault you for being that way?" Sesshu reminded him, "You're better off not overstepping bounds than going too fast. If you had rushed Rin into anything months ago…I would have ripped your face off."

"Spoken like a true ninken."

"Thank you." Sesshu wagged his tail.

"Now it feels like…I can't stay calm. I get too wound up." Obito observed what was getting in the way, "I don't mean to get spooked around her. I suppose I'll get used to it."

"You will."

They stopped beside the water's edge and sat down. Obito rubbed the dog down from ears to flank. They lounged for a while in the sunshine, wondering just how long it would take for Obito to 'get used to it'.

He was able to kiss her. He had no issue with that. Holding and touching was fine too, Obito thought. When it came to more serious interactions, such as humoring Rin's daring touches, removal of clothing or compromising positions…he struggled. She still had that innocence about her; even while doing all of that. Obito knew that he wanted to do everything that she was asking for, but his nerves had gotten in the way. Whether it was fear, inexperience or performance anxiety, or perhaps a mix of those things, he could not say for sure.

Obito did know that Rin was the first woman he had ever been in a relationship with. After all of his time in Shincha he had never let anyone get close to him. That had something to do with it as well, he guessed. It still dumbfounded him that the girl he had been smitten with for so long was now dating him.

A hypothetical situation passed through his mind. He posed: if Rin takes your shirt off like she tried to the other day, what will you do this time? Probably not wiggle away from her, like he had previously. He was being such a child! A man in his mid-twenties ought to be prepared. Never mind tolerating it, he thought to himself, what was stopping him from enjoying it?

Now she was avoiding him. She had quickly gone into town after the incident. She had said she wasn't "feeling it". The idea filled him with dread.

Obito laid back on the wild grass and clover beside the stream. Sesshu was dozing off, but still had his ears pricked at attention.

"She's upset with me." Obito said aloud.

"Maybe a little." Sesshu agreed.

"I can do this."

"You can."

"What if she doesn't want to anymore?" His voice cracked.

"You'll need to confirm that first before you stress yourself out more." The ninken said, "Don't jump to conclusions."

"You're right. Good dog." Obito let out a breath and patted Sesshu's head.

After napping beside the stream for about an hour the pair went down the mountainside and into town. Obito hoped that offering to buy Rin lunch would ease some of the tension. He fitted his mask over his face, like always.

Sesshu caught Rin's scent and followed the trail to a preschool. They spotted her seated at a picnic table outside, listening to children's heartbeats with a stethoscope. She nudged each child along after determining they were healthy, and they rushed back to the playground. A teacher supervised the class beside Rin, and joked with her occasionally. Obito was surprised to see Rin in such a good mood.

He waved hello and the teacher immediately noticed him. The woman opened the latched gate and let him in, "Tobi! Are you here to play with the kids today?"

"Some other time I will. I wanted to see if Rin is still busy."

"Ah…" The teacher smiled knowingly, "Yes, your beloved is nearly finished with the examinations. I'll let you have her when she finishes up!"

A few of the children came up to Obito, asking if he would join them in a game. They were disappointed he was only here for the doctor-lady.

Rin was chuckling to herself when Obito and Sesshu came up to her. "They like you." She observed.

"I've stopped by a few times. The kids sure can brighten your day…"

"I know." Rin agreed, putting her instruments away, "So what's up?"

"I want to take you out to eat! What do you say?"

Her expression was apologetic, "Oh. That would be great…but I just accepted another house call before I came here. Emi-san isn't feeling well."

"That's fine. I'll make something for when you come home later."

Rin was delighted and she thanked him. They parted ways and Sesshu returned to the house with Obito. He continued to fret and the dog had told him to suck it up, "A shred of self-confidence will do you good…"

Obito continued to pass the day while wrestling his doubts. He prepared a meal with many of the vegetables they had picked from Char's garden. He wondered if Rin would tend to it today even after helping an extra patient. 'If she does she'll be home even later…' He then considered picking her up at dusk, 'I can't do that. How desperate do I want to look? I'm not going to seem any more attractive running after her like a lovesick dope…' But he really, really wanted to.

He decided to wait. As thanks for Sesshu's relationship advice, which was uncommonly helpful for a dog, Obito let him have the last of the beef in the house. Obito told Sesshu there was no need for him to go out hunting for dinner so long as he kept up his moral support. The dog happily ate the treat. He then stretched out on a rug to digest. Sesshu dozed off again and awoke later to see Obito staring at him from the table across the way.


"Shoot. You moved, Sesshu."

"Oh. I'm sorry. What are you doing?"

"Painting." Obito told him. His ink brush lightly moved across pressed paper.

Sesshu elected to hold still, "Were you nearly finished?"


"How do I look?" The dog sounded amused.

"You look…" Obito let his Sharingan soak in the details for a moment longer, "Like you're shedding…"

"Well! There's no need to be rude! I can't control that you know."

"Relax, boy. You're handsome."

Sesshu was satisfied with the answer. When Obito called him over the dog stood up and shook. He trotted over to the table and took a look at the newest Sumi-e painting in the house. It was a minimal yet accurate ink wash of a burly dog sleeping; chin on paws, ears forever pointing up. The brush strokes had been professionally executed. Obito signed it as an afterthought.

"I think you have done me justice." Sesshu decided. He went back to sleep after that, curling up on the rug again.

Obito finished a glass of wine he had been sipping on. He had calmed down considerably after he had begun painting earlier. He did, however, have to stop himself from walking out the door to find Rin. It was dark outside and she had still not returned.

He knew some personal space was a healthy thing. Rin probably did not even care any longer about what had happened that morning.

'Just be patient.' He told himself. Obito drew a bath and settled himself in the water, which he always preferred hot. The man leaned his head back and shut his eyes. His mind was blank for a long while he sat, feeling his skin beginning to prune.

'It can't be helped.' Obito thought, 'I was scared that maybe there was something I would do…that would bother Rin…or make her not like me anymore.'

But he had been afraid of that his whole life. When he had sacrificed his life for Rin and Kakashi all those years ago, he realized what a foolish fear it was. He had grown enough to know there were worse things in the world than having his heart broken…such as watching the people around him suffer. It was better to take on pain himself than to subject others to it, he had decided.

'Minato-sensei would say that's very mature of me.' He thought happily, 'I try to be like him.'

He was still worried that he had jeopardized his relationship enough to ruin it, but Obito was never the type to give up. He would do everything he could to prove he was a good man before Rin walked out of his life again.

Obito opened his eyes when he heard the creak of the front door, footsteps, and then quiet words being exchanged with Sesshu. He stood from the bath and toweled off. With alert ears he slipped into his bedroom and dressed silently.

Obito let out a deep breath when he heard Rin calling his name.

The man walked through the dim house and then poked his head into the kitchen. She looked over to him, surprised, popping a piece of eggplant into her mouth.

"Oh! Thank you for making this!" She sounded cheerful, "Will you eat with me?"


They helped themselves to the food he had prepared earlier. Obito could hear a cricket singing its heart out, and he suspected it had entered through the open window above the sink. His Sharingan quickly noticed it beside a folded towel on the counter. He returned his attention to Rin. She was sitting across from him at the table with a warm expression on her face.

"You had a busy day today," Obito pointed out, "The bath is still warm. You should get in as soon as you finish eating."

"I will." She nodded happily, "It was a good day. Not too busy at all."

"How are your patients?"

"They're fine. The children were all fine." Rin paused, "Well…Emi-san's arthritis is getting pretty bad, but I can help her manage it."

Obito smiled to himself. This was the Rin he knew. She seemed to be back to normal. 'I hope I am too…'

"Hey! Sesshu said you painted him!" Excitement flashed in her eyes, "Will you let me see it?"

"I left it in your room. I made it for you." Obito told her, "Sesshu liked it."

"Thank you!" Rin leaned in and kissed his mouth; he tasted carrot and ginger on her lips. She stood and put her dish in the sink, "I'll go wash up while the water's still warm! Thank you, Obito!"

Heat and joy flooded him, right down to his toes. So far, it seemed as though all was well. His day-long worrying was beginning to look like a big waste of energy. Obito cleaned up the table and scrubbed their dishes. 'Thank goodness…Rin is still in a good mood. She didn't mention this morning either!' He coaxed the cricket onto the page of a recipe notebook and set it free; shutting the window after it had hopped away. Obito switched the lights off and returned to his bedroom.

He stood in the doorway, listening to the gentle sound of splashes coming from the bathroom a few steps away. He couldn't help but imagine Rin bathing, 'And she's in the same water I was in earlier…' Obito shook his head, dispelling the thoughts. No need to be creepy, he reminded himself, but he felt like he was on the right track now in terms of progress. He would see her naked someday and he would not freak out when it happened.

In the dark he walked until his knees touched the edge of the bed and then flopped onto it. Obito rolled and once his head found a pillow he made himself comfortable. He sighed deeply; finally able to release the day's tension. He shut his eyes and began drifting.

A soft sound retrieved him from his unconscious state.


Obito peeked his eye open and looked to the doorway.

Rin's silhouette was visible in the dark. She had put pajamas on.

"May I talk to you?"

Obito yawned, "Ah…of course, Rin."

She stepped inside and sat on the free side of the bed, folding her legs beneath her. She looked more fretful than she had earlier. Obito reached and took her hand in his own.

"What's wrong?" He asked. He shifted and stretched in order to wake up properly.

"I…" She stopped herself, gulping, "I've pushed you. I made you feel uncomfortable…and then I…acted like such a…"

He squeezed her hand, "Stop. It's fine."

"When I didn't get my way I was quick to accuse you." Rin said quietly, "That's no way to treat someone I love."

"You can't expect to get everything right on your first try. I never have. Besides, I haven't been that uncomfortable." Obito raised his eyebrows, smiling, "I want what you want, Rin. I'm just a big bundle of nerves."

Rin nodded slowly. She fussed at the blanket and then pulled it back, slipping beneath it without a word. Obito had lifted his arm and given her space to settle herself. She pressed against him and rested her head on his chest. His t-shirt smelled good, like him. She felt completely better when his arms encircled her.

"I'm sorry." Rin said softly, "I was moving fast, wasn't I? It was all worked out in my head, but I didn't try to confirm with you if you were ready."

"Hm. What's all worked out?" He wondered.

"What I want." She replied, "I've had lots of time to think about it. When I was younger…I was just a medic-nin. I imagined that I one day I would meet someone and fall in love. I knew that I wanted to be with a person who would be happy to marry me and have children…"

His head felt heavy and he felt a burning sensation in his throat. She was saying some very interesting things.

"You're the person I was waiting for." Rin told him, "I want all of that with you, Obito. I just need to…take it slow…and be fair to you."

Obito closed his eyes and tried to stay calm. Life had become a very beautiful thing, in spite of years of struggle and enduring solitude. He had come to a place where people accepted him and wanted him as a friend. Rin had found him. 'Prayers do pay off.' He thought.

He kissed the top of her head, "Rin…you don't need to be sorry about that. You've been completely fair."

"Well…how can that be the case when you refuse to touch me?"

"I'm not refusing…"

"I want to make love."

"I know." Obito blushed furiously, "Just keep in mind I have no experience."

"Me neither."

"And I thought…"His artificial hand parted her hair and trailed down her neck, "That if we are going to do something like that…it would be best to be married first."

Rin paused. It was not something she had considered an absolute must.

"Maybe I'm old fashioned…but I kept thinking that since your family isn't out here to protect you, or object to anything you do…I'm the one who needs to safeguard your honor."

She laughed lightly, "I've hardly ever listened to them."

"That's true, but I'm the one who's going to protect you." Obito asserted, "At least, that's my opinion, anyway. I will go along with whatever you want, Rin. We are still kind of young..."

"You want to..." Rin muttered, turning to stare at his face, "When can we do it? You want to get married?"

"Really bad."

"I can call you my husband." She grinned, "Oh! That does sound nice, doesn't it?"

He squeezed her, "I think so!"

"It does seem to be the proper way, huh?" She sat up and tapped her chin, "We don't have to tell anyone! We can just go ahead!"

"Well we should have a few witnesses…"

"Let's invite some friends from town!" Rin took his hands excitedly, "I'll go ask in the morning! Maybe someone can lend us formal clothes for the day…"


"You think the shrine can take us on short notice?"

"Probably not. I know that priest and I think they typically need some warning so they can prepare for a wedding." Obito reminded her, "You're getting a little ahead of yourself again, Rin."

"Sorry." She sunk down again, balancing her chin on his chest, "I'm just excited."

He ran his hands through her hair, rumbling with low laughter, "It's okay. I'm excited too."

"Then you won't hold back anymore." Rin added, shimmying, and she straddled his waist, "Then you can't say it's better to wait…not if I belong to you. Not when you're mine."

Obito tried to speak in-between her demanding kisses, "Easy…does…it…"

It had not been easy falling asleep the night before, but after a time Obito and Rin managed it. Rin had explosive energy the following morning. She had left bed and ignored him when he asked her to come back and bask in the peacefulness of the morning.

"You can keep sleeping if you want." Rin told him, "I don't mind! I just have to run around today. I can't stop myself."

He told her to wait a few minutes so he could get dressed. He ought to go into town with her to confirm their engagement, or some people might call Rin's bluff and accidentally incense her.

They prepared and set out with Sesshu in tow. The ninken was surprised they had come to the decision so quickly.

"This is a decent solution…defining yourselves as a mated pair." The dog commented, "You don't need to justify this to me either. You've lived together for long enough. It's better this way for when you welcome your pups."

"We haven't gotten to that yet, Sesshu." Rin informed her hound. But her face confessed: Oh but I'll get us there!

At the edge of town Rin gave her boyfriend an inquiring look, "No mask?"

He smiled as they walked, "No. Today is not a good day to wear it. Not when I'm trying to be sincere."

She gently stroked his scarred cheek, "That…makes me really happy."

They stopped by Char's house first. They had to knock for about ten minutes and ask Sesshu to bark at open windows. Finally the old man answered the door, apologizing, "I always keep guests waiting…I was soaking my feet and I am just so terribly slow."

"No, Char-san, we're the ones bothering you." Obito told him, "How are you?"

"Ah…I can't complain, Tobi. It's been a mild summer. My health has never been better."

Rin felt a small swell of pride knowing that the old man was well. Saving Char had facilitated her reunion with Obito. She regarded Char for a moment as he asked them to come inside. Rin nudged Obito gently and whispered, "He…didn't look at your face."

"I don't think he can see that well…" Obito told her, "Not since I've known him…"

After a pleasant chat with the cloudy-eyed village elder they announced their intent to marry.

"You will be very blessed." Char told them, "I owe my life to you. Many people in this village do. Tobi and Rin, you will both prosper."

"Thank you Char-san." Rin was bubbling over with joy.

And when they continued their tour through Shincha, several people were confused by the appearance of Rin's companion. Char's neighbor even walked up to her and poked Obito, who he did not recognize, "Who is this guy, huh, Rin? Does your man know about this?"

Obito was embarrassed, "Yoshige…it's me."

The man was shocked, "T-Tobi?"

Rin nodded, arm in arm with Obito, "I don't need to explain a thing to him if he's right here!"

"Well I'll be damned…" Yoshige was stymied, "Why wear that mask, Tobi? You're easy on the eyes."

"I have reasons. Today I don't want to." Obito explained, "I don't want Rin to be marrying a faceless man."

And Yoshige rushed away from them, hollering to Junichi and a shopkeeper across the street. Rin and Obito stood, quite rattled, watching as the news spread without permission or interruption all through town. A small mob gathered around them, asking questions and offering congratulations. Sesshu weaved between legs, soaking up some of the attention.

"Tobi! We can see your face!"


"You asked her?"


"I knew you'd do it!"

"Will you invite me?"

"Rin-san! When is the baby coming?"

"Do you have everything you need?"

They answered as best they could. Some very generous people offered their services: fittings for formal wear, organizing a party, preparing food, and other kindhearted gestures. Junichi had gone ahead to the Shinto Shrine on the far side of the village, running up the steps, and consulted with the priest. He returned to inform Rin and Obito that there was a timeslot open in two days, "And I confirmed it for you! You should be ready by then, right?"

It was a chaotic two days. They had many people to answer to, especially older, fussy women. Along with most demands came acts of kindness, however. The kimono and hakama they had asked to borrow were gifted to them by the local seamstress. A pavilion had been set up between the shrine and town, at no expense to them, and prepared for a reception. Obito had to remind Rin that many people wished to take this opportunity to repay them for their help.

The day of the wedding, Rin was taking her morning tea on the porch, trying to get a hold of her nerves. Her mother had once told her when she was a young girl that kunoichi never frivolously married. She had said that, by nature, a kunoichi does not want to surrender her independence. They often entertain the idea when they find an equal or, at the very least, a man who will allow her to lead the life she wants. Rin's mother chose to marry a teammate, who had proven himself a worthy partner.

'Tsume was set for an arranged marriage because her personality was a bit too…' Rin frowned, 'A bit too fearsome for most men. Though, as an eldest daughter in the Inuzuka clan she couldn't really help that."

Rin had always known she would marry for love. She was gentler, softer…when it counted, of course. Particularly when she had been a Genin and then a Chunin, she was quite starry-eyed. The hair on her arms stood up when she recalled Kakashi, who she had been positively besotted with. She remembered her mother's words, how kunoichi did well to find their equal.

'Kakashi…was never my equal. He was always so far ahead of me.' Rin thought to herself, 'I would have spent my life chasing him…I would have begged him to settle down with me.' It frightened her to think of how she had projected desires on a person she truly did not know that well, 'He was handsome and strong…but not once did he stand beside me.'

Obito had been in step with her since they had first met. She had taken him for granted and cursed her weakness every second after he had been lost. Rin had convinced herself that if she had been more cautious he never would've had to sacrifice his life. What occurred to her sometime later, a while after Kakashi had rejected her, was that Obito wanted to die protecting her. It stung so much worse after she had realized that.

'I will not squander this precious gift.' Rin thought, 'My partner found me again. I found him.'

She finished her tea and also acknowledged that the icy part of her shinobi heritage, as well as her crush's rebuff, had made her resentful of Kakashi. She was feeling some sick satisfaction knowing that she would never reach out to him again. He would never know that she had prevailed and found happiness, most especially not with Obito.

Rin brought the cup inside and left it in the sink. She caught Obito on her way back out, and at the top of the porch steps he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. They stood for a moment until Sesshu strode past them, reminding them they had appointments to keep.

They set out down the hill, hand in hand, tranquil, for the most part.

"This is happening a bit more quickly than I expected…"

"I agree…but we wanted to do this. Will it matter if it's today or a year from now?" Obito asked.

"Not it the slightest."

"Exactly. It's still a little scary."

"They're making it scary!" Rin huffed, referring to the townsfolk, "Everyone had to be involved and complicate things. They really got in our business."

"Maybe it's not as a bad as it could be…" Obito mused, "I don't know about your clan's customs, but the average wedding in the Uchiha clan is about a three day affair."


"Well, I only saw someone getting married that one time…but it was a big deal. Much bigger than this…"

"Would they have made me wear the emblem and everything?" Rin wondered.

Obito laughed, "That's a requirement. They would have forced you to completely forsake all the traditions of your former clan. They would dress you head to toe…tell you what to do and when to breathe. It's really superstitious. There's a pretty long and annoying purification rite for women too, which they say makes it easier to have children born with the Sharingan. Then a bride is taken to the Naka shrine and given the Uchiha name. Once everyone accepts you…you're allowed to get married the next day…"

"Whew!" Rin was grinning, "My family would have lost patience."

"I would have lost patience." Obito agreed.

Obito dropped Rin off at her dresser's house before continuing down the road. Yoshige's family was providing him with hakama and had notified him he would be dressed and ready in about an hour. Rin would need four hours, give or take.

"Those women do crazy things with hair and makeup and then pile on robes! They don't even let a bride have a choice." Yoshige complained, "It takes forever! Not to mention its summertime and she'll be overheated probably before noon. If your wife faints before you exchange vows they say its bad luck!"

"Rin is very strong." Obito said proudly, "And she can take a little heat."

His preparations were essentially painless, and though his kimono was a bit confusing, Yoshige and his sister capably dressed him. It was not nearly as complex as Rin's outfit would be, they told him. They also slipped a hand-fan in his belt, insisting he be prepared for some unbearable temperatures later in the day. His caretakers set a tray of light fair on the table for him and proceeded to scramble to the pavilion to help set up. Yoshige said that when he returned he and Junichi would escort him to the sanctuary and then the shrine. His wait would be a long one.

Obito sat for a while and gawked at the round fan he had been given, an uchiwa, knowing it was the symbol of his clan. Of course his friends didn't know of his lineage, he reminded himself, but it was a spooky sign. He could only hope it was God's way of blessing his marriage.

It was starting to feel a bit warm. Obito leaned out an open window for fresh air and whistled for Sesshu. The large dog came bounding and wagged his tail in salutations.

"How does she look Sesshu?"

"Very beautiful. Rin is a bit irritable because she and the ladies can't agree on how much is enough." Sesshu reported, "But you'll be charmed when you see her."

"I bet I will." Obito couldn't help but smile, "If she's still feeling grumpy when you get back, please tell her that I love her."

"That would delight her." The dog turned about and returned to Rin's camp.

Knowing there were a few more hours of isolation ahead of him, Obito sat down on a sofa and closed his eyes. He imagined what it would be like if he was among his clansmen getting married. It would be quite a circus, but he still thought it would be fun to watch as Rin was naturalized as a member of the clan. Since it didn't matter much to either of them anyway, the daydream slipped away from him.

He thought about his Sensei and Kakashi. Their attendance would have been very special, Obito thought. 'They would be shocked, most likely.' He thought about how Minato-sensei gushed about getting married to Kushina and how much fun it was being with her. Kakashi had always plugged his ears during such stories.

Obito frowned to himself, 'You heartless jerk, Kakashi…'

He sighed. He wanted to lean back and sink into the couch but Obito stopped himself, fearing he would crease the kimono his friends had worked so hard on.

'Back then…Rin probably would have wanted to marry Kakashi.' He thought to himself, 'And if by some horrible whim of his, had he consented to it…' His frown deepened, 'He would have made her so miserable! Even if he had lightened up after our mission! He still would have been rigid and emotionally stunted! She would try so hard to please him and she'd get nothing back. That pisses me off.' Obito stood up again and began to pace, 'After all, she told me that she left Leaf because Kakashi had hurt her feelings. He promised me that he would protect her, but I didn't mean just physically keep Rin alive!'

For a renowned prodigy, Kakashi sure could be a dumbass.

He stopped at the window again and looked outside. The sunlight was intense and the sky was cloudless.

'Then when I think about it…Rin and I…we're kind of lucky.' Obito thought, 'We'll have fun every day just like Minato-sensei and Kushina-san did. Even when times are hard or things get dangerous…I'll always be happy knowing that Rin loves me.'

He snacked on some of the fruit on the tray. Obito paced and thought some more, and after two hours of boredom he spied Junichi walking past. He called out in a desperate voice to his friend.

"Please take me with you." Obito asked, "I'm going to lose my mind if I stay in here."

"Aw, Tobi! Are you getting antsy?" Junichi laughed, "Fine then, come with me! We'll go to the pavilion."

It was a sweet relief to not be boxed in by four walls and be alone with his thoughts. Junichi chatted with him all the way up the hill, soothing his nerves, and at the pavilion they were quickly cornered by other townsfolk.

"Hey! What's Tobi doing here? It's too early."

"We told you not to bring him or he'll start helping us set up!"

"He won't, relax!" Junichi grumbled, "I'm not going to let the poor man rot at Yoshige-kun's house. He needs to enjoy this day, not dread it!"

They allowed Obito to hang about but only on the condition that he not help with preparations. He had a surprisingly easy time consenting to the request. The tent was large and set up over picnic tables on a flat plain of grass. Some nearby oaks provided decent shade, but it was still hot enough to make him tug at his collar.

He wandered around and said hello to people while admiring the decorations. Lanterns hung in preparation for the evening. The flowers were native to the mountainside but thoughtfully arranged. Obito could only assume, after looking at a platform set up with instruments, that music would also be provided. He could smell food cooking somewhere. He had a feeling that he and Rin would have a blissful afternoon.

The last hour passed without Obito noticing, but it helped that Junichi had snuck him a shot of liquor. Afterwards he was herded along by men his age, handed a parasol for shade, and then nudged up a long stone stairway to the shrine. Obito kept a slow pace, knowing that Char was struggling with every step a few feet behind him.

At the top, the green forest was parted by a long, dusty courtyard, and at the far side an old but well-kept shrine stood. He noticed the priest and two shrine maidens stepping out with parasols to greet the guests.

"Good heavens it is a hot day, Tobi-kun." Char rasped, stepping under Obito's umbrella, "Much too hot a day to get married…"

Obito smiled, "I think this is a perfect day, Char-san."

"Well then…maybe it's a fine day for a young person to marry. I still think we should all dress down. You could get married at the riverside; now that would be more practical…"

Some squealing from guests caught his attention and Obito looked over his shoulder. Rin had ascended the stairway and her arrival immediately put butterflies in his stomach.

She was adorned in white kimono, and the elaborate uchikake jacket over the dress was a pale gold with white embroidery. Since her hair was too short for a traditional style it had been tied up and fashioned with white flowers. Her eyes looked huge and beautiful.

Rin tried to smile at him but her face made it clear: I am sweating to death!

Obito chuckled quietly when he came to stand beside her and offered her his arm. He held the parasol over her, but it was not going to help very much.

"You look beautiful, Rin." He whispered, "Are you going to be alright?"

"Thank you. I can do this…it's just…" She took a shuddering breath, "Way too warm for me right now." She finally smiled, "And you look very nice yourself!"

He shifted hands to hold the parasol and then fanned her with the uchiwa he had with him. They still had to wait for the priest and shrine attendants to approach them before they could go inside. They would sweat profusely in the meantime.

Rin looked at the fan quizzically, "Where did you get that?"

"Yoshige gave it to me."

"Does he know?"

"Of course he doesn't."

She giggled, "It makes this feel more official!"

"It's just a fan…"

"I know, I know."

The priest arrived and bid them good morning. From behind him two young women and a young man stepped forward. The young man took the parasol from Obito and stood behind him, shielding the couple from the harsh sun. The priest and shrine maidens bowed and Obito and Rin returned the gesture. They slowly followed behind the shrine attendants and their guests fell into line behind them. Sesshu walked beside Rin on her left side and ignored the odd look the priest-in-training gave him.

Before entering, all were expected to have their hands rinsed in cold water in act of symbolic purification. Rin could hear Obito sigh quietly when a maiden spooned some water on his hands. 'I can't wait for it to be my turn…' She thought.

The inside of the temple was spacious and well-lit. Obito and Rin were led up to the center of the room and asked to take a seat on a bench. The trilling, off-tune flute being played at the edge of the room by an older shrine attendant was getting on Rin's nerves. Guests had seats lined up against both walls. She glanced over to Sesshu who sat beside Char. Her ninken had his ears laid back as if hoping he could block out the piercing noise, 'Poor Sesshu…'

A lower level priest pounded on a large drum to signal the beginning of the ceremony. The head priest greeted everyone present and said a prayer. All guests were asked to stand and bow, which most did stiffly (as there were many older folks present). The priest then announced the ritual dance the two shrine maidens would perform. Some more tuneless, Gagaku music began and the two girls proceeded to prostrate before an altar full of offerings to the gods. Rin watched with her eyes glazed over, 'Don't pass out. It's so ridiculously hot in here…and noisy…hang on…'

Both shrine maidens completed a series of graceful motions and then made a raucous with bells. They jingled at the altar and then in front of the couple, and Obito nearly winced when an inexperienced maiden came a little too close to his face with the instrument. The priest spoke a few words after the dance and then asked Obito and Rin to stand again. The music quieted a bit.

Yoshige's sister, Nozomi, was kneeling down beside Rin to catch the extra length of her kimono; heaven forbid she trip with all this sitting and standing during the ceremony.

The older shrine maiden set a box on the stand in front of Obito and Rin. Three nuptial drinking bowls were nested on top of each other, reserved strictly for sake in the san-san-kudo phase of the ceremony. The maiden took the first cup, the smallest, from the top of the container and her companion tipped sake into it from a brass pot. The small bowl was handed to Obito first and all eyes went to him. He raised the drinking bowl to his lips twice before sipping the sake on the third attempt.

This process repeated with Rin, who made the same gestures Obito had. The cup was refilled for two more drinks each, and then the maidens handed them the medium bowl and started over. By the third and largest drinking bowl, and the three required sips from it, Rin and Obito were wishing for a drink of water to stave off the wine. It didn't matter if they enjoyed the sake or not, they were told. The importance of the number three, a holy and indivisible number, was the focal point of the sake ceremony. It would ensure happiness.

The maidens cleared away the nuptial bowls and the head priest then presented Obito with a scroll. He was asked to read a marriage oath in his loudest voice.

"Your honorable elders may not be able to hear you well, otherwise…" The priest added quietly.

Although Obito read as clearly as he could, the majority of the old people in attendance did not hear him anyway. They just watched admiringly until he finished.

The priest said another prayer before the altar and the maidens returned with sakaki branches for Obito and Rin to offer the gods. Nozomi assisted Rin with her dress and helped her shuffle ahead to the altar. They set their branches down and bowed twice together. Rin looked at Obito from the corner of her eye as they raised their hands. They clapped twice. They bowed once more. Nozomi herded Rin, who was at her least mobile, back to her seat.

The shrine maidens had poured sake into the bowls in front of each guest, and after a few last words from the head priest; invitees joined Obito and Rin for one last sip. They were declared a united family. The trilling music picked up again and Rin felt her head swimming. She could not tell how much time had passed, but she did know that once the priest and shrine maidens made their way down the center of the room it was their queue to follow.

Nozomi helped Rin stand and shepherded her and Obito out of the temple behind the shrine procession. The young man caught up to them with the parasol. The little parade moved slowly outside and Rin was grateful that Obito was discreetly fanning her as they walked.

He couldn't fight back a wide smile and said quietly, "I know you don't feel so great right now…but we did it."


Sesshu trotted out after them and asked how much longer Rin had to bake.

"Just as soon as we leave the sanctuary grounds we can pour some water down her throat." Nozomi replied, "I promise, Rin, it won't be long now. And we'll get this damned uchikake off of you too…"

And thank goodness, when they finally crossed the courtyard, the priest and maidens turned to them at the gate of the sanctuary and bowed. The formalities ended after the shrine attendants returned to the temple and people were allowed to raise their voices again. Many people clapped and loudly gave congratulations. Obito thanked them before watching Nozomi carefully tip a canteen of water into Rin's mouth.

His wife looked back at him, "Would you like some, Obito?"

He nodded and took a few gulps for himself. They were refreshed a little. Obito helped Nozomi remove the golden robe that was weighing Rin down. The group continued down the hill towards the pavilion.

"They told me I need to get changed over there." Rin pointed to a small cottage on the side of the field, "Nozomi-san said this kimono is going to kill me before long."

"That's fine. I'm glad they brought something more comfortable for you." Obito squeezed her hand, "But it's not going to take a few hours, is it?"

"It better not!"

The women swept Rin up and brought her to the lodge to change. Obito was taken to the reception tent where everyone gathered around, laughing, and teased him playfully.

"It's over now!"

"She'll get you, Tobi, you'll see! Rin's only pretending to be nice!"

"It's too hot! You need to get those clothes off of her!"

"Knock it off." Obito warned them, "You wouldn't say things like that if Rin was here, would you?"

"No, you know no one means any of it." Junichi clapped his back, "Come sit over here! You can say hello to everyone while the food is being set out."

Sesshu sat loyally beside Obito as people swamped him with congratulations. It wasn't too long before Rin appeared, fully capable of movement, and returned to his side to satisfy some of the guests. Her kimono was a reasonable length now; a vision of summer in reds, gold and orange.

It seemed as though every single person from town had lined up to converse with them. Many people handed over small, colorful envelopes of money. This alarmed Rin because she and Obito had not paid much for the ceremony at all, and most of the preparations had been through the charity of neighbors, 'We don't deserve this money! We don't even need it…' Char told them it would be rude to refuse a gift, and so Obito and Rin accepted what was given to them with great humility.

Chilled tea was handed out for refreshments. A few older guests played music from the stage that was far more pleasant than what they heard at the shrine.

Obito and Rin floated around for a while, talking to guests all through the pavilion. They helped themselves to a wide array of food, mostly fresh fish and vegetables. The heat was forgivable thanks to the relaxed atmosphere.

"You are simply stunning, Rin." Char told her, "You and Tobi will be very happy together."

She thanked the old man and asked if he wanted anything to eat or drink. He declined, and instead sat in the shade petting Sesshu, basking in the pleasantness of the party.

Obito had lowered his guard a little and was visibly affectionate towards Rin, pecking her lips or cheek whenever he could. They shared a brief dance together before they became uncomfortably warm again. Guests highly approved of their loving behavior. With the afternoon came some cloud cover that suggested a drizzle. Yoshige had run back to his house to fetch parasols just in case it rained.

When the man returned he looked very distressed. He exchanged a few words with Char before he and the older gentlemen came up to Obito and Rin.

"Is something wrong?" Obito asked them.

"There was a break-in at Char-san's shop." Yoshige reported, "I guess someone must have taken advantage while most of us were here at the party."

The old man shook his head, "I'll look into it later…I much prefer spending time here."

"Did you see anyone there?" Obito checked.

"I think someone was still there, but I didn't let myself inside. There was a lot of broken glass…"

Rin watched her husband's nostrils flare after hearing the news. She knew very well how protective he was of his elderly friend. She was not quick enough to grab him before he stormed off back in the direction of town, "Wait!"

Yoshige blanched, "Oh gosh…is he going to try to catch the thief?"

Rin lifted up her skirt and set into a clumsy run, motioning for Yoshige and Sesshu to follow her.

"He's a shinobi. Not only will he catch the thief, he'll probably punish the thief too." Rin surmised.

"He's the groom! Tobi's not supposed to be doing stuff like this! I'll get Junichi and some guys to look around with me."

"It's a bit late for that." She pointed out.

At the bottom of the hill they had lost sight of Obito. Sesshu raced ahead to the shop. A person rushed from the building and the dog pounced, pinning the delinquent to the ground with mighty paws.

It was a boy of about twelve.

"Stop!" The child screeched, "I'm sorry! Tobi let me go! Don't hurt me, dog!"

Sesshu growled but backed off. Rin arrived and asked her ninken to stay put. She and Yoshige peeked into the window, where glass had been completely smashed in as a point of entry.

Inside the shop shelves were in disarray. Many items had been taken and the register had been ransacked. Rin could see Obito had snatched up another youngster and was hauling him outside as he wailed in terror. Her husband dropped the other young offender outside on the dusty roadside. He was maybe a year older than his companion. He cowered away from Obito.

"What were you two thinking?" Obito snarled, looking to the younger boy, "Tonushi! You know better than this! I talk to your parents all the time!"

"I-I'm s-sorry, Tobi…"

"Who is this kid?" He gestured his thumb to the older boy.

"That's Chikusa…" Tonushi gulped, inching his way closer to Rin, "He's a genin from the Hidden Rock Village…"

Rin's stomach dropped, 'Oh this is not good…'

Obito immediately hoisted the genin up by his shirt collar, "So you're a genin, huh?"

"Y-yeah…" Chikusa whimpered.

"How did you meet Tonushi?"

"We play together sometimes in the forest…"

"Is that so?"

"It's true! We hang out a lot! Tonushi said there was going to be a big party here today…"

"You decided to come here for my wedding? Or because you knew no one would be watching the store?" He gestured to the broken window, "Turn out your pockets again."

He set the genin on his feet and Chikusa surrendered all of the money and snacks he had taken.

Obito's look of disgust completely disarmed the young Rock ninja.

"I guess you don't make much money on the missions you take." Obito observed, "It's cowardly to steal."

"I swear I'll never do it again!"

"I don't take the word of any Rock shinobi seriously…"

Rin stepped forward cautiously, whispering, "Obito…he's just a child. He definitely won't-!"

"In fact, Rock shinobi nearly ruined my entire life. I've been fighting and killing them since I was your age." Obito continued, "It isn't surprising that you would carry on the way the rest of them do. Robbing an old man…tricking a kid who's supposed to be your friend…they're the most despicable sort."

"I'm not like that!"

"You haven't proven otherwise!" The man roared, "Do you know what a nukenin like me could do to you? Well do you? I dare you to try to harm anyone in this village again!"

The boy began to weep, "Please…don't kill me…"

Obito narrowed his eyes, "I won't bother. Go back to your village and never come back here. If you really don't want to be a corrupt ninja, put others before you first, for the rest of your life."

And Chikusa heeded the warning; without a parting word to Tonushi he ran away as fast as his legs could carry him. Obito rounded on the younger boy, still fuming.

"How dare you do such a thing to Char-san? He's your village elder."

"Chikusa…he made me…"The boy sniffled.

"I'm sure he did. You owe Char-san an apology…you owe your parents an apology." Obito softened a little, "You can't forget that you have a little brother now. Fumitake needs a role model, you know."

Tonushi nodded sadly. Rin lifted him up and patted his shoulder, "Run along now, Tonushi, straight to your mom and dad…and tell the truth."

Tonushi walked down the road with his head hung in shame.

Rin stepped up to her husband and held his face gently in her hands. He was still simmering.

"I can see your Sharingan." She said quietly, "Please try to relax…"

"Sorry." He sighed, blinking, and his eyes were dark again. Obito hugged her tight.

"You were so angry…I was worried you were going to beat that boy up."

"I thought about it, but if I did then he wouldn't really learn what I was trying to show him."

She nodded, smiling, and planted a warm kiss on his lips. Yoshige cleared his throat behind them. He bent down to pick up the stolen goods and money to be returned to the shop.

"Well…that was handled very well, Tobi." The man complimented, "But you're not really a nukenin are you?"

Obito scratched the back of his head, "Not exactly…I just haven't lived in my village for quite some time."

"Me neither." Rin added, "Actually, Yoshige…if you could keep this to yourself…you should know that Tobi and I are Leaf shinobi. We're still loyal to our village and the Hokage."

"You're-? What are two Leaf ninja doing out here in the middle of nowhere?" He was surprised.

"Eloping. Kind of." Obito admitted, "We're teammates."

"Ah-ha!" Yoshige tapped his fist in his palm, solving the puzzle, "I knew it! You were never strangers! You were running off like scamps into the sunset." He shrugged, "I won't complain. You've made Shincha a much safer place since you arrived."

They thanked him. Sesshu came to stand beside Yoshige and warned, "Never repeat this information. It could get any one of us killed out here."

"I'm not stupid, doggy." Yoshige replied, folding his arms, "Huh. Well that explains the talking dog at last…you're natives of Konohagakure…"

They walked back up the street towards the pavilion. Junichi had come looking for them.

"I poured Tonushi's parents a drink." Junichi said it with a small grin, "I heard what he did."

"Tobi scared the daylights out of those boys." Yoshige confirmed.

Rin looked at Junichi, "You know who else you should pour a drink for?"

"A certain married couple I know."

The rain clouds that had rolled in only broke after the reception had ended. By that time, Rin and Obito had already been delivered to their house with their gifts and leftovers for dinner. Nozomi and Yoshige had dropped off Rin's formal kimono and uchikake before running home. It was a much stronger storm than they had expected.

"I'm not sure where I'll put this." Rin fidgeted with the box that contained her expensive robes, "It's funny that you get to wear it once…and then you want to loan it out to people!"

"Maybe that's why everyone else was excited to do it." Obito wondered.

They put the food away while listening to the sound of wind and rain somersaulting outside. Sesshu quickly fell asleep on his favorite rug. He had overindulged on scraps at the reception.

Rin shuffled down the hallway and set the storage box down on her bed. She dusted her hands and sighed happily. While at first it had seemed to be a lot of hassle, the wedding had been lots of fun. 'That's it. We're married now.' She thought as her face heated up, 'Obito was so great all day long while I was melting. He made it seem easy when he looked after me…'

She had gotten the feeling even before they had started dating that he would make a good husband. Today, effortlessly, Obito continued proving her theory true. It made her heart flutter when she remembered the events of the day. He was himself. Happy. Nervous. Angry. Mask-less. Obito had been genuine in front of her and everyone around them.

Rin was quite surprised when he had shown compassion to the Iwa genin. She could write it off as mercy shown on his wedding day, for karma's sake, maybe. But Obito had despised Iwagakure as much as she did, and letting another crime go unpunished would be a rare decision on their part. All the same, she was glad he had not pummeled the juvenile delinquent.

She glanced out the window to see sheets of water coming down. It was not yet dusk but it was dark outside, and Rin was grateful they'd had good weather for most of the day.

With a small yawn, she tried to reach and undo the obi of her party kimono. The belt was much fancier than anything she had ever worn before and had been tied too securely for her to grasp. Grumbling, Rin went down the hall and turned into Obito's room. She needed to ask for help or she would end up sleeping in her dress.

There she found her husband who had worked out his own clasps and ties. Obito had gotten his haori jacket and hakama off, and had nearly opened his kimono before he noticed Rin's presence. He stopped and gave her a surprised look. Rin folded her hands, a bit embarrassed, "Obito…I need some assistance."

"Oh! No problem." He smiled and walked over to her, "What has you stuck?"

"This obi is ridiculous." Rin told him, "Can you please help me get it off?"

"Sure." Obito stood behind her and took a look at it, "This is pretty sophisticated…" He began tugging to test where it would come undone. When he found a bit of give, Obito slowly unfastened it and handed the slack of the sash to Rin while he worked. She looked down at the floor, but in her peripheral vision she could see Obito's bare leg.

'Hm. Haven't seen that before.' She noted, stealing a glimpse of his right leg afterwards, 'And this is the artificial leg he wouldn't show me back then…' She found it quite minimal; the design was streamlined and served its purpose.

"There you go, Rin." Obito told her, having fully removed the belt.

She took it from him shyly, murmuring thanks. Inwardly Rin was appalled by her sudden timidity, 'What the heck? I saw some skin and I…I'm like a bashful kid…'

"Hey." He gave her a small smile, "Are you alright?"

"I am."

"You're…" He poked her cheek gently, "Blushing a little."

Rin whacked his hand away from her face, "Sorry, but you're mistaken. It's makeup."

"It's definitely your face."

"No. It's not. I'm going to wash it off now." She growled.

Rin turned about and rushed to her room. She set the obi down and stripped off her kimono in a hurry. Rin pulled on a pale pink night robe and tried not to panic. Her attempt to order the kimono properly was just awful. She let it rest beside the formalwear box on her bed.

'I bet he…expects me to stay in his room from now on.' She thought nervously, 'Well I've done that before…but…nothing happened. He didn't do anything.' Since they had married, however, Rin had a sinking suspicion Obito was not going to be as hesitant as he had been before, 'I just don't understand why I'm uneasy now! When I was his girlfriend I was prepared to go all the way! I wasn't scared…I mean, I'm not scared. It just…feels different now.'

In the bathroom she washed her face contemplatively, knowing there was a very good chance she had blushed straight through the sheer powder she had on. Her eye makeup took a while to budge. Once her face was clean she ran water at the tub. As it filled she quickly scrubbed herself down before settling in the water. For a short while Rin could not relax. It felt like her shoulders were frozen with tension.

She unwound bit by bit as she listened to the rain.

"Rin?" She heard Obito's voice through the door.

Rin submerged herself up to her neck, "Come in!"

He slid the door open and looked at her with slight concern. Obito was shirtless but had black pajama bottoms on. He stood in the doorway when he spoke, "Are you okay?"

She nodded, "Yeah."

He smiled, "We don't have to do anything, Rin." She was surprised he had figured it out, "Let's just go to sleep. I'm so tired. I can't believe how much this day took out of me."

"You're not hungry, Obito? We have stuff we can make for dinner."

"No. Sleep is all I need."

"No bath?"

He chuckled, "Will you be mad if I don't wash up?"

"I couldn't tell if you smelled before. It was kind of a sweaty day." With one powerful sniff she determined that her husband was not offensive at the moment, "Skip it. Get some rest, mister."

"Alright then…" He turned and then stopped, "Come to my room when you finish up."

Rin nodded meekly, "I will."

Obito shut the door behind him.

Her heart pounded, 'Whoa. That was kind of sexy.' She soaked until her muscles no longer ached. 'He gave me a look right there, over his shoulder…huh. I liked that.' Rin smiled to herself, 'My, my he has grown up so much…I remember when he used to use that dropper in his eyes all the time…or when he'd grind his teeth at Kakashi when he was angry…'

She drained the tub and stood, cocooning herself in a towel. 'I feel better now. I think I psyched myself out earlier…' Obito had never given her a reason to be nervous around him. 'He's very honorable. It's silly for me to fret about this, really.'

After she dried off, Rin redressed in her night robe. She toweled her hair dry and brushed her teeth, knowing that she was running out of things to do to stall. As she stepped out into the hall she noted all the lights in the house had been extinguished. Counting about 14 steps along the wall, Rin arrived at Obito's room, which she now figured was her room too.

Blind in the dark, she marched forward until she found the bed. Rin slipped under the blanket and lay still for a moment, trying to discern if Obito was asleep. His breathing was slow and peaceful. She reached out her hand and touched his back, between his shoulder blades. Muscle beneath smooth skin; she withdrew her hand anxiously, 'Wow.'

A minute passed before she got over her nerves. He really was sleeping, she deduced. Rin scooted closer, pressing her nose gently to his skin, 'Nope…he doesn't smell bad.' She folded one of her hands beneath her cheek, as she always did before sleep, and shut her eyes. The rain lulled her into dreams.

Cricket songs had replaced the rain. Without opening her eyes, Rin woke and listened to the quieter sounds of the night. She had rolled over at some point and pulverized a pillow beneath her chin. She could also feel Obito behind her, holding her around her midsection. His breath whistled softly on the back of her neck.

Even with her head in a drowsy fog, Rin felt a small surge of elation. This situation was making a lot of sense to her. She had snuggled with Obito plenty since she had moved in, but their current embrace was true perfection. Maybe it was because they were exhausted by the long day they'd had, or maybe it was because they had bound themselves in the most profound way possible, but Rin knew she was home.

His breathing changed. Obito stirred and with a yawn he tightened his arms around Rin. The full length of his body pressed against her. His chest was warm on her back. For a few moments she feigned sleep while he made sleepy sounds, teetering on the edge of consciousness. Rin did not expect him to speak; his voice was rough, "You're awake."


He pressed his lips on the exposed part of her neck and trailed kisses down to her shoulder. She felt him smile against her skin.

Rin stretched a little to wake up and then flipped her hair off her neck, "Do that again, Obito."

He paused, decoding her message, and then began to kiss his way back up. His hands moved and found a spot where her robe hung open; they settled on the skin of her stomach.

Rin took all of a moment to think about how to proceed. She didn't feel so tired anymore and she was quite relaxed. It was a very suitable time, in her opinion, to receive her husband's attention.

Obito froze when he noticed Rin had unknotted the tie to her robe. He watched as she shrugged off a sleeve, and then feasted his eyes on her uncovered body in the dim light. He nearly had coronary failure when she shifted to lay on her back, naked, and looked up at him self-assuredly.


"Hmm?" She smiled, looping her arms around his neck.

He took a deep breath, "I told you before that we don't have to do anything."

"You only said that…" Rin pulled him down slowly, "Because you thought I was nervous."

"But you were." Obito pointed out, his face hovering inches from hers.

"For a little while, I was." Her eyes were mischievous, "Now I'm not."

His breathing was unsteady. Obito balanced himself above her and kissed her, hoping to satisfy Rin and distract himself from the fact that she was more ready than he was.

Rin enjoyed the kiss for a minute or so before speaking again, "I bet you wouldn't second-guess yourself if you just…" She guided his left hand to her breast, "Went ahead and tried…"

The childish, terrified look on his face faded gradually. Obito wore an inquisitive expression afterwards as he sank down and settled. Rin stroked his hair contentedly and allowed him to take the time he needed.

It was round and perky and very, very soft, he determined. He ran his thumb along the curve of her flesh and lightly passed over the nipple. Obito looked up when she inhaled sharply and tilted her head back. He supposed he was going about it the right way. He squeezed gently, rolled his palm over it and grinned when Rin stared up at him, dumbstruck.

"That feels good?"

"So good. Now the other."

"Uh," He hesitated, "My other hand might feel weird when I touch you…"

Rin seized his artificial arm and put his hand where she wanted it. "It's different," She told him, "But it's…just what I need."

Obito leaned down and kissed her while his hands continued, and she encouraged him with quiet sighs. Rin let her hands roam up his arms and over his shoulders, greedy for the heat coming off of his skin. His touches felt good but Rin thought he was being too careful. After a deep kiss that left her tingling everywhere, she wiggled from beneath him, repositioning herself so that his face was even with her chest.

"Use your mouth now…"She demanded in a throaty breath.

He looked bewildered again, but she persuaded him with guiding touches and soft sounds. Once his lips touched her skin Rin writhed with the feeling, and Obito realized he really liked the way she expressed her enjoyment. He sucked and caressed, reveling in her reactions. He tormented her playfully, finally at ease with the idea of sex, and acquainted himself with her superb breasts. Rin locked her hands in his hair as Obito trailed down with his tongue, gliding down her chest to her stomach.

He kissed her navel; held her waist as he kissed down her hip and to her thigh, staying there when she moaned inaudibly. Obito scooted backwards and continued to kiss down the span of her leg. His hands skimmed along her frame, learning her shape. Rin was pure smoothness under his lips, and after he had learned the landscape of her slim legs, he moved up again. His wife had stopped guiding him altogether so that his curiosity could direct him.

Past his shyness, Obito studied her womanhood, getting over the fact that he had never seen one before in his life. He traced a finger over the tiny patch of down there, 'This hair is so light-colored,' And then down the supple lip below, 'Kind of…wet.' Rin stopped him. He looked up at her face and saw that her cheeks were crimson.

"Is this not okay, Rin?" He asked, referring to the spot he had found.

She shook her head, reluctant to explain at first, "It's…fine…but I don't want you to touch there…right now."

"It doesn't feel good?"

"It feels very good. I'm just…I'm," Rin huffed, trying to articulate properly, "I'm ready."

"You're ready?"

"For you," She clarified, "I don't want to play anymore."

Obito stared at her. He had another three seconds of inward, spiraling confusion to contend with, 'Rin wants to make love…and I know I want to, but,' He looked down again, estimating, 'How do people do this? How does it fit?'


He looked up at her beautiful, beseeching face again. He took a deep breath. To hell with his nervousness, he thought. Obito knew enough. For his age, he couldn't possibly be so ignorant as to not know what to do. The man stood up on his knees. He felt Rin's eyes on him as he stripped down. There was slight apprehension on what Rin thought of his automail limbs, which contrasted noticeably against his pale skin.

She didn't seem to notice; she reached for him. He folded under her touch and settled down again, feeling her chest brush against his when they kissed. While their mouths were occupied, Rin slipped her hand down his stomach, arriving at a very urgent erection. She stroked him just to understand what it was like, but Obito made a surprised sound in his throat and he nearly head-butted her. He apologized for the close call. Rin just smiled. She touched him again.

He decided he could withstand the contact, and they kissed for a short while longer before Rin started to mutter, getting impatient. She had positioned him and was whispering, telling him to follow through. Obito did so rather quickly. He slid into her and watched as her eyes widened; her nails sunk into his back, unfairly sharp. He kind of got the idea of why she had been ready. She was drenched, 'So when I touched her…Rin got excited.'

It was easy to move. He probably should have done it slowly and carefully, but almost immediately Obito realized he could not help the pace he set. Rin had not admonished him for it. She threw her head back, gasping, maybe in pain, but then adjusted after a moment. She had stopped clawing his back, and instead settled her hands on his shoulders. He attached his mouth to whatever was in reach while she thrashed; her mouth, her neck, her breasts, her wrists. He thrusted wantonly, overwhelmed by the pleasure of being surrounded by a space so tight and hot.

Obito thought he would be able to continue up until Rin did something that was far too visually stimulating. It must have started to feel good. She didn't say so, but if her moans and lip-biting weren't indicator enough, she communicated it to him when she arched her back. It would forever be etched in his memory; the way her breasts seemed to float weightlessly as she bent, making an exquisite crescent with her body. Her eyes were closed; her rosy bow lips were parted. The unstoppable wave of euphoria crashed into him and Obito tipped over the edge.

He came with a harsh but muffled cry. He slid his hands along that arch that aroused him, her skin so impossibly soft, and at the end of her back he palmed and squeezed her bottom while he moaned. Rin was into it. She was kissing him ferociously. After a time the sensation died down and Obito collapsed onto Rin, resting his head between her breasts. None of it had lasted very long, but Obito thought maybe that was the price of having no experience. The duration could not possibly have mattered as much as the feelings did…and there had been no shortage of them.

They were only able to stay still and breathe for a long while afterwards.

Rin rubbed soothing circles on his scalp. It felt wonderful but it was putting him to sleep. His face was cushioned by her breast and his arms had cinched around Rin without any intention of setting her free.

"Did that feel really good because we're in love?" He mumbled.

Her voice was scratchy, "In our case…yes…"

He was beginning to feel terribly sleepy, "Did you like it, Rin?"

She nodded, "Yeah. I want to do it again."

Obito quailed, afraid of disappointing her, "I can't…right now…"

"I know you can't. Physically, that would be kind of impossible." Rin mused, "But there's always tomorrow…"

He smiled widely. Dream had become reality.

"Hmm…" She draped her arms behind his neck, "I'm so happy. That did feel good…"

"Was it as nice as when I did this?" He ran his tongue over the nearest nipple and she shrieked.

"Uh…" Her voice shook, "Both ways are…really…good for me."

"I love doing it." He admitted, "I'm not sure what I was worried about."

"Me neither."

He helped her paw at the blanket that had been discarded. They were covered by it once again when they fell asleep.

Marriage agreed with them. The house seemed to reorganize itself over the next few months. Many of Rin's belongings had found homes in the room she shared with her husband. More flowerpots sat on the windowsills.

Sesshu had learned his lesson early on that Obito and Rin could not make love quietly. In the beginning it seemed to happen every day, and the dog often pulled his favorite rug out the front door and to the porch. He slept outside to avoid their nocturnal activities.

Rin had been a wedded woman for about eight months when she went into town one day to sell the last of the vegetables. Char always got first crack at their radishes. Once she had sold him what he needed, she moved on to Yoshige and Nozomi's house. Nozomi wanted to buy some produce while her brother was out. They got to chatting after the sale.

"Are you and Tobi planning on children?" Nozomi asked her, "I've been wondering…"

"Well…" Rin furrowed her brow, "We've been trying since we got married. Tobi said he didn't want to wait."

"Did he?"

"Yeah. The very next day he said we should do our best," She shrugged, "So much time has passed without results that…I just stopped thinking about it. I started to get crazy thinking that something was wrong with me."

"Oh Rin…" Nozomi shook her head, "Sometimes it doesn't happen easily. It can take many attempts."

"We try every day."

Her friend raised her eyebrows, "Oh…even on your unsafe days?"


"Maybe it's him." Nozomi tapped her chin and then stood, "One moment…"

While her friend stepped into the parlor of the house Rin sat, stiff-backed and very offended, 'Did she just accuse my husband of being infertile? I mean, it has me worried, but I don't need her commentary!'

Nozomi returned with a small hemp bag and handed it to Rin. "These can help if he eats them. Pumpkin seeds are wonderful." She advised, "I'm sure he can do it, Rin, but sometimes the body needs a little help! Make sure he eats lots of fruit and stays away from too much tea or alcohol…it can set you back."

Rin was surprised as she accepted the bag of pumpkin seeds, "How did you learn this, Nozomi?"

"Gossiping with Emi-san! She knows every possible way one can manipulate a man, even his body." Nozomi grinned, "She's seen a lot in sixty years. Oh! And the most important thing…"


"Go to the seaside market today and get oysters. Make him eat them." Her friend said in all seriousness, "They're the magic cure for every man. I wouldn't be surprised if you were expecting the next day…"

Rin gave the woman a skeptical look.

"But if that doesn't do it…you should get examined too." Nozomi concluded.

"I will. I'll stay open minded. Thanks, Nozomi." Rin found her way out and moved on, keeping the advice in mind. She went from door to door and sold the last of her harvest.

Obito was off doing errand work for the Akatsuki again, so Rin considered what she should do until he returned. 'He may be gone for another day or two…I guess I should go to the Ine market. I should at least try everything before I throw the towel in.' That and she was kind of excited for some fresh seafood. It had been a while since she had tasted the ocean.

She stopped at the house and packed a tote. The money she had gotten from her produce sale could afford some delicacies from the fish market. She left a note for Obito in case he returned during her absence. Sesshu trotted beside her as they set out down the mountainside.

It was half a day's walk to the shore northeast of the Land of Stone. The sunshine and clear sky were divine while hiking down the pine trail, but the cool breeze promised a cold winter to follow autumn. When they arrived in the fishing village called Ine, the market was bustling. Rin lithely picked her way through the crowds, asked someone where she could find oysters, and then found "the man with big sideburns" as she had been directed. His stand was well-stocked. He was wiping his hands on a towel.

"Hello." Rin gave a small wave, "You're Kisei the oyster man?"

"Yup." He was pretty big and intimidating, "And you're a tiny woman I've never seen before."


"You need oysters?" He put his hands on his hips, "How much? It's a ryo apiece."

She steeled herself and said, "I need…however many it takes to help a man make a baby."

His frown looked to be permanent. After a few awkward moments of silence Kisei said, "You'll want about ten."

"That'd be great, thanks."

The following day Obito had still not returned home. It did not bother Rin so much. She had complete faith that he could take care of himself. In the meantime she spent her day just how she liked. She trained with Sesshu for a while in the forest, working on his transformations and timing attacks.

Rin sat on a fallen tree covered in moss when it was break time. Her dog sat beside her, panting to cool down. She patted Sesshu's head and watched as clouds rolled by.

"I wonder…" Rin looked at her dog's forehead, parting some of the fur there, "You're hair grew back over the seal. It's been so long since you received it."

"It probably doesn't even work."

"My dad wouldn't have put it on you if it didn't."

The dog yawned, "Maybe you're right, but now is not a good time for us to practice with it."

"Why not?"

"You're trying to have a pup! You need to take good care of yourself," The dog reminded, "And your clan's forbidden technique will consume so much chakra from the both of us…we'd be fools to think we'd recover properly."

"But we've never tried it!"

"We can try it when we're in a hopeless battle." Sesshu suggested, "But not a moment sooner."

Rin sighed and rested her hands on her knees. Sesshu had a good point. Forbidden jutsu could have devastating consequences. She ought to learn more about it only after she didn't care what shape her body was in. It wouldn't be fair to worry only about Obito's health when she too needed to be fit.

At noon they returned to the house. Sesshu was distracted by an imprudent squirrel perched on the front step, and he tore after it like a maniac when it tried to flee. Rin went inside to begin preparing oysters.

She worked for a while juicing lemons and grating horseradish for a recipe she had read about.

'We never got to eat like this when I lived with my family…it was red meat everyday…' Rin felt a bit of nostalgia for her clan, 'I bet Tsume hates me. I bet Kakashi never batted an eyelash after I left. I keep thinking maybe I should have said goodbye somehow…or at least sent them messages to say I'm alive.'

While shucking the oysters over a bowl, Rin heard shouting outside: "Ew! Sesshu get that out of here!"

She smiled to herself, 'Obito's back!'

She continued working, listening to the man and dog talk briefly. Obito came inside and immediately hugged Rin from behind. She chuckled, turning her head to catch his lips.

"Rin…" He squeezed her, "Did you miss me?"

"I did! I'm cooking for you right now!" Rin was chipper, "I hope it went smoothly."

"It was relatively eventless." He frowned, "But I caught Sesshu with a squirrel's head outside. I've got no appetite after that."


"So! What's this?" Obito looked at what was coming together, "Clams in sauce?"

"Oysters, actually."

"You went all the way to Ine for these?" He was surprised.

"Yeah! And the fish monger selling them was like seven feet tall!"

He cracked up. She lifted a plate with a set of chopsticks balanced on the edge. Obito tried one, chewing thoughtfully, "Its good. Horseradish is a…different choice."

Rin tried one herself, "Whoa…that's a bit stronger than what I intended." She privately thought of how maybe she had ruined a good meal, but when she handed the plate to her husband and he polished it off quickly, Rin stopped worrying about it.

This sneaky strategy of healthy eating unfolded under Obito's nose for the next few months. He complained when Rin limited, or forbade, alcohol consumption, but lightened up when she explained it was for a good cause. They returned to Ine for fish and oysters frequently, knowing the season would end once winter arrived. Obito had caught on to the fact that eating food from Ine usually led to wild nights of sex.

And though they waited patiently, nothing seemed to change. Rin would have short fits of hysterical rage whenever she menstruated; reviewing all of her medical knowledge, realizing it was what she didn't know that was holding her back, in all likelihood. 'I've done everything I could think of! We are the healthiest two people in this country, for heaven's sake!' Sometimes, on these sad days, Obito would try to start a conversation with her that often took a turn for the worse. He would hear a lot of "Zinc!" and "Forget it!" and "Murphy's Law!"

Once wintertime set in, Shincha became a snowy mountaintop. Their efforts had slowed considerably, and though Obito still had hope and did his best, Rin's expectations had taken a nosedive. When she saw children playing in town or at the school she would fold her arms and say, "They're probably too much work anyway…"

As snow fell on a windless morning, Obito was frying eggs for breakfast. Sesshu was spread out on the floor of the kitchen, hoping that bacon was soon to follow. Rin stepped into the room to wish them good morning. Her eyes widened. She turned on her heel and walked back out. Sesshu exchanged a glance with Obito. The man turned the heat off on the stove and followed Rin back to the bedroom. She was hiding beneath a heavy blanket on the bed, whimpering.

"Good morning, Rin! I thought maybe you'd want to eat before you work on your house calls…"

"No thanks."

He was crestfallen, "Did you…want something else?"

"Jam and crackers."

"I'm sorry. I should have asked you first."

She was shaking her head under the blanket, "No! It's fine! You make what we always eat…but today it smells so bad."

"It smells bad?"

"Do you know if those eggs were spoiled?" She poked her head out from under the quilt, "They're rank! I feel like I'm going to-"

"I got them a day ago, Rin." He frowned, "Come on. I'll make you something else."

When she refused to enter the kitchen again, Obito made her the damn jam and crackers and brought it to her in bed. He was annoyed that she was being so suddenly finicky. It was unusual. He and Sesshu enjoyed their eggs and watched as Rin ran out of the house shortly after that, probably to avoid the odor.

Rin spent the entire morning going from door to door, and each family sat her in front of a fire to warm up before she did examinations. Her third patient of the day, Tonushi, had come down with a stomach flu. She advised his parents how best to treat him and how to avoid catching it themselves. Tonushi's father, Hirano Seike, had put Tonushi to bed and was feeding Fumitake, their toddler, who was beginning to like solid foods. He made choo-choo sounds as he popped tiny bits of mushroom in the baby's mouth.

Atsumi, Mister Seike's town-beauty wife, chatted with Rin by the fireplace as she knitted a scarf.

"Thank you for always looking after my boy, Rin." The woman sighed, "I'll never forget what trouble he caused on your wedding day."

"Not at all! Tonushi hasn't done anything like that since." Rin pointed out.

Atsumi's expression was stern, "Oh no…not after how we disciplined him…he'll never do it again."

Rin felt a twinge of sympathy for the child. He had probably been beaten back to his senses, but Tonushi had parents who loved him and wanted him to grow up with accountability. She wished to be a parent like that herself someday.

"How have you been, Rin?"

"Quite well, thank you." Rin paused, "Well…I got a little sick this morning."

"Oh? Is it the same flu as Tonushi's?"

"No, I mean…I became nauseous after I smelled Tobi's cooking." She explained, "He claims it was fine but I still say those eggs were spoiled."

Atsumi looked at Rin over the rim of her glasses, "Is that all?"

"I think so. I'm not really sick."

"You probably aren't. Have you noticed any other aversions lately?"

"No. I'm fine. I know what you're thinking." Rin replied, "But Tobi and I haven't had any luck. No baby yet."

"Char-san said you bought two pickles from the shop for a snack last week."

"What has that got to do with anything? Really?"

"Pregnant women love pickles."

"That's a myth."

"I say it's a fact." Atsumi smiled, "I've got two kids now and I know I was eating them like crazy!"

"That definitely makes you an authority figure, Atsumi-chan."

Atsumi put her needlework down and held her chin as she thought, "Well it seems to me you just can't believe it might be happening, since all you expect is failure."

Rin sighed, sagging in the armchair she was settled in.

"Rin, listen. You must have noticed something. You probably think it's nothing, but you're allowed to get your hopes up a little."

"I'd prefer not to."

"Haven't you seen any physical changes at all?"

"Atsumi…I haven't. I'm sore from my period. That's it."

"I doubt it."

"Sheesh! Why can't you just accept what I'm saying?"

"At least examine your breasts." Atsumi insisted, "It's tell-tale! If you've changed colors you know you can't deny it."

"What the heck are you talking about?"

"Nipples turn brown and they get big and sore. Let's check!"

Rin's face was the epitome of disbelief, "You can't mean-"

"I'll see for myself, that way you can't keep denying it."

"Please no…"

Atsumi led her to the washroom, wordlessly removed her husband from the sink, and then shut the door once Rin was inside. Seike's confusion was audible for a minute.

"Lift up your shirt." Atsumi demanded, "Enough of your denial!"

Rin grumbled, supposing she had known the woman long enough, and once her sweater and undershirt were rolled up Atsumi took a look.

"Told you." Atsumi smirked.

Rin glanced at the mirror, "Hm. They're about the same."

"You've got the look."


"I'm certain of it!"

"This is stupid…"

Atsumi compared her own to Rin's, "See? Pink. Brown."

"Come on! Everyone's different."

Seike was knocking on the door asking if they were alright. They neatened themselves and exited the room, arguing, ignoring Mister Hirano's concern. Rin abhorred how the motherly know-it-all insisted she could know so much about another's body. Even though she had not charged today for examining Tonushi, Rin was deeply considering it now. Atsumi resumed with the pleasantries and then Rin felt bad about asking for money. She didn't try. She bid them good day, pulled on her coat and ran out into the snowfall.

'That woman can be such a pain…'

She walked down the street to Char's convenience store. She said hello to Char who sat peacefully behind the counter with a small jigsaw puzzle to keep him busy, waiting for customers to visit. Livid, she bought a pickle and a pregnancy test.

When Rin returned home she found Obito outside, breathing fire to create a walkway in the knee-high snow. Sesshu was around as well, hopping through the white fluff like a puppy. Her husband waved to her and ceased his jutsu.

"Hi! Are you feeling better?" Obito asked her.

She hugged him in greeting before proceeding to the house, "I'm fine. I'm sorry if I offended you earlier, Obito."

"Don't worry about it," He looked at her shopping bag, "What did you get?"

"A pickle." She said dismissively, striding inside.

Rin stomped her feet and shook snow from her shoulders at the entryway carpet. She pulled off her boots and made a beeline for the restroom. When Obito and Sesshu came in from the snow they too politely tidied themselves, brushing snow from their person and dog respectively.

Obito put on a pot of water for tea and wondered why Rin had been in such a hurry. She had left her pickle on the counter. 'That's weird…usually she wolfs them down right away.' She must have forgotten it. He watched the snowfall at the window for a time, imagining how deep it would get and how he ought to keep up with melting it.

He poured the boiling water over tealeaves and sat down, wondering what Rin was up to. He waited patiently until she reappeared; looking dazed, and then she stopped to stand in front of him.

Obito smiled uncertainly at her, "What happened?"

"Well…" She sighed, "I let Atsumi see my boobs today."

He stared at her, aghast.

"It's okay. I saw hers too."

Obito put his tea down, digesting the information.

"There's a good reason, I swear." Rin qualified, "It's because I'm pregnant."

His stupefaction gradually evolved into excited, soundless shock. She watched as his face revealed every minute emotion that was blossoming in his mind. 'Oh Obito…' She loved him. She loved his honesty. It was impossible for him to hide what he was thinking. There was no doubt that all that hope he had been clinging to for nearly a year was instantly justified now. She caught traces of what looked like pride in his expression, translating to: Oh yes I did…

There was an organic and easy silence between them. Rin picked up her pickle from the table, folded back the wrapper and bit into it.

Obito was in an absolute tizzy after finding out. He told just about everyone he knew and then got all of Shincha jazzed up. Rin did not exactly appreciate the pomp and attention, but it was fun that her husband became even more hell-bent on satisfying her every whim…and he was already good at it.

The only foods around the house were the ones that met her smell and taste approval. She was bundled everywhere she went, waited on day and night and generally treated like royalty. Rin did what she could to return his kindness, but as her hormones grew increasingly out of whack, she noticed she was unable to rein in some terrible mood swings. For the most part, she was conscious of her mean behavior. Rin was so ashamed when she snapped at him or reacted indifferently to things he was happy about, but when all she could think of was her soreness and expanding midsection, there was no way Obito was catching a break.

Her first trimester was horrific. Towards the end, Obito was experiencing a variant of Stockholm's syndrome: becoming a captive of Rin's but still loving her in spite of the mistreatment. There were some days Rin was too cranky to even acknowledge his existence, and a few times he went to the shed at the back of the house to weep because of the neglect. Other days Rin scrutinized him like the harshest inspector, becoming an unforgiving tyrant. And rarely, on the least often but most precious of occasions, Rin was her usual sweet self.

She became rounder and more stable. At about five months in, Rin was well-adjusted and mellow. Obito returned to his normal state as well, no longer crying or tormenting himself in response to Rin's moods. She felt a little less sick, but sometimes asked for back rubs when she couldn't tolerate the aches. He had only checked in with the Akatsuki once since Rin had become pregnant. They hadn't needed much from him anyway and so Obito swiftly returned home.

It was a mild spring. Most days they would go for walks whenever they could. They visited friends in town but avoided Atsumi and her family at all costs, knowing Rin could be quickly provoked by the I-did-it-before-you mother. They bought supplies locally and set up the baby's room in the bedroom Rin had first occupied. Blankets, clothing, bottles, a bassinet and other assorted necessities were picked up from the village, and Rin made it her mission to organize the room nicely.

There was one thing they could not find in Shincha.

"Diapers." Junichi told them when they had stopped in Char's shop, "Everyone is asking, but we just don't have them…at least, not enough of 'em. They sell too fast to resupply, and we need to get them from the Maple Village. You might as well go straight there and stock up when the time comes."

Of all things to worry about, Rin thought, but Obito put her concerns to rest and assured he would get them.

And so on a warm spring day Obito and Rin parted in the garden and he set out. He had forgone his mask knowing that he wouldn't be recognized by anyone. Obito had been to the Maple Village a few times, but that was before he had been reunited with Rin. He had cleverly brought a ninja-tool scroll with him to seal away large quantities of what they needed. It would make for fewer return trips. It was a three-day journey there.

'Wow they really built this place up!' He thought to himself, noticing the dojo had been redone and the main street of the village had a variety of new stores.

Obito bought himself lunch at a sushi bar and then investigated the shops. He zeroed in on a maternity store and nearly bought them out of not only diapers but medicine, linens and toys as well. Maybe it was too much, but he could always sell the surplus to Char's shop for other families, he thought.

Next door, a beautiful robe in a display window caught Obito's eye. It was a woman's robe with a rainbow of floral embroidery. He went inside the shop and took a look at it. 'I'm not sure if this will fit Rin properly now…but once the baby comes she might like to wear it.' It was too pretty to pass up and it would remind her of the garden. Obito bought it and stored it away with the rest of his haul.

He had turned west to visit the dojo on the far side of town. The crowds had thinned out as the day wore on, and he could smell frying dough at the sweet shop blocks ahead of him. He smiled. It reminded him of his childhood. Obito thought twice about it, realizing it wasn't just the atmosphere and scents bringing him back to the old days; it was something he had seen. Long, white hair.

He stopped and focused his eyes on a person who he recognized. Standing in front of a stand a few meters away, haggling down the price of the tobacco he wanted, was Jiraiya.

'Jiraiya-sama is here! What do I-?' Obito felt panic shoot through him, 'I shouldn't. I haven't reached out to anyone, not even Minato-sensei. It wouldn't make sense for me to just pop up out of the blue…no good could come of it.'

But there was an overpowering nostalgia tempting him to reach out to Leaf; to distinguish the past. Jiraiya was his teacher's master, the man they had spent time with when Minato could not take them on missions…the same person they turned to for dirty novels as well as wisdom. Jiraiya could probably handle it, Obito thought.

'What do I say?' He wondered. A lot had happened.

Obito took a few steps towards the Toad Sage, willing himself to stay calm. When he was a few paces away and Jiraiya had successfully bargained for his indulgence, preparing to leave, they were bound to walk into each other. Obito knew that he had to set himself apart from the crowd. He had to make himself known before this fleeting moment passed.

"How are you, Gama-sennin?"

Jiraiya paused. His eyes fell on Obito and skimmed him over, initially devoid of any friendliness or recognition, but then he realized he was being approached by a young and respectful person. The older man's frown disappeared, for the sake of courtesy, and was replaced by the well-meaning smile that he gave most people.

"Oh. Do I know you?"

Obito swallowed and gave a slight bow, trying to sell it, "Yes, you should."

Jiraiya was confused, "Really? Damn, I'm sorry. I am just having a rotten time of putting names to faces these days…"

"That's okay. I didn't always look like this." Obito pointed to the scars on his face, "You knew me when I was a kid. Can you recall?"

He was really trying his best, scouring his memory for anything that resembled the person he was talking to. Jiraiya shut one eye and looked Obito over again, failing to pinpoint his identity, "You're killing me, kid. So you're from Leaf?"

Obito nodded, "I am. I see that you don't remember…"

"What do you expect from a man my age?" Jiraiya griped, "I apologize if I hurt your feelings, but you don't exactly-" He stopped dead. The young man looked at him with a fully developed Sharingan in his right eye. Jiraiya closed his mouth which had been hanging agape, "Er-hem! You're an Uchiha."

"Uchiha Obito." He clarified, "Minato-sensei taught me."

Jiraiya just about shit himself. He grabbed Obito roughly by the arm, pulled him closer, and gave him a good, thorough look. Slightly terrified, Obito allowed Jiraiya to hold his chin and turn his face side to side, examining, poking his chest, tapping the top of his head to measure his height. He pulled Obito from the side of the road to the privacy of an empty alley.

"What the fucking hell are you doing here?" Jiraiya screeched, "You're supposed to be dead! You were reported KIA!"

"I know!" Obito waved his hands, "I'm sorry but I couldn't just let you go by without saying anything!"

Stymied, Jiraiya rubbed his temples as he spoke, "So this is when I ask…how are you alive?"

"That's a long story."

"Why didn't you reach out to the village?" He jabbed.

With a hurt expression, Obito looked down, "I couldn't…"

"Bullshit." Jiraiya looked angry, "You were needed there."

"You're hardly ever around either!"

"At least I take responsibility and show up once in a while; I don't play dead!"

"I can explain," Obito promised, "If you want me to."

The Toad Sage huffed before stepping out onto the road again, "For Minato's sake…you had better."

They went straight to a bar. Without divulging anything about Leaf first, Jiraiya demanded that Obito give a true and proper account of what happened.

He explained everything: from being pinned under a boulder and gifting his Sharingan to Kakashi, being discovered by the Akatsuki who used him as a henchman, the years without memory, regaining it, and then settling in Shincha to protect people he had grown close to. When he mentioned Rin's name Jiraiya held up a hand in Obito's face, warning him to stop.

He refilled his glass with sake and downed it all at once. He refilled it again. Jiraiya returned his attention to Obito, "Go on! You were saying some bizarre stuff about your teammate…"

"Well…" Obito scratched his cheek, "Rin realized who I was after I helped her save a patient."

"She did?" Jiraiya was glaring, "And did she send any word to Leaf about your status? No!" He sipped his wine again and slammed his glass down on the counter, "It's unbelievable! How is it even possible that two of Minato's students could be so unreliable! Kakashi puts you both to shame in terms of duty!"

"But he always did." Obito reminded him.

"Argh!" He was incredibly frustrated, "Obito…I really just want to strangle you. I'd never hurt a woman, least of all Rin, but still…you really dropped the ball. Your absence is inexcusable."

"Please don't lecture me on that." Obito replied icily, "Anyone but you can lecture me on that."

"You know what, kid?" Jiraiya tipped back more sake and smiled, "Fuck you."

"How can you accuse me of being any more selfish than you are? That's a joke."

"But you are." Jiraiya handed him a big, fat, fully-endorsed reality check.

Obito let his head fall to the counter with a painful thump. It was true. He was leading the most selfish, wonderful life he ever could have wished for. He was just as guilty as he was happy.

"Alright, enough of that…" Jiraiya pulled him upright by the back of his shirt, "So you and Rin found each other. Super unlikely…but you did. It's just as well. Then what happened?"

"We took care of the people in Shincha and lived together." Obito lowered his voice, "Then…we got married."

Jiraiya took Obito's full, untouched glass of wine and drank from it.

They were silent for a while, listening to the ambient noise of the tavern.

Jiraiya sighed while refilling both glasses, "You married your teammate."

"I did."

"I wish I could have done that." Jiraiya mused, "But she always beat the hell out of me."

Obito had heard of how Tsunade would not hesitate to bring Jiraiya within an inch of his life. He shuddered and then sipped his drink.

"What are you doing out here if you and Rin live in Shincha?" Jiraiya asked, "The Maple Village is out of the way."

"You're right, it is out of the way, but this is the only place that had the supplies we needed." Obito admitted as his voice grew quieter with each word, "We're…expecting…our baby…in four months…"

"Holy shit. You're a scoundrel." Jiraiya told him.

"I am not! It was her idea."

"It was your idea. It's obvious." The Sage deadpanned, "Nice try."

They gulped simultaneously. When they were out of wine they ordered a new bottle.

"You're awfully young to be a father." Jiraiya reminded him.

"I know. But I'm happy."

"Well that's what matters…but I guess you have no intention of raising your child in Leaf?"


"No clan association?"


"Shinobi training?"

"Maybe. Just for protection."

"Pft!" Jiraiya cracked up, "I can hardly believe all of this. It's so fucked up."

"I don't think it is." Obito grumbled, "What are you doing all the way out here, Jiraiya-sama?"

"I'm…" He trailed off, "Getting my head right."

The young man was intrigued, "You are?"

"I've basically been an alcoholic for these past years. I couldn't write. I couldn't think." Jiraiya confessed, "Not since Minato died."

Obito's heart lurched. So this was what the world outside had to offer; the world beyond his perfect world. The tidings Jiraiya had to share were not going to be very good, Obito knew.

Teary-eyed, Obito asked, "What happened to him?"

"He was doing alright. He was Hokage. He married Kushina. Kakashi was in his ANBU and nothing could touch him." The Sage recalled, "And I hate to fill you with pre-delivery fear, but…he died the night his son was born. He and Kushina both died."

Obito's hands fisted, feeling an empathetic and powerful fury fill him, "How?"

"The theory goes like this, from what the Third gathered…we understood that a seal weakens when a woman is in labor…but Minato had that under control. The Kyuubi escaped, despite his efforts, and attacked the Leaf Village. They sacrificed their lives to seal the Fox inside their baby." Jiraiya recounted, "The reason it stinks of foul-play is that both of Kushina's attendants and ANBU guards outside were found murdered. I suspect someone knew what was happening that night and took advantage…"

"Oh my god…" Obito held his head in his hands.

"Yeah. I couldn't deal with it. I thought about killing myself after I learned all of that." Jiraiya admitted, "I never should have left them. If I had been around maybe I would have noticed something wasn't right…someone was watching."

"Who could have planned something like that?"

"An Uchiha, they say." He replied grimly, "They can control the Fox with their Sharingan. Oddly enough…I don't think your clan was responsible. Many of your clansmen even have alibis for that night, generally speaking. I dug up some info. It just…didn't add up. Of course, the council accused them anyway and it all went to shit behind the scenes…and my Sensei is now the acting Hokage and trying to keep everyone calm. Years passed and they just couldn't rebuild trust…until finally..." He stopped himself.

'I can't tell him.' Jiraiya refused to speak about what had become of the Uchiha clan, 'What would be the point of bringing Obito down any lower? Not when he's outside of the situation entirely…'


He snapped out of his contemplation and looked at the younger man.

"Did something happen?"

"No." Jiraiya lied, "But I don't think it'll change anytime soon…the friction between Leaf and your clan…"

Obito sat in silence, reflecting on what Jiraiya was saying to him. There was tension between Leaf and the Uchiha. It was disappointing. Obito truly hoped a member of his clan wasn't responsible for Minato and Kushina's early demise, or he would be very interested in flaying the culprit. Jiraiya had indicated this scenario was not likely, so it eased his apprehension somewhat.

"It's just one more reason for me to keep my distance." Obito decided, "I can't juggle the clan with Rin and the baby."

"I guess that makes sense."

"And the other reason…" He added.

"What other reason?"

"I am a henchman for the Akatsuki. If I returned to Konoha…if I build a life there and take missions, they would notice if I went missing…and they might suspect where I ended up." Obito put it into perspective, "I'm keeping up appearances with them."

"The Akatsuki…" Jiraiya muttered. The cogs in his head were beginning to turn, "Orochimaru was part of that organization…"

"He was until he left it. I saw his replacement." Obito shook his head, "They're a dreadful pack."

"I want to keep tabs on that organization, considering they want to accumulate Tailed Beasts." Jiraiya announced, "It'll help the kids."

Confused, the younger man gave his attention to the Sage, "What kids are you talking about?"

"Minato's son is named Naruto." Jiraiya told him, "He is now the jinchuriki for the Kyuubi. He's a little scrap now but I already caught him running away from the village once. I sent him home…but he brought an entourage with him."

"An entourage, huh?" Obito chuckled.

"Yeah…it gave me such a headache…he found a boy-genius who has a rare Kekkei Genkai, as well as the jinchuriki for the Ichibi."

"That's…pretty weird." Obito conceded, "And you brought them all to Leaf?"

"Where was I going to put 'em?"

"Right…but…maybe you should be with them now. They're still so small."

"I tried. I told you, I'm an alcoholic. It wasn't working out." Jiraiya gruffed at him, lighting up his pipe, "Those kids picked on me every chance they got because they could see what a bum I am. Once I clean up then I'll consider checking on them. Sarutobi-sensei recommended that as well."

"Hm. His name is Naruto…"Obito mumbled, "I bet the child of the Hokage has a pretty pampered life."

"He's living on public assistance."

"What?" He was astonished.

"No one can know who he is. Every enemy Minato ever had would come running like someone rang a dinner bell. They'll want revenge for the war, most likely. Naruto has his mother's name for protection." Jiraiya filled him in, "The Third's looking after him and the other squirts. They'll be okay."

"There's got to be…something I can do without being in Leaf…" Obito ground out, frustrated.

"Well…" Jiraiya blew out a line of smoke, "You could be my in."


"With the Akatsuki. With Orochimaru. You're only working for the Akatsuki now, right?" The Sage confirmed, "Then act as a double-agent and feed information between them. Screw them over and slow them down!" He recommended, "Orochimaru wouldn't mind a low-maintenance, disposable informant. Give him good info he can work with, and you'll be walking in the front door before long…"

"That could get dangerous."

"It will get dangerous, but you seem to be…" Jiraiya gave him a sideways glance, "Quite dangerous yourself. You've been molded by an unpredictable life. You'd perform well in the ANBU, like Kakashi did."

"Well that isn't in the cards." Obito sighed.

"Help me." The Sage requested, "I've figured out I'm not a miracle worker. I need someone on my side picking up the pieces with me."

"If I do…" Obito was considering it, "Would you tell anyone about me in Leaf?"

"Maybe I shouldn't. This would work better off the books, but…" He sighed, "I really should tell Kakashi about you two…"

Obito looked terrified.

Jiraiya sneered at him, "That face…that's the face of someone who is too afraid to tell the truth to his friend. You're scared that he'll be angry at you, right? Right. Well he should! Kakashi should feel betrayed finding out that someone he mourns every day is not dead. That's a shitty thing to do to your friend."

"Enough!" Obito begged.

"No. I'm still pissed at you." Jiraiya grunted, "I'm glad you're alive…but I'm not letting you off the hook."

"I'll do it." Obito told him, deadly serious, "I'll get you intel that no one if Leaf will ever have. You'll be way ahead of the curve, I swear it." He lowered his eyes, "But don't…tell Kakashi."

"I won't. It'd be cruel for him to find out indirectly. He deserves to see you in person…and you can apologize that way." Jiraiya agreed, "I don't care how you handle it. Just don't wait until you're an old man…I've found out that you can't inspire as much change once you're my age. Don't let his life go by."

Obito nodded, heartbroken, but still very much on the same wavelength as the Toad Sage.

"Well then…" Jiraiya puffed on his pipe, "No more drinking for me. No more fucking around. If you're getting serious…then I definitely have to get it together. I owe it to Minato and every person I've ever let down…even Naruto."

"How will we correspond?"

"Hmm…" Jiraiya scratched his chin, "We need to be smart about it. We should pick multiple locations and switch it up or else we'll draw too much attention." Jiraiya looked at his companion, "Let's meet back here first. I'll still be in the area. After that: Ine, Apple Village, the Jiri Zen temple…anything to the outskirts where people won't notice."

"Right." Obito nodded, "The next check-in with the Akatsuki will be in two months. I'll go learn what I can and then find you here. After that we'll be waiting for the baby, so…it could take some time. I won't try contacting Orochimaru until I'm sure Rin is okay on her own."

"I'll have to send Toads to Shincha to find you, I guess."

"If all else fails I'll track you with Sesshu." Obito told him, "We'll be in touch."

Jiraiya stood from the bar and cracked his neck, "Yeah. This is…probably one of the riskiest things I've ever tried." He smiled, "But something tells me you and I can pull it off."

Obito was surprised he had abandoned a new bottle of wine on the counter, "You don't want that, Jiraiya-sama?"

"No. I'm getting my shit together now. I don't need it. Besides…" Jiraiya informed him, "You're paying for it."

As soon as Obito returned home he woke Rin from a nap, as humanely as possible, and chronicled his encounter with Jiraiya. She was shocked by everything he recounted, but also glad they could assist the village from afar. She did question if Jiraiya really wouldn't disclose anything about them to Leaf, or to Kakashi, at the very least.

"I'm just…surprised that he expects us to confront Kakashi." Rin admitted, "It seemed like he wanted to throw us to the wolves and make us pay for avoiding him."

"Jiraiya-sama definitely thought about it." Obito agreed, flopping onto the bed, "But that would have generated more work for him than he was ready to deal with. It's our responsibility."

They laid side-by-side and stared up at the ceiling, lost in thought.

Obito broke the silence, "I got you a present, Rin. You can try it on later."

"Oh?" She was delighted, "Thank you! But will this belly of mine fit in it?"

He took a look at the small globe that was her stomach, and then rubbed circles on top of it with his hand, "There's a chance it'll fit…" Obito's raised his eyebrows, "It's moving."

She nodded sleepily, "I know…this baby is lined up perfectly to kick my gallbladder right now. It's been rough…"

"Ouch." He leaned down and spoke to her stomach, "Quit kicking your Mom, baby! She's trying so hard to take care of you!"

Rin laughed, enjoying how he kissed her abdomen and insisted, "Kick me instead! I'm your Dad. I won't go through what your Mom has to, so I don't mind if you pick on me!"

She hummed happily while he chuckled, moving to straddle her knees. Obito bent and hovered over Rin's face, "You know…I kind of like you round."

"It's not the worst. It's not great. I'm glad this isn't forever; let's just leave it at that."

"Of course, but you really do look beautiful…" Obito told her, smiling like a wolf, "We haven't tried anything since we found out about the baby."

Rin frowned in thought, "To be honest…I've wondered that myself. Since I started feeling less woozy I've been thinking about it."


"Yes I have! I've also thought of something else," Rin added, "You can't argue with me on this one."

"Well what is it?"

"We will not, under any circumstances, name this baby after Kakashi." She told him point-blank.

"You…are mean."

"I knew you were thinking it."

"We wouldn't pick that one if it's a girl!" Obito protested, "And what's wrong with that name, huh?"

"A lot of things. I just want an original name." Rin's voice was smooth, "But if you agree with me…I'll make it worth your while."

He looked at her face, deliberating, a bit put-out she had shut down one of his ideas even before he expressed it. She was good.

"Make it worth my while."

With preparations to welcome the baby virtually complete, Obito and Rin went back to work on the garden for the coming summer weather. Rin moved slowly and carefully, but she was still handier than Obito when it came to tilling and planting. It had been two months since Obito had spoken with Jiraiya.

Knowing the plan was in motion, Obito kissed Rin goodbye on a breezy morning and set off to meet with the Akatsuki. He was surprised to learn that Zetsu had tasked him with a week-long infiltration of a Cloud stronghold, hoping to discern if the warehouse was a good place to corner a jinchuriki who visited frequently. It was unfortunate.

'I thought I would be in and out like usual…but it looks like I'm not picking up food or contraband today.' Obito thought in irritation. He did not want to leave Rin alone for so long. While such things happened occasionally, they ought not to happen when he was eager to meet his first child.

In Shincha, Rin and Sesshu were enjoying the sunshine as they strolled up the mountainside. Considering that she was her own caregiver, Rin decided walking would be good, light exercise. The peak was lofty and the green of the forest rolled and swayed in the soft winds. She looked down on Shincha and the valley from a ledge, letting her legs dangle.

"You know…" She said distractedly to her dog, "I can imagine what I would be doing now at this exact moment if I were in Konoha."

Sesshu turned an ear her way from where he was laying, "You can?"

"Yes." Rin affirmed, "I wouldn't be married and I definitely wouldn't be expecting a baby." Her eyelids drooped, "I would be clinging to Kakashi since Minato-sensei is gone. I'd put in for some shifts at the hospital and then get loaned out to teams who need a medic-nin for missions. I would watch my sister raise her children and listen to my Dad go on and on about making something of my life."

Sesshu flapped his tail, disliking it, "How dull."

"But," She continued, "Obito told me about Naruto. He's Minato and Kushina's son." Rin smiled to herself, "I'd be looking after him right now."

"Ah." Sesshu preferred that bit of positivity, "Good. Obito said that he has two friends who shadow his every step."

"Yeah…I didn't catch their names." She wondered, "I wouldn't mind raising them too."

"You have a good heart." The dog told her, "Most people wouldn't want to go near a child who is a jinchuriki."

"That's my Sensei's baby. I don't care. He would be safe with me."

"That sort of selfless love…probably would have made Kakashi notice you." Sesshu pointed out.

She scoffed, "Yeah, right."

"Why would he not feel as obligated as you to look after Minato's boy?"

Rin sighed, "Maybe. I just can't picture it." She plucked a violet from the grass beside her, "Truthfully though…that wouldn't be anywhere near as perfect as this. I love being with Obito."

"Me too…"

She riffled through her bag and retrieved a chicken thigh for Sesshu and a bento for herself. They ate contentedly and watched the migration of clouds through the valley.

While crunching on a carrot, Rin thought, 'Maybe I'll name my baby after the clouds…' She considered Obito's opinion, 'He might get cranky about me not allowing the name Kakashi…or complain about a reference to Kumogakure…I don't want to be tacky.' She wanted to be creative. It wasn't that easy. Rin pondered while she popped hand rolls in her mouth, her eyes trained on the horizon all the while.

Sesshu burped and then shook his head when lunch was done.

Rin finished her bento and got to her feet, "You know what, Sesshu? I just had an idea." She patted her ninken's back and set out, "If I want to dig up some uncommon names I should look through those books we have! I'll bet I can find something good!"

"They ought to be good for something besides collecting dust." He agreed.

She slowly picked her way down a gravel trail that would lead into the thick of the forest. The bubbling of the stream nearby was melodious. While watching Sesshu easily navigate his way down ahead of her, Rin had an uneasy feeling, 'I am definitely feeling a backache from hell coming on…' She looked incredulously at her stomach, 'No. It's still too early. Too early." Rin frowned, 'Ow. Are you going to cause me problems, small fry?'

She felt a 'pop' and then began cursing like a sailor. This got Sesshu's attention. The dog ran back to Rin and asked what the matter was.

The woman waddled frantically, trying to ignore the wet mess that had ruined her nice skirt. "Okay, let's not panic…" She said sidelong to the dog, "We're only at the top of a mountain and my water broke…several weeks early!"

"You're panicking." The dog whimpered.

"Well yeah! I am!" Rin screeched, "This isn't supposed to hurt yet! Gosh…it's like my back went through a meat-grinder a second ago…" Her expression was pure confusion, "What did I do? This baby's early! And this is supposed to, you know, take a couple of hours!"

"You're special." Sesshu supplied.

"No! I don't want to be special! I want to be like every other has-it-easy mom like that shrew, Atsumi!" Rin howled, "Ahh…it's happening again…"

They had passed through the tree line and Sesshu was turning circles around Rin, who was moving far too slow to reach the house, let alone get help in the town below. She continued for a half hour, wailing, complaining, and wondering why the woods seemed endless when she was crippled with shooting pains. 'I can tough it out. It's less than a mile.' Rin was furious with her uncooperative body, 'I'm a shinobi! I can handle this! Women have been doing this long before me…'

She stepped off of the dirt trail and leaned on a tree. Rivulets of perspiration ran down the side of her face and neck. 'It's no good.' She counted the interval between one life-changing cramp and the next, 'These are too close together. It's so unfair…' She sobbed for a second, 'I know some women can wait all day before this happens…but I just went and got myself stranded. I really can't move anymore.'

"Rin, what do you want me to do?" Sesshu asked, whining, "Do you want me to bring someone here?"

"If you did…it would take a while for them to get up here." Rin observed, hobbling further into a shady glade, "And then…what would they do? They can't really bring me the rest of the way down. I need to face the facts…" She stopped walking, "This is happening here."


"Yeah, it sucks. I need you to stay with me." Rin told him, "I can't protect myself right now. I need to concentrate."

"At least it's a nice day out…"

"I'm gonna smack you if you say that again."

The dog was mildly entertained by her feistiness.

More time passed, swirling, immeasurable, and Rin had eventually settled against an oak with a grassy niche. She alternated between sitting and standing. After a time she was on her feet again, bent with discomfort, panting and trying to think. 'I'm pretty sure the head is where it needs to be…low enough…I just wish it didn't feel like a bowling ball weighing down on a pinhole.' She did an informal check below, 'That…is pretty dilated for a morning's hike. Not all the way, though. Maybe I have more time?' A contraction slammed into her and she groaned, still angry, fighting back against the pain indignantly.

'Okay, it hurts, but that's not my real problem.' She acknowledged, 'Baby is going to be small and fragile…he or she could be sick.' Rin pulled her shirt off, which was the only the only thing she could spare for the child. She removed her skirt too, knowing she wouldn't miss it. Since no one was around and Sesshu was oblivious, it didn't matter what she looked like. She set the garment aside and leaned back. The bark was rough on her skin but she was hardly conscious of it. Rin tried to remember how to breathe better than a gasping fish.

Sesshu waited a meter away from her, statue-like and loyal.

The pain intensified to a degree she didn't even think was possible. The sun was moving overhead, proceeding into the afternoon, and Rin could no longer distinguish minutes from hours. She was wracked with pain that came in regular bursts. It had almost annihilated her coherent, medical thought processes entirely.

A long time passed before she shimmied down the tree and kept her legs parted, gnashing her teeth. 'I could be insane, but…pushing might be a good idea now.' Rin checked herself again, 'If that isn't enough space to come into this world then I don't know what is…'

"Hey," She rasped to Sesshu, "Don't freak out. I've got to push. If I tell you I am having trouble then you have to follow my instructions." She added, "If I get stuck…I may need you to transform and help me cut this kid out…"

Sesshu was horrified, eyes wide and ears alert. This was above and beyond what was expected of most ninken.

"Yeah? That's too nauseating? How do you think I feel?" Rin growled, "I'm giving it my best here…but I don't know what's going to happen."

"I understand."

"Good." Rin gritted her teeth and bore down. It didn't feel like it budged anything. A minute later she tried again with a battle cry. She repeated the routine for a while, estimating her limits.

'I'm exhausted already. I had contractions for five hours or maybe longer…that's not really that much…but pushing can go quicker. I've got to try…I've got to get out of here!'

She roared, trying again. Muscles and nerve endings sent signals of death to her brain. It commanded in a way that was so instinctual that she had to obey. She ached and fought.

Rin counted. She took a breath. She pushed again. She was able to rally, and while the functioning bit of her brain was aware of an emergence, Rin had to ignore it in favor of following through. Being a kunoichi worked to her advantage, as she understood her body was stronger and more in-tune with orders than most women. Pushing was actually easier than she had initially believed.

It was surprising how a gravity-friendly squat helped. The child arrived abruptly and Sesshu spooked, jumping up to his feet, and then paced nervously. Rin caught the baby and immediately began her examination, wild-eyed and focused, 'It's a boy. The cord is free, thank goodness…but…he's not breathing.' Her heart pounded with pure fear for a moment.

She changed gears, immune to her pain and tearing, and wiped the boy off with her skirt. Rin cleaned mucus away as best she could and then kneeled down, laying him flat on his back. The baby was not moving or making any noise. She tried to stimulate him but as the seconds passed with no response, resuscitation became the best option.

Rin was thankful she had thoroughly educated herself. With extreme gentleness and precision, she put her hand on the baby's forehead and titled his head back, opening the main airway. Two, tiny short breaths into the baby's mouth were followed by chest compressions, which she carried out with a finger on the smallest breastbone she had ever seen. The little one jerked but couldn't seem to catch a breath. She filled his lungs again with air, rubbed his chest, and watched him cough. A small scream followed. Rin sighed.

'We're not out of this yet…' She thought. She looked like a real professional pinching off and tying the baby's cord. With what chakra control she could muster, Rin used a chakra scalpel to make a clean cut.

It was exhilarating to bundle up the newborn in her shirt, even if he was still messy. Rin picked a clean spot in the grass and laid back, balancing him on her chest, 'He'll be warm here.'

Sesshu looked at her, awaiting directions.

"Relax, Sesshu." Rin advised him, "We're going to be okay. I need to rest for a bit, but I think I can make it home."

"Are you still in pain?"

"Yes, but it's not so bad." She leaned her head back, "It was kind of a relief to get him out."

She wasn't sure how severely she had torn down below. It stung considerably. Her back wasn't as excruciating as it had been before, but Rin noted her strength had been sapped. 'If I can just get home and wash this little guy up…then I can take it easy.' She still had to pass the placenta, heal herself and watch the child like a hawk in case he had any issues. Rin measured the baby in her hands, approximating his size, 'Hm. Not too bad…he's less than seven pounds but he's got some meat on him…'

Rin held the boy close on her bosom. He was constricted comfortably in a bang-up swaddling job, 'And I did it with my shirt!' She thought proudly. His breathing was steady. He had only cried for a few minutes before tuckering out. She wondered if that indicated weakness, 'Maybe pneumonia or infection…I'll check soon…' Or maybe he was just tired like she was.

Sunset was hastening. Rin laughed, realizing she had missed the day while being trapped in the hysteria of her mind and body.

"How could that have gone so fast and yet so slowly?" She wondered.

Her dog definitely understood what she meant.

Once Rin had rested sufficiently she staggered to her feet, clutching her infant, and ignored her nudity. She walked slowly, wincing in pain with each step. It was difficult and the path was long, but she knew it was better to be home than to be at the mercy of the mountain at night. Sesshu stayed beside her, allowing her to put a hand on his head for some balance.

"You didn't even have the chance to look for a name." The ninken observed.

"Right now he's okay without one." Rin decided.

"He was born under cirrus clouds, so call him Makigumo."

Rin squinted her eyes and thought, "Nah. It doesn't sound good."


"No. I don't want to name him after anyone I've known."

"Then what do you suggest?"

"I suggest…" She hobbled along the long bend that would end at her house, "Nothing. I'll name him whenever the time is right. I said I wanted to read first and be inspired."

"Call him the Hokage."

Rin laughed at the idea, kissing the top of the baby's head, "That would be great."

At the end of the long and uncomfortable walk they arrived home. The sun was sinking below the horizon. 'Thank goodness no one spotted me…' Rin thought, 'It's hard for a naked woman to explain her baby needs clothes more than his momma.'

She shuffled through the dim house to the bathroom. Sesshu stood in the doorway in case there was an emergency. She was feeble and clumsy, but Rin managed to get to a treatment box where she kept an aspirator. She suctioned the baby's nose again to be sure it was clear. Rin dabbed ointment in his eyes to prevent infection and then moved on.

It was nice to hear the little Hokage cry as she weakly turned on the tap and filled the tub. Rin soaked a cloth with water and wiped him down from head to toe, revealing fresh, newborn skin. Then it was her turn to wash up, although in her case, Rin had to use a sanitized cloth and heal herself a bit more. It was a rudimentary fix, but Rin believed she had closed herself up as best she could for the time. She sluggishly entered the tub.

"Oh…my…gosh…" Rin sat in the warm water, "This is amazing…"She could hardly believe it; how it seemed to remedy every ache. She cradled the baby in her arms above water and looked down at him, taken aback by the small set of black eyes staring up at her. Rin smiled, "I am exactly who you think I am…and I love you."

The baby had Obito's coloring, as far as she could tell. His hair and eyes were as dark as ink, made more intense by his small frame. 'Maybe as he gets older more of my features will shine through!'

Rin turned and looked at Sesshu, who had finally relaxed on the floor, "Sesshu…I think I can handle this on my own now. I want you to go find Obito."

"Are you certain, Rin?"

"Yes. Before you leave Shincha stop by Yoshige and Nozomi's house. Tell them what happened so they can check on me." She smiled, "Then go bring Obito home."

The dog prepared to leave and asked, "Will you name him in the meantime?"

"I'll just wait until his Dad gets to meet him," Rin concluded, "In the meantime, he's my little Hokage."

Sesshu experienced three long days of tracking. First he had scented Obito at the territories bordering the Land of Lightning, but when he discovered the trail was stale the ninken about-faced. He sniffed and raced through rice paddies and wheat fields back up into the mountains, passing briefly through the Earth Country again.

Frustrated, the dog could only wonder what had taken Obito on such a roundabout route. It took another day before Sesshu picked up a fresh scent. He thundered through the undergrowth, scaring up birds and small creatures. By traveling day and night, Sesshu closed the gap in two days. The ninja hound came closer and closer as he trekked through a dense maple forest, and arrived finally at the trading town that Shincha often imported from.

It was early in the afternoon and Sesshu wandered down the main street with his nose pressed to the ground, 'He must be close by…' Townsfolk were startled by the enormous dog prowling past, and were even more concerned when Sesshu stepped through the open door of a tavern. He stopped at the entrance. At a nearby booth, Obito had his mask on and was seated with Jiraiya, conversing about whatever he had just done for the Akatsuki. Sesshu barked to get his attention.

Obito leapt up from the table. Sesshu's presence conveyed urgency; he knew Rin would not send him unless she had to. Obito crossed over to Sesshu and motioned that they go outside.

"Is something the matter? What are you doing here, boy?" His voice trilled with worry.

"The baby came early!" Sesshu informed him, "You should return home as soon as possible."

Obito was astounded, "Are they okay?"

"They were when I left. Our friends will be looking after Rin until she's strong again."

Jiraiya poked his head out of the bar, giving them a questioning look, "Does this mean we're done debriefing? What the hell is going on?"

"Rin had the baby!" Obito chirped.

The Sage raised his eyebrows, "Damn. She's quick."

"You won't believe how it happened either," Sesshu added, "We were on top of a mountain at the time."

Jiraiya and Obito's jaws dropped.

Obito hustled. The man moved like wind on that summer night and did not stop once. He made it back into town on the evening of the second day of his journey, Sesshu wheezing beside him, and raced up the mountainside in the dark. It was comforting to see their house lit, tucked in the blackness of the woods like a beacon. He quietly entered, supposing if the baby was asleep he ought not to run in shouting. It was strange how his heart was fluttering.

Exhausted, Sesshu collapsed on his rug and moved no more.

Obito switched the lamp in the living room off and continued to the bedroom. It was dimly lit by a candle. Rin was propped up in bed and breastfeeding. She gave him a tired smile, "Welcome home…"

Still in shock, Obito crept closer. He pushed a few books aside and took the spot beside her. For a few moments he confirmed reality, looking between her and the baby. He placed his hand on Rin's cheek and touched his forehead to hers, "Rin, are you alright? I should have been here…"

She made a quiet sound of disagreement, "It couldn't be helped. I'm fine! This little boy was the one who chose the day of his arrival."

"A boy," Obito glued his eyes to the baby, memorizing him, "Did you name him yet?"

"No. I picked a name I liked but I wanted to wait for you first." Rin said quietly, "He's been waiting seven days for a name."

"I'm sorry I took so long…"

"Stop apologizing, Obito. You're here now." She reminded him. The baby was done eating. Rin helped him unlatch and then gently patted him against her shoulder to burp. She grinned at her husband, "Feel his head! He's so soft and fluffy!"

Obito stroked the new downy hair and was immediately in love.

Burped and satisfied, the baby began to drift off.

"He's not very fussy." Obito observed, "Is it okay if I hold him?"

"Sure." Rin helped him fit the baby in the crook of his arm, "There! He's been waiting to meet you."

He couldn't help but smile. The sleepy infant had enchanted Obito, waking up a whole new part of his spirit. "Tell me the name you picked, Rin." He encouraged.

"Well I liked the name in this book," She held up a novel, "The character's name was Hisahito."

Obito quailed, "You like that one?"

"Yeah! It sounds a bit like your name."

"Okay…but every time I hear it I'll think of what a coward the guy in the story was." Obito said grudgingly.

She balked, "A coward?"

"When I read it that character was kind of a flake…"

"Shoot." Rin frowned.

"Did you see the name Yuma in there?" Obito offered, "He's the warrior who rescues the royal family. I liked him."

"That's a short name."

"But it sounds good," He grinned at her, "Uchiha Yuma."

She paused, letting it sink in, "It does sound nice. It's much better than calling him Hokage."

By the time Obito had ended his reverie he had set foot back in Shincha. His heart felt a bit lighter, but he grieved for Kakashi and his loss. As a father, the emotions he felt when he thought of his only son were powerful and blinding. He assumed that Kakashi would feel that way as well.

Down the road near the Hirano's house Obito spotted Yuma and Sesshu pestering Fumitake. The older boy always tried to shrug Yuma off, not wishing to befriend him, but Yuma was persistent.

'He called Yuma weird and creepy once.' Obito recalled, 'That little imp! He's as unbearable as his mom. You don't want to be friends with him anyway, Yuma…'

His boy deserved to be surrounded by people who cared about him. Obito could imagine Yuma being the darling of any Academy class. Obito's thoughts turned to Leaf.

He wanted to be there for Kakashi. He wanted his child to have good friends.

'Yuma, I promise…when I sort it all out…when we bring you to Konoha…' He walked ahead to meet the boy half-way, 'You'll chase the same dream I did; that my Sensei did.' Yuma caught him and hugged him fiercely, 'And you'll achieve it.'