Disclaimer: I do this for fun and because my writing muse is a pest. I don't own this series, but I do own this plot.
Characters: Fugaku Uchiha, Mikoto Uchiha, Sandaime and Itachi Uchiha.
Warnings: mentioned character death
Fugaku Uchiha shook the soot from his hair with a blood-streaked, bruised hand and took a long, deep breath as he observed the large gathering of his family and clan in Evacuation Site 12. They were all stained with blood, tears and soot from the burning buildings the Kyuubi had destroyed in its rampage and the younger children were crying noisily, but they were safe and that was really all that mattered in the long run. His feet moved on their own, each step lighter and quicker than the last as he moved through the throng of his kinsman, closer to the worried, soot-smudged face of his beloved Mikoto and their sons. Without breaking his stride, he scooped the trembling form of his eldest son into his arms, pressing him close to his heart and murmuring that it was over now, even as he reached to pull his wife into an embrace with the other arm, ever careful of the wailing Sasuke she carried at her breast – and oh, gods, how he loved her so much and loved them and thank the gods they were safe because he wouldn't know what to do if he had lost them.
Itachi's tiny fingers curled tightly into the battered fabric of his jounin vest and Fugaku shifted the child to sit more comfortably on his hip. Mikoto leaned into his chest, making soothing noises to calm Sasuke, and he planted a tender kiss on her head, hugging them closer. He told them the Kyuubi was dead – that the Yondaime Hokage had given his life to kill it and had saved everyone. There the small family stayed, clinging to each other for what seemed like an eternity, until finally a distant cousin in a military police uniform called for Fugaku and they reluctantly drew apart, little Itachi latching back on to his mother's skirt like a makeshift lifeline.
Each step away from them felt akin to scaling a mountain, but Fugaku had a responsibility to Konoha and the clan that he could not turn away, not now, not when so many were looking to him to give orders and the survival of the village and, in turn, his family was depending on its leadership to carry through for them.
"There are fires in districts 13, 14 and 17, rubble is cutting off our access to districts 15 and 16," the policeman rattled off, worry painted across his features. "We've been rallying up volunteers with water jutsu under their belts, but until we can clear the rubble to get through, this site is cut off."
Fugaku nodded absently; he dared not give voice to the thought of who they might discover in the debris as they cleared it, but he knew without a doubt that not everyone had been lucky enough to escape the destruction the Kyuubi wrought. Instead, he gave instructions for clearing the path back into the city, dousing the fires and dispersing the family's limited amount of medic-nins across groups of search and rescue teams. Re-establishing communication and linking up with the other evacuation sites was now their top priority, but first they had to get the way cleared or the effort would be a waste. Still others, family members too young or not suited to the task, he ordered to set up tents throughout the evacuation site: there was no telling how long it would be before they could go home to their district, much less if their district was still intact.
And then Fugaku dove headfirst into the search and rescue effort himself, refusing to stand idly by and just give orders when he still had two perfectly useful hands. Each time he and his men found a person alive in the destruction despite the odds, Fugaku's eyes burned with relief that he could not find the energy to show. Each time they found one too late to help them, his eyes stung with grief and he could not look his men in the eyes. He could not help it – these people were his responsibility to protect and for each loss, he felt he had failed, that maybe if he had been a better leader and ordered the evacuation of his clan district even just a minute sooner, these lives would not have been wasted.
Fugaku dug harder, until he was rewarded with the sight of the scraped and soot-stained pale form of a little girl. She was shaken, but alive, huddled in a ball under a criss-crossed pile of beams that had saved her life from the collapsed roof and tile that had buried her. He could not conceal a smile as he assured her it was okay, gently lifted her out and passed her to the medic nin. But there were still more people to find and debris to clear, and he found himself already moving again, his kinsmen at his sides.
There would hopefully be many more such miracles tonight.
It was in the wee hours of the morning, the pre-dawn sky still largely dark, when Fugaku received a summons from the Sandaime Hokage. He popped a soldier pill, turned over command to his chief lieutenant, a cousin from his mother's side of the family, and made his way across the rooftops to the heart of Konoha. On the way, he noted that some sections of the city were in shambles, while others were blessedly free of harm and in the distance, he could still see a few smoldering, scattered fires. It was a sight that disturbed him on a fundamental level and he picked up the pace, closing the remaining distance in a long leap that put him on the street in front of the tower.
The tower was battered, but thankfully intact and the street cleared of the major debris. ANBU flickered in and out of sight, running messages and hovering protectively around the building. The heads of other clans were here as well, milling around and quietly talking with several higher-ranked jounin in charge of the city defense. On their lips were orders for searches and status reports and the names of the missing. They, too, had likely been summoned and had already reported to the Sandaime.
Fugaku entered the tower, the orders fading from hearing as he made the walk to the Hokage's office in near total darkness. The power must have been knocked out in the attack, but it didn't matter - he'd walked to that office so many times in his career as a shinobi that he could walk that hallway in his sleep. Dim candlelight appeared at the end of the stairs and, sighing, he ascended, holding out the summons scroll for the ANBU that were waiting for him to see. When he reached the top of the stairs, they made a show of examining the scroll before letting him pass and, on any other occasion, he might have made a friendly crack about knowing they'd been watching him since he entered the building, but this was not the time for jokes, so he moved on.
The Sandaime stood at the window of his office, his back to the door and hands clasped behind his back. His helmet and pipe lay on the desk and, just off to the side, a small makeshift cradle held a sleeping infant swaddled in white.
"You asked to see me, sir?" Fugaku asked, reluctant to break the silence.
The Sandaime turned slowly and, for perhaps the first time in a long time, Fugaku realized how old the great Professor looked. "How is your family, Fugaku-san?"
"They are safe," he replied, brushing absently at the soot on his jounin vest. "My clan is mostly accounted for and we've only suffered minor civilian losses."
At that, the Sandaime sighed and returned to the desk, sitting down in the chair stiffly. "A minor loss hurts no less than a great loss, Fugaku-san. I extend my condolences to their families and will request additional supplies to be sent to Site 12."
"Thank you, sir," he said, bowing. "We will have a full report on our district's status to you by noon."
The Sandaime nodded, absently letting his gaze drift to the occupant of the makeshift cradle next to the desk.
"Pardon my curiosity, sir," Fugaku began, "But who is that child?"
A sad smile graced the aged shinobi's lips. "This is the legacy of the Yondaime, the hero of Konoha: Naruto Uzumaki."
Fugaku's eyes widened as he looked a little closer at the infant, now clearly seeing the thick blond locks crowning the head. This child was-!
"Fugaku-san, I called you here for one other reason," the Sandaime continued, his expression now serious. "I am curious – is there any truth to the tale that the Sharingan can control the Kyuubi?"
The question was so unexpected and completely bizarre that Fugaku stared at the old shinobi, blinking in surprise.
"I remember, when I was young, Nidaime-sensei and his brother speaking of their battles with your ancestor and how he was able to control the Kyuubi with his eyes," the Sandaime continued. "It was a conversation I was not meant to overhear, but that was a long time ago and I thought little of it until now."
"I'm afraid I don't understand, sir," Fugaku said. "You don't think one of my clan had anything to do with this, do you?"
The Sandaime chuckled and shook his head. "No, no, Fugaku-san. I don't believe your clan was responsible for the appearance of the Kyuubi. But I am curious – do you believe the Sharingan could be used to control the bijuu, as your ancestor was supposed to have done?"
He'd heard stories, too – all Uchiha children had – about how their ancestor Madara could summon and control the nine-tailed fox with his unbeatable eyes. But no one had ever dared to try, lest their eyes prove too weak to control the monster. Even faced with the brunt of its force last night, he had quaked like a freshly-graduated genin in the path of the beast and the terrible killing intent that bathed its presence. "I suppose it could be possible," he admitted lamely. "No one has ever tried."
And no one ever will, he added mentally, now that the beast was dead.
"Fugaku-san, what I am about to tell you does not leave this room," the Sandaime said sternly. "The Yondaime was unable to kill the Kyuubi this night."
Fugaku felt his face drain of color. "But... I heard..."
"The Yondaime sealed the Kyuubi and made this child, Naruto Uzumaki, its jailor," the old shinobi regarded the infant again, his eyes softening. "He is a hero and he has only just begun his life."
He could only stare at the child, in partial horror and sadness. The Yondaime had given his life to burden his own legacy with that – that beast, in the name of saving the village. It was tragic and insane, but he knew in the way that all experienced, loyal shinobi know that the Yondaime had been prepared to sacrifice everything he held dear to protect the village at a moment's notice. That was what being the Hokage was, in the end: a strong leader protecting his people to the very last breath.
"The seal protecting Naruto is strong, but it will allow him to access the Kyuubi's chakra with training," the Sandaime continued. "You have seen for yourself how powerful this chakra can be, Fugaku-san, and I worry that there may come a day when he accesses too much."
"And you believe the Sharingan may be able to suppress that chakra," Fugaku concluded, earning a nod from the old shinobi. "Sir, do you have anyone particular in mind that you would like to watch over the boy?"
"Actually, I do," the Sandaime said, folding his hands on the desk. "I would prefer that your youngest son be the one to do it."
"Sasuke?" Fugaku blurted out in shock. "But he's barely three months old!"
The old shinobi smiled at him. "I believe he is the perfect fit. He'll already be in the same Academy classes as Naruto when he is old enough and there's a good chance they could even become friends."
Fugaku drew his lips into a scowl. "Itachi is a prodigy: he's the better choice."
"He's too old," the Sandaime countered. "Itachi will likely be graduating by the time Naruto and Sasuke enter the Academy and he likely will still remember the attack. Sasuke, in contrast, will have nothing to color his experience with the Yondaime's legacy and prevent him from protecting his fellow shinobi."
Fugaku harrumphed stubbornly, crossing his arms.
The Sandaime sighed and walked around the desk to put a hand on his shoulder. "Fugaku-san, I know about your clan's bloody tradition and your troubles with your clan elders. This is an opportunity to protect both your sons and change your clan for the better."
An icy chill ran through Fugaku's body. How had the Professor learned of his clan's dark secret? They had been careful to conceal the evidence and when he took up the mantle of leader, he'd made sure those cursed scrolls were hidden away to stop the bloodshed. He had done his best, but he still felt like the blood of the murders his kinsmen had committed was all on his hands. If only he had hidden those scrolls away sooner!
"I'm old, but I'm not blind," the Sandaime sighed. "The deaths have added up over the years. You, you're different than your father – you changed something in your clan for the better when you took over and I bet you pissed off your clan elders something awful with whatever it was you did. But I'm glad – fewer Uchiha have lost their siblings and friends because of you these past fifteen years. You're a loyal shinobi to your clan and your village, and you aren't afraid to protect them from themselves."
Fugaku looked down at the floor as his hands clenched. "You're asking me to more or less sacrifice my baby boy to protect Konoha."
"I know," the Sandaime said and looked again at the infant in the cradle with sad eyes. "It is a heavy burden, responsibility, but to be a good leader, one must be prepared to sacrifice the things he cares for most in order to protect them. My successor understood this and I believe you do as well."
There was a heavy silence and Fugaku looked out the window, to the lightening sky. Mikoto would likely kill him for making the decision without at least consulting her first, but the elders were restless ever since Sasuke's birth and Itachi was attracting too much of their attention for his comfort. He knew they were still angry at him for taking the scrolls and hiding them and he wouldn't put it past them to try and manipulate Itachi into finding them. He dreaded the day he'd hear Itachi refer to his brother as a 'spare' with all his heart and wished that he would never live to hear that cursed word come from the mouths of either of his sons.
But this... it was a risk and the elders would never let him hear the end of it, but if he gave Sasuke to Konoha to serve as the guardian of Kyuubi's jailor, then Sasuke would be beyond the ability of the elders to touch. And, as long as Sasuke was safe from that terrible tradition, it didn't matter quite so much that to Fugaku that his youngest was still breast-feeding and already on a mission.
Finally, he said, "Sasuke will never be a spare, I swear it. He and Itachi will change the Uchiha together, as brothers, and if this is the only way to ensure that future, so be it."
The Sandaime smiled and picked up his pipe. "So, who do you think I should put on Naruto and Sasuke's team?"
Fugaku blinked and then slowly began to chuckle as the dawn broke on the horizon. "Oh, I don't know – maybe some cute little girl who'll keep them in line. Besides, isn't it a bit early to be thinking about all that, sir?"
The Sandaime laughed.
Epilogue – Seven Years Later:
"Is it true, father?" Itachi asked. "That Sasuke's my spare?"
Fugaku drew his mouth in a thin line and clenched his hands. He'd suspected for some time now that Itachi knew, but this was the damning evidence. "I never want to hear you call your brother that again, Itachi."
"Why not? It's true, isn't it?" the twelve-year old asked, dark eyes flashing with barely concealed contempt and hunger – by the gods, who was this spiteful doppelganger who had replaced his son?
The patriarch scowled and gave him a cold look. "You would do well to forget you ever heard the word."
"I won't," Itachi said defiantly.
Fugaku walked away and then paused, his hand on the door. "You should. Especially since you are Sasuke's spare."
Itachi blanched momentarily and then his face twisted in anger and jealousy as he turned on his heels and stormed off to his room in a black rage. It seems he'd never considered there was a Catch 22 to the business of spares.
Fugaku sighed and turned to watch the sun setting on the Uchiha compound, thankful that Sasuke was staying late at school today.
AN: Plotbunny wouldn't leave me alone. Pater familias - the man who rules the family in ancient Roman households (and by family, I mean whole clan). Fugaku needed some love. He's described as a man of responsibility in the databook and I tried to carry that through that he cares for his family, for his clan, and for his village. They are his responsibility and he takes that seriously. The first two paragraphs and the one where he pulls the little girl out of the rubble were the ones I feel capture that the strongest. And I wouldn't argue he's OOC, we've never seen that much of him and the Kyuubi's pretty much just tromped through his backyard and he's relieved his family is safe.
There's also a subtheme that the Hokage serves as a Pater familias to the whole village, but that's subtle and you may not catch it right off.
This fic strongly suggests that the teams were picked well before they ever even started Academy. The teams actually are quite balanced and suited to the missions they're sent on, if you actually stop to think about it, so I'd never dream of changing them. Hey, and lookie there, Itachi shows his bitchy fuck-authority preteen side!