A/N: Okay, this is not the sequel I promised. It's just a one-shot that goes between them. Consider this to be going on during and immediately after the epilogue for 'Shinkirou' (so if you haven't read that, then this won't make much sense). And btw, you can all thank Foxy-Glove, Hebi R. and mountainelements for this - they asked about reunions and sparked my imagination.
The children shifted restlessly, a low murmur of young voices silenced by the harsh sound of an explosion outside of the walls. The little ones shrank closer together, all wide dark eyes in small, pale faces. The handful of adults - civilians, mostly, but there were a few kunoichi - traded worried glances.
And then one of the women looked across the group, slipping a radio earpiece off as she spoke. "Everyone, just hold on, okay? Konoha's shinobi have revolted, and it sounds like the Hokage's supporters are being driven back. Just be patient - we're going to get through this!" Her expression determined, Mikoto led the few members of the Uchiha clan who did not support Danzo's brutal reign into her home to wait out the revolution.
Seven hours later, the ragtag band called out, catching the attention of and surrendering to an armor-clad Akimichi warrior.
Three hours after that, the kunoichi of the group were finally released - the children and civilians had been allowed to leave almost immediately - and Mikoto could only pray that her son had survived the chaos. Especially since word had filtered in that Fugaku had fled Konoha.
Iruka stood calmly, a soft, sad smile on his face as he watched 'his' children. He gave the families a few more minutes together, noting from the corner of his eye when Sakura and Tenten returned, families in tow. Then, with a silent sigh and a last ruffle of Naruto's golden hair, the Chunin stepped forward once again. "I'm sorry, everyone. I know this is an important time, but... there is still work to be done. We have to set up a communication network, find and treat the injured, assess the damage to Konoha, figure out which positions of authority need filling immediately and who can fill them, and... we can't be families right now. We're all Konoha shinobi, and that has to come first."
To his relief - and, in a way, his regret - the various conversations had stopped, and every back straightened as he spoke. He vaguely noticed the approach of the white-haired stranger who had stabilized Naruto's seal, along with a strange blonde woman whose appearance caused Sakura and Hinata to inch away slowly. The older shinobi among the group glanced at one another, and then a pony-tailed blond man - Inoichi, he thought the man's name was - gestured for the group's attention.
"My Clan can set up communications by controlling some of the birds out in the trees, and can do a basic aerial survey while we're at it. We'll let the ranking shinobi know to meet up, say... at the Exam stadium?" When the others nodded their assent, the blond turned away. Itachi, much to everyone else's puzzlement, tapped the man's arm, leaning in to say something quietly enough that even the two teenagers beside them could not hear. Inoichi looked carefully at the ANBU captain, and then nodded. He turned then and walked away, Ino following her father after a quick wave to the others.
The next to react was Shikamaru's mother, who had finally stopped shaking the teenage tactician. Her response was a glare at her husband, followed by a smack to the back of his head. Shikamaru wisely hid his grin as the older Nara mumbled, but spoke up despite rolling his eyes. "Troublesome" the man muttered, but then raised his voice.
"Once we get that preliminary survey done, my Clan can help out with extracting any injured parties or needed supplies. Our Shadow Bind can hold structures steady to an extent, and let someone who's light on their feet go in without collapsing the whole building or whatever. And if the Akimichi will help with any heavy lifting...?" the darker man trailed off, glancing over at a larger redhead who promptly nodded his agreement with the plan.
As the families moved out, Iruka's smile brightened in relief. Until Kakashi spoke, gesturing towards Sai. "That uniform... you trained in ROOT, didn't you?"
It was not a question, and Iruka cut in with a warning in his tone. "Kakashi..."
To the teacher's surprise, the ex-ANBU captain laughed, hands held up in a placating gesture. "Maa, maa. Calm down, Iruka. I recognize that look in his eyes - you've ensnared another one." And then the Copy Ninja's tone became serious again. "But still, did you have any information on the undercover liaisons for ROOT, boy?"
One blink, two. "Yes. Many of them."
Kakashi grinned, and somehow, the expression was not friendly. "Good. You're with us. We'll work on removing the last of the ROOT officers, and catalog what positions need filling as we go. But first, we're going to get some... expert assistance - I could have sworn I saw Ibiki and Anko at one point." With those odd words - 'who are Ibiki and Anko?' Iruka wondered - Kakashi threw an arm over Sai's shoulders and the now-complete-again ANBU squad all but dragged the boy away.
A low chuckle drew the Chunin's attention back to the two strangers even as the blonde woman stepped up. "Well, looks like you lot have this pretty well together, so I'll leave you to it. But I will steal your medics. Come on, girls, the hospital's this way." As Sakura and Hinata made quiet apologies to their families, Tsume's jaw dropped ever-so-slightly. The Jounin hissed something in Hana's ear that made the girl gasp, but then they both shot Iruka a reassuring smile. Hana hurried after the other three females as they left.
Another chuckle, and the white haired man tossed Iruka a careless grin. "Well, guess the rest of us are on basic cleanup duty. We'll focus on assessing right now - find out what needs doing, and then priortize and start working on it in the morning. Sound good?" With murmurs of agreement, the remainder of the group split up, pairing off and heading out to different parts of Konoha by an unspoken understanding.
In the Uchiha district, Mikoto walked the oddly silent streets. The kunoichi repressed a shiver - the majority of her Clan had either fled or been destroyed in the rebellion, and she had never seen the normally busy sector so disturbingly empty. There were only a handful of Uchiha left, and the quiet was definitely unnerving. Asking about her son at the first opportunity, Mikoto nodded her understanding when the civilian reported that Itachi had not yet come home.
Pausing to think - forcing down the concern and fear for her boy - Mikoto gathered the other kunoichi around her. Mere moments later, and the group broke apart again. They went to gather supplies and assess the status of the Clan. Each of the women knew that, in areas that had not been so very firmly in the Hokage's favor, Clansmen had fought one another, damaging their homes and everything else around them. But since the Uchiha had been almost entirely loyal, there was surprisingly little damage to the district - therefore, they were uniquely suited to take in refugees until the people's own homes could be repaired.
And maybe, it would bring life back to those disturbingly quiet streets.
Iruka, like so many others, worked like a dog throughout the remainder of the day. It seemed he was constantly running back and forth, bringing messages and picking up or delivering injured people or needed supplies. He saw a number of his children throughout the day - most recently, Hanabi's small face set in a scowl as the child fought off exhaustion, focusing so that her Byakugan could search the half-collapsed building in front of her. With a gasp, the girl's energy available for her blood line ability had finally run out for the day, but not before she gave a tired smile to the others around her. No one inside, they could move on.
Throughout the day, Iruka heard many rumors, from civilians telling one another about the 'incredible secret warriors' to shinobi speculating about Konoha's future as they worked. But he was surprised to hear that the blonde medic - 'Tsunade... where have I heard that name?' - was the focus of much gossip... er, intelligence analysis.
It seemed that the woman had - much to her rather vocal displeasure - been pulled from the hospital in order to help sort through Danzo's maze of an organizational system. Apparently the blonde had spent a great deal of time as a youth in the offices of both the First and the Third Hokages, and therefore knew enough about the running of Konoha to be able to prioritize its' needs. Iruka wasn't quite sure who had made that decision, but he was relieved that things were being taken care of.
Though he would never admit it, one of his greatest fears had been that they would overthrow the Godaime only to have Konoha flounder without a competent leader. Iruka knew himself - he was a teacher, a leader of children. But there was little about him that would make older, stronger shinobi listen to his words - he would never have been able to command the kind of respect that this woman apparently could.
However, for now, he was tired. His head hurt, and he was worried about Naruto, who was still disturbingly pale and quiet. So the teacher shrugged it off, putting off thinking in favor of steadying himself for just a while longer.
As the light faded in the dusty, damaged streets of Konoha, a team of shinobi met at the intersection of two streets. They were a ragtag looking bunch - two in ANBU masks, one in civilian clothes and two others in uniforms that matched neither ANBU nor each other. But their eyes were the same. Full of determination, and hope.
Four spoke quietly, comparing assessments as they waited for the fifth to reach them. But the last and youngest of the group stumbled, and would have fallen had one of the ANBU not reached out and caught him. The boy's pale face flushed, and he mumbled his apologies. The ANBU, still holding on to the boy's arm, reached up with his free hand and pushed the mask back off of his face in order to study the boy more closely.
"Enough" Itachi stated, looking back at the other three adults. "I am taking him home now." Sasuke, if possible, turned even more red, bumbling over his words as he tried to deny the need to leave. Itachi would hear none of it. "I know you, little brother. You would not have slept well last night, too keyed up about today's mission. You have fought to your fullest ability, and have since worked again with us. You are exhausted, and you will stop now before you hurt yourself."
With a brief nod, the Uchiha boys turned away, the hand on Sasuke's shoulder both guiding the boy and making sure that the stubborn teenager did not turn back. From the corner of his eyes, Itachi noticed the other three share a grin before returning to their task. He paid them no mind, however. Instead, his thoughts turned to the small scrap of paper in his pocket, delivered earlier via one of the Yamanaka's makeshift messenger birds. 'Well' he thought. 'I suppose it is now or never.'
Many miles from Konoha, a pale haired young man sat quietly in a small cafe. He sipped almost delicately on his tea, watching from his peripheral vision as a rugged-looking man stumbled into the building. 'Konoha, interesting' the young man thought, curiosity demanding that he pay more attention - especially when the man turned slightly, and he caught sight of the family crest on the other's shirt.
Listening closely, he was surprised to hear - once he read between the lines of the older man's low cursing - that Konoha's rebels had succeeded in overthrowing their Hokage. 'Huh, who would have thought that those kids would actually make it?' the young man thought, a small, amused grin tugging at his lips. He hid his amusement behind his tea cup, taking a moment to enjoy the irony before he controlled his expression.
As the older man finished catching his breath and stood to leave, the younger calmly paid for his tea. Walking out, he fell into step beside the older man, who promptly growled at him. "What?"
The young man held his hands out in the universal 'harmless' pose, his voice sincere as he spoke. "I'm sorry, but I couldn't help but overhear about your... recent difficulties. It's a real shame, some upstarts overthrowing a fine, strong tradition."
The older man scowled, nearly grunting his agreement. After another mile or so, the older man finally turned to the younger. "Alright, boy. Who are you and what do you want?"
The young man pushed his glasses up into place, the gesture seeming embarrassed. "Ah, forgive me. Where are my manners?" He smiled then, the expression friendly and disarming. "My name is Yakushi Kabuto, and if revenge is what you want, then there is someone I believe may be able to help you, Uchiha-san."
Inside of her large, empty house, Mikoto fought back her nerves by focusing on her cooking. Large pots of stew were already being sent to the larger houses of the Uchiha district, and Mikoto knew that homeless civilians were being brought in by the dozen. As much as she itched to be out in the streets, one of the Yamanaka scouts had told her that frankly, she would be more help exactly as she was - feeding and providing shelter for those who had none.
Finally done, she sent the last pot away with one of the other remaining Uchihas, leaving her with little to do but wait. Turning back to her own family's meal, her heart twisted as she realized that, out of habit, she had cooked enough for three. But Fugaku wasn't coming back, not ever again. He was Konoha's enemy now.
Still, the woman shook off her melancholy thoughts as she heard her front door open. Light footsteps echoed in the hallway, stumbling once or twice. Mikoto frowned, worried. She hadn't been able to hear Itachi's footsteps since he had been a child - he must be truly worn out. Fixing her son a plate, she turned, repressing a flinch as she found him standing in the doorway of the kitchen.
But... something wasn't right. Itachi shifted his weight almost awkwardly, not meeting her eyes as he fumbled with his words - something he had never done. "Mother... there is someone... that is, I... um... Oh, go on." And with those odd words, the young ANBU captain stepped aside, allowing a previously unnoticed person to be seen.
Mikoto felt her heart freeze. There was no mistaking those dark eyes, the resemblance to Itachi... to her... "Sasuke" she whispered.
The kunoich never noticed the plate in her hands fall and shatter on the floor, barely heard Itachi's murmured apology. She could only stare at the small, nervous smile on the teenager's lips. "Hello, mother." he said, his words and voice formal, hesitant. "It's... nice to meet you."