Red Threads

By: Demand Truth

"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break." - Stefani Ellison Chapter 1: Gotcha Day

Iruka Umino had never been so terrified in all of his life. He sat inside the small office populated by fake plants and an overburdened bookshelf, and he decided the stress was making him have an out-of-body experience. He watched himself—still a fairly young man at the age of twenty-seven, liked by all and quite satisfied with his profession. He sat in front of the desk nervously, his sweaty hands clenching and releasing the material of his pants, and his heartbeat boomed as if it were a giant drum. His face was hot with color, and his hair was in slight disarray. The door to the office opened, and Iruka stopped floating above himself. Suddenly, he was paralyzingly trapped in the moment.

"Ah, Iruka-Sensei! So glad you made it! You must be very excited," the petite, brunette woman said by way of greeting.

"Yes," Iruka replied automatically, with an equally automatic smile, "I'm very excited." He was terrified, but too brave to admit it.

"I've just returned from visiting the orphanage this morning. I wanted to make sure I had the most up-to-date files."

"I appreciate you making the trip," Iruka replied. The mousy young woman smiled and pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose, and set a heavy book onto the desk. Iruka let out the breath he'd been holding. Somewhere in that book was a picture of his child. His hands began to shake.

Oblivious to just how nervous her visitor was, the social worker began to chatter.

"Alright, so let me tell you again how this will work today. With your application complete, and the results of your home study properly filed, you're ready for the most exciting step. Today you'll have the first look at your child, Iruka-Sensei. Since we're so close to the orphanage here in Konoha, this could theoretically be finalized today. All the children I'm about to show you are legally cleared for adoption. They're very hopeful to find a forever home. Some will need more intensive care than others, and we'll discuss that after you've chosen some possibilities." The book remained unopened in front of her, and Iruka could only nod at her words.

"So now I just...look?"

"Yep!" she chirruped, pushing the book towards him ever so slightly. Iruka swallowed past his nerves and reached for the volume of profiles. It was even heavier than it looked, and Iruka dragged it towards his lap with a little difficulty. Once it was balanced on his knees, he closed his eyes tightly for a moment before opening them, and flipping the cover to the side.

A tiny infant stared up at him, almost challengingly. His eyes were a pure, icy blue, his little cap of unruly hair a shocking white. He was swaddled in a blanket with a kunai print on its green surface, and the sharp objects seemed to suit the baby better than ducks or teddy bears. His name was Obito Hatake.

"Surely this can't be..."

"As a ninja, you probably know of his father. From what I've been told, he's very famous."

Iruka's mind simply couldn't process what he was seeing.

"I know this baby's father. He's alive! He is alive, isn't he?!" Iruka asked, his expression suddenly panicked. The civilian social worker seemed startled by his outburst.

"Yes, he's alive. I spoke to him just yesterday at the orphanage. Apparently the child was conceived while he was undercover on a mission. The mother passed away after giving birth, but she admitted beforehand that she was an enemy ninja on an infiltration mission, and that she suspected a Konoha ninja was the father. It was a simple matter, then, of deducing who had been assigned to her case, and Hatake-san came to the orphanage yesterday to see the baby one last time before he made his decision."

Iruka still gaped at the picture, and at what the social worker was telling him.

"You're saying he...he...put his own son up for adoption?" For some reason, the idea seemed impossible to Iruka. Of course, it was not as though he was close with the legendary Copy-nin. Beyond occasionally taking a mission report from him, or meeting with him when Naruto brought him along for ramen, Iruka rarely saw him. Still, through Naruto he felt like he knew him. Giving up his child, though...it was not an idea that meshed with the version of Kakashi Hatake he had in his mind. The social worker nodded a bit sadly.

"He seems to have a very demanding career, without a suitable home for a child. He was not unkind, and seemed very torn about his choice, but when I explained to him how careful we are about screening our applicants, he decided it would be in the best interest of the child."

Dumbfounded, Iruka couldn't turn the page.

"If you read the profile, you'll see that Hatake-san wished for contact with the baby, or at least news of how he's doing. He also offered to meet with the child if it was the desire of the child and the family."

Iruka stared into the baby's eyes and felt a tugging at his heart. If he had any sense, he'd turn the page. He'd spare Kakashi some pain and allow the child to be taken to another village in Fire Country. He'd respect his colleague's need for distance and let the baby go to a mother and father that could not have a baby of their own. That was likely the sort of family Kakashi had envisioned for the boy.

"Are you just surprised, or is it love at first sight?" the social worker asked with a kind smile. When Iruka didn't immediately reply, she continued. "Originally, you expressed interest in an older child. Little Obito is the youngest in the book, though. He's only three months old."

Iruka tried to process that information. How long had Kakashi known of his son's existence? The social worker indicated his visit to the orphanage yesterday had not been his first. How long had he been wrestling with the decision? Did he have anyone to confide in about it? Iruka strained his memory, wondering when he'd last encountered Kakashi. He vaguely remembered giving the man an A-rank roughly three weeks before. Kakashi had seemed like his usual self—mostly quiet, insincerely polite, with a cheery smile as he took his mission and the light scolding Iruka had given him over the quality of his last mission report.

He hadn't appeared like a man making the hardest decision of his life. Perhaps he hadn't known yet.

"Maybe you'd like to look a little further through the book, Iruka-Sensei?" the woman prodded gently. Iruka tore his eyes away from the photo to look at her, a strange mix of emotions in his chocolate brown eyes.

"No need. I can't tell you why, because it certainly doesn't make sense...but I want this baby." Iruka felt like his heart had a plan, but that it just hadn't revealed all the details to him yet. He focused on the fact that his nerves were gone, though, and the cloud of uncertainty that had shadowed him all morning had been banished. There was only the picture beneath his hands of a baby that, somehow, demanded Iruka choose him.

The social worker seemed hesitant.

"Ah, Iruka-Sensei, please don't take this the wrong way...but perhaps your knowledge of the baby's father is what's guiding this decision? I have a very nice couple coming in right after you and I know they'd be quite taken by Obito-kun..."

"I imagine they would be, but I'm here now, and he's available for adoption. I've been approved to adopt, and so I don't see where there is a conflict." Iruka used his best teacher voice, and the desk worker swallowed nervously. The sweet but quiet woman couldn't challenge the steely determination in Iruka's eyes. Still, she offered one last protest.

"No one has ever just chosen the first child in the book..."

Iruka smiled calmly and gently lifted Obito's profile out of the bindings. He shut the book, and replaced it on the desk.

"Well, now they have. When can I go get my son?"

With a reluctant sigh, the social worker retrieved Iruka's file of paperwork from the desk drawer and began to fill out previously blank documents.

"Once this paperwork is completed, you can retrieve him as early as tonight. Since he's under the age of three, we don't require any adjustment visits. Are you even ready for a baby, though? You'll need..."

"A great number of things, but I can make all the necessary purchases and set out early this afternoon," Iruka interjected. Perhaps he was being a bit rude, but he sensed the challenge the worker wished to make, and hoped to quiet it with his determination alone.

Easily bullied by Iruka's commanding voice, the social worker merely chewed nervously on her lip and finalized the paperwork. It was certainly not how she expected the meeting to end, but there was no fault with Iruka's logic. She requested he sign, and watched with worried eyes as he did so confidently, and without hesitation.

Almost reluctantly, she closed the file and handed it to him. Iruka slid Obito's profile inside.

"Just present that paperwork to the orphanage, and they'll take care of the rest. I wish you the best of luck on your journey, Iruka-Sensei. I hope you haven't made this decision too hastily."

"Thank you," Iruka replied, holding the paperwork tightly in his hands. He gave a polite bow, and left the office. On his way out, he passed by the young couple nervously holding each other's hands. They both appeared startled when he exited.

Iruka watched them until he left, for some reason wanting to have a good mental image of the family Kakashi had probably wished for his son to have. Iruka didn't know who they were, but he did know one thing—Obito Hatake was not meant to be theirs, no matter how perfect a fit that might have seemed.

He flipped the file open once more and stared at his baby. He stopped walking entirely, and took a deep breath, finally letting himself realize that he was a father.

He smiled a big, happy grin and hurried towards home, to safely stash the paperwork until after he'd gone shopping.

A/N: I'm obsessed with the idea of Iruka having a baby lately. Maybe it's because Mother's Day is almost here. As always, reviews make me very happy, which makes me update faster!