The Hospital, it seemed, was quickly becoming the two time travellers' second home. Kabushi had been berated by irate nurses when they eventually discovered he had escaped amidst the confusion in order to get to his student. Naruto was quickly admitted in after him, because despite the handicap due to Orochimaru's exhausted form, he had been fighting a Legendary Shinobi.
Under watchful eyes, Naruto and Kabushi rested and healed. Kabushi had suspicions that behind the scenes, more analysis were being done on their bloodwork on the Third's orders. One could never be too doubtful when it came to outrageous claims such as time travel, after all. But such things were of little concern to him because he already knew the results of their testing.
Konoha carried on unceasingly during this time. Minato's inauguration quickly took place. Due to preparations for the ceremony, the well-needed discussion with the travellers and concerned parties was pushed back until the excitement settled down.
That time, unfortunately, meant now.
Kabushi strolled down the street with Naruto in tow, making their way to Minato's house. Truthfully, it was the anticipation that was more stressful than anything.
"How do you think Dad will react?" Naruto asked worryingly, steps small and shuffling.
"Minato-sensei is never one to dismiss bewildering events, especially when there is definitive proof otherwise," Kabushi assured him. And the new Hokage had plenty of time to dwell on the fact he had a fifteen-year-old son. It was confusing and unexpected, but shinobi had strong mentality to tackle the peculiar, and Minato was one of the best. Unlike Naruto's unspoken fear, Kabushi knew better than to think Minato would reject Naruto's identity as his progeny.
"Kabushi!" a young voice suddenly yelled from nearby.
Kabushi twitched. The shout gave Kabushi minor flashbacks to Gai, but instead, it was another lively aquaintance by the name of Obito. Why was Kabushi always surrounded by such boisterous shinobi?
"We'd better hurry," Kabushi said swiftly, turning his back to the call.
Naruto shot a glance at the Uchiha barrelling their way. "What did you do this time?"
Kabushi held up his hand innocently, "Nothing, nothing. Obito's just a bit too curious for his own good." He gave a shrug, a mildly guilty expression on his face. "I may have promised to train him, but it's been hectic with Orochimaru and Sensei's promotion. I have a feeling Obito wants a better explanation for the excuses."
Or at least Kabushi assumed that was the problem. He may or may not have been avoiding the teen once his identity had been found out by the Third. Until he was certain what stance he was officially supposed to take now that his true identity was revealed, Kabushi didn't want to complicate matters by revealing too much.
Naruto stared at him, face unimpressed, and Kabushi beamed back on reflex.
Turning quickly towards Obito, Kabushi held up a hand. "Next time!" he called out, and then disappeared into a swirl of leaves, leaving his student to settle his problem without so much as a by your leave.
"Don't just abandon me too, Kakashi," Naruto muttered under his breath. Obito's face furrowed and looked ready to rant at him in order his teacher to receive his rage vicariously. Naruto did the smart thing and followed suit with a shunshin of his own.
When Naruto and Kabushi arrived at Minato's house, Minato, Kushina, and Hiruzen were already present.
Naruto's easy-going mood was shook off, and in place of that was a nervous wreck. The stares of the three before them didn't help the slightest, as serious and intense they were, directed at the two travellers. Naruto liked attention – heck, actively sought it with his rambunctious personality and pranks, since otherwise, no one used to give him a second glance as a child – but he'd also never been good with it when it came from authority figures. As an unloved orphan, it spelt trouble because no one was ever there to stand up for him if the outcome was not to his expectations.
His eyes shot between the former and current Hokage, and then to Kushina. Then he fell back into coping mechanisms of pranking and teasing.
He made an exaggerated motion of sweeping his eyes across the room, partly to give himself an excuse to look away.
"So, did you hide all your stalker photos?" he said, face strained but lips pulled tightly upwards into a grin.
The words were out of the blue, and Minato tilted his head, surprised. Kushina's eyes narrowed, "Stalker photo? Of who?"
There was something dangerous in that tone of hers and Naruto paused before continuing, "You!" and then shot the older blond a glance.
The redhead froze. "Wait," she said, eyes wandering around Minato's living room, growing darker and darker as she completed the circuit. "You're right, they are all gone!" she exclaimed, sounding outraged, to Naruto's sudden growing confusion.
The woman pointed to the coffee table beside them, then the wall. "There used to be a photo of Minato and me here. And another one of me here! It made the room more aesthetically pleasing." She rounded up the current Hokage, eyes ablaze, not cowed the least by his new and superior title. "Minato, we live apart for several months, and you're already trying to get rid of my presence!"
"No! I was just trying to make the place less intimidating for Naruto," the man placated half-heartedly, because despite her wrathful words, there was a teasing twinkle not-so hidden in her expression. Kushina was a rash women, but she recognised Naruto teasing for what it was; a way to dispel the tension in the air, and who was she to not play along?
"Wait, you live together? Where are you staying now?" Naruto asked, horrified. "Is this why the photos were hidden? So I wouldn't know and feel bad about it?"
"Partially," Minato admitted.
Kabushi noted the rueful tenor, and said promptly, "You kicked your wife out for Naruto?"
The blonds spluttered.
"Ha, I agreed to go. He'll find himself sleeping on the couch if he tried anything of the sort," Kushina crooned in amusement.
Kabushi realised the truth, though. The relationship between the two had been hidden so that Naruto wouldn't find out about Kushina and target her if they did prove to be hostile guests. He may have nominated his house for Naruto's stay, but he hid away his wife because he was not a stupid man. If Naruto hadn't stumbled across the evidence of Kushina, Kabushi highly doubted Minato would've introduced them to begin with – he'd only did so afterwards because stubbornly shutting all talk of her was more suspicious than going with the flow.
Naruto held a hand to his head, brown scrunched. "Wait wife?" he cut in abruptly, "I thought it was still at the dating stage. You didn't say anything earlier, sensei!" he complained, shooting an accusatory glare at his teacher. If anything, at the ramen stand, Kakashi-sensei only confirmed his false presumption.
"I didn't realise until recently," Kabushi said with a casual shrug.
Minato tilted his head. "What gave it away?"
A sly grin tugged from under his mask. "Your house," Kabushi said, because seals design for and by Kushina were littered about, and also, "the date." His sole eyes wandered over to the redhead, and then pointedly lowered towards her stomach. The generic flak jacket she wore was bulky and unflattering to her body shape, and hid the growing bulge quite easily. It'd probably be another week before her peers began to realise she wasn't gaining a bit of weight, but rather something more. "Congratulations."
He'd been promoted to Anbu to watch over Minato's pregnant wife around this time, hadn't he? It seemed so long ago.
Minato was suitably shocked. Likely he hadn't noticed he pregnancy because they hadn't had as much time together as they had in Kabushi's past.
"You never told me," he said in distress, fretting over the woman as she rolled her eyes at him.
"It was supposed to be a surprise after everything with these two were dealt with."
"Congratulations," Hiruzen said, soft and delighted for the couple. He appeared knowing, though that might have to do with the fact that Kushina had come to him demanding low ranked missions during the beginnings of her pregnancy to reduce the risk of a miscarriage.
The redhead placed a hand on her stomach and then turned towards Naruto. "I knew Minato saw something in you to want to keep you close … I guess this was it."
In a sudden fit of motion, Kushina grabbed the teen and pulled him tight, pressed into the crooks of her body.
Naruto stiffened at first from the foreign sensation – he'd always been a tactile sort, but with friends it'd mostly been pats on the backs or heavy arms slung across shoulders. There was a sense of comfort in Kushina's arms he never felt before. Her love transmitted through contact and smothering every dark corner of his heart that years of childhood scorning had produced. He wasn't that bastard demon child; he was a cherished son with parents who loved him, whatever form or dimension.
His posture softened, arms reaching to make the embrace whole.
Hiruzen smiled at the scene. He was a quiet participant in this discussion, letting the Fourth take control as he watched carefully and collected facts before speaking up. He was called the Professor for a reason.
"So, Hatake Kabushi and Uzumaki Naruto. Or, should I say, Hatake Kakashi and Namikaze Naruto?" the man said out loud, at last.
"Uzumaki," Naruto muttered into Kushina's neck.
"Uzumaki Naruto," he corrected.
Minato made a small sound in the back of his throat, in heartbreak and perhaps daze.
"It was to keep him safe from your enemies," Kabushi said needlessly because Minato had already guessed.
But that meant he hadn't been around to keep his son safe. Nor had he lived long enough to introduce his son to his friends, because he knew he and Kushina would've bragged about their son from his first yawn, to his first smile, first tooth, and first word.
The man curled a protective hand over Naruto's shoulder.
"Who did you grow up with?" Minato asked the teen, casually, though dread filled his stomach. He hoped the small, small hope it had been Kushina; except despite the risks, she wouldn't allow his memory to die, and one way or another, Naruto would've kept Namikaze as the title he preferred. Kushina was spitfire, and the world feared her more than she feared the world.
Naruto's voice was soft. "The orphanage. The never really liked me because of the Kyuubi," he said after a pause. "Not that anyone ever bothered to tell me why until I graduated the Academy. And even then it was because of a traitor."
Kushina's hold tightened.
"It is the Kyuubi, then," Hiruzen said in wonderment.
"But it was sealed into you as an infant," Kushina countered, "it's not possible! The beast has too much chakra for a baby, Uzumaki or not."
"Yeah. I didn't lie, not really, the Kyuubi's not all there. Just the yang half."
"What happened to the yin?" Minato asked, just as Kushina mumbled, "How difficult is it to separate yin and yang of the Kyuubi …"
The couple's interest was focused on the technical aspect, unsurprising since their interests lied in sealing. Hiruzen, however, was struck by another point. "Why were you chosen as the next container for the Nine-tails?" he said inquiringly, "Indeed you are an Uzumaki, much like your predecessors, but your age leaves much to be desired. Surely there were other candidates?"
"Because it broke free," Kabushi answered to the sudden hush. "There was no time for candidates."
"Because I- I died?" Kushina whispered, unreasonably guilty.
"Because someone took advantage of when your seal was weakest," Kabushi rebutted, though didn't deny her death.
It quickly narrowed down when Kushina had died, and the frosty cold feeling in Minato's chest only froze further. Kabushi had implied he died early on in Naurto's life, and Kushina's death, it seemed, had been immediately after she pushed through childbirth. How long exactly had Naruto had with his parents?
If Minato was reading the signs correctly, it wasn't long at all – days at most, and hours at worst.
"We'll stop it. I promise this time Naruto will not have a childhood without you two," Kabushi's weighty voice cut through the sorrow of Minato's mind.
Orochimaru and Danzou had been one thing Kabushi had no qualms fighting against without help from Konoha or the Hokage. But the immortal being known as Madara was a different story. He'd known since the beginning that their façade of mere travellers had to end before Madara appeared, because this man had been too much to handle for the whole of Konoha, and Kabushi would've been a fool if he thought he could thwart the Uchiha's plans without any assistance, future knowledge or not.
Minato closed his cerulean blue eyes and when they opened up, he was the steady, composed Fourth Hokage once more. He had his fears, but his resolution was stronger.
He set a controlled smile on his face, carrying on softly.
"How about you, Kakashi? How has life been for you?" he asked. Because though Naruto was his actual son, he would never neglect Kakashi. He had claimed the Hatake as one of his own years ago, and that would never change; not now, not ever, not even when Kakashi was physically older than him
It'd been much too long since Kabushi had been referred by his actual name so fondly, and it was warming. "Not bad."
"Naruto," Kabushi said warningly.
The blond huff, still in Kushina's hold, but that didn't stop his from defiantly crossing his arms. "Don't lie. Why else do you read porn and mope in front of the memorial stone until you're hours late for everything?" he shot back.
Any retort or excuse by the silver-haired man, either sent towards Naruto or the family-figures who were Minato and Kushina, was cut short from a shout by the doorway. There'd been furious pounding on the front door at first, which was then quickly wrenched open without waiting for a response.
"Sensei!" a young voice yelled, storming inwards.
Minato sighed. He'd given permission to his three students to come and go from his house as they pleased, because they were practically his children, if he admitted it, but sometime they had the worst timing.
"Sensei, have you seen Kabushi?" Obito demanded, even before he burst into the living room where they were converged. The moment he did, obsidian orbs widened, and his feet stumbled to an abrupt halt. His eyes found his teacher, the former Hokage, then shot to Kabushi, and he faltered, face flushed.
"Uhh," he uttered inelegantly, indiscreetly inching backwards.
"Did you need something?" Minato asked patiently, looking between his student and the older version of another.
Kabushi's eye crinkled into a wordless smile.
Obito's confidence wavered, ready-rant swallowed back.
Obito dropped his head, docile. "I'll wait," he said, and shrunk into the corner. Though he did glower accusingly at the Hatake because Kabushi hadn't told him he had a meeting with the Hokage when he ran away earlier that morning.
And now he'd made a fool of himself because of that.
But he didn't leave the room, not because he hadn't been asked to, but because he felt the growing tension in the air. He also hadn't missed that split second before all eyes had been turned to him. The group had been focused on Kabushi just seconds earlier, and Obito had a sudden fear he knew what topic of Kabushi's needed both Hokage present for.
On his part, Kabushi spared a glance over at the teen before shrugging off the pressure, "It's not as bad as Naruto makes it sound," continuing as though there had been no interruption.
"How about the truth this time?" Minato demanded, dismissing his appeasement entirely.
His tone sounded harsh, especially to Obito's wary mind. It was something 'bad' that had Minato unhappy, and Hiruzen present. "You are talking about his eye," Obito murmured, mostly to himself, but the group present reacted immediately.
"His eye… ?" Minato said.
Obito remembered the solemn explanation he received from Kabushi, of his lost family, and Obito was suddenly furious that the man was put under the burden of explaining the origins while under the condemning authority of both the past and present Hokage. At least he was thankful there wasn't an Uchiha Elder present as well to sully the memory of Kabushi's loyal Uchiha friend. "As an Uchiha my word should have a greater say about his sharingan, and I don't want you to punish him for it!" he blurted out, desperate.
Minato and Hiruzen turned sharply over. "I was not informed you were aware of Kabushi's possession of the sharingan."
The two Hokage had known because they'd taken advantage of Kabushi's initial unconscious state after his battle with Orochimaru. And afterwards, they'd taken no shortcuts to verify he truly was an elder Hatake Kakashi, and no threat to Konoha. The nurses had been given full permission from the Third, no longer hindered by confidentially that Kabushi's Anbu mark insisted.
The Uchiha shuffled his feet and nodded. "I, uh, stumbled upon it, and Kabushi told me."
"Oh?" Minato said, before turning to Kabushi. "How did you get it?" he wondered, because they'd yet to ask.
"It was a gift," Kabushi said softly, truthfully.
"From your best friend when he died, right?" Obito finished for him, because he had listened and remembered it well.
Kabushi's lip tightened.
Minato blinked at Obito's words before his eyes narrowed and darted towards the clueless Uchiha. Because if Kabushi was Kakashi, then Kakashi's best friend, whether he admitted it or not, was certainly Obito. And it fit because Obito was the only Uchiha Kakashi interacted with in the first place. Yet what did that mean – Obito would die? Wasn't it enough that he and Kushina had left Kakashi and Team Minato and Naruto much too soon in their lives?
How much longer did Obito have; how long did they have to prevent it?
"When?" he demanded at Kabushi, stomach rolling from the man's broken gaze.
"It won't," the silver-haired man only said.
Minato moved to grab his former student's forearm, whether in encouragement or agitation, even he hadn't quite formed decision yet. He was halted by Naruto's whispered, "It's past."
Minato didn't know if there was there pity or heartbreak in his crystal blue eyes, but when he turned towards Kabushi, the man looked away with an inscrutable expression. He finished his aborted motion, snagging Kakashi by his shoulder and pulling his attention back. "Thank you," he said sincerely.
Kabushi scoffed, "I didn't do anything. They saved themselves."
"They?" Minato echoed lowly, and then his eyes widened with an inaudible, "Rin."
There was a bitter twist on Kabushi's lips which Minato could see, half-hidden by his navy blue mask or not. "I was just as useless as the first time."
The lie Kabushi had told himself about leaving Rin's rescue to Obito had been just that; a lie. He'd failed to manipulate the Third to give Team Kakashi backup, and his fraying nerves had rendered him useless to attempt anything himself. Obito's death had been harsh, but he'd been the one to kill Rin, and the memory had been burnt crisp and forever detailed into his mind from his sharingan since that day forward. It'd been traumatic, emotionally overwhelming, and had him on the verge of a long-spanning panic attack from the thought.
It'd taken months for him to pull himself together the first time around, before his control over his mind, his chakra, his techniques, his sanity, stabilised; half-a-day this time, but not soon enough to be any help in a to-death fight for Rin's life.
He'd been inadequate to assist, so he'd pushed his mind to optimism instead, and burdened Obito with the responsibility.
Not that he hadn't tried, regardless. Instability or not, Kabushi had split his chakra to produce a clone. He'd slipped through those not-yet discovered cracks in Konoha's defense, lurked around Hidden Mist to try and spot the men responsible for ruining Rin's life, and then failing to spot them, switched locations, setting traps and standing vigil in the cave-site where he'd remembered rescuing Rin from after she'd been kidnapped, and hoping hoping hoping he would be able to control his attacks and fight when – if – it came down to that.
Rin never showed up, and Kabushi thanked the stars, because just keeping the clone present was difficult enough in his current state. It was when he'd popped that he realised Obito hadn't even been allowed on the mission, and so somehow, Rin had managed to change her own fate.
He'd only sat by and watched, yet again.
"You did something," Minato argued, "because you've altered it, haven't you?" he said passionately, and maybe it hadn't been directly, but indirect influence was still influence all the same. Because his entire team was alive and well, when it was now apparent he could've lost them one-by-one sometime these past months had Kabushi and Naruto never appeared in their lives. Perhaps Kakashi would've still been physically alive, but he wouldn't be there in soul, not for a long, long time.
Minato saw a shattered but healing man before him, now that he knew where to look.
For those in the knowing, icy awareness filled them as the truth of Kabushi's life was freely given up. It was a different story for those who were not. "What's going on?" Obito finally spoke up, lost in the sea of words that didn't form a sensible conversation of any sort.
A veil seemed to lift from his interruption, withdrawing the foggy status that had befallen upon the group.
"Obito," Minato said, coming to a decision. His tone held authority, like the Hokage he was now. "Find Kakashi and Rin. This involves the three of you as well. We'll continue the discussion then."
"So you're sensei's son," Rin said, fascinated at the grinning blond beside her.
To the Fourth's order, Uchiha Obito had hastily set out to find his fellow teammates, eager to finally learn the mystery behind the cryptic conversation he overheard. Rin had been easy to convince along. Kakashi refused on principle when Kabushi's name emerged, and only acquiesced because the Hokage had order it so.
And back in Minato's house, the three learnt the truth of Kabushi and Naruto's true identities, and the shocking tale of time travel.
"Yup!" Naruto answered, and the girl wondered how she'd missed those sincere eyes and golden disposition that echoed in the familiar warmth of her sensei.
Rin let out a small breath. "Fifteen years from the future, right?" she said.
"How'd you know?"
Her lips tugged gently upwards, full of eagerness and hope. "Aren't you fifteen now?" she replied with a glance at the pregnant Kushina.
"You knew?" Minato said, sounding so sulky.
Kushina huffed, but her features were sheepish. "Got caught," she admitted, because Rin was a talented medic and her simple diagnostic revealed all. It'd been shocking to have the chunin turn her sharp gaze at her stomach during their last mission, when all she'd expected was Rin to causally patch her up from Iwa-nin's injuries. Rin was shaping up to be a phenomenal medical-nin.
But Rin's accepting attitude was not the norm.
"It's a lie," Kakashi said firmly, in blunt denial, when he finally had the chance to speak up.
"Kakashi-" Minato began, but the teen only glowered at him, cutting the man off mid-word.
"No. So he can recite my past, my background? So can half the village," Kakashi scoffed, low and heated. He was a prodigy with accomplishments a mile long, recounted to new recruits to motivate their drive – if a six-year-old could grasp it, you can too! The story of Sakumo was never a secret either, because though years past, gossip and scorn (and perhaps some admiration) still spread amongst friends and shinobi in the privacy of their homes.
Blond eyebrows scrunched, and those mellow blue eyes of Minato were too condescendingly soft. "That may be so, Kakashi, nevertheless the hospital has also run tests-"
Teeth barred, but under the mask, no one saw. Still, Minato knew him well enough to recognise his ire. "That only proves genetic structure. For all we know, he could be a clone." – which was stretching it, but still nowhere as improbable when compared to the idea of time travel.
There was a little whimper or whine from Rin's throat, like she couldn't believe the absurdities of Kakashi's fabrications, all in the name of clinging onto his denial. Obito, since the beginning, was unmoving, uncommenting, and perhaps even unwittingly staved from proper respiration.
Minato was afraid they'd broken the Uchiha.
"Are you suggesting I'll become like that?" Kakashi spat out, eyeing Kabushi nastily.
Kabushi shrugged off his tone, though Minato looked pained, face scrunched in apology and placation and understanding all in one. The time traveller replied, "Our past is already different, I never met myself when I was younger."
"Then you're not me," Kakashi persisted. "You're of a different dimension."
"No, I was you until the timeline diverged."
Minato understood the teen's insistence. Rather than disbelief, he would not allow himself to accept the reality of the fact. Because this was not how Kakashi saw himself in fifteen years' time. He'd envisioned his shinobi career since he'd been a child, barely four-years of age. He'd strove for perfection, strength, and a commanding aura, to make himself the ideal shinobi that no one could find fault with; a goal which only stood stronger due to Sakumo's disgrace.
Somehow, Kabushi was the complete opposite of that.
Kabushi was eccentric, carrying traits Kakashi disapproved of. The man was perverted, tardy, had no sense of tact, and moved with sluggish strides that spoke of laziness.
He was everything Kakashi had scorn Obito for doing and then some, painting him like a shameless hypocrite.
Kakashi wouldn't accept it, so he didn't.
Kakashi was always good at lying to himself.
Kabushi softened in comprehension. "Things happened," he said vaguely, mildly, "Not very good things."
Perhaps he would've elaborated if Kakashi only asked, but Kakashi felt stuffiness inside his head, followed by a fizz of rage.
Because don't talk to him about bad circumstances. He'd been orphaned far too young, in an abrupt change in lifestyle that he'd had to will himself to quickly adapt. He'd pushed through the trauma of finding his father's bloody, cold body. He'd lived through residual contempt that found a target in him once Sakumo was no more. He'd stumbled, but pulled himself together and steeled his mind and soul, so much stronger than his fellow peers – all before puberty even hit. What could possibly be worse than that that he hadn't prepared himself for?
"You're not me," he snarled at the weak man trying to take on his name.
Kabushi reached out, whether to convince him, to comfort him, or to get him to see reason, Kakashi didn't care enough to let it succeed. With a sharp turn of his heels, Kakashi marched towards the door and out of everyone's sight.
Obito snapped out of his stupor from the shuddering slam. "I-I'll go after him," he offered promptly.
"Obito," Minato said, voice full of worry, because the teen had seemed almost catatonic until then.
A weak imitation of his usual boisterous grin stretched on the Uchiha's face, but didn't manage to settle his teacher's concern at all. "I'm just shocked. We're all shocked. Bakakashi just wants to be special," he joked half-heartedly, feet already moving away. "I'll beat sense into him."
Minato winced. "Preferably not literally."
"I make no promises."
Obito hoped he sounded cheeky and normal enough.
Kakashi was a predictable guy. In the four years Obito knew him, he was well aware that at any sign of distress, rage, or worry, his resolution would be to train the emotion away. Obito found his teammate quickly, fueled punches rattling the wooden dummy from its base.
"Did they send you to convince me?" Kakashi sneered, sounding so much like the Kakashi Obito knew when they first met; an insecure boy with a stony heart trying to hide is weaknesses behind harsh words to pushed people away. He was still a jerk four years later, but the roughness had been slowly chipping away – even more so with the encouragement from who they'd though was Kakashi's uncle.
Obito didn't care for the relapse.
"Stop thinking about yourself," he snapped. "You don't know what they've been through."
Their sensei had only told them the bare basics – that Kabushi and Naruto were Kakashi and sensei's son, respectively, from the future. He never told them of Obito's death. Or Rin's death. Or how Kakashi had once more lost the only family he had left.
Minato hadn't told Obito, but Kabushi had, long before Obito realised the significance of the man's stories. However the moment Obito's brain had connected Kabushi with Kakashi, the tale of his two best friends – family – suddenly slotted in with names, and Obito knew Rin's lifeless appearance in that vision he'd been hit with had been the original scene. Not the lie he'd been fed.
And Rin's age hadn't been any older than the present Rin he knew, meanwhile Kabushi's (Kakashi's) Uchiha friend (me, Obito thought sickly) had died before that to gift him his sharingan eye.
Why hadn't Obito realised sooner that that long jagged scar that spanned Kabushi's left eye was in the exact spot where their thirteen-year-old teammate had been cut saving him during Kakashi's first Jounin mission? It was an elongated version of the slice through Kakashi's eyebrow.
Kakashi couldn't comprehend.
"I've been through enough to know how to hold onto my wits. Something he's clearly forgotten how."
"It got worse," Obito persisted.
Kakashi gave an arrogant scoff. "Nothing's worse," he said. Nothing was worse than losing his only family to a betrayal that shouldn't have happened. A betrayal that followed him like an unrelenting shadow from that day forward, shrouding over all his achievements.
The Uchiha shoved his teammate, and though contact met, Kakashi stood firmly in place
"You think you're stronger than him?" Obito hissed, refusing to back down. His fists itched for a fight. He stepped too uncomfortably close to Kakashi's personal space. A hand rose and closed around the Jounin's shirt, scrunched in anger and unmoving persistence.
Kakashi glowered wordlessly and huffed.
Obito's limbs shook. Obito's body shook. There was a stream of soundless chuckles that echoed hollowly in the training ground. Then a blink, and Obito's eyes swirled red. Tomoes spun and suddenly Kakashi found himself in a world of inverted black, white, and red. Obito stood before him, fingers still grasped around his collar.
"Obito," Kakashi warned, a "kai!" rattling off his next breath. But an Uchiha's genjutsu, cast by the deadlast or not, was nothing to scoff at – especially when the genjutsu was aided by the clan's famous dojutsu and an overflow of emotions.
"Do you want to see what broke him?" the Uchiha choked, tremor wracking down his entire being.
Then the world in front of Kakashi was different; colours revived, but instead of the greens of Konoha's forest, it was a plain of dry, crumbly ground in the middle of nowhere. Kakashi tried to turn, but his head didn't allow it.
In front of him was Rin.
Her brows scrunched in pain.
He recognised the birdsong, so unnaturally shrill and repetitive, and the taste of electricity like a shiver of cold air. Starkly in contrast was the heat of her blood, that glistened a crimson shade so thick and plentiful, covering his skin.
Kakashi realised with startling clarity he'd killed her with his own invention. With his own hands; because that was his arm, his gauntlet, his jutsu that was thrusted through her chest. That was his name whispered through her paling lips.
Kakashi's sight burned in the image of Rin, wane and wilting, and far too accepting of her fate in those dim, dying eyes of her.
Kakashi jolted out of the vision too soon, yet not soon enough. He didn't want to see her broken by his own doing any longer, but he still had no idea what had led to that.
Glazed, Kakashi pushed away from his teammates, stumbling onto the grassy floor.
"What did-" – I, him, who? "What the hell was that?"
"From Kabushi?" Kakashi said, hysterical at the thought; had he finally taken the lesson of Sakumo's disgrace from heart to practicality and struck down his teammate to complete a mission? Shinobi Rule number four: a shinobi must always put the mission first.
Yet Kakashi remembered the pull in his guts when Obito had almost been struck down by that Iwa-nin when they rescued Rin. He remembered the tremble of his organs, the squeeze of his stomach, when he realised Obito tried, futility or not, to sacrifice himself for Kakashi's sake.
Contemplating his teammates' deaths was nauseating with near-experience backing up his verdict. But he – Kabushi – still did so in the end?
'I believe the White Fang was a hero,' Obito had declared, so strongly, daringly, during that mission that had finally opened Kakashi's eyes to the world.
"And you still trust him?" Kakashi said incredulously. Kakashi knew Obito's devotion to Rin and his utter hatred for anyone who tried to do her harm.
"Because Rin chose that fate. And she made you carry that fate." And gods Obito wanted so badly to burn that scene and that entire world where Rin was lost too young; that wretched world that made Rin have no choice but to choose such an ending for herself. But he couldn't dwell on things that didn't happen and wouldn't happen in favour of what was happening now. Rin didn't need him, Kakashi did.
"B-because," Obito said, choking on his words. His eyes stung and tears slid involuntarily down the curve of his cheeks. "It was her life for Konoha and you."
"… not you?" Kakashi finally said, slow and hesitant.
Obito's breath hitched. He couldn't even pull up a false grin. "Sorry," was all he could say, and he could see the moment realisation dawned.
Rin found the two sat sprawled on the ground when she finally caught up to them, talking in muted conversation. Kakashi was her teammate too, and she'd bristled at the thought of standing idly back to do nothing while Obito handled the issue. So she'd hastily bid the group in sensei's house a farewell moments after Obito left, and sped out to track down her boys as well.
Kakashi looked calmer, a little more haggard, and eyes coating a mysteriously sheen. Obito's sniffling echoed in the enclosed training ground, and his sleeves were damp from crying. The signs of a spar were oddly absent, even when she had thought for certain Obito would've taken that route to cool off Kakashi's temper.
Yet something had occurred but she couldn't deduce what.
Rin fluttered to their sides in panic. "Kakashi. Obito. What happened?"
They both turned towards her in eerily similar motions. Then they moved before she could speak.
Obito was quicker, hand snagging her arm and pulling her down with them. Kakashi cushioned her fall with a trembling hold. And then she was trapped between the two of them, with the two half draped across her petit form like a lifeline or stone in a roaring storm. She stilled, words caught, because she suddenly realised they needed this. They needed to see her and let their wild minds settle.
Rin gathered her boys in her embrace, small nonsensical murmurs rumbling in her throat. She would question them thoroughly when they were both composed once more. But for now, she would give them the care and time they needed to heal in her presence.
Her teammates, her boys, were precious to her.
Not soon after the kids' departure, yet another figure broke into Minato's house.
The blond took a breath and wondered if there was an unspoken invitation he wasn't aware of that wrongly claimed he was hosting a party in his living room floor. Perhaps he should reconsider letting these people keyed to the traps of his house.
Jiraiya darted through window, skidding to a stop before him.
"Sensei?" said Minato, noting the serious look sported on the older man's face. Jiraiya was majority perverted, partially playful, all pulled like a cover to seal his serious side from observing eyes. It meant business that Jiraiya was staring grim and stern, bowed over Minato.
"Minato, a messenger toad told me Gamabunta was summoned by someone who hadn't signed the scroll," he said gravelly.
The sennin's eyes narrowed a fraction. "You know what's going on."
"There might have been an extraordinary circumstance behind that," the blond said sheepishly.
Minato combed a hand through his blond hair in an attempt to give himself time to form an answer. "As you may be aware, Konoha has two new residences," he began, mostly to measure how much Jiraiya knew about the situation to begin with.
The white-haired man didn't disappoint. "Yes, the Hatake and the boy," he said without pause. Jiraiya's senses had found the two since he broke into Minato's house, and though hadn't eyed them improvidently nor given any signs of acknowledging their presence, he certainly hadn't let down his guard either. He'd gotten word about them from his spy network earlier on and done his duty to his village and late best friend to find the truth in the matter. He'd travelled villages to find tale of either of them, but ultimately came up short. Still, Jiraiya knew better than to show his knowledge so rashly. "You know, Sakumo was my best friend. He never mentioned any relatives outside of Konoha."
He didn't miss the way the Hatake glanced over at Minato, as if for permission, before answering, "That might have been a lie."
Nor had he expected an honest answer.
Minato, it seemed, had a huge role in these two men's appearance. Jiraiya couldn't guess the exact reason, but somehow it was starting to seem like the blond boy's similarity to Minato was more than just a coincidence. When in doubt, goad the answer involuntarily out, because people had an impulse to correct embarrassing misconceptions. If he couldn't get Minato to react, surely the kid would.
Jiraiya's personality pulled a three-sixty at the decision.
"Hoh? You know, Minato, why haven't you ever told me you were a teenage father?" Jiraiya taunted, a well mixture of leer and delight that had the man sputtering out denials. "How young you must have been to have a kid this old. Your poor wife has to take care of your messes." He turned towards Kushina, wagging an eyebrow. "If you want a faithful man, I'm always open."
The blond kid looked mortified at his words.
"Jiraiya-sensei," Minato stressed.
Kushina howled in laughter like it wasn't any of her problem. "Well you're not entirely wrong," she said teasingly, always up for causing mayhem, "Minato is the father."
"No wonder you were never interested in my research as a teen. You were already a man. You've done well, my pupil," the Toad Sage praised. Though his words flowed idly and naturally, they were only phrases to bid for time as his mind ran wild with possibilities. Because, taking Kushina's jeer as the truth, what did that mean?
"Jiraiya," Hiruzen sighed at his student's typical behaviour. "I take it you're not here because of my missive?"
"It must have missed me," he answered promptly.
The jokes were gone now, because Jiraiya didn't believe in coincidences, and it was worrying, this overlap of sudden problems. With a breath that pushed away his unsavoury behaviour, the white-haired Sage got down to business once more. "What is going on?"
Minato scrubbed a hand across his weary eyes, a sign of tiredness. "To sum it up," he said at last, "These two here are time travellers. Orochimaru was getting too close to delving into forbidden experiments, and would have had he not been stopped."
Sharp eyes glanced at the mentioned two. "You are certain," Jiraiya said, voice measurably flat. Certain of what exactly, he didn't say clearly – everything of the briefing was questionable.
From Hiruzen to Minato, both figures were unyieldingly confident. There was no squishy apologetic placates, nor bashful regret given, because facts were facts that couldn't be denied.
Hiruzen closed his weary eyes, crow's feet around his aging skin more pronounced than ever. Though he'd never said, the former Team Hiruzen always knew Orochimaru had been the favourite student. "Orochimaru is currently held in a holding cell awaiting judgement. Though the Anbu have yet to discover any innocents used as live specimen, there are too many research notes outlining procedures for inhumane experiments for him to be let free at ease," he said gravely.
"Orochimaru gets too engrossed into these things, but he knows the limits," Jiraiya argued for his teammate, because he didn't believe they could've spent so many years together without either him or Tsunade-hime realising Orochimaru's supposedly immoral nature. Orochimaru had apathetic emotions, but surely not that bad?
His old sensei didn't speak, so he turned to the ones who must have convinced him otherwise, because his teacher wouldn't believe the worst in Orochimaru if there wasn't strong reason not to. He eyed the Hatake, then said, "Kakashi," because he was the last Hatake and he couldn't be anyone else.
"I'm sorry, Jiraiya-sama. Orochimaru has done many horrible things in the future." The man was unrelenting as he listed the snake's crimes, "He kidnapped countless villagers to perform his human experimentations. He developed a cursed seal to place on unknowing victims to enslave them, dabbled in forbidden jutsu and immortality. He allegedly killed the Fourth Kazekage, then orchestrated an invasion against Konoha. And in the end, he'd taken the Third Hokage's life as well."
"Plus he stole Sasuke," chimed Minato's child, unhelpfully.
Kakashi clarified, "Another student of mine, a Uchiha. Orochimaru was interested in the sharingan for his goals, and needed a new body. Obtaining Sasuke became an obsession."
The tale was hard to swallow, as ambitious as he knew Orochimaru was. Still he couldn't deny the words, because as outrageous as they were, it wasn't unconceivable either. Jiraiya knew Orochimaru best.
"But it hasn't happened yet," Jiraiya finally said, in neither an agreement nor rebuff.
Kakashi nodded. "It's only our future, and we've proven that the future can be changed."
The Hatake was telling him to convince Orochimaru against the wrong path. Perhaps that's why the Third was so accepting of their words, because they weren't calling to cut Orochimaru in his prime, but striving to reform the man. He felt a stir of relief rather than despair because of this. Jiraiya let out a loud laugh from the depth of his stomach, "Ha, attempting to change the world by influencing the past, eh? Ambitious. You're definitely little Kakashi, and Minato's child." He shook his head, amused. "Is that how you summoned Bunta, brat, Minato let you sign the scroll in your future?"
The younger blond's head tilted. "It was you," he said, before a scowl overtook his face. "You kicked me off a mountain," he added sulkily, narrowed eyes to show he would never let the issue go.
Another set of boisterous chortles broke free from his belly, because that certainly seemed like a method he would deploy. As his apprentice, young Minato had caught onto his lessons too quickly, like the genius he was, depriving Jiraiya the chance to take any drastic actions. It had truly been a shame. "Minato too busy with paperwork and pawned you off to me, huh?" he said instead of any apologies, insincere or otherwise, that the kid may or may not had been expecting. "Congratulations on the promotion, Lord Fourth," Jiraiya told his student, eyeing the man's attire. "I knew you were something special. Looks good on you, the hat."
Minato thanked him politely, but something sad lingered in his eyes. On a spur, he turned to Naruto, who couldn't meet his eyes either, shoulders hunched where he stood. And suddenly Jiraiya knew. "Oh."
The life of a shinobi was short, more so for those of higher positions, but the confirmation of his own student's death – a young death, judging by his kid's age – was a sharp pain to his chest. The younger generation should never die before the older.
"You're changing that too, aren't you?" he said, hand ruffling the teen's blond hair. The dulled blue eyes hurt to see, even though they'd only just become acquainted. This was Minato and Kushina's child, a mix of their best traits – it seemed wrong the kid wasn't annoyingly cheerful and unruly.
"Believe it," Naruto promised.
"Then focus on that and leave Orochimaru to us," Jiraiya said. There was no question on who 'us' was. Jiraiya, Tsunada, and Hiruzen were the prime shinobi to settle Orochimaru's problem, considering their bonds. The white-haired Sage paused, then curiously asked, "What's next on your agenda anyways?"
Naruto glance at Kakashi. He shrugged. "Danzou?" the blond said hesitantly. That had been the plan after dealing with Orochimaru, but at the time Naruto hadn't realised his own birth had been so near. He waited a second, but Kakashi didn't refute his word, so Naruto supposed the timing was fine, still.
Jiraiya tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Danzou, huh? I received information his Root were seen around the Land of Rivers and Hidden Rain," he contributed, albeit a bit vaguely, because 'seen' could be anything from suspiciously lurking to merely passing through. Naruto scrunched in thought because something about those words were awfully familiar. On his part, Jiraiya carried on with an undisturbed, "I heard Danzou opposed you in front of the Daimyo," to Hiruzen.
The man arched an eyebrow, "News travels fast."
"I'm curious what else he has planned," Jiraiya replied in a sort of hidden amusement, like Danzou was just some joke, thwarted as easily as he had been.
Kakashi pursed his lips under his mask.
Perhaps they weren't underestimating Danzou, not under the surface of their façade of careless attitudes, but neither did they truly believe the Elder had the potential to be considered an enemy.
They recognised Danzou had many schemes, some more visible than others, but despite the knowledge of this, Danzou's loyalty towards Konoha was never in question. He would insist on dubious actions, and give apprehensive orders, but in the end Hiruzen let him be because he was much too forgiving of his old friend who only wanted best for Konoha. He underestimated Danzou's maliciousness and the lengths he would go to to get what he wanted.
The Third had all the details and still thought Danzou no worry. If he couldn't realise the threat he truly was, then Kakashi would have to force the hands of those around him. Perhaps Minato or Jiraiya would understand. Or not, then definitely Kushina would pull them into action, because those Uzumakis took no shit from anyone who dared to even contemplate harming family, and had no filters to hold back their opinionated views.
Kakashi made a decisive action, dropping to a knee, head bowed before both Lord Third and Lord Fourth. Hiruzen frowned and Minato startled at his sudden motion of deference.
"Kakashi?" Minato said tentatively.
He took a deep breath. "After sensei and Kushina's deaths," Kakashi told him, slowly, apologetically, head never lifting in his penance, "I was grieving and made poor decisions. Danzou convinced me to join his Root. It wasn't long before I was given orders to assassinate the Third."
A shrilled gasps sounded from Kushina.
Naruto leaped at him. "He told you to what?" he snarled, looking so ready to kick down the doors of Minato's house and rush out in search of said man.
A low growl sounded from Jiraiya's throat.
Minato took a step forward, shadow dropped over his stooped figure. A strong hand reached out to grasp at his shoulder, tight and still. "What happened afterwards?" he asked low and quiet, but still carrying across the room. There was nothing accusatory in the tone, but Kakashi's heart still flopped.
At last, the silver-haired man raised his head. His stormy eye locked with his teacher's, a gaze with a promise to live up to his trust. "I saw reason," he said, "The plot was foiled. I informed the Third of the order and thwarted the assassination attempt."
Minato's smile was compassionate and all-accepting. "I knew you would do the right thing, Kakashi."
He gave the man's shoulder a squeeze, then grasped onto Kakashi's forearms and tugged the man to his feet. He couldn't stand the sight of his student looking so pitiful and small and worried from Minato view of him in his momentary lapse in judgement.
Kakashi rolled up in a fluid motion. His dark eyes were still locked on him, heavy and weighty, expecting something from him.
"Wait a minute!" Naruto cut in, harried, "You said you didn't know what Danzou was up to during this time. I'm going to be born soon, apparently, so Mom and Dad are going to die and you said Danzou took advantage of you then. So he has to be planning Jiji's assassination already!"
Kakashi finally broke their gaze, turning to his student. He had the decency to look bashful. "You were injured and I couldn't be certain you wouldn't do anything rash once you heard." Hiruzen had been Naruto's only family the long years after he'd been orphaned. The Third had been the only one who openly cared for the boy, who Naruto could depend on, who Naruto had labeled as his Grandfather. The blond had raged for Sasuke, his friend and brother since Academy years – how much more fierce would he rage for Hiruzen, his Grandfather since birth?
Minato's cool voice cut over any answer Naruto was about to give. "What happened to Danzou?" he asked.
Kakashi had been his student for years. He might be older now, but Minato could write novels about the minute meanings behind Kakashi's twitches. Because a younger Kakashi was never one for expressing himself through words, Minato had learnt to read what he did show. So, the Hokage didn't miss how the man loosened and softened like he'd asked the right question. "He was forgiven by the Third," Kakashi said plainly. Then he purposefully added, "Perhaps if at least his freedom had been restrained, the Uchiha massacre could have been avoided."
Chakra swirled in Minato's living room, full of anger and disbelief. Naruto roared, Kushina leaped to her feet, Jiraiya's face pulled so stiffly that his growing wrinkles carved into his face. Minato recognised Kakashi's play of manipulation for what it was, but couldn't fault him for it because he'd spoken nothing but the truth to get his desired reactions.
Hiruzen was silent, hands clasps by his lap.
"Some people cannot be so easily forgiven," Jiraiya said, eyeing his sensei, imagining his loss.
"Uchiha massacre," Kushina murmured in disbelief, hand curled in Minato's own.
Danzou was a danger they couldn't overlook, especially since Minato had taken the title of Hokage, which the Elder dearly wanted, and had no intention of voluntarily giving it up any time soon. "What is Danzou up to now?" Minato said out loud, though mostly to himself.
"What's in Hidden Rain?" Kushina pondered.
A light flickered in Naruto's mind. "Oh," he breathed, "he's going to help kill Yahiko."
His words rolled over the group, out-of-the-blue as it was. Jiraiya, however, froze, then abruptly closed in on the teen, too close, too intense, words an icy demand, "How do you know that name?"
"He's Nagato and Konan's teammate," Naruto said, blithely clueless to the turmoil in the Toad Sage's mind. "Nagato said Hanzo teamed up with Danzou and to annihilate their group and kill Yahiko."
"Nagato 'said'?" Jiraiya repeated, breathing hitched. Because he'd gotten word of the Ame Orphans' deaths within short years after he'd left them. He'd with prayed for their safe passage with Orochimaru and Tsunade-hime, heart crushed at the short fate of his first apprentices.
"Yeah. Nagato didn't believe in peace anymore because of that and tried to destroy the world," Naruto continued, unknowingly shattering Jiraiya's world.
"Nagato," the man murmured with incredulity. Because Nagato was the good kid. He was the quiet one who was easily overlooked, who shared talks of peace with Jiraiya. He was the one who inspired his first novel: Tales of A Gutsy Ninja, with the idea of breaking the curse of war, conflict, and hatred. He was the one Jiraiya had fervently believed to be the Child of the Prophecy, until his supposed death. "We can't let that happen," not only because if he was the Child of the Prophecy who would ultimately bring about the destruction of the world if he so chose that path, but also because this was his student. And he knew how much those three relied on each other.
"Of course we won't!" Naruto declared, just as strongly as his desire to save his own father. Jiraiya was touched.
"You know what, I think I'll go pay my students a visit. You seem like you know them well," Jiraiya said casually. The unspoken invitation for Naruto to tag along was heard loud and clear.
It was no surprise that Naruto accepted without a single thought.
A/N: My ideal Kakashi time-travel reveal is him refusing to admit how horrible everything was in his life because he doesn't want to distress Team Minato and everyone else he considers family, but they find out in the end anyways. I've wanted to write it for so long, and now I've finally done it! Hope you enjoyed :)