Author's Note: This chapter, despite being posted a week after the last, is the first thing I've written in four months, so I'm kind of scared that this sucks (I'm beginning to feel like a broken record here, but the more you all tell me you like this thing, the more I'm terrified I'll ruin it). It's more of an interlude to the next chapter, and I had every intention of posting this with chapter six as one whole chapter, but it kind of came to a natural break and I decided to leave it where it is. So this is me crossing my fingers and hoping this chapter doesn't bore you all or turn you off until the next chapter is posted.
Thank you so much for everyone's kind words and taking the time to review this! This chapter is dedicated to all of you that have supported me and gotten me through these last four months. You have no idea how much I adore all of you.
It wasn't that Kakashi had ever stopped to think about what might have happened should Obito have acquired his Sharingan and was still alive and in the village to do something about it. If he ever had, he might have imagined that the boy would be ecstatic, elated, exultant; any synonymous adjective under the book that pretty much meant "very happy." While he doubted the Uchiha would proclaim his new ability from atop Hokage Mountain, he at the very least would have expected the boy to be not the least bit insufferable.
He would not have expect this.
"You haven't told anyone, yet?!" Rin, it seemed, had actually thought about it, and was surprised.
Obito hissed out the universal sign for 'shush,' holding a finger to his lips and glancing around in paranoia. The way he was acting, he might give someone the wrong idea, as if they were talking about top secret village secrets and not just the fact that Uchiha Obito was no longer the 'Only Uchiha Without a Sharingan'.
Had Kakashi still been in the future, he might have rolled his eyes. He almost did it just on principle.
The dark haired boy leaned forward, and Rin instinctively leaned forward to meet him halfway across the table to better listen. Kakashi could tell by the way her eyes were dancing, she was amused and indulging her teammate, although she was genuinely curious with this turn of events. Obito held up a hand to the side of his mouth, still on the look out for anyone who might be ease dropping. "I don't want anyone to know about it until I show Sensei."
Kakashi raised an eyebrow at that, finally failing in his act of pretending he wasn't in anyway interested in their antics and not just in his appetizers.
Rin pressed her hands together as she sat back, obviously delighted with the explanation. "I'm sure he'll be happy you decided to tell him before your family."
Obito's cheeks took on a faint reddish hue, and he scratched at one with a distinct air of embarrassment. "Well... Sensei believed in me. Same as you, Rin." He eyed Kakashi as much as not turning his head in the silver haired teen's direction would allow him. "Even Kakashi had more faith in me than they did."
So, it was a bit of revenge, with holding the information from his parents and older sister over the last few days.
"You might get your chance to do it today," Kakashi put in, contributing to the conversation for the first time since they'd started it. "If you can catch Sensei before Kushina-san steals all of his leave time." He tossed the last of the appetizer he'd been eating into his mouth.
Both of his teammates turned as one to stare at him.
"Sensei is back?" Rin asked.
"How did you know Sensei was back?" Obito asked.
Despite the fact that Obito was genuinely grateful for Kakashi's success in more or less tricking him into awakening his Sharingan, it would take far more than just a few days to break years of bad blood between them. The silver haired teen couldn't say he was expecting anything else.
Kakashi swallowed the appetizer. "The Chuunin and Jounin in the break room beside the Mission Assignment Desk gossip if they don't notice anyone is there." He contemplated the egg rolls they'd been ignoring the whole meal, trying to see if he could remember which was the vegetable and which was the chicken. "Sensei's too popular for people not to notice when he finishes a mission early."
Obito pulled a face and crossed his arms. "What were you doing at the Mission Assignment Desk, anyway? Running off to go on a mission without us?"
Kakashi didn't point out that he'd been doing missions with and without them for years, even by that point. "I like to keep up on what's going on."
Obito and Rin looked at each other. Obito raised an eyebrow, while Rin tilted her head to the side as she turned back to Kakashi. "When does Sensei get back?"
The silver haired preteen finally gave in and decided to take an egg roll. He spared the moment to answer with, "The reports aren't exact, and the information is from yesterday. Whatever sensei is doing, it could result in him coming back tonight or tomorrow," before taking a bite out of it. He didn't need to point out that most of Minato's missions were S-Ranked, so the fact that there was any news at all of his return was something in its own.
Rin nodded in understanding.
"I'm going to miss him this time, then." Obito leaned back with a sigh and crossed his arms in an almost sulk. "I have to baby sit again."
Their female teammate smiled in a teasing manner. "Itachi Watch Duty again?"
Kakashi, despite himself, found himself paying far more attention than the four year old would warrant at this point in the timeline. Something was nagging at him, something he was forgetting, but he couldn't put his finger on it.
Obito waved a hand in dismissal at him, as if the answer should be obvious. "Is there any other?" He put his arm back in it's previous position and really did sulk, then. "I have to watch him tonight. His parents are going to some family gathering for the adults. I think they just want an excuse to get away from the kids."
It was too early for them to start thinking about the coup d'etat, right?
Rin pulled on a dutifully sympathetic expression, and would have patted Obito on the shoulder had she been sitting beside him, rather than across the table from him. "You don't have him all night, again, do you?"
The relief on Obito's face answered that question before he even opened his mouth. "No, but it will still be torture in the meantime." The teen's expression boarded just this side of pouting. "At least he entertains himself."
Kakashi was tempted to ask if that 'entertainment' was 'training much too advanced for a four year old,' but decided to take pity on his teammate.
The conversation puttered around here and there between topics for a bit after that. Kakashi only listened with half an ear, up until Obito announced that it was time for him to leave, otherwise he'd be late to get Itachi. Rin glanced briefly at Kakashi, as if she were torn between wanting to stay or leave (and as if Kakashi didn't know she actually was), before rising with Obito.
"I'll walk out with you." She smiled, her eyes curving with it. "My dad is going to be home soon, and I want to surprise him with his favorite tonight."
Kakashi saw the way that Obito's face light up, while Rin wasn't looking, out of the corner of his eye, only to fall almost immediately afterwords. Tried to pretend he didn't know what the source of the Uchiha's mixed feelings was.
By the time Rin was finished, her things back in their proper places and any last morsels snagged, Obito's feelings were back under control and the moment gone. The brunette turned her attention to the silver haired boy, even as she moved around the table to stand by their dark haired teammate. "Are you heading home soon, Kakashi?"
It was a good question. He could reasonably head home; rest up, and absolutely no one would find it strange. He could even head over to one of the training fields and work on that slight off-ness he was still suffering from being almost a foot shorter than he was used to.
Both sounded tantalizing, but he already knew what he would be doing. Not wanting to advertise he was almost blatantly stalking the Mission Assignment Desk, though, he simply shrugged and made a noise that was largely up to interpretation.
He could see them looking at each other, and could only guess what they were thinking.
Obito made a 'humph' under his breathe, never it was below himself to let Kakashi know when he was being unreasonably annoying, in his opinion. "You know he's probably going to train or something." He crossed his arms and sighed. "Either that, or head back to the Mission Assignment Desk."
A flash of worry crossed Rin's face, marring her smile. "Don't work too hard, okay, Kakashi?"
Kakashi wondered the last time someone had actually told him to take it easy, and came up blank. Uncertain what to do with the sentiment, he merely made another noncommittal sound.
Rin must have taken it as the closest to a yes as she was going to get, because she nodded herself, before she began dragging Obito out the door all the while saying, "You're going to be late!"
Kakashi listened to their exit; listened until he could no longer pick out their voices in the cacophony of sound around him. He found himself wanting to follow them, as he often did, even after almost a month of having been in the past, because he couldn't get enough of their vitality and life. He wanted to hold onto them as long as he could, even as he feared he couldn't hold on tight enough.
The egg roll he was munching on had gone cold before he had decided to take a bite, and it was even colder now. He swallowed it down with little fanfare, barely tasting it. He decided it was time to leave, himself, and placed the bills down to pay for the meal.
It wasn't more than an almost literal hop-skip-and-a-jump to the Ninja Academy, once he'd set out from the little restaurant they'd eaten a late lunch at. Part of him took in how little it looked in difference to the way it had in his time; the only real difference being the heavy air to the place.
Growing up with that feeling, he hadn't noticed it. It had just been there. It wasn't until he'd walked into the Academy after having lived for so many years of peace that he realized that it was there.
This was a place were they trained their children to die and they knew it.
Kakashi ignored the side glances he got from some of the adults, aware of the reputation he had, even in this time period. Most of the people at the Mission Assignment Desk were the same as the day before, and he could already tell there was nothing of interest, although he still came up to look.
One ninja, the only female of the group, noticed him and waved him over. Kakashi vaguely remembered her and that she was on desk duty until she recovered from an injury for several weeks. Her name was Kanoe Satoko and the only reason he remembered it was because it was the name above Obito's on the Memorial Stone.
Kanoe eyed him as he stepped up to her place on the table, a slightly envious look in her eyes for which side of the table he was standing on. "If you're looking for a mission today, you're out of luck." She pointed to a stack of papers several people over from her. "Unless you want to look for runaway cats or do some manual labor."
The silver haired preteen considered, and then rejected, the idea of taking on a few just to kill some time. It wasn't that he couldn't do any of those missions, or wouldn't when his money reserves got a little lower, but he couldn't deny they were so very much more fun when it had been him simply watching his then-genin do them.
She could read his answer without him having to say anything, and it had more to do with her own skill in reading body language than any fault at guarding himself. "A few of the kids your age have come in looking for missions of higher rank." She smirked, because she already knew what his answer would before she even suggested it. "You should see about rounding a few up and trying for a mission with them."
Kakashi tried to imagine going on a mission with a younger Asuma or Gai and had to struggle to keep his expression blank. Not giving her the satisfaction of a verbal response (as if she needed one), he simply turned around to head back out of the Academy.
"-the Iwagakure camp they found past the border?"
The preteen paused, not quite to the door to the break room. He gave it a look, and he knew he'd said they liked to gossip when they thought no one was around, but it was a bit careless to do it day in and day out.
A deeper voice than the first sounded interested, and Kakashi couldn't say he recognized it. "Taku-san said it was abandoned, but that it was only a few days old." A rustle of fabric indicated that the speaker was moving around the room. "The tracks lead in the direction of the Land of Fire border, but his team believes that it was a ruse and the Iwa-nin were actually headed deeper into our territory."
The first voice made a concerned noise, and a third voice chimed in with, "Wouldn't be surprised if they went back to the border. With people like Minato-san and Kawagichi-san on our side, it's any wonder they ran."
The other two voices chuckled in amusement, and Kakashi filed the information away. It tickled at that thing he felt he was forgetting, but he still couldn't put his finger on what it was. He was fairly certain it would present itself soon, but he couldn't help but feel like it was important and remembering now would be better.
Distracted, he headed for the entrance and then out the door. He let his feet carry him to wherever, no real destination in mind as he tried to think about something else in hopes it would finally trigger whatever it was he had forgotten.
He barely noticed his path had taken him to the third training ground until he was already there.
Kakashi blinked himself out of his thoughts, and stopped at the edge of the grounds. It was currently out of use, no team having claimed it at the moment. The area was huge in it's empty state and that sense of off-ness that had nothing to do with his new age and height came over him.
He was too used to coming here, when he had nothing to distract himself. Too used to coming here to stare at a name that was carved on a version of the Memorial Stone that only existed in his memory. He had found himself doing this on the several occasions that he had forgotten when he was (and that was still on odd thought to have).
He had never approached the stone, couldn't quite bring himself to do it, least it say what he remembered and this was all just a dream.
Part of him was terrified of what it *wouldn't* say, and that it would make this all the more real in ways just seeing Minato and Rin alive and Obito young and sane again couldn't.
It was entirely possible that he was still coming to grips with his situation and he wasn't sure if he should be worried about that or more worried when he finally did come to grips with it.
Kakashi shook himself, berating himself for basing his sanity on what a rock did or didn't say, and questioned what that said about his frame of mind in the first place. He pushed himself to take first the one step, and then the next, and the one after that, until he was standing at the very stone he'd been avoiding since waking up in his old bed. He forced himself to look at it and to ignore the way his palms were suddenly clammy.
It shouldn't have been a surprise 'UCHIHA OBITO' wasn't carved into it. It shouldn't have made him a little weak in the knees, nor his heart beat a little faster, but it did, and it was almost a relief to kneel down in front of it until he was on eye level with where Obito's name used to be.
Kakashi reached out a hand to the smooth surface, almost able to see the name like an echo over the blank spot. It had been there for over half his life, a sign of his failure like a brand for all the world to see, and he didn't know what to do with the fact that it wasn't there anymore.
If he thought about it, technically it hadn't been there at all thanks to time travel, but he remembered it and that made it real.
It was too much like redemption to think he was given a clean slate; a chance to try again (even if that's what Naruto had intended). A little cliche, perhaps, and a voice that sounded oddly like Gai's berated him for being too serious and un-youthful, but perhaps it was simply his own psyche pointing this out as well.
He was still in that position, struggling with his conflicted feelings over this Memorial Stone with its fewer names, when the sun began sink below the trees almost an hour later.
He shifted to look over in the sun's direction, taking in its lowered position. It might have been easier to just stick around and waste some time practicing, but it would have been just that: wasting time.
Kakashi pushed himself to his feet, acknowledging his feet's unhappiness with the position he'd required of them, even as he pushed through it. He was too trained, even at that age, to be bothered with sitting in one position - however uncomfortable - for a measly hour. He gave the stone one last, long look, before turning around and heading back to the entrance of the training field.
It was habit to glance into the window of the book store on the way home, than any real kind of hope it would hold something interesting. Icha Icha Paradise wouldn't be written for another few years, and anything else the store had to offer paled in comparison to the brilliance that was Jiraiya's masterpieces.
He was just settling into the idea of meditating for the rest of the night, when he noticed a familiar pair waiting outside his door.
His teammates turned one after the other as he approached. Rin was relieved to see him under her worry, but it was obvious that Obito didn't want to be there and was antsy to get out of there immediately.
"Kakashi! There you are." Rin met him half way to the door, with Obito reluctantly following her. This close it was impossible to miss how pale she was.
Obito pressed his lips together and over all looked like he thought this was a waste of time. Below that, though, was the same under current of worry
Kakashi took in their harried appearances and the fact that they were both here instead of Obito watching Itachi and Rin having dinner with her father. "What happened?"
Surely nothing had happened to Minato-sensei. Or Obito's and Rin's family. It was too soon.
Kakashi was expecting a great deal of possible explanations for their worry, he would readily admit, but he somehow hadn't expected Rin to exclaim, "Itachi is missing!"
It was like a moment of clarity, that nagging thing that had been bothering him over the last several hours all but literally slapping Kakashi upside the head with the force of him suddenly remembering.
A four year old Uchiha Itachi, who went missing for several days.
A group of Iwagakure ninja, who were heading for Konoha instead of away from it.
A horrific battle ground that was forever going to change Itachi, and turn him into the kind of person that would always choose peace over war regardless if it cost him his (home- family-) soul in the end.
He came crashing back to the here and now when he also remembered that he wasn't supposed to be hearing this from Rin. He had heard about it days down the line, long after it had happened, in passing. Nothing like this had happened in the first time line, and he wondered if this was just the first warning of the snowball his changing time was creating.
He stared at Rin a little too wide-eyed to be in character, and it showed how much they were worried that they didn't notice his slip up.
"We were wondering if you could help us," she continued. Rin put her hands a small distance away from each other, to indicate the size of something. "Couldn't you summon one of you Ninken, and see if they can pick up his scent?"
A part of Kakashi's brain, not thrown by this change in events, noticed that her hands were perfectly held apart to fit Pakkun in them (and had Pakkun even been born yet?).
Obito shifted behind her, and he looked like he wanted to protest, but couldn't find a good enough reason to.
For a moment, Kakashi was torn between refusing and agreeing, not even capable of imagining what would happen if they stopped Itachi from seeing that battle. What kind of person would the Uchiha have become, if he hadn't been so heavily bent on peace? Would he have agreed to the coup d'etat? Would he have fought against Konoha, rather than for it?
What would that have meant for all of them, and did they even have the right to try and change it?
The choice was too huge, too far reaching to be taken lightly, and yet, Rin and Obito didn't have the slightest clue what they were asking. To them, it was a no-brainer, and Kakashi couldn't even explain it to them why it should be.
Rin's brows furrowed, a different kind of concern in her eyes. "Kakashi? Are you alright?" She reached out a hand to press against his forehead, telegraphing her movement as she did so and giving him plenty of time to step away if he wanted. "You look really pale."
Obito, despite himself, was also paying more attention, and looked as if he expected Kakashi to suddenly just keel over.
The silver haired preteen scrambled to focus his thoughts, a few still slipping through his mental fingers. He could refuse, and they wouldn't be surprised. He did things that were rude and unhelpful, back then. Still did now, even. It almost would have been out of character if he didn't, but this change was already in motion, and there was no telling where it could lead.
There were other ways of tracking a missing child, even one as smart as Itachi, and they knew it. They would find a way to look for him, and if they found it, found the Iwa-nin during - or, worse, before - the fight that eradicated them, there was no telling what would happen.
The only way he could keep an eye on them, while trying to figure out what on earth he was going to do with what might happen in the future if they actually did find Itachi, would be to go with them.
Kakashi reached up and gently pulled Rin's hand away from his forehead. He released it when she pulled them back, and tried to get himself back under control.
"When did he go missing?"
Obito finally pipped up at that. "Several hours. Mikoto-san said that he had been missing for an hour before I got there." He jerked his head in Rin's direction. "I ran into Rin while I was looking for him, and she insisted on trying to help."
Rin rolled her eyes, and it was easy to see she thought it obvious she would be worried for a for a missing four year old.
It was also easy to see how this had lead them to his door.
Kakashi nodded, stepping back from Rin as he did so. While he had had his contract with his Ninken for years, even now, he wasn't sure who would answer his call. Ninken lived a long time, but all of his usual dogs were little more than a decade old and hadn't always been around.
The summoning was the same as he had done a thousand times before, but like he'd thought, when the dust cleared, it wasn't any of the Ninken he'd grown used to.
The dog sitting in the space of the summon was bigger than Pakkun was/would be, but not by much. There was a certain resemblance between this pug and his favorite Ninken and it was really no wonder.
This was his mother, after all. And judging from the size of her belly, she would be again soon.
Pakka turned her head to stare up at them, raising a paw in a way that made Kakashi ache with a homesickness he didn't think he could feel up until that point. "Yo."
Rin's eyes widened with delight, and the fact that these two had been semi-close floated up from the place Kakashi hadn't realized he'd buried it. "Pakka! You look ready to burst!" She frowned and knelt down be more level with the Ninken. "Are you sure you should be helping us instead of resting."
The pug moved with an easy that was only slightly hampered by her pregnant status. "This isn't my first litter, Rin-chan." She wasn't necessarily smiling, but the impression was there. "Nor the first time one of the boys have called me with one." She placed her paw on Rin's knee. "But thank you for the concern."
Rin didn't look anywhere near 100% convinced with that explanation, but she knew determination when she saw it.
"Now, what did you drag me off my nice, warm pillow for?"
Rin seemed fine with taking over (something neither of her teammates deemed it necessary to change), gesturing to each of them in time with their part as she explained the situation. At the end of it, Pakka asked for some thing with Itachi's scent on it.
Rin turned to look at Obito, an act Pakka was soon in following suit. It was a sign of Rin's influence that Obito was prepared with one of Itachi's shirts for Pakka to sniff.
"Where was the last time anyone saw the boy?" Pakka sniffed the shirt, committing the scent to memory.
"At his house." Obito still sounded a little reluctant about anything that involved Kakashi's help, but he couldn't deny this could actually work.
Pakka nodded, jumping on the railing. "Lead the way, dears, and we'll start from there."
Rin was quick to take off, Obito only slightly hesitating before following. That it took as long as it did for Kakashi to follow didn't escape Pakka's notice. She came up to run along side him, glancing at him even as she kept an eye on the two she was following.
"What's gotten into you, Kakashi? You look like you've seen a ghost."
Kakashi glanced at her, this living heirloom he'd inherited from his father, and might have told her if only he could figure outhow. Somehow, he knew saying, 'I can't figure out if finding Itachi is good or bad, because he needs to be traumatized or otherwise he might destroy Konoha instead of just his family,' didn't sound like a good place to start. It certainly wouldn't sound like a sane one, out of context.
He also knew just muttering "I'm fine," wasn't much better, but between the two, it was the best he could do, so he said it anyway.
She, understandably, didn't look convinced, but didn't push. "Don't get too tangled up in your head, Kakashi." She pointed at his team mates between one leap to the next. "They aren't just your team mates, they're your friends. Don't forget that."
He thought of her standing at his father's side, and watching what he had gone through. Wondered what she saw when she looked at Kakashi, and if he might be a little too far down that rabbit hole as well.
But above all, he wondered what it would be like to tell them everything. To look Minato, Rin, and Obito in the face and tell them everything. He couldn't imagine they'd believe him, anymore than they would believe him if he tried to explain his conflict with whether or not to find Itachi.
He could only follow along with them, and try to make the best decision he could with the information he had, and maybe pray he didn't mess up again.
NEXT: The group find Itachi and a few more problems along the way.