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A Brother's Love

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7:30 AM –
Home of Satoru, Shikatomi and Inomi Uchiha

Shikatomi lay as his cell phone’s alarm blipped annoyingly on his bedside table, and for a few brief moments he enjoyed the softness and warmth of his bed and sheets, smelling faintly of the rose laundry soap that his little sister had picked out at the store.

Eventually, however, he did force himself out of bed. Rubbing his eyes and yawning, he went to the bathroom.

When he was finished, he went downstairs and flipped on the rice maker, taking out a pot and putting soup stock onto a low heat. He foraged around for half-cut veggies, left over from last night’s dinner, and tossed in burdock root, some carrots, a daikon radish, potatoes and miso paste. He let those simmer, putting five pork sausages into a baking pan and putting it into the oven, then taking a frying pan to start making scrambled eggs.

“Good morning.” He greeted, not turning away from his cooking as his little sister came to sit at the table, hearing their incredibly over-weight cat’s collar bell jingle as it followed her. “Cheese or extra cheese?” He asked, already knowing the answer.

“Extra.” Inomi yawned, rubbing at her eyes.

He smiled faintly, rolling up the egg and putting it on a plate, pouring her half of the soup, making her a small bowl of rice and finally adding two of the piping hot fresh sausages last. “And, done.” He announced, setting the meal in front of her.

Inomi clapped her hands. “Thank you for the meal.” She said, before digging in. After he made his own plate, he immediately started making lunch, boiling two eggs and cutting up ten arabiki sausages into octodogs, which he set aside to fry later.

Finally, he sat down to eat.

“Laundry day today,” Shikatomi said, setting down his rice bowl. “So you gotta bring all your dirty clothes to the living room to sort, alright?”

“Yes, Onii-chan.” Inomi yawned.

“And you gotta clean out Gama’s litter box too, okay?”

“Yes, Onii-chan.” She repeated, sounding incredibly uninterested.

“And you have to help me defeat the giant purple dinosaur by putting peanut butter on the doors.”

“Yes, Onii-chan.”

“You haven’t been listening to a word I’ve said, have you?”

“Yes, Onii-chan.”

He sighed, reaching over the table and pinching her cheek. “Will you listen to me for five goddamn minutes?!” He said, tugging hard.

“Owowowowowow!!” She squealed, teeth grit. “Okay, okay!! Listening, all ears, just let me go!!”

“Laundry and litter box, Inomi.” He repeated. “After you come home from school.”

She rubbed at her cheek, her eyes tearing up at the corners as she pouted. “Geeze, alright, I got it…” Inomi grumbled, finishing off her last sausage. “Done!” She said, putting down her chopsticks and standing, going back upstairs.

“Don’t forget to make your bed!” Shikatomi shouted at her retreating back. “Hurry, or we’re gonna be late!”

“Yes, Onii-chan!!” She shouted back.

He began to put away the dishes, setting them into the dishwasher, before starting to pack up lunch as well. With the rest of the rice in the rice maker, he filled one half with rice, adding seasoning on top.

He then peeled and cut the two eggs into threes, arranging them into the bento, and then set the ten octodogs into a pan to fry. While those were cooking, he set two dividers into the boxes, filling one with blue berries and the other with cherry tomatoes and steamed broccoli, left over from the night before. Finally, he set the octodogs into the bentos, which he finally closed and wrapped up in the handkerchiefs, his was grey and hers was red.

With that done, he set them out and went upstairs into his room, where his bed was still unmade and messy.

He began, tossing his blankets and pillows off the bed, snapped the sheets twice, and tucked them back in under the mattress, ensuring that they were straight and flat on the bed. Tossing his blanket back on, tucking the edges under as well, and then tossing the pillows onto the bed.

He then went to his closet, pulling a long sleeved navy blue shirt and black pants, tossing his sleeping clothes into the dirty basket as soon as he was done changing.

He went into the bathroom to brush his teeth and hair, and found his sister struggling to brush out her incredibly long strawberry blonde hair.

He went to help her, taking the comb and brush on the marble counter. “Did you brush your teeth?” He asked as he began.

“I did.” She said, slouching slightly. He lightly smacked her between her shoulder blades with the brush, making her sit straight up again.

“Good girl.” He hummed.

A moment later, she spoke up. “Onii-chan.” She said, looking at her brother through the mirror as he brushed.

“Yes?” Replied the boy, who was busy pulling her dark, strawberry blonde hair into a ponytail.

“What was Mama like?”

Shikatomi paused for a moment, breathing out softly. “Inomi, you know I can’t answer that. I was only five when she…when she died.”

“Because of me.” Inomi added, with a huffy tone. “You can say it, you know. I know I killed Mama.”

“You didn’t kill Mama, stupid.” Shikatomi said sharply, pulling at his sister’s hair a slight rougher than needed, she winced but didn’t comment on it. “She had always been weaker, health wise. That’s what Papa said. She even had trouble having me, it’s a miracle we even have you in the first place.”

“Papa think’s I killed her too.” The little blonde mumbled, eyes downcast.

“What makes you say that?”

“Because, he named me Inomi. Everyone else in this stupid family have ‘S’ names, it’s only me that doesn’t.”

“Haruki doesn’t have an ‘S’ name. Neither does Genma, or Akemi, Raku, Hoshi, Etsu, Yasuo, Tsukino, Asa, and Iku don’t have ‘S’ names…Should I keep going?”

Inomi remained quiet, pouting and stewing in her emotions for a moment. “Onii-chan.” She finally said, just as he reached for the hair tie.

 “If you gonna ask about Mama again, you should be asking Pa-“

“Do you think we look alike? I don’t.” Shikatomi was just finishing off her pony tail, the tight elastic snapping into place.

Shikatomi paused for a moment, and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, looking into the mirror and comparing their faces. Their eyes were similar, the same dark, emerald green of their father, with the pasty pale completion of their mother. Her strawberry blonde hair was certainly different than his own inky black, but looking up their family lines, it wasn’t hard to figure out where hers came from. Granny Sakura was famous for her pink hair, and Grandpa Inojin was as blonde as blonde could be. “Give it a few years.” He said, settling his chin on her head. “That blonde is gonna go dark eventually. There’s pictures of Mama when she was a baby, she was blonde too. It went dark before she got to the academy.”

She reached up, tugging at her bangs and pulling them to the side, covering one of her green eyes. Shikatomi let go, taking a few swipes at his short hair with the brush before putting them away. “Onii-chan…” His little sister called yet again, standing as Shikatomi reached for his tooth brush and tooth paste. “Will you teach me that new shuriken technique today?”

He quickly began to brush his teeth, thinking. He had a grand total of three separate missions today, one with his team and two without. Treating their great-grandmother Temari's arthritis, picking up litter at the arena where a pop concert had been the night before, and, after lunch, take care of Grammpy Sai’s yard and garden. After that, he had to come back, sort the dirty laundry, do the dishes from breakfast and lunch, do his own homework, and help Inomi with hers. And if Papa didn’t come back before 8, he would have to make dinner too…

He spoke, his mouth filled with foam. “Feed the cat and do your chores when you get home, we’ll go out and train after homework.” He mumbled, still brushing.

Her smile was as radiant as the sun, rushing off to do as he bid her. “Okaaaay!!” She shouted, sounding far more chipper now than she had earlier that morning. He could hear the front door open and slam shut.

He spit out the tooth paste, swishing around water and spitting that out as well. He patted his face dry, and went to grab his lunch box next to his medic bag.

On the table, however, were two. Inomi had forgotten hers. He sighed deeply, taking both and rushing out the door.

8:49 –
Uchiha Court Yard

Most everyone was already there, at least sixty young Uchiha, all in gridlock formation with only a few gaps between them. High above on a freestanding platform/stage, was the Uchiha Head Grandpa Sasuke with Uncle Shizu and Auntie Shina at his sides and Auntie Sarada directly behind him, all three standing in front of three large barrel drums each.

“Inomi!” Griped Shikatomi, spotting his blonde-haired sister in the throngs of their many cousins, grabbing her shoulder and plopping her bento onto her lap. “Your lunch! Don’t be so forgetful!”

“Ah! Sorry, Onii-chan!” She said, green eyes wide, taking it. “Shoot, Ojii-san’s almost starting. I’ll go put them aside.” She said, nabbing Shikatomi’s bento as well, setting them on a bench near the court yard as Shikatomi himself went to his own designated spot, a ways away from Inomi.

After a few minutes, at exactly 9 AM, Uncle and Aunties began to play the drums. “Stand!” Ojii-san shouted.

“Hah!” All his grandchildren shouted in return, standing in unison.

“One!” He called.

“Sha!” They answered, punching the air in front of them with force, right handed.

“Two!”

“Na!” They took a step forward, outstretched fists pointing downward.

“Three!!”

“Ro!” They spun on their feet, kicking upward enough so that Shikatomi’s heel was right next to the ear of the person in front of him, and he could feel someone else’s foot right next to his head.

“Back!” They returned to neutral position, standing straight and tall, fists by their armpits.

That was as much of a warm up as they would receive.

For the next hour they were drilled, Grandpa slowly letting them go. The youngest ones, the six year olds, went first, and then the seven year olds, so on and so forth.

The speed of the drums and the drills they were being made to do slowly increased in tempo, until Shikatomi was going more on instinct than instruction, his Sharingan activated as he followed the movements of those around him. Stepping left, transitioning into a low sweep kick, crouching then hand standing, and finally back flipping onto their feet. Five consecutive punches to the right (right hand-left hand-uppercut-left hook-backhand), falling into a one-footed crouch with one leg extended, flipping so they were on their hands and the tips of their toes, and doing twenty push ups.

Push ups was the end of Shikatomi’s routine, as all 11 year olds were allowed to leave after them, but all the 12 to 19 year old's continued onwards, running laps and stepping in perfect unison with each other and the drumbeat.

“Almost late again,” One of his cousins commented as all the twelve year olds went to gather their things, smacking Shikatomi’s shoulder lightly. “What, did ya sleep in?” his tone was joking.

“Bah, I wish,” he replied with a laugh. “Sleeping in is a dream I might never see.”

“Don’t raise the bar so much, Shika-chan. You make the rest of us look bad,” another cousin commented, putting an arm around his shoulders.

“You shouldn’t be aiming so low then,” Shikatomi responded, grabbing the arm around his neck and flipping the taller twelve year old right onto the dirt floor. “Keep training.”

“Yep…” Groaned his cousin, laying on the floor. All the air had been pushed out of his lungs with the hard landing. “Will do…” he coughed.

He took his bag from the bench, happy to see that Inomi hadn’t forgotten her lunch again, and that his was still by his bag. He packed the lunch away, and headed towards the Uchiha Gates.

“Hello, Nephew,” Auntie Suzu said, in her wheelchair at the front gates with her husband. “Busy day ahead of you?”

“Yes, Auntie,” He said as he knelt in front of her, one knee on the ground. “Genin mission, a few house calls and some lawn work.”

She reached out, patting his head with a fresh, cool rag, wiping away some of the sweat of morning Calisthenics with grandpa. “Alright, be safe. Don’t overwork yourself.”

“Here, a special treat,” Uncle said, as Shikatomi stood. He was handed an ice cold bottle of water and a small wrapped up package.

“Oh, I already have lun-“ Shikatomi began, a hand out to reject it.

Uncle shook his head, a smile on his fat, wide face. Shikatomi faltered, blinking slightly as he reconsidered. “Thank you, Uncle, Auntie,” he said, gratefully accepting both the package and the water.

“Have a nice day, Shikatomi!” they bade, waving farewell as they greeted and gave water to each of the cousins that came after him.

On his way down the road, he heard someone panting, and feet running towards him. "Shikatomi-kun! Shika!" One of his thirteen year old cousins, who must've just finished running his laps. Shikatomi turned, seeing Hoshi, a member of the Hyuuga branch of the Uchiha. Shikatomi couldn't remember who his parents were, however, either uncle Seiji or Uncle Suizen, he recalled.

"Hey, ready for the first house call?" asked Shikatomi, slowing down as Hoshi stopped to catch his breath.

"Haah...haah...O-of course, just...gimmie a mo..." after a moment, he stood straight, arms up. "Alright, lets do this! It's the Nara house first, right?”

"Then Lady Shizune after lunch."

"Right!" Hoshi said, sounding pumped. "Alright, let's go!"

10:20 –
Outside The Nara Household

Before Shikatomi even lifted a hand to the door, he heard a familiar curmudgeon shout. “Don’t touch me!!”

“Just sit still for the five minutes it takes to give your shot, troublesome old coot!!”

“No! You’ll only make it hurt!!”

He sighed, foregoing knocking as he opened the door, finding his grandfather attempting to shove his great-grandmother into a chair in the front parlor, his cousin Hoshi following a few steps behind, far more unsure of the ground.

“Shikatomi!” Both gasped, the wrinkled old Nara’s parting in an attempt to save their dignity.

The boy sighed, stepping in, Hoshi closing the door behind him as he joined the fray, both boys toeing off their sandals. “I’m gonna pretend I didn’t see anything,” he said, pulling his medic bag off his shoulder, setting it on the table. Hoshi wordlessly went to spread out their instruments on the same table, a set of thirty wire-thin needles (thicker and rounder on one end like nail head), a spool of thin copper wire and a pot of numbing ointment, all spread out on a clean and sterile sheet. “Grandpa, needle,” He asked, holding his hand out.

Shikadai begrudgingly gave his grandson the needle, insulin for the aging Nara matriarch’s diabetes. He took Temari’s arm, gently pressing down were he would insert the needle, and pressing it the point under his thumb.

Temari didn’t move or flinch at the barely-there pain of her great-grandson’s gentle hands.

Hoshi reached around Shikatomi, gently touching the tips of Temari’s fingers. “Your hands are cold,” Hoshi observed as Shikatomi put the cap on the needle, going to dispose of it properly with the other medical waste. Hoshi knelt and touched Temari’s toes, feeling that they were cold as well. “Your feet too. Have you been taking your daily walks like the doctor told you to?”

“I’m too damn old to go anywhere, let alone for a walk,” Grumbled Temari.

“Well, if you’re not gonna do the exercise, have you at least been taking your pills?” Asked Hoshi, as Shikatomi returned.

“Course, don’t nag me boy.”

“We wouldn’t have to nag you if you did as the doctors told you,” Sighed Shikatomi, pulling up a chair next to Hoshi. “Now, usual places?”

“Right wrist, fingers and my shoulders.” Said Temari, allowing the boys to unwrap the cotton gauze around her wrists, wrapped tight to ease the pain and swelling of his arthritis.

Shikatomi took one of the thin needles, thinner than a sewing needle, coated it in the numbing ointment and inserted it into the tiny plastic tube.

He handed the tube to Hoshi, who activated his Byakuugan and was looking for the swollen pressure points of Temari’s wrists. He set the rounded tube flat against the skin of her wrist and counted down. “Deep breath, in three, two…” He tapped the end of the tube, forcing the needle into Temari’s wrinkled skin with a quick and gentle stab. He pulled the plastic tube off, and twisted the needle, gently pushing it deeper into the muscle of her hand.

They repeated this for the next half hour or so, as Shikadai made tea and counted out Temari’s medication, making sure he had taken everything he was supposed to.

Soon, Temari’s hand was pinned perfectly. “How’re your studies going, boy?” Asked Temari as her great-grandson coiled copper wire around a two of the needles, one on his finger, one on his wrist.

“Just fine, Granny,” he said, cutting the wire at an appropriate length. “I’ll be a certified nurse before I’m 16.”

“And a doctor after that, right?”

“If I’m a doctor, I won’t be here to help you anymore,” Shikatomi reminded her, putting the end of the copper wire between his teeth as Hoshi stepped back, making sure not to crowed Shikatomi as he made handsigns for the Chidori. He made the final tiger sign with the wire between his two pointer fingers, running the smallest electrical current through it, the needle, and into Temari’s muscles, relaxing them and easing the pain of her lacking cartilage between her finger and wrist bones.

“I won’t be here to help anymore, in a few years,” Temari chortled, her fingers twitching slightly as Shikatomi ran lightening through her aching fingers and wrists.

“Mom, don’t be so morbid,” Sighed Shikadai, setting a cup of tea onto the table. “He’s they’re barely out of the academy, and he doesn’t need to hear that sort of thing.”

“He’s an Uchiha, a damn fine one if you ask me, the both of them. More driven and accomplished than you, I, Shikamaru, or Shikari will ever be.”

“Mom!” Shikadai snapped, his pupiless green eyes lit with indignant rage, Hoshi awkwardly glancing anywhere but the simmering family quarrel that was brewing.

“Granny, what was she like?” Asked Shikatomi quietly, instead of being angry or sad at his blunt and uncaring great-grandmother, starting to pull out the needles on her hand, using the healing palm technique to fix up the little pin prick holes he left.

“Shikari? That girl was as stubborn and bossy as myself! Probably worse, actually. She always had a vision for everything,” Temari recalled fondly, so lost in her memories she hadn’t noticed Shikatomi covering her hand in an herbal paste, tightly wrapping her hand and knuckles in cotton bandages to help her arthritis. “She once rearranged the entire kitchen, because she thought the way it had been was too inefficient.”

Shikatomi listened, attempting to memorize every story Temari was telling him. Inomi would like to know, too. He’d tell her once he got home, and bring her over for a visit when he wasn’t working.

After about an hour and a half, they were finished (both knees and her shoulder had been pinned and electrified) and Temari had drifted off to sleep in his chair in the middle of a story. With a pile of needles to dispose of and his hands all oily from applying ointment, he went to clean up. Shikadai, however, stopped him from reaching for the needles. “Its fine, I got this. You two should go wash up,” He said gently. Shikatomi nodded, going to the bathroom to clean his hands, Hoshi trailing behind.

“Shit, no towel,” Sighed Hoshi, scratching his head slightly. “D’you know where they keep them?”

“End of the hall, tall closet,” Said Shikatomi, starting to wash the oily mess off his hands.

Hoshi left, returning a few minutes later with a clean one for Shikatomi to dry his hands with. The white eyed Uchiha started to wash his hands as well, speaking to his friend, cousin and collogue. “Hey, I heard someone in one of the rooms. I didn’t wanna be rude and look in, but it sounded like they were talking to someone that wasn’t there. Should I be concerned?”

“That’s my Great Uncle Kankuro, he’s living here so he’s close to his only family left and because the temperature is more moderate here, so he can still go for a walk occasionally and get some exercise. His mind started to go after a stroke, some ten odd years ago,” Answered Shikatomi. “When I go see him, he thinks I’m Shikamaru, my Great Grandfather. He doesn’t realize what year it is or how much time has passed. He still thinks its Lord Kazekage’s birthday.”

“Lord Kazekage the Seventh?” Asked Hoshi curiously.

“Fifth, his younger brother Lord Gaara,” Shikatomi answered, with a sigh.

“He died like…twenty years ago, didn’t he? Something about the strain of being a jinchuriki and the years it took off his life when it was taken away. I did a study on it.”

“Yeah, now you know the extent of his mind,” He said, drying off his hands.

Hoshi bit his lower lip, glancing out the door. “Maybe we ought to check up on him…Even if we can’t do anything for him.”

“Hoshi, I don’t know about you, but I still have two more house calls to make, then I’m picking up trash in an arena and mowing a lawn and pruning rose bushes. I don’t have time.”

Hoshi went quiet, and didn’t continue bothering him about it as they made their way out of the Nara house and towards Shizune’s place.

“Hey, Shika-kun,” Hoshi called his cousin, jabbing a thumb at a bench facing a fountain. “Do you have time for an early lunch, at least?” If they ate after Shizune’s appointment, they’d be waiting at least another hour.

“Hoshi, I will always have time for lunch,” He said with the barest half-smiles, following to go sit. He set his bag down, pulling out his bento, Hoshi doing the same.

“Mmn, what’s that?” Asked the white-eyed Uchiha, glancing into Shikatomi’s open bag. Wrapped in pink paper with a purple ribbon, it looked like a stack of cookies.

Shikatomi reached in, taking the stack from his bag. “Auntie Suzu gave them to me this morning. I think they’re senbei.”

“Ooh! Auntie’s crackers! Can I have some?” Hoshi asked, eyes alight.

“Sure, just save some for Inomi,” He said, handing them over.

“Yum~!” He hummed, happily munching on the savoury snack. He only managed to grab three or so before they had to get up and move on over to the next appointment, however.

11:52 –
Lady Shizune’s home.

She was…far more compliant than Temari had been. She scarcely spoke anymore, for some reason or another. Granny Sakura said it was because of the mental trauma she’d accumulated through years as a med-nin, combined with dementia. Like Great Uncle Kankuro, she was lost in her own mind.

She did as told, following any order she was given like a child lost in a fog. She’d gone through a few nurses and most had taken advantage of her willingness, having her write blank cheques, arriving late and leaving early, making barely edible food, that sort of stuff.

And that was when she was doing alright. When she was in any word of significant pain, she would dig her heels in the ground and not move an inch. Refusing food and not telling her nurses when she had to use the bathroom. They’d dealt with her like this for well over five years, before Hoshi had observed that her arthritis was particularly bad and causing her immense pain.

But now, one of Sarada’s daughters, Akemi, was there with her and regular arthritis treatment, she had gone back to her complacent self. Akemi’s abilities as a mednin were extraordinary, but her talents had always been in nursing for the elderly. She was Lady Shizune’s longest running nurse.

Shikatomi wondered how she was able to do it. Just seeing the blank, rheumy-eyed stare of half-blind eyes every day, wondering what sort of confused, backward, wandering hell she lived in every moment of her waking existence as he would try to lead her through her daily routine…Shikatomi was certain he lacked the compassion for such work.

Shikatomi was certain that Hoshi would carry on with the nursing gig though. As gentle and patient with Shizune as he was, there was no doubt that he would make a good a nurse one day.

They left her smiling, and staring out at nothing.

“This is where we split,” said Shikatomi as he began to pack up his supplies.

“Alright, I’ll…see you later, okay?” the way Hoshi said it was more like a request than a goodbye.

“Maybe,” Shikatomi said, shouldering his backpack, pulling out a summoning scroll. “Later, Hoshi. I’ve gotta hurry,” he set it out, putting a hand to the seal. A large, black and tan metal fan popped out with a puff of smoke. He rolled the scroll back, pocketing it and folding out the fan. On it were the three white Haruno Circles, in lieu of Grandma Temari’s three purple moons. He’d already sent word ahead to the police that he would be making an emergency flight, so no one would hassle him or try to shoot him down.

Hoshi watched the fan on his back as Shikatomi flew away, using his wind-type chakra to lift him up on his fan. He sighed deeply, running a hand through his long black hair. Maybe Temari-san would like a visitor…

1:24 PM –
Konoha Arena and Performance Center

It had taken an hour for Shizune’s Shock Acupuncture treatment, an hour and a half for Temari’s, plus almost an hour’s worth of public transit and walking to get from the Compound to the Nara house to Shizune’s house. His genin mission had started almost an hour ago.

He arrived on a gust of wind, landing between the seats. “Late again!” his Jonin instructor huff, incensed by his lateness. “What’s your excuse this time?”

“I was busy,” he said, folding his fan back up and swinging it over his shoulder, hooking it onto the holster he had on his bag. "Lost on the path of life and all that."

“You can’t always be so busy, Shikatomi. What could you possibly be doing, every single day!?”

‘Well, my dad’s a deadbeat, I’m mother to my sister, I have medical appointments for family I can’t tell you about or else I’ll get fined for practicing medicine without a full licence, I have to make lunch and breakfast and- oh shit I forgot to take something out for dinner, didn’t I? Ugh, I’ll have to go grocery shopping.’

He sighed, rubbing his temple, this was too much to explain. “I was hanging out with my cousin and we lost track of time.”

His teacher didn’t seem to believe him, but his teammates didn’t question it (judging by their poisonous stares, anyway).

“Don’t let it happen again, Shikatomi,” he sighed, handing the Uchiha a box of plastic bags and a pair of rubber gloves. “You can start on the ground floor.”

“That’s what you always say,” grumbled one of his fellow genin as their instructor left.

“Stupid lazy ass,” Muttered the other.

Shikatomi ignored them, going down to the ground floor as instructed. From down there, he could see that there were maybe a dozen other Genin teams in the stands, all picking up garbage, but he was the only one on the ground. This must’ve been where the bulk of the action took place, there was everything from popcorn to cracked soda bottles to ruined merchandise and glowsticks strewn about. Doing this the normal way would take hours…

He put his backpack on one of the seats, taking a couple bags and putting on the gloves. “What’re you doing, Uchiha-san?” Asked one of the other genin, her eyebrow raised.

He unhooked his fan from his pack. “I’m being lazy,” he said, hopping onto his fan with a whirling cyclone of chakra between him and the ground. He moved in circles, going all around the arena and gathering every piece of stray trash into his cyclone, stopping and hopping off periodically to collect the trash and toss it to the side.

Within an hour, he had collected four big bags of trash and the floor was more or less clean! It was still sticky as hell, though. But, mopping wasn’t in the mission statement so he would leave it as such. He’d made good time! He could zip on over to Grampy Sai’s place, take care of his lawn and flower bushes, go grocery shopping and maybe even walk home with Inomi!

He was about to go grab his bag, when he realized that a good number of people were milling around his bag. Oh damnit, they were gonna ask him to hoover up their sections too, weren’t they?

He sighed, shouldering his fan. “Give me half of your pay for this job and I’ll sweep everything into piles, you pick them up!” he announced, raising his hand. Maybe such a steep price would dissuade them…

Immediately, however, his fellow genin lifted their wallets.

Damnit… Shikatomi thought sourly.

He swung his fan over and over again for nearly two hours, tossing all the trash into a ring on the ground level below, where they began to pick up the now-easy to gathwe garbage from the flat surface.

He was drenched in sweat, achy, and tired by the time he was certain he was done. “Half of every genin’s pay, was it?”

Shikatomi lifted his head, seeing the slight-greyed, mostly-blonde head of the Hokage. “Yeah. Where’s my pay?” He grumbled, wiping his forehead with a tissue.

The blonde gave a mild huff, a thin smile on his face. “3000 Ryo per genin, half of which is going to you, with thirty genin in all, is about 45,000 Ryo total, plus your own 3000 pay.” 

Shikatomi blinked. Really? Wow, he hadn’t even really thought of the actual dollar amount he'd be getting. He didn’t move as a fat stack of cash was plonked on his head, inside an envelope full to bursting. He looked inside, blinking. “This…looks like a lot more than 48,000…” ((A.N: Every Genin is paid 30$ for three full hours of work, Shikatomi is getting 15$ of everybody's pay plus his own 30$ earnings in his deal with the other genin. Shikatomi has 480$ total.))

“There was an extra completion bonus of 1000 Ryo per genin. It wasn't going to be handed out until everyone was finished,” Said Naruto, putting a hand on the Uchiha’s head. “It was going to be the bonus of every genin here, but since you did do most of the legwork, it's only fair that you get the bonus.”

“Whoa! That’s, like…78,000!! That’s like the price of a B-rank mission!!” ((A.N: 780$))

“Congratulations, don’t let it go to waste, Shikatomi.”

Shikatomi was nearly dancing on the spot. “Oooh! I can’t wait! Inomi-chan is gonna be so excited! I’m gonna take her out for a movie tonight!”

He stopped when he heard a chime in his pocket. “Ah, I’m late! Damnit all.” He threw on his backpack, unfolding his fan again. “Thank you, Hokage-sama!” He shouted over his shoulder, just as he flew off into the open sky

3:08 PM –
Home of Yamanaka Sai

Shikatomi came down on a whirlwind, coming to a stand on the lawn of Sai’s small but cozy house. Ever since Granny Ino died, he’d been living on her family land as an official widower of Yamanaka, but had no sway in the day to day dealings of the clan. Sai himself was sitting on the deck, in his wheelchair and with a blanket covering his non-functioning legs, despite the warm weather. “Hello, Shikatomi.” Sai’s smile was mildly gummy. He hadn’t put in his false teeth.

“Gramps, hi!” The young Uchiha greeted, going to kneel before the man’s wheelchair, his fan falling to the floor with a slight thud. He felt the other’s warm, sweaty palm on his head as Sai pet him. “How are you today? Feeling alright?”

“I think I’m doing okay, all things considered.” The elderly man said with a mildly winded chortle. “I’m old and can’t control my bowels, my dick doesn’t work now…That’s about it.”

“Funny, Gramps.” Shikatomi sighed, returning to his feet. “So, usual chores?”

“If it wouldn’t be a bother.”

“It’s never a bother, Gramps.” Assured Shikatomi, going over to the shed in the back, where the old manual lawnmower was stowed away. The lawn hadn’t really grown all that much from last week when he cut it, but this had become part of his and Sai’s routine.

He mowed the lawn, made sure the sprinklers were working properly, raked up what few dead leafs were on his lawn and pruned the flower beds, sniping away the imperfect ones. He even picked a few to put inside.

He tossed the dead flowers from last week, washed the vase and made a mixture of sugar water and vinegar to make them last a bit longer, and arranged them as best he could.

“Shikatomi?” Sai asked, watching his great-grandson’s nimble fingers work from across the table. “Could you do me one last favor before you go?”

Shikatomi stepped back, admiring his handiwork. “Hm? Yes, of course. I can stay a while longer today, since we’re getting take-out tonight.” He said, going over to his elder, assuming maybe he was itching somewhere.

“In the top drawer of my cabinet, could you get the box in there for me?”

Shikatomi did as bid, going over and taking the colourful box wrapped up with red string from inside, ferrying it over to Sai.

His shaky hands pulled open the strings, gently lifting the top from the bottom.

Curiously, Shikatomi peered in, only to sigh slightly at its contents.

A thick stack of charcoal paper with thin protective sheets sandwiched between them, a standard notepad of artists’ paper and two tins of artists’ materials, one of charcoal chalk in various colours and the other a set of coloured pencils.

“Remember these, Shikatomi? You used to love drawing.” Sai sighed fondly, lifting one of the charcoal drawings, a very colourful cat napping in some very colourful grass.

“I remember.” Shikatomi sighed himself in a far-less fond fashion, not even touching the drawings as Sai lifted, inspected and gently set down each piece.

“Why did you ever stop? You have such a wonderful eye for colours.” Asked Sai, sounding rather sad.

“I couldn’t get a hold of drawing with ink and a brush, I couldn’t do your or Grandpa Inojin’s ink technique.” He told Sai, digging through the papers with little care towards their preservation, pulling out a very messily drawn traditional tiger from the pile and putting it on top of the pile. “It would’ve been useless to keep trying. All I could do were pencils and charcoals.”

“Yes, I understand. The line work of ink and brush is much more definite, there’s no taking back a single stroke, and there’s only so much you can do with black ink…But Shikatomi, wasn’t this worth pursing, even as a hobby?” Asked Sai, setting another picture, of a beautiful sunset, rife with many deep and blended shades of colour, and a long, snaking cloud that looked almost like a dragon flying towards a distant sun.

 The young boy didn’t pick up the piece. “Why did you stop drawing?” Shikatomi asked quietly.

“Well…Shikatomi, my inspiration died with Ino.”

“Mine died with my mom. I have better things to do than sit around drawing or staring up at the sky, like taking care of my sister and finishing my nursing training. I want to be fully licenced before Inomi becomes a genin.”

“You’re putting too much on your shoulders, boy.”

“Says you and half my teachers.”

“Shikatomi-“

“Is that all, Gramps?” Shikatomi asked, perhaps a tad more sharply than he intended. “If I stay any longer, I might be late again.”

Sai frowned, looking down at the mess of drawings and paper. “…Take them, please. Do what you want with them, I don’t want any more reminders of wasted potential sitting in my house.”

Shikatomi glanced at him through the corner of his eye, before breathing in deeply. “Okay,” He said, reaching across the table to pick up the papers, dumping them unceremoniously into the box and shutting it. “Is that all, Gramps?”

Sai didn’t say anything, pulling away from the table and wheeling himself to his porch.

For a moment, Shikatomi stayed there, with a box of his drawings under his arm and his great-grandfather’s back to him. He thought about what to say, but ultimately decided against saying anything. He let himself out, closing the door softly.

Shikatomi breathed out a deep, sad sigh, staring down at the box in his hands. He shook his head, pulling it open and grabbing the materials, the tins of coloured charcoal and the pencils, before stuffing the left-over box of drawings into the trash on his way out.

Inomi would like to try her hand at drawing with some serious tools, she had been complaining that her crayons were getting boring.

5:27 PM–
Living room of Satoru, Shikatomi and Inomi Uchiha

Laundry was piled high in the living room, and in the middle of that mountain was the strawberry blonde head of a certain little girl.

Shikatomi set down the take-out bags he was holding. “How’s the laundry going?” He asked, scooting his butt onto one of the kitchen stools.

“Badly,” She answered, tossing another piece of clothing into a different pile. “What gets out grass stains again?”

“Soda water and baking powder,” He replied, pulling open one of the take out boxes.

“Blood?”

“Lemon juice.”

“Duly noted.”

“If it was ‘duly noted’ you would’ve remembered from the last thirty times you’ve tried to sort laundry without me,” Shikatomi pointed out, stuffing his face with fries.

“This whole domestic stuff is lost on me,” She sighed, sitting on her butt in the middle of her messy sorting. “How do you keep all this stuff straight in your head? I was making a snack earlier and I thought that ketchup and tomato paste were similar enough that I could use tomato paste on a sandwich.”

“How’d that turn out for you?” Shikatomi asked with a laugh.

“Auntie Sayaka’s dogs had a very gross sandwich,” she scoffed, going to sit beside him. “What’s with the take out? Did I forget Dad’s birthday again?”

“Nah. Your big brother got some big bucks today, so I’m being lazy,” he shrugged.

“You? Lazy?! Say it ain’t so, Onii-chan!” She said, grabbing the bag. “Which ones mine?”

“Middle box. Stick Dad’s into the microwave for him when he gets home.” He said, starting to unwrap his burger. “Say, instead of training tonight, how about we go for a movie after homework?”

Inomi made a face, closing the microwave door. “You should try saving your money,” She said pointedly. “Or maybe spend some on yourself, go do something with Hoshi or Saika-chan. Go have some fun with your friends. You work too much.”

“Guess me and Dad have that in common,” he chuckled slightly. “Tell me the truth, do you just wanna train and are trying to guilt me into not going to the movies?”

His sister pouted. “…Maybe?”

“You need to work on your lying,” He suggested. “A kunoichi shouldn’t be so obvious when she lies.”

“I don’t exactly get a lot of chances to practice, Onii-chan.”

Shikatomi smiled slightly. Right, they were free-range kids, Dad was hardly ever around because he worked such long hours. Not exactly a lot of chances to practice lying to an authority figure when there were no authority figures in your life.

“You get to your homework as soon as you’re done,” Shikatomi said. “I’ll sort out the rest of the laundry and throw it into the machine, okay?”

“Yes, Onii-chan.” Inomi said obediently, tossing a chicken nugget into the air to catch in her mouth.

She finished slowly, as was expected for a kid avoiding her homework, but she eventually trudged upstairs to do as she was bid.

Shikatomi glanced at her back as she walked, his back going ramrod straight when he saw her foot, absolutely covered in blood, with something dark and metal sticking out from the meat of her heel. “Inomi, don’t move!” He shouted, rushing to her. He hadn’t noticed the smell of her blood over the odorous stench of two weeks’ worth of laundry, and he hadn’t been looking down at the floor to see the bloody footprints she’d been leaving behind.

He picked her up like a princess, rushing her to the kitchen again and setting her onto a chair. She hadn’t noticed that she stepped on something, hadn’t had a single clue. He knelt, inspecting the injury. It was a senbon needle that had speared through her the pad of her heel and up her foot, passing just behind the tendon on the back of her ankle and sharpened point peeking out from her skin.

It was only then did she realize what he did. “Oh, damn it…” She said, eyes scrunching up. “I didn’t…I’m getting worse, Onii-chan. I didn’t feel that at all.” She said bitingly, face in her hands. “I’m…I’m getting sicker, I’m losing feeling everywhere…”

Shikatomi couldn’t help but sigh, feeling her agony. She really was…He’d heard accounts of Inomi’s sickness when it had plagued their mother, but…Shikari’s sickness had only began to show itself when she was an adult. It was an unfamiliar and hereditary disease that hadn’t been in their family lines for generations, since before Inoichi and Shikaku’s time, only rearing its head again in recent decades. Nerve damage was simply the first stage, before the slow loss of full motor function and…

Shikatomi swallowed slightly, pulling a second senbon needle from his holster. “It’s nothing, Inomi,” He assured her, cutting into the skin of her foot to widen the wound, pulling out the needle with one hand while concentrating his healing chalkra into the top of her foot. “The foot is the first thing to go when nerve damage is an issue, since it’s so far from the actual nerve in your brain that controls it. It’s a slow progression, we still have time to find a cure.”

“…Promise?” Inomi asked softly, looking down at him.

“Promise,” He said firmly, tossing both bloody senbon into the sink. “Cross my heart, hope to die.”

“Stick those dirty needles in your eye.” Inomi’s smile was thin, head tilting in the direction of the sink.

“I’ll keep them dirty in the rare case that I fail.” Shikatomi said, nodding. “Now, back to homework. No training for now, movies. I’ll even meet you halfway and invite some of the others.”

She shook her head, standing. “Okay, okay…”

Shikatomi returned to the laundry, sorting and tossing a load into the machine, before he swept up the floor and did a quick wash down to clean up Inomi’s bloody footprints.

Hoshi, Saika and Shinji, all Uchiha cousins and the closest thing Shikatomi had to friends, arrived not too long afterwards. They left to the movies at about 7 O’clock, an hour before they were due to begin.

-ONE YEAR LATER-
11:43 AM –
Shikatomi Uchiha’s bedroom

Shikatomi stared at the clock on his phone, slowly counting to sixty. He only got to 47 before the time changed to 11:54. He'd counted too slow, or maybe his perception of time was warping.

Sunlight streamed through the cracks in the curtains, lighting up the dustmotes that floated through the air. His bedsheets had long since lost any faint scent, as it had been weeks since they’d last been washed. Shikatomi hadn’t moved since 9 AM that morning, leaving his bed only to use the bathroom and grab a bag of chips from the pantry. He was surprized when he found a full plate of food in the microwave, waiting for him. Dad had been home, and he’d been cooking.

There was too much on the plate, Shikatomi noticed. Even if he did have an appetite right now, he doubted very much that he could eat everything. Dad wasn’t used to cooking for just two people, it seemed.

The young Uchiha only nibbled at the edges of the dish, before tossing it back into the microwave to congeal. He couldn’t be assed to try and finish it, nor could he bring himself to stay in any part of the house other than his own room. Shikatomi had purged his walls of every memento, every drawing, every picture, every souvenir…It was remarkable how much of his decorations had been made by Inomi, insisting that his walls were too bare and boring, how she insisted that his room looked more like a hospital room than the home of an 11 year old, and even then hospital rooms usually had flowers in them.

Shikatomi stopped on his way back to his room, stopping just in front of her bedroom. It hadn’t been touched since she…left them.

If he opened the door now, it would be the same. Her bed hastily made, her laundry messily stuffed into her drawers, and her cat Gama, probably laying in its bed, curled up and mourning the loss of the only human who gave half a flip about it.

As if sensing him, the cat door at the bottom moved, and Gama walked through. Despite having an automatic feeder that dispensed food daily, it had lost weight. Its fur sagged around its thinner body, much like how a heavily pregnant cat’s fur did after delivery.

Shikatomi decided against lingering, leaving Gama to stand guard at Inomi’s door as he retreated back to his own room.

He ignored the hallway mirror that was just between their two doors, as the mirror reflected the bright, ruby red gleam of his Mangekyo Sharingan, a ring of black going through six tomoe. 

12:00 PM –
Home of Satoru Uchiha and Shikatomi Uchiha