Team Seven was together again, fighting side-by-side-by-side the way it always should have been. They were always at their strongest when they were together, and when Obito returned to them, taking Kakashi-sensei’s outstretched hand as another member of Konoha’s Team Seven, it seemed like it would be enough to win. In another world, maybe it was enough. In another lifetime, maybe they won. Maybe there was a world out there where Kaguya was beaten.
A battle can be won or lost in a heartbeat.
Reality was broken around them, warped by Kaguya’s powers. Up was backwards and down was sideways. Sasuke was laid out after being hit, Sakura holding him together with stubborn grit and the needlepoint precision of her chakra control, Naruto struggling to give them the time they needed to get back on their feet. They all saw Kaguya’s next attack coming. Sasuke was paralyzed, unable to move under his own power. Sakura was wrist deep in Sasuke’s guts, and then there was Naruto. Stubborn, stalwart Naruto would rather die in their place than dodge for the sake of his own survival.
The attack closed like a bamboo spear trap, and hot blood splashed over Team Seven. Mirrored images of sacrifice, Obito and Kakashi stumbled back, falling in slow motion. Naruto screamed, an agonized plea of denial. Chains of golden light burst into being around them as Kakashi went down on one knee, Obito barely upright beside their sensei.
“... Kamui.” Rasped two voices torn with pain, wrenching Team Seven out of Kaguya’s influence in howling vortex of wind and blazing red light.
Lightning cracked out of nowhere, blowing Kanna’s neatly ordered campsite into messy chaos. Scrambling to their feet, the Clanless wanderer slapped a hand down on their sword handle.
The stench of blood was overwhelming, come out of nowhere and mingling unpleasantly with the bitter smoke hazing the air in the aftermath of the explosion.
“Sensei!” The agonized, pleading scream of a child broke the stalemate. Kanna froze in place, their sword still in its sheath as the smoke in the air cleared enough to expose a nightmare come to life. A tiny blond boy, Uzumaki Clan Chakra Chains still coiled in protective loops, was shaking over the blood soaked form of a young man who could pass for Kanna’s twin. “Sensei! Wake up, please, wake up!”
“No, no, no...” An equally tiny little girl, face red with blood and free-falling tears, sobbed as she pressed futile hands over the worst of the wounds. “It’s not working! They aren’t healing, nonononono, please Sensei don't do this!”
Another little boy was hunched over the other body, their foreheads pressed together as his breath hitched behind gritted teeth. “... niichan...”
Swallowing back the ache in their throat, Kanna stepped softly. Intrusion from a stranger would not be welcome, but... the silver haired youth had the remains of a mask clinging to his face, but it was... it was Kanna’s face. This dying stranger had Kanna’s face. The same jaw, the same mouth and nose. Their faces were identical right down to the beauty mark by their lower lip.
The smallest twitch, and a single grey eye looked up at Kanna, blood spilling from a pale mouth. “... students...”
“Three children.” Kanna supplied softly, kneeling down to better hear the near-breathless words. “Alive, mostly whole. The other man is wounded like you.”
“... obito...” Grief, raw and potent, with a lifetime of regret packed into a single word. Determination followed, as Kanna’s strange twin looked up at them and reached out. Kanna took the offered hand, noting again that even their fingers were all but identical excepting the scars. “... our cubs... hatake-san... please...”
Kanna swallowed again, this time in dismay. They knew nothing about children, and yet... this man could be them. This man was obviously kin of theirs, and dying, and the children were so small. They would die if left on their own. Kanna knew that as surely as they knew their own survival for this long was a fluke. “... On my father’s grave, Hatake-san. I’ll do my best by your students.”
A bare flicker of a smile, and the young man turned his face away, unaware that he had answered a question Kanna had been asking for their whole life. Their father’s Clan had been unknown until today. The children clung to the dying man’s side, sobs forced down as they locked desperate eyes on their teacher’s face. “... cute little genin... so proud of you... live... promise me...”
“I promise!” The little girl was hugging her sensei’s entire forearm to her chest, pressing her face into his slack hand as she sobbed. “I promise I promise I promise!”
“I won’t let you down, sensei!” Tiny fingers fisted in torn, bloody cloth the blond boy’s attempt at a brave smile crumpled in the next moment. “We’re... we’re gonna fix it, sensei! I promise, dattebeyo!”
“... I won’t leave them, sensei.” The other boy was an Uchiha, sharingan spinning in his solemn little face as his lips trembled, tears falling in streams down the soft curve of his cheeks. “I won’t let it happen again.”
“... such... good students...” The hazy grey eye curved in something like a smile, and his head fell further to the side. “... obito...”
“He’s, he’s right here, sensei.” The little girl scrambled, pulling on the other man’s slack arm and fitting her teacher’s hand into a limp-fingered clasp. “See? H-he’s right here.”
“... ‘kashi...” Harsh, hard-fought breath spent on the single word as the heavily scarred face rolled to the side. “... did it... the kids’re... still alive...”
“... ha... we did...” Eyes glazing over as their laboured breathing slowed in agonizing, too fast increments. “... still a... hero...”
“... just yours...” The smiles they gave one another were something private, something peaceful and far too sweet for the blood that soaked the clearing. The scarred man’s sharingan flickered, on and off, on and off, like a guttering candle. “... you kids... burn us... don’t let him... get our eyes...”
“We will, niichan.” The little Uchiha bit his lip, terror stark on his face as his elder brother choked. Almost in tandem death rattled in the throat of one, then the other, and the child’s attempt at stoicism broke. “Niichan!”
Kanna sat up the rest of the night, watching as the pyre burned. The children had insisted on the two men being burned together, their hands remaining linked through every act of preparation. The little Uchiha had been the one to light the pyre, small hands flashing through quick signs before releasing a fireball that covered both bodies in an instant.
The children had sat up for hours, watching though first their tears, then through blank, hollow eyes, as their sensei burned away. Kanna had remained silent, letting them grieve. Waiting, as one by one they passed out. Then they pushed the children together and covered the pile they made with a blanket. That task complete, Kanna sat back to take watch.
They could introduce themselves to one another in the morning. For now, Kanna would make sure that whatever had killed their sensei did not get the children now in their care.
The moment Kanna left them alone to go hunt something for dinner the next day, Team Seven huddled up.
“What do we do now?” Sakura blinked back tears. “We’re kids again and Kakashi-sensei...”
“Kakashi-sensei wouldn’t want us to give up!” Even Naruto was subdued. They were all reeling from the loss of someone they had somehow tricked themselves into thinking invincible. “We just gotta... take our time! We’ll grow up again, and then when we’re big enough we’ll rip the plant guy to shreds and dance on the remains.”
Sakura squinted at Naruto and shook her head. “... Kurama was a bad influence on you.”
“Hey! That’s an idea!” Naruto brightened and looked hopeful. “Maybe we can find Kurama and get his help!”
“We’ll get revenge for Kakashi-sensei and Obito-niichan.” Sasuke stated without a flicker of change in his expression. “But we can’t tell anyone the truth.”
“What?” Naruto blinked and stared at Sasuke. “Why not?”
“We can’t let that thing see us coming. It doesn’t matter how far back we are. It’s had too long to work on it’s plans for us to be able to risk the chance of warning it about us.” Sasuke swallowed hard, eyes grim with memories of slaughter. “I don't want... I can’t let my family die again. I can’t.”
“We won’t let that happen.” Sakura grabbed one of Sasuke’s hands, a shaky smile appearing on her face when Naruto took their other hands in his. “We’re going to do this together this time, Sasuke.”
“We’re Team Seven. Now and always.” Naruto shuffled a bit closer to his team and pulled on every ounce of confidence he had stored up. “So what’s our cover story?”
“... ROOT?” Sakura offered up with a thoughtful frown. “Stolen Clan children for a private shadow army of ninja?”
“Experiments, like Oto.” Sasuke nodded in agreement. “Avoid using names if possible, but use the real ones if pressed. No Clans.”
“Aw man.” Naruto pouted a bit. “I was just getting used to being officially legitimate.”
“Too bad.” Sasuke shrugged and produced a bare hint of a smile. “Think about how Sakura and I feel.”
Naruto simply stuck his tongue out in response, and they sat holding hands until Kanna came back with a brace of rabbits for their meal.
Kanna watched silently as the children gathered up the ashes from the pyre and sealed them into three scrolls that they tied tightly shut. Each child clutched their funeral scroll close for a moment before tucking them away.
“We need to go to a trading post.” Kanna murmured softly, still unused to the need to communicate their thoughts out loud but willing to try. The children’s clothes were shredded to rags and bloodstained, so new clothes were a necessity. They would need gear to camp and travel with as well.
“... We’ve got some funds.” Sakura offered softly, pressed in between the two boys. “You don’t need to put yourself out, Kanna-san.”
“I told your sensei I’d take you on.” Shaking their head, Kanna looked away to hide their discomfort. “We were kin, he and I, however distant. And I won’t break my word to him.”
In furious thought, Naruto’s face creased into an exaggerated frown. “Can I call you Neechan?”
Kanna twitched in irritation. “No.”
Naruto pouted at the refusal. “Why not?”
“Because I’m not a woman.” The children exchanged easy to read glances, and Naruto opened his mouth again. Kanna cut him off. “I’m not a man either.”
“... Oh.” Blinking like he was having a revelation, Naruto nodded rapidly. “Okay! I’ll call you Anchan then!”
Staring at the little boy who looked so proud of himself for his cleverness, Kanna decided to let it be. It really was not worth the argument. “Sure. Anchan works.”
The next few years were a learning experience for all involved, as Kanna discovered how to live with children underfoot and Team Seven struggled to adjust to their new reality...
“How are we supposed to explain our skills?” Naruto wondered out loud one day.
“We don’t need to.” When Sakura and Naruto stared at him, Sasuke shrugged. “We’re six, how are we supposed to know if something’s impossible or not?”
“So look really confused when we get questioned then baffle them with bullshit.” Nodding in understanding, Naruto grinned. “Like a prank!”
“If all else fails we can probably just start crying.” Sakura noted with a smirk, and lifted her chin when the boys made faces. “Not only are we six, we’re adorable. Crying will get us out of any trouble we can’t kill about ninety percent of the time.”
The boys exchanged a look and Naruto shrugged. “Well... she’s not wrong.”
... So Kanna had a few shocks when it came to training with their new charges. Like the Kage Bushin...
“Solid Clones.” Kanna pressed down on the two identical Naruto’s standing in front of them. “How did you even think of it?”
“Huh?” Naruto’s eyes were very wide and guileless. “You mean that’s not how you're supposed to make them?”
... And the Strength of a Hundred...
“Oops.” Hands tucked behind her back, Sakura blinked up at Kanna innocently. “I didn’t mean to break it.”
Kanna looked away from the little girl to stare at what had formerly been the side of a mountain and was now a pile of rubble crushing the bandits who had attacked them. “... don’t worry about it.”
... And the Makengyou Sharingan...
The slave-catcher went up in a column of black flame hot enough to boil the ground even as the body crumbled to ash. Sasuke folded his arms across his chest with something like satisfaction on his face. “Hn.”
Pinching the bridge of their nose, Kanna sighed. “Sasuke. Do we need to have another conversation about appropriate threat responses?”
... Yes. They all learned a few things as the years went by.
Cradling Kakashi-sensei and Obito’s funeral scroll in his hands, Naruto was quiet and contemplative on the one-year anniversary of their arrival in the past. Without looking up, Naruto nudged Sasuke. “... You remember what Old Man Sage told us? About us being his kids?”
“Hn?” Sasuke tilted his head to one side, and Sakura looked up at the stars, back braced against Naruto and Sasuke’s. “What about it?”
“D’you think...” Pulling the scroll closer to his chest, Naruto pressed his shoulders back against his teammates. “Anchan’s got Kakashi-sensei’s chakra. So, d’you think...”
“Maybe.” Sakura sighed, and nudged Naruto with her elbow. “Different people, and it’s not the same as having our Kakashi-sensei, but... maybe. In the future, after this lifetime passes. Maybe in the next life Anchan will be born Hatake Kakashi.”
“Yeah.” Naruto swallowed and closed his eyes against the burn of tears. “... It doesn’t help.”
Sasuke shook his head, familiar with how the pain of loss lingered on. “Nothing does.”
“You should take some time for yourself, Anchan.” Sakura urged, taller now than she had been three years ago but still a bewildering source of confusion to Kanna.
“Aren't you all getting a little old to still be calling me ‘Anchan’?” It was an obvious deflection, but Kanna did not want to hear a nine year old lecturing them about how ‘adults have needs’. Again. So deflection it was.
“We could call you Ansan.” Sasuke offered in a deadpan monotone. He liked to pretend to be helpful when he was bent on being a little shit.
“How about Ansama?” Sakura had a very convincing earnest expression, but Kanna was wise to her deceitful ways.
“Eeh? No way!” Naruto crossed his arms in a full body refusal. “Those are boring and dumb and not cute enough!”
“Hmm...” Sakura tapped her chin with a finger. “What about Anchama instead then?”
Completely without inflection, Sasuke looked Kanna dead in the eye. “Antan.”
Slumping a little in defeat, Kanna shook their head. “Why do you even care about it being cute?”
“Because cute things are cute!” Naruto threw his arms up into the air, practically vibrating with outrage over Kanna’s lack of understanding. “And cute things are happy things!”
“Just...” Kanna sighed and covered their face with their hands. “Just never mind. Keep calling me Anchan for as long as you want.”
“I’m going to call you Anchan forever!” Naruto grinned with all his pointy little teeth on display. “Forever.”
Kanna stared at the crazy little gremlin creatures they claimed as their family and gave up. “... I’m going to go drinking. You all stay right here until I get back.”
“Have fun Anchan!” They had the audacity to wave when Kanna left, as if they had never planned on purposely driving their long-suffering elder sibling to drink.
Kanna was having fun, already several cups into their binge and ready to start looking for something pretty to pass the time with. Of course, Kanna was not allowed to have nice things, so it only took a few seconds to realize that the noble boy they had sat down beside in order to flirt with was actually Sasuke.
“Oh for the love of good steel, you little shit!” Kanna slammed their empty jug down on the counter with a scowl. “You lot practically threw me out of camp to come drinking and now you’re going to follow me around? No! I told you to stay with the others! Where are the other two? Are they here too? I’m going to tan all of your hides when we get back! I know you were all in on it!”
Sasuke yelped as Kanna grabbed him by the ear and hauled the brat out of his seat. Huh, good solid henge. No wonder the little shit had thought he would get away with it. Should have changed his face if he wanted to avoid Kanna noticing him though. “Just you wait! I was looking forward to having time to myself and you’re going to regret pulling whatever you’re up to!”
Uchiha Hikaku blinked several times in rapid succession, but the scene remained unchanged. The Clan Heir had just been dragged out of the bar by an angry looking kunoichi who had a scolding grip on Izuna’s ear. Bemused by the entire situation, Hikaku exchanged a look with the rest of his team and followed the sound of cursing out the door.
The kunoichi did not actually stop lambasting Izuna long enough for him to get a word in edgewise until they were outside of the town and a fair distance into the woods. “Now drop the stupid henge and tell me where the other two have hidden themselves.”
“Ow!” Izuna rubbed his ear as he was finally released and took a step back. “I’m not wearing a henge!”
“Sasuke, it was a nice try, but you should have changed your face as well as your age if you wanted to actually fool me.” The kunoichi crossed her arms with a scowl. “Now enough. Call Naruto and Sakura out so we can go back to camp.”
“My name.” The Clan Heir managed an impressive amount of wounded dignity for a man still clutching his ear protectively to prevent a second assault. “Is Uchiha Izuna. I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else.”
“Don’t be...” The drunken kunoichi finally noticed Hikaku and the rest of the Uchiha band as they spread out on their approach. “... ridiculous. Oh. You’re not... Ah, shit.”
The sequence of events that happened next progressed quickly. The kunoichi made to flee before she was surrounded. Izuna made a reflexive grab to restrain her. A fluid spin, and spine-bending twist, and she used Izuna’s grip on her arm to get her legs around his head. Momentum kept them moving, the kunoichi throwing her body forward and toppling Izuna flat into the dirt with impressive force.
Izuna wheezed as he was kicked in the gut during the ensuing scramble, waving one arm wildly for attention. “... alive! Leave her alive!”
“Anchan!” Children’s voices were echoing over the scrum with indignant offence. “You leave Anchan alone!”
Hikaku had a single heartbeat to take in the very angry miniature version of Izuna that had just jumped out of the bushes, and then things started catching on fire.
Sitting in the cart they were using to transport their forcibly acquired guests, Izuna stared at the little boy wearing his face. For his part, the kid Izuna was going to guess was called Sasuke was chewing on his gag in a rather determined fashion. Judging by the dark glare on the kid’s face, he was planning on trying to set Izuna on fire again at the first available opportunity.
The little girl was pouting and wrapped in about fifty pounds of chakra-reinforced chains because she had snapped the first set of ropes during a sneeze. The blond boy was scowling at them all and growling like a rabid animal every time Izuna looked at the kunoichi who had assaulted him.
Assaulted him with her thighs. Damn it. Izuna really hoped Madara was willing to be reasonable, because Izuna really, really wanted to give the kunoichi another chance to wrap her legs around his head.
No, Bad Izuna. Newly discovered not-dead possible little brother-cousin first. Sexy play fighting later.