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Memories of the Future

Chapter Text

Unless we change direction, we are likely to end up where we are heading.

 Chinese Proverb

On the afternoon of a late summer day, Shikamaru was on the roof of one of the most remote buildings of the Nara compound, enjoying the breeze pushing ahead a few wispy clouds, when someone clapped loudly right beside his ear. His jump of surprise was maybe a bit undignified, but he felt he had a right to it: no sound would have betrayed any adult shinobi, but the one grinning before him looked to be his age, around six. And he doubted he was a ninja, actually ― the neon orange T-shirt was the opposite of stealthy.

Looking closer, the boy seemed familiar ― he had seen him a few times around, boisterous and flashy, usually chased by some irate villager. He wouldn’t have pegged him as someone able to be silent long enough to surprise him, though.

“Hi! I’m glad to meet you, my name is Uzumaki Naruto.”

Shikamaru eyed Naruto carefully while he responded to the greeting, “Nara Shikamaru.”

“Yeah, I know.” Naruto’s smile dimmed a bit. There was something like pain in his face, as if it hurt to look at him. Shikamaru shuffled his feet, uncomfortable under the heavy stare, and frowned.

“Ah, sorry, it’s… more difficult than I thought.” Naruto sat cross-legged with a sigh, and lowered his eyes. Shikamaru felt better being the only one standing. “Here’s the thing. I have a problem, and I need your dad’s help. But he’s busy all day, and I need to expose my problem in private. Do you think you could maybe introduce me, so that I could talk to him?”

Shikamaru was growing more and more suspicious ― a normal byproduct of being raised in a ninja clan, but then, if the intruder had bad intentions, he was really, really obvious about his approach.

“What problem?”

Naruto raised his eyes again, and there was something there, maybe sadness, maybe something else, that made Shikamaru listen.

“I’m a time-traveler. I’m from around fifteen years in the future. There was a big war, and the only way to win was to prevent it. That’s why I need your dad’s help.”

Shikamaru was staring, but again, he felt he had a right. What the fuck.

“Can you prove it?”

Naruto had a little helpless gesture.

“I came back in my old body, and I couldn’t bring anything with me. So all I have is information, okay?”

Still guarded, Shikamaru nodded. Information was good enough a currency to any shinobi. Naruto was observing his reaction with attention.

“Ok, so… There are at least four hidden paths into and out of the Nara compound, that I know of. First one…”

As he listened to Naruto explain to him details of his very home , some of which Shikamaru hadn’t even known, he felt his eyes going round. The apparent kid obviously knew the compound as well as any Nara, and if he was telling the truth, it was even possible that Shikamaru himself , at least a future version, had shown him. The idea was unsettling enough to decide Shikamaru ― it wasn’t his job to deal with complications, after all.

“Stop!” Shikamaru interrupted Naruto’s description, holding a hand as if to physically stop him. Naruto stopped. Shikamaru sighed, “What a bother.” He ignored the boy’s grin and continued, “I don’t know if I believe you yet, but that’s enough for an introduction. D’you want to come to dinner? You can talk after.”

Naruto nodded. “That would be perfect, thank you.” He gestured at where Shikamaru had been laying, the mossy slates not too hard, warmed by the sun. “Mind if I join you cloud-watching?”

Shikamaru shrugged. Maybe he had questions, but then, he would get his answers to most of them soon enough, and he might as well spare Naruto the bother of having to repeat himself.

“Feel free.” He returned to his previous position. He hesitated, but… that one was not about the maybe future war, after all. “Were we friends, in that future you come from?”

Naruto had a sad smile. “Yeah.”

He kept his silence after that, and Shikamaru kept watching clouds, but this time he wasn’t seeing them.

―――

Nara Shikaku was surprised to see his son come home soon before dinner with the demon container in tow. While he had never forbidden him to play with the kid, Shikamaru had never said anything before about making friends with him either, and his son looked a bit tense. Shikaku observed the jinchuuriki carefully, but Naruto seemed like a polite kid, quietly saying, “Thank you very much, I will”, as Yoshino offered him to stay for dinner. Unusually polite, in fact ― he had heard about the boy being a loud-mouthed brat, and this clearly didn’t match.  

Wondering about the discrepancy, Shikaku observed him covertly during the meal. Naruto was quite enthusiastic about the food, eating with an obvious gusto that was an indirect praise to the cook, making expensive gestures as he told about some prank, but he also met his own eyes more than once, in a thoughtful stare that the Nara found unsettling. Kids this age could stare alright, but there usually wasn’t that much intent in their glare. Naruto wasn’t six yet, and he looked too jaded for his age.

So when the meal came to a close, and instead of taking his leave, Naruto turned to him and seriously asked if he may speak with him for a moment, Shikaku felt compelled to give in, and followed Naruto and Shikamaru to the living room. Yoshino served the kids some hot cocoa with an approving smile to Naruto before leaving.

Naruto sat neatly, legs precisely folded but posture tense, and faced Shikaku while Shikamaru went to open the window and let the breeze cool the room a bit. And then the kid began to speak.

“In about ten years, there will be a war, a big one, largely caused by an international organization of S-ranked missing nins called the Akatsuki. They will want to collect the Bijuu to achieve an ambitious plan: peace through world domination. It worked surprisingly well for a while. We thought we would lose or win quickly, but then we… didn’t. The war went on for nearly five years. We were getting pretty desperate when we got a chance to travel back in time. And so I traveled back, along with the two other surviving jinchuuriki, to try and prevent it. Could you help?”

Shikaku prided himself on the efficiency of his mind, but it still took him a minute to digest that. Naruto looked entirely serious, grim even, and this sounded too precise for a joke, even considering that anyone would actually want to joke about such matters. Plus, the kid wasn’t supposed to know about his uninvited guest, yet talked about being a jinchuuriki with perfect ease.

“So…. You’re currently a twenty-year-old in a five-year-old body?”

“Yeah, I reached twenty a bit more than a week before the jump,” Naruto nodded, holding his eyes. He really had an unsettling gaze, extremely intense, but then, given the stakes he just described, Shikaku could maybe understand. Still. He was unconvinced.

Naruto seemed to guess his doubts. If anything, his reaction was more amused than disappointed. He added, “Ok, I know I’m shit at it, really, no need to comment…” Then he concentrated, made a hand sign Shikaku couldn’t ignore, and the shadows of the mugs on the table lengthened, with some jerks and waver. Shikaku straightened up with widened eyes while Naruto released the jutsu.

“Who taught you that?”

“Shikamaru.” Naruto was grinning.

Shikaku turned to his son, who held placating hands before his chest, “Never met him before today.”

Naruto rolled his eyes. “My own timeline’s Shikamaru, obviously.” He had a sad smile, faintly nostalgic. “By the end of the war, clan secrets didn’t mean anything ― if there was a chance it might help us win, we taught each other all we could. It still wasn’t enough, and I’ve never gotten good at that kind of thing anyway, but... It was something.”

Shikaku turned back to him, a bit more shaken than he cared to show. No one knew the Nara techniques outside the Nara clan, they made sure of that. That was a hell of a better proof than mere talk.

“Why were you the ones to… travel in time?” he asked, with fading disbelief. “For that matter, who are the two other jinchuuriki?”

“The sort of time-travel we managed is done by the Bijuu and could only take mind and chakra back, not bodies,” the kid answered instantly, giving Shikaku the impression that he had been ready for this question. Had he actually rehearsed this talk? Damn, how do you surprise a time-traveler?

“The Bijuu could take us along as their hosts, but they couldn’t take anyone else. The other two are Killer B of Kumo, brother of Ay, their Raikage, with the Hachibi, Gyuki, and Gaara of Suna, the youngest son of Rasa, their Kazekage, host to the Ichibi, Shukaku.”

Ok, THAT was far too much precision to be anything but the truth. Even Inoichi didn’t know for sure the identity of Suna’s jinchuuriki, let alone the names of the beasts ― hell, he didn’t even know they had names, and he was in Konoha’s Intelligence division. Assuming this was really Naruto and not a bizarre plan of a henged enemy, Shikaku felt chilled to the bone at the idea of the looming disaster that seemed to threaten the world. Although not right now, at least, he tried to console himself. Speaking of which…

“Why did you come back now? For that matter, when exactly did you come back?”

Naruto shrugged, fatalistic. He was playing with his spoon, his hands seemingly unable to stay still. “We couldn’t go back to before our birth. And I needed to be at least able to go where I wanted inside the village, without someone checking on me all the time, and I left the orphanage just two months ago.” He raised a helpless hand, the spoon in it adding a weird touch. “Later would have been possible, but seriously, there were things we wanted to fix from as early as this year, and we didn’t know how precise the jump would be. So we aimed for middle of summer, give or take a few weeks. I landed in this body ‘bout three weeks ago.”

That comment about “before his birth” unsettled Shikaku even a bit more ― was it even an option they considered? Just how far back exactly did history start to look messed up beyond hope?

“And you’re only talking to me now?”

Naruto’s smile was almost wicked, if a child could have such an expression, and he raised his voice just a bit. “Well, I wanted to wait for Hound to be my ANBU babysitter for the evening, since I knew Kakashi-sensei would also be interested”. He looked toward the open window ― no, beyond the window. Nothing happened, and Naruto rolled his eyes before turning back to Shikaku with a pleading look.

Without taking his eyes from the kid ― no, the young man in a kid’s body, he must not forget that ― Shikaku spoke quietly, “You’re welcome into my house, Hatake, and it seems it would be wise to share the conversation.”

The silver-haired man seemed to materialize out of thin air, but neither Shikaku nor Naruto batted an eyelash in surprise. He slowly took the porcelain mask off, and seated himself.

“Since when did you know I was following you?”

“Since you replaced Cat mid-afternoon. How is Yugao? Already with Hayate?” Naruto had a wistful smile at their reaction. “In my timeline, he died years before the war, but Yugao was still alive. There were so few survivors in the end, I got to know most of them fairly well, and when we began planning for our return to the past, they all tried to tell me something personal of them, that would help me convince their past selves if I needed it. They all wanted to save their precious people...”

Hatake seemed unsettled, noted Shikaku in passing. Right with you there, pal.

Naruto turned to Shikaku and added, almost apologetic, “I don’t know as much about you, Nara-sama, since in my timeline you’ve been dead for over two years. Most of what I know, Shikamaru told me, as he was one of the last.”

Reminded of his son, Shikaku looked at the one true kid in the room with sudden concern ― maybe this was a conversation best held without Shikamaru… but the child in question was looking at him, unfazed, with a resolute expression, and held his father’s gaze without blinking. This was his own future at stake, too, and after a moment of indecision, Shikaku decided to ask him what he wanted instead of telling him what he should do.

“Do you want to stay?”

“Yes.” The answer had been unhesitating, and while Shikaku would have liked to protect his child’s innocence a bit longer, he would not insult his intelligence by denying him the right to be there. Especially if Naruto was willing to talk anyway ― he wouldn’t be able to control anything if they chatted together without him.

Turning back to the maybe-time-traveler with a sigh, he asked directly, “Why me? I understand you needing adults to help since you’re stuck in a kid’s body, but why not go directly to the Hokage?”

Naruto’s hesitation put his already frayed nerves even more on edge, and he gripped his hands to avoid showing anything. Looking at Naruto’s own hands, he suddenly understood why the apparent kid was fidgeting with the spoon ― he was holding it like a kunai, without even noticing. So used to weapons his hands felt empty without one.

“I like Jiji, and I’m not completely against talking to him, but… not right now, not at first. For one, in my timeline, he made some mistakes, he’s not as objective as you can be, especially about Orochimaru.”

Shikaku raised a skeptical eyebrow ― that was a bullshit excuse if he ever heard one. The Third didn’t get where he was by being weak or unreliable, even concerning his former student. He would need more than that. Naruto eyed him, and conceded with a sigh.

“It would also be harder on me right now ― one of our enemies could reanimate the dead, and I’ve had to fight most of the kage, including him, so I have bad memories to deal with. I’d rather get used again to seeing him alive before talking with him. Plus, even at twenty I would have felt like a kid to him, so in this body I’m afraid he would dismiss me and anything I could advise as unimportant, even if he used the information I hold.”

An enemy who could enlist the dead into his army. Oh joy. Shikaku shivered in revulsion at the mere idea. Some things were better left buried. He nearly asked the kid about his father, after that remark on kages, but… if he was unconsciously considering even a spoon as a weapon, if he had difficulties thinking about the current Hokage, he really didn’t need more stress right now. Shikaku wouldn’t be that cruel unnecessarily. He hesitated to ask for more, but it seemed Naruto wasn’t quite finished.

“And you’re friends with Yamanaka-sama, so I thought that you could ask him to read my mind to check my story. Since you can’t just believe the word of a demon-container, I suppose.”

He looked dispirited by the idea, but Shikaku was floored by the level of trust in that simple statement. There were a lot of hardened jounin, loyal to the village, who would have felt more than nervous at the idea of Inoichi delving into their mind and looking for their dirty secrets. Shikaku himself was of course so used to the idea he didn’t even see the big deal ― Inoichi was as non-judgmental as one could get, but still, he knew of the others’ prejudices, and here Naruto was, offering his mind to be read. Judging by the slight widening of his visible eye, even Hatake was impressed.

“You’re sure? In that future that is your past, did you ever let him into your mind?”

That would have maybe explained his ease, but Naruto shook his head.

“Not him, but Ino, yes. She was a great help during the war,  coordinating our efforts. But she was killed months ago, before we even knew time-travel was possible, so she never knew I would try to jump back in time.”

Shikaku was shaken by the idea of sweet Ino, barely six, casualty of war before reaching twenty. He wondered briefly how many of the kids he knew had died in that war. Choza’s son, Shibi’s son, the Hyuuga’s cute daughter… They had already nearly lost her two years back, had her uncle sacrificed his life for a mere ten years’ delay? More?

The echoes of not-so-old grief darkened Naruto’s blue eyes for a moment, but then he continued, “You’re actually taking this a lot better than I feared. I didn’t react well to the idea, when we first had to think about it. I didn’t want to lose any more friends. But there were so many dead already, and it was only getting worse… in the end, those few left asked us to go, even if it meant they would never exist as they were. They wanted to give themselves a chance at a better life, you see.”

There was a longer moment of silence, suddenly broken by Hatake.

“You called me sensei. And you said I would be interested. Not that I’m not fascinated, but… why me?”

Naruto’s mood seemed to lift at that. Shikaku admitted to himself he was glad of the interruption ― he could use a breather after such an avalanche of revelations. And seeing the kid so down felt wrong, somehow. As if grief should have no place on this face, no matter how justified.

“You were my jounin-sensei when I became a genin and my team beat your bell test. In, wait… seven years?”

“I don’t know who had the insanely stupid idea of making me jounin-sensei, but let’s not get distracted,” he replied dryly. “Why me?”

Naruto sighed, but continued, “Because you know the true leader of the Akatsuki.” He hesitated. “And you really, really won’t like it, I’m sorry to say. Hmm, just… maybe not today?”

Hatake seemed to mull at that a moment, but let it go as Naruto continued.

“Plus, you were Acting Sixth Hokage when I jumped—”

Hatake spluttered a bit while Shikaku suddenly laughed out loud, breaking the almost reverent mood that followed the last momentous declarations. What little of Hatake’s face he could see was hilariously indignant, before he suddenly vanished as Yoshino’s head peeked through the door.

“All is well, I assume?” She was smiling, but continued with a slightly pointed look at Shikaku. “Shouldn’t Shikamaru be in bed, dear? And will Naruto-kun sleep here?”

Shikaku lifted an inquisitive eyebrow at Naruto, but the apparent kid seemed to regret having to decline. “That’s really very kind of you, Nara-sama, thank you, but I must go back tonight.”

As she was about to argue, Shikaku interrupted in a placating tone, “I’ll make sure he goes back safe, don’t worry, and Shikamaru will go to bed soon, I promise. Naruto-kun was almost finished anyway, so just a few more moments.”

His wife shrugged and let it go, disappearing back in the house.

While Hatake was coming back to sit, still a bit seething, Shikaku asked Naruto calmly, “You’re sure?”

Naruto answered, a bit despondent, “I can’t be too openly associated with you right now ― I’m supposed to be five. Maybe when Shika enters the academy, so real soon, I could have sleepovers, but you can’t be seen to house the Kyuubi's jinchuuriki without arousing suspicion.” He lifted his chin, determined. “I’ll survive, don’t worry.” A flash of a smile, far more biting than it should be. “I’ve already done it once.”

The implication of loneliness wasn’t lost to Hatake, judging by the sharpness of his sudden gaze. Shikaku carefully didn’t mention it, and continued, “I do believe you, you know. Really, I do.” Naruto’s grateful smile was much more natural this time. “But you’re right that I think it would be better if Inoichi were to confirm your story. It would help if and when you have to tell it again, as I think you may have to.” He paused briefly. It was getting late, but just knowing there would be a war was… a bit lacking in data to avoid it. “For now, I think you should indeed go home, but as food for thought ― what do you think is the most urgent matter to attend to? What exactly do you want to avoid in the nearest future?”

Naruto’s answer was swift and to the point.

“In less than two years’ time, Shimura Danzo will steal one of Uchiha Shisui’s eyes, and force Uchiha Itachi to kill his whole clan. His brother Sasuke will be left the only survivor of the Uchiha Massacre.”

The stunned silence was broken by Hatake’s quiet snarl, “Fucking Danzo!”, which Naruto seemed to approve wholeheartedly. Shikaku had never been the greatest fan of the old councillor, but if he wasn’t beyond shocked already, even he would have been surprised at that piece of news. As it was, he only felt a sort of dull disappointment.

“He didn’t leave many files to piece back together whatever happened exactly,” added Naruto almost apologetically, “but yeah, he’s been trying to discredit the whole clan for years. It’s… not exactly hard to find bad things to say about the Uchiha ― we’re not clear on the details because, well, not many witnesses to ask, but they were apparently pissed off they had a bad reputation, and wanted to overthrow the Hokage.”

Shikaku thought with horror of his jounin ― not many Uchiha, as most were in the police force, but still… Hisao was efficient and quiet, Chieko was good at teamwork and a prized scout, Norio… well, ok, he could do without Norio. He nearly shook his head in denial at his own thought ― just one pain in the ass didn’t mean the whole clan , one of the two founders, deserved to die. What the hell had Fugaku been thinking?

“I also have something to do the second week of December,” continued Naruto vaguely. He turned toward Hatake. “And I think you could be a huge help. Just the two of us would have the highest chance of success for what I have in mind.” He thought a bit, and shrugged. “That’s about all of the more or less urgent things. I’ll need more current info before the rest, and a lot will depend on that one thing anyway.”

Shikaku felt he had more than reached his quota of depressing info for the evening, and sighed as he stood up. “Ok. Thanks for the warning. Let’s think about the end of the world in our beds.” Because he would be lucky if he managed to sleep a wink tonight. He added dryly, with a glance to Hatake, “I think you already gave us more than enough reasons to want to change the future you describe.” The Hatake brat as potential Hokage. What a thought.

He looked at Naruto gravely, and added, “I won’t talk to the Hokage right now, and I’ll arrange a meeting with Inoichi for the end of the week, don’t worry. See if you can remember how five-year-olds are supposed to behave in the meanwhile.”

The wicked, gleeful smile on Naruto’s face was indeed the one he thought five-year-old Naruto might have once sported.

The time-traveler made his goodbyes, and as soon as the kids were out, Hatake got a bit closer and asked quietly, “You really believe it?”

“That you’ll make Hokage?” The joking remark was met with the glare it deserved, and Shikaku sighed. “If you have another explanation for what we just heard, I’m open to suggestions. In between, I’ll act as if it were true ― we can’t allow ourselves to treat this with anything but the utmost attention. And what I’ve heard is a battle-hardened young man mourning his friends, and trying to do right by them.” He gave a sharp look to the ANBU and added in a neutral tone, “You would be freer of your movements to help as a mere jounin, you know. Especially if you have to find two weeks of free time next winter.”

Hatake almost answered, but Shikamaru was coming back, all thoughtful, and he let his breath go unused.

“I’ll see you around, then”, and the silver-haired man was gone.

Shikaku carefully looked at his son, and went to hug him. He wasn’t usually that much of a tactile person, but right now any distance seemed wrong, and Shikamaru wasn’t protesting. He put him to his bed, and in the shadows of his room, he asked softly, “What do you think of this, Shikamaru?”

The eyes of his son were thoughtful if a bit confused, and Shikaku could relate.

“I wonder was kind of friends I was or could be with Naruto. He’s seen a twenty-year-old me, but now I’ll never see the five-year-old him, it feels unfair.”

Shikaku almost winced at the idea ― he could grieve, in some abstract way, for that Alternate Shikamaru he never met, but he would have missed his son fiercely if his future self had erased his current one. With a shadow of guilt, he thought of the time-traveler again. Who would miss five-year-old Naruto, now lost to them all?

Shikamaru’s eyes sharpened, and Shikaku recognized his too smart mind changing gears. “If Naruto wants to contact you, I’m the most obvious choice ― no one would look twice at two kids our age talking, and he’s right that when we will be in Academy together, our inviting him sometimes would be logical. It would be good cover.” There was an unvoiced plea in those words, not to be ignored and left out just because of his age, and Shikaku suppressed a sigh.

“Well, if it’s not too bothersome, then you’ll provide cover.”

There was relief in his son’s eyes, although he only said, “Goodnight, Dad.”

Shikaku smiled. “Goodnight, son.”

―――

Kakashi’s shift was supposed to end at midnight, and he had no intentions of going to bed without some more answers. He was still on light duty for at least a week following his last mission, which meant plenty of time to deal with whatever shitstorm Naruto might unleash, but he’d rather have a head start. No time like the present, he would once have said ― and likely be thought a hypocrite ― but right now he wasn’t so sure. He couldn’t get Naruto’s expression out of his head, when he had said that Kakashi knew the leader of Akatsuki and that Kakashi “really, really wouldn’t like it” .

Better rip the band-aid once and fast.

Naruto seemed sorry, but not surprised in the slightest to see the masked nin quietly jump to the floor of his apartment from the window barely minutes after coming home. He merely nodded, and began to make hand seals. Kakashi tensed in reflex until he recognized the sequence of the jutsu ― the kind ANBU used to ensure privacy. Noting his glance, Naruto smiled a little and, once done, confirmed, “Your future self taught me those.”

He settled crossed-legged on his bed, looking at Kakashi with a sad smile and a question in his eyes, and Kakashi wondered if Naruto knew what the Copy nin came here to talk with him about. He probably did, and Kakashi suppressed the urge to shift from foot to foot, suddenly feeling a bit self-conscious.

Out of contrariness, Kakashi asked another question first.

“Sensei? Really? Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to put me in charge of little kids?” he said, shoving his hands down the pockets of his pants.

A hit, that one: Naruto immediately relaxed, and laughed a little. “I don’t know, but for what it’s worth, you weren’t that bad a teacher.” At Kakashi’s skeptical stare, he insisted, “No, really. I’m not saying you were great ― you were lazy, always late, played favorite… but you also protected us, tried to teach us teamwork, and frankly out of most of the adults I know, you had probably the best excuses for not knowing what to do with three argumentative pre-teens you didn’t want to have to deal with. We got along better when I grew up, anyway.” His smile got a bit shadowed, and he added, “Although you might do me a favor and please, please never teach your Chidori to Sasuke.”

There was a story there, Kakashi was sure, more likely a hundred stories, but they didn’t have the time if he really wanted his answer tonight. He got to the point, and quietly asked, “Akatsuki’s leader?”

Naruto’s smile got fractured, but he did answer.

“You stare at his name every morning at the Memorial Stone.”

Kakashi’s breath hitched, and he felt his eyes go wide. But Naruto went on.

“Obito survived the boulder nine years ago. He was rescued by a madman with a bad grudge against humanity, and got manipulated into following his plans. He’s angry, and sad, and more than a little mad himself right now, but listen, Kakashi,” his eyes were intent, full of the kind of conviction that can move mountains. “I want to go see him this winter. I don’t want to kill him, I don’t even want to fight him. I’m entirely certain he can be convinced to change his plans, and you and I have the best chance. He needs an occasion to choose another path, and he deserves one.”

Kakashi… breathed through it. Slowly, slowly, he let himself not think too much, and kept staring at Naruto’s eyes, full of compassion and understanding. The rest of his body might look five, but his eyes were definitely older.

Turning away from Naruto when he was not able to hold his gaze anymore, Kakashi said in a voice like a rusty nail, “The shift change...”

And he was jumping from the window to the nearest roof as Naruto dispersed his wards, letting him flee without another word.

The rest of the night passed through a haze. Kakashi didn’t even try to sleep. The gray light of predawn found him in front of that cursed stone once more, and if his visible eye was redder than it should, and his mask a bit damp, no one would comment on it here. His heart was as heavy as usual, but with an ache he didn’t know how to deal with. He’d spoken to Obito countless times before, memories of what happened and regrets for what could have been, but never had he imagined he may get an answer from a living, breathing Obito.

A living Obito with a burning hatred for humanity right now, if he heard Naruto right. He couldn’t reconcile his memory of an idealistic boy with that new image. The Obito he knew had crying eyes and a bleeding heart, he would have gone out of his way to help any people he crossed. There had been much more grieving people at his memorial service than Kakashi had expected for a neglected Uchiha, and it had made him feel all the worse, to have been the only one not to realize how good a person his teammate was until it was too late.

But he knew he had to adjust his mental view, else it would be too easy, when faced with the real thing, to fall back into bad habits and speak as if to a stone or to the child he remembered. This living Obito… He had no clue who he was.

He knew from long and cynical experience that spot of mourning was great for self-reflection. As the hours passed, blessedly quiet and undisturbed, his pain slowly dulled enough to let him think. Among other things, he also realized that he, too, believed Naruto. There was still a very slight streak of mistrust last night when he followed him, but nothing else could realistically explain what happened. There wasn’t a single note in Naruto’s words that rang false, not a shred of dissimulation so far. For a fellow shinobi, such candid honesty was actually kind of worrying, if he was the same when he wasn’t desperately trying to convince people he was genuine.

But Kakashi was also clinging to Naruto’s last words: Obito could be turned back from his dark path, he was sure of it. More, he said he deserved a chance. There was still hope, and Kakashi may be shit at motivational speeches, but he would sure be practicing. Though to try and prepare himself, he really should wait for more data. The weekend couldn’t come soon enough.