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Usually when Obito got back from a mission, no one was there to greet him. It was kind of hard to greet people exactly when they came home, since usually they didn’t send along advance notice that they were returning. So it was unusual to return and immediately have a snake wind its way around his ankle. 

“Oh, hey,” he said. “Are you one of Kakashi’s?” 

The snake flicked its tongue at him. “Come to the lab.” 

With that, it was gone. Obito quickly went to hand in his mission scroll and report before heading to the lab, knowing that with Kakashi he would end up getting distracted and forget to turn them in entirely. 

When he reached the lab, however, Kakashi was nowhere to be found. 

Instead, Orochimaru appeared in front of him—something that always made Obito gulp in fear—and dropped something into Obito’s arms. “Congratulations. It’s a child. Now get out of here.” 

Obito looked down at the kid in his arms, who looked up at him in return. He was a cute kid, sure, with big black eyes and fluffy white hair, but Obito wasn’t exactly sure why Orochimaru was giving the kid to Obito—and come to think of it, why did Orochimaru have a kid in the first place?

Unfortunately, Orochimaru had already vanished from the laboratory, leaving Obito alone with the kid and Anko. 

“Uh, Anko? Why’s Orochimaru giving me a kid.” 

“That’s your and Kakashi’s kid, duh,” Anko said, not looking up from her magazine. “You’re a lucky guy. Not everyone has a boyfriend with the means to special order a baby.” 

“Mine and Kakashi’s? But how?” Obito blurted. 

Anko sighed, annoyed. “You really want the details? Because I don’t know them. Something about taking your genetic material and Kakashi’s and making a baby out of it. Kabuto would know more. Oh, and Kabuto put together an information packet for you. Take it on your way out.” 

Obito’s throat went dry. Okay, so Kakashi had apparently gone and gotten them a baby. That was—okay, that was something Obito was not ready for, and he definitely had some questions for Kakashi whenever he got home. What the hell were you thinking , mostly. Obito could barely take care of a house plant—how was he supposed to take care of a kid? 

But that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst part of it was that if the Uchiha knew that Orochimaru had artificially created an Uchiha baby, one with the potential to awaken the Sharingan, they would riot in the streets. Also, they would probably kill Orochimaru, or at least try to. Obito wasn’t really sure if Orochimaru could be killed. 

The door opened and closed, and Obito realized he was alone in the lab. He took in a deep, shaky breath. “Okay. First things first. Let’s get you home without anyone seeing I have a kid and asking questions.” 

Obito had never been more thankful for the Mangekyo Sharingan. 

He opened a portal directly to the house Kakashi had built on the outskirts of the village, hidden in a forest that Kakashi had grown himself. The closest thing to them was a training ground that Gai liked to use, and even that was far enough away that Obito couldn’t even hear the people training there. 

Once home, he shut the door and locked it behind him before lowering the kid down to the ground. “Okay,” he sighed. “Let’s go talk over there, uh—what’s your name?” 

“Hatake-chan,” the kid said. 

“That’s your last name,” Obito said. He skimmed the information packet, but didn’t see a name anywhere. Mostly it looked like medical information. He did spot the kid’s birthday. November—he’d be four in about six months. “They didn’t give you a first name?” 

The kid wasn’t paying attention, instead staring around the room with wide eyes. 

Obito sighed and sat down on the couch. He knew the Hatake tended to name their kids after agricultural terms. What was he supposed to do, name him after a plant or something? “Onshitsu . . . Kaitaku . . . those would be stupid names,” he muttered to himself. “Kousaku? Housaku? Minoru . . . Minori?” 

The kid was looking at him. 

Obito beckoned to him. “Hey, Minori. Come here.” 

The kid hesitated just a moment before walking over to the couch. Obito had beckoned him, but he wasn’t really sure what to do with him. He’d known a lot of little kids over the years, from Shisui and Itachi to Heiwa and Nawanuke, but all he’d really done was play with them now and then. Three-year-olds needed—what did they need? Food? Water? School?

Obito groaned and put a hand over his eyes. “Shit. What am I supposed to do with a kid?” 

“ . . . Do you . . . not want me?” 

Obito sat up and looked at the kid, with his big black eyes—Obito’s eyes. “Aw, what the hell,” he said, and bundled him  into a hug. The kid didn’t resist, but he didn’t exactly hug back either, instead sitting limply in Obito’s lab. “Of course I want you. I might not know what I’m doing, but I want you.” 

Slowly, the kid—Minori—mimicked Obito, wrapping his arms around Obito’s neck. “Kakashi’s got a lot of explaining to do once he gets home, but that’s nothing for you to worry about. All you need to worry about is getting some sun. You look like a ghost.” 

Obito opened up the porch doors and together they sat out in the sun, eating sweet watermelon with sticky fingers while Obito flipped through his photo albums and taught Minori everything he needed to know. Meanwhile, Rice slipped silently through the village, bringing Sakumo a message that would summon him to the house once Minori was asleep. 

Minori, however, did not want to go to sleep. 

“But what about training,” he said, as Obito made dinner. 

“Training? It’s almost time for dinner,” Obito said. “What training—agh, the fish! Minori, tell me after dinner.” 

“Yes, Papa,” Minori said, and Obito narrowly avoided dumping all the vegetables he’d been cutting in the trash. 

Minori happily drank his miso soup with eggplant—Obito had gotten into the habit of making that for dinner, since it was Kakashi’s favorite—but then proceeded to stare at his fish and vegetables. After a moment, he stared at Obito, who had just picked up a vegetable with his chopsticks and shoved it into his mouth. 

Minori picked up the chopsticks and attempted to mimic Obito’s grip. Obito couldn’t help but snort. “Uh, let me help you with that. Like this—see?” 

Carefully, he arranged Minori’s hand so he was holding the chopsticks properly. “Now, like this,” Obito said, and demonstrating picking up a carrot and eating it. 

Slowly, Minori began to eat. He dropped more food than he managed to get in his mouth, but Obito figured it was good enough. First parenting moment successfully navigated. 

Oh, god, he was a parent—but that was something to freak out about at a later moment, when he wasn’t figuring out how to get a toddler to agree to go to bed. 

“But what about training,” Minori repeated, as Obito washed the dishes. 

“What training?” Obito asked. 

“This training!” 

Obito turned around, but didn’t see Minori until, a sense of foreboding falling over him, he looked up. Minori, standing on the ceiling, looked back at him. “Gah! Minori, what’re you doing—you’ll fall!” 

Minori stared at him. He didn’t fall. 

Obito took a deep breath. “Okay. So you can do the wall-walking trick already. Uh, who taught you that?” 

“Mama,” Minori said. 

“You have a—uh, never mind. Someone at the lab taught you, right? Anko? Kabuto?” 

“Mama,” Minori repeated. 

“Please tell me that doesn’t mean Orochimaru,” Obito said. 

Minori nodded. Obito breathed in, breathed out, and decided to set aside the question of why his kid was calling Orochimaru ‘Mama.’ It was probably just a really, really unfortunate mispronunciation. “Okay. Well, uh, good job on learning that. I don’t think I learned that until I was twelve or thirteen. Have you learned anything else?” 

“Medididation,” Minori said. 

“Meditation? Okay, that’s pretty harmless,” Obito said. 

“And throwing sticks,” Minori said. 

“Ooookay, that’s a little less harmless,” Obito said. “Lets, uh, not throw sticks without an adult around, okay? Let’s make that a rule.” 

Minori stared at him. 

“How about we . . . come down from the ceiling,” Obito said. 

Minori walked back down the wall until he stood in front of Obito. He stood there, clearly waiting for something. 

“Bed?” Obito said, hopefully. 

“Training,” Minori said. 

Obito looked at the clock; it was almost ten, and he’d expected to have Minori in bed. Kids were supposed to go to bed early, right? But now Sakumo was due to arrive any moment. “We’ll train in the morning, okay? But now you have to go to bed.” 

Minori was still staring at him. 

It looked like Obito was just going to have to put him in bed and hope that it didn’t cause a Nawanuke-style tantrum or something. Obito steeled himself and prepared to execute this plan, only for the door to open. 

“Obito? I got your message.” 

Sakumo stood in the doorway, removing his shoes for slippers. He looked up, spotted Minori, and smiled. “Oh? Who’s this? Are you babysitting?” 

“Uh, not exactly,” Obito hedged. 

Sakumo stepped into the living room. “Not exactly?” 

“Does he look . . . familiar to you?” 

Sakumo crouched and looked Minori in the eyes. After a moment, a frown spread across his face. He picked Minori up by the armpits and held him up so that his face was next to Obito’s. His eyes flicked from Minori’s to Obito’s. 

“Please tell me that this is a relative of yours, and Orochimaru and Kakashi didn’t do something stupid,” he said. 

“He is a relative . . . technically,” Obito said. 

“Orochimaru and Kakashi did something stupid,” Sakumo sighed, lowering Minori back to the ground. “Let me guess. He’s yours and Kakashi’s.” 

“Yeah, basically,” Obito said. “Except he’s three, somehow? I don’t think they’ve been working on this for three years.” 

“Orochimaru knows all kinds of tricks to speed up physical growth,” Sakumo said absentmindedly, as he crouched back down to look at Minori. “Now, what’s your name?” 

Minori looked up at Obito. Obito nodded in what he hoped was an encouraging manner. “My first name is Minori. My last name is Hatake.” 

“Minori Hatake? That’s a nice name,” Sakumo said. He looked up at Obito. “Kakashi named him?” 

“Uh, I did, actually. I hope that’s okay,” Obito said. 

Sakumo smiled. “It’s a very appropriate name. My name is Sakumo Hatake. I’m your Jii-chan, your father’s father.” 

Minori looked at Obito. “Papa’s father?” 

“Not mine,” Obito said.

“Daddy’s father,” Minori concluded with a nod. 

Sakumo ruffled his hair. “You’re very smart. Now, I have to talk about something with your Papa, so why don’t you run along to bed.” 

“But training,” Minori said. 

Sakumo looked to Obito for an explanation. “I guess Orochimaru was training with him at night? He walked up the wall earlier. Scared the cra—I mean, uh, it scared me,” Obito said. “I was trying to get him to go to bed.” 

Sakumo nodded. “I see. Well, Minori, your Papa likes to train in the morning. You should go to bed now, so you’re awake and ready to train with him. Wouldn’t that be more fun than training alone?” 

After a moment, Minori nodded. Obito breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks, Shishou. I’ll get him ready for bed.” 

Minori was surprisingly compliant while brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed. Obito thanked everything in the world that Minori didn’t seem to be another Nawanuke; Obito was not prepared to get kicked in the nuts on the regular. 

They didn’t have another bed, or even a spare futon, so Obito tucked Minori into the bed he shared with Kakashi before joining Sakumo in the living room. 

“The Uchiha are going to riot if they find out,” Sakumo said. “Especially since he has your eyes.” 

Obito sighed and sank onto the couch. “Yeah, I know. Dammit, Kakashi, what were you thinking?” 

“Knowing Kakashi, that it would make you happy,” Sakumo said. “And Orochimaru probably just thought it would be interesting.” 

“I don’t know what to do,” Obito sighed. 

Sakumo stood. “I have a plan. Kakashi is due to return in two days. Until then, keep him hidden here. Don’t even let your friends see him. Don’t mention him to anybody. If you train with him, train inside. Understood?” 

“Understood,” Obito agreed. 

He really hoped that Sakumo’s plan, whatever it was, worked out. 


Usually when Kakashi returned home from a long mission, he was greeted with an enthusiastic kiss and promptly dragged off to the bedroom. It was a custom he’d quickly come to enjoy and look forward to. 

Being greeted with Obito standing in the entryway, hands on his hips and a scowl on his face, was a new one. 

“I’m home,” Kakashi said. Obito didn’t move. “ . . . Can I come in?” 

“Kakashi,” Obito said. “What did we talk about after that whole marriage misunderstanding?” 

“That . . . we would communicate clearly from now on, to avoid other misunderstandings? And that I would make it clear when I was asking you things whether I was talking in general terms, or about immediate plans for the future?” Kakashi guessed, mind whirring as he tried to figure out what he had done. 

“Then explain this,” Obito said, reaching off to the side, out of Kakashi’s view, and pulling a small child into view. 

“Oh,” Kakashi said. “Orochimaru said he was going to wait until I told him to do that.” 

“Apparently, plans change,” Obito said. “So, why was Orochimaru making babies out of our genetic material?” 

“Because . . . I told him to?” Kakashi said. 

“And why did you tell him to?” Obito said. 

“Because I asked you if you wanted kids now, and you said yes,” Kakashi said. 

Obito gaped at him. “Wha—when did you do that?” 

“When you were babysitting Heiwa,” Kakashi said. 

“That was months ago!” Obito exclaimed. 

Kakashi shrugged. “It was a long-term plan. It was supposed to be more long term. I wanted to get the house ready first.” 

“Oh, you did, did you,” Obito said. “You should’ve made it more clear! I don’t remember that at all!” 

“I asked you about it two other times. I asked you if you wanted a boy or a girl,” Kakashi said. 

“What—wait, I remember that! You asked me if I preferred boys or girls. I thought you meant, you know, dating and stuff!” 

“Obito, we’re married. Why would I ask you about your dating preferences?” 

“I don’t know, you ask me weird stuff all the time! Well, what about the other time you asked?” 

“I asked if you wanted whether it was a boy or girl to be a surprise,” Kakashi said. 

“Okay, that one I really don’t remember,” Obito said. 

Kakashi thought back. “You might have still been half-asleep.” 

Obito glared at him, unimpressed. “New rule. You aren’t allowed to ask me things when I’m in the middle of doing something else anymore.” 

“But that’s inefficient,” Kakashi said. 

“You’re going to have to live with it, because that’s how we end up with surprise babies,” Obito said. 

“Can I meet my kid now?” Kakashi asked. “Also, can I come inside?” 

“Minori, this is your daddy,” Obito said, bouncing the kid on his hip. “He’s a big idiot.” 

“Why is that my introduction?” Kakashi asked. “So, is it a boy or a girl?” 

“He’s a boy,” Obito said. “Congratulations.” 

Kakashi made to step inside, only for Obito to block him. “ You aren’t coming inside. You get to go to the Hokage’s office and get Shishou, so that he can tell us his plan to fix this mess.” 

“What’s there to fix?” Kakashi asked. 

Obito shot him a look, the kind that plainly said Kakashi was an idiot. It was a new experience; usually, Kakashi was the one giving those looks out, not receiving them. “Kakashi. The Uchiha.” 

“Ah,” Kakashi said, realizing. “I hadn’t thought of that.” 

“Neither did Orochimaru, obviously,” Obito said. “Luckily, Shishou has a plan. Go get him. C’mon, Minori, let’s have lunch while Daddy gets Jii-chan.” 

“Can we train after?” 

The door shut, cutting off the conversation. Kakashi stared at the door for a moment longer before sighing and heading back to the village. Somehow, he’d still managed to mess it up, and now Obito was angry with him. Kakashi had asked him if he’d wanted a kid, when the thought occurred to him while watching Obito play with Heiwa. 

He’d thought that Obito would like having a kid. And they were old enough, nineteen and almost eighteen. Itachi’s mother had been about the same age when she’d had him. And Kakashi . . . 

Kakashi hadn’t wanted to wait. Not when he and Obito were off on dangerous missions every other week. Not when a single wrong move might result in one of them returning home alone, or neither of them returning. 

Kakashi didn’t want to leave Obito alone. 

Kakashi didn’t want to be left alone. 

He took off at a run, not wanting to be alone with his thoughts for too long. Not towards the Hokage’s office, though. He had another stop to make first. 

When he reached Orochimaru’s laboratory, he found both Anko and Kabuto in the front room. Anko winced at his arrival. “You better not go in. Sensei is pissed . Like, more pissed than that time we got drunk on his good sake.” 

“He’s been furious ever since the Hokage came by two days ago,” Kabuto said. “Anko and I have been running interference.” 

“That’s okay. I just had a question,” Kakashi said. “The kid—Minori. What happened? Orochimaru said he would ask me before the final experiment.” 

Kabuto pushed his glasses up his nose. “It was fascinating, really. At first, his body was functioning, but I wouldn’t have really called him alive except in the most technical sense. Essentially, he was an empty shell. And then he woke up. I must confess, we haven’t the faintest idea what happened. It had Shishou quite curious in further experiments.” 

“And then the Hokage shut that down,” Anko interrupted.

“Ah. Yes, I should go speak to him,” Kakashi said. 

A crash resounded from inside the lab, followed by loud, furious hissing. 

“Get out while you can,” Anko advised. 

Kakashi made his escape, racing across the village to the Hokage’s office. His timing was unfortunate, and he ended up having to wait almost an hour for Sakumo to be available. A man wrapped in bandages glared at Kakashi as they passed each other. 

Sakumo was rubbing his temples when Kakashi entered. “That man,” he sighed, as he looked up. “And here’s my other headache.” 

Kakashi stood in front of the desk as Sakumo dismissed the ANBU and activated a seal to prevent eavesdropping. 

“I won’t ask what you were thinking,” Sakumo said. “You already know that you should have been clear with your intentions to Obito—more clear than you were—and that you should have informed me and gained my permission. You know full well that the Uchiha aren’t happy. This could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Now, you’re going to fix this. You will sneak Minori out of the village, and bring him back in through the village gates. You will say he is your son, and nothing else. You will say nothing when people ask about his mother. Let people draw their own conclusions to the matter. Understand?” 

Kakashi nodded sharply. “I understand, Hokage-sama.” 

“Good. Now go. If anyone asks, you are being sent out on another mission. Return in two weeks time.” 

Kakashi left the office without further ado; it wasn’t often that his father was upset with him, and he had to admit that it wasn’t a pleasant feeling. He returned to the house, tentatively opening the door. To his relief, Obito wasn’t blocking the door. 

Kakashi removed his shoes and stepped into the house. Obito was lying on the couch, Minori in his lap. They were reading, but not a book for children. After a moment of listening, he realized they were reading one of his strategy books. 

Obito looked up as Kakashi entered, breaking off mid-sentence. “What did Shishou say?” 

“I’m to sneak out of the village, and take him in through the gate in two weeks,” Kakashi said. “We’re to pretend he’s my son with an unnamed mother.” 

Obito frowned. “Why yours? He’s obviously related to the Uchiha.” 

“Hatake chakra,” Kakashi said. “It’s equally obvious he’s a Hatake, and there are far more Uchiha than Hatake. I suppose people will assume I had him with an Uchiha woman.” 

Obito breathed out. “That won’t make the Uchiha happy.” 

“But they won’t be as furious as they would be if they knew Orochimaru could grow children with the Sharingan in his lab.” 

Obito stroked Minori’s hair. “Maybe he won’t have the Sharingan. Not every Uchiha does.” 

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Kakashi said. “For now, we’ll act on the assumption that he has the potential to develop it. I need to take him with me.” 

Slowly, Obito set Minori down on the ground. “I’ll get some food for you. Make sure you’re packed.” 

Left alone with Minori, Kakashi took a moment to observe him. His hair was white and fluffy; Kakashi had no idea where he’d gotten that particular trait. His skin was pale, even lighter than Kakashi’s, although not as light as Orochimaru’s. His eyes were unmistakeably Obito’s, although Kakashi had never seen Obito make quite that expression. Privately, he thought that Minori’s wide-eyed stare reminded him of a bug. He also didn’t seem to have figured out blinking, and kept looking startled whenever he blinked involuntarily. 

“Blinking keeps your eyes from drying out,” Kakashi informed him, getting a blank stare in response.  “Blinking is when you quickly close your eyes. Like this.”  

Kakashi blinked to demonstrate, and Minori imitated him by blinking a few times. Now he looked much less like a bug. 

Satisfied, Kakashi resumed his observation. He was small, but a quick glance at the packet of information left on the table showed that he was three years and six months old. Also, that he had received all his vaccinations required at that age, and that Kabuto had given him a check-up and a clean bill of health. For some reason, he was wearing clothing that looked like it had come straight out of a ninja supply shop. At least he was well-dressed for their mission. 

Obito returned, a scroll in hand. “I packed food for Minori.” 

“Not for me?” Kakashi asked, accepting the scroll. 

“You can eat ration bars.” Obito said. He looked away, but then quickly moved forward and pressed a kiss to Kakashi’s lips. “Come back safe. And take care of Minori.”  

Kakashi attached the scroll to his belt while Obito gave Minori a hug and a kiss, which Minori mimicked. 

“Don’t worry about sneaking out,” Obito said, Sharingan flashing red as he opened up a portal. “I’ll send you somewhere far enough away that it’ll take you two weeks to get back, if you walk.” 

“Reassuring,” Kakashi said. He picked Minori up, and with a final wave at Obito, stepped through the portal. 

They emerged in the middle of the forest, slightly off to the side of the road. If Kakashi recognized his landmarks correctly, they were somewhere close to the Suna border, although still far enough away that they wouldn’t encounter any border patrols. 

He looked at Minori, who was staring at the trees with wide, unblinking eyes. “Well, Micchan, looks like it’s just you and me. Let’s head home.” 

“Can we train here?” Minori asked, still gaping at their surroundings. Kakashi was beginning to wonder if he had ever seen a tree before. 


Minori nodded. “Mama showed me how to walk on walls and Anko-nee-chan showed me how to throw sticks.” 

“Ah, that kind of training. I don’t see why not,” Kakashi said. “It’s not like we’ll have much else to do. Two weeks is a lot of time, after all.” 

Minori grinned, and Kakashi couldn’t help but smile in return as warmth filled his chest.

In that moment, Minori looked just like Obito. 


When Naruto was five years old, he entered the Ninja Academy in Uzushio. Not officially, of course; Tsubame entered him under a false name, one of many Uzumaki children. He wasn’t even the youngest one there. Konoha had increased the Academy enrollment age to eight, but in Uzushio children were entered whenever their parents thought they were ready, or whenever they demanded to be enrolled. The youngest kid in Naruto’s class had just turned four, and the oldest was already eight. 

With Naruto in the Academy, Narumi was put back on the official mission roster. Naruto was used to his uncle going on occasional trips to Konoha, and didn’t see much difference between that and missions. Missions were usually longer, but Naruto didn't care, too busy playing with the other kids and his best friend Karin—which had been a surprise for Narumi. 

His missions ranged from kind of boring to dangerously exciting. His current mission had been leaning more towards the former; he’d spent about a week tracking some missing-nin  reported to have some skill with seals. He’d been looking forward to a good fight, only to discover that the guy had been crushed by a falling rock and died. 

Narumi had hoped that maybe the guy had faked his death and kept a watch for a day just in case, but eventually had to admit that this was just going to be a mission with an anticlimactic ending. 

And then the puppets attacked. 

They announced their presence with a spray of needles, which Narumi dodged on reflex. The puppets burst out of the trees, and he responded by creating a horde of shadow clones. He had a lot of practice from fighting puppets in the war, and knew most of their tricks—namely, he knew that getting too close was a good way to end up dead by some weird, poisoned mechanism. Sending in shadow clones with explosive seals was the best way to get rid of them, when you could make as many clones as Narumi. They could take the brunt of the attacks while he prepared seals to take out the puppets. 

Taking out the puppet users was the best way to stop the attack, but without a sensor to help him, he’d have a hard time picking them out of the middle of the forest. He’d smash the puppets, and then the puppet users would have to confront him themselves or run away. 

He wasn’t expecting sand to suddenly rise up and cover his body all the way up to his neck. The puppets picked off the last of his clones, then vanished back into the forest. 

Two men emerged from the forest. One of them had bright red hair and a familiar face—Sasori. The other, with light brown hair, wasn’t familiar to Narumi. He only realized who he was when a very familiar child stepped out of the forest behind them. 

“Narumi Uzumaki,” Yashamaru greeted, as Gaara stepped forwards to stand beside him. 

“Yashamaru, Sasori, Gaara,” Narumi said. Gaara’s eyes widened in surprise at being addressed. 

“You’ve done your homework,” Yashamaru said. 

“So have you. I mean, I assume you have. I don’t think you decided to ambush me for no reason,” Narumi said. 

“They say that you fixed a faulty jinchuuriki seal,” Yashamaru said. 

“Yeah, I did,” Narumi said, looking at Gaara. “Why? You got a seal that needs fixing?” 

“A jinchuuriki seal,” Yashamaru said. “The demon has too much influence over the jinchuuriki, and frequently tries to break out.” 

“I can take a look,” Narumi said, “But you’ll have to let me go first.” 

Yashamaru nodded to Gaara, and the sand melted away. Narumi shook the remaining bits of sand off him and stretched out. “Okay, lie down, get comfortable, and lift up your shirt. This might take a while.” 

“Don’t try anything,” Yashamaru warned. “Or we’ll kill you where you stand.” 

Looking at the menacing expression on Sasori’s face, Narumi believed him. He waited for Gaara to lie down before taking a seat beside him and pulling out a pot of ink and a brush. “Okay, let’s take a look at what we’ve got,” he muttered, pressing his fingers to Gaara’s stomach and channeling his chakra through the seal. The stark, black lines of the seal appeared, spreading out from Gaara’s belly button. 

Narumi whistled. “No wonder you’re having issues. There’s basically no separation between Gaara and the Ichibi. Don’t worry, I’ll see what I can do. Hold still—it’ll be cold.” 

Slowly, a new seal took form on Gaara’s stomach, modifying the old one underneath it. It wasn’t too hard, really; he had a lot of practice at sealing on the fly, and he’d seen Gaara’s seal before, when Gaara had shown it to him in the future he had left behind. Really, he was more worried about getting away after finishing the seal. He doubted Yashamaru and Sasori were going to thank him for his help and let him go home. The puppets still surrounding the area were a bit of a clue. 

When he went to refresh his ink, he dripped some onto his free hand. Slowly, so that Yashamaru wouldn’t notice any strange movements, he traced out a seal on his leg and activated it. Gaara was the only one easily able to see what Narumi was doing, and he was focused on the growing seal on his stomach. 

“I’ve got a nephew your age, you know,” Narumi said. “His name’s Naruto.”

He glanced away from the seal and caught Gaara staring at him. Narumi grinned at him before dipping his brush in the ink and continuing his work. “He’s going to be a ninja.” 

Gaara looked behind Narumi before answering. “Me . . . me too.”

“You too, uh?” Narumi said. “Naruto likes to learn about ninjutsu and fuinjutsu. How about you?” 

“My father teaches me ninjutsu,” Gaara said, before falling silent with another look behind Narumi. 

“Finish the seal,” Sasori said. 

“No small-talk, huh?” Narumi sighed. “Okay, okay.” 

A bird hooted nearby. 

Narumi laid down the last element of the seal. “There we go. All set. Gaara should be all in control now.” 

In an instant, Yashamaru had knelt on Gaara’s other side, helping him sit up. “How do you feel?” 

Gaara’s hands twisted in his shirt. “It’s . . . quiet.” 

Yashamaru sighed. “Then it worked.” 

Behind him, Narumi heard the quiet sound of a weapon being drawn. He rolled out of the way, at the same time as five cloaked figures dropped out of the trees. 

The ANBU stared down the visitors from Suna. Yashamaru pushed Gaara behind him as he stood, weapon drawn. 

Narumi stood and walked to the front of the group, waving at the ANBU to relax. They didn’t, of course, but at least he’d tried. 

“How about we all go our separate ways,” he said to Yashamaru and Sasori. “I’m pretty sure you’ve got more important things to take care of.” 

He nodded towards Gaara. Yashamaru glanced backwards at Gaara, then looked at the ANBU. After a moment, Yashamaru nodded and stepped back. 

“Sasori, let’s go,” he said. “I’ll take responsibility.” 

With that, the three of them left, taking Sasori’s puppets with them. 

Narumi grinned at the ANBU. “Thanks. You guys sure came fast. I was expecting to stall for time.” 

“You activated the highest priority distress seal,” said a masked ANBU with a familiar voice—Narumi was pretty sure it was Kogane Senju. “There was no reason for us to delay.” 

“Still, thanks. I was afraid that would get messy, and I didn’t really want to fight a jinchuuriki,” Narumi said. “I have to head to Uzushio and report in.” 

The ANBU nodded. “We will conduct an investigation of the area and ensure the Suna shinobi have left the country.” 

Whistling, Narumi swung himself up into the trees and headed towards Uzushio, leaving the ANBU to their work. That had worked out better than he’d expected; he thought he would have to wait until the chuunin exams to fix Gaara’s seal. Maybe now Yashamaru would survive, and Gaara wouldn’t go completely nuts. He’d have to wait and see; for now, he was heading back to Uzushio. 

Maybe he’d make ramen for Naruto to celebrate.