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Time Waits for No Man

Chapter Text

Jounin exams were much quieter than the chuunin exams. The Chuunin exams, historically, acted as political posturing with other villages. The villages in attendance often sent their best to the foreign exams with orders to kill off other attendees. If they could dominate the exams with their genin, it gave them a better standing in negotiations and client favor. 

 

The Jounin Exams were always in-house and kept quiet. By the time a chuunin is ready to become a jounin, they have techniques you don't want to be shown off internationally. A village also wants to keep their number of jounins private.

 

The demands on jounins are high, and most shinobi never make it to that rank. They test operation management, locating and retrieval, resource management, leadership, communication, strategy, rescue operations, and team conflict resolution, to name a few of the skills they look at.

 

After the fourth shinobi war, Konoha took a break from all exams. It was a bold decision with their forces whittled down as they were, but Kakashi opted to treat the treaties in good faith. Instead, he focused his attention on rebuilding their infrastructure. Since the 4th shinobi war was fought on their doorstep, the other villages had sent Konoha aid as an act of goodwill. Konoha received supplies and workers. In turn, Kakashi focused on making sure these foreign shinobis felt Konoha’s appreciation. Treaties were delicate, and insults would not be taken lightly. 

 

It had been a gamble to keep Konoha in its weakened state. However, Kakashi maintained a state of emergency during the three years so that field promotions could still occur. Suna was also taking an overly friendly stance towards Konoha. So, if anyone messed with Konoha, they would feel the wrath of Suna. It was likely Gaara’s why to show his off to the other villages his friendship with Naruto via bullying. Despite his position, Gaara was still a teenager and took pride in unusual things. Kakashi wouldn’t complain. It kept the other villages from trying to subdue Konoha. Hell, things with Kumo were going so well was likely due to B's and Naruto's friendship. Kakashi’s student really was something else. 

 

"Hokage-sama, as a proctor for the exam, you really should be paying more attention," Shizune scolded Kakashi. 

 

"Maa, sorry, Shizune-san," Kakashi said politely and offered her a quick smile. Shizune was on loan to him. Shikamaru had received a field promotion to tokubetsu jounin. Still, Kakashi wanted him to be a full jounin, so he could step into the roles he had planned for him. So, Shikamaru was currently taking the exam. It was his first chance since the 4th war. Shizune had graciously stayed on after Tsunade-sama's retirement to help with the transition. 

 

Shizune pursed her lips but turned her attention back to the screens. The screens flipped through various cameras, but the largest one remained steady on Shikamaru and his team.

 

Every jounin exam was different, but this element was of Kakashi's own design. The testing chuunin would lead two other jounins in a mission simulation. Their goal was to extract an informant to prevent valuable information from being leaked. They were to go unmarked. If caught, Konoha would not claim knowledge of them and would abandon them to their captures. According to sources, the informant is currently in an old tower, now being used as an outpost. 

 

Upon arrival, the team would discover their cover was blown, and the enemy was ready for them. A trap would be sprung the moment they arrived. There was no chance for mission success. He wanted to see how the chuunins would respond in such a dire situation. Could they keep their wits about them and command their team while faced with certain death? Would they work towards completing the mission, or would the chuunin abandon the mission in favor of bringing their team home alive? 

 

Shikamaru was just now approaching the tower in the middle of training ground 44. In there, the informant was supposed to be held. 

 

"Do you sense anything, Tofu?" Shikamaru asked. They could hear him over the mics they planted and the cameras stationed in the trees.  

 

"Nobody. It's really quiet. Too quiet," Tofu whispered. She was crouched down beside Shikamaru. The second jounin, Haburashi, was scouting from the trees. 

 

"Genjutsu." Shikamaru quickly broke it and immediately swore. He was finally able to see the legion of shinobis in front of him. Kakashi had called in most of the jounin task force for this. It was a little funny seeing the poor chuunin’s face when they realized how outmatched they truly were.

 

Kakashi leaned forward, curious to see what Shikamaru's next course of action would be. The shadows grew from every direction like a curtain closing to hide their retreat. The trio sped away at an impressive speed. Kakashi was reasonably sure he has never seen a Nara run that fast. They stopped behind a thicket. The thorny bush would likely offer some form of cover but not for long. 

 

"He's going to call it," Kakashi said, leaning back. "He won't even try."

 

Shizune clicked her tongue. "The other two might convince him. It's more than just his judgment being tested. How Shikamaru responds to others on the team is just as important," she pointed out and lifted a cup of tea to her lips. 

 

Shikamaru was staring out over the thicket. "I'm calling the mission."

 

"What? We haven't even tried," Tofu argued.

 

Shikamaru glanced at Haburashi then back at Tofu. "This mission has no chance of success."

 

"We still have to try. Hokage-sama told us how important this informant is. How can we go back without even trying?" Tofu demanded incredulously with a glare.

 

Shikamaru shook his head, "The informant is either dead or has given up the information. Proceeding further would be an unnecessary risk of lives and a waste of resources-" 

 

"Incoming," Haburashi interrupted. The whole of Konoha's jounin-might descended upon the poor 3-man-team. Considering this was not a real mission, it would likely be reduced to hazing of some kind. ANBU was notorious for hazing. It didn’t surprise him that jounins would do the same given a chance. He mentally wished Shikamaru luck. 

 

Shizune sighed, "That was anticlimactic and short-lived. Umano Kao was much more interesting." Umano Kao was a sensor and had not been fooled by the genjutsu. He and his team snuck around, trying to evade all the jounins and traps. One teammate was lost to a trap, but the other two did make it into the tower. It had honestly been rather interesting to watch, unlike Shikamaru's performance. Umano-san's team 'died' on the mission. 

 

"Hmmm, Umano-san did a decent job getting past the guards into the tower. He certainly evaded a lot of traps. But Shikamaru had a better read on the situation as a whole despite not being a sensor. Maybe I should have you run the simulation and see how entertaining you are?" Kakashi teased. 

 

Shizune scoffed at the idea. She lifted her chin and looked down her nose at the screen, "Doubtful, I would have done the same as Shikamaru. The informant is not worth the lives of the group."

 

"No? But if the informant is not removed from the situation, it'll put Konoha in a tight spot. Likely start a war if the relationship with other villages is poor."

 

Shizune frowned, "surely one informant is not that important?"

 

"The informant is currently being tortured for information. If the team goes and kills the informant, then they would successfully keep Konoha out of a war that would cost many lives," Kakashi explained. 

 

Shizune's eyes flickered between Kakashi and the television. Shikamaru's team was currently being blown up as they set off a trap. "You seem awful certain the results would be catastrophic. Surely, our ties with the other villages are stronger than that now."

 

"Currently, yes. But even a situation like this would be precarious for us. Do you save your teammates and damn the village, or do you damn your teammates to save the village?"

 

"What would you do?" Shizune asked. 

 

Kakashi was quiet for a moment. Shikamaru rolled out of the way of an attack and sent a shuriken volley to help Haburashi get out of a tight spot. "Maaa, I wonder…"

 

*****

 

The simulation was over for the day. There were three more scheduled for tomorrow. Everyone was under strict orders not to discuss the test. Kakashi found himself walking the paths behind the Hatake estate. The estate itself had been torn down. Kakashi had neglected it, and vandalism had destroyed it. The family shrine was still intact and hidden among the trees. He found himself coming to the family shrine more often in his old age. Perhaps 33 wasn't actually old, but he certainly felt old. 

 

The Hatake clan in Konoha had always been small. The clan did not originate in fire country. In fact, the clan resided in the Howling Wolf Village. It was well known for its medicine, and he heard the Hatake clan grew a lot of the medicinal herbs. They had been shinobi as well until the village had an internal conflict. They gave up their shinobi village status. The bulk of the clan still resided there, and the line that moved to Konoha had dwindled to Kakashi. 

 

Kakashi made it to the grave marker of his father and cleared it of the usual dead foliage. He traced the groves of the Sakumo's name. Kakashi was more familiar with lines on his father’s tombstone than the lines of his father’s face. 

 

The morning sun pleated through the leaves, and the birds chattered around Kakashi. It had been a long night, and the day was just beginning for most. Kakashi was ready for it to end, though. "Shikamaru made the same decision you did. He is hailed as a brilliant strategist like his father, and when faced with your final mission, he made the same call. Would he have come home to the same welcome you did?" he murmured. He didn’t want to break the peace around him, but he needed to talk to his Dad.

 

Kakashi scraped off some of the moss growing on the stone. How funny that tombstones were discolored the same green chuunin and jounin wear. Perhaps he should change the uniform. It couldn’t be healthy for morale. 

 

"If you had successfully killed the informant, would the third war have been avoided? Would Obito and Rin still be alive? I'm not blaming you. I'm just trying to understand me,” Kakashi let out a heavy sigh, “I thought I had laid this to rest. I thought I had agreed with your decision. Those who leave a comrade behind are worse than trash. But here I am, running my jounin candidates through your final mission. How many others died for the sake of saving your team?" Kakashi winced at his own question.

 

Sakumo wouldn't have been able to consider the cost of his decision at that moment. But it was a decision that's ramifications were far-reaching and devastating. Sandaime had been extremely upset with his father, and now Kakashi was beginning to understand why. 

 

As a jounin, your world was small. You worried about the mission and your team. But as Hokage, he was forced to examine the bigger picture. Such as how failed missions affected merchant costs and how incredibly dependent the village was on D ranks. It was interesting and complicated. Kakashi had so many lives to considered. No longer was it just mission and team. He now had to think about how it affected the lives of all those in the village, civilians, shinobi, daimyo, political treaties, children, and so much more. How do you decide which one is more important? 

 

"I know what I would have done in that mission as a kid, as an ANBU, and as a jounin. But what about now? What would I choose now? The village or the team? I couldn't have sent my teammates away to safety and expected to accomplish that mission. But even now, I send teams out on missions knowing they could die. When crafting missions, I must ask if the mission is worth more than their lives. Dad, I'm ashamed to say it, but I don't know that you made the right decision anymore." The confession thudded to the ground at his feet. Kakashi swallowed thickly and took two steps back away from the grave. 

 

Perhaps Kakashi had been too honest. Even if no one was currently here and he was talking to a rock. Voicing thoughts like that wasn't acceptable. He was the Hokage. He wasn't supposed to be this lost. 

 

Kakashi decided he just needed to clear his head. A run would help. 

 

Chapter Text

Sweat dripped into Kakashi’s eyes, momentarily clouding his vision. His breathing remained controlled, but inside it vibrated against his ribs. He tightened his slick hand on his kunai. It was times like these he wished he still had Obito's sharingan. The man before him looked rough, but he looked better than how Kakashi felt. Hopefully, it wasn’t accurate. A nice bruise was already forming under his opponent's pale eye and spreading to the bridge of his nose. Kakashi couldn’t help but feel a bit vindicated with that solid hit.

Kakashi had not expected an encounter like this when he had opted to go for a morning run through the woods. He had no idea there had been an enemy nin this close to Konoha; especially, one this powerful. Thankfully, Kakashi had sent Guruko to fetch Naruto before he intercepted. He hoped this would be an easy take down and he would not need the back up. It was not. His colorless features and Byakugan like eyes harkened back to Kaguya. A knot twisted in his gut. He needed to keep this man at bay until backup could arrive. Kakashi's eyes narrowed as the enemy nin's hands began to fly through a jutsu. Kakashi had no intention of letting him finish and bull-rushed him. It wasn’t his style at all, but he was running out of options.

The ground dropped beneath Kakashi, and before he could correct his footing, a chakra wave hit him. Kakashi was thrown back off his feet so hard he had an out-of-body experience and could see his own back. He reached out to his image, hunched forward for speed, an arm swinging forward with his kunai, and one leg up as he sprinted ahead. The image slowly changed as his body fell forward while an unseen force shoved him back. He looked at the enemy, who was not looking at his image but staring him in the eye with a smug look. The trees rushing past him covered the scene. He was being dragged from behind. Faster and faster. No longer were trees rushing past him but people — scenes of a play familiar to him. Sakura dressed in her scrubs, giving him a weary look after surgery with Gai. Naruto and Sasuke sitting next to each other on the hospital bed, each with an empty sleeve. Tenzo’s hand on his shoulder as he looked into the distance. Tears dripping down Obito’s scarred face as he said goodbye. Kaguya’s terrifying presence as she stared down at them from above. Sakura looked exhausted with her sleeve torn off of her black shirt. Choji and Shikamaru had grave looks etched deeply in their faces with the word shinobi on their headbands. The images moved quicker. Kurenai’s pregnancy. Asuma smoking. Gai posing with his thumb up. Naruto inhaling ramen. Sakura blushing. Sandaime with his pipe. It was getting harder to distinguish them now. The faces were mixing, and the colors were blending. Where was he going? His heart was in his throat, suffocating him. Then he hit the ground hard. The back of his head made an audible crack. He stared wide-eyed at the intensely blue sky.

The sound of blood rushing in his ears blocked out the outside noise. A bird fled from his branch across the sky in his view. He tried to swallow some air, hoping it would dislodge his heart from his throat. Blonde hair and blue eyes suddenly appeared above Kakashi. The man’s mouth was moving, but Kakashi couldn’t hear it. He needed to get up. What had happened with the enemy nin he had been fighting? A hand pressed down on Kakashi's chest and the unexpected weight felt immense. He had no strength in his arms, so he scratched at the hand pinning him down and his legs kicked out uselessly against the dirt. The blond’s face turned away. Seizing the opportunity, Kakashi went to swipe at him with a kunai, but that kunai was gone. Someone grabbed his legs. Kakashi threw his chest up, trying to buck the hold, but the man put more pressure on his chest to keep him down. A glowing hand passed over his face, but he could feel the familiar tease of foreign chakra meeting his own. “Sa-sakura," he managed to rasp out. He bared down on his teeth and bucked hard, throwing his head forward to increase his momentum. Instead, he smacked his head back against the ground. His body tightened, and electricity shot through him. Then he knew no more.

Minato’s eyes widened as his young charge continued to seize under his hand. Only the whites of his eyes were visible as blood pooled behind his head. It was dangerous to move him, but it was dangerous to leave him here too. Kakashi needed a real medic. Minato shoved his arms under the convulsing boy, ignoring Rin’s protests and Obito’s tumbling off his legs. Minato used hiraishin and suddenly appeared in the hospital. Everyone around him jumped and several went into a defensive stance before recognizing him.

“Someone help!” Minato pleaded. Soon the boy was being forced back onto the floor. Doctors or nurses, Minato wasn’t sure, crowded around Kakashi. Minato was pulled away, but his eyes remained on Kakashi until all he could see was the back of someone wearing white. A hand on his face coaxed him to look away and towards a concerned medic-nin. Her eyes were dark brown, and her thin mouth was tugging down.

“Can you repeat that?” Minato asked distractedly. He pulled on his left ear and tried to focus on the woman in front of him.

“Can you tell me what happened, Namikaze-san?” She had a voice like lavender and warm water.

“I’m not sure I can.” Minato furrowed his brows as he thought back. “We had been training. The boys had finished their spar, and I was going over my analysis with them. They kept quipping at each other. You know boys. Kakashi is a prodigy in his form and brilliance. He is significantly better than Obito, but Obito isn’t anything to dismiss. He has a sturdy build and-“

“Namikaze-san,” she interrupted, pulling his face again to look at her. He hadn’t realized his eyes had drifted back to his student. “What happened?”

“We were just standing there. No one was physically fighting, when something knocked Kakashi-kun straight off his feet. He knows how to land.” Minato glanced back and saw that the doctors had brought a gurney and were lifting Kakashi onto it. A small limp hand bobbed, and he jerked his eyes away. The image though, he couldn’t unsee. “He didn’t even try to correct it. He landed hard. Maybe on a rock? I’m not sure. He landed so hard he may not have needed to hit a rock.”

“So, he fell back and hit his head?”

“Yes. His eyes were unfocused and he seemed dazed. I kept him on the ground but he fought me. I couldn't calm him down. It was like he didn't recognize me. He was kicking his feet up and clawing at my arm, so I had Obito focus on hindering his legs. I was worried he was going to hurt himself worse. Rin did a medic check. She’s training to be the team’s field medic. It seemed to stop him for a moment. He said…” He paused, trying to make sense of it, “sakura.”

“Like the flower?” the nurse questioned.

Minato nodded. “Yes, like the flower. Maybe his words were jumbled, but that’s what it sounded like. Then he bucked hard. I tried to subdue him. I ended up pushing him back down, and he hit his head again. His eyes rolled back, and he began to seize. I brought him directly here at that point.”

The nurse nodded her head. “We’ll take care of him,” she told him. “We’ll do everything we can, so leave him to us. You focus on calling those that need to know. Stay in the hospital, and feel free to use the phone. A receptionist can help you with that.” She led him away from the nurses’ station, out the double doors, and into the waiting room. She ignored the line and snagged the phone off the receptionist’s desk. “Call someone," she said again, “and stay in the waiting room. We will be back with any news.” She then turned and hurried back to where they had come from.

Minato stared at the phone for a moment. It looked so foreign to him. He reached out, but then wondered who he would call. Kakashi had no family. It couldn’t even really be said he had friends. His team was likely rushing to get here. It wouldn’t be any wonder where he had gone. His heart clenched as he remembered that pale, lifeless hand. He shook his head to clear his thoughts. Why was he even considering using a phone? He went through the familiar hand signs for his summon. A puff of smoke, and a red toad with goggles around his neck appeared. “Kousuke,” Minato greeted, “I need you to bring me Jiraiya-sensei and Kushina-san.”

“You got it, Minato. I’ll be right back,” the toad rumbled quietly to him. Minato remembered to thank the toad just as it left. That was Kousuke; he was quick to do as he was told without asking questions.

“SENSEI!” a voice bellowed. He looked up in time to see Obito throwing himself at him. Rin was following behind. Minato landed on his ass. “Is he okay, Sensei?” Obito asked into his chest.

Minato rested his hand on Obito's head. “Not yet,” he said honestly. “We have to trust he will be fine.” He moved Obito so he could stand up, but the boy didn’t seem keen to let him go. Minato still managed to get to his feet and gestured to Rin to join in the hug. Her eyes shimmered, and she rushed into his side and cried quietly into his vest.

“He’ll be okay. Kakashi is strong," he tried to reassure all of them.

“But what happened? One moment everything was normal, and then…it just wasn’t.” Obito’s eyes blinked rapidly.

“I don’t know,” Minato said.

“An enemy ninja?” Obito prompted.

“I don’t know,” Minato repeated. Surely he would have noticed something like that. He needed to meditate on it. Perhaps more answers would emerge.

Jiraiya was the first to appear. He tumbled out of the mouth of a toad. He landed in a squat, one hand extended out with only his thumb curled in. His other hand similarly extended behind him.

“It is I, the great-” Jiraiya cut himself off. He stood up straight as he made eye contact with Minato. “What’s going on?”

Minato was in no mood for Jiraiya’s games. Usually, he felt some affection for his Sensei’s antics, but now wasn’t the time. Jiraiya seemed to have caught on to that quickly.

Sweet Rin spoke up from Minato’s side. “Kakashi was hurt. We don’t know what happened. He just….he just got hurt.”

Jiraiya looked at Minato, and Minato nodded his head. It wasn’t the best explanation, but he couldn’t seem to supply a better one at the moment. “Rin,” Jiraiya called to her soberly, “you know this hospital well enough. You and Obito go get everyone some water from the cafeteria.”

Rin looked up at Minato, who just nodded his head in confirmation. Rin then took Obito’s hand and led him away. Minato watched them leave while Jiraiya watched him. “Will you tell me what happened, Minato?”

“I don’t know.” It seems he’s been saying that a lot lately. “He was fine, and then he wasn’t." Minato glanced back to where his students disappeared. "Sensei, I think he might be dead,” Minato quietly admitted, remembering that limp little hand. Kakashi was just a child...

“Dead? How can someone be fine and then dead, Minato?” Jiraiya pressed.

Minato had to look away from his teacher and towards the door. “I don’t know. He was fine, and then he wasn’t. Sensei, what if he’s dead? I don’t even know what killed him.” He voiced his worst fears as another pop sounded.

“Who died?” Kushina looked between the two. Respect for the hospital kept her voice down.

Minato turned towards her, and Kushina moved to him. Her eyes were searching, but he needed another minute before he could speak.

“Kakashi,” Jirayai-sensei answered for him. “Training accident, it sounds like.”

Kushina gasped, but Minato shook his head, “No, not a training accident. We weren’t actively training when it happened. Something knocked him clean off of his feet, and he hit his head hard. There was a lot of blood. Kakashi was panicking, delirious even, his words made no sense. Then he hit his head again and began having a seizure.”

Kushina pulled Minato into a hug, and Minato leaned into her. He could indulge himself for a moment while his students were away. Jiraiya hummed as he digested Minato’s words. “Rogue attack? Perhaps there was a group of shinobi training nearby?” It had happened before. Some of these events had even lead to death.

Minato shook his head. “I don’t know. I don’t even recall sensing chakra, but maybe. I need to meditate on it. I’m missing something.” He narrowed his eyes, but he couldn’t recall any new information.

The trio settled into the waiting room chairs, and the rest of Team 7 joined them with waters. Obito left to grab one more since he hadn’t known Kushina would be there. He had long since returned when a doctor approached them. The doctor's expression was controlled and offered no immediate relief

“Hatake-san sustained trauma to his head, and this has been the initial focus of treatment. His skull has suffered two fractures to it and swelling to the brain. He has not woken yet, and we hope to keep it that way until we get the swelling down. We will be monitoring him closely, and if necessary, we will induce a coma.”

Minato frowned, and his mind whirled. He knew Kakashi had hit the ground hard, and he had not used chakra or techniques to cushion his fall. Why hadn’t he? It should have been instinctual, even if he had been caught off guard. Minato had seen Kakashi caught off guard before, and he had always rolled with the fall, used the momentum to flip back up onto his feet.

Kushina squeezed Minato’s hand. “Is he going to be alright when he wakes up? Will he, like, remember everyone?”

The doctor shifted, not a good sign. “I cannot say. We won’t know until he wakes up.”

“Wait, so it’s possible? He’ll forget everything?” Obito looked up at the doctor wide-eyed.

The doctor looked at Minato but got no indication from him, so she continued. “Brain injuries are tricky. We won’t know until he wakes up. He could be fine, or he could experience some lasting effects. It may even show up a bit later, so the people around him must watch over him and report if they notice odd behavior.” Obito nodded slowly, his brows furrowed. He looked at Rin, who gave a worried look, too.

“You said that was your initial focus,” Minato began. “That means something else is wrong, too.”

“Yes, his chakra system. We could not heal him the way we normally do with shinobi because his system has been compromised, blown even. His chakra pathways were destroyed, and right now, our focus has to be healing that. It is what makes the head injury so difficult. Normally we can go in, heal the damage, and bring the swelling down. The sooner we do it, the less likely he'll be to have adverse effects. But we can’t use chakra if his pathways are blown apart. We need to mend those first, so we will be working around the clock to do so. Once those are fixed, we can go back to focusing on his head injury.” The doctor paused and studied their faces for a moment. “I wish I could offer better news. It is best if you all go rest up and eat. You won’t be able to see him for at least a day. I will call you, or you can check with the front desk at the hospital to see if he is out of surgery.”

Minato nodded, and the doctor left. What the hell happened? This level of damage? It was one thing for the head injury. That had been bad, but for all of his pathways to be blown? What could have caused that? He looked to Jiraiya, who looked just as confused. Minato heard crying and looked over to see Rin hiding her face in her hands and Obito trying to comfort her. His heart went out to the other two on his team. “You two should head home. We won’t be training anymore today. I will let you know when you can see him, alright?”

Rin nodded, unable to speak, but Obito just watched him. Minato couldn’t help but feel judged by those dark eyes. “Okay, Sensei.” Obito took Rin’s hand and went to lead her to her home.

“What the hell happened?” Jiraiya demanded once the chuunins were gone.

“Nothing you described could have hurt Kakashi like that, ya know," Kushina added.

Minato grimaced, “I know. I need to meditate and go over the events again. I’m missing something. I’ll keep you two informed, stay close by please.” He requested.

Jiraiya sighed and laid his hand on Minato’s shoulder. “I’ll be by a bit later. I need to see Sensei first, now that I’m back in the village. I left an important mission.”

Minato’s eyes widened. “Sensei, I didn’t realize. You shouldn’t have-“

Jiraiya held up a hand to silence him. “Minato, I care about Kakashi, too. More than that, you needed me here. It was right of you to call me. Something isn’t right, and we’ll figure it out. I will be at your place tonight.”

Minato gave his sensei a grateful smile. Kushina decided to pipe in, too., “Then I’ll go to the market and pick up the makings for dinner. Don’t worry; I can let myself in. You need to head home and meditate. You can tell us what you figure out over some tonkatsu. I heard pork cutlets were on sale today, ya know.” She grinned brightly. “We’ll figure this out, Minato.”

“Thank you, both of you.”

Chapter Text

            Minato opened his eyes slowly and took in the world around him. The lights were off, but his room bathed in the orange and gray of the evening. He could also hear two voices in his kitchen. So, Kushina and Jiraiya-sensei had come. He shouldn’t have doubted them, but shinobi often left for an unexpected mission. Jiraiya more so than most.

            Minato smiled when he heard Kushina shout at Jiraiya-sensei. Kushina-san was a wonderful friend, someone he could depend on off the field. She had been one of his first friends and helped him overcome his shy nature. Jiraiya-sensei had a hand in that, too, he supposed. Somehow, Minato seemed drawn to loud people.

            The conversation in the kitchen continued to flow even after Minato arrived. Kushina used a set of long chopsticks to poked at the panko-crusted pork. Beside the pan was a plate that held two already fried golden brown. Jiraiya was leaning against the counter with his arms folded. The two of them were talking about Jiraiya’s new book. Jiraiya had recently published the Tale of the Gutsy Shinobi, and Kushina had adored it. Since then, the two had discussed similar books when they got together, usually at Minato’s apartment.       

 “Those are coming out well,” Minato complimented Kushina, pointing at the cutlets. The redhead flashed him a brilliant smile.

“I've been working on it. Fugaku tells me I should keep moving the cutlets around; otherwise, it won't fry even. What the hell does he know? He doesn't cook. He’s just repeating what his mom says." Kushina rolled her eyes. "There’s more than one way to do something!"

            Fugaku and Kushina were something else. You wouldn't know it, but they were best friends. There was no romantic interest, though.  They had been on the same genin team but had gravitated towards each other even before that. In school, they trained and often partnered together while they were all in school. Where Minato could hardly speak to the redhead, Fugaku had never had a problem with it, something that made Minato a little envious. Kushina's relationship with the soon to be clan head gave Minato a better understanding of Obito's home life, which was why he gave the boy so much leniency.

            Kushina pulled the last pork cutlet out of the pan and began cutting them. "Minato, take the salads out of the fridge and grab the tonkatsu sauce. Jiraiya, will you serve the rice?"

            They tried to keep the meal light, but Minato's mind kept going back to his youngest student. Jiraiya let out a heavy sigh and put his chopsticks down. "Kushina, you did a wonderful job, but I think we are all too consumed in our thoughts to keep this casual. Minato, did your meditation bring anything else to the surface?"

            Minato pressed his lips in a line, expression severe. "Yes, it did." Kushina sat straighter. "When I revisited the scene, I felt a sudden force of chakra bypass me, and that was what took Kakashi off his feet."

            "An attack? why didn’t you pick up on it at the time?" Kushina’s brows furrowed.

            "Because it felt like Kakashi's chakra," Minato explained.

            Jiraiya frowned at this. "Like he suddenly expelled all his chakra at once? That would certainly blow his pathways, but why would he do that?"

            Minato shook his head and wrapped his hands around his cooling tea. "That's not it. The chakra didn't come from Kakashi at all. It came from another source and hit Kakashi. It went right through the rest of us without notice, but when it hit him-" Minato sighed, not able to continue for a moment.

            "And it felt like Kakashi?" Jiraiya clarified.

            Minato nodded. "No matter how often I examined it, the chakra felt just like him. That’s why I didn't realize it before. Kakashi's chakra doesn't send up red flags for me, so I didn't register it. It was so strange."

            Jiraiya leaned back and folded his arms. "What were the other two doing?"

            "Nothing. Rin and Obito were just listening to my lecture. I can also confirm that Kakashi said sakura. Well, he stuttered it when Rin started to treat him.” It might be an unimportant detail, but Minato wasn’t willing to throw anything out just yet.

            "Wrong time of year for those," Kushina frowned.

            "After he said that, he knocked himself out while trying to escape. There was nothing more to it than that.” Minato tugged on his ear.

            "I'll see what I can find out from Sensei. I'll write Tsunade too. Who knows, maybe she'll write back," Jiraiya offered.

            Kushina nodded, then pointed to herself, "And I'll do some research in the library. You focus on Kakashi and your team. Leave the rest to us."

            "Thank you. Speaking of which, I want to check on Kakashi," Minato stood up, but Jiraiya tugged him back down.

            "The doctor said you couldn’t see him until tomorrow. I happen to know reconstructing chakra pathways is a tricky business. Hopefully, there is a Hyuuga present to help. For now, let's drink to his health instead.” Jiraiya-sensei brandished several bottles of sake, seemingly out of nowhere.

            Minato looked utterly unimpressed. "I do not believe now is the time for drinking, Sensei. Not while Kakashi is fighting for his life."

            Jiraiya shook his head, "This is exactly the time to drink. You need to rest, and frankly, if you're not drunk, you will be up all night worried about him."

            "I'll be up in the morning with a hangover instead," Minato grumbled.

            Kushina pushed a bottle into his hands, "Shut up, Wuss. I need a drink after all this." She then grabbed a bottle for herself.

☆☆☆☆☆☆

            Minato checked with the hospital throughout the day. He hadn’t been able to see Kakashi yet, and it was making him nervous and fidgety.

His day had started with a splitting headache, but it was nothing that plenty of water and aspirin couldn’t cure. Jiraiya-sensei had slept on Minato’s couch. The two of them had had a quiet morning as they suffered together, Kushina having long since returned to her apartment. When Jiraiya and Minato had started to feel better, they had worked on seal creation for a while. They hadn’t done that in a long time, and Minato had needed the distraction. Minato had then left in time to take his remaining team members out for a late lunch before they walked to the hospital to check on Kakashi. Unfortunately, Kakashi was still in surgery.  

            Minato had not realized when he had brought Kakashi to the hospital that his student was dying in his arms. His stomach knotted sharply. Rin had seemed to understand before he had. During Minato’s meditation, he had been able to recall her desperation. Her face had become pale, and she was shaking. Rin had protested moving Kakashi. She had tried to tell Minato to bring medics to Kakashi instead, but Minato had not been in the right mindset to listen to her. He wasn't sure if he would have made a different decision anyway. Kakashi had needed the hospital, and the sooner Minato got him there, the better. Minato could only hope that moving Kakashi hadn't caused any further damage.

            Minato was alone in his apartment that evening. Jiraiya was out prowling the nightlife. Kushina had been by earlier, but Minato sent her home. She argued with him over it, but Minato assured her that he just needed some time alone. He was working on a seal when his phone rang. Honestly, it was a frightening sound. Despite owning a phone, Minato rarely used it. Shinobi preferred other ways of communication. Minato hurried to the phone, "Yes-umm…hello?" Minato cringed at his awkward greeting. He didn't get enough phone calls to practice it.

            "Namikaze-san? Hatake-san is out of surgery. We were successful in reestablishing his chakra pathways. If you would like to see him tomorrow morning, our visiting hours are from-"

            "Can I see him now?" Minato interrupted. "Please," he belatedly remembered to tack on for politeness's sake.

            There was hesitation on the other end of the line. "My name is Akai Hane. Please ask for me when you get here."

            Minato gripped the phone tightly. "I will be there right now." He hadn't bothered to put the phone down, letting it drop to the floor as he used hiraishin to get to the hospital. As usual, he startled the nurses and doctors when he arrived in the same spot he had with Kakashi just the day before. "I’m looking for Akai Hane,” he announced.

            A woman hung up the phone and came up to him. “You truly are as fast as they claim,” wonder filtered through her voice.

            Minato gave her a sheepish look, “Akai Hane?” The woman nodded her head and smiled at him.

            “Please follow me. We have Hatake-san in our critical care ward,” she told him. The two walked together down a hall. It was after they turned a corner that Hane spoke again. “You saved my husband two years ago. His team was ambushed. A runner was sent for backup but would not have made it in time if you hadn’t intervened. You suddenly showed up on the battlefield like a phantom. Because of you, my husband was able to complete his mission and come home to me. Letting you see Hatake-kun is the least I can do. Thank you for saving my husband’s life.”

            Minato blushed some but shook his head. “Kakashi-kun is very important to me. This hospital saved his life. For that, I am beyond grateful,” he told her honestly.

            Hane smiled and tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “Of course, we all do our part. That is what being a village is all about.”

            The two shared a happy smile, both feeling the warmth of being a part of something larger than either of them. Perhaps it was the Will of Fire radiating from them both. They had their roles to play, and because of it, they had both helped the other. They stayed quiet for the rest of the walk until Hane stopped at the door. She pushed it open to let Minato inside but froze as she went to enter. “Who are you?”

            A man was in the room next to Kakashi’s IV. He looked just as startled to see them as they were to see him. The intruder’s eyes flashed gold, and he was gone. The nurse turned and shouted, “Code 50! Code 50! Room 114, Code 50!”

            Minato ran to Kakashi’s side to check him over. Kakashi’s skin was pale as paper, and a new bruise was forming around his neck. The machines were all off. Someone was trying to assassinate Kakashi, and for the life of him, Minato could not think of why.

Chapter Text

         The hospital staff had determined that Kakashi’s chakra pathways were still too raw to handle enhanced healing. The bruising around his neck was dark, but the x-rays of Kakashi's neck indicated it would heal fine on its own. 

 

       Minato refused to leave Kakashi alone after the assassination attempt. In fact, Minato fully intended to move into the boy's room.  Despite Minato's promise, he had yet to inform Rin or Obito that Kakashi's room was accepting visitors. Instead, Minato focused on trying to figure out why anyone would feel the need to assassinate an 8-year-old. Kakashi was a chuunin, but he wasn’t privy to anything worth the risk of infiltrating a hidden village. And yet, an assassination had been attempted, and by an unknown shinobi, at that. 

 

         Minato looked to the door when he heard a knock. Jiraiya was leaning against the doorframe with a grin on his face. Minato, despite himself, felt relieved at the sight of the familiar smile. "You look like shit," Jiraiya laughed. "How long have you been here?" The large man walked over to Kakashi's bed.

 

         Minato frowned and looked at the pale boy lying motionless in bed, "Since last night. I got the call after you left and managed to convince them to let me stay. It was a good thing I did, the nurse and I walked in on an assassination attempt on Kakashi."

 

         "What?!" Jiraiya looked at Minato wide-eyed. "Are you serious? Why would anyone want to assassinate him?" Apparently, the news hadn't been brought to Jiraiya's attention yet. 

 

         "It’s possible this isn’t the first attempt on his life if the initial reason he was put in this state was some sort of attack. However, the assassin attempted to strangle Kakashi this time.” Minato ignored Jiraiya’s question of motive. Minato didn’t have the answer to that. 

 

         Jiraiya folded his arms and stared down at Kakashi. The boy was without his mask due to the ventilator he was on. “What did he look like?”

 

         Minato released a heavy sigh and leaned back in his chair. “I saw him only for a moment, and the room was dark, but he seemed to almost glow. His hair, skin, and eyes were all pale. I’d almost claim he was a Hyuuga based on eyes alone, but when he went to disappear, they flashed yellow. When he left, I couldn’t find a trace of his chakra- just Kakashi’s. But Kakashi’s been leaking chakra so that it may have masked the assassin’s residual chakra signature. The doctors think the leaking is because his pathways are still healing and that it will clear up with time.”

 

         Jiraiya nodded, “Sensei is likely already aware of the intruder, but I’ll go speak to him about it anyway. It seems odd that the assassin would use such a flashy attack and then use simple strangulation to finish him off. The initial attack must have taken a lot out of him.”

 

         Minato sighed and raked a hand through his hair. “He would have died. Why try and kill an eight-year-old chuunin? He is just a kid.”

 

         “I don’t know.” Jiraiya watched as Minato got up to pace the room. 

 

         “I considered the idea that maybe it’s related to Sakumo. Since he was blamed for starting this war by choosing his comrades over the mission, it is possible someone is out for revenge. Sakumo committed suicide to atone for that. There is still gossip, but no one has been harassing Kakashi publicly over it." Minato certainly hadn’t felt that Sakumo had done anything dishonorable; others had not felt the same. Some still gossiped over it, but no one had moved to hurt Kakashi once his father died. “There’s no reason for anyone to go after Kakashi for Sakumo’s actions.”

 

        Jiraiya remained silent and moved to sit in a chair. Minato’s eyes focused on the ground as he continued to pace and think aloud. “I’ve gone around and around on this. Kakashi has no secrets worth killing him over. He has only gone out in the field with me. I know what missions he has been part of, and he’s done nothing to warrant an assassination attempt. He has an impressive record for his age, but he shouldn’t have caught another village’s eye yet. I have worked hard to keep him under wraps, so no village should find him threatening. Not threatening enough to risk this level of infiltration, anyway. As for someone inside of Konoha, outside of a possible Sakumo connection, there’s nothing. Kakashi is an eight-year-old kid.” Minato stopped and held up his hands in a helpless gesture. “What am I missing?”

 

         “Perhaps they are trying to get to you?” Jiraiya suggested.

 

         “Me?” The thought had not occurred to him. “Seems rather cowardly to attack a child, doesn't it?”

 

         Jiraiya shrugged, "if it keeps the Yellow Flash off the battlefield, I don't think they care." Jiraiya stood up and put a heavy hand on Minato’s shoulder. “I’ll talk to Sensei about this, see if we can get Kakashi some guards, and get you back on the field. This is likely bigger than Kakashi.”

 

         “But Sensei, I can’t leave him,” Minato argued. The very thought of doing so filled him with dread. 

 

         Jiraiya shook his head. “You can’t give them what they want. If they want you off the field, then we better make sure you’re on it.” With that, Jiraiya left, leaving Minato with a sick heart.

  


      

         Minato found himself away from Kakashi’s side and standing in front of the Hokage sooner than he would have liked. The sandaime let out a heavy, smoke-filled sigh. “I’m sorry to hear about the young Hatake.”

 

         Minato bowed. “Thank you, Hokage-sama. He has a strong will. We trust he will pull through.”

 

        The sandaime nodded as if he agreed. “Kakashi-kun has always been exceptional. What has happened to him is certainly unusual. Jiraiya brought his theory to my attention, and I must agree with him. I cannot see a logical reason for Kakashi to be the target of an assassination attempt. It is more likely that the attempt was to distract you, and we cannot afford distractions.”

 

         Minato had bit his tongue and clenched his hands together behind his back to keep his retort at bay. Kakashi was not a distraction. He was a valuable member of his team and their village.

 

         The Sandaime plowed forward. “With this in mind, I will be posting two jounin to watch his room at all times until we get to the bottom of this matter. In the meantime, I will be assigning you a mission. You will head to the Iwa front and make your appearance known there. We cannot lie low right now. They need to know the Yellow Flash of Konoha is still on the frontlines. You can pick up your official orders from the mission desk.”

 

         Minato bowed and went to leave only to be stopped by the Sandaime. “Minato-kun, I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t believe it was for the best.”

 

         Minato could only nod. He didn’t trust his voice. His anger had a stranglehold on him. He disagreed with the Hokage’s decision, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t obey. He was a shinobi, after all. It was his duty to follow his Hokage’s orders. He would be Hokage one day, though, and then he would change things. Individual lives would matter, not just the image of the village. Kakashi mattered. Even if Minato had to obey, he wouldn’t allow them to change his views on that. Forcing Minato to leave his dying student felt cruel and unjust! What if Kakashi died while he was gone? What if he woke up and didn’t understand why Minato wasn’t there? What if Kakashi forgot everything? Who would take care of the boy? What if something happened to the rest of his team? Kakashi was taken down quickly; who was to say Rin and Obito would even survive such an encounter?

 

        They were all still human, and that humanity was what made them strong, not that pretentious image of the village. The Will of Fire existed in everyone's hearts, and if they didn’t nurture it, then they would end up like young Kakashi. A boy who tried to kill himself daily to be the perfect tool the village wanted. Minato wanted to save the boy from that. It was hard to do when the Hokage- no, the village, considered a dying child to be a distraction.

 

         Minato shook his head. He couldn’t continue this line of thinking. It was dangerous. Instead, he decided he needed his whole team around him right now. So, Minato headed to their homes to collect them and take them to visit Kakashi. The Uchiha compound was the furthest away, so he got Obito first. Obito lived with his grandmother since he was a war orphan. His grandmother wasn’t entirely there, so it was more like Obito took care of his grandmother instead of the other way around. Getting him away from the house could require some time. He may need to set things up for his grandmother before he could leave.

 

         Minato knocked on the door and had to wait for a moment or two longer than most houses. Obito opened it up, his cheeks flushed but eyes bright. “Can we see Kakashi now?” He wasn’t even trying to act indifferent towards his younger teammate.

 

         Minato put his hand on the top of Obito’s head. “He isn’t awake, but we can go see him. Will you help me pick up Rin?”

 

         Obito blushed at the mention of Rin. “You bet, Sensei. Let me finish up.” Obito closed the door without inviting Minato in. Minato just stuffed his hands in his pockets and waited. Obito never invited him in; Minato assumed it had something to do with Obito’s grandmother. That is what Minato told himself, anyway. It was only five minutes before Obito was ready to go.

 

         “Ready?” Minato asked.

 

         Obito nodded his head. “Yeah. It was really weird, huh, Sensei? I just can’t figure out what hurt him.”

 

         Minato rubbed the back of his neck as they headed out of the Uchiha compound. He hadn’t expected Obito to dive right into that topic. “I can’t either,” he admitted. Minato knew it had been some sort of attack. One that had flooded Kakashi’s system with his own chakra had enough force to knock him off his feet but only targeted Kakashi. There could not be many attacks that fit that description. Hopefully, their research would uncover it. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t figure it out. Kushina-san and Jiraya-sensei are both helping research what could have hurt him.”

 

         Obito nodded, but his smile did not return to his face until they got to Rin’s. Usually, the boy chatted about his great future or his clansmen, but today he was contemplative. Minato decided to leave him alone with his thoughts. Minato had a lot on his mind, too.

 

         Obito knocked on Rin’s door with excited thumps. The door swung open to reveal her mom. Minato and Obito both bowed politely. “Nohara-san,” Minato greeted, “I was hoping Rin-chan would be available to visit her teammate in the hospital with us.”

 

         The woman looked a lot like Rin, but her hair was in a pixie style. She didn’t have the same purple marking her daughter sported because she was a civilian. Rin only had the marks because her father was from a shinobi family. “She is training in the back. Would you like to come in?”

 

         Minato shook his head, “That would be difficult. We want to get to the hospital soon and see how Kakashi-kun is doing.”

 

         Nohara-san nodded, her face falling, “I heard about what happened. Rin was devastated. I’ll go fetch her now.” The door closed, and Minato looked over at Obito. He was staring at his sandaled feet, his brows furrowed. Minato finally decided to ask him what was going on. “Are you okay, Obito? You seem stuck in your head.”

 

         Obito blushed and fidgeted with his goggles. “Yeah, I’m just trying to figure out what I missed about the whole attack. Was there someone there? I just don’t remember. It all happened so fast.”

 

         Minato took a moment before responding. It seemed they both were plagued with the same thoughts. “I understand. I keep looking for clues too,” he.

 

         The door opened, and Rin appeared. Her face was red from exertion. “Sensei, Obito! Is Kakashi awake?”

 

         Minato shook his head. “No, but he is out of surgery. I thought we would all like to see him together.”

 

         Rin's face fell in disappointment, and why wouldn’t she be? They were all nervous. She quietly thanked them for picking her up. As Minato led the way, the two chuunins greeted each other, but then the group fell silent.

 

         They arrived at the hospital and came across the two jounins assigned to guard Kakashi. One was sitting outside the door playing a crossword puzzle. The other was inside reading; he excused himself once team Minato came into the room. Minato could hear the two outside the door, chatting. He was glad to see that Hokage-sama had kept his word. Minato still didn’t like leaving Kakashi for a mission.

 

         Kakashi’s eyes were closed like he was sleeping. His face was exposed to them, but neither chuunin made a big deal of it. Kakashi hardly looked like himself due to various tubes laid across him. The monitors around him beeped and hissed. 

 

         Minato didn’t understand what all the numbers displayed meant. Still, nothing was yelling at them, so he trusted that Kakashi was stable. Rin was examining the medical chart while Obito wandered the room. Minato smiled at his young and gifted medic-nin. “Anything interesting?”

 

         Rin nodded. “A lot. I wonder how they pieced his chakra system back together. I wish I could have been there for it, but it was probably good I wasn’t. It’s a miracle he survived such a thing.”

 

         Obito joined them, looking at the chart too. His face scrunched up. “You’re amazing, Rin, that you understand this.”

 

         Rin blushed at the compliment. “Thank you, Bito-kun.”

 

         Obito looked pleased with her reaction and opened his mouth to continue, but Minato interrupted him. “Yes, well, there have been other developments. An assassination attempt was made on Kakashi. That is why he now has two jounin guards.”

 

         The two chuunin gaped at Minato, “Wait, the attack was an assassination attempt, or was there another?” Rin clarified.

 

         “There was another. An individual came into the room to strangle Kakashi. We happened upon him just in time,” Minato explained.

 

         Obito swallowed his yell and then choked on it. He coughed and beat his chest for a moment. Minato looked at Rin. She was twisting her fingers and looking back at Kakashi. “Why is someone trying to kill him?”

 

         That was the perfect lead in to the other news he needed to drop on his team. It was the most distasteful news, too. “We are not positive, but Hokage-sama believes these attacks on Kakashi are meant to distract me and keep me out of the war.” He almost shuddered at the word. It felt awful in his mouth and bitter to his heart to refer to all this as a distraction.  But those were the words the Hokage used. “So, I will be returning to the frontline. I intend to leave this afternoon so I can utilize the darkness.” He explained to them.

 

         Rin looked horrified. “But sensei, what if they come back?”

 

         “There are two jounins stationed to guard him and-“

 

         “And there’s me," Obito cut Minato off. The boy clenched his jaw as hard as his fists. Obito was very determined. It warmed Minato’s heart just as much as it froze it. He was glad to see Obito protecting his teammate, but Minato worried this was beyond his chuunin’s abilities. That was a strange attack that nearly killed Kakashi. Not even Minato himself knew how to defend against it or how to detect this enemy.

 

         “Obito-kun.” Rin smiled, more reassured by Obito’s declaration than Minato was.

 

         “Obito, Rin, if there is another attempt on Kakashi’s life and the jounin guards are engaged, get help. Don’t join in. Just run and shout so others will come. We don’t know who the enemy is, so do not engage him.” Minato ordered.

 

         Obito’s face fell. “Sensei, are you seriously telling me to run away? I’m a shinobi!”

 

         “And you’ll be a dead shinobi if you don’t obey,” Minato snapped. The hurt on the boy’s face made Minato regret his harsh words. “Obito,” he softened his voice, “I can’t have you hurt, too. I will be gone, and Kakashi is down. It’s just you and Rin right now. You need to do everything you can to take care of both your teammates, and that means getting help.” He said, putting his hands on Obito’s shoulders. He leaned down, trying to capture Obito’s eyes with his own. He needed to know Obito understood.

 

         Obito stared at the floor, refusing to make eye contact with Minato, but he did nod his head. Minato supposed he was going to have to be satisfied with that. “Kushina and Jiraiya will also be around, don’t be afraid to rely on them, too. Get sleep, make sure you eat, and train. Now is not the time for this team to take a break. We need to stay at the top of our game if we are going to protect Kakashi. Alright?”

 

         The two chuunin chorused their agreements. Minato could only hope everything would be alright.

 

Chapter Text

            Kakashi became painfully aware of his entire body before he ever woke up. Every nerve ending and capillary, he possessed crackled and burned. It was overwhelming. Thankfully, the darkness soon took back over,  taking him away from the pain.

            The next time he returned to awareness, Kakashi thought he was on fire. He could feel the blisters inside of his body, and his head was being crushed under a boulder. The pain was overwhelming. He heard himself groan as he tried to shift, and then once again, he was pulled under.

            Kakashi was later roused by a voice calling to him and telling him to open his eyes. Hadn't he just been trying to do that? Every time he tried to open his eyes, he was yanked right back into the void. Another voice joined in, calling his name, but Kakashi's brain was too shaken to figure out if he knew them. He wanted to believe he was dead, but he didn't think death would hurt this much. He moved his hand, and something squeezed it. That hurt, too. Why did they have to be so cruel to an old man? He wanted to tell them to let go, but his tongue felt like lead in his mouth, and all that came out was a pitchy whine. More voices, suddenly, and his eyes were forced open. Then someone rudely blinded him with a pinpoint light. Kakashi wanted to hit them, but his arms would not obey. His eyelids were released, but the pain remained. Voices babbled around him, and Kakashi tried to latch onto the sounds to decipher any words. It was exhausting, and after a few moments, he gave up trying. Kakashi felt whatever strength he had mustered slip away, and his mind soon followed. He knew nothing once more.

            The next time Kakashi woke up, it was different. It was a lot quieter. No one was trying to break his hand or blind him. He also felt much more alert than he did any of the previous times he had regained awareness, the fogginess clouding his head still there but to a much lesser extent than before. He shifted his head, and tentatively opened his eyes. The room wasn't dark, but the lights were off. He heard beeping and looked over to see the monitor that displayed vital signs, which destroyed the last of Kakashi’s hope that he was dead. Kakashi had an awful talent for staying alive. He swore it was a curse. 

            Kakashi closed his eyes and tried to remember how he ended up in the hospital again. Sakura would be in soon; she always seemed to know when he was awake. She’d lecture him aggressively and order him to stop being so reckless about whatever it was that he had done. She usually reserved her sweetness for people she didn't know, which Kakashi personally thought was pretty messed up. Then Naruto would come in yelling, and Sakura would yell over Naruto to shut him up, followed by her punching Naruto in the head. To end the comedic act, Sai would suddenly appear and make an uncomfortable joke that would shut all of them up. Tenzo would break the awkward silence with some well-intended wishes, which Kakashi would intentionally misunderstand. Sasuke was in the village. He’d show off his creepy stalker skills, take all of the attention off Kakashi, and greedily take it for himself. Kakashi loved his annoying team. He just wished they would find people to screw already; maybe it would calm them down.

            Kakashi felt himself drifting back to sleep and forced his eyes back open. Sleeping wasn’t going to help him figure out what had happened. He stared at the ceiling while he tried to rally his memories. His mind felt like it was wading through molasses. Had he been fighting someone? Did a piece of construction debris fall on his head? Maybe he slipped in the shower? Kakashi hoped it wasn't that last one. Sakura wouldn't let him walk out of there without being covered in bubble wrap.

           Why was Sakura taking so long? He needed water. Kakashi turned his head, hoping to see a pitcher and glass nearby. Instead, he saw a boy sleeping in a chair by his bed. All Kakashi could make out was dark hair. He wanted to paint Sasuke there, but the build was wrong, and the boy was too young. Sasuke wouldn't sleep in a chair like that, either, not with his head tilted back and mouth open. Kakashi noticed there was a second person by his bed, as well. Her hair was about Sakura's length, but it wasn't pink unless he was suddenly colorblind. She was holding Kakashi’s hand. Her chair was pressed against the bed, and her head was resting on the bed near his hip. Why were two strangers sleeping in his room? Surely, genins hadn’t been assigned to guard the Hokage? No, that was ridiculous. 

            Kakashi slid his hand out of the girl's loose grip. She lifted her face to look at him. Kakashi knew he was dreaming. Rin Nohara was looking at him with sleep heavy eyes and a lock of hair stuck to the corner of her mouth. Logic would dictate, then, that the other boy was Uchiha Obito. Sure enough, when Kakashi shifted his eyes back to the boy in the chair, he could now make out the figure of his old teammate. Dream logic wasn't always logical so that they could change characters at any moment. He turned back to face Rin, who now looked as startled as Kakashi felt.

            "Kakashi!" Rin screeched. The sound felt like a kunai being shoved into his skull.

            Obito startled and jumped to his feet, then threw his arms over Kakashi in a hug. Rin joined in, and Kakashi didn't know what the hell to do. Two dead kids were hugging him. Hell, Obito died looking vastly different and acting differently than this. Holy shit, Obito was hugging him. Was Kakashi about to die? Wait, maybe this was a genjutsu? Kakashi didn't have enough chakra to break it right now. He struggled weakly against them. "Get off," he growled.

            Rin and Obito pulled away with happy, childish faces. Kakashi glared at them both, but neither seemed at all bothered by it.

            "We were really worried about you. I'm so glad you're awake," Rin chirped, hands clasped behind her back.

            Obito blushed and sputtered a bit, "I-I wasn't! You shouldn't have passed out like that anyway. Jeeze, Bakashi, you made Sensei and Rin really worried, you jerk." Obito crossed his arms, but his blush remained present.

            Kakashi stared at the two of them, his eyebrows forking down. "What?"

            Rin cocked her head, "Are you okay? Do you remember who we are?"

            Kakashi glared at Rin. He didn't want to speak their names in a dream or a genjutsu. "Yes, I know who you are supposed to be."

            Obito frowned. "What the hell is that supposed to mean? Are you insulting us? Rin has been in here for weeks taking care of you!"

            Rin put a hand on Obito's shoulder. Obito seemed to rein his temper back in. "Is something wrong, Kakashi-kun? I'll get a doctor. Maybe they can help. I think Kogetsu-sensei is working. She's really professional."

            Kakashi frowned as Rin tugged on Obito's hand, urging him to come along. Rin didn't need help finding a doctor, Kakashi was sure, which meant she wanted to talk to Obito alone.

            Seeing Obito gave Kakashi mixed feelings. There was still a sense of fondness, but it was overshadowed by the disappointment and grief he felt in his gut when he looked at them. Kakashi couldn't stay and deal with these two ghosts anymore. He shoved his blankets off of him and went to put his feet on the ground, hoping to make a hasty retreat. That plan went sideways, however, when the entire world tilted. Instead of the graceful landing he had expected, Kakashi crumpled to the ground. He felt the wires attached to him snag and be yanked off. The alarms screamed, and Kakashi cursed. He tried to scramble back to his feet, but he had no strength to stand. Unfortunately, Obito and Rin were at his side within a minute. Each one took an arm and hauled him up. That is when Kakashi noticed they were taller than him. How the hell were two kids taller than him? He looked down to see if he was kneeling, but his feet weren’t even touching the ground. Obito grabbed Kakashi by the waist and finished lifting him onto the bed.

            "What the hell, Bakashi? You could have hurt yourself," Obito scolded him.

            Rin fussed over him as the nurses showed up to put everything in their proper places and stop the screaming equipment. "You just woke from a coma, Kakashi; you shouldn't have even tried to walk yet."

            Kakashi was too bewildered to respond. Why was he so short? Why were his dead teammates back? He scanned the room, expecting to see another face to fill out the team. "Is Minato-sensei here too?" he asked, afraid of the answer.

            Rin and Obito shared a look, then focused on him again. "Umm, he is out on a mission, Kakashi," Rin said gently. "He wanted to be here."

            "Oh." Kakashi wasn't disappointed. In fact, he was relieved. It just seemed odd for this dream or genjutsu or whatever it was not to include the Yondaime. If it was a genjutsu, Minato-sensei should have been the easiest to replicate because of how well known he was. Rin and Obito were nobodies, at least to the general public. Maybe this was a dream.

            A doctor walked in, breaking the awkward atmosphere. "Hatake-san, welcome to the land of the living." Another strike against being dead. "Let's take a look at your vitals. Nohara-san, Uchiha-san, if you two would leave for a moment. I will let you know when you can return."

            "We’ll be just outside, Kakashi,” Rin reassured him. Kakashi did not find that reassuring in the least. The two disappeared, and Kakashi looked down at his hands with a frown. They were so small. How could they be so small?

            “Hatake-san?” Kakashi looked up to see the doctor scrutinizing him. “How is your head?”

            Kakashi didn’t answer right away. Instead, he scrutinized the doctor right back. Her hair was piled up in the back, and wisps of it collected at the nap of her neck. The hairstyle wasn’t secure enough to last through a fight, so she wasn’t expecting to get into one. Her eyes were just a bit too close, and her nose was upturned. “I don’t know you.”

            “I am Doctor Kogetsu,” she responded. “I have worked here for the past 12 years. I do not believe we have crossed paths before.”

            “Interesting way of phrasing that,” Kakashi drawled.

            “What makes it interesting?” Kogetsu asked.

            Kakashi wasn’t sure he wanted to elaborate to a potential enemy. “My usual doctor is Haruno-sensei.”

            Kogetsu looked a bit confused. “I am the head trauma specialist at this hospital. Do you remember what happened?”

            Was Kakashi being interrogated now? Clever. They wanted to make him think he had a head injury and then have him spill the beans on his mission. Well, the joke is on them because he doesn’t remember it. “No.”

            Kogetsu flipped through the papers on her clipboard. “It says here you were training with your team. The four of you were analyzing your session when you were struck with an unusual attack. Does any of this ring a bell?”

            Kakashi’s mouth pulled down, and he studied the doctor in front of him. If this is a genjutsu, then what did the caster want from him?

            At first, he had thought that whoever had cast the genjutsu had wanted information on whatever mission Kakashi had been on, which would explain the set-up of Kakashi in a hospital surrounded by loved ones and told he had experienced a head injury. In such a scenario, asking about the last thing he remembered wouldn’t be suspicious at all. But if that was the case, why make him young and surround him with teammates long dead? If the caster wanted to surround Kakashi with trusted figures to get him to open up, then it’s not like his students weren’t the world-famous heroes of the Fourth Great War. In fact, it was the very fact that he was surrounded by the dead that let Kakashi realize he was in a genjutsu in the first place. Otherwise, the genjutsu was frighteningly realistic, and Kakashi may have even fallen for it. No, there had to be a reason why the caster had wanted Kakashi to see his old team. But why? It was unlikely that the caster would be interested in information on the long-dead. If they were interested in some other information from this time in Kakashi’s life, then the head-injury set-up would make no sense. Kakashi continued to think it over furiously, ignoring his growing headache.

            “I…no,” Kakashi said with more hesitation than he intended.

            “What is the last thing you remember, Hatake-san?” Kogetsu’s voice softened a bit.

            “I remember wanting to retire.”

Chapter Text

            Minato ate dinner by the campfire with other shinobis stationed by the front lines. He had been here for nearly three weeks, and he desperately wanted to go home. According to Jiraiya-sensei’s updates, his theory was correct. There hadn’t been any more assassination attempts on Kakashi since Minato had returned to the front line. It bothered Minato that he had put his student in danger. The most recent letter said Kakashi showed signs that he would be waking up soon, but Minato still wasn’t allowed to return. Even with the signs, the doctors didn’t know when or if Kakashi would wake up. Kakashi could fall back into the coma. So, Minato tried to focus on the present. He listened to stories around the campfire and didn’t spend much time on his own. He didn’t want to think about who he had left behind in Konoha.

            Camp Commander Inuzuka called for Minato. Minato flashed the storyteller an apologetic smile and passed off the last bit of his rice to the person next to him. Camp commander was an awful task that Minato happily avoided by taking on a genin team. “Inuzuka-san,” Minato greeted.

            Inuzuka-san offered him a tired smile. “Come in. I have news for you.”

            Minato felt the tension in his shoulders release. Inuzuka-san had smiled, so the news was likely good. Minato ducked into the tent and sat at the low table inside. “Water Namikaze-san?” Minato inclined his head, accepting the cup. “This arrived for you.” Inuzuka-san slid a letter across the table to him. The letter was already open and had been read. Nothing was private here.

            Minato opened it and read it several times to make sure what he was reading was real. ‘Kakashi-kun has woken up. Sensei is allowing you to return as soon as you can.’ The letter was only two lines, but nothing could bring Minato more joy at this moment. He jerked his head up and looked at Inuzuka-san and noticed his smile had broadened, revealing his sharp teeth.

            “I’m happy for you, Namikaze-san. You should go now before we need you.” Inuzuka-san jerked his head in the general direction of Konoha.

            Minato jumped to his feet, and a smile split his face. “I will. Thank you, Inuzuka-san,” Minato bowed.

            Kakashi was alive and awake. The worst had passed, and now Minato wanted to take his baby chuunin home and protect him. Minato knew Kakashi-kun would throw a tantrum about staying with Minato, but dammit, his kid nearly died. Whoever thought to hurt Kakashi like that would suffer.

            Minato said his farewells and packed his things. He then used his Hiraishin to get back to Konoha as quickly as possible. Perhaps it was an abuse of the technique, but who was going to punish him for it?

            By the time Minato got back, the sky was dark, and the streets were bare. He knew visiting hours at the hospital was over, but he hoped to sweet talk someone into letting him see Kakashi. Minato walked into the hospital and was immediately greeted by a nurse. Her sharp eyes scanned him for injury as she asked what the matter was.

            “I’m fine. I was hoping to see Kakashi Hatake. I heard he was awake, and I only just got back from the frontlines,” Minato explained.

            The nurse smiled up at him, “Oh, I can certainly make that happen, but only after you let me do your post-mission physical.”

            Minato’s smile faltered. “I’ve been waiting for weeks to see him.”

            The nurse picked up her book, “Visiting hours began at eight in the morning, Namikaze-san.”

            Minato’s shoulders sagged, “I’ll do my post-mission physical.”

            The nurse smiled and put her book away. “Excellent. It is so rare for a shinobi to follow through with his post-mission physical, Namikaze-san. You truly are one in a million.” She led him to one of the rooms, praising him as if she hadn’t just strong-armed him into submission. Was this what they were teaching Rin?

            Minato was glad to be done with that ordeal. It wasn’t that physicals were that big of a deal, they were just time-consuming to do after every single mission. Sometimes, he hardly had time to sleep between missions. Post-mission exams were an avoidable evil, so nearly all the shinobis he knew avoided them. 

            The nurse that bullied him led him to the ward Kakashi was in. She looked up his room number, but Minato could spot it easily. There was a chuunin guard standing outside of it who was looking back at him. Minato smiled as he approached him. “Thank you for watching over him.”

            The chuunin smiled back and nodded. He looked young and eager to please. The chuunin’s team was likely assigned to this as soon as the Hokage moved the threat level down to C. Minato walked past him and saw two other chuunin inside. They immediately got to their feet. “We’ll just go outside,” the girl whispered and pushed the gawking boy out the door. Minato took one of the seats next to Kakashi’s bed.

            Kakashi was sleeping. For a moment, Minato could pretend that his student hadn’t nearly died on him. The room was quiet, and the lights were off. Minato's eyes drooped as he was lulled off to sleep by Kakashi’s rhythmic breathing.

            Minato woke up to Kakashi staring at him. Minato barely got a good morning out before Kakashi spoke, “I wondered when you were going to show up.”

            Minato had not expected such a harsh greeting, “I had a mission, Kakashi-kun. I would have been here sooner if I could have.” Kakashi turned his face away from him and looked out the window instead. “Kakashi,” Minato’s voice became more commanding, but still, the boy ignored him. Minato had seen many sides of Kakashi, but this had not been one of them. Kakashi believed everything was permissible to complete a mission. Minato moved to the edge of his seat, “Kakashi, look-“

            Doctor Kogetsu entered the room, cutting Minato off. “I heard you were here, Namikaze-san. Hatake-kun, how are you feeling this morning?”

            Kakashi turned to look at the doctor. Minato saw a weariness settling on Kakashi’s features. He wasn’t sure if it was suspicion or exhaustion.

            “The same as I was yesterday,” said Kakashi.

            Kogetsu nodded, and her pencil scratched against a clipboard, “Yes, I expected you would. Even though we did our best to heal your chakra system, you would still experience some kind of chakra exhaustion. Then there is your head injury. You required stitches, and the swelling in your brain is worrisome.” Kogetsu tapped her pencil against the clipboard as she looked between Minato and Kakashi. “Hatake-kun, have you told Namikaze-san?”

            Minato frowned and looked at Kakashi to see him glaring hard at the doctor. “We haven’t spoken about anything yet,” Minato supplied.

            Kogetsu-sensei and Kakashi seemed to be having a battle of the eyes. “He is your legal guardian, Hatake-kun. Chuunin or not, you are not the age of majority yet.”

            Kakashi didn’t react right away. He held on to his leveled stare at Kogetsu-sensei.  Kakashi’s hands fisted the blankets, then suddenly relaxed. Kakashi’s entire form now screamed of exhaustion. “Maa, you would think if I am old enough to be sent off to war, I could make my own medical decisions as well.”

            “You’re eight-years-old, that is hardly old enough to understand and make informed medical decisions,” Kogetsu-sensei argued.

            “And yet it is old enough to go out in a war and make life and death decisions for his team,” Kakashi shot back.

            “You have Namikaze-san to do that for you,” Kogetsu-sensei reminded him.

            “Do I?” Kakashi drawled. That hurt. Was Kakashi that angry at Minato for not being there when he woke up?

            “Kakashi,” Minato snapped. He expected that to be all the corrections his subordinate needed. “I apologize for his behavior Kogetsu-sensei.” Kakashi turned to look out the window. Minato frowned. Sure Kakashi had never been the most adept at manners, but he had never been this bad.

            “Namikaze-san, I’ll speak with you outside.” Kogetsu-sensei moved back to the door. Minato stood up, his eyes still on the back of Kakashi’s head. He could see where they shaved it and the thread that closed his wound. The medics couldn’t heal him with chakra and resort to traditional methods. Minato left the room, and Kogetsu-sensei followed him out.

            “Kogetsu-sensei, I apologize for Kakashi’s behavior. Usually, he is more polite than this. I’ll talk to him about it,” Minato tried to smooth down any ruffled feathers.

            Kogetsu waved it off and tucked her clipboard under her arm. “It isn’t unusual for head trauma patients to act abnormally. Being rude is a low priority when it comes to the concerns I have for Hatake-san. He appears to think he is considerably older than he is.”

            “Older?” Minato repeated.

            Kogetsu-sensei nodded and pulled her clipboard back out. She flipped a few pages back, “33 is the age he gave me. He also insists that his doctor is Haruno-sensei, but there isn’t a medic by that name here.” She closed the clipboard and placed it back under her arm. “Hatake-san firmly believes he is in genjutsu and is unable to break it due to chakra exhaustion.”

            “Why would he think this?”

            “Coma, seizure, brain injury, or chakra damage. Take your pick. His mind has undergone an extraordinary amount of stress. How it chooses to protect itself, we can’t predict or even understand. We are only beginning to unravel the mystery of the brain.”

            “So, what do I do?” Minato inquired.

            “The same we treat victims that have been mind-raped during torture. We listen, do not discredit what they experienced, and root them in their current reality. Hatake-san may believe he has lived 33 years, but really, he is an eight-old boy. He needs people around to take care of him. He also needs people around to note unusual behavior and report them to me.”

            “Are you already releasing him?” Minato asked, surprised.

            “Oh, God, no. He will be stuck here for a while for observations and tests. But if you are going to keep visiting him, you need to understand what is going on. That and you are listed as his guardian.”

            Minato took a deep breath and slowly released it. He had been worried about Kakashi dying before; now, he had to worry if Kakashi was even sane. It seemed like only time would tell too. “Who does he think put him into a genjutsu?”

            “An enemy. He wouldn't specify who.”

            “Not even Iwa or Kumo?” They would make the most sense to Minato since they were currently at war with them.

            Kogetsu-sensei shook her head, “No, Hatake-san didn’t mention Iwa or Kumo as a possibility. He wasn’t willing to give me any specifics, either. Hatake-san seems to think this is an interrogation technique, and that we are trying to obtain information from him.”

            “Kakashi-kun doesn’t know anything vital or especially important about Konoha,” Minato repeated the same argument that has been going on in his head since this mess began.

            Kogetsu-sensei gave Minato an impatient look, and he immediately regretted saying what he did. “He thinks he’s 33 and a ninja of Konoha. Of course, he thinks he has vital information,” Minato corrected himself.

            “It’ll take some time getting used to his new ‘background’ I’m sure. I’ll see about assigning him a therapist to help him cope if these delusions prolong. For now, I want to hold off on that and see if his mind resolves itself. I don’t want to stress him again so soon after so many injuries.”

            Minato bowed, “I’ll entrust Kakash’s care to you. Thank you for all your hard work.”

            Kogetsu-sensei bowed in return. “He is an interesting case. Hatake-san will have my complete attention,” she assured him. “For now, he needs to rest as often as possible. See that he is drinking plenty of water, even with the IV attached to him. Don’t stress him too much. Listen more than you correct him,” she instructed.

            “I will,” Minato said seriously. Kogetsu-sensei walked down the hall, and Minato let out a heavy sigh. This was not what he expected. He hoped Jiraiya-sensei had found a lead on who had caused all this. He was eager to get his hands on them.

           Minato walked backed into the room and found Kakashi asleep again. He was relieved. He didn't think he was ready for another interaction with him so soon. Minato had a lot to consider. 

 

Chapter Text

           Minato knew he disappointed his young team. Rin and Obito wanted to visit Kakashi, but Minato sent them away with instructions to meet him at the training ground bright and early tomorrow. Minato did promise that they would see Kakashi together after training. Minato wanted a better grip on this 'new' Kakashi before bringing the kids into it, so Minato asked both Jiraiya-sensei and Kushina to visit Kakashi with him.

 

            When Minato and Jiraiya-sensei got to Kakashi’s room, he was still sleeping. Jiraiya-sensei walked up next to Kakashi’s bed and stared down at the boy. Worry deeply creased Sensei’s face. At that moment, Minato was reminded that Sakumo-san had been Jiraiya’s close friend.

 

            “Minato, Sakumo had asked me to watch over his son only a few days before he died. I told him not to talk like that. As if shutting him up would remove those thoughts from his mind. Then when Sakumo died, Kakashi seemed fine. But he wasn’t, was he?”

 

            Minato moved to stand next to him, “I think Kakashi wanted to be fine.” Minato chanced a look at Jiraiya, “just like you wanted to be fine.”

 

            Jiraiya looked at Minato and opened his mouth as if to say something. Nothing came out, though, and he walked away to claim a chair just as Kushina came into the room.

 

            “Good morning!” Kushina said happily and dropped her bag on the ground. “I brought drinks, and-oh!” Kushina tried to lower her voice “he’s asleep, huh?”

 

            Minato looked at Kushina fondly, “yeah, he is, but I think you woke him up.” Kakashi was turning in his sleep. The trio watched as Kakashi sat up and raked a hand through his tangled grey hair.

 

            Kakashi looked up, and his face settled into a glare. "Did you sleep well, Kakashi?" Minato asked politely, trying to be delicate.

 

            "Not well enough if I still see you here."

 

            Kakashi knew how to stab with lethal force. Jiraiya barked out a laugh, which didn't help Minato's mood at all. He shot his sensei a look that was easily ignored by the jovial man.

 

            Jiraiya leaned forward, a grin still stretching his face, but his eyes were challenging. "So, a genjutsu. What do you think they are after?"

 

            Minato gapped at his sensei. Why would he just come out of the gate with that?

 

            "If I told you, I would be telling them," Kakashi responded blandly.

 

            Jiraiya leaned back into his chair with a chuckle. "Guess that is true, but why not break it?"

 

            "Chakra exhaustion," Kakashi shrugged.

 

            "There are other ways to break it. Have you tried pain?"

 

            Kakashi gave him a flat look, “I’m not going to go stabbing myself while surrounded by enemy nin if that is what you are suggesting. Besides, if the pounding in my head is not enough to break this, then pain is not the answer."

 

            "Haven't you recovered enough chakra by now? Once you notice you're in a genjutsu, it doesn't take much to disrupt your chakra flow."

 

            Minato wanted to shut Jiraiya up, but he couldn’t get Sensei to look at him. Kakashi shouldn't be doing anything with chakra after blowing his system.

 

            "There are genjutsu that don't work that way. The best users can trap you, and there is no escape until they choose to release you. Tsukiyomi is one such technique. I am sure there are others out there. Perhaps not that can do Tsukiyomi, as the Uchihas are all dead sans one. Still, similar techniques may exist,” Kakashi muffled a yawn at the end.

 

            The trio looked at him, horrified. The Uchihas were dead? It was hard for Minato to even consider that possibility. They were such a large and imposing clan in the village. The Uchiha was the police force. They worked side-by-side with T&I. Did Kakashi's disdain for Obito lead him to fabricate a life that his teammate’s entire clan was eradicated? Kakashi clicked his tongue. "I don't know every technique in existence. If one person could do it, who is to say others can't?"

 

            "The Uchihas are a big clan, ya know," Kushina spoke up. She glanced at both Minato and Jiraiya before focusing again on Kakashi, "it would take a lot to wipe them out. Konoha wouldn't allow that."

 

            Kakashi's brows furrowed, "what?"

 

            Minato didn't know what to make of Kakashi's confusion, but maybe it was the breakthrough they were looking for. If they could refute the loss of the Uchiha clan, then perhaps they could root Kakashi back into reality. Minato scooted further on his seat. "Kushina is right. Konoha would protect the Uchiha clan from threats. And they are so large that killing them off simply isn't possible, Kakashi,” Minato tried to keep his voice soothing.

 

            "Konoha is the one that killed them. I made sure this was made common knowledge. Why would you pretend otherwise?"

 

            Minato suddenly found it hard to swallow. What kind of world did Kakashi create that he thinks Konoha would destroy one of the founding clans? "Maybe you should get some more sleep, Kakashi," Minato said, standing up. "And not mention that again.” Minato walked out of the room with quickened steps. He ignored the surprised look on Kakashi’s face. Both Kushina-chan and Jiraiya-sensei followed him out.

 

            "That was pretty messed up, ya know," Kushina stated the obvious.

 

            Minato groaned and ran a hand down his face. "I don't think I realized his feelings toward Obito were so far beyond just annoyance."

 

            "What? Do you mean it isn't normal to want to murder your teammate and everyone related to him?" Jiraiya grinned, and his shoulder bumped Minato.  

 

            "Sensei, this isn't a laughing matter. How do I explain this to Obito?" Minato could see how poorly that conversation would go. He wouldn’t blame Obito for his reaction either.

 

            Jiraiya still laughed despite being scolded. "Minato, Kakashi has a head injury. He thinks he is older than you and is stuck in a genjutsu. The boy has lost it," at least at this point, Jiraiya looked vaguely upset by that. "What exactly is there to explain? Don't read into the ramblings of a madman."

 

            "How can you say that," Kushina demanded. She had stopped right there in the hall with her hands on her hips. She had a furious look on her face, and Jiraiya back-peddled holding his hands up in surrender. Kushina marched herself forward, and Minato moved up against the wall out of the line of fire. If someone were going to die, Sensei could be the sacrifice.

 

            Kushina jabbed her finger against Jiraiya's chest. Minato knew from experience how much bruising she was causing. "Kashi-kun is a little boy who recently lost his father and now is being attacked in his village. If he needs to feel older, so he feels safer, then you are NOT going to mock him for it."

 

            "Of course not, Kushina-chan," Jiraiya offered, "I didn't mean it like that."

 

            Kushina didn't look completely satisfied with Jiraiya-sensei’s response, but she straightened up and gave an irritated hmph. Jiraiya-sensei wasn't out of hot water yet, but he wasn't in immediate danger of dying.

 

            "Madman, I can't believe you called him that," Kushina grumbled as she stomped past Minato and Jiraiya and then swiftly turned back to them. To Minato's freight, Kushina pointed directly at him. "And you, don't go stirring up more drama than necessary. Why does Obito need to be told anyway? It's not like they haven't seen each other. Did you ever consider that Obito is the surviving Uchiha? That maybe he feels angry for how the clan is treating that boy? What kind of Sensei are you to have such a negative perception of your student?"

 

            "I um-" Minato stuttered, not expecting Kushina to turn on him like that or for her to look so good doing it.

 

            Kushina threw her hands up in the air. "You two are hopeless. How can you forget he is a child with no stability and no safety? When he gets out of that hospital bed, he is coming to live with me."

 

            Minato blinked, "what? But I'm his guardian." He had planned to take Kakashi home.

 

            "He is not a dog, Minato. Kashi-kun needs healthy food, lots of rest, and someone not to treat him like he is going to murder the next person he sees." Kushina crossed her arms and looked entirely unimpressed with Minato.

 

            "I won't be like that," Minato argued. "I have known Kakashi longer, and he’s stayed with me before."

 

            "And you let the poor boy go! No, Kashi-kun stays with me. I will keep him safe, so he doesn't have to feel like an adult anymore. Since his guardian is such a nincompoop."

 

            "Nincompoop?" Minato repeated. "He wanted to go back. How was I to stop him? He was already the head of his clan." Their argument was beginning to garner attention from others. But this was Uzumaki Kushina; not many would be willing to stand up to her.

 

            "A clan of one. How is that ahead? He isn't at the age of majority, Minato. You could have forced the issue. But you are terrified of him hating you, so you let a child make poor decisions!" she stomped her foot.

 

            Jiraiya, the man without self-preservation, decided to insert himself. "You know there is an easy solution to all of this." Jiraiya-sensei’s grin showed nothing good was going to come from his next few words. "You two move in together and raise Kashi-kun together. It would be a good trial run for marriage."

 

            The scream of rage that tore from the red hot habanero’s throat was not unexpected. Kushina-chan began to beat Jiraiya senseless. Minato knew Jirayai could handle it; his teammate had been Tsunade-hime. Minato mulled the idea over in his head and decided it wasn't a bad idea. "That is a good idea. I would like to try it."

 

            Kushina stopped beating Jiraiya, and both of them stared at him. Minato just smiled back, refusing to recant. He liked the idea of living with Kushina and raising Kakashi together. Kushina's face became as red as her hair, and she released Sensei. She stuttered a few half-formed words, but Minato stayed quiet, wanting to hear her answer.

 

            "Fine," was her first clear word, and Minato's heart soared. "But this doesn't mean we are together." She said and then dashed off. As far as Minato was concerned, that is precisely what it meant. But it was okay if Kushina-chan needed some time to figure that out.

 

            Jiraiya-sensei whistled in appreciation. "That was ballsy, Minato. I didn't think you would use your student to claim a woman."

 

            Minato’s smile turned into a smirk, "a shinobi must use every opening to his advantage. Kakashi-kun is giving me an opening, and I will exploit that. I'll thank him sometime."

 

            Jiraiya laughed and put his arm around his student, pride radiating off of him. Minato joined in with his laughter.

Chapter Text

Kakashi buried his face into the pillow. Everything hurt, his body ached, his head hurt, and his heart kept fluttering awkwardly, and that hurt too. They said it should all clear up as his chakra pathways healed. His head would take longer, possibly years. Blown pathways, it felt so much worse than chakra exhaustion. Kakashi wasn't even sure if anyone could survive that. However, he had an awful talent for surviving. 

 

The pain in Kakashi's head made it difficult to think. He slept a lot, causing him to lose track of days and weeks that passed. Kakashi had no idea how long he had been in the hospital. While his stay wasn't comfortable, he wasn't conscious most of the time. 

 

Kakashi had heard of Kogetsu-sensei from his time as Rokudaime. She had been the department head in the hospital specializing in traumatic brain injury, but she retired two years ago. Kakashi couldn't recall meeting her personally. That wasn't to say he never did, but the meeting didn't leave an impression.

 

Kakashi flopped onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. There was no light coming through his window, indicating it was night time. He heard soft breathing nearby and turned to see his childhood teammates sleeping in chairs by his bed.

 

This was either a genjutsu, coma dream, head injury, or time travel. Kogetsu-sensei perpetuated the head injury theory. He held plenty of respect for her services to Konoha's TBI Unit that she had founded. Still, Kakashi knew what he experienced in his life. The memories he had were not fake. Even without the Sharingan, he recalled them with clarity. So it was either a genjutsu, coma dream, or time travel. 

 

If Kakashi were in a coma, he would have expected to see a Yamanaka helping him leave. A Kage can't be sidelined for this long. Maybe for a week at most, allowing the body to recover as it deemed necessary, but Konoha produced the best healers in the world. There was no way they would allow him to stay adrift for so long. Between Sakura and Ino, he should have woken up by now. That left genjutsu or time travel. 

 

Kakashi had been assuming this was a genjutsu because it had seemed the most reasonable at first. But every day, the theory fits less and less. The information they asked for was meaningless. The people that were asking had long since been dead. Then there was the pain he was in. Pain is expected in a genjutsu, but typically it’s torturous, not a healing pain.

 

On top of that, he was often unconscious. What type of genjutsu user would allow his victim to remain unconscious most of the time? It would disrupt a genjutsu. But Kakashi was hesitant to cross it out because that meant only time travel remained. 

 

Time travel existed. Kakashi had experienced it once himself. Though it had been contained to a specific geographical location. He suspected Sasuke could time travel at will, but neither was willing to experiment with that. There was too much unknown. And honestly, Kakashi didn't want to change anything. Things turned out well in the end. They were finally experiencing peace. Yes, it was disappointing that so many did not get to see that peace, but would they hinder what was achieved if he kept them alive? Obito himself had been a significant player in bringing it about. If Kakashi saved Obito from the darkness, would that damn the whole world? Kakashi was the Rokudaime; he could not put his personal feelings above the needs of Konoha. Did Konoha need for Rin, Minato, and Kushina to die? Did it need for Obito to be twisted into the dark enigma he became? Could Kakashi turn his back to their cries for help and let them die, knowing there would be peace in the future? Were they necessary sacrifices? How terrifying was it that he sounded like Danzo right now?

 

Kakashi groaned and sat up. His head was too full, and he wished he could run from all the questions. Kakashi's eyes met Obito's, and guilt filled him. This Obito would be offended at his thoughts. He would call him scum, trash, friend-killer Kakashi. 

 

"You’re awake,” Obito whispered and glanced at Rin, making sure he hadn’t disturbed her. 

 

“How long?” Kakashi’s voice croaked. His hand went to his throat as Obito got up. Obito took a cup of water from the small table and offered it to him. Kakashi accepted it and drank it down greedily. He watched as Obito adjusted the pillows so he could lean back and remain upright. Obito then pulled a tray over and removed the cover. 

 

“Just over a day. Shorter than the last time. They said it means you’re getting better,” Obito said, his voice still hushed. He peeled the lid off the soup and traded Kakashi for the empty glass. Obito filled the glass up again and returned it to the tray. Kakashi watched with fascination. Obito moved around as if he could predict every need Kakashi would have. Like he just knew what needed to be done. It was odd. 

 

“You need to drink the broth. It’s just miso, but the nurses said it would help. We gotta get you back on your feet before you wither into nothing,” Obito urged. 

 

“You’re exaggerating,” Kakashi muttered, but obediently took a drink of the cold soup. 

 

Obito gave him a critical look, "You can't see yourself." 

 

Kakashi couldn't remember the last time someone looked at him with such concern. The fact that it was coming from Obito made it more surreal. 

 

"They had a sliced apple on the tray for you. We thought you were going to wake up a couple of hours ago. Anyways, I sealed it so it wouldn't turn brown."

 

Kakashi blinked, "You wasted a sealing scroll on an apple?"

 

Obito blushed as his face pinched into an angry pout, "Do you want it or not?" 

 

Kakashi didn't. He wasn't sure he even wanted the soup, but the kindness and generosity Obito had displayed left Kakashi feeling unbalanced and obligated. "Yes, please."

 

Obito smiled, and Kakashi decided he could handle eating a few slices of apple for him. A small puff and a sliced apple appeared on the tray. Sure enough, Obito wasted a sealing scroll on him. It was the most thoughtful thing anyone had ever done for him. Kakashi would have to buy Obito a scroll to replace it and another as a thank you. Kakashi put the soup down and reached for an apple slice. 

 

"I was umm...thinking," Obito started, and he looked embarrassed again. "When they release you well, I mean...they would release you sooner if you weren't ya know...going home alone. I already take care of my Grandma. She doesn't walk too well anymore. So she wouldn't know you were there. And it wouldn't be much different, ya know? Cause I already take care of her, and you could get out of here sooner."

 

This wasn't time travel. It was dimensional travel. Obito was offering to take care of Kakashi like Obito takes care of his grandmother. He takes care of his grandmother? How bad did Kakashi look that Obito compared him to his grandmother?

His face must have been really expressive because Obito stood up and pushed him back against the pillows. "Don't pass out on me, Bakashi." 

 

Kakashi still had the apple clutched between his fingers as he stared up at Obito. "That's an unexpected offer, but I don't think the Uchihas would allow it."

 

"They don't have to know," Obito argued, his voice rose in volume. "It would be a secret."

 

"They're Uchiha, they would know," Kakashi countered.

 

Obito's face turned into a bitter sneer. "Ya, they would know." He sat back down, pouting. 

 

Obito really had wanted to take him home, Kakashi realized. "Why would you want me around anyway?"

 

Obito turned to look at him aghast. "You gotta stay alive, so I can beat you, and you need to see me become Hokage." Again Obito's voice volume jumped, and Kakashi heard Rin stir. 

 

Obito would never become Hokage, and Kakashi lost Obito's eye before he could show him that he had achieved Obito's dream in his honor. Kakashi felt his eyes water at the heavy loss over this kind of child. Here he was considering sacrificing Obito for the sake of peace, and Obito had been planning to bring him home and nurse him back to health. 

 

"Ah, Kakashi, are you in pain?" Obito must have noticed the tears. 

 

Kakashi rubbed his wrist over his eyes to wipe the tears away. "Just dust." 

 

"Oh. That happens to me too," Obito said, causing Kakashi to give a raspy laugh.

Chapter Text

During the morning, Minato arrived at Kakashi's hospital room to see his two chuunins chatting while Kakashi slept. Rin smiled brightly at his arrival and reached over to shake Kakashi awake. "Ah, Rin, you don't need to do that-" Minato tried to stop her. Kogetsu-sensei insisted that Kakashi sleep as much as possible. She had warned Minato not to wake him up.

 

"He asked us to. He was awake earlier, and before he went back to sleep, he asked us to wake him up when you came."

 

Minato wondered if this was a good thing or not. So far, Kakashi has done little more than glare at him. But the fact that Kakashi could be woken up was a good thing. Minato looked forward to when Kakashi's chakra pathways were recovered enough that they could accelerate his healing. This slow 'normal' process was nerve-wracking. Kakashi had lost so much weight through it too.

 

Kakashi sat up and stifled a yawn. Minato smiled when Kakashi's hair flopped over and into his eyes. It was nice to see his exposed face so often now too. The oxygen tube in his nose blocked off enough of his hyper senses that going without his mask wasn't too much of a problem. 

 

"Good morning, Kashi-kun," Minato greeted his exhausted student. Rin and Obito snickered at the childish nickname. Kakashi raised an eyebrow at him but muttered a greeting in return. Minato had dropped the old moniker when their team had expanded per Kakashi's request. 

 

Obito was pushing a glass of water into Kakashi's hand. "Drink that, and then you need to finish your miso from last night."

 

"Can't I have warm miso," Kakashi complained? 

 

"Oh! I can go get some," Rin offered and skipped out to get the miso. Minato was a bit surprised by the turnaround of things. He had expected Rin to be the one playing nurse, not doing the fetching.

 

Minato found a seat and pulled it up close as he watched the boys interact. Kakashi certainly didn't act like he wanted to murder Obito. Perhaps Kushina had been right in her interpretation, or maybe Kakashi had recovered and no longer believed the artificial world he created for himself. Minato felt he could not ask that straight out, though. His other students didn't seem to be aware of Kakashi's delusions.

 

When Obito had finished fussing with the pillows, he took the glass of water back when Kakashi had finished it off. Minato decided to try and talk to Kakashi. "How are you feeling today?"

 

Kakashi shrugged. It was an unhelpful response, and Minato's hopes sunk a bit. "Well, I can't stay for too long. I have an appointment this morning to see a new apartment," Minato announced.

 

"You're moving, Sensei?" Obito asked. It probably seemed like an odd time to choose to move to them. 

 

Minato smiled, "Yes, I need a larger space since Kashi-kun is moving in with me," and Kushina-chan, but he could reveal that later. He was a bit giddy about it all. 

 

Kakashi's brows furrowed, and his lips pursed for a moment. "Why does everyone want me to move in with them?"

 

"Huh?" It was Minato's turn to be confused. He saw Obito blushing, and his heart swelled with pride. Obito had put aside his rivalry with Kakashi and offered to help his teammate! He would sing his praises on top of the Hokage mountain if it was socially acceptable. 

 

"I'm not living with you either, Sensei."

 

Minato raised his brows at Kakashi's tone. He hoped Kakashi hadn't been this rude to Obito too. "I didn't say you were getting an option. One, I am ordering you as your jounin commander. Two, you are not the age of majority, and I am your guardian; I am forcing you. The only option I am giving you is what color you would like your room to be?"

 

He wanted to giggle at Kakashi's face. With no mask, he could see his mouth drop in agape. "I'm not-" he seemed to choke on his words. A strangled noise, and then he continued quieter, "I'm not a child."

 

Grey eyes implored him to understand. Minato could read them. When had Kakashi's gaze become so readable? "Kakashi," Minato kept his voice measured with no leeway, "I already told you this wasn't up for debate."

 

Kakashi frowned and shook his head. "No, this isn't- You didn't do this the first time. Why would you do this now?"

 

Minato thought back to after Sakumo's death. "I should have forced you to stay the first time. I won't make that mistake again," he promised. Kakashi didn't seem at all reassured by this. Minato pulled his smile back on. "I should have everything settled by the time Kogetsu-Sensei is ready to release you. So, what color would you like?"

 

"Do blue," Obito grinned wide as Rin walked in with a sealed cup of warm miso. 

 

"Blue what," Rin asked curiously. 

 

"Kakashi is moving in with me, and I asked what color he wanted his room," Minato caught her up. 

 

"Oh!" She handed the cup to Kakashi, who accepted it while looking more exhausted than before. "That's great! I offered to let him stay with my family too, but I think this is an even better idea." 

 

"Everyone is crazy," Kakashi opened the sealed container. 

 

"No, Kakashi, we're a team. Teams look out for each other." Minato knew this was likely a new concept for Kakashi. He never understood that he needed to rely on his teammates. 

 

"What about a warm cream color? It'll look nice in the morning," Rin supplied helpfully. 

 

Kakashi swirled the soup in his cup. "I really don't think this matters. Why does it even have to be a different color?"

 

"It doesn't. I just want to make sure you are comfortable." Minato hoped Kakashi could see how sincere he was, but the boy was pouting. It wasn't something he often saw, especially without a mask. It was a resigned look with a slight mouth pucker. 

 

"Anyways, I'm glad you are doing better. I should get going. I'll stop by again later." Minato stood to his feet and grinned at his young team. 

 

"Sensei," Kakashi's voice sounded very exasperated, and it caused his grin to brighten just a bit more. "It's overkill to move and pay more in rent just to give me a place to recover. What would you do with space afterward?" 

 

"After? You have a few years left before you turn 12, Kakashi. I'm not that concerned. Even then, there would be no reason for you to move out."

 

Minato had to swallow his laugh when Kakashi stared at him, horrified. Obito was cackling, and Rin was giggling behind her hand. Minato decided to make his escape before Kakashi's mouth started working again. He winked and shushined out of the room. Once he was in the hall, he allowed himself to laugh. It wasn't often he could have such a laugh at Kakashi's expense.

 

Minato had a bounce in his step as he made his way down the hall. Today was going to be a great day as he goes apartment hunting with his girlfriend (though she wasn't acknowledging their relationship yet) and future wife. Kakashi was healing and has possibly overcome that weird coping skill. Things were looking up.

 


Minato heard Kushina before he caught sight of her. It was a relief to hear her happy chatter because it meant she wasn't backing out of moving in with him. The thought sent a giddy shiver up his spine and pulled a smile on his face. He rounded the corner and saw his girlfriend's bright red hair flaring in the bright sun. She was chatting animatedly with who he assumed was the realtor. What he didn't expect was to see Jiraiya-sensei with them. 

 

As Minato approached the group, his heart sputtered to a stop when Kushina noticed him and stop mid-sentence to smile at him. Kushina had stopped talking to greet him. He didn't get the chance to relish in that radiant smile because Jiraiya-sensei threw his arm around his shoulders, demanding Minato's attention. 

 

"How's your boy doing," Jiraiya-sensei asked.

 

Minato looked from his sensei to Kushina. "He seems to be in good spirits. We can wake him from sleep now, which is a huge step in the right direction. Hopefully, his chakra pathways will be able to tolerate healing chakra soon."

 

"Your son is in the hospital," the realtor asked gently.

 

"Umm, no-"

 

"Yes," Minato quickly cut Kushina off. It was better to get the rumor out there, so everyone would know if you messed with Kakashi, you mess with Minato Namikaze and Kushina Uzumaki. "Our son, Kakashi, was injured recently. He is in the hospital right now. We hope to pick a new place quickly and have everything settled before his release." 

 

Minato ignored Kushina gaping at him. He supposed he had never run this Kushina, but she had agreed to raise Kakashi with him.

 

"I suppose we have no time to spare," the realtor said and went to lead them to the first location. Minato and Jiraiya hung back, talking quietly.

 

"I haven't found any leads here on the jutsu used, even among Sensei's archives, " Jiraiya admitted. 

 

Minato frowned, but he hadn't found anything either, even among theories. "We have to keep looking or capture this guy."

 

Jiraiya nodded grimly. "I also have to return to my own mission. You need to be careful, Minato. Sakumo was my friend, and I was the one that originally paired you and Kakashi. But at the time, I didn't know what was going to happen. Taking Kakashi in and claiming him, as you are, is painting a target on your back. We don't even understand this guy's attack. With the war going on-Minato we can't afford to lose you too. You're making a name for yourself out there. If you didn't already have guardianship over Kakashi, you wouldn't be able to get it now. But that doesn't mean the council won't take it away if they get wind of this. We have been trying to keep this quiet, but it is hard knowing there might be an intruder in Konoha."

 

Minato frowned as he absorbed what Jiraiya said. He hadn't considered his growing fame would cause the council to strip him of his guardianship. The council may even emancipate Kakashi and send him straight to the front line. There would be nothing Minato could say to that. "I'll adopt him."

 

"Minato," Jiraiya snapped. 

 

Minato glared at his teacher. "I'll adopt Kakashi, and then the council can't say anything. I'm an orphan, and Kakashi is the last of a disgraced clan. There is no clan honor at stake here. What shame could there be with a clanless man taking in a clanless child?" 

 

"The council won't approve," Jiraiya argued.

 

"Then it's a good thing adoption doesn't go through the council," Minato pointed out. 

 

"Kakashi is a shinobi, so the Hokage will still have to approve."

 

"Then you have until you return to your mission to convince Hokage-sama."

 

The two men had stopped to have their heated discussion forcing Kushina and the realtor to backtrack to them. Jiraiya relented first, "you're playing a dangerous game Minato. You'll make a lot of enemies this way, and enemies at home are not what you want in a war." 

 

Kushina frowned, "Minato, what are you scheming about now?"

 

"I am adopting Kakashi. Some information was brought to my attention, and it seems to me that this would be the best route." It really wasn't. Minato knew the smart thing was to continue as he had been, helping Kakashi from a distance. If Minato brought Kakashi home and then sent him away after he recovered, no one would bat an eye. But taking in the disgraced Hatake child was bound to piss people off that blamed Sakumo for the war. With Sakumo gone, Kakashi had to shoulder the blame for the war. Minato was running a risk politically just associating with Kakashi. Going further than helping was like stabbing himself in the foot. Yet, Minato was willing to risk it. How could he ever hope to be Hokage if he can't even take care of his precious student? 

 

"Wow," Kushina's eyes widened, "really? Why? Not that I'm against it, ya know."

 

"Sensei thinks the council will remove Kakashi from my guardianship. If he is adopted-"

 

"Then it strips what hold the council has over him for the next few years," Kushina finished for Minato. "You really think they would do that?"

 

"It's hard to tell sometimes what the council will do. They may just ignore the whole thing, but if they feel that Minato is being distracted or that Kakashi is becoming a liability," Jiraiya left it hanging. They could all see where it was going. 

 

"Should I be a part of this then? If you and Kakashi are going to be a real family, then I don't want to intrude, ya know," Kushina said, unsure.

 

Minato sighed. He loved Kushina, but sometimes she could be slow. "Kushina-chan, you'll be a great mom to Kakashi. You knew what he needed before either of us did. So, how can we be a family if you are not there?"

 

Oh, Kushina's face went as red as her hair again. She turned on her heel with a "whatever" and dragged along the poor realtor. Minato was going to have to get the paperwork done quickly before the council gets wind of it. 

 

"Guess I'll talk to Sensei," Jiraiya-sensei's voice was still tense. 

 

"Thank you," Minato nodded, knowing Jiraiya disagreed with this but was willing to help Minato anyway. 

 

"Just be careful, Kid." Jiraiya left, and Minato went to chase after his future wife. Minato may be going about things a little backward, but they'd make it work. He knew what he wanted. 

Chapter Text

Minato left the hospital room to start his search for a new place to live. He left as quickly as he came as if he didn't just drop an explosive tag into Kakashi's life. Kakashi wished he could panic, but Obito and Rin were still in the room. So, Kakashi settled for pretending to sleep as his mind raced. This could not be time travel. He fucked up too many things already. Kakashi had been too loose with information on the future. This had to be a genjutsu. The enemy was just tying the noose around his neck, is all. The enemy could not leave Kakashi alone for any length of time, so they put in fake teammates and a Minato-watcher. Was it sad that he really really wanted this to be an interrogation? 

In the past, Kakashi had never lived with Minato-sensei aside from the brief stent directly after Sakumo's death. He had also stayed as a guest from time to time, but Kakashi had his own place. Sensei had trusted him to take care of himself since he was six. How ironic was it, at 33-years-old, his sensei decided he couldn't handle taking care of himself? 

"Are you cold, Kakashi?"

Kakashi cracked open an eye to look at Rin's kind face. "No, but maybe you can help me." He sat up as his brain formulated the barest of plans.

Rin's face lit up, and he could see Obito frowning. Kakashi ignored his jealous teammate for Rin, who would most likely have success with reasoning with Minato-sensei. "Rin, this is of the utmost importance. You cannot fail in this mission," Kakashi's voice was grave. He waited for her to realize the weight he was putting on this. Even Obito was eager to hear this mission. "I expect you to use any means necessary, including but not limited to extortion and bodily harm, to convince Minato-sensei that I should not move in with him. I am perfectly capable of managing my own affairs."

Rin had never looked so unimpressed with Kakashi in his life. Obito was actually howling in laughter. "I'm serious," Kakashi stressed while trying to ignore Obito. It wasn't that funny. 

"Kakashi-kun," hope wilted inside of Kakashi when he heard Rin's medic-nin's-lecture tone, "you were seriously injured. You nearly died from an unknown attack. You NEED someone to take care of you."

"Rin, he wants me to-" Kakashi turned and threw an empty styrofoam cup from his soup at Obito. "Knock it off." He growled and went back to focus on Rin. "Rin, what Minato-sensei wants is excessive. I don't need to live with him for the next few years." Kakashi wanted to add that he was too old for it, but no one currently believed him. Even with a Yamanaka mind probe, they would likely call it all a mental construct. "Please, Rin. I can't live like that. You know how he is."

"It won't be that bad, Kakashi-kun," Rin smiled, but Kakashi quickly saw through it. Rin was silently laughing at him. "Having parents is really nice. I mean, Sensei isn't trying to take the place of YOUR parents. He isn't like that. Having someone to rely on at home is really nice, though. I think you'll like it."

"Rin, that's not-I'm not-" worried about Minato replacing Sakumo? That hadn't even crossed his mind. If Minato was always around, Kakashi wouldn't have the freedom to figure out how to get back to his time. 

Rin put her hand on his shoulder, "you should tell Minato-sensei. I'm sure he'll tell you the same thing. Then you will feel better about it."

Even kids were treating Kakashi like a kid now. Where had he gone wrong in all this? Would playing along get him what he wanted? The thought of using his father that way left Kakashi feeling unsettled, and it might only make things worse. He needed to prove he wasn't a child that needed care.

But maybe Kakashi was worried over nothing.  Once Kakashi recovered, it wasn't likely Minato would actually force him to stay. Minato-sensei was just overprotective. Feeling a bit better about things, Kakashi relaxed back against the wall in time for the cup to sail past his face. 

"Dammit, you moved Bakashi!"

Kakashi looked up at the ceiling, trying to conjure the patience he crafted from being a jounin sensei. Then remembered half the time he tried to escape his students by being late or ditching them. "You are supposed to predict movement." 

"Shut up," Obito pouted. 

Kakashi stared at him. Obito was far more impressive in his time-washed memories. He didn't remember Oboito being this childish. Childish right? That was the polite term for stupid if he remembered correctly. 

 

####

 

It was the next day when Minato-sensei returned to his hospital room to meet with the Kogetsu-sensei. Minato-sensei was sitting in a chair near Kakashi's bed, and the doctor stood near the door. Kogetsu-sensei tapped the top of her clipboard with a pen. "Kakashi is progressing along nicely, all things considered. His chakra pathways have finally stabilized. We intend to start chakra treatment for his head injury and the internal injuries he suffered from the damaged pathways soon. Most of it should be healing fine on its own, but it would be nice to quicken it along. What do you think, Kakashi-san?" 

Kakashi wanted to respond with a snarky remark. They had cared very little about his thoughts on his medical before this. They deferred to Minato-sensei instead. He had a more pressing question, though. "Do I get to leave soon?"

Kogetsu-sensei nodded. "In just a few days. That doesn't mean you are ready to go on missions or even train. Your body needs rest to recover properly," she gave him a sharp look of warning, and her voice was stern.

"I have slept more in the past month than I do in a year," Kakashi complained.

Kogetsu-sensei's mouth twitched in amusement. "Yes, well, there is still more resting ahead of you, as well as a diet change. You are underweight now. I'll be sending a list of meal suggestions with your guardian since you will be released into his care." She passed off two pieces of paper to Minato-sensei. Kakashi wondered what was on it. He had never been on a dietary plan before outside of mission rations. 

"I'll be sure to follow it," Minato agreed while scanning the papers.

Kogetsu-sensei continued with her update. "The swelling in Kakashi's brain has gone down considerably, and his incision is healing nicely. It'll leave a scar, but so long as balding is not in your future, no one will ever know."

"It's not," Kakashi replied dully. 

"Speaking of which, how are you adjusting to being eight again," she asked as she tucked the clipboard under her arm.

Minato-sensei tensed at the question. He was apparently uncomfortable with this topic. Well, Kakashi was uncomfortable about living with him. Yes, he was petty right now. 

"Maa, it's a pain in the ass. Everyone talks to Sensei instead of me."

Kogetsu-sensei nodded as if she could sympathize with him. Kakashi didn't buy it. "It does seem odd considering this is supposed to be an interrogation jutsu," Kogetsu-sensei said inquisitively.

They all thought Kakashi was bat shit crazy. He decided to seal the deal with the truth. "Nah, it's not. The moon isn't red. Saw it the other night. It's time travel this time." 

"Kakashi," Minato-sensei sounded so disappointed in him, he nearly apologized. 

"Time travel, is that real?" Kakashi had to give Kogetsu-sensei credit. She sounded like she believed him. Obviously, she did not, since she was the one pushing the coping mechanism theory. 

"I've done it once before with Sensei, actually, but he doesn't remember it. The memory of it got locked away once the mission was complete. It was only after I became high enough rank and heard about it from the other side that it was unlocked for me. Besides, I have a student I am fairly confident can time travel at will. We just haven't been brave enough to test the theory."

Kogetsu-sensei whipped her clipboard back out and began scratching notes on it. Kakashi wondered how much paperwork this was going to cause her. It was unlikely that he would be allowed to continue his shinobi career if he continued his ramblings, but Kakashi had wanted to retire anyway. 

"Student? You're a jounin sensei," Minato-sensei asked curiously. 

Kakashi had not expected Minato-sensei to play along. Sensei had always been so adamant about correcting Kakashi. "Yes. Well, I was. They are not genin anymore," His lip twitched up into a smile. Then he amended, "Well, one of them isn't. The other two still technically are. I could promote them several times over, but it amuses me too much. And they can't test because they're monsters, and it would be unfair to the rest of the competition."

"I don't think I have ever pictured you as a jounin sensei," Minato-sensei cocked his head.

"Maa, neither have I, but the Sandaime was determined. Managed to hold out by failing three teams. Then he stuck me with a team I wasn't allowed to fail. Almost failed them anyway. They were such a mess. One of them couldn't do basic jutsu or kata. One had talent and was hardworking, but his personality was toxic. Then the last one was attracted to that toxic personality and couldn't seem to focus on anything else. They were awful," Kakashi couldn't help but smile, thinking of them. They had been good kids, and they figured it out in the end. "Ah, but enough about my cute students. Are you sending me to the psych ward now?"

Kogetsu-sensei looked up from her notes, "No, you're not crazy, Kakashi, you're recovering. Things will fall into place eventually."

"You have so much confidence in me," Kakashi responded blandly. 

Kogetsu-sensei hugged the clipboard to her chest. "You survived the impossible, Kakashi-kun. By all accounts, you should be dead, and yet here you are. We have wonderful doctors here, but it was you that kept yourself alive. I have every confidence in you."

Kakashi hadn't expected something so heartfelt. He didn't know what to do with it. His ability to survive anything and everything was not something he ever considered worthy of praise. Kakashi felt like a parasite most times and was frustrated by his lack of dying on others. He chased death only for it to elude him at every turn. Kakashi looked away, not able to find anything to say to that. 

"How old are you again," Kogetsu-sensei moved on.

Kakashi made an irritated noise and rubbed his hand over his face, and putting uncomfortable pressure on the oxygen device in his nose. "I am 33."

"What rank are you?"

"Are we filling out my dating profile? Make sure you add I am good at restraints," Kakashi dropped his chin in his hand.

Minato-sensei made a strangled noise, and Kogetsu-sensei actually blushed. Kakashi smiled at them. The silence was wonderfully awkward. 

Kogetsu-sensei cleared her throat, "Well then, perhaps you should get some more rest." She walked swiftly out the door, not bothering to see if they had questions. Kakashi mentally patted himself on the back for dodging that conversation. 

Minato eyed him. "You did that on purpose," he accused.

"Hmm," Kakashi turned to his teacher, "I don't know what you mean."

Minato shook his head, "Maybe you just don't understand what you said."

"Of course, I do, Sensei. If you ever need a lesson on bondage-play, I know several rope knots that are fun." Kakashi had honestly never seen his teacher become so pale. To be fair, his high squeaky voice saying this shit disturbed him too. 

Minato shook his head, "Did Jiraiya-sensei put you up to this?"

Kakashi was offended. Surely, Minato-sensei didn't think him a virgin at his age-wait, was he? If this is time travel and Kakashi is eight, then does his previous experience supersede his current physical experience, or does his current physical experience erase his previous experience? 

Maybe Kakashi should read a book on it. He doubted anyone has written on the laws of time travel and sex, but it seemed like an important topic to cover. 

"Kakashi-kun, you know I am here for you, right? Whoever is trying to hurt you will have to deal with me first." Minato dragged Kakashi out of his thoughts and into the present. 

Kakashi mulled over Minato's words as he thought about his own students. Kakashi walked through a lot of shit for them. He had to deal with a lot of fallout with Sasuke's return and his desire to travel freely. Kakashi had to deal with the general uneasiness over Naruto's partnership with Kurama after the shinobi world just dealt with the ten tail jinchuuriki. The general population was not eager to embrace these violent balls of chakra. Not even Sakura was drama-free. Tsunade-sama had retired and placed Sakura high position at the hospital, much to other staff's irritation. Kakashi could understand to a degree. Sakura was still young, and they had been there for years. Those that felt slighted had not been able to complain to Tsunade-sama herself, so when he took office, they thought it was their chance to correct it. 

"I know, Sensei. Because I would kill anyone that harmed my students," Kakashi's voice didn't offer the intensity he was going for, but the meaning still struck home. 

Minato gave him a relieved smile, and Kakashi decided to burst his bubble. "But I still wouldn't allow them to move in with me." That earned Kakashi some laughter. 

Chapter Text

Minato studied the paperwork in his hand. His eyes traced every word, making sure everything was correct, every space filled out, every signature completed.

"No matter how long you stare at that packet, it won't change," Kushina-chan said from her place on their couch.

"I'm just making sure it's airtight, and nothing is missing." Minato placed the packet on the dinner table and then picked it up again.

Kushina walked over to him and took the packet from his hand. "Everything is there, Minato. Kakashi is yours, and there is nothing anyone can do about it now. We should put this in a safe place."

"How do you think Kakashi will take the news of his adoption," Minato asked nervously and twisting the fabric on his pants. He would like to think Kakashi would be happy.

"He'll be pissed. Especially since you didn't ask him." Minato hung his head, knowing Kushina-chan was right. "But he'll get over it." She kissed him, and Minato smiled into it.

"He'll probably think this is all overkill," Minato sighed, thinking back to the boy still in the hospital. He wondered if maybe he should have talked to him about it first. He knew Kakashi though, Kakashi wouldn't do anything to befit himself if it put a burden on someone else. Not that Kakashi was a burden, but the boy certainly didn't believe that.

Kushina grinned, "he already told you this was all overkill, and that was before you decided to adopt him. You'll be lucky if Kakashi doesn't stab you in your sleep."

"Maybe you should sleep in my room and protect me," he suggested, hopeful. Minato expected the hand to be shoved in his face. It was a testament to how much he loved this woman that he didn't dodge it.

"Stop saying weird stuff like that. You're moving too fast."

Minato pulled Kushina's hand away and saw his favorite color had been painted on her face once again. He was so glad he could do that to her. "I have been after you since we were children. It hardly feels fast to me." He turned her hand and kissed the back of it.

Kushina's blue eyes widened, and she took several steps back. "That's not-that is not true."

"Of course, it is. I have always known what I wanted. I want to be a strong shinobi, I want to be Hokage, I want to have a family, and I want you. I will accomplish all of them," Minato said seriously. He didn't want Kushina-chan to misunderstand this as a joke. He hadn't expected things to turn out like this, but what kind of shinobi would he be if he ignored an opening. Risky or not, he was taking it.

Kushina didn't respond, so Minato filled in the silence, "You can take the time you need, but I am ready. Speaking of being ready, did we get the eggplant for dinner tonight?" Minto changed the subject, so Kushina didn't feel too pressured. Kakashi was being released today. Their team was visiting Kakashi because it would be a day or two before seeing him at home. He smiled a bit at the thought of Kakashi being home here with them.

"Yeah, we have everything. Want to head over there now? It'll give Kakashi time to sleep before dinner. That way, he'll be well-rested and can stab you when you tell him you adopted him. I will watch and laugh too," Kushina informed him mercilessly. She had a gleeful grin on her face too. She really was looking forward to Kakashi getting retribution.

Minato pouted and crossed his arms. He would like to think Kakashi would be happy about all this. Minato knew he had wanted to have a family to call his own at Kakashi's age. "If I had asked, he would have said no. It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission."

"That is so screwed up," Kushina shook her head.

"But am I wrong?"

"I won't answer that." That was answer enough for him.

Kakashi felt himself relax as he once again had his face mask in place. He had never gone for so long without it. He felt more like himself with it back in place. Today Kakashi was getting released from the hospital, which somehow put his childhood teammates in good spirits. The two of them were talking excitedly the way Sakura and Naruto would sometimes. It was nice, but he was seriously missing his space.

He wasn't going home alone, though, so he wouldn't have personal space there either. Minato had refused to see reason. He had successfully purchased a house of all things. That was a huge investment that was necessarily terrible, but he'd have preferred Sensei didn't have him in mind when he bought it. Apparently, it had a decent yard for training and his ninken to enjoy.

Kakashi very much missed his ninken, but he wasn't sure he wanted to summon them anytime soon. They worried they wouldn't be the same ninken that he had grown up with and fought with. It would be fine to see them when they were younger, but it still made him uncomfortable.

Minato suddenly arrived with his usual flare. Kakashi's memory of Minato-sensei must have been washed with time because he doesn't remember him being so pushy or showy.

"Sensei," he greeted first. His teammates offered their own happy greetings as well.

"Hello, Kashi-kun," Minato greeted him cheerfully. Kakashi let out a halfhearted sigh at the nickname. He would rather be called Bakashi.

"I just need to fill out some paperwork, and then we can be on our way. I already spoke to Kogetsu-sensei on the phone," Minato-sensei explained. Then he left as suddenly as he appeared. Kakashi had to wonder why Minato-sensei hadn't filled out the paperwork first and then came to see him. He clearly had seals in other parts of the hospital. Kakashi wondering if the hospital staff were aware of it or if Sensei just placed them there without permission.

"We're going to give you a few days to get used to living with Sensei before we visit you again," Rin was gathering her few items.

"Yeah, we both have missions while Team Minato is on hiatus. Rin is going to be doing more in the hospital, and I," Obito hooked his thumb to his chest, "am going to help a couple of the new genin teams."

Kakashi nodded. Obito being asked to assist in training other teams wasn't all that odd. Sure, he gave the boy a lot of grief growing up, but Obito was a good ninja for his age. He graduated at 9, which was younger than his students. He was placed on Minato-sensei's team because he had potential. Honestly, Obito would have received a lot more praise if he hadn't been stuck on a team with his dumbass. It must have shot his confidence trying to catch up to a kid so much younger than him. It would have nullified the fact he was already ahead of his own age group. Obito really had no luck.

"I'm sure they will learn a lot from you," Kakashi said honestly.

"Whoa, really," Obito straightened up in surprise.

Damn, Kakashi was such an ass as a kid. Of course, he hadn't understood why others didn't think and experience things the same way he did. It took Kakashi years to grasp that and another set of years to appreciate it. No wonder Obito ended up so screwed up, and Rin assumed there was no hope. He was the toxicity in their group.

"Yeah, I mean those who can't do, teach, right?" Okay, Kakashi was still an ass.

Obito howled in rage, but Rin quickly shushed him. Obito rudely pointed his finger at Kakashi while his other hand was fisted. "I'll have you know Bakashi, I will surpass you one day. You'll see, I'll be Hokage, and you will be bowing to me."

Kakashi yawned. It was a genuine yawn. He was tired, but Obito took it as an insult and stormed out of the room. Rin looked torn between chasing after her friend and staying with Kakashi.

"I'll be fine. I'm just waiting for Sensei," Kakashi waved her off. Rin nodded and gathered Obito's things before leaving.

Finally, Kakashi was surrounded by relative quiet. He should have pissed off Obito sooner. He laid back on the bed and yawned again. His body felt heavy and dull. Kakashi began drifting off when he saw something dark pass over him. He jerked upright and looked around. The room looked undisturbed. He couldn't see anyone, but that didn't mean someone wasn't here. There weren't a lot of places for someone to hide, though. Kakashi rescanned the room before a plume of darkness emerged to his left. Instincts screamed at him and threw his arm up to protect his face and neck. A kunai bit through his clothes down into his skin.

Kakashi launched himself out of bed towards the exit. He was in no position to be fighting anything. He had no weapons, no real protection, and he couldn't use his chakra. His best bet was to find help. Why was something attacking him anyway?

Again, the plume of darkness appeared. Kakashi realized belatedly it was a black cloak. He caught a pale hand aiming a kunai to his stomach. Kakashi twisted the arm, so the kunai was no longer positioned to gut him. He brought his shoulder into the torso of the enemy. When he leaned in to throw him over his shoulder, the enemy was suddenly not there. Kakashi stumbled and turned on his foot. He didn't like not having a visual of his enemy.

The phantom appeared again, and Kakashi took a second to examine his chakra. Like a quick sniff to see if the scent told him anything about his enemy. The chakra was a startling mixture of his chakra and another like chocolate and vanilla swirl, distinct but together.

The test cost Kakashi an attack of opportunity. The enemy still had a kunai, but Kakashi's body was still heavy and clumsy. He needed to escape. Kakashi dodged another attack getting further from his goal; the phantom seemed to know he was trying to leave. Kakashi bared his teeth even if the enemy nin could see it.

The man looked like someone had forgotten to color him in. He had white hair, translucent eyes, and pale skin, and the black clock accented him sharply. Kakashi watched those Hyuuga like eyes trying to predict his next attack without his sharingan. The phantom charged straight at him, and Kakashi dove between his legs, something he hadn't been able to get away with doing since he was a child.

"You can't escape me.," the phantom yelled as Kakashi threw the door open and bolted down the hall. "I'm always there."

Kakashi's heart hammered and sputtered in his chest like it would give out, but he pushed forward anyway. He ran past nurses and doctors, not even sure where he was running to. All he wanted to do was put distance between him and the phantom. Kakashi rounded the corner and found he couldn't continue further. He gasped for air and fell onto his knees as dizziness swamped his head. He felt something touch him, and he blindly swung his fist.

"I'm not going to hurt you," the difference in voice caused him to pause. There were several people now crowding around him. Kakashi was still trying to suck in air as he searched each of their faces looking for the assassin among them.

"How did this happen," The medic in front of him muttered. The medic put pressure on Kakashi's bleeding arm. He then got uncomfortably close to Kakashi's face and stared into his eyes. Kakashi swallowed thickly and considered shoving the medic out of his face. But he figured the man was just checking his pupil dilation. At least, that's what the Sakura in his head was telling him. "You'd probably breathe better without the mask. Do you want it off?"

"No," he rasped.

"Kakashi?" Kakashi heard sensei's voice and turned to see him jogging down the hall.

That's right; he forgot the yellow flash was there. Kakashi probably should have gone the opposite way towards the registration desk. It seemed the assassin hadn't followed him, anyway.

"What happened?" Some of the medics moved out of the way for Minato-sensei. He crouched down in front of Kakashi, his eyes zeroing in on the one injury he sustained. The medic had a gauze against his wound, but it was becoming increasingly red.

Kakashi's heart was finally slowing down enough for him to talk, but it was still punctuated with gasps for air. "Unknown nin, wearing a dark cloak, long white hair tied back. He used only one kunai as a weapon. Remained invisible to the eye and senses but solidified as he attacked." As Kakashi reported, the look of concern on Minato's face tightened to something more severe. His jaw flexed as he bit down hard.

"Where," Minato demanded.

"The hospital room. Just after Obito and Rin left," Kakashi promptly answered. His eyes widened as Minato's lips curled in rage.

"They left you?"

Kakashi hadn't expected such an angry reaction. Even he was intimidated by it, so Kakashi quickly tacked on, "I sent them away. You were in the building anyways."

"That doesn't mean they get to leave their post," Minato hissed.

"Post. They were guarding me. Has this happened before?" Kakashi had thought his team just wanted to be there with him. He should have realized it was a mission. Now that Kakashi was being released from the hospital, the team's mission ended, so they were reassigned.

Minato-sensei ignored Kakashi's questions. He stood to his feet and cast a look around the room. Zeroing in on someone, he commanded, "room 220 has security cameras. I want the tapes brought to me."

Sensei was keeping things from him. It was a startling realization. Kakashi supposed it shouldn't be if he gave it an honest thought. This trip through time was passing him uncomfortable insights on the people he perfected in his memories.

"How bad is his injury?" Minato-sensei demanded from the medic that still had ahold of his arm.

"A shinobi medic can have it cleared up in no time. Has anyone looked at his heart recently?" The medic asked.

"He is under Kogetsu-sensei's care. His chakra pathways were damaged. She'll be starting on chakra enhanced healing soon to deal with the internal damages. She said his pathways had mostly stabilized. Can his arm be healed then?"

"I'll call Kogetsu-sensei and get her recommendation on the matter. We'll have him taken to a different room in case he needs suturing instead."

Minato sensei agreed, and the pair were led into a smaller room with an examination table. Kakashi was so tired he considered just sleeping on it. Before he could try and get onto it, he was lifted by his armpits and placed on it. It happened quickly, so Kakashi didn't have time to react to it. It was disorienting to be picked up off the ground like that. Minato was instructed on how to hold Kakashi's wound before the medic left.

"You didn't tell me Rin and Obito were guarding me," Kakashi said, looking at Minato's hand wrapped around his forearm. It made Kakashi feel a lot smaller and a cold ball twisted in his stomach at that.

"Your job was to heal, Kakashi," Minato murmured as he watched the door.

"I should have been told," Kakashi argued, wishing Minato would at least look at him.

"You needed to rest. Not worry about your safety, and it still is," Minato said firmly, his eyes finally meeting Kakashi's.

"Is that why you are pushing me to stay with you? Sensei, you can't be there all the time. You have to go on missions. I have to go on missions," Kakashi challenged. It was utterly ridiculous this level of protection. He had always been fine on his own, and he didn't know why that suddenly changed. This was hardly the first attempt on his life. Most shots were by foreign shinobi while outside the village. Still, it had happened inside the village or by Konoha shinobis before. But maybe he had never told Minato-sensei about them? He kept many things to himself at this age, not wanting to burden others with his problems. A good shinobi was an asset and didn't cause his village problem would have been his line of thinking.

"You will not be going on missions for a long time. Not until you are 100%, and that includes-" Minato stopped himself, but Kakashi knew what he was referring to.

Kakashi narrowed his eyes and said the word that Minato-sensei didn't dare to use. "I'm not crazy."

"I didn't say you were. It's a coping skill. You went through a lot," Sensei's voice softened just a bit.

The sheer audacity of that comment had Kakashi mentally snarling. His sensei didn't know even half of it.

Two doctors came in, shutting them up for the moment. They explained, Kogetsu-sensei recommended they go ahead and try chakra enhanced healing. She wanted them to go slowly in case his pathways are still too weak. Kakashi gave the shinobi medic his arm and watched as the green glow emanated from her hand. He mentally cringed as it felt like sandpaper under the skin. Kakashi refused to show any discomfort lest they stop and give him stitches instead.

Kakashi's arm was made new. He moved it and felt the new skin pull and stretch. "Thank you."

Another man came into the room and handed a tape off to Minato-sensei. Sensei thanked the man and stood to his feet. "I'll finish the paperwork on the way out. I'll be keeping him with me this time," Minato declared.

Kakashi was beyond irritated with his sensei. It wasn't that Minato was making bad decisions. Far from it. Kakashi just didn't like not being included in them. Never has Kakashi been left so far out of the loop of his own wellbeing.

Minato urged him to get up and leave with him, but Kakashi just huffed and refused to get up. It may be childish, but Minato-sensei needed to understand he wouldn't be treated like this. Being ordered around was fine, but he was being treated like someone incapable.

Minato-sensei let out a sigh. Then for no reason at all, Minato went to pick him up. Kakashi shoved Minato, even putting some chakra in it. Minato released him but was clearly done with Kakashi's antics. "If you don't want to be carried, then use your own legs and walk."

Kakashi had no choice. There was no way in hell sensei was carrying him. So, Kakashi got on his feet and followed after Minato looking every bit a bratty child.

Kakashi stood beside Minato in the lobby as he finished filling out the paperwork. Everything was crashing in on him. He didn't care anymore. He walked away and stretched out on the chairs to sleep. If that assassin asshole stabbed him in his sleep, maybe it would be for the best.

Chapter Text

Kakashi slowly came to awareness. He was unusually comfortable. His left knee didn't ache, and his back was unusually quiet. Kakashi felt warm, and it was a nice feeling. He didn't often wake up slowly. Typically, it was sudden and sharp. He savored the feeling of his eyes slowly opening and finding something to focus on.



There was a lamp on an end table next to him, but he could see well enough without it. Neither item was familiar to him. Kakashi frowned and pushed himself up into a sitting position and looked around. He saw a low table in the room with cushions around it and a tall bookcase packed full of books and scrolls, and a second one that just had a few items on it. The only thing familiar was the bedspread on his bed; it was the grey and blue one from his childhood. This must be his new room in Sensei's apartment. 

 

Kakashi groaned and dropped his head back on the pillow. Sensei must have carried him here despite his earlier protest. Hopefully, Minato-sensei used his hiraishin to save Kakashi's pride, but he doubted it. They had been fighting before Kakashi decided the hospital lobby was the perfect place to nap. Kakashi needed to rethink his criteria for napping location. Something went awry there.

 

With a heavy sigh, Kakashi pushed himself back into a sitting position. He noticed a glass of water and drank it down greedily. He was still tired, but some energy had returned to him. He eyed the door, not sure he really wanted to know what lied beyond it. Sensei hadn't bought a house until Kushina got pregnant with Naruto. This would likely be a different house. A new home wasn't a massive change in the timeline, so it shouldn't affect much. So far, nothing drastic had changed yet. Perhaps, Kakashi having a near-death experience was a bit of a change, but he didn't think that would influence things too much. Even with Sensei's suddenly getting protective and demanding, he would convince him to let him return home soon. Kakashi could take care of himself, and Sensei would see that. So why did something feel very wrong?


Kakashi pulled the blankets off and slid off the bed. He was still getting used to his lack of height and how the floor was a lot further down than it should be. He opened the door and poked his head out. There was a door directly across from him, and two more down the hall where it opened up into what he assumed was the living room. He could smell miso soup boiling. The salty scent reminded him that he was hungry. Kakashi quietly closed the door behind him and crept down the hall to spy on his sensei, but Kushina's voice called out to him. 

 

"Kashi-kun, glad you are finally awake! Come to the living room, and I'll start on dinner. I have some miso for you, ya know."

 

Kakashi sighed at being caught, and he trudged his way into the living room. He should have guessed Kushina-san would be visiting. Minato would probably ask her out soon if memory served him, or had Kushina asked Minato-sensei out? Kakashi hadn't paid much attention to their relationship at this age. 

 

Minato was the only one in the living room. He was sitting at a kotatsu instead of the couch behind him. He was rolling up a scroll he had been working on, leaving Kakashi more than a little curious, especially since he now knows Sensei doesn't tell him things. 


"Feeling any better," Minato-sensei's voice was friendly. For a moment, it brought him back to when he was actually eight and was jealous for Minato-sensei's attention. Minato gestured to the spot next to him. 

 

Kakashi shrugged and sat down across from Minato. "You moved my stuff. Where did the rest of it go?" Not that he had much, but he recalled having kitchen supplies. His apartment had come furnished if he remembered correctly. Despite having a guardian, he was still under the orphanage system. So, they supplied the furniture and other necessities, but it hadn't been his to keep. It would have gone to the next unlucky kid. 

 

"There was little in what you actually owned. What you did have is boxed for you to use later if you want."

 

Kushina came in with a very familiar bowl filled with warm miso. It was deep green with black paw prints around it. He wasn't sure how he felt about it making an appearance once again. Somehow it solidified that Sensei was expecting Kakashi to live here, not just recover. He accepted the miso as Kushina sat between him and Minato-sensei. "What are you working on," Kakashi asked while eyeing the scroll. 

 

Minato patted the scroll. "I was watching the footage from your hospital room and taking notes. Jiraiya-sensei is right. I don't believe this to be a Konoha shinobi, so we will have to take this to the council." 

 

"Guess it is a good thing you got all that paperwork through, ya know," Kushina said to Minato. 

 

"What paperwork," Kakashi asked with a frown. The young couple shared a look that sent red flags waving in Kakashi's mind.  

 

"Oh! I better get started on dinner. Don't want you falling asleep before you have time to eat," Kushina ruffled his hair as she quickly left the room. Well, that was an avoidance tactic if he had ever seen one. 

 

Kakashi turned to Minato to inquire again but was cut off. "In the video, the phantom seemed to say something to you. What was it?" Minato-sensei asked.

 

Another avoidance tactic but this one he had to go along with. "He said I couldn't escape him. He is always with me," Kakashi rehearsed. Minato-sensei frowned and unrolled the scroll. He quickly scanned what he could of the contents. Huh. It really was notes on the video. 

 

Minato tapped the other end of his brush on the table, splattering some of the ink. Sensei didn't seem to notice. Why was he using his fuinjutsu supplies to write notes on a scroll?



"He didn't set off any of my seals. I should have been alerted when an unknown entity entered your room, but I was only alerted when you left. I used Hiraishin, but you were gone from the room at that point, and the phantom was gone too." The tapping stopped, and the end of the brush went into Sensei's mouth. It was a childish gesture that amused Kakashi.

 

"His chakra signature was unusual too. It was like mine, but then different," Kakashi supplied, trying to be helpful.

 

"You know your own chakra signature?" Minato-sensei's eyes snapped to his in surprise. Knowing your chakra signature was like knowing your own scent. The best sensors knew and could identify their own signature, but Kakashi was not a sensor type. 

 

Kakashi felt a bit embarrassed by his admission. "I trained for it in tracking purposes. Sometimes I need to retrace my own steps or guide others to me. I'm not a sensor, but I trained for increased sensitivity and can identify a select few." It had been handy in particular retrieval missions when he located an object, but he could not extract it right away. Or to use as a tracking device if the item or person moved around a lot. It was a technique he copied from a Kumo shinobi, but it took a lot of training for him to use it.

 

"How?" Minato asked, his brush hovering over the scroll. 

 

Kakashi explained his training regimen and progression. Minato-sensei wrote down what he was saying on the same scroll as his video notes. 

 

"Did you come up with this on your own?" Sensei asked, sounding impressed.

 

Kakashi looked down at his bowl, mostly empty at this point. "Nothing is ever created with pure originality, Sensei. I built off lessons and the inputs of others until I found something that worked for me." 

 

Kushina joined the group with a tray of dishes, "alright, you two, stop nerding out. It's dinner time, ya know." Kushina passed out the dishes. Kakashi stared at the meal before him, wondering when the last time was someone cooked for him. He almost didn't want to eat and disturb the visual. 

 

"Are you okay?" Kushina asked, disturbing Kakashi's reverence.

 

"Yeah. Yes," Kakashi assured them with a quick smile. He hooked a finger on his mask and lowered it to take a bit. It was a familiar taste. Kushina had made this meal for him before, but it had been so long he hadn't realized he forgot what her's tasted like. 

 

Despite the pleasure of the meal, Kakashi could see something was going on between Kushina-san and Minato-sensei. He took in more of his surroundings and realized this was different than how Minato-sensei lived. It was cleaner. Not that sensei was dirty; he was more absent-minded. He left things scattered about. Kushina-san had several pairs of shoes by the entrance, and there was a throw blanket on the couch. "Did you two get married while I was in the hospital?"

 

They both choked on their chopsticks. Their faces turned bright red like two teenagers caught sneaking out to meet with each other late at night. It would have been really amusing if Kakashi didn't have such an off feeling about the whole thing.



"Ah, no, Kakashi. Kushina did move in to help with you since I get called out on missions more often. But you know marriage-" Sensei was cut off when Kushina-san shoved her hand into his face smashing his nose. 

 

"No," Kushina hissed, "this is not your opening. And stop using Kashi-kun as your wingman." She removed her hand but not her glare. Kakashi's eyes flickered between the two. How was he Minato-sensei's wingman? He had never been involved in their relationship. Somehow the thought of it felt creepy.

 

"But what kind of shinobi would I be if I missed a perfect opening like that?" Minato-sensei flirted. Once again, Kakashi's perception of Minato-sensei shifted. 

 

Kushina-san did not look impressed with Minato-sensei. She started stabbing him in the chest with her finger. "Don't even start with me. I gave you a perfect opening earlier. I handed it to you, and your sissy ass ignored it to nerd out. Do I need to do this for you?"

 

Minato-sensei paled considerably, "no,-no. I can do it. I'll do it tomorrow. You're tired, right, Kashi-kun?"

 

"I just woke up. Why would I be tired?" Kakashi wanted to know what was going on. 

 

"Minato," Kushina-san growled at Minato. 

 

"You're so pretty, Kushina-chan." Was Minato-sensei using flirting to try and get out of something? What the hell did he do that made him that desperate?

 

"Minato adopted you without your permission," Kushina dropped. 

 

"Kushina~" Kakashi barely registered the whine as he tried to wrap his mind around what had just been saying. 

 

"You should have told him earlier if you wanted to let him know nicely. You deserve to be stabbed," Kushina hissed. 

 

Minato-sensei adopted him? Like...adopted adopted? Did his last name change? Why the hell would Sensei adopt him? What kind of sick joke was this? 

 

"Kakashi?" Sensei's hand touched his, and he looked up to see their worried faces. 

 

"What the hell did I do so wrong to cause this?" Kakashi had just been in a hospital bed. He hadn't done anything. He hadn't been conscious enough to do anything, yet this happened. How had this happened?

 

"Kakashi, you didn't do anything wrong," Minato assured him. 

 

"Yeah. Your sensei is just an idiot about how he goes about things. But this isn't meant to be a punishment," Kushina reached over to rub his shoulder. 

 

Kakashi dropped his head into his hands. "You just decided this on your own? Do you even understand what you've done? What if you don't become Hokage now because of this?"

 

"Kakashi-" Minato frowned



"What the hell were you thinking," Kakashi demanded.



"You were injured-"



"I get injured all the time. I'm a shinobi," Kakashi rebutted.



"Not like that you don't. And the council will have to see this tape. They already separated us once. What if they did it again but permanently," Minato actually sounded distraught by the idea. Still, Kakashi refused to let that emotion dissuade him.



"Then you let them," Kakashi said firmly.



Minato stared at Kakashi for a moment. Kakashi met his gaze, refusing to back down. "Kakashi, I couldn't-"



"Fix this. Now," Kakashi interrupted. He didn't want to hear whatever heartfelt speech Minato would likely give him.



"Kashi-kun, this isn't a bad thing. It's just to keep our family together."

 

"We're not family!" Kakashi stood up to his feet. "I'm not your kid. I'm not even a kid. If you have some weird form of baby fever, that's fine but get her pregnant," he jabbed his finger towards Kushina, "don't go dragging me into it."

 

"Kakashi!" Kushina blushed. 

 

Kushina's embarrassed outburst caught Kakashi's attention. "Why didn't you stop him," Kakashi demanded. She clearly knew about it. 

 

"You can't just stop Minato. Even Jiraiya tried," Kushina defended herself.

 

"And you didn't listen?" Kakashi glared at his sensei. 

 

"Of course not. The council would have taken you away, Kakashi. What kind of sensei would I be if I allowed that to happen?" 

 

"A smart one, because I do nothing but screw up people's lives." 

 

"Kakashi!" He ignored his sensei and quickly did the hand signs to shushin out. 

 

Kakashi didn't get very far. Not like he had hoped to. Minato-sensei was the fastest man around, so Kakashi had little hope of outrunning him unless Sensei let him. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and trudged down the street. The street lamps were on, and most people seemed to be tucked away into their homes. 

 

At one point in his life, Kakashi would have walked to the memorial stone to gain perspective. Now that his ghosts had been laid to rest, he went to the Hokage mountain. Sometimes, Kakashi would take a page out of Gai's book and climb up the rock face to expel excess energy. He would then make himself comfortable on Sensei's nose and watch the village he was leading below. 

 

But Sensei's head wasn't on the cliff face yet, and Kakashi didn't think he could scale it right now either. So, he took the stairs. He learned that night just how awful stairs were. His heart hammered against his chest. His heart had 'chakra' damage, but the medics seemed confident they could fix it. For now, it plagued him. He saw a bench and went to lay on it to catch his breath. He looked forward to getting back to his usual self again. He was tired of being tired.

 

Kakashi turned his head to look at the view. The village had a warm but small glow. Not like it is in his reign. At night, the village seemed brighter than the sun. It wasn't hidden anymore. 

 

Kakashi wasn't sure what to do. He was in the past, stuck as a kid. He could change so much. He wanted to say fix, but would it really fix anything? Wasn't the peace they fought for enough of a fix? He could be selfish. He could save his loved ones, and the rest of the world be damned. He had to live with their loss already; didn't he deserve something in return?

 

Kakashi let out a heavy sigh. They were already lost to him; these were old wounds festering once more. Ghosts surrounded him, but he had to keep focused. Kakashi needed to return to his time and not screw things up in his favor. Things never turned out well when he did that.

Would Naruto be the same determined and vibrant young man if his parents raised him? Kakashi would love to say yes, but he, of all people, knew how pain molded you. His students would not be the same people if he changed things here. Kakashi would be adding to his list of lost precious people, and he was so tired of that list.

 

Kakashi flipped onto his back and draped his arm over his eyes. He wasn't getting anywhere laying around as he was. He needed to figure out what he had been doing to trigger his arrival. Was it fuinjutsu or ninjutsu? Perhaps Kakashi had been fighting someone, and they used a bloodline limit? Hell, maybe it was a piece of technology. Perhaps Sasuke experimented with his rinnengan, but then shouldn't Sasuke be here, and Kakashi not be stuck in his childhood body?

 

Kakashi felt himself drifting to sleep, so he sat up and shook his head to wake himself up. "You can come out, Sensei."

 

"Are you sure you are not a sensor," Minato asked. He moved out of the shadows and went to sit on the bench next to him. 

 

"I'm sure. I just know you," Kakashi shrugged. With someone trying to assassinate him, there was no way his sensei would allow him to go off on his own. 

 

"You're not going to screw up my life, Kakashi," Minato informed him while keeping his eyes trained on the village. "You give yourself too much credit. You are not responsible for my happiness; only your own."

 

"Sensei," Kakashi's voice was heavy with disapproval. He let out a sigh. He wanted this conversation to end because Kakashi didn't have the energy for it. "I'm sorry for what I said. It was childish."

 

"But do you believe it?"

 

Kakashi couldn't answer that honestly. He felt Minato's hand on his head and looked up to see him smiling at him. "I am going to teach you that isn't true. We are a family now."

 

Now there was a topic he was more comfortable with. "Speaking of which, that was a stupid move on your part. What if you don't become Hokage because of me?"

 

"It still wouldn't be your fault. Kakashi, I have known you since you were a week old. I held you in my arms while Jiraiya-sensei was comforting your father. I swore to you and Sakumo then that I was going to watch over you. When Sakumo died, I demanded to take you as my apprentice because I wanted to stay by your side. You had changed a lot after his death. You wanted space, and I was the idiot that let you have it. I thought you would know better than anyone what you needed, and I was afraid you would hate me if I refused. I had lived on my own at that age too, so," Minato shrugged helplessly with an apologetic smile, "but I had not just lost my family. I shouldn't have let you go." 

 

"I was fine on my own," Kakashi argued.

 

"No, you were not. I screwed up. I broke my promise to you because I was afraid. Because I didn't trust you and our relationship. But Kakashi, I have no intention of losing you. Adoption papers don't make us a family; we were already a family. I am just blocking anyone from trying to separate our family, including your insecurities."

 

"I don't remember you being this possessive," Kakashi muttered. 

 

"I have always known what I wanted," Minato-sensei ruffled his hair. "We should head back."

 

Kakashi was not looking forward to the trek back. He should have gone to the memorial stone. At least that didn't have so many stairs. 

 

"Get on my back, Kashi-kun." Sensei had knelt for him. Kakashi climbed on without thinking twice. If he could avoid those stairs, he would.

 

Sensei's back was warm and strong. He relaxed against it. "The adoption wasn't finalized, right? We can still stop it?"

 

"Nope, it's all done," Minato chirped. 

 

"You're not even sorry," Kakashi complained. Sensei's laughter told him how right he was. "Does that mean I am a Namikaze now?" Kakashi wasn't sure how to feel about that.

 

"Only if you want to be. I wasn't going to make that choice for you, so I left your name as is."

 

At least there was that. 

 

"Besides, Kushina wants all the kids to have her last name since she is part of an actual clan."

 

Uzumaki Kakashi. "I think I'll keep mine." 

 

Chapter Text

The adoption matter was certainly not settled for Kakashi. Minato-sensei may believe it was, and Kakashi was willing to let me live in his delusions for a bit. Meanwhile, Kakashi would work on more important things, like how to get back home.

Kakashi wasn’t going to wait on Sasuke to come to find him. Things were changing, and it was in Kakashi’s best interest to leave sooner than later. For now, he was stuck living with Minato-sensei. Stranger still, in the eyes of the law, Kakashi was now Minato’s son. It felt all sorts of wrong.

 

The one saving grace in this chaos was his sensei had plenty of scrolls and books on time and space manipulation. Kakashi studied every moment he was awake since Kushina-san wouldn't allow him to train. The tongue lashing he had received sent him scurrying away and hiding amongst the piles of books. 

 

Currently, Kakashi thumbed the pages of a book, refusing to look away from the text. Rin and Obito were vying for his attention. They were desperate enough that they tried to quiz him on the shinobi rule book. Kakashi didn't even know why they were here, sitting in his room like it was a playdate. If this was Kakashi’s house, he would have denied them entrance, but it wasn’t. Kushina-san let them in and put them in his room. Now Kakashi was expected to play host to a couple of kids when he needed to study. He was doing a fantastic job of it if the salty silence was anything to go by.

 

Kushina-san knocked on the door before popping it open. "Hey kiddies, I brought snacks!" she sang. Kushina-san put a tray of drinks, rice crackers, and what looked like little meatballs on the small table they were sitting around. Neither Rin nor Obito seemed offended by being called kiddies. Their eyes brightened at the treats. Obito shoved a meatball into his mouth and then grabbed another, and Rin collected a few of the crackers with a polite thank you. Obito tried to thank Kushina around the food in his mouth, causing Kakashi to cringe.

 

Kushina-san sat down between Kakashi and Obito and bumped Kakashi in the shoulder, "see, Kashi-kun, isn't this fun?" She gave him a big toothy grin, much like her son. Kakashi knew the right answer was to agree with her.

 

"Not really," Kakashi answered honestly and flipped the page he was reading. 

 

Kushina-san laughed like he had told a joke. "Don't listen to him, you two. He's just grumpy because Minato went on a mission." Minato-sensei left two days ago and was expected to return as early as tomorrow. Since then, it has just been Kushina-san and Kakashi. He has never spent so much time with her previously. As a child, he had found Kushina-san to be annoying and actively avoided her. He can handle her better because of Naruto.

 

"No, I'm not.”

 

Kushina gasped, dropping her mouth open in mock surprise, "don't say that, Kashi-kun. You'll hurt Minato's feelings!"

 

Kakashi's eyes fluttered in an effort to not roll his eyes. He couldn't win with her. Was Kushina-san just making up conversations in her head? He buried his nose back into the book, determined to ignore the chatter around him. 

 

"What are you reading about?" Rin leaned against his shoulder. Her eyes scanned the page he was currently on. When had she decided Kakashi no longer deserved personal space?

 

"Theoretical jutsu, but I would rather be reading porn."

 

"EHHHH?!" Rin screeched and jerked away from him.

 

"Hey! Don't say weird things like that to Rin!" Obito shot to his feet. 

 

Things were quickly careening out of control, according to Kakashi’s vast knowledge about preteens. So, Kakashi smiled up at Obito to try and placate him, which somehow infuriated Obito more. Obito lunged at Kakashi. He really should have predicted this reaction, but it was hard to remember that he was Obito’s peer. Worse yet, he was younger than Obito. Sasuke and Naruto were more than willing to toss all their training out and wrestle each other to get their point across. But Kakashi was an adult, and that was not what adults typically did. So, Kakashi didn’t move in time to get out of the way. Obito’s hands clamped around his neck, cutting off his airflow right away. Kakashi at least kept his wits to him and didn’t stab Obito. Instead, he used the book to smack Obito in the head. Maybe he could knock some sense into the boy.

Kushina-san came to Kakashi's aid. She wrapped one arm around Obito's waist, and her other hand pried his fingers from Kakashi's neck. Obito hung off her arm with his hands clenching the air. Kakashi rolled away so Obito couldn't get a hold of him again, like his hair. Brat.

 

"Obito! Kashi-kun is still healing!" Rin scolded. 

 

"Don't call me that," Kakashi sighed. Why did people assume they could call him whatever they wanted? He adjusted his mask and the collar of his shirt.

 

Obito deflated at the scolding and lost every ounce of fire in him. "But he said something perverted," Obito whined.

 

"He was joking," Kushina placed Obito back on the ground and put her hands on her hips, "Learn to take a joke, Bito."

 

No, he wasn't. Kakashi was entirely honest with Rin, but he would let them think that since it made them feel better. He wasn’t eager to rile Obito up again.

 

Obito sat back down, his arms folded and glaring at Kakashi. He could feel the heat of it, but it was hardly the worst glare he had ever experienced. It didn't even hold a candle against Obito’s adult glare. It was more like a puppy after its first bath. "You could always leave if you are uncomfortable,” he offered helpfully. He hoped Obito would take the suggestion, then he could get back to work.

 

"Kakashi," Kushina chided, "stop picking on him." Once again, Kushina was making up weird things in her head. Kakashi hasn't lied, joked, or picked on anyone. He had been straightforward and honest the entire time. Where had this reputation come from?

 

The room went quiet, and it wasn't the pleasant kind either. Everyone was irritated. Kakashi sighed and closed his book. Looks like, as the only adult, he would have to resolve this "What is this all about?" He was looking at Kushina. He had a feeling she orchestrated all this out of some misguided attempt to socialize him. 

 

Rin answered instead, wringing her fingers together until they hooked into her sleeves. "Ummm, well, Obito-kun, and I just wanted to see how you were doing. We kinda just showed up since Minato-sensei wasn't here to conduct training." Rin offered him an uncertain smile.

 

"You should have still trained," Kakashi said, resting his cheek in his hand. "Take some initiative. We are in a war, and the longer this plays out, the more likely we'll be sent to the front line."

 

"Hey! We were trying to do something nice, you ungrateful bastard," Obito was quick to argue. 

 

"Something nice would be focusing on not getting killed the first time we go out without Minato-sensei," the harsh tone startled even Kakashi. He pursed his lips. Irritation was still white-hot in him as he thought of all Obito put them through. And for what?

 

"Awww, Kashi-kun is worried," Kushina cooed. Then like a switch, her face pulled into a frown, "but you don't need to be an ass about it. If you are that concerned though," she pushed herself to her feet, "I'll train them. Alright, Kiddies, let's all go to the back. Bring your book Kashi-kun; you are still not allowed to join. Oh, and you better eat these snacks, or I'll cram them down your throat." Kushina-san threatened. She then picked up the tray to lead the way outside while humming. What the hell did Minato see in her? He could not imagine choosing to live with someone like her. She was exhausting.

 

The group headed out to the backyard. There was a decent amount of space. The yard needed more work; it was over-grown. There was a bare patch that was likely used as a sparing ring at one point. But even that had plant life breaking through the hard ground. There was nothing aesthetically pleasing about the yard. Everything was wild, and it butted up against trees and the village wall. Most of the homes near the village wall were cheaper. Minato and Kushina had purchased a house further in the village, and they didn’t have a yard. He wondered why they chose this house instead of closely resembling the one they had originally purchased.

Kakashi settled himself on the back porch with his book. He was glad to have some space and time to actually focus. If only his thoughts would stop wandering. Kushina immediately started working with Obito and Rin. She leads them through the typical warmups they did with Minato-sensei. Then she pitted Obito and Rin against each other for a spar. Kushina didn’t stay with them like Minato-sensei would have; instead, she sat next to Kakashi. "Feel better?" she questioned him, keeping her eyes on his teammates.

 

Kakashi sighed, "I'd feel better if I sparred with Rin. Obito doesn't fight her for real. She'll never learn to compensate for her smaller frame if he keeps letting her win. Frankly, I don’t know why she is on the team still. She may want to be a medic, but she doesn't train in the hospital enough to make that happen. Instead, she keeps going out with us. She needs to transfer off the team and start her apprenticeship; otherwise, she'll get kidnapped and killed." Kakashi had never wondered why Rin was on their team, to begin with, until recently. It was like she was meant to die.

 

Kushina-san scowled, "you have a really bleak outlook, ya know. Besides, Rin doesn't want to work in the hospital, Kakashi. She wants to be a field medic." 

 

"What?" Kakashi hadn't realized this. He furrowed his brows and looked back at Rin. "A field medic, huh?” He rolled the concept around his mind trying to digest it. “Then Obito and Minato-sensei need to stop going easy on her. She needs to learn to strike without hesitation and to end her fights quickly. Traps would be a useful skill, but they need to stop treating her as a long-range fighter. The first thing enemy nin will do is to take out the medic. They will force her into hand to hand." Kakashi thought out loud.

 

Kushina-san turned towards Kakashi, but Kakashi kept his focus on the mock spar. He couldn’t even call it a spar. How was Rin not offended by this? "So how would you train her?" Kushina-san asked.

 

"Genjutsu and assault boarding assassination. She needs to put an emphasis on speed. Get in, then get out. Chakra control is necessary as a medic-nin, and she can put that to good use with genjutsu." Kakashi thought back to Sakura. If Tsunade hadn’t trained her, he would have sent her to an early grave. He really had not been ready for a genin team.

 

"But genjutsu will be Obito's forte."

 

"Because he is an Uchiha?" Kakashi shook his head, "he'll never develop an aptitude for it. Genjutsu requires subtlety and concentration that is beyond him. He'd rather punch it. Best to just let him. His reactionary tendencies suggest he would be excellent at counter-attacks. He has a sturdy build, and he'll become a sturdy man. Rather than hide him, have him stay visible and teach him how to direct attention. That will help Rin slip in and out of combat too." The more Kakashi thought about it, the more he liked that team strategy.

 

"And you?" 

 

That was an easy question. "I'm a midrange ninjutsu user and strategist. My job would be to direct the field and fill in where I am needed." 

 

"Wow, that is a well-rounded team. Minato isn't training you to be that?"

 

"Sensei doesn't have the experience with training teams to catch on. He wants Rin in the back, thinking she'll be safer there and used as support. It's textbook, but it's textbook broke. He is banking on Obito’s Sharingan as much as Obito is. And he is expecting me to fill in the gaps. It's not his fault because this is his first team. Before us, all Sensei had to do was worry about crafting his own skills. When he took me on as an apprentice, his technique hadn't needed to change much. We were similar in how we trained. Rin and Obito are different. Training and forming a team are different. He just doesn't know how to do it." Kakashi hadn’t known how to do it either when he got his first genin team. He was used to dealing with older shinobi that already knew who and what kind of shinobi they were. They were motivated enough to train independently and certainly didn’t expect Kakashi to hold their hands through training.

 

"But you do because you have trained teams before." 

 

Somehow that question broke Kakashi out of his analysis. He looked up at Kushina-san for the first time during the conversation. That should have been said sarcastically, but the tone didn't fit, and neither did her expression. "I have," Kakashi admitted cautiously. 

 

"What kind of teams?" Kushina-san inquired. She squinted her eyes as if trying to predict what he would say.

 

"ANBU mostly and one genin team. I'll admit I was really out of my element with the genin team,” Kakashi watched Kushin-san closely as he answered.

 

"I always figured you'd end up in ANBU," Kushina-san leaned back with a satisfied look on her face. 

 

"You don't have to pretend to believe me," Kakashi turned his attention back to Rin and Obito. Predictably Rin won, but she hadn't deserved the victory. 

 

"I have no reason not to believe you. I'm an Uzumaki. We developed some pretty crazy stuff. Time travel is probably in there somewhere. In fact, people say the village of Uzushio wasn't destroyed; instead, they all time-traveled to the future."

 

Kakashi wondered if Kushina-san was mocking him now. But she seemed to genuinely think she was reassuring him. "Maaa- thanks, I guess."

 

Kushina-san reached over and ruffled his hair. "I'll tell Minato what you said so they can start training properly from now on."

 

Kakashi frowned; he did it again. He changed things without meaning to. "Ah, don't do that. I'm sure I am just talking nonsense."

 

"No way! I totally agree with you. Everything you said really makes sense, ya know." She stood up and left before Kakashi could protest further. He watched as Kushina-san berated Obito for letting Rin win. He needed to learn to shut up. 

 

Chapter Text

Finally, Kakashi was getting chakra-enhanced healing. Minato honestly didn't know how civilians managed. It had been an awful journey seeing Kakashi so weak. Minato wanted to wrap Kakashi up in blankets and stab anyone that tried to touch him. 

 

Kogetsu-sensei handled Kakashi’s overall care, but she wasn't a shinobi. She couldn’t perform chakra healing, so she wasn’t here. The first thing they intended to target was Kakashi’s heart. It had been damaged. He had already known that, but the thought of it still bothered Minato. He saw the effects of that damage every day too. Kakashi had no energy. Watching him climb the stairs to the top of Hokage mountain had been a painful experience. He went so slowly and gasped for air—nothing like his little chuunin who could train for hours. 

 

Kakashi’s face twisted, and Minato itched to comfort him. The medics told him this wasn't going to be painless. Kakashi’s chakra pathways were still raw, and his heart would react to what they were doing. Still, it was essential to start that first to prevent further damage. Minato had questioned if they would heal Kakashi’s mind next, but Kogetsu-sensei threatened to give Minato a lobotomy. She then explained that yes, they would heal his brain due to the concussion, but they may not stop his delusions. 

 

Kakashi inhaled sharply, and Minato stepped forward and took Kakashi’s hand. Despite the spat they had this morning about him coming, Kakashi squeezed his hand. Minato stroked his bangs out of his face. Sweat was causing it to stick to his skin. Kakashi turned his head towards him and peered at him through narrowed eyes. It looked like a glare, but it was likely just the pain. 

 

The medic leaned back with a sigh. She then flashed Minato a smile, which was a good sign. She patted Kakashi’s shoulder, and he turned to look at her. "That couldn’t have been comfortable, but you did great. I was able to fix the damage. But you still have more recovery ahead of you, so don't push it, okay?" She stood up. Minato helped Kakashi sit up; his lack of resistance to the help was a telling sign. 

 

"Thank you," Kakashi said quietly, somehow remembering his manners. 

 

"It's fine. I can't tell you how exciting it is to be even a small part of your case. You are all the buzz here at the hospital,” the medic waved it off and pushed the stool towards the desk.

 

Kakashi looked unimpressed, "should you be gossiping about a patient and his information?"

 

The woman opened her mouth, closed it, bowed, and then fled from the room. Kakashi shook his head and hopped off the table. It was amazing how Kakashi could manipulate people with just a few words to leave when he wanted them to. 

 

"Feeling any better?" Minato asked. He studied him, looking for any further discomfort.

 

Kakashi shrugged, "probably just residual pain at this point." 

 

Was it weird that Minato was sad he wouldn't be carrying Kakashi around anymore? He settled for ruffling his hair and Kashi-kun's exasperated look that he loved so much. It just made Minato want to pick on him more. "I could carry you home."

 

Kakashi pushed his hand off his head, "no." 

 

Minato smiled and followed his grouchy student out. He already knew the rejection was going to happen. "I have training scheduled with Obito and Rin. Would you like to come with me? I'm a little late already." The appointment took longer than expected. It was supposed to be done over two sessions, but the medic decided to cram it into one. Kakashi insisted that he could handle it.

 

"Sure," Kakashi sounded bored. He walked with his back curved, one hand shoved in his pocket, and the other had a book. It was becoming an increasingly familiar sight. Kogetsu-sensei said it wasn't abnormal for behavioral changes to occur. Minato supposed that meant posture changes as well. He did have to admit his student was very good at walking and reading at the same time. His situational awareness was exceptional. He maneuvered with an effortless grace that Minato was envious of. 

 

"They'll be happy to see you. It'll be nice to have us all at training again." Kakashi said nothing. Minato was a bit disappointed; he had hoped for a reaction of some kind. "Maybe I'll even let you spar a bit. But don't go crazy."

 

"Then let me spar with Rin."

 

"Rin?" Minato hadn't expected that request. He assumed he would want to spar with him or Obito. 

 

"She won't be a challenge, but it'll be good for her." Kakashi kept his face in his book, so Minato was having difficulty getting a read on him.

 

"Ah, Kushina mentioned your suggestions and complaints about Obito letting her win. I'm not sure if Rin has the constitution to kill someone. Medics are trained to survive and save lives, not kill people,” Minato tried to explain.

 

"Have you said that to Tsunade-sama?" Kakashi looked up at him from his book. 

 

Minato paled a bit at the thought of saying that to Tsunade-hime. "She is a special case. Most medic nins are not like that. Rin is not like that."

 

"Rin is less afraid of death than you think. Don't look down on her, Sensei. As a medic, she will deal with a lot more gore than we will." Kakashi returned his attention to his book.

 

Minato felt sufficiently chastised. It was true that he didn't expect as much from Rin as he did the boys. She wanted to be a field medic, which meant healing, not killing. But Kakashi seemed to have a lot more faith in her than he did. 

 

They got to the training grounds, and Minato apologized for their tardiness, explaining that Kakashi’s appointment had gone long. Of course, both Rin and Obito were more interested in Kakashi than his explanation. He allowed himself to go quiet and watched with interest as Kakashi allowed them to crowd him. 

 

"Are you feeling better?" Rin asked, her hands clasped behind her back. 

 

"They healed my heart, so I am fine now."

 

"Your heart? What was wrong with it?" Obito cocked his head in an almost puppy-like manner.

 

"It broke after the loss of Mr. Ukki. I didn't think I would ever recover." Kakashi shook his head sadly. Who was Mr. Ukki? 

 

"Did he die?" Rin asked while looking confused but trying to appear sympathetic. 

 

Kakashi cocked his head, "Maa, I hope not, but I haven't seen him in a while." No one really knew what to do with what Kakashi was saying. It didn't seem to bother him too much. "We should get started with training. Rin, you'll be sparing with me. We'll be focused on taijutsu."

 

Rin looked at Minato, and he could see her excitement. Minato still wasn’t convinced that Kakashi should be sparing. He had intended to fight Kakashi himself so he could stop him if Kakashi needed a break. but Minato supposed he could do that watching too. "We'll do warm-ups first, and Obito and I will observe,” Minato relented.

 

"Okay," Rin chirped. 

 

The four of them started their warm-up routine. Minato usually joined them, but he was keeping an eye on Kakashi. Afterward, Rin and Kakashi went to the center of the field to begin. As she was trained to do, Rin put distance between them, but Kakashi followed her keeping close. Rin went to escape again, but Kakashi clearly read it and blocked her path. She lashed out with a kick, but Kakashi captured her leg and then used it to throw her to the ground.

 

Obito made a start to rush in, but Minato grabbed his arm to stop him. "Sensei, he's hurting her,” Obito pointed at the pair.

 

"Obito, if he were going to hurt her, he would have done so straight away, not chased her about. Trust your teammate a bit more." Minato wasn’t just chiding Obito, but also himself. He never had Kakashi fight Rin because he didn't believe Kakashi knew how to restrain himself. Clearly, he had been wrong. 

 

It was shocking, but this was a teaching spar. Kakashi was playing the teacher's part by tapping at her openings and guiding her to attack his. In the end, Rin got pinned to the ground with her face half-buried in the dirt. Minato clapped; he was impressed. Kakashi got off Rin and offered her a hand that she took with a grin. Rin ran a hand down her face to wipe the dirt off. "You did well, Rin, once you stopped running away from me. Your evasion skills are better than Obito’s."

 

Rin giggled, a bit embarrassed, "I'm supposed to stay out of fighting so I can take care of you two."

 

"That just makes you a liability, Rin," Kakashi said bluntly. Minato winced, feeling the brutality of the statement towards himself.

 

Obito sputtered and then bull-rushed Kakashi. Kakashi dipped down and flipped Obito over his shoulder, then pinned him into the dirt the same way he had Rin just moments ago. "Thank you for demonstrating my point, Obito. See Rin, Obito doesn't believe you to be capable of taking care of yourself. So, he rushes in to protect you with his stupidity."

 

"Ack! That's not true!" Obito blustered beneath Kakashi. 

 

"If it wasn't true, he wouldn't be in the dirt. In the field, it only makes sense to take out the medic-nin first. Especially if the rest of the team will react blindly like Obito did. You can't just run-away Rin, you have to end it." Kakashi pulled a kunai out of his pouch and slammed it into the ground next to Obito's neck, "quickly." 

 

"Ah, thank you, Kakashi," Minato said to the rogue teacher. 

 

Kakashi got up off Obito and focused on Rin once more, "come at me again, Rin, but this time with the intent to kill me."

 

Minato expected Rin to object, but instead, she nodded sharply. She went after Kakashi with no further prompting and a kunai already in hand. Obito came back to his position next to Minato, his arms crossed. "Is he right, Sensei?"

 

Minato chewed on the question. He knew the answer because he was guilty of the tactic. If you find a medic-nin, kill it. Somehow, it hadn’t crossed over to change how he trained Rin. Instead, he thought if the boys were stronger, they could take care of her better. If she were faster, then she could get out of danger. Medic nins stayed in the back and offered support like traps and shuriken. But Tsunade-hime had a different approach. He had heard her rant about it to Jiraiya-sensei. Medics died too quickly on the field because they were not trained to fight. Wasn't he sealing Rin’s fate to an early death? "Yes, Obito. Kakashi is right. I think it’s time I implemented a new training method with you three. But that means you and I will have to start allowing Rin to fight her own battles."

 

"Alright, Sensei." 

 

Kakashi didn’t last much longer after that. He ended the fight with Rin and went to take a break. He fell asleep nearby with a book on his face, and Minato wished he had a camera.

 

The other two were sparing, and Minato was proud to see a change in Obito as well. He was taking Rin seriously for the first time too. He thought about what Kushina had told him regarding Kakashi’s training suggestion. Honestly, Minato was a bit skeptical about listening to training advice from an 8-year-old who believes himself to be 33. Yet if he looked at it honestly, he didn't disagree with it. It matched most of their personalities; it was just Rin he was really struggling with. He just couldn't see teaching assassin techniques to her. Kushina had called him a sexist bastard. She told him that Rin was a kunoichi and deserved to be respected as one. She needs as much training as the boys do. Minato hadn't even realized he had done that. 

 

When the spar was over, he sent Obito off to work on his fire jutsu so Minato could spend some one-on-one time with Rin. He was relieved that it wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as he had thought it was going to be. She was an eager student. As he was correcting her form, a strange chakra signature suddenly appeared. 

 

Minato didn’t hesitate and phased to his sleeping Kakashi. His hand clamped around an arm of a man set to stab Kakashi in the heart. The assassin had returned. Minato’s added chakra and the strength of his anger to his grip in hopes of crushing the assassin’s bones. Kakashi, too, had blocked the kunai poised at his chest. But Minato saw the way Kakashi’s arms shook in his effort. Kakashi wouldn’t have had the physical strength to successfully blocked the attack if Minato hadn’t intervened.

 

Kakashi kicked up, clearly intending for his feet to be planted on the assassin’s chest to shove him off, but the assassin suddenly disappeared. Minato stumbled forward, and Kakashi planted both of his feet on Minato's chest instead. It felt like Kakashi kicked him right in the lungs, and he gasped for breath. Kakashi had a vicious kick, especially when Minato wasn't expecting it.

 

Kakashi didn't bother to apologize; instead scrambled to his feet. Everyone was on alert. Minato expanded his awareness in hopes of finding the assassin. A fireball blazed to life directly behind Kakashi. They both jumped out of its path and regrouped with Rin and Obito. 

 

"He becomes solid when he needs to attack," Kakashi advised.

 

"Ugh, I hate ghosts," Obito complained and prepared a fireball jutsu. 

 

Kakashi seemed to find this funny for some reason and laughed. 

 

"Don't make fun of me, Bakashi," Obito growled at Kakashi. 

 

"Boys," Minato snapped. They had a hostile in the area that was making them wait. Now was not the time for the two to be bickering. 

 

"Below!" Kakashi warned and launched himself in the air. The rest of them followed as a man came bursting out of the ground. 

 

"Hatake!" The enemy snarled, his face twisted in rage. "You can't escape me!" 

 

Like hell, he couldn't. Minato charged to intercept the assassin and prevent him from getting to Kakashi. He swung a kunai to lodge it in the man's head for a killing blow, but his arm went right through him, stabbing the air. The enemy appeared behind him and was still on his original trajectory to attack Kakashi. Minato whipped around in surprise at being completely ignored. The assassin had put Minato, the largest threat, at his back. His singular focus was odd.

 

Kakashi moved into a stronger defensive stance, but he kept his eyes trained on the assassin. Minato nearly yelled at him to move out the way, but Obito and Rin threw shurikens at the assassin, and once again, the man phased out of sight. 

 

Minato remained tense. The enemy could come at them from any direction. All of them were straining to hear or catch a glimpse of the phantom, but nothing came. It was several minutes before they released their fighting stances. Kakashi went over and grabbed his book off the ground. 

 

"Who did you piss off?" Obito asked Kakashi. 

 

Kakashi shrugged, seemingly unoffended, "plenty. I can produce an itemized list of all the people I have pissed off and how if you want."

 

Kakashi had said it in such a way that it felt like a genuine offer. "Ah, no, Kakashi, it's fine," Minato answered instead of Obito. "We need to go report this." 

 

"Maa, they already know," Kakashi pointed to a squad of ANBU that was just now approaching them. 

 

The group relaxed upon seeing them. Help had arrived. The attack had already stopped, but having ANBU present would likely stave off any further attacks for now. "The enemy nin is gone. Is the Hokage available for a report?" Minato asked.

 

The ANBU nodded, and two of the six escorted Minato’s team to the Hokage Tower. The others likely went in search of the intruder. 

 

As they headed to the tower, Minato assessed his students. They appeared uninjured, but the phantom was only after one person. "Kakashi-kun, are you uninjured?" Minato asked. 

 

He was surprised to see Kakashi smile back at him. The boy had never tossed those out freely. "I'm fine, Sensei. You stopped him from getting me, and then Rin and Obito threw the shuriken, forcing him to give up his last attack to avoid theirs."

 

Minato blinked; he had not expected Kakashi to praise everyone. The other two preened happily at it. Obito began to boast about something, but Minato ignored it. Once again, Minato was reminded that Kakashi wasn't okay. He didn't have an easy smile like that. He didn't praise others. Kakashi, as much as he loved the boy, was not a kind kid. He did not appreciate teamwork. Nor was he humble, and yet Kakashi didn’t mention his own involvement. Kakashi had gone from sleeping to blocking an attack. Minato could attest from the bruise on his chest just how vicious the boy’s kicks were. Kakashi warned the group about the attack below them, and he didn't run headlong into battle. He stayed where his teammates could aid him quickly. Kakashi had set his teammates up to successfully defend him and then praised them afterward for doing what he positioned them to do. 

 

"I'm glad you’re uninjured," Minato finally said after a delay. No one acknowledged his slow response. 

 

They arrived at the Hokage tower and were escorted up to the large office. They were announced before being allowed entrance. The Sandaime remained seated as the four of them bowed respectfully. The smell of his pipe permeated the room despite the Sandaime not currently smoking. Minato reported the sequence of events along with his own analysis and about the oddity of the phantom's singular focus on his newly adopted son. 

 

"I see," the Hokage's face was pulled taut. "Kakashi-kun, can you think of a reason why an assassin is after you?" The singular focus on Kakashi really threw off all their original ideas of this being an indirect attack against Minato.

 

"Maa," Kakashi shrugged, "maybe he's the one that sent me here to the past to kill me. Likely part of the Otsutsuki clan who shoulder a grudge against my students and me for killing their ancestor Kaguya, the moon goddess and the mother of chakra." 

 

The room was hushed for several breaths, then Minato groaned, "Kakashi, please be serious."

 

"Ahh, of course. Maybe the assassin is after Minato-sensei by taking out his favorite student?" Obito squawked in anger about Kakashi being the favorite. Minato glared at him for his patronizing answer. It was times like this he missed the boy’s rigid personality. 

 

The Sandaime eyes crinkled in a smile, but there was a calculating look in them instead of mirth. "Thank you, Kakashi-kun. Minato-san, perhaps you should escort your team back to their homes. Kushina-chan is not out on a mission right now. I am confident she can keep our young Hatake busy while we discuss this."

 

Minato knew an order when he heard one. "Yes, Hokage-sama." The team bowed before leaving.

By the time they made it out of the tower, Kakashi had the book he had been sleeping under out. 

 

"How can you read and walk like that," Obito questioned his teammate. 

 

"Maaa, I wonder," Kakashi gave him a non-answer. Minato was ready to strangle the boy. When had this happened? How had he become so damn annoying? Minato forced himself to put his emotions back in check before he does things he shouldn't.

 

Minato walked his other two students to their respective homes and then took Kakashi home. They were silent towards one another. It wasn't comfortable either. He wanted to scold Kakashi for his behavior towards the Hokage but wasn't sure how. Part of him worried Kakashi actually believed what he initially said and didn't want that confirmed. Kakashi wasn't trying to break the silence either. He seemed blissfully unaware of the torment he was causing Minato. The boy focused on his book, and Minato noticed the cover was cloaked in a genjutsu. He broke the genjutsu and suddenly regretted it. "Kakashi, what the hell are you reading?!" He snatched the book from his hand.

 

"A romance novel."

 

"This is porn, Kakashi!" 

 

"It has a plot."

 

"It... that’s not the point, Kakashi! You are too young for this kind of stuff. Where did you even get this?" Minato thumped the book.

 

Kakashi looked bored with this already. "Kushina-san. She said I could borrow whatever I wanted."

 

"You-from her?" What was Kushina thinking loaning this out to him? 

 

"May I have it back?" He held out his hand expectantly. Did Kakashi really think he was going to just hand back pornography to a child?

 

"No," He stuffed it into his own pouch. 

 

"Maa Sensei, how do you know if it's porn or not? Have you read it," Kakashi drawled his question.

 

Minato felt his face heat up. No, he hadn’t, but Kushina had liked two of the scenes in it and shared them with him. "I just know," He tried to sound firm. 

 

Kakashi gave a dry laugh, "Sensei, you lucky dog." 

 

Minato couldn’t go any redder, "Kakashi!" He was being jostled about sex by an 8-year-old. What was his life? "Just go inside," he gestured to the door to their home. "Kushina is in there. Stay with her. We don’t need you running off by yourself with an assassin after you."

 

"Yes, Sensei," Kakashi disappeared into the house. 

 

Minato shook his head and went back to the Hokage Tower. There was a lot to discuss. 

 

Chapter Text

Kakashi considered spying on the Hokage Tower. He was curious what conclusions the Hokage and Sensei were going to come up with. But seeing Kushina standing there, somehow waiting on him, Kakashi didn’t think he would manage to escape. Kakashi took his sandals off and straightened up. Kushina was still staring at him. He wasn't sure what she wanted. "Minato-sensei headed back to the Hokage," his voice dropped off. Kushina was still staring at him, so he stared back. This was awkward. Maybe he should just slip past her? Kakashi took a hesitant step off to the side, but Kushina stepped in the way. This time she was glaring at him. 

 

Kakashi looked down. His sandals were off, so what was the issue? He looked up at her, and his brows furrowed as he heard Kushina give him a throaty growl. "You're supposed to announce you are home when you come in, so I can greet you."

 

Kakashi blinked up at her, "I'm home?" He said, unsure. 

 

Kushina's grin split her face, "welcome home, Kashi-kun!" She then pulled him into a hug. It was such a domestic scene Kakashi had to wonder if he should really be participating in it. "I guess you don't live with anyone in your future, huh?" She released him, and he quickly stepped back.

 

"No," Kakashi admitted. 

 

"Have you had lunch yet? We have some leftovers of yesterday's dinner," she said, walking into the kitchen. 

 

Kakashi trailed behind her feeling a bit off balance. Somehow that exchange had solidified that he now lived here. "I can take care of it."

 

"Nonsense, I'm taking care of you. You are going to tell me how your appointment and training went."

 

"They went fine. My heart is healed," Kakashi watched her pull out cold beef and put it in a pan to heat it up with oil. "I fought Rin, then took a nap until the assassin came after me, then Minato sensei took your book from me."

 

"The assassin?" Kushina gasped and looked him over again. "Were you hurt?"

 

"No, but Sensei left for a meeting with the Hokage about it." 

 

"Kashi-kun, what do you think this assassin wants?" Kushina's brows furrowed as she looked at the sizzling beef. 

 

Kakashi shrugged, "to kill me." 

 

Kushina rolled her eyes and pulled some lettuce from the fridge, and started prepping a salad. "Very funny. I know that. Are you someone important in the future?"

 

"Maaa. Don't ask that. You sound like you actually believe me." He snatched a shaved carrot from one of the two bowls. 

 

"I do believe you," she smiled at him. 

 

Kakashi didn’t think HE believed HER. "Why do you believe I am from the future when no one else does, including Sensei?"

 

Kushina scoffed and turned the heat off on the beef. "Minato and I are not the same people. I can have a different opinion than him. In my view, it is the only thing that makes sense. Your chakra came out of nowhere and overwhelmed your own system. We all know that chakra is spiritual energy, so it’s not that much of a stretch. Minato himself utilizes a time and space seal. While it emphasizes the space aspect, time is still an element. In a genuine sense, Minato is time traveling every time he uses it."

 

Kakashi watched as Kushina laid the beef slices on the bed of lettuce. "Maa, you're a strange one. If you believe me to be from the future, why did you let Sensei adopt me?"

 

Kushina pushed a bowl towards him. "Pull down your mask and eat with me."

 

Kakashi considered refusing, but he was tired. Arguing with Kushina was not high on his agenda today. He tugs it down sharply once he is seated. Never in his life has Kakashi been without his mask for so long.

Kushina settled in across from him. "Everyone deserves a family, Kakashi," she finally answers his question, "Minato should have done it when he first became your guardian."

 

"I didn't want it," he pointed out. 

 

"You were grieving. What you wanted was your Dad back." 

 

Kakashi paused mid-chew and looked at her wide-eyed. That had been an unexpected blow. Kushina wasn't done and didn’t seem to notice what her words did. She pushed the meat to one side of her bowl. "I know loss too, Kashi-kun. I lost my home, my parents, an entire village of people. I wasn't an orphan when I came here to be Mito's successor. I initially found out what happened through gossip. It was the second time I lost my family, but this time there was no getting them back." Her face was so devoid of energy that she appeared fragile. Kakashi felt the need to say something, but his mind could not form words. It had never occurred to him that Kushina had lost so much.

 

Her eyes refocused on him, and she smiled gently, but she appeared even more fragile for it. "You have become so accustomed to loss you're unwilling to connect with anyone. You can't live that way, Kashi-kun. So even if you are actually an adult, you still need family."

 

Kakashi swallowed with more effort than it should have needed, "I did make connections, and I need to get back to them. I need for things to stop changing, so I have a home to go back to."

 

"Why not stay here with us," Kushina pressed.

 

"How is that fair for anyone? What about the Kakashi of this time? Kushina, I don't need parents, but I could see the benefits it would be for him." Kakashi didn’t want to hurt Kushina, but her vulnerability was backing him into a corner. He fisted the fabric of his pants.

 

"Aren't there things you want to change? If I could go back, I would stop the downfall of Uzushio," Kushina's eyes were light with excitement at the thought. 

 

Kakashi put his chopsticks down. Their weight was suddenly uncomfortable. Change things? For what purpose? His own selfish motives? So he can stop feeling pain? He has lived with it for so long already. Kushina was sitting in front of him, vibrant and full of life. She didn't want to die, but would she be willing to if it secured the peace that was to come? Would she be ready to leave her child to grow up without her if it would ensure peace? Did Kakashi have the right to take the choice away from her? Could he trust her to make the right choice? What was the right choice? 

 

"Kakashi?" Kushina's voice was gentle, but it still startled. Kakashi snapped his head up to look at her. She reached her hand across the table to touch his, but he pulled away.

 

"Mmm? I must be tired. I'll go lay down." Kakashi was eager to get out of her presence. 

 

"I've never known you to run away." Kakashi could hear the confusion that laced her voice. 

 

"That is because you don't know me." He didn't look at her knowing his words had been purposefully cruel. He made his way quickly down the hall and into his room.

He shut the door. 

Chapter Text

Minato glanced over to Shikaku drumming his fingers against the wooden table. The room was hushed, but the thoughts of those around Minato were loud. He had seen this footage many times prior to this meeting with Shikaku, Danzo, and the Hokage. The group reviewed the hospital footage several times over, focusing on the assassin’s appearance and disappearance for a while, rewinding those parts repeatedly. The assassin really did seem like a ghost. He appeared as soon as Rin and Obito left. Before today this phantom had only attacked Kakashi when he was alone; perhaps the would-be-assassin was getting bolder. 

 

"You said he was intangible unless he was moving to attack," Danzo asked while frowning at the screen. It was paused on an image of the assassin alone in the room just before he disappears.

 

Minato nodded sharply, "yes." Being in a room with the most powerful men in the village was a bit intimidating. Still, Minato was determined to stand among them.

 

"I see him using physical attacks, but has he used any chakra-based attacks aside from his intangibility?” Sandaime asked around his pipe.

 

"Yes, he used a Katon and Doton today. It was the first time I had seen him use any chakra-based attacks," Minato explained, "he seems to be getting more aggressive."

 

The room went quiet again as the facts were absorbed. The Sandaime made a displeased hum and lifted the scroll that Minato wrote his notes in. He shouldn’t have written Kakashi’s training technique for learning his own signature. Minato wanted to try it out himself, and he was unlikely to be given that scroll back. "According to your notes, Kakashi says the assassin's chakra signature is a mixture of his own and a foreign one. Do you agree?"

 

There seemed to be a weight to his answer. Minato wasn't sure why it was there. For a moment, he did not want to confirm Kakashi's assessment. He wanted to throw a blanket over his grumpy chuunin and hide him from the dark eyes in this room. All who would hold the welfare of Konoha over a single child. A child who had given up everything to the service of Konoha. His admission could incriminate his young charge. No, adopted son. That was right; he had adopted him. They could not lay a hand on Kakashi without going through Minato first. "Yes, I had sensed the same thing."

 

Danzo's mouth pulled down, causing his jowls to look more prominent. "Hiruzen, you believe this assassin has attached himself to the Hatake boy?"

 

The Sandaime leaned back and took a pull from his pipe. "I have heard of such things. Typically used in infiltration and information gathering."

 

Minato could see where this was going, "Kakashi doesn't have access to classified material."

 

"He has access to you," Danzo reminded him. 

 

Minato frowned at the verbal accusation. As if he would be so careless, simply because he was young. "That doesn't mean I would show him-"

 

Sandaime quickly jumped in, "of course not, Minato-kun. No one is suggesting that this technique is being used in that capacity. I merely mentioned what I had heard it being used before. The assassin is clearly after Kakashi-kun and not information."

 

Minato hadn't realized he had stood up. He sat back down and pointedly looked over at Shikaku. He had yet to say anything but seemed in deep thought. Minato wanted to know if he had any allies in this room or not.

Shikaku looked back at him, and for a moment, Minato felt himself freeze under his penetrating gaze. A Shikaku’s eyes saw so much, Minato wondered what secrets he may have given away. "The enemy nin is not someone we have seen before. Hatake-san has not mentioned knowing him either?" Shikaku's voice remained unassuming and contradictory to his eyes.

 

Minato sighed, wishing he could get a better read on the Nara, "Kakashi is currently suffering from head trauma and delusions. His testimony would not be considered reliable."

 

"What kind of delusions," Shikaku leaned forward.

 

Minato really wanted Shikaku as an ally, so he mirrored him and leaned forward as well, "at first he believed he was in a genjutsu, a type of interrogation technique."

 

"Did he say who he was being interrogated by?" Shikaku’s eyes narrowed. 

 

"He wouldn't say," Minato admitted, "the delusions changed shortly after, and he is now claiming time travel. Kogetsu-sensei believes it is a coping skill to handle the mass amount of trauma his body underwent in a short amount of time." Minato didn't want to delve too far into the boy's delusions. 

 

"What are you thinking, Shikaku?" Danzo prompted. 

 

"I think that perhaps Kakashi had an encounter with this assassin, and it is buried under these delusions." Shikaku leaned back again, stretching his long legs out in front of him. Minato didn’t know how he could look so relaxed with Shimura-sama and the Hokage watching him so intently.

 

Minato frowned. This could get out of hand very quickly. "He never mentioned anything before the initial attack. He would have reported it if he had. He lives and breathes shinobi rules."

 

"Perhaps," Shikaku didn't seem as sold on Kakashi’s fidelity to the rules as Minato was, "but this assassin had to have contact with the boy at some point. We should have the Yamanaka clan help him sort and remove his delusions, so we know for sure. We are missing too many pieces."

 

Danzo cleared his throat, "yes, I agree. Besides, what use is the boy if he continues to live under these delusions? He'd be a liability to Konoha."

 

"Kakashi is-" Minato was cut off by Danzo.

 

"The son of the White Fang. Yes? White Fang had dangerous ideas that were left unchecked, and we see where that got us."

 

"My friend, you go too far," Sandaime scolded him.

 

Danzo jabbed his cane into the floor, punctuating the conversation with a sharp clack. "No, Hiruzen, the White Fang brought war to our doorstep, but it was his son who brought danger into our walls. We cannot turn a blind eye to this. Admittedly, the Hatake boy is rather exceptional in terms of skills. But being unsupervised as he is, Hokage-sama, I think it would be best for the boy to be placed in my care."

 

Minato could not believe what he was hearing. Kakashi was a victim. Someone was trying to murder him, and this councilman was twisting things around. He was acting like Kakashi invited this danger into the village. 

 

Sandaime leaned back in his chair, "I fear, Kakashi-kun is not available for your mentorship program, my friend. He is no longer a ward of the state but has been adopted. You would have to convince his father to give him up to you."

 

Danzo looked surprised by this, and for a moment, Minato relished the look on his face. "You Minato?"

 

Minato nodded his head; it had been the right move acting as swiftly as he had with the adoption. "Yes, Kakashi-kun is legally my son. Everything is complete."

 

"I did not hear of this," Danzo's tone sounded scandalous. 

 

"Adoptions do not go through the council as they are matters of the clan," Sandaime reminded him. Minato noticed he wasn’t mentioning his own involvement in the matter. Due to Kakashi’s rank as a chuunin and the Hatake clan's subordination to the Namikaze clan, it had to go through the Hokage. The Hatake clan subordination was much like the Yamanaka and Akimichi subordination to the Nara. It was just significantly looser since Minato and Kakashi were the only ones of their clan.

 

Danzo looked very unpleased with this revelation. "I hope you are willing to accept the consequences of what you have done. Aligning yourself with that kind of legacy."

 

Minato looked Danzo directly in the eye, "I know exactly what I have done."

 

"Yes, well," Shikaku butt in, "shall I make an official request from the Yamanaka clan, Namikaze-san?"

 

Minato broke the fierce eye contact to look at Shikaku. A part of him was relieved by the interruption. "Yes, but I want Kogetsu-sensei to sign off on it first. All of Kakashi's chakra pathways were blown apart. He may not be ready to handle it."

 

Shikaku looked startled, "He survived his chakra pathways being blown?"

 

"Barely. Recovery has been long too," Minato sighed. 

 

Hiruzen nodded and stood, ending the meeting, "we will make that our next step. If Kakashi-kun can handle a mind walk, then we will go down that road. Are we all agreed?" The group offered various sounds of agreement and disbanded. 

Chapter Text


Kakashi tapped his pen on the tatami mat in his bedroom. He had been hiding out in here since his lunch encounter with Kushina. He couldn’t truly escape her since she could open his door at any moment. It was one of the many irritants of his current situation. Kakashi had always had his own apartment; people couldn’t just invite themselves into his space. Now his area had been regulated to a room. He felt closed in.

Outside of his room, he could hear the front door opening and Minato-sensei announcing himself. Kakashi made a throaty noise, trying to ignore the sounds of the couple’s greeting, but he was failing spectacularly. It was awkward to be around such private moments. How did people live like this?


Kakashi slid down to lay on his belly and pulled a scroll closer to himself. Maybe the scroll could help drown out their activity. His research had grown around him, leaving little remaining space for Kakashi himself. There were certain advantages to being eight again in that he took up less room. He had grown up rather tall, so it was a novelty not to wonder what to do with all his limbs when he was trying to fit somewhere.

The scroll was rolled out on top of his previous workings, and Kakashi laid his notebook over it. He began segmenting the array into known and unknown parts. The array's demolishing had clearly encompassed his focus because he was startled by the knock at his door. His head snapped up, but he said nothing. There was silence on the other side of the door as well. The door was nudged open shyly and then pushed open when Kakashi still said nothing.

Minato's blue eyes swept over his littered floor, “what is all this?”

 

"Research," Kakashi promptly responded. 

Minato wasn’t able to take more than one step into the room without standing on a scroll or book. Kakashi really had made a mess with it all. He didn’t know how it got so large or when. Minato-sensei crouched down and picked up one of the books he had laid open and examined its content.

 

"Why are you researching time and space fuinjutsu in secret," Sensei's voice was as tight as his grip on his notes. 


Kakashi waited to answer until Minato-sensei looked back at him. He wanted to make sure his words were clear. Their eyes locked, “I am a shinobi. If I was researching this in secret, you would not know about it.”

They held each other’s gaze for awhile still. Kakashi trying to convey steel with both his tone and his eyes. Minato has been making many decisions lately without him, but he wasn’t going to dictate this. Minato broke eye contact first and place the book back on the floor. He then straightened up to his full height. “Well, dinner is ready.”

Kakashi had learned that dinner being ready meant to stop whatever you were doing and go to the dining room table. He wasn’t eager to leave his work now. Still, he didn’t think picking a fight with Minato-sensei was going to produce satisfying results. He pushed himself up to his feet and then leaped over the mess he had created. He landed uncomfortable close to Sensei. Curious why the man wasn’t moving, he craned his neck up to look at Minato-sensei and decided being eight was bullshit.

 

Once again, they locked eyes. Minato-sensei's eyes were a darker blue than usual, like the gathering of storm clouds over the ocean. "Sensei?" Kakashi questioned warily.

Sensei dropped his hand onto his head. For an awkward moment, it sat there like a dead weight. After the delay, he slowly ruffled his hair. Then he left Kakashi’s room without speaking another word. Kakashi had no idea how he was supposed to interpret what just happened. He had the impression Sensei had been upset, but he wasn’t sure if it was with him or not.

Kakashi let out a heavy sigh. He wanted to go back home to Mr. Ukki. There was a lot less drama with him. Mr. Ukki was never bothered by Kakashi’s research or brought weird emotions home.

Kakashi followed the warm smell of ginger and chicken to the dining room. Minato was already there seated at the head, his face pensive and tight. Kushina passed out bowls of soup to go alongside the rice, vegetables, and chicken in a sticky dark sauce. Kushina noticed him immediately and tossed him an inviting smile. Still, Kakashi couldn’t find it in himself to respond in kind. His earlier comment rang in his ear as he dropped into his chair across from her. Kushina didn’t seem offended, and the trio gave a muted thanks.

The only thing that cut through the oppressive quiet was the clicking of utensils against the plates and bowls. It was almost too loud. Kakashi tried to collect his soup into the spoon quieter. He glanced over Minato, who solely focused on the meal in front of him. Irritation tightened Kakashi’s grip on his spoon. Why was he trying to be quieter, just because Minato was in a mood? He was at least a decade older than the blonde. There’s no reason for him to be cowed. Yet, Kakashi wasn’t sure how to break the silence.

Kushina didn’t seem to have the same reservations that Kakashi. She put her spoon down with a clatter garnering the attention of both Kakashi and Minato. “Alright, Minato, spill. You are ruining my dinner, and I worked hard on it. It deserves to be praised, not glared at,” Kushina glared at Minato to get her point across.

 

Minato ducked his head and offered an uncomfortable smile. “I’m sorry, Kushina-chan. My head is still in the meeting I had earlier. I promise to tell you about it later.”

 

Kakashi frowned at the promise. Later likely meant after he was sent to bed. He had a bedtime now. It was as awful as it sounded too. Kakashi hated it, even more, knowing that it was being used to purposefully leave Kakashi out of conversations.

 

"You better," Kushina threatened and then slurped at her soup. "Oh! Kashi-kun, I was talking to that dumbass Fugaku, and he wants to meet with you."


Kakashi frowned and couldn’t help but wonder how this came up. “Why would Uchiha-sama want to meet with me?”

Kushina flickered her hand in the air as if dismissing something. “Don’t give him so much respect; he doesn’t deserve it. I figured with all his clan secrets and crazy eyes, he might have a lead to get you back to your time,” Kushina declared enthusiastically. Kakashi wasn’t sure how to respond to this. This was the first time someone was actively trying to help him.

 

"Kushina," Minato-sensei hissed at her. Kushina retaliated with a swift kick that even Kakashi heard. Minato-sensei's face contorted in pain, grabbed his leg under the table. 

 

Kushina gave Kakashi a large happy smile. Apparently, causing her boyfriend pain brought her joy somehow. There was no way she was smiling over Uchiha Fugaku, of all people. “He’s gonna make time for you tomorrow, okay? Fugaku can be a stick in the mud, but he’s not that bad. He’s actually good with theorized jutsu, so definitely pick his brain while you have the chance!”


“You told him about time traveling?” Kakashi’s face pinched. Just what he needed, to add another person to his list that thinks he’s crazy.

“Hell yeah, I did!” Kushina pounded the table in her excitement. “Fugaku would kill me if I hadn’t told him. He’s a damn nerd for this shit,” she wagged a finger towards him, “don’t let that asshole fool you. I watched him get his foot stuck in a tree when he tried to create a ninjutsu version of the Hiraishin. We had to cut the tree down to extract his foot from it. He was so damn embarrassed. I don’t think he ever tried it again,” Kushina snickered with glee at the memory.

Kakashi hadn’t known that Fugaku specialized in theorized ninjutsu. He had been more of a desk shinobi from what he remembered. He served as both clan head and the head of police. He had two brilliant sons, but he had always attributed that to Mikoto-sama. Kakashi had trouble picturing Fugaku-sama having a personality that wasn’t Uchiha-Clan-blasé.

Minato gave a suffering sigh and shook his head, “I don’t think Fugaku-san wants that story being shared.”

Kushina rolled her eyes and leaned back in her chair with her arms crossed, “I was there, so it’s my story too. I can tell whomever I want.”

 

Kakashi tried to mentally put both Kushina and Fugaku-sama in the same room and simply couldn’t. How had he missed this relationship between those two the first time around? Admittedly, he had been in the past for a while now, and he had yet to see those together. Kushina did bring him up in conversational a fair bit, though. Kakashi had always prided himself in his observation skills, but this trip to the past showed him he had missed a lot.

 

“I’ll meet with him,” Kakashi agreed. This meet may help him get home, and he needed to chase every lead he could.

 

"Great! You'll have to skip team training, ya know. I'm sure your sensei will give you a pass," Kushina shot Minato a threatening look.” 

 

Minato-sensei returned it with an irritated look. "You can't just make those assumptions, Kushina."


Kushina jumped to her feet and jabbed her finger in the air at Minato, “Hey! YOU told me he gets to be my son too, ya know! As his mother, I am demanding he gets the day off to see a family friend.”

 

Minato relented quickly, and Kakashi was left wondering how this had become his life. “I thought Sensei adopted me?” He looked between the young couple, “Are you two playing house?”

 

The couple blushed, and Kakashi knew he was right. They were using him to play house. "I'm not a toy,” he said, exasperated. Teenagers and their weird games filled with hormones.

 

Minato reached across the table for Kakashi’s hand, but Kakashi pulled away. "We don't see you as a toy. Kakashi, I've known you since you were a baby. I swore then that I would be there for you, and I meant it. You were so little and already experienced the devastating loss of your mother." Kakashi couldn't help but look up when his mother was mentioned. He knew nothing about her. 

Kakashi gave Minato a flat look, “You and Kushina-san move in together and then decide to adopt the stray orphan boy.”

Minato tugged on his ear, “that’s not exactly how that went. Kashi-kun, I’ve known you since you were a baby. I’m sure you don’t remember that, 'cause you were so little. But you use to cry a lot, and I figured you were missing your mom. I swore to you then that I would be there for you, and I meant it.”

 

"You knew my mother?" Kakashi wasn’t sure how this turned into a story about his mother. Still, he couldn’t let the opportunity to learn something about her slip away.

Minato gave him an apologetic look, “No, I didn’t. Jiraiya-sense and Sakumo-san were good friends, but they usually didn’t want me around when they were together. Sensei and I had been on a mission when you were born. You were early but healthy. When we got back to the village, we heard that you were born and what happened to your mom. Sensei went to see Sakumo-san immediately. He didn’t even stop to give his report. While Sensei helped your Dad, I took care of you for an entire week.” Minato gave a gentle smile at the memory, “Your hair was so light you looked bald, but you were still adorable.

 

"I wasn't in the village much because of Sensei. He traveled as often then as he does now. I still managed to babysit you.

 

“Sensei traveled as much back then as he does now, so I wasn’t in the village very often. When I was home, I was often hired for D rank missions to babysit you, but then I left for two years. When I came back, there was talk of you being eligible for an apprenticeship. Jiraiya-sensei had pushed me to take you on, but honestly, it didn’t take much to convince me. I wanted to. You were really cute!” Minato’s grin was much broader now.

“What I’m trying to say, Kakashi-kun, is you and I are a family. A piece of paper doesn’t make us one. Kushina-chan is the one joining our,” he gestured between himself and Kakashi, “family.”

 

Kakashi studied Minato’s face. He wasn’t sure what he was searching for exactly. Honesty? Deception? A lot of this information was new to him. Kakashi wasn’t sure why Minato had never shared this with him before or why he chose to share it now.

 

Not sure how to respond, Kakashi decided to deflect. “I refuse to be an Uzumaki.”

 

"What? Why? It's a great clan, ya know," Kushina crowed. 

 

Minato, ever the peacemaker, tried to diffuse the situation. “No one is asking you to change your last name. We are not trying to take Sakumo-san’s place, Kashi-kun,” Minato reassured him gently. It had the desired effect on Kushina. She settled back down. The effect was lost entirely on Kakashi because he was not worried about someone replacing his father.

 

"Yeah, we are not trying to replace anyone, ya know. Buuuuut, if you decide to change your last name, it's gotta be to Uzumaki, not Namikaze. Got it?" Kushina insisted.

 

Minato sputtered, "what's wrong with Namikaze? Namikaze Kakashi is a great name." No, it wasn’t.

 

Kushina turned her nose up and scoffed, “no one has that name but you, Minato. Uzumaki has a strong, glorious, and tragic history. It has real depth and meaning. They just shoved two kanji together to make yours.” Kushina clapped her hands to demonstrated how they made Minato’s last name.

 

Minato sighed and looked back at Kakashi, "you can stay a Hatake. We won’t complain. Finish your dinner. It's late and past your bedtime."

 

The term bedtime caused Kakashi to twitch as his insides twisted around a hot fork. Living with Sensei and Kushina-san was not easy for him. Never in his life had Kakashi been so restricted. They have dictated his mealtimes and his sleeping. It was miserable. However, he bit his tongue, allowing dinner to progress a bit easier. Minato was in a lighter mood after pouring out his heart. Kushina had made several jokes breaking the previous tense atmosphere. Even Kakashi felt himself relax. He didn’t join in on the conversations, but it was nice to listen.

 

When dinner finished on a much calmer note, Kakashi was sent to bathe and head off to bed. Kakashi knew they were waiting to get him out of the room so they could talk. He rushed through the shower but didn’t bother with the bath afterward. He slipped into a clean shirt and pants that were part of his usual attire.

He quietly opened the bathroom door, hoping that Minato and Kushina were already entrenched in their conversation. That way, they wouldn’t notice the water or stop or Kakashi exiting the bathroom. Rather than the hallway, he saw navy blue pants. He tilted his head up to look at Minato-sensei and blinked as water dripped into his eye from his hair. He had been caught before he could even do anything! How?

 

“Kakashi, why are you not in your PJs? And your hair isn’t even dry. The last thing we need is for you to catch a cold.” Minato scolded as he reached over Kakashi’s head and pushed the bathroom door back open. He then pushed Kakashi back into the bathroom with a hand on his chest.

Minato-sensei grabbed a green towel from off the towel rack and dropped it on Kakashi’s head, then scrubbed at his head. When he finally lifted the towel off of Kakashi, he was slightly dizzy from the attack.

 

"I could have done it myself," Kakashi muttered. 

 

"But you didn't. Just like you didn't get dressed in your pajamas. Maybe I need to do that for you too,” Minao said blandly as he hung the towel back up to dry.

 

Kakashi wasn’t sure if Minato-sense was speaking idle threats or not, but he wasn’t going to test his luck either. He skirted past his teacher out of the bathroom and hurried to his room. He remembered seeing PJs in one of the drawers but had dismissed them. He had grown accustomed to sleeping in the clothes he would wear the next day. It was efficient. PJs were stupid, and these were especially stupid.

He pulled out a pair of grey PJs with black bands around the wrist and ankles. It had a shuriken patter on them. Kakashi had no idea where they came from because he was confident he never owned a pair like this. He did not dwell on it much longer since time was of the essence. He quickly put them on. He tugged the shirt out a bit, looking at the pattern frowning. He felt so childish dressed like this.

 

Kakashi let out a suffered sound as he heard a knock at his door. It was undoubtedly Minato, making sure he had done as he was told. “I’m dressed, and I’m going to bed,” he called out.

 

The door opened, and Minato leaned against the door frame. He raised his brows and gave Kakashi a pointed look, “Going to bed? Then why are you standing in the middle of your research mess?”

 

Kakashi had a lot of things he wanted to say right now, but that would be counterproductive. He needed them to stop obsessing over what he was and wasn’t doing so he could spy on their conversation. He muttered a few choice words and climbed onto his bed, and Kushina breezed into the room. She flashed him that brilliant smile of hers, “I’m glad those fit! I had to guess at your size, ya know.” Mystery of the PJs solved.

Kakashi didn’t respond and pushed the blankets back. He realized he wasn’t getting out of this with both of them in his room now. He slipped under the covers, but it was Kushina-san who pulled the blankets back up and around him.

“I’m really not tired,” Kakashi complained about this injustice of being forced into a bed by two teenagers.

 

"You're going to have a busy day tomorrow, so you should go to sleep now." Kushina-san patted his shoulder. 

 

Kakashi stared up at the ceiling instead of rolling his eyes like he wanted to. This was simply a convenient excuse to keep things from him. He wasn’t an idiot. He glanced back over at Kushina, who was still rhythmically patting his shoulder for some unknown reason when he caught sight of Minato-sensei. He sat straight up, disrupting Kushina’s beat.

 

"What are you doing?" Kakashi demanded. Minato-sensei was on the floor, putting his research into a smaller pile.

 

Minato didn’t bother to look up at him; instead, he focused on his task. “I’m picking up your mess. You can have these back in the morning. You need to be sleeping, not researching,” Minato scooped up the loose paper, scrolls, and books and headed out the room with them.

 

Kakashi dropped back down in frustration and glared at the ceiling. He wasn't a child, but he couldn’t get them to understand that. Even though Kushina supposedly believed him. Probably some good-cop bad-cop bullshit. Kushina fixed the covers on him again.

 

"I'm not a child," Kakashi growled. 


“I know you’re not, but your body is. It needs rest. You can’t expect it to function like an adult body would, ya know,” Kushina said quietly and resumed her patting.

 

Kakashi turned his head to look at her, "he took my research."

 

"I won't let Minato keep it. You'll get it back tomorrow," Kushina assured him. 

 

Kakashi relaxed into the bed. As long as Sensei wasn’t burning it, he supposed he would survive the night. Tomorrow, he would stash some of it away in case this becomes a routine. He needed to find his way back home, and there was no reason to waste time.

 

"Sleep well Kashi-kun," Kushina pushed his bangs back and kissed his forehead. Kakashi felt his face go red and from the crinkling in Kushina's eyes knew she saw it too. He turned his back to her. The light was switched off, and he heard Kushina close the door behind her. 

 

Kakashi decided to stay put for a bit. He would let them think he was sleeping before getting up to listen in on their ‘talk.’ 

 

*****



Minato dumped Kakashi’s research onto the recently cleaned table. Minato and Kushina hadn’t finished washing the dishes when Minato had heard Kakashi finishing with his shower in record time. Kakashi had a really long day, from his early morning appointment to team training, the attack, having a meeting with the Hokage, and then back at home researching. Minato was worn out; he could only imagine how Kakashi felt even if he didn’t want to admit to it.

 

He slumped down into a chair and picked up one of the loose papers that Kakashi had been writing on. Except that wasn’t Kakashi’s handwriting. He picked through the pile finding the handwritten notes to compare them, and found more of the same. The writing was consistent, but it wasn’t Kakashi’s unless it had changed with the trauma. Minato put the notes down and rubbed his eyes. The idea that Kakashi’s handwriting had somehow changed really disturbed him.

Kushina came in like the sun emerging from the clouds. Her strong hands slid across his shoulders and began to knead deeply. It hurt, but it was the kind of hurt you didn’t want to stop. He tried to melt under her ministry, but something in him resisted. Minato tilted his chin up and gave her a grateful smile. Red silken strands slipped past her shoulder like a curtain, and Minato found himself entranced by its elegance. “You’re so beautiful,” he breathed.

 

Kushina smiled, and her blues sparkled, "so are you, pretty boy."

 

Minato barked out a laugh, and Kushina sat down next to him. He watched as Kushina picked up one of Kakashi's notes. "His handwriting changed," Minato told her. He doubted she would notice. 

Minato guffed out a laugh as Kushina slid her hands across and away from his shoulders. She moved a chair next to his and sat down. He watched her pick up one of the pages of notes he had spread out in front of him. She wouldn’t notice. She hadn’t known Kakashi like he did. “His handwriting has changed.”

 

"What?" she looked back at him. 

Minato pointed to some of the kanji, “Kakashi’s handwriting changed. It’s sloppier. He runs the pencil from one kanji to the next, like he can’t be bothered to lift his hand. Normally, it is really square and sharp.” Minato shook his head and released a heavy sigh, “I’m not sure why this, of all things, bothers me so much.”

Kushina squinted as she looked at the notes, "I mean, it's not that bad. Mine is worse." Minato would agree with her assessment on that.

 

"It's still not the same.” Minato stared at the writing and listed the differences he saw. "It's hard to wrap my head around all the differences a head injury can make." 

 

"Or time travel. That makes a difference too, ya know." Kushina pointed out as she gathered more of the notes and started sorting them. 

 

"Very funny," Minata huffed and passed her a page. 

 

Kushina accepted the page and added it to her collection. "I'm serious. Don't be so quick to dismiss it. You use time and space seals." Kushina tapped the papers on the table.

 

"That's not the same thing," Minato argued. He doesn’t go back in time. He is merely removing the time it takes to get from one place to another.

 

"It absolutely is, but nevermind that. You'll figure it out eventually. Tell me about the meeting. You were really mad, ya know." Kushina changed the subject. 

Minato clicked his tongue and debated briefly about arguing with her more about time travel. He decided he didn’t have the energy for that. “We don’t have any leads on the assassin. We had watched the footage from the hospital several times, but you saw it. The assassin appears out of nowhere and didn’t set off a single one of my seals. He had to have been watching, though, because he shows up as soon as Kakashi is alone.” Minato tapped two of his fingers on the table as he puzzled over this.

 

“They suggested that the assassin is attached to Kakashi as a chakra construct, but that would have required him to meet the assassin at some point. Kakashi would have reported something like that.”

Kushina hummed and cocked her to the right. “Unless he doesn’t remember it. The meeting could have really arbitrary, like with a shopkeeper or something. It could be time travel, and he didn’t report it because it happened in a different time.”

 

Minato frowned, "you're really stuck on time travel." He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. He wished she would stop bringing it up.

 

"Well, you seem pretty adamant it can't possibly be true. I fully intend to wring every bit of future knowledge that I can from him." Kushina's blue eyes glinted with some excitement at this. 

 

“Why?” The idea was so ludicrous he didn’t understand why she even bothered to give it a second thought.

 

Kushina released a heavy sigh and physically deflated before him. Her shoulders were slumped forward, and her chin was nearly touching the table. He hadn’t expected such a big reaction. “Because he’s so sad, Minato. I know you prodigies struggle with emotions, but Kakashi is really sad. I don’t think many, if any of us, survive in the future. I’m not certain, but if that is true, I’ll change that. The thing I don’t understand is why he won’t even try,” Kushina's frown increased further, marring her face.

 

Since Minato hadn’t put any serious thought into Kakashi’s jokes about being from the future, he hadn’t noticed Kushina’s observations. But she was right. If Kakashi really did think he was from the future, why was he so tight-lipped over it? “Doesn’t that just prove he isn’t a time traveler? If he keeps these things to himself, maybe it’s because he knows the story isn’t coherent.

 

“Do you remember when he first woke up? He thought he was in an interrogation genjutsu. Well, Shikaku-san believes that if he had a run-in with the assassin that he may have been placed in some sort of genjutsu in order to perform the spy technique.” He noticed her unimpressed and quickly added, “It doesn’t ring true for me either. Shikaku-san doesn’t know Kakashi like we do.

 

“Anyway, that is the theory we are pursuing because I wasn’t able to rebuttal it.” Minat clenched his fists, feeling the hot anger flare up inside of him again. “Councilman Danzo-sama called Kakashi a danger to the village. He dragged Sakumo-san’s name in and accused Kakashi of somehow being worse! As if he chose for this to happen, nevermind that he almost died!” Minato beat his fist against the table.

 

Kushina put a hand on Minato’s arm, and he followed her eyes over to the hallway. He then realized he had gotten too loud. He took a few calming breaths so he could continue. “Danzo-sama wanted to add Kakashi to some sort of mentorship program he’s running. I haven’t heard of it, but he was furious when he found out I adopted Kakashi. He threatened me over it. We all brushed past it, but I have clearly made a powerful enemy.” He put his hand over her hand.

 

"That will really hurt your chance of becoming Hokage, not having Shimura-sama's vote," Kushina frowned. 

 

"I know. Jiraiya-sensei warned me it would happen. He knows something about all this but isn't telling me. But if I have to choose between the hat and Kakashi-"

 

"You would choose Kakashi every time," Kushina finished Minato’s sentence. Minato’s chest warmed at being known so well. He squeezed her hand and then released it.

 

"We are planning to request a mind walk from the Yamanaka clan. We think his real memories about this assassin are buried under all these delusions. Tomorrow morning, I intend to ask Kogetsu-sensei if she thinks his chakra pathways are ready to handle it."

 

Kushina's brows creased, and she pressed her lips tight. "That seems a bit extreme."

 

"We have a security breach. It's an extreme situation," Minato pointed out. 

 

"We always have a security breach. There are god knows how many spies in Konoha right now." Kushina waved her hand in the air, "But a Yamanaka mind-walk? I mean, what about Kakashi’s privacy? Does he even have the right to refuse?"

 

"Kushina, we are dealing with an assassin. He is trying to kill Kakashi, and we don't know why. Whatever is buried under those delusions could have the answers," Minato pressed. He wanted Kushina on board with this, but even if she disagreed, he would push for it. 

 

Kushina pressed her lips tightly. She gestured to the research on the table, "and what if there is nothing buried there, Minato? What if he is exactly who he says he is? A time traveler-where are you going?"

 

Minato jerked to his feet and stormed away from her; stormed away from her theory. “I’m not going to listen to this,” he growled.

 

"Why?" Kushina rose to her feet. Her eyes met his, and her stance demanded answers.

 

"He is not a time traveler," Minato stated firmly.

 

"Oh, my god, Minato. Why are you like this?" Her exasperation caused her voice to rise in pitch as she tossed her hands into the air.

 

Minato had enough. He didn’t want to argue the time traveler theory. He wanted to never hear it again. "Because you weren't there, Kushina," Minato rounded in on her. "You weren't there, and I missed it. Kushina, I missed an enemy-nin being in our village and attacking my student. I was right there. And Kakashi shouldn't be alive. We don't know how he survived it, but he did. And that nin is still after him, and I don't know how or why. The assassin got past my seals in the hospital without setting them off and stabbed Kakashi. He showed up at training, and I didn't notice him until it was almost too late. Kushina, I need answers. I need to know who this guy is so I can dismember him." Anguish poured from Minato's chest like a river. Once he started, he couldn’t stop until he was too choked up on the water to make any noise beyond gurgling. He felt like he was drowning.

 

Silence stretched between them. Only Minato’s breathing could be heard. Exhaustion settled into his bones. Minato groaned, and he wandered to the couch. He flopped down on it and stared up at the ceiling. His voice was softer now, having lost its fight.  "Besides, on the off chance it is time travel, then a Yamanaka mind-walk will likely tell us. But currently, we have no reason to believe it is anything but delusions." Minato didn't want to suggest time travel as an option, but he also didn't wish to have Kushina mad at him for who knows how long. 

The couched dipped beside him. Nothing was said. They disagreed. No one was going to win today, and Minato was going to accept that. It had been a really long day. He leaned against her, and she held him up.

Chapter Text

The soft morning light warmed the room. Minato found himself admiring the streaming light reflecting off the condensation on his window. He was awake, but he wasn’t willing to begin his day yet. Last night had been a lot, and today was promising to be much of the same. He pushed the thought out of his mind and focused on the sounds of his new house instead.

 

He heard rice being poured and figured Kakashi must be starting breakfast. Kakashi tended to start his day even before Minato. His dedication to routine was impressive. Minato forced himself to sit up. He really did have a lot to do today. He needed to see Kogetsu-sensei to get the okay for the Yamanaka intervention. Then he had group training with his students, minus Kakashi. The thought of spending the entire day away from Kakashi so soon after another attack bothered Minato. He would have to make sure Kushina would be able to stay with Kakashi the whole day today.

 

He looked over at his girlfriend. He tried to, anyway. All he could see was her red hair that took up as much of the bed as her presence did a room. He itched to touch it. “Kushina-chan, it’s morning,” he said quietly.

 

Minato’s attempt to arouse her from sleep was met with unintelligible muttering and her pulling the blankets tighter around herself. A grin slid across Minato’s face, “Kakashi is in the kitchen.

 

It was thanks to his quick reflexes that Minato avoided getting head-butted. Kushina had sat straight up and glared in the direction of the door. “He better not be. I told him I would make him eggs.”

 

Minato fought a widening smile and tried to push his mirth back down before it bubbled up into laughter, “Perhaps, Kakashi forgot. He is definitely in the kitchen. He may have found the box of ration bars.” This was a bald-faced lie. Minato knew the Kakashi was making rice.



Kushina flung the blankets off of her and over Minato’s head. “He would too!” she accused. He yanked the blankets down and saw Kushina leaving the room, still in yesterday’s clothes. He allowed himself to finally laugh and climbed out of bed, figuring he should get ready for the day as well. He could only afford to be lazy for so long.

 

He dressed in his jounin attire but draped his vest over his arm and headed to the kitchen. Kushina was standing with her hands on her hips, lecturing Kakashi. The boy was glaring back at her with his arms folded. It was a familiar stance of defiance. He had seen it many times over the years. His display of stubbornness released some lingering tension in his shoulders. Perhaps today was going to be a good day after all.

 

"Kashi-kun, I told you I wanted to make breakfast. You could have waited. You don't need to run out the door to train just because your eyes are open," Kushina growled.

 

Minato decided to lean against the counter and watch the two. Kakashi didn’t even acknowledge his presence. “All I did was start the rice. I was helpful,” Kakashi stressed the word helpful.

 

Minato wished he could see Kushina’s face better. “Bullshit, you were planning to sneak out and train. That is why you are dressed in your training gear!” Kakashi really didn’t need to sneak out and train. They had a small training area in the backyard unless going into their backyard suddenly equated to sneaking out. He’d have to ask because that seemed too restrictive.

 

"This is all I own," Kakashi bit back.



Kushina froze. Minato’s brows furrowed in concern. He ran through what he had heard of the conversation, trying to find the issue she had stumbled upon. He was jolted by the sharp clack when Kushina clapped her hands. “I guess we are going shopping after breakfast!” Minato could hear the glee dripping from her words.

 

"No, I'm fine like this," Kakashi refused.

 

Kushina tsked and shook her head, “Kashi-kun, you need normal clothes for when you’re not training. What did you wear as an adult on your day off?”

 

Kakashi’s brows drew tightly together as he stared up a Kushina. “the same thing I wear when I’m working? Why would it change?” he questioned slowly.


There was a moment when the beat was missed, but then it came down hard in the next. “This is why you time traveled, Kakashi! This right here,” Kushina jabbed her finger towards the floor. “You need to learn how to be a person, not just a shinobi.”

 

Kakashi scoffed and tossed his head to the side, “I seriously doubt my choice in clothes has anything to do with my predicament. Besides, Sensei does the same thing! Look at him. He’s just not wearing his vest.” Kakashi gestured towards him. Why was he getting dragged into this?

 

Thankfully, Kushina wasn’t sidetracked. She barely spared Minato a glance, “So, you are telling me that this is his fault. He didn’t teach you how to dress properly.” Minato nearly choked on the air he was breathing.

 

"What? No, I'm saying-"

 

“Well, it’s a good thing I’m stepping in. I’m going to teach you how to be a person. We’ll start with clothes, then a hobby, and then get you a girlfriend!” Once again, Minato wished he could see Kushina’s face. He dropped his chin into his hand and tried not to laugh. Kakashi looked so defeated now. Kushaina could be exhausting to go up against. She had more stamina than she knew what to do with. Kakashi stood no chance against her.

 

Kakashi’s shoulders drooped forward, “I have hobbies, already. I don’t need new ones.”

“You need better hobbies. Hobbies that bring enrichment. I have just the thing too! You’ll thank me later,” Kushina declared confidently, ignoring the look incredulity Kakashi was giving her.

 

Minato decided to insert himself into the lull and change the subject, “well, I, for one, have to leave soon, and since the rice will be done shortly, maybe we can start on the rest of breakfast?” He gave Kushina a hopeful look.

 

Kushina turned to him and gave him a reproachful look, “sure, but we will talk about your clothes later too. I can’t believe you never taught this child how to dress himself. This is your fault.”

 

They both ignored Kakashi’s indignant choking. Minato sighed, "sorry, I'll do better."

 

Kushina seemed satisfied with his contrite answer and started working on breakfast. At the same time, Kakashi glared at him and proceeded to sulk his way to the living room. Minato tucked in his lips and bite them to stop himself from laughing. He shared a mirthful look with Kushina. Picking on Kakashi was rather fun.

 

Kushina pulled some eggs out for an omelet, and Minato went to slice up some fruit. “Will you watch Kakashi for me today?” Minato asked casually, hoping Kakashi wouldn’t overhear.

 

"Of course I will," Kushina agreed.

 

"I don't need a babysitter," came Kakashi's voice from the living room.

 

"Then I'll be your Jounin guard!" They had a good laugh over Kakashi’s misery.

 

******

 

Minato was counting the speckles on the ceiling of the small room. The nurse called it a grief room. There was something really ominous about being told to wait for Kogetsu-sensei in here. Perhaps they couldn’t have him taking up an exam room. It’s not like he had an appointment to see her.


In the small grief room were three green chairs and a small round table. There was nothing else in the room: no pictures, murals, or even literature. It was small enough to be a closet. Minato looked up and went back to counting the speckles.

 

Kogetsu-sensei came in like a wind jutsu. The door flung open and swung itself closed behind her. She had a clipboard under one arm. He couldn’t recall a time he had seen her without one. “Namikaze-san, I was told you needed to discuss something about Hatake-kun?”

 

Minato partially stood up but aborted it when Kogetsu-sensei motioned for him to stay seated. Her intrusive arrival threw him off, and it took a moment to remember what he needed to say. “I had a meeting with Hokage-sama regarding the assassination attempts on Kakashi. We suspect that there may be some answer under Kakashi’s delusion. We intend to do a Yamanaka mind walk to sort through them. Still, I wanted to verify that Kakashi’s chakra pathways could handle it.”

 

"Absolutely not," Kogetsu-sensei wasted no time in answering. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

 

Minato’s mind raced; she was leaving already? With just a no? No explanation of why? “When would he be ready? We started chakra enhanced healing already.”

 

“Never, as far as I am concerned. This is not a situation I would trust a Yamanaka with,” her voice was encased in steel.

 

Minato couldn’t believe what she was saying. This was not how he expected this meeting to go, and he felt like he couldn’t regain his footing. “You wouldn’t trust a Yamanaka?” The very concept was unfathomable. The Yamanaka was a valuable clan of the village. She clearly didn’t understand the stakes involved. “Kogetsu-sensei, there is an assassin after Kakashi, and he may have the only clues as to why. We need to help Kakashi sort through all of these delusions to figure out who might be behind this.

 

She looked utterly unmoved. “Or you can figure it out the hard way because I will not allow a Yamanaka to touch that boy.”

 

Minato finally stood up; this was not a conversation to be sitting down for. “You would rather have him live like this? You said yourself that even when the brain swelling goes down, these fake memories might stay. They might be permanent. A Yamanaka could help by sorting through them and bring Kakashi back.”

 

"That is not how that works, Namikaze-san. A Yamanaka can identify a planted memory because it has a foreign chakra signature. They can view memories, and they can tear a mind apart, but they cannot tell the difference between a memory and ones that the brain makes up on its own."

 

Minato tensed further, feeling like she was talking down to him. He knows how a jutsu works better than a civilian doctor does. This woman couldn’t even mold chakra. “The Yamanaka just needs to remove the memories that are obviously out of place. He’s 8, and he thinks he’s in his 30s. There is a good deal that can be removed without a lot of guesswork,” Minato explained to her.

 

Kogetsu-sensei’s mouth tightened. She stood like a mountain asking the traveler how he intended to overcome this? “And this is why the answer is no. You clearly have no idea how the brain works or how memories are stored. Memories are stored, not just in the brain but in the body too. As a shinobi, you should be aware of this. A Yamanaka does not have access to these other locations. So, if he starts tearing these memories out of Kakashi’s brain, he’ll be left with the memories in his body that have no anchor to them. He may start dissociating constantly.”

 

Minato clenched his fists. This would be so much easier to handle if they could just take this to the training grounds. “these are not memories; they are delusions. He can’t keep living in this lie. It may be risky, but if his chakra pathways can handle it, then I am going to risk it.” He was Kakashi’s guardian. It was his right to make the final decision here.

 

Kogetsu-sensei lifted her chin in mock superiority that served to further infuriate Minato. “Then let’s put it this way, Namikaze-san. How many jounin are currently active in Konoha?”

 

Minato narrowed his eyes in suspicion. He didn’t see how this pertained to anything, “Around 500.”

 

"So, there's 500 of you. Do you know how many traumatic brain injury specialists Konoha has?"

 

Minato frowned, not liking this setup. "No."

 

Kogetsu-sensei pointed at herself. “One. I am it. See, you may be a jounin, Namikaze-san, maybe even one of the better ones, but there are 500 of you. You are replaceable. So, by all means, go throw your weight around.” She fluttered her hand towards the door. “But I will stop you. I can remove that boy from your home for medical negligence. So, if you so much as introduce him to a Yamanaka, you’ll see just how much our values compare.”



Minato’s heart thudded quickly in his chest, and his breathing quickened, “why are you doing this?” Minato was under no false pretenses of much Konoha need a doctor with her specialty. They couldn’t afford to lose her. He just didn’t expect her, of all people, to threaten him. 

 

“You know why. There is a reason the Yamanaka clan serves in the Torture and Investigation Unit. Their jutsu is nothing short of torture, and you will destroy that child in your quest to save him. I know that this is difficult for you, Namikaze-san, but you need to stick with the program I created for him. This may still clear up on its own.”

 

"What if it doesn't?" Minato asked, his voice coming out squeezed from the pressure in his throat.

 

"Then you have some decisions to make about your relationship with Hatake-kun."

 

Minato was reeling. His body lurched backward, and he collapsed onto the chair. His brain was so full he couldn’t hold onto a thought long enough to voice it.



“Namikaze-san, Kakashi’s swelling in his brain has already subsided. That happened before he even left the hospital. It may be for the best that you accept that things may not change. This is difficult and stressful, so it is natural to feel grief,” her voice had softened. The hardness that he had been confronting earlier nearly absent.

 

Minato stared down at his hands. He had to swallow so he could speak. “Why would it be natural to feel grief?” Kakashi wasn’t dead. He survived. But here he was, feeling like someone just blew a hole through his chest.

 

"Because the boy you knew is gone."

 

Minato felt a sob escape him, punching the air at her admission. He drew in a quick breath and swallowed any other noises. Then he dropped his head into his hand to hide his expression from the doctor. Still, she plowed on, “we don’t know if Kakashi will be coming back. So, of course, you need to grieve. I’m sorry I can’t stay longer. I trust we are at an understanding that a Yamanaka mind walk will not be tolerated.”

 

"Yes," Minato reluctantly agreed.

 

Minato nodded his head, not yet trusting his voice. He didn’t thank her or watch her leave. The door closed, and he remained where he was. The silence brought no comfort as he struggled with the understanding of what happened. Kakashi may never come back. With the Yamanaka mind walk shot down, what salvation was there? Was Kakashi well and truly gone?

 

******


Minato wasn’t sure what to do with himself once he left the hospital. He had expected to start arranging the mind walk with a Yamanaka. But everything has changed, even if nothing actually did. Minato was just catching up to what already happened. Kogetsu-sensei had destroyed his perception of the situation and the future he had been envisioning.

 

He found entered the house and pulled his shoes with a muttered I’m home. He was greeted by silence. Kakashi’s and Kushina’s shoes were missing, so they must have headed out. It was just as well because he wasn’t in the headspace to really deal with either of them right now.


Minato wandered like a ghost in his home, unable to find a place to settle. His mind was in turmoil, and it motivated his feet. He eventually found himself standing in Kakashi-kun’s room. It was meticulously clean, as he would expect of him. The only thing out of place was a box on the low table in his room. It was filled with the research Minato had collected last night. Curious, he sat down to go through the content in the box.

 

He pulled out one of the pages of notes and examined it again. Immediately he was drawn to the handwriting, noting all the things he had noticed before, but then he pushed past it. He wanted to understand what Kakashi was thinking. It was the very beginning of a seal construction with an analysis of potential components and how they interact with other features within a seal matrix. It revealed a deeper understanding of fuinjutsu than Kakashi, even as a genius, should have. Not everything was correct or even on track, but he had a decent understanding. Minato reached for a pen on the table to make some corrections but stopped short. Minato shouldn’t be encouraging this, at least not in this way.

 

Minato would love to teach Kashi-kun fuinjutsu. It was a passion of his that very few in Konoha had an interest in. But Kakashi was trying to create a time travel seal, and Minato didn’t believe one should exist. The damage such a seal could do was unfathomable. He also didn’t want to feed into Kakashi’s strange beliefs that he was from the future.

 

Kushina hardly batted an eye when Kakashi made references to the future. She often encouraged him to talk more about it. Minato had been unwilling to do the same thing. Was it grief? Was his Kakashi actually gone? Was the boy who dragged his pencil from one kanji to the next here to stay. Minato put the paper back down.

 

Minato cradled his head in his hands, feeling the weight of his failure pressing on him. Minato didn’t save Kakashi, after all. He knew that being a shinobi was dangerous. Children were being sent to the front line younger and younger as the war dragged on. Kakashi had been the youngest to see an active front, and Minato took him there. Kakashi tried to seem unaffected. He tried to act the way he thought others expected him to. He had been quiet and obeyed quickly. Kakashi had become a shell of a person, and it had been Obito and Rin who helped him escape that.

 

The second time Obito showed up late to team training, Kakashi blew up at him. It had seemed so cathartic for Kakashi that Minato nearly forgot to reprimand Kakashi. Since then, Obito took on the burden of being the target for whatever feelings Kakashi has been bottling in. Minato intervenes; it’s not okay to treat teammates like that. Still, it had been a relief to see Kakashi finally acting his age. Obito and Kakashi were sandpaper against each other. As much as their arguing and complaints irritated Minato, it was better than seeing that solemn child that followed after him in war camps.

 

Rin had been equally good for Kakashi in her own way. She was unobtrusive and a consistent presence. She could pull Kakashi into a quiet conversation while they waited for Obito-kun. Her crush on Kakashi sometimes made this a bit awkward between them. It didn’t offset the relationship too much. They were comfortable around each other.

 

 Both Obito and Rin helped Kakashi recover from the trauma of his father’s suicide and seeing war at such a young age. Unlike Minato, who failed in both accounts. Now, he had failed again. He put the paper back in the box and stood to his feet. He couldn’t do anything about what happened then, but he could do the next best thing in the now. He would focus his research on detaching the parasite assassin from Kakashi.

 

He wished he had time to work on it now, but he had a young team to train. If he left now, he’d be a bit too early, so maybe he’d stop and pick up some treats. Things have been hard, Obito and Rin. They were probably just as worried about Kakashi as he was.

 

******

 

Minato stopped by a small corner store and picked up some drinks and treats for Obito and Rin. Maybe it would cheer them up, which would cheer him up. All things considered, it was a nice day, but he was struggling to enjoy it. He needed to at least pretend to be happy for their sake.



He got to the training ground and was surprised to see Rin and Obito already doing their warm-up kata. Typically, the kids chatted while waiting for him, so it was odd to see them already working.

 

“Hey, you two,” Minato greeted them and lifted his shopping bag a little, so they knew it was for them. His smile became more genuine as their faces lit up with excitement.  

 

“Sensei!” They rushed to meet him halfway. He opened the bag so they could pick out what they wanted. Both of them pulled out a drink and plopped down on the grass—the plastic crinkled as they unwrapped their straw and punctured the boxes. Minato joined them on the grass.

 

“I didn’t expect to see you two already hard at work. I’m not complaining. I think it’s great, but I am curious about what inspired you?” He leaned his elbows on his knees and looked between them.

 

Obito took shrugged one shoulder as he took a quick sip. “Oh, you know Sensei, I gotta be stronger to become Hokage.” Concern spiked in Minato. Obito usually made these declarations with more spunk, but this one fell flat.

 

Minato turned to Rin, expecting her to explain the atmosphere. She didn’t respond right away, watcher her straw twirl between her fingers. Minato chose to wait. Maybe she needed time to collect her thoughts. She kept her eyes focused on her straw, but her shoulders were slumped forward. “Kakashi-kun has been worried about us. He’s worried we’ll get hurt, and Ummm – I mean,” her eyes flickered up at Obito, but there was no reassuring smile, “Obito-kun is great, but I know I need a lot of work to catch up. The assassin still hasn’t been caught yet,” Now she focused on him. Her face was drawn in resignation and worry, “the only reason Kakashi-kun is still here is luck, Sensei. He is the best of us, but he should have died. He was-“ she swallowed audibly, “that day when he was attacked the first time, I tried to heal him, but I didn’t even know where to start.” Rin’s lashes became wet, and she blinked them rapidly a few times.

 

"Rin," Obito murmured.

 

"There was so much wrong internally. Kakashi-kun was dying, Sensei. I could feel him dying," Rin stared at her drink once again.

 

Minato mentally cursed. He had seen his students since the assassination. He had even done one on one trainings with them. How is it that he had missed this? He must have been so focused on Kakashi, the move, his mission, and the assassin, he hadn’t put thought into how the other members of his team were handling things. He went to apologize to both of them, but Obito started talking.

 

"If this assassin can take down Kakashi, then what hope do the rest of us have. You told me that, Sensei." Minato frowned and went to think back when he would say something so insensitive to Obito. "And you're right. I don't train enough to fix it either. I'm from a clan, and I have three years more training than Kakashi. I should be better than this." Obito squeezed the juice box a bit too hard, causing some of it to dribble out.

 

Minato reached out to ruffled Obito’s hair and offer him an encouraging smile. “Obito-kun, you’re still young. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

 

Obito pushed Minato’s hand off his head and looked him in the eye with unfamiliar fiery convection. “If I’m not hard on me, then who will be? This isn’t a game, Sensei. We were in the village when he was attacked. The assassin is still out to get him too. If we are going to save him, then we all need to work hard to do so!”

 

Minato sighed heavily. This was another example of his and the village's failure at keeping children as children. When Minato becomes Hokage, he fully intends to change the genin age to 12. Genius or not, they need to be 12 before they can become shinobi. They need actual childhoods. The entire purpose of starting the village was to protect children.



Minato raked a hand through his own hair in frustration. “You two have been doing a lot of thinking. I’m sorry I haven’t been available much.” There was so much more he wanted to apologize for, but he wasn’t sure how to word it just yet.

 

Rin shook her head, "You have so much to deal with. Kakashi needs your attention. But can I ask a question, Sensei?"

 

Rin’s hesitant voice gave Minato pause. He tried to guess what information she could want that would make her nervous. “Of course, Rin. As long as I am legally allowed to answer, it should be fine.”

 

“Does Kakashi-kun really believe he’s an adult from the future?” Rin asked, her voice stronger than it was just a moment before.

 

"What," Obito squawked.

 

Minato frowned, "what did Kakashi tell you?"

 

"S-sensei," Minato ignored Obito’s sputter.

 

Rin shook her head, "Nothing. He has never mentioned this to us. I read his file and Kogetsu-sensei's notes."

 

Minato didn’t know a lot about what goes on in a hospital. He was pretty confident patient files were confidential. He knew Rin wasn’t part of Kakashi’s medical team. “Should you be doing that?” he frowned.

 

Rin shrugged and tugged at the hem of her shorts. "As long as I'm not caught. Is it true? Does he actually believe that?"

 

"It would seem so. I'm surprised he hasn't mentioned it to you two,” Minato admitted.

 

Rin shrugged, "he's different. I mean, he acts differently, but he never said anything about being from the future to us."

 

Obito squinted as if he was trying to see something in the distance. "Bakashi's been really nice. I mean, in a jerky kinda way. Ya know? Like he doesn't ignore us, and he's been helpful with training stuff. Even when he couldn't join in, he still watched."

 

Rin smiled at Obito and then turned back to Minato, "so, does he still believe he is from the future?"

 

Minato sighed; this wasn’t something that should be kept from them. They were a team. "As far as I can tell, yes. He’s been doing a lot of research on time travel fuinjutsu, and he won’t accept that his memories are not real.”

 

“Could someone help with that? Maybe a Yamanaka?” Rin suggested. Minato had to remind himself that Rin was unaware of the conversation he had with Kogetsu-sensei. She was trying to be helpful, not stab a pain point.

 

“I just brought that idea to Kogetsu-sensei, actually,” Minato rubbed the back on his neck. The emotions from that meeting still felt raw. “She said it wouldn’t work. A Yamanaka wouldn’t know where Kakashi’s real memories end and the delusions begin since they are both created by his own mind. She also said that memories are not just stored in the mind but also in the body. We call that muscle memory. It’s also why certain smells or sounds can remind of something in the past. Since a Yamanaka doesn’t have access to those kinds of memories, she believes it would damage Kakashi further,” he explained.

 

Rin seemed to drink in his explanation with wide eyes. Minato briefly wondered if this was going to inspire a new area of study for her. Even if she wanted to stay a field medic, many shinobi’s end up with various head injuries on the field.

 

“What do we do then? If the Yamanaka can’t help us, what could we possibly do? And what if he does share this with us? Are we supposed to say something?” Rin fired off her questions.

 

Minato laughed a bit nervously, knowing he had to admit his unwillingness to do as the doctor ordered. “Ah, well, Kogetsu-sensei has been telling me from the beginning not to undermine what Kakashi-kun is saying. It’s pretty tough. I know he hasn’t said anything to either of you yet, but some of the stuff he says is pretty outrageous. It’s hard not to correct him.

 

“But if we don’t correct him, how will he come back,” Rin pressed.

 

How indeed? This was a question he didn’t want to answer. He’d rather keep it to himself. Pretend it wasn’t real, but that wouldn’t be fair to anyone. “He might not. The Kakashi that we knew may never come back,” Minato said gently, both for their sake and his own.

 

Rin’s wide brown eyes started to warble. She searched his face, so he let her see his own grief on the matter. He wanted to be honest with them. They needed to understand, just as he had to, that Kakashi may stay this.

 

“What are you talking about, Sensei? Kakashi is still Kakashi,” Obito scoffed.

 

Minato supposed Obito would be the one to refuse to accept this. “I’m not saying he isn’t Kakashi. Just that he’s going to be different now.”

 

“He isn’t that different. Sure, he listens more, walks weirdly, and makes stupid jokes about porn, but he’s still a jerk. Those other things are all just – I don’t know – they don’t really change Kakashi. He’s still him. He’s stupidly smart, talks crap, and is super secretive about everything. He’s still Kakashi. Like you can just tell,” Obito tried to explain. He flopped back onto the grass and stared up at the passing clouds.

 

Rin gave Obito a grateful smile. He always had a knack for cheering both Minato and Rin up. Rin hummed and played with her straw again, “That’s a really nice thought, Obito, but Kakashi-kun can’t live this way. If he keeps these delusions, then he can’t be a ninja.”

 

“Why not?” Obito demanded. His tone was harsh, and neither Rin nor Minato had expected that. “Bakashi restructured our team and changed how Rin is being trained. You said so yourself, Sensei, that what he said made sense. These delusions seem to be really helpful for being a ninja, not hurting him.”

 

“But none of it’s real, Obito,” Minato gently reminded.

 

Obito sat back up and glared at Minato. He didn’t understand where his ire was coming from. “So what? Who cares? Why does it have to be real to us if it’s real to him?” Obito argued.

 

Rin and Minato shared a furrowed look. “What do you mean Bito-kun,” Rin probed.

 

“Sensei, when you tell Bakashi that he’s wrong and that what he believes isn’t real, how does he react?” Obito said with the grace of the impatient.

 

“Not well usually,” Minato admitted.

 

“Exactly! My grandma is the same way. She doesn’t know who I am most of the time, and it used to really bother me. She thinks I’m my Dad. I’d correct her, but she doesn’t know who Obito is. She would keep insisting I was my Dad or worse, she’d stop talking to me altogether. She’d stare at the window, and I would lose her for days. When I stopped fighting her one it and just accepted it, things got better. I mean – who cares what my name is, right? I learned a lot more about her and about my parents this way. And it makes her happy. Like really happy because she thinks Dad is still alive,” Obito smiled with affection. “She tells me all the time what a good son I am. I may be her grandson, but I think the compliment still stands. I guess what I’m saying is that her life is better when I don’t fight her delusions. When I do, it really stresses her out, and she shuts down. I think it might be the same for Kakashi. Let him believe what he believes. He’s still Kakashi,” Obito declared with the passion he had been missing at the beginning of the conversation.

 

There was so much to unpack from everything Obito had laid out. Minato hadn’t known about his grandmother. He thought Obito’s grandmother was taking care of him, not the other way around. He’d have to ask Fugaku more about this and anything he could do to help.

 

“You’re right, Obito. Kakashi is still Kakashi,” Rin grinned. Obito grinned back, radiating under Rin’s praise.  

 

Then both the kids turned to look at him, and Minato realized he needed to make a choice. Does he accept where things are or keep fighting for what was lost? Does accepting the way things are now mean that he failed Kakashi, or does he fight for what was failing Kakashi? Minato felt like he was going around in the circle.

 

Every person is important, it doesn’t matter their rank or abilities, and every child deserves to be protected. Minato reminded himself that this is what he believes in. This is what he wanted Konoha to believe. So in this situation, the best thing he can do is accept things the way they are. Regardless of Kakashi’s mental faculties, he was still important and still deserved to be protected. “Kakashi is still Kakashi,” Minato finally agreed.

Chapter Text

Never has Kakashi been so disappointed in himself than in this moment. He has many reasons to find fault in himself, but this stings on another level entirely. Last night he had intended to spy on Minato-sensei to find out what was being kept from him. The couple had worked together to put him to bed, and it worked. It freaken worked on him. How? He was supposed to pretend to fall asleep, not fall asleep. How could Rokudaime Hatake Kakashi fall asleep on a D rank spy mission?

 

Because of suddenly becoming inept, Kakashi still didn’t know what had irritated Minato so much, and Kushina was refusing to tell him too. She insisted that he didn’t need to worry about it because Minato-sensei would handle it. That was not reassuring. But Minato-sensei seemed to be in better spirits this morning.

Kushina-san held a yellow graphic shirt up against his chest. Kakashi was less than impressed with her selection. Clearly, Naruto’s taste in awful colors was an inherited trait from his mother. “Why do you think I would wear a yellow shirt?”



“Because of your gray hair,” Kushina answered promptly.

 

Was that supposed to make sense? “What?”


“Yellow and gray look good together. That’s why you and Minato look cute together.” She pulled the shirt away and laid it across her arm. “You’re like his best accessory.”



“I’m not sure how offended to be,” Kakashi said slowly. He was trying to wrap his mind around this idea.

 

Kushina flashed Kakashi a brilliant smile and yanked a solid green shirt to add to her pile of clothes Kakashi never plans to wear. “Don’t be offended, Kashi-kun; it’s super cute! I liked watching the two of you together and how you would toddle after him,” she gave a wistful smile, “I was so jealous. I need my own cute accessory to follow me around too. I considered forcing Bito-kun, but red and black aren’t cute and soft like yellow and gray are.”

 

Kakashi was utterly unimpressed with Kushina’s description of him. Calling him an accessory was basically calling him useless. “I’m not wearing a yellow shirt, so put it back.”


Kushina whined like the brat she is. “Aww, but Kashi-kun, you can wear it to remind you of Minato when he goes on missions,” Kushina clapped her hands in excitement. “I know! What about a yellow sweater instead? It will feel like Minato is hugging you, ya know!”

Where did Kushina get the idea that he was obsessed with his teacher? Nothing could be further from the truth. “Get yourself a yellow sweater.”



“Great idea, Kashi-kun. I’ll get us matching yellow sweaters, and we can wear them when Minato is gone for a long time.”


“I’ll burn them both,” Kakashi informed her. It wasn’t a threat. If she wanted to waste her money on yellow clothing, let her, but it will burn a fiery death before it got near his body. He glanced up and pulled out his book, letting her know that he fully intended to ignore her even if he was forced to follow her around.



“You’re no fun, Kashi-kun," Kushina complained. "No, matching sweaters then."

 

Kakashi continued to follow Kushina around the store as she shopped. She grabbed various clothes but no longer asked for Kakashi’s feedback. This was fine with him. He would rather keep his nose in the book and pretend he was anywhere but in the boy’s section with Kushina. When she finally announced she was done, Kakashi eyed the pile of clothing she collected. “You do realize I work more than I do anything else, right?”

 

Kushina tsked at Kakashi, “at one point, you did that, but things will be different now. Like I said, we are going for human Kakashi this go around.”

 

"Do you intentionally insult people, or it just happens naturally," Kakashi asked blandly. 

 

Kushina rolled her eyes and got in the line to pay. “I’m not insulting you. I am taking care of you. Let me see this on you,” Kakashi could have dodged the move, but it would have pissed her off in public. He wanted out of the store, but he didn’t want to see it demolished. She shoved a dark gray beanie on his head. She frowned at him, “take off your hitai-ate,” she ordered.

 

“Isn’t that treason?” he asked as he stuffed his book away and slipped the hitai-ate off along with the hat. Kushina caught it before it fell to the floor and roughly pulled it back onto his head, and then adjusted his fringe.



“You look so cool like that!” Kushina declared happily, “I can’t wait to show, Minato.” She then yanked the beanie straight off his head, probably making him look like he was zapped by a lightning jutsu.

 

Why did everything Kushina said and thought about end with Minato-sensei? How annoying. He was suddenly not looking forward to his students dating if this is how they would behave. Well, hopefully, they would at least have the decently to leave him out of it.


Kakashi patted his hair back to its usual style as Kushina chatted with the cashier. He eyed the pile of clothes and tried to guess how much this was going to cost him. He hasn’t been contributing to the household expenses, so he had extra money. The cashier told them the total, and Kakashi was somewhat surprised at how low it was. He had forgotten how much inflation changed the prices. He pulled out his wallet to pay.

 

"I'll pay, Kashi-kun,” Kushina smiled at him.

 

"They are my clothes," Kakashi frowned and went to hand the money off. They paid for so much as it was. They constantly refused his money; what use was it if he couldn’t pay for anything?

 

“And you’re my son, so I get to pay. You can buy lunch if you want. We need to pick up some fancy shit tea for Fugaku, too,” Kushina said and turned back to the cashier. The two of them laughed together over Kakashi’s attempt to pay for his own clothes. He failed to understand why the two women thought it was cute. They were for him, even if they were being forced on him.

 

They left the store with bags of clothes that would never be worn, but at least Kushina seemed happy to waste her money this way. “Let’s get ramen! Then we’ll pick up the tea for that stuck-up bastard!” Kushina thrust one first into the air as if she was expecting some enthusiasm from him.

 

“Why are you buying Uchiha-sama fancy tea if you don’t like him?” Kakashi asked and started off in the direction of Ichiraku. He really didn’t need to ask where she wanted to have ramen: like mother like son.

 

She lowered her fist and quickened her pace to catch up to him. “He’ll complain if I serve him subpar tea. I don’t want to see his whiny face,” Kushina huffed, puffing her cheeks out a bit.

 

Kakashi tried to picture what a whiney face on Uchiha-sama would look like. He couldn’t come up with one. So he tried to think if Sasuke had one since he was his son. He immediately pictured Sasuke sulking. His bottom lip would jut out, and he would either look away or hunch his shoulders forward. That must be what Kushina is referring to. Kakashi’s mental image of Sasuke sulking made Kakashi smile a bit. Sasuke had been a cute genin. Now he would probably just drop Kakashi off in some random dimension instead of sulking. But jokes on him, that damn assassin beat him to it.

 

The duo got to Ichiraku, and immediately Kushina shouted her order. It was an obscene number of bowls. She plopped down onto her stool, and Kakashi ordered a single bowl of miso pork. He had lost weight with all his medical issues, but he found it difficult to increase his appetite. Still, he was trying.

 

"Kushina-san-"

 

"Can't you call me something else?" Kushina interrupted him. 

 

"What?" Kakashi blinked.

 

“Call me something else. I mean,” Kushina paused as she grabbed a pair of chopsticks and broke them in half. “I’m not asking you to call me mom or anything like that. I’m not trying to be rude either, but well, I’m only saying this because you’re not actually a little kid, okay? You’re not the only one gaining a family through this. And I know it’s probably super weird for you, but it’s weird for too. And I don’t want my family to be so formal with me, ya know.”

 

During her speech, Kushina looked anywhere but at him. It made Kakashi feel like such an ass. She had already told him all she lost. Perhaps, she didn’t mention specific people, but he knew the general details. Minato-sensei had grown up as an orphan too. Sensei bringing them together like this was his way of making a family. It was a strange way to go about it, but Kakashi could under the sentiment.

 

"What would you like me to call you?" Kakashi watched her face, trying not to blunder over such a sensitive topic.

 

Kushina blushed and shook her head. Her hair fell in such a way it hid her face from view. “Whatever you feel comfortable with, Kashi-kun. I don’t want to force anything, ya know. But you’re not just Minato’s brat anymore.” Kakashi felt the ending of her statement. Out of everyone he’s encountered in the past, Kushina has been the one to consistently reach out to him. Even when he was rude back to her, she acted like it was nothing. He wondered how much he had actually been hurting her.

 

But how to go about giving her a label? Sensei would stay sensei, so he was relatively easy. Kushina was a bit harder to pin down. Kushina-chan felt too childish to him. He only used chan when he was mocking his students. Mom was simply out of the question. Aunt didn’t seem right to him either. It also didn’t help that Kakashi was older than her. But it was hard to convince anyone else of that when he didn’t reach her shoulder yet. He could go with straight Kushina, but he also didn’t want to disappoint her. “How about Kushina-nee?” he offered.

 

She brightened like the sun itself. “Perfect!” Kushina turned to the ramen that was placed before her and began to hum a happy tune as she ate. Kakashi smiled to himself, glad he could make her happy. She had made herself an ally to him in all this. And she kept supporting him regardless of his bad moods and anger. It really was the least he could do for her.

 

*****

 

Kakashi didn’t expect to feel worn out by following Kushina-nee around in the morning. He trained harder than this, but somehow shopping really took it out of him. They had finished at Ichiraku, and Kakashi did pay. Then they stopped to purchase tea and treats for Uchiha-sama. Kushina-nee had spent a painstaking amount of time picking out the perfect tea for him. Kakashi found it odd that she fretted so much over this, but he couldn’t deter her.

 

When they finally got home, Kushina-nee started boiling the water and plating the treat. "Kakashi, go change. Wear some of your new clothes," Kushina insisted. 

 

“Why? Doesn’t it make more sense to meet him dressed as I am?” Kakashi frowned. This wasn’t supposed to be a social gathering; he wanted information.

 

"No way! This is your first time being introduced to him, so go change," she insisted. 

 

"Is this why you bought me all those clothes? To impress Uchiha-sama," Kakashi asked flatly. 

 

Kushina gave an unconvincing laugh. "What? No. Of course not. Now go change. And put that beanie on! It looked so cute on you!"

 

Kakashi groaned and trudged off to his room with the bags of civilian boy clothes. He dumped them on the floor. This wasn’t Kakashi’s first time meeting Fugaku-sama. He was the one to convince the clan to allow Kakashi to keep Obito’s eye. He said it was a gift and that Obito’s final sacrifice should be honored. There had been objections due to his reputation as a Hatake, but Fugaku-sama had argued admirably on his behalf. In the end, Kakashi was able to keep Obito’s eye, and Fugaku-sama became the clan-head.

 

Kakashi put on a pair of loose dark pants and then dug in the bags for a shirt to go with it. Yellow stuck out among all the dark colors. He hadn’t realized Kushina hadn’t put the yellow shirt back. It had a few shinobi tools across the front. He ran his thumb over the smooth graphic. It looked like something Naruto would wear if it came in orange. He slipped it on. He’d wear it just this once because, for some reason, this meeting was important to Kushina-nee. He grabbed the beanie too and put it on his head. He tied to style the front, but it just looked weird to him. The whole outfit looked and felt weird. He cringed and decided Kushina could help him.  

 

Kakashi walked back into the kitchen with the hat in his hand, "Kushina-nee, how is this suppose to-" Kakashi was cut off when Kushina crushed him into a hug.

 

“You look so cute! Oh my gosh, I knew this was the perfect look for you. Here give me that,” she snatched the beanie from him and pulled it down over his head, and adjusted things until she was happy.

 

"I need a picture. Just give me a minute to get a camera," Kushina rushed off to her room. 

 

“Why do you need a picture?” Kakashi complained. He didn’t want evidence of this. He was trying to do something nice, and now he was regretting it.

 

Kushina returned quickly with the camera and was already taking aim. "Shut up and smile."

 

"I am not smiling," Kakashi told her flatly.

 

"Fine, look like a grumpy child. I don't care." The shutter sounded, and Kakashi rolled his eyes. 

 

"I can't wait to get this developed," Kushina-nee hugged the camera to her chest in giddy happiness. For a moment, she reminded Kakashi of Sakura. 

 

Kakashi glanced at the door when he heard a series of solid knocks. Kushina shoved Kakashi out of the way and barreled to the door. Kakashi regained his footing and watched as Kushina-nee wretched the door open and threw herself into Fugaku Uchiha’s waiting arms. How he was unsurprised by the assault baffled Kakashi.  


Kakashi wanted to disappear at this point but reminded himself he needed to see what information Fugaku-sama may have. This whole meeting was wrecking what he remembered about his childhood. Not that he paid much attention to Kushina-nee or Fugaku-sama at this age. Kushina had been, to take from Kushina’s vernacular, Minato’s accessory. Fugaku-sama hadn’t existed in his small world for another year.


Kushina invited Fugaku inside. Her happiness seemed to infect Fugaku-sama, and he smiled back. The Fugaku he remembered didn’t smile. Of course, he wasn’t clan head yet. He became clan head while Kakashi was on trial for Obito’s death and the possession of his eye.

 

Oh. That was why Kushina-nee and Minato-sensei found it weird he referred to Fugaku as Uchiha-sama. That wasn’t the right title for him yet.


Fugaku offered Kushina-nee a bottle of sake. Kushina politely declined it before accepting it. A stupid ritual, in Kakashi’s opinion. If you both know the other will take it, why not just accept it right away so they could move on? Kushina offered a seat at the low table in the sitting room before heading to the kitchen for the refreshments. That was when she noticed Kakashi standing there awkwardly.


“Don’t be creepy just standing there,” Kushina rolled her eyes. “Just come help me get the tea and shit. Looking like a weirdo,” she muttered the last part.


Kakashi wanted to argue that he wasn’t the one being weird. Fugaku-san smiled, and Kushina-nee was giddy to have him here. They were the ones being weird. Still, he said nothing and followed her into the kitchen. 

 

“I bought a new tea,” Kushina shouted back at Fugaku-san, “Royal Yellow Tea, I have no idea what that means, but it sounded fancy.”



“Your tea selection never ceases to surprise me,” Fugaku said in a light tone. “I’m not even sure where you find them.”



“Bullshit, in that fancy tea store by Ichiraku, ya know,” Kushina placed the teapot on the tray with three cups.



“I can’t say I know it. I don't go out of my way to purchase strange teas. A simple green tea is fine for me,” Fugaku-san returned casually.

 

“What!” Kushina-nee poked her head out of the kitchen to glare at Fugaku, “That isn’t true. You like all these fancy teas. Kashi-kun, grab the tray.”

 

Kakashi lifted the try and was surprised it felt heavy to him. That time in the hospital messed his conditioning a lot more than he thought it did. Of course, being eight might have something to do with it too.

 

“I don’t mind them, but you’re the one that likes fancy teas,” Fugaku-san corrected Kushina-nee.



Kushina-nee plopped down as Kakashi set the tray on the table. “The hell are you talking about? Are you saying you’d be happy with some cheap regular tea?”



Fugaku’s lips twisted into a smirk, and his eyes squinted in mirth, “Yes.”



Kushina-nee gaped and looked down at the teapot, “Then why do I buy expensive weird tea every time you come over?”

 

Fugaku-san huffed a small laugh, “I haven’t the slightest clue. I assumed it was because you liked them.”



Kakashi had to wonder about their relationship. If they had misunderstandings over tea, how did they even function?



“Well, I have it, so we are going to drink it.” Kushina poured the tea into the three cups, then wrinkled her nose, “it looks like piss, ya know.”



Fugaku accepted the cup with both hands. “You did say it was a yellow tea.”

 

“Shut up, no one asked for your opinion, Uchiha,” Kushina muttered and passed Kakashi a cup.

 

Fugaku tried to hid his smile by taking a sip of the tea. His dark eyes swung over to Kakashi, and for a moment, Kakashi felt slightly unnerved. His dark eyes had cooled quickly. Fugaku’s moniker was Wicked Eye, but Kakashi wasn’t sure what Fugaku did to earn such a title. Both of his sons had been incredible with their sharigan. Once again, Kakashi was cursing himself for how little attention he paid this generation.

 

“Hatake Kakashi, correct?” Fugaku asked him.



Kakashi bowed politely, but Kushina answered for him, “He’ll be an Uzumaki soon enough, ya know. Minato already formally adopted him.”

 

Fugaku kept his eyes trained on Kakashi. “You can’t just claim someone else’s child, Kushina-chan.” Kakashi wasn’t sure what he referred to: adoption in general or that Kakashi legally belonged to Minato-sensei, not Kushina-nee.



“Pfft, shut up. I can if I want. You’re just jealous because my son is older than yours, and mine is a genius, ya know.” Kushina grabbed a cracker and smiled as she snapped it off with her teeth.



“That’s unfair. Itachi-chan was just born. You can’t compare him to an 8-year-old prodigy,” Fugaku argued.


This was delving quickly into my kid is better than your kid territory, and frankly, Kakashi was not a kid. “I was told you might be able to help me with my predicament, Uchiha-san. Kushina-nee said she already explained to you what information I’m searching for.”


Fugaku-san placed his cup on the table. “Not one for pleasantries, Kakashi-san? Yes, Kushina said that you believe you are from the future. She gave a compelling argument for why I should believe it but no evidence. I would argue evidence points to delusions caused by severe head injury. The only reason why I am even entertaining this meeting with you is that Kushina insists, and I have learned not to dismiss her out of hand.”


“Hey, you shouldn’t dismiss me at all, ya know,” Kushina grumbled.


Kakashi ignored Kushina-nee’s grumbling and studied the man in front of him. Fugaku-san sat straight with his shoulders pulled back as if his spine was a blade. His movements were precise, and his eyes were sharp. The tight control Fugaku-san displayed commanded the room. For once, Kakashi understood why Fugaku was chosen as the chief of police and clan head. The man knew how to intimidate a room without being overt. Kakashi would like to say he wasn’t intimidated. However, he was in a weakened version of his childhood body. It would be foolish to believe Kakashi could go against Fugaku-san in his prime. Especially since he was unfamiliar with Fugaku’s abilities.


“Is evidence really necessary, Uchiha-san? I’m merely seeking information on time travel ninjutsu if one even exists. Kushina-nee believes you are the person that would know since you were the student of the late Sarutobi Sasuke-san.” Sarutobi Sasuke had been known for his abilities in ninjutsu creation. It was a little-known fact that Uchiha Sasuke had been named after Sarutobi-san with the Sandaime’s blessing. It had been a well-thought-out political move.

 

Fugaku lifted his tea and took a sip; it was an irritating gesture of control. Fugaku-san could decide the pace of this conversation, and unfortunately, Kakashi would have to let him. Kakashi wasn’t sure if he should be irritated because Fugaku-san demonstrated this so blatantly or appreciate that someone was finally treating him as an adult. He was a smart man and clearly didn’t make it a practice to underestimate people. It also told Kakashi that Fugaku-san did know something about time travel. Since he took Kushina seriously and was treating Kakashi as an unknown shinobi instead of a child. Now, Kakashi really wished he hadn’t suffered a moment of weakness and allowed Kushina-nee to bully him into dressing like this. He would rather be sitting here as Konoha shinobi.


Fugaku put the teacup down but didn’t look Kakashi in the eye. Instead, he examined the yellow liquid that remained in the cup. “Kakashi-san, if you are from the future, then let us be plain with one another. You are requesting my help, not Kushina. I am not obligated to assist you. Unless you can prove to me that you have useful information that will help my clan in the future, I don’t see what you have to offer in exchange for information.”


Kushina made a choking noise then smacked her hand against the table, “Now you listen here, you uptight bastard! Kakashi doesn’t have to pay you anything! I asked you to come here, and I’m asking for the information. If you need payment, I’ll give you a seal or something. He’s just a-” Kushina stopped abruptly, and both Kakashi and Fugaku-san stared at her daring her to finish her sentence.


“Just a what, Kushina?” Fugaku gestured towards Kakashi, “you insisted this child sitting before me was a man from the future. I am only treating him as such. This is an exchange between the two of us. You are from the future correct Kakashi-san?” Fugaku turned his attention back to Kakashi.



Kakashi folded his hands and leaned forward, “I am.”



“And do you have any proof of your claim?”



“Do you have proof that you have any knowledge that I’m seeking?” Kakashi countered.



“If you didn’t believe I had any knowledge, would you be sitting in front of me now?” Fugaku-san lifted his teacup again. Silence claimed the air between them. This is where Itachi got his irritating personality, Kakashi decided.



“You have a son,” Kakashi began, but Fugaku-san cut him off with a dismissing wave of his hand.



“Yes, everyone knows that. His birth was celebrated according to clan traditions. Are you going to give me some prophecy over his future?” Fugaku asked blandly, clearly uninterested.

 

Kakashi continued forward, “his name is Sasuke Uchiha, he developed not only the mangekyou but the eternal mangekyou.” Finally, Fugaku’s eyes meet his own, and there is a flash of red. Suddenly, Fugaku’s moniker makes sense. He has the mangekyou.



“What is a mangekyou,” Kushina-nee asked, looking between the two.



Both of them ignored Kushina as they stared at each other, “eternal, you say. There’s only one way, and I would not allow such a thing-”



“Don’t assume you could have stopped it,” Kakashi cut him off.


Fugaku-san twitched and studied Kakashi’s masked face. “Whose eyes does he take?”



“I don’t believe you’ve paid enough for that information, Fugaku-san. Forgive me, but this is not a meeting of friends,” Kakashi smiled.



“No,” Fugaku agreed slowly, “it’s not.” Silence claimed them once more, causing Kushina to squirm, but she remained quiet. “There are ninjutsu that boasts of such power but to actually deliver what they promise remains unseen.”



“What are they called,” Kakashi’s voice was tight.



“Whose eyes,” Fugaku demanded in return.



“Itachi’s.” Fugaku inhaled sharply, and Kushina sat up in alarm.

 

“Wait, why are we talking about eyes? Kakashi, are you telling him about the future? You wouldn’t even tell me anything,” Kushina complained.



“This a trade, Kushina-nee. Please don’t be upset over business,” Kakashi offered her a smile then turned back to Fugaku. “What jutsu?”

 

“There are multiple. Most of them are bastardized versions of an Uzu seal found in their temple in the land of whirlpool. But you are a chuunin; these jutsu would be forbidden knowledge for you.” Fugaku traced the rim of the teacup with his finger.



“I have a great deal of forbidden knowledge at my exposal, Fugaku-san. Are you sure you want to play the rank game with me?” Kakashi raised his brows.



Fugaku seemed to chew on this for a moment. Kakashi knew he had the advantage, and he also knew Fugaku felt the shift in control. “I’m head of the Konoha police. I can’t just give a chuunin knowledge about jutsu that are classified as forbidden.”



Kakashi felt frustration seep into him and narrowed his eyes, “then why are you here? If you couldn’t offer me what I’m looking for, why waste the time, Fugaku-san?”



There was a brief moment of silence as Fugaku-san seemed to continue his internal debate. “As you stated, I was the student of the esteemed Sarutobi Sasuke, who was well known for his experiments with ninjutsu. He often collaborated with the Nidaime. I took a particular interest in ninjutsu creation while under his teaching. I may not be able to give you access to jutsu already classified as forbidden, but if a jutsu has not been classified as such, there is nothing illegal about the development of it or the collaboration with a student.”



Kakashi sorted through Fugaku’s careful explanation. “You’re suggesting an apprenticeship?”

 


“Yes.” Fugaku nodded.



Kakashi didn’t know what to do. He had never held a connection to Fugaku before the trial around Obito’s eye. This would result in another shift. Of course, this very meeting was a shift. But Kakashi needed to get home. He knew thousands of jutsu, but time travel was not one he ever researched. He knew it was dangerous. It wasn’t something he wanted to know, and he didn’t expect such knowledge to ever become necessary for him either. Just a desire to avoid it.

 

On the other hand, Kakashi was also aware of his limitations. He could pick a jutsu apart quickly enough but creating was difficult for him. Chidori was a recreation of Minato-sensei’s Rasengan but with lightning. He found the whole creation process to be exhausting. Since his only original jutsu was stained with a comrade's blood, he refused to create another. Kakashi, on his own, would not be able to create a time travel jutsu. Even with his work with fuinjutsu, he was still lacking, and the progress was slow, grating even. At his core Kakashi understood rules, he could break something down, but he could not create. He was fighting a losing battle, and if he didn’t take the risks necessary to go home, he would be stuck here in the past. He needed to leave before he screwed things up further.



“What would this apprenticeship cost me,” Kakashi asked.



Fugaku-san gave him a sharp look, and suddenly Kakashi realized he was backed into a corner. “I want all the information surrounding the Uchiha Massacre.”



Kakashi felt like he had been struck. That was a steep price. “You ask too much,” Kakashi shook his head.

 

“Then you have another way to get home?” Fugaku countered.



“I have over a thousand jutsu in my head.”


Even if that was true, you still came to me. Meaning you need what you don’t have. You would be gone by now if you knew of a time travel jutsu,” Fugaku-san argued.

 

“Maybe I just don’t have the resources to perform the jutsu necessarily. My body is still healing, and my chakra pool is very small at this age,” Kakashi pointed out.



Fugaku-san leaned forward like a cougar read to snap his jaws around his prey’s neck, “if that is your argument, then you lack the basic understanding of ninjutsu creation. The amount of chakra poured into a jutsu does not make it more powerful. You can do a great deal of damage with the barest amount of chakra if it is focused properly.”



Kakashi remained silent as he studied the Uchiha. Fugaku-san really was quite the opponent. “I won’t accept.”



“Why?”



“The price is too steep. You are asking too much,” Kakashi said firmly.



“Asking for information to save hundreds of people is too much,” Fugaku asked incredulously. Kakashi could tell he was fisting his hands under the table.


“Yes. As you said, it would save hundreds of people. It would completely alter the future I know, and I have no intention of changing the future. And considering what I would be giving up in exchange,” Kakashi shook his head, “I can’t make that exchange.” Peace was what the village has worked for since its founding. They finally achieved it, and Kakashi was not going to exchange that for a few hundred people.



“So, it’s true. My clan is killed off, and you’re going to sit there without trying to help,” Fugaku-san snarled.



“Yes, it’s true. But you don’t know what you’re asking me to exchange. You don’t know the real cost of that information. What those lives managed to secure,” Kakashi pressed.



“Managed to secure? Then tell me. Tell me what genocide managed to secure,” Fugaku hissed. “What is so grand that my family has to sacrifice everything for it? And who are you that you get to decide if it’s worth it?”



“I’m the one that knows what it is, and I’m the one that is withholding the information. The sacrifice has already been made. This has already happened. You are nothing but a ghost to me,” Kakashi snapped.

 

Fugaku’s eyes blazed a fiery red as his mangekyou spun to life. The threat was clear. Kakashi jumped to his feet and settled into a defensive pose. He would not strike first, but he wouldn’t allow Fugaku to hit him for free either. Kushina-nee quickly put herself in front of Kakashi, “Fugaku, what the hell? Both of you need to calm down-Fugaku?” Kushina-nee’s voice lifted in a question.

 

Curious, Kakashi peeked around Kushina to see what Fugaku was doing. Fugaku was staring at Kakashi but not in the eye like he wouldn’t expect a sharingan wielder. He was looking all around Kakashi for an uncomfortable amount of time. Kakashi knew from experience that it didn’t take long for the sharingan to capture, catalog, and interpret things. Fugaku looked terribly confused, and then his attention was pulled to the right of Kakashi. Kakashi followed where Fugaku was looking but saw nothing. The hair on Kakashi’s neck stood up, and he dug into his pants' deep pockets to pull out a kunai. Fugaku clearly saw what they could not. Suddenly, Fugaku lunged forward, and Kushina when to block Fugaku from reaching Kakashi. Fugaku slammed his arm down on her’s and thrust an arm out to help cover Kakashi as a fireball bloomed to life.

 

Fugaku’s clothes and hand smoked slightly, but for the most part, he came out unscathed. Kakashi decided he was wearing fire retardant clothing; it made sense in a clan like the Uchiha. Kakashi allowed Kushina to push him behind her. Still, he kept his eyes trained on Fugaku’s who could see the assassin.

 

Fugaku’s eyes followed the empty space beside him. “It’s attached to you.” That wasn’t what Kakashi wanted to hear, but he wasn’t surprised either.

 

The assassin suddenly appeared for all of them to see. His pale face was twisted in anger, and three horns protruded on the right side of his head, each at a different height. The veins around his pale eyes bulged. The assassin’s ire was directed at Fugaku instead of Kakashi. “Hatake is mine! Only I can kill him, and I will take revenge on behalf of my clan,” the assassin growled.

 

Kakashi mentally cursed. He had been right; this was Otsutuski coming for revenge against him for killing Kaguya. Otsutsuki clan members were notoriously difficult to fight and destructive. So fighting inside the house was going to be a bad idea. The assassin had already used a fire jutsu.

 

Kakashi ran past the adults and out the front door, not bothering with shoes. He knew the assassin would follow him.  A group of shuriken whizzed past him. One of them landed in the door frame. Once a decent distance away, he turned sharply to face his attacker head-on.

 

Kakashi swore he would never wear civilian clothing again as he dug for a weapon. Sure, he had packed some of his arsenals, but they were in unfamiliar locations and were not easy to pull out. He grabbed a kunai, ready to block another attack.

 

The assassin bared his teeth in rage at Kakashi, “only I will spill your blood. Then clan will know the truth about Kaguya-sama. I will take each of you down one by one, and your blood will tell the true story.” 

 

Kakashi's eyes narrowed, and he adjusted to his hold on his kunai. That was a threat against his students. The assassin was not just after him. This trip to the past served a purpose for his enemy, and it wasn't just to give him a headache. Kakashi needed how shooting him into the past helped the assassin’s pan and what was happening to his students.

 

The Otsutsuki charged at him, and Kakashi responded back with his kunai. He hoped to run through the enemy and regroup with Fugaku and Kushina, who had just arrived. The assassin phased to avoid his attack as Kakashi predicted. But as soon as Kakashi passed through, the back of his shit was yanked up. Kakashi found himself yanked off the ground entirely. 

 

Kakashi twisted his body around the arm clung to it as Fugak released a fireball. The assassin disappeared, and Kakashi landed on his feet. 

 

Kakashi searched for the entity, but Fugaku saw him. "Kakashi move," Fugaku bellowed.

 

Kakashi ducked and rolled out of the way as a hand covered in his Chidori swiped over his head. The assassin was using his attack. He could taste the ozone of his own lightning.

 

Gold chains lashed wrapped themselves around the assassin. The assassin snarled and fought against them. His body flickered as he tried to phase but couldn't escape. "Release me!" The assassin screamed. 

 

 Kakashi whipped around and saw Kushina hunched over and panting with gold chains emerging from her back. Kakashi remembered Kushina’s kekkei genkai took a lot out of her. It was a shame Naruto didn’t inherit that trick.

 

The assassin fought hard against the chains sending out shockwaves of chakra. Kakashi began to feel lightheaded. He stumbled as the world spun. What was happening? The world tipped on him suddenly, and he found himself being caught by Fugaku-san. His eyes rolled back, and Kakashi knew no more. 

Chapter Text

Minato quickly walked through the familiar halls of the hospital. He had received a message from one of Fugaku's clan members. It told him that Kakashi had been attacked by the assassin and Kushina and Fugaku were with him in the hospital. Fear gripped Minato in a painful vice as he considered the worst possible outcomes of the attack. Surely if Kakashi was dying on them again, they would have mentioned it. But there were worse things than dying.

Minato skirted past some medics and rejected their offers of aid. He knew exactly where he was heading. He wasn't an overly talented sensor, but you didn't need to be when Kushina glowed like a beacon. A medic escort would just slow him down.

Minato entered the room and quickly scanned it. He had hoped to find a medic there, but none were in the room. Kakashi was sleeping on the hospital bed. He looked alright, still had all his limbs; he looked pale, though. Kushina and Fugaku were standing close to each other off to the side of the room.

"Minato, you're here. Kakashi is fine," Kushina headed off his first question.

"Then what happened? Why is he here?" Minato gestured towards his sleeping chuunin.

Kushina slipped her arm in his and leaned against him. "The assassin showed up suddenly while we were meeting. We had a short fight with it, and I managed to capture it with my chains, but then the assassin disappeared. Immediately afterward, Kakashi passed out from chakra exhaustion," Kushina explained.

"But he's fine," Minato clarified.

"Yes," Kushina reassured him and squeezed his arm.

Minato covered Kushina's hand with his to thank her. "Did we get any new information? Maybe why the assassin is trying to kill him?" Minato asked.

Fugaku tucked his arms in his sleeves and nodded, "yes. I believe I have some new information on how the assassin operates as well as a possible motive."

"Tell me," Minato ordered. His mouth pressed tightly as Fugaku-san inclined his head.

"The assassin is directly attached to Kakashi-san's chakra system, much like a parasite. All of the assassin's attacks utilize Kakashi-san's chakra. Thus this assassin is not a person but a chakra construct that is feeding off of Kakashi-san's chakra even now," Fugaku-san explained.

So, he has chakra exhaustion because both Kakashi and the assassin are using his chakra. The assassin is also siphoning his chakra when he's not visible to us," Minato clarified.

Fugaku gave a sharp nod to Minato's summary. "When the assassin was capture by Kushina's chains, he tried to overpower the chains binding him. He was not able to phase out of them immediately, nor could he attack properly. The assassin then kept expelling chakra in waves until he was suddenly gone. Not even my sharingan could detect him. Kakashi-san then passed out," Fugaku explained.

"I see," Minato frowned. This put a new level of danger to Kakashi's situation. This was a force that was constantly with him, rather than an outside threat seeking him out. "You mentioned a possible motive?"

"Revenge for someone named Kaguya. Does the name sound familiar? I suspect this person is dead, and Kakashi had a hand in it. The assassin also suggested that the original has plans to go after the others he blames," Fugaku droned on. This was probably similar to cases he worked on in the police force.

Minato frowned. Kaguya, he knew that name. Kakashi mentioned it once to the Hokage. "The moon goddess and mother of Chakra. Kakashi said that he and his students had killed her."

"A reference to the future. The assassin said that Kakashi-san's blood would tell the truth of her death to the Otsutsuki Clan. I am familiar with this clan name. It's an ancient clan that the Sage of Six Paths was said to be from. The Uchiha clan is believed to be Indra's descendants, the firstborn son of the Sage," Fugaku explained.

Minato looked at Fugaku curiously. He had not heard this story. "Is this information that Kakashi could have come across?"

"Unlikely. As with most clans, we do not share our origin story lightly. It is important to the case, so I make an exception here."

Minato bowed to Fugaku, "thank you for your trust."

"It is my duty to protect the citizens of Konoha. The niidaime entrusted my clan with this. I would be doing an injustice to hold clan secrets closer to the heart than those I swore to serve and protect," Fugaku bowed his head in reverence. The weight of his conviction settled in the room, and Minato found himself impressed.

"You care a great deal for this village. Thank you, Fugaku-san," Minato smiled.

"It is my duty as a member of one of the founding clans. Has Kakashi spoken more about the future to you?" Fugaku inquired.

"Here and there, but I put little credence in it," Minato admitted.

"You don't believe him, despite Kushina's theory."

Minato's smiled wavered, and his back teeth ground together. Somehow embarrassment over his lack of belief flared through him. "And you do?" Minato asked instead. "You know he had a head injury. Kogetsu-sensei herself said that this kind of talk wasn't unusual for someone with a severe head injury. It's a coping mechanism," Minato defended himself. He looked to Kushina beside him to back him up, but she remained silent.

"I thought you studied fuinjutsu, Minato. The Uzumaki's were said to even possess a time travel fuinjutsu. I know of a handful of ninjutsu that are time-related. What reason would you have to lay your doubt? Do you just not want it to be true?" Fugaku pressed. Minato shifted his weight on his other foot and rubbed the back of his neck. Fugaku decided to continue, "Perhaps you just don't want it to be true. But then you are missing a massive opportunity. But I suppose he hasn't mentioned anything to you that is worrisome. After all, it is not your clan or family that is set to die."

Minato jerked his head up as if he had been slapped. "Fugaku-san, that isn't why-Kogetsu-sensei insisted that it was due to brain injury. He was speaking nonsense."

"Forgive me, Minato-san, but I don't believe Kogetsu-sensei is a shinobi. From what I know of her, she is a fantastic doctor, but she does not know or understand what we are capable of. You do not have that same excuse."

Minato knew he was not making excuses. He was following medical advice. As far as Minato was concerned, he was doing the best he could. "If Kakashi was honestly from the future, he would be trying to change things for a better outcome. He's not one to hold back. If the Uchiha massacre will actually take place, he would have taken steps to stop it. I know my student. He's not heartless."

"Do you? Do you know your 33-year-old student? I'm sorry, Minato-san, but I am hard-pressed to believe that. The conversation I had today was unlike any conversation I could have had with a child. He was a skilled negotiator, careful with his wording, and didn't try to impress me. I was giving more than I was receiving. I was clearly not speaking to a child. What do you have to say to that?" Fugaku lifted his chin and looked down his nose at him in a challenge.

Minato hated when people looked down on him like that, and it seemed to be happening a lot today. "I would say that head trauma is still a possibility and one that should not be ruled out so quickly."

"Minato-" Kushina complained, releasing his arm.

"No, Kushina," Minato spared her a glance then focused back on Fugaku, "He has legitimate injuries. He has actual physical trauma that can account for all this. Forgive me for not being willing to assume everything he says is true and go about making a fool of myself over the prophecy of a head wound!"

"Minato," Kushina snapped.

"What," Minato bit back with just as much venom. Kushina gestured towards Kakashi, and dread filled him. He turned and saw Kakashi staring at him with a blank expression. He knew that look all too well.

The first time Kakashi killed someone, it had been a Kiri-nin. He slit the man's throat, and the warm spray had coated his hand and face. Kakashi had stared down at the nin for some time with that same expression on his face. Minato had finished off the other three on his own. He approached him slowly, trying to decide how to handle the scene in front of him. Slowly he crouched down beside Kakashi and asked him if he was alright. Kakashi didn't look away from the lifeless body and said, "I'm not the one dead, Sensei." At that moment, Minato wasn't sure he believed him. Much of that boy was lost that day, and Minato felt himself internally scream at seeing that expression again. He had caused it then, and he had caused it now. Why was it that Minato kept hurting the boy he was trying to protect?

"Kakashi, that's not- It came out wrong," Minato tried. He did mean it, but not in the way it was said.

Kakashi blinked slowly, "it's fine sensei, I never asked you to believe me. I won't ask you to believe me even now. I just need you to stay out of the way."

Minato sucked in a breath as he studied the boy. He took a step forward, hoping to bridge this awful gap developing between them. "Kakashi, I'm trying to help."

"I know that, but regardless of how you feel about the situation, I need to go home. The assassin is part of the Otsutsuki clan. You don't know them, of course, because you never fought them. But I have. Even one Otsutsuki is enough to wreak havoc. Frankly, I'm surprised how quiet this assassin is. Normally they are far more destructive than this," Kakashi fisted the blankets revealing some of the emotions his face and voice did not. Minato just didn't know what that feeling was.

Kakashi was right that Minato knew nothing of the Otsutsuki clan beyond the story Fugaku had just shared with him. This assassin claimed to be a part of this fairy tale clan, and Fugaku seemed fully invested in the story. Fugaku was not a man easily swayed by stories of fantasy. He was the chief of police. He knew how to interrogate and dig for the truth.

Fugaku jumped in, "It is likely because the assassin is a chakra construct that is using your chakra."

Kakashi nodded, "I don't have a lot of it currently. That is probably what is hindering the assassin so much. I wonder how much autonomy the chakra construct has?" Kakashi narrowed his eyes in thought, "if the original simply left it with orders or if it also houses the original's will."

Fugaku frowned and walked closer to Kakashi's bed, "It would take a great deal of chakra to create an entity to house the original's will as well."

"Would it? Perhaps," Kakashi mulled on this. "Unless it's an echo of intention."

"How would that be different than orders?" Fugaku questioned.

"Nuances, but sometimes nuances make all the difference. If the chakra construct is only following orders, then it doesn't know anything beyond its orders. If it is a reflection of the original's will or intent, then there's an opportunity to extract information," Kakashi explained. He looked over at Kushina, "Your chains briefly imprisoned this chakra construct. Perhaps with a seal, we could permanently capture it. Suppose we can extract information from the assassin. In that case, I may find what I need to return," Kakashi then turned his attention to Minato, who had been quiet during the exchange, "And you can have your Kakashi back. Hopefully, we can also undo this mess you created."

"I didn't create a mess," Minato defended himself.

Kakashi speared Minato with an incredulous look. It was undeserved. Everything Minato did was to protect Kakashi. If he hadn't acted, Kakashi would likely have been shipped off to some strange mentorship program under Danzo, and Danzo didn't even like Kakashi! Minato couldn't see that being a conducive learning experience. Besides, Kakashi needed a safe place to recover. A place that he would have help when this construct suddenly appears.

"Kakashi," Kushina snatched the room's attention. There was something about her tone that sent alarms blaring in Minato. Perhaps it was the lack of suffixes or the cold anger in her eyes. Kushina burned hot, not cold. This was a new experience for Minato. He tensed, wondering if he would have to shield the boy from whatever Kushina was about to unleash. "Kakashi, I will help you get rid of this chakra construct because it is trying to kill you, but I won't help you capture it."

Kakashi looked just as startled as Minato felt. Kushina had always been Kakashi's alley in all this. A knot grew in Minato's stomach as he glanced between the two.

"What," Kakashi questioned; his tone was flat, and his brows hunched together.

"You heard me," Kushina's voice remained firm.

"Why," Kakashi demanded.

"Kakashi, I was at that meeting. I saw how you played with information about the future. You could save people, and when given a chance, you won't do it. Well, I may have the opportunity to help you get back home, but I won't do it either." Minato clearly missed something big. Something happened in the meeting that Kushina was particularly angry about.

Kakashi looked like he had been struck. He leaned back, and his eyes were blown wide. "Kushina-nee," Kakashi pleaded. Minato's heart twisted sharply and fell into his gut.

"Kushina, don't you think that's going a bit far. If he really is from the future, he should be returned," Minato said quietly. He reached out to take her hand in his, but she slipped her hand out and took a step away from him and towards Fugaku-san.

Kushina shook her head. "No, and if you help with a seal, Minato, I'll make sure you regret it for the rest of your life," she threatened him. Minato suddenly felt like the floor had disappeared. What the hell happened while he was gone?

Kushina turned her attention back to Kakashi, "I don't understand how you could turn your back on Konoha, and I won't be a part of it. If you're going to stand by that decision, then you will live with that decision here, where you can see it play out." Kushina then turned on her heel and stormed out, stripping the room of any warmth it had remaining. Everyone started after her. Fugaku then bowed and followed her out without a word.

Minato and Kakashi were left alone in the room. It took Minato a moment to find his words. He raked a hand through his hair and turned to Kakashi. "Kashi-kun, I think we need to have a talk about comrades."

 

Chapter Text

Chakra exhaustion pulled at Kakashi like gravity. His bones were made of lead, and his fingers felt swollen. Bending them was painful. His eyelids hung lower than usual, framing his vision with lashes. The chair scraped across the floor with an unflattering sound as Minato-sensei pulled it closer to his bed. Kakashi would rather be anywhere but here.


“Sensei, I’m really tired. We can talk another time,” Kakashi sighed. He was not above using a medical excuse to get out of a heart-to-heart like the one Minato-sense was clearly geared up to have with him.

 

Kakashi had a healthy respect and fear of talk-no-jutsu. He had seen Naruto employ it on some of the most powerful enemies they have encountered, and it freaken worked. It shouldn’t have, but it did. Kakashi had wondered if it was some sort of Kekkei Genkai he inherited from Minato since he didn’t get the Uzumaki chains. But Kakashi was the Sixth Hokage, and frankly, Minato-sensei was just a jounin and a decade younger than Kakashi. Minato-sensei didn’t know what it meant to be Hokage yet. With that thought, he squared his shoulders to face him.

 

Minato smiled hesitantly at Kakashi. It was slow and slightly forced. “Kashi-kun, how about you just start by telling me what happened at the meeting with Fugaku-san? Then we can see where things go from there,” Minato-sensei suggested.

 

Kakashi immediately decided he didn’t like this new approach. It sounded too willing to understand. Based on his experiences with Minato-sensei, he wasn’t trying to understand anything. It was a lie. Kakashi fisted the blanket on his lap. “It doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t understand it.”

 

“Only because you are not explaining it to me. I am sure if work together, I could,” Minato’s voice was gentle and his eye imploring. After the harshness from Kushina, Kakashi wasn’t ready to handle his kindness. A part of him wanted to melt into it. He needed to channel Sasuke for this. So far, Sasuke had been the best at resisting this technique. Or Kakashi could make Minato think he agreed with him so that the conversation would end sooner. A ploy for a ploy.

 

“As I said, the Otsutsuki is a very dangerous clan. He threatened my students, Sensei, but I am stuck here in the past. I’m in a useless body, and my students are-,” Kakashi shook his head, letting his bangs fall into his eyes. “I don’t have time to be sitting here arguing about things.” Kakashi studied Minato’s sympathetic features. He was good. Minato usually retreated the moment he mentions the future. Instead, he was quiet and listening. Kakashi decided to throw an emotional tie to distract Minato. “Your son is my student. I need to get back to protect him,” Kakashi added quietly. Naruto could handle himself. He was a dumbass, but he could manage without Kakashi’s assistance. Minato-sensei didn’t know that, though.

 

Minato’s eyes widened, "My son?" 

 

Kakashi nodded his head. “Yes, the assassin had said that my and my students’ blood would tell the story of what happened to Kaguya. We sealed her away after a massive battle. This battle unifies the shinobi nations, and the result brought peace to our land.”

 

Minato-sensei looked conflicted while he shared the story. When Kakashi finished, Minato’s expression changed, and he examined Kakashi with sharp, calculating eyes. Was he looking for lies? He still believed that Kakashi was delusional, so probably.

 

“And the Otsutuski clan is not aware of the seal?” Minato asked. Kakashi thought Minato would focus on the concept of peace, but instead, he kept focused on the current threat.

 

Kakashi sighed, not really wanting to go into this. “I’m not sure. Kaguya had been the matriarch of that clan before coming here. It’s a long and old story, but she had two sons. One is the sage of Six Paths—Yada yada yada. The important thing is that the clan is very dangerous. They are after my students and your son,” Kakashi stressed, “I have to get home to them.” Kakashi knew how outrageous this story sounded regardless of how true it was. Minato wouldn’t believe him, but if Kakashi seemed cooperating, the subject would be dropped sooner.

 

Minato leaned back in his chair and seemed to mull this over, "does Kushina know about this?"

 

"Why would I tell this to Kushina? I never said it was her son." 

 

"It's her son," Minato said confidently. "What did you say to Fugaku that ticked them both off?"


This was the topic Kakashi had been trying to avoid. It made him look bad. “It was more of what I wouldn’t tell them. The future needs to be protected, Sensei. We finally achieved peace. Real peace. I can’t risk it because someone may have to die. We are shinobi; we die.”



Minato-sensei was strangely quiet. His eyes wear searching him, but Kakashi wasn’t sure he wanted to know what he was seeing. “Shinobis, do die,” Minato agreed slowly, “People die. Civilians, children, moms, dads, teammates all die at some point. But Kashi-kun, it’s our job to protect our precious people.”



“I am,” Kakashi argued and then amended, “I’m trying to.”



“You’re referring to your students,” Minato raised his brows.



“Yes,” Kakashi watched Minato’s face trying to gauge what he was going to say next.



“What about Obito?” Minato asked.



The question felt like a slap. It burned Kakashi physically as much as emotionally. “What about Obito?” Kakashi focused on keeping his voice level.



“You mentioned an Uchiha massacre when you first woke up after the initial attack. Do you really think he wants his entire family murdered?” Minato asked.



Kakashi sighed. A headache was developing behind his eyes, “Sensei, I’m not going to go into this with you. It happened. It’s done with. They’re all just ghosts. I’m not going to risk certain peace for some ghosts.”



Minato frowned and leaned forward, “you mean you’re willing to let Obito die for peace.”



Kakashi frowned and met Minato in the eyes, “I mean, it doesn’t matter to you because they’re just prophecies from a head wound.”



Minato flinched and sat back. “Kakashi, I didn’t mean it like that-”



“You did.” Kakashi corrected him. “I told you already, I don’t need you to believe me. I need you out of my way.”



“Kakashi, I’m trying to help. Fugaku-san says I should listen to you more closely. I’m sorry that I haven’t. I’m sorry that I was dismissive. I should have spoken to you about the adoption and the moving and just...listened. I was so wrapped up in protecting you that I missed what you and everyone else were telling me. I’ll do better, Kashi. I promise,” Minato looked at him with such earnest eyes it felt like a vow. Somehow it was both relieving and painful at the same time. Like when a knife is finally pulled out of your side. But he couldn’t relish the feeling.



“Minato, if you’re going to listen to me, then do so now. I don’t think it’s too late to fix the timeline. If you can find a way to un-adopt me, we can put some things back the way they were. Then just help me figure out how to get back home,” Kakashi tried.



Minato opened and then closed his mouth. A troubled look passed over his face, and he looked up at the ceiling, “I can try, but it would be rather difficult. It would put me in a difficult position.”



“If you stay connected to me, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the needed votes to become Hokage,” Kakashi argued, trying to convince him.



Minato continued staring at the ceiling. “How can I be Hokage if I can’t even protect my student?”



Kakashi blinked, “What? I’m fine.” He had expected Minato to be more excited about the prospect of becoming Hokage, not become introspective.



“You’re in the hospital again, Kakashi,” Minato said flatly.


“But I’m not dead. Sensei, you should know by now you can’t protect everyone. You’ve been a shinobi long enough,” Kakashi scolded him. Then, like being doused with cold water, Kakashi realized Minato-sense may not actually know this. It was true the Minato-sensei had lost colleagues on the battlefield, but he hadn’t been close to him. As large as his social circle may be, very few were part of his inner circle. Obito had been the first in Minato’s inner circle to be lost. Rin followed after him. Sensei had changed significantly after their deaths. He mellowed out and looked at things more critically, perhaps even pessimistically. He had accepted the Hokage position to honor his fallen students and with a drive to protect children like them. This Minato had yet to suffer like that. He had never buried a child. Kakashi was Minato’s first close encounter to losing someone in his inner circle, except Kakashi didn’t die. Even if Kakashi puts things back the way they were, the effects of his near-death had changed Minato. It has likely changed Rin and Obito too. Shit. How could he fix this?



“I can at least try, Kakashi. So can you,” Minato’s voice broke through Kakashi’s thoughts.

 


“I really can’t,” Kakashi murmured.



“Why?” Minato pressed.



“That’s not how it works. I need to focus on the needs of the village as a whole. You don’t understand because you haven’t become Hokage yet,” Kakashi said, frustrated. Sensei was little more than a child himself. Kakashi didn’t consider his students to be adults. They were a group of idiots who act like children still. It was endearing, sure, but they weren’t much younger than Minato was currently. Kakashi didn’t expect Naruto to understand all of his decisions. He had to explain them to Naruto. Does he dare explain them to Minato?


“Yet? Are you suggesting I become Hokage?” Minato asked.



Kakashi snorted at the gleeful look on his young Sensei’s face. Did he just pick up on that now? He only said it twice. “Are you doubting yourself? Honestly, Sensei have a little faith.”



“I’m not doubting myself!” Minato-sensei sputtered, causing Kakashi to smile. Minato looked a bit like Naruto at this moment. “I’m just...excited at the thought. I mean, if it’s real or not, it means you have faith in me.”



“I’ll always have faith in you, Sensei.” Kakashi did have faith in his teacher. If Minato had survived longer, Minato would have gone on to do great things for the village. Instead, he ended up being little more than propaganda. He could save his sensei of such an undignified fate. But what use did the dead have for dignity?



“When do I become Hokage?”



“Prophecies of a head wound, Sensei,” Kakashi reminded him.



The way his sensei’s face fell, he wanted to laugh. “That’s unfair. I told you I didn’t mean it like that. I’m trying to listen more.”

“Maaa, and I have no intention of telling you more.” Kakashi leaned back against the wall. The chakra exhaustion was crashing down on him. “Sensei, if you were Hokage, you realize you would have to make decisions every day that may cost someone their life. You would have to decide if the benefit of that mission outways the value of the life you send out. How could you possibly do that when you intend to save everyone?”

He was answered initially by silence. Minato’s eager, boyish face turned somber. He looked more like what Kakashi remembered of the 4th Hokage. “That’s a difficult question,” Minato-sensei started slowly. “Especially when I consider today’s institution. We have an education system designed to create shinobis. Both civilian and clan families alike are required to send their kids to the academy. We take those with any talent and graduate them to become genin. Those that fail are returned to their family to learn a trade. If the shinobi system was voluntary rather than required, then I would know they have the heart to sacrifice what is needed for the village when I assign those missions. For me, that heart changes everything.”

 

Kakashi was thoroughly impressed by the naivety of that plan. That wasn’t how things worked. Clans would force their children to become shinobis, and civilian children romanticize what being a shinobi is. By the time the child actually understands what they signed up for, it’s too late.”


Kakashi shook his head, “You can’t guarantee, even in such a system, that your shinobi will have that heart. Clan children will still not have a choice, and civilian children won’t understand what they’re even signing up for.”

 

"I want to restructure the academy. Make an academic approach and then in later grades separate those interested in shinobi arts," Minato explained. 

 

"What?" That was all Kakashi could say. Core academy classes in their first year revolved around the writing and hand signs. He learned to write kunai before rice. Kakashi couldn't picture an academy that didn't focus on shinobi arts. How would you even study math if you are not calculating shuriken throwing distance? Shuriken A is thrown at an average speed of 83 kilometers per hour, leaving the hand at the precise moment as another shuriken, Shuriken B, departs a different hand, being thrown at an average speed of 95 kilometers per hour. If these shuriken are inadvertently placed on the same plane and start precisely 9 meters apart, how long until they collide?


Minato flashed him a small smile. “Well, I mean. Let’s take you, for example. You didn’t have a choice about becoming a shinobi. I know you’ll say you would have become one no matter what, but I don’t think others would have. I don’t think Rin would have become a shinobi if she had been given other options. I knew several classmates who did not have the heart to be shinobi and died doing something they hated. People put their children into our academy knowing they would like leave as shinobi, but most of them don’t survive their first year of their hitai-ate.” Minato sighed and shook his head. “I have even heard that some parents instruct their children to fail the academy just to protect them; to protect them from the village. Kakashi, it should be like that.

“Worse still, civilians are mistreated because they failed the academy. It’s a shame they have to bear for the rest of their lives. But then the academy turns out children like you. Naturally gifted, but they rob you of your childhood. You were on the frontline and made your first kill before you lost your first tooth. There’s something wrong with that.” Minato dragged in a heavy breath. “There’s a lot wrong with that. I want to change that. I realize that being Hokage will require making had decisions. But I can try to make things better, and I want to start by fixing how the academy functions.”



“Sensei, that would cripple Konoha forces. At least in the immediate future. I am not saying it is a bad idea, but we don't live in a world that makes that a viable option yet." Currently anyways. Kakashi may manage a restructure like that, but he would need to get back to his own time.



“But I can try to make it work,” Minato pressed with such convection and optimism that Kakashi almost didn’t want to break him, but he wouldn’t have to worry about that. The death of Rin and Obito will break this man. The Fourth Hokage had lost a lot of this optimism.



“Sensei, let’s talk about this tomorrow.” A compassionate look crossed Minato’s features, and Kakashi had to swallow an apology. He could apologize to his grave when he got back, now wasn’t the time.



“Sure, Kashi-kun, get some sleep. I’m just gonna step outside for a bit. I’ll be right back.” He pushed his chair back and got up, leaving the room.

 

Kakashi suspected that Minato intended to stay the night with him. If that was the case, he needed to act quickly. Hopefully, Kushina didn’t put any seals in the room, so he could escape without alerting anyone. Kakashi swung his feet off the bed and ignored the dizziness that often came with chakra exhaustion. He knew exactly where he was going to go. It was the one place his childhood self would get within fifty feet of.

******

The Hatake house stood abandoned but in a much better state than Kakashi last remembered it. The door was in place, and the windows were intake. It had a lifeless feeling to it, but so had every place he had ever lived in. The cypress boards of the tori entrance were vandalized with graffiti. The words were not unfamiliar to Kakashi; they were terms hurled at him and branded his mind. They had driven him to be better, and he used them as kindling to keep him burning during long missions. The main difference was the vandals hadn’t gone past the fence yet. Perhaps they were too afraid of Sakumo’s ghost believed to be guarding the building.


Kakashi pushed the gate opened, and it groaned in protest, like waking a sleeping giant. Despite being 33, the hair on Kakashi’s neck stood straight, and a deep shiver spiked down his spine. He mentally scolded himself for being spooked by a noise. Kakashi closed the gate behind him and walked the path to the front of the house.



Wild grass partially consumed the stone walkway. It was little more than a narrow path now. Kakashi stepped up onto the porch, and it flexed under his weight. The wood of the porch and the front of the house was greying ins some parts. Every spring Sakumo had reapplied the black oil to the wood. He remembered that the last spring Sakumo was alive, he hadn’t reapplied the oil. Perhaps Kakashi should have taken that as a sign, but he had been too young. Now the wood was losing its color from the neglect.  

 

Kakashi paused at the door. He wondered if he should knock, but who would answer? He slid the door open and invaded the space. “I’m home,” Kakashi announced himself to the dark void. The clack of the door closing behind him echoed in the dark. He leaned over and brushed off his bare feet, then stepped up onto the tatami.

 

The sitting room was as he remembered it. In the middle of the room was a hearth. During the cold winter nights, Kakashi would drag his futon next to it to sleep. Inside of the cold ashes was a dark kettle he only remembered after seeing it. Kakashi decided to light the hearth first so it would remove the unusual chill.

 

Kakashi coaxed it into an inviting glow. He shuddered the cold off as his eyelids drooped nearly closed. He briefly considered finding a futon but never managed to get up. Kakashi laid on his side and watched the embers smolder. He could almost hear his father unrolling a scroll and humming tunelessly. The red light danced behind his eyelids, and he hummed in time with his father.

 

*****

 

A rodent woke Kakashi when it scurried past his face. He groaned and shoved himself up as his muscles spasmed and knotted under the effort. Chakra exhaustion sucked.

 

Kakashi curled his sore legs under him when he sat up and dragged a hand down his face. He must have slept through the night. He was a bit surprised Minato hadn’t found him yet, but he didn’t complain. Minato had caused Kakashi far more problems than anything else. At least now, he could finally focus. He frowned. All his research material was at Minato’s house. Maybe he could put his chakra exhaustion to good use. If he represses what he currently has, then Kakashi would be untraceable. It would make him dizzy, and he couldn’t manage it long, but he had plenty of practice doing this.

 

The first part of establishing a safe house is to gather needed supplies. In this case, research material was part of the required supplies. That was going to be the most difficult to obtain. Should he even risk it? Kakashi wiggled his toes as if to remind himself of other things he needed, like shoes. He doubted anything left here would fit him.

 

Sensei was likely out looking for him, so he wouldn’t be at the house. Kakashi couldn’t use his chakra right now. If he stays out of sight, though, he should be able to get in and out without a problem.

 

Sensei’s house wasn’t all that far from the Hatake house. If Kakashi was less tired, he might be worried over their proximity. Instead, he felt grateful. Sensei used seals to protect his house. But seals responded to chakra, not movement. Kakashi felt dead on his feet and would more likely vomit on the seal than set it off.

 

Kakashi couldn’t go through his bedroom window because his dumbass used physical traps. He didn’t have the energy to dodge them. So, he snuck around the house until he realized no one was home. That made the task significantly more straightforward. Kakashi could just walk through the front door because he had a key.

 

Kakashi wasted no time and retrieved his box of research and gathered what he hid in his room. He stuffed some of his clothes in the box and pulled his shoes on his feet. He left most everything else. He didn’t know when they would be back, and he didn’t want to try his terrible luck. He locked the door behind him and headed back to the Hatake house.

 

The world tilted sharply, and Kakashi stumbled, bumping against a nearby wall. Still, he was determined to keep his chakra down. He could release it when he got to the house. His vision continued to swim, and he couldn’t get his hand on the handle of the front door. Kakashi gave up and released his chakra. The world spun quickly before settling back into place.

 

Finally back, Kakashi dropped his box inside and removed his shoes. Under the light of the day, he could see the house more clearly. The chill was still present, but it didn’t look like a dark void. Kakashi tugged on the peeling paper on one of the lattice walls. It was a project for the winter when they spent more time inside. Kakashi remembered getting some glue stuck in his hair, but he didn’t remember how they got it out.

 

There was a desk attached to the wall in the sitting room. Sakumo often wrote his mission reports there. The brushes he used were still there, along with the inkstone. The tips of the brushes were dry and crunched under his fingers.

 

On the other side of the wall were the kitchen and dining room. There was also a hallway that led to the other rooms in the house.

 

Kakashi decided to go find the futons. He had slept in the same room with his father, so their futons would be stacked together. His steps stuttered to a stop when he got to the study. Echoes of emotions rang hollow in his chest. Should he go in? Weariness weighed on his bones. He was too brittle to deal with that room right now. 

 

Kakashi moved past the room and went into the bedroom. It was an empty but open space. Perhaps he inherited his decorating skills from his father. Along the back wall was a cabinet with a painted scene of mountains and farmers. Women were carrying large baskets strapped to their backs and men working among the neat rows of plants. Children were among them. There was a town, but it was undescriptive, just blank ink dots. His father explained that this was to remind the Hatakes where they came from. They were farmers, born to grow and nurture things. That didn’t really describe Kakashi.

 

Kakashi pulled the cabinet open and found the futons. He pulled one down and wadded pieces of the cotton rained down on him. Kakashi frowned and examined the futon. There was a large hole in it, likely from rodents. He had little hope for the one under it but checked it just the same. Kakashi groaned. Of course, the bedding would be bad. Nothing could ever be easy. He shoved the futons back, unwilling to deal with it. Higher up, he found some extra blankets. They didn’t appear gnawed on, so he gathered them up and dragged them to the sitting room. Kakashi was hungry and thirsty, but he was too exhausted to take care of it. He laid the blankets out on the floor and crawled under one so that he could lay on the rest. This time the only thing he heard was the scratching of mice.

 

*****

 

The cool stream swirled around Kakashi's bare feet. It felt pleasant under the heat of the sun. It had been seasonally cool lately, but this seemed to be the exception. Kakashi hand managed to catch a fish. He marveled at how self-sufficient the Hatake house was. It shouldn’t surprise him as much as it did because the Hatake Clan was not from Fire Country. They had come from further north. Suspicion surrounded the clan because of this. When his father failed that mission, it became difficult for them to buy from the market. Kakashi wondered if it had been difficult on the clan when they first arrived in Konoha too. He supposed that answer was lost to history.

 

Kakashi put his sandals back on and grabbed his water buckets and the fish he had strung on a line. He followed the overgrown trail back to the house. He had to cross through the remains of a garden, but curiosity stopped him. The garden was being taken over by the forest, and there was dead foliage everywhere. He doubted anything was growing, but he should check anyways.

Kakashi carefully wandered through the garden. He brushed away thick layers of brown leaves, searching for any of the vegetables that had grown here in his youth. He found asparagus shoots pushing through the dirt. Kakashi hadn’t been fond of asparagus as a child but seeing them now made him smile. He cleared more of the damp foliage so they could get more sunlight. He also found garlic and green onion were growing abundantly further in. He took some of both. There were orange squash blossoms that dotted a section of the garden. It was nothing like that garden that had been carefully tended to by his father but finding some life in it was a relief.

Against the house, Kakashi saw some gardening tools like on the painted cabinet. He couldn’t tell you what they were for or how to use them properly even after the D rank missions. Most of those were just pulling weeds. He could come up with several ways to weaponize them. He let out a disappointed sigh and looked at the bulb of garlic and the onion he pulled. These would go well with his fish, at least.



The unmistakable sound of a chicken drew Kakashi’s attention to the end of the garden by the forest. It was brown, and he could see what he thought were a few more among the trees. He had forgotten they owned chickens. His father really had been self-sufficient. He could probably follow them to where they were nesting and gather some eggs. For a moment, Kakashi relished in the fact that it was going to be okay. He could stay here and focus on getting back.

 
******

The Tatami mats were gone. It was the first thing Kakashi noticed when he entered the office that he had avoided all his life. He stepped onto the exposed wooden subfloor. It made sense that they had been removed; the blood would have attracted animals and bugs. He just hadn’t expected it when he finally decided to open the door.  

 

It wasn’t just the tatami that was gone. The entire room was empty except for the desk and the shelves. All the scrolls, the paperweight made of jade, his brushes and pens, even the zabuton cushion his father sat on were gone. Nothing lined the shelves. It was empty.

 

Kakashi had expected to walk into a flood of emotions. The anxiety on the other side of the door had been so much worse than this. This was empty and hallow. There was nothing of his father in here. Kakashi could decide if he was disappointed or not. He couldn’t even catalog how he was feeling right now. It was so anticlimactic, it left him more than a little lost. The place he had been avoiding all his life wasn’t even here.



Somehow having the room missing made the whole house feel different. Like nothing existed here. Kakashi was no more here than his father was.

 

There was no point in staying in the bare room, so Kakashi headed back to the sitting room. He looked at the desk where all his notes were scattered about. Sensei had complained that his work took up more space than he did. He wasn’t wrong. His research was on the desk and the surrounding floor; there was only a small space where he had been sitting. Everything was open, his thoughts starting and jumping from one section to another. His mind connected points far more rapidly than his hand could write. Unfortunately, his thinking went in the wrong direction. He was constantly breaking things down instead of creating. After three days, Kakashi was getting nowhere.

 


Kakashi thought the silence would help. He didn’t have to worry about Minato interrupting him to check in on him or Kushina trying to socialize him. No one was dragging him out on errands or forcing him to eat during their schedule. Kakashi would be able to really focus and make this work. But his research was just as empty as he was. How could he be so useless?

 

Kakashi had seen sensei design new seals with seemingly little effort. Minato-sense would take known elements and just fit them together like a puzzle creating something unique and special. He was equally remarkable with ninjutsu. His Rasengan was not his only creation, but it certainly had been one of his most interesting. Minato-sensei just knew when something would work. It had always amazed Kakashi.

 

He was tempted to go back, ask Minato-sensei for help, but he would just get in the way. Minato didn’t believe what Kakashi was telling him, so there was no way he would help create this seal. Beyond that, it felt wrong to expect a man to assist, knowing Kakashi was leaving him to his demise. “They’re just ghosts, Kakashi.” His words echoed through the room, claiming the space for a moment before the silence swallowed it.

 

Kakashi found himself outside a moment later, filling his lungs with the air of trees. Once his heart slowed, he stood fully up and surveyed the mess of the garden, and for the umpteenth time, wished he knew what to do with it. He saw a few chickens pecking through it and decided to go find out where they were nesting. Maybe he could gather a few eggs.



The chickens scampered about as he walked through them. A few of the roosters tried to peck at his legs and toes. Kakashi squinted and thought he saw the old henhouse, but the fencing had either fallen down or had been torn down. The chickens might have been still using it. As he headed towards it, he stopped when Kakashi realized he was standing on a familiar path.

 

The trail was clearly marked, but in his time, it was hardly visual. Kakashi turned away from the chickens and followed the path to the Hatake family cemetery. Most of the markers were worn with age and covered in green moss, but one wasn’t. Kakashi ran his hand down the face of the pillar. It was tall but humble like his father had been. The stone was the same color as Sakumo’s eyes from what Kakashi could remember. He traced over the familiar markings, reminding himself that this was his father, even if it looked a bit different.

 

“I should clean you when I get home. It’s pretty disgraceful of me to let your name go to rot the way I have.” Kakashi went quiet and knelt down to pull a weed sprouting from the base. “I didn’t realize how much I have forgotten over the years. I didn’t remember we had chickens or that there was a window above the kitchen sink. In my time, the house is gone. I stopped by once after the invasion from Sand and Sound. I had wanted to see if it was still standing. It was there but barely. The doors were missing, and the windows had been smashed. I think there was a tree growing out the side of it. But when Pain invaded, it fell for good. I don’t think we were even able to use the wood for other projects.” Kakashi looked up at the sky. It had clouded over, but it wasn’t ready to rain yet. 

 

“In the future, I am the Sixth Hokage. Our family has struggled to convince Konoha of our loyalty for generations, and now I, a ‘foreigner’, run it. Would you be proud of that, or am I not enough of a Hatake?” Kakashi cringed a bit at his own question. That felt rude to even ask. “I should have been next to you pulling weeds, not working on throwing kunai. My hands should have been in the soil, but instead, I was covered with blood.” Kakashi released a heavy sigh and sat with his back against his Dad. “I’m not much of a Hatake if all I can do is destroy things. Were you the same? Because your decision to save your team cost this village so much more than we gained. Personally, that mission cost me everything. I lost you, our home, my heritage, my team to a war you started so that you could bring back two people. How did that help anyone? You knew how important that mission was.” Kakashi thumped his head against the grave.

 

“We both have destroyed so many lives. And I’m just doing it again. The longer I’m here, the more I’m screwing the past up. I’m supposed to be protecting the peace that we sacrificed for, no matter the cost. That’s my job. I may not be able to grow or nurture things, but I know how to protect something. If it cost the Uchiha, Rin, Obito, and Minato, that’s a price I will pay. No, it’s not even that. It’s already been paid. I can’t risk the lives of countless others to save a handful of people.” Kakashi fell silent for a moment and pulled up some grass at the roots. It came up with a clump of dirt and a worm wiggling into it, startled by the sudden exposure to light.

 

“What if it’s too late?” He started again quietly. “What if too much has changed, and I have already destroyed the future? The assassin that is attached to me is an Otsutuski. The stronger I grow, the stronger he will grow. If the future is off track already, then maybe what I need to focus on is preventing an Otsutsuki attack from happening soon. The easiest way to get rid of a parasite is to kill the host. Doesn’t that make more sense, Dad? Sacrifice the few for the many?”

Chapter Text

Minato had left Kakashi's hospital room and discussed his plans to stay overnight with Kakashi to the nurses. A code could be used when someone was being observed for security reasons, and the hospital would make allowances for it. It was typically used when they were trying to not capture outside attention. Once that situation was handled, Minato stopped to grab a cup of hot tea before heading back to Kakashi's room.

 

Minato pushed the door open as quietly as possible. He didn't want to disturb Kakashi's rest. He had looked exhausted. Immediately he knew something was off. Minato zeroed in the unmade bed, and his stomach and tea fell to the floor. Kakashi was gone.

 

Minato quickly examined the room, but there wasn't really any place for him to hide. Then he went to the window and pushed it open. He stuck his head out, hoping to catch sight of his runaway, but he saw nothing. Minato cursed the lack of seals in the room. He should have done that before he went to talk to the nurses. No, he shouldn't have stopped to get tea; if he hadn't, he probably would have caught him leaving. Or better yet, Minato shouldn't have left the room at all. He could have waited for the nurses to try and shoo him out before explaining the situation.

 

Minato slipped out the window and walked down the side of the building. He quickly noticed the indents on the grass. He followed the footprints, but they quickly disappeared once they hit the paved walkway. Minato cursed at his lack of tracking training.

 

Perhaps tracking wasn't Minato's forte, but he could create a search party. He bit his thumb and summoned several toads. He then sent them into the darkening village to find Kakashi. He couldn't have gotten too far.

 

While the toads were doing a generalized search of the area, Minato used hiraishin to go home. Kakashi might have headed there. Perhaps he wanted to sleep in his own bed. Kakashi may have assumed Minato would force him to stay at the hospital. No one wants to stay the night in a hospital. It's uncomfortable. Minato should have thought of this and offered to take him home instead. He should have been more considerate of Kakashi's feelings.

 

Minato showed in their living room, and Kushina jumped into a defensive stance. "Minato?"

 

Minato paid little mind to the start he caused Kushina. "Is Kakashi here?" he demanded.

 

Kushina's face pinched, and she shook her head. "Did he take off on you?" she asked and followed him as he hurried down the hall to Kakashi's room.

 

It looked just as he left it that morning. Minato checked the closet and under the bed. Kakashi wasn't one to hide like that, but if something was missing, then maybe it would give Minato a clue as to where he went. Nothing was missing and or out of place.

 

"He's not here. He left his hospital room. Where would he go?" Minato growled to himself as he scoped the room a second time, hoping the answer would reveal itself.

 

Kushina tugged on his sleeve, "I'm sure he is fine. Maybe he just needs some space."

 

Minato pulled his arm away from her as he walked back out of the room. "He can have space when I am dead and buried. Right now, I need to find him. Kakashi could be face down in a ditch, for all I know. Go check Obito's and Rin's houses. I'm going to check Gai's and Hokage Mountain. He went there the last time," Minato ordered Kushina.

 

Kushina frowned and folded her arms. "Leave him alone, Minato. He will return when he is ready to."

 

"He has chakra exhaustion. I don't care how good of a shinobi you are running around with chakra exhaustion is dangerous." This wasn't the time to be stubborn over things.

 

"Well, if he's being stupid, then let him be stupid. You don't have to stick your nose into it," Kushina argued.

 

"I adopted him! Kakashi is my responsibility." Minato exclaimed, shocked. How could she suggest he just leave Kakashi to his own devices like that?

 

"Jeeze, Minato, how the hell did you manage when Hatake-san died, and Kakashi was living on his own?" She snapped. 

 

Molten rage rolled across Minato's skin. He turned away from Kushina and yanked the door open, and slammed it shut. That was a low blow. Back then, he was doing what everyone around him told him to do. Kakashi just needed time and space. Kids were resilient, and he would bounce back in no time if Minato left him alone. Kakashi never bounced back. That eager child died, instead. Now he was getting the same advice, and Minato wasn't going to listen. It didn't work the last time, and he'd be damned if he failed again. He would tie him to a chair and force-feed him until he was fat and happy, and Minato didn't care what anyone had to say about it.

 

It was getting late, and the streets were only crowded around the bars. Light curfew had already been put in place. The streets were not lit, and no lights were hanging outside of the shops. Despite this, the crowds parted before storming Minato, giving him a large berth. Minato checked every alley and stall on his way up to the Hokage mountain. He'd rather teleport up there, but he may miss Kakashi if he's on his way there. The last time Kakashi had run away, he had gone up to the mountain, so it made sense to look there first.

 

Nothing. 

 

The bench was empty. Minato had walked the stairs but didn't find Kakashi passed out on them either. He checked the surrounding area and called out for Kakashi too. He even went so far as trying to sense him, but no one was there. Minato may not be the most talented sensor in the world, but he could definitely conclude no one was here.

 

That was fine. Minato had other places to look. 

 

Minato headed over to Gai-kun's house. He was Kakashi's oldest friend, even if they didn't spend much time together, and friendship seemed one-sided at best. Kakashi wasn't there. Gai-kun offered to help rather enthusiastically, so Minato told him that he would let him know if it came to a search party.

 

Minato went to Rin-chan's house next. She immediately swore she hadn't seen Kakashi. Minato briefly thought she was lying and covering for her teammate. He probed a bit more but couldn't detect in falsehood. Rin-chan was the only one that would lie for Kakashi, but Minato didn't think Kakashi actually knew that.

 

Obito was the last person on his shortlist. Kakashi was unlikely to be there, but he couldn't completely dismiss the possibility. The Uchiha gate guard let Minato in with a simple wave. Minato was well known due to his connections to both Obito and Fugaku. Obito's interior light was on, so Minato knocked on the door. Obito opened it unusually fast.

 

"Hey, Sensei! Do we have a mission?" Obito asked.

 

Obito's sunny attitude threw Minato off a bit. Both Gai and Rin read his foul mood and responded appropriately. "Ah, no. I am actually looking for Kakashi. Have you seen him?" 

 

"Bakashi?" Obito parroted back, "he took off? Did you check his old apartment?"

 

Minato frowned, "not yet, but that is a good idea," he turned to leave. 

 

"Hey, Sensei!" Obito ran out to catch his attention. Minato stopped and turned back to him. "Don't yell at him, okay?"

 

"What?" 

 

"Don't yell at him, Sensei, when you find him. Just bring him back and move on like nothing happened. If you yell at him, he's not gonna talk to you," Obito said firmly. 

 

Minato opened his mouth and then closed it again. It was true that Minato had every intention of yelling at Kakashi when he found him. It was a stupid thing he did, taking off when he has chakra exhaustion. But he's yelled at Kakashi before, and it hadn't worked. If anything, it drove Kakashi further away. Right now, Minato was mad enough to strangle the boy, so Obito was likely correct. He was too angry. "Alright, I won't yell at him when I find him." Obito nodded, satisfied with that, and headed back into his house.

 

Perhaps, Minato did need to give Kakashi space? Maybe if he found him and just knew he was okay, he'd leave him be for a day and then fetch him? He could do that. First, he needed to find him. 

 

*****

 

Two days and Minato couldn't find Kakashi. He had meetings to attend about the assassin. Shikaku, Danzo, and the Hokage hadn't been pleased to hear that Kogetsu-sensei refused to allow Kakashi to undergo a mind wipe. Shikaku had seemed exceptionally offended, and he wondered if this would cause trouble for Kogetsu-sensei. The assassin wasn't the only meeting he had to attend. There had been a jounin meeting about the war as well.

Minato plopped down on a bench and dropped his head in his hands. "Where could he have gone? How is he so damn good at giving me the slip like this?"

 

Minato liked to think he was pretty decent at tracking people. Of course, he didn't do a lot of tracking missions. It was becoming clear to Minato that he was becoming a one-trick pony. His job was to annihilate large groups or to force the enemy into a retreat. Because of this, he hadn't realized his other skills were lacking.

 

It was equally startling that Minato was at a loss of where to look next. Kakashi had changed a lot, and Minato couldn't help but wonder what his life had looked like. If Kakashi really was 33, that made him over a decade older than Minato. It was struggled to wrap his mind around that. When he saw Kakashi, he still looked like the little boy that followed him around like a puppy.

 

Minato remembered how Kakashi would mimic his katas. In the camps, it garnered them a lot of attention. It was a cute and refreshing sight for so many exhausted shinobi missing their homes. They enjoyed his clumsy movements and his determination. Soon his movements would smooth out, and it would become impressive. Kakashi hardly came up to his waist when his eyes were big, and his hands were small. A kunai dwarfed his palm, and shinobi would gather to watch him practice his aim. In the camps, Kakashi didn't experience the same kind of malice as he did at home. So Kakashi preferred to go with him.

 

War camps were no place for a child, but Kakashi had already achieved the rank of genin. He was restricted to the camp and never followed Minato out to the fight. He did chores such as laundry, dishes, and fetching. He was a hard worker and earned a great deal of praise from others. It was the safest place for him. How sad was that? A war camp at the front was safer for a child than the village. At least it was until the inevitable happened.

 

The camp had been attacked. The chaos that erupted left Minato sick with worry over where Kakashi was. They hadn't been together when the attack started. Minato did find him quickly. Kakashi was evading two enemy nin that were hot on his tail. When Kakashi saw Minato, he corrected his course to get to him. Still, Minato jetted past Kakashi to stop his pursuers. A third shinobi appeared, keeping Minato distracted, and while his back was turned, a fourth engaged with Kakashi. Minato had only realized it after killing off the three shinobi and turned to see Kakashi staring down at a corpse, his hand and kunai dripping with blood. For a moment, Minato didn't feel anything either. The sight was both inevitable and prophetic.

 

But was it really?

 

When Kakashi was running to Minato, he had been reaching out for him. What if Minato had reached back and taken Kakashi out of harm's way? Would things have turned out differently or not? Would Kakashi trust him more if he had made a different choice at that moment? What if he had chosen Kakashi over his mission to protect the camp? Kakashi had been reaching for Minato, asking him to pick him up, but Minato ran right past him and left Kakashi to fend for himself.

 

Sickening guilt pulled at Minato's stomach. He couldn't keep sitting here think of the past. Minato stood to his feet just as a chuunin jogged over to him.

 

"Namikaze-san?" Minato nodded and accepted the scroll passed to him.

 

Minato broke the seal and read the orders. Back to the frontlines. His shoulders sagged, and he rolled the scroll back up. "I have received my orders," he tucked the scroll into his weapon pouch. The chuunin bowed and took off. Why couldn't anything be easy? 

 

Minato headed back home to get his mission pack. Minato didn't bother to announce himself when he went inside and focused on yanking off his sandals. He tossed them against the wall carelessly.

 

"Hey, welcome home," Kushina's voice caused him to look up. He noticed immediately her hands were stained black. She must have been making sealing ink. Minato frowned; they had plenty of sealing ink, so there was no reason for her to put the effort to make more so soon.


"You've been busy. Some of the ink got on your face." It looked like she had swiped her hand across her forehead.

 

Kushina offered Minato a small smile. It held none of her usual exuberance. Worry twisted at Minato's gut, but he wasn't sure what to say.

"It's a bit hot out today," Kushina explained, tucking her hands into her blackened smock.

 

No, it wasn't. There was a cool breeze, and the temperature had been at a seasonal low. "How much ink are you making?" Minato reached out, taking one of her stained hands in his.

 

"Enough," was her unhelpful answer. It wasn't like Kushina to be evasive. 

 

"Will you be done with it soon?" Minato searched her face. 

 

Kushina chewed on her lower lip, and her eyes flickered to the back door. "I don't know. You are home earlier than I had expected."


Minato sagged forward and dropped his head on Kushina's shoulder. "I got another mission. I came to grab my mission pack." Kushina wrapped her arms around his shoulder, and he breathed in her scent, wishing he could stay. But the war didn't stop because of a missing child or time traveler. Minato wasn't exactly sure what to call Kakashi at this point.

 

"Kakashi's fine, Minato. I'm sure he'll be back by the time you return." Her fingers gently scratched his hairline on his neck.

 

Minato wanted to lean into her words and take the comfort offered. He tried to tell himself that she was right and stop worrying about everything, but he couldn't. "If you believed that, you wouldn't be making more chakra ink when we have plenty."

 

Making sealing ink was a time-consuming process. While pounding and kneading the soot and glue together, she would inject small amounts of chakra into it. For Kushina, this took an extreme amount of focus. Her chakra stores were so massive that it was hard for her to maintain such a small current.

 

"I thought I would sell some. Uzumaki sealing ink goes for a high price, ya know. And I have been prepping a batch to teach Kakashi." The rest of her thoughts on the matter hung in the air, hesitant to bring up the one topic they argued about frequently.

 

Minato lifted his head off her shoulder and studied her face. Kushina looked just as tired as he felt. She was worried too. Kushina wanted Kakashi to come home as much as Minato did. "Will you look for him for me?" he asked, hopeful.


His question was met with a brief moment of silence. Kushina looked away from him towards the hallway. "Let's go make sure you'll have everything you need in your bag." She then took his hand in her's to lead the way. Minato could feel the buzz of her chakra as the ink seeped into his skin. He didn't want to argue with her. Kushina wasn't stopping him from searching for Kakashi, so he would stop her from waiting. He just hoped she was right, and Kakashi would be back when Minato returned home.

 

*****

 

Minato dropped his pack on his bed in his room. For four days, he hadn't been able to search for Kakashi because of a mission. Minato finished in record time. He shaved off two days by abusing the hiraishin and really pushing his own chakra reserves. Minato was exhausted, but he knew it was only a matter of time before he got called out again if he didn't volunteer himself for a mission. He needed to find Kakashi while he was in the village.

 

Minato rubbed his forehead. A sharp pained pulsed behind his eyes and blitzed between his temples. His muscles ached with every move, and he felt like he had an anchor strapped to his chest. Even his legs trembled. If Minato didn't know any better, he would think he had caught a cold. Minato did know better because he didn't have time for a stupid cold.

 

Kushina had promised to keep an eye out for Kakashi while Minato was gone but had refused to search for him. She had insisted that he should be left alone to have a 'pity party' in peace. When he managed to get his head out of his ass, he'd come back and face them like a grown-ass adult. Minato didn't really believe Kakashi would ever do that. Kakashi didn't have the personality that lends itself to returning in humility. He had too much pride. After being gone a week, Kakashi had clearly found a way to make himself comfortable. The boy would need to be coaxed back.

Minato didn't bother to restock his mission pack. Instead, Minato went to leave the house to search for Kakashi again. He stopped when he heard Kushina call out to him, "you're leaving already?"

Minato frowned, already? "I should be asking why you are home already?" Minato snapped.

Kushina lifted her chin, "he's fine."

"You don't know that," Minato argued.

"Kakashi came and picked up that box of research. He's clearly alive," Kushina pointed out.

"And that happened nearly a week ago! He had just left the hospital. He's not here, and no one has seen him. He has a chakra assassin attached to him, and regardless if he's from the future or not, he's physically 8-years-old. He could be dead or dying from the assassin for all we know, and I still don't know where he is!" Minato roared.

His rant had left Kushina silent, so Minato went to put his shoes back on. He was reaching for the door handle when he heard Kushina speak, "he's probably at the Hatake house."

Minato froze and turned to her. "He wouldn't go anywhere near there."

Kushina released an irritated breath. "He's not anywhere else, Minato. He's 33; he's not going to have the same hang-ups he childhood-self had." Kushina rubbed her upper arm and looked away from him, "I did look, ya know, while you were gone. But we don't know where an adult Kakashi would go. He could have all sorts of places to escape to, even outside of the village. I really think he's there. If only because we wouldn't look there."

 

Minato considered what she said and decided it wouldn't hurt to go there. "I'll check there first." The couple fell into silence. Kushina still wasn't looking at him, and Minato found his lungs constricted by guilt. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled at you."

 

Kushina looked at him and searched his face for a moment. "You're tired and scared. I understand."


Minato's eyes burned. How could Kushina see through him so perfectly? "That doesn't give me the right to speak that way to you."

 

"It doesn't," Kushina agreed, "but it makes it easier to forgive you." She walked over to him and rubbed her thumb across the stubble on his face. "Promise me you will only check the Hatake house. If he isn't there, you will come home and rest for the night. Tomorrow we will go search together." 

 

Minato turned his head and kissed the palm of her hand. It was the only way he could find to show his gratitude to her. He couldn't trust his voice. Kushina took her hand back, and Minato left. 

 

******

Minato gripped the top of the Hatake house's gate. It was the same house he remembered, but there was so much missing. Sakumo-san had always been diligent about taking care of the grounds, but now it ran wild, adding to the abandoned atmosphere. The windows were missing the happy glow from the hearth. Minato had always looked for it when he came around. If the weather was too warm, the doors would be left open, allowing the breeze to sweep through.

 

Sakumo-san had been a generous man. He had always welcomed Minato into his home with or without Jiraiya. Minato genin and chuunin years were spent traveling extensively with his Sensei, so he wasn't exceptionally close to the people in Konoha. When Minato needed to be around someone, he would go to the Hatake house. Sakumo-san never questioned him. Minato never had to explain himself, and for Minato, it was a safe place he could say, I'm home.

 

The loss of Sakumo-san stilled weighed heavily on Minato. It was one thing to lose a comrade in battle; it was another thing to lose him to shame. The village had demanded his life in compensation, and Minato still couldn't understand why. One mission, no matter how important, could not start a war. Many events lead up to the war that to pin the blame on one man was ridiculous. Yet Sakumo relented to their demands, and it hadn't been enough. When Sakumo's blood was spilled, the village then sank its teeth into Kakashi. They wanted revenge, but that was a void that could never be satisfied.

 

Minato loved Konoha, but he was not blind to its faults. It was those faults that drove him to want to be Hokage. He wanted to show them things could be different. Minato pushed the Hatake gate open, and it bemoaned his entrance. His lip twitched when he imagined how many would have been scared off by that sound alone. "Pardon the intrusion, Sakumo-san, but I need to find our son. He seems to have gotten lost in both time and space." Minato was glad no one was around to actually hear his joke. Still, it made him feel better about entering the abandoned home.

 

Minato walked along the grown-over stone path. He didn't try to hide the sounds of arrival. If Kakashi was here, he wouldn't appreciate being snuck up on. Minato watched the windows for any sign of movement but so far, nothing. He slid the front door open and glanced around.

 

Kakashi was here. 

 

It was the mess that gave him away. Papers, books, and scrolls were scattered about the desk that Sakumo-san had used in the evenings when it was time for Kakashi to sleep. Kakashi had not liked to sleep alone. It wasn't that he needed to be held. He just needed someone in the room with him.


Kakashi was obviously using this room to sleep in too. Blankets were folded neatly by the hearth in the sitting room. The hearth was likely his only heat source. Where was Kakashi, though?

 

Minato closed the door behind him and slipped off his sandals. "Kakashi?" he called out. He had to be around here somewhere. Minato peeked in the kitchen. It was the same as he remembered, outdated like the rest of the house.  

 

Minato walked down the hall listening for any signs of life. He had checked the bathrooms and the bedrooms, but still no Kakashi. He stopped at Sakumo's office. Sakumo had used this room for his family's finances, heirlooms, and copies of his mission reports. Anything that was of value was also stored in the room. It was unlikely Kakashi would be in here, and opening the door still felt disrespectful. This was the room Sakumo chose to spend his final moments. Besides, there was nothing left in the room.

Minato opened the door and stepped into the bare room; everything had been looted. He hoped Kakashi hadn't seen it. Compensation is what they had claimed. They needed to be compensated for the cost of the war and for caring for Sakumo's orphaned child.

 

But it wasn't compensation. It wasn't even theft. It was an attempt to destroy any remaining clan loyalty from the prodigy, so all he had left was Konoha. Minato knew this because the same thing had happened to him. Minato had no idea where he came from. If there were any records, they were being kept from him. Orphans are from Konoha, and that was all that should be enough for them. If you can't trace your roots to anywhere else, your loyalty will never be divided.  

 

Minato stopped out of the room and frowned. He had searched the whole house. Had Kakashi left when he heard Minato approaching? Perhaps he had just gone out. Frustrated, Minato went to grab his shoes, then headed out the back door for the heck of it. He hadn't searched there.

 

The garden was nothing like it had been. Sakumo had worked this land and coaxed it into producing so he wouldn't forget where the Hatake came from. Their roots were in the ground, is what he would say.

 

Minato stepped off the porch and scanned the area, not expecting to find anything. He could just wait for Kakashi to return from wherever he went. Something in the high foliage closer to the woods caught his eye. It was a sudden gap there. He moved closer, and his heart seized in his chest. "Please no," Minato begged. He rushed through the garden, not minding his steps.

 

The closer Minato got to, the tighter his chest became. He dropped down to his knees beside Kakashi's limp body. He rolled him over onto his back. His clothes were damp like the grass around him from the morning dew. He pressed his fingers against Kakashi's wrist and was relieved to find a steady pulse. Minato took around sharply and verified that no one else was around. He saw shuriken stuck in a tree; plants and dirt were scrapped across the ground. There had been a fight. Kakashi had probably faced the assassin alone, so he wasn't dead, then the battle had ended with chakra exhaustion.

 

Minato turned his attention back to Kakashi. He had a scrap across one side of his face tearing some of the fabric of his mask. Either he faceplanted a tree or skidded across the ground on his face. He had a few shallow cuts, and his fingertips were burned, but other than that, he seemed fine. How often could someone suffer chakra exhaustion before it starts damaging the body? He would have to ask. He knew that children had to be more careful than adults because they were still growing. He knew chakra exhaustion could disable a child and had often cautioned Kakashi on it since he liked to overdo it.

 

Minato gathered Kakashi into his arm. He would bring him home because it was too dangerous for Kakashi to be on his own right now. Kakashi's head lulled against his chest, and his skin was ashen. Minato was tempted to pull down Kakashi's mask so he could breathe better, but he also knew that was counterproductive.

 

Minato bowed towards the house. "Thank you for taking care of Kakashi. I know you did your best, Sakumo-san. He's a stubborn kid. Please entrust his care to me." 

 

Chapter Text

Waking slowly was a novelty of his child-body. After Kakashi had entered ANBU, he had never experienced it again. Waking slowly required a feeling of safety. He inhaled deeply, taking in the familial scent. His eyes parted, but they felt dry and uncomfortable. He blinked rapidly as he pushed himself into a sitting position. His room was bathed in a dying orange glow. He knew it was only a matter of time before Minato found him. Kakashi had just hoped he would be further along in his research before he did.

 

Kakashi rubbed his chest, trying to stop the wheezing sensation that was lodged in there. There was a glass of water on the nightstand, and he quickly drained it. He was almost disappointed when it was empty. Kakashi was going to have to face Minato-sensei and Kushina-nee eventually. He might as well get it over with.

 

Kakashi followed the sound of humming into the kitchen and found Kushina-nee stirring a large pot. He knew she was aware of him standing there, but she didn’t acknowledge him. Apparently, he was either getting the silent treatment, or he was expected to make the first move.

 

“What are you making?” Kakashi asked, hoping it would break the ice. 

 

“Soup. You got Minato sick.” That was not the accusation that Kakashi expected to walk into. 

 

Kakashi pointed at himself, “I got him sick? How?” He hadn’t seen Minato in nearly a week! 

 

“Stress, exhaustion, and then rushing his mission to get home because someone decided to run away from home,” Kushina shot him a glare. 

 

Kakashi flushed at the scolding. “You make it sound like I’m a child. I thought you believed me.”

 

Kushina clicked her tongue and focused on stirring the soup pot. “If it looks like a child, talks like a child, and runs away like a child, then it must be a child.”

 

Ah, there it was. This is what he was expecting. “Maaa, I just needed some space to think for a bit. I didn’t think it would cause this much of a ruckus.”

 

Kushina finally turned to face Kakashi. Her hands on her hips and her hair lifting in her anger. It was a rather terrifying sight to behold. He could taste the Kyuubi’s malice in the air. Like a sharp zap against the tongue. “Don’t bullshit me. You ran away. You didn’t like what we were saying, so you took off. You didn’t even try. You’re so damn stuck in your own head you don’t hear what anyone is saying. You are just as bad, no worse than Minato. Is that how you treat your teams in the future? You just order them about and do as you please?”

 

“Well, considering I’m usually team leader-”

 

Kushina interrupted Kakashi with a sarcastic snort. “Yeah, it shows. Well, you are not team leader now, so you are going to do what I say.” Kushina lifted a bowl up to the pot and ladled some soup into it. “You are going to take this to Minato, and you are going to apologize for being a self-righteous asshole. When you are done with that, you will go take a bath and go back to bed. Do you understand?” Kushina threatened.

 

Kakashi didn’t respond immediately. He debated on if he was willing to comply or not. Kushina wasn’t asking anything from him that was entirely out of line. It was her tone that grated on him. But Kushina was angry, and arguing with her further would only make the situation worse. “I understand,” he said and accepted the tray. On it was two bowls of soup. He guessed Kushina was expecting him to eat too. Kakashi muttered thanks and went to head back to Minato-sensei’s room to attend round two of being lectured.

 

Kakashi used his foot to knock on the door. He couldn’t open it himself since it wasn’t a sliding door like the Hatake house had. It took a moment, but Sensei opened the door. His cheeks were red with fever, and his hair was messier than usual. He also hadn’t shaved. Kakashi’s mind hyper-focused on that and then proceeded to stop functioning. It had never occurred to him that Sensei could grow facial hair. Kakashi couldn’t pull up a single memory of Minato-sensei shaving. Did Kakashi just delete them for some reason? Kakashi had never been particularly good at growing facial hair, so he didn’t need to shave very often. Minato-sensei, on the other hand, had even stubble. Does he need to make sure Naruto knows how to shave? Is Naruto already shaving?

 

“Are you okay, Kakashi-kun?” Sensei’s voice came out scratchy. 

 

“You need to shave,” that should not have been the first thing Kakashi said to Minato-sensei. 

 

Minato ran his hand across his face. “Yeah, I guess I do. Can I take the tray from you?”

 

Kakashi blinked and looked down at the tray flushing slightly. “Maaa, I got it. Just tell me where to put it.”

 

“Ah, sure. Ummm,” Minato glanced around his room. Kakashi realized, a bit startled, that Kakashi’s room had more furniture than Minato-sensei’s. “Let’s just sit here. Have dinner with me?” Sensei sat on the floor and smiled up at him.

 

Kakashi knelt and placed the tray on the floor. He passed Minato a bowl and a spoon. “You got sick.”

 

“Heh, yeah. Pretty silly of me, huh?” Minato gave an awkward smile. 

 

“How is getting sick silly?” Kakashi’s brows furrowed. 

 

Minato shrugged his shoulders and stirred the soup in his bowl. Their conversation was left stunted. Kakashi sighed. He wanted to get this over with. He bowed, being careful not to spill his soup. “I’m sorry for running away, making you worry, and causing your sickness.” He then waited for Minato to accept his apology and then deliver a well-meaning lecture.

 

“Actually, Kakashi-kun, I’m sorry.” Kakashi jerked his head up in surprise.

 

Minato-sensei’s head was bowed to Kakashi, and he seemed to be staring at his soup. “I wasn’t listening to you when I should have been. I kept dismissing everything you said out of hand because I didn’t want it to be true. I didn’t want to believe that I had failed you again. I was entirely selfish, and because of that, I drove you away.” Minato lifted his head, but all Kakashi could do was gape. “I hope you’ll consider giving me another chance. I want to help you capture this assassin and get you back to your home. We also need to figure out what happened to the Kakashi from this time.”

 

“You mean your Kakashi,” Kakashi swallowed. 

 

“You’re both my Kakashi. Now and 30 years in the future. No, I mean the Kakashi of this time,” Minato gently corrected him.

 

Kakashi felt emotion lodge in his throat. “You believe me?” His voice cracked unexpectedly, and Kakashi flushed red. He shouldn’t be reacting like this. 

 

Minato gave a breathy laugh, “yes, I believe you. Will you let me help you? Because I looked at your notes. You may be a genius, but you are going around in circles.”

 

Kakashi laughed, “I know. I’ve never good at fuinjutsu. I can do it, but creating?” Kakashi shook his head. 


Minato’s smile fell into a frown, “the first thing we need to do is deal with the assassin. Speaking of which, I found you passed out. What happened?”

 

“Maa, nothing much,” Kakashi scratched at the fabric covering his cheek. “The assassin showed up, and I lead him outside. We fought a little. I decided to use a heavy chakra attack to test the theory that he uses my own chakra. I was trying to see how low my levels needed to be before he disappeared, but with him using my chakra too, I miscalculated. I ended up passing out,” he was a bit embarrassed. It had been a short-lived fight.


Minato-sensei pressed his lips together and heaved a great sigh through his nose. “Just as reckless as ever. Chakra exhaustion isn’t something to try to do on purpose; it could seriously damage you.” It was a familiar lecture that Kakashi recalled from his youth, even if it never changed his ways.

 

“I deal with it all the time.” Kakashi shrugged. “It sucks for a few days, but I always get back up.”

 

“Perhaps as an adult, but for children, it’s different. Your body is growing, and so is your chakra network. You are more likely to severely damage yourself at this age.”

 

Minato-sensei was worrying over nothing. He probably read that in a book somewhere. “Sensei, if blowing my entire system didn’t cripple me, I seriously doubt chakra exhaustion will,” Kakashi pointed out. 

 

“Kashi-kun,” Minato-sensei said slowly, “we don’t know that for sure yet. The full ramifications of exploding your chakra system won’t reveal themselves until later. I mean, your network may be too scarred to grow further, or you could develop chakra leaks.”

 

“What?” Kakashi stared at Minato-sensei, trying to absorb what he just told him. This trip to the past could have disabled him? A few bubbled in his stomach. Did they need to seek out Tsunade-sama? Would she even see him? What if this prevented him from continuing being a shinobi? What the hell would he do with himself? Even if it turns out to be a few leaks, how would that affect his ability to support Obito’s eye? The eye had been a large chakra leak, and Kakashi struggled to increase his overall reserves because of it. “I wasn’t told this.”

 

“Sorry. There’s just a lot going on,” Minato-sensei apologized as he tapped his spoon against the bowl. “Whatever happens, though, we’ll figure it out. For now, we’ll work on a seal to pull the assassin from you. If it’s a parasitic chakra entity, then-”

 

“Sensei,” Kakashi interrupted, “the first thing we need to do is get you healthy. You have worked yourself into a fever. You should be resting, not reading over my notes.” He used his spoon to point to the box on Minato’s bed. 

 

“I am resting! It’s just a bit of reading. Besides, you have some interesting insights. The way you broke the seals down into various components. I haven’t seen anyone do that yet! It’s like you’re creating these primitives, and it opens up so many different options and paths. My whole mind is buzzing with how to utilize and combine these primitives. I really want to see more of your breakdowns when you have a chance! I know that Sensei would find them interesting, and Kushina too. This could be the beginning of a whole new understanding of fuinjutsu. Here let me-“ Minato-sensei jumped to his feet but stumbled and nearly knocked over his half-finished bowl of soup.

 

Kakashi snatched the bowl out of the way. “Sensei, sit down. I know what I wrote,” he tried not to smile. There was a happy glow bubbling inside him, but he should be upset over this, not content.

 

Minato-sensei obeyed and plopped back onto the floor. “Well, it was inspiring, but you’re probably right. We both should be resting.” Minato’s heavy hand sifted through Kakashi’s hair, “I’m glad you’re home.”

 

Kakashi couldn’t stop the smile this time, “welcome home, sensei.” 

 

******


Kakashi sneezed, and it startled him awake. He sat up, and the blanket fell pooling in his lap. He was in his room again. He didn’t exactly remember how he got here, but he could take an educated guess. With a heavy sigh, he flopped back down and stared up at the smooth ceiling.

 

Minato-sensei was going to help Kakashi remove the parasitic assassin and figure out this time-travel business. Kakashi wouldn’t need Fugaku-sama’s help after all. It was a relief to know he would have to look him in the face again. He could continue pushing forward and let things happen as they are meant to happen.

 

Sasuke wouldn’t agree with him, or maybe he would. Out of all his students, Sasuke was the most nihilistic of his students. He made Kakashi look like an optimist.

 

Kakashi shoved the thoughts of the Uchiha away. That was a subject he shouldn’t dwell on. He sat back up and tried to stretch the stiffness from chakra exhaustion out of his arms.

Minato-sensei hadn’t lectured Kakashi, which was out of character. He wasn’t complaining, but it was odd and worth noting. Sensei was one of the few people he knew well enough to notice these types of changes. Character changes were not a good thing. They were not reversible no matter what Kakashi did.

 

Was he fooling himself? Could Kakashi really hope to put the past back to the way it was? He couldn’t erase what they had experienced so far, and Kakashi knew better than anyone how traumatic experiences changed people. As much as he wanted to deny it, Kakashi’s near-death experience had been traumatic for his sensei and teammates. Worst still, it had been traumatic on his body. He might have damaged his chakra coils to the point of a disability. His chakra network may stop growing entirely or will have areas of weakening.

The sharingan had forced his chakra network to overcompensate. He didn’t have the genetic design to supply the chakra needed to sustain an active sharingan. It bulged his coils, creating aneurysms. These aneurysms developed small leaks, but the eye itself was a massive chakra leak that caused most of the chakra exhaustion that plagued him.  

 

The truth was, Kakashi couldn’t fix this. There was so much he couldn’t fix, and anything he did would make things worse. Was it even possible to lessen the effects? Kakashi groaned as frustration twisted at his mind. Perhaps he was overthinking. Could Kakashi alone really affect the outcome of the future? He was one person, albeit one very well-connected person.

 

Kakashi flipped the blankets off of himself. He needed to get away from the unanswerable questions. When he gets back to his time, he is writing a time travel manual in case anyone else is unlucky enough to be in a similar position.

 

Kakashi stood in the center of his room, radiating irritation. He quickly changed into his typical attire, ignoring all the civilian clothes that hung in the closet. He missed his jounin uniform. It was so easy to go on and off duty with it. Just remove the vest. Kakashi released a heavy sigh, letting his arms dangle at his sides. As much as he liked being around his former team and sensei, he missed his cute students, Tenzo, Said, Gai, and so many others. He wanted to go home to them. Hopefully, that would happen soon, but he wondered would he even fit in the future anymore, or would Kakashi be just as out of place as he was in the past? Would the future look anything like what he remembered?

 

Kakashi yanked his bedroom door open and padded down the short hall into the living room. To the right was the entrance to the kitchen, and further was the entrance to the dining room. He could hear Minato-sensei and Kushina-nee chatting quietly. He kept out of sight to listen in. Those two kept a lot from Kakashi, and eavesdropping was his best tool to know what they were thinking.

 

“Kushina-chan, you can’t stay angry forever,” Minato-sensei whined. It was that whine he only used towards her. A sort of plea to have her attention. It reminded Kakashi of a dog crawling towards another and lapping at their face. 

 

“I very well can. You have no idea how fiercely I can hold onto a grudge,” Kushina-nee’s voice was firm and utterly unmoved by Sensei’s pleading. 

 

“I’m sure he will come around. We’ll talk to him,” Minato’s voice changed to placating. Kakashi frowned. Did this have to do with him?

 

“What are words going to do exactly? You weren’t there, Minato. He stared at Fugaku and sentenced him and his entire family to death. An Uchiha genocide is coming, and he doesn’t intend to stop it!” Kushina’s voice rose in volume. Kakashi twisted his shirt in his hand as his stomach lurched.


“And it’s not just about the Uchiha either. It’s about us too. Minato, we die,” Kushina’s voice dropped in a sorrowful tone. For a moment, time stopped for Kakashi. How had she known? He had never said another about their deaths.


“Obito and Rin die too, and he is refusing to change that. He won’t even explain the circumstances to it so we could be better prepared. If he won’t help us, then why the hell should I help him?” Kushina demanded.

 

A chair scraped across the floor, and Minato-sensei’s voice became quieter, “we don’t know if any of that is true. You are making assumptions.”

 

Kushina rebelled against Minato’s assertions. “I do know it’s true. Do not patronize me. Only one Uchiha survives the massacre, and Kakashi said that would be Fugaku’s second son, not Obito. He said that Rin gets kidnapped and is killed. It was an off-handed comment. Now you may be willing to ignore them, but I listen when Kakashi talks. I see how he looks at them. I know loss on someone’s face. And you and I? We clearly died early on because that child has no idea how to be a person. He doesn’t know how to have a relationship with someone. He is so full of sorrow and angst. Do you honestly believe we would leave him like that?” Kushina demanded from Minato.

 

Yes, Kakashi answered mentally because that was what happened. After Obito was crushed, Minato-sense became very protective of his last two students. He was more involved in their daily lives than before. But then he became Hokage, and everything changed. Rin died. Sensei probably wanted to do more, but the death of a chuunin just wasn’t important in the grand scheme of it all. He could have gone to war. They tried to destroy Konoha with the sanbi and a faulty seal, but Minato squashed the situation down. No one knew what had happened to Rin. They only knew that Kakashi had killed her because of the distinct would in her chest. Kakashi was never charged for her death, much to the confusion of everyone. However, Kakashi was still blamed for it in public opinion: Friend Killer Kakashi.

 

With all the controversy surrounding Kakashi, Minato-sense had to distance himself. Kakashi hadn’t understood why back then. He thought that Sensei blamed him too. Being Hokage, he had a better understanding of the demands on your time and attention and how important your reputation actually is.

 

For Rokudaime Kakashi, his students were a constant source of frustration when negotiating with the various counsels. Their actions had a direct impact on his ability to run the village. Kakashi had readily agreed with Sasuke had asked to travel. Having Sasuke out of the public eye was the best thing for Kakashi. Of course, Sasuke wandering around did hurt Kakashi’s ability to handle international politics, especially with Kumo. Raikage was furious that Sasuke was free and not wasting away in a prison cell, but strife inside the village was more challenging to manage than strife outside the village.  

 

So, Minato-sensei distancing himself from Kakashi was necessary from a political standpoint. Putting Kakashi into ANBU kept Kakashi out of the public eye as well. It was a lot like how Kakashi dealt with Sasuke, so he understood it now in a way he hadn’t three years ago.

 

Sensei also had a new family he needed to focus on back then. Kakashi was more trouble than he was worth and was more of a reminder of all that Sensei had lost: a pain point. So yes, Minato and Kushina would leave him to his own devices. Still, at this point, they had no idea the circumstances that would eventually surround that decision.

 

“Kakashi?” Sensei’s voice drew him out of his headspace back into the present. 

 

Minato-sensei kneeled down in front of him, so they were eye to eye. “You’re crying. Are you hurt?” Sensei’s rough thumb rubbed gently under his eye sweeping away the moisture that had gathered there. Kakashi’s throat was too tight to speak. He hadn’t realized he was reacting so shamefully to the conversation he had overheard. He should have paid more attention to his surroundings.

 

Kushina rounded the corner and joined them. Kakashi searched her face needed to see it, despite not wanting to know what was written there. When had she started to matter so much to him? She kneeled down beside Kakashi too, and without asking, she pulled him into a crushing embrace. “I don’t know why you are being an ass, Kashi-kun, but you are still ours. Won’t you tell us? Please?”

 

Kakashi quivered deep inside of him. His tongue felt fat in his mouth, and his neck pulsed rapidly as the pressure increased. “I can’t,” a strangled moan was muffled by her shoulder. Her long red hair curtained him from view, and her hand rubbed along his spin. He wanted to explain further, but nothing would escape from the vice-like grip along his neck. 

 

Chapter Text

Minato shaded his eyes and squinted up at the cloudless sky. There wasn’t any wind today, leaving the air very still and warm. Minato had been waiting for a day like today. Over the course of the week, he had Kakashi help him clear the backyard, so they had a clear surface for fuinjutsu. Then he had waited for a day like today when the weather wouldn’t disturb the array.

 

Minato’s first goal was to remove the parasitic chakra from Kakashi. He was hoping to use a seal to draw it out. Once he detached it would likely disperse on its own, either into the surrounding area or return the original. If it returned to the original, they would have to wait and see what happens next.

 

Minato called for Kakashi and the two gathered their supplies and set to work. The array was large and complicated. Minato was hoping to contain the parasite into the seal if he could and that is what had expanded the array. He looked over next to him and watched Kakashi focus on his brush work. It was hard to remember that Kakashi was older than him. It felt wrong to think that way, especially at times like these. Kakashi so focused at his task, eager to learn and to do everything as well as Minato.

 

"What are you thinking about?" Minato asked as he dipped his brush into the ink Kushina had made. 

 

"I was calculating the cost for all these scrolls. We could have bought an Inuzuka puppy instead," Kakashi lamented and looked up at him with a pout.

 

Minato barked out a surprised laugh. Kakashi’s humor was a refreshing change. It always caught Minato off guard. Kakashi smiled up at him, clearly pleased with himself. Minato grinned back, “I don’t think a puppy would help with any of our problems.”

 

"You don’t know that. It could turn out to be a really smart puppy," Kakakshi argued. He wasn’t sure why Kakashi was arguing for a puppy when he had no intentions of staying.

 

Minato shook his head in amusement, "is this some sort of 'Daddy can I have a puppy' joke?"

 

Kakashi scoffed, "way to make it weird, Sensei. How long is this going to take?" 

 

Minato surveyed the work they did. There were only three more spokes to finish. The fuinjutsu was a starburst design, a common design for containment. They needed to pull the assassin out of Kakashi, but also capture the chakra as well. The two seal types clashed against each other and frankly Minato wasn’t sure it was going to work. He may have chosen the wrong structure for the array. He would feel better if he had Kushina’s feedback, but she was still holding to her beliefs.

 

"Another 20 minutes then I'll have you strip off your shirt. I'll need to draw on you, but then we should be ready to start." Kakashi hummed in response and stood beside him. Minato looked down and with a sly grin. "Should I be in the market for a puppy for you?"

 

Kakashi gave a breathy laugh that caused Minato's heart to flutter. It had been a while since Kakashi had been in a lighthearted mood. "I have 8 dogs already, Sensei." 

 

Minato blinked, "8? But I thought you only had the two." 

 

"My pack grows," Kakashi gave a shrug. 

 

That wasn’t the only thing that grows from what Minato could tell. “So, you said. You even have students as I recall. It must be why you are so good at teaching Rin-chan. Even Obito-kun has been paying attention to what you say.” Minato wasn’t being subtle about fishing for information, but sometimes if you get a person in the right mood they are more willing to fudge the line.

 

Kakashi rubbed the back of his neck and Minato noticed his ears reddening. Was Kakashi embarrassed? “I was a pretty terrible teacher to them. I guess I had expected too much. I thought they would at least try on their own, but they needed a lot more than I knew or wanted to give them at the time. I still wouldn’t trust myself with a genin team.”

 

Minato got back down on his knees and reached for a brush trying to keep the conversation causal. “But your team seemed to have done well. You said they helped you defeat a umm….goddess?” Just saying that felt weird, like believing in a myth.

 

Kakashi giggled and Minato's eyes bugged. God, how long has it been since he last heard that giggle? Certainly, before he became a genin. "You believe that story, Sensei?"

 

It was a farfetched story. "Well, it is difficult to believe, but I had promised not to dismiss what you say anymore. Besides, you taught my son, right?"

 

Kakashi’s face softened with an affectionate glow. It was a good look on him. “Yes, he was kind of an idiot, though.”

 

"Wait. My son?" Minato blinked. 

 

Kakashi nodded his head. “Yes, a real knucklehead, that one. He actually asked me what chakra was.” Kakashi shook his head and released a suffering sigh. “It’s not that he had never been told, he just never bothered to listen. From what I hear he often played hooky from school, and he was known for defacing public property,” Kakashi seemed to be taking a certain amount of joy in telling him what a hellion Minato’s future son was.

 

Minato couldn’t help but wonder how he was going to handle such a child. A bead of sweat tickled the side of his face. “But he turns out alright, surely?”

 

"He grows up to be an idiot, but he's the good kind of idiot." What did that even mean?! What was a good kind of idiot? "Don't worry, Sensei you'll manage just fine."

 

Minato laughed nervously and went back to focusing on the array. He didn't want to know about the future anymore. 

 

******

 

Kakashi seemed much to trust the array a lot more than Minato did. He looked so calm just sitting in the middle of the scrolls. Dread pulled at Minato’s stomach. This was an untested array and if something went wrong it would go really wrong. He mentally went over the array again and reminded himself how to deactivate it. If nothing else, Minato could physically drag Kakashi out of the center of the array since it was localized. Still, he sent off a quick plea to the heavens, please let this work. He didn’t want to accidentally kill his student.

“Are you ready, Kashi-kun?” he asked with far more confidence than he felt.


Kakashi smiled at Minato, “Mah, more ready than you are, Sensei.” Minato’s mouth tugged up despite the sour churning inside of him. Kakashi was being playful in an obvious attempt to calm Minato down. Minato took a deep breath and focused on his next steps. This had to be done right.

 

Ox Monkey Ram Boar

 

The ink vibrated against the confines of the scrolls. The vibration could be felt under Minato’s feet.  

 

Ram Serpent Rat Monkey

 

The ink dislodged itself from the scrolls and hovered briefly. It didn’t move as if holding it’s breath. Waiting for the moment.

 

Dog Horse Ram Bird

 

As if cued the ink out to the ends of the scrolls and then up forming a darkened the screen. The ink melted into the air creating a sheer curtain. Minato swallowed thickly and took a step forward to peer inside.

 

Kakashi wasn’t moving. He sat there as if meditated while steam wafted off of him, knotting and twisting around. It seemed that the array was working. Minato focused on the churning chakra waiting for it to take the form of the assassin.

 

Kakashi tilted his head back eyeing the steam coming off of him. Once the assassin is detached all Kakashi would need to do is walk out of the array and they should have it captured. Minato mentally tried to remind Kakashi. This was going to be okay. Things were working as they should.

 

Kakashi’s barely got to his feet when he lunged off to the side and Minato’s entire view was blocked by a rock wall erupting from the ground. “Kakashi!” Minato yelled. He ran around to the other side to see what was going on.

 

The sight of the water depths of a dragon’s roaring mouth greeted him. He was already funneling wind chakra to his hand when it crashed into the ground and water lapped at the sides of the barrier. None of the water escaped and Minato understood that mean that all that water was created with chakra. Shit.

 

Minato ran through the hand signs to deactivate the seal. As he did so there was a deafening noise from a flock of birds. Lightning seemed to bounce off the barrier walls. 

 

The barrier disappeared with a snap and the water rushed past his feet. In front of Minato, Kakashi was prone staring up as the assassin’s hand and arm was covered in lightning. Sparking with wild white bolts. Minato was going to be too late. He was too far away. Too slow. He couldn’t save Kakashi.

 

Gold chains whipped past Minato and wrapped around the arm of the assassin poised at Kakashi’s small chest. They tightened around the assassin’s body and face, exposing one eye and part of his mouth. The assassin screamed in rage and but didn’t look away from Kakashi. The lightening sputtered out and the chains collapsed to the ground around Kakashi. Minato turned towards the house and saw Kushina hunched over and panting. She retracted the chains and went to Kakashi while Minato was still trying to catch up with what had happened.


Why hadn’t Kakashi left the barrier like they had planned? Why had he stayed there? Was he unable to leave? OH. Minato suddenly realized he created a massive oversite. The seal was designed to both collect chakra and keep that chakra in one point. Kakashi was the source of all that chakra, so he wouldn’t have been able to escape. Minato should have thought of that. He basically locked Kakashi in the barrier with the parasite.


Minato jogged over to them. Kushina had yanked Kakashi’s mask down as he hacked something up, probably water. His mouth was busted pretty bad and on the same side his cheek had a bloody scrap across it. She beat on his back as if it was helping, but Minato knew from experience it wasn’t. But it was Kushina’s way to show she cared.

 

"Kakashi, are you okay?" 


Kushina jerked up and practically bared her teeth at him, “What the hell, Minato! Are you trying to kill him?”


Minato heart clenched around the thorn of the accusation, “you know I wasn’t.” Kakashi was soaked, so Minato turned around and hurried inside to get a towel. An earth release: Mud wall from Kumo, a water release: water dragon bullet from Mist, and a lightning release he wasn’t familiar with it, where had this guy come from? Minato pulled a blue towel from the closet. None of those attacks helped Minato narrow down the origin of the assassin at all, unless Kakashi wasn’t joking about the moon goddess thing. It may be far-fetched but Kakashi wasn’t the most creative person around. It was strange for him to come up some fantastical story like that. Before Minato left the bathroom, he grabbed the first aid kit.


Kakashi was getting up to his feet when Minato returned to the back. He tossed the towel across the boy’s back. Kushina snatched and started to scrub Kakashi’s head with a towel.

 

"You're going to catch a cold. I can’t believe Minato locked you in there with the assassin," Kushina glared at him over Kakashi's flat hair. 

 

"I wasn't supposed to end up trapped in there, Kushina-nee. Once the assassin detached, I should have been able to leave the array, but it didn't work like that," Kakashi defended him. He shouldn’t be defending him. Minato screwed up.  

 

"I should have realized that it would trap Kakashi in there considering he is the source of the chakra," Minato said, completely embarrassed by such a massive oversight. 


Kushina huffed and turned her glare away from him. She ushered Kakashi back into the house and him sit at the dinning room table while she went to get a damp rag from the kitchen. Minato put the first aid kit on the table and pulled out the supplies he suspected Kushina would want. Minato turned when he felt eyes on him and found Kakashi staring at him. His expression was soft, almost empathetic.

 

"You know you are not to blame right?" Kakashi said quietly.


Minato was taken aback by the words, surprised how much they hurt him. He looked back down and fiddled with the kit. He wasn’t sure what he was doing with it anymore, probably rearranging it at this point.


“I can handle some blame. It was my oversight. I should have thought of something so obvious.” Anger struck at his chest like flint to steel, wanting to ignite his temper. He took in a deep breath to quell it.


“Sensei, you can’t expect to notice everything. You are putting too much pressure on yourself. I knew the first time wasn’t going to work. We were testing it.”


Minato frowned and closed the box with a clack. Damn. He shouldn’t have done that. They needed it open and now he was going to look like an idiot opening and closing boxes.

 

"Sensei?"


“What Kakashi.” His tone was sharper than it had any right to be. He glanced over at the boy and tried to offer a smile in hopes of softening the atmosphere he was creating. Kakashi’s expression didn’t change.

 

"I'm fine, you’re fine, we’re fine."  

 

Minato's smile dropped. He was certainly not fine, Kakashi was clearly not fine either. He hadn't been fine for a very long time. 

 

"I trapped you in a box with a man after your blood, how is any of that fine?" 

 

"I don't know, it was like a cage fight. Kind of fun, actually. Though the water was annoying-"


“Shut up,” Minato snapped. Kakashi silenced himself immediately. Dammit, what was he doing? Kakashi was the victim in all this. Yet he was trying to comfort Minato. If that wasn’t bad enough Minato kept reacting rudely to him. He ran his hand down his face trying to get it together. “Sorry, I’m just-“ he wasn’t sure how to finish. Just what?

 

Kakashi nodded as if he understood what Minato didn’t, "I've been there. But really Sensei, it was too much to expect this to work perfectly."

 

"Kakashi, you trusted me, and I broke that." 

 

Kakashi snorted and gave him a mischievous grin, "Seriously, after all the shit you have pulled recently this is what you think is going to break my trust in you?" 

 

Offense pulled at Minato’s bottom lip, "what does that even mean?"

 

"Maaa, nothing, nothing. Don't worry about it, Sensei. You'll understand when you are older." 


Minato sputtered, not sure how to properly formulate a response to that. Behind him, like a donkey spooking a pony, Kushina laughed. He turned to see her doubled over and her cheeks already becoming red. “You-“ Minato continued to sputter.


Kushina smashed the butt of her palm against her eye and wiped the tears away. She walked past him and pinched his cheek, “stop being an idiot, Minato, and get out of your head.” She then bent down to clean up Kakashi busted lip, “Do you know what caused this?”

 

"Maa, I think I took a rock to the face." 

 

"You're supposed to catch those with your hand so you can hurl them back," Kushina tsked. "Do better next time."

 

"Of course." 


Minato didn’t know how they could be so playful after his screw up, but it was a balm to his festering mind. He took a deep breath and for a moment allowed their banter to remind him that things were going to be okay. He just needed to get it right next time. He went to grab his scroll that had the draft of his fuinjutsu array when he heard Kakashi’s bratty voice.

 

"Sensei, what are you doing?" 

 

"MINATO! If you touch that scroll tonight, I am going to punt you to Kumo. Put it down." Kakashi was such a tattletale.

 

Chapter Text

Kakashi sat on the floor, his legs crossed as he poured over his latest efforts to create a time travel seal. The room was hushed despite Minato, Kushina, and Kakashi sitting in the same room. The back door and the front window were left open, allowing for a pleasant breeze to circulate in the room.



Kushina and Minato were going over the seal to capture the assassin, but it was apparently doubling as a cuddle session. They were sitting on the floor, too, with Minato’s back against the couch and Kushina’s back against his chest. They spoke in hushed whispered as they discussed the seal components used. Those two had some weird dates. It was awkward just being in the same room as them, but every time Kakashi tried to hide in his own room, they stopped him. They claimed this was ‘family time.’ Kakashi called bullshit.

 

“Kashi, all your sighing is annoying. Knock it off,” Kushina glared at him. 


“You wouldn’t have to listen to it if you let me work in my room,” Kakashi said blandly. He really didn’t see the point of being forced to sit in each other’s presence. Was it supposed to accomplish something?

Kushina pushed Minato-sensei’s arm off of her and clamored on her knees over to Kakashi. Uneasy weighed in his stomach as he wondered what Kushina-nee wanted now. She was difficult to predict.

 

Kushina-nee popped her chin on Kakashi’s shoulder, and she skimmed over his progress. If you could call it progress. 

 

“I thought you were supposed to be building, not breaking?”

 

Kakashi hung his head, “I know. I’m doing the same crap I was doing before.” 

 

Kushina reached around him and pulled the notebook from his grasp. “Well, I’m not going to complain. Minato and I have been having so much fun with the other breakdowns you did. I think Minato is calling them primitives.”


“Mmhmm, because they’re like building blocks for actual components,” Minato pipped up, “It may be possible to build new components with these allowing for more focused seals. I’m glad you’re making more of them, Kashi-kun.”


Kakashi wasn’t nearly as pleased with his work as they were. “I’m not supposed to be working on more of them. I am supposed to find a way back to my time,” Kakashi groused as he glared down at his traitorous hands.

 

“Well, if you keep producing these breakdowns, I may have to shackle you in the basement and force you to keep making these,” Kushina said as she flipped back a page.

 

“We don’t have a basement.”

 

“That you know of,” she ruffled his hair, and Kakashi rolled his eyes.

 

Minato stood up and stretched his arms over his head. “Hmmm, I need to go speak to Nara-san and meet up with Obito and Rin for some one-on-one training. I may be late to dinner.” Minato bent down and kissed Kushina, then patted Kakashi on the head. Kakashi watched Minato dropped his chin in his hand and watched Minato leave.

 

“Don’t look so glum, Kashi-kun. I have plans for us today.” Kushina shoved the back of his head almost smack his face into the table. 


“I’m not going shopping again,” Kakashi huffed and took his notebook back from her. “I need to work on this seal.”


Kushina scoffed, “yeah? How is that going for you?” Kakashi glared at her, and she tugged on his ear in return. “I’m not taking you shopping. We’re going to the backyard; I need to collect the soot for ink.

 

Kakashi couldn’t help but look interested. “Sealing ink?” he asked. 

 

“Mmhmm. You’re an Uzumaki now, even if you deny it, so you need to learn, ya know.” Kushina-nee led Kakashi to the backyard. The roof of the house extended out on one side of the house, creating an open shed. There was a worn workbench set up against the house. Under the workbench were small wooden barrels sitting side by side with dates written on the front of them. Nailed to the house was a burlap sack filled with large brown sticks of glue.


Since the open shed was a walk-through, Kushina had blocked the entrance from the front of the house with a station of bamboo lanterns. She used them to carefully burn oil in small amounts. She had a group of 12 lanterns going at any given time. The soot would collect on the top of the lantern, and she would brush it out into one of the wooden barrels. That was all Kakashi had seen so far. He had not seen her actually make the ink yet. Mostly because he tried to avoid this area. Sealing ink was likely a family discipline, and Kakashi had no place observing or learning it. More than that, he had other things he should be focused on, but Kakashi really was curious, so he followed her out.

 

Kushina opened the container that had a plastic lining in it. “Put your hand in the soot,” she instructed him. 


Kakashi dipped his hand into the barrel and pinched some of the soot between his fingers. His fingers slid across with no friction from his callouses. It was incredibly soft. He had expected to feel grit, but it was like silk that melted into his skin. “It almost feels like nothing.”

 

Kushina smiled softly, “the rapeseed oil burns into really fine soot. The finer it is, the smoother the ink will be.” She closed the lid and placed it near the lantern station. “This is my current batch. When I have enough soot, I’ll mix it with water and leave it to sit for a year. Most of my barrels are newer, but I have one at the year mark and another that will be there in a few months.” 

 

Kushina-nee pointed to the sack of brown sticks of glue. “That’s the glue. Once I remove the excess water from the muddy soot, I melt some of those down. I can add additives to the melted glue, like pearl powder or gold, but the war has made getting it almost impossible, or it’s too expensive. So I’m not using it right now. But that’s okay because the most important additive for sealing ink is a chakra. So while kneading the glue and mud together, you gently push your chakra into the forming ink. You have to do it slowly, or it’ll explode on you, and the ink becomes unusable. After that, we press it into molds and leave it overnight. Then we’ll cover it with wax,” Kushina explained.


Kakashi folded his arms and cocked his head, “Wouldn’t the sealing properties change depending on who’s chakra is embedded in it?”

 

Kushina-nee made a happy noise and bounced on the balls on her feet. “Yup! That’s exactly it, Kashi-kun! My chakra excels at water, ying, and yang seals. Since you are lightening and probably earth, your chakra will excel for those types of seals. Of course, we’ll have to keep them separated, but that’s a problem for later. You’re not ready for that part yet. For now, we need to collect the soot, ya know!”

 

Kushina knelt down by the lanterns and proceeded to show Kakashi how to dismantle them and brush the soot into the bins. As he watched, he was struck with how he should not be learning this. This was a precious family trade that Kushina-nee was sharing with him. Naruto should be here instead. Just like Kakashi should have learned to till the earth from his father. Unfortunately, Kakashi had the opportunity to learn from Sakumo and chose to throw kunai instead. Naruto never had this chance.  

 

Kakashi dismantled one of the lanterns. There was still some oil on the bottom, so he was careful not to spill it. He flipped the top over and found a layer of black clinging to the bowl. Gently Kakashi brushed the soot into the container. Was this what had become of the future he remembered? Were all his hard work and the sacrifices of others burned to ash, wholly wasted?

 

It physically hurt to think about it. And, of course, Kakashi would be the reason for the destruction. So much has already changed. What was the point of even trying anymore?

 

“Hey genius, I can hear you thinking from here. So what are you grinding at?” Kushina quipped an eyebrow. 

 

“Ah, you know, will of fire and such,” Kakashi smiled momentarily, forgetting that this kind of reply only made him more suspicious. Kushina-nee wasn’t the type to let him skirt the conversation after such a response.


Fire erupted on Kakashi’s scalp as Kushina razed her knuckled across his head. He dropped the bowl into the barrel soot, causing a puff of a black cloud to cover Kakashi. Kakashi choked and coughed over the fine particles of the soot, finding their way past the barrier of his mask.


“Don’t cough on the soot, you brat!” Kushina yanked him away from the lantern and beat his back as if that was going to help somehow.  

 

“Stop,” Kakashi wheezed. 

 

Kushina finally stopped beating him, allowing Kakashi to catch his breath. “What was that for?” he demanded. 

 

“Lying to me. I asked an honest question; I expect an honest answer. So, what’s up?” She popped her hip to one side and folded her arms.

 

Kakashi glared up at her, but Kushina wasn’t affected. Finally, he relented with a heavy sigh, “I don’t want to tell you.” 

 

“Because you were thinking about the future?”

 

“Hmmm,” Kakashi hummed noncommittally. A silence evaded the space between them. It felt like both were restraining themselves. “Where did you learn to make chakra ink?”

Kushina looked over at where they were working. “My parents. They were sealing ink masters. I am certain my hands were stained black when I was born.”

Kakashi frowned, “But you left when you were young; did you really remember all of this?”

Kushina shook her head and walked back over to the lanterns, “of course not, but they sent me scrolls, so I wouldn’t forget where I came from. It’s hard to do this kind of work in an apartment, but we have space here, so I thought, why not?”

Kakashi looked down at his own hands and found them covered in soot. “The Hatake were farmers, but I never took much interest in the craft.” Should his hands be dirty with soil instead?

“You don’t have to.”

Kakashi frowned at her response. That didn’t feel true. “Wouldn’t you want your son to learn this? He would be an actual Uzumaki. Clearly, you find it important to follow clan customs, or you wouldn’t be doing this.”

Kushina put the lantern back together with practiced ease, “I would teach him, but if he goes a different way, that would be okay too. Do you regret not learning to farm, Kashi-kun?”

Kakashi shrugged his shoulders. He wasn’t even sure of his answer. “It still doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t think it ever will, and it’s not like I’ll ever have someone to pass it on to.” Kakashi walked over and squatted by the bucket of soot, a representation of the life he once knew. “I’ve never been good at nurturing things. My talents lie in destruction, so it’s little wonder why my father didn’t bother to force me to learn.”

“I’m sure that’s not true, Kashi,” Kushina argued.

Kakashi gave her a bland look, “I don’t make it a point to deny who I am.”

“I would beg to differ on that. You won’t even tell me who you are in the future,” Kushina huffed as she hung the lantern.

Kakashi rolled his eyes. “It doesn’t matter because I’m pretty sure the future looks like that now,” he pointed to the soot.

“What?! But I thought you said things were good! And now you’re telling me it’s not?!” Kushina cried out.

“I’m saying that so much has changed, and I can’t unchange it,” Kakashi didn’t manage to sound as indifferent about it as he had wanted to.

 

Once again, silence claimed them. That was Kakashi’s fault too. He made things awkward. “Maa, just ignore me. Who knows what I am saying.”

 

“Kashi,” Kushina sighed, “you have a lot of angst all cluttered up inside you. How do you even manage? I mean, why do you need to unchange it anyways? Just let it happen. No one will know the difference.”

 

Irritation snapped through Kakashi, and he glared at her, “I will.” He forced himself to take a breath. He shouldn’t expect Kushina to understand. 


“I didn’t mean- Oh Kakashi,” Kushina sighed heavily, “you’re right. That was insensitive. You’ll be losing people you care about, like your students. But you do know it isn’t your fault, right?”

 

Kakashi scowled at her, “of course it’s my fault. I burned the future to the ground by being here.”

 

“But Kakashi, you didn’t come here voluntarily, did you?”

 

Kakashi opened his mouth to speak and then shut it again. His brows pitched down, “I doubt it, but the before is a bit scattered.” He squinted his eyes to focus. “I was running, I think— a morning jog. Well, outside of the village. I didn’t want to be harassed by everyone.”

 

Kushina grinned, “you must be pretty popular if everyone is harassing you. Are you sure there won’t be another Hatake in the future?”

 

“It’s not like that,” Kakashi rolled his eyes. 

 

Kushina grinned, “of course not. So, you’re doing a morning jog, being platonically harassed, and then what?”

 

“I was avoiding being harassed,” Kakashi corrected her.

“So...do you get harassed often? Wait, is it harassed in the negative sense?” Kushina asked, worry leaking into her voice.

Kakashi rubbed his hand over his face, “no, not anymore. It hasn’t been like that in years. I’m just … well known. Anyways, I was going for a run because it had been a long night,” Kakashi had been watching the jounin exam through the night, “something happened at that point, but I can’t seem to piece it together.”

“Hmm, well, I’m sure it’ll come to you, eventually. But Kashi-kun, my point still stands; this isn’t your fault. If you can’t go back, the loss isn’t on you. You’re the victim.”

“I’m not a victim,” Kakashi rolled his eyes.

“Why? Because you’re Kakashi and not human?” Kushina challenged him.

Kakashi frowned and looked away. He wasn’t going to dignify that with a response. “You don’t get it.”

“What don’t I get, Kashi-kun?”

“Stop calling me that,” he snapped.

“Don’t change the subject,” Kushina rebuked him. Kakashi gritted his teeth and contemplated on just leaving, but Kushina must have developed a mind-reading jutsu, “and don’t run away either just because you don’t like what you’re hearing. I don’t know why you feel the need to blame yourself for everything. What did you tell Minato when he screwed up on that seal? You said he wasn’t to blame, and he was putting too much pressure on himself,” she answered her own question.

“It’s not the same thing. It’s not even the same situation,” Kakashi argued. 

 

“You’re right because Minato fucked up and actively put you in a dangerous situation. Your time travel and consequences involving it happened against your will.”

“Stop making it sound better than what it was! I should have known. I should have escaped. I should have been able to return already,” Kakashi retaliated, his hands clenched on either side of him.

“Wow, you really are smarter than the rest of us, aren’t you?” her words dripped with sarcasm.

“Kushina,” Kakashi growled.

“Kakashi,” Kushina returned in equal measure.

Kakashi released a heavy puff of air. “You’re exhausting. I’m not saying I’m smarter. I just have different responsibilities.”

“Your vagueness is really making this difficult to understand, Kashi,” Kushina complained.

Kakashi shrugged, unwilling to clear it up. Kushina knelt in front of him and cupped his face in both of her hands. Kakashi wasn’t sure what she was doing, but her eyes told him he probably needed to run.

“Kashi-kun, I don’t really understand why you won’t explain things to me. Why you leave me to guess and make assumptions? But I’ll make you a promise anyways. I’m going to help you get back to your time.”

This was not the turn of events Kakashi was expecting. Kushina had been adamant that Kakashi would stay here in the past to ‘face his choices.’ “But you said-”

“Yes, and I still believe what I said too. I think what you are doing is unmeasurably cruel, but that doesn’t mean I have to respond in kind. You’re hurting, and you miss the people you left behind. People you love. I’m not going to make you give them up.”

“What if they’re not there? What if I really did kill the future?” Kakashi couldn’t help but ask.

“Then we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. But you don’t know that yet.”

His heart clenched painfully, and his eyes burned. Kakashi tucked his chin down, not wanting her to see his expression, but the warmth on his face was comforting. “You would help me even though I won’t give you what you want?”

“We’re family. I don’t have to agree with you,” her voice had softened, and her thumb stroked under his eye that was still discolored from the rock he took to the face yesterday.

“And what if I wasn’t your family? What if I was your team leader or your Hokage? What if I told you to do something you disagreed with? Would you do it anyways too?”

“Not a chance.”  

Kakashi looked up, “What?”

“I mean to a degree,” she amended, “but if I really felt strongly that the orders were wrong, I wouldn’t do it.”

“But they’re your leader.”

“Yes, but they are also human. You are human. You make mistakes. No one is expecting you to be infallible, and if they are, well, that’s on them. Your shoulders are not so big that you can carry the entire village. You do your best, and you trust others to do theirs. We work together. That is what a village is. That is what a family is. So, trust a bit more okay? Just like you told Minato, you’re fine, I’m fine, and we are fine,” Kushina-nee smiled at him brilliantly.

Kakashi stared at her, unsure of what to say, but then her grin widened even further, “at least now I know what you would look like with black hair.” She removed her hands from his face and ruffled his hair, causing another soot cloud to appear. “Go inside and wash up. I’ll finish with the lanterns. Then we’ll work on those seals some more.”

Kakashi readily agreed. Kushina-nee was right. He didn’t know for sure if his future was gone or not. He needed to keep moving forward as if it was still there. He had a village depending on him.

Chapter Text

Kakashi argued with Minato the following morning. He wanted to go train with Obito and Rin, but Minato wanted him to stay home. Kushina had offered to help him with his time travel seal, and while it was tempting, he was feeling too antsy to focus. He needed to do something. The research was fine and all, but frankly, seals were quickly becoming the bane of his existence. Kakashi was actually considering going to Fugaku to ask for his help in exchange for any information he wanted. Kakashi was still holding back, but even he was beginning to question why.

Kakashi had been solely focused on protecting peace they achieved in the future, but who is to say they wouldn’t have peace in this future too? It may come about differently. But if the shinobi world managed to achieve it once, then surely they could do it again. Kakashi wasn’t completely sold on it yet, but he still had time to figure it out. Those events surrounding the Uchiha don’t happen for several more years. Even Kannabi Bridge was still months down the line.  

When he arrived with Minato, both Obito and Rin greeted him enthusiastically and were eager to spar. Kakashi was honestly surprised how much they had grown in so little amount of time. He Had suspected Rin would, only because she was finally getting the attention she needed and was being trained to do something other than run away. Obito was unexpected. He was hitting harder, but stranger still, he had been there early and was already doing his warm-ups when they got there. Minato-sensei didn’t bat an eye at this, but Kakashi was thrown entirely off-balance from it.

 

Kakashi felt the ping of chakra from a summon. He squinted up into the bright noon sky and saw a hawk making lazy circles above them. He glanced over at Minato, who was looking up at it too.


“Obito. Rin,” Minato-sensei call for them, “I’m sorry, but it seems I have to cut today’s training short.” He gave them a sad smile.

 

Kakashi wanted to inquire if Minato knew what the Hokage wanted. Sensei had been meeting with him often but kept the details of the meeting to himself, so he knew Minato-sense wouldn’t tell him.

 

“It’s okay, Sensei, we’ll practice on our own,” Rin assured him. 

 

“Yeah! We’ll continue to work hard!” Obito grinned. 


Minato-sensei looked at Kakashi, and for a brief moment, Kakashi wondered if Sensei was expecting some sort of enthusiasm from him too. But dismissed it because it was well outside of his personality even at this age.

“Kakashi, you should head home,” Minato ordered.

 

Head home so Kushina could watch him. Since returning, he hadn’t had a moment to himself. Kakashi frowned, “I don’t need to be babysat.”

 

“It’s not like that,” Minato held his hands out in front of him, “I don’t want the assassin showing up when um-“ he glanced at Obito and Rin, then swallowed the rest of his sentence, “ Kushina’s chains have proved to be able to stop the assassin, so I think it would be best if she was nearby.”

 

Rin entwined her arm with Kakashi’s, “We’ll escort him to Kushinan-nee-chan. We can keep training there. Right, Bito?” Rin glanced behind her. 

 

Obito saluted, “Leave it to us! We’ll deliver Bakashi safe and sound.”

 

Kakashi looked completely unimpressed and tried to pull away from Rin, but she kept clinging to him. “I’ll be fine on my own.”  

 

“Alright. Rin and Obito, be sure Kakashi is delivered safely to Kushina.” Minato order. 

 

“I’m not a package.” Kakashi was rudely ignored. No wonder he had been such a moody child.

 

“Yes, sir!” Both chuunin readily agreed. 

 

Minato gave a sharp nod and ruffled Obito’s hair before taking off, leaving Kakashi with the other two. He sighed and started down the path that would lead him to Minato’s house. Maybe if he was lucky, Kushina wouldn’t be there. Not that he was trying to avoid her, but it would be nice to have a moment when no one was breathing down his neck. He thought things were bad in the future with the ANBU and Shizune following him around everywhere, but at least they didn’t give him a bedtime.


Rin tugged on Kakashi’s sleeve, and for a moment, he was reminded of Kurenai, who had the same habit. Then, he turned to look back at Rin, and she pointed to a store they were passing, “let’s go in there and get some bento for lunch. We’ll pick one up for Kushina-nee-chan, too.”

Kakashi glanced at the store and shrugged his shoulders because he didn’t mind taking a detour. Obito and Rin raced each other to the store. They had tried to convince Kakashi to join in, but he would rather watch. Call him an old sentimental fool if you must, but their innocent energy was enjoyable to watch. He didn’t want to diminish it by pretending to be a part of it all.

Kakashi leaned against the shop front and waited for them. He didn’t want to deal with the potential drama of the ‘Hatake Brat’ entering the store. Being adopted by Minato actually decreased that significantly, but that may be because he didn’t have to shop as often. When he did, he was with Kushina or Minato.

Obito and Rin emerged from the store and hurried to him, excited to show what they had purchased. Obito already had a piece of candy in his mouth. It was such a stark difference from when he had actually been this age. Back then, there had been this wall between him and his teammates. But, somehow, it had broken, and now they were eager to include him. Kakashi couldn’t help but wonder if he had just tried even a little bit back then to be friendly, could they have become a decent team?


Kakashi led them back to the house while he listened to Rin and Obito chat animatedly behind him. The lights were off in the house, and Kakashi couldn’t help but sigh in relief. Kushina wasn’t home. Maybe he could get Obito and Rin to leave, too, then he could finally have some space.

Kakashi turned to the Chuunins and gave them his most charming smile. “Maa, thanks for walking me home. I guess you two should be heading off. You probably have a lot of things to do.” He fully expected them to take off. What reason did they have to stick around?

“No, way Bakashi, we still have training to do. I need you to help me with my taijutsu!” Obito crowed.

Rin nodded, “besides, Minato sensei ordered us to take you to Kushina-nee-chan, not to the house. It doesn’t look like she’s home.”

“Yeah, you’re not going to make us fail our mission, Bakashi,” Obito accused him.

“It wasn’t a mission, dumbass,” Kakashi muttered. Sensei just asked them to do him a favor. “I’m sure she’ll be back soon.”

“Well, we’ll have lunch while we wait for her,” Rin said and led the way to the front door. 

 

Kakashi sighed and unlocked the front door to let the gremlins go in. After his ‘run away,’ Minato and Kushina had restricted his movements. Kakashi would even venture to say he was grounded, but they hadn’t been bold enough to say it to his face. He was probably lucky that he was allowed to sleep alone in his room. But that may have more to do with two teenagers visiting each other at night more often than not. Talk about awkward.  

They entered the house, and Kakashi headed straight to the kitchen to grab some chopsticks. Neither Obito nor Rin followed him. Instead, they stood in the living room, looking around as if they hadn’t been in the house before. It caused Kakashi to pause and try to see what was so odd. Minato and Kushina were just as messy with their research as Kakashi was, so papers, pens, scrolls, and books were everywhere. No one had been willing to pick up because they didn’t want to lose where they were at.

“Wow, you guys sure do research a lot!” Rin commented on the mess.

“Are they teaching you fuinjutsu? No fair! You’re getting extra training, and you don’t even need it!” Obito complained.

“Obito, sensei adopted Kakashi remember. So it’s like he’s learning clan stuff,” Rin nudged Obito with her elbow.

“Oh, oh yeah. I guess I forgot about that,” Obito scratched his cheek. “What kind of fuinjutsu is it?”

“Obito!” Rin hissed, “It’s clan stuff,” she reminded him.

Obito being from a rather large clan, should know better than to ask about clan secrets. Still, the question wasn’t surprising coming from him, of all people. Obito had never been all that loyal to the Uchiha clan. He was more interested in Konoha as a whole. Even when he was older, while he did take out the Uchiha clan, his real goal was much larger. That was Obito, big vision.

“Maa Maa, Rin-san, it’s fine. It’s not actually clan stuff; it’s just fuinjutsu. We are working on time-related seals,” Kakashi shrugged.

“Like time travel?” Obito looked at Kakashi doe-eyed.

“Hmm? Surely, you don’t believe in that,” Kakashi dismissed.

“If you do, then I do. Are you trying to go back to the future?” Obito knelt by the table to look at the research scattered about.

Kakashi’s face scrunched up, “who told you about that?”

“Sensei did,” Obito shrugged, not seeing the problem with it.

“Ah! He wasn’t saying anything bad about it, Kakashi. He was just keeping us up to date on your health. We’re a team, right?” Rin tried to smooth things over.

Kakashi released a heavy sigh. But, of course, Minato couldn’t keep his mouth shut, nor could Kushina. There was nothing Kakashi could do about it now. He had been trying to keep the little chuunins out of the whole mess. “Let’s eat outside,” Kakashi declared, wanting Obito away from his notes.  

The sun warmed Kakashi’s skin, and a light breeze kissed away any possible burn. It made him feel drowsy in the early afternoon. It wasn’t often he found himself able to settle into a peaceful day like this. He blinked slowly as he watched small white clouds streak thinly over the blue sky. Obito and Rin were still munching on their bento boxes, equally as quiet.


Despite Kakashi’s cloud watching, his teammates’ stillness prompted Kakashi to watch them equally as close. Rin kept glancing at Obito, who had as much ability to decipher her looks like a rock. Finally, she gave up and decided to address what was on her mind. “Sensei, mention you have a genin team you train in the future,” Rin picked at the corner of her bento, “Umm, I found it interesting because I never pictured you as a jounin-sensei. What-what was your team like?”

 

Obito scoffed, “probably perfect little soldiers all wearing masks and reciting the shinobi rule book.”

 

“Obito,” Rin scolded.

 

“Actually, they were really colorful,” Kakashi offered, still looking up at the sky.

 

Rin blinked, “colorful?”

 

Kakashi hummed, “one was orange, one was pink, and the other,” he paused for a moment, “he changed colors. At first, he was blue, then black, and then purple. I guess he was a bruise.”

 

“What the hell does that even mean, you bastard? Can’t you give a straight answer?” Obito complained.

“Maaa, who knows,” Kakashi shrugged.

“Were they even real?” Obito challenged him.

“I suppose that’s the question,” Kakashi said as if he was unbothered. Yet, the thoughts of his students left him aching inside. How was it that he spent most of his life wishing for those he lost back, but when he finally has them all, he wants those he left behind.

The group fell into a lull, so Kakashi decided to close his eyes. He focused on the sensation of the breeze moving his bangs. Obito and Rin whispered to each other as if Kakashi couldn’t hear them just because he closed his eyes. It was such a childish thing to do.

“Bito, stop being rude!” Rin hissed.

“I’m not. I’m treating him like I always do. Besides, that wasn’t a real answer. That was a list of colors. You weren’t asking what color to paint your room,” Obito pouted.

“That’s not the point, Bito. Maybe he doesn’t remember them clearly. Maybe they are just colors. We don’t know,” Rin argued.

“You must really think me crazy, Rin-san,” Kakashi said, opening his eyes enough to peek at her from his lashes. He was glad he did because her face was quickly becoming a blaring red.

“I don’t! I didn’t mean it like that, Kashi-kun,” she began to wring her hands in distress. But, oddly enough, Obito didn’t immediately come to her aid and defend her.

“Maaa, it’s fine, you don’t have to believe me,” he closed his eyes again.

“That’s not true!” Rin busted.

Confused, Kakashi sat up to look at her. “What isn’t true?”

“That I don’t have to believe you,” she clarified.

Kakashi glanced at the ever-unhelpful Obito and then back at Rin, “You really don’t. And I remember my students well enough; I’m just not sure I should talk about them.”

“Why not?” Obito finally asked.

Kakashi looked between the two of them. Did he really have to get into this with them? They weren’t actually his peers. Obito and Rin were little more than strangers he obsessed over for the majority of his life. He hardly knew them, and they certainly didn’t know him. He dropped his chin into his hand and crossed his legs, “Hmmm, are you two done yet? We should start training.”

“Hey, why are you always dodging the question?” Obito insisted.

“I thought you wanted some help with your taijutsu?” Kakashi stood up and dusted off his pants.

“I do, but you’re a jerk. We are trying to get to know you. You could give us something to go off.”

Rin chewed on her bottom lip. She seemed to agree with Obito and hoped he could wrangle some information out of Kakashi. However, she seemed uncomfortable with his methods. Kakashi stuffed his hands in his pockets and considered the two before him. “Alright, so if I tell you that I’m from the future and I don’t want to stay in the past. In fact, I am trying to develop a seal that will take me home, but first, I need to deal with the chakra construct that keeps eating away at my chakra. What would you do with that information?”  

Obito jumped to his feet. “We’d help you, of course!”

Kakashi frowned. Obito was a little too eager to believe all this. Was Minato behind it? A weird team bonding method? “And if I said I’m not actually 8 but 33?”

A grin pulled on Obito’s face like he had been waiting for this. He rose to his full height and stepped up to Kakashi. Kakashi took a step back to give them some distance, but Obito only leaned closer in. “I’d say you’re short for 33. Sucks to be you, huh?” Then the boy threw his head back and laughed at his own joke.

Kakashi was wholly unimpressed, but he wasn’t a child. He wouldn’t behave as one either-oh. Apparently, his body still retained his childish impulses. Kakashi looked down as Obito was crumpled forward and had fallen to his knees, gripping his stomach. Kakashi had just railed him in the gut with a chakra-infused punch that he had seen both Sakura and Tsunade use. Just because he didn’t use the technique didn’t mean he didn’t know how to. Kakashi sniffed, “you seem closer to the ground than I am.”

Kakashi glanced over at Rin and found her eyes bright with mirth as she hid her laughter behind her hand. He couldn’t help but smile back at her. Apparently, Rin’s humor was more violent than he remembered. 

 

Obito rolled onto his back, groaning dramatically. Maybe it wasn’t entirely uncalled for. Kakashi knew how much those hurt. “I’m dying,” Obito whispered hoarsely. 

 

“What the hell happened here?” Kushina demanded. She suddenly appeared at the back door with her hands on her hips. 

 

Kakashi lulled his head over to look at Kushina and shrugged, “He was fine one minute, and then the next he wasn’t.” 

 

Rin doubled over in laughter, and Obito started to realize who was laughing at him. “O-o-obi-To, was-” another peel of laughter tumbled out, and Rin sucked it back in, “picking on Ka-ashi’s height,” she struggled to get out. 

 

Kushina stepped onto the back porch, and Fugaku, of all people, followed her out. Kakashi had not expected to see him. 

 

Obito noticed the not-yet-clan head and scrambled to his feet. He attempted a bow to Fugaku. Fugaku nodded his head in return, but he looked far more amused than he had any right to be. 

 

“Uchiha-san,” Kakashi bowed, not sure what to make of this visit.

 

“Hatake-san,” Fugaku nodded to Kakashi as well. 

 

“I thought you lot were training with Minato today?” Kushina walked over to check on Obito. 

 

“Mah, he was called away unexpectedly,” Kakashi explained and stuffed his hands back into his pockets.

 

Rin nodded, “we were ordered to deliver Kashi-kun to you, but you weren’t here, so we had lunch together while we waited.” 

 

“And that turned into Kakashi punching Obito over a joke?” Kushina looked at Kakashi incredulously. 

 

“I have no recollection of such an event. Perhaps it’s my head injury,” Kakashi shook his head sadly. 

 

“Pfft. You have jokes now. I didn’t realize you developed a sense of humor.” Something was biting in Kushina’s words. Kakashi looked at Fugaku and decided he must be the source of it. They had been fine this morning.

 

“I have my moments,” Kakashi said. He refused to rise to the bait. 

 

Kushina dusted the dirt off of Obito’s back. “Well, thank you two for delivering Kakashi to me. I’ll let Minato know you two did a good job.”

 

Rin smiled and thanked her politely. 

 

Obito frowned, though. He looked at Kakashi for a moment, then up at Kushina, “we want to help find a way to get Kakashi back to his time.”

 

Kakashi made a throaty noise. It was a good thing Fugaku-san already knew about his time travel; otherwise, Obito would have made them all look stupid. Kids. 

 

“You want to help?” Kushina parroted. 

 

“Umm, yeah, or even with the assassin. We are Kakashi’s teammates, and well... he’s the youngest, so we gotta watch out for him,” Rin declared.  

 

Kakashi was not the youngest. In fact, he was the oldest. Rin was being rude, “I do not need to be watched over,” he groused, knowing it would fall on deaf ears.

 

“Hmmm, I think you two might be right.” Fugaku stepped in. He had a gleam in his eye that Kakashi was entirely uncomfortable with. “I will make this an official request and assign you two to the mission. I want you both to guard Kakashi both night and day. We don’t know when that assassin will appear. It’s best not to leave him alone, even for a moment. You’ll be able to pick up the official mission request tomorrow morning from the mission desk. I’ll retroactive it so that it starts now,” Fugaku explained to the two chuunins.

 

Both Obito and Rin nodded excitedly, “Yes, sir!” they chorused.

“That is not necessary. I can manage just fine, Uchiha-san. Thank you for your concern, but please don’t waste the money. Besides, what would the other clans think of the Uchiha clan protecting the disgraced Hatake? Or your clan head?” Kakashi tried. Fugaku was a logical man, right?

“That as Chief of Police, I am taking care of a vulnerable member of our society that has been attacked multiple times. It is my duty to see to the safety of the citizens of Konoha. I would be acting on behalf of the police force, not the clan. While I thank you for your concern, Hatake-san, we can’t very well lose such a valuable member of our village. It would be cruel of me to stand back and do nothing, don’t you think?” Fugaku asked, holding Kakashi in his dark stare.

“Fugaku-san is the best!” Obito cheered.

“Thank you, Obito-kun, but I am only doing what any loyal Konoha shinobi would do,” Fugaku sniffed.

Kakashi looked to Kushina, who was biting her lip to keep from laughing. What the hell? He released an irritated sigh and marched his way past the group and into the house with Rin hot on his heels.

“Kakashi! Get back out here and clean up your mess!” He heard Kushina screech at him.

He gritted his teeth and stomped back out, picked up his bento box, shot Kushina a glare, and then headed back inside.

******

Minato-sensei arrived home an hour later. Kakashi was working on his seal pointedly, ignoring everyone else. Obito and Rin were drinking tea chatting with Kushina while Fugaku simply listened to them quietly. Why was Fugaku-san even here? Didn’t Obito and Rin plan on training more?

Minato-sensei’s appearance drew everyone’s attention. “Wow, I didn’t expect everyone to be here,” he said as he pulled off his shoes.

“We got a new mission, Sensei!” Obito sprang out of his seat to meet Minato at the entrance. “We’re supposed to guard Bakashi on behalf of the police force!”

Minato looked startled and looked to Fugaku for confirmation. “Ah, Fugaku-san?”

“I’ll have the paperwork filled out and ready for official pick up in the morning. It will be retroactive,” Fugaku said smoothly.

“Do you really think that’s necessary? I appreciate your concern, but Kakashi is usually with Kushina or me,” Minato-sensei’s attention swung over to Kakashi. 

 

Kakashi was really surprised that Minato-sensei hesitated on the idea. Kakashi thought for sure he had no hope of getting out of it. “It’s a bit much, Sensei,” Kakashi tried to appeal to his Sensei.

 

“We found Kakashi home alone just an hour ago, Minato-san. What if something had happened then?” Fugaku asked.

 

“I wasn’t alone,” Kakashi bristled at the lie.

 

“You would have been if Obito-kun and Rin-chan hadn’t decided to follow their orders and made sure you ended up Kushina, right Hatake-san?” Uchiha pettiness was an ugly thing. 

 

“Why are you even here?” Kakashi asked rudely. 

 

“Kakashi, don’t be rude. Fugaku agreed to help us capture the assassin,” Kushina chastised him.

“You did?” Minato asked. Kakashi mentally echoed the question. He thought for sure he burned that bridge.

Fugaku nodded, “The Hokage would find it difficult to spare much attention to such a situation. It’s not necessarily outside my jurisdiction, anyway. Regardless of my personal feelings, Hatake-san is still being attacked inside the village. I believe we have a decent chance of ending this today. I can see the entity just before it appears, and Kushina can capture it. With the adjusted seal you and Kushina created, I see little reason to involve anyone else.”

“Except us, right? Cause we want to help too!” Obito bounced on his knees. “You hired us to protect him, right? Besides, Rin-chan is a medic-nin. So we’ll need her.”

Kushina grinned and reached over to ruffled Obito’s hair, “You’re right, Obito-kun, we’ll definitely need your help and Rin-chan’s too.”

Minato didn’t look as sold on the idea. Finally, he cleared his throat, “Ah, but we’ll have you both hang back. Kushina can’t move well when she uses her chains, so I’ll entrust her safety to you both, okay?”

Kakashi rolled his eyes. Sensei sure was good about keeping kids out of danger but making it sound like they’re helpful. He tried that technique on his own genin, but it never worked. They just blew past him and jumped into the fray, regardless of what he told them. He briefly thought back to Obito’s comments about his team. A part of him wished he could introduce them all. They certainly weren’t copies of him, and he was sure only Sakura was aware there was even a rule book. Though she was more likely to use it as a bludgeoning weapon than recite it.

Both chuunins readily agreed to their ‘important’ roles, and Kushina gave them an indulgent smile. Kakashi dropped his cheek into his hand, “when are we planning to do this then?”

The three adults looked at each other as if asking the question again. So, Kakashi decided to step in, “We’re all here. We might as well get it over with.”

“Ah, but the seal is untested, Kashi-kun,” Minato said nervously.

“I know, but how else are you going to test it than to use it? Last time I only suffered some chakra exhaustion. I didn’t even pass out,” Kakashi pointed out.

“Last time, the assassin nearly killed you,” Minato reminded him.

Kakashi waved it off, “But he didn’t, and we have a bigger force now. It was just the two of us before. We shouldn’t wait.” Kakashi didn’t want to wait. He wanted to know if this would work. He wanted this parasite off of him, and he wanted to go home and sleep in his own bed with his ninken.

“Come on, Minato, let’s go scribble out that seal. Fugaku can watch the kiddos,” Kushina jumped to her feet to drag Minato out to the back.

“Wait, my shoes,” Minato complained. Kushina released his hand, and he went back to fetch both of their shoes before heading to the back. They were like kids. 

 

Kakashi got up to follow them out but was stopped by Fugaku, “Going somewhere Hatake-san?”

“To the back yard,” Kakashi was sure that had been obvious.  

“You’re supposed to stay with me. Let them have their...fun without you always tagging along,” Fugaku said.

Kakashi scowled. Why did Fugaku-san have to say it like that? He wasn’t following them around because he wanted to. Kakashi didn’t want to be stuck in the same room with Fugaku-san. Still, he kept his thoughts to himself. There was no need to give him more ammunition. Kakashi went back to his research instead. Rin noticed his irritation and went to sit next to him like a bug to a zapping lantern.

“Kashi-kun,” Kakashi picked up a book and stuffed his face into it in response to Rin’s calling. Couldn’t they all just leave him alone? “What will you do if you can’t get back to the future?”

That was a question he was trying to avoid thinking about. “I’ll deal with it if it comes to that, but it won’t.”

“How can you be so sure?” Rin pressed.

“Because I have to believe that. I have to believe I didn’t destroy what everyone worked so hard for and all the sacrifices it took to get there,” Kakashi couldn’t see the words on the page, but the book still brought him comfort.

“But could some sacrifices not be necessary? Perhaps you are too narrow-minded. There are many ways to achieve peace,” Fugaku’s low voice rumbled.

“Perhaps, but there are things I can’t stop no matter how much future knowledge I have. Things are coming so much bigger than you or me,” he lowered his book and shook his head, “I don’t know the right answer, Uchiha-san. If I tell you the future, my future, the information is obsolete. Things have already changed. Has it changed enough? In what direction did the changes bring us? I don’t know. I could answer your questions, but what if that information destroys more than it saves? Whose fault would that be? We all make the best decisions we can at the moment we make them. But the future and what will happen, what could happen, my answers would be no different than your best estimations at this point.” 

 

“But if I understand what befell my clan, perhaps I could help avoid the trappings,” Fugaku argued.

“Just because you avoid one trap doesn’t mean there isn’t another one. The decisions you make at that time will be what you believe are the best. I cannot decide your fate. Sure, I could tell you the dangers that surround you even now. The angst that befalls us, but who’s to say it will actually be avoided? I come from the future, but none of this had ever happened, and I couldn’t have predicted it either,” Kakashi explained.

Fugaku-san studied him for a moment, and Kakashi studied him right back. They were on opposite ends of the room, but their conversation was much closer than either was comfortable with. “So, you say we are on a different path than the one you know.”

“I would assume so, yes. There have been big and small changes in my life alone. Some key players that I know of may have different trajectories as well. I couldn’t tell you for sure because I cannot see into the future. But Fugaku-san, I will say this, if nothing else, rely on your comrades.”   

 

“I could say the same to you,” Fugaku said evenly. 

 

Kakashi didn’t understand what Fugaku meant. The question must have been written on his face because Fugaku expounded on what he meant. “You lack faith in those around you. Minato and Kushina are up-and-coming seal masters, and yet you were following them out to do what? Supervise? You withhold information, but you are willing to offer it if you think you’ll get something in return for it. Rather than just asking what you need and seeing if it will be given.” 

 

“I seem to recall you doing much the same,” Kakashi snapped. And the accusations were not true. He was following them out to escape Fugaku-san; being able to supervise was just a bonus.

 

“I’m not claiming to be innocent of the same. It’s why I can spot the distrust when I see it,” Fugaku sniffed.

Kakashi snorted, “You’re just mad and trying to turn this back on me. I’ve worked with enough Uchiha to know your ways.” 

 

Kakashi turned away from Fugaku and noticed Rin and Obito giving him a strange expression. He supposed that conversation did look odd. He was lecturing Fugaku-san, and neither of them had acted like it was weird to do so. Kakashi wanted to be tall again, then he could interact with people appropriately without it looking strange. Once again, he felt grateful that Fugaku-san treated him like an equal.

Kushina poked her head in. “Kakashi, come outside. We gotta draw on you too.”

Kakashi got to his feet, bowed respectfully, and left the room. Outside he could see they had down a lot of work. Once again, scrolls were laid out in a starburst pattern. He scanned the inked design of the seal. It was a shame that fuinjutsu fell out of favor among shinobi. It was rather remarkable.

“What do you think?” Minato asked. He was on his knees with a brush in hand next to one of the arms of the seal.

“It looks a lot like the other one that trapped me,” Kakashi remarked.

Minato laughed nervously, “It’s different. I had the right idea, but we needed a secondary seal to supersede this seal. You’ll need to be the one to activate it, but once you do, the seal will create a type of barrier that will prevent chakra absorption. Then you can cross through the barrier quickly because it won’t last long. So once the parasite detaches from you, activate the seal.”

Kakashi nodded and began removing the leather straps that crossed his chest. Most seals were elaborate and required as much space as possible—Kushina motion for him to lay down on the porch and dipped her brush in the homemade ink. The tip of the meeting felt cold, but the ink dried quickly under the warm sun. Kakashi watched Kushina’s face as she focused on her task. He was once again reminded that Kushina was helping him when she had sworn she would do no such thing.

“I spoke to Fugaku-san,” he said quietly for her ears only. Kushina’s hand stilled for a moment and then resumed.  

“And?” she asked, trying to sound casual.

“You’ll have to ask him. I’m not sure how he took it.” He watched her face pucker like she bit into a salted plumb.

“So, did you tell him about the massacre and why it happened?” Kushina tried.

“No, because I don’t have relevant information anymore. Instead, I offered advice. I’ll do the same for you if you want,” he really just wanted to smooth this over.  

“But what about keeping things the same?” she asked.

“Mah so much has already changed. I can’t begin to predict where things will go from here. I’m not sure if you intended to get pregnant or not, but maybe not have the child in the village. And have a better contingency plan in case things go bad, then both of you dying. Surely, if you start planning now, you can do a better job handling that mess.”

Kushina blinked, “I knew it.”

“Huh? Knew what?”

“I knew we weren’t alive. Is Rin alive at least?” she asked.

“Ah, well-” Kakashi started uncomfortably then sputtered to a stop.

“During a kidnapping?”

“Something like that,” Kakashi murmured. “But it may not happen this time around. Sensei is training her better.”

“Yes, thanks to you. I think you wanted to change the past the whole time, Kashi-kun. Even if you were trying to deny it.” Kushina gave him an impish grin. Kakashi couldn’t return it and turned his head away from her. Changing the past may have destroyed the future he came from. Burned it all to ash. He wasn’t sure if he could do all of this a second time around. Shinobis persevere. But could he? Could he really walk through another 20 years as if the last 20 didn’t mean anything?

“Kashi-kun, don’t get stuck in your what-ifs. You don’t know yet. They may still be there waiting for you to get back,” Kushina reminded him.

Kakashi said nothing, but he’d continue to believe it. He didn’t know what else to do.

The seal was done, and it was confined to the middle of his torso. Kushina explained how to activate it and how long to expect it to last. Minato was done with the primary seal and was hovering over the two quietly until Kushina was done. Minato rested a hand on Kakashi’s shoulder. “We’re all here, so rely on us, okay? Get out of the array as soon as you can, and don’t engage him if you don’t have to.”

Kakashi nodded his head. If this worked, the main seal would pull on Kakashi’s chakra until the parasite was forced to detach itself. Once separated, Kakashi would activate a seal creating a barrier on his chakra to keep it from being absorbed further. This barrier would allow him to escape the containment portion of the primary seal because it would be as if Kakashi had no chakra at all. Once Kakashi was away, they would drop the field, and Kushina would capture it. Fugaku would keep track of the parasite when it phases out of view and let them know when it detaches. Minato would be managing the primary seal. Obito and Rin would stay near Kushina, and Rin would help Kakashi if he sustained any injuries. Once captured, they would rely on Fugaku to help them extract the information; otherwise, Minato would seal the parasite in a scroll.

That is if it all went according to plan, and Kakashi knew that wasn’t going to happen. Things don’t go according to plan in his life. Kakashi was fully ready to die to protect the world from an angry Otsutsuki.

The group relocated back outside, and Kakashi put his shirt back on. He was checking his supplies when he felt it. He rolled out of the way as a kunai stabbed into the ground where he had been standing. The assassin wasn’t there, but his sudden movement caught the attention of the others.

Kakashi scrambled over towards the array, but his eyes widened when he was suddenly swapped with another object landing back to where he started. He was disoriented for a moment, but Minato-sensei blitzed behind Kakashi, grabbed the back of his shirt, and teleported to the array. Kakashi dashed into the array.

The starburst design flared to life, and Kakashi’s heart fluttered in trepidation. Standing in the middle of an active array would always be disconcerting. A light exploded under Kakashi and shot down the spindles of the starburst, then up out of the ground. They then connected to one another, creating a kind of light cage. Thousands of crickets seem to strike a chord, and Kakashi felt a strange tugging sensation. What if the assassin was still outside of the barrier? Would this work?

“Uchiha-san, where is the assassin?” Kakashi called out over the crickets. He waited for a moment but didn’t get a response. At least not one he could hear. Kakashi cursed. This sound hadn’t happened the last time. What had caused it? Not being able to communicate with the others outside of his cage was a huge problem.

The smart thing would be to end the experiment now, but Kakashi stayed. He wanted this over. He was tired of running from something he couldn’t outrun. There wasn’t ever going to be a good way to handle this assassin, so Kakashi was just going to face it head-on. He would have to trust those on the other side of the wall to be ready at the right time.

Kakashi’s eyes drifted as more of his chakra was drained out of him. The parasite had already struck once already, so he was clearly riled up, but where was he?

Despite Kakashi’s vigilance, a fist flew out of the empty space in front of him and smashed into his face driving him back against the seal wall. The light wall was as unyielding as reinforced concrete. Kakashi tasted copper. Already blood was drawn, and it pissed him off. He swallowed it, refusing to give that parasite the shallow victory.

Kakashi shoved off the wall and created a lightning clone, but it fizzled out of existence as soon as it formed, decimated by the seal. Kakashi cursed. He had hoped it would last longer than that, but the pull from the seal was even stronger than it had been before. The walls began to spark, added to the roar of crickets. Kakashi dodged as a fireball bloomed to life and hit the wall where he had been standing. The wall absorbed it, adding a menacing orange glow to its pops and crackles.

Kakashi flipped a kunai into his hand. He didn’t have much hope using a kunai against a chakra entity, but it was better than nothing. He dodged to the left and took off, running to the other side. He just needed to keep dodging until it finally detached. The entity appeared with a rage-filled screech. His long white hair bellowed from the heat springing off the walls.

“I’m going to kill you, Hatake! Then I will compress your life to a blood pill, and all of your memories will be mine once I consume you,” The Otsutuski sneered.

Kakashi threw the kunai at the Otsutsuki, who twisted out of the way. Kakashi quickly latched on the fact that the enemy dodged rather than letting it pass through him. Was it possible he couldn’t? Kakashi decided to test the theory and launched three shurikens at him. Again, the attack was dodged, and Kakashi grinned. This was going to be easier than fighting that punk, Obito.

One of the shuriken from the volley was throws viciously back at Kakashi. He tried to dodge, but the ground below him suddenly gave way to mud. The shuriken sank into his upper arm as the mud gripped his ankles. Kakashi cursed. The mud would slow him down a lot, and now was not the time to be without speed. He sent a burst of chakra to the bottom of his feet, and he shot up out of the mud. Kakashi needed to be careful with how much he used. The last thing he needed to do was pass out in here from chakra exhaustion.

Then it happened. Like getting shot with a rubber band, a sudden sharp sting, and Kakashi was free of the parasite. He grinned and activated the seal. Another fireball raced towards him, and Kakashi lunged out of the array and was caught by Minato-sensei.

Sensei yanked him by his shirt back onto his feet, “Kushina!” Minato shouted.

“Ready!” she shouted back, already hunched over.

For as loud as it was within the walls, not a sound escaped them. The walls flared to life and sparked, but everything stayed confined within them. So far, things had worked just as they had hoped, aside from the lack of communication. But even that worked itself out.

Minato deactivated the array, and the walls fell, revealing a massive swirling firestorm. Lightning zapped at the ground. Kakashi had to abandon his position next to Minato to dodge one of the bolts. Kushina’s gold chains lashed out into the middle of the firestorm and pulled tautly. Kakashi held his breath for a moment. Did they do it? His heart hammered in his chest as he searched through the swirling chakra to see if she had captured the parasite.

“Kushina, drop the jutsu!” Fugaku shouted.

Minato and Kakashi’s heads snapped over to them. Kushina dropped to her knees and dug her fingers into the dirt. “I can’t. It’s latched on to them. I can’t drop the jutsu.”

No. Surely, the parasite didn’t just latch onto Kushina with her incredible chakra stamina. Kushina screamed as her body was jerked forward then slowly dragged. Obito and Rin grabbed Kushina’s arms and tried to pull her back.

Fugaku rushed forward, his eyes blazing red with his mangekyou. The firestorm swirled faster and then, like it was sucked into a vacuum, dissipated into the imposing figure of the Otsutsuki. His horns were longer than before, jutting out of his head like a lopsided crown. His long white hair moved as if it breathed a life of its own. His eyes reflected the brilliant gold of Kushina’s chain that he had wrapped around his hand. He glanced at Fugaku and used his other hand to fireball blast him away. He didn’t use a single hand sign, just an open palm.

 

Fugaku took the hit directly and skidded across the ground on his shoulder. When he came to a stop, he was back on his feet.

Minato tossed an hiraishin kunai and blitzed behind the Otsutuski. “Sensei, no!” Kakashi yelled as the Otsutuski released a widespread lightning cutter attack off his body. Minato’s body went rigid and convulsed where he stood. His eyes rolled back in his head, showing on the whites. Kakashi cursed and sent out a volley of shuriken to stop the attack.

 

Minato sagged forward, and suddenly Fugaku was there to catch him. He then rushed him away from the scene. As he did, there was a popping sound as air bullets blazing past them. Instead of striking the Otsutsuki, they dissipated. Kakashi looked up at the roof of their house and saw a line of ANBU. 

 

Kakashi didn’t have time to be relieved when the roar of chakra blistered across his face. He threw his hands up to try and protect himself. He was not ready for this kind of battle. None of them were. 

 

The ANBU launched a coordinated attack, but a chakra pulse would send them flying in the opposite direction every time they got close to him. The parasite also maintained his hold on Kushina’s chakra chains.

 

Kakashi’s mind raced. The parasite was only getting stronger. He was absorbing attacks and sending them back. Minato was the only one that could possibly get close enough to strike. Currently, Minato was shaking off the lightning jutsu with Rin’s help. 

 

If Minato could get someone with a sword close enough to the parasite, but they would only have one shot at this. Unfortunately, this entity wasn’t stasis. He learned and adjusted accordingly. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have grabbed ahold of Kushina’s chains.

 

“Sensei!” Kakashi ran to Minato to tell him the scrap of a plan when he felt an unnatural split in the air. Kakashi turned around to the void behind him, and his mind stuttered to halt. 

 

Chapter Text

Minato’s muscles were still recoiling from being electrocuted so thoroughly. They continued to seize and then fall apart like melted jelly. Rin was helping, but it wasn’t fast enough. This man was dangerous. His attacks were strong, and no one could get close enough to hit him. He absorbed all the jutsus they threw at him and was currently using Kushina as a battery. He needed his muscles to cooperate so he could get back into the fray.

Kakashi’s voice yanked at Minato’s attention. Kakashi was running towards him, calling out. For a moment, he seemed even younger than he had been just a moment earlier. He nearly expected to see Iwa nins chasing after him, but instead, the air split in two like gaping maw. Kakashi whipped around and stopped to stare into it. It was going to consume him. He was going to lose Kakashi. Would he make it in time? Would he be too slow? His kunai wouldn’t strike the earth fast enough. The seal seared across his skin as it called to him. He urged it to go faster. He needed to go faster. The void was growing, and Minato scooped Kakashi up into his arm. He ignored the voice that told him it was wide enough to consume them both now. Instead, he went to signal to another hiraishin tag, but the connection was lost before it was made. He was tackled to the ground.


Minato’s breath was forcefully evicted from his body. He gasped, trying to keep his wits about him as he struggled to breathe under the unexpected weight. He tightened his hold on Kakashi, who was somewhere on top of him. A mirror image stared down at Minato. The same blue eyes, the same color hair, but the style differed, and scars lined his cheeks. This was not his reflection, but damn if he didn’t look like him.


Kakashi grunted as he tried to shove the man off of him but was flattened again as two more strangers emerged from the void and landed on top of them. Minato was crushed under the weight of them all, and Kakashi was desperately trying to wiggle free.


Minato felt heat pooling on the top of his head. He tilted his head back and cursed. A giant ball of fire was hurtling towards them, and Minato was trapped. He did his best to tuck Kakashi in and wait for the fire to sear his skin, but it didn’t come.


Purple chakra had engulfed them all, and it deflected the fireball. Then the people piled on top of him finally jumped off. Kakashi gasped noisily. Minato kept his arm around Kakashi and got them back on their feet. His other hand dove for a kunai as he watched the three unknown shinobi. The purple chakra still surrounded them all. Were they trapped? Was this some sort of barrier? It looked strangely like a set of ribs.


“You, okay?” the blonde man asked, who looked remarkably like himself, but his smile was too broad.


Minato wasn’t going to accept just anyone’s friendliness. “Who are you?” he demanded.

 

“Sensei, it’s fine,” Kakashi said, muffled against his side. Minato hadn’t realized he was smothering the boy. 


The pink-haired kunoichi slowly approached them, her hands exposed and empty. “Are either of you injured? I’m a medic-nin,” she asked. Her eyes kept drifting down to Kakashi, which only irritated Minato further.

 

“We’re fine,” Minato snapped. He didn’t want her getting closer.  

 

“Otsutsuki, it’s the same one we dealt with before.” Minato looked over the kunoichi’s shoulder to the second man. There was very little distinctive about him discounted his unusual style of clothes. His long brown poncho and head wrapping made him look thoroughly out of place among the other two. Like he should be riding a mule through rocky terrain instead of inside a civilized village.


“Aww man, I was hoping for a challenge, believe it,” the blonde grinned as he settled into a fighting stance. It was a typical Konoha stance.


“Don’t bullrush in,” Kakashi’s voice rang out, “the enemy is absorbing chakra and is currently leaching off-“ Minato covered Kakashi’s mouth with his hand. What was he doing? Kakashi knew better than to blabber information to unknown entities!  


Kakashi glared at him then started clawing at his hand. Minato pressed Kakashi against his side and kept his hand secured around his mouth. The blonde crossed his fingers and shouted, “Kage bunshin no jutsu!” Hundreds of closes popped into existence around them. Kakashi struggled against him with renewed fervor. Minato didn’t think he was suffocating Kakashi, but doubt and worry forced him to release him.

“Naruto, no!” Kakashi shouted as soon as his hand was removed. The blonde looked at Kakashi with wide eyes. “He’ll absorb the clones! You’ll just be feeding him!”

Naruto cringed and took a step back. In unison, all the clones popped out of existence. “How are we supposed to whoa-“ Naruto ducked and retreated back into the purple ribcage when a wind blade nearly lopped his head off.


The dark-haired man rolled his eyes, “physical attacks, Dumbass.”

 

“Just my specialty!” the pink-haired woman declared as she tugged on her glove. “You boys know what to do!” 

 

The boys shared a look, a silent exchange of ideas and plans. This trio was a well-trained team. That could be a good thing if they were on their side, but a disaster if they were actually on the Otsutsuki’s side. Minato twisted the back of Kakashi’s shirt around his hand. He then threw his hiraishin kunai towards Kushina and teleported the both of them to her side.  

“Fugaku-” Minato called to him but faltered. Fugaku was staring wide-eyed at the purple ribcage surrounding the trio.

“Susanoo, but I don’t know that Uchiha,” Fugaku explained without prompting. 

 

“That’s Sasuke Uchiha,” Kakashi filled in, “your second son.”

Kushina screeched next to Minato as she tried to rear back. “Fucking hell, let go of me!” The Kyuubi’s corrosive red chakra was beginning to seep from Kushina’s skin.

“We need to end this,” Minato said, glancing about quickly.

“Sensei, just wait. They know what to do,” Kakashi gestured to the new arrivals. “They’re my students.”

Minato could hardly grasp what Kakashi meant by that. When he tried, the implications rushed out of his hands like sand in a colander. The trio marched their way forward towards the firestorm. They weren’t even trying to mask their intention. Either this was a really foolish team, or they were simply that strong.

Naruto was the first to lunge at the Otsutsuki with only a kunai in his hand. Minato sucked in a breath and watched him barrel through the fiery chakra, seemingly unconcerned for his own safety. The next thing he knew, Sasuke and the kunoichi disappeared from where they were standing, replaced by a kunai that dropped to the ground.

There was a loud yell of “Shanroo!” and the assassin flew out of his own chakra storm, skidding across the dirt on his back.

The chakra storm cleared out, revealing Naruto howling in laughter. “Ha! That’s right, you stupid Otsutsuki! Hehe, Sakura-chan, that was amazing, believe it!” Sakura flipped her short hair over her shoulder, preening in the praise.  

Kushina’s chains retracted, and she sat back on her heels, sighing in relief. Minato crouched down, but she swatted him away. “I’m fine.” Minato had to trust her.

The pink kunoichi jammed her fists onto her hips. The pose was so blatantly mocking Minato wondered where the hell this group put all their confidence. Was quiet, calm Kakashi sure these were his students? “I’m not done with him yet. You boys stay back. I’m going to pulverize this guy!” Sakura launched herself forward, slamming her fist into the Otsutsuki’s face so hard it cracked the earth below. The earth that his house was fucking standing on!

“Sakura, mind the property damage,” Kakashi called out, far too calm. “Tenzo isn’t around to fix it.”

Sakura didn’t respond and lifted the parasite up from the ground over her head. But when she went to slam him into the ground, Minato was sure that was not a typical shinobi move. The assassin latched on to Sakura. “Sasuke!” She yelled. 

 

Before Minato could register what happened, Sasuke and Sakura switched places. The speed was incredible even to Minato. Never had he seen someone do a switch that quickly. The assassin looked equally confused to suddenly have a hold of Sasuke. Then a repulsion of chakra shot the assassin away from him and towards Sakura’s new location. 

 

Minato expected to hear a crunch as her fist reached the back of the Otsutsuki’s skull through his face. But he had phased through her hand. Minato cursed; the assassin could phase again. That made things a lot harder. 


Minato gripped his kunai, ready to join in the fray. He couldn’t just watch as the three strangers fought their battle. Kushina’s hand on his shoulder stopped him. Her eyes were brighter than he had ever seen them. A closed-lip smile stretched her face, and pride radiated off of her. “Our son is about to make his move. I want to see it. I want to see Kashi-kun’s legacy and what he has been so determined to protect.”


Kakashi’s legacy. Minato was suddenly struck by that. He was watching the future. Kushina had told Minato before that she didn’t believe they were around to raise their son but that he ended up as Kakashi’s student. Minato had trained Kakashi, and Kakashi had trained Naruto. This was the future right before his eyes.


Minato looked down at Kakashi, who was focused on his own students. His tiny body was taut, as if ready to jump in at any moment. Minato had no intention of letting that happen, but he understood the sentiment. Minato felt the same when he was forcing himself to allow his students to fight their own battles. It was the most challenging aspect of teaching. Kakashi suddenly looked away, and Minato followed his line of sight.


Naruto was sitting off to the side of the battle in a lotus position that Jiraiya-sensei had taught Minato. Was he gathering natural energy? Was Naruto a sage like Jiraiya-sensei? Minato struggled with sage mode because he couldn’t clear his mind. He often fell into the trap of thinking about not thinking.

 

An ANBU landed softly next to Minato. He didn’t need the ANBU to speak to know what the question was. On the roof of his house and in the trees were Konoha’s ANBU and jounins standing at the ready. All of them viewing the fight with the three strangers. Even the Hokage and Danzo-sama stood among them. “Hold your positions. I want to see the newcomers plan in action,” Minato instructed.

 

The ANBU left Minato’s side to report back to the Hokage. Minato paid them little mind. 

 

“Now,” Kakashi said quietly. 

 

As if obeying Kakashi’s order, Naruto’s eyes snapped open, revealing gold amphibian eyes. He stood up and then was suddenly gone, replaced by Sasuke and Sakura. Sakura jumped up with a shout, “Get em’ Naruto!” Minato couldn’t help but feel this trio was not taking the enemy seriously. Should he feel slighted, considering how this assassin has been plaguing them for months now?

The assassin flew like a cork through the air and skidded on the ground. Naruto was on him in a moment. His fist going through the assassin’s face and into the ground. The entity resolidified with Naruto’s arm going through his head. It didn’t seem to affect him, but Naruto wasn’t able to pull his arm out. 

 

“I know you, but I can’t use you as you are.” The assassin sat up, Naruto’s arm slid further through his head. Minato cringed for his future son. He couldn’t imagine what that felt like. Naruto’s eyes crossed as his face scrunched up in disgust. “But I’ll take your energy and kill Kakashi. Then I will take out every last one of you,” Naruto’s arm began to glow, and Naruto struggled to remove himself. “Once I have you all, I will be able to present my findings to the council. They will finally understand I am more than they thought.” 

 

Chakra poured out of Naruto in waves. Why wasn’t anyone helping him? Why were Naruto’s teammates standing back and watching? Minato shared a look with Kushina. Her face was pinched with worry. Neither of them knew what to do.

 

“Trust them, Sensei. They know what they are doing,” Kakashi said firmly next to him. His unwavering faith kept him anchored on his spot. 


Naruto continued to struggle as the Otsutsuki spoke, but then he stopped. Naruto tucked his chin down and glared down at the parasite. “You took my Sensei and tried to kill him when he was young and weak.” Minato ignored Kakashi’s whine of protest. “Then you tried to do the same with Sakura. We’ve already defeated you once. I won’t lose to you now!” Naruto roared the last part of his speech.

The panic appeared on the parasite’s face as he glanced down. Stone crept up his legs, building on top of itself as if to entomb the assassin. He flickered as if to dispel himself, but it only managed for a moment. Naruto had yanked his arm out of the parasite as soon as he tried to phase.

Minato finally understood the plan. Naruto had poured natural energy into the assassin, causing him to become unbalanced and turn him into stone. That was why none of Naruto’s teammates tried to intervene. It was a trap, Minato couldn’t help but grin; that had been a smart move. Naruto’s teammates had distracted the chakra-hungry entity long enough to give Naruto time to accumulate the needed natural chakra. The struggle to get his arm out of the parasite had been an act to lull the Otsutuski into a false sense of security so he would continue to extract the natural chakra. Minto looked down at Kakashi to see him smiling with unadulterated pleasure and pride at his students.

The assassin screeched before turning completely solid. For a breath, no one moved, waiting to see if it would hold. Then Sakura closed the distance and slammed her fist into the statue. It exploded from the force raining bits of rock down on them. Then she turned sharply on her boot and looked at Minato’s group. Minato wasn’t sure what they did to attract her attention, but he really didn’t want it. Her red eyes gleamed in the sunlight.

“Kaka-sensei!” Sakura screeched and dashed over to them.

Minato yanked Kakashi out of her path and placed him on his opposite hip between him and Kushina. Sakura rushed past them then turned sharply with a huff. “I wasn’t going to hurt him. He just looks so cute being all small and standing there. Can I have him, please?” she held out her arms.

“Sensei don’t,” Kakashi whispered. “She’s a liar.”

Minato adjusted Kakashi on his hip but didn’t have a chance to respond. Several ANBU jumped down along with Danzo-sama and Hokage-sama.

“You all have made quite the ruckus. Perhaps someone would like to explain?” The Sandaime’s tone was jovial, but his eyes were sharp and focused, and the three newcomers then landed on himself. Minato wasn’t sure what to say either. He pulled in a breath to give him a bit more time before answering. Yet, he still wasn’t sure what to say.

“Ah, JiiJii!!!!” Naruto screeched and waved his arms in the air. “I’m Naruto Uzumaki; you better remember my name!” He was then smacked across the head by Sasuke.

“Not so loud, Dumbass.”

“Shut up, Bastard!” Naruto snarked back. For a moment, Minato was reminded of Obito and Kakashi.

“Mah, Hokage-sama, I did try to tell you. I’m from the future, and these three are my students who defeat the moon goddess, Kaguya. The assassin was from her clan called the Otsutsuki, a race of aliens that gave our world chakra. He wanted information on how Kaguya was defeated and sealed back into the moon to achieve personal gain among his peers. But you didn’t believe me,” Kakashi shook his head slowly.

Minato had to bite his lower lip so he wouldn’t laugh. It still sounded ridiculous. He glanced at the Sandaime, who looked conflicted, and Danzo looked ready to beat Kakashi over the head for mockery. 

“We sure did! That Kaguya and her weird plant child, Zetsu! Man, that was a trip. We worked as a team and beat her! Just like Kaka-sensei taught us! Even the bastard joined in!” Naruto grinned.

“Naruto, stop talking,” Sakura lifted her fist in a threat.

“I see. So, you three...no four are from the future then?” Sandaime asked, trying to wrap his mind around what had been going on under his nose.

“Hn. We’ll be leaving shortly. I just need a moment of rest to recharge. Finding Kakashi had been challenging due to the fact I wasn’t there to follow him when he was first sent back,” Sasuke explained.

“You can time travel at will?” Sandaime sputtered.

“Yes,” Sasuke answered simply.

What the hell kind of students did Kakashi have? 

Chapter Text

After the fight in Minato’s backyard, everyone involved, including Kakashi’s three students, was escorted to the Hokage’s office. Minato could only imagine what a political nightmare this was. Kakashi had just announced to the entire jounin and ANBU force that he was from the future. So much for keeping things the same.

They stood before Sarutobi Hiruzen, Shimura Danzo, and Nara Shikaku. Minato knew better than most that this was the trio you didn’t want to stand in front of for any reason. Kushina looked worn out, but she was standing proudly next to him, her chin tilted up in either defiance or as a challenge. Minato was afraid to guess. Fugaku was standing next to her, constantly looking over at Sasuke. He understood the sentiment. His own eyes often drifted to Naruto, who stood on one side of Sasuke.

Naruto looked so much like him it was startling. But the curve of his nose and the flesh in his cheeks belonged to Kushina. He was unimaginably strong and confident in his team. Their eyes locked for a moment, and Minato’s breath hitched. His eyes were a perfect mixture, his own color containing Kushina’s zeal. What had he been like as a child? He briefly thought back to what Kakashi told him about his son’s pranking a nature and decided he was looking forward to it after all. Naruto grinned at him, and Minato smiled back.

Naruto then leaned over to Sakura to whisper something to her while pointing at Kakashi, who was reporting how he had gotten to the past. Sakura elbowed him hard and shushed him. She focused intently as Kakashi began to list the injuries he received from this time travel. Sakura gapped, “Sensei! We should-“

“Mah, mah, Sakura-chan. Later. Have some faith in the hospital,” Kakashi gave Sakura a placating smile.

She looked startled with her eyes that wide, “you are so cute. It’s unfair, Sensei!”

An uncomfortable look crossed Kakashi’s face, and Minato remembered his whispered plea not to give him to Sakura. With the monstrous strength she demonstrated earlier, Minato could understand why.

“Can we get back to the matter at hand?” Danzo-sama interrupted, earning him a sneer from Sakura.


Sasuke then took a step forward, claiming the spotlight from Kakashi. Kakashi moved out of the way and seemed to hesitate on where to stand. He finally decided to stand next to Minato.

“Kakashi’s ninken appeared at Konoha’s gate requesting back up. I was not in the village at that time. From reports, Naruto and Sakura were the first to arrive in the area. Still, Kakashi was no longer there, and there was no enemy-nin insight. A massive search was issued, and I was called in from my mission to assist. Weeks passed before we were able to locate the enemy. He was able to remain undetected even to Naruto’s sage mode. We confronted the enemy, and a subsequent fight ensued. The enemy-nin attempted to send Sakura to the past. Still, I could follow and return her to the present before the consequences could manifest themselves. This allowed us to understand what liked happened to Kakashi, as his body was unresponsive.”

Sakura nodded her head, “Kaka-sensei was in rough shape when we found him. He hadn’t been cared for properly while under the Otsutsuki’s care. But we brought him to the hospital, and I worked to get his body healthy enough for when Sasuke-kun managed to find Kaka-sense.” It was a bit odd to see how casual this group was with their reports too. Nothing like how Kakashi typically reported. They used nicknames instead of ranks; they didn’t stand at attention while the report was being given; instead, they fidgeted and pushed each other around. They jumped in to add to the report instead of only having one spokesperson. Have they always been allowed to report like this? Did his strict rule-abiding Kakashi allow this?

Naruto leaned against Sasuke’s shoulder, “the bastard here had to spend days looking for Kaka-sensei in his weird eye. We couldn’t get him to stop to eat or sleep. Hehe, I think he was really worried even though he pretends he doesn’t- ack!” Sasuke jabbed Naruto in the face with his elbow.

“Shut up, Dumbass,” Sasuke seethed, blushing. Kakashi gave a breathy laugh beside him, further corrupting Minato’s image of his rule-abiding student.

“What the hell, Bastard!” Naruto demanded, clutching his nose.

“Boys. I’ll beat both of you if you don’t shut up!” Sakura threatened them, ending the comedic act.


Minato watched as the Hokage dropped his head into his hands. He couldn’t imagine what Sandaime was feeling right now. They had all dismissed Kakashi’s claims of being from the future. The Hokage had not taken the threat of the assassin seriously because he hadn’t wanted to spare the manpower to chase a ghost. They had several meetings about it, but they were just monitoring the situation. Unless something solid could be pinned down, they needed to focus on the war efforts instead.


Danzo leaned against his cane and observed the group from the future. He seemed the most interested in Sasuke of the three, but then his focus shifted to Kakashi. “Chuunin Hatake, why did you conceal your true origins from us?”

 

Minato was taken back by the accusation. Kakashi hadn’t, but no one had believed him. Since the moment he woke up, Kakashi had insisted he was from the future. There had never been a point that Kakashi had concealed his true origins. Minato, himself, had reported this to Danzo.

 

“Mah, I seem to recall being rather forthcoming about my’ origins’,” Kakashi borrowed Danzo’s word. 

 

“Are you suggesting you were unable to prove yourself? I didn’t see you putting much of an effort aside from those ramblings and that fable you tried to offer as an explanation for the assassin,” Danzo pressed. 

 

Minato frowned. What was Danzo getting at? He stayed quiet, trying to figure out what the older man was trying to gain with these accusations. 

 

“I didn’t see much of a reason to push my point,” Kakashi shrugged. He seemed strangely relaxed despite the interrogation. 


“No reason? Do you not realize we are in a war, Hatake? A war your father started, and you follow in his footsteps by withholding valuable information that could help us end it. This is treason!” Danzo’s cane clipped the air with a sharp clack against the floor.

 

“Hey! You can’t talk to Kaka-sensei like that! He’s the Rokudaime, you ugly prick!” Naruto shouted. 

 

“Naruto,” Kakashi groaned and hung his head. 


The entire room fell silent. Minato almost hoped that someone would laugh off what Naruto had said as a joke, but no one did. Instead, Naruto shrunk back among his companions with a nervous laugh.

 

“The hell, Kakashi? You’re the future Hokage, and you didn’t think to tell anyone?” Kushina screeched beside Minato. He couldn’t help but mentally echoing her question. Why would he keep this from them? Obito started to make choking noises but had managed to keep his comments to himself while in the presence of the Hokage. Because Minato taught his students to be respectful.

 

“Mah, it’s not a big deal,” Kakashi waved it off. 

 

“Not a big deal? I think everyone in this room would disagree with you,” Kushina argued. Minato disagreed full-heartedly. Being Hokage seemed like a big deal. A huge deal. Oh, but Minato hadn’t believed Kakashi to begin with, so him declaring himself Hokage would only add to his lunacy. Minato could feel a headache sprouting.

“As a future Hokage,” Danzo seemed to sniff at the word, “your responsibilities to protect the best interest of Konoha is even more important, and your crimes more egregious.”

“What crimes?!” Naruto shouted and was shushed at by Sakura.

Naruto turned to Sakura frowning, and flapped his hand towards Danzo-sama, “he’s accusing Kaka-sensei of being a criminal! Danzo of all people.”

“It is rather ironic,” Sasuke pipped in.

Kakashi sighed dramatically, “Would you three stop it. You’re not helping.”

“What are you implying,” Danzo demanded from them. The room seemed to drop several degrees, but Kakashi shook his head and looked Danzo in the eye.  

“It’s really none of your concern. The future is going to be whatever you make of it. Our past is not your future. Information that we hold would be of no use to you,” Kakashi held up his hand when Danzo went to argue. “It would only complicate matters. You would rely too much on the information I could provide. It might help once, but the enemy is not in stasis. He will change his tactic. But you would be stuck trying to use obsolete information, and it will cause you to become inflexible,” Kakashi explained.

Minato agreed that knowledge of the future was dangerous. But it was also the added pressure of just knowing. Knowing that Kakashi could be Hokage, would it cause Minato to push him in a direction that he doesn’t want to go? Kakashi had never shown an interest in becoming Hokage like Obito did. Would knowing what his son is like in the future change how they raise him? Would the expectations cause a shift in personality? The ramifications felt so widespread he wondered why Danzo was even arguing.

“I can’t even believe we’re arguing over this. Chuunin Hatake, this is treason. If you are really the Rokudaime, then you would know that withholding pertinent information-”

“Regarding threats towards the village, its shinobi, resources, or dependents shall result in imprisonment for up to 3 years or death. Konoha Penal code 3.8.14 section a.3. It can also be found in the shinobi handbook on page 16 of the 3rd edition or on page 21 in the 6th edition,” Kakashi finished for Danzo. Most end up dead shortly after their conviction, but there have been a few holdouts for the 3-year mark. If you can get T&I to believe you still have valuable information that has not been shared after three, you’re free to go. In a sense, you won. You spent 3 years being tortured, but you still have your life.

 

Danzo’s face pinched and reddened. “Don’t backtalk me, boy.” 

 

“Hey, I already told you, you can’t talk to him like that!” Naruto took a few steps towards Danzo, but Sasuke hooked his arm around Naruto’s chest to stop him. Naruto turned to look at Sasuke, frowning, “dude, what? He’s the asshole that-”

 

“Would you stop,” Sasuke hissed, “we’re in the past.”  

 

Sakura shook her head with a heavy sigh and looked over at Danzo, “do you have any idea how weird it is that you’re standing there threatening a child. I mean, look at him, he’s so cute and little, and you’re like a creepy old ogre.” She shook her head slowly, “is that really the reputation you want, bullying little kids? Are you going to let him, Hokage-sama?”

 

Sarutobi sat up straight and sputtered some. He then coughed in his hand, “of course not. Hatake-kun is right in how dangerous future knowledge is. We shouldn’t press the issue.” 

 

"Hiruzen," Danzo protested. 

 

“Danzo-sama,” Kakashi drawled, “a Hokage needs to trust his shinobi. Perfect obedience even to the law leaves no room for advancement. The hive mind, regardless of its effectiveness, has no longevity. Once the controller dies, the hive dies too. If we want a strong future for Konoha, the Hokage must have faith in his shinobi to do what is best. At this moment, I am telling you it is not suitable for Konoha to know our past because it is not relevant to you in any way. The information would more likely cripple Konoha than aid her. Do you trust your shinobi, Sandaime-sama?”

Minato looked at the sandaime and saw him grinning. Minato couldn’t help but be impressed with how Kakashi had managed to silence Danzo while backing the Hokage into a corner. Kakashi made for a good Hokage, and his students clearly loved him too. Minato nearly wanted to clap for him. He had always known Kakashi had potential, but not even he realized how much.

“I do trust my shinobi,” Hiruzen relented. “When will you four depart, and what will become of our Kakashi?”

Once against Sasuke explained. “As soon as I am able. I will remove Rokudaime’s chakra from this body, and it will naturally return to the original. His chakra is suppressing the chakra of the present Kakashi, so once Rokudaime’s chakra is gone, present Kakashi will return to you.”

“I see. And you can do this?” Sarutobi asked Sasuke.

“Hn.”

“Sasuke is awesome like that, believe it!” Naruto tossed out a thumb up and nearly smacked Sasuke with it, but he dodged it. They really were something else. Not exactly the kind of students Minato ever saw Kakashi teaching. 

 

“Then I expect this to be done as soon as possible. Do not speak of this further. You all are dismissed,” The group bowed to the Hokage and the elder before filing out.

Once on the other side of the door, Minato invited them all to his house. He knew there was still much to discuss.




The fight had been really rough on Minato’s backyard. He stood there surveying the damage. What grass he did have was charred. There were huge cracks in the ground, one of them being uncomfortably close to his house’s foundation.

“Sorry about that Namikaze-san,” Sakura blushed lightly. “I should have been more cautious.”

“Ne ne, don’t worry about it, Da-Minato-uhhhh,” Naruto paused and blinked for a moment. Minato wasn’t sure what to fill in for the name either. They were the same age.

“Just call him Minato, Naruto-kun. He’s too young for you to be going around calling him Dad,” Kakashi filled in helpfully.

“Please forgive me, Naruto uh san. I’m not trying to-“ Minato’s worries were waved off.

“It’s weird for me too, believe it! The last time I saw you, you were super dead! Like that weird dead where your skin was kinda-“

“Naruto,” Kakashi snapped, “Let’s do something productive instead. How about you start filling the cracks in the ground with dirt?”

“Huh? Yeah, sure, Kaka-sensei!” Naruto crossed his fingers and growled, “Kagebunshin-no-jutsu!” About 20 clones appeared, and Naruto ordered them to start filling the cracks with dirt. The group cheered and took off along with the original Naruto.

“Ah-but where is he going to get the dirt?” Minato asked, confused.

Kakashi shrugged, “he’ll find it, somewhere. Don’t worry about it, Sensei.” Kakashi then smiled up at Sakura, “Sakura-chan, shouldn’t you be helping Naruto? After all, you created them.”

Sakura groaned and hung her head, “Fine,” she trudged her way over to the exuberant Narutos, and Minato had to fight the urge to laugh.

“Your students sure are something else, Kakashi.”

Kakashi watched Sakura smash a fallen tree into splinters with her fist. “Mah, they sure are.

“So…Hokage, huh?” Minato prompted.

Kakashi groaned, “we don’t need to discuss that, Sensei.”

“But you never told me you wanted to be Hokage. You know I would support your dreams, right? Did you think I would make fun of you or-“

“Sensei,” Kakashi cut him off, “I have never had and still have no desire to be Hokage.”

“But then how?” Minato blinked.

Kakashi shrugged, “Everything was really turbulent. We suffered a lot of losses. Team 7 came out as heroes, but they’re not ready to take over a village.”

“So, you were forced into the position,” Minato finished for him.

“They may be powerful, but they need someone that isn’t going to abuse their abilities. Team 7 came out of the 4th war stronger than even the Sannin. I didn’t want to see them reduced to demolition force. The only way to make sure that didn’t happen was if I was calling the shots,” Kakashi said, keeping his focus on the two, somehow carting dirt in to fill in the holes. Where did they find it?

Minato couldn’t decide if Kakashi’s reasonings for becoming Hokage were good or not. They seemed really small, but he also didn’t know what the future was like. But at the same time, at least his son and his teammates had someone looking out for them. He saw Team 7 in action and agreed with Kakashi’s assessment they really could have been used as a battering ram to subdue the other villages. But Kakashi kept saying they were at peace. Maybe having such a small goal as protecting his students was what Konoha needed.

He looked down at Kakashi and found him missing. “Kashi?”

Kakashi was partway into the house. He glanced back at Minto and motioned for him to be quiet. Minato walked up and peeked in too. In the kitchen were Fugaku and Kushina. They were arguing over how to slice a cucumber.

“I don’t care how your mom does it, Fugaku. I will bit your hand if you touch my cucumber again,” Kushina growled.

Fugaku sniffed, “you asked me to cut them.”

“And I showed you how I wanted them done!” she stabbed her knife into the wooden cutting board.

“And it was wrong. I was simply trying to do it properly. The seeds are bitter. They should be removed,” he gestured to the cucumber guts he had already removed.

“I like the seeds!”

“That’s because you’re a bitter person,” Fugaku crossed his arms.

Kushina yanked the blade out of the cutting board and pointed it at Fugaku, “Uchiha Fugaku, you take that back right now!”

Fugaku seemed undisturbed by the threat. Minato couldn’t help but wonder where the hell was his self-preservation. “I will not.”

Minato decided to step in before blood spilled on the floor, “how about I cut them instead?” He held out his hand for the knife and offered Kushina his best-disarming smile.

“Fine,” Kushina handed him the knife and glared at Fugaku, “only because Minato will cut them the way I want them cut.”

Fugaku turned his head and scoffed, “that is because Minato is a pansy and does what he’s told.”

“That’s true. He is a pansy,” Kushina agreed. Wait, why were they now suddenly bullying him? “But he’s a cute pansy, and that’s all that matters. I didn’t marry him for his brain.”

“You haven’t married him at all,” Fugaku pointed out.

Kushina paused for a moment, “Oh yeah.”

“Clearly, he’s not interested in you for your brains either,” Fugaku grinned.

“You know what, I’m about this close to stabbing you. Minato, give me back my knife. We’re having Uchiha Flambe today!” Kushina screeched but didn’t go after the knife.

Minato caught sighed of Kakashi speaking quietly to Sasuke, who shook his head. The younger Uchiha got up and left the kitchen table where he had been watching Kushina and Fugaku bicker. Minato then looked at Fugaku, who watched Sasuke go with pursed lips. He was then punched in the arm by Kushina. Fugaku gave her a sharp look, and she gestured to the door. Fugaku shook his head though and went to sit in the dining room.

“You shouldn’t avoid him,” Kushina tossed a kitchen towel onto the counter, and Minato went back to slicing the cucumbers.

“He killed his brother for his eyes,” Fugaku reminded him. Kakashi makes a throaty noise but is otherwise ignored.

“Yeah, that’s pretty messed up,” Kushina agreed, unsure what to say in response to that. “But maybe he had-“

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence, Kushina,” Fugaku warned her.

Kushina visibly swallows her words, “how about some tea instead? I still have some of that piss tea?”

Fugaku snorted in amusement, “Piss tea, really Kushina?”

“Yeah, it’ll go great with your pissy attitude,” Kushina grinned.

“Ah, then, by all means, I’ll go with your recommendation,” Fugaku nodded. Kushina jumped up and went to start the water. Minato would never be able to keep up with how quickly those flipped through emotions together. Mikoto was much calmer. Maybe Minato was Kushina’s Mikoto?

Kakashi came inside suddenly, dragging the source of angst back into the house by his poncho. Minato knew Kakashi could not overpower Sasuke, so clearly, Sasuke wasn’t opposed to returning as he looked.

“Fugaku-san,” Kakashi smiled, “I’m glad we ran into you.” Minato wondered if Kakashi actually believed anyone would buy that comment. Kakashi then bowed low, “Uchiha-san, I have done you a disservice. I have caused a rift between you and your son, and I lead you to believe that Sasuke had killed his brother for the purpose of taking his eyes. But Itachi had taken ill and died. He intended for Sasuke to have his eyes after his death.”

Both Uchiha’s looked at Kakashi, “What?” they said at the same time.

Fugaku then looked at Sasuke sharply. “Is this true?”

“I” Sasuke glanced at Kakashi and then back at Fugaku. “I’m sorry.”

“What was he sick with?” Fugaku demanded,

Sasuke shook his head, “Nii-san was on a long-term mission, I couldn’t tell you. I didn’t know he was sick.”

Kakashi nodded his head, “Itachi refused care, choosing his mission over his health. It was…his way.”

“I see,” Fugaku frowned, looking pensively at the floor.

“But look, this one is still alive!” Kakashi grinned up at them.

Both men gave Kakashi the same irritated look. Minato couldn’t help but grin. He hadn’t thought the two looked anything alike until that moment. Sasuke was, without a doubt, Fugaku’s son.

The back door slammed opened, shaking the house. “Shanroo!” Sakura stepped inside. “We finished, Kaka-sensei!” she zeroed in on him, and Kakashi’s eyes went comically large. He turned to run, but Sakura caught him. She scooped him up and hugged him tightly. “Shut up, Sensei, I deserve this. I had to work with 20 Narutos.” she nuzzled his cheek.

Kakashi looked near tears as he tolerated the affection being lavished on him. Minato contemplated stepping in but then remembered how Sakura nearly demolished the foundation of his house. Kakashi would just have to deal with it for the good of his wallet.

 

Naruto bounced in, covered in the dirt and with no concern about his shoes. “Ne ne, I wanna turn Sakura-chan. I did most of the work!”

“My floor!” Kushina yelled, pointing to the clumps of dirt Naruto just tracked in.

“Huh?” Naruto turned to look at his mess. He looked back at the angry Kushina and laughed nervously, “hehe, I’ll fix, believe it!” He grinned and then ran out the door to yank his shoes off and leave them there. When he got back in, Kushina handed him a broom.

Minato dumped the cucumbers in a bowl just as Rin and Obito came in from the backyard too. Rin suddenly snapped her fingers, “oh! I get it now, Kashi-kun!” She then pointed to each student in turn, “Orange, pink, and bruise! Oh.” Rin cringed. “that was rather mean. I’m sorry, Uchiha-san.”

“Brusie?” Sasuke repeated, confused.

Obito squinted at the group, “Are you sure you all are Bakashi’s students? You don’t look like it.”

“And what would his students look like?” Sakura asked, moving to hold Kakashi better.

“Please put me down, Sakura. This is too weird for me,” Kakashi bemoaned.

Sakura gestured towards Minato. “You let him hold you like this, so shut up.”

Kakashi sighed, “If you don’t put me down, I will assign you D-rank missions for a month.”

Sakura laughs, “I have to release you from the hospital first, Kaka-sensei. You know Tsunade-shishou had to step in, right? She’s not happy about that. You’ll probably be in the hospital a lot longer once she’s through with you.”

“That would be counterproductive,” Kakashi pointed out.

Sakura shrugged, “she doesn’t always make sense, especially when she mad.”

Still, Sakura put Kakashi down. He barely made it two steps before Naruto swung in there and picked Kakashi up with a satisfied grin. “Hehe, you’re so small, Kaka-sensei!”

Kakashi just glowered at him and folded his arms. Kakashi’s irritated face reminded Minato of a question he had earlier. “How exactly can we remove older Kakashi’s chakra from the younger’s body?”

“Eh? Sasuke does it,” Naruto supplied.

“Yes, thank you, Naruto, but I mean, how? What technique will you use?” Minato clarified.

“I will use my Rinnegan, the path of the soul,” Sasuke explained. Minato didn’t know what the Rinnegan was, but Fugaku seemed to.

 

“How?” Fugaku looked at Sasuke wide-eyed.

Sasuke looked at his father and then away, “Things happen. I didn’t earn it if that is what you are thinking.”

“Oh-oh! I know it was-“

“Naruto,” Kakashi snapped, cutting him off. “You don’t need to tell them everything.”

“Awww, but Kaka-sensei, they should know how cool we are!” Naruto whined.

“How cool are you?” Obito pipped up, squinting at him. “What rank are you? Are you in ANBU?”

“Obito, if they were in ANBU, they couldn’t tell you,” Minato reminded him.

Kakashi started snickering, though, and Naruto let out a low whine. “Oh, my students are very cool indeed.” Minato had a bad feeling about this. Kakashi was looking far too gleeful. “Sakura-chan is a Tokubetsu Jounin.”

Sakura grinned and threw out a peace sign, “Gonna try for jounin the next testing.”

“Naruto and Sasuke are genins,” Kakashi announced. Minato looked at the two men to see them both looking away, embarrassed. Was it true?

“What?! But they beat up the assassin like he was nothing?” Obito argued.

“It’s not my fault. Stupid Kaka-sensei won’t promote us,” Naruto muttered.

Faguku nearly stood to his feet but sat back down before he made it that far. “What reason could you possibly have by refusing to promote them? He has the Eternal Mangekyou and the Rinnegan!” Fugaku gestured to Sasuke. “How could he possibly still be considered a genin?”

“Mah, mah, Fugaku-san. Sasuke was out of the village traveling starting when he was a genin. It was the same with Naruto. They both failed their first chuunin exam, and because they were gone for so long, they didn’t get the opportunity to test again. At this point, I can’t possibly allow them to compete against another genin. It would be unfair. And if I pit them against each other, they will destroy the whole of Konoha. We really can’t afford to rebuild again,” Kakashi shook his head.

“But- surely a field promotion?” Fugaku suggested.

“Hmmm? I could, but it amuses me too much. I like them staying my cute little genin.”

Naruto pouted, “You look more like a cute little genin than I do, Kaka-sensei.”

“And I could leave you like that too,” Sasuke muttered.

“Don’t be like that, you two,” Kakashi smiled, offering a flimsy attempt to placate them.


Minato noticed the time and the lack of completed dinner prep. They had been so distracted by this new group they hadn’t gotten much further than some sliced cucumbers. Minato leaned over, bumping his shoulder with Kushina, “I’m going to order dinner and bring it here.”

“Sure,” her eyes swung over to Kakashi, “Take Kakashi with you. He can help you carry the stuff.”

Minato had been considering taking Obito or Rin to help him but not Kakashi. He couldn’t help but feel a little bit suspicious of Kushina’s motive. Maybe she was hoping to interrogate the future people without Kakashi’s constant monitoring of them. Still, he called Kakashi to go with him. It would be good to spend a bit more time with him before he left.

Oh.

Kakashi was leaving. Minato’s stomach twisted at the thought. Of course, his Kakashi would be coming back, but he had grown attached to this older Kakashi. They quietly left the house and silently walked down the street. The atmosphere on the streets was lively, contrasting sharply with the hollow feeling Minato was experiencing. What do you say to someone you’ll never see again?

They arrived at the restaurant and put in an order for a few dishes to share. Minato was hoping something would come to mind. Something to share, something that would make this moment memorable. Maybe something wise or heartfelt. He could tell Kakashi he was proud of him? He was proud of him! From what he could tell, Kakashi grew up well, he became Hokage, and his students were strong. But why would such a self-assured Kakashi care if Minato was proud of him or not? It probably would be met with a shrug. What if he told him he loved him? Kakashi would probably say that’s too weird. Kakashi was older than Minato, even if he looked 8. Kakashi had clearly accomplished more than Minato could ever hope to. He was sure of it. The way Kakashi spoke to the Hokage and Danzo? Not even Minato was willing to talk back to them the way Kakashi had done. He even cornered them verbally. It was impressive!

What could Minato say at this moment that would mean anything to someone like Kakashi?

They were already nearing the house, and still, Minato had said nothing directly to Kakashi. How could he waste this last opportunity they had together? What kind of sensei or even person was he?

“Mah, Sensei?” Minato stopped and looked down at Kakashi curiously. “I was wondering, what do you think of my students? I wasn’t as talented at teaching as you are, but-” he shrugged and looked down at the sack of food he was holding.

“They’re wonderful, Kashi. I couldn’t have trained students better myself.”

“Ah, well, I didn’t train them that well. They had better masters than me that moved them further than I could have,” Kakashi scratched at his cheek.

“Kakashi, that isn’t true. You taught them the most important thing they could ever learn. To trust each other. I saw how they fought, I see how they take care of each other even now, I see how they orbit around each other. Kakashi, you taught them something so valuable that their other masters could not have gotten them where they are today had you not been there first. Kakashi, you gave them more than a team; you gave them trust and a family,” Minato said wholeheartedly.

Kakashi stared up at him for a long moment, and Minato’s heart fluttered in his chest when Kakashi’s eye crinkled in a smile. A tear ran the short distance to his mask. “Trust and family, huh? I guess I passed on what you taught me after all.”

Minato’s breathing hitched, and he dropped to his knees. He put the containers on the ground and pulled Kakashi into a hug. Kakashi’s thin arms wrapped around his neck in return. They didn’t say anything. What was there left to say but the goodbye that neither of them wanted to hear or say? Kakashi released him too soon. Minato felt Kakashi’s hand settle on his head and his fingers sift through his hair. “You’ll be okay. You have so much to look forward to. I’m sure you’ll do a good job with both Kakashi and Naruto. Because of you, no matter what happens, neither of them will be alone now.”

Minato grinned and pinched Kakashi’s cheek, causing Kakashi to swipe at his hand. “Don’t think you can start telling me what to do, Kashi-kun. You may be older, but I was born first. We should get back before the food gets cold. And who knows what sort of wringer Kushina is putting your students in.”

“Mah, it’s not my students that you should be worried about. They can handle themselves. It’s whether or not you still have a house to go home to.” Kakashi grabbed his bags and started walking home.

“What? What does that mean? Kakashi!” Minato snatched up the food containers and chased after Kakashi.


The house was quiet. Sasuke had been the first to fall asleep. Apparently, time travel was more than a bit of taxing on him. He was passed out against the tree outside, away from the chatter inside the house. Sasuke and Fugaku had apparently spent some time together after Minato had left with Kakashi. Still, by the time they returned, Fugaku had left for home. Sasuke had refused to go with him.

 

Naruto and Sakura carried him inside and used one of the only guest futons available for him. They explained that Sasuke had been searching for weeks for Kakashi. He wasn’t sure when Kakashi had landed in their timeline, so it was nearly impossible for him to determine which offshoot dimension he was in. But Sasuke had been the only one that stood a chance of even finding Kakashi.

Kakashi had seemed taken back by the story. Minato wasn’t sure why. It was clear his students loved him dearly. Another piece of evidence on the kind of man Kakashi grew to be. He could only imagine what amazing things Kakashi would go on to do if he hadn’t been alone for so long. He looked forward to seeing it.

 

Minato leaned against the wall and watched Kakashi. He slept on the floor in the living room near his students rather than in his own room. A hand slipped into his, and Kushina’s freshly washed hair filled his senses. Sasuke said they would leave tomorrow. Tomorrow they would have a genuinely 8-year-old Kakashi back. One still grieving the loss of his father and trying to destroy his own personality in hopes of fulfilling what he thought the village wanted from him. They had their work cut out for them.

 

He turned to lead Kushina down the hall. 

 


 

It came sooner than Minato was ready for. The lull over the house was misplaced. In a way, Minato attempted to hold on to every moment as if it would slow time down. But then they were ready. 

 

Minato wasn’t sure what to do. He fidgeted, standing next to Kushina in the backyard. Kakashi was talking to his students. The sight would be humorous if his stomach wasn’t full of hornets. Naruto bounced his way to him, followed by Sakura. “Kaka-sensei is going to go back first. Sakura-chan is going to check over little Kaka-sensei, and then we’ll leave.”

 

Minato politely smiled his thanks. But his sorrow must have seeped through because Naruto’s sunny demeanor dropped. “We’ll take care of him.” 

 

Sakura put her hand on Kushina’s shoulder and smiled, “Kaka-sensei is really special to us too. He may be a lazy pervert, but he’s ours.” 

 

Lazy pervert? Kakashi? That didn’t sound right, but he never expected him to be Hokage either. 

 

Kakashi walked over to them with a smile, “it was good seeing you again, Sensei. Kushina-nee, thank yo-” he was cut off when Kushina dropped to her knees and pulled him into a hug. Kushina’s long hair curtained Kakashi’s reaction, but Minato could imagine the surprise. 

 

“You take care of yourself, okay? Eat your vegetables. Make sure you get enough sleep. Don’t cause too much mischief. And-” Kushina’s words choked off for a moment, “and just don’t forget whose you are, okay? And just because you’re Hokage doesn’t mean you gotta do it all on your own. No one’s shoulders are big enough for that. And there’s so much more I want to say, but-” a sob wracked her body, and she squeezed Kakashi all the tighter. 

 

“It’s okay. I know what you are saying. Maybe you can get a gray sweater?” Kakashi suggested. His voice was softer than he had ever heard it before.

 

Kushina sobbed a laugh, “I think a cactus would work better.”

 

Minato knew he was missing something, but they shared such an affectionate look. Maybe he didn’t need to understand this exchange.

 

Kakashi extracted himself from Kushina and headed back to Sasuke. He waved as Sasuke revealed a very unusual purple eye. Then suddenly, Kakashi went slack, and Sasuke caught him. 

 

“It’s done,” Sasuke announced. 

 

Strange Minato had expected more. Perhaps to actually see something happen. But then again, he hadn’t seen anything when Rokudaime Kakashi came originally. Sakura ran over and helped lay Kakashi flat on the ground. Her hand glowed green and passed over him. Minato held his breath until Sakura spoke. “He’s okay. I think he’ll wake in an hour or so, but what happened to his chakra network? It’s mangled.”

 

“Ah, when Kakashi came to the past, he blew his entire network. He nearly didn’t survive it. He fell into a coma due to a severe head injury. 

 

Sakura’s hands were roaming over Kakashi’s limp body again. “I remember you mentioning it yesterday. He has knots already forming and aneurysms.”

 

“That’s bad, right, Sakura-chan?” Naruto asked. 

 

“He needs to be seen by Tsunade-shisho. I’ll fix what I can, but he’ll need routine care as he grows,” Sakura explained. 

 

Minato frowned, “Tsunade-hime left Konoha.” 

 

Sakura sighed heavily, “I know, but if you want Kakashi to grow up healthy, you need her. This could turn dangerous for him, especially during puberty when he grows quickly. He could die.” 

 

A chill spread through Minato’s bones. “We’ll be sure he’s taken care of,” he vowed.

 

Sakura nodded. Minato scooped Kakashi up into his arm. He stepped back beside Kushina as Sasuke opened a purple portal. Fugaku’s son was really amazing. Naruto shouted goodbye, and Minato smiled. So was their son. Naruto was the one the team had relied on to finish off the assassin. 

 

Minato waved as the three disappeared. The two stood there for a moment allowing the sudden hush to drift over them. He then turned to look at Kushina, “do you think we’re ready for this?”

 

Kushina laughed and shook her head, “no, but we are doing it anyways. I think we might be back to Kakashi stabbing you when he finds out you adopted him.” 

 

“You’ll protect me, right?”

 

“Not a chance. I’ll hand him the knife.”

 


 

Minato hadn’t strayed for from Kakashi as he slept. Sakura had said an hour, but it was just under when Kakashi began to stir awake. He sat down on the bed he had tucked his baby chuunin into earlier and watched as Kakashi blearily opened his eyes.

“Sensei?” Kakashi’s words slurred out. He pushed himself up and looked around. “Where am I?”

 

“Home, Kashi-kun. Welcome home.”

 

Chapter Text

If there was one thing Kakashi had not missed during his jaunt to the past, were the everyday aches and pains that reminded him of his age. He just couldn’t seem to stretch his leg out well enough. His shoulders were taut, leading to a headache at the base of his head. For a brief moment, he wished to go back to his younger body. He took a deep breath stretched his legs out again.  

Kakashi watched Sasuke sleep in the bed next to his. Sasuke had been exhausted when he got back. Apparently, he needed more than a night’s rest. Kakashi also imagined it must have been hard for Sasuke to see Fugaku. He had refused to go see his mother, which was enough to indicate to Kakashi that Sasuke was hurting.

He knew that pain well. Being around Minato-sensei and Kushina-nee. Hell, it had been like he was meeting Kushina-nee for the first time. He grieved for the time he didn’t take with her when he had been a child.

He wondered if Sasuke had struggled with the Fugaku before Sasuke’s birth. That Fugaku had thrown Kakashi for a loop too, he was more relaxed and willing to joke around. But after the Kyuubi attack, everything had changed for the Uchiha clan. As the head of the clan, he could imagine how that stress twisted the man. Sasuke probably couldn’t put two and two together. Kakashi should probably talk to him about it before Sasuke takes off again. He didn’t want him blaming himself for the change in Fugaku. Sasuke had merely been a baby, but kids like to take on guilt that isn’t theirs.


He wasn’t sure Sasuke would be willing to listen to him or would even care what Kakashi had to say on the matter. They had never connected well, so it surprised him when he found out Sasuke worked so hard to find him. Perhaps it had been for Naruto’s and Sakura’s sake. Those three had been getting closer the past few years. Kakashi had often released Sakura or Naruto to travel with Sasuke for a while. After everything they had done for Konoha, he felt they deserved it. And what was the point of being Hokage if he couldn’t spoil his students some?

Kakashi smiled a bit to himself and pulled out his favorite novel. His plan was to watch over his wayward student while he slept, that is until he felt an angry chakra marching her way down the hall. Sasuke would have to deal with an angry Tsunade on his own. Kakashi quickly shushined out of his room as the door opened. He chose not to go far, sticking around to enjoy Tsunade’s explicit cursing. She had such colorful language. He then quickly took off. He already knew where everyone would look for him first: the Hokage Mountain. It had been his spot for the last three years. The next place they would look is at the memorial stone, but if he was quick, he might be able to sneak in a quick stop.


The path to the memorial stone was well-worn and wide. Even with all of the destruction around Konoha, the memorial stone still stood. Behind it was a larger stone, filled with the names of those that perished during the 4th war, with plenty of space to add more. How many more would Kakashi carve into this stone? The stone whispered to him in familiar voices at one point in his life, but now it was the empty space that haunted him.

Kakashi’s eyes dropped back down at the more familiar stone. “Hello Minato-sensei, Kushina-nee, Rin-chan, and even you Obito,” there was a pause. Then he added, “and you too, Fugaku-san. I realize that you all are different than those I just left behind in the past, but I don’t have a way to speak to them. So please humor me. Thank you for taking care of me. I’ll do my best to make you proud. And I’ll search for those scrolls about chakra ink, Kushina-nee, then gift them to Naruto. I know he’ll appreciate them, even if he may not have the talent for it. If you can, please help me locate them.

“You all were so different than I remembered you being, and a lot changed while I was there. I feel a bit guilty for leaving your Kakashi’s body in such bad shape. I wonder if he’ll even be able to be a shinobi. Now that’s a thought. I don’t know who I would be if I wasn’t a shinobi.”

“Figures I would be the one to find you,” Shikamaru’s voice dragged Kakashi out of his thoughts. He turned to face the irritated-looking Tokubetsu Jounin.

“Mah, that was quick. I expected you to go to the Hokage mountain first,” Kakashi admitted.

Shikamaru flipped open his vest pocket to pull out a cigarette. “I know, that’s why I came here. Figured you’d avoid the first place we’d look.”

Kakashi couldn’t help the warm feeling of pride in his chest. Shikamaru would grow well into his new position. “You know your target well.”

Shikamaru lit it and inhaled deeply. “I’m just tired of listening to Tsunade-sama bitch. She’s been doing so for hours now.”

Kakashi grinned, “Only hours? She must be losing her touch.”

“Tsk, alright weeks, since she was called to return, troublesome woman. She’s going to really lay into you, and I’ll have to be there for it since I found you,” Shikamaru gripped.

“So responsible, Shikamaru-kun. We could run away together,” Kakashi suggested.

Shikamaru snorted and breathed out the smoke. “I don’t think I’d enjoy being on the run with you. Enjoy your trip to the past?”

“Maaa, it was a trip,” Kakashi shrugged, not wanting to discuss it with him.

Shikamaru scoffed, “troublesome. I’m still waiting for my results. Did I pass?”

“Mah, I don’t recall. I think I may have dropped the result somewhere. Perhaps we should go search for them?” Kakashi suggested.

“Not a chance. Tsunade is peeved as it is. I’m not getting skinned alive for you.”

“I’m wounded. Where is your loyalty to the Hokage?”

“Probably with your missing results. Let me know when you find it,” Shikamaru said.

“I have one more stop to make before returning. If I tell you your results, will you cover for me?” Kakashi smiled.

Shikamaru seemed to contemplate it. Kakashi knew he had been waiting a while to hear. He was more patient than his peers, but it had been a couple of months, so his patience was likely at its limit. “It would be troublesome, but yes.”

“Great! I’ll let you know when I get back,” Kakashi said and activated a shushin. He got great pleasure in seeing Shikamaru’s startled face as he left.




Old dead leaves crunched under Kakashi’s feet. Kakashi had to trust a part of him knew where he was going. The difference between what he saw a few weeks ago and what he can see now was jarring. There was nothing here. The house was gone, the garden now belonged to the forest, and the chicken coop was missing. He couldn’t even hear the feathered beasts. He stopped to take in the loss and wished for a moment he could go back and drink a cup of tea by the hearth, even if the day was much too hot for it.

Kakashi forged forward up the path until he spotted the tall green stones. They were aged and uncared for but still a welcomed sight. Kakashi stood in front of his father and traced his finger over his name.

 

Hatake Sakumo.

 

“I left you in quite a state, didn’t I? Blaming you the way I did.” Kakashi picked at the dry green moss. “I shouldn’t have done that. Being Hokage is nothing like I ever expected it to be. I didn’t know it was going to be that different from all my other titles. I was expecting it to be like an ANBU captain, but it’s not. It’s both more and less. When I was a team leader, my job began and ended with my team. I focused on completing the mission, but their well-being was my highest priority. Make sure they come home alive.
 

“But as Hokage, my priorities had to change. I didn’t have a team to lead; I had a village to care for. There are all these needs I need to pay attention to. Everything seems to connect with everything else. If the roads aren’t clear of bandits, then the merchants can’t get through. Without the merchants, we don’t have a supply of steel. Without that steel, the costs of blades go up. When the price of blades goes up, my shinobi’s are not appropriately equipped, and we have more casualties on the field, allowing for more bandits on the road. It’s a vicious cycle and a balancing act that I can’t truly win.

 

“When I create and assign these missions, I have all these other elements in the back of my mind. I know why these missions are important and what failure would mean. I rely on these missions being completed, and I think I got caught up in that.”

Kakashi shoved his hands into his pockets and sighed heavily. His shoulders drooped as he thought about the weight of the village. “I began to realize why the Sandaime was so angry with you back then, and I found myself agreeing with him. It brought up old wounds. Then I came here and blamed you for the third war and all that it took from me. I ended up in the past, Dad. I was eight years old again. It was as terrible as you can imagine. But going to the past didn’t lessen what I had lost by making me somehow grateful for all I had gained. It made me realize I lost more than I ever realized or could have dreamed of,” he made a painful swallow as the emotion jabbed at his throat.

“Minato-sense actually adopted me against my will, and Kushina-nee was determined to turn me into an Uzumaki. Could you imagine me as an Uzumaki?” Kakashi shook his head with a breathy laugh. Then fell silent for a moment. His mind felt full, but it was challenging to organize it all into language.

“The war,” he started slow, “it wasn’t your fault. You did the right thing. You brought your team home alive. Mission failure or not, the team leader’s priority is getting his team home alive. Your job was to get them home. My job as the Hokage is to make sure that you can make the call to fail the mission. If you need to fail a mission, it’s my job to deal with the fallout and find solutions. I don’t have the right to demand sacrifices, but I am to honor them when they are given. Above everyone else, I need to honor those that laid down their lives for our village.”

Kakashi Hatake dropped to his knees, and his forehead touched the ground before his father’s grave. “Hataka Sakumo, Jounin of Konohagakure, this Hokage is humbled by your sacrifice and deeply grateful for your service to our village.” He lifted his head and then lowered it to the ground once more, “Dad, thank you for showing me how to be a shinobi. You really were a hero.”