“Cubs under four if you steal them they’re yours.” (Old Hatake saying from the warring clans era)
It was a spur of the moment decision really. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Twelve hours later, after he finally got the hunter nins off his trail and had some time to think about it, he could admit it probably hadn’t been the best thought through decision he’d ever made. Still he couldn’t quite bring himself to regret it.
“Kashi ni-san, where are we going?” The blond two year old scrunched up his face adorably, banishing Kakashi’s doubts.
“Maa Naruto-chan, we’re going on an adventure on the road of life.” He was rewarded with a smile like sunshine. He would burn the world down for that smile, stealing the kyuubi jinchuriki and going missing nin were nothing when weighed against Naruto’s happpiness. He suppressed a growl at the thought of the incident that caused all this.
ANBU Inu was back from yet another assassination mission. They were getting more fucked up by the day, and he could barely keep from shaking. He was in no state to report in at headquarters, and the thought of returning to his cold, bare apartment made him feel empty inside. He decided to check in on sensei’s son instead. Remind himself of what he was protecting, that there was still something good and innocent in this village, even with the situation as it was.
He took the rooftops, the streets were crowded for the Kyuubi festival. Had it really been two years already? He froze as he reached the orphanage. Were those civilians beating up a kid. They were. Inu caught a flash of blond hair and frightened blue eyes and saw red. They were hurting Minato sensei’s son, they were hurting his baby brother. He was going to fucking kill them.
He didn’t, quite kill them in the end. He still had enough self-restraint not to kill civilians. Even ones who deserved it. Well not in front of Naruto anyway. Killing people in front of babies was baaad. Kakashi was pretty sure about that. Lots of people said so at least. Anyway, they were still breathing when he left, so it totally didn’t count as murder.
Anyway those bastards weren’t the important thing. The important thing was the adorable blonde puppy-child he’d rescued from them. His sheer delight when Inu picked him up and carried him away to his apartment. No kid should be that happy over a simple hug. Kakashi’s childhood might have read like the backstory for a comic book supervillain, but even he’d got hugs when he was two. He paced his apartment, Naruto still held tightly in his arms.
He’d obeyed orders. They’d said he should stay away from Naruto to avoid drawing undue attention, and that considering his state of mental health he probably wasn’t the best person to be around small children anyway. They may have had a point. But, that argument was only valid as long as Naruto was better off where he was. He wasn’t. Obviously. Even Kakashi could see that. He had some thinking to do.
Clearly Konoha could not be trusted to look after Naruto. He’d tried trusting them and now he could feel the boy’s ribs through his worn out T-Shirt. He continued to pace. It took him a while to realise that the growling echoing through the apartment was him, he hadn’t registered quite how angry he was, and he had to force himself to relax when he realised he was holding Naruto too tight.
Those fuckers. Minato sensei had died, to protect Konoha, had sealed a demon into his own baby son, who was now the only thing protecting the village from annihilation and they hurt him, the neglected him, they whispered, and hated, and beat up a two year old in a dark alley. Actually it brought back memories of his father, right before the suicide, the way the village turned on someone who’d fought and bled for them, the way they’d turned on his six year old son who’d never put a foot wrong. They’d been bastards back then as well. In fact right now he was struggling to find any particular good points about Konoha. There were the back to back ANBU missions, with murder and torture as a staple, there were the dead friends on the memorial stone, and there were the fucking bastard villagers who’d never earned a drop of the blood spilled by him and his comrades since they were children.
It was getting worse too. Not just the ANBU missions, although those had been getting bloodier, everything. Maybe if the Sandaime were still… but he was… and things just kept getting worse. They were talking about lowering the graduation age again, more children to be sent to war. There was less and less space to refuse missions, to take a break, to breathe. The military police had instituted a city wide curfew, for reasons that were spurious even for the Uchiha. And the shinobi laws were subtly being rewritten year by year, to leave less space for humanity. God knows what he would have become if his rules obsessed child self, had followed the current code.
So to recap, he had Naruto. Konoha hurt Naruto. Konoha wanted him to stay away from Naruto and kill people for them. He didn’t even like Konoha that much anymore. Minato sensei made him promise to take care of Naruto. Kakashi could barely breathe as years of conditioning snapped under the strain, and he came to an unthinkable conclusion. Konoha could go fuck themselves.
It had taken him approximately ten minutes to pack up his equipment into sealing scrolls, along with the few personal effects he couldn’t live without. It had taken fifteen to work up the guts to slice a vertical line through the leaf symbol on his hitae-ate, years of indoctrination don’t fall away easily. He’d left the ANBU mask behind but kept the uniform. ANBU gear was good quality stuff, no point wasting it. Naruto had fallen asleep in his arms while he was thinking and it took only a simple genjutsu to keep him that way as he sneaked out of the village. By the time anyone realised he was gone he had a six hour headstart.
It was shocking how liberating it felt. For the first time in his whole life, he was outside of a chain of command. He was his own boss. He could go where he liked, do what he liked, and best of all. No more paperwork. Ever. It was awesome.
Well it was awesome up until the point he discovered Naruto wasn’t properly toilet trained yet. Then it was less awesome. Naruto peed on him. He had limited success fixing it. Swatting him on the nose with a newspaper didn’t work. Apparently children weren’t like puppies. Clearly he had some catching up to do in terms of parenting skills. Ah well. He was a genius, he’d figure it out.
When they finally managed to lose the hunter nins, Kakashi decided it might be a good idea to stop by a town and grab some supplies. Apparently small children don’t eat ration bars. It had taken a good couple of hours of alternating cajoling with coercion to come to that conclusion. In the end he’d given in and decided to go shopping.
It was while they were in town that they came up against their first major roadblock. Naruto looked nothing like him. By this point Naruto was quite happily calling him Ni-san, but apparently Naruto’s obvious affection wasn’t enough to keep them from looking seriously suspicious. Which was why the two of them ended up hiding out in a cheap motel, while Kakashi bleached Naruto’s hair over the sink. It was amazing what a difference it made. Naruto still didn’t look that much like him facially, but changing one obvious attention grabbing feature to match was apparently enough for most people to discount that. Especially with most of Kakashi’s face covered. Hmm, maybe he should get Naruto a mask when he was older.
Shopping was… hard. He’d never really done much of it. He got his uniforms from supplies, and while he did know how to do food shopping he had no idea what small children ate. He ended up flirting with the old ladies in the supermarket until they helped him. Apparently it was cute that he was trying so hard to take good care of his little brother while his parents were on a business trip. He’d used a henge to disguise himself but he still wasn’t sure how they had failed to notice he was a ninja. Civilians were really unobservant. How did they not get killed?
Kakashi put that question aside in favour of focusing on the baby development books one particularly persistant old biddy had made him buy. Evidently Naruto was old enough to toilet train. This was good news. He read on. Children need exercise, well that could be covered by training, lots of physical contact from primary caregiver, he could manage that, he had no intention of putting Naruto down any time soon, healthy balanced diet, he made a quick note for further research. He continued, apparently it helped with healthy child development to read children bedtime stories. He considered for a moment and then smiled. Well he had that covered. He had every volume of icha icha ever published. They could start at the beginning and work their way through together. It must be fate of something. After all. His godfather was the author.