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Life Goes On

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Time stood frozen around him.

The clean and white washed facsimile of Kings Cross seemed empty now that Dumbledore, or whoever that had been, left him to make his decision. He was left alone with the injured soul shard that was all that was left of Voldemort's Horcurx and even though he'd just been told there was nothing he could do for the pitiful thing… being left alone with it just made it that much harder to ignore. Its soft whimpers of pain seemed louder now than they had been when he'd been having his conversation with 'Dumbledore' and he could hardly walk away from it.

His sympathy might have been severely misplaced and amplified due to proximity, but…

Conjuring a thick blanket out of the air Harry gingerly picked up the weak and trembling soul shard, carefully swaddled it and placed it back down on the bench it had been hiding under. He took a seat on the bench next to the thing and allowed himself to think the decision through.

Would the world he'd left behind truly need him to return?

Voldemort had the elder wand in his possession, but did that mean as much as it did before he'd died? Pulling his feet up Harry crossed his legs and closed his eyes, sinking his awareness into his sense of self and found what he was looking for as the symbol of the Deathly Hallows flashed behind his eyes.

Breathing out a sigh of relief Harry opened his eyes, Voldemort was going to be in for one very big surprise the next time he went to attack or defend himself. Harry had taken the power of the Elder Wand with him when he'd died and it had sunken deep into the hollowed out section of his soul that the Horcux had carved out for itself, joining with what he'd taken from the other hallows instead of 'jumping ship' to a new master. He didn't know what he could do with it yet, but the Deathly Hallows were forever out of Voldemort's reach. Out of everyone's reach.

If he went back into the living world… how long would it be until the next person started chasing after him for the power he'd unwittingly gained? He would risk that power falling into Voldemort's hands if he went back into the living world. There would be no third chance for him, and no second chance at keeping the power of the Deathly Hallows out of the hands of people who would use them for their own ends.

A jagged rasp from the broken creature sharing the bench with him broke him out of his musings and unwittingly provided Harry with a glimpse of the world he had left behind. A brief accidental brush of his thigh against the swathed bundle and he was treated to a flash of what was going on in the real world. For a long moment Harry was frozen in shock at the scene he was treated to, a vision seen from Voldemort's eyes of the battle that continued on without him. He slid off the bench in an immediate knee-jerk reaction to get away from it but stopped just as suddenly. In the seconds before he had broken contact with the Horcux… had he actually seen what he'd thought he'd seen?

Turning around he reached out a trembling hand to reforge the connection to the living world to get the answer he needed. Bracing himself for the vision that would greet him Harry brush a gentle hand to the Horcurx's burnt and bleeding skin and closed his eyes again to better focus on what it would show him. It only took a few moments to confirm what he'd seen in the last second of contact he'd had with Voldemort but… a weight lifted off his shoulders.

His friends were protected.

Voldemort would not be killing anyone else. He wouldn't be able to kill anyone ever again. Harry had been ready to die to stop him from hurting them, willing enough to walk to his own death and now… now Harry's magic was protecting everyone fighting against the Death Eaters. None of the spells Voldemort or his Death Eaters were casting held, they wicked off his friends like water. He couldn't torture them. He couldn't even touch them. Just like his mother had willing given his life to protect him, Harry had willingly given his life to protect the people of Hogwarts against the Dark Lord.

Now on his knees in front of the bench Harry gently cupped his hand around the back of the Horcruxes head and leaned over its shivering body to better lock eyes with it. He watched his people end the war through its connection with Voldemort and felt the sting of tears prickle at the corners of his eyes. They were winning. Death Eaters were being taken down left, right and center as the people of Hogwarts began to discover their new advantage. Through Nagini's eyes he saw Neville follow through the instructions he'd given him, to make sure he killed the snake, and that connection was cut with a mighty sweep of Gryffindor's sword.

The connection switched to Voldemort's again and Harry stayed with the man as the same sweep of silver that had cut through Voldemort's final Horcux also cut through Harry's last connection to the living world. He let go of the Horcux in front of him and leaned back on his heels. He'd made his decision. His friends would mourn him but they would heal, and better yet they would also be protected. There was no need to return to the living world.

Gently retrieving his hand from around the back of the Horcurx's head Harry picked himself up and plopped himself back onto the bench as a ghostly image rippled into existence. Familiar walls sketched themselves into being, tracing see-through tables into existence along the platforms of Kings Cross. Banners hung from a clear ceiling and Harry knew that the ghostly form of Hogwarts Great Hall that was forming would be Voldemort's vision of this world between life and death. Its appearance would herald the arrival of his life-long enemy.

He made no move to leave.

He allowed himself a somewhat bitter smirk at the fractured figure of Tom Riddle that appeared before him in a smoky haze, growing into being from the pitiful creature Harry had wrapped and left on the bench. The man appeared facing away from him and out into the 'hall' that had appeared and hadn't noticed him yet, the man was too busy taking in his surroundings. He doubted he'd have been treated to even this ghostly view of the other's vision of death if he hadn't shared part of the man's soul for almost as long as he'd been alive.

Riddle was seated in the Headmaster's chair, and Harry found himself 'seated' at his right, in the spot traditionally reserved for the Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher. The irony of it made Harry lean back to catch his breath. Had things gone differently… Harry's heart ached as the possibilities occurred to him.

"For all that violence and pain, was this end really something to be so afraid of?" Harry asked softly, testing the surface of the ghostly table with his elbow and leaned his cheek on his palm as he waited for the answer, actually curious for it.

Tom Riddle startled, and cracked pale green eyes shot through with chips of red flew wide. "Potter?! What are you— Come to gloat have you?" The broken soul asked, parts of him shifting jaggedly as he moved.

Harry snorted. Were the Gaunts related to the Malfoy's at all? He'd heard something like that from Malfoy at least a handful of times!

"Hardly. Shame you weren't here a while ago, you just missed Dumbledore." Harry replied with false cheer. "We had a lovely chat, I'm sure he'd have been delighted to include you in the conversation."

If he'd been capable of it Harry would have died again laughing at the look he was presented with for that. He was used to people, mostly Slytherin's his age and Snape, looking at him like they were doubting his intelligence and sanity, but to have it directed at him from the face of Tom Riddle made that priceless. Harry was starting to understand a little of why Dumbledore had hung around this place so long waiting for Harry to pass through. In this place, hatred and pain were washed away, and it was easy to exist in just this moment.

Tom Riddle had been born in such an unforgiving time, in a world so harsh that he'd taken that pain and done the only thing someone so broken could think to do with it. He'd rained it back down on everyone around him. What would he have grown up to be if he'd been nurtured instead of scorned? If he'd had even one person to lean on? Perhaps now, in whatever new life that lay ahead, they would both be fortunate enough to enjoy a better future. Death was healing, rest and peace, and Harry couldn't think of anyone who needed that more than the man sitting next to him. Who needed this place to wash away the pain he hadn't been able to shake in the living world.

Laughing under his breath as he got to his feet at the still highly perplexed look still being directed at him Harry got to his feet. Lifting his chin from his palm as pushed away from the phantom table he walked around it and towards the intangible doors of the great hall.

"Potter! What— Where are you going?!" Tom Riddle asked, rising to his own feet as if he couldn't believe he was seeing.

"… On." Harry replied, as he stopped before the doors he could barely see but must have been completely solid for the other man. He didn't need this place anymore. He hadn't since he'd witnessed his friends win the war through Voldemort's eyes. He felt solid and secure, he'd spent enough time in this place between life and death. Casting a single glance back Harry took one last look at Tom Riddle's soul and felt a faint smile kick up the corner of his mouth at what he saw.

The man was already healing. When he'd first appeared he'd been opaque, broken into pieces and his soul had looked cracked all over. Now the cracks were fewer and smaller and some of the pieces had started fusing together and were merging even as he watched.

"— are you really Potter?"

Harry laughed and left the man's vision of death without answering. He pushed forward into his own and the ghostly visions of Hogwarts swept away from him with each stride, leaving only Kings Cross as it had first appeared to him when he'd first died. Clean and white, pristine in a way that the real thing would never be.

A train ticket stamped with the image of the Deathly Hallows appeared in the air in front of him and the hiss of a train's arrival had him stepping to the edge of the closest platform. Accepting it Harry boarded the train. There was nothing holding him back now from moving forward. His magic would last for as long as those who fought with him lived. He may have lost the battle but… he had won the war. His magic would protect the people he'd left behind for him and his final enemy… would never be able to hurt anyone ever again.

He had won.

OoO

As far as his clan was concerned, Uchiha Obito had been born with his wires crossed.

The baby mastered the art of crawling with record speed and he was just as fast at figuring out which limbs did what and then took to running like a wild animal. Away from his watching cousins. At a speed that put those elder cousins of his to shame. With shrieking giggles that vanished into nothingness the second the toddler was out of immediate sight. When captured, usually hours later, he was utterly pleased with himself and covered in all sorts of dirt. Jokes about his possible connection to the Inuzuka clan were muttered grumpily by Obito's 'favourites', but it was very hard to stay angry at the bubbly baby. He would always gleefully shower whoever managed to catch him in pure affection, even if that also had his 'captor' covered in whatever he'd rolled around in.

Calling him advanced for his age was an understatement. While it was normal for a child to test the boundaries of what they were and weren't allowed to do, Obito took it to the next level. He'd somehow figured out how to get in and out of places before anyone realized what was going on. A door that wasn't locked became an open invitation for him and baby-proofing against the curious little devil became a necessity.

Uchiha Misao would never forget the day he came home from a mission to find Obito in his house. Covered in his entire stock of explosive tags. The baby had been papered from cheek to toes with them and had been caught a breath away from planting a chakra-charged, ink covered hand across a layer of explosive tags stuck to the tatami. A heart attack punctuated with strangled screams and a rapid chain of high-speed movement later and Misao understood exactly WHY his neighbours were so watchful these days. He learned to seal his home against his young clansman directly afterwards and joined in with his fellow Uchiha in keeping a wary eye, or two, on the orphan.

One of Misao's neighbours confessed to firmly believing that the younger Uchiha had somehow walked through his walls to get his hands on a very precious and expensive packet of chakra-conductive paper. The resulting fire from the baby's one and only excursion into that particular neighbour's house would have made the man homeless had he not noticed the smoke coming from his office. Obito was apparently a fire type. A fire type with a naturally large capacity for chakra. The entire packet of chakra conductive paper had practically gone up in smoke, though not quite quick enough not to catch the edge of half-finished report on fire.

The sight of the little giggling ball of mischief being summarily tossed out of households became a common sight in the Uchiha District.

Aside from his apparently effortless penchant for mischief he was a bright, lovable little thing with way too much energy and too little supervision. His only guardian, his paternal grandmother, was too old to chase after a baby and he was too quick to catch most of the time. If his potential as a future ninja wasn't so obvious to everyone who knew him, his clan would have been a lot less forgiving for all the instances of chaos he was the central cause of. It was in the way he moved, aware of himself and his body in the way few other children in his generation were, it was also in the way no one could find him when he was 'hiding', unless he wanted to be found. He might have been a bit slow with learning how to communicate outside of pointing and other wordless gestures but the baby was catching on fast with everything else.

Very quickly Obito was dressing, feeding and bathing himself and even helping his guardian with very simple household chores. His grandmother delighted in the early show of independence when he started wanting to do everything for himself and his clan as a whole breathed a sigh of relief. With Obito's growing awareness of both his sense of self and his surroundings, the incidents that had his clansmen on their most watchful lessened. He was starting to respond to them when they talked to him now and showcased an understanding that had been previously lacking in him. Uchiha Obito still stood out amongst his clan members like a sore thumb, but at the very least he wasn't mindlessly walking into death-traps anymore...

Or 'walking through walls' uninvited.

OoO

There was no one in the world Obito loved more than his grandmother.

He loved everything about her. The way her straight, chin length, soft grey hair fell into her dark eyes when she leaned down to look at him. He loved her gentle smile and the way she laughed whenever he did something she found especially amusing, which he strived to do more and more just for that reason. She never raised hand or voice with him and he was always careful never to give her reason to do so. She was always receptive to his hugs and cuddles, unlike his standoffish cousins who were always very quick to be elsewhere whenever Obito just wanted to thank them.

It was only polite to thank someone whenever they did something nice for you and his grandmother had said that hugging someone was the best way to thank someone. The cousins that went out of their way to teach him things or baby sit him for his grandmother whenever she had to attend meetings as an Elder of the clan were apparently rather shy and wouldn't stay still for their thanks. Which was okay, he was always thanking them in other ways. Just last week he'd managed to find a really big toad and made a gift of it to give to the clan head. Learning how read might have been hard but he was glad he'd learned how, it was only appropriate to say his thanks when his grandmother had trouble with her eyesight. He'd had to sneak it into the man's pocket so the man could accept it without feeling too shy, but it had been worth it because it had also made his grandmother laugh! She had come back home from her meeting that day laughing so hard she could barely walk and when he asked her if the Clan Head had liked his thank you she'd folded him into the warmest hug he could remember and laughed into his shoulder for an hour straight.

He would have happily spent every hour of every day with her if the woman had let him, but Uchiha Sumiko was of the opinion that young boys needed fresh air and space to run around. Obito wondered when she'd gotten child-rearing mixed up with puppy training but didn't ask out loud. He obediently went out to 'play' when she told him to and found other ways to occupy his time. Most of which went into figuring out new ways to make her smile.

At first he brought home all sorts of bugs, toads and small fish he trapped in plastic containers which she helped him identify then gently suggested he put back to where he'd found them. Learning from that he started bringing in plants and flowers which she enjoyed a fair bit more and displayed around their home in vases and empty jars depending on the size. He caught a rabbit once and brought it back to be admired before it was released and then one day he brought back something that made his grandmother smile so brilliantly that he kept bringing it back. Kept bringing her back.

Nohara Rin was the first child his age he'd ever met outside his clan, she had pretty chocolate brown hair and eyes that warmed to a lovely caramel colour in the sun with purple rectangles on her cheeks. They'd tripped over each other searching for flowers to bring back to their respective homes and the invitation to play at his house had been inspired. His grandmother had yet to stop smiling at the mention of his new friend and invited Rin to come back whenever she wanted. Rin became Obito's second favourite person, another that he strived to make sure smiled and laughed as often as possible and by the time they were just about old enough to enter public schooling they were thick as thieves.

His grandmother was utterly convinced that he'd introduced his future wife to her.

"Baa-chan, I'm five." Obito reminded her, sweating a little at the idea of marrying anyone, let alone so young. He loved Rin and he'd would have cheerfully died for her, but she was practically his sister. "As in only five years old, way too young to get married!"

"No need to be shy about this Obito! You only have to wait eight years to make her a proper Uchiha! Oh I can't wait to see the faces of my future great grandchildren~!"

He was only five years old and she was already making plans for his future children?! "Wait, did you say eight years?"

"Only eight years~!" His grandmother confirmed, dark eyes dancing with delight. "You can get married as soon as you turn thirteen and ask her parents and the Hokage for permission! You already have mine!" Obito fled the house, it was the one and only time he didn't enjoy hearing her laugh.

"Do you think she was messing with me?" He asked his friend after he'd finished telling her all about the conversation, having caught her on the way to visit his house. "Thirteen is way too young to get married! I thought it was seventeen or eighteen for sure!"

"I thought it was twenty one." Rin confessed, quirking an eyebrow up in confusion. "Maybe it's just different for the Uchiha Clan?"

"I hope not… twenty one sounds so reasonable." Obito muttered. "I kind of want to find an adult that'll tell us the truth properly instead of making fun of us… an adult that's not baa-chan."

"I don't want to ask my parents, they're just like Sumiko Baa-chan, they keep asking me when the wedding is going to be."

"Adults…" Obito scoffed, rolling his eyes. "She said she wants to see the faces of my children! I'm a children. Child. Children aren't going to happen for years, and totally not when I'm thirteen! Thirteen is not adult, thirteen is teenager—"

A light rustle in the tall grass nearby caught Obito's attention, had he found another rabbit? His grandmother had rather liked petting the last one, maybe they could keep one as a pet for a while? Holding up a finger to his lips to signal for quiet he snuck up on the small animal hiding in the patch of forest they were currently playing in and crept closer and closer until—

"Rin-chan!" he whispered eagerly, "It's a puppy!" It was a puppy and his grandmother was going to LOVE seeing this one! Everyone loved puppies didn't they? It was hard NOT to smile around them! The pudgy cream and brown animal was small, with extremely short fur and when the two of them actually managed to catch the thing they found out it had a curiously squashed looking face and large soulful brown eyes.

His grandmother thankfully kept the teasing to herself when they popped up to show her their latest find. She simply accepted the puppy from them and examined it like everything else they'd ever presented her with, though she DID have an amused glint in her eyes that Obito pretended not to notice. "It's a boy dog, a pug." His grandmother noted, brushing an ever-gentle hand over an extremely soft ear, "And look here, he belongs to someone. His fur is clean, his claws are trimmed and he's very healthy. See how bright his eyes are? And pink his gums are? Very well taken care of, I bet someone must be missing him very much right now, why don't the two of you see if you can find his owners?"

"Yeah!" Rin enthused, jumping up from her seated position, "It'll be like a mission! Like mama and papa! It'll be like playing ninja but BETTER because we have a mission to complete!"

They asked for information about a possible owner around the Uchiha district first.

Obito couldn't imagine his stuffy older cousins keeping a puppy of all things but he'd wanted to cover all of his bases just in case one of them turned out to be like his grandmother. Who secretly-not-so-secretly loved all things small and cute. Every lesson his grandmother had given him in interrogation and detecting deception was put into practice. In the end all that was revealed was that a surprisingly larger amount of his cousins than he initially thought were inclined towards cute things. A few were raising goldfish, some had a parrots they swore up and down were nin-animals. There was a cluster of older Uchiha that fed pigeons every morning and while there was a cousin of his that kept picking up stray animals off the street, he also anonymously dropped them off almost immediately afterwards at the Inuzuka clan shelter.

Not a single person in his clan seemed to be secretly keeping a puppy.

Obito was convinced they'd have been able to find out more if he'd been allowed to continue with the search but his clan head found them. The man had scruffed them and tossed them unceremoniously out of the district upon witnessing them trying to get one of his elder cousins to fess up and told them not to come back until they'd 'Worked the idiocy out of their system'.

"Bet he wouldn't be so grumpy if he DID have a puppy." he grumbled darkly, rubbing his bruised rump. "Poor pup, pity he doesn't have a collar."

They gave the puppy a good scratch after checking. The lovable thing was safe and thankfully unharmed from their impromptu tumble, and was more than happy to sit in Rin's arms as they broadened their search for an owner outside of the Uchiha district, wagging its curly little tail the whole time. It was fine with being handed from person to person as evidenced by the tongue lolling happily out of his mouth and the way it licked at their fingers when they pet him.

None of the stores selling pet supplies knew of the puppy or its owner and none of the passing villagers did either. A trip to the Inuzuka Clan kennel and they were told that the puppy wasn't one of theirs either, or a stray.

"Keep looking, I'm sure you'll find the owner." a grinning Inuzuka suggested, her voice deepening into a cackle. "I'll be sure to take good care of him if you can't find the owner by the end of the day."

Obito and Rin scampered. The offer had been too readily given, and there had been a wicked edge of unholy amusement to her laughter. Rin hugged the puppy protectively to her chest, stared back at the woman now waving cheerfully at them from the doors and Obito was reminded of the thinly veiled amusement in his grandmother's eyes.

"Do you get the feeling that we're missing something?" his friend asked.

"… kind of like we're not getting part of a really funny joke? Yeah." Obito grumped, taking the young pug from Rin and gave it his best stare-down. He couldn't see the thing that was so funny about the dog that his grandmother and the Inuzuka had seen, not even after a really thorough examination. The puppy was clean and well fed, with no fleas or ticks and it looked, smelled and reacted like any other dog he'd ever seen. Pinning it with a suspicious squint he kept up the stare-down and got a lick to the face for his efforts, with more tongue lolling for good measure.

"Bleh!"

Relinquishing the dog to Rin so he could wipe his face with the edge of a sleeve Obito made a face at her giggles and threw his hands up. "You got any other ideas? I got nothing." He admitted, keeping a side-eye on the dog the whole while. Only two of the adults had made any sort of indication that the dog had something funny going on with it but that was two adults too many, especially if his grandmother was one of them. Though the fact that his grandmother WAS one of them was the only reason he wasn't too suspicious of it. She'd never have let him walk off with it if the dog had been anything other than harmless.

Rin's parents, both of them medics that worked at the hospital during the day, had the same amused reaction. Though their reaction was more bite-your-lips-don't-laugh, than every other reaction they'd gotten.

"You should let him go Rin-chan, I'm sure he'd find his own way home." Nohara Ren, Rin's father, encouraged. The man's face visibly twitched with the suppressed urge to laugh while Rin's mother, Nohara Miina turned her laughter into coughs she forcibly directed into her elbow. By the end of the day neither Obito nor Rin could ignore it.

"Okay, fess up! There's no way you're a regular dog! A normal puppy would have been whining for food by now!" Obito declared, pointing a finger down on the dog he'd taken from Rin and planted on a bench.

"You're too calm!" Rin added, standing shoulder to shoulder with him and joining in on the stare-down. "We noticed all the adults, game over!"

The puppy sat down and offered them a paw.

Obito wavered for a moment as those brown eyes turned soft and soulful, more innocently adorable and—

"PAKKUN! HEEL!"

—Jumped so hard he felt like he might have left his skin behind. Snatching his hand back from where he'd been about to accept the puppy's paw Obito skittered backwards and hauled a just as startled Rin behind him as someone leaped out of the bushes to their left.

The boy who'd leapt out of the bushes looked like he'd been dragged backwards through a few other bushes before choosing the one he'd just come out of. He had sticks, bits of grass and leaves stuck to his wild grey hair and his clothes had seen better days. They were all scratched up and dirty, all the way from the half-mask he was wearing to the tangled scarf around his neck and the baggy shirt and shorts he was wearing. Overall he looked like he'd waged a war on the forest and had lost miserably.

The puppy Rin and Obito had been fussing over and petting all day blew a razz at the new arrival and vanished in a cloud of clean grey smoke.

Black eyes pinned Obito in place with a glare so fierce that it could have come directly from one of his many cousins and shifted over his shoulder to share it with Rin, who he still had shielded behind him. "Why did you interrupt our training?!" The boy snapped, irritation clear in every line of his body. "I had to chase you all over Konoha!"

"T— training?" Obito stuttered.

The boy was silent for a long moment and eyed the two of them up and down. Obito caught the curl of a sneer, barely visible though the contours of his mask as the other turned away in dismissal. "Never mind, I don't want to hear it. I have to get back to training. Unlike some people I don't have a lot of free time." he snorted in derision and then left as abruptly as he'd arrived.

"Did he just—" Obito grit his teeth together and breathed out through his nose, clenching and unclenching his fist as a lick of pure fury lit to life inside him.

"Obito— I think that was his s-summons animal! No wonder everyone was laughing at us!" Rin moaned around her hands and crouched to the ground in embarrassment, looking like she wanted the ground to open up and eat her.

"What?"

OoO

When he brought the question to her, Obito's grandmother laughed long and she laughed hard. Harder than that one time she came back from the meeting with the clan head. This time though Obito knew she was laughing at him, or rather the situation he'd so trustingly walked into, and he wasn't finding her amusement quite as charming as he did back then.

He had been utterly blindsided. Not just at the fact that innocent looking animals could apparently be summoned out of thin air and could vanish the same way, but by the fact that that almost everything in his life could somehow be tied to the way of ninja life. The games he played with his grandmother and cousins, matching the way they folded their hands together. The group stretches everyone in the clan did every morning and afternoon. The 'adventure' books he read, which were apparently cleverly disguised history books and even the herbal mixes he'd helped his grandmother make since he was old enough to lift a mortar and pestle and not immediately put everything in his mouth.

His grandmother was a wolf in disguise and he hadn't noticed till she'd let her fangs show. He was apparently old enough now not to be 'coddled' anymore and it seemed like she'd been waiting for this exact moment for the last five years. His grandmother had been raising him in preparation to become a ninja. Like she had with her son, his father, and he hadn't noticed until he'd literally been slapped in the face with it.

She had already enrolled him in the Academy, he would be starting in a week and... there was already a boy his age who knew how to summon animals out of thin air. Obito was going to be so far behind the learning curve—

"Oh my god, why didn't you warn me!" he shrieked, scrambling into his shoes and barely waiting until he had them completely on as he bolted for the Clan library.

His grandmother's laughter could he heard almost the whole way there.

Chapter Text

Obito's plan to study and cram as much knowledge as he could before classes started had him up all night. He took home books by the armload and nearly drove himself insane trying to absorb all the information. His grandmother snickered all the way though his this minor meltdown and advised him not to get too wound up over it. Even though she made sure to sit with him and watched him panic over his impending classes like he was the most entertaining thing she'd ever witnessed.

She might have made a fantastic source of information, but the woman made him feel like he was again missing something very, very obvious. She might have answered every question he peppered her with, but she also followed him outside to sit on the veranda to continue watching and chuckled as he ran around the district after his cousins for advice. It was as if she didn't want to miss a single minute.

The next day a few others of the clan Elders joined in to form a peanut gallery that threw out their own advice admits cryptic comments that he was too scattered and busy to piece together. He was quick to realize that he was far from the first victim of this kind of child-rearing though. His father before him had apparently been raised exactly the same way and hadn't realized HE was being raised to be a ninja till the day he started the Academy. His grandmother had also been raised the same and she still held the record for noticing the fastest at two weeks before she'd started actively learning how to be a Kunoichi. Or so she claimed.

It was apparently a tradition that had been passed down their particular branch of the Uchiha clan for the last few generations.

"— see for myself that it actually works." One of the elders sniffed, watching him through narrowed eyes as he scrambled past with another armload of books.

"— really is effective in bringing out the Sharingan?" Another asked.

"— worked for our branch in every generation!" his grandmother snorted proudly. "Ahh~! To be on the other side of this twice now, I feel so blessed! I can't wait to see this again on the faces of my great-grandchildren!"

"NOT HAPPENING!" Obito howled in their direction, almost dropping the armload of books he was carting past. "AND DRIVING ME INSANE IS SUPPOSED TO ACCOMPLISH WHAT EXACTLY?!"

The group answered that with a round of smirks and knowing looks and the elder who'd seemed so skeptical of whatever his grandmother's plan was actually seemed to consider him in a new light. The old man scrutinized him, and Obito was suddenly hyper aware that he hadn't brushed his hair, washed his face or changed out of his sleeping clothes that morning. Feeling a little piece of himself curl up and roll away in embarrassment he flushed and scuttled back to his house, dropped his newest load of reading onto the kotatsu and scrambled to fix himself up.

He wasn't going to let the stress of the situation get to him!

He changed into day clothes, brushed his hair, washed his face and scarfed down a few rice balls. Frowning, he darted to the bathroom, gave his teeth a fast brush and raised a quizzical eyebrow at his own reflection in the mirror. He was not going to let the pressure get to him. He wasn't. Looking out the window he locked eyes with the group of elderly Uchiha sitting with his grandmother, three men and two other women, and Obito again got the sense he was missing something by quite a fair margin.

The group of six elders shared another round of significant looks and smirks.

Obito slammed the window shut. Wolves, he was surrounded by a pack of goddamned wolves.

OoO

It didn't take long to comb through the clan's stock of books to come up with a handful that he could actually understand. Reading through them and pestering one of his cousins into giving him a demonstration and Obito had the shaky beginnings of an understanding of Chakra. He started clumsily practicing the most basic 'jutsu' he could find, and belatedly realized his clansmen had been rather thorough in drilling him in hand-seals while disguising it as play. They were easy to form under the guidance of his grandmother it wasn't long before he was making wobbly, see-trough copies of himself appear out of thin air. Once she was satisfied that he could recognize the feel of Chakra and could reliably make at least one copy of himself stand shoulder to shoulder with him, his grandmother took him out to the lake near their house.

"This is making him run before he can even walk." A voice called out and Obito noted with some dismay that the peanut gallery that had been watching him run around like a headless chicken earlier had relocated. To a picnic blanket with a basket of food that had already been doled out. They had been snacking away and chatting, but were now watching him from the shoreline like the pack of wolves he only just recently realized they were.

"You tell that to Misao-chan." One of the old women suggested, smirking at the old man who'd gotten Obito's attention while the rest cackled. The woman then smiled at him in what he supposed was supposed to be encouraging, but actually really wasn't at all. He tuned out the snorts and ill-covered sounds of mirth, and turned to his grandmother, who had led him all the way to the end of the dock facing out over the lake.

"Obito, I want you to pay very close attention to me while I do this." His grandmother started, "I'll only be showing you this the one time."

Positioning him so that she was standing behind and over him she brought her hands up over his head and moved them sharply through five different hand-seals. Tiger, Ram, Monkey, Boar and Horse with Tiger repeated at the end. Standing so close to her, practically in her arms, it wasn't hard to feel the way her Chakra acted. It surged from her navel, up to her mouth where she pushed it deep into her chest to mix with a huge lungful of air. She held it for a beat and then expelled it in one literally explosive breath.

"Katon, Gōkakyū no Jutsu!"

Flames burned forwards over the water and hung over it, heating the air around it and sending steam curling up from the lake as it flash-boiled the surface of the water. Embers and flamelets blew back towards him but never made contact, and Obito felt his clothes flap around from the sheer force of it. His whole world turned bright with orange, red and yellow and for a breathless moment flames were all he could see. The enormous ball of flames that nearly eclipsed his vision was at once wild and exquisitely controlled.

He couldn't have stopped his jaw from dropping for anything. That had been the single most beautiful thing he'd ever seen!

The massive ball of fire eventually died down to a thin stream of flame that fizzled out into a line of smoke his grandmother blew away from her as she straightened. "That was a basic Uchiha Ninjutsu. To use it you must draw Chakra from your mouth, breathe it into your chest, hold it there, then immediately blow it right back out. Picture the end result in your mind and try it."

Already?! That had looked heads and away more difficult than the clone technique he'd gotten from the clan library! That was literally playing with fire, but… looking up at his grandmother he realized there wasn't a shred of doubt he could see in her eyes, merely patient expectation. Six hand-seals though, that was only three more than the other technique he'd tried and his grandmother had said it was a basic technique. Casting a hesitant look at his peanut gallery he realized that they'd fallen silent.

They didn't look the least bit worried that he might hurt himself.

There was a boy his age who could summon animals out of thin air and he'd only just discovered people could actually do that. Squaring his shoulders Obito looked out over the water and decided he would try.

Forming the correct sequence was easy. As was keeping his grandmother's advice in mind, not coughing when he realized he barely had to do anything else was another story. His Chakra moved with each hand-seal he performed on its own, traveling up from his navel up into his mouth within the first few and then pushing down into his lungs on the second last one. He took a great gasp of air out of sheer reflex and barely remembered to hold it for a beat as he formed the last seal. The heat built up in his mouth and he felt himself push it out in sheer self-preservation. He couldn't have stopped himself even if he'd wanted to, the need to get all of the heat out of his lungs before he choked on it was overwhelming. Obito felt his legs wobble and dropped out from under him as the last of it left his lungs, leaving him coughing weakly on his knees and panting from exertion.

The flames had been too intense to see past and when he'd finished black spots danced in front of his vision. Lifting his head with some effort he turned and looked at his grandmother, "Did it… work?" he rasped, wincing at the dryness in his throat. He managed to catch a glimpse of her face before the dark spots in his vision expanded. From the expression on her face though, beaming fit to burst and smiling the brightest smile he'd ever seen on her, he knew. It had worked.

His vision turned dark.

OoO

Obito woke up hungry, thirsty, extremely shaky yet oddly refreshed. He grimaced before he even fully opened his eyes and immediately knew where he was from the tell-tale scent of antiseptic. Wincing slightly as he peeled his eyelids open he groaned as he sat himself up in the hospital bed and groped for the glass of water he spied sitting at the bedside table through half lidded eyes, desperate to wet his parched throat. A warm and familiar hand caught his before he could tip the glass over onto the floor and his grandmother waited till he had a better grip on it before letting go and sitting back down onto the chair next to his bed.

"Your father was two years older than you when he mastered the Grand Fireball Technique." His grandmother informed him, leaning over the side of her chair to pick up a basket from the floor. Resting it on her lap she started pulling things out and started handing them to him. Out came a change of clothes, a wrapped lunch box, a thermos and a hip pouch.

"…he was?" Obito asked somewhat uncertainly, had he been mistaken? He wasn't so sure he'd actually managed the technique now! If it had taken his father two more years to do it then… Masking the urge to fidget by pushing back the blankets he slipping out of bed. "So did it work out alright?"

"I've never heard of any other Uchiha who managed such a large and perfect execution at your age. It was beautiful."

Obito felt himself flush so completely that he was sure if he checked, he'd find himself red from head to toe. He ducked his head down to hide it and gathered up the bundle of clothes his grandmother handed him. Moving as fast as his jelly-legs would let him he entered the small bathroom to use the facilities, change and hopefully allow himself to lose a bit of the colour that had flooded his face.

It was when he was actually changing into the clothes that he realized that the clothes were all new. He hadn't ever worn the pants, shirt or jacket before. He was certain of it because he'd have remembered noticing the Uchiha Clan symbol being on absolutely every article of clothing. Even the change of underwear his grandmother had gotten him was patterned with them! Wasn't that kind of disrespectful? He left the bathroom patting himself down for the smaller versions of his family crest. There was one stitched onto the band of the navy blue pants, one on the back of his similarly coloured shirt and there was even one making a bulls-eye of the back of the jacket and more decorated the orange lining.

"Is this to make sure no one mistakes me for someone else's kid?" Obito asked with a laugh as he realized even the new hip-pouch sitting on the bed had one pressed onto the surface of the grey leather. Clipping it onto his belt he hopped up and down a bit to test it and grinned at how secure it felt. Instead of the expected laugh at the joke his grandmother took his hands into hers and looked steadily into his eyes, the seriousness of her expression had the smile dropping off of his face.

"The Uchiha Crest… is the pride of our family, it means those who possess it control fire. A member of the Uchiha Clan is not recognized as fully fledged until they can use the Great Fireball Technique."

Obito's eyes widened. "—then?"

His grandmother's face softened and tears gathered at the corner of her eyes. "Be proud of yourself Uchiha Obito! From now on you may shamelessly wear the crest on your back!" She said softly, curling her fingers around his and cradling his hands to her face. "Your parents would be so proud of you right now. You honour them both and the Uchiha by trying so hard. Continue to do so, for the sake of others as well as yourself."

If Obito had thought he had been red before, it was nothing to the colour he was sure he turned at that. "Is this alright though? I did pass out…" he asked sheepishly, guiltily freeing a hand to fan at his face, but stopping and changing the movement to scratching at his cheek.

"Which is why you must now improve, and then soar to even greater heights!"

Obito nodded and allowed himself to be fussed over and cuddled, he let his grandmother help him back up onto the bed so he could eat while she went and got the nurse to check him over. He felt fine, a little weak and wobbly around the knees, but he could already feel himself recovering from that with each sip he took from the thermos of tea he drank and each bite of food he ate. He was hungry enough that he managed to polish off everything and drain the jug of water that had been sitting next to the glass he'd drunk out of too. He did it fast, because he didn't want his grandmother catching him drinking directly out of the water jug and had just enough time to set it down and act innocent as a Medic walked in with his grandmother. A familiar medic

"You haven't even started school and you're already landing yourself in hospital?" Nohara Miina, Rin's mother asked, reaching for the clipboard hanging off the foot of his bed and flipping through the charts. "Honestly, a C-rank jutsu at your age? You shouldn't push yourself so hard!"

"It was flawless." His grandmother bragged, retaking her seat next to his bed. "As expected of my grandson!"

Obito flushed again at the praise and tried not to giggle as Rin's mother pressed her hands to his mid-section and activated a jutsu that had green enveloping her hands. "What are you doing?" he asked curiously, eyes trained on the soft green glow and trying very hard not to wriggle away from her touch. He was ticklish, but he knew from experience that the medic wouldn't let him leave without checking him. She'd hogtied him the one and only time he'd ever tried to hide a deep bruise from her and hadn't let him up till she'd both healed it AND given him a thorough tickling as punishment for trying to hide it in the first place.

She was one of the very few people capable of catching him when he tried to get away.

"I am checking your insides to see if you did yourself any damage." She answered, closing her eyes in concentration. "—and nothing. Good grief, talk about potential! You'll make a fine ninja in a few years!" Obito squirmed, unused to so much praise at once. This was new for him!

"I see that you've eaten, had anything to drink yet?"

"Yeah, tea and water."

"Good then. Sumiko-sama you're free to take him home now, just make sure he doesn't push himself so far again too soon. Obito-kun, eat one of these every time you feel too tired or hungry and don't hesitate to come back if you feel like you're going to pass out again okay?" The medic finished, handing him a little brown bottle full of pills that he tilted curiously to the sunlight.

"Do I just swallow them with water or do I have to chew on them?"

"Chew and then wash down with water." The woman advised, ruffling his hair. "Seriously, don't push yourself that hard again, poor Rin-chan was so worried about you! She visited you every day while you were asleep!"

Obito froze.

"How long… have I been… asleep?" he heard his own mouth ask.

"A week." His grandmother answered for the medic, laughing black eyes dancing with mirth as she pressed another lunch box into his suddenly numb hands. "If you leave now you might not be too late for the Academy Entrance Ceremony."

Several long seconds ticked down before the dots connected.

He ran screaming out the door.

"Sumiko-sama! Was that absolutely necessary? He just woke up! Obito-kun don't run! "he heard Rin's mother call out the door after him over the sound of his grandmother's unrepentant laughter.

OoO

Obito didn't think he'd ever put this much effort into the simple act of running in his life. He used fences and poles to pull himself forward whenever he could and found himself panting within minutes. In his weakened state, even this simple run felt like he was wading through water. He pushed himself to keep up the pace as he got closer to his goal, and almost fooled himself into believing he might make it on time… right up until the banner he'd had his eyes focused on was pulled down. By two men on the roof of the Academy dressed in the military regulation uniform.

Defeated, he finally slowed down and stopped to catch his breath. He allowed himself to be engulfed by the crowd of children his age leaving the school and braced his hands on his knees, biting his lip against curl of shame and disappointment that lodged itself in his throat. Just when he'd gone and made his grandmother so proud! Why couldn't he have woken up a day or so earlier? She probably didn't fault him for missing the entrance ceremony but others would

"It's the entrance ceremony and you're already late? Someone like you has no business being in the Academy." A drawling voice noted, putting to words the thoughts that were already guiltily whirling around in his own mind. "You'll never make it."

It was the boy from earlier, the one who could summon the puppy!

"Who asked you!" Obito hissed, as his body shook from the effort it had taken to run all the way from the hospital. He was too tired to even excuse himself, he hadn't exactly been lazing around in the hospital for the last week, but this jerk—

"It's okay Obito! I got this for you!" came his best friend's sweet, sweet voice. Obito managed to push himself up into a standing position and felt tears of gratitude start to gather up in the corners of his eyes as Rin handed him a thick brown envelope decorated with a black shuriken on the front. "Just submit this and you'll be able to enroll with the rest of us with no problem."

She'd just rescued him. Both from having to go back to his clan to tell them he'd missed the enrolling in the Academy on time and from wasting further energy on the grey haired boy now clicking his tongue in displeasure at Rin's pure act of selflessness and generosity.

"You're a lifesaver!" Obito breathed, ignoring the jerk. "I owe you for this!"

"Keep pampering him and he'll never be cured of his tardiness." The silver haired boy snorted.

"Why are you even still here?! Will you piss off already? No one asked for your opinion!"

"That's alright, I'll give it to you anyway. I'm generous like that."

"Rin-chan, show me where to submit this?" he asked her loudly and clearly, telling the other boy without words exactly how much he appreciated his input. Turning his back on to him Obito opened the cap of the bottle of pills he'd been given and shook a pill out, popping it into his mouth in an effort to hopefully boost his energy levels. A crunch through the dry pill, which was thankfully not too hard, and he very quickly realized why Rin's mother had advised him to wash it down with water.

The mouthful was too bitter to swallow down.

"You're an Uchiha?" The silver haired jerk-hole snorted, surprised at the clan crest Obito now had proudly displayed on his back for the world to see.

Mouth puckered from the sheer unexpected bitterness of the pill, Obito knew he couldn't answer. He had to squint his eyes almost shut and forcibly curl his lips over his teeth in an effort to stop himself from spitting the mouthful back out then and there. He didn't DARE turn around and let the ass-hat behind him see his face, he would not be giving him the satisfaction. With an extreme amount of effort he managed to snort some air out of his nose in a fair approximation of his clan head at his most disdainful and marched off with as much dignity as he could scrape together.

Rin, who had a direct view, managed to hold up a brilliant poker face as she fell into step beside him and maintained it right up until she lead the way back to the Academy. She even managed to hold it right up until they were out of direct sight and he spat the foul mouthful out into a handkerchief he dug out of a pocket. Her bright peal of laughter also covered up any sounds he might have made gagging and coughing. Nohara Rin really was the most amazing friend he could have made ever.

"Oh my god…" Obito heaved, trying to control his stomach with breathing exercises so he wouldn't lose the food he'd eaten not too long ago. "What do they put in these pills? Sure, let's give some poor bastard one last throw of energy before they Die. From. The. Taste! Yuck~!"

Rin couldn't stop laughing until she started finding it difficult to stand herself, whereupon she slid down the wall and quieted down to hiccoughing giggles, only managing to regain control of herself after sitting down next to him in the hallway. Finally, after thoroughly exhausting herself, she managed a disgusted huff of her own around her giggles and shook her head. "That boy was so rude! I know we were at fault for interrupting his training last time, but there was no need to be so horrible just now! What a waste of a cute face!"

Pausing in the delicate act of scrubbing his tongue clean of pill residue without making himself gag again Obito leveled a deadpan stare at his friend. "… cute face? He was wearing a mask."

"… Obito?" Rin smiled at him beatifically in a way she must have picked up directly from his grandmother.

"… Yes?" he asked cautiously, having learned only very recently to be wary of that kind of smile.

"Go back to licking your handkerchief."

"… fine. Seriously though, what do they put in these pills?"

OoO

A month passed, this time with Obito fully aware of each passing moment save for the hours he spent sleeping, and he realized he'd been freaking out over practically nothing. He was nowhere near the bottom of the class, as he not-so-secretly feared he might have been, but was instead ranked somewhere in the middle of it.

"I don't even know how I know most of this." He remarked once to his friend, staring at the first ever test they got back, partially flabbergasted at how he'd managed such a high score.

"Osmosis" Rin joked. "Sumiko Obaa-chan must have read to you in your sleep!"

"Rin, I am a person, not a plant. Also, for future reference, she goes to sleep earlier than I do."

He realized that he could quite easily bullshit his way through the Academy on surface knowledge alone. Having grown up in a clan made up of mostly active ninja meant that he'd absorbed more than he thought he had just by overhearing conversations and listening to the stories his cousins, aunts, uncles and elders shared with him. He also realized that he didn't particularly want to sit back and coast out of the academy that way.

He didn't know how she had done it but his grandmother had lit a fire in him that had fast become a bonfire of competitive spirit. He had started on damn-near equal footing with the civilian children in his class, but he'd already pulled ahead of most of them in every subject in just under a month! His grandmother might brag about his progress with anyone who would listen to her and he was proud of the progress he'd made but… He wanted to go further, because as far as he'd already come he still had a fair ways to go.

Hatake Kakashi was quite the painful example.

For every step Obito took forward in his training, the silver haired boy was leagues ahead of him. At times it was almost like the other was doing it on purpose! He was always demonstrating mastered techniques… but only directly after Obito tried them first. He could be imagining it, but he honestly didn't think he was, it was like Hatake was not-so-subtly highlighting their differences. The jerk had probably been trained as a ninja since before he could walk and here he was, stuck with an unintentional, (and possibly one-sided), rivalry with the other boy. It was juvenile and stupid, he knew it was stupid, but he wanted to smoosh that arrogance face in!

His grandmother was loving every minute of it and took to making sure his 'rivalry' with the other boy never actually cooled down. Every time he tried to tell himself how stupid it was to let himself get worked up over the silver haired boy's actions or words she made sure to show where he was going wrong… She made passing mention how much of a genius the young Hatake must be when he was in earshot and then sat back all smug and proud with herself when Obito tried to casually mention he was going out to train some more.

"Remember that feeling and keep it close to your heart." She advised. "That 'never give up' emotion will be what keeps you strong."

"It will also be what keeps me extremely frustrated."

"Frustration is good for an Uchiha."

Now that he knew the other boy existed it was hard not to notice him whenever he left the Uchiha District. He was seemingly everywhere Obito went or visited at any given time, and was always quick to make a pithy comment each time.

Trying out the new ramen shop that opened up not too far from the academy and the jerk was there, somehow seated two seats away from him without him even noticing he'd arrived. Didn't the Uchiha have a ramen stall in their district? If Obito visited used the Academy facilities after school hours the silver haired boy would also be there. Gosh he'd better clear out, Obito CLEARLY needed the extra training time! A random trip to the village market and he would inevitably bump into him out of nowhere. Literally. Did Obito have ANY situational awareness at all?

"It's like he's going out of his way to drive me insane!" Obito snarled around his toothbrush one morning, aggression making him brush his teeth harder than he usually would. "Talk about holding a grudge! He should have trained the puppy better if he didn't want it getting away from him! It's not like he was anywhere around when we found him!"

His grandmother didn't reply. Frowning he rinsed his mouth out, put his toothbrush back and realized why when he heard her call. "Obito! Rin is here to pick you up!" she called, voice bright with delight.

Geh, he'd slept so late it was already past the time they'd set to meet up outside the Uchiha District? "Sorry Rin!" he apologized, rushing now to grab his shoes and put them on. They only got one precious day off from the Academy, he'd promised to spend the entire day with her and he'd already wasted a good hour sleeping off the exertion of the night before!

"… I can't wait to see my great-grandchild's face, Obito~!" his grandmother sang, right there in front of Rin.

"Stop. I'm still only five years old."

"Come on, hurry! It's going to start!" his best friend urged, ignoring the teasing like the absolute champion she was. Obito took his cue from her, ignored the teasing and bid his grandmother a goodbye as he ran off after Rin, heading down to a park not too far from the academy.

The place was decorated for the occasion, with little pop-up stalls selling snacks hugging the edges of the place, picnic tables with extra benches had been added to the park for the occasion and there was a stage area set up. There was a large board set above the stage decorated with pink and blue rosettes with "Youth Ninjutsu Competition" written boldly on the front. The competition had been announced a week before-hand at the academy and had been met by their classmates with mixed reactions.

Some openly scoffed at the idea of showing off their abilities for a crowd. Others were eager to perform for the sake of the prizes that might be on offer, while the rest just wanted to watch the proceedings. Rin had urged him to sign up for the competition, as she was sure his mastery of his Clan's signature technique would net him a win. He'd agreed to go with her to watch and see if the prizes were actually worth entering for.

The prizes were for first, second and third place. A 'crystal' kunai that was actually made of glass and sparkled prettily in the sunlight, a set of brand-new shuriken, and a premium calligraphy brush respectively. As both the second and third prizes actually might be worth winning and the first-place prize would be something nice to bring home to his grandmother he took the entry form a grinning Rin handed him and filled it out. She knew him way too well.

There were six other contestants aside from him, who were all rather dressed up for the occasion and were being cheered on by their family, friends and relatives. Obito was the only one who hadn't bothered to dress up in anything special. He worried about the way he was dressed for about half a second before he shook his head. He could wear his every-day clothes and it wouldn't matter because he had his clan crest on the back of his jacket! That made it more formal than anything anyone else was wearing. His overly excited grandmother had gone completely overboard with emblazoning the clan crest onto absolutely everything he could possibly wear and even his handkerchiefs had his clan crest on them!

They were to perform their Ninjutsu in the order they had signed up, and with how late he'd done so he was at the very end of the line of hopefuls. He was the youngest out of the lot, with the cut-off age being nine years old, which was graduation-age for Genin. He examined the competition before and during their displays and quieted a guilty giggle. If it was just this lot that were going to be his opponents, then this was going to be a piece of cake!

"Number seven, Uchiha Obito-kun!"

"That's me!" he cheered, and leaping up onto the stage and to applause. The watching crowd laughed with him and Rin encouraged him from the sidelines.

"Go for it Obito!" his amazing and supportive friend called.

"— And what will you be going to show us today, Obito-kun?"

"I'll be showing you the Grand Fireball Technique!" he announced, straightening his spine proudly. He'd worked hard to master the technique after it had landed him in hospital the first time he'd used it. He could now adjust the size and intensity of the fireball he created just by controlling the amount of Chakra he fed into the technique these days. He could even allow the technique to draw the maximum amount of Chakra it wanted from him without suffering any repercussions save hunger.

"Wow, impressive!" The announcer enthused, "All right, let's get right to it!"

"Here I go~!" he cheered, hamming it up for the audience. He was five hand-seals into it and had a mouthful of Chakra when he realized a few things.

The stage he was standing on was made out of wood. The wooden board in front and above him would be in direct line of his technique and the watching crowd were too close. Sitting on wooden benches and at picnic tables that all of a sudden seemed very flammable looking. He was going to have to pull back the technique as much as he could or he was going to flash-burn everyone watching!

The effort it took to pull the fireball back and put a strangle-hold on his Chakra made his face turn red and cheeks puff all the way out, but he managed it! He focused the technique into a neat ball of compressed flames that dropped from his mouth in a tight curl. It wasn't nearly as impressive looking as the fireball he'd intended to put out, but it was a lot better than murdering his audience!

The judges sill gave him pretty good scores, even though the technique he'd ended up showing them hadn't been what he'd intended to show them. "Six points! Seven points! Seven Points! Ohh~ These are great numbers! Uchiha Obito is in the lead right now!" the announcer called out while Obito tried to hide his wheezing.

He earned a smattering of polite applause from the crowd and Rin, who knowingly handed him a can of juice she'd bought from a nearby vendor as he stepped down from the stage.

"That was great Obito!"

"Tell that to someone who didn't just almost barbecue the audience?" He muttered, hiccoughing the excess of hot air from his lungs behind a hand. "Can't believe I got top scores for that! Too bad I couldn't let the whole thing out, pretty sure I'd have earned a solid win with the full thing…" That could have gone better!

"— Alright folks, here's our final challenger!" the announcer called, catching Obito's attention. Wait, hadn't he been the last competitor?

"Everyone, here is Hatake Kakashi-kun~!"

WHAT?!

"Is he stalking me?!" Obito choked out in outrage around a hiccough. "They closed off entry forms right after me so he'd have had to have been standing—" coughing another hot bubble of air from his lungs he drowned out the rest of what he was going to say in his drink, sculling it down in one. He was NOT going to go nuts over this. Hatake Kakashi could do whatever he wanted and whatever bullshit form of bullying this was wasn't going to affect him and he was NOT going to waste his energy rising to the bait. His classmate was going to do what he'd done since they'd started at the Academy, he was going to get up there on that stage and then show off completely, Obito was NOT going to react to it.

Even if he DID just do the most fantastic leap out of the goddamn tree meters away from the stage and land so neatly and perfectly without a single stagger… Why did the jerk have to be so talen— No, damn it! He wasn't supposed to react!

Hatake's stupid, shaggy grey hair was flopped mostly over his face, covering one of the eyes and leaving only one quarter of his face visible. He was wearing a pair of dark grey shorts and a jacket the same color that wasn't as over-sized as the one he'd been wearing when they first met, but he was wearing the same long scarf.

"And what are you going to do for us Kakashi-kun?"

"Well, how about Earth Style: Mud Wave?" his classmate drawled out, like he couldn't care less about what he was going to show and was simply picking a technique out of the air at random. Why was he even here if he was acting like this? He was doing this shit on purpose! He had to be and— No. No getting riled up over this. He was going to watch whatever Hatake did and walk away happy with second prize because the asshole was going to show off. There was no way he wasn't. Let him be the one wasting energy over nothing for once, it wasn't like Obito had been overly interested in the glass kunai anyway.

"Really? That technique requires a considerable amount of Chakra, are you sure about this?" The announcer cautioned.

Obito rolled his eyes, snorted and went over to the booth Rin had bought his drink from to get another one to hopefully soothe down the hiccups still coming out of him. He bought two, gave one to his best friend to repay her for the one she'd given him earlier and waited for what he knew was coming. Hatake formed a single hand-seal, slammed it with an unnecessarily loud and echoing slam to the wooden stage and suddenly the ground around everyone's feet surged.

He wished he hadn't been proven so right when the wavering ground made him snort part of his drink up his nose and lose the rest over his face and clothes. Hatake really had been gearing up to show off and as usual, Obito bore the brunt of it.

Perfect tens across the panel, typical.

Obito pulled out a handkerchief at the same time Rin did and started drying himself off. Rin was silent as she patted herself dry and was looking at the boy standing on the stage with a considering stare. "Obito, I think kaa-chan told me about this, that some boys do it. Do you think he might be… trying to… make friends with you?"

"If he is, he's going about it entirely the wrong way." Obito replied with gritted teeth, voice practically dripping with the extreme measures of his doubt and when the awards were being handed out he was sure of it. The silver haired boy posed with his new glass kunai on stage, turned to look him dead in the eye… and then smirked.

It was official, Hatake Kakashi a jerk.

Chapter Text

Rin didn't let the idea go.

She went back to her parents to pump them for information about the kind of boy she was starting to convince herself Hatake was and took to watching him whenever she could. In search of evidence she could use to prove herself right. Obito didn't see any of what she was seeing and was starting to think that she was blinding herself to his faults now that she had convinced herself she'd figured out what made the other boy tick. As long as she didn't go back to admiring the silver haired boy's face, whatever little of it she could see past the mask, he didn't care.

Rin could do better than Hatake-bloody-Kakashi.

"It's like he doesn't know how to make friends or show interest so he shows off how good he is and he's like, 'See? See? You want to talk to me, yes?', and because you don't understand what he's trying to do, you just end up hissing at him!"

"… Rin-chan, just because he can summon dogs does not mean that I'm a cat. I don't 'hiss', I get angry. And I'm not buying this, that sounds like he's stupid and as much as I hate to say it, but we both know he's not."

"He's a genius at being a ninja." Rin insisted, "Not at people, like know you can be really good at some things and be really dumb at others? Kaa-chan said that geniuses have a really hard time interacting with people who aren't as smart as they are!"

"Well then maybe he should go and find another genius to pick on instead of settling for me. Also if he's so stupid at people, wanna try explaining that?" Obito asked.

He pointed to the group of girls, with two or three boys thrown in for good measure, who were huddled at the windows of the classroom. They were staring out googly eyed and shining at the courtyard below and the lone tree the boy in question had chosen to roost in. Kakashi had disregarded the swing hanging from branch he was sitting on and didn't even look like he used the given time to eat lunch. No one had ever caught him eating. Even though a fair number of their classmates had dedicated themselves to catching him in the act in order to get a glimpse of his face. So far no one had been successful, but it hadn't been for lack of trying.

"Oh! Kaa-chan told me about that too! She said it's 'Ferro-mons' and that I have to be careful to guard my heart or I might get tricked into falling for it like everyone else is!"

"Ferro-mons? Did you ask her what that was?" he asked lazily, slumping forwards to prop his chin up on his desk, not really all that interested. Like he needed another reason to avoid the silver haired boy.

"Dunno, sounds like a disease though." Rin admitted, scrunching her nose up in thought.

"Great, thanks for warning me. Makes me think we should start worrying about not catching whatever he's got." Obito retorted and grunted when his best friend's pointy elbow met his ribs.

All joking aside Obito honestly couldn't wrap his mind around why Hatake was so popular.

The other boy was talented, but he also rubbed that talent in everyone's faces. The only people he showed any amount of respect to were his teachers, and even that was very shallow. It seemed to him as if the silver haired boy was playing along with the adults, like it was a fun game he would play for now. He was short with all of his classmates and his highly superior attitude was grating and came off as extremely arrogant, at least it did to him. Invitations to play were accepted sporadically, never again by the same person and only when the boy had literally nothing else to do but waste time. 'Sparring' matches were short, brutal and were followed by a dry and drawling lecture afterwards.

Why people kept going back for more was a mystery Obito would never understand and on the flip side of that he wondered how the other could stand all of that fawning. The only good thing Obito would claim came about from being classmates with Hatake was the occasional free entertainment he got just sitting back and watching him deal with his groupies. He might have singled him out for bullying, but he hardly had the time to do much of that these days. His group of admirers grew every time he showed off, which was a habit of his that had continued on from their first day in the Academy, and one which he had yet to curb. Even though this behaviour was the sole reason for the silver haired boy's predicament nearly six whole months later.

Hatake was now the one being followed all over the village. Tripping over people stalking him, cooing admirers and challengers of all ages, every time he so much as paused to do anything. The lot of them wanting to know all about him. At the rate he was going, by the end of the year he'd be too busy dodging his stalkers to train, let alone find the time to hassle one very fed up classmate.

The only time he ran into his 'rival' these days was in class and the justice of it was delicious. It was pure, sweet fairness, karma and all things right in the world.

He'd have been happy to continue enjoying the peace, all he had to do was duck out of class as soon as it ended and he further limited his contact with the other boy, but Rin made her move. After months of subtle and not-so-subtle 'information gathering' and she was apparently comfortable enough in her theory to approach her target. She wrangled the other boy into agreeing to play with her and a few others, then invited Obito to join in without letting him know his not-rival was going to be there. She hadn't let him know what she'd been planning and there had been no warning of it, no change in behaviour as she asked. Just an expectation that he would come to the place she picked. He walked right into it without suspecting a thing, Rin's ability to deceive him with a straight face was starting to reach his grandmother's level, and she had only known her for barely a year. It was terrifying.

As was coming to be the usual thing with Obito, he was the last one to the meeting place. Now that he'd entered the Academy every time he left the house he was always being caught by a random cousin and hauled off to join the clan stretches, exercises and katas with his clansmen. He'd never been able to escape once collared and there was never an excuse he could use that would make whoever was assigned to pick him up into letting him go. He would spend however long it took for whoever was leading the exercises that day to be satisfied with the way he was moving before he could be dismissed, and he just wasn't good enough to be dismissed within a timely fashion.

He was getting better, it just wasn't fast enough for his scowly clan head. Obito was waiting for the day the wind blew the wrong way and his face got stuck like that.

"You're late Obito! Everyone's been waiting!" Rin admonished as he arrived.

"Sorry, sorry!" he apologized, entering the park that was the meeting place at a fast jog. It was technically a public training ground, but was set up with equipment for children their age or younger, with punching posts set in the middle of the fenced off area. No one ever used it for training though, they just used it for play. He looked at the others who would be joining them for whatever his best friend had in mind today and smiled in welcome. Hideki Kazuki, and his little brother Yuuta waved in welcome, Yamada Kenya was polishing his glasses and— "Misao Oji-san caught me on the way and…" Obito cut himself off. The words died on his tongue as a foot dangled tauntingly from the top of one of the punching posts and directly down into his line of sight.

It was a very familiar foot. He kept seeing that foot up close and personal during Academy sparring matches. It was a very close thing, but Obito managed to stop his hand from palming his face. That had not been subtle, but then again Rin didn't have to be, his demanding and questioning look crumpled at the delighted smile on her face.

"Kakashi's joining us from today!" Rin explained brightly, gesturing up to the silver haired boy, who took that as his cue to jump exaggeratedly from his perch.

Subtlety was apparently for people who didn't have him wrapped around their little finger.

Fighting the urge to allow his lip to curl up into a snarl Obito smothered his now instinctive growl at the sight of the boy anywhere near him outside of the Academy. He could act like a brat about this and storm off, Rin would be angry at him for a while, but she was the one who'd forced the confrontation, she'd forgive him… after a while. He didn't want to hang around the other boy and try to 'make friends' with him, but… Rin had to have gone to a lot of trouble for him, to 'mend fences' here, so to speak. The other boy didn't play with the same people twice, he just didn't. He knew that Rin had quite possibly used up her one and only chance to interact with Kakashi one-to-one. If she didn't make friends with him here he wouldn't give her another chance. Obito also knew she'd seen the way Hatake interacted with him and hadn't liked it, and knew that this was her way of trying to solve the problem. Rin liked the other boy as a person for some reason, wanted to make friends with him and help him make more.

Kicking his inner brat aside Obito scrubbed a hand through his hair as if to rid himself of his irritation and tried his best to smile. For Rin. From the look on her face he knew it had to be closer to baring his teeth than actually smiling, but he couldn't really help that. He was trying for her, wasn't that enough? All of a sudden Obito realized that this was what his clansmen must feel like when pushed out of their neat little personal bubbles of space and forced to socialize.

"Let's play kick-the-can today!" The younger of the Hideki brothers suggested excitedly, not noticing what was going on. Obito gave his inner idiot a good boot to join in with his inner brat and tried for a proper smile. It came easier when it was directed at the younger boy rather than in the direction of his rival, the poor kid still had a whole year till he started attending the Academy. He wasn't about to ruin what little the fun the brothers could have on the one day of the week they had to spend together.

"Sure, let's play!" he grinned, ruffling the younger boy's brown hair. He would just pretend Hatake was just another random classmate.

Shouldn't be too hard.

OoO

Kick-the-can was a game of skill, strategy, and stealth, as well as physical fitness. A 'jail' or 'time-out' area was set, which in this case was in the center of the three punching posts in the playground, they made a neat triangle formation so it was the natural choice. The person chosen as 'it', which ended up being Obito as he'd shown up the latest, had to capture the others. He won if he caught everyone and the person who'd been in jail longest became 'it' after him. His prisoners were free to go in the order they were captured if the can got knocked over. They had until Obito set it right again, and in the proper place, to escape and the next prisoner could leave as soon as the previous person who'd escaped cleared the triangle.

The game usually cycled through who was 'it'.

The brothers were easy to capture, he was faster than they were and flushing them out of the bushes they were giggling in happened fast. As he was 'escorting' them to the jail, he managed to spot Kenya hiding behind the bin, the gleam his glasses made in the sunlight was hard to miss. Catching Rin was as easy as turning his back on the jail and pretending to search the area away from her. Predictably she snuck out of the bushes and crept up to the can, cat-quiet and grinning with anticipation. He waited till he was sure she was just about to reach the can before snapping around and lunging for the catch that had practically walked into his arms.

"GOT YOU!" he crowed as his arms caught her around the mid-section. He hauled her off of her feet and deposited into the jail, laughing evilly at her squeals. Four very easy captures at the very beginning of the game. Grinning widely and getting into the mood now, Obito planted a careful foot on top of the 'key' to his 'dungeon'

"Hatake is the only one left, give up fools and bow to my dominion~!" He exclaimed and scanned his future kingdom. He might be enjoying this too much, but for some reason he couldn't help it, it always felt rather refreshing to be the 'bad guy' in any game. He was actually starting to enjoy himself now, he'd needed the down-time more than he'd thought, studying too much was unhealthy!

"Obito's such a fast runner." Yuuta complained.

"Save us Kakashi~!" Kazuki yelled out, hamming up the victim act with a grin of his own.

"I'll catch him before he can and then no one will be left to stand in my way!" Obito cackled, checking on his prisoners to make sure they weren't about to pick up something to throw at the can to knock it over. With his friends secure he took a chance to prowl the perimeter. Clear on all sides, and the only place Hatake could be hiding were the trees, the bushes and behind the water fountain—

Shouts and exclaims of surprise and awe sounded and even though he was already turning to look, even though he hadn't heard anyone move behind him… He knew Hatake was a show-off of the highest order,but surely he'd tone it down for a game! But no, the silver haired boy was stood behind the can that was the key to the release of Obito's prisoners. He had his arms crossed and was standing tall and looming over the can, somehow looking down his nose at him, even though Obito was a shade taller and they were both standing on level ground.

Instead of immediately kicking the can like he was supposed to, like any other child their age would do, Hatake Kakashi decided that appearing out of nowhere with no sound of warning or any indication that he'd been anywhere close wasn't showing off enough. He had to take it to the next level. Even if Obito took into the fact that he'd been playing the 'villain' and taking up the 'hero' role was only natural…

"Saving my friends, no matter what…" The silver haired boy started, winding up for what was obviously going to be quite the glorious kick. "That's my Ninja Way!"

There was absolutely zero reason for Hatake to have exaggerated that kick quite so much, or to have put that much power behind it. The can went sailing, the small load of rocks inside ensuring it went quite the distance. Obito's captives fled in all directions, cheering and squealing and Hatake vanished again.

What the hell!? Couldn't he even tone it down for a game?

That beginning set the tone for the entire day.

Hatake was a ghost right up until Obito had caught everyone else and he had yet to catch sight of him before the jerk popped out of hiding. All Obito had to do was turn his back on the can for a split-second and there the other boy would be, posturing and posing. Obito tried the trick he used to catch Rin that first time but the silver haired kid was so much faster than he was and then there was the way he handled the can… He'd seen Hatake kick it up onto the top of his foot, off the sides of his foot and heel and the other boy even kicked it over Obito's head once before sending it sailing! By the time Obito retrieved the can each time and ran back to reset his jail everyone was free and Hatake was gone again.

This wasn't the way the game was supposed to be played but no one seemed to mind, it seemed like they were enjoying themselves anyway. Obito supposed it must be fun watching him get beaten at this game by someone else for once.

"Want me to be 'it' for a while?" Hatake asked at one point, highly amused with his voice practically dripping with condescension.

"As if!" he hissed out breathlessly, taking a moment to catch his breath. That would be like admitting a loss! He wasn't going to go down so easily!

Before he even realized what had happened the game was unofficially declared over with the sky starting to glow with the sunset and his friends were wandering off for drinks from the vending machine. Obito belatedly realized that he'd lost an entire day, his one precious day off from the Academy, trying to beat Hatake Kakashi in a game of Can Kick. He'd gotten so caught up in his own stupid rivalry that he'd wasted all of his free time and exhausted himself for good measure! Palming his face Obito slumped after them, bought a can of cool, sweetened green tea for himself and plopped himself down to sit cross-legged on the grass next to them to drink it.

He tried not to sulk, how had he let himself get so worked up? Of all the stupid, juvenile—

"You were 'it' the whole time~!" Rin giggled teasingly.

Obito couldn't stop himself from grumbling.

His best friend laughed in his face, got up to toss her own empty drink can in the bin and bid him a farewell, spotting her mother at the entrance to the park. "Did you have fun?" she asked with a whisper before she left, leaning in close so the silver haired boy standing off to the side wouldn't hear her. Her brown eyes were big, hopeful and shining with so much sincerity that Obito couldn't bring himself to rain down on her mood.

"I… suppose." He grumped grudgingly, he'd actually had fun... before Hatake had completely taken over the game. It wasn't her fault his stupid one-sided rivalry with the other boy had reared its ugly head.

Rin's pure-hearted smile of relief and glee at the admission was his reward. She practically skipped away to join her mother and he knew she'd be riding the glow of her 'success' the whole way home.

The idea of it warmed the center of his bitter, bitter soul.

He basked in the glow of it as the Hideki brothers and Kenya left with their parents, leaving him alone with the silver haired boy who had yet to leave himself. In the spirit of cooperation Rin had left behind in her wake, he tried not to notice that the other boy hadn't even broken a sweat and hadn't needed a drink to cool down after spending a whole day running around. Obito was instead content to sit back and soak in the dwindling light, listen to the birdcalls and just relax in comfortable silence—

"I won again—"

Obito growled as his good-will vanished to the wind.

"— but I'll praise you for one thing…" Hatake continued, ignoring the molten glare shot in his direction. "You're the only one until now who's never chickened out of a game with me."

"You complete shi—ow off!" he bit out in response, cutting off the word his grandmother would disapprove of. That attitude really was just too much!

"Hey, and here I was praising you~!"

"Take that praise and shove it—"

"Ah, there's my dad! See you!" Hatake interrupted, waving a hasty farewell as he jogged to the entrance of the park.

"I— yeah, see you…" Obito replied, so off-kilter at the abrupt cut-off and casual farewell that he actually waved back without thinking.

The resemblance between father and son was very obvious, they would have been mistaken for twins had they been the same age. Hatake's father reached down to ruffle his son's mop of silver hair and Obito watched as they walked off hand in hand, presumably to go home. He felt his mood shift again as he was left with only his own growing shadow for company as the sunset slowly leaching from the sky.

He made his way home alone and at dinner that night Obito found himself asking his grandmother about his own parents.

"Do I look like my mother or my father?" He asked shyly, peeking up from his food as he waited for the answer.

"Hmm, if I had to choose… I'd say both." His grandmother laughed at the expression on his face and put down her chopsticks so she could get up to get proof. She retrieved a photo album, opened it and set it on a clear space on the table. "See? You look like a perfect mix of the both of them. You have your mother's lips, chin and ears, while you have your father's cheekbones, hair and nose. Of course you have their eyes, they were both Uchiha."

He searched his parents faces for familiar features and felt an odd smile slip onto his face as he spotted them. Looking up, he closed the photo album, set it aside and searched his grandmother's face instead. Her hair was sleek and smooth, nothing like the mop of spikes Obito had inherited from his grandfather, and he could see their blood relation in everything his grandmother had noted he'd shared with his father.

What more could he possibly ask for?

Finishing off his dinner Obito gathered up his dishes, cleaned up after himself and then surprised his grandmother with a stealthy kiss to her cheek. He may not have been lucky enough to know them, but it was comforting to know that some part of his parents continued in him.

"Oh I can't wait to see Rin-chan's children! I'll have to make space in the family album~!" His grandmother teased.

"… please stop."

OoO

Hatake Kakashi graduated out of the Academy in a grand total of six months.

Obito was torn on what he should be feeling. On one hand, he was free of the other boy's petty bullying during the day and knew he'd be kept busy on missions for the village. That said, the same stupid part of him that thought of the silver haired boy as a rival… burned. What had he accomplished in six months at the Academy? Hardly anything, he was smack in the middle of his classmates! He wasn't on the bottom of the class but he wasn't at the top now that Hatake was gone either.

Rin was well on her way to becoming a medic, she attended new lessons halfway through the day after the whole class had been tested for any sign of medical inclination. She'd managed to not only pick up the basics of first aid pretty much immediately, but she'd also managed to heal the cut on the fish they'd been testing students on.

Obito had fried his.

The only Medical technique he was allowed to perform after that was a very basic chakra-transfer. He was promptly banned from ever trying to directly use any other medical Ninjutsu in the future unless he specifically wanted to barbecue his patient. His chakra was apparently so ill-suited to using medical techniques that he'd damn near crisped up his own skin along with the fish he'd cooked. Following that he was shown how to apply field dressings to burns, using his own hands as an example, and was booted from those lessons nursing his tender and stinging fingers.

To make up for his shortcomings there he made sure to practice his chakra-sharing as much as possible. Rin was always happy to receive the boost and practiced filtering what she got at the same time. His grandmother also let him practice with her and from that Obito learned that chakra sharing with his clansmen made their chakra sing.

"It's called 'resonance', and it almost always happens between family members." She said, a warm expression crossing her face as she pressed a hand to her own chest, Obito mirroring the movement when she passed a bit of her own chakra to him. "When two people with similar chakra are near each other, they resonate. And when their chakra combine, the strongest techniques can be formed. Your parents resonated quite strongly, they made a devastating team."

Flushed and buzzing from the chakra running though him, it took him until the end of the day to come down from the high, and he wasn't even tired when their chakra finally stopped resonating. In the end he wasn't quite so cut-up about not being able to perform the vast majority of medical techniques, simply being able to share his chakra with his grandmother more than made up for that. For Obito, there was nothing more he enjoyed more than the time they spent basking in each other's presence.

His grandmother was so proud of him mastering the technique that she bragged about it to the other clan elders, and it wasn't long before he was called before them to demonstrate. He honestly didn't know what they were all so excited about until his clan head got involved and he was conscripted into the police force.

"I don't understand this, don't I actually have to be… you know, a proper ninja to be working for the police?" Obito asked in confusion as his clan head dropped him into a chair, tossed him a new shirt with the police crest on it and left him with an older cousin that would be showing him his new duties.

"You don't need to be a ninja, you just have to be recognized as an Uchiha." Uchiha Misao replied sourly. "You know how to read?"

"I… yes?"

"You can hear?"

"… obviously?"

"How many fingers am I holding up?" His cousin snarked sarcastically, rolling his eyes. "If you can work, you're put to work. It's as simple as that. You're to come here when your classmates are having medical lessons. Fugaku-sama's orders."

Obito was 'stationed' with the Transmissions and Patrol division, where he was given a head-set, taught how to put it on and was buddied up to his cousin Misao. At first he wasn't given tasks outside of the office and was instead given a clipboard with names to tick off as patrols came in or out. It wasn't long till his 'duties' expanded as he started recognizing who was who from voice alone. He was next shown a map of the village, which was helpfully divided into color-coded and numbered sectors and was expected to figure out where a patrol was, what their status was and what they needed from the codes they called in.

It wouldn't have been that hard or confusing to learn if that was all he was expected to do… unfortunately for him that part of the job was only to keep him out of mischief while he performed his primary duty.

He apparently wasn't alone among the Uchiha in his near-complete inability to use Medical Ninjutsu without causing injury to himself or others. It was like that with practically every Uchiha, it came from having a natural Fire affinity. It was apparently a point of pride that tied into the reason their clan crest was a fan. No one in the clan particularly saw that as a weakness but instead looked at it as a source of strength, one that they had used since the Warring States Period. Way back when the Uchiha stood alone as a clan against the entire world they'd used the ability as a weapon in battle. Clansmen would share chakra between themselves right before a battle and the Resonance they struck allowed them to boost the strength of every technique they used.

Obito was assigned to what the Uchiha in their division called the 'Tap-Desk' to send off outgoing patrols with a literal tap, he then receive one of his own from the incoming patrols to burn off the excess that wasn't used. The incoming teams were free to go take care of paperwork, process an offender or drop off lost property without being interrupted with the need to release that energy.

He had to do that FOR them.

It didn't take very long for Obito to figure out why their division was so well stocked up on water, burn salve, lip-balm and bandages, or why they shared a wall with a gigantic furnace with several easy-to-open hatches. The very first time he received a 'tap' from an incoming team he'd thought he was going to burst and he was so very glad Misao had none-too-gently booted him over to the furnace.

"One Fireball." His cousin barked, "And don't use up everything, you've got another hour till I'm letting you go back to the Academy."

Obito scrabbled desperately for the latch on the furnace door and threw it open, formed the necessary hand seals with shaking hands and blew out the strongest, hottest and brightest Grand Fireball that had ever come out of him. At the end of it he was still somehow on his feet despite how much he'd put into the technique and he was no longer shaking, he was in fact still buzzing and warm from the chakra.

"Why did the Uchiha join the Senju if our clan was so powerful?" he asked his cousin, interrupting the history lesson he was on the receiving end of and wincing at his now extremely dry throat. He was more than aware of just how proud of his clan was of their own strength, so…

An unopened bottle of water hit the back of his head and Obito turned to glare at his cousin even as he scooped it up and greedily drank it down.

"Because Medics." Misao bit out around the mouth of his own bottle.

There really wasn't any arguing with that answer, especially not by the end of his shift.

Obito changed out of his own clothes two minutes after his first 'tap' and into the blessedly breezy and over-sized uniform shirt his clan head had so very kindly provided him. He went through more bottles of water than he knew he could drink at any one time and dizzily decided that he had fallen in love with the Senju who had come up with the recipe for the lip balm and salve he lathered his face, hands, and lips with.

"I'm going to marry her." He rasped feelingly as his various burns were soothed away within minutes of application.

"Too late, Senju Tsunade already has a lover." Misao snickered.

"Gimme five years and I could take him."

OoO

By the time his shift was up Obito was too dizzy to move. One of the teams heading out to patrol in the direction of the Academy scruffed him anyway and 'helpfully' dropped him off as not even the excuse of being high off chakra would excuse him for the day. He was almost grateful for it. He wouldn't be able to sit still once his head cleared anyway, so it wasn't like he could rest if he went home and he couldn't exactly trust himself to walk in a straight line.

His teachers accepted the condition he was in as the aftermath of clan training and didn't let up on him either. As his head cleared from the faint-headedness that came from using the Grand Fireball Technique one too many times he realized that they'd had the right idea. He was nowhere near as tired as he should be, even at the end of a day full of exertion. Obito might have been physically low on chakra and overheated, but what little chakra he had was still Resonating.

It kept him alert, twitchy and highly distracted. It was a lucky thing girls went straight into Kunoichi lessons after the Medic classes were finished or Rin would have caught the sharp side of his frazzled state. As it was he nearly delivered it to his grandmother.

"How do I make it stop?" he asked her the second he saw her upon staggering home, close to crying with the need to fall over. His legs were wobbling and his arms were shaking, but his eyes were practically peeled open. "Make it stop!"

When she held out her arms he'd have thrown himself into them if he weren't already falling, she caught him, bundled him up into her lap and pressed her hands against his in what was now a familiar position. "Pay attention to how I do this Obito," she started, voice soothing and calm as she braided her fingers together with his, "As I'll only be showing you the one time."

He nodded jerkily.

"Good, now tap me."

Obito passed her some of his chakra without needing to ask what she meant and leaned back in her arms to better feel what she was doing to calm the Resonance. When she flattened her hands he hastily copied her and blinked when she brought their hands back together with a sharp clap. Their chakra spiked and then… calmed down.

Tension bled out of him in a wave and his body might as well have turned into liquid as his chakra settled. His grandmother grinned proudly down at him and cuddled him up further into her arms. "You can use that same technique to disrupt Genjutsu, isn't that useful?"

"…need to stop bragging 'bout me." Obito mumbled as his eyelids grew heavy.

"Never."

Chapter Text

Obito found it much easier to perform his duties at the Tap-Desk with the ability to calm down a resonance when it happened. That didn't stop him from finding a nice fat toad and sneaking it into Misao's pocket the first chance he got as his 'thank you' for not telling him how to calm it down in the first place though.

For the sake of future Uchiha unfortunate enough to have such a loving, caring cousin like Misao to show them how working the Tap-Desk worked, Obito found a piece of sheet plastic, wrote out the instructions for the technique and super-glued it to the office wall. Their quaint little office gained quite a few more little placards with his handwriting on it as the year passed. Tips and tricks on how to make a shift go by easier, arrows pointing to important areas, like the fridge with all the water in it and the shelf with medical packs and burn salve. The furnace got special attention with a new shiny polished metal label with the words, 'Don't Fall In' painstakingly engraved on it after an incident his partner still gave him grief over. So what if he'd tripped over his own feet? Everyone had their clumsy moments, that one had just been a little more life-threatening than usual!

Misao wasn't the only one among his cousins who sucked at explaining how things worked and Obito was determined that the next cousin of his conscripted into duty wouldn't suffer the same condescending looks he did when they asked why a thing was done a certain way. He jokingly made a manual of how to 'operate' the Tap-desk, framed it and stuck that to the wall too and by the time he was six he found himself almost enjoying the time he spent there. Of course, the minute he got comfortable, he was moved and put to work patrolling the village.

He privately and not-so-privately believed that his Clan Head was trying to keep him from being bored by keeping him busy, so far it was actually working.

Misao wasn't exactly happy about being put back on the patrol roster, and Obito got the feeling that was because he'd gotten rather comfortable with the Tap-Desk himself. The only people he'd had to interact with were his clansmen and women. He hadn't had to talk or do much more than burn chakra when he was on duty and did a bit of light paperwork at the end of the day. It had been easy work that fit around what he did as a ninja for the village. Now though, his cousin had to walk around and interact with people. He had to stop and listen to their problems and then try to sort them out. He sometimes got a bit of excitement stopping the occasional brawl, but otherwise didn't find the job very rewarding.

On their first patrol together his cousin pretty much treated him like a child-shaped, portable source of resonance. Misao lugged him around by the back of his shirt, sometimes tucked him under an arm and lastly he ended up on the man's shoulders. Which had only happened after a 'negotiation' between them that pretty much consisted of Obito threatening to throw up all over the man's feet. In the end he got a nice near-aerial perspective of how the Police Force worked, how they patrolled the village and what it looked like on the other end of a call-in. Finally when Misao had to break up a fight Obito was put somewhere with a good view of the confrontation and told to radio it in while he took care of it, so when his cousin actually needed another Tap, he wasn't too far away.

Misao took an unusual amount of care when choosing the places he left Obito at, as it was always somewhere high-up and away from most foot-traffic. He learned why his cousin did that when he did the stupid thing by getting too close one day.

Too close to the watching crowd.

He'd seen a crowd begin to form and get fired up, from the way they were talking it had even looked like a few of the Kunoichi were gearing up to jump in and join the bar fight Misao had waded into. He hadn't really thought much between warning his cousin about where he was going to be for his next 'tap' and jumping down from the fence he'd been left on. The warning that came back to him over the radio from both his partner and practically every Uchiha on patrol came over loud and clear... and far too late to save him.

"No, don't!" Misao warned sharply over sounds of violence.

"Stop you little idiot, don't do it!" Megumi, another older cousin of his, groaned from the safety of the Tap-Desk.

"… he's not going to listen. Hold tight Misao, we're sending you back-up." His 'uncle' Hikaru snorted.

At the time, Obito thought they'd been exaggerating over nothing. He'd rolled his eyes and carefully climbed down the fence he'd been left on, using a nearby pole to assist his decent. He'd been 'assisting' with Misao's patrol for over a week now and he'd idiotically thought he could handle a crowd. He listened to his clansmen over-react to what he'd thought was nothing in his ear and turned the volume down of the radio's receiver function using the controls at his throat. He faced the crowd with all of the unaware naivety he possessed and cleared his throat.

"Excuse me, can we all start moving away from the bar? We don't want anyone to get hurt." Obito started, both arms out, waving people away from him and unknowingly stepping closer towards his doom. His intention to defuse the worked up crowd worked, to the last they all shifted their attention away from the bar.

At first, when their attention shifted down onto him, he didn't think it would be a problem.

Obito was recognized as a member of both the clan and although his duties were pretty light compared to his older cousins, he was an officer of Konoha's Military Police. He even had his own personnel file and the power to arrest, though he was pretty sure that was in preparation for the future. He worked the same shifts his cousin and partner Misao did and wore the same uniform when on duty. Which was a dark blue, wide-collared shirt emblazoned with the police emblem on the back worn over mesh with the regulation standard blue pants. He got all the same gear every other officer used and was punished accordingly when he forgot to wear any of it. Which meant he got the same punishment everyone else did, which was either sorting out piles of paperwork or time spent feeding the furnace with more charka.

It took until he'd been successfully rescued from the group that he realized where he'd gone wrong. Obito was everything a Konoha Military Police Force member should be, minus a Chuunin or Jounin vest, but in miniature. He'd been all of six years old, kitted out in a child-sized police uniform and the crowd took one look at him and… loved it.

They had nearly eaten him alive.

There had been squealing. There had been cheek pinching, coos and laughter. The hugs he was trapped into where in were inescapable, and he couldn't even get away when he was in the process of being passed from one person to the next. He was petted, kissed and cuddled by damn near the entire group of boozed up individuals, who all decided he must be the police force's newest mascot.

"I'm an ACTUAL OFFICER!" Obito protested at a loud and offended howl, the sting of the label hitting him right in the self-esteem. "I might not be able to do as much as everyone else, but I pull my own weight!"

That protest had been his second mistake. What followed was an unending combo of chain-hits to his ego as the crowd became determined to 'comfort' him… with more cuddles, kisses and drunken love that he Couldn't. Escape.

"Oh honey, of course you are!"

"You're doing such a good job sweet-heart!"

"I'm so proud of you~!"

"Why couldn't my little brother be this cu—hard working?"

Obito bit back outraged tears and clicked his teeth shut against further protests as he knew it would only feed the crowd's energy. Pulling his flailing arms in he managed to reach for the receiver around his throat and turned the volume back up. He pressed the button that let him send out his own messages and choked out a desperate mayday. His rescue came in the form of two patrolling teams, one to help his cousin end the brawl and another to fish him out from his admirers.

Misao lugged him back to the Transmission and Patrol division under one arm, with in kiss-marks outlined in lipstick all over his face, covered in body-glitter and smelling like a dozen different perfumes and alcohol. When they 'Tapped-Out' his partner didn't offer to help him clean up, merely tossed him a change of clothes and dropped him in front of the bathroom. Obito was so thankful for the treatment he mentally promised Misao a pass on the next time his cousin did something deserving of retaliation. He was never going to complain about being treated too much like an adult by his clansmen ever again!

Obito cleaned up, did his paperwork, went to sign his partner's report and didn't protest when he was picked up and tucked back under Misao's arm to go back out again.

"You sure you're alright for going back out again?"

"If I can work, I'm put to work. I am NOT a mascot."

"… and you're going to stay put when I tell you to next time?"

Obito nodded, like hell he was going to make the same mistake twice.

"Good, maybe now you'll learn to stop acting so sweet with everyone."

Obito let the insult slide, Misao had used up his free pass pretty damn fast hadn't he? Passing by the Tap Desk to go back out again Megumi gave the man a fat, well-worn scroll with the chakra she passed them, which he looked at briefly before rolling his eyes and passed to Obito. "Here, nothing like motivation to get you ahead of your classmates."

Taking it he read the label and then clutched it protectively to his chest so he wouldn't drop it. When both Uchiha at the Tap-Desk saluted him Obito didn't hesitate returning it.

They'd given him a scroll on stealth techniques and a few easy ninjutsu.

By the time he started his next shift, he was going to have it goddamn memorized.

OoO

With learning how to hide properly from other ninja whenever he wanted to came the unexpected side-benefit of being able to scare the liver out of his friends at the Academy. They made for fantastic guinea pigs to test his new skills on while at school and in the village.

The techniques in the scroll were very much like the Grand Fireball technique had been, it didn't take much to figure them out. The hand-seals did most of the work for him in producing the desired effect and with practice he put these simple abilities to work while on patrol. Keeping track of which combination of hand-seals did what was challenging to do while on the fly, and he made more than a few goof-ups when he mistook one for the other, but on the whole he was getting a hang of it at a good, steady pace.

His classmates might have started hating him for it if he hadn't taken to slipping them treats to soften the blow to their ego, which added a whole new dimension to the game he made out of it. If he managed to successfully sneak up on a friend, he'd slip them something small like a candy bar, flit away and then stomp up and hint at his target to check their pockets. Some of his friends took the scare easily… then there were those he had to run away from, which just added to the fun of it. He just had to keep hidden till they stopped angrily screaming his name, it was glorious.

Obito was in his second year at the academy and by all rights he shouldn't know any Ninjutsu at all, it wouldn't be taught for a few more months. So far they'd been taught the Shinobi Rules, the beginnings of hand to hand combat, the etiquette of sparring with comrades, the names of the most basic ninja tools and how to recognize, mold, release and control charka. They had three exercise sessions, one before classes started, another one after lunch and then lastly before they were allowed to go home. They'd also been taken on 'camping' trips where they were shown what was edible and what wasn't amongst the flora and fauna of Konoha's lush training grounds and how to make and break camp. They had also begun to learn the theory behind the rope-escape techniques and physical enhancement.

He was goddamn lucky he'd gotten his hands on that scroll, so far the only other Ninjutsu he'd learnt was the Grand Fireball, and that was only because tradition had dictated he learn it. If he was guessing right, it would be the last one he'd be able to get his hands on for a while, Ninja horded techniques like they were treasures, and guarded them jealously. Keeping them out of the hands of over-eager little Academy Students was probably also common sense, given that he'd hospitalized himself learning his first technique.

Megumi was officially his favorite cousin. She'd totally put him months ahead of his peers when it came to Ninjutsu. He didn't allow it to go to his head though, as he was pretty average in every subject currently being taught. It was a fact that was literally hammered into him every time he was pit against anyone in a sparring match who had a pretty decent grasp on Taijutsu. If a technique required hand-seals he picked it up pretty quickly compared to his classmates though, everyone had their strengths and his just happened to be Ninjutsu. He would enjoy himself for now as he was pretty sure that when his classmates started learning the same things he'd end up right back in the middle of the pack again.

None of the stealth techniques in the scroll worked on any of his clansmen, who were all eagle-eyed and sharp witted to the last of them. This was especially true when their chakra started resonating even on a very minor scale, which was what happened whenever he tried sneaking up on one of them. He had yet to figure out a way to stop that from happening and took the lumps to the head as his just deserts for the attempts. He'd learn how to do it eventually, there had to be a way to stop a resonance happening between clansmen even at that minor a level. It felt unfair that they could tell he was there from such a small flare-up.

He learned a very important lesson in picking who he practiced his stealth techniques on wisely when their teacher's reaction to an attempted jump-scare was to send out a hail of kunai and shuriken. Had Obito not been so far ahead of his classmates in Ninjutsu he was sure he'd have died, as it was he'd barely managed to escape the metallic rain of death by the skin of his teeth and a very fast Kawarimi. His teacher had assigned him detention for a week, had him write up an essay on the subject of 'Why One Must Not Startle Comrades' and sent him home with a note afterwards for him to give to his grandmother.

Jittery and still shaken from the close call he'd had, Obito sat with his head down and tried not to squirm too guiltily, hands clenched together on his lap and with his legs folded under him as his guardian read the note. He honestly hadn't thought he'd scare his teacher so badly, everyone else in the man's age bracket saw him coming a mile away. It wasn't like he'd been seriously trying to anyway, he'd been joking around with his friends when he'd seen the teacher walk past distractedly and a lick of pure mischief had lit up inside him. They'd seen the look on his face and even though no words had been spoken out loud he'd felt that a challenge had been issued.

He'd taken it.

So used to being caught within moments of trying to sneak up to other members of the police force he found the thrill of getting so close to his teacher without being immediately caught heady. It had set his heart pumping, his adrenaline running and it went straight to his head… he'd just had to poke his apparently very ticklish teacher in the side. The memory of the man's choked squeal had him biting his lips down on a spurt of smothered amusement at the sound even hours later and squirming even harder as he tried to look appropriately ashamed of himself. He flattened his lips over his teeth to make sure his lips stayed sealed and tried his very best to make sure his face didn't twist up with the suppressed laughter any further than it already was. Keeping his head down was helping. A little bit.

He might nearly have died because of a moment of pure idiocy… but that had been the funniest noise he'd ever heard.

"… your teacher's name, what was it again?"

"Daikoku Fuyuno sensei." Obito answered, peeking up through his hair at the question.

"Brown hair with a beard? If I'm not mistaken he has a son about five years older than you…"

"Uh, yeah. That's him. His son Funeno is a Genin now, he helps the class sometimes." He clarified, tilting his head just slightly to the side so he could actually see though his stupid hair. That… had not been the reaction he'd been expecting. Maybe that was still coming though?

Erk! His grandmother had finished the letter he'd brought home and had picked up the shirt he'd been wearing that day, as he'd put on a new one upon coming home. Grimacing at the shirt, which had been turned to ribbons under his teacher's assault, Obito twitched and looked away as she held it up and light streamed through the many holes in the fabric. Why had he even bought it home? He should have hidden the evidence. The shirt was rather beyond saving now anyway, he'd had to pick the weapons out of the log he'd left it on and peel the fabric free from the bark to boot.

Close call, very close call.

He looked right back up again at what sounded suspiciously like a snerk, and caught the sharp edge of her grin as she folded the shirt. "You managed to sneak up on a Chuunin and escape unharmed? You're growing up so fast Obito."

Obito released his tension in one great sigh even as he felt himself flush to the very tips of his ears. She wasn't angry about it? Thank god! He didn't think he could take displeasure coming from the most precious person in his life. Unfolding from the uncomfortable position he'd sat himself down in he reached forward across the kotatsu to pick up the ragged shirt so he could throw it in the bin for her before dinner but met resistance. Blinking he stared at his grandmother's iron grip on the shirt and tilted his head to the side again.

"Uh, baa-chan? I was going to throw this in the bin for you?" He tried tugging again, but his grandmother still wouldn't let go, she tugged back instead and he let it go at the nonverbal demand.

"Why would you do that?" She asked, immediately pulling it towards her when he let go of the ruined fabric.

"… because I can't use it anymore?"

"Just because you can't use it doesn't mean I don't have a use for it." His grandmother clicked her tongue at him, drawing it closer and folding it. "Why, this will make a great topic of conversation for tomorrow's meeting with the clan elders~!"

Obito froze and then started to sweat. The last time she'd bragged to the other clan elders… now he knew why she'd snerked earlier.

His grandmother was an evil genius.

OoO

The weeks' worth of detention he was assigned by his teacher was spent fixing the classroom he'd indirectly helped destroy. He was given a bucket of plaster, a tub of paint and a paint brush and was expected to repair the damage done to the classroom's walls, ceiling, door and floor. The remainder of the time was spent straightening bent shuriken and kunai, then sharpening the blunted blades and testing their balance.

It was nothing compared to what his clan had prepared for him.

His 'reward' for his display of competence was more lessons with his clansmen, Obito now spent breaks with his body pressed to the nearest cool or flat surface, preferably both, regretting his trip into idiot-land. If his family had even the slightest doubt that he needed to be kept busy, he'd definitely erased it and now they were determined to make sure he was never so 'bored' again.

Daikoku Funeyo, his teacher, was fully on board with this and made absolutely sure he couldn't escape his cousins when they came to pick him up for lessons. The man watched him all the time now, and viewed him through suspicious and narrowed eyes the whole while. Obito was not going to apologize again, if the man hadn't accepted it the first time it was unlikely he'd do it now. It wasn't his fault the man had let his guard down so far that an Academy Student managed to get the drop on him.

Okay, maybe it was. A little.

During this time he transitioned between being treated as a portable power source and into becoming an actual, working officer, his cousin started to stand back and let him tackle the individuals he thought were appropriate for his skill-level. Lessons with his cousins took a dramatic turn, and now consisted of take-down techniques suited to his small stature, mostly long-distance using either wire and shuriken or rope that was weighted down and capped at both ends with copper. They were surprisingly effective against inebriated ninja and civilians, especially in an urban environment and would be even more effective once he mastered them and moved up to using chain instead of rope.

He was getting closer to that goal every day, and was looking forward to the day he'd be allowed to carry the police-issue chains that were designed to lock down a target's charka when properly utilized. Rope escape techniques were unfortunately taught to first years at the academy and there were village competitions every now and then that challenged both knot-makers and escape artists. Tackling a ninja down, even one so soaked to the gills with alcohol was practically impossible with rope and wire alone.

Unable to match them physically he had to rely on his own wits, his budding skills in long-distance capture and sometimes the rubbernecking crowd to his advantage. Misao said to use every weapon in his arsenal… if a watching ninja just happened to leap to his rescue in the middle of a take-down Obito would take it. It might bruise his pride to accept the help but, what else could he do? It wasn't like he could tell his perspective heroes to back off, not only would that be rude, but who knew what kind of resentment that would foster? There was already a weird tension he could feel directed at the Military Police and his clan and he didn't want to do anything that would feed it.

It could just be his imagination working on overdrive, but he didn't want to take the chance that the attitudes he was noticing directed at his clan weren't so strange. Better to tread with caution than to trample ahead and regret later.

With all the effort he was putting into becoming a better officer, his studies in the Academy started to feel like they weren't as important. The Academy became a respite from clan training and his insanely intense cousins. Class was spent half asleep, or depending on the subject currently being taught, actually asleep if he already knew what was being taught. Rin was always there for the classes he slept through, so if he missed anything important she caught him up. As a consequence to this attitude, he got slaughtered whenever he was pitted up against just about anyone during sparring matches.

There was never enough time during his naps to recover from his schedule. He was dragged out of bed every day before dawn for stretches and exercises, afterwards he was allowed to drag himself home to eat breakfast with his grandmother. Then he stumbled to the Academy, where he had to do more stretches and exercises and had to cram his head full of whatever was being taught that day. After the academy he had to report for duty at the police headquarters, which was across the entire distance of the village and near the main gates. Misao might still carry him around on his shoulders from time to time, but Obito's pride couldn't take much of that and he was supposed to be learning how to carry his own weight anyway!

He'd made a compromise somewhere along the way and it was hard to figure out exactly when he'd stopped caring so much about the grades he was receiving. It wasn't like he was coming in last, he was still somewhat solid in his position in the proverbial middle of the pack. At the end of the year he took his report card home to his grandmother and stared down at the kotatsu as she read through his scores silently. Swallowing Obito didn't look up, he was aware that the grades he was bringing home weren't the best reflection of his abilities, but he was caught between two vastly different directions. The Academy was also… he didn't want to say boring, because it wasn't most of the time, it was just that he was learning a lot of what they were teaching from his cousins anyway.

It didn't stop him from squirming guiltily under his grandmother's scrutiny.

The reaction was anti-climactic and even though he knew she wasn't one for tongue lashing lectures, he'd been expecting it. He didn't know why, it wasn't her style at all and she'd never had to raise her voice at him even once in his life. There was just something in him that had been expecting it. She instead showed no sign of disappointment or disapproval, but at the same time she didn't look like she was happy with his grades either. Her face was a mask of blank indifference that made Obito uneasy. It was like she'd already been expecting the grades on his report-card before he'd even given it to her.

Damned if it didn't burn worse than the scathing lecture he'd been expecting. What stung even more than that was her placing the report card in front of the family shrine where offerings usually went. It was as if she was showing the pictures of his parents and grandfather how the latest of their bloodline was doing in school.

What would his parents have said if they'd been alive right now?

Taking the opportunity to flee from the thought as his grandmother lit incense to place next to the report card Obito retreated to the relative safety of his bedroom. He needed to change before his shift anyway, he wasn't running away, he was getting ready for what was bound to be a grueling shift. Slinking around his room as quietly as he could he shrugged into his Military Police uniform and checked that his equipment for any damage. He'd only needed his wires to snap mid take-down once to start checking his stuff before and after every shift.

Finishing with his checks and strapping on his kunai holster, he was a step away from bolting out the window when his grandmother called for him from the front door. Cringing with one foot on the window sill with his shoes held in hand Obito hung his head and turned, changing the motion of stepping out of the window into a march that would bring him to where his grandmother was. She was waiting for him at the front door and she'd changed out of her every-day wear and into something that had an almost formal air to it. Stiffening momentarily his mind raced as to what this could mean.

"… baa-chan where are you going?" he asked somewhat uncertainly. She hadn't made any mention of plans to go out anywhere and as far as he knew the clan elders hadn't scheduled a meeting for today.

"We are going to go see this season's Chuunin exams." His grandmother corrected, ushering him forward and straightening the collar of his shirt for him when he obeyed the silent order.

"I— but I have a shift right now!" Obito tried protesting even as he felt a fissure of excitement sparked through him.

The Chuunin exams were held bi-yearly in July and December and he knew from his time at the tap-desk exactly how busy the Military Police became whenever Konoha hosted them. The mind-boggling amount of people that visited the village for the exams took effort and manpower to keep calm and controlled, especially when some of those people were either contestants in the exams, or supervising Jounin. It didn't seem to matter that they should be on their best behaviour and were representing their countries, when they came to Konoha, they brought their trouble with them.

It took every able-bodied Uchiha reporting for duty and working in concert with the village Chuunin to keep the utter bedlam down to the absolute minimum. He'd heard the kind of chaos his clansmen had worked so hard to contain the year before. He'd had some trouble interpreting what was being relayed over the radio, but he'd been able to piece together what was going on from the tone of voice and background noises. The number of 'taps' he'd had to both give and receive had been insane, and he'd experienced nothing like that since then. It was really no wonder he'd been drafted into the Military Police as soon as he'd demonstrated his ability to Chakra Share, they'd desperately needed the extra help.

He'd known Konoha was hosting this season's Chuunin exams for months before foreigners had actually started showing up. Patrols, security and working rosters were drawn up that far in advance to prepare for the incoming flux of people and he damned well knew why.

Outsiders looked for and took any opportunity to undermine village security, steal, harass, and some even tried their hand at vandalism. Depending on the severity of the trouble they brought to the village, offenders looked forward to fines, ejection from both the exams and the village to time spent in the Military Police holding facilities while higher-ups negotiated conditions for release. Then there were the people who either celebrated their win too hard or took their losses with pain they simply had to share. Alcohol amplified sentiments all around and made everything either easier to contain or harder depending on the alcohol tolerance of those involved. All of that was just scraping the surface of things and Obito wasn't allowed anywhere near cases of a higher level just yet. He had to take the Chuunin exams first and pass them before he was qualified for that.

Being offered the chance to see what was going on from the sidelines when he knew he should be helping his clansmen with everything that was going on? He was torn, lucky for him his grandmother was harder to move from a decision when she made one than he was, so he didn't fight it when she took his hand and lead the way to the village arena.

"You had a shift right now." His grandmother corrected again, smiling down at him. "It was rescheduled for after the tournament. Fugaku-kun was generous enough to accept my selfish request and you wouldn't leave your poor old grandmother alone and vulnerable in a crowd like this would you?"

"I wouldn't dare." He replied dryly, meeting her teasing with a dry look. She might have been old and delicate-looking, but she had the Uchiha crest displayed on her back of her haori, at her shoulders, one over her heart and on a pin keeping the hair out of her face. Anyone foolish enough to ignore the warnings or think of her as 'vulnerable' deserved whatever they got coming to them.

If anything he was the more vulnerable target of the two of them and he made a much more tempting target. He was young and the Konoha Military Police uniform he was wearing had the potential to act as a taunt in a crowd this large and it was far more recognizable than the casual blue and orange jumpsuit he wore to the academy and on days off. The wide collared dark blue shirt was distinctive, even from a distance, and was a style only their clansmen wore when on active duty. Anything thicker than the breathable cloth and protective mesh worn under it and an Uchiha was liable to boil to death from their own body heat.

He grimaced at the thought but it was wiped away not even a second later at the pulse of chakra his grandmother passed him through their joined hands. A grin slipped away from him instead as he replied in kind and he allowed himself to relax into the warmth of her grip and proximity. It was always so much more pleasant to Resonate with his grandmother than with the rest of his clan, but that had to be because she was a very soft touch with it. His other clansmen were battering rams in comparison.

When they made it through the throngs of people his grandmother led him to a private entrance where the security took the tickets she produced from her purse. They were given lanyards with their names on them and were given directions to their seats, which had Obito wondering how far in advance his grandmother had booked their seats. His grandmother handed him program booklet, which interestingly enough, had a page for each contestant which listed their name, team, affiliation and teacher's names. He flipped through it with mild interest and got the shock of his life when a familiar face and name caught him by surprise.

Hatake Kakashi. Team Seven. Konoha. Namikaze Minato.

"No. Way." Obito spluttered, jerking up in his seat to stand ram-rod straight as he stared gape-jawed at the booklet. "He only turned six in September!"

"… you know when my birthday is?"

Obito closed his eyes, and immediately clapped his hands up together to cancel the Resonance he was sharing with his grandmother. As comforting as it was sometimes he did not want to be emotionally charged near the silver haired boy standing in the isle next to their seats. He hadn't noticed the other boy until just now because of it and he'd have to have been seated in the competitors area before he'd noticed Obito in the guests section.

"After the fuss Maito-kun made, everyone knows your birthday." Obito replied evenly, forcing himself to regulate his breathing. He relaxed the grip he had on the program in his hand and shot his grandmother a sharp look. Now he knew why she'd been so insistent that he come with her, he thought she'd dropped this now that the other boy had graduated out of his class but apparently that had not been the case.

She was trying to fan the dying embers of his one-sided rivalry with Hatake Kakashi back to life.

Okay, he could be mature about this. He was turning seven in just a few months, he could be polite to anyone. He now had almost two years of enduring questions as to his competence by what felt like the entire populace of Konoha. This was just another kid. A younger kid. Who'd been nominated for Chuunin already… maybe Hatake had grown up since he'd graduated?

Straightening his spine Obito turned around met his old one-sided rival's eyes. The other boy no longer wore over-sized shirts and shorts with a scarf. Kakashi now wore a better fitting black shirt with grey strips down the short sleeves, regulation standard black pants with matching shoes, he wore protective arm bracers and had the holster for a tanto strapped crosswise over his chest. He hadn't grown much taller but… you had to show some amount of maturity to be nominated for promotion right? A genin had to be responsible right? Maybe they could start new, Obito could let bygones be bygones and—

"… who did you steal that uniform from?"

The program he was holding started to smoke.

Dropping it with a yelp Obito fanned his hands and stomped out the small fire he'd just stared with his bare hands. "Oh, damn it. Sorry baa-chan, I'll go get a new one!" He choked out, trying to smother the very sudden and violent surge of emotion that had raced through him.

"Hurry back, we wouldn't want to miss the first match." His grandmother mused, eyeing Kakashi through narrowed eyes.

Taking that as freedom to leave Obito bolted for the exit without looking back and slammed into the nearest bathroom, then fumbled a jar of Senju Tsunade's burn salve out of his med-kit. Opening it with some difficulty he scooped out a generous portion of cream out and sighed in relief as the burns immediately began to soothe and heal his singed hands. He waited until the sting completely died down before wiping his hands free of cream and storing away the salve.

Hatake Kakashi was a natural genius at figuring out his berserk buttons. From just that one sentence he knew that the other boy had done exactly zero growing up maturity-wise. It was like nothing had changed, like all the accomplishments Obito had made meant nothing. He was still in the academy and Kakashi was… slated to become Chuunin.

"Idiot, why are you getting worked up over something so stupid?" Obito scolded himself as he left the bathroom. So what if the other boy's comment had smacked him right in the pride? His pride could go hang. Who needed pride anyway? It was useless in the long run and it slapped you in the face at the most unexpected times. He was better off without it.

Asking one of the event staff where he could get a replacement for the program he'd ruined Obito was directed to a betting booth where he had to get in line for one.

"And who are you betting on?" the bored woman sitting behind solid metal bars asked.

Obito opened his mouth to correct the assumption that he wouldn't be betting but then thought twice about it. He was already in line anyway…

"What are the odds on Hatake Kakashi for winning the tournament?" He asked as he dug his wallet out of his pocket.

"That baby?" The woman snorted, "Pretty high, his Jounin probably submitted his name in to knock him down a few pegs. Personally I wouldn't make that bet."

"I'll take it then." Obito retorted, digging out every ryo he had on him and passing it over. It was quite the respectable sum. He'd gotten paid for the week just the other day and had forgotten to transfer most of it into the little nest-egg he kept hidden under a loose floorboard in his room.

He wouldn't mind losing one pay-check on the off-chance Hatake might lose, but… from their past interactions Obito could damn-near predict exactly how the rest of the competition would go. Now that Hatake knew he was going to be watching the other boy was going to show off just like he had before he'd graduated.

"Friend of yours or something? What's your name honey?" The woman asked, giggling as if his assurance was somehow adorable.

"… or something. Uchiha Obito."

If Hatake wanted to show off, Obito was happy to let him. At least he'd actually be getting something out of it at the end.

The woman took his money with a wince of sympathy for what she thought was a losing bet and jotted his name down, the amount of money he'd handed over, the odds and slid a betting slip back to him with his replacement program pamphlet. "Good luck honey, hope he wins!"

"… thanks."

Stopping at the entranceway to the seating area Obito wavered against returning to his seat to sit through more of Hatake's hen-pecking and accidentally bumped the radio he was still wearing at his hip. It crackled to life, scaring the ever living daylights out of him before he realized exactly what he'd done. He scrambled to shut it off when he paused, Megumi was complaining to every Uchiha on their channel. It was in their own unique code, and it was about missing out on the event he'd basically been frog-marched into and no longer wanted to attend. He'd probably catch hell for 'running away', but he also didn't want to give Hatake the satisfaction of seeing him in the audience.

Sending out his own message, only just barely remembering to keep it in code, he asked his cousin if she wanted his seat. The reply was instantaneous and when he asked her how quickly she could get to the arena she said she was already at the check-in gates waiting for him.

"Just do me a favour when you get to your seat?" Obito asked when he met up with her, taking the tap she gave him as he handed over his lanyard, program and betting slip instead of returning the tap. "Tell grandma 'Message Received' when you see her and have fun."

"You are so crazy Obito, you do realize you're basically signing up for two shifts back to back?"

"That's exactly what I want."

"You have school tomorrow?"

"I'll be fine, I'll just need another tap to get me through it. Do you want the ticket or not?" Obito huffed, jokingly making a swipe for the lanyard she already wore around her neck and snickered when she danced away out of his range. "Yeah, thought so. Enjoy, I'm going to go take your place."

He would probably regret this in the morning, but for now he was satisfied. If Hatake Kakashi was going to show off, Obito would rather it were for no reason whatsoever. He would not be giving the other boy the satisfaction of seeing his taunts hit home.

OoO

When one of her grand-nieces took her grandson's seat Uchiha Sumiko was not overly surprised and took the message he sent her with satisfaction. Message received indeed, Obito had caught onto his short-comings and had immediately thought of a solution to the problem he'd been having since she'd pushed for his admission into the Military Police. She would have regretted teaching him how to cancel the Resonance when it happened, if it hadn't provided her the unique opportunity to hammer home the ideology she wanted him to live by.

No child of her bloodline should be content to be dragged along with the tide. She wouldn't allow it. She had allowed for it in her son, and their world had eaten him alive. She would not allow for it in Obito. All of the mistakes she had made in raising her son would not be repeated, the results would be fatal, not just for her grandson but for herself.

She would not survive losing him.

Sumiko had lost her husband early on in their marriage and her grief would have insured she would follow him into death if she hadn't discovered her pregnancy. When Jiyu had been born, named so for the freedom from despair he'd granted her, he had become her anchor in the world. Something she could hold onto as a living memento of her late husband. As such she had allowed behaviour in him that had ultimately lead to his downfall.

Even with the ignorance she had fostered in him prior to his admission to the Academy he'd flourished. He'd been talented, unusually so even among the Uchiha. She had, in her youth and ignorance in child-rearing, praised him for it along with the rest of the clan and his head has swelled. The stress of having to catch up with his peers had unlocked his Sharingan and after that he had risen through the ranks at record speed. Jiyu had blitzed through subjects he should have mastered the basics of and she hadn't caught it. His Sharingan covered a lot of the holes in his education and he'd been using it as a crutch, not that anyone had known that at the time.

Jiyu had been celebrated as a genius, much like Hatake Kakashi was now. They shared the same arrogance, which was dangerous in an Uchiha who could open doors to shortcuts the silver haired boy was lucky he could not take, and it was no wonder Obito could not stand to be anywhere near him. That was not the kind of behaviour he would ever find tolerable, she had raised him well. Having pushed him into joining the Military Police had been the best thing she could ever have done, it split Obito's attention in the best of ways, and had him struggling just to keep up with his classmates.

She'd had to contain herself at the sight of his report card, the results of her rearing methods where right there in front of her, something physical she could hold onto and in black and white. Her plan to stall for time had worked, and the juxtaposition he made against the memory she had of his father at that same age was striking.

He measured himself against his peers and found himself lacking, all due in fact that the person he was measuring himself up against had been reared to the ninja life since birth. Obito worked hard for every skill he mastered. He studied theory, practiced until he dropped and then got back up to beg for more. She had to keep a very close eye on him to make sure he didn't activate his bloodline too early, that would undo all of her hard work. He had to stay in the Academy for long enough that they at least covered all of the basics, and him having been put to work with the police had been a two-fold strike of genius of her own.

It would be downright impossible for the Sharingan to activate while he was riding a Resonance. Chakra had to concentrate specifically in the eyes in order to awaken their bloodline limit and a Resonance spread the flow of chakra evenly throughout the entire body, it took practice to use both at the same time.

Sumiko might have been purposely pushing her grandson down, but it was making the foundation he would build himself up off of all the stronger for it and he'd have to be strong to face what was coming. She could see it in the village, hear it in the whispers that reached her and witnessed the build-up of activity and attitudes in the village. Most of all she could feel the beat of it in her bones.

War was coming, and at his age he was going to be caught right in the middle of it.

This would likely be the last time in a while Konoha would hold joint Chuunin exams and from the way the perspective Chuunin acted and interacted with each other they could feel it too, even if they had no idea what they were reacting to. The tension was that thick. Obito would graduate from the Academy in a time of war and he had to be prepared for it. With his nature, sweet as it was, Sumiko despaired for the pain she was inflicting on him, but she had to harden her heart in this instance. This was a world far too unforgiving for him, but damned if it would take him without a hell of a battle.

She was lucky he had found a strong rival, never mind of how much of a socially inept mess young Kakashi made. Had Hatake Sakumo used his ninken to raise his son? The boy's manners were truly deplorable. Regardless, he made a fine stepping-stone for her grandson.

The soon-to-be Chuunin might be ahead now, but it wouldn't be long before Obito surpassed him. She had every faith in the world.

Obito would grow strong.

Chapter Text

The year he turned seven was practically a blur for Obito as he spent the lion's share of it either riding a resonance or sleeping in random places. He no longer required a flat or cool surface to rest, just somewhere large enough for him to fit. Sometimes he didn't even manage to give himself that option when he ran out of chakra and after that it didn't matter where he landed so long as it was somewhere relatively safe and out of the way.

He managed to impress Rin's parents by how fast his reserves were growing and how quickly he recovered from Chakra Exhaustion these days, which they credited his 'pedigree' for. He took the scolding over working until he dropped with less than a grain of salt and promised them that he'd watch himself for the warning signs of 'burnout'.

There had been some considerable amount of worry from the medics over the number of times he'd been dropped off at the hospital by his friends, cousins and lately his teachers but it wasn't like he was feeling any burning or tingling sensations. He simply got sleepy, and while they had explained that this was a self-defense mechanism his body had developed to deal with exhaustion, they had also said it was stopping him from pulling a crippling or fatal amount.

His grandmother wasn't worried so he wouldn't be.

As far as he was concerned that was all he needed to know and unless his body stopped automatically shutting him down before he hit the ultimate threshold, he was fine with the way things were. It wasn't like he was losing much time when he dropped these days. Gone were the times he spent a week sleeping off exhaustion. It actually took a hell of a lot of effort, (or work), to knock him out for that long. So long as he didn't stupidly injure himself all he needed was two days. If he was lucky he woke up in a single day and all he needed was a Tap from one of his many cousins and he could walk the recovery period off. So long as it wasn't chakra intensive he was ready to go back to whatever he was doing.

If only it wasn't so effortlessly easy to lose track of how much chakra one had when riding a resonance. Obito had lost count of the number of times he'd woken up somewhere with a crick in his neck or back from whatever awkward position he'd fallen asleep in. If he lost track of how much chakra he had, he looked forward to dropping no matter where he was, what he was doing or who he was with, much to the amusement of his friends.

Rin, the darling angel that she was, never really took advantage of the times he fell unconscious, he'd just wake up with a few bobbles in his hair or a couple of colorful hair clips that were easily removable. He didn't even blame her for it as he'd have done the same thing in her shoes, the temptation would have been too much to resist. The thick black marker or make-up his other 'friends' used on him when they found him so vulnerable was another story. He learned to always carry around some makeup remover, a mirror and an alcohol-based cleaner to use on his face for the times he left himself open to the tender mercies of his classmates.

He would get his own back eventually; revenge was a dish best served chilled.

Riding a resonance all through the day in order to balance working for the Military Police and attending the Academy was by no means easy, but at the very least he was managing it. It was exhausting and rewarding in equal measures, and the improvements he could see in himself made sure he soldiered on. His grades climbed higher than they'd ever been and Misao took on more of a supportive role than he'd ever done in their entire partnership.

Obito was so close to being fully-fledged member of the police force that he could almost taste it, on top of that he'd broken free of the middle tier of class rankings and had climbed his way up into the top percentile. He wasn't the strongest or smartest in the room, but he was no longer averaging the way he'd been doing before and his classmates and teachers had noticed.

What really drove it home was when they started to learn how to put all the theory they learned into practice. They were throwing blunted Kunai and Shuriken at practice targets now that they were all familiar enough with the weapons through theory and learning how to care for the equipment. How to throw them was nothing new to Obito, he'd been doing that since joining the Military police and could probably do it blindfolded by now. What was new was the introductory ninjutsu that were now being taught, as aside from the one scroll Megumi had given him he hadn't had the chance to pick up anything new.

Megumi's scroll had taught him how to silence the sounds of his footsteps, how to hide his own chakra and taught him a few easy Genjutsu, one of his favourites being one that combined with a sheet to blend him into his surroundings. He was a naturally fast runner, one of the fastest in his grade, but what they were now teaching them took him by surprise at how easily he took to it. The technique was one that would allow them to swiftly jump from position to position like real ninja.

Obito instantly fell in love with it. He hadn't thought he would, hadn't really expected he'd enjoy it quite so much. He'd thought it would be much like every other technique he'd ever learned, one he would master and add to his skill-set. It just didn't work out like that.

Their teacher demonstrated the technique outdoors, as was coming to be expected with their lessons lately. Lessons had moved from theoretical to demonstrative and physical, and mostly out in the large meadow behind the academy surrounded by a jungle gym. The earth was spongy and thick grass cushioned their footfalls.

"Don't be scared, the ground here is softer than your mattress at home!" The brown haired man advised the class with a knowing grin stretching across his face. "This will be the easiest ninjutsu you're ever taught, and in a few weeks you won't even need to use the hand-seal! Everyone form the Hand-seal for Hare, and wait while I come around to check! The idea is to push your chakra outwards all at once and—"

The teacher demonstrated and shot straight up into the air and the class followed the man's progress with their eyes. Obito's heart skipped a beat with excitement as the hair on his arms stood on end and he breathed in a shocked breath. How many ninja had he seen jump through the village like that? How many times had he wished he could do the same? He'd thought there would be more to the technique than the one hand-seal, he'd tried looking it up in the clan archives but he'd found nothing. He'd thought there would be more training involved for such an impressive looking ability. But there wasn't. There was just the one hand seal and he was standing in the middle of the softest practice ground in the village on a bright, sunny day, with a light, crisp wind rustling through the grass.

He didn't wait for their teacher to land.

Forming a single hand-seal had never been so difficult and even though he knew he'd done it pretty much immediately it felt like a lifetime before he brought his faintly shaking and excitement-clumsy hands together. He formed the correct hand-seal, jumped and suddenly…

He was airborne.

The wind whipped the hair away from his face, his clothes flattened to his body and he was rocketing up into the air, higher than his teacher had jumped and higher than he'd ever been. The hair on his arms stood on end, goose bumps formed as he reached the apex of his jump and then he was suspended in an exquisite stillness, for one blissful moment time slowed down and he closed his eyes to savor the taste of it as he fell.

"Obito! Kunai into the training logs!" A command barked at him from the ground.

The order was obeyed before he could even process it and what happened next felt like it all happened in the same instant. His eyes snapped open. His hand slipped into the pouch at his hip and his body twisted until he was no longer falling backwards. Locating his target his arm moved in one sleek motion and when he hit the ground it was with a neat roll that ended up in a full sprawl on his back, arms and legs akimbo and breathing like he'd run a marathon.

Looking up into the flawless blue sky, speckled with fluffy white clouds, Obito knew this was one thing he wasn't going to need to practice. He didn't have to, with that one jump he'd engraved the knowledge into his bones and he would never be the same again. He laughed breathlessly at the sounds of awe and amazement around him and exclamations over his marksmanship. Pushing himself up on one elbow he looked over to the training posts at the end of the field and… he really had hit bulls-eye.

When his teacher hauled him up by the front of his shirt to stare him in the eyes all Obito could do was laugh. He didn't care what kind of trouble he was going to get into for jumping right into things without waiting for the teacher to finish explaining things.

That had been worth it.

Obito was riding high on adrenaline, even as his body trembled with fatigue. Waving a wobbly goodbye to his friends as the teacher hauled him away from the clearing he let himself flop bonelessly forward over the man's shoulder. He giggled dizzily as the man left his son in charge of the class and was still giggling when they reached the Academy infirmary. He was set down on one of the beds in the medic bay so he could be checked over by the medic there for any injuries.

Without the strength to keep himself upright he flopped sideways and grabbed weakly for the pillow, pulling it close he smothered his laughter into it. He could see how angry his teacher was, but he couldn't find it in himself to care. His blood was still singing. If he were capable of it at the moment he'd do it again and again. The second he regained enough chakra for it he was going to see just how far he could push it and see how much higher he could jump. For now though, he was going to enjoy the memory of it because he was too tired to stay awake for much longer.

Consciousness slipped away from him before the medic could begin examining him and he sank into a deep and undisturbed sleep.

OoO

The first thing Obito saw when he opened his eyes were the clan elders looming over him.

One moment he'd been waking up, hand reaching up out of his blankets to rub the sleep from his eyes and then… a scream lodged itself in his throat and would not be moved. The fog of sleep vanished and he was frozen in place by their gazes as to the last of them their eyes were glowing a demonic red with black dots swirling lazily around their pupil. It immediately became number one on his Top Ten list of Worst Ways to Wake Up. He was sure he'd add more to the list as he grew older but it would take work to dislodge this moment from its lofty ranking.

No matter where he looked he was meeting a pair of red eyes.

He didn't realize he'd stopped breathing until one of them grumbled and they all abruptly turned back into the men and women that made up his peanut gallery. The old clansmen and women suddenly didn't seem so wolfish anymore. He had a new mental image for them, one that had absolutely nothing to do with anything so tame a wolf.

"Hmph." One of the old men grumped, eyes fading back to the familiar black even as he watched. "So, the Chuunin was mistaken?"

Able to breathe now that the demonic looming had stopped Obito stared as the eyes of the rest of the small crowd of people faded back to black. He sat himself up and— "What the… hell was that?" He choked out, sluggish brain scrambling to figure out who the man was talking about.

Chuunin? That… his teacher? What had the man said to his clan elders that would have them looming over him in his sleep like this? Pushing back the blankets and getting to his feet so he could stand at eye-level with them Obito silently promised himself that his teacher would get some payback for this. If the man had gotten him in trouble out of proportion for such a simple—

"Sumiko still hasn't told you about the Sharingan?" The old man asked in a lazy drawl, folding his arms as he waited for the answer.

"Sharingan?" Obito repeated, he'd heard that word before, he was sure of it. Coming from this particular clan elder to boot. "What—"

"That's enough Atsui." His grandmother's voice interrupted from the doorway to the room, colder than he'd ever heard it and frosted with displeasure. "Leave."

Uchiha Atsui clicked his tongue at her, red eyes again making an appearance to stare her down but his grandmother met it with her own hard red-eyed glare. Taught silence stretched for a long moment before the man backed down with a snort and took his leave, folding his hands into his sleeves as he did so. When his grandmother turned to the others still crowded around his bed her eyes glowed brighter, and it turned her glare into something truly terrifying.

Obito had never seen that look on his grandmother's face before, regardless of eye colour and the look had the other clan elders following the first out of his room, stiff backed and offended. There was going to be an argument happening later on down the line over this confrontation, but he knew he probably wouldn't witness it. It was how the Uchiha Clan as a whole worked; arguments amongst family just didn't happen in public, they were too proud for that. They were a clan of ninja, one of the oldest still living.

He might not understand what was going on but whatever it was the old man had been trying to figure out from him had gotten his grandmother furious. He had to figure it out exactly what she was angry about so he could avoid it! He would be asking her, just not now. He'd wait for her to calm down and then ask. She'd tell him eventually, he was sure of it because she always answered his questions!

His grandmother's face softened as she turned to him and he breathed out an involuntary sigh of absolute relief. Okay, she wasn't angry at him but at the elders that had left? Great, so was he now that they were gone. That was so completely not the way to wake someone up! He'd almost had a heart attack!

Lifting up his hands as she stepped closer to his bedside Obito touched hesitant thumbs under her eyes. He brushed fingertips across her cheekbones with more confidence when she leaned slightly into his touch and he cradled her face in his hands. With the curtains closed the room was dark enough so that the glow that came from her eyes was very visible. Her eyes weren't just red, they were a mix of every shade of red imaginable, like a mosaic of them put together bordered with a thick, contrasting ring of black with three extra dots around the pupil. The 'dots' also weren't simple dots but had subtle tails on them that actually curved like an artist's stroke of calligraphy. The result was striking and gave his grandmother an other-worldly appearance that transformed her looks into something he could only describe as impossibly gorgeous.

"Have you always been able to make your eyes do that?" he murmured, tilting his head to the side as a little snort of laughter escaped his grandmother at the question. Obito watched red fade from her eyes in fascination until they turned black again, leaving not even a hint of red.

It was what he imagined watching lava cool down into obsidian would look like.

Obito didn't realize he was shaking till his grandmother brought her hands up to slide his hands from her face and folded him into a warm and reassuring hug. He took a deep breath to calm himself down and tried to tell his racing heart that he was fine, regardless of the scare he'd had waking up to a small crowd of people with glowing red eyes.

"Not always." His grandmother soothed, running hands through his hair and neatening up what had to be an impressive head of bed-hair. "I was nine years old when I awakened the Sharingan."

So, the glowing red eyes he'd woken up to was called Sharingan? That was already one of his questions answered, though not completely. That would hopefully be coming. Sitting herself on the bed his grandmother gathered him up onto her lap and soothed a hand up and down his back and Obito allowed himself to sink into it.

"… why were you so angry with Atsui Jii-chan?" he found himself asking, his curiosity getting the better of him. Urgh, he needed better control over his own mouth. That had been the opposite of the soft and subtle approach he'd intended to take.

His grandmother sighed and Obito, with his head leaning up against her shoulder, heard the sound of it leave her lungs.

"I am angry at him for a lot of reasons. You are my grandson! Mine to raise, not for him to ruin! I— I had hoped for you to be able to activate our Bloodline Limit naturally and without foreknowledge. Too many have rushed ahead, pushed for what they knew they could have and ruined their chances of a fully developed the Sharingan by forcing it."

"… Bloodline limit?"

His grandmother sighed again and straightened, sensing her intention to get up Obito slid from where he'd ended up in her lap and back onto the bed. "Get dressed and we'll see if we can collar someone into giving you an example." She pressed a kiss into his forehead as she got up and managed a smile for him as she left him to get changed in privacy.

"The Sharingan is the greatest weapon of our Clan." His grandmother started explaining when he staggered into the dining room for breakfast and continued as he wolfed down at least three breakfasts worth of food. Exactly how long had he been sleeping anyway? Had to have been at the very least two days if he was eating this much. How much classwork had he missed? "And it is also our greatest weakness."

Wait, what? The whirly red eyes his grandmother called 'The Sharingan' was the clan's greatest strength and weakness? Double-edged sword? He'd thought the resonance the Uchiha so effortlessly shared between them was their greatest strength? Or was that something that was known only among clansmen but no so well known by others? That… was smart, like keeping an ace up your sleeve that no one even knew you had!

Listening attentively Obito noted the tray tea cups set to the side of the kotatsu with the set's matching tea pot and deduced that his peanut gallery had been visiting when he'd woken up. Which explained why they had all been there, his grandmother had probably gotten up to make some more tea when he woke up. The dining room was closer to his room than the kitchen was so they'd been quicker to make it to him when they'd felt the minute shift in chakra that was him waking up. A small resonance had been struck and they'd all come crowding in like the overly curious wolves they were.

No thought to what it might look like to a poor seven year old who was just waking up from minor chakra exhaustion. One who had no idea his clan elders could look even halfway as demonic as they had appeared just then.

When he had the free time he was going to make sure they were all going to go to bed one night and find they had a nice little surprise waiting for them. It was toad-spawn season and he knew all of the best spots to collect their… gifts from. It was only polite to return their thoughtfulness with the full measure of his appreciation for their concern.

Though, if the 'Sharingan' was the greatest weapon and weakness of their clan, then it was no wonder they were curious to see if he'd awakened it or not. He was curious himself.

"Baa-chan, do I have it as well?" He asked, pausing in the act of scooping a load of rice and egg into his mouth for the answer.

"Not yet, but you have the potential for it." his grandmother answered easily, reaching forward with a ladle load of more rice to refill his bowl with. "The Sharingan responds to the sight of another Sharingan, it would have been immediately obvious if you had."

Huh, so that was why they'd all been looking at him so expectantly? Interesting. It was nice to know that there had been a reason they'd nearly scared him into an early grave instead of it being intentional or unintentional jerk-ery.

A thought occurred to him.

"Uh, if you were hoping it would happen on its own.. wasn't there going to be a risk of me accidentally discovering it on my own?" he questioned his grandmother's reasoning. "I could have freaked out over it."

In a number of ways. He could only imagine what he'd have done if he'd just randomly found out his eyes were glowing a creepy red. He'd have rabbited somewhere quiet and hoped it went away. If it hadn't 'gone away' in a few hours he'd have gone to Rin, who'd have ushered him to her parents and he'd have had to kill himself out of embarrassment because who didn't know about their own families' bloodline thing?

"Not under my watch." Uchiha Misao's voice came from the doorway, "Hurry up and finish eating, we've got exercises to go over before you're allowed back to the academy." His partner snorted and then bowed to his grandmother. "Sumiko-sama, would you allow me to answer his questions? I'm sure you have… issues to worth through with Atsui-sama."

"Heard about that already have you?" Obito's grandmother asked wryly, washing her hands and drying them on a tea-towel before very deliberately removing her apron. "Very well, Obito be sure to listen to Mii-chan very carefully, clean up after yourself and I'll see you when you get home."

Obito watched her stalk out of the room in awe. His grandmother really was that furious over Atsui Jii-chan letting the cat out of the bag?

Pausing again in the middle of leveling another load of rice into his mouth Obito looked at his cousin and partner in the Military police, meeting the man's eyes with a questioning look.

The silence stretched.

"… Mii-chan?"

Not even the lump he took to the head could mute his snickers.

OoO

"So, how the hell did you manage to convince Fuyuno you'd activated the Sharingan?"

Obito shrugged, or at least he gave the movement his best shot, sadly the maneuver was somewhat difficult to pull off with the way his cousin had him scruffed by the back of his shirt. He ended up swaying in his partner's hold instead and the man tightened his grip in response, it was as if the man expected him to make a run for it the moment he got any sort of wiggle-room.

Misao had trust issues, obviously.

His partner pulled him up to eye level and glared.

"I asked you a question Obito."

"Considering baa-chan only just told me 'The Sharingan' had something to do with the way her eyes were glowing, I have no idea."

"I'll be showing you later, but go ahead and continue with the sarcasm and I'll volunteer us for back to back shifts feeding the furnace for the next week." His cousin threatened, eyes narrowing into annoyed slits. "You should have had enough chakra to practicing jumping, I made sure of it. What happened?"

The threat was real. His cousin had done just that the last time Obito had tried pushing the envelope of what the man considered the boundary of proper behavio— hang on… "You made sure?" As in he'd been left feeling like he could keel over at any minute on purpose?

"You are my partner." Misao challenged, dark eyes pinning him in place. "I haven't wasted all this time watching over you just for you to ruin all of my hard work the one time I overestimate how much chakra you had left." Filtering out the bitchy wording… the emotion behind that would have warmed Obito head to toe if— "If I'm not careful they'll replace you and I've only just got you trained up to where I actually like you."

Obito aimed a sharp kick at his cousin's smirking face and failed to reach his target as the man swung him around so he'd miss. "MAYBE I WANT A FEW SHIFTS FEEDING THE FURNACE!" Obito howled, utterly offended at how he'd spent two years assuming he was somehow not capable of weathering a full shift with the Military Police instead of his cousin deliberately making sure he was as close to collapse as possible before sending him on his way.

Misao clicked his tongue, held his arm out so he wasn't in range of retaliation and let him flail around at nothing till his anger ran out of steam. Calculating arse!

"Let's see if you're still saying that after I tell you why we've been keeping such a close eye on you? And stop squirming you little asshole, I'm trying to help you! If I drop you I'm going to be aiming for a river! Maybe you'd like a swim? Oh look, is that a swamp we're walking past right now?"

"Fine." Obito bit out, relaxing in his partner's grip, first chance he got he was going to hug Misao. Out of spite. "Where are you taking me anyway, Mii-chan?" The man had barely let him finish cleaning up the breakfast dishes before he'd collared him in an inescapable grip. This was like being marched out to clan stretches, but his cousin had walked right past the dojo and had instead taken him to the outskirts of the district.

Misao twitched and then pulled him back up to meet his eyes again. As he didn't immediately protest his use of the name Obito took that as permission granted to forever call his cousin 'Mii-chan'. "Don't try changing the subject on me, it's not going to work. What. Happened."

"I don't know." he tried shrugging again. "I did exactly what Fuyuno-sensei was telling us to do, but I… may have pushed too much into it, now that I think about."

"May have? Obito, you were unconscious for two days. You used up everything that should have lasted you for the rest of the day on the one jump?"

Hah. He'd been right about how long he'd been asleep!

"Don't be so proud of yourself just yet." Misao snapped, dropping him to the ground. He had to react fast so as not to fall on his ass. "That can't have been enough for him to think you'd activated the Sharingan. What else happened?"

"If I knew what you were talking about—"

"Just answer the goddamned question before I start losing my patience. Don't think we're too far from a water source, that swamp still isn't too far away. I can always toss you in and keep you there till you do."

Obito looked around as he got up and realized his cousin had taken him to one of the training areas near the boundary of the Uchiha district. It felt nice and private, a perfect isolated spot to practice simple techniques without having to go too far away from home. He'd have to remember the location for some other time.

The ground was very different from the cushion-soft ground of the training grounds his teacher had taken his class to. With orange clay that crunched under his feet with patchy areas of tough grass growing in random areas, it wasn't soft looking at all. There was a large moss-covered boulder in the middle of the clearing, felled trees and stumps, (also covered in moss), with targets pinned to them in random places.

It had to be a practice field for shuriken-jutsu. This might have been a good thing, considering the topic Misao was grilling him on.

"When I was coming back down from the jump, Fuyuno-sensei told me to aim for the practice target and—" Obito stopped and bit his lip as his heartbeat picked up in excitement at the idea. "It might be… quicker to just show you. Lend me a couple of Kunai and… what was the hand-seal to land?"

"Ram." Misao clarified, quirking an eyebrow at him even as he casually flicked a couple of kunai at him.

Catching them Obito gave the training grounds a more thorough look over, to see exactly where the targets where located and took a calming breath. His excitement was already making him feel flushed, if it so happened that the first time he'd tried it was a one-off thing he didn't want to be too disappointed…

Oh who was he trying to kid? He'd be crushed. Utterly and totally devastated. But with the way he was getting so worked up over just the thought of recapturing the feeling that had overtaken him the last time he'd been in the air? There had to be some kind of chance it would happen again. He was sure… half-sure of it.

When he called on his chakra he felt a small stirring in him that signalled the beginning of a resonance. He didn't turn around to look for whatever his cousin was doing because even as he was moving to jump he was in the moment. He could already taste the wind. The hair on his arms were standing on end and when he took that first, small jump, the one that had him at the top of the boulder that had stood at least twice as tall as his own head he was feeling it. Bouncing off with barely a second's worth of contact, he knew he would have all the time in the world to look back at his cousin.

It felt like the sky was his.

A shiver ran through him, this one nothing like the one he'd woken up with. He felt more alive than he'd ever been and—

"Obito!"

Ah, that was right. The kunai weighing his hands down. He was meant to throw those at the practice targets. Twisting around with the air currents, sharp and crisp with the promise of future rain, he flung the kunai from his grasp one by one, freeing himself of their weight.

The three kunai hit dead center of each of his chosen targets.

Misao's chakra flared, and that just made the high Obito was riding that much better because now his chakra was singing too. A glance at his cousin and he saw the same red and black that had been in his grandmother's eyes and the clan elders were present. Watching him now it didn't seem nearly so terrifying.

His partner tensed for a moment, as if he were about to dart forward but then relaxed as Obito moved to form the Ram Seal as he got close enough to the boulder to warrant it. His chakra moved to his legs and really did cushion his landing. His knees barely had to brace for the landing. The impact that should have felt jarring right down to the bones actually felt like nothing and again he felt like he wouldn't need to use the hand-seal from now on. He knew the feel of it now. Though he much preferred the feel of jumping to landing.

When he next looked at his partner the guy had his arms partially raised in front of him, the expression on his face was a mix of surprise, and burgeoning with excitement that looked like it was gearing up to match his. A smirk made an appearance, one that edged into a rare sharp grin that had Obito answering back in kind.

"You are an Uchiha after all."

"Oh shut up." Obito snickered, hopping down to the ground lightly, the insult wicked off of the high he was on like water off a duck's back. As much as he wanted to continue bouncing around now that he had the chakra to spare, he also wanted to hear what Misao had promised to share with him. His curiosity was always harder to resist then letting himself indulge in what basically amounted to playing around.

He could play later, now that he knew that he could. This was the time for explanations.

"Well, you definitely haven't activated the Sharingan, but you're probably not too far away from it." Misao remarked as he went to examine the targets Obito had nailed. "Give it another year or so. It looks like you've discovered a field-advantage, we'll have to figure out how far we can stretch that. It might even be worth teaching you Shunshin."

"Might be?" Obito tried drawling back in response to the teasing sarcasm, eyebrow hiking up even as he felt his heart skip a beat. SHUNSHIN. That would be adding speed on top of what he already had going on there? Yes please! That would be the proverbial cherry on the top! Misao wouldn't have even bothered mentioning it if he didn't think it was entirely worth his time to teach.

Misao snerked at his poor attempt to seem casual and started pulling his kunai out of the target he'd been examining. He pulled a face at the man and ran to fetch his cousin's other kunai. "So, you were going to tell me why you've been running me into the ground for the last two years without saying anything?" Obito prompted, tossing the first kunai back after prying it loose from the board. It took some work, the sharp blade had cut pretty deeply into the wood.

He would listen to what Misao had to say before passing judgement or giving forgiveness. Obito could be fair and patient. If someone wasn't pushing his buttons. Or stomping all over his stupid pride… okay so he wasn't patient or very forgiving but he could be in this instance, because Misao was his partner and family and he loved him, even when he was being a complete jerk.

"It's called Information Control." Misao sighed, folding down into a loose-limbed crouch and used the tip of the kunai he'd snatched out of the air to scratch a few quick pictures into the packed orange dirt front of him. Obito quickly retrieved the third kunai out of the target board he'd speared and darted over to see what he was doing.

Several pairs of circles, or eyes given the last design looked exactly like the demonic-red eyes he'd woken up to not too long ago and the close up he'd gotten of his grandmother's eyes. The dots in each pair of circles ranged from one dot in each 'eye' to the last with three dots.

"I'm not going to bother going into the history of our clan for now, you'll hear all about that from your grandmother or from the clan at a later point now that you know about the Sharingan."

"Actually I don't know abou— YEOW!" Obito hissed and leaned away from his cousin, who'd smacked him upside the head.

"Don't interrupt again." Misao warned, dark eyes narrowing. "I could still toss you in the swamp and let Sumiko-sama explain this to you. Later today. Or tonight."

"Fine, continue." Obito muttered tartly as he rubbed the back of his head to soothe the stinging. He didn't want to spend the rest of the day treading water in a swamp, or bother his grandmother in the mood she'd no doubt be in when she came back from talking with Uchiha Atsui.

"Do you know what a Bloodline Limit is?" his partner asked, threading his finger into the loop of his kunai and swinging it lazily over the pictures he'd drawn into the dirt.

"I'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to know at least that much by now. The Sharingan is a Bloodline Limit? How did I not notice?" Obito groaned, slapping a hand to his face and very much feeling the urge to go crawl into a hole somewhere to hide. Thank god his partner was the only witness.

"Because we went to a lot of trouble to make sure you didn't know, that's how." Misao clarified. "A Doujutsu is easier to hide than a lot of other bloodline limits so it's not just you, it's all of the kids in the clan. We don't speak about it openly and we work very hard to avoid using it where you guys can see, or most of us do. Had you been any closer to activating it, what happened this morning would have forced it, and that has… consequences."

"Like?" Obito prompted when his cousin fell silent.

"Mental instability, pain, eye strain, a degradation in eyesight to the point of near-blindness and in lesser cases stunted growth of the Sharingan." He rattled off, pointing down at the pictures he'd drawn. "You'd end up stuck at whatever level you first activated, unless you pushed and pushed until more pain, psychotic break or actual blindness."

Misao allowed the kunai he was holding to drop point-first into one of the eyes, to emphasize his point. "It's never ended well when someone with a fully matured Sharingan forced someone with the potential to awaken theirs, or when someone with the potential forced it on their own. Which is what happens when idiot brats know what they can have and try to reach for what they aren't ready for, and if I ever see, hear or even suspect you're trying to force it I will Gouge. Your. Eyes. Out. Myself."

Obito swallowed and felt his hair stand on end, he wouldn't put it past the man. Misao would totally do it. "You know… other families don't threaten bodily harm when warning their kids away from something. They just swear at them." he informed his cousin forcing as much lightheartedness as he could scrape together into his tone of voice.

Misao smirked.

"Other families aren't Uchiha. We do it better."

"How do we even know I have the potential for it? It could have skipped me?"

"Aside from the way you unconsciously mimic the people around you? I wonder." Was his cousin's sarcastic reply.

"I don't mimic the people around me!"

"… and your foot isn't tapping right now?" Obito startled and looked down, stilled his foot and stared at his cousin, who made a great show of stopping his own tapping foot. His partner let out a quiet snicker. "Everyone with a potential sharingan does that, it gets stronger the closer you are. You'll get some people who think it's the sign of someone who has the Sharingan but doesn't use it. Or that you somehow favor the particular person you're mimicking over anyone else within line of sight. Both are fairly stupid assumptions, it's just something our bodies are wired to do."

"That's really weird." He muttered, giving the foot that had started tapping of its own accord a squinting look. He hadn't even realized he'd started moving it.

"You learn to live with it." Misao muttered back sourly, looking away as if remembering a truly awful moment. "Verbally denying it only makes it worse, people are really stupid."

Obito grimaced, even as a spark of mischief had him looking up at his cousin cheekily. If it hadn't just happened to him he'd have made the same assumption. Also… Misao had just handed it to him, it was almost too easy. He couldn't let that pass without going for it, there was no way to resist the temptation to make the obvious joke.

"But Mii-chan! I do love you more than anyone else I can see he— YEOW! DON'T SMACK— NO! NOT THE SWAMP! NOT THE SWAMP! THROW ME IN THERE AND SO HELP ME I WILL HUG YOU—"

OoO

After a quick demonstration of what their bloodline limit could do, demonstrated on a poor hapless squirrel, his partner lugged him over to the Military Police headquarters. He was allowed a quick shower, a change of clothes, (which Misao also ended up needing), and a quick snack. Obito was then scruffed again the second he stepped out into the hall and brought to several other cousins so he could see what each methods of activation could do to those who wielded it. Very quickly Obito learned that the Uchiha clan as a whole were divided on that issue of whether forcing their bloodline limit was bad idea or not and as Misao went along, he began to note a difference in personality between clan members.

It was that pronounced.

Misao knew it all, who had forced their bloodline limit to activate on their own, those who had family members force it using their own Sharingan and those who activated it naturally. He couldn't be imagining it, not with the way his partner made sure he knew how each cousin had activated their bloodline limit before he re-introduced them to him.

The cousins of his who forced activation on themselves were obsessive individuals with a high personal drive and pride. These were the cousins Obito usually avoided bumping into as they could be trusted to have no sense of humor. Clansmen who had the sharingan forced to the surface by another family member were quiet souls that disliked attention and avoided eye contact, they were the cousins who ran away from Obito's love and affection like he was some kind of disease carrier.

The last lot? The ones who had been allowed to mature naturally?

The difference was like night and day.

His grandmother, who was never shy with her affection. Uchiha Mikoto, the clan head's young wife, who was gentle and loving. Misao with his long-suffering attitude and badly hidden soft side. Uchiha Uruchi, who's hobby of baking was famous in the clan. She was always having anyone she could catch try out her cooking and had opened up a bakery when she had retired. Her husband Teyaki, who jokingly scolded her for giving away free food, but then turned around and made sure Obito 'taste-tested' his senbei.

He should have guessed about Megumi, the older-by-six-years-cousin who had taken over his place at the tap desk. She was always popping in to see him after he'd given her his ticket to watch Kakashi's Chuunin Exams. She'd thanked him for it by opening up a bank account in his name, depositing the terrifying amount of money he'd earned that night on the bet he'd made and gave him a video tape of the matches. She'd even framed the betting slip, which had been going a bit far in his opinion, but it had all been well-intentioned.

He hid both the bank book and betting slip behind his cupboard and 'forgot' about it. He'd have tried doing the same to the video tape but his curiosity got the better of him, it was always a stronger force than his pride, and he'd ended up watching it more times than could be considered healthy given his busy schedule.

Ooh, the Sharingan. Against Kakashi. When he activated his Sharingan he was going to be able to wipe the floor with his fa— no. No thinking like that. That way lay madness. Very, very real madness. Stick-in-the-mudness and all things bitter and sour.

He was not going to end up like the rest of his clan, he liked his own personality exactly the way it was thank-you-very-much, but speaking of his not-rival… Obito now had a fair theory of exactly why his grandmother had been pushing that rivalry so hard.

"How is stressing me to near-death different from me forcing it?" Obito asked his cousin, frowning as he tried to twist in his partner's hold so he could look the man in the eye. "Doesn't that cause the same kind of damage?"

"I'm surprised, that was actually a very thoughtful question." Misao mused, "Coming from you."

"Oi!"

"The answer is your body knows what it needs to build those connections better than you do. If you shove your chakra at your eyes before they're ready for it, you'll burn the pathways and points you need that'll eventually allow you to develop your Sharingan to its fullest extent. Which is why those who force it get stuck, burns like that sometimes don't heal or if they do, they don't do it very fast. Stress ages you faster, which means your body builds those connections earlier. Which means you get all the benefits of the Sharingan activating naturally without the disadvantages of forcing it."

Obito gaped. Wolf. If he ever needed reminding that his grandmother was a wolf, this would have been it. He finally understood the full scope of why his grandmother had been so very furious upon finding his peanut gallery all crowded around his bed like that.

If his grandmother hadn't interfered, would the elders have…

Feeling every individual hair on his body stand on end Obito swallowed and rubbed goose bumps from his arms. His grandmother might have saved his sanity this morning but… how much longer would that last?

His grandmother couldn't be everywhere.

Chapter Text

.

When his cousin had said 'Information Control' in answer to the question as to how Obito had known nothing of the Uchiha Clan's bloodline limit, the scope of it surprised him. While it was too late to stop the information reaching his classmates in the Academy, it spread no further. It also seemed like his grandmother had stopped at nothing to make sure of his ignorance regarding the Sharingan… Though now all that effort was going towards keeping the rest of his cousins sheltered.

He could see how easy it would have been, and still was, easy to suppress the information within the walls of the Uchiha compound. He was now the exception to the rule, and he was told not to let the information slip to other kids. He did so, if only to shelter their innocence for as long as he could. Damn near every single cousin he had his age or younger than him were still blissfully ignorant, and some were toiling under the same pressure he'd unknowingly been under.

Toshiya, who was a cousin of his a year older than him, was naively learning how to share chakra without knowing that he would soon be thrown into the merciless, gaping, chakra-draining maw of exhaustion that was the Tap-Desk. The poor bastard, at least he'd have cheat-sheets to follow. Obito saluted his innocence with tears in his eyes. Toshiya might wonder why his younger and supposedly 'genius' cousin wept for him, (named so by his peers in the clan for his 'early' admission into the Military Police), but he'd soon learn just how low the Uchiha set the bar for getting into the Transmission and Patrol division.

Toshiya was in for a brutal lesson.

Meanwhile, Obito was under a wholly different pressure than his sweet, older and unsuspecting cousin Toshiya was, and the name of that particular beast was called Peer Pressure.

There was nothing quite like being the center of attention. His classmates watched him all the time now, waiting for more indication of his 'emerging' heritage. Fuyuno-sensei had been overheard by one of Obito's classmates talking to another teacher in the teacher's lounge. That classmate had asked an older sibling about the topic of conversation. That younger sibling went back to class and told everyone.

The day Obito was allowed to return to class everyone was watching him. Even the teachers watched him and if it hadn't been for Rin he'd have thought he'd grown another head or two while he hadn't been looking. It was made all the worse for the fact it was somewhat an open secret, everyone knew about it, but didn't talk about it. It was even in the Shinobi Rules they were meant to have memorized. You did not reveal a comrade's abilities in public less an enemy overheard you.

Which made the rumor of him having activated his bloodline limit all the juicier for being a 'forbidden' topic.

He was never so thankful that he knew more about stealth and escape techniques than all of his classmates combined, his experience as a Military Police officer was life-saving. He was now somewhat popular in the same way Hatake Kakashi had been when they were younger, popular with practically the same crowd. Which was super, super uncomfortable in a lot of ways. Not in the least of which in how hilarious his actual friends found the sudden increase in regard.

He knew what not to do to encourage the crowd, thanks to the unwitting example his silver-haired not-rival set, and then they'd find someone else to fixate on soon enough. Or they'd go back to idolizing Hatake. The matter would resolve itself with time and he had that. It was just a simple matter of waiting it out. He'd already made it loud and clear that the rumor was just that, a rumor.

He hadn't activated his bloodline limit, he'd discovered a 'field advantage'. It was self-explanatory and very simple to demonstrate as it was just as easy to wipe the floor with his face in Taijutsu as it had been before. It had left everyone involved disappointed with the show, Obito himself most of all. There just wasn't enough room in the sparring circle for him to bounce without ending up out of bounds, which was a shame. Given the chance to move the way he wanted to he was sure that if he'd have won against at least one hard-hitter.

The proof of that was in how he patrolled and administered arrests on his own now. While it would be a while before he could tackle a crowd of drunks on his own, he could handle trouble-makers of all kinds up to a certain level. If the combination of his field advantage, Shunshin, stealth, surprise and chakra-blocking chains didn't work, he fell back and called in a mayday.

Admittedly, he was a bit bad at the 'calling for help' part of his job but it wasn't like Misao didn't check in on him all the time via radio. If his former partner didn't hear from him the man would track him down, starting from the location Obito had last confirmed and then fish him out of whatever trouble he'd gotten caught up in. He'd get a blistering lecture for ignoring protocol and then be left with all the paperwork.

He could feel the love.

Learning how to move like a proper ninja had really made all the difference in having to buddy up to another officer and working a shift on his own. His old partner was still in the same division and team as he was, but it was like the police were letting him 'stretch his wings' so to speak… either that or they were giving him some rope and were waiting to see if he'd strangle himself with it or not.

If he were being honest with himself? It was probably a combination of both.

OoO

There wasn't a lot of fun to be had when one's team was stationed at a police box for the duration of a shift. There was always at least one officer in a police box at any one time, while the rest of the team assigned to it patrolled. It was like patrolling from the headquarters except their 'home base' was the booth itself.

People were idiots no matter the position of the sun, or so Misao was always saying, so they saw a lot of traffic and the time of day didn't really matter when it came to police work. Visitors to these outposts were how the Headquarters got their information. If a fight broke out, if a child or animal got stuck somewhere and needed rescuing, if a theft was taking place, if a vandal was having some colorful fun, if someone was being drunk and disorderly, the list went on. Civilians were the first to run for help and inevitably ended up at a police box if they couldn't find a patrolling officer. They had their names and statements taken, and often had to be calmed down and assured that the issue would be taken care of.

Obito learned the tells for when someone was just trying to get a friend or rival into trouble and how to filter fact from fiction in a statement. Which was unfortunately necessary for more reasons than just people being dicks to their friends. Sometimes an excited interviewee started making up details in order to be more 'helpful'. Other's just had that bad a memory and couldn't be relied upon to give an accurate statement to save their life.

Then there was ANBU.

Whenever a tip came in from them the information was always genuine, succinct, detailed and it came to them fast. Meaning Obito could radio in a message to the headquarters for however many officers were needed to contain an incident and not expect to be roasted over the flames of a scathing lecture for wasting resources afterwards when it turned out he'd 'over-reacted'.

Anbu weren't allowed to step into conflicts; they had their own jobs in protecting specific buildings and people. They had patrol routes that had nothing to do with preventing crime and had everything to do with village security against foreign enemies. They didn't have to tip the police off when they saw something going on in the line of duty, but they did it anyway, and they did it in style.

His admiration for them might have been a bit obvious, if the hair ruffling was any indication, but they deserved it. Every tip-off he got from ANBU was a blessing. Which he was getting more of these days; he was starting to think the masked protectors of the village were actively seeking him out to drop off their hints these days. He didn't mind the attention as much coming from them, but sometimes Obito wished he wasn't so close to everyone's idea of 'cute' as he was.

His team thankfully didn't tease him about it. Much. They just wanted to get their rotation in the actual police box over and done with as fast as possible.

It was either Obito himself, Misao or one of the three siblings Uchiha Kasumi, Uchiha Konomi, and Uchiha Raku. Misao and Raku just didn't like interacting with the public and Kasumi and Konomi never actually spent a stretch of time in the booth without being hit on. As the most personable and tolerant member of the team his older teammates had all gotten together and put in a request that volunteered Obito for the public face of their team. Which basically meant he'd have been kept in the booth for the duration of the shift.

Their Chief, who was also their beloved clan head, had taken one look at the request and had burned it in front of them. His facial expressions, stern and disapproving, had conveyed more than words could have gotten across and said 'No.', 'He needs the experience', 'Stop trying to foist your work on someone else,' 'Nice try.' and 'Get back to work.' All at the same time.

Even though it hadn't been directed at him Obito had still cringed, one day he wanted to be able to make his own face be able to do that. Rules for his team, and his team only, now stated that once an officer finished a patrol rotation, the officer in the booth had to vacate. His team hadn't been happy about it, their Captain Misao least of all.

He didn't know how Misao managed to time it but the booth was always void of visitors when he showed up, meaning he was free to boot Obito out, close the door and sulk in peace. Or he would have been able to had an Anbu not taken the exact moment he stepped into the actual booth to show up.

It was almost as if the Anbu had timed it that way on purpose.

Obito stopped mid-retaliation-kick, Misao froze in the act of closing the door and the Anbu gave off an amused air even as the masked figure straightened up from the crouch he'd landed in. "Sector Green, twelfth street. Disturbance in a household. Out of control summons. Native occupant."

"Just the one?" Obito asked in excitement, immediately dropping his kick in favor of giving the Anbu his full attention.

"Just the one."

Misao was inside the booth and he was the one on the outside. The exchange had happened. This meant he'd be the one responding. "Thank you for your service Anbu-san!" Obito saluted, grinning at the grumble and the pointed slamming of the door behind him.

"You're welcome Officer." The Anbu returned warmly and there was a brief ruffle to his hair. Fanning the heat from his face with the collar of his shirt Obito coughed and ducked away from the attention. He was never going to get used to that.

When he got to the correct street it was immediately obvious which house needed his attention and suddenly he wished Misao had been the one to answer this particular call to duty. Over the sounds of tearing fabric, breaking furniture and glass… there were high pitched barking and yelps. The Anbu had said 'Out of control Summons', and there was only one family in Konoha that summoned dogs. He was an officer, he could do this. Protocol in this situation said he had to disable the summoner and defeat or tire out the summons themselves and they would automatically dispel.

Easier said than done.

A cream and brown form rocketed out of a dog flap on the front door and his reflexes were the only thing that saved him from getting bowled over. Obito caught the very excited puppy before it could smack him in the face with its body and laughed dryly at the pug.

"Hello Pakkun, long time no see."

Even though Pakkun squirmed, wriggled and tried licking at his face it was quite easy to safely loop a length of lightweight rope around its collar and then secure it to the railing outside the house. "If you stay here and behave I'll give you a nice belly scratch when I'm done dealing with the rest of your buddies okay?" Obito instructed seriously, crouching down to look the intelligent animal in the eyes. "Remember the belly scratches? Yeah?"

Pakkun nodded.

Obito nodded back. "Good boy, be extra good and I'll see if I can get you some treats."

"Trreaats!" the puppy growled happily and in a surprisingly deep voice.

"Only if you're good!"

Pakkun immediately sat down and acted as if he hadn't been straining against the rope that had him tied to the railing. His little tail was still wagging furiously and Obito knew he was going to be in for a long night. He had one puppy in control, but… there were several more to go from the sounds of things and he still had their summoner to deal with.

Taking the bundle of chakra-binding chains out of their utility pouch Obito readied it to throw and knocked on the door. There was a long moment where the sounds of chaos in the house stopped, but it wasn't long before it resumed, this time with sounds of a struggle happening towards the door.

A very large black bulldog puppy lodged itself in the door trying to slam out through the dog flap and when the door opened Obito tossed the binding chains in the face of a very surprised Hatake Kakashi. He looped them around the other boy, keeping one end of the chains in hand and yanked.

His not-rival went down like a felled tree, arms trapped at his sides with his legs chained together.

"Officer Uchiha Obito of the Military Police, responding to the call of an uncontrolled summons." Obito clipped out professionally, face blanking into neutrality. "You might not want to move, those are chakra binds, they get tighter the more you struggle."

He might have enjoyed the boggled look on the silver haired boy's face more than he really should have.

Stepping over the now prone summoner Obito stepped into the house and closed the door behind him so as not to injure the puppy still stuck in the door. He carefully extracted the poor thing from the doggy flap whilst keeping a good hold on its thick collar, which was studded and probably the reason it had gotten stuck in the first place. Thankful for the fact that the utility belt police officers wore as part of the uniform was well stocked with everything he could need while out on a call, Obito cut another length of lightweight rope and secured the puppy.

Two puppies secured as well as its summoner. Fantastic, he only had… a few more puppies to go from the sound of it.

"How many puppies did you summon?" Obito asked the prone figure still lying stiffly on the floor with shock. He levered the boy up into a sitting position and sat him up against the wall.

"… eight. What are you doing here?"

"Didn't you hear me earlier? I am an Officer of the Military Police. Responding to what the ANBU says is an uncontrolled summoning." Obito snapped, Hatake didn't have to act so flabbergasted. Exactly how long did he think he'd been part of the Military Police? It wasn't like he'd been inducted yesterday.

Forcefully unwrapping his clenched fingers from the length of chain he'd used to haul the other boy up into a sitting position Obito made a face and wiped his sticky hand on his rival's shirt.

"Hey!"

"What hey! You're the one covered in… rice porridge? They got into your fridge? That's going to be fun to clean up." He mused, flicking his hand to be rid of a bit of rice and eying the bits of broken eggshell stuck to the front of Kakashi's shirt.

His rival had seen better days. His silver hair was straggly and wet down one side with egg, given the distinctive yellow of one particular patch. How he'd ended up with egg in his hair was anyone's guess. His clothes were rumpled and stained, there were the remains of egg white staining his mask and down the shoulder of his shirt. Rice was smeared across his shoes like he'd slipped in a bit of it and landed ass first in it, given the remains on his shorts.

Hatake's face, what visible portion could be seen under the slipping mask, was starting to flush. This would be a fun moment to look back on when he didn't have six summons puppies running free and uncontrolled in a very small-seeming house.

"Alright, six puppies." Obito huffed, leaving Hatake to his embarrassment.

Cutting six lengths of rope from the supply he had on him Obito stashed the rest, fashioned temporary leashes just in case he needed them and stepped outside to retrieve the first puppy he caught.

"Hey Pakkun. You've been a really good boy, want to earn some extra treats?"

"REAAAATS!"

"Yep! Go get the other puppies in the house and get them to come back here." Obito instructed, "I'll give each puppy that comes here belly scratches. Remember the belly scratches?"

Pakkun's brown eyes turned starry.

"Now I'm going to trust you to come right back here." He said seriously, giving those shining brown eyes a firm look. "Running away and causing more trouble would make you a bad puppy and bad puppies don't get treats and belly scratches."

Pakkun went tearing off in search for the other trouble-makers still ripping up the house the second Obito let his little feet touch the ground.

"I can't believe you just let him go." Hatake groaned, "You had him! Now you're going to have to catch seven puppies!"

"Wanna bet?" Obito asked dryly. He had a feeling he knew why Hatake had lost control of his summoned dogs. He was probably treating them the same way he did everyone else, with tolerance bordering on contempt. If he was right the puppies were probably starving for positive attention by now.

Hatake started lightly hitting the back of his head against the wall.

While he was busy doing that Obito turned his attention onto the bulldog puppy he'd rescued from the door, who was giving him a liquid-eyed begging stare and a piteous little whine. The puppy had been well-behaved in the time since he'd gotten hold of him and hadn't even tried straining against the rope Obito had tied to his belt. "Okay, come here. You've been so nice and quiet I'll give you some scratches."

The bulldog puppy flopped over to him and immediately turned belly-up, tongue lolling out the side of its mouth with his tail wagging happily in anticipation. The puppy was groaning under the scratches, leg kicking in pleasure when he abruptly disappeared in a while plume of smoke.

"Oh! That's better than having to defeat them!" Obito grinned, happy that he didn't have to resort to actually trying to kick a puppy in order to send them back to their own realm.

Hatake made a strangled noise. It might have been surprise but he didn't care to look as Pakkun came tearing back into the entrance hall with six other puppies. They were soon crowding around him begging for attention.

"Okay! Okay! One at a time! No jumping on me!" Obito exclaimed, protecting his face from puppy slobber with one arm while the other scratched the belly of what looked like a Shiba-Inu. Six belly scratches later and Pakkun was the only puppy left. "You can come with me for a little bit and I'll buy you a nice treat. I'm just going to talk to Hatake here for a little bit so wait for me okay?"

"Bakashi!"

"… yes. Bakashi… Just… wait here."

It was a mighty struggle keeping his face straight but he managed it. He turned to the other boy, pulled out a notebook emblazoned with the Military Police logo and a pen. He didn't look the other boy in the eye, less he lose control over himself and laugh in his face. He knew that if he started laughing now he wasn't going to stop.

"Where is your dad?"

"… mission."

Obito noted that down.

"Next of kin?"

"None."

"Why did you decide to summon the puppies outside of a sanctioned training ground?"

"Father told me to practice summoning while he was gone."

Obito slapped a hand to his face before he could stop himself, of all the— he'd thought Hatake was smarter than that! "Your supervising Jounin's name was Namikaze Minato wasn't it?"

"… Yes?"

"Great."

That was all he needed. He didn't have to avoid looking Hatake in the eyes now. The other boy would spend some time in a holding cell while he waited for someone to pick him up. Until he could prove that he wouldn't be getting into any more trouble whilst left to his own devices, Hatake would need to be supervised.

Turning the receiver on his neck on Obito selected the correct channel on his radio and called his team for backup to escort his former classmate into holding and then requested for a runner to find Hatake's teacher. The Jounin was the best person for the job until his father returned home.

Obito just had to maintain his professionalism for a little while longer.

Which was pretty hard to do when one had to watch the silver haired boy be picked up one handed by Kasumi, who was short, delicate seeming and was smirking herself. Trying to make sure his face didn't match that look was hard!

Tucking Pakkun under his arm, who waited patiently through the whole ordeal, Obito followed his teammate out of his not-rival's house and closed the door behind him. He stopped by a supermarket, bought the biggest dog treat he could find and gave it to the puppy then made good on his promise of a belly scratch. The pug was soon gone in a puff of white smoke and he was free to return to the station to write up his report and complete the paperwork for the night.

Only when he was finished did he allow himself prop his arms on his desk, pillow his face in his arms and let the build-up of laughter burst out of him. He was still laughing as he stumbled home from his shift that night.

It was the last time that year he would laugh so freely.

OoO

Obito counted himself extremely lucky his clan's Elders had no power over the Military Police.

No one dared to make a move while he was under the watchful eyes of his clan head, as everyone practically tip-toed around the man. While Obito didn't know how much the man knew about what the Elders were doing to his stress levels at least he knew the man wouldn't try what they were doing.

As far as Uchiha Fugaku was concerned when Obito wasn't on duty he was his grandmother's 'problem', and that was relieving on So. Many. Levels.

It felt like his clan was subtly fighting over him, he felt the invisible war being waged over his head and behind his back and there was no escape it. When Elder Atsui was invited to leave Obito's peanut gallery and never return the man joined the other Elders of the clan. These were old men and women who hadn't deigned to spend any time with his grandmother. The 'new' faction spent what felt like all of their free time making judgmental faces behind everyone's backs, 'checking up' on him, and trying to catch his eyes.

After a while their children and families started doing it.

With the way their group were all trying to force it? He was going to make sure his bloodline limit activated naturally or he was going to die trying. Already though, he was honestly surprised he hadn't activated his bloodline limit if stress was the key. This was on a whole other level than what he'd been going through trying to keep up with the Military Police and the Academy at the same time.

They were subtle about it too and without proof of what was going on what could he do about it? Nothing. The extra stress he was under was expertly passed off as rising tensions in the village and the sudden uptick in crime and increase of duties he was in charge of. He envied his oblivious cousins, he really did, and at the same time he couldn't help but admire the evil bastards the Elders were for their iron-fisted control.

Even if he was sure he was close to popping a blood vessel or two trying not to crack under the pressure of it all.

To combat it in the only way he could Obito became an expert in avoiding looking people in the eye and started wearing vision-limiting goggles when he wasn't on duty, which was the only time the Elders really left him alone. The ear covers helpfully amplified the sounds brought to his ears, which let him know when someone was approaching. They were a bright, cheerful orange that helped his grandmother spot him in a crowd and effortlessly insulted the humorless jerks in the clan just by being the color they were. If he couldn't see the Elders and their descendants from corners of his eyes, they had less of a chance of pushing the matter without making it very obvious what they were trying to do.

The clan's preference of forcing the sharingan forward instead of letting the children of the clan do it on their own was useful in a way. Yes, the ones that forced it on their own ended up with the Sharingan, but apparently they plateaued early, were hard to control, developed a swelled head and drowned in their own self-importance. The ignorance the clan was nurturing in his cousins might be impressive, but Obito wasn't above using their own rules against them.

If they wanted to try forcing his Sharingan to mature they were going to have to be that obvious about it and do it where the little kids could see it. They'd risk a future horde of arrogant, uncontrollable teenagers with the Sharingan otherwise. He avoided the clan compound, spent most of his time at the Military Police headquarters, in public areas with his friends or at school where the clan couldn't afford to be that blatant about what they were doing.

When his Elders were lurking and looking for an opportunity, he took to keeping his head down and bought himself some time acting properly respectful. He spent time having 'sleepovers' with Rin and visited her parents at the hospital. Obito took on every shift at the Police Station that he could sign his name to and when he couldn't do that he squirrelled himself away somewhere private for a nap that wasn't going to end up with him surrounded on all sides by his Clan. Failing that, he slept with a sleeping mask on and played possum until he knew for sure he was waking up in a safe place.

He just need to buy himself a little more time. It had been months since he'd heard about the Sharingan and by now he had caught himself mimicking just about everyone around him more times than he could count. Obito had to be pretty close by now and if he wasn't, he would be soon.

The tension really was really starting to become unbearable.

He was at a point where he was actually tempted to try forcing it, if only to get everyone to back off. Misao would gouge his eyes out for it, but the elders would leave him alone. He would really like to preserve his sanity though, for however long it would last. It was fast slipping away from him at all the looming.

Tension in his clan went from zero to bubbling in no time at all, and a month after his eighth birthday things boiled over. He was the same age now as his father had been when he'd activated the Sharingan and was a year away from the age both his grandmother and mother had been.

It was then that Obito made the biggest mistake of his young life, and it was one he would regret for the rest of it.

He opened his big, fat mouth.

Things had gotten so bad he'd thought his head was going to pop from the stress of having to avoid certain clansmen. He was studying hard, working till he dropped and then spent every iota of free time he had playing a high-stakes game of hide-and-seek with them. He'd taken to avoiding the main areas in the Uchiha compound and flipped over the wall rather than go through the gates when it was time to go home. It was faster and the edge using his field advantage gave him meant that the elders couldn't keep up with him. Barely anyone could when his feet left the ground, especially since Misao had taught him how to use Shunshin. The only trouble he had was when it came to stopping, which he hadn't been taught yet.

Misao had said they'd need to actually take some time off to learn that one, or else leave it to whoever his Jounin was going to be. Obito hadn't been able to come up with a plausible explanation for wanting to learn the ability, so he'd had to adapt to his shortcomings. Which meant calculating how much skid-room he'd need when he had to land or else he'd eat dirt, and he couldn't afford to make that kind of mistake with the people who took to perusing him.

They could copy the way he jumped and landed, but no one in the clan had the same sense he did while in the air. It was something they couldn't mimic or match, which was why that one flaw in his technique was so critical and in the end it was what tripped him up, literally.

Elder Atsui had never let the shame of having been chased out of his grandmother's group go, and had been the lead in the faction that wanted to force Obito's sharingan forward. One day Obito chose the wrong way to work. Elder Atsui had either been waiting in exactly the right spot at exactly the right time or he'd gotten lucky.

One moment Obito was preparing to land, having meant to bounce off a particular rooftop when a sake cup smacked exactly where he'd meant to place his foot. Ceramic shattered, leaving shards everywhere. Obito didn't land as much as hit the ground. He'd tried to stop himself and failed. He'd had to flip and his hand slipped in the alcohol sprayed across the tiles.

He landed hard. There had been no time to brace for impact, hadn't even been expecting to need to. He'd intended to continue bouncing around. There was no way in hell he was going to just lay around and wait for the ambush to succeed, not when he knew exactly where that sake cup could have come from.

There would be time to feel his injuries later.

Closing his eyes Obito allowed himself to skid along the road on his side until his foot met resistance and pushed off the person he'd landed against as if he were still in the air. He lost a bit of skin on his arms and chin but he also managed to completely avoid the Elder who'd expected him to look up at whoever had managed to land him.

A jump and he was up on the rooftops again, shaken, scraped and bruised but safe. He limped into the police station and hurried to the changing rooms as fast as his protesting ankle would allow him to move and fished out the first aid kit.

It was when he was trying to pick out the shards of ceramic out of his hands and arms that the adrenaline crash started to kick in. His trembling hands slipped on the bloody tweezers he was trying to use and dropped them, when he went to pick them up someone else did instead.

"Obito… what happened?" Toshiya breathed, moving forward uncertainly, as if he were confronting a wounded animal.

His vision wobbled and blurred with unshed tears, but Obito bit them back.

"I— I tripped." He coughed out instead, wincing as a cut on his lip made itself known.

"… but you never trip! Not even when it's raining! Which is crazy since we don't even know how to tree-walk yet!"

Confronted so soon by someone that didn't even pose the least amount of threat to him. Who had moved forward to take over the job of picking the shards of ceramic from his hands and patch him up. Who wasn't even anything approaching a threat because he also wasn't anywhere near activating the Sharingan. Toshiya was just as, if not more, helpless than he was at the moment.

He managed to last right up until Toshiya finished bandaging his hands but then… Obito cracked. The facade of false-cheer he was trying to hold crumbled and words started to spill out of him like water from a broken dam.

"They won't leave me alone! I'm working so hard! I'm trying my best, why can't they see how close I am?"

"Who? What? I - I don't understand," Toshiya admitted, sounding so honestly bewildered and lost that for one brief moment, Obito could feel nothing but a swooping, yawning flush of anger and bitterness towards him.

"God I'm almost so jealous of you I could scream, but you're so blind to it that I can't even… You will understand one day. Not now or tomorrow but you will and you won't even see it coming. Maybe you'll be one of the lucky ones and they'll leave you alone." Obito admitted as he lost the battle holding back his tears. They trailed down his in hot streams that burned at the scrapes on the side of his face and chin.

He choked a strangled yell of anger, and slapped a hand against the sink only to start swearing loudly when that made pain lance up his arm, he snatched his hand up against his chest and shook his head because—

"It's. Just. Not. Fair! They won't leave me the hell alone! They keep trying to force it, to catch my eyes— they're… they're actually ambushing me now! I can't… I can't even use the front gate or I'll risk one of them shoving their faces at me! Why can't they just leave it?! It isn't any of their business whether or not I activate it now or next year! What does it even matter to them?! They aren't my parents or my grandparents! They don't know me and clearly they don't care to either! They want to ruin what potential I have— what future I have— just for bragging rights over another child activation without giving a shit about what I want to do with my own goddamn body! I can't even sleep without having to check my room! I can't…I can't— I SHOULD GOUGE THEM OUT!" he sobbed, "MAYBE THEN THEY'LL STOP."

He burst into tears, dropped his feet to the ground from where he'd pulled them up and darted for the door. He didn't even care anymore that he was going to be missing a shift at work. He couldn't do it anymore, he'd reached his limit and he was completely done with it. He was going home to his grandmother. Forget the back-alleys and roof-tops he usually took to get home.

Through the front gates, where the guards startled at his appearance and attempted to stop him and ask him questions. Down the main roads where his clansmen jerked out of his way and then stared after him as he ran past. Into his house and straight into his grandmother's arms and embrace before she could move the scroll she was reading out of the way. Wrapping his arms around her and burying his face against her waist to sob, he curled himself up as tightly as possible as he heaved great gritty sobs. He choked and snuffling on tears and snot, roughly shoving his goggles up to press his knuckles against his eyes hard enough for his vision to flash behind his lids and burn.

His grandmother immediately dropped her reading and wrapped her arms around him to comfort him and that was it for him. His throat was too raw to answer her startled questions so she just held him until he ran out of tears. She bundled him up against her and rocked him like she hadn't for years now and there was nothing in him that he could find that didn't want it or felt embarrassed.

Her chakra surged and triggered a resonation in response.

As always when it came to sharing one with his grandmother, it was soothing and warming. It was exactly what he needed after the incident and explosion of stress that had caught him unaware.

"Sleep Obito, and Obaa-chan will take care it." his grandmother whispered against his ear, pressing a sweet kiss to the uninjured side of his face, her hand carding through his hair with exquisite care. He felt the heat of chakra brush across his cheekbones along with her eyelashes and knew from that fact that her Sharingan must be blazing.

He didn't care. She would never hurt him.

Obito nodded and allowed himself to drift off into sleep in her arms, he was exhausted. In more ways than one. For once… he didn't have to be strong.

His grandmother was strong enough for the both of them.

OoO

An explosion of chakra woke him up.

He jack-knifed straight up in his bed without bothering to look around and dragged himself upright. He'd been changed and put to bed, his scratches on his face, hands and arms had been properly bandaged as well as a scrape upside his right shin.

That had been his grandmother's chakra, and then Misao's, and the rest of his teammates. The chief's chakra and… Elder Atsui's chakra.

The storm of chakra that was brewing was violent and nothing Obito had ever felt before in his life. Dread crawled up his spine as he realized what must have happened to have caused that.

He'd cracked under the pressure and let his mouth run. At the police station where Misao would have heard about it in a heartbeat. Misao wasn't stupid, he'd have tracked down where Obito had 'tripped' and found the remains of the sake cup and— it had been distinctive. Blue and gold with red edgings. It wouldn't have been hard to recognize, especially for someone with the Sharingan. That added to what he'd let slip to Toshiya and his team captain would KNOW what Obito had been keeping to himself for so long.

The cat was out of the bag and his grandmother would have learned all of it by now, and if her reaction to finding the Elders crowded around his bed just to check if he had the Sharingan was any indication… She was going to end up killing someone and from the feel of the resonation kicking up around the district she wasn't alone in feeling that way.

Oh god, what had he done!?

With the way everyone's chakra was flaring, emotions would flare too and in a clan full of ninja that was the makings of a bloodbath. He had to stop them! This was all his fault! If he'd simply kept his stupid goddamned mouth shut!

Obito ran out into the street without his shoes on and towards the explosion of chakra, which lead him to the dojo he was dragged every morning for stretches. Elder Atsui's chakra vanished and there was no need to wonder why. There was only ever one reason why someone's chakra would disappear so quickly when just seconds before they had been flaring so hard.

There was a scream of absolute rage and as he rounded the corner and into view Obito saw it all happen in crystal clarity. The scream had come from Elder Atsui's son, Akio snatched up a length of training rope which had probably been left behind by one of the clan children. Obito's grandmother, distracted by his arrival at the worst possible moment, caught sight of him. She met his eyes and her own widened in shock and as such didn't see what was coming in time to react.

Uchiha Akio swung and the weighted copper end of the training rope he was wielding hit the side of his grandmother's head with deadly accuracy.

She crumpled and Obito's watched her fall as if it were happening in slow-motion.

His world turned red

 

Chapter Text

The scene kept playing behind his eyes.

Akio's grab for the training rope. His grandmother turning towards him. His teammates and chief, their blazing sharingan locking them into perfect mimicry, turning to look at what had caught her attention. Bound by their own instinctive imitation they'd left an opening where there really shouldn't have been one given their collective pool of talent. One that he had opened just by being there.

There was no way he could have stopped them from fighting. He'd known that! Even after all these years he still hadn't managed to sneak up on a single police officer. He was helpless when pitted up against his own clan as he was too young and inexperienced. He hadn't even graduated from the academy yet! What kind of over-inflated arrogance had raised its ugly head? He'd been stupid, and Akio, wholly focused on his target, took advantage of it to attack.

He knew the kind of emotion that had made the man do it; Obito felt the incomprehensible rage in himself in that moment. Not that he'd been able to do anything with it. Rage eclipsed logic and the inarticulate scream he'd let out had unfortunately jolted everyone back into action before he could act on it. He'd watched Akio be detained. Obito himself had been caught mid-lunge, reaching for the man with bare hands and wild with violent intent.

Now he was sitting chained to a bench in the hallway just outside the surgery room his grandmother had been taken to. He felt raw, his throat hurt from his earlier crying and screaming. His face itched and stung where his tears were drying over his bandages, joining in with his eyelids, then there were his eyes…

There was no mistaking it, he'd activated his Sharingan.

The binding chains he was being held down with did nothing to inhibit the circulation of chakra within his own body. It was one thing to know objectively what the chains did and another thing to actually experience. He was helpless to move, and unlike a more experienced ninja he was in no way strong enough to break himself free. He couldn't free himself using his eyes. How useless.

"Obito. Look at me."

No.

Misao clicked his tongue and his partner's gloved fingers reached under his chin and forced him to tilt his head up. Obito stubbornly looked over the man's shoulder and glared at the pits in the paintwork across the corridor. He could feel an ache forming between his temples and in his jaw from the way he was clenching his teeth.

"First lesson in learning how to control the Sharingan—"

He couldn't close his own eyes fast enough in order not to witness Misao's bleed to red within his peripheral vision. His Captain didn't keep his Sharingan active for long though, and allowed the chakra in his eyes bleed out until his eyes were dark again without doing anything else.

"— direct eye-contact is not necessary."

Inexplicably, his vision diminished. The now noticeable, from its absence, drain on his chakra stopped. Misao had taught him how to deactivate the Sharingan and it had only taken one look. Probably how to activate it too given Obito's own Sharingan had been active when his Captain had tilted his head up.

Obito jerked his chin out of his cousin's grasp and dropped his head to glare at the ground, furiously ignoring the sensation of tears tracing new pathways down his face. Even now, with the Sharingan inactive, his vision was still sharper than it had been before he'd rounded the corner to the dojo where Akio— where he'd evidently activated his bloodline limit.

Even in the state he was in he could tell the difference. Now it was like he was wearing an invisible pair of vision-corrective glasses he hadn't known he'd needed, ones with too strong a prescription. So crisp that he was right on the edge of not being able to bear it, regardless of the tears blurring his vision.

Now he knew why the cousins of his that had had their sharingan forced forward avoided eye-contact. The sheer clarity of the world around him was damn near painful to look at, and that was just him looking at inanimate objects that had no chakra. If a 'natural' activation of his bloodline limit was this excruciatingly sharp, then what must it feel like with a burn behind it?

Was this was what the Sharingan did even with it dormant?

A series of coded taps sounded through Misao's com unit and Obito heard the vague sounds of a message being delivered but couldn't make out what was being said. If he'd been wearing his goggles the amplifiers in the ear covers might have been able to, but they were at home. He had none of his gear on him. He hadn't even taken the time to put his shoes on in his rush to leave the house. Maybe if he had paused for his things, the night might have gone differently and his grandmother wouldn't even be in the hospital.

She would've been in custody instead.

Clenching his eyes shut he shook his head at the thought and shoved it aside. His grandmother couldn't have simply charged out of the house with murder on her mind, yes she had a volcanic temper, but surely she wouldn't have—

"Misao. What happened before I got there?" Obito heard his own gravelly voice ask the question that arose from the suspicion.

Obito wanted to use Sharingan-based Genjutsu the Military Police used, the one that forced the subject to tell the truth. He'd seen and heard enough about it in the last year to give it his best shot, but as it was he currently couldn't extend his chakra beyond his own body.

He didn't even want to think about it or care to try to bringing it forward, but… he had to know. When he lifted his head to look his cousin in the eye it was with the painfully perfect vision of the Sharingan. Calling it forward was effortless now. He hadn't wanted to test the knowledge that hung in the back of his mind like a looping video clip, but he hadn't exactly been given a choice now, had he?

Misao should have waited to teach him how to control the Sharingan.

He couldn't force the man to tell him the truth, but he would see it if the man lied. He'd been trained in how to spot a lie, knew all the techniques people used to disguise the truth. With his Sharingan active those subtle tells would be magnified to the point that he'd be able to spot them no matter how emotionally compromised he was.

He saw every breath his cousin took, the sight of Misao's dormant Sharingan, ebony against jet black, before his cousin's eyes responded and chased away the dark in a wash of chakra. Misao's pulse beat a rhythm in the blood in his eyes and he could read every expression that crossed the man's face as if it were an open book.

"… you think I would lie to you?" Misao snapped, immediately knowing what he was doing.

"You would. To protect me. To shelter me." Obito hissed, catching his breath on the poisonous words of blame that wanted to pour out of him like so much acid. It was an indicator of the strength of the emotion in him. The emotions that wanted to hurt everyone else as much as he was hurting.

"Make sure you don't forget to listen then, while you're so focused." Misao parried bitingly, meeting the glare with an offended twist of the lips at the implication. "Atsui sa—n was drunk and violent with it. With the trouble he'd already caused with you we were attempting to clarify the situation and calm him down. He escalated the situation into physical assault. No one could blame her for defending herself."

Obito closed his eyes and allowed the chakra to bleed away from his eyes as he clenched his bound hands. It really was his fault. If he'd just waited at home, or if he'd spent just a little bit longer getting ready his grandmother wouldn't be—

"— and Akio?"

"In detention for attacking a clan elder. He will have to explain his actions before the Hokage and Council in a court martial."

Bile rose in his throat as his gut twisted sickeningly. Court martial. His grandmother was fighting for her life and they were giving her murderer a Court Martial? "And you think that's good enough?!"

Misao wasn't given the opportunity to answer as the doors to the operating room opened, interrupting whatever answers his cousin would have given him. A medic with long, pale blond hair stepped out and Obito's eyes turned away from his team captain and the whole of his attention affixed on the new arrival.

Obito froze as his eyes picked up the details of the man's emotions from his face. Narrowed dark eyes. Eyebrows brought together. The down-turned corners of his pinched mouth. The muscles of his square chin bunched together. His mind interpreted the information at a rapid pace and when the man's lips moved he predicted what he was going to say before he voiced the question.

"Are you family of Uchiha Sumiko?" The medic asked shortly, his face giving away every emotion he was feeling. The man didn't want to be the one to relay the news he was still preparing himself to deliver and Obito was too scared of the news to give that question the sarcastic answer it deserved.

"Yes." Misao answered for him. "How is she doing?"

A grimace, the man's mouth pinched together again. "I'll be blunt. There's a good chance that she might not survive this. This kind of brain damage is fatal about fifty percent of the time. We've done all we can medically and have her in a room where we can monitor her vitals. For now it's a waiting game."

What they were waiting on went unspoken.

"There's no point in you sitting out here." The medic said, turning on his heel. "Come with me."

Misao jerked the chain holding him to the bench before he could yank himself forward and a practiced flick of the wrist had the chain slithering off of him coiling up into his hand. Obito was at the medic's heels in an instant.

"Obito."

He spared a glance back at his team captain, who made a point to flash his Sharingan at him. Obito let the chakra in his own eyes fade at the prompt and clenched his fists. He shouldn't have needed that reminder, the eyes he'd awakened were draining. So much so that had Misao not prompted him to shut them down he'd have needed a Tap to keep him going.

He was dangerously close to needing one anyway but he'd sooner cut his own nose off then ask for one. His emotions didn't need amplifying. He was already so wound up he'd probably need to be sedated if he started Resonating and he didn't want to be unconscious right now.

The sight that greeted him when he was led into the observation room was one Obito was glad he wasn't seeing with the Sharingan.

His grandmother's head was wrapped with bandages, thick padding and gauze. Her neck was in a brace and she had been changed into a hospital gown. None of that did anything to hide the brutal blue-black bruising on her face. The medics had made an attempt to clean her up but they had missed spots. There were still dried remnants of blood on her face and peeking around the edges of her bandages.

"Baa-chan!" Obito drew in a jagged breath and lunged forward, but stopped himself before he reached her. He wanted to touch and make sure she was still alive, but at the same time he didn't want to cause any further damage or hurt her any more than she must already be hurting. Instead he very gingerly picked up his grandmother's hand from where it was resting on the bed sheets.

A hand grasped the back of his pyjama shirt and lifted him up a bit. Obito turned to deliver a blistering glare to Misao, but didn't dare try to free himself from the grip less he jostle his grandmother's hand. His captain ignored the glare and hooked a nearby chair with his foot so that it slid under where he was holding him up and lowered him back down. Probably so he could sit instead of stand next to the bed. Whatever, he didn't care. Nothing else mattered.

Turning his grandmother's hand over he leaned over the bed and tenderly pressed his lips to the pulse point on her wrist and immersed himself in the sensation of her heartbeat and the warmth in her hand. It wasn't as warm as it should have been, but he could help with that. He cupped her hands between his own and rubbed warmth back into them.

Obito was aware of people coming and going, of people walking past the open doorway, but he never turned his attention away. Someone thoughtfully closed the curtain around the hospital bed when he wasn't looking, giving them some modicum of privacy. He caught sight of the medic who'd called him into the room a few times out of the corner of his eye, but as the man didn't move forward to do anything he ignored him.

He didn't know enough about medics and the job they did to know if the hovering the man was doing was something he should be worried about. If only he hadn't been kicked out of medic classes, he wished he could have at least attended. Surely chakra wasn't necessary for every medical procedure. Maybe he wouldn't be feeling so lost if he knew what was going on.

"You have pull through this." Obito mumbled into his grandmother's wrist, waiting for any indication that she might be waking up. His eyes traced the familiar curves of her face, the slight wrinkles at the corners of her eyes. Laugh lines that matched the kind lines carved around her mouth. "We haven't even known each other long enough for it to end yet. It's not enough, it's never going to be enough! The time we've spent together, I never want it to end! Please… I need you! I'm sorry, please just don't leave—"

Obito cut himself off sharply as the heartbeat he'd been feeling against his lip started to weaken, to beat so weakly that it was a miracle he could even feel it. Sitting bolt upright and sliding his thumb over her pulse-point to keep track he half turned towards where he knew the door was and screamed for the medic.

Her pulse stilled under his touch before anyone could reach her and the bottom of Obito's world dropped out from under his feet. A great, bleeding hole tore itself a new home in his heart as he staggered out of the way of the medics and leaned his shaking body against the wall. Even with the medic working on bringing her back, he knew. His grandmother was gone. He didn't know how he knew it with such certainty but he did. His grandmother was dead.

… and it was his fault.

A spark ignited behind his eyes and his newly awakened Sharingan activated on its own accord. He had his hands over his eyelids, instinctively closed against the sensation and felt what was left of his chakra drain in one fell swoop. With the way his eyes were suddenly draining him… it would be a miracle if he survived this. He felt himself sag to the floor and silently slid down the wall until he was slumped against the bedside cabinet.

He almost called out for help, but closed his mouth on the words before they could escape, because this was what he deserved. Obito didn't want to live in a world where his grandmother didn't exist. He embraced the oblivion.

Maybe this way, he would get to see her again.

OoO

Harry took a while to gather himself.

He felt like his head was spinning, like his world should be ending, but couldn't remember why. There was an echo of pain deep inside him, right were his heart was, but the lion's share of it was being washed away by the gentle white light surrounding him. He pressed his fingers against his chest and wondered at the lingering ache, at what had caused it, but it was a curiosity at best. Not something so urgent that he needed to act on it right away.

The world between life and death hadn't changed since he'd last seen it, since he'd boarded the train towards his Next Adventure, but more importantly, why was he back here again? The stainless, white washed version of Kings Cross soothed at the ache in his heart as his awareness sharpened and he realized he was sitting slumped against someone on the bench he had once shared with Tom Riddle's soul shade.

At least the person waiting for him wasn't Voldemort.

"Obito!" A woman with chin length, dove-grey hair steadied him when he swayed.

The name hit him like a knife to the gut. Suddenly all he could do was hold on as an unexpected a tidal wave of memories and emotion threatened to drown him. A moment of disorientation and he was no longer seeing eye to eye with her but was looking up at her from a distinct lack of height.

"Baa-chan."

Obito threw himself at his grandmother, desperate and crawling up in her lap in his need to grab as much of her in his arms as he possibly could. Burying his face in her shoulder he let out a gasping heave of a sob as the ache in his chest was finally explained away as she swept him up into her arms in a warm embrace. How could he have forgotten, even for a fraction of an instant, who this woman was to him?

Harry leaned back in the woman's arms and tried to wipe his face clear, tried to stop crying but it was impossible. The foreign emotions and memories had a such a strong hold on him that it was like his own heart was breaking, and not the child's who's life he'd apparently started living.

"Am I going to chase all of my loved ones into Death with every life I live?" Harry sobbed as the woman curled a hand around him and tucked him back up against her shoulder, rubbing a hand up and down his back. "This isn't fair! I just I wanted to live for once! Wanted a family!"

He held on to his grandmother fiercely, nowhere near willing to let go of the only family he'd ever really known.

"You can still have a family." His grandmother soothed. "All you need to do is marry Rin-chan and—" Obito balled up his fist and let it drop to lightly thump his grandmother's shoulder for the rib he knew she would have made.

"You don't get to make that joke anymore." He muttered miserably into her shoulder, "Seriously, what were you even thinking? He trips me with a sake cup so you kill him?"

"As satisfying as that was—" she started, chuckling at Obito's next thump for the admission, "It was never my intention to kill him when I went out to… sort things out. I thought I'd made myself clear the last time he tried to interfere with the way I was raising you. I made myself clearer. I hadn't counted on how drunk the idiot was."

"—or me distracting you."

His grandmother sighed. "It's already too late to change your mind about this isn't it, surrounded by adults making stupid decisions and you still blame yourself?" she asked, brushing the hair away from his face and leveraging his face up so he could meet her eyes. "You've already triggered the Mangekyo Sharingan."

The last part wasn't a question but a statement.

"Another bloodline?" Obito groaned, pushing his face back into her shoulder.

"It's an advanced form of the Sharingan. There are other requirements, such as chakra capacity and potential for growth, but its triggered by the trauma suffered when witnessing the death of someone close."

Obito curled in over her and tightened his grip, forehead pressed against her shoulder and teeth gritted as the wound in his heart bled afresh. "I— don't want to— go back. "

"I know Obito."

"I don't want to leave you, but they're keeping me alive." He forced the words out wretchedly. He could feel it, an intangible tether anchoring him to the living world and pulsating with a steady heartbeat.

He didn't want to return to the living world, but unlike the last time he'd been here the choice wasn't his to make. The link between him and the living world was strong and sooner or later it would pull him back, he wouldn't be able to fight it.

"When your body gets over the shock, activating the Mangekyo Sharingan will feel like second-nature." His grandmother cautioned, ducking her head down to tuck him under her chin, "It drains a considerable amount of chakra and its usage and activity produce such a great strain that it wears at the body and deteriorates the vision until eventually it'll leave the wielder blind. Tell no one Obito, you'll be hunted for it. The only way the blindness can be overcome is to transplant the eyes of another Uchiha with the Mangekyo Sharingan. As ashamed as I am to admit it, our clan has a history of it and it would mean nothing to one of them to take your eyes for themselves."

He nodded jerkily, not trusting himself enough to speak and she tilted his head up to press loving kisses to the corners of his eyes. "Pry up the floorboards next to the loose floorboard in your room and you'll find a few scrolls that can only be read with the Sharingan. Burn them once you've looked at them. I can only be thankful that I prepared them, somehow I knew I didn't have long left…"

"Wait for me!" Obito begged, white-knuckled hands gripping her as tightly as he could as he felt himself being dragged away. "Watch me! Don't take your eyes off me! I need to know you'll be here the next time I come back."

"I won't forgive you if you return too soon." His grandmother scolded with a last kiss to his cheek and pressed her forehead against his. "So don't go chasing after me, I want you to have at least fifty years' worth of stories behind you when you do."

"I love you!" Obito cried as the sensation of being pulled back to the living world became too strong to ignore. He had no time left. "I LOVE YOU!"

"You were the brightest spot of sunshine and moonlight in my life. Everything about you made me smile. Sometimes I couldn't stop looking at you. Every time I looked at you I felt love and inspiration, there was nothing I wouldn't have done for you. I couldn't believe how perfect you turned out. I cherish you. You are my treasure, never doubt for a moment I that I love you." His grandmother smiled gently at him and a tingle of chakra passed between their hands, "Thank you for being my grandson."

Harry faded out of his grandmother's arms and clung desperately to the chakra she'd given him.

It the last warmth they would ever share.

Chapter Text

A soft, steady intake of air. The threads of the thin material of the blanket that was draped over him. The scent of antiseptic and flowers. The sensation of bandages wrapped around his eyes. The weight and straps of a breathing mask on his face and a hand gone slack with sleep holding his own.

The world was bombarding him with the sensations unique to the living realm.

Things had been simpler in the world between life and death. There everything had been muted, emotions were washed out and everything wasn't nearly as intense. He hadn't needed any time to gather himself. Here he was struggling simply to piece together the jumbled mix of clashing memories and chain them into some kind of working order.

Footsteps reached his ears, hard soled outdoor shoes on flooring that wasn't stone as well as voices in a language he could barely understand. There was no doubt that he was in a hospital, but for a brief, thoughtless moment he'd thought he had woken up in the infirmary wing at Hogwarts. This was a hospital but—

Deep, deliberate breathing forced the tightness around his mouth and the bitterness in the back of his throat to recede. He distracted himself by patting himself down, starting with the texture of his clothing and then moving onto the fabric of the bed covers. He tried to string together enough clues that would give him a clearer picture of what he'd done to himself. He couldn't figure out much more because he'd been blindfolded. He was wearing some kind of wrap-around shirt and draw-string pants. No buttons on them at all. The fabric was also thin and breathable, and yet he wasn't in the least bit cold.

Tugging off and discarding the breathing mask that had been placed over his mouth and nose, he dropped it over the side of the bed and then pulled out the IV line in his arm upon discovering it. Next he dealt with the thick wad of bandages wrapped around his head. Little by little he freed himself of it, unwinding it from his head until eventually he was picking off the cotton pads that were pressed onto his eye sockets. They were presumably there to keep him from opening them.

When he managed to pry open his crusted and sore eyes he opened them to a world bathed in cruel, unforgiving light.

Curling in on himself, he sucked in a hiss of air and buried his face into the crook of his elbow as his now-watering eyes reacted to the new and utterly unexpected stimuli. A headache promptly set up residence in his head and drummed up a beat, striking a song to his stupidity. Blindly groping for the blanket, he tugged it up and over his head and burrowed under his pillow with a whimper he was unable to stifle.

It was a while before he could convince himself to try again and even then he only did it after testing his surroundings. His hand snaked out from under the blankets he was huddled under and swept his surroundings for any sort of heat, barring the remnants of his own body-heat. The rest of him was still curled up in a fetal ball with his face against his knees and his other hand tightly gripped the thin fabric of his clothes.

Taking the bandages off had been incredibly stupid, but at the very least he'd figured out something useful. He wasn't tired. He was exhausted, but if he needed to he could move. His body was humming with the warmth of a gentle resonance. Who knew if she had planned it, but his grandmother had given him the chance to get away from the inevitable confrontation that would happen once people realized he was awake. He wasn't going to take her last gift for granted. He would not be stuck helpless in a hospital bed while he was both so physically and mentally vulnerable.

Waiting for the pain to subside somewhat, he scrabbled around for the bandages he'd so thoughtlessly discarded, thankfully not too far away, and clumsily re-wrapped his eyes under the covers.

The hand he'd stuck out from his blanket shield hadn't felt any hint of sunlight. He wasted quite a bit of time trying to find evidence of sunlight. Wherever that light was coming from, it wasn't natural. Keeping his eyes firmly shut, even though he'd already re-wrapped them, he patted around the bed for the edge and tried to slip out of the opposite side away from the person sleeping at his bedside.

The unexpected distance between the mattress and the floor had him falling in what would have been a bruising pile had he not accidentally tugged the pillow and blanket down with him. He landed knees-first on the pillow and his hands planted sharply on cool, slick material. Linoleum? Definitely not anywhere he recognized as home.

A snuffle and he froze, waiting for the person who had was sleeping at his bedside to awaken. It didn't happen though and with another snuff whoever it was went right back to sleep and their breathing evened out again.

Picking himself up was a bit of a hassle as he had to keep quiet and keep the blanket over his head, but he managed once he freed his feet from whatever he'd gotten caught in. He ran his hands around his bed, over the bed-frame, mattress, bedside table and wall. Surely an exit wouldn't be too far away? When his hands slid over what was unmistakably a window latch he pressed his fingers against the glass and waited again for any hint of warmth to register, but all he got was cold.

Either this was an inner window or… this window was facing outwards and it was currently night time.

Hesitating only because his eyes were still smarting from the last time he'd tried to open his eyes he took a risk. Peeling up one edge of the bandage he'd wrapped around his weeping eyes he forced his right eye open as far as he could force it and took a peek. With his back to the light source the shadow he cast against the glass luckily spared him from being blinded again and pressing his forehead against the glass also helped him avoid any reflected glare.

He was on the ground floor. As soon as that registered, he flipped the latch on the window and slid it open. A fresh breeze swept his blanket off of him and into the room behind him. The breeze was like an invitation, the tantalizing scent of the outdoors calling out to him with the promise of safety and soothing darkness. It wasn't like he could turn around and go back to bed now that he'd lost his shield against the light, without the blanket he wouldn't be able to hide from its harshness. He didn't want to go back to bed either, he didn't want to sleep. Sleeping would be a waste of his grandmother's chakra.

He would take the time she'd granted him to pull himself together and glue his fractured sense of self into some semblance of repair with the hope that it would hold until up under scrutiny.

Stumbling away from the building, he ended up in a garden which was a blessedly light-free area. The grass was thick under his bare feet and the moon and stars overhead were hidden by a thick canopy; leaves and wire? Lights were still bursting in bright panels in front of his eyes, but around it all he could just make out the blurred and doubled shape of a clump of bushes near the garden wall. It was the perfect place to hide, but when he tried to make his way towards it he tripped.

The thing he landed on was not grass, it was warm and surprisingly human-shaped for something that was lying around in a hospital garden. It let out a sharp exhale as the wind was pushed out of the person's lungs and then trailed off into low groan, as if breathlessly questioning why they were being landed on. The man, (he was guessing at the gender because that was not a very feminine chest or voice), was probably also injured in some way, given the pain in his voice.

"… welcome, fellow escapee. I see you didn't make it too far yourself. What were you in for?" the man coughed out, noisily flopping back down onto the grass, having curled up around him a little in reaction. The shinobi, (because he had landed on a lot of hard muscle), had either recognized that he was not a threat or was in safe place and therefore allowed to be in pain.

"Sorry..." He mumbled into the fabric of the man's shirt, having spent a moment feebly trying best to get off him. All he managed to do was lift himself up a bit before he collapsed again. "I'd move… but I can't."

His chakra was still resonating but it didn't help much when he was basically running on fumes. How much longer would he last until his next blackout?

"Don't do that again." The man exhaled in a wheeze and a hand patted his head awkwardly as to reassure him. "I don't mind the wake-up call that much, I was starting to get cold and I'm beginning to believe you make a very warm blanket."

"… you're not a very comfy pillow." Was his dry reply. "Couldn't you have found somewhere a little less inconvenient to take your nap? I made it all the way here, I almost got away and now I'm stuck on a lumpy cushion. This is so stupid, why is it so hard to move now?" he continued waspishly, not really all that annoyed but twitching guiltily as he was still mostly draped over the man's mid-section.

The man started snickering but then cut himself off with another groan.

"Welcome to the blessed state that is Chakra Exhaustion." The man wheezed out on the end of his groan. "One moment you're fine and the next you might as well be part of the décor." The faintly trembling hand on his head started ruffling his hair, but paused when his fingers reached the bandages still wrapped around his head. "Not just exhausted, are you?"

Chakra exhaustion. The words triggered a whole slew of memories and then— he knew where he was and what he was doing there. Most of everything else was scrambled together. Now he was justified in his escape from his hospital room. How much time would he have had until he was forced to interact with people who actually knew him? Who would have expected him to act and react like the person he'd been befor—

The wish that he hadn't tripped over someone in his escape from the light grew stronger. He couldn't get away, but at the very least the man wasn't in any condition to notice very much.

So long as he didn't do it too loudly, he could allow himself to grieve.

"So what do I call you? I suppose I could keep calling you blanket." The man continued conversationally, adopting an up-beat tone.

"… and I suppose I could call you lump." He bit back snidely; he was being rude but he was close to not caring. That and the urge to hide how much trouble he was having figuring out which name to hand out was automatic.

This overly friendly stranger could go make friends with someone else. He was done making friends. He didn't want to get close to anyone else ever again; this was just too much to deal with. He wasn't going to lead any more of his loved ones to their deaths. Sirius and his grandmother… would be the last.

He was Harry Potter but at the same time he wasn't and didn't want to be anyone else. Not when that other person came with so much extra baggage that he'd have to survive being. He didn't exactly have a choice though, he was stuck and if he was stuck… then he would follow his grandmother's wishes as best he could.

He would take the secret of his eyes to the grave, and keep his emotions close.

"Why should I tell you my name if you haven't told me yours anyway? That's rude."

"I… have never been known for my manners." The man revealed, voice teasing and brimming suppressed amusement.

At least he could call this a practice run for when he would eventually have to face whoever had been waiting for him at his bedside. For as scrambled as he was right now the one thing he knew for certain was that a family member had killed his grandmother. He would not be giving her murderer, or anyone, the satisfaction of finding him so broken.

"Too bad then. I'm not giving my name to someone who won't give me theirs."

He tried moving away again, hoping to distance himself from his unexpected audience, but it was no use. Digging his toes into the grass and trying to drag himself off the man that way wasn't very effective. His legs simply didn't have the strength in them for it. He'd have tried to roll but the man's arm was in the way and he wasn't about to flop across the man's abdomen, he was pretty sure those were bandages under the man's shirt. Rude as the guy was, he wasn't about to further injure an already injured man on purpose.

"What shall I call you then, I wonder?" the man asked airily, not even bothering to hide his amusement anymore, what exactly was the man finding so funny? "Should I stick to Mofu? Hmm, but you're very warm so…"

Grunting in irritation, he tried to will strength into his legs but it wasn't working.

"Hokahoka!"

As annoyed with himself as he was at his own weakness, having someone talking nearby who didn't recognize him was helping. The language was coming easier, detangling itself and the knowledge sort of fell into place the more he heard it.

"…Iikikasu?" the man tried, a finger tapping against the side of his head for attention. "No?"

"You have a very one-track mind, don't you?" he replied dryly, slumping in defeat. The man seemed pretty harmless anyway, he was just cycling through various iterations of 'warm'.

"That's the first time anyone's ever said that about me before!" The man informed him brightly, as if he hadn't just straight-up insulted him, he also sounded like he was grinning. "Though I have to admit, people have made suggestions that I might not be the best at naming things."

"Gosh, really? Imagine that."

"Well, if you don't like any of those suggestions then how about Atsui—"

All the progress he'd made holding himself together unraveled as the name triggered the beginning of an avalanche of memories he couldn't have had a hope in hell to even begin repressing as his new life slotted into place piece by piece. Knives cutting into him, carving out deep new homes for themselves and the paths they sliced welled up with emotion that stained the very fabric of his soul red with hurt and grief.

When the roar in his ears receded, his throat hurt, the bandaging over his eyes were sagging and wet, a hand was curled up around him and he was tucked up under the man's chin. A panicked attempt at a soothing motion was also being rubbed up and down his back.

During his momentary break from reality the man had dragged himself into a seated position and scooped him up to comfort him.

"— really am bad at naming things! What a dumb name! Who names their kid that? I'm sorry, that was stupid! What a stupid name! Want another stupid name? Sakumotsu! My father wanted to name me that because he loved bad puns and thought 'Crop of the field', would be great, but my mother didn't at all. She put her foot down and shortened—"

Slapping a hand over the man's mouth to stop the frazzled babbling he pressed his forehead against the man's shoulder and bit his lip, fighting for the return of his composure. "Just… stop talking." He honestly didn't need the man's reassurances. He had a hold of himself again and he needed as much silence as he could get, because it seemed like his time was fast running out.

Alarmed voices were calling out in the distance, inadvertently giving him the final piece of the puzzle as the name they were using branded itself into his very being. "Uchiha Obito." He mumbled against the fabric of the man's shirt, giving the man the name he'd been asking for earlier, echoing the people searching for him hollowly.

"My name is Uchiha Obito."

OoO

His brief 'freedom' from the oppressive walls of the hospital came at a price.

The woman who'd found him was apparently the person who'd been sleeping at his bedside, waiting for him to wake up. The medic scolded and fussed over him like she knew him and it was only thanks to the fact that something in him recognized her as different from what he considered 'family' that he even allowed her near him.

He didn't fight her when she went to change his bandages and accepted her help when she went to change him out of his stained clothing and into new ones. He used the time she was giving him to put his scrambled memories of her into order. It had taken the prompting of someone else using her name within earshot to place her, but this wasn't just someone who knew him. This was an adult who had helped his grandmother raise him.

Nohara Miina.

She made no comment about his behaviour, which had to be some kind of avoidance tactic, because she was frantic and intense with her care. It was in the tone of her voice when he was told in no uncertain terms that he'd been moved to a more secure ward. It was also in the way she was making doubly sure he was 'safely' tucked properly back into bed. For as stern as her voice was, her hands shook ever-so faintly.

"— and if you imagine leaving through this window will be easy, think again. It's been sealed and we'll be watching the door. Congratulations, you've been upgraded to the fourth floor."

Hands applauded and a now familiar voice cheered "Yaaaay~!" from what was probably the next bed over. "Hospital buddies~!"

Obito threw his pillow in Lumpy's direction.

"Oh, thanks for the pillow. How did you know I needed an extra?"

Loud patting noises, as if the man was fluffing the 'donated' pillow, followed by several happy sighs and Obito couldn't help twitching. He mentally started dialing down his estimate of the guy's age. For all he knew his 'hospital buddy' was younger than his mature voice. It wasn't like he had much to go on, projecting and altering one's voice was an Academy taught skill and it was hard to find a ninja that wasn't in peak physical condition. The assumption had been that Lumpy was older, an adult. Now he was thinking the guy was probably in his teens. Hadn't he mentioned a father in his panicked babbling? The little shit.

There was something very familiar about that attitude, but his head was so scrambled that he couldn't tell which set of memories that familiarity was coming from though. Was it from his life here as a ninja-in-training or was it from his life as a Wizard?

All he knew was that the man was being purposely irritating and distracting, and it was all probably to get his mind off of what had made him cry earlier.

It wasn't a method he'd have ever used himself but he recognized it. The Weasley twins had been the same. Loud and distracting, unintentionally cruel at times but ultimately well-intentioned. It was an unexpected kindness coming from a stranger born into the world that had taken his grandmother away from him, but now that the thought was registering it was blunting the sharpest of the edges of his pain.

With all of the joy in his life sucked away from him, he'd expected the new world he was now finding himself in to be a cruel and cold place, but... his roommate didn't know him. The guy was absolutely nothing to him and was in pain himself, and yet he was offering what little comfort and distraction he could when he didn't have to. It could have been his appearance garnering sympathy but… did that matter? If one stranger in this new and familiar seeming world was this kind, what did that mean for the rest of the world? How was he supposed to deal with this kind of kindness? How had he dealt with it in the past?

"Keep it." he found himself muttering when Lumpy started loudly contemplating the merits of returning the pillow verses holding on to it. He rested his wrist over the new bandaging on his eyes and sagged into his mattress as the build-up of spite and irritation drained out of him. It wasn't like he needed the extra cushioning himself, and just because he knew the man would continue poking for some kind of reaction... "You need the example; it's what a cushion should be like."

Lumpy was surprised into a real and loud bark of laughter, laughter that was very quickly sucked in and transformed into another groan, then into a whimpering wheeze that trailed off with the breathless edge of something else to it. Were those... giggles? Regardless, now that he'd gotten a reaction, if not the one he'd been expecting, the man should leave him alone for a bit. Just like a pair of twins he'd known.

Harry's lips twisted and he shifted his wrist over them to disguise the movement. The part of him that had been born in this world was aching with grief, and wanted the world around him to bleed like he was. He couldn't understand how the world could keep going on forward, how people could be so unaffected when someone had snuffed out the light of his life. He was used to this kind of loss though, wasn't he? He knew what to do with it and how to withstand it. If he was going to be drowning in darkness then he needed to snatch up and hoard what little scraps of happiness he could and use them to shore himself back up again.

Just as well he'd tripped over Lumpy in his escape; one small act of kindness had pierced through the blackest portion of his grief. He hadn't thought he was capable of the kind of hatred that had created Voldemort, but he'd been pretty close there, right on the teetering edge of falling right into it. If he had been left alone like he'd desired at the time and it had run its course, who knew what would have become of him? Without this experience, he'd have been lost.

His 'hospital buddy' would never know what his thoughtless and instinctively-given comfort had done for him.

"… what was your name again?" he asked, moving his hand away from his lips to ask the question.

"Uh… my name?" Lumpy asked, as if it were somehow uncertain who he was addressing.

"Do you… see anyone else in the room?" he tried, taking a page from a certain red haired wizard's book, because if Fred could joke about losing an ear…

"You could have been asking the medic."

No reaction, the man really was overly nervous about sharing his name, wasn't he? Interesting. "I do still have working ears." he reminded his roommate. "She left a while ago." Maybe the biting hostility he'd expressed before had intimidated the guy. It wasn't exactly trustworthy behaviour and considering the way he'd been acting was it any wonder the guy was being so squirrely with his name?

Was he famous in a way? Some kind of celebrity? He couldn't deny that he was curious. His roommate's reaction to being asked what his name was didn't help, if anything it fanned the flame, but he owed the guy something. If Lumpy wanted to remain Lumpy who was he to deny that?

The guy was also injured and vulnerable, so perhaps an apology was in order? "It's okay if you don't want to answer. I honestly don't care who you are, I just wanted to thank you for earlier."

How many times had he wished he could leave his own fame behind? He'd thoughtlessly granted his own wish. He'd been at the finish-line too, he could have had his happily ever-after. Instead he'd exchanged whatever life he could have lived for a future burdened by the expectations of the bloodline he'd been born into. If only he'd left the Potter Luck behind him with his last life.

"… Hatake Sakumo." Lumpy said, softly interrupting his thought-process.

"What?" he asked, trying to pull his thoughts back together.

"My name, its Hatake Sakumo." The man repeated, voice warming ever so slightly. Right, he had asked for the guy's name hadn't he? Hatake Sakumo?

"Oh, I… you were right."

"About what?" The nerves were still audible in the man's voice, but was smoothing out at his lack of reaction.

"That really is a stupid name."

Sakumo guffawed so hard he had the medics rushing in.

"Why is he laughing?" one of them asked over the sounds of jerking, pained wheezes and helpless spurts of choked mirth that sounded like they were being smothered.

"I don't know." He answered like butter-wouldn't-melt in his mouth, even though the question probably wasn't directed at him. The medic was reading through the man's chart given the sounds of flipping paper. "He just started out of nowhere."

A barking howl tore through the fit of whimpering snickering and—

"Hatake-san, if you don't stop we're going to have to sedate you! You're injuring yourself!"

And,

"Where did you get that pillow? Too much cushioning at this point would be— did you steal that from Obito-kun?!"

"Uh, no! Actually I threw it at him!" Obito confessed, he didn't exactly want to get the guy in trouble for something that was his fault. "He was being annoy—" No, that wouldn't work. "I mean he was being nois—" he cut himself off again, because that wasn't much better than what he'd been about to say. His stuttered confession sent Lumpy into further hysterics and the medics were forced to go through with the threat to sedate him anyway.

Whoops.

Obito mentally filed the ploy away for future use, even as he was squirming guiltily on the inside. He hadn't meant to get the man sedated, but now he knew what to do if he ever needed some time alone with his thoughts while stuck sharing a hospital room.

He needed the time alone and if he wasn't granted privacy… then it was only fair he created his own.

OoO

The temporary stay of his resentment didn't last long.

Nohara Miina came in every now and then to check up on him. She informed him of the visitors he'd had while he was asleep, which included several of his classmates, one of whom was the woman's daughter and other well-wishers. She read him their 'get well' cards as he was not allowed visitors just yet and helped him navigate his breakfast. Her nervous tension was palpable, and the root cause of it seemed to be his bandaged eyes.

He wasn't so fussed about them though, he knew very well that he hadn't blinded himself and he told her as much. "It only hurt when I looked at the light, everything was too bright."

His attempt at reassurance backfired.

"Oh, Obito!" the woman choked, folding him against her in a hug and he couldn't tell if the emotion in her voice was relief or sympathy.

He might have been fine on his own, given enough time to work through his tangled thoughts; maybe a distraction or two would have helped him respond differently. Though with Lumpy unconscious, there was nothing and no one to distract him from the sensation of his own chakra shifting.

It brought back memories of the last time his chakra had acted like this and the last time a member of his family was agitated enough that their chakra was set to flaring in sharp spikes. A small part of him asked how he was so sure this was a family member, but the question was answered in how his own chakra responded. The warm ripple he'd been enjoying started fizzing and hissing, fanning into a hotter and stronger resonance.

It was a biological, in-built reaction to a relative's chakra and in any other circumstances, the small flare-up would have been a warning. He would have known about the amplification of emotions a resonance caused and braced himself for it, however he was in no shape to heed that warning. In the end fear hit and it brought back memories associated with the last time he'd felt fear around clansmen.

The pressure of what felt like a million eyes coming at him from all angles of the world. Months of stress and hiding behind the semblance of respect to avoid eye contact. The mask of cheer he'd worn to shreds. Filtering his emotions through laughter because if he didn't he was going to gouge his own eyes out. The fading beat of his grandmother's heart. The blunt-force impact of a weight to the side of her head. The sight of bruises and bloodied bandages.

His response to fear had always been skewed.

Vicious and vindictive malevolence bubbled up in him like something demonic, and the spite that had drained out of him abruptly erupted anew and an idea burst to life.

The faction of elders who'd been pushing him so hard… hadn't they wanted to parade around a child prodigy with the Sharingan?

They had stopped at next to nothing to achieve their goal and it was enough to make him curious as to what they'd have done if he'd woken up with brain damage. They'd planned on basking in the honour of producing him, and the prestige his service to the village would have delivered to them and now they wouldn't be getting it, because he was going to stop trying so hard to sort his memories.

Starting. Right. Now.

They'd wanted a genius to show off? How would they handle a dunce instead?

"This is a secure wing Uchiha-sama, you can't—" a man argued from the other side of a close door.

"I am a Clan elder, you idiot, you have no authority to bar my access to a clan-member, never mind that none of you in your infinite insipid foolishness would have the faintest idea of how to handle a traumatic Doujutsu activation. Let me in, this instant, or I shall have your medical license revoked!" a woman replied harshly.

He knew her from voice alone. She was Akio's mother and Atsui's wife, Uchiha Junko. The clan head, Fugaku, would be up to his own eyeballs dealing with Akio and the mess he'd created. It was a credit to the woman's skill that this old Kunoichi had managed to escape scrutiny for long enough to slip away from the investigation that would have opened up immediately following Obito's… collapse.

"— unstable, there's no telling what kind of damage—"

"I don't care." Uchiha Junko interrupted, tone fanatic. "His eyes are the only concern, you foolish man. I need to know Atsui's sacrifice was worth it."

Sacrifice? The hypocrisy of it took his breath away.

Obito felt himself go hot and then cold and then hot again. The hair on his arms stood on end as he drew a sharp, shuddering breath in. Goosebumps raised along his arms and prickled along the back of his neck and hairline. Never had he felt such emotion.

No, he had felt like this before. This was comparable to the one and only time he'd cast the Cruciatus Curse, only then he hadn't been capable of sustaining the emotion needed to keep the spell active. Had he had a wand in hand he wouldn't have the same issue. In that moment there was nothing in the world he wanted more than to listen to her scream. Given the magic, strength or even chakra he didn't have and he'd have aimed for Junko's blood.

"Obito! No! Stop! You're hurting yourself!" Nohara Miina exclaimed, abruptly pulling back from the hug she'd folded him into and unsuccessfully tried to unclench the hands he had balled into fists. "K—killing intent?! Obito, oh god, no I— Obito you're have to calm down or I'm going to be forced to sedate you!"

"—do it." he choked out around a throat taut with fury, forcing the words out from tight lips, clarity of thought surfacing briefly, breathing shallow and on the verge of a panic attack. If he was unconscious when Uchiha Junko came into the room the elders would have to wait for the next time he was awake. By then his Clan head would get word of this confrontation. He needed to buy himself some time and if being unconscious did it, then so be it.

If anything else, he would be leaving his clan hanging as to the status of his eyes.

"Count backwards from ten." The medic holding him in her arms soothed, smoothing the hair away from his face with hands that pressed lightly into his temples and tingled with a calming, soft energy.

Sinking into her hold, Obito allowed himself to sag forward.

OoO

The next time he was awake, he was barely conscious enough before a medic had a hold of his hand and was sending waves of artificial calm through his system.

"It's okay, you're safe." The man was saying, the hand that wasn't holding his giving him an awkward pat on the shoulder. "You've been put under the protective custody of Anbu by the Hokage's order. The only person allowed anywhere near you is your clan head and only when you've been discharged from the hospital." This medic was also familiar to him in the same way as Nohara Miina had been… this had to be Nohara Ren. Now that he wasn't frothing at the mouth with rage, he recognized his voice.

"It was amazing." Lumpy enthused from the next bed over, seemingly none the worse for his forced nap. "I've never seen a hospital room get that exciting. I wake up and not only is the Hokage there, but so are a handful of Anbu, an entire team of Military Police, your clan head and Tsunade-hime! She kicked the old bitch that was in here out through the window and we got upgraded again! The MP's took her away and we're on the fifth floor now!"

"Through a window?" Obito asked around a snort, almost wishing he'd been awake for that. "Also why did they move you in with me?"

"The windows down there were reinforced." Lumpy gleefully informed him like it was the best thing he'd ever seen, "As for why they moved me in with you? I'm a calm and soothing influence, don't you know?" was his airy reply, like his nose was in the air.

"And?"

"... I may have also have tried to get in on the action."

"Seriously?"

"The old bitch was asking for it. With the way she was talking, if Tsunade-hime hadn't done it, I would have." He'd never heard anyone speak about a clan elder with such irreverent disrespect and again, he was neatly derailed from the emotional upheaval of his situation.

"Quite the lifesaver, aren't you?" Obito huffed, it wasn't quite a laugh, but it was as close to it as he could get with the way he was.

"Yeah. That's me. The lifesaver." Was Lumpy's reply. All emotion suddenly clipped from his voice.

"Well, for what it's worth, I'm grateful." He confessed, "Thank you. I think I needed a little lifesaving just then."

The last few words left a bitter taste in his mouth as they left. How long was he going to be in need of rescuing and when was he going to be able to defend himself? He was out of his depth here, so far in over his head it was a miracle all on its own that he hadn't drowned under it all already.

"… you're welcome." Lumpy returned, voice soft again.

"Save a little of that thanks for me." An unfamiliar woman interjected. High heels clicked on linoleum, and there was a swish of fabric. "You'll be happy that you haven't caused yourself any further damage with the stunt you pulled trying to check yourself out of hospital too early." She continued, brisk and efficient. "Consider yourself lucky. It's not every day you get to be seen by the best medic in the village; I'm going to sit you up now and check your eyes."

The bed was adjusted so that he was sitting upright and gentle hands steadied him back against his pillow. The scrape of a chair being pulled up to his bedside and the ring of metal and the rustle of paper had to mean the woman had picked up the clipboard that would have been hanging off the end of his bed.

"Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions that should have been asked when you first woke up, but couldn't because a certain someone had done a runner."

He'd needed that escape and he'd ended up tripping over a sanity saving soul, he refused to encourage his guilt. Even now simply knowing there was some kindness left in the world was stabilizing, and with him in the same room it was easier to distract himself with the present. He could hold himself in the here and now and live exactly in the moment, because if he didn't he'd backslide into black hatred and—

"What's your name?"

"Uchiha Obito." He responded easily, having put at least that much together.

"How old are you?"

Obito opened his mouth to respond and "Seven—" he cut himself off. "Seven?" What little of himself he'd managed to catch a glimpse of was small, like his hands and feet. His voice was young and his skin was soft and smooth. The question should have been simple but 'seventeen' sounded more natural to him than whatever age he currently was.

He shouldn't be too far off the mark, but wasn't he supposed to be showing off just how confused he was? Instinct was to hide, obscure and lie, to protect himself if nothing else, but his instincts could go hang out with the pride he remembered discarding some time ago. If he was going to go through with the idea that had come to him when he'd felt Junko's chakra, he was going to have to do a lot of things that went against his natural instincts.

"A—actually, I'm having trouble figuring out how old I am." He admitted, stuttering at first because of how unnatural it felt to actually confess to how he was actually feeling. "I didn't remember my own name at first, but I heard someone calling it out and I remembered. They were calling for me."

"Is it just your name and age or…"

"It's everything. I know some things, but my memories are all messed up. They're all tangled together and it's hard to get it all straight. I couldn't even think properly at first, and talking was hard but after listening to Lu— ah, Sakumo? It came together and I could talk properly again. With names I can remember where I heard them before, but it's not easy."

The unknown medic hummed and he felt gentle pressure on his head, just above the bandages in his hair, "Potential head injury, or perhaps Chakra backlash?" she murmured almost to herself as he felt her cool chakra seep into his skin with a trickle.

"Can you see this?" the woman asked as her fingers hovered over his bandaged eyes and mint green light enveloped his vision. The light didn't hurt and it wasn't even the slightest bit painful on his tender eyes.

"The green light? Yeah." He replied.

"Well, some good news for you is that you're going to be very sensitive to light, but you're in no danger of going blind. Lucky for you, you're going to have plenty of time in my care to heal because you're not leaving until you recover from your chakra exhaustion. You're going to do it the old fashioned way too, by waiting it out the same way everyone else does. No more chakra sharing until I say otherwise, understand?"

Obito nodded.

"Good, I'm just going to go get your file and a few things. Don't touch your eyes."

There was something refreshing about her abrupt and no-nonsense demeanour.

He listened to her leave, heels clicking away sharply, and relief swamped him. With the fuss that had been kicked up over him he had some time to figure out what he was going to do with himself.

He had of memories a lifetime spent flying as low under the radar as he could, years spent at school earning grades that were acceptable to both the Dursleys and the school. Ways to hold up a facade of golden-boy charm and innocence that hardly anyone had even blinked at and knew that people saw what they expected to see.

His warped memories were a blessing, and a boon in disguise. It would take very little effort to allow the world to witness his genuine confusion. For a while, he'd wear his emotions on his sleeve and adapt to everything else accordingly.

"So, hey~! You're not blind! How lucky!" Lumpy cheered lightly and he was dragged back into the present.

Obito felt his lips curl upwards.

"Yeah, lucky me." He replied softly.

He never imagined it was possible to power a smile with hate.

Chapter Text

The difference between realities was rather stark once he had enough time to soak in the atmosphere. His stay in the hospital was enough to clue him into that much.

Landing himself in Hogwarts's hospital wing had been a guarantee that he would sleep solidly and in peace. Madam Pomfrey monitored her patients from a distance via spells on the beds and runes stitched into the pyjamas. Whenever he'd gotten injured, he usually expected to be able to leave the second he woke up, completely recovered and ready to face the fallout of whatever misadventure his curiosity had gotten him tangled up in.

The way this hospital treated their patients was so different from what he was used to. He was constantly being awakened by someone was checking his vitals. The feel of their chakra seeping into his system without so much as a by-your-leave felt so foreign that he was instantly wide awake. It was a very hands-on approach.

Chakra Exhaustion must have been very different from the state a wizard went into when depleted magically and apparently needed to be that closely monitored, 'Just in case'. Sharing his hospital room with someone else might have been his biggest salvation. Lumpy, his chatty and noisy roommate, soaked in every bit of attention Harry gave him and seemed to be more excited than anyone else when the medics decided his eyes were healed enough to remove the bandages.

If the guy hadn't been so attention grabbing, he would have… he didn't know what he would have done. Cried? Thrown a tantrum? Just thinking about it was exhausting. It was really a shame he'd been moved to such a secure floor. If he hadn't wanted to escape earlier, he certainly would have tried by now. The beeping. The wakeup calls. He just wanted to rip off all the monitoring equipment he was attached to, find somewhere quiet and get in some actual rest.

Lumpy saved him from his impending meltdown by deciding to 'celebrate' the return of his eyesight by offering to teach him how to 'use his nose' while they waited for the medic in charge of treating them to arrive. With nothing better to do and nothing else to distract himself from the darkness in his heart, he latched onto the idea. It was a desperate reaction he hadn't known he was capable of. He used to spend ages alone in the dark the last time he'd been this age!

"So I just have to… sniff?"

"You don't have to sound so sceptical, I'm just trying to help." Lumpy complained, "The trick is breathe in through your nose slowly."

It helped that his roommate was easy to tease.

Tilting his head didn't help him figure out if his roommate was playing the same game as he was by pulling his leg or not; his ears weren't as good at detecting deception as he was seeing it on people's faces. Well, might as play along, they could both use the distraction.

He sniffed.

"—and focus. You'll smell a lot of stuff but it's all white noise unless it's particularly strong."

And sniffed again, harder this time, and got a whole lot of nothing but antiseptic and clean cotton.

"I—No, not that hard. Slowly, slowly~! Like this—" his 'hospital buddy' tried to demonstrate, but gagged heavily right away. A thud and the scrape of plastic, (a container being grabbed?), and then Lumpy was being noisily sick.

Gagging a little himself, he blocked his nose in self-defence and patted down the area next to his pillow for the button that would call a medic, pressing it when he finally got his hands on it. He would have to save practicing that particular trick till he was sure he wouldn't be getting a nose-full of the scent of vomit.

Several people came rushing into the room, prompting him to point in the approximate direction of his roommate and a mad scramble ensued as they tried to figure out what was wrong. Lumpy was poked and prodded, and struggled against the injection of anti-nausea medication he was given over loud protests. "I'm fine! I was just showing Chibi-chan how to use his nose! I forgot where we were and unblocked my nose!"

Chibi-chan?

"Idiot, are you seriously trying to teach an Uchiha how to scent-track?" The female medic they'd been waiting for drawled in suspicion, her arrival having gone unnoticed in the fuss until she spoke up.

"What? Uchiha have all those extra nerves and chakra channels in their heads, it's worth trying!"

"Those chakra channels are wired to their eyes, not their sinuses, and even if he was built for it, he's recovering from chakra exhaustion. Stop making more work for me!" A sharp thwack and Lumpy yipped sharply in complaint then sounded like he was rubbing furiously at wherever the medic must have hit him.

Medic No-Nonsense clicked her tongue. "Honestly, as if I don't already have my work cut out for me."

"… sorry. We were bored—" Harry tried to apologize, but was startled out of it by a light flick of fingers against his forehead.

"I don't want to be hearing that from you, you're eight and amnesiac. He is a Jounin and should know better than to try and teach you something you're not ready or suited for. Also, if he's so bored he's acting this stupid maybe I'll have someone bring him some extra reading material. Maybe he'll learn something and the next time he tries to teach you anything it might actually be something you can learn."

"… please no." Lumpy whimpered. "I'm very sorry. No more medical journals. Please. I'll behave."

"I make it a condition of his release these days." His medic revealed, "He has to give me a summary of what was in whatever I give him or he's not allowed out. Try and escape my hospital again and I'll be giving you the same treatment, you hear me?" The woman asked, poking a finger where she'd flicked him earlier.

Biting his lip on the sarcastic 'If I can read', he smothered his amusement as quickly as he could. A very small part of him wanted to joke, sass, and make no promises if only to see what her reaction would be… but his grandmother didn't raise no fool. He didn't know what kind of person the medic was or how she'd react to it just yet, best save that for later.

"I hear you." He coughed, fighting back a snort. He knew when to pick his battles. Besides, if she tried to hold him to his 'promise' of good behaviour, he could always say he was just answering her question of whether or not he could hear her.

It was a perfectly valid loop-hole.

There was a clatter, a chair being pulled close to his bedside and the wheels of the bedside table being moved. The chime of curtain rings across metal rods. The windows of the room? Curtains around his bed? Were there curtains around his bed like there would have been at Hogwarts? He honestly couldn't tell.

"So, let's get this started, shall we?" his medic began conversationally in a very obvious attempt to get him to feel more comfortable with her. Finally, he needed his eyes. He was going stir-crazy without them. "I hear you've managed to eat properly? Good job. I'm going to start unwinding your bandages now so keep your eyes closed for me until I tell you to open them."

Focusing on her gentle hands as she unwound the gauze from his head, he had to grab fistfuls of the blanket covering his legs in order to stop himself from trying to hasten her or 'help'. He didn't have to keep it up for long as the medic was very efficient about it, removing the gauze and pads away from his eye-sockets just as he felt himself twitch.

Something wet was wiped across first his right eye and then his left, the medic lightly swatted his unknowingly moving hands away from his face and chakra filled his vision in rippling waves of mint green. The child inside him had him clinging to the trailing edge of what must be her sleeve and he leaned into the touch as it numbed and washed away pain.

"Does that hurt at all?" the woman asked.

"No." he slurred slightly, feeling a little drunk on the relief and the teenager he used to be clung a little more tightly at her sleeve so she wouldn't stop doing whatever she was doing. "You just made the pain go away." He hadn't known it had been that bad until it was gone.

The woman muttered something inaudible to herself and then started talking more clearly. "Among other things the Sharingan grants the Uchiha wielding it resistance against light. From the report I read you had just awakened your bloodline limit, but only at its most basic level. The pain and sensitivity are a result of the trauma of… the incident forcing your bloodline limit into full maturity. A shock like that to the nervous system is like whacking a beehive with a stick, you basically woke up every nerve in your eyes all at the same time. You may be built to handle that kind of stimuli, but—"

"You… you said I'm not blind." he reminded her, feeling a sharp spike of fear lance through him. Losing the Sharingan was one thing, he honestly couldn't care less about that, losing his eyesight altogether? Had his escape from the hospital earlier completely ruined—

"You didn't blind yourself, that much I can tell you."

The breath whooshed out of him in relief.

"How much of your vision you'll keep remains to be seen." The medic continued, "I've honestly never had to treat an Uchiha with this kind of extensive damage. I'll heal what I can and will continue to treat you for as long as you need it, but… you may never be able to regain use of the Sharingan. You have it, but as you are right now the chakra channels around your eyes are too weak and fragile to support it at its current level, if they ever will. There is a chance you'll be able to forge new connections in the future, but it's honestly a long-shot and until your nerves calm down you're going to be sensitive to basically everything."

There was no way the Clan Elders weren't going to hear the news. They had wanted a child 'genius' with the Sharingan to show off and now they couldn't. It would be easy to make them think they'd destroyed what they sought so zealously; even if it turned out that they hadn't, now they'd have to live with the consequences. Not only had they basically 'crippled' him for the foreseeable future, but they also had to deal with the deaths of two elders, the imprisonment of one of their Jounin and the man's mother. All because they couldn't leave well enough alone.

His shoulders quivered with how hard he was suppressing Obito's urge to laugh and tears welled up in his eyes in response. A purr of satisfaction thrummed through him, emanating from the ball of hurt and pain that was his child-self, and it flushed his skin warm. The faction of Elders who'd been pushing at him for so long could stick that in their sake cups and drink it. It was almost too perfect. If he ever did manage to regain the use of the Sharingan, he would just keep the knowledge of it to himself. Screw everyone else!

Mistaking his shaking for grief over his perceived loss, the medic sat on the edge of his bed, curled her arm around him and rubbed comfort into his back. Scrubbing the reaction tears away with the back of his hands, he thoughtlessly blinked his eyes open and looked up.

When his eyes caught on the woman's sweet, heart-shaped face, he froze in the act of trying to stem the stream of tears leaking out of his eyes. The medic comforting him was a young woman somewhere in her twenties. She was extremely pretty and her perfectly bowed peach-pink lips were pressed together in concern, sleek platinum blond hair was bound back from her face in loose ponytails and her large, honey gold eyes, framed by thick long lashes, were utterly stunning… and she giving him all of her attention.

"Didn't I tell you not to open your eyes until I said you could?" The beautiful distraction scolded lightly as he winced his eyes half shut against the light. Cringing back, he raised an arm up to shield himself from the sheen of light playing across the gloss of her hair. He had to refocus his gaze on the dark blue of her coat instead and her perfect shoulder, it was easier to look at.

"I… I don't think I'm sorry. You're… a sight for sore eyes." he joked, feeling himself turn a little red.

A bark of laughter had his weeping eyes tracking the source.

"SAKUMO!" his medic roared abruptly, making him jump. Those striking gold eyes catching sight of the silver haired figure caught peering around the curtain separating the room. Her face twisted in anger, but surprisingly didn't detract from her beauty; it just made her more attractive. His previously harmless seeming medic now looked annoyed enough to take a bite out of something. Or someone. "WHY ARE YOU STANDING UP?! GET BACK IN BED!"

She was gorgeous.

He watched through tear blurred vision as the figure startled, flailed and then vanished, which had to be the smartest reflex anyone could have when faced with a lioness. The heavy thud of a body hitting the mattress of the next bed over came with a sharp, sucked in breath and a very familiar pained wheeze. His deceptively delicate-looking medic gritted her teeth, somehow slipped out of the grip he still had on her coat without him feeling it and launched herself over his bed to rip away the hospital curtains dividing their room and threw them to the side.

In the short time he'd been out of sight, the guy had arranged himself on the bed to look as if he'd never left it. He'd have been half convinced he'd been seeing things if the medic hadn't been gearing up for violence in response.

Faking a yelp, he shielded his eyes against the extra light he was exposed to. His eyes were still sort of numb from whatever the green chakra had been doing, but their medic looked like she was gearing up to commit assault on the idiot he was sharing a room with. That was the look of someone promising pain and it wasn't like Lumpy was in any condition to defend himself. The idiot still had trouble walking to the toilet and back.

The medic reacted to his fake-out just like Madam Pomfrey would have had though, and that was all that mattered. Within an instant there were hands over his eyes and mint green was once-again swamping his vision. There was a faint huff, and then he was slapped lightly upside the head. "You're fine kid. Don't try to distract me from a well-deserved smack-down of someone who should know better."

"Maybe I was just trying to keep your attention on me?" he tried, feeling his face flush a little more and ignored Lumpy's reaction, which was a very loud snerk. "I mean who wouldn't want your attention?" He went for a wink next, trying for the charm that had time and again gotten the Weasley Twins out of trouble with Mrs McGonagall, but a fat tear ruined it by rolling out of his eye as he closed it. All it earned him was a disbelieving snort and glowing green hands pressing into his chest and abdomen without any warning.

The medics in this world truly had no concept of personal space. Which wasn't all that bad right at this moment and coming from this particular medic. In between allowing himself to bask in her complete regard and Lumpy's attention, it was easier to push away the things he didn't want to think about and keep himself firmly cemented in the present.

"You know you're flirting with someone who could snap you in half?" Lumpy teased, and tracking the voice down had him blinking hard. Now that his eyes weren't blurred by tears… that wasn't a teenager.

"Excuse me, Miss Medic?" He tugged on his medic's sleeve to get her attention.

"That's Tsunade-sama to you." The woman corrected with a smirk.

"Tsunade-sama, I think I'm seeing things wrong." he pointed at the silver haired stranger. He wasn't going to just take Lumpy's teasing without giving as good as he got. "How is that an adult? He was acting like such a brat I thought for sure I thought I was sharing room with a teenager or— hang on. Did you just say Tsunade?" He blurted over Lumpy's offended sputter, cutting off his own fake-surprise as the real thing took over.

It was a bubble of bright, innocent surprise at the name, a small spark joy tinged with an unexpected sheen of excitement. "I've… heard that name before… Have we met?" he asked his medic curiously, absently tugging on the fabric of the sleeve still caught in his hands, demanding an answer.

"We've never met before." Tsunade responded with twist of her distracting lips. "But the Senju and Uchiha used to be rivals back before Konoha was founded, you might have heard about me through your clansmen."

"… Senju?" he tested the name on his tongue and nearly bit through it as kinder memories actually surfaced from the muck mire of darker thoughts. "As in the medic who makes the— the things!?" He tugged on her sleeve impatiently as the correct words escaped him and he dove into the positive emotion. "The things for burns!"

Senju Tsunade's surprise was every bit as lovely as her anger, though not nearly as exciting. "That's right, your file did say you were an Officer with the Military Police, is there anything else you remember about that?"

What?

"I— Military Police? What kind of idiot gives that much authority to an eight year old?" Harry asked, mouth dropping open in shock. "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard!"

"I dare you to say that to your clan head." Lumpy cackled.

Tsunade flicked her clipboard at him without looking and Lumpy caught it with his midsection, folded over it with a gurgle and very dramatically keeled over sideways.

Pulling his knees up, Harry pressed his face into them as the good mood evaporated. A police officer already at eight years old? That was— he had nothing to compare that to. He'd been a child. How was a child given that much responsibility? Military school student, police officer, orphan and now he was a grandson of a dead grandmother. It was no wonder Uchiha Obito had cracked under the stress so hard Harry had come through.

At least he'd been left with something. He had no intention of becoming a ninja, and being a police officer fell in line with his plans on how to deal with his schooling very neatly. He could very easily be able to continue on with being a police officer without becoming a ninja. If the Uchiha could make an eight-year-old a police officer, then they could deal with him staying a police officer when he flunked out of the Academy.

Senju Tsunade's fingertips carded through his hair, a gentle soothing motion as mint green enveloped his vision once more. His throat tightened as the eight-year-old inside him measured the touch up against his grandmother's and found it wanting.

It didn't even come close to holding a candle to it.

OoO

Things got busy for a while after the bandages around his eyes were removed.

In between getting him changed, checking his vitals and working with and around Senju Tsunade, other medics were constantly trying to feed him, or at least trying to make sure he was eating. He obediently took his medication whenever they gave it to him but it was weird to constantly have food shoved at him. It wasn't until the fourth or fifth 'snack' he was given for his appetite to wake all the way up and then it wasn't so weird. It was a way to get his stomach to stop complaining.

When he was deemed strong enough for it, Obito was scheduled for a surgery to fix his apparently damaged tear ducts. It was a quick procedure, or at least it seemed so from his perspective. One moment he was being prepped for surgery and the next he was aware, his vision was once again being swamped with mint green. He didn't even have to put up with bandages again like he half expected to, but he did have to wear a tinted set of bulky sunglasses that kept slipping down his face.

Whatever they were giving him was doing wonders for his chakra reserves though, which were replenishing at a steady rate. It wasn't something he'd never been conscious of before, but he had nothing else to do while waiting to be released from the hospital. Giving himself curious internal pokes helped drown out everything else he didn't want to actively think about.

It wasn't long afterwards that he realized he might be capable of slipping out of bed so he could make his way to the bathroom and back unassisted. His legs might have turned to jelly before he managed to make it all the way back to his own bed, but he was caught and pulled up into Lumpy's bed before his face met waxed linoleum.

It was a move he was pretty sure they both regretted.

"You could have just… let me drop." Obito muttered grumpily into Lumpy's shoulder, barely getting the words out as his eyes lidded to half mast, limbs shaking with exhaustion. So much for keeping his distance. Sakumo on the other hand, wheezed like he was a chain-smoking, arthritic old grandfather who'd just run a marathon, and that was just from leaning out of bed to scoop him up onto the mattress.

"… and miss out… on such a… nice warm… blanket?" the man coughed out, tucking him up against his side. There were a number of things he could have said to that, but he was honestly too exhausted to even try and being closer to him was strangely relaxing. Relaxing in a way that meant he could almost try sleeping.

Real sleeping. The kind of sleep he'd been missing out on because he was still desperately holding onto the faint Resonance humming inside him. Obito had kept his mouth shut when the medics whispered over his restlessness and had stubbornly clung to the last vestiges of his grandmother's chakra. He would nurse the fading embers for as long as he could, regardless of how much it set back his recovery. He wanted to immortalize it, to anchor the memory of it into his warped and broken mind so he'd never forget the feeling.

Was it ignorance or kindness that kept the medics from cancelling the Resonation he was still riding? Or were they just letting him keep it going out of concern that the loss of the extra chakra would kill him?

"You know Tsunade-sama is going to know about your little trip to the bathroom the second she comes in to look at you?" Sakumo said teasingly, floppy hand reaching up so he could card clumsy fingers through his hair.

"Yes, thank you Captain Obvious. As if it's hard to remember who belongs in which bed." He grouched pointedly, futilely trying to wriggle his way to freedom. Had he been positioned this way on purpose? He slumped and pillowed his head against the readily available shoulder. Might as well settle in, it wasn't like he could move, though if he ended up kneeing the man in the ribs it would not be his fault.

Obito grumbled as he felt the man's silent snicker rumble through him and felt himself start to drift off, weirdly comforted by sense of the man's chakra, the sensation of which was pulling him under effortlessly.

"… your chakra is weird." He observed in a mumble, eyes slowly shuttering despite himself. It was hard not to notice now that he was practically plastered to the guy. Contrary to what he was used to, which was something he could only describe as blue flame, Hatake Sakumo's chakra felt like faint bursts of light that flickered and sparked white.

"Rare, not weird." Lumpy corrected with a huff, but the skin around his eyes were crinkled in good humour. "You don't like it?"

It was very different from what he used to.

"… I don't hate it." He gave up trying to keep his eyes open and let them slide all the way closed. As far as he was concerned, 'different' was better than the familiar.

"I'll be taking that as a compliment." His roommate informed him, and he could hear the grin in his voice.

"Do whatever you want."

OoO

Lumpy needed a haircut.

The overly long strands of hair tickled where they were brushing against him, which was his left cheek, chin, forehead and that side of his nose as his face was practically smushed into the man's neck. It was honestly the first thing he thought when he next opened his eyes. He'd somehow moved upwards in his sleep and he was curled over the man's shoulder instead of tucked under his arm as he had been the last time he'd been aware of anything.

Sitting himself up wasn't the chore he was expecting it to be; the movement was sluggish, but easy. He was wobbly, but that felt more like it had something to do with the way his stomach was demanding food more than the shaking exhaustion that had him failing to make it back to his own bed earlier. He felt suspiciously like he did after an end-of-year adventure waking up in the hospital wing at Hogwarts, like he'd been asleep for days instead of hours.

"Oh? Welcome back to the land of the living! You took your time coming back." Hatake Sakumo said brightly, steadying him with one hand curling up around his back, setting down the medical journal he'd been reading through on the mattress and the man ruffled his hair with the other hand.

Snorting was something he discovered was impossible mid-yawn.

"You cuddled up to me the whole time! It was so cute I just had to ask the medics to let me keep you with me—owf~!" Lumpy was cut off by a clipboard hitting him square in the face.

"Do yourself a favour and take everything this guy says with a large grain of salt." Senju Tsunade drawled from the foot of the man's bed. "We asked him if it was alright to keep you in with him when we noticed how much less restless you were."

Reaching over to where Hatake Sakumo was laying prone on his back Harry lifted the edge of the clipboard. "You alright?"

The skin around the man's dark grey eyes crinkled subtly and his mouth twitched as a grin tugged at the corner of his mouth before smoothing out. "I think I broke something~!" Lumpy croaked theatrically, "Call me a medic?"

Nope, not playing along, that would just feed into the way he was teasing their overly violent medic. He wasn't going to help the man bait people into keeping him here longer. He gently lowered the clipboard back to where it had been.

"Hey~!" Lumpy laughed, pulling it off his face. "Rude!"

"The idea is to get out of hospital as soon as possible, not stack up more injures. Stop being mean to the nice medic."

"Out of the mouths of babies." Tsunade smirked, "Speaking of, looks like you're ready to go home." She said, eying him up and down before reaching forward with abruptly glowing green hands to check over his over his body and then his eyes. "You're going to be coming back to me on Monday every week for the next foreseeable future though, don't try to skip, I'll send out a genin team to drag you here if I have to."

All at once he was frozen, the breath caught in his throat and it was all he could do to stop himself from throwing himself backwards on top of the injured man behind him. No, he… wasn't ready. Home? Home didn't exist for him anymore. All that was left for him where home used to be was an empty house full of things he didn't want, emotional baggage he didn't need and a life he was expected to continue living. He made a desperate internal lunge for what was left of his grandmother's chakra, centred himself around the soothing presence and was reminded of the promise he'd made to her in the realm between Life and Death.

Fifty years' worth of stories. The scrolls she had hidden away for him to read under the floorboards in his room. He wondered how likely it was that his clan would let him back into his house unsupervised.

"— there we go, in and out." His medic was saying as he came back to himself. "Just keep breathing for me, nice and easy."

Evidently she'd scooped him up in the middle of his panic attack and had settled him up against her shoulder. Burying his face into her shoulder for a bit, he gripped the folds of her blue jacket tightly as he allowed himself to soak in the freely offered and instinctively given comfort. From what he could scrape together of Obito's memories, it would likely be the last of it he would get.

He would not be expecting or welcoming any such comfort from his clansmen, not after what had happened and he was going to need it if he was going to be going back to the clan compound for those scrolls.

OoO

For all the differences he'd noticed between this world and the last one, this felt like every other time he'd gotten out of the hospital wing on the finishing end of an 'adventure'. Senju Tsunade allowed him access to the bathroom on his own and he relished the freedom of it now that he had enough strength for it. He'd apparently spent three days unconscious earning it back.

Confused by the two rolls of bandages that had come with the fresh change of clothes, which had come in a packet stamped with what his brain was telling him was the logo of the Military Police, he wandered out of the bathroom after his shower holding them. Intending to ask either Lumpy or their medic why he'd been given them, he realized someone new had taken his medic's place in the room. Freezing uncertainly, his hands clamped tightly down on the gauze-like material and the words turned to ash in his mouth as his heart started racing.

Abruptly he was all too aware he was still bare foot and slightly damp, and aside from the soft rolls of material he was holding and the thin towel around his neck he had nothing to defend himself with. The bathroom window had been small, even his small body wouldn't have fit through that slit, and the air vent was welded shut. They really hadn't been joking when they said this floor of the hospital was secure.

A teenager was sitting in the chair that had been set next to bed he hadn't slept in since he'd worked himself unconscious on his last trip to the bathroom. Her chin length, straight black hair was pulled back away from her face on one side by a pin with the same logo he was now wearing on the back of his shirt. She got up as soon as she saw him and straightened the folds of her haori around her in deliberately slow movements.

"Hello Obito, do you remember me? I've come to bring you home."

An Uchiha. He didn't have to look up any further than her nose to confirm it, his chakra was already swirling in response to her presence, not violently as it had with Junko, but the movement was there all the same. An involuntary shift that sent a flush of heat through him and made him minutely grateful for the airy nature of the clothes he was wearing. His eyes skittered away from making direct eye contact with her and he was very suddenly grateful he'd grabbed the sunglasses he'd been given earlier on his way into the bathroom. Avoiding her eyes was that much easier with them on.

"I— no… I don't." He replied, keeping his memories of his life as Harry very deliberately at the forefront of his thoughts and very nearly bit his tongue to stop himself for apologizing for it.

"I'm your cousin, Uchiha Mikoto." The woman revealed, leaning forward. Her hair swung around to curtain around her face and she pushed it back with a distracted air. "Are you almost ready? We just have to wait for your medicine and for Tsunade-sama to release you. Are you hungry? I've brought you some lunch if you want it, I know what hospital food is like."

His stomach twisted at the idea of eating the food she was pressing into his busy hands, "I—I'm...". He swallowed and forced himself to calm down. There had been a moment there where he'd been tempted to kick her away and he'd have felt horribly guilty afterwards, now that he was this close to her he could see that she was heavily pregnant, the folds of her kimomo and haori had hidden it well.

"I'll have it if he doesn't want it!" Lumpy beggingly offered, his voice breaking the tension in the air. Locking onto them with the most effective puppy-dog eyes he'd ever seen on an adult.

"Okay." Harry agreed, taking the box of food being forced on him and moved away from the woman as fast as he could without making it seem like he was running away from her. "Um… do you know what these are for? I found them with the clothes?"

He held up the rolls of bandaging he had transferred to one hand as he passed the food to his roommate. He looked over his shoulder in the general direction of the pregnant teenager, making sure not to meet her eyes, even by accident, and offered her the chance to answer, knowing that the overgrown child in front of him would interrupt anyway.

He was kind of predictably incorrigible.

"Oh, those are—"

"For wrapping around the bottom of your pants to stop them flapping when you're running around." Sakumo interjected, peering into the lunchbox and brightening up like he'd just found treasure. "Oooh~! This looks good!"

When the man leaned over the box like he was about to take a nice big whiff, Harry hastily reached over and pinched the man's nose shut. "Remember what happened the last time you tried to sniff in here?" He asked dryly, raising an eyebrow as the man's quizzically amused expression melted away and his face whitened a shade or three.

"… ank oo."

"You're welcome."

"What happened last time?" Uchiha Mikoto asked lightly from directly behind him and he had to pretend he'd actually intended on crawling up onto Lumpy's bed rather than having been startled into the motion. He hadn't even heard her move!

Harry reminded himself he was dealing with a pregnant teenager and mimed the motion of throwing up instead of trusting his no-doubt wobbly voice to answer. Sakumo, mouth already stuffed full of food, got his revenge by force-feeding him a piece of chicken and his chopsticks were too fast to dodge. Blocking the man was impossible and soon he was chewing through a mouthful of rice and something sweet. "Quick, help me finish it before Tsunade-sama gets back!"

While he was busy unsuccessfully fending off being force-fed, Uchiha Mikoto laughed lightly. She zipped up his left shoe and tucked in a loose bit of gauze, and realized she must have picked up both his shoes and the rolls of gauze he'd dropped trying to stop Lumpy sharing his unexpected lunch and helped him put them on.

All without him noticing a thing until it was already over.

"Thank you for the meal!" Sakumo beamed brightly at Uchiha Mikoto, handing over the now-empty lunchbox. "Now please hide it!"

"Are you going to regret eating all that?" Mikoto asked with a smirk, wrapping the container up into a square of dark blue cloth patterned with more red and white logos.

"That was worth another few days in the hospital." Lumpy replied, making her laugh and before he even knew what was happening the man had taken the towel taken from around his neck and started rubbing the moisture from his hair for him.

"H—hey!" Harry complained, mouth finally free of food, snatching at the offending piece of fabric. "I can do that myself!"

"They're so cute at this age~!" The man cooed over his head as he righted himself. Was this a taste of what he was going to put up with in the future? All because he looked and sounded like an eight year old?

"I suppose I will have this to look forward to?" Uchiha Mikoto asked in mixed tones of amusement and wariness, a hand smoothing over her baby bump.

"Oh yeah. There's nothing more amazing! You'll never forget or get over that moment when they look at you for the first time and smile, and then the next thing you know they're all independent and get all huffy like this." Lumpy cooed, his hands continuing to tousle his hair dry. "They grow so fast!"

"You have a kid?!" he heard himself ask incredulously. That poor, lucky assho— child.

Lumpy paused in his drying to grin down at him, "Yup, his name Hatake Kakashi!"

Harry face-palmed before he could stop himself, the pun was that bad. "Oh god, you really are terrible at naming things. That poor kid." For some reason this statement was met with silence and when he looked up both adults were smoothing away grimaces.

"You were classmates with him for a while." Mikoto revealed gently, "You don't remember?"

There it was, the opening he was looking for, a way to prove to his Clan the legitimacy of his scrambled memories. Regardless of how sweet and disarming she was coming across, she was still an Uchiha and the feel of her chakra was never going to let him forget it.

Harry stared at them, and then narrowed his eyes, revelling in the sudden tension in the room though being very careful not to let any of that show on his face or demeanour.

"What's he look like?" he asked, burying himself in memories of the many students at Hogwarts.

Mouths dropped open just a little bit, and Harry waited for it, years of keeping a straight face around the Dursleys and in the Magical World coming in useful in a way he never would have imagined.

"I— I had heard you were having trouble with your memories, but I didn't think it would be so pronounced… Please excuse me, I need to go find Tsunade-sama." Uchiha Mikoto was out the door and gone, off to chase down the medic treating him and he was left alone with Hatake Sakumo again.

"I notice you didn't say 'friends', I take it we didn't get along?" Harry asked, proud of the way he managed to filter the dryness out of the question.

Sakumo's smile looked more like a grimace.

"Aha, I guess that's… one way to put it."