Disclaimer: Naruto isn't mine. If it was, apparently it would take two years for the next chapter to come out.

Author's Note: I'm really sorry about the long wait. I've been sick, and then it took me a while to get back into the story. I've got most of the next chapter already figured out, so hopefully it'll be posted sometime in the next couple of weeks. Thank you to everyone who's still reading this.

I've still got the same beta, but they've got their own account now. Beta-ed by Hollowed Soul.

Last Time With Obito

Over these last four days, Obito had done a lot of thinking.

During the fight, Obito would have died within a second had Kakashi not been there.

He hadn't been able to protect Rin either. Hell, she was even making more progress than he was. Even if she didn't have any medical training yet, their sensei insisted that she would make a great medic based on her current abilities.

Therefore, Obito had made several promises to himself.

The first was that he wasn't going to wait for a bloodline that may not ever activate. There were plenty of powerful ninja without the sharingan after all.

Next, he would start doing whatever he could to improve himself. He would accept help from their sensei, and even ask his teammates to train with him, provided Kakashi wasn't angry that Obito had been completely useless in the fight and refused to help.

And finally, he was no longer going to try and impress his clan. They had obviously never cared about him, and never would. Not even that, they treated him like dirt. Even if he somehow managed to become an elite ninja, he sure as hell didn't want to think of them as his motivation anymore.

Last time with the Hokage

"Hokage-sama, orders?" Shikata questioned.

They had met up two hours prior, after taking the time to draw their conclusions. From there they had compiled all of their theories.

"For now we'll continue our research discreetly. Unfortunately, Jiraiya needs to leave immediately to meet with a contact, and cannot pursue this matter further. Minato-kun's team has been instructed to report in if they remember anything more. I wish to speak with Kakashi-kun tomorrow morning if Tsunade will allow it. For now I also want an ANBU trailing Nohara Rin. Only the four in this room and the assigned ANBU will know of this mission. Both Nohara Rin and Uchiha Obito will be restricted to the village until further notice. We don't want to alert her to any of our suspicions if she is somehow a threat," he instructed before dismissing them for the night.

Last Time with Rin

"It's very nice to meet you Mandou-san," she said politely.

He gave a smile and short bow back.

"The pleasure is mine Rin-chan. Your mother has told me a lot about you," he replied, accepting the jacket from her mother and putting it on.

"Unfortunately I have to get going. I've got a meeting across the village. I do hope we can talk again," he told her, and gave another bow as he left.

Her mother was now looking at her uncertainly.

"I know I should have talked to you before inviting him into our home, but…" Rin shook her head.

"It's fine Mom, I don't mind. He seems nice. I have to get cleaned up and report to Hokage-sama though, so I'll have to wait to tell you about everything," she told her mother.

Besides, while most C-ranks weren't considered worthy of a classified status, she had the feeling that hers would be. There would be little that she could reveal, even if given permission, anyway. She didn't want her mother to know that she'd been in that much danger on a C-rank mission.

Her mother's eyes widened in surprise, but she nodded. After all, a genin reporting directly to the Hokage was a very big deal.

"Of course. That comes first, but hurry back. I'll be making your favorite breakfast," she bribed.

Rin grinned at that.

"Okay, I will," she promised, before hurrying to take a quick shower.

Last Time with Danzou

Turning to another page made him pause, before he smirked.

Someone had accessed the autopsy of Hatake Sakumo, and only a month ago. A copy of that was present, and as he read the initial report his smirk grew, realizing the importance of what he had been given.

This would take looking into, but in the meantime, he would like to see the boy's skills first hand. For the next couple of weeks, while the Hatake recovered, Danzou would finalize his plans.

Now seemed like a good time to reach out to a like-minded individual.

Last Time with the Hokage and Shikaku

"Whoever did this isn't done with him. Inoichi said it himself. Once the memories were recovered they were completely clear until the boy turned to look at the intruder. They didn't suppress the memories because they were caught. They suppressed them because it was their original goal. When you look at it this way it's likely not a Yamanaka, but an Uchiha makes sense. Whoever did this needed the kid to see them in order to affect his memories. They didn't wish to be caught and made themselves impossible to identify when they could have easily snuck out of the room without being noticed," Shikaku explained, making the Third frown.

"You're saying that eventually Kakashi-kun was supposed to know that his father was murdered. If that's the case then you're implying…" he trailed off.

This was a dangerous theory to have. So far he had been working under the assumption that the original goal was that a Konoha ninja was trying to force Kakashi to be loyal to the village.

"That whoever did this wanted Kakashi to think that he witnessed a Konoha ninja killing his father, yes. Either way you look at it, the kid would break through the suppression on his own and started questioning why a murderer would want him to be completely loyal to his village, or the murderer was waiting for the right time to undo it and convince him that he had caught a Konoha ninja in the act. Even though he would never remember the face, it wouldn't make much difference. Inoichi has said in the past that children's memories aren't reliable and the boy would accept that explanation. Besides, it wouldn't be hard to convince him that you ordered his memories sealed to ensure that he remained loyal to Konoha," Shikaku finished grimly.

Fugaku's POV (Two Week Time Skip)

Ever since Fugaku had become clan head, he'd had to deal with one thing after another.

He'd had no idea when he'd been handed the position that it would be so exhausting, and he hadn't even done much that he would consider "real" clan duties, as the majority of his time was spent dealing with Kurako and Shiro.

Just yesterday he'd finally succeeded in convincing the two to give up on their plans regarding his son after one of the clan doctors had tested Itachi's chakra.

Usually this wasn't done on children younger than three because it was a fairly difficult, and the results were usually inconclusive at that age. Before the age of three, chakra was usually uniform among those tested and so it was no guarantee about future chakra levels.

Fugaku had run out of options though, and he needed to secure his son's safety. Besides, he had reasoned that Itachi had genes from two highly skilled, naturally talented ninja, both of whom had achieved their sharingan at fairly young ages. So he'd gambled that it was possible that Itachi's chakra levels would be above average for his age group. It had put Itachi in a bit more danger initially because if the numbers had come back as below average, Kurako and Shiro might have become more persistent to go through with their plans.

Thankfully, it had paid off. Itachi possessed nearly double the chakra levels found in children his age, and the advisors had conceded that the toddler would be more beneficial to their clan alive than dead.

Despite this, Fugaku could no longer tolerate the two.

Yes, his son was now safe, but he should have never been in danger in the first place. As clan head, his order were meant to be followed by the rest of the clan, regardless of their position.

Besides, the two advisors were furious that Fugaku had gone against them, and were making his job as clan head much more difficult. Kurako and Shiro had been sending in proposal after proposal for things ranging from improvements to the police force, to clan housing.

Though Fugaku had a good grasp of most of the clan laws, it was only after becoming clan head that he had been given access to the archives, which held a great deal more information. In addition to that, he also had to compare the requests against Konoha's own laws for a majority of the proposals, considering construction and the police force fell partially under the village's jurisdiction.

Fugaku was almost certain that the two had purposefully left the archives a mess, and it was difficult to find much of anything.

On top of that, he received these proposals, marked "urgent," at highly inconvenient times. This morning, one had been delivered before dawn. After looking it over he had decided it was something that could wait, and he would have liked to get some more rest.

Unfortunately, though she was no longer on active duty, a ninja never truly retired. Mikoto had been requested for a mission outside of the village three days ago, and it marked the first time that she had been away from home since Itachi's birth.

The toddler was definitely aware of her absence.

Itachi had taken hours to fall asleep the night before, and had started screaming as soon as there had been a knock on the door around midnight. So, after a couple of restless hours of sleep, Fugaku was now in his office, working again.

Itachi was finally calm now, and was scribbling on a coloring book in his playpen in Fugaku's office as Fugaku went over a request from yet another clan member to expand his home. Though Fugaku hated to agree with his advisors about anything, lack of space was quickly becoming a problem.

Originally, the Uchiha clan had taken over a small amount of land in the southwest at the request of the Second Hokage. Unfortunately, they couldn't increase their land with all of the development now surrounding them, and any of their members moving out was out of the question.

The land hadn't been theirs by choice. Originally they would have preferred to have more freedom of movement. The Second Hokage had specifically allocated this portion of the village to them though, and not as a reward, but as a way to keep an eye on them. Even now, it was fairly obvious to Fugaku that the Third took after his predecessor, and distrusted the clan.

Though he wouldn't admit to it, the man was scrutinizing them very closely, which was another reason that Fugaku could not afford for anything to go wrong when he'd just achieved his station. That was the main reason why Fugaku hadn't reported Kurako and Shiro. Internal issues needed to be handled within the clan, or the Uchiha would be seen as even more unstable.

A knock at the door made him growl in annoyance. The constant disruptions had left him with a chronic headache.

He rose, and gathered his son from the playpen, earning a whine of protest from Itachi as he dropped the crayon he had been using to color the wall next to his playpen a bright green, before carrying him to the door.

Without saying a word, the chuunin outside handed him a file the instant he opened the door.

"Another request from the advisors?" he asked, not even bothering to keep the resignation out of his voice as he maneuvered Itachi to flip the folder open.

His jaw clenched as he looked it over.

It had nothing to do with the two.

This information should have already been given to him. Any mission above D-rank was to be reported immediately, and this one especially. It wasn't everyday that a genin faced an S-ranked missing nin and survived.

Fugaku was far from impressed though. The boy had broken protocol when he hadn't reported the mission directly to him as soon as he'd returned, and it was likely he had been nothing more than a distraction while his team had done the actual work.

Fugaku would have to deal with the boy's insubordination. It had gone on for long enough.

Minato's POV (The Next Day/ New Year's Eve)

Minato yawned tiredly as he turned to the next page in his book with his right hand, as he leaned on his left. He had been up since early that morning, for once not due to one of Kakashi's nightmares.

Right now Kakashi actually seemed to be sleeping alright. At least, he hadn't woken up screaming, or rushed to the bathroom to throw up. His chakra hadn't been fluctuating enough to indicate a nightmare either.

The boy had probably finally just been too exhausted to dream.

Kakashi hadn't been getting more than an hour of sleep at a time since they had returned to the village over a week ago, and it was making Minato and Kakashi's ninken completely exhausted as well. Right now Bull, Shiba, and Pakkun were sleeping on the couch, trying to catch up on their sleep.

Unfortunately, Minato hadn't had any luck getting Inoichi to speak with Kakashi since they had returned from their mission, and Kakashi refused to talk with Minato about his nightmares.

His fellow blond was confined to the village for now, after the last Ino-Shika-Cho mission, but that didn't mean that Inoichi had fewer responsibilities. Not only was Inoichi working nearly full time in the Torture and Interrogation Division now, but he had also taken on an apprentice at the Hokage's request.

As to why he was up so early, he needed to have time to work on his new seal, an offshoot of his current locator seal. Otherwise he'd never have time to finish it before war was finally declared.

Minato's current seal was only temporary.

The seal he had stitched into his student's clothing, and he frequently renewed on his weaponry, lost its effectiveness after about 72 hours, less if it was exposed to too much chakra that shorted his out. They didn't work again until he channeled more chakra into them. In some cases, he needed to reapply the entire seal.

The same seal, which he physically transferred to people and objects during battle took even less time to degrade.

Plus, as it was now, the seal was fairly large. It had a lot of potential though, and he'd spent several hours after returning to the village talking it over with Jiraiya while they waited to make their reports.

Minato's current goal was to reduce its size, and eventually forge it into a weapon that would hold it permanently.

The first thing he needed to do was get around the seal degradation. So he'd spent the morning researching the properties of the materials used in forging weaponry. The type of metal, as well as the heating process, would affect the way the seal held together. He needed to know if he could set his seal into metalwork permanently, otherwise there was little point in working towards the rest of his goal.

Usually Kakashi would be up by now, exhausted or not. However, both today and tomorrow were holidays for most ninja, and at the rank of chuunin, Kakashi wouldn't be needed for any missions during this time unless it was an absolute emergency.

Today was New Year's Eve, and there was a celebration later, which took place every year at a set of joint training grounds. It was usually only attended by ninja and their families.

Sakumo had brought Kakashi to several of them before he had died, but after that Minato had only been able to talk the boy into attending the midnight celebration, where very few people were present.

For the most part, the rest of the ninja headed home to be with their families to welcome in the New Year.

Normally Minato would have pushed the chuunin to attend, especially since Rin and Obito had both invited Kakashi to come, and had been highly disappointed when he'd refused. However, even though he was too tired to do much of anything, and he was going against Tsunade's orders, Kakashi was still trying to force himself to remain busy. He had thrown himself into the basic seal training that Minato had provided, and was making trips to the Inuzuka Clinic to help out as much as he could there when Minato had restricted any physical training.

So, right now the boy was too tired to do much of anything, and Minato had finally gotten him to promise that he'd rest for the next two days, especially since he couldn't visit the Inuzuka during the holidays.

Minato had just flipped to the next page of his book, and started reading about gold etchings, when there was a knock on the door. Quickly answering it, he frowned when he saw one of the Hokage's messengers standing there. The man sketched a quick bow in respect to his rank.

"Namikaze-san, Hokage-sama requests your presence immediately," he informed Minato, taking off before Minato could formulate a response. Wasting no time, Minato quickly grabbed his jacket. Other than an increase in patrol, even most jounin were given time off to spend with their families.

"Pakkun," he called, looking back to see the pug open one eye blearily from where he was sleeping next to Bull.

"I'm heading out, possible mission," he said. Pakkun just grunted in acknowledgement, and rolled over to go back to sleep.

It took Minato barely a minute to reach the Third's office, and the secretary allowed his entrance into the room immediately, announcing his arrival as she did so. As soon as the door had closed behind him, he looked over the people already present. It had to be something big to warrant calling in two of the Legendary Sannin, and the Ino-Shika-Cho team.

On the right side of the room, Akimichi Chouza was patiently waiting for the meeting to start.

To the large man's left sat Tsunade, who had dark bags under her eyes, likely having just come off of a long shift at the hospital. She glanced in his direction, gave a nod in greeting, and turned back to where her teacher, the Hokage was sitting in his seat behind the desk, talking with Inoichi, Shikaku, and Jiraiya. M

inato had never seen his former teacher looking this grim. They all looked over at him when they saw that he had arrived, before turning away to continue their discussion.

Having been more or less dismissed, he took a seat next to Tsunade.

"Do you have any idea what this is about?" Minato asked quietly. The blond woman shook her head.

"I was just finishing up a surgery when the messenger came. Little brat didn't even wait to answer my questions before taking off," she grumbled in annoyance.

"It looks like everyone's here," they turned to see Jiraiya moving to take a seat as the conversation ended, and Shikaku got the meeting started.

"We'll fill in Tsume, and Kushina when they return from Sora-ku," the Third said in agreement.

"What's this about Hokage-sama?" Chouza asked. It looked like his teammates had left him out of the loop as well, if he was just as clueless as the rest of them. The Third gestured to Inoichi and Shikaku instead of answering, and Inoichi stepped forward.

"As some of you know, there have been some things that have come to light regarding Hatake Kakashi," he started.

That wasn't what Minato had been expecting at all. Yes, he knew that Inoichi and Shikaku were both investigating, but why were all of these high profile ninja going to be looking into Sakumo's murder?

Inoichi answered that quickly, beginning his explanation, with Shikaku adding in bits and pieces here and there. All of the beginning Minato had heard, as the two rehashed all of their suspicions, however, apparently Shikaku had some new theories.

"Someone killed an elite jounin to turn a four-year-old against the village?" Tsunade finally asked in disbelief after a long silence, summing everything up easily.

"That's our best theory at the moment, or at least, they were after the boy for another reason, and they still have plans for him," Shikaku confirmed.

"That's completely ridiculous. Unless he has a bloodline or something," Minato argued, in complete agreement with Tsunade. Kakashi had shown a lot of promise at the age of four, but to set up something so elaborate when Kakashi may well have died during combat in his first mission made no sense.

"Are we sure he doesn't? What about his mother?" Chouza asked reasonably.

Minato shook his head.

Though Kakashi's mother, Sayuri had no records of any family, it hadn't taken much for Minato to discover which clan she had come from. At first he had just wanted to find out if Kakashi had any family that might want to take him in. What he'd found though, made him keep it quiet.

"She was a Sakurano," Jiraiya said before Minato could answer, which actually explained everything.

Ninja clans were usually the only family names known village-wide. The Sakurano clan however, was fully civilian, something that they made sure everyone was aware of. The family was one of the richest in the village, and publicly showed their disdain for ninja. It hadn't been hard to reach the conclusion that expressing interest in becoming a ninja had been cause enough for Sayuri's clan to disown her.

"Exactly. Besides, before she fell ill she was subpar as a ninja. After she became ill she was tested frequently in an attempt to find a cure, and a bloodline would have been found," Inoichi added.

"Wouldn't it have been a hell of a lot easier just to kidnap the brat and be done with it, or even have waited until he had a mission outside of the village and go after him?" Tsunade asked.

Shikaku nodded.

"That's why I'm fairly certain that this was done by someone within the village," he replied.

"Looking at it that way, if they had taken Hatake from the village, their absence would be noticed, and a ninja defecting receives much more scrutiny than a child disappearing, and it also explains why we have no reports of someone infiltrating the village around that time," Shikaku explained.

"So basically we just need to keep an eye on the brat," Tsunade said.

"Essentially yes," Inoichi agreed.

"Nothing too extreme, but take note of anyone that's around him frequently, it's possible that the individual may be from my clan, but from the way that the murder was carried out, we're fairly certain that we need to focus most of our attention on the Uchiha," he explained.

"So why are you investigating this if your clan might be involved? Isn't that a conflict of interest?" Tsunade asked with a frown.

Inoichi nodded.

"I'm the one that started the investigation Tsunade-sama. The way that the technique worked to erase Kakashi-kun's memory seemed to start as soon as he looked at the intruder. That, to me, suggests that the killer is more likely an Uchiha. We can't rule out my clan though, since we utilize techniques that have similar effects. Shikaku will be evaluating everything we find, as I admit, I may be a bit biased. However, if there is a traitor within my clan, they need to be caught, and I'm in the best position to keep an eye on them. The rest of you will be taking note of any interactions that Hatake has, especially focusing on my clan, and the Uchiha clan. Take note of anything suspicious though," he instructed.

"Aside from Shikaku and Chouza, all of you, as well as Tsume, and Kushina, interact with Kakashi-kun on a regular basis. It won't be that suspicious if you're seen around him. Shikaku will continue his investigation, and Chouza will be additional assistance," the Third explained.

" Are we supposed to keep all of these people away from Kakashi?" Minato asked.

That would be nearly impossible, Minato knew. The Uchiha and Yamanaka clans were both fairly large, and it was inevitable that Kakashi would eventually need to go on a mission with one sooner or later.

Shikaku shook his head.

"Your old teammate might be part of this, and she might get suspicious if you're suddenly avoiding her. Just avoid allowing the Hatake to be alone with any Uchiha, and you should be fine," he said reasonably, or at least, he must have thought it was reasonable.

"Wait, are you accusing Mikoto of trying to hurt Kakashi?" Minato demanded, rising to his feet, and then turned to see Jiraiya shifting guiltily.

"Jiraiya-sensei, do you honestly think she'd do something like that? She used to play with Kakashi when we'd visit Sakumo-san," Minato growled.

Mikoto had only been Minato's teammate for a short while, moving to another team when Minato had reached chuunin rank. And, while Mikoto hadn't been around Kakashi as much as Minato had, having been studying her clan duties during most of her free time, she had adored Kakashi. She still made sure to talk with Kakashi whenever Kushina would bring her over.

"The thing is Minato, she's extremely loyal to her clan. I don't want to think she would do something like this either, but we have to take precautions. Besides, even if she isn't part of this, if it looks like we're changing how we act around her, the ones that are guilty might realize we know something," Jiraiya defended.

Minato glared at him for it, opening his mouth to argue, only to have Shikaku cut him off.

"Unfortunately, until you have proof, she's a suspect. Arguing won't make any difference. Now, unless you have any other concerns that we can actually address, that was everything," Shikaku said, waiting for any questions.

"Are we reporting our findings to Hokage-sama?" Chouza asked. "Or to me, it'll be easier if you and Inoichi come into the Nara Forest. The rest will have to decide what appears the least suspicious," Shikaku replied with a shrug.

"Does the brat know about any of this?" Tsunade asked.

"No," Minato said, forcing down his alarm at the thought. Kakashi was anxious enough as it was. There was no need to add to that by telling him he was in danger within his own village. He'd never sleep again.

"Hatake is currently aware that his father was murdered, and he's intelligent enough that it's likely he has his suspicions about the killer's identity. However, he is unaware of our investigation, and at least for now we need to keep it that way," Inoichi said firmly.

"And we aren't worried about Kakashi-kun trying for revenge?" Chouza asked with a frown.

"You don't know what he thinks about all of this. You said it yourself, it was probably a Konoha ninja that killed his father. Then it was covered up. If I was a child that heard that a Konoha ninja killed my father, and nobody did anything about it, I would assume that the killer was carrying out Hokage-sama's orders, and maybe even do what you're all worried about and turn against the village," he reasoned.

"He won't," Inoichi said, and Minato frowned.

While he didn't want to think that of Kakashi, and doubted the boy would do anything like that, Inoichi seemed so certain about what he was saying.

"I've spoken with Kakashi-kun. He assumes that the killer held a grudge against his father for the failed mission, and was trying to force Kakashi-kun into following the shinobi rules, as if it was his father's dying wish," he explained.

"They certainly succeeded in that," Tsunade muttered, earning a nod from Minato.

Had he asked Kakashi a few months ago whether he would save his teammates lives or complete a mission, he had no doubt that Kakashi would have chosen to complete the mission.

There was a long silence, before the Hokage spoke again.

"If those are all of the questions, I will see most of you at the New Year's Eve celebration this afternoon. Minato, stay behind," he requested, dismissing the others.

Minato frowned as the door closed behind Jiraiya.

"We have a few things to discuss," the Third told him, handing him a folder.

Tsume's POV

Tsume resisted the urge to groan as the elderly woman left the room to get some more tea, wishing that this nightmare was over. Currently, she was in the kitchen of a small building in Sora-ku, waiting for her host to sign a contract.

Every year, Kousuke Hibari, an elderly retired kunoichi generally known as Nekobaa-san, hosted a New Year's Eve party. She invited mostly members of the Uchiha clan, but several other ninja that worked with nin-animals warranted an invitation as well.

Tsume had been invited every year since she had become a genin, and she would usually spend her time in the rundown village just wandering with Kuromaru, or picking out weaponry from some of the black marketers after the breakfast Nekobaa-san put together for the group. The weaponry within Sora-ku came from all over, and sometimes there would be something interesting that she'd buy.

This year was different.

Usually the clan head of both the Uchiha and Inuzuka clan negotiated terms with the old woman. Though there were enough people living in Sora-ku that most supplies weren't an issue, it was difficult to find medicine for the ninneko, and so the Inuzuka clan supplied it to the Uchiha clan, which in turn made sure Nekobaa-san received it.

Tsume had observed enough meetings between her father and Nekobaa-san to know how to negotiate an appropriate price. Uchiha Mikoto was also attending the meeting, knowing more about the negotiations than her husband, and because Fugaku was fairly busy with New Year's preparations. Kuromaru had wandered off with Mikoto's guest Kushina to explore the area just after they had arrived.

It had taken the three women just under three hours to come to an agreement, and then, just before signing the contract, the old woman had declared her tea had gone cold, and left to get some more.

Next to her, Mikoto sighed in resignation, also bored, before turning to Tsume.

"So, how's Hana-chan?" she asked after a moment of slight hesitation.

Tsume and Mikoto didn't really know each other that well. Tsume had met the woman through Kushina when she'd visited Kakashi a couple of years ago, but usually the Uchiha didn't interact with other clans, and so the two really didn't know each other.

"She's doing great. I've started training her to track, though she thinks it's just hide-and-seek," Tsume explained.

"How's Itachi-kun?" she asked.

Mikoto grinned.

"He's just fine. Though he drove my husband nuts when I was away for my mission the last few days. I would have brought him, but, well," she gestured to the contract, and Tsume nodded.

There was no way the kid would have been able to sit still for the duration of the meeting. That had been why Tsume hadn't brought Hana with her.

"How is your husband? Does he like being clan head?" Tsume asked, and raised an eyebrow when Mikoto's smile became strained, and the woman hesitated, before nodding.

"You know how it is, he was just promoted, and he's been fairly busy trying to take over from my father," Mikoto explained.

Tsume did know. She'd been doing everything for the clan recently, ever sense Isamaru had died. Isamaru had been her father's ninken for the past thirty years, and he was taking the loss very hard.

"We'll have to get our children together sometime. There are only a couple of kids near my son's age in the clan, and it'd be good for him to get out of the compound," Mikoto suggested, and Tsume nodded.

She doubted it would happen. It was one thing to offer, but the Uchiha kept outsiders away from their children, and tried their best to limit interactions between their schoolmates and teammates when they attended the Academy and joined teams after graduation.

"It would be nice for Hana-chan to have a normal playdate. Right now she spends all of her time with the ninken. Sometimes Kakashi-kun visits, but he's not exactly what I'd call normal," Tsume said, grinning so that Mikoto would know she was joking.

Mikoto snorted, or at least, on anyone but an Uchiha, Tsume would have called it a snort, but Uchiha didn't do such things.

"No, definitely not. I haven't seen him a while. Is Kushina still trying to get him to use her name?" she asked.

Mikoto had given up on that a few years before. Kakashi was determined to keep himself distant from everyone.

"Better. He calls her nee-chan," Tsume confided, and Mikoto's jaw dropped.

"No fair. I saw him first," Tsume would have assumed she was whining, and pouting, if those were things that Uchiha did.

Before their conversation could continue, Nekobaa-san returned.

"Here we are Mikoto-chan, Tsume-chan," Nekobaa-san said, carrying the fresh pot of tea into the room, and then starting to get situated.

Tsume saw Mikoto's eye twitch out of the corner of her eye, and Tsume clenched her teeth before she could say anything rude to the woman about how long it was taking her to get on with everything.

"Now then, where were we?" the woman asked at last, reaching out for the contract. Thankfully, before the whole thing went on any longer, the woman pulled the ink and the brush to her before carefully signing her name.

"Is everything in order?" Tsume asked, hoping the woman didn't hear the impatience in her voice.

"Yes, yes, our contract is renewed for another year. Now, on to the next piece of business," the older woman said, and Tsume resisted the urge to bang her head against the table.

It would be time to go home soon in order to finish her preparations for her clan's New Year's party, so that she could attend the ninja New Year's Eve party. The older woman moved around behind them, and exited the building for a moment.

Tsume weighed the pros and cons of just leaving, even as she met Mikoto's gaze, and was certain the other woman was doing the same thing.

Both knew that they couldn't though. While Nekobaa-san seemed like a nice woman, Tsume had seen her lose her temper, and definitely didn't want to have to deal with that. Thankfully, Nekobaa-san came back quickly, carrying a small blanket, or at least, what Tsume initially thought was just a blanket.

"This little one is the only surviving member of his litter. Unfortunately his mother abandoned him. From what I can tell, he seems fairly healthy. I would like you to take him back to Konoha with you when you return, and if you think he'd be a good fit, I would like to see Kakashi-kun take him in," the woman explained. She folded back the blanket to reveal a very small puppy that gave a small whine at being exposed to the cool air around it.

Next to her, Mikoto put both hands over her mouth, obviously trying hard not to squeal at how cute the puppy was. Tsume carefully accepted the puppy, resituating the blanket to settle him in her arms.

Nekobaa-san had always had a soft spot for Kakashi. Though he hadn't been the nicest when Tsume had invited him to Sora-ku five years ago, Pakkun's loyalty to the boy had impressed the older kunoichi, and she'd sent him an invitation every year since.

Kakashi had only accepted once since then. Pakkun and Urushi had hated Sora-ku after they had been beaten up by a couple ninneko-in-training. Kakashi hadn't accepted this year's invitation either.

"He's fairly young. He hasn't been weaned yet has he?" she asked, carefully lifting the puppy from the blankets, even as he whimpered and squirmed.

Nekobaa-san shook her head.

"Though it should only be a couple more days. I just don't particularly trust the genin team delivering our supplies to get him back to the village safely, and besides, it'll be over a month until the next delivery."

Tsume didn't blame her. Even a genin team with one of her own clan members likely wouldn't possess the knowledge to take care of such a young puppy. Besides, by the time a suitable team arrived to take him, the puppy might be too old to start chakra training.

"Well, I can take him with me. I'm just not sure if Kakashi-kun will be able to raise him. He added two puppies to his pack on his birthday," she explained.

Nekobaa-san nodded in understanding.

"Well, ask him, and let me know what's decided," she requested. Tsume nodded, as she continued her inspection.

Obito's POV

He was hungry as he waited near the site of the party for Rin to arrive so that they could show up at the party together.

For once he was early, and while under any other circumstances he thought it might be funny to see his teammate's reaction to his presence, he was more worried than anything else.

He thought he had been doing alright, that staying out of the way of his clan members as much as possible had kept their attention off of him.

That was, until Fugaku had demanded his report from their mission and he'd lost his temper.


Obito had just picked up dinner for the night and was heading towards the annex through the back of the compound in order to avoid anyone, when he froze. Up ahead was Fugaku, who turned sharply at his arrival, glaring harshly.

"You've neglected to give me your mission report boy," Fugaku informed him.

"Report?" Obito asked in confusion, tensing and shifting into a more defensive stance as Fugaku walked towards him.

The man didn't strike him, but grabbed his arm, the one that he had previously fractured, tightly, and started to drag him towards the small entrance Obito had been using to get into the annex. Obito stumbled and winced as he nearly fell, only kept upright as the clan head moved in the direction of Obito's home before throwing open the door easily and shoving Obito inside.

"Everything that you do directly affects our clan. As such, any mission, C-rank or higher, must be reported directly to the clan head. I believe I have been extraordinarily patient in waiting for your long overdue report," Fugaku told him, taking a step inside.

Obito had righted himself before he'd slammed into the wall and gave a short nod. Alone with the clan head was the last place he wanted to be, and he quickly tried to get out of it.

"I can write it up and -," "

I don't have time to waste tracking you down again to correct your oversights. A verbal report. Now," Fugaku ordered sharply, taking a threatening step forward.

Obito backed further until he hit the wall behind him.

"It was a C-rank delivery mission to the Land of Tea, but it's classified," Obito told him quickly.

"Classified?" that seemed to annoy Fugaku even more.

"You are an Uchiha, though it pains me a great deal to admit that, and therefore you have a duty to your clan to report your conduct on your missions," he informed Obito sternly.

Obito resisted the urge to gape at the man. He wanted him to disobey the Hokage? "

It's classified," Obito repeated desperately, pushing further back against the wall as Fugaku took another couple of steps forward.

"I don't care if it's classified boy. You are an Uchiha, and I am your clan head, even if it pains me to admit such things," he said.

"I didn't do much on the mission, honest. It was all Kakashi," Obito argued weakly.

That had obviously been the wrong thing to say, as the man's sharingan sprang to life.

"The Hatake," he spit out the name as though it was a curse and Obito flinched.

"The traitor's son, is no one. He doesn't have the superior blood of the Uchiha. To rely on someone like that, you are weak," he hissed.

Obito glared.

"Kakashi's a chuunin, and he's better than anyone in this pathetic excuse for a clan," he defended.

That wasn't really saying much in his opinion, he was starting to think a rock was better than the people in his clan. Plus, it sounded like the only reason Fugaku was putting down Kakashi was because he wasn't an Uchiha. Had he been born into the clan, Obito was sure that Kakashi would have been one of their prized shinobi.

In retrospect he should have kept his mouth shut.

Fugaku had been so angry against the slight to the clan, as well as Obito's apparent incompetence, that he'd ordered Obito to leave and not return until he was willing to act his part as a clan member. To him, that effectively meant that he'd been disowned. He had no intention of doing as Fugaku demanded.

He only wished that he'd had a bit more time to prepare.

Right now he didn't have the money to rent an apartment for more than a month, two if the place was relatively cheap, and that didn't factor in his need to eat. Luckily he'd managed to grab his savings and some clothing before he'd been forced out, but that only slightly improved his situation.

"Obito-kun," Rin called, arriving at their meeting spot, and carrying a container of homemade dango.

Obito's stomach growled.

He'd spent the night wandering, and then the entire morning searching for an apartment, only grabbing a small snack when he'd gotten too hungry to ignore it.

"Hey Rin-chan. Is Bakashi coming?" he asked.

A couple of months ago he would have prayed that the answer was no. He couldn't stand the chuunin, and the feelings had obviously been mutual. Now though, Obito actually had to make things up to the other boy. Kakashi had been trying to be friendly, and cooperative for the last few months, and Obito had refused to acknowledge that, or make any effort to do the same.

Instead of the answer he was hoping for, Rin shook her head.

"Kakashi-kun's still recovering, but Minato-sensei said that we could visit him later if he's awake," she said.

Obito grumbled, but nodded.

Their plan today was to meet up with several of Rin's friends, their old classmates, at the party.

When he'd been in the Academy he'd spent the entire time hating most of them.

The other students had laughed at him, and mocked him for being dead last. At the time, he'd thought it was because he was an Uchiha, and they were jealous of his clan. Now he knew that it was all his fault.

The apartments in the area were all closed at night, so after he'd been kicked out, he'd had nothing to do but wander and think about things.

He had realized that the other kids probably wouldn't have been so cruel to him if he hadn't treated them like they were beneath him. Failing hadn't helped, he was sure, but even if he had been rookie of the year they probably still would have hated him just for his attitude.

"Rin-chan, Obito-kun," a voice shouted, and both of them turned to see two of their classmates, and an older boy who was likely their teammate, coming towards them. Yuuhi Kurenai was smiling as she approached the group, with the two boys right behind her.

"Kurenai-chan, Asuma-kun."

Rin ran to greet them, but Obito hung back.

He'd never bonded with any of his classmates except for Rin. He had no idea how he should act around them.

Rin came back immediately with the other three in tow.

"Obito-kun, this is Namiashi Raidou. He's on Team 6 with Kurenai-chan and Asuma-kun," Rin introduced with a smile.

The older boy bowed.

"Nice to meet you Uchiha-san," the boy said. Obito blinked for a moment, before bowing back.

"Nice to meet you too," he said.

"We're meeting up with some of Raidou-kun's friends and their teammates. You and Rin-chan can sit with us Obito-kun," Kurenai said kindly.

He'd never had an issue with the red-eyed girl. Usually she stuck with Asuma, and the Hokage's son didn't like him because he tried to show off. Normally Asuma just ignored him though.

"Um, okay," he said uncertainly.

He wasn't sure what to do. Should he just interact with them like nothing had happened in the Academy? Should he just sit there and let Rin talk with her friends until she was ready to visit Kakashi? Should he apologize? The last option was the one he didn't want to do. It would be way too embarrassing.

"Is your other teammate running late?" Asuma asked, looking around. Rin shook her head.

"No, Kakashi-kun couldn't come. It's just the two of us," she told him.

"Then let's go Rin-chan. I'll introduce you to Haruki-san. You said you wanted to be a medic, you can ask him about it," Kurenai said, practically dragging the girl off.

The three boys exchanged glances, before following after them, Obito reluctantly. He hoped that the party didn't last too long. He still needed to find a place to stay for tonight, and most everywhere would be closed for the holiday.

Kakashi's POV

He blushed a bit at the attention he was receiving from Kushina and Mikoto as they all sat in Minato's apartment.

"Now, tip the bottle downwards some. That way he can drink a bit more," Tsume instructed, and Kakashi adjusted his hold on the bottle in his hand that Biscuit was eagerly suckling from.

He hadn't been expecting to receive Biscuit until two days from now.

Tsume had initially kept the puppy at the Inuzuka compound, and had waited until New Year's Day was over to bring Biscuit to him. Kakashi was glad that he was here now though. He'd been restless all night, for once not due to his nightmares, trying to decide whether or not to go to Sora-ku to pick up Biscuit himself.

He had an invitation after all.

Kakashi was completely exhausted though, barely getting any sleep. Had he been allowed to train, he was sure he would be fine, but unfortunately Tsunade had ordered him on bed rest, and Minato was watching him fairly closely to make sure that Kakashi complied with her orders.

"Kakashi-kun, are you recovering alright? I heard you fought against an S-ranked missing nin a couple weeks ago," Mikoto said worriedly.

Inwardly, he frowned. Though Mikoto gossiped with other ninja, she usually didn't put any stock in what she heard, but she sounded fairly concerned when she spoke.

How did she know about what happened on his last mission?

Outwardly, he shrugged, keeping his gaze on Biscuit.

"I would have expected it to be ten by now," he told her casually.

Kakashi had always been the subject of rumors around the village, and details of his missions frequently ended up being wildly distorted by the public. A simple escort mission he'd done, in which he hadn't even needed to fight, had somehow wound up with people asking him about how he'd rescued an entire village.

Minato had found the entire thing hilarious, and had made a game of it. Sometimes the blond would add to the rumors just to see what people would believe.

Tsume snorted.

"Remember when you saved a princess and married into the royal family of that one village when you were six?" she asked, as Kushina snickered next to her.

"I think it was Tsukigakure (1)," the redhead reminded. "Or, how about where he single-handedly stopped a tyrant and ended a civil war in the non-existent Kin'gakure (2) and they offered him their wealth as thanks when he was seven?" Kushina asked.

Tsume snorted, and pinched his cheek teasingly.

"But of course, Kakashi was too noble and refused out of the goodness of his heart, which is conveniently why he didn't suddenly become richer," she said, laughing harder when Kakashi batted away her hand.

He was certain his face was brick red by now at their teasing.

Civilians really did have the strangest ideas about what ninja were capable of. The rumors weren't as prominent now that he was a bit older. They still happened, but the achievements weren't anywhere near as ridiculous as they had been.

Looking up at the Uchiha, Kakashi could see that Mikoto obviously wasn't sharing in their amusement, but she didn't press any further, forcing a smile.

Kakashi would have to talk to Minato later, and try to find the source of their leak.

It hadn't been the Uchiha who had done it. Otherwise Mikoto wouldn't have mentioned it and made her clan look guilty. She had definitely heard of it from another source, one that she found to be reputable.

"Joking aside, you are recovering alright aren't you? Your skin looks like it probably hurts," Tsume said.

It was true, Kakashi's skin was mostly healed. Tsunade had forced it to generate enough so that he wouldn't end up with an infection, since so much of his body had been covered in burns.

However, his skin was still pink and shiny, obvious signs that he was still healing, and it was fairly tender.

"Well, I know just the thing," Kushina exclaimed, before digging through her bag and pulling out a container.

"Homemade cooking fixes everything. I brought some onigiri. Would anyone like some?" she asked, opening the container and offering it to them. Kakashi was already taking one, even as Mikoto turned slightly green, and Tsume made an excuse about saving room for a clan dinner.

I was tempted to try and continue, just to make it longer, but it's been almost two years.

There wasn't much Kakashi in this chapter, but there will be in the next.

As always, thank you for reading. Please Review.

(1) Tsukigakure – Hidden Village of the Moon

(2) Kin'gakure – Hidden Village of Gold