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Saving the World (but Mostly Yourself)

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Thirty something year old Kakashi stuck in five-if-you-rounded-up year old Kakashi’s body would like the record to reflect that this was not his fault and not his plan. It was, he mused as he crouched behind the ominously bubbling whatever-it-may-be, definitely the fault of Sasuke, possibly Gai, and most definitely Danzo. Carefully, he straightened slightly from his crouch and snuck past the strange containers of stranger things to peek over the table and look through Orochimaru’s notes. He figured that since everything was Danzo’s fault and at least part of that was accomplished through the prodigious talents of Orochimaru, he would start his sneaking here until he found Danzo’s lair.

“What the hell.”

Kakashi flailed blindly when he felt himself grabbed by the scruff and lifted off the ground. Hanging from Orochimaru’s grip, Kakashi continued to swipe at the older shinobi, finally ceasing when Orochimaru firmly shook rather the way he remembered doing to Bull when he first made the contracts. “What,” he finally snapped, crossing his arms sulkily.

Orochimaru raised his brows staring at the small squirming kid. The child was wearing a forehead protector despite his small stature which meant that he had graduated. His hair reminded him of someone but he wasn’t really sure who. Squinting, Orochimaru stared at the belligerent child for a moment before the memory finally resurfaced. “Ah yes, you,” he said dryly. Maintaining his hold, he flash stepped out of his lab and toward the Hatake Compound. Once he arrived, he hit his fist against the wood three times and waited.

Sakumo, hearing three knocks on his door, flash stepped out of his living room where he had been lounging and arrived at his entrance. Once he opened the door, he was greeted with his genius child hanging from Orochimaru’s grip like a chastised pup. He blinked. Slowly, he closed the door, waited a moment, and reopened it. The image remained. He then tried dispelling the genjutsu. The image remained. “What...?” he asked slowly, looking from his sulking son to the vaguely perturbed Sannin.

“I could ask the same Hatake,” Orochimaru responded, depositing Kakashi in front of him. “Did Jiraiya put you up to this?” he added, frowning suspiciously.

Sakumo unfroze enough to shake his head, still staring in incomprehension at his usually obedient son. “I... no. No, I can assure you that nothing about this situation was planned or even considered probable,” he responded slowly. Finally, shaking away his shock, he remembered his manners. “Ah, I hope Kakashi wasn’t being a bother,” he added, quickly throwing an arm around his son and stopping his attempts to sneak away. “I don’t know what is happening, but I’m sure Kakashi is sorry about it.”

“Yes, very sorry,” Kakashi said rather flatly. He glared sullenly at the Sannin and Sakumo laughed awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head. “Quite sorry,” he added after the third time Sakumo gently jabbed his son’s ribs.

“And clearly very genuine,” Orochimaru responded, just as dryly. He peered down at the child for a moment, his blocky glasses adding a humanizing element to the legend. “What were you looking for in my lab, anyway,” he asked, cocking his head to the side.

Sakumo choked, realizing where Orochimaru must have dragged his son over from. “ Kakashi ,” he began.

“Evidence of illegal experimentation,” Kakashi shot back, all the defiance a five year old could muster in his tiny frame.

Sakumo gurgled .

Sparing the shinobi a quick glance of interest, Orochimaru continued staring at the far more interesting child. “I feel as if I’m being underestimated if you thought I would keep evidence of illegal experimentation on my table,” Orochimaru said slowly.

Kakashi blinked in surprise then blushed, clearly not having thought that through. Sakumo continued choking in the background, apologies vaguely comprehensible from the noise. “Well experimentation on the revitalizing capability of Senju DNA is borderline legal anyway,” he finally shot back childishly.

“Kakashi,” Sakumo pleaded, burying his face in his hands to avoid looking at this trainwreck of a conversation. “Please, please just apologize to Orochimaru.” Kakashi sulkily crossed his arms and said nothing. Sakumo turned his attentions to the other half of the equation, “I’m very sorry about this,” he said quickly. “He’s not usually like this I swear.”

“You understood that just from the single glance at my notes?” Orochimaru asked, eyebrows creeping toward his hairline. He ignored Sakumo’s attempts to apologize further and stared down Kakashi until the boy finally nodded, jerking his chin up in challenge. Orochimaru narrowed his eyes, “Are you also the chakra signature that’s been following me around the past couple days?” Sakumo let out a noise like a dying animal, Kakashi nodded sharply again.

Orochimaru stared at the two for a long time before humming softly then walking away.

“Kakashi, what were you thinking!” Sakumo hissed once Orochimaru was out of earshot. “You’ve been doing strange things all week,” he added, crossing his arms and adopting his stern, I-am-your-father tone. It rarely worked on his son but he lived in eternal hope.

Kakashi scowled, “he was acting suspicious,” he complained. It wasn’t like he could tell his father that Orochimaru, under Danzo’s urging, completely fucked up the natural order and caused the end of civilization as they knew it and he was now stalking the easier to find link to the chain in hopes of preventing whatever caused the apocalypse. “Besides, he clearly has morality issues.”

“Kakashi you can’t go around accusing shinobi of morality issues ,” Sakumo bemoaned, shooing his son deeper into the Compound. “We’re shinobi ,” he added a little despairing and wondering when all his parenting had gone so very awry.

You’re moral,” Kakashi mumbled. He flailed for the second time that day when Sakumo immediately engulfed Kakashi in a hug, cooing about how much he also loved him back.

-x-

“Sensei, I want a student,” Orochimaru announced, barging into the Hokage’s office. Hiruzen looked up from his paperwork as his former student ignored the bristling guards, slammed the door shut on his secretary, then calmly plopped himself down on the chair in front of his desk. Hiruzen looked from the document discussing Uchiha and Hyuuga disputes to his former students intent gaze and set the larger headache aside.

“Hello Orochimaru. It’s also good to see you,” he said dryly, carefully capping his inkwell.

Orochimaru flapped his hand carelessly, ignoring social niceties as he always did. “Sensei, I want a student,” he said, the closest thing to cheerful that Hiruzen had heard him since both Tsunade and Jiraiya had fled the village.

Gratified that his only remaining former student was socializing but concerned about the request, Hiruzen frowned slightly. “I can’t just find you a student on short notice,” he said carefully, steepling his fingers.

Scoffing, Orochimaru leaned back on the chair. “I don’t want any old student,” he said, rudely dismissive as usual. “No, I want Hatake.”

Hiruzen paused, “Sakumo?” he finally asked, hopeful and desperate.

Orochimaru’s stare clearly questioned his former teacher’s intelligence. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said flatly, “no. I want the younger Hatake. Kaka-something or another.”

Hiruzen had a deep, serious moment in which he punched his former self in the face for thinking that Orochimaru would be the smaller headache.

-x-

“So you’re my student now,” Orochimaru said strangely cheerfully. “Any questions?” Sakumo and Kakashi stared at the Sannin for a very long time.

“Where do I start-” Kakashi began as Sakumo blurted out, “So many -”

“So what’s your aspiration?” Orochimaru asked, ignoring the incredulous looks the Hatakes exchanged in favor of continuing to smile unnaturally. Hiruzen had said something about not traumatizing the child too early on for Shodaime’s sake and Tsunade had previously said that people were supposed to smile during interactions-dear god Oro not like that .

Kakashi narrowed his eyes at the person that was apparently his new teacher. “To uproot the corruption present in Konoha and eliminate them ,” he said rather viciously. Sakumo stared blankly at his suddenly bloodthirsty son.

Orochimaru hummed softly and in agreement. “There are worse goals,” he said calmly with a slight shrug. He seemed to think about it for a second then finally turned to Sakumo, “Is there anything else you’re supposed to do with a new student on the first day?” he asked, frowning as he tried to remember. Sakumo buried his face in his hands and mumbled something about this becoming a disaster. Orochimaru hummed and thought back to his first day. “I guess I’m supposed to test your abilities?” he asked, turning to Kakashi. Kakashi growled.

To everyone’s terrified and suspicious surprise, it was mostly not a disaster. Everyone learned to stay away from training grounds that the two were at because the two tended to train explosively and despite Kakashi staring suspiciously at his teacher most of the time Orochimaru hadn’t managed to kill or traumatize the child from what the shinobi could tell. Sakumo eventually gave up on forcing the two geniuses to act socially appropriate after the fifth time Orochimaru snuck through the Hatake blood wards to force feed Kakashi vegetables because he was “too short” and the wards were “an amusing challenge.”

Kakashi, on the other hand, quickly realized that he was marginally less of a human trainwreck when compared to Orochimaru. His current teacher tended to view sleep deprivation as “one experimentation away from defeat.” Despite this, he seemed to regularly sneak into the Hatake Compound to force feed him vegetables and also make sure he was sleeping. (Kakashi had once seen him squinting down at a piece of paper before handing Kakashi a bunch of celery and a whole raw chicken. He had the feeling that Orochimaru was simply going down a checklist of things that people were supposed to do to stay healthy; he suspected the Hokage had provided the list.)

Unfortunately, despite knowing how Danzo’s plans were carried out in his future, he had no idea how to stop the ideation and execution of the plans now. Therefore, he mainly stuck to what he called “shadow work.” He snuck through offices in order to swipe and read as much paperwork as he could. He tried his best to slide suspicious paperwork concerning Danzo across the Hokage’s table. He subtly began and encouraged rumors about Danzo’s “ secretive but suspicious retreat from the spotlight” and actions which were really “ not done if you know what I mean.”

About two months in his (apprenticeship? studentship? mentorship? vague enslavement?) training with Orochimaru, he was once again caught with his metaphorical hand in the metaphorical cookie jar. Crouched in the rafters of Orochimaru’s lab, he squinted down at Danzo’s fatherly touch on Orochimaru’s shoulder before he walked away in a dramatic sweep of black robes. Orochimaru stared silently after the man then sighed. “I really feel like I taught you to hide your chakra better,” he mused, staring unerringly into Kakashi’s eyes.

Scowling, Kakashi dropped down from the rafters. “What did he want,” he demanded suspiciously.

Orochimaru shrugged, turning back to his table and various notes. “Doesn’t matter,” he said idly, peering down at some water splattered paper and letting out a soft noise of dismay when he realized that it had blurred his notes on the results of the previous experiment.

“One of the Village Elders came down to your lab personally to say something to you specifically and it doesn’t matter what he said? ” Kakashi asked rather incredulously.

Orochimaru blinked at his student in surprise. His glasses gave his eyes a rather owlish look and the blinking really didn’t help. “I wasn’t listening,” he finally admitted before squinting back down at his notes. He thought he would be able to decipher roughly what had happened.

“What.”

Huffing in annoyance, Orochimaru took off his glasses and faced his genius -probably underfed- (because he was shorter than Tsunade’s notes made out normal five year olds to be) student. “Whatever he wanted sounded time consuming and you still haven’t managed the chakra control drill that I taught you so I have to think of some new exercises for training,” he said slowly and rather incomprehensibly. He suddenly frowned, “Do you learn better without input?” he asked, rummaging around his robes until he found the list that Sensei had given him about teaching and the old list from Tsunade about healthy living. “I’m supposed to offer constructive criticism and be available for your-dear god does Lord Hokage fill out all his forms with this handwriting?” he asked, breaking off from his previous thought. He shook off the thought, “Regardless, you still don’t fulfill the weight and height standards that Tsunade gave me for five year olds so I need to change your diet plan again.” He stuck both notes in his robes and placed his glasses back on his nose. “Far too busy.”

Kakashi stared rather thunderstruck at his current teacher. He rippled his chakra to see if he was in a genjutsu; he really was easier to catch in them now that he didn’t have Obito’s eye. The image remained. “You gave up fully funded, vaguely amoral experimentation ,” he said slowly, “because I’m underweight ?”

Orochimaru squinted down at his student. He briefly assessed that different people probably needed different emotional reassurances and reached down then hesitantly patted the boy on the head. After two soft pats he cleared his throat, “Kakashi,” he began solemnly, “You’re very important to me and a valued member of Konoha. You-” he stopped short and fished the other note that Sarutobi had given him, “You....” he sighed. “I can’t read this.”

“Is it too emotional?” Kakashi asked sympathetically. Orochimaru had an endless stream of notes from mostly the Hokage that he recited to Kakashi whenever they encountered bumps in their (mentorship? studentship? apprenticeship?) time. Occasionally the words were beyond Orochimaru’s emotional capacity and he simply handed the note over for Kakashi to read then patted him on the head again.

“No,” Orochimaru said a little testily, “I literally can’t read this.”

Kakashi reached up and tugged the note of his hands. Squinting at the paper, he made out a handful of words. “Something about being an asset and health?” he guessed, getting closer to the paper and tilting his head from side to side as if that would unveil its secrets. Shaking his head quickly he returned to the important subject at hand . “Wait, why did you not take Danzo’s deal?” he demanded.

Orochimaru flapped his hand dismissively. “It sounded dull. Besides, experimenting with you means I get much faster, much more readily available feedback,” he added cheerfully. Kakashi gaped. Orochimaru, after surveying his students face, sighed and pulled yet another note out of his robes. After scanning its contents, he turned back to Kakashi, “It doesn’t say I’m not allowed to say that,” he said a plantitively. “Why are you making that face?”

Letting out a shout of annoyance, Kakashi threw up his arms in defeat and stalked out of the lab. Right before the exit, he scrambled back and deposited the note back in Orochimaru’s hands before stomping (dramatically) off again. Orochimaru stared after his student for a while then tutted before turning back to his experiments. Kakashi seemed slightly more energetic; perhaps, Diet Plan #37 was actually working which would allow them to go on a mission out of the village.  

-x-

“I need a mission in Grass Country,” Orochimaru announced, barging into the Hokage’s office with his new permanent shadow trailing after him. Kakashi sulked near the doorway, his arms firmly crossed and a pack slung on his back.

“Orochimaru,” Sarutobi began patiently, already reaching for his alcohol stash in the false bottom of the third drawer. “I can’t just give  you a mission out of the village when you have a genin.” He unstoppered the bottom and took a quick gulp of it, “Also,” he added, long suffering, “Can’t you knock ?”

“Kakashi’s control has gone down by thirty percent,” Orochimaru stated flatly, “and Diet Plan #37 is no longer effective. He’s clearly broken and I need someone to fix him.” Kakashi threw up his arms and somehow managed to sulk harder against the doorframe. “It makes him less of an asset to the village,” he added, coaxing.

The esteemed Lord Hokage carefully set his alcohol aside, and patiently made space to drop his forehead against the desk if necessary. “Orochimaru,” he said slowly, “I specifically told you not  to say things like ‘children make good assets to the village.’”

Orochimaru blinked and Kakashi took time out of his sulking to stare at Sarutobi. “Is that what it said!” both said clapping their hands in realization. “That makes a lot more sense,” Kakashi offered to his teacher. Orochimaru nodded in agreement, humming thoughtfully. “Regardless,” Orochimaru continued, “I-we-need a mission in Grass Country.”

“May I ask why?” Hiruzen asked slowly, resigning himself to the situation.

“I just explained-” Orochimaru said impatiently.

“Wouldn’t you prefer if the two of us were out of the village?” Kakashi asked slyly. The adults in the room froze and slowly turned their gaze on Kakashi. “No ruined training grounds, minimal damage to the market....” he continued, idly flipping a kunai. He tucked his weapons back in his pouch and smiled, “But I’m just a kid. What do I know.”

Hiruzen immediately dove through the piles of paperwork he had on his table, knocking some finished documents (they probably were addressing the exact circumstances that Kakashi had spoken of) off the table in his haste. Finally, he emerged victorious with a milk run C Rank, a delivery into Grass Country. “Please, please leave today,” he begged, handing the mission over. “And please  don’t cause an international incident.”

“We’re already packed,” Orochimaru responded cheerfully, ignoring the second request. He plucked the mission from his former teacher’s hands and walked out the doorway, gesturing for Kakashi to follow. Kakashi drew himself together into a hasty bow for the Hokage before jogging after his teacher.

The two quickly exited the building and soon enough left Konoha behind. Orochimaru had opted for an “energy efficient walk” while taking in Kakashi’s dark circles. Kakashi darkly ignored Orochimaru’s words. “You should have given me more warning you know,” he finally said after they had been walking in silence for a while.

Orochimaru frowned in consideration. “Why?” he finally asked, clearly having come up blank as to any reasons.

“So that I could say goodbye,” Kakashi grumbled.

Orochimaru frowned. “You live with your father. It would have been easy enough to say goodbye while you packed. Besides, time was of the essence.”

“What if I had to say goodbye to my friends?”

There was a short pause, then “You have friends?” Orochimaru finally asked. When Kakashi scowled and kicked grass, Orochimaru scanned through the note labeled “Appropriate Things to Ask” and came up empty. “So, do you have friends?” he added, a little bemused.

“Maybe,” Kakashi snapped, continuing to scuff his feet.

“Stop that, you’re leaving tracks,” Orochimaru said absentmindedly. He paused and grimaced, “Did you say goodbye to your friend?” he asked, his mouth twisted slightly in discomfort.

“He was too busy running laps.”

Orochimaru stared at his student for a little while and tried to think why the words sounded so familiar. “Kakashi,” he said slowly, “Are you talking about the child of your dad’s friend Maito?” he asked. Kakashi scowled harder. Orochimaru thought back on the times he caught Kakashi crouched in some tree and the times he appeared, clearing having gotten into a fight. “Kakashi.” Orochimaru seemed lost for words for a moment then finally, “is he aware you guys are friends?” he asked.

Kakashi sent the blackest look any five year old could send. “We’re rivals!” he snapped. Orochimaru shrugged, it seemed alright then. He and Jiraiya had been rivals and they were probably something like friends if you asked Jiraiya; Orochimaru might say the same if you caught him in a good mood which really wasn’t likely to happen since the idiot abandoned the village .

Orochimaru allowed the silence to run a little longer, walking leisurely through Konoha’s redwoods. “Where are we going?” Kakashi finally asked, after boring holes in Orochimaru’s back with his eyes.

“I’m getting Tsunade to come back,” Orochimaru said calmly. He judged the sun in the sky and unceremoniously plucked Kakashi in his arms, sprinted for a few minutes while Kakashi pounded his fists into his back then arrived at a nice clearing. “We’re setting up camp,” he announced, setting the child back down.

While Kakashi still glare, he did efficiently begin to set up camp, taking out sealing scrolls from his pack and wandering a little further away in order to set traps. As he does this, Orochimaru sets up his own supplies, withdrawing enough food to feed the two of them. After Kakashi wanders back, he bites his thumb and drags the blood along the summoning seals he has on his arms. With a whisper of smoke, Chishiko and Benzaihime appear, scales gleaming faintly in the rapidly dimming light. “Lord Orochimaru,” they hiss, greeting him.

“Hello,” he greeted back, trailing gentle fingers along their scales briefly. They coil, then turn and stare at Kakashi who has frozen in the process of preparing a fire. “Kakashi, would you like to say hello?” he added, glancing from his frozen student to the snakes gentle clicking in amusement. “This, he said petting the dark scaled Chishiko, “is Chishiko. Benzaihime is that albino snake.”

“They’re like twelve feet long,” Kakashi blurted out then he quickly shook his head. “Sorry. Hello,” he said, waving weakly.

The two uncoil and slither closer, curious at being introduced. They haven’t truly met anyone of Orochimaru’s acquaintance since Slug Healer and Toad Pervert; no one had been deemed important enough before. They memorize the child’s scent, tasting lightning and canine and something old like rot. “Hello, hatchling,” Chishiko hissed, drawing closer and finally staring the child in the eye. Kakashi’s jaw firmed but he maintained eye contact, causing Chishiko to let out a soft hiss of approvement.

“We’ll watch the borders for you, Lord Orochimaru,” Benzaihime said, rubbing gently along his ribs before disappearing into the darkness of the forest. Chishiko followed soon after, blending into the darkness far quicker than her sister.

Taking the branches from Kakashi and starting a fire with a very small fireball jutsu, Orochimaru settles into making dinner, satisfied that they seem to like his new student and content that they would be far better protection against anything any shinobi could think of. As the stew is almost finished, Kakashi settles across the fire from him, eyes narrowed in thought. “What did you mean about Tsunade?” he finally asked, accepting the bowl Orochimaru offered him. Orochimaru stares without replying until Kakashi finally shovels two spoonfuls into his mouth. “Well?” he asked, the words garbled.

Taking a slow slip of the stew, Orochimaru considered how to words himself. “Konoha needs a Senju,” he finally settled, not bothering to explain the machinations behind the scenes and the slow consolidation of power within the Village Elders and the growth of resentment among certain clans. “Besides,” he added, glaring at his student, “you’re still underweight.”

“I’m normal!” Kakashi snapped, shoveling more food in his mouth and clearly ready to start an epic sulk.

Orochimaru hummed in mild disagreement, “Isn’t the Maito boy bigger than you?” he asked benignly. Kakashi settled with an angry huff, chomping on his food resentfully; clearly this was a sore point.

After another handful of days of travel, Orochimaru and Kakashi finally arrived in Grass Country. After peacefully handing over the package and accepting their payment, Orochimaru diverted them deeper into Grass Country and toward Stone Country. “Where are we going?” Kakashi finally asked, seven hours into sprinting through the flatlands.

“There’s a well known gambling spot in this area,” Orochimaru explained. “If I know Tsunade, she’ll be there.” Kakashi settled, unable to disagree. From what he remembered, Naruto had found Tsunade in a gambling den anyway so clearly this part of history really hadn’t changed.

“So what’s the plan?” Kakashi asked as the slowed and entered the small town.

Orochimaru blinked at Kakashi, “What do you mean?” he asked slowly, making a straight lie toward the largest building in the village.

“You don’t have a plan?” Kakashi asked, stopping. He felt a faint memory of guilt remembering Sasuke saying the same thing before he had gone spiralling through time and space. This wasn’t the same, he convinced himself quickly. His plan was to stalk Danzo and Orochimaru and interfere in their plans; that was clearly a plan.

Orochimaru snorted, looking vaguely insulted. “I don’t make plans for things of this caliber,” he said dismissively. Kakashi felt that explained a lot about his teacher. Orochimaru yanked open the door and calmly punched the guard attempting to shove him in the face. The man flew through the air, finally crashing into the far wall and landing in an unconscious pile right next to Tsunade. “Tsunade,” Orochimaru greeted. As his former teammate stared at him in shock, Orochimaru plucked Kakashi up by his clothing, and dropped him in front of Tsunade. “Fix him.” Kakashi buried his face in his hands crouched on the floor as chaos overtook the room.

-x-

When the waitress finally arrived with their food and drinks, Tsunade plucked the bottle of sake and began chugging straight from the bottle. Kakashi stared rather shocked while Orochimaru rolled his eyes and waited. Finishing the bottle with a rather impressive belch, Tsunade fixed her former teammate with a Look. “How did you find me?” she asked, wrapping one protective arm around a little Shizune.

“I listened to some rumors about debt collectors,” Orochimaru said calmly, distributing food and ladling extra vegetables on Kakashi’s plate. “After that it was rather simple to narrow down your location,” he said, flicking some hair away from his face.

Tsunade grumbled but took the food that Orochimaru handed her. “What did you mean by fix him,” she asked, jerking her chin at the child. “Also what are you doing with a child?”

“I’m Kakashi,” he introduced to Shizune, ignoring the two Sannin. “I’m stuck with this guy.”

“Shizune,” she offered, smiling shyly. “I like poison?” she offered tentatively. Kakashi nodded seriously and her smile widened before she ducked her face back down to her food.

“He’s my student,” Orochimaru said, looking rather smug. “Sarutobi gave him to me but I think he’s a little broken so I need you to fix him,” he added, reaching into his robe and taking out a small notebook. He also retrieved a sheaf of papers and handed both things to Tsunade. “He’s underweight and none of my diet plans are working.”

Tsunade stared at her former teammate for a long time before hesitantly taking the two piles. She flipped through the notebook then scanned the sheaf of papers, finding various notes and lists from Sarutobi and old ones from herself concerning necessary nutrition and health of a growing child. From there, she abandoned her food to stare at the boy. He seemed relatively well adjusted despite being Orochimaru’s student, she thought with a note of vague surprise. “Do you follow the given diet plans?” she asked, curious.

Kakashi wrinkled his nose. “The plans aren’t given as much as Orochimaru sometimes hands we whole raw celery or some other vegetable and I have to eat it before he’ll teach me anything.”

Tsunade throws Orochimaru an exasperated stare. “And sleeping?” she asked, dryly.

“I sleep enough,” Kakashi said with a slight shrug. “Average four hours, sometimes six.”

“The two of you,” Tsunade said slowly, “need so much help .” She handed the papers and notebook back to Orochimaru. “Alright,” she said decisively, “Oro, take notes. I’m going to teach you about basic necessities that a human being needs.” Orochimaru, ignoring his student’s dramatic groans, very seriously found himself a pen and opened the notebook to a blank page, staring expectantly at Tsunade.

Soon enough, while the adults talked, Kakashi and Shizune drifted off and were carefully put to bed. “So,” Tsunade said, settling back onto the wall, close enough to Orochimaru to almost touch, “what’s going on?”

Orochimaru grimaced and rolled his neck. “There was some.... unorthodox attention paid to myself and my student a little while back,” he admitted. “The Village Elders voiced some concerns and there’s a power imbalance in the clans.” His eyes were suddenly sharp when he met Tsunade’s gaze, “You knew all these things would happen when you ran away, Senju Tsunade,” he said, a sense of condemnation despite the light tone. “You know.”

Tsunade was already shaking her head, something half feral and panicked slipping into her eyes. “No Oro,” she said, her voice weak, “you don’t understand.” Orochimaru waited patiently. “I’m cursed,” she finally whispered, her eyes wet.

Orochimaru blinked. “Sorry what?” he finally asked, staring at his former teammate rather incredulously. “Tsunade, you’re far too intelligent to believe in curses.”

“Everyone I cared about died Oro!” Tsunade shouted back, her fears slowly turning into anger at her teammate’s rather typical callousness. “I told them-I told them we could change things. I put my hopes in them and all I got back was a corpse .”

“So?” Orochimaru asked, his eyes glittering darkly. “It was war , Tsunade,” he said slowly, staring her in the eye. “Everyone lost loved ones.”

Tsunade shook her head blindly, “No, it was different,” she protested, swallowing thickly. “It was-”

“It was war,” Orochimaru repeated, gentler now. He regarded his always strong, always steady teammate and sighed. “Tsunade, I can’t give you empty hopes or whatever you need to get over this,” he said slowly. “I’m sure if mind healers could help you would have figured everything out by yourself. But I will say this.” He leaned closer, grasping both of her shaking hands in his own pale hands, “The war is over and we still need saving in the village. We still need healing in the village.”

Tsunade shook her head again, pulling trembling hands away. Orochimaru allowed. “No,” she whispered, “no, it had to have been-”

“Enough Tsunade,” Orochimaru said firmly. He gentled his voice when she flinched, “Let the guilt go, Tsunade,” he said softly. “Neither Dan or Nawaki would have wanted you to live like this.” When Tsunade didn’t respond, Orochimaru sighed and stood up, picking Kakashi up in his arms. “Thank you for your help with Kakashi,” he said gently. “If you want to say goodbye, we’ll be leaving tomorrow morning from this inn.” Leaving her to her thoughts, he quietly exited the room and closed the door behind him.

-x-

“Will Lady Tsunade be coming with us?” Kakashi asked curiously, swinging his feet as he sat on the bench.

Orochimaru shrugged easily. “She may, she may not,” he responded noncommittally, not bothering to look up from his scroll. “Either way. According to the ‘friendship etiquette’ lessons she screeched at us back in the day,” he said, the sarcasm heavy in his voice, “a long term friend that you won’t see for a while is supposed to receive proper farewells.” He rolled his eyes, “Manners matter,” he added, in a tone that heavily suggested that he was quoting someone else.

“Yes they do you lil shit!” exclaimed Tsunade cheerfully, suddenly appearing behind them. Kakashi flailed on the bench and tried to pretend he hadn’t almost fallen off; Orochimaru merely regarded his teammate, long since used to her theatrics. Shizune waved hesitantly at the two, giggling at the sight of the dignified child clinging to the bench.

“Tsunade,” Orochimaru greeted. He calmly closed the scroll and tucked it away in his pack. “I supposed you’ve come to say goodbye,” he added, standing.

Something flashed across Tsunade’s eyes but her lips firmed and her eyes gleamed with challenge. “I’ll be walking you all the way to the village, Oro,” she responded, clapping her former teammate on the back; Orochimaru stumbled forward slightly and discreetly let out a little cough. Her expression grew serious, “And I’ll be staying,” she added, resolute.

“Well,” Orochimaru said, looking slightly surprised. He stared at her for a moment, something uncomprehending on his face. “We better get going then,” he finally said coolly. Shouldering his pack, he motioned to Kakashi and the four of them went on their way.

-x-

Tsunade settled in Konoha as if she had never left. She wrested control of the hospital back from the Village Elders and cheerfully (and rather viciously) threw herself into the paperwork, grumbling something about the incompetence of elders and rather colorful curses the deeper she went into the backlog. Kakashi couldn’t help but wonder where this enthusiasm of paperwork had been in his time -Tsunade being okay with paperwork would have delayed him having to get the damned hat for at least another ten years- but was reassured. Back in his day, Konoha hadn’t fallen while Tsunade still had breath; perhaps it was childish of him but there was something reassuring about her loud, strong presence vibrating in the village.

“Orochimaru,” Sarutobi began, his voice the level of placatingly reasonable that Kakashi had heard too often himself but even more while spending time with Orochimaru. “You can’t just-”

“What the fuck is this?” Tsunade exclaimed, burstin into the room with a crash and a screech of metal. Kakashi stared at the door that was now hanging off a single hinge and what looked like prayers. Tsunade continued marching forward, her expression one of deadly intent. “ Lord Hokage ,” she emphasized dangerously, “ I said what the hell is this?

Sarutobi looked from Orochimaru’s vaguely amused expression to Kakashi’s bewilderment to Tsunade’s dangerous smile. Listening to pure preservation instinct, he addressed the largest threat. “Tsunade,” he greeted gently, “how lovely to see you.”

“Cut the crap,” she snarled. Marching forward, she threw a pile of paperwork on the table and leaned forward, her teeth bared. “What the hell is this?”

Sarutobi picked up the sheaf of papers and scanned through them all. “They,” he paused and double checked, wondering if there was a trap. “They look like death certificates,” he finally responded hesitantly, glancing from the papers to his former students in hopes of a clue.

Tsunade smiled sweetly, “Yes. They are,” she said pleasantly. She leaned more weight into the fist she had planted on the desk and leaned closer to the Hokage, “They’re death certificates .”

Sarutobi stole a glance at Orochimaru and Kakashi’s expression and was faced with the exact same bemusement that he himself felt. “Uh...” he trailed off, feeling her chakra spike and deciding that silence was the better part of valor.

“Shinobi die, princess,” Orochimaru pointed out, entirely satisfied with Sarutobi’s attention being thoroughly distracted from him. “What’s the point?” Kakashi nodded in agreement, looking at his former Godaime like she was insane. Maybe it was something in the water, everyone in this timeline seemed... different, strange.

“It’s strange,” Tsunade said slowly, “because I can still tell they’re alive ,” she gritted out. She leaned extra weight into the table causing a rather alarming groan to escape the wood. “ Isn’t that so very strange, Professor .”

Sarutobi sternly reminded himself that he was Hokage and an adult. “Yes, Tsunade,” he agreed hesitantly, nodding slowly. “That would be strange.”

Orochimaru frowned and leaned forward neatly snatching the papers from Sarutobi’s nerveless fingers. He hummed as he read through them, eyes flashing quickly through the paperwork. He handed the papers he was done with to Kakashi after Kakashi shoved at Orochimaru’s knees a couple times. “Ah,” Orochimaru suddenly said, wincing. Tsunade, who hadn’t looked away in all this time, let out inquiring hum that somehow managed to sound victorious. “Really, this is not very subtle,” Orochimaru added, glancing down at Kakashi to see if his genius student had also figured it out.

Kakashi did figure it out.

As he read the papers, he recognized the names and signatures as death certificates from his own timeline-death certificates that had been made for highly talented shinobi that had suddenly disappeared into Danzo’s Root. Swallowing the angry, bitter words that wanted to spill out, he calmly handed the papers he had back to Sarutobi.

“Why don’t you share with the class, Oro?” Tsunade asked pleasantly, still boring holes in Sarutobi’s skull with her eyes. Sarutobi cleared his throat uncomfortably and tried to look through the papers again.

“The signatures,” Orochimaru said pleasantly, crossing his arms. “I would need a comparison of course, but it seems strange that all the forms that Tsunade brought forward and has a problem with happen to also be signed by the same coroner-and the same commanding officer.”

Sarutobi flipped back to the front and began scanning the commanding officers.

Primary CO: Shimura Danzo. The next said the same, so did the one after that, and after that, and after that. Sarutobi slowly lowered the papers, meeting Tsunade’s flashing, triumphant stare. “He’s one of the Village Elders,” he began weakly, “there’s plenty of missions that he is the commanding officer for.”

Tsunade snorts, waving her hand dismissively in a manner eerily reminiscent of one of her roommates. “He’s either creating his own army or he’s the most unlucky or incompetent commanding officer I’ve ever seen,” she said easily, brushing aside Sarutobi’s excuse. “Besides, considering I’ve sensed the chakra signatures of most of these men, I don’t think it’s the former.”

“You could be sensing-”

“Don’t bother, Sarutobi-sensei,” Tsunade interrupted, her jaw tight, “I learned sending directly from Uncle Tobi. There’s less than a miniscule chance that it’s my competence in question here.” Orochimaru hummed in agreement, staring at his former teacher in interest; there were far too many times where Tsunade’s pinpoint sensor skills had been all that saved them from blowing a mission.

Sarutobi seemed to sag. He seemed smaller than The Professor, the talented Sandaime that everyone revered; the shadows under his eyes seemed darker and his wrinkles deeper. “He is an old friend,” he finally said slowly, like admitting a great weakness.

“An old friend that may be building a secret army directly under your nose,” Tsunade said coldly. “Friendship does not hold for possible domestic terrorism , Sensei,” she added, words harsh but tone oddly gentle. Her expression became more sympathetic. Reaching forward, she grasped her old teacher’s hand. “You need to call a meeting of the Elders about this,” she insisted. There was a moment of silence then Sarutobi sighed and nodded.

After patting Sarutobi’s hand one more time, Tsunade walked out, dragging Orochimaru (who grabbed Kakashi) behind her and deliberately ignoring the groaning clearly broken door. “We’re not killing him?” Orochimaru asked, bemused. Kakashi fought the urge to agree, figuring that agreeing with the -most likely- most bloodthirsty person in this village -Ibiki and Anko were probably too young still right?- probably wouldn’t say good things about his sanity.

Tsunade shook her head, continuing to drag the two of them as she turned towards the hospital. “He still needs to process. If he doesn’t act, I’ll put pressure on the clans and the elders-there’s some big names within those death certificates.”

“And if he still doesn’t?” Orochimaru asked idly. Kakashi strained to hear her answer.

Tsunade’s expression became cold, “Then he isn’t acting to protect the village any longer,” she said chillingly. Orochimaru hummed thoughtfully but in vague agreement. Kakashi looked at Tsunade with new eyes. He couldn’t help but think that this one was colder and more dangerous than his; while his had not hesitated to make the difficult decisions, she also preferred to hold by bonds. “So I hope you want the hat because I’m busy,” she added.

Orochimaru slowly turned and looked at her, trying to judge her seriously. The way her lips were twisted down and the entirely too firm grip she had on his wrist said serious. “Well,” he said thoughtfully, “I have a student.”

“I have an entire hospital for a village, Orochimaru ,” Tsunade snarled, “and no head for politics.”

“You do tend to just punch all your problems,” Orochimaru agreed. He didn’t agree or disagree. It had been an old running joke among the Sannin that one of them would end up with the hat but Orochimaru had never really thought he would be a contender.

Kakashi stared between these two adults, bemused. He wondered if everyone after the first Senju had ended up being forced into the hat. Except Naruto, he added to himself, Naruto had been foaming at the mouth for the hat.

After a moment of silence, Orochimaru attempted to pull his arm out of Tsunade’s grip. “Tsunade,” he said slowly, a warning in his voice. “I need to go to my lab.”

“Ohhh no you don’t,” Tsunade snapped, turning her ire on the two of them now. “I saw your files. Neither of you have been in for a check up in ages.” Her grip firmed when Orochimaru began trying to test her strength, “You bruise like a peach, Orochimaru, don’t bother,” she said, suddenly cheerful.

When Kakashi attempted to get away, Orochimaru tightened his grip with a scowl. “If I suffer, you suffer with me,” he hissed quietly, glaring at the back of Tsunade’s head as she continued marching forward, completely unaffected by the two dead weights she dragged behind her.

Kakashi resigned himself to his fate, idly wondering if preventing Danzo’s success was really as easy as Tsunade said.

Unfortunately for the ever hopeful but rapidly becoming more pessimistic Hokage, Tsunade's inspection of Orochimaru and Kakashi is rapidly followed by her managing to break the two hour old door as she marches back into the Hokage Office grabs a fistful of his revered haori and begins shaking him back and forth shrieking about “early graduation" and “possibly permanently damaged chakra coils" and “fucking hell Sensei trauma.

The ANBU and Hokage Guard decide that discretion is the better part of valor and leave their Hokage to his lecture.

Kakashi tries to figure out a way to defend the Hokage by saying the damage may be due to time travel without sounding like a crazy person. He can’t think of a way. He winced and made himself smaller in the shadows to avoid her wrath.

-x-

Unfortunately for Sarutobi, his personal approach in speaking with Danzo did not yield results. When Sarutobi said nothing else about, Tsunade gritted her teeth, shuffled some appointments around, then marched her ass into the Clan Heads’ meeting to represent the Senju, a fistful of death certificates and various other incriminating paperwork clutched in one fist.

While the Elders blustered and Sarutobi winced, the room slowly filled with killing intent as name after name of children thought dead and prodigies sacrificed for the village’s good kept appearing on the death certificates.

Shortly after, the Clan Heads gently but firmly encouraged Sarutobi’s retirement. As Sarutobi stepped down, a chuunin that was in trouble with the Jounin Commander was sent to ask Senju Tsunade and Orochimaru, the former students of the Sandaime if they would take the honor of the post of Hokage.

Tsunade physically threw him out of the room; Orochimaru threatened Manda.

“You know the village needs a Yondaime, right?” Kakashi pointed out, sitting on the lab table and swinging his legs back and forth. Orochimaru ignored his students, noting down the results of his new experiment and checking previously tested variables for any changes. Kakashi waited for a reply. When none came, he gave a delicate little cough.

Orochimaru immediately turned around, eyebrow furrowing in concern.

“Finally,” Kakashi whined. “Do you have a plan yet?” he asked. Orochimaru frowned, tilting his head to the side. “There has to be a Hokage,” he pointed out.

Orochimaru scowled and turned away, “It isn’t going to be me,” he snapped, firmly.

Kakashi cleared his throat again, waiting until Orochimaru turned around again, something impatient in his eyes. “I’m sure Lady Tsunade has a plan at least,” he said cheerfully.

Orochimaru frowned, eyes apprehensive.

-x-

“I’m glad to hear that you are taking the post, Tsunade,” Utatane said seriously, staring down at Orochimaru, Tsunade, and Kakashi.

“Woah,” Tsunade protested immediately, holding her hands up defensively. “Hey now, threats aren’t necessary. Oro already agreed to be Hokage,” she said firmly, shaking her head slowly.

Utatane exchanged a slow and heavy look with Mitokado; she looked like she would be confused if it wasn’t for the fact that she seemed to consider such humanity beneath her. “I did not, princess ,” Orochimaru snapped back, hastily. He glanced at the Elders then looked forward, expression betraying nothing. “Beside you already signed a contract to be the Yondaime,” he added, clearing his throat. Kakashi looked from the uncomfortably shifting Elders to a furious Tsunade and a blank faced Orochimaru and softly groaned in despair.

“I did not!”

Orochimaru reached into the depths of his robes and presented Tsunade with a clean, crisp paper with her illegible signature scrawled at the bottom. “You really should read your paperwork better,” he said smugly. When Tsunade glared at him murderously, he smiled “Besides, the Elders already processed the paperwork.”

“You’re going to have nothing but D ranks, Oro,” Tsunade hissed, eyes narrowed dangerously.

Kakashi took a healthy step away from Orochimaru, determined to ensure that he was not associated with the person that the new Yondaime was angry at. While the two former teammates continued shouting at each other over the bemused expressions of the Elders, Kakashi idly wondered how much had already changed with Orochimaru changed and Danzo... disposed of.

-x-

Kakashi shifted uncomfortably on the training grounds waiting impatiently for Minato-sensei and Obito. If he knew Obito -and he sort of had an entire lifetime of experiences from before - Obito had probably gotten into some sort of clumsy accident and would not be here until an hour late. As for Minato, while he was delighted to meet his former sensei for the first time again, his ears were still ringing from two days ago.

(“Kids need socialization Orochimaru! Or they turn out like you! Or me! Or Jiraiya!” Tsunade shouted, standing behind her desk with the haori rumpled over the back of her chair and the hat tossed off on the ground. “I’m not allowing early graduation anymore and I want Kakashi to develop like a normal human being!”

“There’s nothing wrong with me!” Orochimaru snapped, thoughtlessly offended. The two -and Kakashi- blinked incredulously and Orochimaru winced, “Okay, not my finest retort,” he began quickly, trying to cut through the glee appearing on Tsunade’s face. “Either way, you can’t take my student from me!”

“You’re student has issues , Oro!” Tsunade yelled back, pounding her fist on her dangerously creaking table, “ And you’re actually worse than him so I don’t want want to hear it from you .”

Orochimaru sulked quietly and after much yelling and a broken table that was then thrown out the window, he finally acquiesced to allowing the up-and-coming Namikaze to train his student. “I’m doing this because you need friends other than that boy you’re stalking,” Orochimaru grumbled to Kakashi, scowling. “Not because she threatened me.”

“Yes, yes,” he said agreeably, trying to hide his eagerness to meet Minato. “Of course, Orochimaru-sensei.”)

“Sorry I’m late!” Minato announced cheerfully, appearing on the grounds with a flash and a cheerful wave. “I was-” he stopped and paused, staring at Kakashi leaning against a tree, Rin curled up under another tree, and Orochimaru crouched in another tree several feet away, chakra spiking threatening. “We seem to both have an extra and be missing a person,” Minato mused, his cheerful expression fading to bemusement.

Kakashi attempted to hide himself in the shadows of the tree, embarrassed as all hell.

“Sorry I’m late!” Obito squawked, stumbling into the clearing covered in paint, dirt, and.... feathers? “I was helping an old lady cross the street-”

“Seriously, Obito!” Rin exclaimed, shooting up from the base of the tree, her hands firmly planted on her hips. “That’s why I told you to leave earlier this morning-”

“Is anyone else concerned that one of the Sannin feels like they want to kill me?” Minato mused, looking at his single silent student as Obito squawked and attempted to dodge Rin attempting to scrub some dirt off his face. Orochimaru’s chakra spiked again, a strong wash of deadly intent following the spike.

Kakashi looked at the three people that he had mourned for an entire lifetime and felt the dangerous chakra of someone he had feared a timeline ago at his back and couldn’t help the smirk that he hid with his mask. This timeline seemed completely different than the last, and he’d be damned if he let past futures change this today.