Chapter 1: ItaSasu, last words
Itachi's born covered in neat, precise handwriting, a thousand goodbyes curling from his neck to the soles of his feet. Largest, slashed across his chest - 'Why won't you die already?'
Mikoto sees that, the only writing large enough to be legible on her son's infant body, and a lump forms in her throat.
Her baby boy isn't even hours old, and already she knows he'll be killed by his soulmate.
Where Itachi's words were worrying, Sasuke's are baffling.
He has two, clearly distinct phrases. She'd have thought he must have two soulmates - though what that says for Itachi's numerous scribbles she doesn't know - if they weren't in the exact same handwriting.
'Forgive me, Sasuke, there won't be another time' and 'You don't have to forgive me, because no matter what you decide to do from now on, I will always love you.'
Apparently her boys are doomed to interesting lives.
As Itachi grows, further words become apparent. 'Goodbye,' then 'I'm sorry for this, but I'll be back soon,' then 'I love you' before 'You don't have to hold me every time I die,' all in the same neat handwriting.
It isn't any less worrying.
It's Shisui who next notices that some of Itachi's other goodbyes have finally become legible. He chokes when he sees his cousin's back, swallowing a laugh when Itachi turns to send him a questioning look.
"There's - there's more messages," Shisui says. "Your soulmate's words."
Itachi tilts his head and hums curiously. (He's already accepted he'll die by his soulmate's hand most likely. His only regret is that'll mean leaving Sasuke.)
"What do they say?" he asks. The multitude of messages is strange, especially since he doubts he has that many soulmates.
"It's - the same handwriting as your first," Shisui begins. "There's three, all next to each other, but I'm pretty sure they're separate - 'Don't worry, it's not like I'm going to die' - wow, that's a depressing last words - then 'I promise I won't die this time' - then 'maybe I should stop promising not to die.'"
Itachi stares ahead, mulling that over. "Those are odd, certainly," he says at last.
Shisui shrugs, then laughs. "Maybe it's recording every set of last words, and your soulmate has a kekkei genkai or technique or something for not staying dead."
Itachi nods, though he can't think of anything like that.
Itachi's eleven, and staring, exacerbated, at the message that just became legible, a paragraph crammed into the space between his belly button and hip bone. He's already grown used to the hundreds of variants on 'I love you' that spill across his skin, and had been figuring those were most of the rest of the messages. This, though, is just weird.
'You know, this's a perfectly good way to send messages back to the past, we wouldn't even cause an origin paradox since I'd be able to read them off your skin - there's so much I could warn you about - yes I'm aware I have no respect for the space-time continuum, but what's the worst that could happen?'
He apparently needs to study up on the theory behind space-time ninjutsu, if he's going to have to talk his soulmate out of time travel.
Sasuke realizes the meaning of his soulmarks pretty early. Well, at least the first one, around the second time Itachi pokes him in the forehead and says, 'Forgive me, Sasuke. Another time.'
Itachi's the only one who says anything like that.
Sasuke has to sit down, swallowing around grief for a death that hasn't even happened yet.
(He's sure the second one's Itachi, too, and he has no idea what he'd ever need to forgive Itachi for - )
The clan dies, and Sasuke's soulmarks mock him.
Where does Itachi think he gets the right , to have 'I will always love you ' as his dying words, to say that after everything he's done to Sasuke -
Itachi dies for the first time, and Sasuke shatters.
The second time, Sasuke wants to shout 'you're my soulmate, you idiot, why can't you just stay', but the words choke in his throat. He doesn't think Itachi knows, Sasuke doesn't even remember his last words to his older brother but they can't have been anything encouraging, and.
He can't handle this, not now.
All he can say is a tepid 'Goodbye,' and he bursts into tears at Itachi's final words.
There isn't a third set of scrawls across Sasuke's skin.
The war finishes, and Sasuke - Sasuke can feel the weight of the dead, more souls than he can count hovering at the edge of his awareness. He feels the Rinnegan's power in his bones, dimensions sprawling around him, death at his fingertips.
It occurs to him, hazily, that it's been fewer than three days since Itachi's last death, that his soul's still in reach , and what's the point of Sasuke, who's only ever managed to fuck up -
But he doesn't think Itachi wants him trading himself, either.
Madara and Hashirama are talking, quietly, so soft Sasuke can barely hear them, and a spark jolts through Sasuke's mind, causing his breath to catch in his throat as he realizes he's not the only one with the Rinnegan.
He storms over to Madara and Hashirama, not caring that he's interrupting their moment, and demands, "The Rinnegan can put people back ."
Madara looks at him with disinterested eyes. "Once, at the cost of the user's life. What's the point, measured against all the death of the world?"
Sasuke makes a frustrated sound, then, "How is my previous incarnation such an idiot - there's nothing saying we can't put each other back, moron! Repeatedly!" His previous self blinks, open shock flitting across his face, and Sasuke rolls his eyes. "How," he asks, voice scathing, "Was 'find a second Rinnegan user' not the first thing that occurred to you?"
"I - " Madara starts, seeming disoriented.
"I'm going to start grabbing as many souls as I can," Sasuke interrupts. "You better follow right after."
He doesn't give Madara a chance to protest before activating the Rinnegan. Sasuke doesn't have much chakra left, but even what little he can dredge up is enough for a shitton of people.
(And if he makes sure his brother's grabbed in the first round, well, he's never claimed to not play favorites.)
(He needs to bug Orochimaru about shareable immortality. One explanation for his lack of a third message is that he never sees Itachi again. Another is no more last words.)
Itachi finds them when they're resting between resurrection cycles, tens of thousands of the fallen already stumbling back to life. (There'd been some debate about returning the Edo Tensei soldiers. Sasuke stubbornly maintains that if anyone objects to being put back, they can address that themselves, but that in the meantime when he said he'd be grabbing everyone in reach he meant everyone.)
Sasuke flings himself into his brother's arms, says, "You're not allowed to die ever again, I don't have a third goodbye so - so it's fate, you can't - " And breaks, when Itachi hugs him back.
"It's you?" Itachi says, voice hesitant.
Sasuke tries not to weep, says, "I've known, for so long - you're the only one who says anything like that to me, you complete idiot."
He refuses to let go of Itachi, saying only, "I'm sorry for this, but I'll be back soon," before activating another round of resurrection. Saying "I love you," the next time. "You don't have to hold me every time I die," after that, and Itachi just holds onto him tighter, brushing a kiss across his lips.
Eventually, they run out of the recently dead. And then out of white Zetsu to use as sacrifices for more, when Sasuke glares Tobirama into using the Edo Tensei on as many other people as possible (including Izuna, since he knows the white-haired bastard had been in the habit of collecting blood from basically everyone).
Sasuke's already mentally scouting for inhabitable but empty dimensions.
They'll need quite a lot, if he plans to end death.
Sasuke. Can't really stand to return to the village. Not after everything that's happened.
Itachi kisses him when he confesses that, then says, "We'll find our own place, then."
(Hashirama and Madara show up and build a house across from them a week later. Itachi just trades a fond glance with Hashirama when Sasuke gets into a glaring contest with his past self.)
Chapter 2: HashiSasu, first words
Hashirama is born with neat, precise writing curled around his wrist. His father takes one look, stiffens, and walks away.
(He will have more heirs, after all.)
It takes years for Hashirama to understand why, because he's told to keep his soulmark covered, to never speak of it, and he's being constantly sent on missions so it's not like he has much time for learning to read.
Eventually, though, he deciphers the tidy kanji that trace their way over his veins.
'I'm Uchiha Sasuke, and there's something I wanted to ask you.'
(He's always argued for peace. It becomes more, after that.)
Hashirama isn't an idiot. He knows Madara's an Uchiha. The urge to remove the cloth around his wrist, to show him and ask 'Who's Uchiha Sasuke?' is nearly overwhelming.
But it's dangerous, and - and he thinks from those words that Sasuke needs to be the one to come to him, and -
His friendship with Madara ends before Hashirama can work up the courage.
His father makes him get married, declaring that he can do one useful thing for the clan. Her name's Uzumaki Mito, and her soulmate's first words to her were also her last. She doesn't mind Hashirama too much, and doesn't object to his still unmet soulmate.
Supposes that's the best he can get.
Peace has been declared, the treaty's being negotiated, and Hashirama's retreated with Madara. Nominally to discuss things in private. Mostly to stand around awkwardly.
Hashirama worries at his lip, then groans and turns to his friend. "Madara, I - have something to ask you."
Madara raises an eyebrow, but tilts his head curiously, and Hashirama lets his shoulders slump in mild relief.
"I - is there an Uchiha Sasuke?" he asks, hesitantly.
Madara looks to the side, then, "Why?"
A beat, then Hashirama's undoing the bracer covering his soulmark, baring it to the eyes of another for the first time he can ever remember. He doesn't think even Tobirama knows the words.
Madara's eyes trace over the sentence, then his gaze rises to meet Hashirama's. There's something like an apology, lurking distantly in his expression. "I don't know anyone by that name, unfortunately."
"Oh. I. Oh," Hashirama says, blinking. "Maybe. Maybe he just hasn't been born yet."
Madara hums. They both know it's a possibility, but.
Hashirama's already thirty two. Ancient, by shinobi standards.
Soulmates not meeting has happened, the promise of those words remaining unfulfilled.
He hadn't thought it'd happen to him.
Hashirama dies, body pierced by well over a dozen blades.
There has never been an Uchiha Sasuke.
Sasuke's a cheery child, though he still rolls his eyes at the writing on his wrist once he learns to read it.
'You're my soulmate!!!'
Who in the world could possibly need that many exclamation points?
Hashirama's been yanked back out of the Pure Land for the second time in his afterlife. He really regrets not having a talk with his little brother about appropriate experiments. Still, he's delighted to learn that Konoha has survived long enough for a fourth and even a fifth Hokage, even if they've apparently been summoned by an enemy again.
Then the dark haired child who's been lurking near the back steps forward, gaze steady, and declares, "I'm Uchiha Sasuke, and there's something I wanted to ask you."
Hashirama can't help it, he knows this's a serious situation and all, his soulmate is threatening to destroy Konoha, but -
"You're my soulmate!!!" he declares. He is definitely not bouncing. (Okay maybe a little bit.)
The boy's eyes go wide, and he looks like he's trying to say something over his brain shutting down. Hashirama steps forward, brushing off the Edo Tensei's control, and wraps him in an almost crushing hug. (He resolutely ignores the sound of Tobirama's palm hitting his face in the background).
"Let go of me, you're a worse moron than the dead last - " Sasuke protests, squirming, but Hashirama's neither on fire nor electrocuted nor stabbed so really he's not protesting that strongly.
"I've been waiting so long for you, do you have any idea - I'll answer your questions, of course, I owe you that - but I'm so happy !" He'd be crying, if he wasn't currently an ashen corpse.
"Anija!" his brother groans.
(The boy's questions do get answered, and to Hashirama's delight he does decide to help protect the world.)
(He'll be sad, when it's time for the Edo Tensei to dismiss, but he resigned himself to not so much as meeting his soulmate long ago, so.)
They win, though it's close. Hashirama walks over to Madara, kneels down beside him - gives his soulmate (!!!) some space since the boy looks like he needs to be alone with his thoughts - and smiles at his old friend. They reconcile, then - Madara rolls his eyes at how over the moon Hashirama is to have finally met Sasuke - and talk, for the first time in decades.
It's interrupted when Hashirama's soulmate comes storming over. There's an intensity in his eyes that Hashirama's usually only seen in Madara's on the eve of a battle.
"I have the Rinnegan. You have the Rinnegan," he announces, ignoring Hashirama in favor of glaring at Madara with his arms crossed.
"And your point is?" Madara asks, raising one eyebrow.
Sasuke looks extremely, immensely unimpressed. (Hashirama is a little bit smitten.)
"There," the boy says, speaking slowly as if to a child, "Is absolutely nothing keeping us from using the Samsara of Heavenly Life technique on each other, and as many other souls as we can grab, until we get bored or run out of the dead."
Madara blinks, and Hashirama knows him well enough to recognize the shock in his expression. It's reasonable. Hashirama's a bit shocked, too.
"You can start," Sasuke continues, "with that idiot right there." And he points directly at Hashirama. (His soulmate won't stop calling him an idiot, what'd he do?)
Madara glances over, and a shadow of a fond smile crosses his face. "I suppose I can," he says, then focuses his chakra, and before Hashirama can protest, he's gone, and there's blood rushing through Hashirama's veins, pounding in his ears, and his soulmate looks far, far too smug.
Sasuke looks wistful for a moment, then glances over at Hashirama. "There's more to do, so I won't be able to talk much, since I don't want too many souls slipping out of our grasp. But - once we've reset things, we can talk, some?"
Hashirama grins, claps Sasuke on the back (the boy doesn't stumble, which is more than most shinobi can say), and declares, "There's nothing I want more than getting to know you."
His soulmate rolls his eyes, then sets to the long work of restoring the dead to life.
A few hours later, Hashirama has what is honestly the most terrifying moment of any of his lives, when he comes face-to-face with the placid expression of Sasuke's recently resurrected older brother.
This is stupid, he's not some teenager meeting his boyfriend's family -
Itachi's eyes lazily spin, and his voice is astoundingly pleasant when he says, "I am confident you will make my little brother happy."
The Uchiha remain the most terrifying clan in history.
They bring back basically every seal master and medical expert they can find genetic material for, after that, the white Zetsu making convenient sacrifices. Hashirama's in a rather spirited debate with Orochimaru and a med-nin from Suna about ways to address disease at a large scale (Sasuke maintains he and Madara and now Nagato can handle anyone who dies of violence) when a hand taps him on the shoulder. He turns around, and his stomach flips when he sees Mito.
"Ah. Mito. It's. Been a while," he says, and he usually doesn't feel this awkward, but 'talking to my ex-dead wife after meeting my soulmate' is an unusual situation.
She smiles, more widely than is typical for her. "I'm glad for you, Hashirama. I consider us divorced, and I wish you all the happiness in the world with your soulmate." Her fan covers her expression, then, though her eyes are shining. "I expect an invitation to the wedding."
It'll be awhile before they can get the Edo Tensei to not require sacrifices, and probably longer before they've patched the various ways people keep dying, but - it's on the horizon, and Hashirama drags Sasuke away from the debates on how. The boy seriously needs to learn the meaning of a vacation, and when Hashirama points this out his only response is, "Well, we probably should be scouting nearby dimensions, in case there's other threats out there..."
Hashirama nearly faceplants. "You. You know what fun is, right?" he asks, almost crying.
Sasuke sends him a blank expression. "I don't have fun." (But there might be something resembling amusement in his eyes, as Hashirama flails and declares that this is a travesty, of course he'll teach his soulmate what fun is.)
Sasuke turns out to not particularly want to go back to the village, even once they've had time away. Hashirama's sad, he'd put his heart and soul into building Konoha, but - it's moved on without him. And, anyways, the village doesn't particularly want Sasuke back, since if he's in another dimension they don't have to address the awkward question of whether or not to prosecute the First's soulmate and the one responsible for returning many of them to life for war crimes.
They're hardly hermits - Itachi's around a lot with his soulmate, Hashirama insists on bothering Madara and Tobirama on a regular basis, Mito and her soulmate turn out to get along wonderfully with Sasuke and are often rather essential companions when they run across something weird, and there's regular reunions for Sasuke's old friends.
It's a good life, all in all.
It takes a few years for Sasuke to agree to marry him.
Hashirama spends the next week flailing at anyone who'll listen to him, because he's getting married!!! To his soulmate!!!
Mito rolls her eyes at him, Tobirama achieves new levels of unimpressed, and Madara decides that they definitely need a traditional Uchiha wedding (and promptly has to dodge Sasuke's attempt to stab him; Sasuke apparently is allergic to doing things traditionally. Madara still somehow ends up winning that argument).
(Hashirama will treasure the image of Sasuke in traditional wedding clothes for the rest of his days, even if his soulmate looks ready to set everyone attending on fire.)
(Okay maybe especially because his soulmate looks ready to set everyone on fire.)
(He can't help it, he has a weakness for dangerous men.)
Chapter 3: InoSaku + SasuLee, abilities
In a small clan like the Yamanaka, there's a more than decent chance Ino's soulmate is an outsider. It makes learning clan techniques fraught - while rare, soulmates in opposing villages has happened - since anything Ino learns her soulmate will, too. The clan has a general policy against teaching anything until she meets her soulmate, which is frustrating. Especially since, unless her soulmate has a kekkei genkai (and Ino has more than a few fantasies about spontaneously developing the sharingan), not having unique abilities makes knowing when she's met her soulmate much, much less likely.
It isn't until she's twelve that she gets a clue.
That clue happens to be a riot of flowers bursting around her, spelling mourning and I miss you and your death approaches. Then I hate you, then grief, death, horror, and blood on the snow. Then joy and rebirth.
...Of all the bloodlines, Ino hadn't expected mokuton.
Her dad checks, well, something, but apparently whatever lead he has on her soulmate doesn't pan out. She's quickly taught a minor clan technique to test it, and it whets her appetite for more. She still can't learn the major clan techniques, not until they identify her soulmate, but her soulmate's apparently not following the same restriction, because Ino's skill in mokuton grows in leaps and bounds.
It's another few weeks of restlessness before her father calls her down to the living room. Ino huffs, but sets down her reading and walks down. Sakura's there, biting her lip, hands clasped nervously in front of her. Ino raises an eyebrow and turns to her dad, asking, "What's up?"
Her dad coughs, then says, "Why don't you show her, Sakura-chan?"
Sakura nods once, decisively, and opens her palms -
Revealing small flowers blooming from her very skin, spelling friendship and I apologize.
Ino freezes, and meets her old friend's - her soulmate's - leaf-green eyes.
Her friend smiles, softly. "Me." A pause, then, "You're still a pig, even if we're soulmates."
Ino punches her shoulder for that, then wraps her in a hug.
There's tears, and defensiveness, too, because they didn't exactly end their friendship nicely, but Ino and Sakura are able to hash out something resembling a tentative start to something. (Apparently the messages that'd been bursting through were because Sakura's first C-rank went horribly wrong. And apparently Sakura still hasn't figured out how not to have everything she makes covered in flower-language screaming out her every feeling. Which, well, Ino's noticed that, but she's been able to twist it to show only the messages she wants, because she's from a clan of mindwalkers and controlling her own emotions is a breeze. All it takes is pointing Sakura at Ino's skill for the other girl to figure out her own encoding, luckily.)
They send each other messages in homegrown flowers, and they slowly figure out how to make their own blossoms for words unique to them. Thinking of you, I'm bored, uggghhhhh, an orange spiral for Naruto is an idiot, white thistle-like blooms for Kaka-sensei is a pest, a grey flower like a curl of smoke for a thousand comments on Asuma-sensei, the crown of a pineapple for seriously, Shikamaru. Replicating that first reveal, when Sakura's emotions had spilled over to Ino, takes a lot of work to do on purpose, but they figure it out in fits and starts, adding new messages as its usefulness for missions becomes apparent.
They talk about their teams some, Ino ranting about Chouji and Shikamaru's latest ridiculousness, Sakura laughing about her teams' misfortunes.
"So," Sakura starts one gossip session. They've pulled Ino's mattress down, pushed it against the spare, and spread a pile of blankets across both like they're civilian girls at a sleepover. "Sasuke activated his sharingan in Wave, right, and that's a huge ability, pretty much a guaranteed clue for soulmates..."
"Oh no," Ino laughs, realizing where this's going. "Who's his soulmate?"
Sakura giggles, then, "Apparently he's Kaka-sensei's Eternal Rival's student, he's been coming over to the training field and challenging Sasuke to spars and also the most ridiculous competitions - Sasuke keeps accepting, they really are two hard-headed peas in a pod."
"That can't be all," Ino goads, grinning.
"He wears spandex! Green spandex, with orange leg warmers, and he's got the dumbest haircut I've ever seen, and I think his eyebrows are about to gain sentience, and - and - he keeps going on about Sasuke's power of youth, and I don't think he even realizes that could be a euphemism!" Sakura has to stop her rant to bury her face in the comforter, shoulders shaking with mirth.
Ino just cackles.
A few days later, Ino opens her door to Sakura muffling giggles. She raises an eyebrow, asks, "What now?"
Sakura waves her off, comes in, then starts howling, grabbing her sides like she's in stitches. "Lee convinced Sasuke the spandex helps taijutsu!" she finally gets out.
Ino gapes, then starts wheezing. "What - what color is it - "
"Dark blue, with white leg warmers," Sakura admits.
"Not nearly clashing enough," Ino says, mock serious. "We need to convince him about the youthful powers of neon."
That's apparently enough to break what little control Sakura had over her laughter.
Apparently, if you and your soulmate use Mind-Body Switch on each other, you can end up in each other's heads much easier than swapping with the technique alone. It's pretty disorienting, at first, looking at her own face with Sakura's mannerisms.
Then the potential for chaos occurs to them, and they trade knowing looks.
"Do you think - " Sakura starts, her vicious grin strange on Ino's lips.
"Oh, yes," Ino purrs, already rubbing her hands together gleefully.
They're going to shake the world to its roots, one day.
But for now, there's flowers to trade and secrets to whisper. For now, what's to come looks endless. For now, they're still in bud, and there's time, later, for their flowers to bloom.
That's tomorrow, though. For now, there's today.
Chapter 4: Multi, names
This is a massive pairing pileup. The in-focus pairing is Fugaku/Mikoto/Kushina/Minato. The background pairings are the entire Rookie Nine plus Sai and Team Gai, with side Gaara/Naruto and Haku/Naruto, Team Taka as its own little bud, and Itachi&Sasuke platonic (or not, read it as you will) soulmates with a Itachi/Shisui spike off the polycule of doom. Plus some KakaObiRin.
Most people have two soulmates, small lines detailing their most important people, usually not including blood. (General tradition holds one romantic partner, one friend, but the Uchiha believe that however soulmates call to you is a good thing). Mikoto herself has two, a hasty scrawl spelling Uzumaki Kushina under her left breast, obsessively neat lines that read Uchiha Fugaku on the sole of her right foot. By Konoha's laws, she's only married to one of them. By the Uchiha's and the Uzumaki's, Kushina is as much her spouse.
(She smirks at that goofball Minato for weeks over having managed to marry his fiance before him.)
Kushina and Minato don't have clan lands of their own, so it's natural to invite them (and eventually the student Minato all but adopts) into her home with Fugaku, sprawling and nicely sized for multiple families. Minato, hilariously, ends up migrating beds more than their shared wife, whenever Kushina kicks him out of hers.
Itachi's born with a single soulmark, a lazy swirl spelling Uchiha Shisui, so of course Mikoto makes a point to get the other boy - Itachi's second cousin through Mikoto herself, after a quick calculation - over as much as possible. Shisui pretty much worships the ground Minato walks on, pestering him constantly about the Hiraishin - what it feels like to go so fast, can he carry Shisui, can he teach Shisui - Minato just laughs, answers any questions, zips around with the boy clinging to his back, and tells him to study math and pay attention in school if he wants to learn sealing.
It isn't all joy - the Third War looms over them, Shisui's sent into combat all too soon, Minato loses one student and then a second - but life goes on, and eventually the war ends.
Sasuke's born, and it's Kushina who alerts Mikoto to something unusual when she yelps out " Six?" Mikoto cranes her neck, demands her baby, and counts, and - Sasuke, in fact, has eleven soulmarks. Juugo, Hozuki Suigetsu, Uzumaki Karin, Hyuuga Neji, Tenten, Rock Lee, Aburame Shino, Haruno Sakura, Akimichi Chouji, Inuzuka Kiba, and - most startling - Uchiha Itachi.
"A good sign," Fugaku announces, a faint smile on his lips. "Especially with such a high number."
Mikoto huffs out a quiet laugh. "He won't lack for bonds, at least." She smiles softly down at her boy's scrunched up face. "Your name is Sasuke," she tells him, because that's the name they'd agreed for a boy. Then, to her husband, "You should check if Ita-chan has a new mark, too."
"He likely does," Fugaku points out. "There hasn't been a sibling pair since Madara and Izuna, but it's always returned." Still, he does as she commands when she shoos him again.
Kushina lets Sasuke catch her finger, humming, then: "I thought marks within immediate family didn't happen."
Mikoto shakes her head. "It's really rare, and maybe not in other clans, but in the Uchiha siblings are sometimes tied together. It just means they'll be more important to each other than usual, is all, nothing necessarily romantic."
Kushina seems like she wants to comment, but quickly gets distracted by making silly faces at Sasuke. "I hope my little one's half as blessed, -ttebane," she breathes after a few moments, and Mikoto just laughs.
Mikoto spends the next two months getting to know the parents of her son's soulmates (who're apparently all each other's soulmates, too, except Itachi who's still only Sasuke and Shisui's) - and tracking down Tenten and Rock Lee when she can't find their parents among the shinobi. Both turn out to be orphans, to her consternation, and she quickly arranges for adoptions. Tenten's taken in by Shisui's parents, the boy himself delighted to get a baby sister to spoil, Lee by Mikoto's second cousin. (Juugo, Karin, and Suigetsu are more of a problem - Karin's definitely not in Konoha, Hozuki is a Kiri clan, and they can't find any hint of anyone named 'Juugo.' Soulmates tend to meet, though, and it's already lucky so many of her son's soulmates were already in the village.)
As September ends, Nara Shikamaru then Yamanaka Ino add themselves to Sasuke's tally one day apart, and Mikoto just shakes her head and laughs ruefully.
This is promising to be a bit of a political headache, eventually.
Kushina's own due date approaches, and she browbeats the medic and security into letting her wife attend the birth. Which somehow turns into dragging along her wife's husband. Mikoto laughs at her, arranges for Shisui's parents to watch Itachi and Sasuke, and promises she'll be there.
And she's damn glad Kushina's so herself when the birth's attacked, by an Uchiha, and Susanoo blooms around Fugaku as he engages the stranger, his eyes bleeding. Kushina lies horribly still, bringing a burning to Mikoto's own eyes, and rage washes through her. The world goes sideways, and she's screaming - the stranger attacks her, fuck he's just a teen, can't be much older than Shisui - and everything twists and turns around her. She can see-hear-feel everything that moves, and with a twitch of her eye a shockwave blasts into the stranger as he materializes in front of her.
Fugaku lets off the attack, and she's not sure what he thinks he's doing but this asshole who dared come for Mikoto's soulmate isn't going to live to regret it -
Another blast, and the boy's mask goes flying, and -
"Obito?" she breathes, almost stumbling in her shock, but his face is twisted in anger and he just attacks again, and, well, if that's how he wants it.
She's dealt him more blows than he has her - hard to land a hit on someone controlling inertia itself - when Minato's voice, hard and commanding like she's never heard it, shouts, "Stop!" He appears in a flash between them, white coat whirling about him. "Kushina's alive!" he yells at Mikoto. "Fugaku's helped her get control of the Nine Tails again, she's fine!" Then, to her attacker, eyes narrowed and voice dangerous. "Obito," he demands. "What do you think you're doing?"
Mikoto's torn between rushing back to her soulmates and protecting her Hokage, but - she trusts them, knows that Fugaku's Mangekyou is powerful and Kushina's the best damn seal master on the continent, and -
This boy is a threat to Kushina's love, too.
So she stays, hovering behind Minato's shoulder, eyes narrowed at Obito. (And, fuck, her vision's already starting to blur around the edges.)
"It's this damn village's fault she's dead!" Obito screams, and, oh, Mikoto remembers a little boy crowing over meeting one of his two soulmates, remembers that the Uchiha love and hate with an intensity that outshine most. "He said - he said I can change it all, I just need - it's none of your damn business, you're standing in my way - " He lunges, Minato dodges, but the boy presses the attack, wild and desperate and it's immensely unlikely he can be talked down without someone dying -
Mikoto takes a deep breath, looks him in the eye - despite his harsh words he looks on the verge of tears - and whispers, "Izanami."
The entire right half of her field of vision cuts off. It's rather disconcerting. Obito freezes in place, and Minato sends her a baffled look. Mikoto winces, reflexively raises her hand to her now ruined eye, and then frowns. "I used a genjutsu on him. You could say it's the sharingan's ultimate technique. He'll repeat his actions until he chooses to change his destiny. I - recognized that look. He wasn't going to back down. But he's a kid, and... An eye's a small price, for a life."
Minato frowns, but nods. "Can he be safely moved?"
"Yes, Hokage-sama," she replies. "There's nothing that can disrupt such an illusion."
Her lord sighs. "Luckily, your husband seems to have prevented him from killing anyone, so I'll have some leeway... We need to find out how he survived, and who that person he referred to is." He rubs at his temples, then: "I'll get him somewhere secure. I know you want to be with your soulmates, but - you were holding your own against him even with that space-time technique of his. I need you on guard duty for now, unfortunately."
She nods and acknowledges, before letting herself be whisked away along with her prisoner.
Kushina barges into the prison over a day later, looking for all the world like she didn't just give birth and nearly have her chakra system ripped to shreds. She glares at the other guards when they try to argue with her, then flops into the seat next to Mikoto. Obito still hasn't woken. He was always a stubborn boy.
"My boy's name's Naruto," Kushina says, grinning. "He's got his dad's eyes and my lungs. Probably colic. Won't stop screaming. Fugaku and Minato are watching him and your kids. I think of that lot Ita-chan's the only one who knows how to hold a baby..."
Mikoto grins at her, glad for some good news out of this fiasco. She hasn't gotten anything more than catnaps in the last forty hours. "Does he have his soulmarks yet?" she asks.
"Hah! Yeah, knew I was forgetting something. Same group as Sasuke-chan, plus Ita-chan and two I don't recognize - Haku and Gaara. Ita-chan's over the moon to have a third, he's already appointed himself Naru-chan's guard. That makes, what, fourteen soulmates for Sasuke-chan, thirteen for Naru-chan? Then Shisui-kun branching off the edge." Kushina laughs, a bit ruefully. "Our kids. Not even a fourth of a year old, and I'm not envying Minato the headaches."
She just snorts, leans against Kushina, and turns her eyes back to her charge.
Obito wakes up after another few days. Mikoto's the kind of sleep deprived that's edging into thorough grouch territory, but she can't bring herself to stay mad at his contrite expression. He's always been good at looking like a bedraggled kitten. She just sighs, alerts Minato, and lurks in the back of the room while Obito weeps on his sensei.
She finally stumbles home, ignores Fugaku's harried expression (good, Ita-chan was an angel but he still left her with the lion's share of the work, let him have a taste of his own medicine), and collapses face-first onto her bed without even taking her shoes off. She groans loudly and theatrically when someone attempts to enter the room, then sends whoever a one-eyed glare. Her husband, having something resembling a sense of self preservation, backs off and leaves her to her nap.
Life goes on. Naruto and Sasuke both add a Sai to their tally, who no one can even find, then Hyuuga Hinata, who'll hopefully be less of an ass than her father. (Mikoto feels full confidence insulting Hiashi, she was on a genin team with the twins).
The instant Minato has enough political capital he changes the marriage laws, permitting multiple marriages, even without requiring soulmates. (It should've been that way from the start, he argues, given the Uchiha's traditions and their position as a founding clan. He then spends the next month addressing or introducing Fugaku as 'my wife's wife's husband' whenever there's official business, to the point where Kushina jokes he should just cut out the middle women and square their line. Mikoto snickers at the considering look on Minato's face and the matching panicked look on her husband's.)
(She outright cackles when Minato decides to actually court Fugaku.)
Her youngest boys are two when Hizashi appears on her doorstep, looking frazzled. Mikoto invites him in, runs through pleasantries - he wants to talk to her, not her husband or Hokage - and, well.
She's going to have words with Hiashi.
And possibly fireballs.
She's let into the Hyuuga compound by virtue of being the head's genin teammate, and being very good at hiding her banked fury behind a polite expression. Fools.
Mikoto strolls into Hiashi's office, waits for the guard-slash-servant to leave, then says, voice chipper, "If you brand my son's soulmate with that abominable seal of yours, I will set you on fire."
Fun fact about the Uchiha: they are possessive. Incredibly so. And for all that soulmates might carry a different clan name, they're generally considered basically Uchiha in every way that counts. Regardless of what sort of relationship Neji, Sasuke, and Naruto eventually decide on, Neji's already family.
Family don't let family be branded with terrible seals of doom. It's a rule.
Hiashi doesn't even blink. "It always seemed strange to me that people consider you the diplomatic one," he says after a moment.
She just grins, wild and sharp. "Oh, I am. I'm giving you warning. Notice the lack of a screaming madwoman with a gunbai." Obito had returned Madara's gunbai after switching back to their side. She's been practicing with it. It's a nice weapon. Very good for intimidation, especially when she's on rotation to guard Minato. Something about a grinning one-eyed Uchiha with a massive war fan sets people on edge.
Mildly, "I begin to see why there has never been an Uchiha Hokage."
Even though it's clearly intended as an insult, she snorts. "Oh, yes, we'd be terrible at it. Entire continent on fire within the month." Then, leaning into his space: "Like you're about to be, if you don't grow a spine and stand up to those old coots."
Hiashi has that look on his face that on a less stuck up man would turn into a sigh. "You're putting me in a difficult position," he says, somewhat terse.
"Don't give me difficult position, I only dropped the Hizashi issue because he told me not to interfere, but Neji's a kid and your nephew. I shouldn't have to threaten you into protecting your own family!" She narrows her remaining eye, scowling.
"The seal has its reasons," is all Hiashi says.
"There is no reason to torture a child! Your! Nephew!" Mikoto screeches.
The argument goes on from there.
(She does, eventually, win.)
One of their investigators finally gathers enough evidence - all circumstantial, but Minato trusts the Uchiha detectives - to implicate Orochimaru in a spate of kidnappings and disappearances stretching back years.
Mikoto gets the joy of accompanying her Hokage in smoking out a certain snake, Fugaku and the rest of the Uchiha jounin gathered for the arrest, Kushina sweeping in behind them to deal with any seals.
He's ultimately too slippery to take alive, but snakes burn just fine.
And what they find in his records -
Well, Orochimaru's not the only rotten thing in Konoha, is he.
Hinata's nearly kidnapped, Hiashi defends her, and it's a mess. Minato has Mikoto accompany him to meet with the Raikage, and she puts on her best 'if you fuck with my leader you die in a fire' expression. There's no love lost between Minato and Kumo, fortunately, not after he nearly lost Kushina to their raiders. Especially not after they came after one of his, and Minato takes the idea of the village as family more seriously than anyone Mikoto's ever met.
He makes a good sort-of Uchiha. No one who threatens one of theirs should get to make pissy little demands like this.
Minato's all joviality and smiles and 'surely we can work this out,' a hard glint of 'I can take your entire army by myself' in his eyes. Mikoto very thoroughly admires him for how he handles Kumo's demands and accusations. Anyone can pick up a blade and stab people with it. It takes true talent to navigate a minefield like this.
She's starting to realize what her husband and wife see in him.
(Especially when he point-blank refuses to hand over Hiashi, or even a substitute.)
Naruto's not been four very long when a red-headed woman - the same brilliant bloody shade as Kushina - requests an audience with the Hokage. She has a little girl in tow, about Sasuke's age.
Her name is Uzumaki Kaoru, and she's seeking refuge in Konoha - her daughter, Karin, she explains, presented with an Uchiha soulmate. She moves to offer her chakra for healing, and Minato waves her off, while Mikoto silently calculates where there's space among the Uchiha.
No empty houses currently, but after she, Fugaku, Minato, and Kushina consolidated bedrooms and Kakashi moved out to live with Obito, their house has guest rooms to spare, and it'll suffice while they find the two proper accommodations, she believes.
(It turns out that Kaoru is Kushina's first cousin, after they compare names of barely remembered family, and, well. After that, of course the Uchiha have an empty plot or two for a new little house.)
Tenten decides at some point that Mikoto is the coolest aunt ever. She hovers around the house from age six on, asking questions a mile a minute. Is Mikoto really one of the best shurikenjutsu experts Konoha's ever had? Mama said she invented certain techniques, can she pretty please teach Tenten? What kind of sword is that? Can Tenten use a fuuma shuriken, she'll be careful she promises! Did Mikoto really lose her eye fighting Madara? (No, but she did fight Madara's kind of student, which Tenten decides isn't quite as awesome as ghostly grudge matches, but is still pretty cool.)
Danzo's brought down shortly after Itachi turns thirteen, when he tries getting his hooks in her son. It might not be incontrovertible proof of his misdeeds over the years, but it's enough for Mikoto.
The old bastard doesn't go quietly, Mikoto and Fugaku both burning through their vision over the course of the fight. Kushina's a picture of fury, Minato showing why he was picked as the village's best, the ANBU and jounin backing them up giving their all but mostly serving to keep Danzo's little minions off the main force's backs.
Mikoto still has a little spot where she can focus and see clearly by the end. If her sharingan's active. Fugaku isn't so lucky. He remains in the police force, because he's one of the best heads they've ever had and blindness is hardly going to steal away his sheer experience and skill. There's a debate between having someone assist him with paperwork - it'll be difficult finding someone with a high enough security clearance - and training everyone in braille. Eventually they find a compromise - assistance for the low-level daily tasks (which Itachi can do, Mikoto's baby is stressed enough after this fiasco, a desk job will be good for him), and braille for anything at the highest classification levels.
Going through Danzo's bases is a pain, and one Mikoto's not invited along for. Curse her eyesight. Still, they find children, many of them snatched from the clans. And two of them -
One's a seven year old boy who looks suspiciously Uchiha, with the same network of Konoha names as Naruto and Sasuke and ten other children, with a simple Shin curling around the pulse-point of his wrist in addition. Another's slightly older, maybe ten, with Sai in the same location. Both boys keep their soulmarks covered until a medic prods them, and, on a hunch, Mikoto asks that they each be asked to write out a single name. Sai for the first, Shin for the second.
The handwritings match.
Luckily, there's a couple she knows who're looking to adopt, neither of the women wanting to bother with the demons known as children under five. The boys call themselves brothers, so there's no question of separating them, either. (There's mild jokes about the Uchiha acquiring lost children. Mikoto just smiles with a challenge on the tip of her tongue.)
Life progresses, and her youngest two graduate alongside Sakura, under Hatake Kakashi.
She remembers the little brat who used to mope about the house, and wishes him luck with a wry twist to her lips.
May you someday have children just like you, indeed.
Team Seven apparently inherited Kushina's luck (her team still hasn't shaken the 'Team D-S' moniker), because their first C-rank doesn't go wrong in any of the normal ways. It goes wrong in Momochi Zabuza ways.
Mikoto has no idea what Kakashi was thinking, letting them continue on that. At least Naruto's gotten a new soulmate out of it, dragging home both missing-nin like a cat with presents.
Haku and Zabuza refuse to become a Konoha shinobi, which, fine, doesn't stop the Uchiha from absorbing them like a particularly fiery amoeba.
Team Seven goes on a scattering of further missions before the chunin exams, where Naruto promptly meets and befriends his last soulmate. Who is the sort of nightmare that people usually cite when arguing against jinchuuriki.
Minato rather cheerfully browbeats the Kazekage into letting him fix the boy's jinchuuriki seal as a soulmate present. Fortunately, Minato's been refusing to participate in the Wind daimyo's power games, so Suna and Konoha are still on something vaguely resembling friendly terms.
Team Seven don't make chunin, because while she loves them and they're certainly strong enough, they're a bunch of impulsive hotheads. Not exactly chunin material. All three mope for a week, before Kakashi whisks them off on another mission.
The next time, it's Sasuke dragging home strays.
"His name's Juugo," Sasuke says to all four of his parents. "His bloodline gives him these rages, but my sharingan's sufficient to suppress them. He's staying with me."
Juugo, who already towers over Mikoto despite being maybe fifteen, just nods.
She smiles, says, "We still have that guest room, then," and that's that.
A year later, a Kiri missing-nin - or maybe actual nin, it's debatable with Kiri hemorrhaging talent left and right - follows Sasuke home. His name's Suigetsu, he doesn't want to join Konoha either - instead he wants somewhere to lie low until Kiri straightens itself out, when he plans to reform the Seven Swordsmen.
He gets in a rather impressive glaring match with Zabuza.
(Minato welcomes him with open arms. Sasuke's ready to lead a team by now, Sakura's angling for promotions within the hospital, and Naruto's turning out to be too valuable to keep him tied to one team. Her boy is incredibly smug over the formation of Team Taka, holding that he's a team leader before Naruto over the blond's head for three months solid.)
They've just opened diplomatic relationships with the newly installed Godaime Mizukage when word reaches them that Gaara's been kidnapped by a strange organization Jiraiya's only gotten rumors of.
Konoha, it must be said, can be just as possessive of soulmates and step-soulmates as the Uchiha.
(Karin's on a path to become a better sensor than the Second, Minato can cross the continent in hours, Obito can outright teleport, and the Soulmate Thirteen as the central web's come to be called are a bunch of terrors. The Akatsuki don't stand a chance, not in this.)
(Mikoto takes Hinata, Tenten, and Sakura to their favorite dumpling and soup shop as part of a very loud celebration for killing their first S-rank missing nin. Poor Hinata looks ready to faint at the attention.)
Life goes on, in fits and starts, ups and downs.
One notable up is when Mikoto gets the satisfaction of whacking Madara in the face with his own gunbai.
But that's another story entirely.
Chapter 5: SasoDei, shared sky
In which you share a sky with your soulmate that you can both write/draw on (sun, moon, and weather remain shared across everyone's skies, it's the backdrop that changes).
Sasori's sky is his own for sixteen years. He fills it carefully, slowly, considering every line that decorates the cosmos. Constructs intricate pictures that will last as long as he does - which he intends to be a very, very long time. He leaves half the sky blank for his soulmate, though as the years go on he starts to reconsider that.
It's vaguely sad, that his art might not ever be seen by another.
Color starts to burst blurrily across his sky when he's sixteen. Bright colors, like a child's attempts at finger painting.
Or a baby's at sky-writing.
Sasori's eye twitches when the chaotic swirl intrudes on his side, but, well, you can't really expect artistic integrity from a baby. He corrects the changes, and ruefully hopes the kid develops some style soon. Sasori was a prodigy at art. His soulmate, logically, should be the same.
He knows when the kid learns to read hiragana because phrases start bursting across the sky like fireworks. The kid's tendency so far has been rapidly changing chaos, the unfocused mind of a toddler unable to commit to proper art. The phrases sparkle and glitter and clash horribly with themselves, and are mostly onomatopoeia. Half the time for explosion sounds.
Sasori posts an essay on the importance of not interfering with others' artworks, the beauty of permanence, and an analysis of the enduring architecture of Wind's capital. On his side, of course. He's been hoping that erasing the kid's art will slowly encourage him to paint only where he's supposed to, though he hates removing even a child's attempts.
It hasn't really been working.
(The kid's response to his essay is a thorough vandalization of the entire sky.)
The kid's ten when he stops straying out of his side. He posts an actual apology for interfering with Sasori's art, though it's bookended by complaints about Sasori being a boring old codger and true beauty being like cherry blossom petals. (The kid's been going through a poetry phase lately; Sasori can't help but be amused. He starts writing down the attempts after he realizes the kid's overwriting them. You shouldn't lose even early poems, they're meant to be written and celebrated down the ages.)
Sasori replies with an acceptance of his apology and an analysis of the lasting impact of enduring art across generations.
The kid starts developing his own style for communicating scenes. It's hopelessly modern and almost cartoonish, quick sketches meant to show dynamism more than proper art.
Sasori rolls his eyes and posts a congratulations on defecting when the kid paints his entire half of the sky with images of explosions rocking Iwa (captioned "true art!" in a horrendously peppy font).
Orochimaru leaves the Akatsuki, sending Sasori into a lasting rage that he vents in long rants to his spies and soulmate. (His soulmate starts posting admittedly rather amusing images of a cartoon Orochimaru getting blown up. Sasori prefers preserving his worthier opponents so future generations will know them; a lying traitor like that snake doesn't deserve such an honor).
His bad mood's subsided some when he gets a new partner, who promptly introduces himself as an artist. Sasori perks up, and of course asks which medium he prefers, Sasori himself is partial to the elegant and lasting beauty of a well-maintained puppet, though there's a certain majesty to grand architecture...
His new partner scoffs, says, "Art is an explosion, un," then widens his eyes and points at Sasori.
"You?!" they both say at the same time.
(Sasori sends Itachi a carved flower in thanks for helping him meet his soulmate. Deidara sends him a bomb.)