Chapter 1: Warmth in the Winter
Originally written for the prompt Any fandom, any character, cold blooded. Expanded and edited somewhat here.
Sakumo smothered a laugh at the dark grumblings barely audible from beneath the heavy winter kakebuton. Apparently he didn’t smother it well enough; the mutterings faded into an angry hiss - though it was rather lacking in ferocity - even as the slender figure curled tighter. Orochimaru’s angular cheek settled on Sakumo’s chest, faintly cool fingers splaying over his belly. Snuggling for warmth, though he would, no doubt, never openly admit to doing such a thing.
Sakumo wondered, if Orochimaru was still with him in the spring . . . would he curl up in the sun to bask, like one of his own summons?
Chapter 2: Another World
This was written for the prompt Any fandom, hero/villain, a second try.
This one is a sole exception for the collection *coughs* in that Sakumo's canonical suicide is mentioned as happening . . . but as he is alive and they are together it doesn't fit into Broken Pack (the one-or-both-broken-or-gone collection) so after some mental debate . . . here it stays. It also rather got away from me on the Three Sentence Ficathon to begin with, as you can see.
Orochimaru struggled to stay awake, clawing onto consciousness and turning to look at the man sprawled beside him; he managed to cling for just long enough to take in the messy silvery hair, the mostly bare figure, that he was breathing- and then darkness and exhaustion took him.
When Orochimaru woke he barely had a moment to feel the spark of panic or look around before he found himself hauled bodily into a powerful kiss, and he arched his back, thighs splaying across his lover’s lap as he returned it demandingly.
“Where are we?” Sakumo asked as he pulled away, slightly breathless and his lips turned up in a tiny hint of a smile Orochimaru had not seen for far too long.
Orochimaru cleared his throat and smoothed his hair with one hand, extending his senses as he should have the moment he arrived; his chakra felt . . . odd, here, but it responded as it should, at least. “Another world.” he said, and glanced at Sakumo. “I . . . could not simply bring you back, after what you did, but I could move us both . . . elsewhere. There is no returning.” he added warily.
Sakumo reached up, tangling his fingers with Orochimaru’s and trailing down a lock of his long hair. “I knew that when I made my choice, lovely,” he glanced down at where there was no longer a wound, nor even a scar, across his belly, then back up, “I- It’s all right. Thank you.” he added, swallowing thickly. “For the . . . chance.”
Chapter 3: Offered Aid
Sakumo nodded along to his friend’s story, but his eyes strayed back to the graceful figure across the room, currently uncharacteristically stiff - he would know, he spent entirely too much time watching this particular person - and frowning fiercely - just visible in the nearby mirror - while struggling with hairpins.
Sakumo fidgeted, struggling to fix his attention on Dan’s words again, only to find a knowing grin directed at him as his friend fell silent. He narrowed his eyes and Dan leaned closer, opening his mouth. Sakumo punched his shoulder and he flinched back, pouting.
“Shut up, you.” Sakumo warned in a soft murmur, pointing at his friend.
Dan rolled his eyes and held his hands up, and Sakumo looked back again, tensing as he saw the hitching, painfully awkward movements involved in unwinding long silken hair.
“Just go.” Dan said, barely a breath. “Ask.”
Sakumo glanced at him, and he lifted his head in an encouraging nod. Sakumo bit his lip, but rose and moved across the room.
“Let me help you?” he asked Orochimaru, meeting golden eyes easily when he whirled, jerking as ribs Sakumo knew were fractured twisted.
“Hatake. What do you want?” Orochimaru asked, eyes narrow.
Sakumo offered his open palms. “To help you. You’re hurting. I know you can handle it, but you don’t have to.” he said softly.
Orochimaru only stared at him, eerily still even for a ninja.
Sakumo gestured to his long hair. “Will you let me?” he asked hopefully.
Orochimaru snorted, lifting his head a little more. “I am not a useless hime, you know. Even if I am capable of appearing as such.” His voice was sharp and acidic.
Sakumo’s brows rose. “I would never assume you were.” he said gently. “I’m fairly certain I saw you raze half the shiro with your bare hands. But you’re hurting, and I can help. If you’ll allow me.”
Orochimaru shifted slightly, then inclined his head a tiny fraction, turning his back. He was steel-stiff, but he didn’t twitch as Sakumo freed the last jewelled pin from his hair - it felt like glossy, heavy, raw silk and Sakumo had to fight not to simply bury his hands in it, or his face - and then reached past him for the brush.
The taut lines of his body eased slowly as Sakumo brushed out his long hair, keeping gentle hold of the sleek tresses to prevent pulling. A sneaked glance at the mirror revealed his eyes were heavy-lidded and his lips slightly parted. Sakumo shivered.
Sakumo lingered reluctantly once he was finished, letting the heavy locks run through his fingers just once more before returning the brush to its place. “Thank you.” he said quietly, tucking his fingers against his palm before he could reach to touch again, aware permission was no longer implied. He took a step back.
Sakumo paused, brows rising, and Orochimaru tilted his head, his hair falling aside to bare his long, pale neck. Sakumo swallowed.
“Braid it?” he asked, lifting his jaw a fraction, and Sakumo grinned, taking a quick step back to his side.
“As you wish.”
Orochimaru pulled back from the warm, sweet kiss rather sooner than he would have liked, eyes narrowing. Sakumo was laughing breathlessly, sagging against the tree behind him.
“What?” Orochimaru asked testily, tense.
Sakumo smiled, the look in his eyes soft and affectionate. “Oh. . . Lovely.” he said, sliding his hands up Orochimaru’s shoulders, which was not helpful at all. “It’s you. Of course it is.”
“What?” Orochimaru demanded again, hissing uncomfortably.
Sakumo pulled at him and Orochimaru swayed with it easily before catching himself and turning his head away. Sakumo kissed his jaw. “Don’t be cross, lovely.” he crooned, then dropped one hand, pulling open his festival yukata at the top.
Orochimaru’s eyes dropped to the skin revealed even as he tensed, wondering what Sakumo- Then he saw it. “Aconitum.” he said absently, trailing a finger down Sakumo’s chest to rest on the soulmark over his heart.
“Wolf’s bane.” Sakumo said with a wry laugh. “My parents were. . . Ah.” He shrugged.
Orochimaru blinked. “Ah. I can only imagine.” He shook his head slightly, then arched an eyebrow. “What was so-” Realisation dawned. “You didn’t know.” he said softly, wondering.
Sakumo tilted his head. “You knew?” he asked, sounding surprised.
Orochimaru moved forwards and kissed him, welcomed with open arms and another kiss as sweet as their first, despite the surprised sound catching in Sakumo’s throat as their lips met. He pulled away reluctantly after only a few moments.
“Yes, I knew.” Orochimaru said softly, bringing up his right arm, letting his sleeve slide back to bare his own soulmark. It was a canine fang, deeply cracked, the shape of the damage reminiscent of striking lightning. “I thought. . .”
He’d thought Sakumo must know of their connection, to be willing- to want-
Orochimaru pressed close to Sakumo again, nestling against him. Sakumo’s arms came around him, holding him tight, and Sakumo crooned almost in his ear, nuzzling into his hair.
There are no angst implications in their soulmarks whatsoever. Nope.
Chapter 5: Sannin Advice
Please ignore the timeline for today. Its wrecking was for a good cause. (Again.)
“Tadaima!” Sakumo called, unwinding Kakashi’s sling while he kicked his feet impatiently, yipping.
Orochimaru’s voice came from the back of the house, but not his workroom. Sakumo clucked chidingly at Kakashi, juggling the cub in one arm and hanging up the sling along with his vest with the other hand, then bringing his feet up one at a time to pry off his sandals. Kakashi squirmed and Sakumo barked softly at him. He quieted.
“Something interesting happened today.” Sakumo called as he made his way through the house to his mate, allowing Kakashi to the floor once he saw that Orochimaru was only hanging the futons outside, the shoji open wide to the garden.
“Oh?” Orochimaru twisted to look over his shoulder, and made a silly face at Kakashi, scrunching his nose and sticking his tongue out.
Kakashi giggled, crawling towards his Mama, and Sakumo smiled fondly.
“Nothing to do with Kakashi?” Orochimaru asked, hurriedly throwing the last of the material in his hands up and taking a step back to catch Kakashi just as he made it to the edge of the engawa.
“No; Dan dropped by while we were at the training fields.” Sakumo said, moving outside himself and leaning against a support pillar. “He wanted to ask for . . . advice.” he said wryly.
“Dan!” Kakashi said helpfully, and Orochimaru laughed softly, kissing the tip of his nose and putting him back on the engawa, then scaling up to it himself, leaving his shoes behind.
“Advice?” Orochimaru arched a brow. “For whatever purpose was Dan seeking your advice?”
“How to be married to one of the Sannin without getting murdered, I think.” Sakumo said playfully, and Orochimaru snorted. “He asked me how to . . . hm. Express himself in a positive light, I suppose, to you and Jiraiya.”
“What did you tell him?” Orochimaru asked, and Sakumo smiled, but didn’t answer. His mate eyed him. “Tsunade is only more likely to like him if Jiraiya fusses about him, I hope he knows and does not try to court Jiraiya’s favour with something foolish.”
“And you?” Sakumo asked, curious how Orochimaru would see it.
Orochimaru sniffed. “I don’t care.” he said, crouching to pull a leaf out of Kakashi’s hair.
Sakumo watched his mate and cub for a moment, a fond rumble building in his throat. “You mean, as long as he makes Tsunade happy, you’ll be satisfied with him.” he suggested, and Orochimaru gave him a dark look.
There was no argument forthcoming, however.
Chapter 6: Wolf and Hime (wolf & hime)
The parenthetical addition to the title here means this one will have a/multiple followups; look for them by later chapters with the note 'wolf & hime' added.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sakumo sighed and rose, making his way to the tent from which Jiraiya was yelling and sticking his head in. “Yes?”
He blinked, eyes widening at the profusion of finery spread . . . everywhere inside. Jiraiya seized his shoulder and hauled him inside. “Your clan, they were nobility, right?” he asked, dragging Sakumo across the tent.
“. . .generations ago, yes, what has that got to-”
“We need someone to play lord.” Jiraiya said, pausing and eyeing Sakumo critically, then glancing at the riot of colourful fabric thrown over a low table next to them. “A warrior lord is acceptable but it has to be someone who can carry the role well. Without henge.”
“What about you?” Sakumo protested, trying to pull away as Jiraiya held a haori up to him.
“Oh, hell, I can’t play it.” Jiraiya grinned at him. “Too loud, too common, I know that.”
“We wouldn’t get Jiraiya back in one piece, anyway, if he went.” Tsunade said dryly, saluting Sakumo with her glass.
“I haven’t agreed to this at all.” a venomous tone from behind a screen Sakumo had almost thought was part of the mess of finery.
“We already know you’ll do it!” Tsunade yelled back before Jiraiya could say anything. “We need it . . . and anyway, Hatake’ll be a better fit with you, I’m sure you can pull it off.”
“Sorry,” Jiraiya told Sakumo, patting his shoulder, “Orochi’s playing your hime.”
Sakumo opened his mouth, then promptly forgot what he had been going to say as Orochimaru slipped out from behind the screen, wearing a dusky silver kimono - with at least four underlayers - patterned with trailing fuji blossoms. The markings on his face had been used as the base for lines of intricate makeup, and his hair swept up and pinned with kanzashi that dripped tiny fuji made of amethyst, save for the locks that fell to frame his face, somehow softening his angular jaw.
“I suppose the wolf is more palatable,” Orochimaru said in a sharp snap, lip curling and showing sharp teeth, “he certainly has more sense.”
“Thank you, lovely.” Sakumo said, and Orochimaru’s eyes - no hiding those, they were brilliant gold and sharp, the slit pupils stark against the unusual colour - snapped to him.
“What did you call me?” Orochimaru asked, and Sakumo stilled, scrambling to-
He flushed. “Lovely.” he said quietly, and growled at Jiraiya when he started to guffaw. “You always are, but I didn’t know you could look . . . like this.” he said semi-apologetically.
Jiraiya’s laughter cut off sharply with a choking noise, and Tsunade snickered into her sake. “Always?” she asked teasingly.
Sakumo frowned at her. “Yes.” he said firmly, glancing warily back to Orochimaru, who was eyeing him assessingly. Sakumo fought the impulse to square his shoulders and ensure he looked his best.
“Tsunade’s right,” Orochimaru said with a sigh, “I will do it,” he paused, “and I would rather Sakumo accompany me than any of the others.” he added, catching Sakumo’s eyes from beneath his lashes.
Chapter 7: Nightmares and No Promises
Orochimaru had woken to the soft croons of his mate soothing their cub, but he stayed quiet as Kakashi whimpered into his father’s shoulder and eventually calmed, going back to sleep under his stroking hand.
After settling Kakashi down a little more, Sakumo looked over at Orochimaru and startled when their eyes met. Orochimaru smiled slightly, moving closer. “Nightmare?” he asked quietly, trailing a feathery caress over Kakashi’s cheek and shoulder.
Sakumo nodded, nestling into the blankets, Kakashi snugly cradled between them now. “It was something about a tri-headed monster whose screams made the wolves’ ears explode? And something about the world being upside down. And purple water.”
Orochimaru’s brows drew together, but he nodded.
“I think it’s stranger than mine were at his age, but hell if I can remember.” Sakumo admitted, propping his jaw on one hand. “Certainly weirder than anything I’ve had lately.”
Orochimaru shrugged fluidly. “My nightmares are usually about losing you.” he said honestly, glancing from his mate down to their cub, sleeping peacefully now. He dipped his head and kissed Kakashi’s temple, and looked up when Sakumo’s hand brushed his cheek.
Sakumo opened his mouth, then just smiled faintly. “I adore you, lovely.” he said quietly. “I wish. . .”
Orochimaru rolled his shoulder, nudging his cheek into Sakumo’s palm. He knew. No promises could be made that he never would, whatever they might wish.
Sakumo stood in the doorway, still dirty and carrying all of his mission gear - he shouldn’t have been dragged off so soon, he had been furious to be told he had to leave and anxious for the days he was gone. His still healing mate and new cub needed him and it pained him to be away from them.
But now he had returned to them, and they were safe in their den, and. . .
“I didn’t know you sing, lovely.” Sakumo said, voice rough with exhaustion.
Orochimaru turned towards him, golden eyes soft, no surprise in the sinuous shift of his body. Kakashi was cradled against his bare chest, tiny fingers caught in long locks of hair, sleeping with his mouth gaping open against his Mama’s skin. Sakumo’s heart throbbed and his throat felt tight.
“I missed you.” Sakumo said thinly, swallowing down a whine.
Orochimaru smiled gently, freeing one arm from around Kakashi and beckoning to him. Sakumo hesitated - he was still filthy and he still wore his flak vest and his weapons and-
Orochimaru beckoned again, raising an eyebrow, and Sakumo let out a rough little breath and went to them, nuzzling his mate affectionately and running a gentle hand over Kakashi’s hair without quite touching him.
“We missed you.” Orochimaru replied, kissing him fleetingly. “But we are all right.” He tilted his head. “Let me put Kakashi down and I’ll help you wash.”
Sakumo should protest - he didn’t need help, truly; let Kakashi keep his mother - but . . . he ached for his mate’s presence, touch, the comfort of being near again. Of carrying Orochimaru’s scent as he should again.
“All right.” Sakumo said, reaching out and just stopping himself from touching his cub again. Not until he was clean. Kakashi was too little to be so careless with him. “Thank you.”
“You’re mine.” Orochimaru replied simply, giving a small smile. “Mate.”
Sakumo hummed low in his throat, soothed. “I am.” he agreed with a smile of his own, and he moved away again, down the hall to the bathroom as Orochimaru slipped into the bedroom with Kakashi.
Hiruzen should probably consider himself lucky he came out of ordering Sakumo to leave his mate and new cub almost immediately after Kakashi was born in one piece. . . Although I doubt he's thought about it.
Chapter 9: Wrong (averting Sakumo's suicide)
Orochimaru grumbled under his breath at the disturbance but raised his head and, after a moment, ran through the seals to unlock the door and take down the warding. He was prepared to snap when the door opened but bit his tongue when Kakashi spilled around it and into his workroom. There had been a time when Kakashi would come pester Orochimaru without regard for what he was working on, but he had outgrown that - and he looked ruffled and distressed.
“Kashi, what is it?” Orochimaru asked, moving away from the table and kneeling, arms open.
Kakashi ran for him, and Orochimaru felt a nervous prickle. “Mama. . .” Kakashi all but moaned into his chest, clinging, and Orochimaru closed his arms around his son. Kakashi was shaking slightly.
“Hush,” he soothed, one hand ruffling and petting Kakashi’s wild hair, “tell me.”
“It’s- It’s Dad, Mama, he’s not acting right and he wrote a letter and hid it and his tanto is out but none of his other mission gear and he hasn’t gone out and he wouldn’t eat all day and he smells funky and sour, Mama something’s wrong, you have to-”
“I’ll see to it.” Orochimaru said thinly, Kakashi’s recitation plucking at him uncomfortably. Something, indeed, must be very wrong. Orochimaru hadn’t seen it in his mate, but had spent . . . perhaps too little time with his family of late. “We’ll go right now.”
“Down! Dad! Down!” Kakashi chanted in his ear, squirming against his back. “Dad. . .” He whined, at a teeth-grinding pitch, and Sakumo’s eye twitched.
“Not yet, cub.” he said evenly.
“Mama!” Kakashi yowled almost immediately, and Sakumo covered his face with one hand for a moment.
“Listen to your father Kakashi.” Orochimaru said firmly, and Kakashi whined more, kicking and squirming in his sling.
“You can get down when we’re done.” Sakumo told him patiently, setting another marker. Kakashi whuffed sulkily but stopped whining and settled a little. “Thank you.”
Orochimaru met him halfway past the next one, hands empty, and Sakumo smiled at his mate. “Ready to head down to the water?” Orochimaru asked, brushing the backs of his fingers over Sakumo’s face. He turned his face into the touch and nipped at the tips of elegant fingers as they fell away again, making Orochimaru laugh softly.
Kakashi whined pointedly behind his head.
“When you are, lovely.” Sakumo said with a slightly exasperated smile. Orochimaru’s lips twitched, but he didn’t say anything and he didn’t laugh again, simply leading the way down from the warded area they’d begun down towards the sound of the waves.
It was the work of a few moments to have the wards finished and Sakumo stretched, handing off his pack to his mate. “Now you can get down, cub.” he said, craning his neck to look at Kakashi. His eyes were wide and staring straight out at the ocean. “If you still want to?”
Kakashi whined softly, and Sakumo reached around and up his own back, patting Kakashi’s leg comfortingly. “Do you want to get down, Kakashi?” He paused. “It’s the ocean. You don’t have to go near it if you don’t want to.”
Kakashi tore his gaze away and nodded, and Sakumo reached for the sling. His mate’s hands brushed his own away, extricating Kakashi more easily than he could have, and Orochimaru brushed a kiss to their cub’s brow, then set him on the sand.
He crouched, winding his fingers into the fabric of Sakumo’s pants, and resumed staring at the sea with what looked to be painfully wide eyes.
Sakumo shook his head slightly, folding the sling into a messy bundle and leaning over to kiss his mate lightly. “Think he’ll get used to it?” he asked softly. “I didn’t think he’d be frightened.”
“It may take him a bit, but I’m certain he will. He’s a curious little one.” Orochimaru said fondly. “It’s just new and strange.”
Kakashi is a sweet vipercub, but he's also a little bit of a brat . . . sometimes.
Chapter 11: Prisoner
Sakumo paused as he came to a heavy door with a pair of guards, lowering his head and growling, deep and rough.
“I- I’m sorry, Jounin Hatake, but I- We can’t let you do that.”
Sakumo bared his fangs, snarling. One of the guards quailed a bit, but the other took a step forwards. “You can’t pass, and you can’t see the prisoner.”
Sakumo flickered to his side and slammed his elbow into the man’s throat, from just enough of an angle not to crush his trachea. The other drew his sword, steadying at the sign of a threat and advancing on Sakumo, but two quick seals sent lightning leaping from Sakumo’s hands to the sword.
The guard never had a hope of dropping it fast enough, and he slammed backwards into the door, groaning as he collapsed to the floor.
“I don’t think there’s enough of you to be telling me I can’t see my mate.” Sakumo said, kicking the door in with a crack of the frame breaking free of the wall.
He strode down the dimly-lit corridor, following the scent of his deeply angry mate.
“Sakumo!” Orochimaru uncoiled from his place on the thin futon and darted to the cell door. “What-” His eyes flicked over Sakumo rapidly. “What are you doing here?”
“I came home and Kakashi told me men took his Mama away. He remembered a little of what they said.” Sakumo said softly, resting his brow against the bars keeping him from touching his mate properly.
Orochimaru slid his fingers over Sakumo’s on the bars, and he fought another snarl at the sight of the seals binding Orochimaru’s wrists and hands. They were painted directly onto his skin and covered by a second set engraved into metal cuffs. “Is Kakashi all right?” he asked softly.
“He was upset and scared.” Sakumo replied, twining his fingers with his mate’s. “He wasn’t hurt, though. He wants his Mama back. I want my mate home.”
Orochimaru swallowed. “I don’t know . . . if that will happen, wolf-heart.” he said with a weak, bitter smile. “It appears sensei intends to deny the project I worked on . . . and I will be the figure to carry the disgust that comes from necessary but unpalatable work.”
Sakumo growled. He didn’t . . . care much for Orochimaru’s human-focused experiments, but this was- He drew a deep breath and let it out. “Then. . .”
“Root is to be disbanded. Danzo appears set up to carry on just as he always has,” Orochimaru hissed angrily, “sensei’s dearest friend.” he spat. Sakumo closed his eyes, whining helplessly. Orochimaru’s fingertips brushed his face, and he looked up at his mate. “. . .wait and see what they decide. Perhaps- Perhaps it won’t be so bad.”
Sakumo’s eyes fixed on the seals binding his mate, then rose to meet his own. He swallowed. “Whatever you wish.” he said, meaning it, though it wrenched at him.
Orochimaru’s eyes widened, then softened. “Wait.” he repeated, clasping Sakumo’s hand in his own and reaching to cup Sakumo’s cheek. “I love you. Thank you.”
Chapter 12: Flirting
This is one of my own favourites of those I've written for them thus far.
Sakumo eyed Orochimaru’s cool expression and sighed, ready to slide off his stool and slink away, but. . . There was a hint of wariness around the gorgeous eyes still fixed on him, perhaps even . . . confusion?
Sakumo took a drink of his sake, then licked his lips, taking a fortifying breath. He leaned fractionally closer, watching the faint widening of slit pupils.
“I’m flirting with you.” Sakumo said helpfully, his voice low. “If you would rather I not, which is what I was beginning to assume, I will go away and not bother you again, but-”
He fell silent as one elegant hand covered his own on the bar, eyes widening and head coming up a little, hopeful. Orochimaru tilted his head slightly, one of the long locks framing his face falling across his sharp cheekbone and jaw.
“You,” Orochimaru paused, licking his thin lips, his fingers curling slightly over Sakumo’s hand, making his breath catch, “are flirting . . . with me?”
“I think you’re gorgeous and brilliant and amazing,” Sakumo said truthfully, “I have honestly been assuming no one else was either because you turned them down or because you’re so intimidating they didn’t dare.”
Orochimaru blinked, then smiled, almost a smirk, and laughed, low and rich. “Is that so?”
“Well,” Sakumo said playfully, leaning closer again, “you are . . . maybe a little terrifying.”
Orochimaru laughed again, his eyes all but sparkling.
“Also you seem like you’d have high standards. I could see you sending away every suitor to come your way.” Sakumo said, swallowing.
“And you think you could meet them?” Orochimaru asked, arching a brow.
Sakumo bit back his first thought, which was a true Hatake treasures their mate like nothing else, and you are a wonder, and smiled. “I’m not too afraid to try.” he said simply.
“Evidently not.” Orochimaru said, trailing a fingertip over the back of Sakumo’s hand and up his wrist. “Please do.” he added, and it took a moment for Sakumo to realise the invitation he had been offered, his heart leaping.
“It would be my pleasure.”
Chapter 13: Nighttime Contentment
Orochimaru paused in the doorway, hands raised to unpin his hair after his bath, and smiled as warmth bloomed in his chest.
Sakumo lay in their bed, clad only in a pair of loose pants, his hair a wild tumble around his shoulders. Kakashi rested on his chest, face down and knees tucked up, one little hand tangled in his father’s hair. One of Sakumo’s hands rested on his back, and he was making soft contented sounds from time to time in his sleep.
Sakumo seemed to be asleep himself as well, or at least much of the way there. His eyes were closed and his breathing deep and even. Each slow breath carried Kakashi up and down, the gentle rise and fall probably soothing his sleep.
Taking a deep breath, his heart aching with love, Orochimaru continued out of the doorway and closed the door quietly behind himself. He moved to the bureau to set aside his hairpins, then put out the one light Sakumo had left for him. Eyes adjusting quickly to the dark, he made his way carefully to the bed and took his place beside his mate.
He stretched out on his side and gently stroked his son’s back, his smile lingering, before letting his hand come to rest against Sakumo’s side as he closed his eyes.
Orochimaru looked up at the knock on the door. “Come in.” He smiled as Kakashi’s tousled head poked around the door. “Come in, little one.” he repeated, amused.
Kakashi grinned and obeyed, closing the door quietly behind himself. He crossed the room towards Orochimaru, peering at his worktable without coming too close. “It’s safe.” Orochimaru teased, and Kakashi wrinkled his nose but hopped up to sit on the edge of the table out of the way. “What brings you here?” he asked, making notes as he shifted the beaker again, watching the swirl of the not intermixed contents.
“Sensei called off early today.” Kakashi said, shrugging. “I thought I’d see if you were busy.”
“Mm. Moderately.” Orochimaru said, frowning at the dull glow the beaker was emitting when disturbed. While the failure to blend had been, this he hadn’t anticipated. “Not too much for you, though.” he added, flicking a glance at his son.
Kakashi grinned again.
Orochimaru eyed his work. “Perhaps you and I can go out and spend some time training . . . as soon as I finish this.” he suggested.
“Really?” Kakashi asked, perking up.
“If you like.” Orochimaru confirmed fondly. Kakashi made a soft contented sound in his throat, just a little more whispery than when his father did the same.
“Mama?” Kakashi asked after a few minutes. Orochimaru hummed acknowledgement, neatly labelling a new vial for an offshoot. “I heard a couple of the others talking to Minato-sensei. . . Is it true you’re going to be a jounin-sensei too?”
Orochimaru lifted his head, blinking. “Ah. . . They- I was asked, yes.” he said, frowning slightly. “I haven’t . . . officially decided, yet.” He looked at his son carefully. “What do you think about that?”
Kakashi tipped his head, making a considering sound, his eyes narrowing. “I think you’re a good teacher, Mama. But most of the genin are so slow.” He sighed.
Orochimaru hid a smile. “True. Perhaps if I take on a team of them I can fix that.” he suggested, storing the glassware back in the seal-covered cabinet. Kakashi shrugged. “I am thinking I will try.” he admitted, watching for Kakashi’s reaction.
“I hope it goes well.” Kakashi said, hopping off the table. “Are you ready, Mama?” he asked, drawn up and tense.
Orochimaru brushed a hand along his cheek. “Mm. . . Perhaps.” he said.
Then he used a flicker to flee his workroom, with a surprised cry not unlike a bark following him as he laughed. Kakashi was chasing after him almost immediately, though, and Orochimaru ducked aside and caught him by the scruff. He had to dodge a rather well-aimed blow with a swiftly-drawn kunai before a sharp hiss quelled his son.
“Training ground thirty-seven?” Orochimaru suggested, and Kakashi made a face, but nodded.
. . .Sakumo will return more properly in tomorrow's update. Sorry wolf.
Chapter 15: Deception Begins (wolf & hime)
“It seems we have all but arrived.” Sakumo observed, peeking out of the carriage as they were stopped at the gates. “Are you ready, hime?” he asked, turning away again.
Orochimaru gave him a sardonic look. “Certainly.” he said, reaching up to smooth one of the free locks of his hair, not that it needed it. “Are you, wolf?” he returned quietly.
Sakumo shrugged. “I’ll do my best.” he said, mouth twisting. “Not really my usual hunt.”
Orochimaru’s lips twitched. “I’ll look out for you.” he said silkily, and Sakumo grinned.
“Thank you.” The carriage rolled to a stop again, and this time Sakumo could hear the guards and servants talking and moving about. “I’ll try not to cause you any problems.” Sakumo promised, and checked himself nervously for anything out of place.
Orochimaru’s hands brushed his own aside as he was neatening his haori, smoothing it down for him and then moving up to his hair, neatening it and tucking a few strands back into place. Sakumo breathed in, trying not to lean forwards into Orochimaru as he took in the half-familiar scent - softened with flowers, covered over with that of makeup, but still recognisable and tempting.
The door opened, and Sakumo grit his teeth at the boisterous volume of the comment aimed at the devoted and accommodating nature of his wife. Sakumo’s shoulders tensed as the lord winked at him.
A soft hiss and he looked up at Orochimaru. He arched a brow and smoothed his fingers over Sakumo’s throat out of sight of their host, making his breath catch and his heart flutter. Sakumo swallowed and stomped down his reflexive protective reaction and slipped out of the carriage, turning to offer aid to Orochimaru on his way out.
He bowed his head demurely, even his body language softer and more delicate, and stayed close to Sakumo’s side, hands on his arm. Sakumo kept his pace solicitously slow and explained his wife’s delicate state to their host as they walked.
Perhaps in deference to that, they were escorted to their chambers and left to refresh themselves before a light afternoon meal would be served in the gardens. Sakumo managed to claw on to something resembling manners he hoped were fitting for the position he pretended to, and was relieved when the door closed them away alone together again.
“You really aren’t good at this, are you?” Orochimaru asked, tugging him away from the door.
Sakumo whined softly and shook his head. “I’m sorry. It’s not the kind of. . . I forget what’s expected even among,” he flicked his fingers, meaning those in Konoha, “sometimes. To play this. . .” It wasn’t that it rankled, but it was difficult.
Orochimaru laughed softly and trailed a light caress over his jaw. “I’ll look after you, then.” he promised with an almost playful look, nudging Sakumo down into a chair. “Just be a good wolf and follow my lead.”
Orochimaru pinched the bridge of his nose. Kakashi, nestled in his sling on Orochimaru’s chest, stirred with a tiny whine. Orochimaru dropped his hand to stroke his son comfortingly. “It’s all right, cubling.” he soothed, and Kakashi squirmed, opening his mouth in a yawn that showed his tiny fangs.
Orochimaru tapped his nose with a fingertip, and Kakashi blinked sleepily, grabbing onto Orochimaru’s hand and pulling it close. Orochimaru let him keep it, sighing and making his way out of his workroom and through to the front door as Jiraiya shouted for him again.
“What is it, Jiraiya?” Orochimaru asked tightly as he opened the door.
Jiraiya stepped forwards and inside, bending to look at Kakashi, who blinked and made a little burbling sound, wide eyes staring at Jiraiya. “Oh! He’s so small. Is he supposed to be so small?” Jiraiya asked, and Orochimaru scoffed, but was distracted by the three boys following Jiraiya.
The blond bowed apologetically, and the one with the Sarutobi look sidled over to stand at his shoulder. Orochimaru looked back at his old teammate, brows raised.
“I mean I suppose Tsunade would have said if there was something wrong with him, but-”
Orochimaru suppressed the urge to sigh again. “Kakashi is fine; small infants are common in my bloodline. He’s a perfectly healthy newborn. Jiraiya. . .” Orochimaru flicked a glance at the children.
“Ah! My new genin!” Jiraiya said proudly, gathering the boys with hands clapped on their shoulders, dragging all three of them in closer. “I wanted you to meet them!”
Orochimaru stiffened a little. Something else sensei had denied him, intimated he wasn’t capable of when he asked to train a genin team, now offered to Jiraiya despite his abandonment of the village and his responsibilities.
A sharp pain in his fingertip cut through his dark thoughts and Orochimaru looked down to where Kakashi was biting at his finger, tiny hands wrapping around it. Orochimaru smiled fondly at his cubling, rubbing his thumb over Kakashi’s cheek and allowing the idle gnawing to continue.
He looked up at the new genin once more. Saddled with Jiraiya for their early years as ninja. Poor things, he thought wryly, shifting the sling on his shoulder.
. . .in case it needs mentioned, I'm aware human newborns haven't teeth yet. ;) Kakashi is a little vipercub and not quite on a baseline human developmental scale.
Chapter 17: Nuzzles and Naps
Sakumo stretched out on his belly beside his cub, answering the tiny whines with soft whuffs and whines of his own. Kakashi wriggled and kicked, grasping hands extended.
Sakumo leaned over him and nuzzled his belly, smiling when he reached and grabbed Sakumo’s hair, even it was quickly followed by sharp, stinging tugs. Sakumo growled gently, nuzzling his face into Kakashi’s belly again. He wriggled and kicked, smiling and pulling at Sakumo’s hair again.
Sakumo shifted to free one arm from beneath him and reached up, smoothing his hand over Kakashi’s hair. He closed his eyes under the caress, then yawned widely, sighing.
“Sleepy, cub?” Sakumo asked softly, gently disentangling Kakashi’s fingers from his hair. It took a minute of patient tugs and unwinding; he wasn’t quite sure how his mate did it so easily, though in fairness Sakumo’s hair was wilder to begin with.
Kakashi wriggled again, opening his eyes and rubbing his face clumsily. Sakumo pushed up to his knees and scooped Kakashi up, cradling his cub to his chest as he rose and rumbling quietly as he rocked Kakashi, beginning an aimless walk around the house.
Chapter 18: Missing Mother
I wrote this one after . . . a few factors combined to send an unwary me on a grief-stricken, sobbing spiral of missing my own mother. It was cathartic for me but I would hate to trigger someone else's sobbing jag; if loss of a parent is upsetting for you, please take care of yourself in judging whether to read or not.
I pictured Orochimaru to be about 13 here, and Sakumo 15.
Orochimaru crumpled onto his knees, running his fingers over the soft purple flowers - some of the deadliest in the world, and the prettiest, and so familiar from- from mother’s garden.
They’d just saved his life, and he could hear her soft voice in his head, praising and teaching about them. Orochimaru curled up tight, sliding one hand along his face and hiding his eyes against his forearm as tears burst past his attempts to fight them.
He sobbed silently, limbs folded in so tightly his joints ached as he shuddered.
Orochimaru flinched and curled up a tiny bit tighter, shaking.
“There you are, the nukenin got away in this direction and we were afraid- Are you all right?”
Orochimaru scrubbed his sleeve against his face as subtly as he could and raised his head, nearly startling as he met concerned, mist-grey eyes very close to his own. Sakumo, who was a couple of years older than they were and-
And whose hand was very warm as he rested it on Orochimaru’s shoulder. “Did they hurt you?” he asked, his low voice gentle.
Orochimaru huffed and shook his head. “I got away. Three of them are dead.” he added fiercely, narrowing his eyes. He glanced back at the flowers and tears welled up again even as he tried to repress them. “My- My mother taught me how to use-” he broke off, clutching one of the stems in his palm until it broke. He couldn’t quite stop crying.
Sakumo wrapped him in a hug, and Orochimaru stiffened. “I’m sorry.” he said softly, rubbing Orochimaru’s back.
“I wasn’t scared.” Orochimaru spat sharply, through his tears, his breath hitching.
“I didn’t say you were.” Sakumo said against his hair. He was. . . He was warm and solid, like Jiraiya, but his arms were gentle as he leaned close, and when Orochimaru leaned thoughtlessly into him in return, he shifted only to let Orochimaru rest against him easily, making a soft crooning noise.
“It was-” Orochimaru broke off, squirming. “My mother taught me that. I. I miss her.” he said in a tiny voice.
Sakumo crooned again, nuzzling him and hugging him tighter. Orochimaru tucked his face against Sakumo’s shoulder and let himself stop fighting the losing battle against his tears.
Chapter 19: Mission Restlessness (wolf & hime)
Placing a piece on the board, Sakumo waved off another comment about his devotion to his wife with a weak laugh, and wondered again what the hell was wrong with people that this was worthy of jesting comment. Why was loyalty to a mate strange? It jangled at his nerves, much as the same attitudes did back home in Konoha.
He stifled the urge to fidget and smiled at his opponent across the shogi board. He glanced out at the garden, where Orochimaru sat under the shade of a flowering tree with one of the visiting young hime, a few musicians nearby playing for their pleasure.
He wondered how long this mission would stretch out before they had what they had been sent for, and how long they could continue in the vein they had begun. It really wasn’t at all Sakumo’s usual type of assignment, and he suspected he was proving about as unskilled at it as he had always assumed he would.
Sakumo lifted his head, smiling reflexively. Though not widely enough to show his fangs, awkward and strange.
“You really are smitten with that pretty wife of yours, aren’t you?” It was a gentler jest this time, almost understanding. “Of course, your lady is quite the figure, I suppose I can’t blame you for being possessive!”
Sakumo dipped his head in implied agreement, though it grated. That was. . . He sighed and picked up his place in the conversation, gently nudging it in the direction of the negotiations he’d heard mentioned and was curious about as he made another move, carefully careless.
The information wasn’t directly part of why they were here, but if Sakumo could find out more . . . well, more information was never bad, and he had heard enough to give him some concerns.
Chapter 20: Tease
Sakumo whimpered and writhed, head thrown back and fingers clenched in the thick fabric of the futon. Orochimaru kissed his belly, stroking one muscular thigh with a light touch and smiling faintly as it trembled beneath his fingers.
“Want something, wolf?” Orochimaru teased, letting his breath ghost over Sakumo’s skin, following it with a nuzzling caress.
“Mate. . . Please-” Sakumo whined, hips rocking shallowly.
Orochimaru hummed, squeezing Sakumo’s thigh and raising his head, watching his mate’s reactions as he began to move his fingers again. Sakumo’s body tightened around them, and Orochimaru twisted gently, rubbing the tips over Sakumo’s prostate and making him cry out, a broken little thing that was hardly a howl at all.
His cock twitched, more precome welling up and dripping down the shaft.
Orochimaru pushed his fingers deeper, rocking them gently with the arch of Sakumo’s body, but quickly returned to focus on his prostate. Sakumo whimpered and spread his thighs wider. Orochimaru could just hear the sound of the fabric straining in his mate’s grip, and it made his lips twitch as he suppressed a laugh.
He dipped his head and licked up the sticky-slick length of Sakumo’s cock, not lingering as he passed over the swell of Sakumo’s burgeoning knot. His hips jerked and as they came down Orochimaru pressed inside him more firmly.
This time the howl was louder, stronger. It echoed painfully in their bedroom, even if it was nowhere near as loud as Sakumo could be. Orochimaru didn’t hesitate to continue pleasuring him, pushing Sakumo harder, keeping the touch of his fingers gentle but firm, but he hoped his mate would maintain enough sense not to get any louder.
He stroked up and down Sakumo’s thigh with his free hand, watching his mate’s face, and circled his fingertips around Sakumo’s prostate before rubbing directly against it once more.
“Orochimaru. . .” Sakumo nearly keened, tossing his head, panting for breath.
“I have you, wolf.” Orochimaru murmured, kissing Sakumo’s hip and rubbing more firmly inside him.
“Want you-” Sakumo broke off with a groan, jerking.
Orochimaru smiled and petted his hip, speeding the rhythm of his stroking just a little, watching the trembles race through Sakumo’s body. He brought his free hand to Sakumo’s cock, sliding firmly down the shaft before curling his fingers around the swelling knot and squeezing.
Sakumo’s head slammed back again and he let out a sharp, muted little bark as Orochimaru’s fingers rocked firmly over his prostate and rhythmically squeezed and stroked his knot. He bucked shallowly and cried out, long and breathy, as semen spurted across his belly, his knot swelling and growing firmer in Orochimaru’s grip and his muscles tightening around Orochimaru’s fingers.
He eased his mate through it with patient pleasure, watching him shiver and pant, beautifully mussed and laid out beneath Orochimaru.
“I wanted,” Sakumo finally said, still breathless, as Orochimaru gently withdrew his fingers, “you to fuck me.”
Orochimaru laughed, moving up over him and claiming a soft kiss. “You can still have that, too.” he promised, and nuzzled Sakumo’s cheek. “I was enjoying myself.”
Chapter 21: Early Morning Visit
“Get off me!”
“I think your snakelet is here.” Sakumo said thickly, turning over and shifting further down the bed to let him hide his face in Orochimaru’s chest. The move also neatly prevented him from rising, even if he had particularly wanted to do so.
“I told her to meet me mid-morning.” Orochimaru said, refusing to open his eyes. He curled an arm around Sakumo, smiling faintly at the low rumble of pleasure that thrummed through him from his mate. “And at my lab, not here.”
“But I want-” A slam cut off the words.
“I’m not sure she’s here for you.” Sakumo observed, slightly muffled but still warm with amusement.
Orochimaru petted his mate’s back. “Perhaps not.” He hummed. “I leave it up to Kakashi.” he said wryly, listening to the . . . perhaps less than restful sounds of the two children running around the house.
“I’m sure he’ll thank you for that.” Sakumo said, his voice even but his lips twitching against Orochimaru’s skin.
“Good for them.” Orochimaru observed sleepily. Besides, if Kakashi had really minded Anko’s tagging along after him he would have found a way to make her stop.
Anko was a stubborn little thing, and she’d been quite fond of Kakashi before she had the excuse for her presence that she was Orochimaru’s student. Still, she wasn’t as fast as Kakashi, he could slip her when he tried.
Orochimaru dozed off again to the slightly fainter sounds of the children outside in the garden, possibly sparring. He was reasonably confident they weren’t seriously attempting harm on one another, and that each would be in one piece when he and Sakumo rose. Later.
“Mama?” Kakashi said shakily from his side.
“Sakumo!” Orochimaru all but snarled, and Sakumo startled, fingers slipping on his tanto as his head snapped up.
“Ma- Kakashi. . . Orochimaru. . .” Sakumo lowered his head again, looking away, sagging a little.
Orochimaru’s jaw tightened as his eyes strayed over the blade his mate still held so close, and he petted Kakashi’s head lightly. His stomach was a mass of knots as he calculated what would have happened if Kakashi hadn’t been so worried - so perceptive - if he hadn’t come for Orochimaru . . . if Orochimaru had refused to come home or even simply delayed. . .
“Kakashi, would you go and see to a pot of tea?” Orochimaru asked gently, and Kakashi looked up at him, then at Sakumo.
He hesitated, but nodded. “Yes- Yes Mama.” He shifted from foot to foot, then trotted off.
Orochimaru strode into the room, reaching down to grab Sakumo’s collar and pulling the tanto from his mate’s hands, throwing it across the room as he hauled Sakumo backwards until he was sprawling. “What the bloody fuck do you think you’re doing?” he demanded, glaring down at Sakumo.
“I- Mate, I was. . .” Sakumo shifted uncomfortably. “It’s my fault. The- I had to . . . make up for it. The only honourable way I can. To spare you and Kakashi being dragged down with me. . .”
Orochimaru hissed angrily and moved closer, shoving Sakumo lightly and dropping down to kneel across his thighs. “Spare us?” he demanded, cupping Sakumo’s face. “If we lost you, wolf-heart-” Orochimaru swallowed hard, letting his brow rest against his mate’s. “You would spare us nothing. Kakashi needs his father, and I. . .”
“You never need anything so much you cannot do without it, lovely.” Sakumo said softly, his hands lightly settling on Orochimaru’s hips. “You would take care of our cub, too. He’d- He’d be all right.”
He resisted the urge to bite his mate. He did want Sakumo alive. “I need you. I love you.” Orochimaru said roughly. “We could not do without you.”
Sakumo met his gaze with a sad expression.
“What is ‘your fault’?” Orochimaru questioned, moving on, knowing it would take longer to shift Sakumo on that. He listened as Sakumo spilled his reasons with slowly-mounting fury; he had known of Sakumo’s mission, of course, and his choice - had been unsurprised, had even expected Sarutobi-sensei to praise him for it - but somehow. . .
“I am sorry I have not been here.” Orochimaru said, resolving to reshuffle his work and also leave that Danzo had delegated to him for someone else. Danzo could take it up himself for once for all Orochimaru cared. “And this. . . You know it is not right. You know the unwritten rules of our village. You chose rightly, wolf.”
Sakumo opened his mouth, then closed it with a soft, choked sound.
“We’re always s’posed to put comrades first. . .” Kakashi said confusedly from the doorway, holding a tea tray. “Even sensei says so.”
Sakumo whimpered, and Orochimaru kissed his brow. He beckoned Kakashi close as well, and their son obeyed with alacrity, setting down the tea and darting to them. Orochimaru shifted to cradle both mate and son close, and resolved silently to find out what had turned Konoha so swiftly and so harshly against one of her best-loved war heroes.
Chapter 23: Why?
Sakumo’s movements slowed unconsciously as he watched his sparring partner wrap up from their session. A few cooldown stretches, packing away tools - as Sakumo had been doing - and now, winding the fall of his hair up and off his long, slender neck. . .
“I have a question for you, wolf.” Orochimaru said, turning a little as he pinned his hair neatly into a bun. Sakumo jolted, trying to seem as though he’d still been slotting his weapons neatly back into their places, and not staring.
“Of course.” Sakumo nodded. “What, ah, what is it?”
Orochimaru lowered his hands and took a step closer to Sakumo, golden eyes sweeping over him as though assessing. Sakumo licked his lips and fought not to fidget.
“Why,” Orochimaru began, tilting his head slightly, “haven’t you kissed me yet?”
“I’m-” Sakumo stumbled over his words. “I- What?” he said weakly.
Orochimaru smiled slightly, but his eyes were a bit too wide and he was hiding his hands in his sleeves. “Didn’t you hear me, wolf?” he asked, arching his brows. “I want an answer.” He lifted his jaw a fraction higher.
Sakumo opened his mouth, then closed it silently. He licked his lips.
“Would. . . Would you accept a kiss?” he asked hopefully, still faintly stunned that Orochimaru had raised the question.
Orochimaru tilted his head just a little, and had his hair still been down it would have concealed part of his expression, but as it was . . . Sakumo could see the tiny quirk tugging at his lips, and the softening around his eyes.
“I’ve been waiting.” Orochimaru said softly.
Sakumo dropped his pouch with a muted clank and darted the few paces to Orochimaru. He startled, leaning back slightly, and Sakumo smiled, reaching up for his face. He stayed still, and Sakumo stroked his cheek, then dipped his head to brush Orochimaru’s thin lips with a soft kiss.
He made a wanting sound in his throat as Sakumo pulled back after no more contact than that, and Sakumo - shivering and barely containing his own whine - smiled and kissed him again, lingering this time. Orochimaru’s elegant hands slid up under his flak vest, and Orochimaru’s mouth firmed against his, almost teasing as he leaned closer to Sakumo.
Chapter 24: Rescuer
“He’ll be all right.” Hama said, bowing her head slightly to Sakumo. “A bit chilled yet, but there was no damage done, he only needs to rest. A last few checks to be safe and you can take him home tonight, provided he remains in this condition.”
“Thank you!” Sakumo said, voice rough, and dragged Orochimaru in tight to his chest in what proved, to his shock, to be a rather crushing hug.
“I-” Orochimaru faltered. “I am pleased that he will be all right.” he said vaguely.
Sakumo heaved a shuddering breath, almost clinging. He was- He was warm, solid but not without comfortable allowance for Orochimaru to breathe and move. People- No one touched Orochimaru, not like this - not any more. His teammates long gone, Orochimaru’s only physical contact now was in spars or battles, or occasionally another hand passing him something in the lab.
“Thank you.” Sakumo said again, softer, against Orochimaru’s neck, shaking.
Orochimaru reached up to rest a hand on his back, a half-remembered gesture from when there had been people who willingly reached out to Orochimaru, who wanted to touch him, would accept his touch in return. Sakumo steadied a little under the touch, and Orochimaru relaxed slightly, relieved.
“Whatever happened?” Hama asked, and Sakumo twisted to look at her without actually releasing Orochimaru.
“Orochimaru found him.” Sakumo said, voice thick with gratitude. “I don’t know how he got out there - or why, he never even tries to leave our garden without me or at least one of the wolves taking him. . . If he’d been with one of them he would have been fine. . .”
Alone in the snow, however, the child had gotten lost and dangerously cold. Orochimaru had only found him due to curiosity at the tiny, flickering chakra signature he’d sensed when passing on his way from his favoured training ground to his home. He hated the cold, he very well might have bypassed the little point, on any normal day.
“It is very lucky, then, that Orochimaru-sama was nearby.” Hama said, flicking a glance to him, not quite warm but - as several of those who had worked with Tsunade usually were towards him - a little less distant or distrustful than most. Then she turned and walked back down the corridor, presumably to where they had the smaller Hatake hidden away.
“It is. You saved my cub, Orochimaru, I-” Sakumo finally released him, stepping back, though one hand lingered on Orochimaru’s arm. “Kakashi is-”
“I am pleased that I could assist.” Orochimaru said awkwardly. “You do not need to thank me. Any more.”
“Will you at least let me make you dinner? Kakashi will probably want to thank you himself.” Sakumo almost wheedled, squeezing Orochimaru’s arm. It was such a small point of contact, but it fogged his focus, and before he quite realised it he had agreed and been favoured with Sakumo’s brilliant grin once more.
Orochimaru swallowed and hurriedly took his leave as an iryou-nin came to bring Sakumo to his son.
Chapter 25: Most Lovely
Sakumo stopped barely through the doorway, eyes lighting on the graceful movement as Orochimaru, back to the door, began unwinding his obi knot. Continuing into the bedroom, Sakumo slid the door closed behind himself, watching his mate set aside the obi, then open his yukata.
Sakumo watched the slide of dull blue fabric down over stark white skin, revealing sleek, angular shoulders, then the length of a lean, muscular back. His eyes slid down Orochimaru’s body as he let it fall lower, baring the whole of his back. He twisted fluidly as it passed his hips, the fabric sweeping from where it was caught around his hands, and draped the yukata over the waiting bureau.
“Something preoccupying you, wolf?” Orochimaru asked, tilting his head and meeting Sakumo’s gaze with a sly little smile, eyes gleaming.
Sakumo smiled. “Always.” he agreed easily. “Appreciating.” he added honestly, pacing across the bedroom towards his mate. Orochimaru shifted his weight, turning his head and allowing Sakumo to approach at his back without watching.
Sakumo slid his hands over Orochimaru’s slim hips, rumbling with pleasure as he stepped backwards into Sakumo’s body, leaning into his hold.
“Still and always,” Sakumo said, dipping his head to nuzzle the thin, tough curve of a tendon leading up into Orochimaru’s throat, “simply the loveliest thing, my mate.” he crooned, nipping the bared curve of Orochimaru’s nape as he shivered, hissing softly.
Chapter 26: Comfortable Cover (wolf & hime)
“Are you sure?” Sakumo asked, focusing on the news Orochimaru had, though the feeling of him, strong and lean and pliant, between Sakumo and the wall, was . . . tempting.
“As sure as I can be without the background Jiraiya has.” Orochimaru said softly, unoffended by the question. “It’s enough.”
“All right.” Sakumo’s shoulders eased a little, and Orochimaru laughed softly, smoothing a hand over one of them. Sakumo swallowed, meeting Orochimaru’s gaze. He smirked, a knowing, predatory look lighting in the pretty gold eyes. “We- We can work on getting out-”
He broke off, moving a little closer to Orochimaru, as he caught the sound of approaching footsteps.
“Ah, now I see why you’ve been late, Satoru!” their host cried boisterously, grinning, and Sakumo coughed quietly. “Here we wondered if you’d gotten lost.” he teased.
Orochimaru slid a hand over Sakumo’s stomach, leaning close to him with a shy dip of his head behind Sakumo’s shoulder. Sakumo wrapped an arm around Orochimaru protectively even as he stepped further away from the wall. “Only in my lovely wife’s eyes.” Sakumo said lightly, provoking a laugh and another friendly jest as they were led through for dinner.
Sakumo looked down at Orochimaru, meeting those sharp golden eyes once more.
Orochimaru arched a brow, then curled into Sakumo’s side. “Soon.” he breathed, lingering up against Sakumo for long moments before withdrawing to a more polite distance for being in company.
Sakumo’s nose was still full of his scent, and the sense-memory of his body held so close lingered.
It was . . . probably good their mission was coming to an end for more than one reason. Sakumo couldn’t regret it, he’d be glad to get out of this role that hardly fit him . . . but he would miss his partner when it was over; they rarely worked together and Sakumo would have little reason to be around Orochimaru any longer after it was done.
He eyed Orochimaru carefully as he helped his ‘wife’ to settle on a cushion at the table, and Orochimaru smiled, fingertips dragging subtly over his inner forearm.
Chapter 27: Caution
“Wolf,” Orochimaru said, voice low, lips curling with fondness he would certainly have felt for no one else in this situation, “I am not delicate.” He reached up and slid a hand over Sakumo’s shoulder, brushing his hair and hooking behind his neck, tugging him down.
Sakumo huffed, shaking his head and nuzzling Orochimaru’s forearm as he let himself be pulled in and down. “I know that, my lovely.” he said, voice a low rumble.
The tension in Orochimaru’s belly coiled a little tighter, a waiting viper, and he felt a shivery warm flush of anticipation. “You don’t have to be so careful with me, then.” he reminded, with a flick of an eyebrow, half-smirking. “This isn’t my first time.”
Sakumo shivered, eyes skating down Orochimaru’s body where his yukata was pushed open. A light touch followed, callused fingertips brushing over his ribs as Sakumo lowered himself, still wearing his pants, damn the wolf, and-
“It is mine.” Sakumo said, bowing his head to nuzzle Orochimaru’s jaw. He stilled, eyes widening, even as Sakumo moved down, nuzzling and kissing over Orochimaru’s collarbone and onto his chest.
“. . .Sakumo?” Orochimaru questioned, and Sakumo angled a look up at him without moving, giving a soft hum. He opened his mouth, then closed it with a faint shake of his head, brushing Sakumo’s cheek in a light caress that made him smile, growling softly.
Sakumo caught his hand and kissed his palm, then nipped the meat of his thumb gently, one fang scraping the knob of bone leading up into his wrist.
“A wolf wants for a mate, lovely,” Sakumo said, voice low, “I haven’t wanted anyone until you.”
Orochimaru fought the ridiculous flutter of pleasure that gave him, running his fingers through Sakumo’s hair. He shifted, sliding his legs to frame Sakumo’s hips and further down, resting alongside his own.
“Then have me, wolf.” Orochimaru said softly, tilting his head a little and baring his throat in invitation.
Chapter 28: Morning Decisions
Sakumo hesitated at the door, and Orochimaru shifted his weight, setting down the flask in one hand and beckoning over his shoulder. Sakumo came nearer on silent feet, dropping a nuzzling kiss to his shoulder, and Orochimaru hummed, pleased.
“I’m heading out to meet Dan.” Sakumo said lightly as he raised his head. “I should be back in time to make dinner. Especially if you plan to work in here all day.” he added with a soft laugh.
Orochimaru glanced sideways at his mate’s affectionate, infectious smile. He shook his head slightly and dropped his gaze to Kakashi, held in his father’s arms and peeking curiously at Orochimaru’s table. “Are you taking Kakashi with you?”
“I was going to.” Sakumo said, shifting a little and shifting Kakashi a little higher. “I know you’re busy today. He’ll be all right with us.”
“Mm.” Orochimaru cleaned his fingers on a waiting cloth damp with alcohol, waited a few moments for them to dry, and reached out to their son. Kakashi made a curious sound, wrinkling his nose as he sniffed Orochimaru’s fingers before snuggling his cheek into the light touch. “Nothing too dangerous planned for today, he can stay with me. You’ve kept him while training most days recently.”
Sakumo hummed. “If you like.” he agreed easily. “Kakashi?”
The cub yipped as Orochimaru dropped his hand again, looking up at his father, and Orochimaru felt as though his heart was turning over in his chest as he watched them.
“Do you want to stay with Mama today, or come with Dad?” Sakumo asked, ruffling Kakashi’s hair and rumbling soothingly when he squirmed.
“Mama!” Kakashi said, leaning backwards out of Sakumo’s arms and reaching for Orochimaru.
Orochimaru smiled at him, taking him from his father’s supportive hold. “Hello my cubling.” he crooned, shifting Kakashi to rest against his side and stroking his son’s cheek. He looked up at Sakumo again, meeting fond, warm eyes.
“Do you want help to get him into the sling?” Sakumo asked, reaching behind himself to produce the dark blue fabric. “Before I head out?”
Orochimaru shook his head. “He can roam for a bit. Until it’s time for a nap, perhaps.” he added, bouncing Kakashi absently. “Have a good day.”
“You too, lovely.” Sakumo kissed his cheek, then bent and kissed Kakashi’s brow. “And you, cub.”
Kakashi licked his chin and whined softly. Sakumo smiled and moved away, and Kakashi waved. “Ja mata, Dad!”
“Ja mata!” Sakumo called back from the main room, and Orochimaru hummed, bouncing Kakashi again as he looked down at his son. Kakashi grinned back up at him.
Chapter 29: (Off the) Battlefield
“Orochimaru!” Sakumo lunged, catching Orochimaru around the ribs and narrowly avoiding catching Kusanagi to the throat.
Orochimaru swept his sword aside, eyes wide and heartrate jumping, and Sakumo didn’t ease his tight hold, but he kept the kiss he pressed on his mate soft. He dragged it out for a long moments, then slid away and nuzzled Orochimaru’s face, still holding him close enough to feel his mate’s heartbeat against his chest. “I love you.” he said quietly, and Orochimaru made a soft sound that didn’t quite escape his throat.
Sakumo kissed him again, harder this time, and Orochimaru leaned into him, mouth meeting his eagerly, one arm creeping around Sakumo’s back. His sharp teeth scraped at Sakumo’s lip and provided a teasing prickle against his tongue, and Sakumo growled softly, tightening his grip on his mate.
“Really, you too? Can’t even wait to get off the battlefield?” Dan asked dryly, though he was grinning when Sakumo managed a glance in his direction.
“We are off it.” Orochimaru observed, waving Kusanagi in a slow sweep. “The battlefield is over there.”
It was about six steps away, granted, Sakumo thought as he nuzzled Orochimaru’s neck, scenting his mate - blood and sweat and death and venom and a spicy, metallic tang - and biting gently at his sharp jaw. They were off it, though, he supposed. Technically.
“Besides,” Sakumo said, tilting his head to look back at Dan without removing himself from his mate, nose nestled close against Orochimaru’s cheek, “are you sure you want to try and judge me? I’ve seen your reunions.”
Dan opened his mouth, then closed it and crossed his arms. Orochimaru laughed softly in his ear, and Sakumo turned to steal another kiss from his mate’s smiling mouth.
Chapter 30: Hands
Orochimaru stiffened slightly as warm skin brushed his own yet again, sliding a glance sideways. It wasn’t the thoughtless impact of Jiraiya when he was distracted - or the harsher, but still friendly, thump when he was jesting with Orochimaru - nor the gentle bump of Tsunade being companionable.
It was . . . barely there, easy to disregard the soft touches, but they kept coming.
Sakumo tilted his head and looked at Orochimaru, wearing a slight, friendly smile and raising his brows curiously. Orochimaru’s eyes narrowed, but he didn’t speak.
Sakumo’s hand brushed his again as they walked, light but unmistakable, and Orochimaru seized his wrist in a tight grip - he had considered a kunai, but it felt obvious . . . and perhaps too unfriendly. Orochimaru wanted the- the teasing, thoughtless or not, to stop, but Sakumo was a comrade and they were in a street in their home village.
Orochimaru stopped short, almost stumbling, as Sakumo’s arm flexed in his grip, then twisted free, but only by enough to get his hand to Orochimaru’s. He clasped Orochimaru’s hand gently, thumb rubbing over Orochimaru’s knuckles, smiling with stormy eyes that had gone rather . . . warm.
Sakumo brought their clasped hands up as Orochimaru did stop, turning to face him, and bowed his head over Orochimaru’s hand, stopping just shy of making contact with his lips. Orochimaru could feel his breath before he slowly lowered their hands and loosened his grip.
“My apologies,” Sakumo said quietly, “I didn’t mean to . . . impose unwanted.”
Orochimaru swallowed. “Who said you were?” he asked, stiff and wary, spine prickling. He could hear Jiraiya calling for them, now, some way on ahead, and Dan and Tsunade in response trying to either quiet him or tug him onwards, but he ignored them as Sakumo’s face lit up.
“Is that so?” Sakumo said, giving a slow smile. “If that is the case. . .” He stroked Orochimaru’s hand again and this time when he brought it up he did kiss it, warm and not quite fleeting. “I would love to impose further. If you would allow it.”
Orochimaru tensed further, and Sakumo made a tiny pleading noise, his head dipping and shoulders tensing as he shifted slightly.
Orochimaru’s eyes dropped to their hands, and he . . . considered. He gently squeezed Sakumo’s hand, then twined their fingers lightly, the pad of his thumb brushing over Sakumo’s battered knuckles.
He stiffened, head coming up again and eyes lighting hopefully.
Chapter 31: Lazy Morning
This brings me to the end of my original 'every day in May' posting . . . but I've been writing. I'll be posting a Coil and Croon minific every day through June as well.
Orochimaru woke with a lazy arch of his entire body, his mind fuzzy and warm. It took him a few minutes to filter close enough to consciousness to think in more than lazy pleased sounds, and then to identify the soft sensation across his shoulders and neck.
Kisses. Warm wolf kisses. Orochimaru stretched lazily once more, slowly tensing and extending every muscle and letting them go lax again. Sakumo rumbled against his shoulder and came nearer, settling heavy and warm over Orochimaru’s back.
He reached for his mate’s arm, tugging gently as he shifted just enough to feel Sakumo’s relaxed body pressing him down, then went still. Eyes closed, he basked in the warmth and weight of his mate holding him in place, pleasantly compressed.
Sakumo groaned, soft and sleepy, and pressed his nose and mouth against Orochimaru’s neck, so firmly that Orochimaru was left vaguely amused and wondering if he could breathe properly. Not that he seemed uncomfortable, or, indeed, at all willing to remove himself.
Orochimaru wriggled beneath him, stretching one leg and bending it just enough to hook his foot over Sakumo’s ankle. He hummed contentedly and drifted back to sleep with his mate snuffling at his throat.
Chapter 32: Vipercub
Sakumo paced through the open shoji out onto the engawa, following the sound of Kakashi playing in the garden. He paused, cocking his head. His mate lounged near the edge of the engawa, legs dangling off towards the ground, a snake as thick as his bicep stretched along the boards and curved close to his hips.
Sakumo glanced out at his cub, smiling slightly as Kakashi determinedly stalked a bullfrog through the grass, little face drawn with concentration. Sakumo turned back to his mate, focused on whatever he was reading, then flared and cycled his chakra, shedding his own shape for the wolfshape that was granted to all his clan through their long shared blood and brotherhood with their summons.
All his clan thus far. It was a . . . question, yet, for Kakashi. He wasn’t the first halfblood Hatake to be born, by far, of course, but while he took strongly and obviously after Sakumo, his mother’s rather serpentine blood ran thick in his veins as well. There was no telling whether he would ever show a wolfshape of his own, or if his mother’s blood would change it somehow, or if he would simply never shift shape at all.
Though certainly Kakashi had the love of the wolves that Sakumo and all his now-lost clan had, and his love for Orochimaru’s snakes - and their rather odd, cool yet doting manner with him - did nothing to lessen that.
Sakumo sighed and shook himself, then padded quietly to his mate, pressing his muzzle to Orochimaru’s cheek and making him hiss softly, slanting a lazily warm look Sakumo’s way. Sakumo’s tail wagged and he rumbled softly before pulling away. He lowered his head and scooped the serpent lying near his mate up in his jaws.
The snake hissed in a far less friendly tone, tensing, but didn’t thrash against his careful hold, and Sakumo deposited it around Orochimaru’s shoulders instead. It shifted, thick muscles bunching, and settled itself there with general equanimity.
Sakumo flopped down just behind Orochimaru himself, sliding onto his side and stretching a little, letting his paws splay out and his tail thump the wood in another brief wag. Orochimaru looked over his shoulder and the snake’s thick body, then shifted himself, tucking his feet up and leaning back, lounging against Sakumo’s ribs and shoulder. Sakumo rumbled happily, shifting just enough to make himself more comfortable to lie against.
He closed his eyes, lazy and content to sprawl where he was, his mate a solid presence against him. He didn’t quite doze, but it was, if anything, easier to relax and do nothing save be when in his wolfshape.
“Darling.” Orochimaru said suddenly, insistent, and Sakumo groaned, flicking an ear and cracking an eye open. Orochimaru glanced down at him and shoved his shoulder. “Sakumo.” he said, voice sharp.
Sakumo grumbled, but lifted his head, and-
Sakumo lunged to his feet, and would have thrown his mate off and possibly to the ground with the movement if Orochimaru hadn’t already been bolt upright. He threw himself off the engawa, a few short bounds bringing him to his cub’s side.
Kakashi lolled sideways, pointed and slightly floppy ears perking, and raised his blunt muzzle with a short, sharp yip. He grinned, tongue peeking out, spikily fluffed tail wagging. Sakumo lowered his head and nuzzled his cub’s head and shoulders, scenting him and just . . . touching him.
“A proper wolfcub after all, it seems.” Orochimaru said, and Sakumo glanced at his approaching mate sheepishly. Orochimaru smiled and stroked his shoulder, then went to his knees by Kakashi, scooping their cub into his arms and garnering no protest. “Just like your father, mm?” he crooned, stroking Kakashi’s head as his tail wagged harder.
Chapter 33: Priorities
Danzo eyed the Hatake house with some disfavour. The last time he had been here it had been . . . uncomfortable. That was many years ago however - and Sakumo’s aunt, the Clan Head who had so discomfited him when young, was long dead.
He made his way up to the house and knocked without allowing himself to hesitate. He waited, gradually growing impatient. Shinobi shouldn’t take so long to respond.
Orochimaru opened the door and looked down at Danzo with a flat expression. Fortunately he hadn’t expected more than the minimum of cool hospitality from the inhospitable Snake Sannin, and he responded by being direct. “I’ve come to ask when you can begin work with me, as we agreed; the next phase of experiments is waiting for a talent like yours.”
They hadn’t agreed, though Orochimaru had all but, being visibly intrigued by the tidbits Danzo had shared of the work he would be needed to assist with - to run. “They are on hold,” Danzo flattered, “until you can take them over.”
“What?” Orochimaru asked distractedly.
Danzo smothered irritation and reminded him more practically of the discussion they’d had before about Root and the experiments he had just waiting for a more experienced hand to take over. Clever as he was, Orochimaru had . . . not been Danzo’s first choice - he was, perhaps, too clever, and too willing to bite the hand that provided, to turn on the village that had reared him and made him strong. Danzo would have to watch him every moment; trusting he had Orochimaru managed would be . . . unwise, for both himself and Konoha.
No, Danzo didn’t trust Orochimaru half so far as he could have stabbed the man from, but he was useful.
“I’ve been far too busy.” Orochimaru said, waving a hand almost lazily. “I won’t be assisting you.” he added, attention straying.
“We need you; the Hokage specifically-”
“Kakashi is teething and I really haven’t time. Sarutobi-sensei can make it an order or a mission if he feels my involvement is needed so pressingly.” Orochimaru said, turning partially away, looking back into the house, dismissing Danzo. “Or at least ask me himself.” he added with a snort.
“So this is it, then?” Danzo asked, sneering. “Hiruzen was right about you, then.”
Orochimaru made a distracted, dismissive sound.
“The deadliest of the Sannin . . . and you’ve turned yourself into a housewife for Hatake?” Danzo prodded, hiding his smirk. It might have become unexpectedly trickier than he had anticipated, but he was confident the lure of the experiments Root needed would bring Orochimaru’s agreement, with perhaps a little more delicate pressure brought to bear.
Orochimaru’s gaze slid back towards him, one golden eye glinting through his hair, and Danzo felt a flicker of hesitation at the disdain visible on the sharp face. Orochimaru smiled, broad and cruel, and shook his head slightly. “I have better things to do with my time, Danzo. I suggest if you need assistance so badly, you look elsewhere.” His words were even but his always-caustic chakra was beginning to rise into a choking pressure.
Summarily dismissed - not something he was accustomed to, not any longer - Danzo slunk away, seething. He glanced back once he had reached the street, and grit his teeth as he saw a toddler with a silver mop approaching Orochimaru on the engawa, and the cold, inhuman eyes soften as he crouched to meet his son, hands extended.
Orochimaru tied his hair back out of the way and knelt to wash his face, ignoring the sounds of his teammates arguing behind him - it seemed they were both still alive, so he really didn’t care. In fact, at this point after the squabble over breakfast, he thought, scrubbing a bit to get the sticky remnants of whatever Jiraiya had been eating off his cheekbone, he wasn’t sure he’d care overmuch if they killed each other.
He huffed, using his sleeve to dry his face.
Orochimaru paused and ran his thumb over the neat, square characters on his inner wrist, a shiver running through him as he failed to quite hide a smile.
He rested his palm over the characters, his heart squeezing almost painfully. Though the proof on his skin was so sweet he ached with it, he didn’t need it - Sakumo’s every action, touch, look proved it to him. Lovely, a mate is the world to a Hatake, and I am a lucky wolf to have such an incredible wonder for mine, Orochimaru remembered his mate’s words, given openly and so soon after their bond had been recognised.
He sighed as his name was called, reaching up to unbind his hair again as he rose and moved to rejoin his teammates so they could continue their journey home.
Pausing in front of the mirror, Sakumo grinned, running his fingertips over the sharp, slanting characters nestled just beneath the hollow of his throat before he tugged on his shirt and flak vest, letting them be hidden away.
He knew what he carried on his skin, even when no one else could see, and it made his steps light and his wolf’s heart sing.
It was a sentiment that had garnered him more than a few disbelieving or pitying looks from the few people who had seen it, but Sakumo knew they simply didn’t . . . understand.
Orochimaru needed very little, and admitted to even less - Sakumo could hardly blame him for either the caution or the chill - and the simple declaration he bore from his mate. . . Sakumo sighed, pausing at the door, his mate’s low, sharp voice echoing in his memory. I . . . need you, wolf; you belong in my life and I will not be forced to do without you. Remember that.
Sakumo hummed as he slipped out and broke into an easy run, off to meet his newly-assembled team for what should hopefully be a quick jaunt behind enemy lines.
In case it was not clear . . . this is set in a soulmate AU world where somewhere on your body one carries the words of what one is to their soulmate/their sentiment regarding one.
Chapter 35: Farewell
Sakumo pulled up short an instant before he would have led his newly-assigned team out of the camp and off on their mission, a glint in golden eyes giving him pause. He made his way instead towards the Sannin.
He nodded to Jiraiya and ran a hand up Orochimaru’s back as his mate tilted his head.
“Hug for luck, lovely?” Sakumo said lightly, and tried not to think of where his mate would be headed on his own mission so very soon.
Orochimaru sniffed, but let himself be drawn into an embrace, a comfortable and pliant curve against Sakumo’s body, arms wrapping around him in return. Sakumo took the opportunity to breathe in his mate’s scent as deeply as he could, pressing against him firmly enough to pick it up, just a little.
Orochimaru’s cheek brushed his own. “I love you,” he said, barely a breath against Sakumo’s ear, “be careful and come back safe, wolf, or so help me I will drag you back by the tail.” He tugged at Sakumo’s hair, and Sakumo swallowed a chuckle and held him tighter still.
“I love you too.” Sakumo said softly, hushed for his mate’s sake. He tipped his head as he loosened his embrace, lips dragging along Orochimaru’s jaw. “Be safe, lovely.”
Sakumo dragged himself away with one last nuzzling breath and a squeeze of his beloved mate against himself, then signalled his team and started running, fixing his mind on the mission.
Chapter 36: Hospital
“Sakumo. . .”
“Hey, lovely, I’m all right. . .” Sakumo half-rasped the words, and wasn’t entirely surprised when they didn’t seem to have much of an effect on his mate. He squeezed weakly and Orochimaru caught his hand and brought it up, nuzzling a soft kiss into the palm, then nudged his arm out of the way.
Sakumo whined, confused, then settled as Orochimaru climbed up into the hospital bed at his side, squeezing into the narrow space so as not to crowd him, but all but plastering against him all the same. Sakumo whined again, softer, pleading, and Orochimaru stroked his chest and cuddled close, avoiding putting pressure against any of his injuries but eating up the remaining space between them.
Sakumo tilted his head and closed his eyes, leaning into his mate as best he could from here and sighing in relief at his presence. Orochimaru hummed soothingly, winding his body even closer, the strong, lean lines of him pressed gently against Sakumo’s own aching body.
“Shush wolf,” Orochimaru murmured, voice soft and stroking hand on Sakumo’s ribs likewise, “I’m not going anywhere. I love you.” he added, tightening his embrace just a little.
Sakumo nudged into it the little he could and kissed his mate’s face, opening his mouth to respond only to be shushed again, cool fingers brushing over his lips. “Rest, wolf.” Orochimaru scolded tenderly, the solid warmth of him shifting along Sakumo’s side.
Sighing, soothed by his mate’s presence and the effusive contact, Sakumo did.
Chapter 37: Distraction
Orochimaru raised his eyes from the notes he was jotting down as a large muzzle poked over the far edge of his worktable. Noticing the look, Sakumo straightened and stood tall once more, bringing his head higher than the tabletop. He cocked his head as he met Orochimaru’s gaze.
“What are you doing?” Orochimaru asked, shifting his weight and leaning forwards against the table a little, fingers splaying over his notes.
Sakumo grinned at him and, naturally, provided no answer. A moment later he came around the table and nudged against Orochimaru, whuffing companionably. “That is not an answer.” Orochimaru said dryly, half-turning to allow him closer. He promptly knocked Orochimaru backwards into the chair waiting nearby.
“Insufferable.” Orochimaru muttered, but he was smiling and he could hear the warmth in his own voice. Sakumo’s tail wagged, ears pricked forwards, and he knew it was more than obvious to his mate as well that he was far from displeased.
That was all right; it was hardly as though he had - or would - try to seriously feign it with Sakumo.
Orochimaru dipped his head and pressed a kiss to Sakumo’s muzzle, eliciting a pleased whine and an insistent, snuggly nudge from Sakumo’s head against his belly. He caressed spiky soft fur with one hand and dropped another kiss between Sakumo’s eyes.
Sakumo sighed contentedly and lifted his head to Orochimaru’s shoulder, one foreleg draping across his lap. Orochimaru leaned into him, one arm curling around his shoulders. Orochimaru briefly contemplated the work he had been in the middle of outlining, then the wolf in his arms, and decided the former could be taken up again later as he tightened his embrace.
Chapter 38: Slow Start
Do I have a thing for lazy morning cuddles? Maybe. (I'd say you can't prove anything but you would probably have at least a good shot.)
Sakumo stirred and whined softly, reaching out as the pliant warmth of his mate pulled away. “No. . . Come back.” he coaxed even before he opened his eyes to find Orochimaru now kneeling at the edge of the futon.
Orochimaru hesitated, tipping his head, his long hair falling forwards around his face.
Sakumo whined again, a quiet pleading note, and reached one arm out a little further.
Orochimaru pushed his hair back with a graceful sweep, then moved closer, stretching out languidly and allowing Sakumo’s arms to wind around him once more. He settled into the space at Sakumo’s side comfortably, one leg sliding over Sakumo’s as he tucked in close. Sakumo hugged him tightly, and he hissed softly, meeting Sakumo’s eyes with a warm, lazy look, scratching lightly over his ribs with one hand.
Sakumo groaned, shuddering, and Orochimaru hummed and petted in the same sweeping arc, hips and torso shifting into sharp angles as he went almost completely lax in Sakumo’s arms.
Sakumo nuzzled his mate’s shoulder and neck, rumbling fondly.
Chapter 39: Caught
“Sakumo? . . .Sakumo.”
Sakumo hummed vaguely, not looking around.
He twisted around in time to catch the blow aimed at his ribs, his hand wrapped around Jiraiya’s forearm, and raised his eyebrows. “What was that for?” he asked mildly, not releasing his friend’s arm.
“Where’s your head?” Jiraiya asked in turn, tugging at his grip. Sakumo tightened it pointedly, fingers digging into Jiraiya’s arm, but couldn’t keep his gaze from straying back to the arresting figure across the field.
“Nothing.” Sakumo said absently, dropping Jiraiya’s arm. “What did you want?”
“Well now I want to know where that look on your face is coming from.” Jiraiya said archly, shouldering Sakumo roughly enough that while it had been friendly, if he’d been less well planted he’d have gone clear off his feet. Jiraiya was bad about that; sometimes Sakumo had wondered about his teammates, neither of whom had anywhere near his bulk.
“It . . . doesn’t matter.” Sakumo said slowly, shaking his head and lowering his gaze.
Jiraiya slung an arm around his shoulders. “That is a much less happy face! Don’t be such a dour wolf! Who is it?” he asked, dragging Sakumo a few steps along with him, inspecting the other jounin running the Academy children through their paces for the afternoon. “Hm. . . Yuka? Oh, perhaps Katsumi?”
Sakumo snorted and Jiraiya shook him. “Well help me out here! Come on, you know I’ll give you a hand if you just tell me; who caught your eye?”
“I doubt that.” Sakumo shook his head. He didn’t add that he was fairly certain Jiraiya’s help would be precisely none even if Sakumo had been snared by one of the kunoichi. He eyed the slender figure gently nudging a young Aburame forwards while keeping an eye on three rowdier children set to target practise.
“Ah! Himae!” Jiraiya said, and Sakumo cocked his head, looking at his friend. Jiraiya looked quite pleased with himself.
“Who?” Sakumo asked, confused.
“. . .the pretty little one with the blue hair, over by Orochi.” Jiraiya nodded in that direction, and Sakumo looked and realised there was another jounin near Orochimaru. He hadn’t noticed. “Come on, we’ll go chat with Orochi and I’ll introduce you!”
Sakumo wanted to protest - and he would have - but . . . the lure of an excuse to talk to Orochimaru, to be close and meet his eyes and hear his voice, was too much to resist.
Chapter 40: Don't Move
“Damn it, wolf. . .” Orochimaru muttered above him, and Sakumo bit the inside of his cheek to keep back a laugh he knew would only hurt more.
“Sorry, lovely.” Sakumo offered, and Orochimaru hissed sharply, one hand - callused and cool and strong, but exceedingly gentle - brushing his brow, stroking his cheek.
“Idiot.” Orochimaru scolded, tone rough, and began tearing his shirt further from the blood-soaked, ragged tears it already bore. Sakumo twisted a little to make it easier to get off and stopped breathing for a moment, cringing.
“Don’t move.” Orochimaru ordered sharply. Sakumo smiled at Orochimaru weakly and settled on his back once more. “It will be all right, just . . . don’t move.”
Sakumo nodded shallowly and Orochimaru hissed, head bowed as he focused on the bloody mess of Sakumo’s side. Sakumo’s breath caught as his mate’s chakra pushed into him, caustic and overwhelming, but he didn’t fight the feeling, relaxing and letting his eyes close.
“Don’t fall asleep.” Orochimaru warned, and Sakumo gave another small nod, panting shallowly. “I wish Tsuna were here.” he muttered, much softer, and Sakumo guessed he probably wasn’t intended to hear that.
“‘m glad you’re here.” Sakumo said, opening his eyes to look at his mate. Orochimaru looked drawn and worried and Sakumo didn’t say that he didn’t regret his choice to step in to shield his comrade . . . nor that he was glad Orochimaru was here whether he could help or not. If Sakumo was going to die, he was happy to do it with his mate at his side.
Orochimaru hissed sharply, his chakra spiking, and Sakumo huffed. “I’m still here.” he said thickly, dragging his left hand up to rest on Orochimaru’s thigh.
“And you’re staying.” Orochimaru said fiercely, eyes narrowed, focus not shifting from where Sakumo could feel his side slowly and painfully knitting back together under his mate’s hands.
Jiraiya ducked his head to a scout, thanks for letting him pass, and walked into the camp with some relief. He hadn’t expected to run into a Konoha patrol, much less one this size, but it would be nice to spend at least one night with more than himself and what supplies he carried by way of making himself comfortable.
He snagged another jounin by the elbow to ask after the squad’s commander, and a gesture directed him towards a small tent still lit from within. Jiraiya headed that way to check in with the man.
“You had us moving awfully fast today; eager to get back to your snake?”
Jiraiya paused with his hand outstretched towards the tent flap. Snake. Surely there was only one person that could possibly be, within Konoha.
“We’re ahead of schedule, but everything’s fine.”
Dan, Dan and Hatake, Jiraiya identified.
“And . . . yes.” Hatake added, his voice softer. “I miss him. He’s been so busy back and forth with the front lines . . . and behind them. We’ve barely been together for months.”
“Well, we should be back for a bit longer this time.” Dan said, yawning. There was a light slapping sound. “As long as he isn’t sent off again. . .”
Hatake sighed. “Faint hope. But at least for a little while. . .”
“’swhat you get for falling for another war hero.” Dan said dryly, and Hatake let out a rough bark of laughter.
“Personal experience talking?” Hatake teased, and Jiraiya finally moved the flap aside and cleared his throat to get their attention, eyeing the men sitting by a planning table, Dan’s hand on Sakumo’s shoulder.
They looked up at him and offered greetings, and Jiraiya grinned and returned them, even as he eyed Hatake assessingly. He was heading back to Konoha as well, might as well tag along with them, as he’d been hoping when he saw the signs of a Konoha patrol, and. . .
If Orochi had taken up with Hatake, Jiraiya wanted to know . . . and Orochi was hardly likely to admit to it, least of all if it was actually important to him, sneaky bastard guarded his cold heart hard. Jiraiya would have to put some work into it if he wanted to know more.
Jiraiya frowned a bit as he made his way up through the jounin standby station. He’d barely seen Orochimaru since he returned to Konoha a few days ago, and the last day or so he had actually been looking. He was beginning to wonder if his friend had another secret.
Orochimaru hadn’t been at home - at least, not so far as Jiraiya could tell; even he wasn’t foolish enough to test the traps surrounding the Yashagoro house, no matter his friendship with Orochimaru - nor his lab, the usual training grounds - including his favoured Shi no Mori - the library, or the Tower. Jiraiya wasn’t-
Orochimaru was here. In the lounge. Jiraiya stared as Orochimaru tilted his head, lips curling into a sharp-edged smirk as he spoke.
His hair was falling back behind his shoulders, and there was a clear and livid mark of teeth at the base of his neck, just beyond the collar of his shirt. Jiraiya opened his mouth, then closed it again.
“Lovely!” Sakumo laughed through the endearment, one hand creeping around Orochimaru’s hip. With barely a touch, Orochimaru let himself sink from where he had been leaning back against the couch to settle almost in Sakumo’s lap, leaning into him.
Jiraiya moved into the lounge properly as Sakumo stroked Orochimaru’s hair, then curled an arm around his waist, tucking him close. He tilted his head and Jiraiya shook his own, blinking.
“Such a wild wolf.” Shiren observed with a wry tone, not quite taunting.
Sakumo nuzzled Orochimaru’s hair, pressing a kiss behind his ear, unruffled by the words. He tucked his chin along Orochimaru’s shoulder with a soft smile, glancing at Jiraiya with a shallow nod as he came closer to the group of his fellow jounin.
“A wolf is as tame as he pleases, isn’t that right?” an Inuzuka Jiraiya didn’t know said from her perch by the window, tossing half a sandwich with a few bites taken out of it to her dog lying on the floor below.
Sakumo smiled a little wider. “For his mate.” he said by way of agreement, nuzzling Orochimaru’s neck as he visibly softened into Sakumo’s embrace, eyes warm.
“Mine.” Orochimaru said, voice low, fingers skipping lightly over Sakumo’s arm.
“Always.” Sakumo returned, tugging Orochimaru a little further into his lap and making him laugh softly as Jiraiya tried to frame this behaviour, this display with the Orochimaru he knew, mind almost refusing to accept it as it looked.
Chapter 43: Special
Sakumo followed the silvery glow of his soul-guide happily, trotting after the sinuous creature. He grinned at the viper when it circled back as though checking he was obeying its urgings, stroking the ethereal head rising beside him.
He followed it clear out into overgrown brush beneath thickening trees, though he knew if his parents had realised he was gone they would be worried. He hesitated only when a scent caught his nose - bright and acidic, it . . . itched, but it was also. . .
The viper hissed and circled him again, setting off a little quicker, and Sakumo breathed one more deep lungful of the intriguing, strange new scent, then followed. He wanted to follow, he was eager to see what it had to show him - even his clan rarely found their mates before they were grown at least, Sakumo knew his mate must be something special, and his heart beat faster at the prospect of their meeting.
Another glowing creature bounded into a small clearing ahead of them as Sakumo followed his viper, and his breath caught. No one could see soul-guides save those they were meant to bring together, if Sakumo could see the-
The wolf. It was a wolf cub bounding to his viper, which lunged and coiled around the wolf’s neck, winding tight as the wolf snuffled at it and curled up on the grass. Sakumo stared as they cuddled into one another, but only had a few long moments to wonder if it would be all right to go and stroke the wolf - the shape soul-guides took for almost everyone in his clan, but not Sakumo - before another figure ran into the clearing.
The other looked at the soul-guides immediately, then stumbled to a stop, surprise clear on their face. Sakumo guessed they had realised there was a viper coiled around their wolf.
“Hello.” Sakumo said hopefully, creeping closer.
Wide golden eyes snapped up to meet his and grew still wider. “You are- You have a viper?” They glanced over at the soul-guides again, curled together and ignoring them both.
“You have a wolf.” Sakumo said, moving still closer. “Everyone in my clan has-” he lost his words as the other came close enough for Sakumo to scent him. The acidic and curious scent he had caught earlier, it was his soulmate.
Sakumo whined happily, half closing his eyes and breathing in deeply, swaying closer.
“I- I’m Orochimaru. All of my family have had snakes.” Orochimaru said, and Sakumo hummed acknowledgment. Orochimaru inched closer and Sakumo whined encouragingly.
“I’m Sakumo.” Sakumo said, his toes wriggling in his sandals. “May- May I. . .”
Orochimaru made a curious sound, tilting his head slightly, and Sakumo took the last step closer and dipped his head to almost press his nose to Orochimaru’s shoulder, scenting him with a delighted croon. He closed his eyes and rubbed his cheek on Orochimaru’s shoulder.
Orochimaru made a soft hissing sound, and Sakumo lifted his head reluctantly, opening his eyes. Orochimaru fidgeted for a moment, squirming, then leaned up and kissed Sakumo’s cheek softly.
Sakumo whined and threw his arms around Orochimaru, sending them both tumbling onto the grass as Orochimaru startled but only snuggling into him. “I’m so happy to have found you.” Sakumo said quietly, burying his nose against his mate’s shoulder.
Orochimaru giggled and hugged Sakumo in return, curling into him and clinging tight. “Me too.”
Chapter 44: Return
“Oh, come on, it’s boring. There are better things to do.” Jiraiya coaxed, and Orochimaru resisted the urge to glare at him - any response would only encourage his arguments. “What are we even doing out here?”
“Orochimaru said he had somewhere to be and you took exception to it.” Tsunade said absently from behind the medical text she had brought. “I intended to sleep in, but no, we needed a team bonding day.”
“Well, I intended for us to be doing something fun, but apparently Orochi would rather watch the gate chuunin- What?” Jiraiya interrupted himself as Orochimaru straightened suddenly, eyes on the gate.
“I didn’t ask you to come with me.” Orochimaru said sharply, a little distracted. He couldn’t quite resist the smile that tugged at his lips, though.
“You refused to do anything else!” Jiraiya protested, and Orochimaru rolled his eyes as he slipped down off the branch that had been his perch for the last - gradually more infuriating - hour. “Orochi!”
Orochimaru ignored Jiraiya even as he grew louder, dropping out of the tree on Orochimaru’s heels. He headed for the returning squad passing by the chuunin on gate duty and raised his hands.
Sakumo growled softly, catching Orochimaru’s hands and drawing him in close. “My lovely. . .” he said roughly, and dipped his head to rub his face against Orochimaru’s shoulder as Orochimaru’s arms closed around him.
“Hello, wolf-heart.” Orochimaru said softly, leaning into Sakumo’s broader body with a pleased hum. Sakumo shivered, breathing deeply as he dragged his nose up along Orochimaru’s shoulder to the base of his neck. “Welcome home.”
Sakumo whined softly, arms creeping around Orochimaru’s waist as he pressed firmly closer. Orochimaru raised one hand to stroke along Sakumo’s spine, absently trailing his fingers through his mate’s long, spiky hair, and ignored Jiraiya’s offended shouting behind him.
Chapter 45: Fledging
“What are you doing?”
Sakumo startled at his mate’s sharp tone, turning and hurrying through to the back garden where Orochimaru had gone to check on their son.
“Come here.” Orochimaru said, calmer, and Sakumo made his way outside to see-
For a moment his heart was in his throat as he saw his cub in the air, his tiny, half-fledged wings far too small and yet lacking the mature flight feathers that would allow them to carry him. Then he registered his mate below, one hand folded into the tori seal; the cause of Kakashi’s yips of delighted laughter as he was carried on a swirling gust of wind.
Then he plummeted, wings flapping madly, still laughing, to land safely in his mother’s outstretched hands. Sakumo grinned, watching Orochimaru kiss Kakashi’s crown of messy hair, then idly preen his wings, smoothing the downy fluff and neatening the flight feathers he did have.
Once they grew in properly, Sakumo thought, his cub would have truly striking wings. Unlike Orochimaru’s - as inky black as his hair, without a trace of pattern, only iridescent shimmers - or Sakumo’s own - subtly patterned in silvery and steel greys - both largely monocoloured, Kakashi’s wings bled from night-black where they joined his back and along the leading edge to palest silver at the tips of his primaries and secondaries.
Orochimaru held him up, nuzzling with him affectionately, then threw him easily into the air and made the seal again, catching Kakashi in a gentle but forceful wind. He spread his wings, flailing more than flapping for a moment or two but eventually getting them into roughly the right positions as Orochimaru called encouragement up to him.
Of course, right now Kakashi’s wings were a bit of a mess - down and new grown feathers and splotches of black and silver and almost-white mingled in not quite right patterns. He looked a little silly. And precious. And adorable.
Sakumo swallowed a soft croon of pure fondness.
Chapter 46: Checkpoint
Orochimaru jolted away as a firm pressure found the small of his back, his heartrate jumping and his mind racing. How had anyone gotten close enough-
A soft, snuffling whine had him relaxing again immediately, and he sighed, then rolled over with a swat at his mate’s oversized muzzle. Sakumo grinned, tail wagging, and slunk a little closer, nosing Orochimaru’s chest and shoulder.
Orochimaru reached up and sank his fingers into Sakumo’s thick fur, stroking affectionately. He yawned, tasting only his mate’s chakra on the air, and closed his eyes, wriggling a little to settle comfortably on his back.
Sakumo settled beside him, heavy but quite careful, and Orochimaru moaned softly with pleasure at the warmth of his mate’s body and fluffy fur pressing so close. Sakumo rumbled quietly and lay his head down across Orochimaru’s chest and shoulder.
He would ask what had brought his mate here when the day dawned properly - this was not the quickest path back to Konoha, and Sakumo’s mission had been expected to last another six days in any case - but for now he was merely content to have Sakumo here with him and so close.
Chapter 47: Pakkun
Orochimaru hummed absently, frowning as he reviewed the notes from his last batch of results and trying to find the pattern.
Orochimaru stilled, then raised his head. His son’s voice had been shaking slightly that time. “Kakashi? Cubling, what is it?” he asked, already moving to go to Kakashi himself.
Kakashi edged into sight with something held in his arms and blood smeared on his face.
“Kakashi?” Orochimaru questioned evenly, stilling.
“Mama, can- can you help him?” Kakashi asked, coming closer and opening his arms to show-
A puppy. A small, slightly squashed looking puppy, looking rather the worse for wear but still in one piece despite clearly being the source of the blood on Kakashi. Kakashi cuddled it and it snuffled at his wrist, its tail wagging.
“Possibly, cubling.” Orochimaru said, eyeing the puppy. “Come sit. Let me see.”
Orochimaru’s hands coming close made the puppy whimper and lower its ears and tail, but Kakashi crooned to it and its fear eased slightly. A cursory scan revealed nothing more than minor injuries and everyday parasites; minor enough that Orochimaru could mend them with a little chakra, though the experience left the puppy shivering.
“Ask your father, but I believe the Inuzuka will be able to offer something to deal with the parasites he’s carrying.” Orochimaru advised, gently patting the small, wrinkled head and then wrapping his arm around his son.
“Thank you, Mama.” Kakashi said, hugging the puppy close and snuggling into Orochimaru’s side. His brows rose when the puppy, though snug in his son’s arms, wriggled a little to get closer and licked his own fingers.
“Certainly, darling.” Orochimaru said, squeezing Kakashi around the shoulders. “And what are you thinking of calling him?” he asked.
Kakashi looked up, eyes wide.
“I’ve lived with your father for some time,” Orochimaru pointed out wryly, “I am quite aware how you canines work.” he teased. “Your difficulty will likely be your father’s wolves; not me, nor him for that matter.”
“What are you doing?”
“Relaxing.” Orochimaru said with a huff, shifting a little in his mate’s lap and nudging backwards into Sakumo’s comfortably strong chest. “I know you’re familiar with the concept, Jiraiya.” he added dryly. If anyone could be said to be, it would be his hedonist teammate.
Sakumo hummed as he shifted, moving to let him settle as he would, arms twining around him. Orochimaru smiled as Sakumo’s nose brushed his ear, his affectionate mate seeking another point of contact.
Jiraiya made a huffy, not quite spluttering sound for a moment. Orochimaru could picture his face perfectly, but almost opened his eyes to enjoy the sight anyway. “You’re- You’re out here, in a public park, and just-”
“If you say anything about decency I will ask Nishii to bite you.” Orochimaru said, lip curling. Sakumo’s pleased rumble at his back deepened into something warning.
It sent shivers sliding down Orochimaru’s spine. Shivers that rather did encourage . . . indecency, he thought wryly. But not here and now. Later.
He patted his wolf’s thigh and curled into Sakumo a little more. It also neatly prevented Sakumo from even trying to get up. Though the thought of his mate - of anyone - wishing to tear into Jiraiya in defense of him pleased something deep down in Orochimaru that had come through his adolescence rather battered.
“Where is Nishii, then?” Jiraiya asked. “You don’t look like you’re considering going anywhere even if you think I need a good biting.” he teased.
Orochimaru lifted an arm, letting his sleeve slide back, and Nishii looped herself out into view with a sharp little hiss. “You always need a good biting.” Orochimaru observed, opening his eyes to glance up at his friend.
Sakumo snickered in his ear, and Orochimaru smiled, amused, even as Jiraiya huffed, eyes lit with amusement of his own that didn’t quite match his scowl.
Sakumo would like a good biting, please. Or to give Orochimaru one. Or both. ;)
Chapter 49: Restraint
“Lovely. . .” Sakumo’s voice was rough and low, and Orochimaru moaned softly just at the sound of it, back arching. Sakumo’s hands slid up his biceps and over his shoulders to rest at the base of his neck, strong and sure. It sent a shiver down his spine.
“Are you sure about this?” Sakumo asked, hands reversing their course and trailing down Orochimaru’s arms, bringing them up behind him, hands brushing his mate’s stomach and the fabric over his groin.
Orochimaru curled his fingers and arched his back again, easily surrendering to Sakumo’s hold. “I’m quite sure.” he replied, twisting his head and looking lazily back up at his mate, blinking slowly. “Do as you will, wolf-heart.”
Whatever you wish of me, Orochimaru thought, muscles shivering with tension as he moaned again.
Sakumo echoed the soft sound of pleasure, and Orochimaru could feel the tension in him where his thighs pressed close on either side of Orochimaru’s hips. A moment later the snug, but caressing grip of his hands was being replaced by silk rope winding his arms together from the wrists upwards.
Orochimaru squirmed and twisted beneath his mate until Sakumo gripped his shoulders and forced him down hard enough to still him. Orochimaru let out a rough cry, hips wriggling and arching only to press up between Sakumo’s spread legs, rubbing himself against his mate’s hard cock through his clothes.
Sakumo’s hips jerked, thrusting down against him. Orochimaru mewled and twisted against Sakumo’s hold on his shoulders to repeat the movement, angling his hips and spreading his thighs a little wider.
Sakumo leaned over him, and Orochimaru groaned roughly as the shift pressed his mate’s clothed erection firmly against his ass. “You’re irrepressible.” Sakumo growled in his ear, nipping his throat hard enough to sting sharply, the small pain lingering even as Sakumo lifted his head.
Orochimaru’s toes curled, heat threading his veins. “I’m yours.” he said, voice rough and a little unsteady.
“Yes.” Sakumo agreed in a soft, rapturous tone, and Orochimaru gave himself up happily as his mate’s hands roamed his body, pushing and caressing as he repositioned Orochimaru beneath him.
Chapter 50: Sated
Orochimaru stretched lazily, running his fingers through his hair to straighten it. He selected a clean set of clothing, then glanced back at the bed.
Sakumo was sprawled out amongst the rumpled sheets, still faintly flushed across most of his body but no longer breathing hard, watching him with heavy-lidded, slightly hazy eyes. Orochimaru crossed to him and bent, running his fingers over a row of marks his own teeth had left on his mate’s skin. Sakumo moaned, then caught his breath with a little hitching shift.
Orochimaru kissed his cheek, then the bridge of his nose, before lingering at his lips.
“I’m going to meet my team,” Orochimaru informed his mate, smiling slightly, “do have a good rest, wolf-heart.”
Sakumo groaned, eyes focusing a little more as Orochimaru straightened once more. His fingers brushed Orochimaru’s yet bare hip.
“You’ll need it,” Orochimaru continued, arching a brow and trailing a caress down Sakumo’s chest and stomach, “I want more of you tonight.”
Sakumo grinned lazily, fingers curling around Orochimaru’s wrist instead. “’s you wish, lovely.” he said, voice rough.
“As always?” Orochimaru teased gently, lifting his hand when his mate tugged at his wrist and smiling as Sakumo nuzzled kisses to his fingers.
“Of course.” Sakumo said, and shifted a little, with another soft sound that caught in his throat.
“Ja mata, wolf-heart.” Orochimaru said, bending for another kiss.
Then he left his fucked-out mate to doze and recover, taking his own pleasantly sore body off to wash and dress before he had to meet Jiraiya and Tsunade.
Orochimaru stilled suddenly and Sakumo felt a flicker of nerves prickling. His lovely mate turned to pin him with a sharp gaze, and Sakumo smiled. Orochimaru’s eyes narrowed. Sakumo’s smile faded; Orochimaru was clearly bothered by something and Sakumo’s cheer wasn’t going to smooth it away.
He still wasn’t expecting-
“Sakumo, are you jealous?” Orochimaru asked, his tone making it quite clear how ludicrous he found the question.
“You are, kami, why?” Orochimaru asked, moving closer to him, fingers brushing his side. Sakumo whined and Orochimaru touched his face, cool fingers tracing his jaw.
It was beneath him to be jealous; he was confident in his mate as much as he loved him, and Sakumo felt a rather foolish wolf. He wouldn’t be a less than honest one as well.
“You know I adore you,” Sakumo began, and Orochimaru hummed softly, barely audible, “and I would never doubt you.”
Orochimaru smiled, thumb rubbing Sakumo’s cheek.
“It’s foolish,” Sakumo said, “but watching you so delighted to work with him and knowing that he can . . . match you, impress you, in creating jutsu and refining seals. . . In the way he thinks and works. . .”
“He’s a boy, Sakumo.” Orochimaru said with a sharp-edged smile Sakumo could only see for a moment before his mate’s lips were brushing his cheek. “He’s clever and quick and I enjoy working with him,” Orochimaru’s hand smoothed up Sakumo’s bicep to his shoulder, “almost as much as I appreciate his care for our son, but he’s only a boy. And no one could stand up to my wolf.”
Sakumo shivered, fingers flexing with the need to take hold of his mate.
“I adore you every bit as much.” Orochimaru said against his ear, body lithe and close, and Sakumo gave in to the need, arms wrapping around his mate. “My foolish wolf.” he added with a warm laugh, pliant in Sakumo’s embrace.
I am a bit amused that this one wound up going up so shortly after I posted an Oro/Minato fic for the first time. . . XD
If Kakashi has only recently graduated the Academy to be placed with a jounin-sensei along his canon educational progression, Minato is only 15 or 16 here, so jounin or not . . . he's still young.
Chapter 52: Preening
“All right, all right, come here, little one.” Sakumo beckoned, laughing, as Kakashi moved to sit beside him, one hand smoothing absently over the leading edge of his own wing. Tenzou grinned as he pushed himself up and wobbled his way the few steps to nearly fall into Sakumo’s now empty lap.
Sakumo crooned, fingers ruffling Tenzou’s fluffy wings. Tenzou almost chirped as he curled his fingers into Sakumo’s shirt and pulled himself closer, wings bobbing. Kakashi stretched his shoulders and settled his wings more neatly into place along his shoulders and back, looking quite sleek and put together . . . save for the few patches where his adult feathers had yet to fledge, and he still carried splotched down in their place.
Orochimaru moved out of the doorway as Sakumo crooned to Tenzou, petting and preening his wings as he wriggled happily. Orochimaru bent and kissed the top of Kakashi’s head, running one hand over the crest of a sharp-edged, neatly-preened wing.
Kakashi tilted his head back and grinned at Orochimaru upside down, and he laughed softly. A gentle nudge and Kakashi slid sideways, making room for Orochimaru to settle not quite behind his mate, smoothing steel grey feathers with one hand. Sakumo groaned, stretching his shoulders, and glanced back over his shoulder.
Orochimaru arched a brow, beginning to preen his mate’s somewhat battered feathers, particularly gentle around the few cracked and broken blood feathers he’d stabilised when Sakumo returned the day before. Sakumo let his wings hang a little looser, even coming forwards a bit, but focused back on their little fledgling in his lap.
“Mama?” Tenzou asked, lifting his head up enough to peek over Sakumo’s shoulder.
“Mm?” Orochimaru prompted, leaning forwards a little and spreading his own wings slightly to balance the movement. Tenzou only grinned, snuggling into Sakumo’s chest.
A barely-there touch at his side drew Orochimaru’s attention to his eldest. He raised his eyebrows, and Kakashi plucked gently at one long feather at the leading edge of Orochimaru’s nearer wing. “May I help?”
Orochimaru tugged his wing away, then wrapped it around his son, drawing him in close under its shelter. “Of course, little one.”
Kakashi’s clever little fingers began to dig in between Orochimaru’s feathers, and he hummed, then smothered a laugh when Tenzou began to clumsily attempt the same with the inner side of Sakumo’s. Sakumo glanced over his shoulder at Orochimaru with a fond smile and warm eyes, and Orochimaru leaned forwards to kiss him softly.
Chapter 53: Incident and Invitation
Adolescent wolf and snake! Awkward and mysterious. XP
A sharp bark had Sakumo jolting up out of the tangle he’d been in with Kita, careless of the snap of fangs he had been dodging that nearly caught his arm in his inattention. Kita gathered himself and followed as Sakumo bolted for Daiji.
He nearly tripped over the half-grown wolf and sidestepped hurriedly, then paused, eyes widening as he took in what Daiji was whining about. Yura had a mouthful of thrashing snake, which was- Cursing?
“Yura, drop it!” Sakumo yelped, startling into motion again.
Yura bared her teeth further around the thick purple body, twisting as it fought her grip and opening its mouth wide. Sakumo whined anxiously, hesitating. Yura ducked her shoulder out of the range of the snapping fangs by a narrow margin.
“Yura!” Sakumo barked, moving towards her again. “That is-”
Sakumo was knocked back by a sharp blow and took a step to steady himself, shaking his head as his vision was obscured by inky black for a moment, and then- The prettiest person Sakumo had ever seen turned towards him with a graceful snap, baring sharp teeth, narrowing slit-pupilled golden eyes in a glare.
Then they were gone as the figure dropped gracefully, reaching out past the snapping snake, clasping it gently behind the head and bringing their free hand up and-
“Whoa!” Sakumo seized their wrist before they could strike and nearly got bitten for his trouble as he was dragged down straight off his feet. He narrowly avoided the blow aimed for his solar plexus, and threw himself sideways, dragging them both down onto the grass. “Yura, let the snake go.” he managed as he was pinned down.
His attacker paused, lashes fluttering, and slanted a look back as Yura started muttering, clearly having released the snake. “Let our alpha go.” Kita snapped, prowling nearer.
“I’m fine.” Sakumo said, shaking his head slightly and then going still as he met rich golden eyes again. He felt a little breathless, and not from the slight weight across his stomach and ribs. “I’m sorry about your snake. Are they all right?”
A considering look, and one elegant hand stroked over purple scales as the snake looped itself around their bent arm and up to their shoulder. They were hissing solidly, but quieted a little under their summoner’s hand. “Fine.” the voice was soft and deep. “Are you all right?” they asked, sliding smoothly off him to kneel at his side.
Sakumo smothered a whine and smiled at the lovely person. “I’m fine.” He took a breath, but only scented snake and metal and something acidic. He stretched out a hand as Yura nuzzled his shoulder, scratching into her ruff soothingly. “We were just out for some training today anyway.” he said, reluctantly sitting up. It brought him very close to one slender shoulder, and he smiled a little wider as the snake summoner didn’t pull away, only watched him with those pretty eyes. “. . .would you like to join us?”
Chapter 54: Hidden
“. . .what was that, Orochi?” Jiraiya demanded, twisting and stepping sideways in front of him. “I didn’t hit you that hard, are you hurt?”
“Certainly not.” Orochimaru said sharply, meeting his eyes with a flat glare.
“You flinched.” Jiraiya frowned at him, reaching out, and Orochimaru slipped him neatly. “Orochi!” He paused. “You aren’t threatening to stab me, so I doubt you’re mad at me, and you don’t flinch. So what was that?”
“Your overactive imagination?” Orochimaru suggested dryly, continuing on the road towards the mission room.
It was only a moment before Jiraiya trailed after him, and Orochimaru cursed himself inwardly for being at all surprised when Jiraiya slung an arm around him again, right against the dully stinging marks he’d hit with his ‘companionable’ slap. Jiraiya pinned him with a look.
Orochimaru frowned and slid out of the curve of his friend’s arm, elbowing him firmly when he didn’t let go quick enough. He huffed, rolling his eyes and taking a step back when Jiraiya reached for him again.
“My mate is,” Orochimaru paused, smirking, remembering the fiery sting blooming across his shoulder blade as Sakumo’s cock drove into him, the combined sensations sending waves of heat through his body that shook him to his core, “enthusiastic. And he likes to leave marks.”
Jiraiya opened his mouth, then faltered mid-word, gaze dropping down Orochimaru’s body as he took half a step back. “Sakumo. . .”
“I’m quite unhurt, thank you, my friend,” Orochimaru continued in a more solicitous tone, “you merely found my wolf’s fang marks.”
Jiraiya went a little pasty, and Orochimaru laughed as he slipped past his friend, leaving Jiraiya to catch up when he got himself together again.
Chapter 55: Undone
Sakumo dragged his fangs down Orochimaru’s inner thigh, making him arch and writhe, pushing his hips up into Sakumo’s palm curved over his cock.
Sakumo grinned, and it grew wider as his normally so-composed mate moaned his name in a choked mess of syllables. He nuzzled higher up Orochimaru’s pale thigh, bypassing a faintly red mark he had already left, pausing near his groin and pressing an open-mouthed kiss there. Orochimaru hissed, muscles tensing under Sakumo’s mouth and his caressing hand sliding lower.
Sakumo bit lightly, sucking at the flesh caught in his teeth, left hand smoothing lightly down and back up the length of Orochimaru’s cock. Orochimaru’s other leg pressed against his shoulder, sinuous body twisting and pushing against Sakumo’s weight.
He released his mouthful with a lingering pass of his tongue, then prowled up over his mate, letting his hand slide away from Orochimaru’s cock with a trailing caress of knuckles over Orochimaru’s belly. He protested weakly, only to let out a soft cry when Sakumo lowered himself and pressed another kiss edged with teeth to his stomach, moving upwards slowly with several little nipping, sucking kisses.
Orochimaru tangled his hands in Sakumo’s hair, pulling distractedly. Sakumo smiled, hands sweeping over his mate’s sides; drifting over more of the many marks he’d left tonight since he first began stripping his mate’s clothes away to reach skin.
Sakumo closed his teeth gently over Orochimaru’s nipple, hands curling around his mate’s hips for support as he worried the tight peak between his fangs. A pleased rumble bloomed in his chest as Orochimaru gasped for breath, fingers tightening.
With a last lingering stroke of his tongue, Sakumo abandoned his place to continue upwards, nuzzling into Orochimaru’s neck and rumbling with pleasure as his mate bared it openly for him. Orochimaru’s scent was thick with want, pleasantly heady. Sakumo scraped his fangs delicately up over the throb of Orochimaru’s pulse, avoiding the raw marks where he’d already bitten as he chose a new place.
Sakumo had been at this nearing too long; with his mate slowly dissolving further into a moaning mess under his hands and mouth Sakumo’s own control was beginning to slip. He growled, belly and groin tightening, and bit down a little harder, tasting blood as Orochimaru’s nails dug into his shoulders, his mate’s body arching invitingly - pleadingly - against his own needy press downwards.
Chapter 56: Brothers
“I’m going to the training grounds!” Kakashi announced as he stepped into Orochimaru’s workroom. “. . .all right, Mama?”
“Very well, little one. Be careful.” Orochimaru said distractedly, resting a hand on Kakashi’s head as he came close.
“Mama?” Kakashi said, and Orochimaru hummed acknowledgement. “May I take otouto with me?”
Orochimaru stiffened, glancing down at his son. Kakashi returned his look hopefully, and- Orochimaru looked. Tenzou had risen from the blanket in the corner where he had been playing quietly, looking equally hopeful.
Orochimaru’s eyes narrowed and he looked between them. “Be careful and keep close watch on your brother.” he ordered, brushing a hand over Kakashi’s cheek. “Tenzou, listen to your Aniki. I’ll expect you back before dinner; your father will be home with us tonight.” Sakumo was expected back by mid-afternoon, as of the report yesterday’s patrol had brought in; even if he was delayed - unlikely - he should make dinnertime.
“Yes Mama!” Kakashi said, hugging himself close to Orochimaru’s side. Tenzou clung to his thigh on the other side, and Orochimaru put down the instrument he held to reach down to Tenzou as well.
“Yes Mama.” Tenzou echoed, snuggling against him for a moment more before stepping away and moving to Kakashi’s side, grinning. Kakashi smiled back, taking his hand and leading him out of the workroom.
Orochimaru frowned contemplatively, though he wasn’t terribly concerned for them - Kakashi had doted on his brother since Orochimaru had brought Tenzou home, and wouldn’t allow him to get hurt. Tenzou was a well-mannered boy and certainly was unlikely to come to mischief of his own accord.
Orochimaru shook his sleeve back and summoned Kaida. “My children are going to the training grounds.” he told her, stroking the length of her body as she looped herself around his arm. “Watch over them for me?”
Kaida hissed and squeezed his arm. “Certainly, summoner.” she assented as she twisted to slip to the floor, and was quickly gone, following after the children.
Chapter 57: Worn and Weary
“Lovely! You’re home, thank the kami.” Sakumo couldn’t quite restrain himself as his battered and drooping mate stepped through into their den, relief thick in his voice as he caught Orochimaru into his arms.
Orochimaru groaned and nestled against his shoulder, and Sakumo hugged him tight, stroking his back. Only consciously, carefully reminding himself that Orochimaru had just returned from the front lines made Sakumo hold back from crushing his mate to himself. “Are you all right?” he asked, whining a little at the acrid scent of battle clinging to Orochimaru. Stale blood - not his mate’s - and steel and sweat and poison, something cloying and deeply unpleasant. . .
“Only exhausted.” Orochimaru said, his voice ragged and rough. He nuzzled Sakumo’s throat weakly. “It has been . . . a long mission.”
Sakumo hummed soothingly, letting a rumble build in his chest. He stepped back, heart throbbing at the weak, forlorn sound it pulled from his mate even as he scooped Orochimaru into his arms. Orochimaru didn’t protest, falling pliantly into Sakumo’s supportive embrace, leaning into his chest.
Sakumo carried his mate through the house to the bathing room, pressing a kiss to Orochimaru’s brow as his head sank lower.
Sakumo managed to begin the large soaking tub filling with hot water without putting Orochimaru down, then settled in the washing corner and began stripping off Orochimaru’s clothes. They were worn and in some places slashed and Sakumo suspected much of the uniform would be consigned to scraps, but he set it all aside without lingering, then stripped himself with far less care.
Orochimaru leaned into his hands as he began to carefully wash his mate’s battered body with long, gentle strokes. Orochimaru sighed, eyes drooping, body sagging into Sakumo’s embrace, relaxing further as the lingering dirt of battle and travel were washed away and Sakumo’s hands roamed his body.
He shifted Orochimaru carefully, thoroughly wetting his hair and then carefully washing the sleek mass of it as well, keeping Orochimaru close against his shoulder as he worked. Orochimaru sighed again, head dipping and eyes closed as Sakumo rinsed the last of the suds away.
Sakumo kissed his shoulder and picked him up again, and this time he sagged into Sakumo’s arms but also clung to him, cheek rubbing against his shoulder. Orochimaru hissed softly as Sakumo stepped into the soaking tub and settled low in the nearly steaming water, cradling his mate across his lap.
“Lie on me.” Sakumo murmured, smoothing a hand over Orochimaru’s hip and side, nuzzling behind his ear and offering support. “I’ll take care of you.”
Orochimaru smiled and relaxed even further, allowing Sakumo to support him fully in the water.
Chapter 58: Claim
Orochimaru’s back bowed, head and shoulders tipping back, as Sakumo bucked beneath him, driving up hard, hands tightening on his hips. A rough growl tickled Sakumo’s throat and he fought not to grip too harshly, even as he rapidly lost himself in his mate.
While they had shared all manner of physical contact as they courted, and Orochimaru had allowed Sakumo to scent him as well as touch him freely, this was the first time they had shared this, had sought pleasure in each other, and Sakumo found himself even more overwhelmed by it than he would have anticipated. It was his mate, his chosen, who held his heart as well as welcoming him in body, and it was enough to have Sakumo dizzy and thrumming with bliss.
Orochimaru shuddered and bent forwards over Sakumo, his hair falling around his shoulders and shadowing his face as he gasped, muscles tightening around Sakumo’s cock. He let out a sharp cry, arching. Orochimaru bent even lower, hazy golden eyes meeting Sakumo’s, thin mouth curved in a slanted smile.
Tingling sparks rushed through Sakumo’s body and he surged up under his mate, claiming a fierce kiss and tumbling Orochimaru to the futon beneath him in turn. Orochimaru’s soft cry of surprise was muffled against his mouth, and his mate’s lean body tensed only to ease into the pressure of Sakumo’s guiding him down an instant later, arms coming up to twine around him.
Sakumo broke away with a gasp, thrusting down hard into Orochimaru’s welcoming body, long legs winding around his hips and drawing him in eagerly. Orochimaru arched beautifully beneath him, belly and chest ridged with muscles drawn taut, long throat bared, hair like a spill of ink around his head and shoulders.
Sakumo growled as he dropped down against his mate, pressing close and rolling his hips in a last demanding thrust as pleasure snapped through him, his mate’s body tightening around his rapidly-swelling knot as Orochimaru gave a low cry. Sakumo shuddered, stroking Orochimaru’s sides and rocking into him thoughtlessly, shivers wracking both of them.
It wasn’t until the dizzying aftermath of pleasure began to fade, tingling warmth still filling him under his mate’s lazily stroking hands, that Sakumo recognised why his tongue was thick with the taste of acrid blood. He whined softly and nosed Orochimaru’s jaw, gently licking at the raw bite near the base of his slender throat. He hadn’t . . . intended to do that.
“Are you all right, mate?” Sakumo asked, voice ragged and low, lapping at the marks his fangs had left.
Orochimaru stretched fluidly, muscles contracting around Sakumo’s knot again and making him twitch and whine. “More than.” Orochimaru all but purred, fingers trailing over Sakumo’s shoulder and back as he rolled his neck. “Mmm. . .” He reached up and brushed his fingers over the bloody marks. “Possessive, are we, wolf?” he asked, eyes heavy-lidded and lips tilted into a warm smile as Sakumo looked him in the face again.
Sakumo whined softly, eyes darting back to the bite, then meeting Orochimaru’s. There was no distress or unhappiness in his mate’s face, only warmth and pleasure. “I should have asked.” he said, voice rough, kissing Orochimaru’s jaw softly in apology.
Orochimaru hummed, stroking his face and drawing him into a kiss. “I like being yours.” he said softly as their lips parted, nuzzling Sakumo as he shivered with pleasure at the words. “In all ways. You never need to ask.”
Sakumo whined happily and cuddled into his mate, claiming another kiss as Orochimaru welcomed him with soft warmth.
Chapter 59: Appearances
Daemon AU has felt odd to try and write with this ship . . . and then I finally did and it was an odd thing for a daemon AU.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Your- Your daemon is a snake?”
Sakumo turned, eyeing the new jounin joining his squad. The man rapidly paled. Sakumo wondered wryly if he hadn’t intended to actually voice the incredibly rude question.
“Ah- It’s only- Hatake. . ?”
Sakumo reached up to stroke Sanaya. She coiled a little more tightly around his throat, hissing softly and arching, one looping coil rubbing up under his ear. “No, my daemon is not a serpent.” he said, smiling and letting his fangs show. “I am a Hatake, after all.”
Dan and Masa both edged away from their newest teammate, and Sakumo stifled laughter.
“If we can get back to the mission briefing?” Sakumo suggested dryly.
“Yes please. You aren’t the only one with an impatient lover waiting.” Dan said lightly, and grinned when Sakumo looked at him. He ruffled his daemon’s fur, and she lolled in his lap, looking deceptively harmless. Not unlike Dan.
“At least yours has been based in the village lately,” Sakumo said without rancour, “I’ve seen mine more often on the front lines than in our home for months.”
Dan wisely didn’t respond to that, and Sakumo rubbed a thumb over Sanaya’s head as he redirected everyone’s focus back to the reason for their meeting. Sakumo had two more days before they were due to leave and his mate waiting at home; he had far better places to be, just as soon as this duty was completed.
Sanaya hissed softly in his ear, making him smile.
Sanaya comes from the kanji for ‘acid’ and ‘fast’.
Dan’s daemon is one of several types of venomous shrew (one of very few venomous mammals).
Sakumo’s daemon (a wolf, naturally) is waiting at home with Orochimaru, as one might guess. It's not too far, and. . .
Hatake and their wolves (almost all Hatake have wolf-shape daemons) have a longer range by nature, while Orochimaru and Sanaya trained themselves to stretch their already decent (for normal pairs) distance further from childhood. (They like to stay close, but it’s too useful to be able to part without straining their bond. (Of course, the practise and ability contributed to unkind rumours about Orochimaru.))
Chapter 60: Jounin-sensei
Sakumo stirred lazily at the whispering sound of something moving among the nearby flowers, tilting his head without actually lifting it from his arms. A flash of pale purple and stark white at the corner of his eye and he smiled slightly, remaining relaxed, even before the scent of his mate reached his nose.
Orochimaru settled at his side with the brush of one hand over his shoulder, and Sakumo moaned softly, closing his eyes. Orochimaru made a soft sound and stroked his back, then reached up and carded gentle fingers through his ponytail, fingertips teasing over his nape.
“How does your planning go, wolf-heart?” Orochimaru asked as his hand traced down the length of Sakumo’s spine towards his hips.
Sakumo groaned, opening his eyes and glancing at the files spread on the grass not far from his crossed forearms. “. . .it’s been interesting.” he admitted with a sigh. “I’m not sure how they will work together.”
“If they will work together?” Orochimaru suggested dryly, tugging gently at Sakumo’s hair and making him whine, shifting slightly.
“Every team can work together.” Sakumo said staunchly. “. . .but I don’t know if they’ll mesh well enough to be a proper team. I don’t know if they’ll pass my test.” He didn’t know what he was going to put them through for a test, for that matter. His own jounin-sensei’s test had been . . . well, it wasn’t what Sakumo wanted from his genin. Prospective genin.
“What do you want to see from them, before you accept them?” Orochimaru asked, knuckles running up his spine with a light nudge that made his back arch as he went nearly boneless on the grass.
“Hrm,” Sakumo mumbled vaguely, “loyalty. Strength of will. What did you want?” he asked vaguely, remembering Orochimaru plotting out what to do when the Hokage - the Yondaime, and a sore point it was that the Sandaime, his own sensei, had never allowed him to teach - had finally accepted Orochimaru as a jounin-sensei the year before.
“Intuitive sense, dedication, flexibility.” Orochimaru replied, and Sakumo nodded, both remembering the trend of Orochimaru’s plans and knowing his mate. “Only you can say what will make them suit you as a team, wolf-heart.” he said, bending and pressing a kiss to Sakumo’s shoulder as he nodded agreement, thinking.
Orochimaru shifted beside him and continued stroking his back as he pondered the Academy files of the three newly-minted genin he would - possibly - be taking on next week.
A soft cry made Orochimaru turn, finding the infant he’d just left squirming, face screwed up and red.
Orochimaru moved over to him with a soft croon, stroking a fingertip down his scrunched-up face. An absent flick of his tongue to taste the boy’s chakra found it shivering in the air around him but . . . steady. Not. . .
Orochimaru’s gaze slid towards the three empty bassinets near this one; the two empty places just beyond where others had stood. He shook his head, shuddering, and scooped the baby into his arms, rocking gently. “Hush, Tenzou.” he murmured, settling the boy against his chest more comfortably.
The baby - Tenzou; Orochimaru didn’t . . . like calling them by their impersonal designations - calmed quickly. He was a quiet child, if treated as a child. Danzo’s orders relating to the infants were. . .
Orochimaru caught himself baring his teeth at nothing and shook his head, walking a slow circle around the bassinet with Tenzou cradled in his arms, blinking sleepily as he swayed. He remembered his own little one at this age, bright-eyed and clingy, and tried to imagine under any circumstances just . . . leaving him, cold and ignored as he cried.
Tenzou’s fingers curled into Orochimaru’s hair and while the grip was easy enough to unwind - even gently enough so as not to upset the baby - Orochimaru . . . couldn’t put him down. Orochimaru’s mind flitted between Tenzou, warm and content in his arms with barely a flicker of attention given him; Kakashi, older now but still so small, so delicate, so needy; the other mokuton children, their deaths, neglected and cold and dying as their chakra rebelled and their small bodies couldn’t contain the force of the mokuton.
Orochimaru’s nightmares of late were coloured in shades of brown and red, wrecks of twisted trees exploding outwards from tiny bodies, scattered splinters. The worst held strands of silver. His family.
Orochimaru hadn’t cared much for this project at its outset, no matter whose orders had begun it; watching over these children as they struggled, treated more as experimental containers than children, and then died. . .
Without conscious thought, Orochimaru’s arms tightened around the baby he held close. Tenzou whimpered and nuzzled his face against Orochimaru’s chest.
No, Orochimaru thought, eyes narrowing, stroking Tenzou’s soft, round cheek with one fingertip.
Chapter 62: Stolen (Stolen Shrublet)
Sakumo smiled reflexively as he heard the front door, glancing up at the window. It was slightly earlier than Orochimaru had made it home from . . . whatever he was doing on the Hokage’s orders in over a week. “Okaeri!” he called, retrieving a splintering piece of bone from under the table; it had served well as a teething aid but it really needed to go.
“Sakumo. Hello.” Orochimaru said, his voice low and coming closer. “Ah . . . there are some things we should,” he paused, “probably discuss.”
“Lovely?” Sakumo turned towards his mate as he straightened, then stilled as he realised the cub cradled in his mate’s arms was far too small to be theirs; the infant stirred and a tuft of dark hair showed above the dark blue wrap that looked to be one of Orochimaru’s shirts. “Lovely, where did you get a baby?” he asked softly.
Orochimaru cradled the infant a little closer, rocking him absently in a way that gave Sakumo a pang, thinking not only of Kakashi when he had been this tiny, but of the quiet conversations they’d been having before Orochimaru’s new orders had put any hopes of another cub on hold at best.
“I stole him.” Orochimaru said firmly, jaw set, and Sakumo blinked.
“. . .I see we will be having rather a long discussion, once we’ve put Kakashi to bed.” Sakumo said, eyeing the baby and then meeting his mate’s gaze once more.
Orochimaru relaxed, very slightly, then bowed his head in acknowledgement, rocking the baby again and crooning as he began to flail his tiny limbs.
Sakumo swallowed, his chest tightening at the sight of his beloved mate coddling what looked very like a nearly newborn infant, even if the child wasn’t theirs.
Chapter 63: Explanations (Stolen Shrublet)
Sakumo’s mind raced as Orochimaru recounted the experiments, the orders that had led to the infant he held cradled on his lap now as he spoke. Every word laced together in his mind with memories of the many nights over the past weeks Orochimaru had cried into Sakumo’s shoulder, unwilling - unable - to explain why, or sat up very late with their sleeping cub held in his arms. The days - rare as they were, Orochimaru had barely been home - when Orochimaru had barely let Kakashi out of his arms, and certainly not from his sight.
At first he had ascribed the clinginess to his mate’s desire for another cub, their desire, which had been put aside with his new orders, but. . . Orochimaru might not have been able to tell him anything, but Sakumo didn’t need telling to realise that his mate’s distress was rooted in something that was a threat to their own cub or to others.
“Fifty-four.” Orochimaru said softly.
“Lovely?” Sakumo questioned, voice low, smoothing his hand over his mate’s back.
Orochimaru’s head bowed lower, his hair falling around the baby cradled in his lap. “I did my best with what I was given, I changed the way their DNA was spliced, I guided and bound their chakra, I did everything I could think of within the parameters of the experiment, the orders I was given. . .” he said, his voice thick. “And fifty-four of them are dead.”
Sakumo’s stomach knotted violently and he felt sick. “What.” he rasped.
“Six infants still alive. Including. . .” A gentle hand tracing the baby’s face. “His is the only chakra that’s anything approaching stable. The others- There’s nothing I can do. I’ve tried for more than a dozen of them, but I- They’ll die too. I couldn’t leave him, I couldn’t-” Orochimaru’s voice broke.
Sakumo swallowed thickly and curled himself around his mate, nuzzling Orochimaru’s shoulder. A tear splashed off the baby’s cheek and Orochimaru gently rubbed it away.
“I don’t know if Tenzou will either.” Orochimaru said, his voice wrecked. “He’s trying, though, wolf-heart, he’s trying so hard to live and his chakra calms when,” Orochimaru’s chakra flared and the baby in his lap squirmed and then yawned, settling and all but going limp; it was . . . the strangest reaction to the caustic, battering force of Orochimaru’s chakra Sakumo had ever seen from someone outside their pack, “I couldn’t just leave him to die.”
“Of course not.” Sakumo kissed his mate’s shoulder. “. . .Tenzou?” he asked softly.
“They deserve names. And care.” Orochimaru said, barely audible. “They’re children. Children need caring for. Whatever Danzo demands and whatever the Hokage ordered.”
His voice was sharp and vicious, but his words alone tugged another growl from deep in Sakumo’s chest. What the hell was their Hokage thinking, with these experiments? How could-
“Danzo tried to order me not to touch them outside of the tending the DNA-splicing and examinations; even when they began to die, when their mokuton ripped itself out of them, he refuses to change anything about the parameters, no matter how I argued this is not even accomplishing anything useful. . .”
Sakumo growled again, wrapping his arms more snugly around his mate.
Chapter 64: Kept (Stolen Shrublet)
Shudders of horror continued to run through Sakumo after Orochimaru had stopped speaking. He hugged his mate tighter. Orochimaru was shaking and still scented of tears and the same helpless fury that had tainted his voice. Sakumo crooned to his mate, stroking soothingly, nuzzling Orochimaru’s shoulder and neck and rocking them both gently back and forth as Orochimaru slowly began to calm.
“So,” Sakumo said eventually, quiet, “what do we do?”
Orochimaru made a soft sound, fingers twitching against Tenzou’s shoulder.
“I gather you weren’t supposed to take him, but he clearly cannot go back,” Sakumo growled softly at the very thought, and wondered again what the hell their Hokage, Danzo, anyone involved in orchestrating this project and the orders Orochimaru had been bound by, had been thinking, “what’s the plan?”
Orochimaru shivered, leaning against his arm, smoothing one hand over the sleeping baby’s side. “I. . .”
Sakumo’s head snapped up and Orochimaru tensed against his side. Kakashi crept in the doorway, heading towards them. “Kakashi! Cub, what are you doing up?” Sakumo asked, swallowing as he glanced at the baby in his mate’s lap.
“Cubling,” Orochimaru said as Kakashi approached, his voice only barely steadier or smoother than it had been as he explained the stolen infant he held to Sakumo, “you should be asleep.”
“New brother?” Kakashi said curiously, peering into his mother’s lap, little nose twitching as he leaned close to the baby. Sakumo twitched. “Hiran said his parents brought home a baby brother. I have? Mine?” he asked, looking up at them.
Sakumo made a considering noise, tightening his arm around his mate, and tilted his head to meet Orochimaru’s eyes. They widened. Sakumo raised his eyebrows and shrugged one shoulder. They had the baby here; they had one cub already and they’d planned for - hoped for - another, at least, before they’d been prevented . . . and now his mate had brought home an infant he had clearly already bonded with, a cub who desperately needed a pack.
And their curious cub rather needed an answer. Kakashi whined curiously, snuffling closer to Tenzou’s dark hair. “Mama?”
“Cubling. . .” Orochimaru said slowly.
“New brother smells funny. Babies smell funny?” Kakashi guessed, and Sakumo laughed a little helplessly, hiding his face in his mate’s shoulder.
Orochimaru shuddered and leaned into him.
“We wanted another cub, lovely.” Sakumo said softly, too quiet for Kakashi to hear as he raised his head to nuzzle Orochimaru’s ear, “shall we keep him?”
Orochimaru looked at Sakumo, swallowing thickly, then back at the baby in his lap, and to their cub watching with sleepy but curious eyes. “Yes.” Orochimaru said softly. “Yes, he’s ours.”
“Your brother will smell more like pack once he’s been home for a little while, cub.” Sakumo assured Kakashi, who nodded, content with the explanation. Then he held his arms up to Sakumo, whining softly.
Sakumo pulled his cub - his eldest, he thought with a little giddy, disbelieving flutter - into his lap, letting him get a better look at Tenzou.
Chapter 65: Wonder (Stolen Shrublet)
“So we have another cub now.” Sakumo observed, settling Kakashi - who didn’t so much as twitch; he should have been asleep a couple of hours earlier, even discounting the tiring excitement of meeting Tenzou - near the centre of their futon.
“We do.” Orochimaru’s throat tightened as his arms tightened around Tenzou. Tenzou who was his, who he would never have to walk away from again, leaving him in the lab and simply hoping he would still live when Orochimaru returned, who- He bowed his head, swallowing thickly, and rocked Tenzou more for his own comfort than the baby’s. “You. . .” He looked up at his mate. “You’re happy to . . . to have him be ours? To take him?”
Sakumo hurriedly crossed to them, wrapping his arms around Orochimaru and Tenzou both with a contented little rumble that soothed Orochimaru’s jangled nerves. “Oh lovely. Yes. I. . .” He snorted a laugh. “I was not expecting, could never have, but. . . Even if it is not the way we would have planned, we - I,” he said with a crooked grin, “. . .so wanted another cub.” He pressed his lips together, looking away for a moment.
It had hurt, both of them, putting away that hope, that plan, when Orochimaru’s new orders had taken so much of his time.
Orochimaru considered that they might yet have another by more . . . expected means, as they had Kakashi. As they had wished, discussed, for a second cub before their plans had been interrupted. He said nothing for now, however. Even if they did, it would not be for some time. Not until Tenzou was older.
Sakumo kissed his cheek and nuzzled his face, making him smile and lean into his mate’s embrace, returning the affectionate kisses and soft caresses. Beyond his heartbreak in the lab, and his wish for another child made impossible by his work there, he . . . had missed his mate, and his cubling, with the long hours and days kept away from home.
He would have to return to the lab, he knew - at least for a time; he couldn’t disappear at the same time Tenzou had, not and retain any hope of his . . . theft going unnoticed, even for a time - but . . . soon. Soon he would leave it and fuck Danzo and his ‘for the good of Konoha’. Once they had Tenzou safely settled in their family . . . and their records.
“I never could have expected you would give me another cub this way,” Sakumo said, lightly nipping his jaw, trailing two fingers over Tenzou’s round little cheek, “but perhaps I should cease to be surprised by that.”
Orochimaru hummed curiously, and Sakumo hummed back. “I never could have expected you to give me a cub the way you did the first time, either.” he said, and Orochimaru grinned. “You are a wonder, lovely.” Sakumo said, voice warm and adoring, and Orochimaru swallowed thickly and shifted to wrap an arm around him in return.
“I love you.” Orochimaru said quietly, closing his eyes and nudging up against Sakumo’s cheek.
Chapter 66: Spoons and Snakes
More Shrublet soon!
“Well,” Dan said, lips twitching, as he watched the now very chastened chuunin make a rather hasty retreat, “I also have a question about your mate, to be honest. Do you promise not to rip my throat out with your very impressive teeth if I ask it?”
Sakumo rolled his eyes and huffed at his friend as they made their own way out of the jounin lounge via a different exit. “And what do you want to know?” he asked. “Surely you’ve known him for longer than I have.” he added wryly.
“Orochimaru is . . . not a friendly person.” Dan pointed out, brows arching. “He’s never less than polite with me but I honestly don’t know whether he does more than tolerate me because Tsunade asks him to, directly or by implication.”
Sakumo laughed. “Fair enough.” he agreed. “Though I make no promises regarding keeping my teeth to myself until I hear your question.”
Dan shouldered him lightly, undaunted. “So. . . Is Orochimaru more the cuddle into your arms type or the wrap around you to shelter you with his body type?” he asked, and Sakumo was startled into even louder laughter. “Big spoon or little spoon?”
He slung an arm around his friend’s shoulders. “Orochimaru is a snake, Dan.” he said, and grinned as Dan frowned.
“I am aware,” Dan said dryly, “it would be rather difficult to miss. “What does that-”
“When he curls around me,” Sakumo said, with a warm curl in his stomach, “it is a very different thing.” He hummed contentedly at the memory of sleek white scales under his hands as Orochimaru wound himself around Sakumo, squeezing snugly . . . or coiled into a heap in his lap and up his chest, more than content to be held close and basking in the warmth of Sakumo’s body beneath him.
“. . .your relationship is so strange.” Dan said lightly.
Chapter 67: Wolfpile
Orochimaru shifted a little, stretching his legs out before him as his son trotted towards him. Kakashi all but tumbled into his lap, paws skidding over Orochimaru’s yukata, yipping happily as he scrambled up.
Orochimaru laughed softly and caught him close, ruffling his ears and kissing his brow. He whined happily, tail wagging, and flopped himself down across Orochimaru’s lap with a wide yawn.
His father followed at a more sedate pace, keeping to one side of Orochimaru’s legs but bowing his head to nuzzle Orochimaru affectionately as he came closer. Orochimaru reached up and smoothed a hand over his mate’s jaw and neck, down to the thick fur over his chest. Sakumo sighed, grinning lazily, and folded his legs, settling at Orochimaru’s side and wedging himself partially between Orochimaru and the wooden beam he had been leaning against.
Orochimaru huffed and resettled himself, happy to relax against his mate’s solid warmth instead of the wood. Kakashi yawned again and squirmed in Orochimaru’s lap, shoving his head into Orochimaru’s hand as his paws splayed out.
Orochimaru tickled the edge of one perked ear and laughed when Kakashi twitched and snapped at his fingers playfully, running them over his blunt muzzle. Kakashi licked and nibbled at them, then put his head down, quickly going limp under Orochimaru’s stroking hands. He absently plucked a few bits of dead leaves and bark out of Kakashi’s fluffy fur, flicking them aside.
Sakumo sighed, the deep breath moving them both, and Orochimaru shifted a little to curl against him, nestling into his thick fur. Sakumo raised his head and nudged his muzzle lightly against Orochimaru’s arm, eyes heavy-lidded with lazy contentment.
Chapter 68: Tiny Brother (Stolen Shrublet)
“Dad. Daaad.” Kakashi whined, stretching up as far as he could and clinging to Sakumo’s pants. “Dad. Dad, see tiny brother?”
Sakumo’s gaze flicked up from his cub as he heard the soft sound of his mate stifling laughter, and his lips quirked. Orochimaru’s eyes were warm with love and Sakumo had swallow against the sudden thick feeling in his throat, chest tightening.
Sakumo laughed and shook his head slightly. “Of course, cub.” he told Kakashi, shifting carefully and kneeling, letting Kakashi get a proper look at his new brother again.
Kakashi whined, almost quivering, eyes wide. Orochimaru swept across the room and curled down onto the floor behind him, resting a hand on his back, meeting Sakumo’s eyes briefly. Sakumo grinned, and Orochimaru smiled back, then spread out a thick blanket on the floor, arching a brow at Sakumo.
He sighed, but put Tenzou down on it. Kakashi followed, little nose twitching as he sniffed, then got down almost flat on the blanket himself. He hesitated, glancing up.
“You can.” Sakumo allowed, and Kakashi wriggled up even closer to Tenzou, snuffling and pressing his nose against the baby. Sakumo stifled a laugh - it was a natural gesture; how he got a view of the world, but it was dreadfully cute - and leaned into his mate’s hand sliding up his spine.
“Smells funny.” Kakashi opined, leaning up and licking Tenzou’s cheek.
Tenzou made a little startled sound, kicking his feet.
“He’ll smell like pack soon enough.” Orochimaru said as Kakashi leaned over him and stared into his dark eyes.
“Hello, tiny brother.” Kakashi said solemnly, and Orochimaru leaned into Sakumo, hiding his face against Sakumo’s shoulder. He understood the impulse. It was . . . precious. “I Kashi.”
“Your brother’s name is Tenzou, cubling.” Orochimaru said, his voice a little wavery.
“Tenzou.” Kakashi said, almost perfect. He nuzzled Tenzou’s shoulder and cuddled close to him. “My tiny brother.” he said softly.
Sakumo swallowed against the painful lump in his throat, eyes prickling a little.
Chapter 69: Needs Must (Stolen Shrublet)
“I have to go.” Orochimaru said, voice low, eyes on the cubs curled up in the floor not far away. Kakashi had grown bored for a while and run off to play, but kept returning to peek at his ‘tiny brother’, and had settled beside him again not long before.
“I. . . I know.” Sakumo said, though he hated it even more than he had when all he’d known was that his mate was gone long hours, came back scrupulously clean - too clean to scent anything from him, unnerving - and was often sad or angry or both after. “Be careful.” he requested, turning towards his mate fully.
Orochimaru took a breath, then sighed, winding his fingers into Sakumo’s shirt and tugging lightly. “I will. I can do this.” He snorted. “Knowing Tenzou, at least, is safe, will make it . . . a little easier today.” he added, though his mouth twisted unhappily.
Sakumo growled softly, but nodded acknowledgement.
“Will you be all right?” Orochimaru asked, and Sakumo hummed, cocking his head. “With the two of them.” Orochimaru clarified, tilting his head towards the cubs.
Sakumo felt his lips twitch. “I’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. Waiting for you.” he added, tugging his mate closer and kissing him at one corner of his mouth.
“Mm.” Orochimaru eyed him, but nodded. He cupped Sakumo’s face, kissing him again, leaning bodily into him, and Sakumo wrapped his arms around his mate, all but crushing him in close.
Chapter 70: Day's End (Stolen Shrublet)
Orochimaru held himself tightly under control until his own door was firmly shut behind him, as he had been all day. Though he had very nearly lost his temper twice. He thought giving way to his impulses once - even only to steal Tenzou away - had made it more difficult to hold back today, faced with the horrors and stupidity. But he had.
But now. . .
Orochimaru closed his eyes and pressed his back hard against the door, covering his mouth with one hand and swallowing back a sound. Another of the children had died today and Orochimaru couldn’t help him, as Orochimaru had been unable to help any of them. And he had imagined Tenzou, and felt a cry welling up in his throat, though he knew - hoped - Tenzou was safe at home with Sakumo and Kakashi.
“Lovely!” Sakumo greeted almost immediately, and Orochimaru’s eyes opened. He took a breath and it caught on a sob. “Oh, Orochimaru.” Sakumo’s expression softened from a wide smile to regret and sympathy as he pulled Orochimaru into his arms.
Orochimaru let himself be moved, then hugged tight, returning the embrace clingily. He tilted his head aside as Sakumo nuzzled him, following his cheek and jaw.
“The cublings?” Orochimaru asked, and Sakumo hugged him tighter.
“They’re fine, lovely.” Sakumo promised. “Kakashi is still enamoured of his ‘tiny brother’,” he added fondly, “and I think Tenzou missed his Mama while you were gone, but he was mostly quiet.”
Orochimaru nodded faintly, moving along with Sakumo and then, when he nudged, going to sit on the couch. Sakumo was back in a few moments, and had Tenzou tucked into Orochimaru’s arms almost before he realised it. Orochimaru cradled him close, resolutely putting the few remaining - doomed - mokuton children out of his mind. He could do nothing for them and had known it already. Tenzou was safe. Tenzou was his. He crooned.
“Kakashi,” Orochimaru heard his mate in the next room, “Mama is home; why don’t you go give him a hug?”
“Mama!” Kakashi cried almost immediately, running through the doorway and straight to the couch, scrambling up as Orochimaru freed one arm to catch him. Kakashi snuggled against his side, warm and all but tangibly happy. “Mama home.”
“Yes, cubling.” Orochimaru said, cuddling both of his children close. He looked up at his mate, and smiled a little more at the fond look on Sakumo’s face. “I’m home.”
He spent most of the evening holding Tenzou, whose tiny chakra web was reassuringly steady, and who seemed quite happy to be held and kissed and even to be snuffled at and nudged by his new brother. The little time Orochimaru ceded Tenzou to his mate, or simply to put him down for a time, he found his arms full of Kakashi, and held him just as snugly, though he was less happy to be held for so long as the baby.
Kakashi snuggled into him all the same, however, and clung even more determinedly at bedtime. Orochimaru curled around him happily and dozed for a time, mate and children all safe and close.
Then, knowing he had work to do, Orochimaru gingerly rose without disturbing them and made his way through the house to his workroom, then to the bookshelf.
Chapter 71: Iryou Jutsu (Stolen Shrublet)
Sakumo groaned, leaning heavily against the doorframe with one arm raised to the level of his brow. “What are you doing, lovely?” he asked, rubbing his face with his free hand.
“Sorry, darling.” Orochimaru said absently, not looking up from the book he was paging through. He raised one hand and tucked a sweeping lock of his hair behind his ear, turning another page, mouth turned into a thoughtful frown.
Sakumo tilted his head - the bedroom was quiet behind him, the cubs almost certainly still sleeping - and stepped through fully. “What are you doing?” he repeated as he approached.
Orochimaru raised his head. He looked tired as well, though he was clearly focused, and he hadn’t sounded it. “. . .iryou jutsu. I’m looking for one.”
Sakumo blinked slowly. “I thought you knew all that were of particular interest to you already. And some that aren’t.” The experiments Orochimaru had detailed to him late the night before, over their new cub, had required some expansion of those areas of his knowledge.
Orochimaru hummed noncommittally.
Sakumo brushed a hand over his shoulder, and he slouched forwards a little, rubbing his face. “I do.” he admitted. “Or . . . I did. I learned more for Kakashi,” he paused, lips twitching towards a smile, “before and after. I learned more for Tenzou,” a pained twist that was quickly gone, “before, and now. . .”
“What do you think he needs?” Sakumo asked, sinking to rest his weight against the desk, his focus squarely on his mate’s face as he started to feel a little more awake. If their cub needed anything else, if more was wrong than Sakumo already knew. . .
“I’m . . . looking for an iryou jutsu that will let me trick my body into readiness for nursing.” Orochimaru admitted, and Sakumo blinked.
“He’s . . . doing well as it is.” Sakumo pointed out gently. “As well as can be expected, perhaps more.”
Orochimaru’s jaw set stubbornly and Sakumo knew there was no way he would budge on this, whatever the reason he had decided it in the first place. “I nursed Kakashi, I’ll do the same for his brother.” he said firmly. “And. . .” He took a breath. “I think . . . it will settle him more. It will definitely make him smell like pack,” Orochimaru sent him a look, “and more quickly.”
“That it will.” Sakumo agreed, and squeezed his mate’s shoulder. “It’s not necessary, not for that and not for his health.”
“It will be safer, though.” Orochimaru said softly. “If we mean to pass him off as ours - as always having been ours, born of my body. . .” he said, meeting Sakumo’s eyes. “I nursed Kakashi. . .”
“You’ll nurse his brother.” Sakumo murmured, and nodded understanding. And, while there might be iryou jutsu to induce lactation, they were not common knowledge; that Orochimaru was nursing Tenzou would only underline that he must be their son for many.
Chapter 72: Healthy (Stolen Shrublet)
Orochimaru stirred, raising a hand to his son. “What is it, little one?” he asked sleepily, squinting.
“Brother.” Kakashi said, and Orochimaru’s heart raced as lingering sleepiness was thrown aside and he bolted upright.
“Tenzou? What-” Orochimaru broke off, looking down at Kakashi, who was crouched beside Tenzou. He had hold of Kakashi’s arm and was gumming at his fingers, quiet and squirmy but not in any apparent distress. “Are you all right, Kakashi?” Orochimaru asked, brushing his fingers over his elder son’s face.
Kakashi smiled and nodded, then looked down at Tenzou, cocking his head.
Orochimaru took a few slow breaths to calm himself, then picked Tenzou up, cradling him close and pulling Kakashi’s hand out of his mouth. Tenzou squirmed harder, face screwing up and going red. Orochimaru crooned, rocking his son soothingly as he slid his yukata aside, twitching at the dull ache he wasn’t quite used to again yet.
“He’s hungry.” Orochimaru supplied to Kakashi, hooking a fingertip in Tenzou’s mouth as he shifted his arms around the tiny body to bring him up and get him situated. Tenzou made soft distressed sounds and rubbed his face aimlessly against Orochimaru’s chest until he guided Tenzou to a nipple. He wasn’t quite used to this yet either, though once he latched on-
Orochimaru’s breath caught. He took a couple of deep breaths as Tenzou began to suckle and he felt his milk let down with a warm, tight pulse. Tenzou wriggled in his arms and settled in, eyes closed and one tiny fist curled against Orochimaru’s breastbone.
Kakashi inched closer with wide eyes, and Orochimaru smiled, freeing one arm and brushing his hand over Kakashi’s hair, then down his back with a light nudge. Kakashi grinned up at him, accepting the invitation to come nearer and peering down at his brother, watching curiously.
“Tiny brother happy?” Kakashi asked, and Orochimaru smiled slightly.
“Oh, I believe so.” Orochimaru said idly, rubbing Kakashi’s back and side. “Tenzou doesn’t take very much to be happy, not right now.”
Kakashi made a thoughtful sound, nodding, and Orochimaru sighed, closing his eyes.
“Mama.” Kakashi said, and Orochimaru looked at him again. “Milk. Cuddles?”
Orochimaru smiled again, fighting both the prick of tears and a hot flare of temper. His cub could better guess what an infant needed to be healthy than Danzo. “Yes, Kakashi. He needs his family, and feeding, and to feel us close to him.” Kakashi nodded understanding, nudging a fraction closer to them both. Orochimaru shifted, back aching slightly at the lack of support where he sat, and stroked his elder son’s side again.
Sakumo went from lazy warmth to an icy wash of worry as he reached out and found empty space where he’d anticipated his mate and cub - cubs - to be. He calmed quickly as he shot up and then spotted Orochimaru leaning against the wall, their new cub in his lap and Kakashi curled up at his side, asleep with his head lolling against Orochimaru’s ribs.
Though his head was tilted at an uncomfortable-looking angle, Orochimaru seemed to be asleep as well, one arm wrapped around Kakashi, holding him close, the other hand splayed over Tenzou’s tiny chest.
Sakumo slid from the futon and moved over to them. “Hello, my lovely.” he said softly, brushing Orochimaru’s cheek as he startled awake. It was a muted reaction, and by the slow flicker of golden eyes opening Sakumo guessed his mate had recognised him before even fully waking. “Why don’t you lie down again and sleep some more?” he suggested.
Orochimaru’s eyelids drooped as he gave a slow nod. He glanced down at the cubs, and Sakumo leaned in to brush a kiss to his cheek, then reached for Kakashi. He stirred, with a soft whine, when Sakumo scooped him up, but didn’t wake. Orochimaru sighed, lips curving as he watched Sakumo return their cub to their bed.
Sakumo smoothed a hand over Kakashi’s back, settling him in, then returned to his mate, as Orochimaru hadn’t moved. He tilted his head up, making a soft sound, and Sakumo leaned close and kissed him, heart aching. Though he . . . hadn’t wished even to think it, for a time he had felt like he was losing his beloved mate. To secrets or hurt or . . . what he knew not, but Orochimaru had felt as though he were slipping away all the same.
That he had come back made Sakumo want to cry; that he had brought with him a new cub. . . Well, Sakumo would hardly have been able to guess at it, but he already loved their new little one.
“Shall I take him?” Sakumo asked, and Orochimaru sighed, nodding. Sakumo gently took Tenzou up himself, holding him close and offering his free hand to his mate. Orochimaru gave him a dubious look, but smiled and accepted it, dropping a kiss to one corner of Sakumo’s mouth before moving away.
Sakumo looked down as Tenzou made a soft fussy sound and rooted against his chest, tiny fingers grasping at nothing. “Lovely,” Sakumo said softly as Orochimaru gently stroked Kakashi’s hair, and he looked up, “he’s hungry.”
Orochimaru smiled faintly and slid his yukata open, then let it fall from one shoulder entirely before holding his arms out. Sakumo returned their cub to his mate, stretching out on his belly and watching fondly as Orochimaru guided Tenzou to nurse, then hummed and rocked the little one as he suckled, making soft gurgling sounds.
Orochimaru wavered a little, and Sakumo realised abruptly why they had been by the wall when he woke - possibly they should move the futon, he thought; later. He pushed himself up again and moved behind his mate, offering himself to lean against, and Orochimaru shifted, cuddling into the curve of Sakumo’s arm wrapping around him.
Sakumo nuzzled his hair and watched their little one nurse until he was sated, and Orochimaru had fallen asleep against his shoulder. Sakumo smiled, amused and warm and fond, and carefully moved to take Tenzou himself and nudge Orochimaru until he was comfortably lying down. Kakashi snuggled into his mother’s warmth almost immediately, whining happily in his sleep.
Smiling, Sakumo crooned to Tenzou and burped him, then simply held him as - full and content - he fell asleep again, leaving Sakumo alone awake, watching over his sleeping family.
Chapter 74: Wrestling Wolves and Snuggling Sapling
Not Stolen Shrublet today, but have some toddler Tenzou and rambunctious Kakashi~
Orochimaru lifted his head, frowning, at the plaintive, distressed tone from his youngest. He quickly threaded through the house to the back garden, reassured as he passed the comfortably lounging but alert figure of his mate watching over the children.
Kakashi loped towards his brother, gangling legs covering the ground much faster than Tenzou’s toddling could, and skidded to a stop just before he would have bowled them both over. Tenzou laughed happily and Kakashi barked, licking his face and nuzzling at him affectionately, pushing against his shoulder.
Tenzou wobbled and clung to his fur. “Kashi!” he cried again, barely keeping his feet by dint of his hold on his brother. Kakashi’s tail wagged and he nudged Tenzou more gently, guiding him back towards the house. Kakashi walked much more slowly this time, allowing Tenzou to hold on to him as they crossed the grass.
Orochimaru knelt as they approached, scooping Tenzou into his arms as Kakashi pounced on Sakumo. He rolled over with a mournful wail that made Kakashi bark and squirm, both their tails wagging as Sakumo kicked his paws up, ‘collapsing’ dramatically under Kakashi’s gentle attack.
Tenzou snuggled into Orochimaru’s chest, fingers curling into his shirt, and grinned up at Orochimaru as he stroked his son’s hair. “Are you all right, my little one?” he asked, a gentle flare of his chakra settling Tenzou’s own restlessly tangled chakra.
Tenzou sighed, leaning more heavily against him. “Tired Mama.” he said after a moment, looking at Sakumo and Kakashi. Kakashi was certainly not tired himself, near to bouncing as he slid off Sakumo’s ribs and then pounced on him again, small muzzle shoving up into the thick ruff around his throat with a soft growl.
Tenzou made no move towards them, sighing and tucking his head up under Orochimaru’s chin. He hummed softly, rubbing his son’s back.
Kakashi barked and then caught one of his father’s ears in his teeth. Orochimaru winced, but Sakumo only let out another soft, mournful sound and then rolled, twisting fluidly to slide one paw beneath Kakashi’s ribs and flip him gently.
Orochimaru shook his head at the pair of them. “Would you like to come and help me inside?” he asked Tenzou, making him smile brightly. Orochimaru smiled back, hugging him gently and rising with him held close.
Tenzou delightedly set to ‘sorting’ the baubles and slips of scrap paper Orochimaru settled him down to, though it wasn’t long before he was nodding off, sliding sideways in his seat. Orochimaru picked him up again, supporting him with one arm and switching from his safe, but labour-intensive project to reading the book on jutsu theory he’d recently acquired.
Chapter 75: Cramps and Cravings
Sakumo crooned, wrapping his arm more tightly around his mate and nuzzling up his side to his lower ribs. Orochimaru shifted restlessly and gave a thin hiss. Sakumo rumbled in return and kissed his ribs, nuzzling him again.
“Wolf-heart.” Orochimaru said, shifting again, with a deeper, sharper hiss as his back arched. Sakumo rumbled again, not raising his head. “Sakumo!”
Sakumo twitched, shoulders tensing, and glanced up. Orochimaru swatted his shoulder, shoving more than anything, wriggling under him and in his arms pointedly. “. . .mate?”
“Get off!” Orochimaru demanded, flustered and huffy. Sakumo quickly withdrew, swallowing down a whine but unable to keep the downcast frown from his face. “I hurt and you’re . . . clinging and pushing and it’s uncomfortable.” Orochimaru said sharply, rolling his shoulders and shifting his hips. “And I’m hungry.” he added, lower, grumbling.
“What would you like?” Sakumo asked, cocking his head and reaching out to slide a gentle hand over Orochimaru’s thigh. He bared his long fangs but settled once more under Sakumo’s light touch, tense muscles easing somewhat.
“Nothing reasonable.” Orochimaru said with a sigh, rolling onto his side with a wince and curling forwards around the swell of their growing cub, tucking himself against the pillows.
Sakumo leaned closer and nuzzled Orochimaru’s shoulder, then kissed his jaw lightly. “What do you want, lovely?” he asked again, soft, even as his mate turned a dubious look up at him. He smiled.
Leah asked for something like this one; Oro being snappy and tetchy, bossing Sakumo around and suffering pregnancy cravings and aches.
Chapter 76: Territory Lines
“I can’t let you pass.”
Sakumo paused, one paw in the air, and tilted his head, inspecting the rather self-important looking bitch who had accosted him. A dog paced up from his other side, barking a warning note, and Sakumo bared one fang, irritated.
“Beyond is not only out of our territory but wandering into forest frequented by naga.” the dog warned, shaking himself.
Sakumo snorted, stretching his front legs lazily. “Oh no.” he said dryly. “Wouldn’t want that.”
He glimpsed a small, brilliant violet snake in the lower canopy not far beyond the boundary the patrolling wolves were attempting to enforce. It eyed him, and Sakumo raised his tail and took a few paces forwards, neatly side-slipping the dog’s lunge for him, barking in amusement as he leapt over the bitch and called lightning.
Just enough to keep either of the other wolves from pursuing him as electricity danced over his coat and sparked from his paws. Sakumo fell into an easy lope, not surprised when a soft weight dropped to land on his shoulders, then looped around his neck, ignoring the lightnings dancing in his fur save to give a low hiss of almost-complaint.
He rumbled a greeting to his mate’s little mundane cousin. She hissed another grumble but squeezed companionably and murmured direction to him.
Sakumo altered his path accordingly, and her guidance had him coming upon a clearing filled with silvery-white scales, nearly running into the thick band of one coil. He leapt over it with only a little scrambling to keep his paws as he landed on the grass on the far side.
Orochimaru shifted, muscles rippling beneath gleaming scales, and Sakumo found himself cradled in gently tightening coils. He shifted shape as his mate’s upper body came into view, skin the same silvery white as his scales save for the streaks of dusky violet markings, and otherwise the match for Sakumo’s current shape. He grinned, stretching out his arms.
Orochimaru smiled sharply in response, showing the tips of wicked fangs, and coiled his upper body close, letting Sakumo - already all but swallowed up in his mate’s body - wrap him in an embrace in return, greeting him with a kiss.
Sakumo ran his fingers through Orochimaru’s hair as they broke apart, Orochimaru nosing his cheek gently. “Missed you, lovely.” he murmured.
“And I you, my heart.” Orochimaru said softly, fingers trailing over Sakumo’s chest and resting over his fluttering heart.
Chapter 77: Winter Morning
“Time to get up!” Sakumo called, for the second time, as he made his way into his cub’s room. Kakashi’s futon was a still heap of thick blankets. He shook his head and knelt beside it. “Come on, cub. You need to get up.”
“Nope. Can’t. I’m hibernating.” Kakashi said from under the kakebuton, and Sakumo paused, stifling laughter.
“Me too. Can’t move.” Tenzou piped up, startling him. He hadn’t realised that Tenzou was tucked into his brother’s futon as well, beneath the heavy layers of winter bedding.
“Nice try, cubs,” Sakumo said, running a hand over a fold in the kakebuton, feeling for a limb or back beneath, “but viperwolves don’t hibernate. Nor do little shrubs!” he teased as he tugged the kakebuton back, leaning in close with a growl that made Tenzou giggle and flail.
Kakashi controlled himself better, tucking back down further into the part of the kakebuton Sakumo hadn’t lifted, but he was still grinning, little fangs that were still a bit large for his mouth pricking his lower lip. Tenzou squirmed away from Sakumo and snuggled against his brother’s chest, and Kakashi nuzzled his hair, hugging him there.
“Not even for Dad?” Sakumo made a theatrically sad face at them and Kakashi giggled, but shook his head. “Or breakfast? It’s waiting for you. It’ll get cold. . .”
Kakashi huffed, squirming. He was about as fond of food that had gone cold as his mother.
Kakashi sighed, and Sakumo held out his arms, smiling at his cubs. Kakashi nudged Tenzou, who agreeably climbed up and into Sakumo’s arms as Kakashi sat up and stretched, shivering. Sakumo snuggled Tenzou tight, then looped one arm around Kakashi and tugged him in as well, nuzzling his hair as he pressed close.
Chapter 78: Lord's Farewell (wolf & hime)
“Oh good! You’re back!” Tsunade greeted with a grin. “And safely.”
“And with the information, good job.” Jiraiya agreed, patting Tsunade on the back as they approached. “Been getting your dispatches.”
“We’ve more as well.” Sakumo supplied, with a glance for who might be nearby as he automatically extended his hand to help Orochimaru down. He realised what he had done a moment too late to stop himself, and suppressed a wince.
Orochimaru smirked, but took his hand and stepped closer.
“Get nice and cosy on your mission, then?” Jiraiya laughed.
“And I shall have to bid farewell to my hime,” Sakumo said with an awkward smile, “I hope I wasn’t too dreadful a partner, though I know our mission required talents far outside my specialties.”
“Mm. . . I suppose you shall.” Orochimaru said, arching one brow.
“Won’t be a lord any more!” Jiraiya agreed, clapping him on the shoulder and nudging him and Orochimaru both towards one of the tents. “And you can find a more,” he cleared his throat with a snicker, “palatable lady.”
Jiraiya suddenly wheezed, doubling over, as Orochimaru - still wearing one of the fine kimono; the first Sakumo had seen him in, hair pinned up with the same fuji kanzashi - swept past him. Tsunade followed, ignoring Jiraiya. “I’d wager you’d like to get into some more comfortable clothing, though.” she observed as she and Orochimaru stepped inside.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Orochimaru said dryly, “it’s not so bad. My own clothes,” he added after a beat, “would be preferable, however.”
“I’m sure a number of things would be preferable, now you actually have your choices in them.” Tsunade said, laughing, only to pause, cocking her head, as Orochimaru shot her some kind of look that was entirely unreadable to Sakumo. He’d learned to pick up the nuances in some of Orochimaru’s expressions - and tried not to be too pleased by the slight smiles and warm regard when he got it right - but he was . . . a complex man.
Sakumo tried not to frown too obviously, reminding himself it had been a mission and Orochimaru merely an excellent partner to work with. It was exactly as it should be, and as he had expected. It was time to say goodbye.
This is not the final piece of Wolf & Hime, I promise!
Chapter 79: Missing
It took Sakumo three days to realise his mate wasn’t simply avoiding him - which had been upsetting enough - Orochimaru wasn’t coming home. It took him an hour, curled around Kakashi, nose pressed in his cub’s hair, to steady himself enough to do anything about it.
He left Kakashi in Makki’s care, with only a little wheedling necessary, and started looking. He had no idea where his mate had been working, and likely that was closed down now in any case; Orochimaru wouldn’t be at the training fields, and he never lingered in the village centre without reason.
Sakumo tracked him by scent, painstakingly going back over trails that crossed and wound seemingly aimlessly, ignoring confused civilians and the attempted interruption of several comrades. It was not an easy task, but there were few scents he knew so well - his cub, his long-gone mother perhaps, Yura who had grown up at his side - and Sakumo was a hunting wolf.
Orochimaru froze when he opened the door, but at least he didn’t lash out, or close it again. Sakumo whined thoughtlessly, moving closer, and Orochimaru tensed even more.
“Lovely. . .” Sakumo said, his throat tight. “Is this where you’ve been? Why-” He paused, catching his breath. “Why have you not been at home?” he asked, breathing in, shuddering as his mate’s scent - bitter and marred with that of a foreign place, but fresh, present - reached his nose.
Orochimaru barely looked at him, golden eyes cutting away. “Didn’t they tell you what I did?” he said roughly.
“Orochimaru?” Sakumo questioned, taking a step closer and reaching out. Orochimaru swayed towards him for a moment, then jerked away. Sakumo lunged, catching hold of his mate. Orochimaru stiffened, then fell into him, fingers twisting into his shirt. “Yes,” he said, and paused to take a deeper breath, “yes, I know. Why . . . I need you. Please. It hurt,” he hugged Orochimaru tighter as he let out a thin sound, “I can see that,” he added, because his mate was clearly troubled, and Sakumo had seen that for weeks, “but we need you, lovely.”
Orochimaru tensed, pulling away just a little, enough to meet Sakumo’s eyes. He kept his mate’s gaze, not loosening his grip. Orochimaru took a breath, then closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around Sakumo. “I. . .” he began, then stopped.
“Take me home?” Orochimaru requested in a soft tone, and Sakumo hugged his mate tighter, a shiver of relief lighting in his veins.
He pulled Orochimaru out the still-open door without pause, taking the most direct route across the village to his - their - home, warm and welcoming.
“Mama!” Kakashi greeted happily, rolling over and pushing himself up to his feet from where he’d been lying against Makki’s side.
Sakumo’s heart ached as he watched Orochimaru freeze, then tremble before he dove for their cub with the speed of one of his summons in a strike. He swept Kakashi into his arms, still shaking, and curled around him there on the floor.
Kakashi wriggled and whined happily, tucking his head up under his Mama’s jaw, and Orochimaru’s head bowed, eyes closed and tears glittering in his lashes. Sakumo went to them and tucked himself close against his mate’s back, leaning into him and wrapping them both in his arms, nuzzling Orochimaru’s shoulder and crooning soothingly.
“Love you, mate.” Sakumo said softly, hugging Orochimaru close, and he curled into the embrace even as Sakumo nearly dragged his mate into his lap, Kakashi a warm, giggling weight in his arms.
“Love you both.” Orochimaru said, voice thready, and stroked Kakashi’s hair with a shaking hand. He nuzzled Orochimaru’s wrist and settled down again with a wordless, affectionate whine.
Chapter 80: Tenzou
“Hush, cub,” Sakumo crooned, rocking the baby as he moved, slow and even, “I’m right here,” he soothed, lifting the boy to nuzzle his brow, then settling him back against his chest, “and I’m not going anywhere.”
Orochimaru slid a hand over his mouth, leaning sideways against the doorframe and watching his mate coddling their new little one. Tenzou slowly eased from his soft cries - he had never cried loudly; Orochimaru wasn’t sure if it was natural or because his time in the Root facility had already taught him not to - and flailing, staring up at Sakumo’s face with rapt eyes.
Sakumo crooned wordlessly and then began to sing, soft and soothing. Orochimaru’s chest tightened, warm and just shy of painful.
He stepped out of the doorway as Sakumo circled the room again, and Sakumo’s head flew up in startlement. His expression softened again immediately as he met Orochimaru’s eyes, lips curling as he continued his lullaby. Tenzou was limp against his chest now, one tiny hand caught in his shirt and huge dark eyes still fixed on Sakumo’s face.
Orochimaru moved to them, trailing a light caress over Tenzou’s cheek and leaning over him to kiss Sakumo’s. Sakumo nuzzled him, still singing, and then bowed his head to look down at Tenzou, gaze every bit as soft and possessive as it had been when Kakashi had been this age, as Orochimaru would have expected had Tenzou been the child born of their blood they had planned. Orochimaru looked down at the baby.
Orochimaru smiled, heart aching, but for once in months of conflicted, angry upset, only with the staggering depths of the love he felt for his family.
Minato passed over his approval for solo assignments - signed by Jiraiya-sensei, though Minato wasn’t entirely sure he’d listened to Minato’s explanation of why he wanted it and promises not to abuse it - to be filed, then collected a D-rank mission scroll. He fought not to bounce as he trotted out of the Tower, opening it. It listed off a set of household cleaning tasks and chores needed in preparation for autumn deepening into winter.
Easy enough . . . hopefully. Minato knew how to keep a house, at least. He ran across the village, locating the house closer to the outskirts on a large piece of property. He checked himself over absently, then presented himself at the door, knocking.
He startled a moment later when the door was opened by Jiraiya-sensei’s friend and old teammate Orochimaru, again wearing a sling cradling a baby across his chest, as he had been when Jiraiya-sensei introduced them to him in the village recently. Minato’s eyes lingered on the baby, but he raised his head and bowed slightly, holding out the mission scroll by way of explanation. “I’m here to help! Ah, I’m Namikaze Minato.” he added.
Orochimaru smiled faintly. “Very good. I’m Orochimaru, and this is Kakashi. Come in.” He stepped aside and moved into the house, and Minato followed obligingly, grinning. “I’ll direct you as needed; Kakashi makes things a bit more difficult, and his father is on a mission at the moment.”
“Sure!” Minato nodded, tucking the scroll away and following Orochimaru deeper into the house, listening closely to his instructions.
The tasks were indeed easy enough, and whatever Jiraiya-sensei had said about Orochimaru, Minato found him soft-spoken and easy to talk to, and for the few tasks that were simply too big for Minato to manage without another pair of hands, he stepped in easily. The baby - Kakashi - was quiet and snuggled against his . . . father? mother? most of the time, even when he was awake. Orochimaru caught his curious glances and Minato blushed, but Orochimaru only explained that Kakashi was very young - only two weeks old, which boggled Minato - and would mostly sleep a lot for a while yet.
Minato was surprised and embarrassed when Orochimaru offered him some advice with a jutsu he’d been struggling with and he realised he’d been rambling about his training, his team, and his sensei.
Orochimaru, curled in a chair with Kakashi asleep in his lap while Minato scrubbed, merely smiled at him when he apologised. “My own affinity is fuuton as well.” Orochimaru said, trailing a fingertip over his son’s face. “It speaks well of your dedication that you have gone out of your way to find yours so early. It will allow you to specialise if you choose and give you a greater understanding as you branch out.”
Minato squirmed, biting his lip as he smiled, and nodded understanding. He continued cleaning . . . but listened closely as Orochimaru spoke, grateful for the advice, knowing he was one of the strongest ninja in their village.
Chapter 82: Lesson (sunshine genin)
“Have you finished?” Orochimaru called through, and Minato finished drying his hands hurriedly, sweeping his eyes over the kitchen - which had not been too bad before, but was now clean and neat, every last dish washed and in its place save for the ones sitting on the stove with dinner cooking in them.
“Yes, Orochimaru-san!” Minato returned.
“Come through here, then.”
Minato did as bade, and found Orochimaru sitting on a cushion on the floor, another waiting empty before him. He gestured Minato to that, and he sat obediently, glancing around. Kakashi was asleep in a little nest of pillows and fur with a large serpent coiled through it alongside him.
Orochimaru cleared his throat and Minato sat up straight, attention fixing on him. He smiled slightly, approving, and Minato listened raptly as he talked Minato through a largely mental exercise that had his chakra flickering in his body, and-
He opened his eyes, startled, to find his clothes billowing around him. Outside, too, as though he were channelling it . . . from himself? Or from the surrounding air? He frowned, trying to pinpoint the feeling, focus going fuzzy as he tracked it inside himself.
When he refocused, Orochimaru was watching him with thoughtfully narrowed eyes, and he ducked his head shyly. Orochimaru smiled slightly and asked what he had felt, thought, and Minato tentatively outlined the odd feelings he had noticed, still curious. As he usually did, however, Orochimaru began to neatly answer all of Minato’s wonderings in turn, prodding him to find some of the answers himself, and to work further from the ones he was given.
Eventually Kakashi woke, but after checking on him Orochimaru made no move to end his discussion with Minato, only moved the baby to the floor between them. Kakashi seemed content there, babbling as though contributing to the discussion and batting at his mother’s fingers when they trailed over him teasingly.
Minato jumped, tensing, and Orochimaru blinked, straightening a bit from where he had been leaning towards Minato and looking around just as Hatake Sakumo walked in. Minato realised he must have remained far later than he’d intended.
“Hello, wolf-heart.” Orochimaru greeted as his husband bent to nuzzle, then kiss him affectionately.
“Am I interrupting?” Sakumo asked, going to his knees and crooning to his son, scooping Kakashi up and bouncing him gently.
“Minato-kun was here helping out again,” Orochimaru supplied, stretching fluidly, “and I am afraid we may have lost track of the time. Minato-kun, as I have delayed you, would you care to stay for dinner with us?” he invited.
Minato opened his mouth to apologise, then froze. “I. . . Really?” he asked quietly.
Orochimaru eyed him, not unsympathetically, but his voice was crisp. “Of course.”
“. . .thank you.” Minato accepted, dipping his head and glancing at Sakumo, who seemed unruffled, coddling his son against his chest and making faces at him as he whined and waved his arms.
Chapter 83: Fondness (sunshine genin)
“You’re rather fond of the little sunshine genin who has been doing the D-ranks around the house, aren’t you?”
Orochimaru, half-dozing with his son pressed into his arms and his mate close at his back, startled at the unexpected question. “. . .no. He’s just a helpful genin. Who happens to be less idiotic than many of his agemates, perhaps.” he said with a little huff.
Sakumo’s amused rumble - not quite a laugh - thrummed through Orochimaru’s back and made him relax even further. “Of course. How silly of me. That’s why you’ve been keeping him back and finding more reasons to bring him here, and giving him lessons and helping him with his training while he’s here.” he said softly. “And feeding him.”
Orochimaru hissed weakly, mind flitting back over the day’s . . . lesson. He’d called Minato in for help with the laundry, which was admittedly a larger task now than it had once been, but hardly outside his capabilities at the moment, and. . .
“I’m surprised he hasn’t begun to call you sensei.” Sakumo said, his tone gentle, hugging Orochimaru lightly.
Orochimaru ducked his chin, and Sakumo hummed a little note of surprise, nuzzling his jaw. “He has. He . . . slips, sometimes.” Orochimaru said quietly. Sakumo’s arms tightened around him once more. “Jiraiya is hardly teaching them, and he’s a bright, curious student.”
“You wanted one.” Sakumo said softly.
“I couldn’t take a genin team now in any case.” Orochimaru said, shaking his head and waving it off. “Not when Kakashi is so young.” He smoothed a hand over his son’s head.
“Minato-kun. He’s clever and he wants to learn, and you wish to teach.” Sakumo said, pressing gently, and Orochimaru sighed, nudging backwards into his mate’s arms.
“I . . . perhaps.” Orochimaru allowed, cuddling Kakashi against his chest as Sakumo stroked his belly with one hand. “I enjoy teaching him. Even if I am not his sensei.”
“I can tell, lovely. I’m glad you’re happy.” Sakumo said, kissing his neck. “And it is making you happy.” He paused. “You may not be his jounin-sensei, but you are teaching him,” he said softly, “is it so bad if you allow him to acknowledge that?”
Orochi-sensei! I did it! A bright smile and brighter blue eyes, delight in a new accomplishment and excitement to show it off. . . To show it off to him, hopeful and then bouncing happily when he offered praise.
Orochimaru swallowed. It stung a little, but at the same time he . . . rather liked the title, as he rather liked the boy. “Perhaps.” he said softly, a part of him wishing he could be Minato’s sensei properly. Wishing. . .
Orochimaru sighed, cuddling into his mate’s embrace.
Chapter 84: Made Welcome (sunshine genin)
Orochimaru rocked Kakashi gently as he slid his son down to cradle him more comfortably, watching the pair in the back garden. Sakumo steadied Minato’s grip, then adjusted his stance gently and walked him slowly through the kata once more.
There was a bit too much of a chill on the air, particularly for Kakashi, so Orochimaru only moved to open the shoji when it was clear they were finishing up. They had been out there all afternoon, and it was growing dark outside now. He’d come to watch them partially intending to stop them, and not only because dinner was ready.
“You look dead on your feet, cub,” Sakumo said, shaking his head and stretching his shoulders before collecting both practise tanto, “we should have called it a day earlier.”
“No, I’m good!” Minato insisted immediately, though he did look a little worn and wilted.
“There’s a spare room,” Sakumo said, ruffling the boy’s hair, “as you know, since you’re the one who cleaned it out. You should stay tonight; for dinner, obviously, but I’ll get out the spare futon for you.”
“Oh, I- You don’t have to-” Minato looked up at him with wide eyes.
“No, but I’m sure we’d feel better not sending you home so tired and so late, mm?” Sakumo said, gently nudging Minato ahead of him towards the house.
Orochimaru smiled, shifting Kakashi in his arms. “Certainly. If you would be comfortable staying with us, you are welcome to the spare room.”
“Oh!” Minato looked at him, sky blue eyes shaded with startlement. “Yes of course, I didn’t mean-”
“Then let’s have dinner, and Sakumo can set it up for you while you wash, afterwards.” Orochimaru said smoothly. Minato blinked, and Orochimaru rested a hand on his shoulder, nudging him inside. He slanted a look at his mate, and Sakumo only grinned fondly, then reached for their son.
Orochimaru let Kakashi slide into his father’s arms and followed Minato into the kitchen, lips curled into a fond smile of his own.
Orochimaru smiled as Sakumo curled on his side around their son, who babbled nonsense and tugged at his father’s hair as it fell into reach. “Speaking of the little sunshine genin. . .” Orochimaru began dryly, unwinding his sash.
“Mm?” Sakumo raised his head from where he was nuzzling Kakashi’s face and gave Orochimaru a curious look.
He raised an eyebrow. “You questioned some time ago if I was not growing fond of him?” he pointed out, and Sakumo took a breath, then let it out with nothing more than a low grumble, not quite a protest. “You were checking over the spare room yesterday.” Orochimaru observed, sliding out of his shirt and pants.
“He,” Sakumo paused, sighing and tilting his head, eyes trailing Orochimaru as he slipped into a light yukata, “is all alone at home, without even a sensei who watches over him particularly. He should have somewhere . . . better to go.”
“You wish to keep him.” Orochimaru said as he went to the futon, not yet putting out the light.
Sakumo raised a hand and smoothed it over Orochimaru’s hip as he settled. “And you don’t?” he asked softly.
Orochimaru thought about the bright boy who had so shyly taken the offered place across the house, the room nearer the front they had readied for him, and hummed as he tucked his head down, resting one hand on Kakashi’s chest for a moment. They had left Minato tucked into the futon with a heavy kakebuton over him, looking very snug as he dropped off to sleep almost before they had closed the door. He was still . . . so very young.
Sakumo made a soft sound in his throat and kissed Orochimaru’s brow, putting out the lamp and drawing the kakebuton carefully up just shy of covering Kakashi completely.
Chapter 85: Parenting (sunshine genin)
Minato shifted a bit in his comfortable tree perch, drinking from the cup of lemonade he’d brought up with him.
“I can do it!”
His gaze dropped to the boy in the little field below, struggling a bit with an axe that was a little too big for him. His father steadied his hands and supported the weight. “I know, but let me help.” he said gently, and the boy huffed but relaxed and let his father guide his hands and arms.
It was remarkably . . . familiar, Minato thought suddenly, feeling a shadow of gentle, callused hands moving over his own and steadying his forearms.
The father backed off a bit and let his son take a swing on his own, and clapped, cheering for him when he managed it without help. “I did it!” the boy said, bouncing, and his father stepped forwards again, wrapping his arms around the boy’s shoulders in a light hug.
Minato nearly dropped his cup before he steadied himself and brought it closer. Sakumo- Sakumo had hugged him like that when he mastered a new kenjutsu form Sakumo had spent a patient few hours walking him through.
Minato swallowed, folding his knees up closer as he watched the father and son in the field a little longer. Was- Was Sakumo really acting like that with . . . him?
And Orochimaru. . .
Minato remembered gentle encouragements and easy touches; a pat on the shoulder or the head, being drawn close to Orochimaru’s side briefly in something not quite a hug. . . Even- Even a comforting stroke of fingers through his hair, or hands drawing up the kakebuton to tuck him in, from either or both of them.
He knew, of course, that Orochimaru had spent far more of his own personal time teaching and talking to Minato than there was any reason for, that Sakumo had invited him into their home and taught him just because, but it had never occurred to him. . . Well, Minato had never had anyone-
He swallowed, biting his lip. It didn’t quite hold down the smile that wanted to spread across his face.
“Hello!” Minato called quietly, peeking around the corner of the house, and-
“Minato-kun!” Sakumo greeted, moving to meet him and pulling him into a hug. “How was your mission?”
“It was . . . good, I think.” Minato said, biting his lip as he looked up at Sakumo.
“Oh?” Orochimaru asked, beckoning Minato with a restrained gesture. He trotted over and bobbed his head in greeting, then knelt to get closer to Kakashi, cooing a hello to the squirming baby. Orochimaru gently settled Kakashi in his arms, and Minato folded his legs as he happily cradled Kakashi close, rocking him. “Tell us about it?” Orochimaru invited, stretching and leaning back against a support post, hand sliding over Minato’s shoulder.
Yes, it appears it took until spring at least for Minato to . . . er, notice that he'd been adopted.
Chapter 86: Family (sunshine genin)
“All right, kids,” Jiraiya grinned at his team, “good job, I’ll take in the report, so . . . off with you until our next mission. I’ll let you know when.”
“Are you sure?”
Jiraiya was a little surprised it was Tekouru, not Minato, who had asked, but assured him it was indeed fine and they should go on. And realised that Minato had already disappeared . . . the instant Jiraiya dismissed them.
. . .unusual. He frowned. He also remembered belatedly that he’d meant to ask Minato where he was living now, since last time he’d gone to collect his genin for a mission he’d found someone else living in Minato’s apartment and no sign of him.
Jiraiya followed his brightest little genin without too much difficulty, half-intending to call him back but finding him moving just a little too quick to do so comfortably. Just when he drew near enough-
Jiraiya’s brows rose, eyes widening. Minato trotted right into the Hatake compound, which Jiraiya had the . . . less than pleasant experience to attest personally had been trapped to hell and back at Orochimaru’s hands. Minato didn’t hesitate on his way and sprung no traps.
“We’re back!” Minato called, and Orochimaru appeared from behind a small, bare-branched tree, his baby resting in a sling on his chest.
“A bit early.” Orochimaru observed, running his fingers through Minato’s hair as Jiraiya gaped. Minato leaned in under the touch, and stretched up to look into the sling. Orochimaru smiled fondly and brought the baby out of it, letting him go to Minato’s reaching arms. “Everything went well?”
“Oh yes. I think Jiraiya-sensei just wanted to get back. He sent us all off before we reported to the mission room, even.” Minato said absently. “Hello, Kashi-kun.” he crooned, smiling as he stepped back a bit, bouncing the baby. “I missed you, little one!”
Orochimaru’s smile softened, and Jiraiya shook his head, leaning against a tree just outside the property line. “Sakumo returned early today as well.” Orochimaru said, and Minato brightened further.
“Did you need your team for something again?”
Jiraiya jumped. He’d known Orochimaru likely either knew he was there or could at any moment; he . . . hadn’t thought of Sakumo. Who now stood at his shoulder, smiling. It wasn’t quite a nice smile, though it wasn’t quite a threat, either.
“No, no. I dismissed them and then remembered that I no longer know where Minato lives, since he moved out of his apartment.” Jiraiya said, snorting.
Sakumo raised an eyebrow. “The lease was signed over more than a month ago.” he said dryly, and Jiraiya blinked.
“Ah, I was going to ask him where he lives now. So I can find him for missions and the like.” Jiraiya said, trying not to be defensive.
“You can find him here, when you need to.” Sakumo said, and Jiraiya didn’t know why his voice was so chill. “However, I believe he is in downtime after his mission at the moment, and you may have a mission report to turn in. . .”
“. . .of course,” Jiraiya said, more than recognising the pointed attempt to make him go away, though he wasn’t sure why.
Sakumo turned his back and headed across the garden to Orochimaru and Minato.
“Welcome home, nikkou!” Sakumo wrapped an arm around Minato’s shoulders, drawing him in close as he returned the greeting happily. The baby was still cradled in Minato’s arms, but he leaned into Sakumo’s side, nestling against him. Sakumo . . . kissed the top of his head?
Sakumo lifted his head and glanced back at Jiraiya, and he quickly resumed his retreat from the Hatake compound.
日光 (nikkou) means sunlight/sunshine/sunbeams
There will be more with the sunshine genin and his adoptive wolfsnek family . . . but this is all I have written of this arc for now.
Chapter 87: Earned
Sakumo sank into the onsen, hissing softly as the hot water stung at the deep bite halfway up his arm above his elbow. Dan cast him a curious, concerned look, and he shook his head, smiling slightly. It wasn’t serious, though his mate’s fangs certainly had left . . . quite the injury.
Sakumo twisted his arm a bit, inspecting the pair of deep punctures - courtesy of hinged hypodermic fangs - flanked by shallower marks from slightly more human teeth.
“Ouch?” Dan observed, and Sakumo startled. He hadn’t noticed his friend settling closer beside him.
“Ah, it’s fine.” Sakumo grinned. “I may have earned it.”
“Earned it?” Dan questioned with a quizzical expression, and Sakumo shivered.
He’d had his mate pinned beneath his weight, twisted and actually yowling with pleasure, legs wound around his waist and squeezing. He had . . . startled Orochimaru, shifting to fold him further in on himself - easy enough; Orochimaru bent in ways no one else alive could, not willingly, and had offered Sakumo no resistance - and crush his mate down harder into the grass as he thrust. Sakumo had only been distantly aware of the sharp stab of pain from his mate’s fangs sinking into his arm as his orgasm hit.
It had been some time later before Orochimaru had - carefully - disengaged his fangs, face smeared with Sakumo’s blood and body with his own come. He’d apologised, surprisingly a little flustered, but even if Sakumo had actually been upset, the sight of his mate in that state would have been quite enough to change his mind. More than worth the dull pain of it, which he had actually enjoyed in its own right, in the moment.
. . .at least as Orochimaru had expressed no venom with the bite.
“Something like that.” Sakumo said vaguely, aware his grin might have become a somewhat soppier expression.
Chapter 88: Delivery
Sakumo eyed his mate’s teammate dubiously. “Tsunade-san?”
“I believe this,” Tsunade reached into her shirt and pulled out a shimmery white snake; Sakumo blinked, “belongs to you.” She pressed the serpent into Sakumo’s hurriedly raised hands, and he recognised Orochimaru’s golden eyes and dusky violet markings.
“Ah. . ?” Sakumo said vaguely, stroking Orochimaru affectionately and returning his gaze to Tsunade.
She sighed. “If I had the ability,” she said, nose wrinkly, “I would have taken it too. I can’t blame him this time. Jiraiya has been. . .” She growled, passably well for a fully human woman. “See you in three days, Oro.” she said a little more gently.
Orochimaru looped himself around Sakumo’s forearms and hissed softly, dipping his head as his tongue flicked out.
Tsunade sniffed and turned away, striding off, apparently having only come to deliver Orochimaru home again. Sakumo eyed his mate. “Really, lovely?” he questioned, lips tugging into a smile.
Orochimaru hissed again, lifting his head and more of his body, stretching towards Sakumo’s chest and sliding up from there to his shoulder. Sakumo stepped back into the house and smiled as Orochimaru slithered higher, winding himself around Sakumo’s neck and shoulders comfortably, a sleek, heavy coil.
He stroked his mate’s smooth, warm scales and hummed happily.
Orochimaru hummed thoughtfully, sweeping his hand over the table - lower than he usually chose for his workspace; he usually preferred to stand as he worked - and then rearranging a few of the wooden racks on it. Only one of them was actually filled with glassware, and the glassware itself held nothing toxic or caustic; the stacks of papers and notebooks were mostly blank, with one being a pile of notes he needed to put in order already.
He braced his hands on the table and leaned on it, inspecting, judging, then glanced around at the amount of space he’d left between this one and the other behind. It was quite clear enough, he decided, and he wasn’t worried about the contents of that table being knocked to the floor.
Assured that everything was in place, he wound his hair up into a bun just tight enough to hold, but loose enough that several strands quickly fell to frame his jaw and tickle his neck, then loosened his sash. Assured everything was settled, he moved to the other table to actually work for a while. He didn’t bother to find a chair to put beside the new table.
Orochimaru gasped as Sakumo’s teeth scraped the nape of his neck, nails dragging painfully over the surface of the table. Sakumo growled, body broad and hot and solid as he pinned Orochimaru down across the table under him.
The edge of the table dug into his belly and ribs, his breath coming shallow from desire and pleasure more from the pressure of his mate against his back. Sakumo growled again, teeth set against his throat, cock hot and thick inside him, callused hands pressing firmly along his sides. Orochimaru fought not to simply go boneless beneath him, shivery with heat, and pressed back and up into him.
“Sakumo-” Orochimaru broke off with a breathless moan, head dipping until his brow rested against the wood. He keened softly as Sakumo thrust again, leaning up enough to push him down, splaying him out on the table and fucking into him harder.
Orochimaru writhed under his mate’s hands, back arching and body twisting. Sakumo tightened his hold, hips rolling in an almost harsh grind against Orochimaru’s ass before he bent, covering Orochimaru fully again, trapping him between the table and his mate’s broad body.
Sakumo either mentioned (offhand, distractedly, probably while busy and a little pleasure-fogged himself) that he had fantasised about fucking Oro over his worktable/in his lab, or Oro just picked up on it himself . . . and, well, takes a little work to be safe and feasible (and not inconvenient) but . . . definitely not unworkable.
Chapter 90: Mama
“Hello, little one.” Sakumo said, and Orochimaru’s brows rose as his lips twitched. “I’m your tou-san.” He kissed Orochimaru’s stomach, nuzzling and making him shiver, muscles tensing against the ticklish sensation. “And I cannot wait to meet you.”
Orochimaru smiled faintly, closing his eyes. It would be some time yet - their hatchlingcub was not nearly ready to be born - but. . . He arched his back, feeling the weight of the growing little one he carried, then the shift inside as they wriggled.
“I already love you, so much,” Sakumo said, his voice rumbling against Orochimaru’s skin, and the little one stilled within Orochimaru once more, their father’s voice apparently soothing . . . or raptly fascinating, “you and your Mama.”
Orochimaru opened his eyes, startled. He glanced down at Sakumo, who was still focused entirely on his middle, stroking his side and nuzzling his belly where there was a shallow curve from the little one inside. “You probably already know,” Sakumo said, nosing Orochimaru’s stomach, “but you have the best Mama in the world. The best and also the cleverest. We both love you, cub.” he crooned.
Orochimaru watched lazily as his mate continued to croon affectionate, silly sweetness to their hatchlingcub, nuzzling his stomach, and occasionally ran his fingers over Sakumo’s arm or shoulder, not speaking himself. Eventually Sakumo quieted, laying his head down, cheek against the swell of their growing hatchlingcub.
“Mama?” Orochimaru said softly, when he had taken a few moments to regain a bit of composure.
Sakumo lifted his head. “Are you not their Mama?” he asked, smoothing his left hand over Orochimaru’s hip. “You are carrying them, you are supporting them to grow inside you . . . it is you who will birth them. . .”
Orochimaru shifted, fingertips trailing over Sakumo’s face. “Perhaps so.” he agreed, lips pursing.
“Would you prefer something else?” Sakumo asked, resting his jaw against the low slope of Orochimaru’s belly.
Orochimaru considered it, and considered his mate, and then thought of the little one he yet carried safe inside. He ran his fingers lightly over his stomach, and felt the hatchlingcub stretch and curl inside beneath his touch. “No.” he decided. “No, I . . . I will be Mama.” It felt slightly odd on his tongue, but not wrong. His lips curved.
“You are.” Sakumo corrected, giving him a warm smile.
Kakashi took a flying leap off the cliff, spreading his wings wide, and Sakumo darted forwards, rearing onto his hind legs and stretching out his front claws. He held himself back from catching Kakashi and let his dragonet flap and fly, clumsy and wavering but maintaining some height, claws poised to catch him if he fell.
Kakashi trilled delightedly, and the trees in the valley below rustled as his mother approached, gleaming silver-white and dusky violet scales shimmering against the greenery. “Mama! Mama look!” Kakashi cried, wavering a little more as his focus split.
Orochimaru smiled, moving closer and coiling himself below. “You’re doing very well, little one.” he praised, and Kakashi preened, cocking his head proudly, and promptly tumbled weakly forwards. Sakumo snatched him out of the air with a chiding noise, overbalancing and launching off the cliff’s edge himself. He snapped his wings out wider and drifted downwards, landing just shy of his mate’s more sinuous body.
Orochimaru raised his head and nuzzled Sakumo affectionately, then bowed his neck and ran his muzzle over Kakashi’s back. Kakashi squirmed and giggled under the inspection, the spiky crest of fur down his spine standing up taller and his tufted tail lashing.
“Can I try again, Dad?” Kakashi asked, turning over in Sakumo’s arms and lying on his back, cradled close and snuggling in. “Please?”
Orochimaru drew back with a smile, wings rustling and settling along his body as he coiled at the base of the cliff.
Sakumo made a considering sound, eyeing his dragonet. “You have to pay attention this time.” he instructed, and Kakashi crowed with delight. Sakumo laughed, shaking his head, then bent to nuzzle his mate before flying back up to the cliff’s edge. He could have tossed Kakashi into the air himself, but he needed the practise at taking off, and the cliff allowed a bit of leeway if he didn’t get the climb quite right.
Particularly with his mother lounging at the bottom as well as Sakumo at his tail poised to catch him.
Chapter 92: Missed
Orochimaru hummed absently, brushing his fingers over the blooms of those plants he had not harvested today - a milder toxin, perhaps, than his own, but sometimes that was all that was needed. . .
He rose, and nearly dropped the harvesting basket as a powerful grip wrapped around his waist, though he had neither heard nor sensed anyone approaching.
“Hello, my darling.” Sakumo said, voice warm, lips all but pressed to Orochimaru’s throat.
Orochimaru took a deep breath, held it for a moment, then let it out as he released the chakra he’d instantly spiked ready to attack. “Hello, love. Welcome home.” he said, and if his voice was perhaps a little stiff, well, he thought it reasonable enough, considering the startlement his mate’s sudden appearance - sudden touch - had given him.
Sakumo rumbled happily against his throat, nuzzling closer still. “Missed you. . .” he all but crooned, hugging Orochimaru tight around the waist, warm and needy. “Have you missed me?” he asked, his eyes light, as he finally raised his head to meet Orochimaru’s gaze.
Orochimaru’s throat tightened and he swallowed, turning to face Sakumo fully as he reached up to stroke his mate’s face. “Desperately, my dearest wolf.” he said honestly, quiet. “I have grown quite reliant on you, I find.”
Sakumo’s expression was soft, but his eyes were fierce with joy and his sudden kiss was a little rough. Orochimaru smiled and leaned into him to return it, winding an arm around his shoulders and giving in to the hot, desperate demands of his mouth.
It had been the truth, what Orochimaru offered, though he’d known it would please Sakumo to hear it - Orochimaru was accustomed to solitude and distance, accustomed to his fellows avoiding him, but . . . he had grown used to the closeness and affection of his mate. He would not give it up, had he the choice, and he had missed it. Missed Sakumo.
Chapter 93: Cooking
“Now, now, stop squirming.”
Orochimaru straightened in his seat, tilting his head. Kakashi’s giggling followed the teasing sound of Sakumo’s voice.
“And keep your little paws out of our dinner, it’s not ready yet!” Sakumo scolded, laughing, and Kakashi giggled again.
A smile pulled at Orochimaru’s lips. He rose and moved silently to the kitchen doorway, peeking in at his mate and their son. Kakashi tightened his fingers in Sakumo’s shirt as Sakumo put down the stirring spoon he held, then, abruptly-
Orochimaru laughed silently as Sakumo growled fiercely, bouncing Kakashi on his hip, arm securely around his back. Kakashi’s giggles grew louder and he squirmed as he clung to his father, held close and steady.
Sakumo hummed and kissed the top of Kakashi’s head, and Orochimaru gave up to impulse and stepped into the kitchen, moving to join them.
Sakumo cocked his head and looked at Orochimaru over their son’s head, and he smiled, reaching out to brush his fingers over Sakumo’s side, then leaning over Kakashi to kiss his mate.
Sakumo smiled against his mouth, leaning into him for a moment, their giggling, happy son snug between them.
Sakumo crooned and rocked his cub, nuzzling his tiny soft brow, his fluffy hair tickling Sakumo’s face. Kakashi yawned and blinked sleepily, his dark eyes hazy like storm clouds. Sakumo kissed his face and rocked him once more, then bent and laid him in his little-used cradle.
Kakashi squirmed a bit, empty hands grasping, and Sakumo rubbed his chest and belly to settle him.
Orochimaru stepped up, arms full of a deep green python, and bowed over the cradle, letting the creature slide down from his hands. They wound around Kakashi cosily, looking as pleased as a snake could under strokes of Orochimaru’s hand. Orochimaru’s other hand cupped Kakashi’s cheek and combed through his hair.
Kakashi yawned again, making a soft whimpery sound, and his fingers brushed over the snake’s scales. They coiled close, broad head nuzzling along Kakashi’s neck and jaw, tucking beneath his own head and around, supporting his neck, and Kakashi’s arm curled around one loop of the snake’s body, cuddling into it.
“Watch over him for me, Nori.” Orochimaru murmured, fingers trailing feather-light over Kakashi’s face.
“He’ll be all right?” Sakumo asked softly, not meaning with the snake - none of Orochimaru’s snakes would harm their cub, the hatchlingcub of their doting summoner - but it made him uneasy to leave Kakashi here. He was rarely apart from them, even when he slept, or they were working. Their cub usually had at least one of them with him.
Orochimaru leaned into Sakumo and kissed his cheek. “I won’t be far, if I’m needed. I only cannot have him in the lab with me today and,” he made an irritated sound, “evidently I must complete this as soon as possible.”
Sakumo hugged his mate and returned the gentle kiss. “I know you would not leave him if you didn’t have to. If I didn’t have to go. . .”
“I know.” Orochimaru kissed him properly, one hand sliding into his hair. “Be safe and we will see you soon, wolf.” he said, resting their brows together.
Sakumo smiled and promised, leaving for his mission with a last lingering look at his sleeping cub, safe in thick, deep green coils.
You may have, or may in the future, see Nori in other minifics or full length stories, generally in similar roles. I may have a file of multiversal snake summons to work from for Oro, given canon didn't exactly give much to work with on that score beyond some Very Large (and generally Temperamental) snakes. >.>
Chapter 95: Broody Snake
Orochimaru hummed softly from time to time, running his fingers through his dozing mate’s hair as he read. The comfort and warmth of Sakumo draped between and over his legs, lying against his body, head heavy on his stomach . . . it was making Orochimaru drowsy as well, tempted to put his book aside and curl up around his wolf.
Sakumo stirred lazily, rubbing his face against Orochimaru’s stomach. His muscles tightened, ticklish and twitchy, and memory sparked at the gesture that made the contented warmth in his chest grow. He stroked Sakumo’s hair again, considering, as he had found himself doing from time to time recently.
Tomorrow, he thought, with a little shiver of nervous pleasure. He would speak to Sakumo about it tomorrow, and find what his mate thought of the idea.
He didn’t think Sakumo would ever say no; it was why he had wanted to be sure he truly wanted it himself before they spoke of the possibility. Sakumo doted on their cubling and had doted - and fretted - delightedly over Orochimaru to the point of nearly being smothering while he carried-
“Mama?” Kakashi called from the doorway, voice pitched low. Orochimaru raised his head, surprised, and found that their son looked anxious and uncomfortable. He frowned, lifting his hand from Sakumo’s hair - he whined half-heartedly, not opening his eyes; Orochimaru suspected he’d fallen properly asleep - to beckon Kakashi closer.
Kakashi trotted lightly across the room to them, and Orochimaru put his book aside, reaching out to his cubling. Kakashi snuggled into Orochimaru’s arms, nearly tripping over his father’s shoulder, and snuffled at his collarbone.
“Nightmare.” Kakashi mumbled into his yukata, and Orochimaru pressed his lips together for a moment, then crooned soothingly, stroking Kakashi’s hair and down his back.
“Would you like to sleep here with us again?” Orochimaru asked, hugging him tighter for a moment. Kakashi nodded, making a contented little rumbly, huffing noise. Orochimaru held him for another few moments, then nudged him away, kissed his brow, and let him slide down beside his father, tucking in close between them. He whined and prodded at Sakumo’s bicep as he settled, and Sakumo growled and wrapped his arm around Kakashi without waking.
Kakashi squirmed and curled his fingers into Orochimaru’s yukata, then tucked his head down against Orochimaru’s hip. He crooned and smoothed a hand down Kakashi’s shoulder and side, letting the other return to Sakumo’s hair.
Sakumo nudged aside his almost empty cup of tea and slid his hand over the table, pausing as his fingertips brushed the side of Orochimaru’s thin hand. He tensed - barely visible, and that only because Sakumo was paying such close attention - tilting his head and angling a look at Sakumo.
Sakumo smiled slightly, raising his eyebrows, and stroked lightly towards Orochimaru’s wrist.
His lips tilted at one corner and his posture softened. He turned his gaze back towards where Dan was entertaining Jiraiya with some story from his last mission while Tsunade laughed into his shoulder, both of her arms wrapped around one of his own.
Orochimaru’s hand shifted and Sakumo stilled, then bit his lip to hold back a little giddy sound as callused, but smooth fingertips slid over the backs of his fingers. Orochimaru didn’t look at him, but his fingers straightened and splayed, pushing gently over Sakumo’s knuckles, then curving and trailing back down between his fingers.
Sakumo couldn’t have repeated a word of Dan’s story if his life depended on it, though it certainly seemed to be amusing Tsunade and Jiraiya. Orochimaru wore a faint smile as well, and he was looking that way, but. . .
Sakumo squeezed Orochimaru’s fingers gently between his own, then loosened his grip again, turning his hand a little so that when he curled his fingers they hooked around Orochimaru’s. He squeezed back, thumb tapping almost playfully at Sakumo’s index finger, then flicked lightly at the side of his hand.
Sakumo held back a laugh, smoothing his hand up over Orochimaru’s knuckles, then back down as he let his hand flatten against the table. He turned it over, almost invitingly, and Sakumo licked his lips and stroked up into the cup of his palm, a gentle caress just firm enough so as not to risk tickling.
Orochimaru was leaning sideways against the table now, though his attention was still at least outwardly on the others, and his tiny smile had grown a little broader.
. . .okay so this is very cute and all but really. Apparently you need to ask him out properly, Sakumo. I think you'll be okay there.
Kakashi rocked back and forth, watching the rain pouring down onto the garden with a sigh. It sounded nice, and he liked the smell of it, rich and fresh in the air, but it had been raining forever now and he was bored.
He flopped over backwards on the wood, closing his eyes and listening to the rain pound down on the roof over him, breathing in the wet air. It felt faintly cool, but only enough to tickle in his nose and lungs, even lying on the engawa with the empty space and then wet earth beneath.
“What are you doing, hatchling?”
“Bored.” Kakashi told Sumi, rocking his head to look at her. She and Kirameku were curled up in a silver-black ball, and looked rather sleepy. “. . .do you need to cuddle?” he asked, reaching out a hand.
The snakes slowly uncurled and made their way over to him, and he shivered as they slithered under his shirt and coiled close. “Cold.” Kirameku mumbled from just beneath Kakashi’s collar, and he crooned apologetically.
“You could go inside.” Kakashi suggested, petting a bit of Sumi’s tail where it was visible at the bottom of his shirt. Her scales were a bit cool. “Maybe you should.”
The snakes both hissed wordlessly, shifting just a bit against him, and Kakashi quieted, sighing again and closing his eyes as he flung his arms out wide. He thought about the starfish he had seen in tide pools when Dad and Mama had taken him to the ocean last summer.
Being wet had been fun then. Although. . .
Kakashi glanced out at the garden and sighed. Though it wasn’t quite as warm as it had been at the ocean last summer, it was warmer than it had been for days, and Kakashi wouldn’t mind playing in the garden now . . . except that it would mess up the garden, and get him muddy, and it might still not be warm enough for him to be allowed to get so soaked and keep playing. Mama didn’t fuss as much as some of the Mamas he saw, but that only meant that when Mama did, it meant listen.
Kakashi reached up under his shirt and petted the nearest bit of coil again, thinking it felt maybe a little warmer? At least he could help the snakes, he supposed. He watched the rain plip into the pond and wished quietly that he could go splash too. Maybe- Maybe just once, before it was time to go back inside? If he was careful?
Kakashi rubbed his fingers over a little head as it pushed into his fingers - Sumi; Kirameku was a little less nuzzly - and grinned.
“There you are, cubling.”
Kakashi jumped, tilting his head to look up at Mama. “I was good!” he said hurriedly, scrambling to his feet with a pout. “Even though it’s boring. . .” He kicked the ball he’d been playing with - chasing up and down the engawa - earlier, and it bounced off towards the house. Mama bumped it with his toes without looking and it spun to a neat stop one step to the side of the door.
“You were just very quiet,” Mama said, smiling, “it’s a little too cold to be sleeping outside, and I wanted to check on you anyway.”
Kakashi sighed, nodding as he glanced out at the rain. It was still pouring down in little plips and heavy rushes. “Wasn’t asleep.” he insisted. “Not even sleepy. Want to play, but-”
Kakashi yipped, tumbling in Mama’s arms and out into the shock of cool water. His eyes were wide as they rolled across the grass, and Mama grinned at him, eyes glinting playfully and hair falling in already-sodden stripes across both their faces.
“Mama?” Kakashi half-yelped, then burst into giggles as Mama tickled his sides with gentle fingers, pushing his soaked shirt up. The grass tickled his back even more and he squirmed and kicked. “Mama!”
“Don’t you want to play, my cubling?” Mama teased, squirming away from Kakashi’s attempts to grab him, then slipping in the mud with a startled laugh as he went sideways.
Kakashi pounced, and Mama tipped over with a soft sound of surprise. They toppled into the grass with a squelch, and mud squeezed up into Kakashi’s sandals and between his fingers. He scrabbled to climb on top of Mama, grinning when he managed it, and yipped when Mama hissed, baring his teeth, then laughed and lightly tossed Kakashi aside.
He splashed into a puddle and splashed his way out, giggling, only to be immediately caught up in Mama’s arms, the both of them sliding in the mud. Kakashi barked and shook his head, twitching, as some of it got up in his ear.
Mama held him still and rubbed the mud away, then pulled his sandals off, and Kakashi wriggled his toes. They were much muddier, but it felt better without being squished up in his sandals. Mama tickled his ankle and Kakashi jumped backwards, managing to catch himself just before he would have fallen over. He grinned proudly, then yipped and dodged as he saw Mama lunging for him again, scrambling as he fell in the slick grass, thick with the mud they were churning up.
He managed to stay barely ahead of Mama, but knew he wouldn’t be able to for very long, and he ran for the reeds by the pond, laughing as he snuck a look back and saw Mama chasing him.
Someday Kakashi will be grown and thinking back on this rather special memory and realise that not only did Mama throw himself into playing, there is no way Mama, the elite shinobi, should have slipped so easily with something as simple as mud (maybe not at all) . . . and that he had to have let it happen, just to play.
“Mama?” Kakashi squelched out of the pond and dropped to his knees as Mama followed, then slid sideways to rest on the grass, his calves and feet still in the water.
“Yes, my cubling?” Mama said, shifting to curl an arm around Kakashi as he snuggled against Mama’s side, the rain still pouring down on them.
Kakashi snuggled in closer, tucking his muddy head on Mama’s not-quite-as-muddy shoulder. “You’re the best Mama ever.”
Mama hugged him tighter. “And you are the sweetest, cleverest cubling in the world, darling.” he murmured, and Kakashi squirmed, giggling and hiding his face. Mama rubbed his back and they lay there in the rain for a little while.
They were so very muddy that it didn’t even get them much cleaner, despite how heavy it was. Kakashi shivered and pushed closer to Mama’s side. It wasn’t cold, but. . .
“Come along,” Mama sighed, hugging Kakashi tight for a moment, then loosening his grip and sitting up, “we should go inside, it’s getting colder.”
Kakashi nodded, startled by a yawn, and crawled up onto his knees. He cocked his head, eyeing Mama - he was filthy, mud ground into his shirt and his pants and his hair, and even smeared on his face, almost hiding one of his purple stripes, his tangled hair was plastered to his face and neck and his clothes loose; Mama never looked so messy ever - and then looked down at himself. He was at least as bad, and he could feel the mud in his hair, ground in and itchy and dripping and sludgy. . .
Mama’s fingers pulled through Kakashi’s hair gently, and he flicked away some of the mud. “We are very dirty, cubling.” he said seriously, and Kakashi giggled as they climbed to their feet.
“I tried not to get muddy, Mama! And then. . .” Kakashi scratched at the back of his neck, feeling more mud and a lot of water slide down his spine. “Erm. Mama? We got all dirty,” Kakashi wasn’t sure he’d ever been this dirty before, “and we messed up the garden,” the grass and some of the flowers and other plants were crushed and there was mud churned up everywhere, “and. . .”
Mama pulled a strand of his hair off his face and pushed it behind his ear, leaving a curving swoop of mud on his cheek. “Sometimes,” he said, lifting his chin, “it is acceptable.”
“Yes Mama.” Kakashi said, blinking.
“Come here, let me see how much of this mud I can get off us before we go back in the house.” Mama said, laughing and beckoning Kakashi close.
Mama straightened, then stepped into the steaming bath and beckoned to Kakashi. He was pretty sure they were still dirtier than they should be to get in the big bath, even though Mama had used a jutsu outside - it was so cool - and they’d washed really hard, twice, but maybe it was something else that was all right sometimes.
Kakashi clambered up the little steps and over the rim to slide into the bath, Mama’s hands catching him and tugging him closer in the water, one running over his shoulder. Kakashi shivered and then ducked down to get wetter. Mama’s hair was still down, too, probably because there might still be mud in it. Kakashi thought, anyway. Maybe.
“Wet your hair, cubling.” Mama said, trailing a wet fingertip down his nose, then tapping the tip. “Soak a bit and then it’ll be time to wash again.”
Kakashi nodded and obeyed, then clung to the ledge as he came up, yawning. Mama was under the water, and Kakashi could just make out his pale fingers sliding through his long hair as he shook his head. Mama stayed under for a long time, and Kakashi watched him, blinking sleepily, through the ripples.
When Mama finally came up he moved over close to Kakashi, on a deeper ledge, then opened his arms. Kakashi yawned and let himself lean into them rather than hold himself up, and Mama crooned, rocking him and running gentle fingers through his hair, pouring more water over his head.
Kakashi squirmed under the feeling, warm and sleepy. Mama’s hair floated on the water against his cheek, and he curled his fingers around the slithery lock, giggling at the thought of it looking like Sumi.
“Having fun, cubling?” Mama asked, fingers working slowly through his wet hair.
“Your hair’s like snakes, Mama.” Kakashi said sleepily, nuzzling Mama’s shoulder and then following his collarbone to nestle at the base of his neck as he laughed softly.
“Is that so?” Mama said, not really a question, and shifted. “Going to dip you again.” he warned, and Kakashi took a breath and nodded, holding it. Mama let him slide under the water and brought him back up quickly, then settled on the ledge again, leaning against the side of the bath, and returned to petting Kakashi’s hair.
Kakashi sagged under Mama’s hands, sighing. “Was the best day.” he said, distracted, remembering Mama laughing and rolling through the mud with him, leaning over him, tickling and teasing and sliding and messy and cold and wet but. . . “Best Mama.”
“It was, wasn’t it?” Mama asked, kissing his brow. “My best darling cubling.”
Kakashi wriggled and snuggled into the curve of Mama’s arm, dozing off under Mama’s hands.
Sakumo stepped in the door and shuddered, soaked through and more; feeling like he hadn’t been properly dry in days, actually. He shed his vest, sandals, and as much of his gear as he reasonably could right there in the genkan, wringing out his shirt and hanging it from a hook on the wall, then wringing out his hair before stepping up into the house proper.
It was quiet, but that wasn’t too surprising, particularly given the late hour. He padded through the house, shivering, and peeked into the kitchen - empty, and with no fresh cooking smells, so possibly no dinner had yet been made - then moved deeper. He heard a quiet splash, and poked into the bathing room, smiling as he saw his mate cradling their cub in the largest bath, pouring water over his back and shoulders.
“Hello, lovely. Cub.” Sakumo greeted, slipping inside and closing the door as a shiver visibly ran through his mate.
Orochimaru looked up with warm eyes. “Welcome home, wolf-heart.” he murmured. Kakashi stirred slowly, and Sakumo realised he was asleep.
“Big day?” Sakumo asked, because it was late, but Kakashi was an active and energetic cub normally, even late into the night.
“We played out in the garden today.” Orochimaru supplied as Sakumo drew closer, and he paused. Orochimaru tilted his head, the faintest traces of a pout curving his mouth, and Sakumo completed his move and bent to kiss his mate in greeting.
“Did you really?” Sakumo asked, brows arching.
“In the mud.” Orochimaru confirmed with a wry twist of his lips.
“It was awesome.” Kakashi said sleepily, grinning. “Hi Dad.”
“Hello cub.” Sakumo ruffled Kakashi’s wet hair. “Good day?”
Kakashi made a soft contented sound at Sakumo and snuggled into his mother, talking with sparkling, sleepy eyes about their playtime in the garden. Sakumo glanced at Orochimaru, brows raised, and he smiled slightly, tilting his head.
“Join us, wolf-heart?” Orochimaru invited, in a yawning pause from Kakashi, and Sakumo hesitated, then stripped off his remaining clothes and hurriedly slipped into the hot water with a groan. He washed lazily, soaking in the warmth and listening to his cub’s excited, if tired ramble, picturing the wrestling and the games and his mate laughing and tumbling in the mud with their cub, soaked and playful and. . .
“And I missed it. . .” Sakumo sighed, frowning.
“Oh, come here,” Orochimaru beckoned with his free hand, and Sakumo happily moved to cuddle up to his side, “we can do it again, you know.”
Sakumo smiled slightly at the thought, meeting his eyes.
“Can we Mama?” Kakashi asked, perking up in the water.
“Not tomorrow,” Orochimaru said firmly, then yawned himself, rubbing his face, “but yes, cubling, we certainly can.”
“Yay!” Kakashi said happily, leaning against them both, squirmy and wet. “Thank you Mama!”
“Mm, thank you, lovely.” Sakumo said playfully, and Orochimaru laughed, leaning over to kiss his cheek. “I look forward to it.”
“. . .the best.” Kakashi murmured sleepily.
Orochimaru glanced down, lips curving, as he felt weight slouching against his calf once more. Shoulder and side resting against Orochimaru’s calf, head bowed against his thigh, Kakashi was sinking slowly closer to the floor, his book sliding out of his hands along his own lap as well.
Orochimaru reached down and ran his fingers through his son’s hair, and Kakashi tipped his head up with a lazy smile. “Hello there, darling.” Orochimaru said softly. “Why don’t you go take a nap with your father?”
Kakashi frowned, shaking his head and opening his mouth only to be interrupted by a yawn before he could speak.
“I’m sure he’s missed you.” Orochimaru coaxed gently, knowing it was true; Sakumo loved to spend as much time as he could cuddling up to either or both of them when he was fresh off a mission.
Kakashi huffed and protested a little that he didn’t need a nap, but not much before he got up and put his book away on the little table just for him that stood against the wall by the door. He left Orochimaru’s workroom, heading towards the bedroom at the back of the house. Sakumo had gotten up this morning, but after breakfast, checking over his gear, and a light workout, he’d gone right back to bed.
Orochimaru checked the time, then went back to work for a while. He roused his family for lunch, and afterwards found himself being tugged towards the bedroom along with them.
“Come on, Mama. . .” Kakashi crooned more than whined, snug against his leg and tugging the hem of his shirt. “Is nice sounds and is good to rest. . .”
“You did play very hard yesterday,” Sakumo smiled down at Kakashi, then glanced up to meet Orochimaru’s eyes, winding an arm around his shoulders, “I missed you,” he nipped Orochimaru’s ear, nuzzling gently, “come curl up with us?” he wheedled.
Orochimaru eyed his mate and considered pointing out that not only had they shared the bath last night, and shared a simple dinner pressed snugly together at the table - along with a very sleepy Kakashi; Orochimaru had let him sleep for a bit after the bath, but woken him to eat before bed - but he had slept curled around Sakumo the night before. But. . .
“Oh, very well.” Orochimaru assented, reaching down for Kakashi, who clambered into his arms easily - he must be tired; though he was a cuddly and affectionate cubling, he’d somewhat outgrown being so placidly carried. “Naptime it is.”
Sakumo had opened the slanted window-covers in the bedroom, not allowing much of a look outside, and relatively little of the grey light to come inside, but fresh, damp air circulated and the sound of the rain was loud even as it was kept from pouring through the windows. Orochimaru pulled out a heavier blanket before settling onto the futon to rest.
Kakashi curled up nearly on his chest and Sakumo cuddled against his side, clinging affectionately and nuzzling his shoulder. Orochimaru wound his legs with his mate’s, brushed his fingers over Sakumo’s arm where it wrapped around him, and closed his eyes to sleep, content in his nest with his family.
Chapter 103: Feeding Little Ones
“Oh! Oh, no, Kakashi.” Sakumo said gently, peeling something out of Kakashi’s small hand.
Orochimaru eyed them curiously, and the way that Kakashi was pouting but looked confused.
“Tenzou is too little.” Sakumo explained patiently, glancing up as Orochimaru crossed the room. He smiled slightly, and Orochimaru gestured. Sakumo held up- Ah. “Tenzou can’t eat meat, or anything he needs to chew, yet.” Sakumo continued, putting the chunk of sausage back on the table.
Kakashi’s confused pout grew, and Orochimaru pressed his lips together, amused.
“Tenzou has,” Orochimaru paused, glancing at Sakumo, “rather less wolf in him than you, my little darling.” He bent and kissed Kakashi’s head. “Very sweet, but you cannot share with your brother yet.”
Orochimaru reached out, and Sakumo smiled as he let Tenzou pass into his arms, warm hands sliding over Orochimaru’s wrists and hands in a light caress. Orochimaru caught one hand and squeezed gently, then cradled Tenzou a little higher, shifting his yukata aside to let Tenzou latch on as he settled by the table.
“Why?” Kakashi pouted, watching. “Why not eating right?” Sakumo ruffled his hair, then moved around, one hand sliding along Orochimaru’s shoulders and brushing his neck. He shivered, and Tenzou squirmed against him, sucking a little harder.
“Tenzou is too young, cub.” Sakumo said patiently. “He’ll grow and get stronger, and one day he’ll eat like you do, but for now this is how he grows. Baby cubs start this way, and so did you.”
Kakashi cocked his head with a curiously thoughtful whine, and Orochimaru smiled, smoothing his fingers over Tenzou’s face as he made soft, muffled contented sounds.
Pale fingers sliding over a broad shoulder, and a low rumble that came with a soft smile.
“Oro? Love?” Sakumo’s smile widened as he opened his eyes, sighing and turning a little. “Welcome back.” he half-mumbled, reaching out. His drew a deep breath and his nose twitched as his eyes sharpened with proper focus.
A smile that felt wrong on sharp features. “Wolf.” Simple. Few words. “Miss me?” Arch more than teasing, but asking for reassurance.
Sakumo’s smile crooked. “Always.” he said, voice raw and expression open. “Need you, so much, Oro.”
A moment of surprised stillness. Question interrupted.
“What is it?” Sakumo asked, hand raised to trail a caress over the blunt angle of Orochimaru’s jaw.
A nervous shift and a glance away, hiding behind the sleek fall of dark hair without truly hiding.
“Oro. . .” Sakumo coaxed with an almost-whine.
A less than pleased huff for the pitiful sound that made Sakumo’s brows arch with surprise and give a low rumble in return.
“What is it?” Sakumo prompted. “What do you want to ask?”
A neat opening. “I wonder. . . How do you feel about me? What do you think of us, really?”
Sakumo blinked, slow and baffled. “I love my mate, my heart, my everything, with all that I am.” he said, easy and sincere and- shocking.
Sakumo smiled slightly, dropping his caressing hand and stretching. “And I would get out of here if I were you.” he said, then yawned as he went lax against the futon again.
“. . .what? I thought you loved-”
“Mm. . .” Sakumo eyed him with a lazy smile that bared the tips of solid, sizable fangs. “I do. And my mate is home now. You might want to get yourself elsewhere. Quickly.” His warning was underscored by the sharp hiss of a dusky purple snake slithering out of the bedclothes over his chest.
Jiraiya whirled and found his vision full of incensed golden eyes.
He cringed and lost his henge, belatedly remembering that while Orochimaru’s might be raised with vastly less frequency, his teammates’ tempers rivalled one another in capability of pure devastation.
. . .Jiraiya is an idiot toad. He may even have had good intentions here and legitimately been concerned for his friend. (Or he may have just had prurient curiosity he wanted to satisfy.) But he was still an idiot.
Chapter 105: Heir
“Oh, you’re home!”
Orochimaru paused, then quickly put aside his pack and opened his arms for his wolf, hiding a frown as Sakumo buried himself in them immediately. He rubbed Sakumo’s back, crooning soothingly, and hugged him tighter. “I’m home.” he agreed, and kissed Sakumo’s shoulder near the base of his neck. “What happened, wolf-heart?”
Sakumo shook his head slightly, his grip on Orochimaru tightening. “It’s- I need to- My aunt. . .”
Orochimaru hummed gently, not quite prompting, and rubbed Sakumo’s back again.
“She was on a mission, with two of my cousins, and it went . . . badly.” Sakumo said, and Orochimaru pressed his lips together. “I don’t know how badly yet,” he said as he drew back a little, eyes wide and dark, “I was just about to- I have to go to the hospital to find out, and. . .”
“I’ll come with you.” Orochimaru said gently, and watched Sakumo sag slightly with relief. “Give me two minutes to change.”
Sakumo nodded and sank to a chair as Orochimaru darted to their bedroom and quickly traded his everyday gear - slightly mussed and dirty from the morning’s travel - for something a little neater. They were soon making their way across the village, then through the hospital, and Orochimaru hid a startle as Sakumo clasped his hand tightly, but allowed him to keep it even as they reached his aunt’s room.
One of Sakumo’s cousins was dead, it turned out . . . and his aunt was dying.
“You’ll be clan head,” she coughed, wincing, and Sakumo’s grip tightened around Orochimaru’s fingers; he squeezed gently in return, trying to offer reassurance, “after me, and you’ll . . . care for the pack.”
It took Sakumo several tries to speak. “I- But you-” he hesitated, and Orochimaru squeezed his hand again. “Yes, Aunt.” he said, almost hollow, looking nervous and uncertain, but steadying a little with the words out.
“Good,” she paused breathlessly, gasping, “good. Good boy.”
“What are you doing?” Orochimaru asked, amused, running his fingers through Sakumo’s hair and tilting his head to eye his rather cuddly mate.
Sakumo rubbed his face against Orochimaru’s middle again with a soft, contented rumble, then nuzzled him, breathing him in, and looked up to meet his gaze. Orochimaru arched an eyebrow.
“You’re carrying my cub. . .” Sakumo said, in a soft, raw voice, kissing Orochimaru’s stomach.
Orochimaru’s chest tightened and a smile tugged at his lips. “Not exactly so as you would notice.” he pointed out gently, rubbing his thumb over Sakumo’s ear. He could tell, could feel the difference in his body and the flow of his chakra, and the bright little point of heat deep inside, but it had yet to be discernible from the outside.
“I know, though.” Sakumo said contentedly, nuzzling Orochimaru’s stomach and closing his eyes as he laid his cheek to rest there. “It’s. . .” He sighed.
“Mm.” Orochimaru agreed, amused but too fond and warm himself to care that they were both being a little silly. He drew a breath and closed his eyes, letting his fingers curl in Sakumo’s wild hair.
He startled as Sakumo yipped suddenly, stiffening and yanking up. Orochimaru’s eyes snapped open and he sat up sharply but he could neither see nor sense any reason for his mate’s sudden alarm.
“Sakumo?” he questioned carefully, reaching out. “What’s wrong?”
“You’re carrying my cub!” Sakumo said nonsensically, then yelped and shook his head. “I mean- No, that’s not- Nothing is wrong. . .”
“What are you doing?” Orochimaru asked then, reasonably.
Sakumo sank down, meeting his gaze with a sheepish smile, then nudging gently at him. “Please? Let me?” he asked, coaxing, and Orochimaru allowed himself to be laid back against the pillows once more, watching Sakumo nestle against his stomach again as well, rubbing his cheek there.
“Are you going to explain?” Orochimaru asked, a little tart.
Sakumo rumbled softly, rubbing his fingers over Orochimaru’s stomach near his own nose. “I can hear the cub.” he said softly, pressing a little closer, his ear, Orochimaru realised, snugly against Orochimaru’s skin. “Their heart is beating. Oro. . . Lovely, I can. . .” he looked up, eyes slightly wet.
“Oh.” Orochimaru said, blinking rapidly and looking away even as he reached for Sakumo, stroking him almost absently, focusing on the little ball of chakra and warmth that was their growing child.
(I plotted this as Oro being about 8 weeks pregnant; heartbeat can be heard as early as 6 weeks sometimes - by machinery, at least, and, it seems from observation, by dogs. ;) The wolfy Hatake are definitely canine enough in their senses to count.)
Chapter 107: New
Sakumo cuddled into the twining embrace of his new mate, nuzzling and nipping at Orochimaru’s shoulder, enjoying lavishing attention on the pale, oddly-textured skin and almost enjoying more the soft sounds and easy movements as Orochimaru allowed him to do so. He stilled, catching himself with his teeth pressed low against the base of Orochimaru’s long neck. He whined, swallowed down the sound, and drew back.
“Sakumo?” Orochimaru asked with lazy warmth, winding one leg more neatly around Sakumo’s and pulling him closer.
Sakumo hummed, lifting his head and trailing kisses along Orochimaru’s sharp jaw. His eyes dropped to the red mark rising on Orochimaru’s throat, and he winced.
“What is it?” Orochimaru asked, tilting his head away before Sakumo could kiss him.
“Nothing.” Sakumo denied, reaching for Orochimaru again and whining in unhappy surprise when Orochimaru pushed him back and began untangling their limbs to pull away.
“Don’t feel you must force yourself,” Orochimaru said sharply, “if you don’t want-”
He was cut off as Sakumo pounced to catch him, tumbling him backwards onto the grass. “Of course I-” He paused. Orochimaru smirked unrepentantly. “You did that intentionally.”
“It has been rather obvious,” Orochimaru said, his eyes softening and his fingers trailing over Sakumo’s face in a gentle caress, “that you do . . . want. Me.”
Sakumo shivered, shifting to let his weight rest atop his mate a little more. “So much. For always.” he agreed, and Orochimaru’s sharp features softened even more, that little spark of warmth and . . . not quite disbelief coming into his eyes which so charmed Sakumo . . . and which he so hated. Orochimaru shouldn’t be surprised that Sakumo wanted him, nor that he was open about it.
“I do want to know why you were drawing away.” Orochimaru said, eyes sharp as the searched Sakumo’s face. His own gaze dropped to Orochimaru’s neck, and he murmured an apology for the mark as he dipped his head to kiss the spot lightly.
“You cannot possibly think you’ve hurt me.” Orochimaru said, voice dry and a bit acidic.
“No.” Sakumo agreed, shifting. “But neither did you agree to be marked, or bitten, and I shouldn’t have. . .” He smiled crookedly, meeting Orochimaru’s gaze and nuzzling his cheek. “Wolf I may be, but man too, and instinct is no excuse for taking in absence of permission.”
“Permission.” Orochimaru said, and Sakumo hummed curiously even as he took in the tiny smile curling his mate’s lips. “You have mine.” he added, startling Sakumo. He leaned up for a soft kiss. “Mark me if you like, my wolf . . . my mate,” Orochimaru nudged up against him as he growled, startled and pleased and possessive, “I like the feel of your teeth,” he grinned sharply, “and I like. . .”
Sakumo dipped his head and nuzzled Orochimaru’s throat. “Mine.” he growled.
“Yes.” Orochimaru’s voice was not quite a moan, but it still throbbed with pleasure as Sakumo nipped and then bit firmly at his throat.
Chapter 108: Kakashi
Sakumo let the hand gripping his arm stop him, but bared his teeth unhappily.
“Don’t give me that look.” Tsunade snapped. “You; no sex, no matter how recovered he says he is, got it? Not for at least two weeks and I’d rather four to six. Having a baby isn’t like shaking off a body blow, no matter how bad.” she added pointedly.
Sakumo eyed her in disbelief. “I’m not an idiot.” he said sharply in return, twisting to pull against Tsunade’s hold. She glared, but let him go, and Sakumo darted through the door back to his mate and cub.
Orochimaru looked up with a smile, looking rather softer around the edges than he would usually allow to show quite so easily, so far from their den. Sakumo grinned back, then dropped his gaze to the tiny bundle in Orochimaru’s arms, mostly green blanket and wild silver hair from this angle.
Sakumo moved closer, and Orochimaru shifted over, with a soft hiss as he moved, face creasing with discomfort - right, Sakumo thought dryly, he was supposed to be stupid enough to think his mate would be up to wanting sex - to make room on the bed. Sakumo happily nestled there beside him, curling around his shoulder and nuzzling his ear, peering down at their cub.
“He’s perfect, lovely.” Sakumo said, and Orochimaru laughed, leaning into his embrace.
“So you’ve said.” Orochimaru’s voice was warm and soft. “Including when he was squashy and red and barely breathing yet. And so bloody you couldn’t even tell what colour his hair was.”
“Because he is.” Sakumo said, kissing his mate’s cheek. “Absolutely perfect. And you are wonderful.”
“I think the labour hormones are affecting you more than me.” Orochimaru teased, and Sakumo hugged him gently tighter, crooning and nuzzling his mate affectionately. He did smell different; sharp with pain and thick with blood and a strange heavy scent not entirely unlike the one that had come as he carried their cub, but at the same time new. He sighed, closing his eyes and resting against Sakumo’s shoulder. “I’m . . . pleased.”
He didn’t say whether it was with the cub or Sakumo or simply everything, and Sakumo didn’t ask, kissing the top of his head and gently offering support when he allowed their cub to slide down his chest.
“Take him, wolf-heart.” Orochimaru said lazily, and Sakumo grinned, shifting to put his shoulder against the mattress and let his mate curl into him, even as he carefully scooped their cub up into his free arm. Orochimaru rested one hand over the tiny body and sighed, relaxing against Sakumo without opening his eyes.
Sakumo crooned to their cub, watching as his blue-grey eyes opened. “Hello, little cub. It is wonderful to finally have you in my arms. Our little Kakashi.”
“I can’t believe I let you name him that.” Orochimaru said with a soft laugh, tucking his head against Sakumo’s shoulder.
Sakumo shook his head, laughing, as he slipped out of the meeting room and into the corridor, thinking of dropping by the jounin lounge before making his way home. He paused as a lean figure slipped past him, even before a quick breath brought an acidic, sharp smell to his nose.
“Lovely?” Sakumo turned, gaze following his mate. “You’re back!”
Orochimaru whirled, face showing startlement for a fraction of a heartbeat. “Sakumo.” He smiled, expression softening, then looked away, lips falling into a thin line. “For now.”
“Of course,” Sakumo said, waving off his companion and moving to his mate, “but for now you’re-”
“No,” Orochimaru said, reaching up and brushing his fingertips over Sakumo’s jaw, then sighing, “Sarutobi-sensei has already ordered us out again.”
Sakumo tensed. “What?” he demanded in a low growl.
Orochimaru stepped closer, then glanced past Sakumo and stilled. His mouth tightened and he curled his fingers into Sakumo’s shirt, drawing him down the corridor. In a few moments they were locked into a . . . closet. Sakumo brushed away a cobweb that had been disturbed and was drifting down to settle in his hair.
“You’re- Hokage-sama. . .” Sakumo swallowed, fighting the urge to snarl.
Orochimaru wrapped his arms around Sakumo, hands sliding up his back, and bowed his head, leaning against Sakumo for support. He cradled his mate close, crooning soothingly, though his voice wavered with upset. It wasn’t that he wasn’t used to Orochimaru being sent away, taken away, or himself for that matter, but. . .
“We leave again before nightfall. As soon as possible, probably no more than an hour, and we have to get to requisitions.” Orochimaru said, voice low.
“Oh- Oh, lovely.” Sakumo tried not to whine, though he couldn’t help his arms tightening around his mate. “So soon.” It was. . . It was against regulations, ones that were in place for reasons, but the Hokage ordered as he willed, of course.
Orochimaru raised his head, cheek brushing Sakumo’s, then leaned even closer. “I miss you, my wolf.” he said, his voice thin.
“And I you, lovely.” Sakumo said, squeezing him tighter and giving easily when Orochimaru moved to take a kiss.
Tsunade’s voice echoing through the corridor outside, calling for Orochimaru, interrupted their embrace no more than a minute later, and Sakumo did whine then, having to force himself to release his mate from his arms. “I-” he began, then swallowed back his next words.
Orochimaru caressed his cheek. “I’ll find you again before we leave.” His fingertips brushed Sakumo’s mouth. “I haven’t long. But I will.”
Sakumo nodded and kissed his fingertips, and then he was gone.
Chapter 110: Stolen Moment (between missions)
Sakumo twitched, head coming up as he spotted his approaching mate. He abandoned his conversation immediately, moving to Orochimaru’s side in several quick strides. He paused, but Orochimaru closed the final distance, so Sakumo wrapped his arms around his mate as he had wished to do.
“Lovely. . .” Sakumo nuzzled Orochimaru’s face, glancing past him to where Tsunade stood in the doorway, scanning the ninja present. Her face twisted and she turned to leave. Dan wasn’t there, Sakumo thought fleetingly, then winced for her - Dan wasn’t in the village, wasn’t due back for days.
“We meet at the gates in thirty minutes.” Orochimaru said, barely a breath. “I want to- Do you have that time?”
Sakumo’s heart ached. “Of course.”
“I want to spend it with you.” Orochimaru kissed his jaw. Sakumo drew him out of the lounge and into the empty hall beyond, then kissed him properly, and Orochimaru moaned, going pliant against him, save for the tight grip he kept on Sakumo.
“Oh, lovely.” Sakumo murmured as their lips parted, nuzzling and kissing Orochimaru’s face almost thoughtlessly, holding him close. “I can’t believe. . .” He sighed.
Orochimaru echoed him, then shifted in his arms, rubbing their noses together. “Perhaps- Perhaps we will return before you. . .” he trailed off. Faint hope.
“Soon.” Sakumo said almost hollowly. They would, one day, do more than cross paths once more, but with no promise of when it was . . . not as heartening a promise as it could have been. “I love you, my own darling mate. You carry my heart with you even if I cannot follow you.” he said, voice low.
Orochimaru shifted his embrace, reaching up to cup Sakumo’s face instead. “My heart is with you, my wolf.” he said gently, rubbing their noses together and then kissing him softly again. “. . .Sakumo?”
“Lovely?” Sakumo replied, returning the nuzzling affectionate gesture.
“I want you, want to feel you,” Orochimaru said, soft and quick, “before I must part from you again. Please.”
Sakumo hummed, cocking his head, then- “Oh.”
“Always.” Sakumo said, then swallowed thickly. “But are you sure-”
Orochimaru tugged him along towards a disused storage space separated from the jounin lounge by a single room, two thin walls. “I won’t have you again for-” he broke off with an angry, hurt hiss. “I need you now.”
Sakumo pushed him into the small space and kicked the door shut. “Whatever you need, whatever you want; all of me is yours, mate.” he murmured, already dipping his head to Orochimaru’s throat, hands coming up to find the quickest way to skin beneath clothes and armour.
Chapter 111: Soft Haste (between missions)
“What do you need, lovely?” Sakumo asked against his mate’s mouth, hands up under cloth, sliding over smooth skin.
Orochimaru kissed him, soft and warm and lingering. “What about you, wolf-heart? It isn’t only me. . .” he said against Sakumo’s mouth as the kiss broke, voice low.
Sakumo rested their brows together. “I only need you.” he said softly.
It made his mate tremble, with a small, almost pained sound, hands stroking his face and running through his hair. “I want to feel you inside.” Orochimaru said after a moment, and kissed Sakumo. “You blotting out the world.” He sighed, nuzzling Sakumo’s cheek. “We can’t. . .”
“Of course.” Sakumo said, vaguely lost for a moment before it clicked. Orochimaru wanted to be taken, but had to meet his team in half an hour. Less. Sakumo couldn’t knot him, not now. “I won’t. Orochimaru,” he dipped his head, nuzzling his mate’s long, slender throat, “you’ll be running, on your mission,” he tilted his head, “are you sure?”
“I’m sure.” Orochimaru said with a flicker of amusement. “I want to feel you. To carry it with me. You’re hardly going to hurt me.”
“As you wish.” Sakumo promised, and a minute, two, quick breaths and gentle caresses, had them entangled on a worn couch shoved into this room who knew how long ago and forgotten. Orochimaru’s body opened quickly under the press of his slick fingers, eager to take him in again despite the time since they had last done this; familiar with his mate’s unimaginably flexible body, Sakumo had mostly expected it, and he took no longer than necessary. “Orochimaru, are you. . .”
“Yes. . .” Orochimaru hissed, arching and folding his legs around Sakumo’s hips. “I am, I do, come. . .”
Sakumo shifted and rolled his hips as the head of his cock nudged into place against his mate’s body, then sank into him with ease. Orochimaru arched against him even harder, hands sliding up his chest and around his shoulders, body welcoming him in and limbs twining around him to hold him close.
Sakumo moved quickly, but gentle, keeping close to his mate, rocking into him firmly, just quick enough and solid enough not to draw things out - they hadn’t time - but to let them build pleasure and warmth between them as though the connection could hold even when they had to part.
Sakumo shuddered and pulled back with a whine, keeping his rocking thrusts shallower as his knot began to swell. It was no help when his mate let out a soft sound of protest at the withdrawal, pulling at him, body so ready to welcome his thrusts, to take all of him.
Sakumo held back through, nuzzling Orochimaru’s throat and speeding up a little as he stroked his mate’s body and twisted against Orochimaru to match his movements.
Though Sakumo could have remained lost in his mate forever . . . it had to end, and they had little time to linger in each other besides. He brought his mate to the edge of ecstasy, lost in kisses, and then stifled a cry of startled pleasure as Orochimaru’s body tightened around him, release spilling between them, and Orochimaru’s short, sharp canines sank into his shoulder.
Sakumo stifled himself to a soft, breathy cry of his own as he tipped over into orgasm, hips stuttering with a shudder that ran down to his toes. His knot throbbed as it nudged up against his mate’s body. Sakumo was overcome by a wave of pleasure that carried the dull ache of knowing his mate would be leaving him again.
Orochimaru released his shoulder with a gentle nudge and a trail of kisses, raising his head to meet Sakumo’s eyes. He drew Orochimaru into a soft, lingering kiss, holding on to his mate for as long as he could.
But eventually they had to part. Sakumo pulled away from his mate with a reluctant murmur, only to be brought back immediately for a kiss. Orochimaru sighed as it ended, fingers trailing down Sakumo’s cheek and across his shoulder.
Sakumo helped him clean up and redress, buckling his armour back into place with gentle care. Orochimaru kissed him again, harder, desperate, then stepped away. In another moment he was gone, spirited out the door and probably already running for the gates to meet his team.
Sakumo replaced his own clothing, then dropped onto the couch once more rather than leave himself. His shoulder throbbed from Orochimaru’s bite, a pleasant, pulsing warmth. Sakumo drew a deep breath, smelling his mate and sex and revelling in it, not willing to return to other company just yet, nor to slip past them and return to his empty home.
Orochimaru gently shifted Sakumo’s arm away from himself, rolling away from his mate and up onto his knees, sliding one hand over the gentle slope of the hatchlingcub he carried. They kicked his palm, and his lips twitched.
“Lovely?” Sakumo asked softly, and Orochimaru glanced back, humming. “Something wrong?”
“No.” Orochimaru shook his head. “Go back to sleep, wolf-heart.”
Sakumo grumbled, expression tightening as he struggled to make Orochimaru out in the dark, focus slightly off. Orochimaru’s eyes, pupils gone wide to adjust, were far better in the dark. He reached over and smoothed a hand over his mate’s side.
“The cubling is awake.” Orochimaru said, and laughed. “It is very difficult to sleep with tiny cub limbs bumping into my ribs and internal organs.”
Sakumo whined sympathetically, sliding a hand up Orochimaru’s thigh. “You’re sure you’re all right?” he asked.
Orochimaru nodded and made an affirmative noise. “I’ll come back to bed once they’re asleep again. It’s fine.”
Sakumo made an agreeable noise, then stroked Orochimaru’s middle. “Be nice to your Mama; why are you awake now, little one?”
Orochimaru pressed his hand close for a moment, sliding it to where the cubling was currently pressing outwards. “I’m still. When I’m training or even just moving around the house, they have my movements and my voice to soothe them to sleep. I assume nights are boring.”
Sakumo made a low grumbling sound, but nodded. “Wake me if you need me?”
“I will be perfectly fine.” Orochimaru assured him, releasing his hand and rising.
The cubling kicked high up under Orochimaru’s ribs again as he walked out of the bedroom, closing the door quietly. “Hush, little one. I need to sleep too, you know.” he murmured, though he was not feeling it too badly at the moment. He went to his workroom for the book he had been reading earlier, then slipped out into the garden to walk as he read.
He got distracted and he suspected the cubling had been quiescent for some time by the time he properly noticed the lack of tiny blows, but he finished the section he was reading, then left the book by the door into the house and made his way back to bed.
Sakumo stirred groggily again, opening his arms for Orochimaru and cuddling against him without properly waking. Orochimaru yawned, fangs flicking forwards with the muscle tension, and grimaced to fold them back again as he sighed and closed his eyes.
Now he was quite tired, and he hoped the cubling would allow him to sleep until morning.
I went on midnight walks with my sister a few times while she was carrying my eldest niece, in her attempts to get my nibling-to-be to go back to sleep.
Chapter 114: Wants
“Mm. . .” Sakumo nipped at Orochimaru’s mouth gently, sucking at his mate’s thin lower lip and letting his fangs catch it lightly, prompting a soft hiss. He smiled, hands sliding over Orochimaru’s lean body all but pinning him to the wall, more than pleased to be so trapped. “What do you want, my lovely?” he asked, nuzzling Orochimaru’s jaw, then biting there, too, working his way lower.
Orochimaru made a soft breathy sound of approval, tilting his head back and aside to make room, allowing Sakumo to get right at the soft place up under his jaw and drag his fangs over it. Orochimaru groaned and pushed harder against him when he did, body arching.
Sakumo let his hands catch at Orochimaru’s hips, pulling him in tight and rocking up against him, their cocks meeting through their clothes with a rough slide that sent heat up his spine.
Sakumo slid one hand down over Orochimaru’s lean ass, squeezing and drawing him even nearer. Orochimaru moaned softly as he pushed fluidly into Sakumo’s chest, fingers catching at his shoulders and tugging his hair, then sliding down his arms. Sakumo let his hands be caught in his mate’s, catching his breath as Orochimaru drew back, giving him a slow smirk.
Sakumo raised an eyebrow, waiting, and Orochimaru squeezed his hands, then kept hold of only one as he turned away and pushed his pants down. Sakumo swallowed, eyes drifting down his mate’s lovely body, moving without thinking when Orochimaru tugged him closer.
“I want you,” Orochimaru said, sliding gracefully to his knees and pulling Sakumo along with him, “in me and over me and. . .” He tilted his head and met Sakumo’s eyes over his own shoulder with a smirk. “Owning me.”
Sakumo heard himself make a low, slightly strangled sound, and Orochimaru’s smirk grew. He arched his back, letting his supporting arm fold and lowering his head and shoulders, spreading his thighs and tilting his hips.
Sakumo’s cock ached, only worsened by the pressure of his pants over it, but he ignored that for the moment, squeezing Orochimaru’s hand in his and sliding his free hand over his mate’s hip as he bent. Orochimaru moaned softly, then louder as Sakumo bit his ass - gently, a slide of fangs that didn’t scratch.
Sakumo rubbed his cheek against taut muscle and then tilted his head to nudge his mate’s thighs open a little further, letting him get his tongue to Orochimaru’s ass. His breath caught, and he made a low, wanting sound, arching as Sakumo grinned and licked up into him.
Chapter 115: Another
Sakumo stirred, raising his head and then rolling onto his side, propping himself on one elbow. “No Tenzou?” he asked, eyeing Orochimaru.
Orochimaru slid the door closed, rolling one shoulder fluidly. “He wanted to stay with his brother in his room.” he supplied. He had left the toddler cuddling up to his indulgent brother, already falling asleep, though Kakashi had been reading over his head.
Sakumo nodded understanding, shifting to watch, smiling lazily, as Orochimaru moved to trade the yukata he had been wearing for a proper sleep yukata. Orochimaru turned to find his mate’s appreciative eyes lingering on him, and took a little longer to wrap the yukata around himself and tie it into place than really necessary.
Sakumo grinned as Orochimaru approached him, holding out his free hand. Orochimaru knelt and slid close as he rolled onto his side facing his mate, twining his fingers with Sakumo’s and meeting him with a kiss. Sakumo’s mouth was warm and gentle against his own, the pressure of broad fangs against his lip making Orochimaru shiver.
“Do you think they’ll stay in their room all night?” Sakumo asked, rubbing his thumb over Orochimaru’s hand, tucking their clasped hands against Orochimaru’s hip.
“Perhaps.” Orochimaru said, tipping his head. “Actually, there was something I . . . wished to discuss with you.”
“Mmn?” Sakumo nuzzled his jaw, then pulled away to meet his gaze. “What’s that, lovely?” he asked, voice soft.
“Tenzou is . . . grown a little, now. . .” Orochimaru said softly, nestling closer to his mate and squeezing Sakumo’s fingers. Sakumo nodded, eyes on Orochimaru’s. “We spoke, once, before Tenzou, of. . .”
Sakumo slid their twined hands to Orochimaru’s belly. “Another cub?” he murmured, eyes bright.
Orochimaru tilted his head slightly. “Would you still want another, wolf-heart?” he asked, though he was fairly sure of his answer. Sakumo’s breath caught, and Orochimaru smiled slightly. “Do you think the cublings are old enough?” he added.
Sakumo’s fingers tightened on Orochimaru’s and he nodded slowly. They discussed the logistical matters of their little ones and their missions, the state of Konoha’s forces and how badly they were both needed, and while they would need to speak on it again. . .
Orochimaru smiled, eyes closed, as Sakumo stroked his stomach as though he already carried another child there. “Another cub. . .” Sakumo said in a soft, awed tone. Orochimaru’s smile widened, and he reached for his mate, fingers sliding over his arm and side, cuddling into him. “You. . . Truly, lovely?”
“I want another one.” Orochimaru said plainly, opening his eyes and meeting a stormy grey gaze warm with love.
“I . . . would love to have another cub with you.” Sakumo said, thumb rubbing over Orochimaru’s stomach, and leaned over him for a lingering kiss.
Sakumo nodded absently in response to Jiraiya’s question, winced, then thanked Tsunade for cleaning up the slice in his bicep and sealing it back together. The muscles drew properly again when he flexed his arm, and he’d been beginning to feel a bit foggy from the bleeding but that had cleared out a little now.
Tsunade nodded sharply, patting his back a bit too hard, as ever. Sakumo looked beyond her absently, then scanned the scattered nin converging back on their position.
While there were those who had fallen - and Sakumo felt the clawing grip of grief at his throat, for those who had been friends, comrades-in-arms - there was one . . . very notable absence.
Orochimaru was not the fretful sort, Sakumo hadn’t expected to have a distressed mate crying and fussing over him, even given his wounds. But Orochimaru was nowhere in sight. Orochimaru who was lightning quick and who Sakumo had seen - heart in his mouth - shake off damage that would have killed a lesser shinobi with hardly a break in stride.
No, no, no. . . Sakumo thought, worry sparking in his chest, breathing deep and moving away from his mate’s teammates without a pause as they spoke to him. He drew another deep breath, scenting blood and fright and anger and pain, the unpleasant mingle of many jutsu of different natures having clashed, poison and steel. . .
But there was one scent, one Sakumo knew better than almost anything, one he needed, and he scanned the fallen ninja as he searched it out. There was no sign of Orochimaru amongst the fallen nin, their own and the enemy, but- There.
Sakumo followed the traces of Orochimaru’s scent only to pull up short as they . . . ended. No jump or sideswipe, just a stop . . . in a pool of blood and bitter acid and snake.
Sakumo whined, sharp and mournful, searching frantically for any trace of Orochimaru, finding nothing save his mate’s scent, his mate’s blood, and a handful of his mate’s kunai.
“Sakumo!” Dan clasped his arm. “He’s not here. We’ve searched the field, he’s the only one missing.” he added when Sakumo looked at him, breathless with fear and need. “We have to move. Come on.”
Sakumo stared at his friend, feeling like he’d been kicked in the chest.
Dan gave him a not unsympathetic look. “I know.” he said quietly. “We have to move, though. He’s strong, and he’s smart, he’ll catch up to us if he can. He’s not here, and he’s not in range. If you can’t track him. . .”
Sakumo keened low in his throat, and Dan dragged him away, stifling him with some difficulty and not much success. Sakumo struggled to pull free without hurting his friend, still searching for any trace of his mate.
Don't worry, I remember; this is Coil and Croon, not Broken Pack!
Chapter 117: Seeking and Summoning (reverse)
Sakumo whined softly, pushing his still full bowl back into Dan’s hands. His friend frowned at him, settling at his side, and didn’t protest or push. Their shoulders brushed and it was a trace of comfort, though Sakumo could barely focus on it.
His body ached from the battle and he was stiff and weakened even with Tsunade’s work at healing him, but he barely focused on that either. His mind kept fixing on the torn earth, the scorched gouges that his mate’s blood had soaked into, the way Orochimaru’s scent just . . . ended there. . .
A feathery brush at his ankle made him twitch; a familiar type of smooth, sliding-
Sakumo didn’t jerk his leg away but he twisted to look at his feet, and a small dark snake lifted its head to look back at him. “Ah- Oh, Masami.” he said quietly.
“Wolf!” Masami coiled around his calf, looping upwards, and Sakumo put a hand down for him.
“Oro-” Sakumo’s voice wavered. “He’s missing, he’s not here-”
“Yes, yes.” Masami said, flicking his tail as he wound around Sakumo’s forearms. He hissed again as Sakumo swallowed thickly, and then there was a flash of quickly-clearing smoke and-
“Lovely!” Sakumo yowled, lunging to his feet.
Orochimaru tilted his head, reaching out one hand, lips slanting into a pained smile. He was leaning heavily on the thick purple body of a snake that looked very like Manda . . . if much smaller. “Wolf. . .”
Sakumo threw his arms around his mate, belatedly remembering Masami only as the snake made a small, sibilant, huffy sound and slithered along one arm and up to his shoulders, muttering. Orochimaru leaned heavily against him, still propped up by the snake at his side. Sakumo wondered fretfully if he could even stand on his own.
Tsunade’s voice broke into his thoughts, and Sakumo ceded space to allow her close to his mate, but growled softly at retreating . . . and couldn’t make himself go far. Orochimaru stroked his arm, glancing at him with a soft smile.
Masami squeezed around his shoulders again and Sakumo whined but stepped back when Tsunade grouched at him, watching her green-glowing hands seek out Orochimaru’s wounds. The scent of his mate’s blood thick in his nose was not reassuring, but he knew his mate was strong and steady; seeing him on his feet, even with support, was almost as reassuring as seeing that Tsunade was healing him.
Sakumo stroked his mate’s back, nuzzling his brow as he sighed. “I was . . . so worried,” he murmured, “when I found your blood, the battlefield. . . Your scent just gone. . .”
Orochimaru crooned softly, petting his side in return and then hugging him a little more tightly around the waist. “I’m sorry, my own.” he said softly, lifting his head to kiss Sakumo’s jaw, curling into him with a stiff little gesture and a barely-there groan of pain.
Sakumo shifted to support his mate more fully, rewarded with Orochimaru’s weight settling across his shoulder and chest - which ached a bit with the pressure, but not enough to be a problem - and a slight smile.
“I searched for you, but. . .” Sakumo whined. The snake coiled around his bicep and shoulder squeezed, hissing quietly.
“When I saw the jutsu coming,” Orochimaru shrugged fluidly, then rolled his shoulders to settle comfortably again, “there was no way to dodge without risking the flaming spikes spreading through our ranks . . . and I couldn’t guarantee I could block it.” He frowned, clearly displeased.
“So . . . reverse summoning.” Sakumo filled in, and Orochimaru smiled and inclined his head. Sakumo sighed, nuzzling his mate. “I’m just glad you’re safe.”
Orochimaru laughed softly. “Me too, Sakumo.” He lifted a hand, brushing his fingertips over Sakumo’s cheek. “I’m here.” he added gently, barely a breath.
He surrendered with equal gentleness as Sakumo kissed him, lips soft and body close and warm. He still smelled of blood and battle, but he was safe and breathing steady, and he was here in Sakumo’s arms, heavy against him.
Sakumo settled, mind calm once more, and eventually slept with his mate twined close in his embrace, clinging to Sakumo as though he drew equal comfort from the contact.
Chapter 119: Replacement
“I can’t believe you would just replace me this way! Do I mean so little?”
Orochimaru had been mostly tuning his friend out - he found it far better for his patience in general - but that made him refocus. “. . .replace you?” he repeated, lip curling. “When have you and I ever been-”
“You know what I mean!” Jiraiya said, frowning and leaning into Orochimaru’s personal space. “How could you-”
“Aside from the fact that you are habitually out of the village and out of contact for months on end, making your place as my friend a rather easy one to fill, one might suggest,” Orochimaru said dryly, ignoring Jiraiya’s sudden more serious scowl and the beginnings of a protest, “the wolf is not a friend, you know that.”
Jiraiya slouched sideways, huffing. “I do, I just. . .”
“Just what?” Orochimaru asked impatiently, irritated.
“He’s . . . a man, Orochi.” Jiraiya said, and Orochimaru watched him, blinking, expression not changing. “How can you- That is. . .”
“I am aware.” Orochimaru said, amused as Jiraiya’s point resolved. “He is a very handsome man, in fact. You should hear the kunoichi praise him.” And they, he thought with a sly little smirk, didn’t even know the look of him beneath his uniform . . . or indeed, what he was like in bed. Or anywhere.
Jiraiya made a horrified face, and Orochimaru rolled his eyes. “No one is asking you to find him attractive.” he said with studied patience. “I have always found rather more attraction in things other than the largest available pair of breasts, and Sakumo suits me quite well.”
“There’s more to it than just the sizable chest.” Jiraiya huffed, then fidgeted. “I still don’t see how. . .” he trailed off.
Orochimaru patted his arm. “Perhaps you should leave it at that and stop trying.” he suggested wryly. “If you are so concerned,” he continued, restraining the urge to snort in disbelief; it was, he supposed, faintly possible, “I assure you . . . Sakumo makes me very happy. In bed and out of it.” he added after a beat, laughing as Jiraiya’s face twisted in horror once more.
Chapter 120: Snake Whispering
“Sakumo? Sakumo, man, wake up.”
Sakumo groaned, but he was already rolling over towards the voice. He cracked an eye open. “What?” he rasped. He couldn’t have been asleep for more than an hour, if even that long, and it had been a long run before then. A long run carrying an injured teammate.
“There’s a snake.”
Sakumo’s eyes snapped open fully. “What?”
“There’s a snake, it’s bloody and hissing like mad and huge and-”
“Where?” Sakumo demanded, rolling to his feet and shoving his feet into his sandals as he shrugged on his vest.
“Just outside the camp.” Hoka said, pointing, and his mouth twisted apologetically. “We’re not sure if it’s one of Orochimaru-sama’s, but. . .”
Sakumo nodded and darted out of the tent, heading for the edge of the camp in the direction Hoka had indicated.
He heard the hissing curses before he came into range to spot the dull green and blue snake. There were a handful of jounin in a loose semicircle around them, though none of them had dared come anywhere close.
Sakumo hissed through his teeth at the thick scent of blood, most of it belonging to the snake.
“Wolf!” the snake cried, thrashing and unerringly pointing their nose at him. “Wolf!”
Sakumo bowed his head and moved nearer, not without some caution. The snake hissed angrily and went limp with another gout of blood from their side. If they didn’t calm enough to allow some treatment soon they were likely to die, Sakumo thought, mouth twisting. He crouched and rested a hand on the great head, and a dark tongue flickered out, the movement wrapping it around his wrist for a moment.
“Yes, yes.” Sakumo said softly, gently stroking the battered snout. “You need medical attention. Do you have important news from my mate?”
The snake hissed and twisted, winding their broad, bloodied body around Sakumo, and he heard nervous muttering from a few other jounin. Sakumo stroked their head as they huffed, then muttered a report that included little of urgency . . . now that the squad they had run into after leaving Orochimaru and his team had been dealt with.
“Thank you.” Sakumo returned, rubbing beneath one great slitted yellow eye. “Will you let us help you?”
The snake cursed a bit more, but assented to remain still and allow an iryou nin to offer aid, as long as he stayed by it. Sakumo suspected it would be hard enough getting one of them to come and help even with him here, certainly any other Konoha nin was unlikely to approach if he didn’t remain.
Chapter 121: Compassion
“-you understand, then. I only come out of concern.”
Sakumo fought not to squeeze Kakashi - sound asleep - closer to himself with enough force to hurt his cub, or wake him. “I see. Yes. Of course.” he said, voice rough. “Excuse me.” He rubbed the side of his fist against his damp eyes.
“You’re a compassionate man.”
Sakumo smiled a flat, humourless smile. “Thank you.” He watched the twitch at the corner of a sharp, cold eye. Far colder than slitted golden eyes had ever been in his memory. And yet.
Sakumo showed their guest out and then curled up around his cub, fighting tears and clinging to Kakashi, still sleeping, for comfort.
When Sakumo woke again, it was to-
“Orochimaru!” Sakumo barked, lunging to his feet, Kakashi crushed close against his chest and waking with a whiny yelp.
Orochimaru froze, then turned towards him slowly, every movement slow and so careful it looked like it hurt.
“You came back.” Sakumo said, voice raw. “You actually returned here. To us.”
“Of course.” Orochimaru said, cool and wary. “I. . . The project was disbanded, and there was little enough- It is to be- I. . . Sakumo?” His eyes fell to their son.
Sakumo lunged for him, pressing Kakashi into his arms. Orochimaru let out a weak little sound and hugged him tight. Kakashi squirmed, then huffed as Orochimaru loosened his grip slightly, giving a low croon.
Sakumo wound his arms around his mate and their cub, whining and nuzzling Orochimaru’s jaw.
“You- You heard- You know. . .” Orochimaru began, and Sakumo whined again, then growled, nosing Orochimaru’s cheek.
“I know.” Sakumo said, low and aching. “I know you, as well, my lovely. My mate.”
“Mama?” Kakashi nestled more determinedly into his mother’s arms, head tipping back to look up at him.
Orochimaru closed his eyes with a rough little hitching breath that was just shy of a sob, and Sakumo hummed soothingly as he all but fell forwards, leaning into Sakumo. He shifted, somehow getting all three of them to the floor without collapsing, and nuzzled Orochimaru’s hair. “No one is getting you away from us, lovely. Not ever.” he said softly, and Orochimaru clung to him, holding Kakashi snug and safe between them.
Chapter 122: Quiet Words
Sakumo ran his fingers through silky tresses, watching the inky strands spill over pale skin, sliding off Orochimaru’s back along his ribs and shoulder. He took a breath, unable to quite get the smile off his face, any more than he could calm himself enough to sleep.
Orochimaru rested peacefully beside him - in his bed - and Sakumo was pleased to see it - a deep part of him rumbling with possessive pleasure to see his chosen mate sleeping in his den, at his side. Peaceful and relaxed.
Sakumo trailed his fingers over Orochimaru’s back. “Please stay here, just like this, forever.” he said softly, barely aware he was speaking aloud. “Want you for my mate, for my own, for forever. . .” He bent and lightly kissed Orochimaru’s back, fingers straying back to the cool weight of Orochimaru’s hair even as he straightened once more.
“Say it again.”
Sakumo startled, eyes flicking up as Orochimaru shifted, meeting his gaze. “I- What?”
Orochimaru licked his lips, tilting his head but keeping his eyes locked with Sakumo’s. “Please. Say- Say it again?” he asked.
Sakumo was about to ask again, then- He bowed his head and kissed Orochimaru’s ribs lightly, smiling faintly as his breath caught. “I love you,” he said softly, and Orochimaru took a slow breath, “want you always.”
Orochimaru bit his lip, breathing a little unsteady.
“Please stay.” Sakumo said simply. “Mate. Mine. Please.” he added after a beat.
Orochimaru moved slowly, but when he did it was to press himself even closer to Sakumo, all but curling around him bodily. “I want that. Mate. Please.” he said, barely audible, as though he had to fight himself to even voice the words, a tiny wince and a shiver betraying perhaps an anticipation that the response would hurt.
Sakumo’s heart ached for him even as it soared with delight and pleasure and-
Sakumo kissed him, winding him into a tight embrace which he returned every bit as desperately, warm and needy in Sakumo’s arms.
Sakumo straightened the kakebuton absently on the line, then pushed his hair back from where the wind kept tugging at the strands Tenzou had already pulled partially free of the tail he wore. He turned and trotted back up to the engawa, shedding his sandals there and slipping into the house quietly.
He nearly broke that with a yelp when strong hands caught his shoulders, shoving him back against the wall. Sakumo’s eyes widened, and he moaned as his mate kissed him hard and fast, bringing his hands up to Orochimaru’s hips.
Before he could sink into it properly, Orochimaru was gone again, and Sakumo whined.
Orochimaru was dropping to his knees, though, hands shoving up Sakumo’s shirt and working his pants open. Sakumo’s breath caught. “Lovely-! Ah, the cubs?”
Orochimaru didn’t pause, getting his pants open and beginning to push them down, but glanced up to catch his eye with a wicked smile. “They’re asleep.” he said, nuzzling Sakumo’s hip, breath tickling his rapidly hardening cock.
His tongue flicked out and teased along the side of Sakumo’s shaft, then curled around it, hurrying along his erection. Sakumo’s back arched and he clenched his jaw to quiet himself, muscles twitching and hands curling into tight fists.
Orochimaru gave him another wicked smile, and then dropped it as he took Sakumo’s cock into his mouth in one quick slide. Sakumo whined, reaching for his mate and clutching at his hair. “Lovely- Lovely. . .” Sakumo groaned, knees wobbling.
Orochimaru didn’t pause, and his mouth was always wonderful, but when he tried like this, forceful and fast, all his sharp, considerable focus bent to pleasuring Sakumo. . .
He whined, squirming against the wall, rocking into his mate’s mouth as Orochimaru’s fingers curled tight around his hips. He couldn’t keep himself entirely quiet as Orochimaru worked him harder, thumbs rubbing the crest of his hipbones, tongue squeezing around his knot, but managed to restrain himself to breathy whines and moaning murmurs. He tangled his fingers in Orochimaru’s hair and braced himself against the wall, struggling not to collapse as his mate quickly drew him into dizzying pleasure, racing towards completion.
When he tipped over that edge, pleasure and heat swamping him, he would have collapsed to the floor if Orochimaru hadn’t pressed him back hard against the wall, uncoiling from his knees and rising to pin Sakumo there bodily.
“Oh.” Sakumo managed, still panting, nuzzling Orochimaru’s jaw. “Lovely.”
“Mm, wolf-heart?” Orochimaru said, and made a soft sound of pleasure as Sakumo kissed him, sloppy and tasting of his own release.
“Let me-” Sakumo whined in confusion as Orochimaru caught his hand before he could do more than stroke across his mate’s hip and stomach.
“You have that mission to go meet up for in,” Orochimaru paused, “about ten minutes, now. Possibly five.”
Sakumo blinked as he remembered that, then whined, frowning.
Orochimaru smiled at him. “Go, wolf-heart. I’m fine.” he said, and Sakumo frowned a little harder. Orochimaru kissed him, deep and lingering this time. “I wanted to please you. I wanted you in my mouth.” he said, voice low and rich with heat that made a twitch of arousal stir in Sakumo’s belly despite his recent orgasm. “If you want to turn it back on me,” he said, nipping Sakumo’s jaw lightly, “finish your mission quickly. You should be home by tomorrow’s dinner, yes? I’ll be waiting.”
Sakumo kissed him again, a fierce little promise, and then let his mate shoo him out of the house and off to his duty.
Rumpled and mostly steady again, Sakumo meets his team and gets side-eyed by the other jounin. Boggling. 'Dude, did you get laid right before you came here? Don't you have two small children? How?'
Dan sighed, rubbing his palms over his thighs, then braced himself and headed into Shi no Mori. Favourite training ground, if that didn’t say something about the man. . .
What it said, though, was debatable, Dan thought. He hadn’t missed the looks and murmurs that passed around Orochimaru in the village. If he had been unable to walk comfortably from his home to the market without such things, he too might prefer a training ground that was largely unused, and too large to risk running into anyone else often anyway.
If Dan ever actually practised his reika no jutsu, he would have done it away from sight, too. It was easier for people to forget the unease it brought about, slot it as something like a Yamanaka trick, if they weren’t reminded of it between battles.
“Orochimaru-san.” Dan called, feeling a prickle creeping up the back of his neck. It was only a feeling, but-
“Dan.” Orochimaru greeted, materialising from the dark trees that no one with his colouring really ought to be able to hide amongst. He circled to face Dan, arching a brow.
“I came looking for you.” Dan admitted, both because he wanted to be honest, and because he suspected lying to Orochimaru would at the very least scupper his hopes here, if not worse.
The arched brow twitched and Orochimaru tilted his head slightly.
“I,” Dan paused, “would . . . you trust me?”
“Tsunade makes her own decisions. In everything.” Orochimaru said dryly. “My trust or distrust, or feelings on you in general, will hardly sway her.”
Dan blinked. “Ah. Yes, that.” He smiled, aware it was a little soppy. Orochimaru rolled his eyes, but his lips quirked into a slight smile as well. “And don’t think I am unaware you could have done something even if Tsunade might not have listened to you directly warning her.” And Dan was . . . not so sure of that. Tsunade not only cared deeply for Orochimaru, she trusted him, deep down . . . and sometimes she did not trust herself.
“You make her happy.” Orochimaru said, almost flat, eyes not quite meeting Dan’s.
Dan pounced on the opening. “That’s why I am asking.” he said hurriedly, and Orochimaru eyed him. “I . . . know someone who would dearly wish to make you happy.”
Orochimaru tensed, jaw tightening. “I have had quite enough of-” he cut himself off.
Dan smiled weakly. Orochimaru might not speak of it, but Tsunade had . . . and Dan had seen the kind of attention Orochimaru was often given, when he drew it at all. “That,” he said softly, “is why I am asking if you would trust me. This. . . He is not like that. I swear to you.” In fact if Sakumo were aware of the way people spoke of Orochimaru he might go after them himself, whether or not Orochimaru allowed his own attentions.
Dan had learned that the Hatake’s sense of appropriate conduct was very firm, if a bit cockeyed from that of most people, and they were generally very willing to underline it with fangs and muscle when they felt it had been crossed unacceptably.
Orochimaru examined Dan carefully. He waited patiently.
“You approach me yourself?” Orochimaru asked, shifting his weight, posture relaxing a little even as he crossed his arms.
“I didn’t want you to feel . . . pressed. If Tsunade brought it up.” Dan said, which was part of the reason anyway.
Orochimaru snorted, but Dan had seen him give way to Tsunade’s wishes when he clearly hadn’t wanted to too often to risk it.
“. . .yes.” Orochimaru said, and Dan twitched, straightening. “I would trust you. If you ask it. Even in this.” He looked away, and Dan smiled, pleased and relieved.
Chapter 125: A Chance (Trusting Dan)
Dan eyed his friend as he accepted the bowl of rice and fish Sakumo offered. He took a bite, then warily set it on the table and slid it down away from himself as he swallowed. Sakumo cocked his head, giving a half-whining curious sound.
“I have something to talk to you about.” Dan said, leaning forwards a little, and Sakumo raised his eyebrows, mouth full of fish. “Your,” he paused, “feelings for Orochimaru. . .”
Sakumo slumped, looking faintly downcast. “I have tried, Dan,” he said, shaking his head slightly, “he. . .” He trailed off. “I don’t wish to make myself a nuisance, and I’m afraid I have verged perilously close to it already. He clearly doesn’t-”
“Orochimaru agreed to meet with you.” Dan interrupted before Sakumo could depress himself too much more. “Alone. He’ll give you a chance.”
Sakumo’s head shot up and he stared at Dan. “You- He-” his voice faltered.
“You’ve been a little pitiful.” Dan said, gently teasing. Sakumo had bolstered him and listened to his . . . verging on endless raptures about Tsunade; even were he inclined to be unkind to his friend he would have stifled himself in regards to Sakumo’s heart in this.
“Why would he. . .” Sakumo looked so painfully hopeful, confused and longing.
Dan looked at his friend, considering what Tsunade had told him, in what manner, and Sakumo’s likely reaction to the things Dan knew, and what Orochimaru would want known of it - then scratched that last; he had no doubt it was ‘nothing’ - and took a breath.
“He . . . doesn’t trust people,” Dan said carefully, and were Sakumo less smitten and less hopeful he probably would have said something rightfully mocking; ninja often didn’t, and it was hardly surprising Orochimaru would not, “when it comes to . . . intimacy or relationships. He . . . trusts me. I assured him- Ah!”
Sakumo moved entirely too fast for a man of his size, even for a ninja, and Dan wasn’t quite prepared when he went down off the bench with Sakumo on top of him, all but whining like a puppy. “You asked him for me? You vouched for me? He agreed?”
Dan laughed - a little breathlessly; Sakumo was broad and solid - shoving at his friend’s shoulder.
“. . .you didn’t . . . he agreed without you asking that he. . .” Sakumo trailed off, fidgeting, and Dan eyed him. He had no idea what Sakumo was asking, now. “It was- He wanted, or at least. . .”
. . .ah. Dan patted Sakumo’s shoulder. “I didn’t try and push him,” he assured softly; not that he thought he could have - Orochimaru might bow to Tsunade when she wheedled or pushed, but certainly no one else seemed able to manage it, “I only asked that he trust me when I said I . . . knew someone with an honest interest in him.”
Sakumo hugged him again, and Dan’s ribs creaked.
Chapter 126: Birthday Wake-Up Call
There will be more of the Trusting Dan arc, after this brief interlude for Sakumo's birthday (September 3rd) as I realised two days ago that it was approaching~
There's also a small fluff oneshot I'll be posting on the topic today.
Sakumo stirred with a rumbling sound of pleasure, stretching. The warmth against his shoulder pressed closer with a brush of lips, and he growled low with possessive pleasure.
Orochimaru kissed up Sakumo’s shoulder to his throat. “Ohayou, wolf-heart. Happy birthday.” he said in a silky tone. His hands slid over Sakumo’s sides and back, and he nuzzled higher, kissing the rim of Sakumo’s ear. “How would you like to spend it?”
Sakumo curled into his mate’s warmth, twisting to nuzzle his jaw and up to his cheek. “You mean you aren’t going to lead me a merry chase and make me catch you today?” he teased, though his belly tightened at the memory of the unexpected game his mate had sprung on him two years ago after their lazy afternoon sharing tea and a light meal.
“We can do that, too, if you like.” Orochimaru said with a throaty chuckle. Sakumo shivered, turning further towards him and sliding a hand over his hip, up his side.
“The cub?” Sakumo asked quietly, nudging bodily against Orochimaru and finally opening his eyes.
“Fed and settled back to sleep in the main room with Nori watching over him.” Orochimaru said, his eyes bright. “I also,” he said softly, dipping his head and brushing his lips against Sakumo’s cheek, “opened the windows . . . and set up the silencing seals. We won’t wake him.”
Sakumo growled, heat flaring low in his stomach. “How. . .”
He didn’t actually ask the question, but even with as sneaky as his mate was capable of being, and as easy as Sakumo was in his ever-trusted presence, that Orochimaru had risen, with their infant cub, and done so much before returning to Sakumo’s side. . .
Orochimaru laughed again, sliding his hand along Sakumo’s jaw and beginning to twine his body around Sakumo. “What would you like, my heart?” he asked, voice dropping almost into a purr.
Chapter 127: Chance Taken (Trusting Dan)
“Kami be- Get off, you damned wolf!”
Dan flinched, but didn’t hesitate, rather beginning to move faster. Sakumo answered Orochimaru’s sharp demand with a low growl, and Dan frowned.
Then he found his way between the trees to the clearing where they were, and-
Orochimaru shoved at Sakumo’s shoulder, pinned beneath him against the mossy ground, and Sakumo’s growl was mixed with laughter as he nuzzled Orochimaru’s shoulder. He was smiling, a little sharp but easy, and for all Sakumo had him trapped the shoving was light and playful. His free hand slid up and wound into Sakumo’s hair, pulling at him.
Dan let out a long breath, relieved, and missed whatever Orochimaru had said, but Sakumo answered it with an almost petulant no that rumbled in his throat.
Orochimaru sighed, tipping his head back a little - Sakumo twitched, body tensing, and Dan half wished he hadn’t been paying close enough attention to see stormy grey eyes drop to fix on Orochimaru’s long throat - then shifting to meet Sakumo’s gaze again. “I suppose I must suffer through this . . . ridiculousness?”
Sakumo rumbled softly, posture easing over Orochimaru as he leaned closer, nuzzling Orochimaru’s sharp jaw line.
Orochimaru’s tugging hand gentled into a stroke that ran the length of Sakumo’s hair, falling loose as Dan had rarely seen it. Sakumo’s eyes half-closed and he pressed his cheek to Orochimaru’s, even before Orochimaru’s caressing hand dropped, joining his other roaming up from Sakumo’s shoulder, to draw him into a kiss.
Dan watched them for a moment longer, then took a step back, turning away. Jiraiya could shove it, he wasn’t going to interrupt them - not when they looked so happy, entwined with each other.
He glanced back before moving around the trunk of one of the gargantuan trees, and caught a glimpse of Orochimaru all but curling around Sakumo as they kissed; slender fingers pressing into wild hair and big hands sliding down over narrow hips.
Dan smiled as he watched Sakumo mutter under his breath, moving between the pots on the stove. “Sure you don’t need any help?” he offered - as though he’d be any use, though if Sakumo gave him clear instructions. . .
“No, it’s fine.” Sakumo said absently, stirring one thing, pulling another off the heat, and sprinkling something into a third pot before covering it. “Everything’s under control and- Lovely!”
Dan straightened a little, humming, then turned as he heard a soft sound behind him.
Orochimaru passed through the doorway, fingers brushing over the wood with a faint rasp. He smiled, warm and broad. “Wolf.” he said, his voice silky.
Dan realised as Sakumo crossed the kitchen towards Orochimaru and murmured it again that lovely had been a petname, not an assessment.
He averted his gaze - mostly - as they met, Sakumo nuzzling Orochimaru’s face and catching his hips with both hands; Orochimaru laughing quietly and stroking Sakumo’s jaw, winding an arm around his waist.
Dan could hear the soft sounds of their lips meeting, and he hummed almost inaudibly, looking at the dinner on the stove.
“I’m glad you could make it after all.” Sakumo said, his voice low but warm and happy. Dan smiled a little. Sakumo rarely hid how he felt and it was nice that he was happy, now. More often and more deeply than Dan had ever seen his friend before.
“Mm . . . Tsunade does not require assistance to haul Jiraiya to the hospital, and even he knows well enough he’d best stay there when she does.” Orochimaru said with a ripple of laughter in his tone.
Dan straightened, glancing at them again just as Sakumo kissed Orochimaru’s cheek - he closed his eyes and leaned into Sakumo for a moment - then pulled away - slowly enough that Orochimaru’s fingers could trail down most of his chest before they lost contact - to return to the stove.
“Hospital?” Dan asked cautiously.
Orochimaru’s lips quirked into a sharp, vicious smile the likes of which Dan was far more used to seeing on him, when he smiled at all. “Oh, should you like to hear the story?” he offered, moving to take a seat at the table, back to Sakumo.
“Does it make good dinner conversation?” Sakumo asked with a laugh.
“Does Jiraiya ever?” Orochimaru returned dryly.
Dan smothered a laugh, and Orochimaru’s eyes gleamed. “Probably not. Do tell.” Dan asked, leaning forwards on the table even as Sakumo returned to join them, hands sliding over Orochimaru’s shoulders as he pressed up against Orochimaru’s back.
Chapter 129: Good Morning
Halfway to rolling out of bed, Sakumo startled as a nipping kiss caught him near the base of his neck. He twitched and turned his head just as he heard his mate’s low, teasing laughter, and threw himself into the movement, catching Orochimaru’s wrist and rolling him onto his back, pinning him there.
Orochimaru squirmed, long legs bending and stretching out alongside Sakumo’s own, torso arching up as Sakumo leaned over him.
Sakumo laughed and dipped his head a little further, dragging one fang along Orochimaru’s jaw and rumbling with approving pleasure as he let his head fall back and tilt aside, baring his long, slender throat. Sakumo nuzzled it, then nipped sharply, tongue flicking over the scraped spot.
Orochimaru jumped beneath him, then moaned, one leg curling around Sakumo’s and pulling him inwards, closer. “Wolf-heart. . .” Orochimaru murmured, muscles flexing in Sakumo’s grip, though he didn’t fight to free his hands.
Sakumo kissed his way up his mate’s throat appreciatively, pausing when he came high enough to meet Orochimaru’s eyes, then catching his mouth in a warm, lingering kiss.
Orochimaru welcomed him in with gentle, eager warmth, tongue curling against his own, mouth soft and wanting. Sakumo shuddered and leaned into him more heavily, bringing himself further over his mate and sliding his hands up to clasp Orochimaru’s, still keeping them pinned to the futon on either side of his head.
Orochimaru arched into him, legs splaying to make room for Sakumo to settle between, catching Sakumo’s lower lip in his sharp teeth.
“Good morning, lovely.” Sakumo offered, voice rough and rumbling, and Orochimaru laughed even as he moved in a languid undulation that pressed his whole body up against Sakumo’s.
Chapter 130: Choices
“Another thing,” Orochimaru said, voice soft, still relaxed against the tree at his back, “if you don’t mind. . .”
Sakumo kissed his palm, rubbing his thumb over Orochimaru’s hand as he lowered it again. “Anything you like.” he said honestly, both because he would answer anything Orochimaru wished to know of him, and because they had . . . sorted many things already between them that would be important for mates to know of each other, to agree upon.
“Do you want children?” Orochimaru asked, eyes on Sakumo’s face, and he stilled.
He was silent for a moment, then licked his lips and took a breath. It stung, quietly, but it was a never-was-and-never-will ache, not a freshly shattered loss.
“Lovely, it’s. . .” Sakumo smiled crookedly. “It’s all right. I would- I always. . . Well. Yes, I rather did, always.” He shook his head, relieved when Orochimaru only raised his eyebrows slightly, showing no sign of upset, his scent calm. “I made the choice before I asked you to be my mate, lovely. I want you. No one else. I’ve never wanted anyone else. I’m . . . all right with the fact that I’ll never have cubs.”
Orochimaru smiled at him, then stroked his cheek, and Sakumo nuzzled into the touch, eyes almost closing, glad he wasn’t upset. “You don’t have to give up the idea of children - cubs,” Orochimaru laughed softly, “to be with me.”
“Lovely,” Sakumo frowned, looking at Orochimaru properly again, “I don’t-”
“Wolf-heart,” Orochimaru interrupted, and Sakumo fell silent, “I think I should tell you something . . . about my clan and our bloodline.”
Sakumo hummed inquisitively, not sure what Orochimaru could be- He suddenly remembered with a cold pang that Orochimaru was the last of his clan as well, and if he wished their blood not to end with him. . . Sakumo’s stomach clenched. He didn’t know what he would do, if that were the case.
“I can carry children.” Orochimaru said, and Sakumo blinked, drawn immediately from the shock of anxiety that had swamped him. “If I choose. Any of my clan could, regardless of gender.” Sakumo opened his mouth, then closed it, shocked. “If we chose,” Orochimaru said slowly, voice low, “I could carry your child.”
“I- What?” Sakumo said, startled.
Orochimaru gave a slanted smile, a little tense, and Sakumo clasped his hand as he pulled it back, twining both of his own around it. “I’m only surprised.” Sakumo said, stroking Orochimaru’s hand. “You. . . Would you want to? Do you want cubs?”
Orochimaru’s face softened, and Sakumo’s breath caught at the look in his eyes. “I never thought I would,” he said, with a slow blink, then met Sakumo’s eyes, “but . . . I think I do. With you.”
Sakumo’s heart squeezed, and he leaned into his mate, nuzzling Orochimaru affectionately, pressing close to his side as he laughed, a little unsteadily, and slid one hand around to rest at the nape of Sakumo’s neck. His slim fingers trembled every so slightly, and Sakumo rumbled soft reassurance, lips brushing his mate’s jaw.
Orochimaru laughed quietly, his usually-sharp face softening, and bent as slender, but powerfully-muscled arms wound around his shoulders. He closed his arms around Tsunade’s ribs in return, hugging her close and lifting her from the ground.
Tsunade laughed, tilting her head back and bringing her feet up with a quick bend of her knees as Orochimaru turned with her slowly, hugging her tight, then let her slide back down to the ground with a bouncing giggle.
Sakumo sighed, watching the warm smile that Orochimaru favoured her with, his eyes focused solely on her.
Sakumo was so focused himself he nearly spilled off his feet when Jiraiya shouldered him roughly. He blushed and tensed, ducking his head as his shoulders came up.
“They’re not a couple, you know.” Jiraiya said, giving him a slanted smile and dropping an arm around his shoulders.
Sakumo gave him a dubious look in return, then glanced back at where Tsunade was snuggling up against Orochimaru’s chest, most of her weight against him rather than on her own feet. She tugged at his shoulders and he bowed for her to nuzzle a kiss to his cheek.
“Your delusions aside, Jiraiya-”
Jiraiya’s grip tightening on him, forearm pressing against the side of his neck, cut off his pointed words, and Sakumo eyed his friend warily.
“They’re not . . . and if you care so much. . .” Jiraiya looked at him consideringly.
“It’s not my place to care.” Sakumo said stiffly, throat tight.
“Mm.” Jiraiya released Sakumo. “Quite a cowardly wolf, then, not willing to even try and give chase when you want something.” Sakumo stiffened. “Well if you’re so easily frightened that’s probably best; you wouldn’t stand up to a snake like Orochi.”
Then Jiraiya snorted and strode away, ignoring Sakumo. He watched his friend go, then let his gaze stray back to the pair of entwined figures not so far away.
Jiraiya watched Sakumo’s reaction after he left, gratified by the open longing and the thoughtful hope on his face. Maybe he’d do something; fuck knew Orochi wouldn’t.
Jiraiya strode up to his teammates, slinging an arm around each at the shoulders, dragging them in. He knew they loved him because he collected a couple of bruises but nothing was left broken or bleeding from the manoeuvre.
“Where have you been?” Tsunade demanded, her lips curved into a slight smile and her body resting comfortably just a little against him as they walked.
“Oh . . . teasing a wolf. Seeing if he’ll do more than chase his tail.” Jiraiya said with a grin, and Orochimaru stiffened, eyes widening. He glanced around under the cover of his long hair, and Jiraiya knew the moment he saw Sakumo from the soft warmth and then the quick little flinch and calm air that came over him. Jiraiya squeezed his friend closer. “He’s a brave wolf. He’ll give chase. He wants.” Jiraiya promised softly, rubbing his hand up and down Orochimaru’s arm.
“I hope so.” Orochimaru said quietly, barely audible, leaning into Jiraiya’s other side.
Chapter 132: Brave Wolf (Jiraiya taunts a wolf)
Orochimaru tensed, tilting his head and then turning on his stool to face Sakumo, putting his back to the bar. The other Sannin at either side of him did the same; Tsunade with a sharply-assessing look and Jiraiya with a smirk.
Orochimaru’s eyes swept down Sakumo’s body, then back up, and he hummed, arching a brow.
“May I speak with you?” Sakumo asked, shoulders back and jaw tilted high.
Orochimaru nodded, once.
Sakumo stepped closer, and breathed, drawing in the faint scent of snake and acid that clung to Orochimaru, filtering it from the astringent, nose-burning scent that Tsunade always carried, and the dull spice-sour Jiraiya did.
“Orochimaru-san, would you . . . consider sharing a meal with me?” Sakumo asked, taking half a step closer, but staying clear of Orochimaru’s space. “An evening? With only me?”
Orochimaru made a soft little sound, his expression shuttered and unreadable. Sakumo ruthlessly suppressed a rising tremor, determined not to react, not to-
“I would enjoy that.” Orochimaru said softly, tilting his head and looking at Sakumo sidelong. He was grinning, he was aware, and he couldn’t care even a little.
“Thank you!” Sakumo said before he could catch himself and debate if it was quite the right response. He reached for Orochimaru’s hand, and he tensed but didn’t resist.
Sakumo took gentle hold and bent, nuzzling Orochimaru’s hand lightly for a brief moment, then reluctantly releasing him. “I look forward to it.” he said, quiet. “Two nights from now?”
“As it suits.” Orochimaru agreed in what could have been a careless manner, fingers flicking across Sakumo’s palm as his hand slid away. Orochimaru looked up, eyes gleaming. “I shall see you then . . . wolf.”
Chapter 133: Ninja Wolf (Jiraiya taunts a wolf)
“You seem happy, Orochi.”
Sakumo pulled up short, fidgeting, then suppressed his chakra and inched closer, cocking his head and listening.
“As happy as snake bastards get, anyway. . .” Jiraiya let out a rough oof, then laughed breathlessly. “I told you he would.”
Sakumo frowned, puzzled.
“I am . . . glad to allow that you were right, this time.” Orochimaru said softly, his voice smooth and content.
Jiraiya made a delighted sound, then laughed again. “Having a wolf of your very own is putting you in a better mood!”
Sakumo startled, his heart leaping, then bit his lip as he suppressed a happy shiver.
“Hey, is he that good to you?” Jiraiya asked, making a faintly horrifying sound afterwards.
Another harsh, rough exhale, this time followed by a thump and coughing.
“I am quite content with Sakumo, yes.” Orochimaru said, sending a warm flush through Sakumo. “And I thank you for your . . . push, whatever it was.” he added. “But Jiraiya. . .”
“Control myself?” Jiraiya asked, sounding more amused than offended.
“I’m afraid that is but a lofty dream.” Orochimaru said dryly. “We’ve long given up on ever seeing it in the real world.”
Sakumo looked up at Jiraiya, who had stomped up to them in possibly the least stealthy approach Sakumo had ever seen. He scowled back.
Orochimaru shifted slightly, but didn’t remove himself from where he was lounging against Sakumo’s side, head on his shoulder, legs folded over Sakumo’s own. “I didn’t want to leave.” he said simply.
Sakumo whined happily and nuzzled his hair, and he hummed, a little contented sound, and nestled deeper into Sakumo’s arms.
“Hime blamed me!” Jiraiya protested, gesturing broadly. “Your fault.”
“Be less blameable.” Orochimaru suggested dryly, tilting his head up a bit, his eyes glinting wickedly.
“You’re never late, she thinks I didn’t tell y- Oh you bastard!” Jiraiya shouted, pointing at Orochimaru.
Orochimaru laughed, his whole body thrumming with it. Sakumo curled his arms around Orochimaru appreciatively.
“You knew she’d be mad at me and not you!” Jiraiya accused.
“I’m never late,” Orochimaru drawled, “and you made the arrangements this week.”
Jiraiya made an inarticulate sound and Sakumo was torn between laughter and concern . . . though pleasure that Orochimaru had wished to stay with him enough to ignore his teammates also bloomed in his chest.
“Still, I’d best go.” Orochimaru sighed, twisting and leaning up to kiss Sakumo, startling him. “Will I see you later, wolf?” he asked.
“Always. Any time.” Sakumo said without thinking, which brought a smile to Orochimaru’s face. “Ah. . . Dinner?” he suggested more practically, clearing his throat.
Orochimaru laughed softly and kissed him again, then slipped gracefully out of his arms and rose. “I look forward to it then.” he said, and turned away with a flick of his hair over his shoulder. “Jiraiya, are you coming?”
Jiraiya grumbled and huffed, but trailed after him as Sakumo sat up, watching them go. “Make me regret pushing the wolf to chase you.” he said grouchily.
“No you don’t.” Orochimaru said peacefully.
Jiraiya was silent for a moment, then huffed, slinging an arm around Orochimaru’s shoulder. “No. I don’t.” he said, just as they were leaving earshot. “You wanted so long . . . I’m glad you-”
Sakumo cocked his head, grinning, even as he lost the rest of whatever Jiraiya was saying.
Chapter 135: Old Friends and New Priorities
“Well, you seem fine. . .” Tsunade said slowly, dropping her hands. Orochimaru raised an eyebrow. “Just . . . I want you to be careful, Oro, please.”
Orochimaru’s mouth tightened. “I know how to take care of myself.” he said sharply, sliding a hand absently over his stomach, where his little one had yet to make any outwardly-visible changes . . . but he could feel the little spark of warm chakra there, the shift of his body to nurture it.
“I know you do,” Tsunade said peaceably, “it’s only that-”
“I managed the first one without your help.” Orochimaru snapped, drawing back, because that had stung, because he had been confident but his best friend - the best iryou nin in the world - would have been a welcome assurance through his pregnancy. Because he would have worried less for his little one if she had been here.
“I know.” Tsunade said quietly, head and shoulders bowing, and Orochimaru knew he should comfort her, should offer some manner of peaceful gesture.
“Thank you for your . . . help.” Orochimaru said, voice flat, and turned away.
He had tried, for Tsunade, for years. It had done him little good when she withdrew and ran away and forgot their friendship, and Orochimaru had other things to ground himself now. Other people more important in his life . . . who didn’t force him to forever chase them to keep them.
“Lovely!” Sakumo nuzzled his jaw and down to his throat, snuffling in greeting and making Orochimaru laugh at the tickle of his breath. Sakumo’s arm wound around his waist, pulling him in close. “All right?” he asked, raising his eyebrows in query, as he lifted his head again.
“Mama!” Kakashi piped up from his place in the sling on Sakumo’s back.
Orochimaru smiled, reaching out to caress Sakumo’s jaw, then past to offer his hand to his son. “I’m quite all right, yes, wolf-heart.” he promised as Kakashi snuffled and nuzzled at his fingers with a happy whine. “Let’s go home.”
“Sure.” Sakumo agreed, lifting his free hand, in which he held a satchel with oddly-shaped bulges in it. “I thought we might have nabe tonight. I picked up more eggs along with the vegetables.”
Orochimaru rested his brow against Sakumo’s temple. “Sounds wonderful.” he said fondly.
“You look tired.” Sakumo said softly, and from someone else it might have made Orochimaru snap, but his mate was all gentle concern and he hadn’t slept either, though nothing kept him awake. “Is there anything I can do to help?” he asked, approaching and offering his open hands.
Orochimaru sighed and stepped into the touch, head dipping. “Can you get our cubling to settle down?” he asked wryly, lips quirking at one corner. “They will not be still.”
Sakumo huffed a laugh, nosing his cheek and then kissing it. “I can try.” he said simply, and nudged Orochimaru to take a step backwards. “Here, sit on the couch.”
Orochimaru snorted, but let himself be nudged down to curl at one end of the couch, room for his mate to press up close by his legs, one hand splayed over his hip. Sakumo nuzzled his stomach and rumbled softly, building into a far louder sound than his friendly rumbles usually were.
The vibrations tickled as he pressed his cheek to Orochimaru’s stomach, and he laughed quietly, shivering.
Sakumo glanced up at him with a smile, then nuzzled and kissed Orochimaru’s stomach, right over one of their little one’s flailing limbs. “Ne, cub, you need to let your Mama rest, you know.” he said, lips brushing Orochimaru’s skin as he spoke. “I know you have so much energy, but Mama needs to sleep, and so should you. Mama cannot always be rocking you when it is time to rest.” he crooned, stroking Orochimaru’s stomach as their cubling stirred and kicked beneath his palm.
Orochimaru closed his eyes, resting a hand on Sakumo’s arm and listening to his mate speaking to their cubling, feeling the little one stir restlessly, though a little less fiercely than before.
Sakumo kissed his mate’s stomach, smoothing his hand over the gentle curve that protected their little one, his heart aching with affection.
Orochimaru was asleep, his head tipped against the back of the couch. Their cub had stopped kicking against Sakumo’s hands some time before, but he had kept up his low assurances they should be quiet and still for their Mama.
He hoped they would rest and allow Orochimaru to sleep for at least a while longer. He nuzzled and kissed his mate’s stomach once more, then shifted carefully away, catching Orochimaru’s hand from his bicep and lowering it himself as he rose.
Orochimaru sighed in his sleep but didn’t stir, and Sakumo appreciated the depth of his mate’s trust for what it was. He worked his arms around Orochimaru and lifted him from the couch, leaning back a little to encourage his mate’s head to tilt down and rest against his shoulder rather than falling back uncomfortably.
Sakumo yawned as he carried Orochimaru back to their bed. No doubt he - they - could have remained on the couch to sleep, but their bed would be more comfortable, particularly for his mate who so hated to be chilled. It had grown more difficult for him to keep warm as his pregnancy progressed, as well, and he tended to shelter protectively around their little one more than the rest of himself.
Sakumo carefully settled to the futon, tugging the kakebuton layers up over them before wrapping himself around his mate, sliding one hand down to cover Orochimaru’s stomach. “Rest, cub.” he murmured again, though he knew they would not hear his voice from where he lay with his mouth nearly pressed to Orochimaru’s shoulder.
Chapter 138: Rough (First) Day
The literal day of his birth counts as focusing on Kakashi's birthday, right?
I have a oneshot for Kakashi's birthday as well, featuring this little family, but I need to wrap up the end of it before I post it, probably this afternoon. >.>
“There, there, cub.” Sakumo said softly, rocking his new cub in his arms, heart full to bursting. “I know. You’ve had a very rough day. We’re so glad to have you, though. It isn’t so bad, mm. . .”
“Him you comfort?”
Sakumo raised his head and tilted it towards the bed, finding his mate looking at him with a soft, fond expression. “You may have done a considerable lot of work,” Sakumo pointed out, moving towards the bed, “but he has had rather a rough day.”
Orochimaru laughed softly, lying back a little more. “I imagine he has, at that.” he said wryly. He extended a hand as Sakumo continued towards him, and he lowered their cub in his arms until Orochimaru could brush a hand over his fluffy hair, fingertip tracing his cheek.
“He’s . . . wonderful.” Sakumo said softly.
Orochimaru laughed softly, holding out his arms. “He’s new and almost helpless and fussy.” he pointed out, taking Kakashi in close to his chest and rocking him, crooning. “Shush now, my precious little one.” he soothed, and Kakashi settled a little more in his arms. Sakumo wondered if he recognised the feeling of being held by his mother, even so different as it was now.
Orochimaru looked up, golden eyes warm and soft with love, and Sakumo swallowed, throat tight. Orochimaru tilted his head, gesturing Sakumo closer, and he squeezed himself onto the bed beside his mate - carefully, trying not to jar Orochimaru or push too firmly even as he settled close enough to be leant against - and curled an arm around Orochimaru’s own supporting their cub as he propped himself on his other elbow.
Orochimaru sighed, stroking Kakashi’s face lightly as he went quiet, yawning and blinking sleepily, grey-blue eyes bright in his round little face.
Chapter 139: Feel
“Are- Are you sure you don’t mind supervising us today, Orochimaru-sensei?”
Orochimaru sighed, sharp mouth quirking up at one corner. “You may not have known your sensei for very long yet,” he said, voice painfully dry, “but I have. It doesn’t particularly matter whether I mind anything.”
“. . .sorry, Orochimaru-sensei.” Minato said quietly, biting his lip. He had . . . noticed that about his sensei already, and it twisted at him and the manners he had learned at both the orphanage and the Academy.
“It’s not your fault.” Orochimaru said, resting a hand on Minato’s head. Minato blinked, surprised at the gentle touch. “I don’t mind particularly, no. It’s not the most comfortable at the moment, but,” he let out a little breath it took Minato a moment to recognise as a laugh, “nothing in particular is, currently.” He shifted his weight and settled on the fence at the edge of the training field, running a hand over his swollen stomach.
Orochimaru called out a correction to Minato’s teammates, currently sparring, then directed Minato himself back to his stretches. He complied hurriedly, listening attentively when Orochimaru offered advice.
All three of them did, and he worked them hard but . . . Minato understood the advice he had given, the lesson Orochimaru had given expanding his grasp and making him curious about more. He was a little sorry when the day ended, though he was exhausted. Orochimaru looked worn as well, Minato thought, remembering his words that morning.
“Why isn’t it comfortable?” Minato asked, a little breathlessly, still going through his cooling stretches. “Watching over us, I mean. Or, erm, anything.”
Orochimaru laughed again, quiet and wry, his eyes gleaming. “Pregnancy becomes rather uncomfortable, as time goes on.” he informed Minato, and he blinked, then nodded understanding, looking curiously at Orochimaru’s stomach. “Even without factoring in the little one doing their own stretches inside.”
“Oh?” Minato said before he could stop himself. “Sorry.” he apologised, ducking his head.
“It’s quite all right.” Orochimaru said, then tilted his head, meeting Minato’s eyes. “Would you like to feel?”
Minato blinked, then bounded up and inched closer, nodding.
Orochimaru smiled slightly and beckoned. Minato hurried to his side and let Orochimaru take his hand, eyes wide at the taut, warm feel of Orochimaru’s stomach under his hand. And then there was a firm pressure against his fingers, sliding along to his palm before it disappeared again. “Oh! That’s- They’re pushing a lot!”
Orochimaru laughed, releasing Minato’s hand, and he lingered for a moment, feeling a bit of another stretch from the baby inside before he realised he was touching Orochimaru and he’d probably been supposed to stop, and yanked his hand away with an apologetic mumble.
“The little one is quite strong, yes. He’s nearly ready to be born.” Orochimaru said, a warm light in his eyes and a soft smile curling his lips.
Chapter 140: Thoughtful
Returning from clearing away the dinner dishes, Sakumo paused to eye his preoccupied mate. Orochimaru didn’t seem distressed, but he was curious, nevertheless. He ran a hand down Orochimaru’s arm. “What is it, lovely?”
“Mm? Ah.” Orochimaru sighed, lips curving slightly as he leaned into Sakumo. “I’ve been . . . thinking about something. And then when I was visiting Tsunade at the hospital today. . .”
“What happened at the hospital?” Sakumo prompted curiously.
“She was seeing two pregnant kunoichi, before lunch.” Orochimaru said, and Sakumo nodded absently. “And a third went into labour early, though Tsunade didn’t see her. We passed by as she was brought in unexpectedly.”
Sakumo wondered what was on his mate’s mind that. . . “Something about them?”
“I . . . begin to wonder if most women in our village want to be pregnant in the first place.” Orochimaru said, frowning.
Sakumo heard himself make a confused sound, and Orochimaru snorted, nodding. “Exactly. Tsunade assured me they were . . . average reactions. The one in labour was alone - her partner brought her and then left.” he said, and Sakumo blinked, stunned at the idea. “One of the two there for an exam was cursing her husband and swearing she would kill him if he did this to her again.”
“. . .she sounds distressed.” Sakumo said, frowning. “It made you think?”
“No. Well, yes, but of something else.” Orochimaru said, waving it off. “I wonder about the general sensibility of people often.” he added wryly. “It has no bearing on the thought I have been entertaining, nor did anything I saw today.”
“What thought is that?” Sakumo asked, toying with a lock of Orochimaru’s hair.
Orochimaru looked up at him, catching his gaze. “Would you,” he paused, tongue sliding over his lips, “would you want another child, wolf-heart?”
Sakumo’s breath caught and his fingers twitched. He sank down into the chair beside his mate. “Another- Another cub?” he asked faintly, and Orochimaru simply nodded. Sakumo distractedly noticed his mate taking a shallow breath and- “Yes.” he said. Orochimaru startled. “Sorry. I mean- If you. . . Yes, I would love to have another cub with you. If you wish to have one.”
Orochimaru smiled, twining their fingers. “I . . . do believe I want another. And yes, I would willingly carry another little one.” he added, with an amused hum. “I have been . . . thinking on it.” he admitted quietly.
Sakumo whined happily and kissed him, and Orochimaru laughed against his mouth, warm and happy, even as he returned the kiss. Sakumo dropped his free hand almost thoughtlessly to Orochimaru’s lean stomach, stroking the flat plane and making him laugh again, leaning towards Sakumo, warm and pliant.
Chapter 141: Eyes
“What are you thinking of?” Orochimaru asked, searching his mate’s face, stroking his side. Sakumo had been cuddled close to him, eyes fixed on his face but expression faraway, for some time.
Sakumo hummed, bringing one hand up and stroking Orochimaru’s cheek, brushing his hair back as it fell across his face. “Our cub.” he said, voice low, and Orochimaru smiled slightly, fond and amused.
“Ah, I should have known.” he said, shifting to get more comfortable and closing his eyes. “You have thought of little else in months.”
Sakumo laughed, not denying it, and kissed Orochimaru sweetly. He melted into it, pressing himself against his mate’s body and soaking in his warmth.
“What,” Orochimaru asked, some time later, relaxed under Sakumo’s hand roaming up and down his side, “is it about the little one that has kept you so deep in thought?”
Sakumo’s hand slipped up to his face again. “Your eyes. . .” Sakumo said, and Orochimaru opened them as his mate’s thumb brushed just by the corner of one. “I was thinking . . . I would love to see our cub with your eyes.”
Orochimaru’s lashes fluttered as he startled, then smiled. “Would you?” he asked, pleased and surprised. He knew Sakumo adored him, but his eyes had . . . unnerved people since he was a small child. It was not something he had expected to hear.
“Our cub will be perfect,” Sakumo said in a soft tone, “no matter what, but . . . yes, I would love to see eyes like yours in their face. You have such beautiful eyes, lovely, and no one else has their like.”
Orochimaru smiled faintly, thinking of his mother’s eyes - his eyes - and curled into his mate a little more. “Perhaps. . . Perhaps they will. I,” he paused, “I would like that. We will see soon, I suppose.”
Sakumo kissed him again, soft and lingering. “Perfect.” he said again as Orochimaru smiled. “Our cub will be perfect, lovely.”
Chapter 142: Soon
A gentle pressure along his middle woke Orochimaru, and he was still for only a moment as he identified and settled where he was - his own nest, deep in his home - before he bent one knee, nudging his thigh up against his mate’s side. Sakumo rumbled softly and smoothed a hand over Orochimaru’s hip and thigh, resting against his belly.
“What did you say?” Orochimaru asked sleepily, reaching down to brush his fingers through Sakumo’s hair.
Sakumo stilled, then wriggled a little, nestling even closer against Orochimaru.
“Wolf-heart?” Orochimaru questioned, thumb brushing Sakumo’s temple.
“I said . . . ‘are you in there, little one’,” Sakumo said, rubbing his nose against Orochimaru’s stomach, “do you think. . .” he trailed off.
Orochimaru’s heart warmed. He tugged at his mate, and Sakumo rose and crawled up over him, cuddling firmly enough to press him into the bed under his mate’s weight. He nuzzled Orochimaru’s jaw and nipped his ear affectionately. They had not been trying for very long yet, and there was not yet any way to tell, but. . .
“I don’t know.” Orochimaru said honestly, shifting beneath Sakumo and kissing his jaw. “But. . . I think so.” he admitted, unable to put a reason to it. “I think I will be able to tell, to feel,” his body and his chakra would change, and he knew them both well, “not yet, but . . . early. I just. . .”
“A feeling?” Sakumo finished. Orochimaru nodded, rubbing their cheeks together.
“Perhaps it is only hoping.” Orochimaru admitted, because they had taken some time to discuss and decide, and it had been such a strange thought for so long, but now . . . he so very much wanted their child.
“I trust your feelings.” Sakumo said, crooning against his cheek. “If you think you are. . .”
“It’s too early to be. . .” Orochimaru trailed off. It was too early to know, much less to be sure.
Sakumo kissed him. “Soon. I’m sure it will be soon. That we will know soon.”
Orochimaru smiled against Sakumo’s mouth as he spoke. “Soon.” he agreed, heart light.
Chapter 143: Himokushin
Yamato took a breath, studied the slightly faded - and water-damaged - page from the Shodaime’s private library one more time, then finally moved to shape the seals, concentrating. The world dissolved in screaming colour and Yamato was hard-pressed not to scream as well before it settled again just as quickly. He-
He was not in his apartment. He was . . . in Konoha at least, though; nowhere had trees like Hi no Kuni, and there was a half-familiar road nearby, and-
There. . . There was no Godaime on Hokage Rock. There was no Yondaime on Hokage Rock. Yamato stared.
Yamato tensed, eyes widening, and looked around for the source of the voice even as he pressed himself into one of the nearby trees, scaling it and hiding away partially within its trunk.
His breath caught.
A toddler with fluffy brown hair ran across the path not far away. Laughing. Smiling brightly. He wore green pants and a deep blue shirt with a square white grid on the back.
“Anikiii!” the child cried, laughing, and stumbled only to be caught against the side of a suddenly appearing taller child with spiky silver hair and a mask covering half his face.
Yamato bit his lip, pressing back against the trunk of the tree. He recognised the symbol in white on the back of the- of small Tenzou’s shirt, now. The Hatake Clan symbol.
“Coming, Dad!” Kakashi called back, steadying Tenzou and tugging him along.
They got perhaps two steps before a figure stepped out in front of them. It was not Kakashi’s father. Yamato’s blood ran cold.
“Are you really?” Orochimaru asked, arms crossed, eyebrow raised, barring their way.
“Mama. . .”
Orochimaru laughed, expression softening, and bent, scooping Tenzou up with one arm and winding the other around Kakashi, squeezing him close. Tenzou clung to him, fingers tangling in his hair, and Kakashi giggled and snuggled into the embrace.
“Cubs, where are- Ah, Lovely!” Sakumo - Yamato had never seen Kakashi’s father, but this must be him, could be no one else - stepped out around a low barrier of brush on the far side of the path. Kakashi squirmed free of Orochimaru’s hold to trot to him, but Tenzou only leaned his head down against Orochimaru’s shoulder as he rose.
“We finished up earlier than anticipated,” Orochimaru supplied, bouncing Tenzou lightly as he moved towards Sakumo, “so I thought I would join you after all.”
Sakumo only grinned, leaning in to kiss Orochimaru lightly. He nuzzled into it.
“Mama play?” Tenzou asked, pulling at Orochimaru’s hair.
“Yes, my little darling.” Orochimaru said lightly, scrunching his nose as he looked down at Tenzou.
Yamato nearly screamed again, fingers digging into the trunk of the tree as he stared.
The little- little family walked on together, leaving Yamato hidden up the tree and reeling, stomach in knots. Yamato had never- Never been- Not like this. And Orochimaru- The very-
Yamato whimpered softly.
Chapter 144: Lightning Legends
Wrote this one morning during a storm that was rattling my house with the power of the thunder.
Sakumo tensed as a tiny frightened cry reached his ears in the wake of a loud crack of thunder. He rose hurriedly, going in search of his cubs.
He found them by the wide window to the front garden, Kakashi cuddling against Tenzou’s back. “It’s okay, otouto. . .” Kakashi soothed, snuffling against his shoulder. Another powerful rumble of thunder rattled through the house. “It’s only the lightning wolves playing in the sky.”
“Really?” Tenzou asked uncertainly, peeking around Kakashi at the window.
Sakumo stayed in the doorway, biting his lip and watching them.
Kakashi nodded and hugged his brother close, telling a story about the lightning wolves. It was a little sloppy in spots where he didn’t quite remember it, but Tenzou brightened, fascinated, and Kakashi smiled and cuddled Tenzou as he told the story. They were both calm and happy, even as the storm rolled on overhead.
A warmth at Sakumo’s back made him shift, tilting his head to look at his mate. Orochimaru smiled, hand sliding up his back.
“Lightning wolves?” Sakumo said softly, and Orochimaru hummed, kissing his cheek.
“Legends have their place, too.” he said simply, and Sakumo closed his eyes, nuzzling into his mate contentedly.
Chapter 145: Home
Orochimaru ran his fingers over a table, mind far away.
He only vaguely marked Sakumo stepping into the room, putting down the tansu he was carrying, and coming closer. He tilted his head as Sakumo leaned in, nuzzling his cheek.
“You’re sure you’re all right with this, lovely?” Sakumo asked, his voice soft.
Orochimaru smiled, shaking off old memories and new thoughts, and looked his mate in the face. “I’m quite all right.” he promised, kissing Sakumo at one corner of his mouth. “I have many old memories here but . . . little else.”
“Memories are important.” Sakumo said quietly.
Orochimaru hummed, inclining his head. “I am not losing them.” he murmured, confident. “Nor am I losing my clan’s home.” he added, turning to face Sakumo completely. “It has been shut up before. It will yet be here for me . . . or for our children.”
Sakumo made a low rumbling sound, eyes lit with pleasure. Orochimaru’s smile widened, and he rested his brow against his mate’s. “No, I’m sure, my heart.”
Sakumo wrapped an arm around him and pulled him in snugly, and Orochimaru laughed softly as he was slightly squashed against his mate’s broader body. He cupped Sakumo’s jaw and kissed him softly.
“I’m pleased that my den can be yours as well, lovely.” Sakumo said, rubbing their noses together, and Orochimaru hummed, lips curving.
He glanced at the empty main room of the Yashagoro house - a small clan, there had ever only been the one within their compound in Konoha, though there was plenty of room inside - then sighed.
“Let’s go home, my heart.”
Kakashi looked up, cocking his head. “Mama said bedtime. . .” he said cautiously, putting away his book and rolling forwards onto his knees as his otouto toddled closer.
“I can’t sleep!” Tenzou said, eyes big and wet. Kakashi crooned soothingly and nuzzled against his shoulder, hugging him tight. “The- The others said there were monsters and they like to eat baby ninja!”
Kakashi growled, nuzzling Tenzou. He’d wondered what had Tenzou so upset at the park today but he’d been distracted rescuing Sumi from a shrieking mama watching over one of the other kids.
“It’s- It’s scary.” Tenzou sniffled, and Kakashi hugged him tighter.
“Want to stay with me?” he asked, nosing Tenzou’s cheek. It was only in the past few weeks Tenzou had been staying even some of the time in his own room, instead of with Kakashi or with Mama and Dad. Even Kakashi slept with Mama and Dad still sometimes.
Tenzou sniffed and looked at him. “But- But you’re a baby ninja too. . . What if the scary gets you?” He nearly wailed, big tears rolling down his cheeks.
“Is the scary scarier than Mama?” Kakashi asked reasonably, nosing his otouto’s jaw.
Tenzou blinked and sniffed again, his flushed face calming. “No. . .”
“Mama would scare away all the monsters.” Kakashi pointed out. “I don’t think they’d even dare come inside.”
Tenzou sniffed, nodding.
“Want to stay with me?” Kakashi asked, kissing Tenzou’s cheek and crooning again. “Or we can go to Dad and Mama.”
Tenzou shook his head, clambering over Kakashi’s lap to slide down beside him. Kakashi tucked him in and put out the lamp before snuggling down beside him. Kakashi hummed and nuzzled Tenzou’s fluffy hair and he wriggled, sighing happily.
Chapter 147: Scary Soothed (scariest scary)
Sakumo cocked his head and slipped around the corner, tracking the sound of tiny cub feet. He approached Kakashi’s room - the nearer of the two - just in time to hear Tenzou declare wetly that he couldn’t sleep, talking about monsters eating baby ninja.
Sakumo frowned, reaching for the door, then paused, listening. Tenzou was frightened, but Kakashi was comforting him and he did sound calmer already. Sakumo’s frown eased, heart warming, when he heard Kakashi offer to share his space with Tenzou.
“Is the scary scarier than Mama?” Kakashi asked in a tone that made it clear this was a very dubious concept, and Sakumo covered his mouth with one hand, putting his back against the wall beside the mostly-closed door.
Tenzou slowly agreed that it was not, as Sakumo tried to laugh silently.
“Mama would scare away all the monsters.” Kakashi said knowledgably. “I don’t think they’d even dare come inside. Do you want to stay with me, or we can go to Dad and Mama?”
Tenzou didn’t answer, though there were no sounds of cub feet approaching the door again either, and Sakumo took a few more moments to control himself, then peeked through the door just as the light went out. Kakashi was snuggling down against his brother in his bed, and Sakumo smiled, watching them for a few breaths before he carefully closed the door fully.
“Is something wrong?”
Sakumo turned to his mate, grinning. “No, they’re fine. Tenzou was upset - something he heard at the park? - but he’s with Kakashi and I think he’s already forgotten it.”
Orochimaru smiled slightly and nodded, raising his eyebrows as Sakumo looped an arm around his waist to pull him in close. Sakumo shook his head and kissed his mate’s cheek, eliciting a soft hum as Orochimaru softened, leaning into him.
Scarier than all the monsters ever? Probably, particularly to defend their cubs. Sakumo smothered a laugh against Orochimaru’s cheek, nuzzling him affectionately.
The cubs obviously know that Dad would scare away (or chomp) any monsters too, but Mama is the one who makes grown shinobi faint with sheer terror with nothing more than chakra spikes. This confuses the little ones to whom Mama's chakra is familiar and comforting, but it does seem to be true that Mama is scary. ;)
Orochimaru rubbed his face and rolled over just as Sakumo opened the bedroom door, balancing a tea tray in one hand. “What is that?” he asked thickly.
“Dai brought his son over to play.” Sakumo said with a grin, kneeling and running his knuckles over Orochimaru’s shoulder and collarbone before offering a cup of tea.
Orochimaru’s brows rose. “With Kakashi?” he clarified, sitting up and accepting the cup.
There was a muted howl from the back garden, and then a loud, deep voice shouting praise.
“I did warn him.” Sakumo said, shrugging one shoulder. “Dai is a good man. And his son is very . . . determined.”
Orochimaru passed the tea back to his mate and rose, moving to search for a heavier yukata and then pausing, debating the wisdom of wearing one rather than. . . He moved to the chest holding his usual training and mission gear instead, dressing in loose pants and a short yukata.
Sakumo offered the tea again and brought the tray along himself as Orochimaru turned curiously for the back garden. He stepped outside just in time to see Kakashi pounce on a small green blur from the top of the large rock near the pond, tumbling them both across the wet ground below.
Kakashi snarled, but neither the other boy nor his father seemed concerned. Orochimaru curled up at the edge of the engawa with his tea, back against one of the roof supports.
“Ah, greetings, Orochimaru-sama!” Maito Dai declared, sending a blinding grin at Orochimaru.
He lifted his tea. “Good morning, Maito-san.” He returned politely, and hummed as Sakumo’s fingers ran through his hair. He returned to watching the children rather than continue the polite nonsense, and smiled as Kakashi noticed him a few minutes later and rapidly changed tacks, the other child on his heels.
Orochimaru put his tea cup aside and laughed as Kakashi ran straight into his lap, giggling and warm and happy. “Good morning, my darling.” he murmured, smoothing Kakashi’s fluffy hair absently.
“Morning Mama!” Kakashi said with a grin that showed his fangs, butting his head against Orochimaru’s jaw as he hugged himself close.
The other little boy, who had been chasing him right up until identifying his goal, fidgeted and bowed to Orochimaru, then retreated to his father’s side.
Sakumo handed Kakashi a glass of water, which he downed in several long swallows, then slouched against Orochimaru, panting.
“Having fun?” Orochimaru asked, lightly petting his back.
Kakashi glanced at their guests, then up at Orochimaru, grinning again. “Yes!”
“Ready to go back to play?” Orochimaru asked as his breathing steadied, and Kakashi laughed and bounded out of his lap, taking the other boy by surprise when he was tackled into the grass directly from his place at his father’s side.
Orochimaru laughed as Kakashi quickly extricated himself and dodged, running away from the other boy’s shouting, flailing response, his father laughing and gesturing encouragingly.
I didn't even get his name in, but I finally show a small leaf sprout along with the small vipercub! Gai shall return, no doubt. It is rather difficult to keep him away when Kakashi's about, after all. ;)
Chapter 149: Nightmare Clouds
Not directly intended to fit in the same continuity, but this is in a similar world to the Sunshine Genin arc, rather later.
Minato jolted awake, thrashing, and struggled out of his futon in a confused muddle. “Kashi-kun?” he tried to call, but it came out in a mumble, just as Kakashi wailed his name once more.
A light tap preceded the door to his bedroom opening, and Orochimaru leaned inside. “Minato, I’m sorry. Would you come here?”
“Of course.” Minato said, scrambling to his feet and towards Orochimaru. “What is it?”
Kakashi howled, thin and wavering with distress, and Minato finally saw him, held in his father’s arms beyond Orochimaru.
“He had a nightmare.” Orochimaru said flatly, mouth twisted. “Something from his lessons at the Academy,” his voice was low, “and he dreamed you were. . .” He shook his head. “He refused to be settled without you.”
Heart twinging, Minato slipped past Orochimaru. “Hey, Kashi.” he said softly, resting a hand on Kakashi’s back. “I’m okay. I was scared for you when I heard you call me.” he said gently, stroking Kakashi’s back. “Are you all right?”
Kakashi sniffled, turning his wet face towards Minato, and then Minato had to steady himself rapidly as the five year old threw himself from Sakumo’s arms straight at Minato.
“Minato-nii was dead!” Kakashi howled, and Minato’s eyes widened.
He tightened his hold on Kakashi. “Hey, hey,” he soothed, rocking Kakashi and pressing his cheek to Kakashi’s temple, “I’m here and I’m totally fine, little one. Promise.”
Kakashi whimpered and clung, but his howls had quieted. Minato wondered what the hell the lesson had included, cuddling Kakashi close.
Sakumo rubbed his back, moving closer. “Sorry to wake you.” he said, voice rough.
Minato shook his head. “No. I’m glad you did.” he said honestly, letting Sakumo and Orochimaru tug him along, away from his bedroom, without looking up from Kakashi in his arms.
“Lovely?” Sakumo began, and Orochimaru hummed, deftly underlining a phrase he thought outlined a flawed premise. “Why. . . Why does everyone seem to assume I’m,” he paused, “nice? Harmless?”
Orochimaru snorted silently, lips quirking. “You smile frequently.” he said idly. “Also you stand next to me.” He paused. “. . .and you tend not to leave survivors to spread word otherwise.”
“Also half the village has seen you with our son, and I believe they gather from observation that you are clearly a soft touch.” Orochimaru added, slanting a look at his mate as he closed his book and put it down, turning away.
Sakumo huffed again, nuzzling Kakashi’s hair as he wriggled where he lay on his father’s belly and chest, then lifting him into the air and making him giggle. Sakumo crooned to him, bringing him back down and nuzzling his face as he grabbed at Sakumo’s hair where it splayed across the grass.
“Watch those tiny cub paws!” Sakumo said cheerfully, catching Kakashi’s hands in his own and growling softly as he played like he would bite, making Kakashi shriek with laughter. Sakumo showed his impressive fangs in a silent snarl, nipping Kakashi’s wrist so gently it couldn’t have been more than a brush of contact as he kicked and squirmed.
“You look terrifying.” Orochimaru told him dryly, smiling.
Sakumo grinned up at him around their still giggling son.
“Watch those tiny cub paws!”
Arata blinked, looking over at the man who had spoken and finding it had been Hatake Sakumo. Who was lying on his back on the grass, his son lying on his chest, holding the boy’s hands and . . . kissing them?
No, his teeth were showing. What the hell.
The boy giggled and squirmed, and Sakumo let him crawl practically over his face, laughing. His wife- Or, whatever the hell, was sitting a little ways away, doing nothing to watch the baby.
Sakumo lifted the boy in his hands, making him shriek with what was apparently a happy sound, as Sakumo laughed and- Aya sighed beside him, and Arata looked at her, distracted. He found her cradling their daughter higher, and looking the same direction he had been, frowning slightly.
Whatever, Arata thought, yawning and wondering how long they were expected to sit here in the park. It wasn’t even like the baby was old enough to need to go to the park, right? She couldn’t run and play, what was the point? And why did he need to be here?
Kiara sighed, looking at Sakumo playing with his son from beneath her lashes as she shifted her own, a little younger, in her arms. Why, she thought with a sigh, rocking her baby as he fussed, did I never flirt with that man when I was tempted to?
She’d been quite taken with Hatake Sakumo for a time in her late teens, but she’d never quite tried to act on it. She shook her head, glancing at her husband, who looked rather affronted even to be in the park, and sighed again. He was also staring at Sakumo and his child, a puzzled expression on his face. Not like he ever played with either of their children. . .
Not like Sakumo, evidently, who had been happily coddling and playing with his son since the small family arrived at the park, leaving his spouse to read nearby, occasionally glancing over at them with the faintest of fond looks on his face.
A corner of Kiara’s mind worried at the thought, unable to, quite, let it go; if she had, once upon a time, approached Sakumo, shown her interest, made an effort. . . She shook her head again to dismiss it and smiled faintly at her husband.
And at least, she thought, she was doing better than Mariko, who was almost glaring, fingers curled and nails digging into the fabric of her daughter’s carrier, and looked a little like she wished she could challenge Orochimaru. As though that would win her a better husband than the one she’d chosen - or settled for - Kiara thought with a snort.
Orochimaru smiled slightly, warm even if it was small, and reached out to Sakumo, who nuzzled into his touch with a delighted expression, spreading a hand over their son’s back.
Nothing, Kiara thought, was ever coming between those two.
Chapter 152: Fear in the Dark
“What is it, my little darling?”
Sakumo put down the tray he held and moved over to the window as his mate’s voice floated back through it, curious.
“The- the dark is . . . sometimes it’s a little scary.” Kakashi said in a small voice, and when Sakumo looked outside he was nudging closer against Orochimaru’s side.
“Is it?” Orochimaru asked gently, and ran a hand over Kakashi’s head and down his back. “Oh, don’t be afraid of the dark, little wolf.”
Kakashi whined, more curious than distressed, snug against his mother’s side.
“Do not be afraid in the dark, my little wolf,” Orochimaru said, voice soft and fine as velvet, “for when the light hides from the world, the world will fear your prowl.”
Kakashi sat a little taller even as Orochimaru cuddled him closer, looking out into the night with a curious tilt to his head.
Sakumo smiled, leaning there and watching for a little longer as his mate petted their curious cub, then moving out to rejoin them.
Orochimaru looked up with a smile and Sakumo kissed him before looking at Kakashi, who had a bold, curious look in his bright eyes as he stared out towards the forest.
“All right, what the hell brings you to actually need my help? Inside the village?”
Orochimaru narrowed his eyes at her, and Tsunade tilted her head and raised an eyebrow, waiting. “Ah. . .” He shifted a bit on the exam table. “I didn’t realise,” he said, his voice . . . not quite wavering but slightly odd, “that Sakumo could howl,” he paused, “quite so loudly. I can’t hear you very well, my apologies.”
Tsunade frowned. Orochimaru tilted his head and reached up, touching his fingertips to his ear. “Small, enclosed room. . .”
His volume was not quite regulating evenly, that was the strangeness about his speech, and-
“You eardrums are busted?” Tsunade realised, startled. She approached quickly, hand already glowing as she reached out to her friend. The light scan confirmed that his eardrums were indeed damaged, and she shook her head incredulously. She quickly set about repairing the damage; his body, as always, didn’t take too much of her energy to nudge along towards healing, his own strength and resilience kicking in quickly with a little help. “Your boyfriend accidentally burst your eardrums? What happened?” she demanded, though she kept her voice down.
Healed or not, Orochimaru’s ears were going to be tender for a while.
“I wasn’t expecting that he could get quite so loud.” Orochimaru said again, and Tsunade raised her eyebrows. “I gather . . . he was not expecting me to . . . do that. With my tongue.”
“. . .ah. Ah.” Tsunade eyed him. “Really?”
Orochimaru smirked, and Tsunade rolled her eyes and punched his shoulder. Gently.
. . .Sakumo is Loud. *ahem*
Chapter 154: Winter Care
Sakumo pulled Orochimaru to a stop a few paces from the door, nuzzling a kiss to his cheek, and he leaned into his mate’s body with a contented sigh.
“Stay warm today, lovely?” Sakumo asked, breath warm and ticklish along Orochimaru’s jaw and neck.
He laughed softly, turning his face towards Sakumo’s and nuzzling him lightly. “I’m not so delicate as all that, even if I dislike the cold.” he reminded, opening his eyes to meet his mate’s.
Sakumo hummed, smiling, and kissed him. “I know.” he agreed easily, then slipped a fur-lined cloak around Orochimaru’s shoulders. “Please?” he asked, tugging at it gently.
Orochimaru shivered, nestling into the thick, plush fur. “With pleasure.” he agreed, reaching up and stroking Sakumo’s cheek. “Be safe today, wolf-heart.” he asked, drawing Sakumo into another kiss. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I will.” Sakumo promised. He was already geared up for his patrol. “See you tomorrow.”
Orochimaru tugged gently at one of the locks of hair falling over Sakumo’s hitai-ate to rest against his cheek, then they parted ways at the door - Orochimaru off to meet his team as his mate headed out of the village.
Chapter 155: Not Oversharing
“All right,” Dan signalled a pause, “what was that?” he asked.
Sakumo stilled, frowning. “What?” he asked, glancing around only to find the training ground was as it had been - empty save for them, no disturbances.
“You cringed.” Dan said dryly. “You never flinch. Not like that, anyway.” He punched Sakumo’s shoulder lightly as he came near enough. “What’s wrong?”
Sakumo blinked, then ducked his head. “Nothing.” he said happily, shifting his stance and stretching lazily, enjoying the faint sting of his pants moving over raw skin.
“So,” Dan said, with exaggerated patience, “what’s up with you?”
Sakumo grinned. “Do you enjoy talking about your,” he paused, “unusual scratches and awkward bruises?”
Dan’s brows rose, then he laughed. “Point taken. Good time?” he asked lightly.
Sakumo laughed as well, bumping companionably into Dan’s shoulder. “The best. He’s . . . more than I would have dreamed of, in that.”
Dan gave him a wide-eyed look and Sakumo shrugged, still grinning. He wasn’t going to give details, and he doubted Dan wanted them anyway, but it was the truth.
They squared off to return to their spar, and Sakumo tried to shake the image of his mate between his thighs - flash of fangs as he bit up Sakumo’s thigh, thin mouth sliding easily over Sakumo’s cock . . . all of it, down to the swelling knot at the base - out of his head so he could focus.
Chapter 156: Domesticity
“Just- Orochi bastard. Being domestic.” Jiraiya shook his head. “I can’t. . .” He looked at Tsunade, then huffed. “We’re the Densetsu no Sannin.” he pointed out slowly and clearly. “None of us are suited to- to that.”
“Oro seems to be happy, whatever he’s been doing.” Tsunade said, rolling her shoulders a little stiffly. Jiraiya’s gaze dropped as her cleavage shifted with the motion and he almost lost track of his words.
“Maybe, but how?” Jiraiya questioned. “Hell if any of us were likely to I’d have thought it’d be you, hime.” He shook his head, and raised his eyebrows and Tsunade glared, folding her arms beneath her chest.
“You thought Tsunade was more suited to domesticity?” Dan asked, not sitting up from where he lay stretched out on the bench opposite.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Tsunade demanded, mouth pulled into a perilous frown as she looked down at him, as though she hadn’t been angry at the suggestion of it before.
Dan flicked his fringe out of his eyes. “That you are a very active woman and you would get bored in a hot second if you tried to be a housewife, dearest.” he said with a wry little grin.
Tsunade huffed, but unbent anyway, tilting her head and reaching down, fingers running through Dan’s hair lightly. “As though Oro is any better, in fact I am sure he’s worse.” she said with a sniff.
Jiraiya wasn’t so sure about that, now she framed it that way - Orochimaru hated to be bored with a passion and would rip verbal strips off the hide of those he found tiresome when subjected to their extended presence, but Tsunade had the patience of a jackrabbit and Orochimaru had nothing but . . . when he so chose. When it was important to him.
“Orochimaru-san is also still an active-duty jounin, who runs some sort of experiments, whatever it is he does for the village in that lab,” Dan waved a hand, “in his time not on missions, and his research binges. He’s probably busier than any three average ninja. I doubt he’ll get bored.”
“That sounds like it might be just enough to occupy him.” Tsunade agreed wryly. “What about Sakumo?”
“Oh, he’d go mad taken off duty entirely, but domestic isn’t really a surprise either.” Dan said lazily. “I think he’s been wanting for it, honestly.”
“They do seem happy.” Tsunade said slowly.
Dan tilted his head and looked up at her with a smile. “They’ve found something that works for them. That does make them happy. We should all be so lucky.”
Jiraiya rolled his eyes at the soppy look on Dan’s face, but Tsunade was only leaning closer to him, smiling and all but cooing.
“Orochiii. . .”
“Oh for fuck’s sake.” Orochimaru muttered, planting an elbow in Jiraiya’s solar plexus and propping him up with a shoulder ducked under his arm at the same time. “Have you always been so insufferable?”
“But you love me!” Jiraiya crowed, and Orochimaru squeezed his eyes shut for a moment.
Two more streets and they would be at Jiraiya’s apartment block. Orochimaru could dump him on his own couch and leave him to marinate in the truly excessive amount of sake he’d drunk. No doubt he would be fine by tomorrow afternoon, no matter how hellish he felt in the morning, more was the pity.
“I suppose we must be somewhat fond of you,” Orochimaru said dryly, hauling Jiraiya higher and then forwards as he began to wander off, “or we would have let your own idiocy kill you years ago.”
“Aw, you’re mean but I know what you mean, snake bastard!” Jiraiya said almost fondly as Orochimaru dragged him up the stairs. He did, at least, cooperate as best he was capable in his current state.
“And I know what you mean,” Orochimaru said, shaking his head, “or I’d be considerable less disposed to help you when you’re like this.”
“You love me.” Jiraiya said smugly, and lurched sideways suddenly, winding his arms around Orochimaru and leaning heavily into him as he stiffened, lifting his jaw and tilting his head away. “And- I miss you, Orochi. . .”
Orochimaru frowned. “I’m right here. Dragging your sake-saturated carcass home instead of letting you sleep in a gutter, though believe me it was tempting. . .”
“No. . . Yes, and- I, thank you, gutters are uncomfortable.” Jiraiya said, frowning, and Orochimaru considered suggesting he try not drinking enough to collapse in them, then. “That’s not- I miss you. Orochi. . . You still-” He interrupted himself by hauling at Orochimaru’s shoulders and pressing a sloppy kiss to his chin.
Orochimaru’s eyes widened even as he twisted out of Jiraiya’s grasp and slammed one fist into his cheek. Jiraiya hit the floor hard and Orochimaru hissed in fury, barely restraining himself from kicking his friend. “No I do not.” he snapped. “I’m- Oh for fuck’s sake.” He stepped away and began the seals to unlock Jiraiya’s door.
“Orochi. . .” Jiraiya nearly whined behind him and Orochimaru seriously considered leaving him there. The apartment was only a few paces away, surely he could drag himself in when he felt like it. . .
“Next time I see you like this,” Orochimaru said, hauling Jiraiya up with considerably less care this time and dragging him into his apartment, “I am leaving you there. And going home. As I was tonight. To my mate, you sake-soaked idiot toad.”
“Miss you. . .” Jiraiya clutched at him as he pushed Jiraiya over onto the couch, and he stepped away.
“You hardly showed it then.” Orochimaru pointed out, neatening his shirt where Jiraiya had dragged it further open. He’d certainly not seemed to care much when he abandoned Orochimaru along with the rest of Konoha. “Try not to pickle yourself too badly.”
He left, closing the door on Jiraiya’s urgent words as he leaned up to try and grasp at Orochimaru again.
Orochimaru paused, then leapt up onto the railing of the walkway outside the row of apartments, then out and onto the roof opposite, taking the quickest route towards home and the doting, warm wolf waiting there for him.
It is incredibly too late to try and get Orochimaru back, Jiraiya. >.>
Chapter 158: Late-Night Return
Kakashi stirred, frowning, then lifted his head, blinking sleepily. The door to his bedroom was open. He yawned, then-
Kakashi’s breath caught. “Mama.” He scrambled out of his futon and towards the door just as the door began to close, skidding through it and running into Mama’s legs.
“Mama!” Kakashi cried quietly, clinging. “You’re home.”
Mama dislodged his hold and Kakashi whined, but Mama was only moving to kneel beside Kakashi. He wrapped his arms around Kakashi, bringing him in close. Kakashi snuffled at Mama’s collarbone, wrapping his arms around Mama in return.
“I’m home, little one.” Mama agreed softly, slipping down to sit against the wall and pulling Kakashi into his lap. Kakashi curled up to fit, though he was rather too big for this now. Mama crooned, chin on top of his head, and gently scratched the nape of his neck, making him squirm and nuzzle closer. “I’m home.” He rocked Kakashi.
Kakashi whined softly and snuggled into Mama. He stretched up and nuzzled Mama’s chin, and Mama hugged him tighter.
Mama lifted his head and unwrapped one arm from around Kakashi as Dad strode hurriedly towards them. Kakashi scuttled out of the way and Mama rose, fingers running through Kakashi’s hair, just in time to be swept into Dad’s arms with a soft whine.
Kakashi flopped against the wall, yawning, as Dad and Mama nuzzled and kissed, then slunk over to lean against their legs.
Mama looked down, brow resting against Dad’s cheek, and smiled at him, extending a hand. Kakashi pressed his cheek into it and startled when Mama scooped him off his feet and hugged him tight again. He laughed, wrapping his arms around Mama’s neck and holding tight in return.
Dad rested a hand on Kakashi’s back and moved in closer, and his parents kissed again before Dad moved them down towards Mama and Dad’s room.
“Patrol?” Mama asked.
“Just for the first half of the night. I missed you coming in.” Dad replied, stepping back to let Mama through the door ahead of him. Kakashi hummed and held on.
“We came in fast, from the south. The outer patrols were left with a bit of a mess to clear up from our pursuers. Of our pursuers.”
Kakashi whined and tugged at Mama, and he laughed softly, rubbing Kakashi’s back and putting him down.
“Glad you’re home safe, lovely.” Dad said, drawing Mama into a soft kiss before they parted to strip out of their mission gear. Kakashi yawned and curled up in their bed, and he had fallen asleep before either of them made it there themselves.
Chapter 159: First Morning
Once he had properly woken, Sakumo sat up with care - so as not to disturb his bedmate, if possible - and spent a few moments more than he usually did attempting to straighten his wild hair and convince it to stay out of his face. He gave up having had roughly the same amount of success he usually did, and turned as he heard a soft moan.
Sakumo bit his lip as Orochimaru stirred, slow and lazy - and that was a sign he appreciated as much as the fact that Orochimaru had slept at his side at all; Orochimaru trusted him - and then sat up. He ran his fingers through his hair where it fell by the right side of his face, blinked slightly hazy golden eyes, and then yawned, his long fangs falling forwards briefly.
He was adorable.
Granted, he would still flatten an entire squad of enemy nin without breaking a sweat, probably without even mussing his silky hair - but it was already mussed from sleep, and his eyes were ever-so-slightly unfocused, and his yukata sliding off his shoulder. . .
Orochimaru met Sakumo’s eyes. He smiled slowly. “Ohayou.” he said, voice a little rough and thick with sleep.
Sakumo swallowed. “Ohayou.” he returned. He couldn’t quite stop himself from reaching out with one hand, brushing his knuckles over Orochimaru’s arm. He smiled a little wider and slid his fingertips over Sakumo’s wrist and forearm. “Breakfast?”
“That would be lovely.” Orochimaru said, arching his back and tilting his head in another languid stretch.
“You’re lovely.” Sakumo said, then bit his lip again. Orochimaru looked towards him, eyes sharpening a little more as he shook off sleep. He smiled, and Sakumo relaxed a little.
“Am I?” Orochimaru asked with a small smile playing about his lips once more.
“Loveliest thing I’ve ever seen.” Sakumo said, and dipped his head.
“Like this?” Orochimaru questioned, even as he slid the kakebuton away.
Sakumo raised his gaze again, eyes roaming his lover from his tousled hair all the way down his lean, powerful body. “Most especially like this. And in bed. My bed.” he added, unable to quash a grin.
Orochimaru laughed softly, and Sakumo’s grin steadied. “You’re sweet.” he said, leaning close, fingers brushing Sakumo’s cheek, and he startled a little.
“Sweet?” Sakumo repeated, blinking.
“Among other things.” Orochimaru hummed, then kissed his cheek before rising. “Breakfast?” he prompted.
Sakumo’s expression was probably foolish, but he didn’t care. “Of course. I’ll get it started.”
Chapter 160: Strong
Orochimaru arched with a very satiated-sounding hum, eyes closed, and melted into a cosy-looking stretch, curled just a little, head tilted to one side and hair splayed over the pillow. Sakumo rumbled contentedly at the sight and the dull warmth of pleasure lingering in his body, moving down his mate’s side.
Orochimaru sighed, fingers brushing his shoulder blindly, and Sakumo tilted his head to nuzzle his mate’s wrist and kiss his palm. Orochimaru hummed.
Sakumo continued down his mate’s body until he reached the gentle swell of Orochimaru’s belly, pressing kisses to the taut skin and making him hum again, lighter this time, almost a laugh. Sakumo nuzzled the curve sheltering their growing cub.
“Oyasumi, little one,” Sakumo murmured, pressing his cheek to the skin, “grow-”
He broke off with a yelp, eyes widening, but didn’t jerk away.
Sakumo whined softly, rubbing his cheek against his mate’s belly, where their cub had just kicked out and pushed against his face. “Our cub!” He closed his eyes, pressing his mouth and jaw to Orochimaru’s skin. “I felt them, lovely.”
Orochimaru laughed, running his fingers through Sakumo’s hair. “Yes, they’re growing so strong now.” he murmured, fond and warm. Sakumo whined, pressed against Orochimaru’s belly and nosing gently, murmuring wordlessly to their cub, hoping to feel them moving again.
They were still, and Sakumo rubbed his cheek against his mate, waiting.
“Come here, wolf-heart.” Orochimaru coaxed, tugging at him, and Sakumo sighed, kissing his mate’s belly once more, nuzzling the swell of their little one - growing so quick and so strong. . .
Then he moved up as requested, curling himself around his mate affectionately, nuzzling Orochimaru’s hair. Orochimaru hummed contentedly, turning on his side and pressing his back to Sakumo’s chest, leaning against him for support. Sakumo smiled, closing his eyes.
He opened them again as Orochimaru’s hand swept over his side, then up along his forearm to clasp his own, bringing it forward and down and- Orochimaru pressed Sakumo’s hand to his belly.
Sakumo grinned, tugging and nestling Orochimaru closer in his arms. He sighed and tilted his head aside, letting Sakumo nuzzle his throat easily.
“I love you,” Sakumo said softly, kissing the tender curve of his long neck, “both. So much.”
“That is more than obvious, wolf-heart.” Orochimaru said, his voice warm, fingers tucking between Sakumo’s where they splayed over his skin. “Always.”
Sakumo grinned into his hair. Then grinned a little wider, shivering with delight, as a soft pressure bumped into his palm.
Orochimaru hissed sharply, stilling and squeezing his eyes shut. He lifted his foot, toes flexing, and kicked the bone away without looking, grumbling low in his throat. He continued into the kitchen after a moment, putting the tea tray down and then bringing his foot up to inspect the sole.
There was a small shard of bone lodged there. He tugged it free and wondered if it was time for the teething aid to be disposed of, if it was splintering already. He threw the splinter out and went to wash up.
“Everything all right, lovely?” Sakumo asked as he entered the kitchen, coming up behind Orochimaru and running fingers through his hair. He pulled it aside lightly and kissed the nape of Orochimaru’s neck, nuzzling there and humming softly.
“Mm, of course.” Orochimaru replied, rinsing the teapot in an idle circling gesture, then tilting it upside down and leaving it beside the sink.
“You seem displeased.” Sakumo observed, his mouth against the base of Orochimaru’s neck, which was making his irritation seem more distant all the time. Sakumo kissed there and nuzzled him again, sighing contentedly, and Orochimaru smiled.
Still. . . “The teething bones need to live somewhere other than the kitchen floor. Or the doorway.” he said dryly. “That’s the third time I’ve stepped on one today.”
Not that he couldn’t avoid them, but when he had his arms full of tea tray, laundry, or books it was harder to keep track of possible obstacles on the floor under his feet. Which he shouldn’t need to do quite so assiduously inside his own home.
Sakumo stilled, then nuzzled his shoulder. “Ah.” He nipped gently. “Are you all right?”
“It’s a splintering bone. I’m fine.” Orochimaru snorted. “It is simply not very comfortable. Nor convenient, when we’re walking around our own home, to need to look out for them.”
Sakumo hummed agreement, nipping Orochimaru’s shoulder again. He suspected his mate’s full attention was not on their conversation. He tilted his head away to make more room, inviting, and Sakumo rumbled contentedly against his skin.
Up in the air whether the teething bones belong to wolfcubs or to a small vipercub. . . *coughs*
Chapter 162: Worst Mission Ever
Orochimaru tilted his head. “Hello, wolf-heart.” he called as the door closed.
He was answered with a low snarl, and blinked. He put his book down and rose, turning towards the door just as Sakumo slunk through it. And he was definitely slinking, an unusual posture for Orochimaru’s usually confident and proud mate.
Orochimaru’s brows rose. “Sakumo?” he said gently. Jiraiya had said something about the mission they’d been on, but he’d been laughing too hard for Orochimaru to get much of sense out of him. Insofar as one could ever get sense out of Jiraiya.
Sakumo snarled again, louder this time, then- whined miserably. Orochimaru frowned and moved towards his mate as Sakumo pulled off the heavy cloak he wore. Orochimaru eyed him. Those weren’t his clothes. And-
“What happened to your neck?” Orochimaru asked immediately, concerned, reaching out thoughtlessly.
Sakumo whined but stilled for Orochimaru’s reaching fingers, even as they made contact with the abraded redness curving around the base of his strong neck. Orochimaru frowned sharply. The marks suggested a picture that was all too easy to fill in around them.
Sakumo pressed close under Orochimaru’s hands, and he stroked comfortingly, fingertips rubbing up the nape of Sakumo’s neck. He shuddered under the touch, growl softening into a sweet, friendly tone.
“Wolf-heart?” Orochimaru prompted, voice low, kneading the nape of Sakumo’s neck.
Sakumo’s mumbles were too soft to quite catch amongst his growls as they grew louder once more, but Orochimaru made out cornered and collared and worst mission ever and fought not to tense himself. He kissed Sakumo’s temple, crooning comfortingly, jaw itching with the impulse to bite.
“. . .hate it. . .” Sakumo snarled, in the middle of a rough mutter, and Orochimaru tugged him in closer, nuzzling affectionately.
“You’re home now.” he offered, and the tension that had building across Sakumo’s shoulders eased again, a little. He growled a little more softly and pressed his nose to Orochimaru’s cheek, nuzzling back into his hair. “My wolf.” he added, firmly.
Sakumo sighed, crowding him back against the couch once more with a soft needy sound, and Orochimaru sank down and tugged his mate along, happily letting himself be slightly squashed under Sakumo’s weight. He loosened Sakumo’s hair from its tail and buried his hands in the wild mess, fluffing it up further and prompting a hum that might have been a laugh if Sakumo had been less upset.
Chapter 163: Brooding Wolf
This isn't really a continuation of yesterday's, but it could be read that way - I wrote it directly after, with Sakumo's broody unhappiness stemming from that terrible mission in mind.
“He can sulk?” Tsunade laughed, and Orochimaru’s brows drew together as he turned to look at his friend. She gestured at the window.
Orochimaru glanced outside and saw the silvery-white shape of his mate lying atop a large rock near the back of the wilder part of the garden. He frowned. “He’s been brooding.” he said shortly. Tsunade took a breath and he pinned her with a look.
Tsunade raised an eyebrow, but let it drop. Orochimaru put the tea on the table and she glanced out the window once more, then seated herself. She didn’t mention his mate outright again, and Orochimaru didn’t leave her an easy way to wheedle the topic in.
After seeing her out, Orochimaru did the washing up from their lunch, then tidied the kitchen. He lingered by the window for a few moments, simply looking out at Sakumo.
Then he let himself out and made his way to the ghostly mound of fur near the compound wall and the forest growing up just on the other side.
Sakumo flicked an ear towards him, but didn’t turn. Orochimaru skimmed up the rock lightly, kneeling beside his mate and reaching out, letting one hand sink into Sakumo’s thick, wild fur.
Sakumo whined, head nestling down on his front legs. Orochimaru sighed and moved up closer, curling his legs under him as he settled at his mate’s side, leaning up and over Sakumo’s ribs and back, one arm draping down his other side.
Sakumo was warm and solid, his breathing deep and slow beneath Orochimaru’s weight. He sighed heavily, and after a few minutes he settled lower on the rock, paws flexing and tail twitching. Some of the tension eased out of his body.
Orochimaru lay closer against him, resting one cheek against the back of his neck, nestling into the thick fur. He rumbled in contented welcome, and Orochimaru smiled, eyes closed, fingers digging deep enough to scratch satisfyingly.
Sakumo’s tail twitched and all but wagged, and he lifted his head, twisting to nuzzle Orochimaru’s legs, then rest his muzzle across them. Orochimaru rubbed his brow and around one of his ears, fingers straying upwards to play with the thin point.
Tsunade winced as she moved a little too quickly, then cringed as she felt the stinging, revolting grime half-dried down her cleavage. She leaned over to throw up again, neater about it now than she clearly had been at whatever point last night she’d moved to the bathroom, and then sat back against the edge of the bath, raising her hands to her temples to fix the throbbing headache.
She could only dull it, but it was enough to get her up and moving again - at least into the shower. She washed up, left her filthy clothes on the bathroom floor, and drank as much water as she could stand before crawling into bed, pouting a little and wishing Dan were home.
“What- Um. Who is that?”
Aya looked up and around, frowning slightly. “Sweetie, what- Oh.” She winced. Damn it, it was ten o’clock on a Tuesday morning, she shouldn’t have to explain. . . “It’s one of the Sannin, Ki-chan.”
“Is he okay?”
“I’m sure he is.” Aya said dryly.
“He’s in the gutter.”
“Yes. . . He does that.” Aya said, eyeing the apparently-unconscious heap of the Toad Sannin lying in the gutter. Snoring. She drew her daughter on a little quicker as they passed, nose wrinkling at the stink of stale alcohol. And ‘man who has been sleeping in gutter’. “He’ll be fine. Come along, if we get through the shopping quick enough we can spend the afternoon at the park.”
Aya smiled and sped up as her daughter started to run.
Orochimaru completed his lazy stretch and then twisted, curling into the warmth of his mate’s body before he opened his eyes. “Ohayou.” he replied, toying with the wild, fluffy lock of hair falling across Sakumo’s chest and tickling his own collarbone.
Sakumo rumbled contentedly and Orochimaru pressed closer into the pleasantly thrumming sound. “I didn’t ask last night. . . Did you have a good night out with your team?”
Orochimaru scoffed and nestled against Sakumo’s throat, humming happily as Sakumo wrapped an arm around his waist.
“Not, then?” Sakumo guessed, kneading Orochimaru’s back and sliding his hand in a firm caress up Orochimaru’s spine. He moaned approvingly, pushing into the touch.
“Better night once I got home.” he said, and smiled as Sakumo made a pleased sound. “It always is.” he added, and tipped his head up to kiss Sakumo just beneath his jaw, eliciting another low rumble of pleasure.
Some other time, the three of them meeting up for training the next day after an unwise choice for a night out, Tsunade and Jiraiya grouchy and demanding to know how/why Orochimaru is in such a damned good mood today. . .
Orochimaru just like 'Because I got pleasantly tipsy, then stopped drinking, went home, got laid, and got a good night's sleep?' (*cough* Idiots.)
Chapter 165: Dinner Out
“. . .um?” Yuki said uncertainly, and then winced, dipping her head apologetically. That wasn’t how she should speak to diners.
“Six extra plates, please. Small ones.” Hatake framed a small shape with his hands and smiled at her.
Yuki cleared her throat. “Ah . . . of course, sir. Anything . . . else?”
“Another bottle of sake, please.” Orochimaru said, gesturing to the empty one near the edge of the table, and Yuki dipped her head and collected that one.
“Certainly.” She smiled as she hurried off to deliver their orders and then search out six small plates. The Sannin had come here on their . . . drinking nights a few times, and frankly while he was unnerving Yuki was glad it was only Orochimaru tonight. And she didn’t feel any anxiety about bringing them more to drink.
Orochimaru had never broken anything. Or felt up the waitstaff; Yuki shuddered. Or shouted - at them or his dinner companions - even when he had complaints they were delivered in sharp, dry tones.
Yuki brought the sake, the plates, and a small tray of spring rolls to Orochimaru and Hatake’s table. She paused, mid-step, as she took in the little heaps of shimmering scales on the previously clear half of the table by the wall. She swallowed, gathered herself, and completed the trip to the table, smiling weakly and putting down her items.
Hatake set out the plates before the snakes on the table, each of whom hissed - contemplatively? - and settled a bit near one. Yuki couldn’t quite take her eyes off them as she reported how long the food would be and then backed away again.
It made, Yuki supposed as she watched them neatly portion out servings onto each of the snakes’ plates, a bit more sense of how much food they had ordered. Though one could never be sure with ninja - why it hadn’t given her pause before.
She was horribly curious about the snakes, particularly once it was clear that they were perfectly content to sit there on the table and be fed and occasionally stroked by either of the ninja, but it would be very rude to ask. She contented herself with snatched looks from time to time.
Chapter 166: Rumours and Truths
Oh, right, Satou thought to himself, taking a breath and eyeing the Konoha gates - wide open, of course, cocky bastards; not that he could argue it being that unwise - as he approached, just . . . sneak into Konoha and sniff out the Sannin and bring back a full report.
Satou once more cursed his luck in getting drawn for this mission as he made his way into Konoha, studiously ignoring the other three nin he knew who were doing the same.
Three days in Konoha and Satou hadn’t found out much - but he also hadn’t been discovered. He suspected at least one of his fellows had been and felt rather vindicated in his caution - and even more uneasy about his mission.
There was a decent amount of gossip freely available in the market on any given day, however, and Satou had hopes he could eventually ferret out what the Kazekage wanted to know. Without attempting to get into any of the Sannin’s personal residences, or trail them.
He had seen Tsunade and confirmed there was no way she was pregnant, unless she wore the same henge at home as she had for a mission . . . and had been willing to take a mission when she must be at least six or seven months pregnant. Though he knew relatively little of her, Satou doubted it.
Satou’s focus spiked; the child was supposedly Orochimaru’s, perhaps his presence here would let Satou pick up more information. This was the first he had heard of Orochimaru since he arrived, and he had wondered if Orochimaru was on a mission too restricted for Satou to find information on.
“Ah! Is Sakumo-sama returning?” the shopkeeper asked cheerily as she efficiently wrapped several fish in paper.
Satou stared. Orochimaru looked . . . rather different than the twice Satou had seen him in person before, but only a small part of that could be attributed to the lack of his armour and the softer expression on his face. His middle was-
He was the Snake Sannin, perhaps he had . . . eaten something. . ?
He shifted, sliding his hand over his swollen stomach and smiling at the shopkeeper. “He is just back this morning. I thought I’d surprise him when he wakes from his nap.” Orochimaru told her.
She made a cooing sound. “Ah but don’t forget to let him spoil you a little! You deserve it, and all.”
“Believe me,” Orochimaru said with a low laugh, “I do not think anything would stop him from doing so. I had to stop him crooning over me and the little one long enough to go to bed when he came in.”
The shopkeeper made a cooing sound, beaming. “Oh, he’ll be such a good Daddy.”
“Certainly.” Orochimaru agreed, moving away with a dip of his head, sharp mouth curved into a faint, but soft smile.
Satou edged around a corner and pressed his back to the wall, rubbing his face. Child. Orochimaru. They’d said, all the rumours coming out of Konoha, but. . .
Oh fuck, Satou thought, eyes widening, as it sank in that it was true. The Snake Sannin and the White Fang of Konoha were having a child together?
He swallowed down rising panic.
“You’re sure you don’t want to come with me?” Orochimaru asked, fingers curled around Sakumo’s wrist. “It’s your news too. . .”
Sakumo rumbled contentedly, eyes mist-silver, and nuzzled his cheek. “He’s your sensei. I’ll wait for you.” He kissed Orochimaru lightly and rumbled again. “I don’t want to intrude.”
Orochimaru hissed negation - it would hardly be an intrusion - but nodded and went in to see Sarutobi-sensei alone, stomach curling with giddy pleasure. He trailed his fingertips over his stomach, cycling his chakra and feeling the heated spark nestled deep inside. He could perhaps have kept the smile from his face with some effort, but he let it show openly as he dipped his head to his sensei and exchanged polite greetings.
“What is it you wished to speak with me about?” Sarutobi-sensei asked eventually, steepling his fingers and looking at Orochimaru over them. “You seem . . . content?”
“Yes. Yes, it’s. . .” Orochimaru’s smile widened a little. “Sakumo and I have been discussing . . . trying. . .”
“You are having difficulties?”
“No!” Orochimaru denied immediately, startled. “No, of course not! We. . .” He shifted, feeling reflexively for the little spark of his hatchlingcub once more and relaxing, smile returning. “I am carrying our child. We aren’t having difficulties . . . we’re building our family, sensei.” He knew his expression had gone soft but hardly cared.
“You what?” Sarutobi-sensei asked, voice almost flat.
Orochimaru tensed. “We. . . We have been happy together . . . we wanted to grow our family, and. . . I’m pregnant, Sarutobi-sensei.” he repeated.
“You’re- You are pregnant?” Sarutobi-sensei said, pushing back in his chair, leaning away from his desk. Orochimaru opened his mouth, then nodded mutely. “Damn. I need a drink. Kami, how? Why?”
Orochimaru swallowed, the fingers of his right hand curling shakily in towards his palm. He slid his other hand thoughtlessly over his stomach, resting protectively over the tiny spark that would grow into his child, and felt a sick, painful stab as Sarutobi-sensei’s gaze dropped to follow the gesture and his expression twisted.
“Because,” Orochimaru tried all the same, however, “I love him, and I- I want my family with him. I want. . .” his voice faltered thinly and he swallowed, seeking the reassuring feeling of the little spark again, his chakra control slipping a little.
“I don’t understand why you would. . . would do this to yourself, Orochimaru. What are you trying to gain by such a-”
Orochimaru’s head jerked up, spine straightening, as the door opened with a sharp snap and a moment later Sakumo was at his side with a snarl, gentle hands pulling him from the chair. Orochimaru moved with him easily, leaning into his mate’s side and closing his eyes, using Sakumo as a shield.
Failkage is also Failsensei. As usual.
The urge to destroy the source of his mate’s distress warred with the need to take him away, somewhere safe, within Sakumo as he crashed through the door. He snarled, only aware in a deep corner of his mind that he was making a rather threatening display towards his Hokage, and curled his mate into his arms, the need to be sure of his mate and cub’s safety winning out easily.
Orochimaru didn’t resist as Sakumo pulled him away, passing by an ANBU that stank of fear as they left. Sakumo didn’t slow his pace until they were safely within the walls of the Hatake compound, and then. . . Orochimaru let out a rough, breathy little sound and pressed firmly against him, clinging.
Sakumo whined, hugging his mate close and rocking him, nuzzling his face and letting his tongue flick out to catch a single tear as he saw it spill down Orochimaru’s face. He nudged his mate up again, on into their den and right to the heart of it, and curled around Orochimaru in their bed, wrapping his mate is every layer of safety and comfort he could provide.
Orochimaru wound his fingers into Sakumo’s hair, knuckles brushing his neck, and shuddered minutely with hitching, silent breaths. Sakumo crooned comfortingly and cuddled his mate close, stroking his back and side, peppering nuzzling kisses over Orochimaru’s face and shoulder.
Orochimaru calmed slowly, though his scent was still thick with distress, and Sakumo swallowed a whine. He pressed a lingering kiss to Orochimaru’s cheek, and he sighed, turning away but staying tucked up close to Sakumo’s body.
Sakumo startled when he finally did pull away, some time later, and hurriedly climbed to his feet after his mate, hands outstretched. Orochimaru shook his head slightly. “I’m all right, wolf-heart.” Orochimaru said, his voice low. “Leave me alone.”
Sakumo whined, pulling up short. Orochimaru smiled at him, thin and tiny and sad, and trailed a caress over his cheek. “I just. . . Give me a little while. Please.”
Sakumo sighed, but nodded, nuzzling a kiss to his mate’s palm. “Anything you wish, lovely.” He didn’t remind Orochimaru to call if he needed Sakumo; he knew that well. He came close for a last embrace, then left his mate alone, stepping out into the garden.
He lingered there for a time, senses fixed on his mate, in case Orochimaru had misjudged or changed his mind, and indulged the growls building in his chest at the callous words from someone so important to his mate. So dismissive, so disquieted . . . so disdainful, and all aimed at Sakumo’s beloved mate and barely growing cub.
Chapter 169: Can You? (happy news)
Tsunade opened her door ready to curse at Jiraiya for the impatient banging on it and found herself wrong-footed to see Sakumo waiting there, tense and looking rather more aggressive than she recalled seeing him off mission. A pang of anxiety curled in her stomach.
“What is it? Is Oro all right?” Tsunade reached for her sandals, only to be stopped by Sakumo wrapping a hand around her forearm. “Sakumo?”
“Can you be happy for him?” Sakumo demanded, voice rough with a growl.
Tsunade frowned. “. . .what do you mean?” she asked uncertainly.
“Oro was happy and-” Sakumo snarled, releasing her arm and punching the doorframe, and Tsunade swallowed, worry growing. “Your sensei crushed it for him. Can you be happy for your friend?”
Tsunade had no idea what he was talking about, but she bit her lip, remembering far too many times watching Sarutobi-sensei ignore Orochimaru or deflect his questions or hopes. “Yes, of course. He- Everything is all right?”
“Better than.” Sakumo smiled, though it was a bit tight. “Or it was, before the Hokage-”
“Sarutobi-sensei. . .” Tsunade sighed, grimacing. “Never mind.” She shook her head. “Oro?”
“I thought. . .” Sakumo took a breath and huffed it out sharply. “He knows I. . . But his sensei,” he bared his teeth, “I thought one of his oldest friends, maybe. . .”
Tsunade smiled at him fondly. Glad, once more, that she hadn’t actually punched Sakumo when she first heard that he had taken Orochimaru to bed. “All right.” She pulled on her sandals and stepped outside. “Your home?”
Chapter 170: Shared Happiness (happy news)
Tsunade still felt a spark of worry as she followed Sakumo into the Hatake compound, then up into the house itself. He had assured her that Orochimaru was as well as he could be, but something was clearly wrong, and Tsunade fretted not to know what it was.
Orochimaru was curled snugly in one corner of the couch, looking slightly forlorn and very contained. His eyes were sharp but focused elsewhere, and he had his legs tucked up close, one arm around his middle behind them and the other beside him. He had always made himself smaller and neater when he was distressed. Tsunade frowned.
“Lovely?” Sakumo said softly, his eyes warm and concerned. “Tsunade came to see you, is it all right? I thought,” he said, when Orochimaru looked up, lashes fluttering, a tilt of his head sliding his hair away from his face, “you might like to share our news with her.”
“News?” Tsunade questioned, looking between them, then ignoring Sakumo to approach her best friend.
Orochimaru was startled when Sakumo spoke to him, and more so when he looked up and saw Tsunade standing partially behind him. Share- Share their news with her?
A part of Orochimaru floated happily at the thought, but the rest of him caught on Sarutobi-sensei’s words - Sarutobi-sensei who had always been so disappointed in him for lacking warmth, who had so espoused the love and loyalty of family and dedication and. . .
And somehow what love and family Orochimaru found for himself was still wrong, as he had always been wrong.
“I,” he began, keeping his eyes on his friend rather than glancing to his mate once more, “am carrying a child. We have been hoping-”
“. . .you’re what?” Tsunade repeated, blinking, brows drawing together.
Orochimaru’s stomach curled unpleasantly. “I’m pregnant. Sakumo and I have discussed- discussed a family and we wanted. . .”
Tsunade blinked again, then grinned at him, wide and bright. “Oh! Oh that’s wonderful, congratulations, Oro!” She dropped onto the couch at his side and hugged him tight, kissing his cheek as his breath caught. “How did you manage it? How far along?” She pulled back a little and inspected his middle by eye. “How are you feeling?”
Orochimaru was still for a moment before a smile spread across his face and he laughed. Comforted and painfully relieved.
Tsunade shoved him gently. “Oro! Come on!” She paused, extending her fingers towards him. “May I. . .”
Orochimaru bent his head to rest against hers. “Of course. Please.” he said, warmed by her smiling curiosity and her concern. And it would . . . ease his mind to have Tsunade and her skill confirm that he and the hatchlingcub were well. “Only- Only a few weeks.”
“Oh! You are! So tiny still.” Tsunade said after a moment, her fingers glowing green where they rested on his stomach. “Good, you haven’t done anything foolish to yourself. . . I never realised that was quite. . .”
“I hadn’t either. It took rather a lot of reading up in my family’s records and some . . . educated guesses to get here.” Orochimaru said quietly, guessing she was speaking of the vestigial organ he had . . . altered inside himself, which was now sheltering his little one.
“You will have to tell me about it later.” Tsunade prodded him. “And explain why you didn’t tell me what you were trying.”
“And? How are you feeling?” Tsunade repeated, eyeing him.
Orochimaru paused, then hummed, lips curling. “Happy.” he said honestly, and Tsunade grinned.
“Good.” Tsunade said firmly, leaning forwards and wrapping her arms around his shoulders. “I’m happy for you. Thank you for sharing it with me.”
Orochimaru returned her embrace, relaxing into her warm arms.
Chapter 171: Warning (happy news)
Jiraiya’s brows rose, but he grinned and headed for Tsunade as soon as he was past the gate chuunin. “Hime! What has me so lucky as to warrant a personal welcome?” he asked as he opened his arms and snagged her into a hug.
Tsunade huffed and swatted him, but it was barely bruising. And he felt the flare of her chakra filtering through his own as she checked him over, then the heat of his bruised ribs easing from throbbing pain into a dull ache. “Thank you.”
Tsunade sniffed and patted his side over the bruising. “Welcome back. Once you’ve delivered your report-”
“I don’t have to do that today.” Jiraiya said, and grinned when Tsunade shot him a look. “I don’t! What is it?”
Tsunade rolled her eyes, lips twitching. “. . .Oro has news to share with us. With you, I already know.”
“. . .news?” Jiraiya asked, frowning as he tried to think what it was. “About his snakes?” he hazarded. “An experiment?”
“N- Perhaps. Personal news.” Tsunade said, and Jiraiya hummed, curious. “And you are going to be happy about this news, Jiraiya! If you say anything disparaging or upsetting I will use you to set new records for punch-powered flight.” She narrowed her eyes at him and Jiraiya had to fight to stifle a laugh.
“I get it, I get it!” Jiraiya said, raising his hands as Tsunade glared, her hands curling into fists. “So are we going to hear Orochi’s news? I’m curious now.”
Tsunade sniffed again and turned on her heel, striding off towards the Hatake compound, and Jiraiya shook his head, amused, and followed obediently.
Although. . . Was he really so bad that Tsunade was this angry, this prepared for him to be awful to one of his best friends if he had something happy to share? A frown tugged at his lips, though he cleared it away when Tsunade glanced back at him, and moved up to walk at her side with a grin.
Chapter 172: Foreign Territory (happy news)
“. . .holy fuck a baby? There’s a baby in there?” Jiraiya stared at Orochimaru’s stomach, a little startled when he curled up, legs folding before himself, and Sakumo settled closer, baring his teeth over Orochimaru’s shoulder as he wrapped an arm around Orochimaru.
“Yes.” Orochimaru said shortly.
“. . .can I feel it?” Jiraiya asked, and Orochimaru went still. “I mean, would it hurt or-”
Orochimaru laughed, leaning his head back against Sakumo’s and giving Jiraiya an amused little smirk - an expression he was quite familiar with from his best friend. “No, you can’t. Not yet; they’re far too small to show any sign yet. Barely a spark.” The smirk softened into fond warmth.
“Oh.” Jiraiya nodded. That . . . made sense he supposed. Tsunade, however, was giving him an exasperated look. “What? I avoid anything to do with babies! How was I supposed to know?”
“Apply a modicum of sense?” Tsunade muttered, and Jiraiya snorted, ignoring her.
“Once they are bigger, no, it wouldn’t hurt them to feel.” Orochimaru continued, and Jiraiya looked at him again, surprised himself at the spark of curiosity and eagerness he felt. Though. . . He wondered if he would be allowed anyway. “Unless you’re prodding hard enough to hurt me.” Orochimaru raised an eyebrow.
“I wouldn’t!” Jiraiya said immediately, then paused. “. . .not while you’re pregnant. That’s just. . .”
“Dreadful?” Tsunade suggested dryly.
Sakumo nuzzled Orochimaru’s throat with a low growl that made the nape of Jiraiya’s neck tingle unpleasantly but only made Orochimaru hum contentedly and go boneless in his embrace. They. . .
Orochimaru looked happy. Jiraiya had seen him happy before, and had known he was happy with his choice of partner - with his partner in general - but this was . . . a new depth of contented pleasure. Orochimaru had always felt contained and unhappy - not lacking, but a little lost - and . . . that was gone now, not a trace of that sorrow left in him.
“I really am happy for you.” Jiraiya said, and Orochimaru’s half-lidded eyes opened and fixed on him again. “Congratulations, Orochi.”
Orochimaru smiled, slow and almost sweet, golden eyes warm like honey.
“Hime? Can . . . I talk to you for a few?”
Tsunade eyed him, but followed him inside. “What is it?” she asked, wrinkling her nose at the state of his apartment but not commenting as she left her sandals at the door and padded across to the couch after him.
“Orochi . . . he was upset already. And Sakumo is never that angry unless there’s a reason. I might be. . .” Jiraiya shook his head. “But I’m not that bad. What . . . happened?”
Tsunade bit her lip as she curled into one corner of the couch. “Oro . . . told Sarutobi-sensei first.” she said, and Jiraiya nodded. “It . . . didn’t go well. I wasn’t there, of course, and he didn’t say exactly, but. . . Sakumo came to get me after. And I’ve heard some things since.” Her face twisted, and if she’d been looking at him that way, he’d have. . .
Well, he’d proven that he had perhaps less sense than he should when it came to avoiding either of his teammates’ sharp tempers, but Jiraiya also had the benefit of their fondness for him as a shield from the worst of it, from both quarters.
“Didn’t go well? Why not?” Jiraiya asked, frowning.
“Sarutobi-sensei has been . . . avoiding Orochimaru. I heard him,” Tsunade looked like she was grinding her teeth, “speaking with someone about how unnatural- He looked- The things he’s said, his distaste. . .”
Jiraiya slouched back on his end of the couch. “I. . . What? Why would sensei disapprove? He’s forever espousing the wonders of family. Keeps shoving that line at me.” He shuddered. He was . . . very glad Orochimaru was happy, more than happy it seemed, and it had perhaps made him pause and think . . . but Jiraiya didn’t want what his friend had. He cringed at the idea of a baby.
“Well, apparently it isn’t to be desired when Oro does it.” Tsunade snapped, then hauled a pillow in against her chest. Jiraiya eyed it and figured he might be replacing it, watching her fingers curl tight into the edges. “Apparently he’s doing it wrong. Not how he should be establishing a family. Or maybe sensei thinks Oro isn’t capable of-” She broke off with a frustrated cry.
“Seems pretty capable to me. Even if I’d have thought it was impossible to do what he is.” Jiraiya muttered, with a bit of a shudder.
“What?” Tsunade demanded, glaring.
Jiraiya put his hands up. “Just. Can’t imagine wanting to be in his place.” he said hurriedly. “Besides, it’s Orochi. Of course he’s capable of it if he wants. Is he ever not? And isn’t what he’s doing the, erm,” Jiraiya waved a hand, “most traditional way to . . . go about this?”
Tsunade blinked at him, then burst into laughter, tilting backwards on the couch, and Jiraiya grinned. It didn’t fade even when she chucked his pillow at him - and it exploded on contact, he was going to need to replace it - yelling his name.
Chapter 174: Hidden Hurts
Sakumo nodded to the medic, and he frowned, but leapt on ahead to see who actually was in need of his skills. Sakumo carefully drew a deep breath, stopping abruptly when his ribs throbbed with stabbing pains and noting where it had been so he wouldn’t do it again.
“Taichou, everyone is mobile.” Hara reported, appearing at his side.
Sakumo nodded, sweeping a glance over the rest of them. “Two minutes.” he said softly, and Hara gave a quick nod of understanding, then moved off again.
Normally Sakumo would assist in the clearing of the battlefield before they left, but this time he remained in his place overlooking everyone else. It would be time to move soon enough, and he reserved his stamina for that, today.
They made good time home, the light only beginning to fade towards dusk as they were welcomed through the gates. Sakumo checked over his team one last time, then dismissed them, off to give his preliminary report and then to the hospital to be patched up.
He cringed as Tsunade gripped the back of his shirt at the collar, almost as though she was trying to scruff him like an unruly cub. “Why wasn’t this treated earlier? You had a medic with you! If Nao hasn’t been-”
“I didn’t tell him. We were in a hurry and it wasn’t severe enough to require immediate attention. I could move.” Sakumo said, shaking his head.
Tsunade gave a passable growl and Sakumo raised his eyebrows.
“Oh for- Take better care of yourself.” Tsunade shook him, and Sakumo winced. “Get home to your husband. He’s been waiting for you.”
Sakumo’s heart fluttered. He’d hoped, since Tsunade was here, but the Sannin didn’t always return together even when deployed together. He almost trembled, holding himself in place.
Tsunade snorted, running a hand still glowing with iryou chakra over his side. “Go. You’re all patched up. Don’t come back in this state from a mission with an iryou-nin on your team again unless it’s an actual emergency or next time I’ll make it hurt.”
Sakumo thanked her, might have promised something along those lines, and left via the window, the main doors much too far away as he bolted for home and his mate.
Chapter 175: Climbing Cub
Nearly there, nearly there, nearly . . . there. . .
Kakashi stuck his tongue out as he reached a little higher, almost at the top of the compound wall. He wasn’t going to climb over it - he wasn’t allowed out alone - but he was going to climb it and get all the way to the top, he was-
“Oh!” Kakashi put his hand on something that skittered and let go immediately, but he was startled enough to lose hold on the chakra he was channelling and promptly tumbled off the wall entirely. He was arrested after falling most of the way to the ground with a jerking thump. “Dad.”
Dad rumbled softly, turning and carrying Kakashi away from the wall and back towards the house by the back of his shirt. Kakashi sighed and let himself hang there without further protest.
Mama stepped outside as they approached the house, and smiled, not quite laughing. “Have you had an adventure, little one?” he asked, holding his arms out.
Dad dropped him into Mama’s arms, then paced in a lazy circle around them, rubbing his head against Mama’s shoulder. He looked down at Kakashi, then nosed his cheek, ears tilted forwards. Kakashi grumbled but rubbed his cheek against Dad’s muzzle in return.
“I had it.” Kakashi huffed. “I was almost at the top!”
“Of course, cubling.” Mama soothed, brushing a hand over his hair, picking out bits of leaf. “Perhaps a break before you try again, mm?”
Kakashi huffed again, but nodded obediently and snuggled into Mama’s arms.
“Time for lunch, in any case. If your father will-” Mama fell silent as Dad suddenly shifted forms and dragged them both in close, whining teasingly and kissing Mama’s cheek.
Chapter 176: Morning Tea
Orochimaru stirred as he heard . . . something in the kitchen. It would barely have been worthy of notice, save that the broad, solid heat of his mate was firmly by his side.
“Wolf-heart?” Orochimaru said thickly.
“Good morning, lovely.” Sakumo returned, shifting beside him, brushing against Orochimaru in a warm, soft caress of skin on skin.
Orochimaru sighed, contentment creeping over him despite the somewhat worrying clinking and tapping sounds from the kitchen. He raised a hand and splayed it over his closed eyes. “What is our cubling doing?” he asked.
“Ah. I am not certain.” Sakumo said, and Orochimaru groaned, sliding his arm up until the crook of his elbow was draped over his eyes instead. “It seems he is coming this way, however.” Sakumo added after a moment.
Orochimaru listened, then shifted his arm and sat up just as their son slid carefully into their bedroom, a heavy tray held carefully in both his hands.
“I made tea!” Kakashi said proudly as he looked up and saw them both watching him. Then he hesitated on his way towards them. “Erm. The soup didn’t-”
“Wait.” Orochimaru interrupted, holding up a hand. “Tea.”
Kakashi made a confused sound, and Sakumo took a cup from the tray he held, passing it into Orochimaru’s hands and smiling at their son. “I believe . . . perhaps wait until after the tea, to tell us how the soup went.” Sakumo suggested, though his voice seemed to be stuck somewhere between amusement and horror.
“All right!” Kakashi said, voice light and happy. He put the tray down beside the futon once Sakumo had taken the other cup, then crawled between them with a low whine.
Orochimaru sipped his tea - Kakashi wasn’t supposed to be doing it unsupervised but at least he did know how to do that - and ran a hand over his son’s hair. Kakashi whined again, happy and warm, and snuggled between them a little more.
Chapter 177: Active-Duty Parenting (pigeon fancying)
So twitchi was chasing identification of a particular fancy pigeon breed, and as we eventually found it Koi had an idea relating to bb!Kakashi and said fancy pigeons, and that gave me an idea . . . and now there's this four-piece arc.
(Something like this will likely appear in the Snake-Shaped Space series at some point as well.)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Ah, here you are, Sakumo-san.” Taruko offered up a scroll. “Should be no trouble to bring along your son this time, either.”
Sakumo smiled as he accepted the red-wrapped scroll. “Thank you.” he said without pointing out that there had yet to be any trouble in taking his now-genin cub with him on missions. Even ones a genin would never be assigned in their own right. Kakashi accompanying Sakumo or his mate on their missions was not, Sakumo thought as he began making his way home, entirely unlike a genin who had apprenticed rather than put in a three-man team shadowing their jounin-sensei.
It wasn’t quite how Kakashi had been assigned, but then, he had seemingly . . . slipped through the cracks when he was graduated from the Academy. Sakumo and Orochimaru had discussed it, and their cub’s dreadful boredom at the Academy, along with the alienation from the other students, and agreed removing him from that would be best. He would continue to advance his skills now as a genin, but . . . perhaps he would find it easier to adjust to his peers when they were all older.
Sakumo was pulled from his thoughts as he met his mate at their own door.
“Hello, darling.” Orochimaru greeted him with a kiss, and Sakumo smiled, catching him close for a more lingering nuzzle. Orochimaru laughed softly and returned it, and Kakashi appeared by their feet just as they parted, panting a little and scuffed up but looking happy.
Sakumo ruffled his hair. “Hello cub. Lovely. I’ve a new mission,” he paused as Orochimaru hummed, “you too?”
Orochimaru nodded. “Why don’t you go clean up before dinner, cubling?” he advised, and headed towards the kitchen himself, Sakumo on his heels. He flipped his scroll - also an A-rank - onto the table as he went to the stove to put the kettle on.
Sakumo fished out his own and broke the seal. “What have you got?”
“Assassination.” Orochimaru said easily, taking down fresh cups. “You?”
“Mm, escort mission. Nobleman. Threats, unknown ninja assailants. . .” Sakumo skimmed.
“You take Kakashi.” Orochimaru suggested, and Sakumo nodded agreement absently, then paused.
“What is it?” Orochimaru asked, coming around the table and reaching for the scroll.
Sakumo lifted his head as his mate took the scroll to read himself. He tried to imagine the havoc their sneaky little cub could wreak in a contained space with however many very fancy, very expensive, probably very slow - and caged - birds.
He wondered if it would really be so bad if Kakashi went with Orochimaru instead of coming along with him.
Chapter 178: Prey-Rich Environs (pigeon fancying)
Kakashi leapt lightly between the tiers of the rafters, humming near-silently to himself as he scanned the large hall below. It was full of people with perfumes that made his nose itch - he’d been told it was rude to sneeze and ruder still to rub his nose, but it was very difficult, even with his mask; he didn’t know how Dad managed a straight face - and bright colours and. . .
And so many fat, fluffy birds. Many of them had funny feathered heads, layers and layers that fell down over their faces so they couldn’t even see. They were so fat and stupid even the ones in little fenced in ranges wouldn’t or couldn’t get free and the fences were no higher than the length of a kunai!
Kakashi sniffed as he hurried along another beam, eyes darting between the big cages of fancy birds. There just ahead was one that was open to the roof, only wire walls that held a dozen birds in black, white, and browns.
Kakashi glanced around, then dropped down into the middle of the cage and snatched one, bounding back up into the rafters while it trumpeted weakly and breaking its neck before it could get any louder. He stripped away feathers and bit into the soft, rich meat with a happy rumble, watching the people as Dad had asked.
He contemplated the pack he carried, as always when he was accompanying one of his parents on a mission, and how many of the fat, stupid birds could be fit into it. . .
The pigeons Kakashi notes are likely bukhara trumpeters.
Chapter 179: Bird-Stealing Guidelines (pigeon fancying)
Sakumo’s eyes widened. He smiled politely and quickly extricated himself from the conversation he had been drawn into, then strode across the exhibition floor. He made it to his cub just in time to get his paws away from the locks on the cage of . . . some kind of ridiculously overbred pigeons that looked too fat too fly and had so many feathers over the face he wasn’t entirely sure how they ate.
“Dad!” Kakashi protested, kicking his feet a little as Sakumo lifted him by the back of his collar.
Sakumo laughed, smiling reassuringly at the civilian passing by who had stopped to stare, and they relaxed and moved on. “No, these birds are not for eating, cub.” he told Kakashi in a low voice.
Kakashi whined again, reaching out for the cage and scrabbling weakly at the wire that was still just within reach before Sakumo pulled him away. “Dad! They’re fat and too stupid to even recognise predators! They can’t even fly away!” he protested as Sakumo put his cub over his shoulder. “Hungry, Dad!”
“These birds belong to people. Who are very particular about them.” Sakumo said patiently, then frowned. “You had breakfast less than two hours ago.” he added dryly.
“I’m a growing cubling! Mama says so all the time!” Kakashi protested, and Sakumo stifled a laugh. “Need to eat lots of meat and good things! Delicious birdses are good for me!”
“Your mother,” Sakumo said, shaking his head and shifting Kakashi on his shoulder, “spoils you, cub.”
“Mama would let me steal the birdses.” Kakashi huffed poutily.
Sakumo opened his mouth, then closed it again. Orochimaru likely would, so long as Kakashi stole them. And would assure anyone who asked he had no idea what had happened to the fancy pigeons, and he hadn’t been hired to guard birds in any case.
Usually around that point in explanations, no matter what the topic, Orochimaru’s sharp little smile started to make civilians, or even other ninja, reconsider how much they wanted to test him. It just made Sakumo’s stomach flutter.
“Mama probably would.” Sakumo agreed as he slid Kakashi down and crouched before him. “However, you are on my mission, and you may not steal and eat the delicious birdses.” he instructed firmly. “We are here to guard-”
“Boring dull Hachi-san.” Kakashi rattled off with a huff. “Scary unknown ninja threats.”
“. . .yes.” Sakumo said, sighing. The client was . . . obnoxiously dull and had insisted on speaking with them most of the way here. Sakumo counted himself lucky his cub, with all the control and patience to be expected of a cub his age, however advanced, hadn’t growled or snapped at the man in bored frustration. “No stealing his expensive birds. Or anyone else’s.”
Kakashi sighed poutily, but agreed obediently, and Sakumo ruffled his hair and kissed his brow. “Good cub. When we get a break we’ll go out and catch some wild birds, all right?”
Kakashi brightened a little and gave a happy whine, and Sakumo chuckled and nuzzled him affectionately.
Chapter 180: Cubling-Reported Lesson (pigeon fancying)
Later today there will be a story up for mamasnek's birthday, as well~
Sakumo grinned, watching his cub nestle into his mother’s arms, scenting and rumbling happily as Orochimaru petted and coddled him close, kissing the top of his head. Golden eyes rose to meet his own, and Orochimaru arched a brow, tilting his head.
Sakumo moved to join them with alacrity, claiming his own space to scent and nuzzle his mate, Kakashi slightly squashed between them. He giggled and clung, and Orochimaru laughed as they both pressed close to him, making Sakumo smile, chest warm with fondness.
As they settled into the cushions in the main room together, Sakumo let Kakashi tell Orochimaru about their mission first - and didn’t ask about Orochimaru’s; not now, though he would, when Kakashi was asleep, later - and stifled his amusement at what Kakashi thought was important to include or emphasise, and what didn’t even rate a mention.
“And Mama, Dad wouldn’t let me steal the delicious, fat birdses! And they were everywhere! And slow! And so stupid they didn’t even try to fly away!” Kakashi protested, pouting.
“They belong to people.” Sakumo reminded, again.
“Dad!” Kakashi whined, curled in his mother’s lap and pouting.
“Well of course he did not,” Orochimaru said, tapping Kakashi’s nose with one fingertip, “he caught you at it, little one. If you want to steal the delicious birdses, you must be able to outsneak your father.”
“Lovely!” Sakumo protested.
“Ohhh. . .” Kakashi said, eyes suddenly wide. He smiled, a sharp little determined grin that looked very like his mother’s. “I didn’t realise it was s’posed to be a lesson, Dad!” he said, looking up at Sakumo.
“It was not!” Sakumo said quickly. “Not a lesson! It was a mission - a job! And not to steal delicious- I mean, fancy, expensive birds, that those nobles are very attached to, and are not for eating, let alone for stealing by little sneaking cubs!”
“Everything is a lesson.” Orochimaru said with a sly smirk. “And everything is for stealing, if you can sneak well enough.”
Sakumo sighed, propping his chin in his hand and just looking at his mate. Orochimaru stroked Kakashi’s back, his expression not faltering. Kakashi looked calculating, sharp and focused and thoughtful, and Sakumo had no idea how people claimed to see nothing of his mother in their cub. He shook his head, a fond smile tugging at his lips, despite the mischief that was sure to come of this lesson.
Chapter 181: Good Students Get Treats
I believe this is the first time Anko has been mentioned since #21, and her first proper appearance in one of these stories at all. . . Koi made a comment and it sparked a thought and now there's a minific. As so often happens. (. . .more or less with the 'mini'. >.>)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Anko bit her lip and stepped through the gate, skipping lightly across the path in the pattern sensei had told her to use the day before. She grinned as she bounded up to the door unscathed - though she’d slipped a little and set off a trap, she’d ducked and wriggled out of it without being caught. She sniffed as she glanced back at the line of senbon embedded in the grass, then knocked at the door.
“Kakashi-san!” Anko blinked. He had opened the door almost immediately.
Kakashi hummed and raised a hand, flicking two fingers. “Anko-chan. . . Hello.”
“Ah- Sensei said to come over today! He said there was a surprise?” Anko was desperately curious, but no one got anything out of sensei before he was ready to share, so she’d snooped about but wasn’t surprised she hadn’t found anything.
Kakashi laughed softly and stepped aside, corners of his eyes crinkling. “Come inside. Mama’s in the kitchen.” he advised, and Anko nodded, stepping inside and then pulling up sharply. She coughed and bent to take off her sandals, then trotted after Kakashi.
She hesitated as she breathed and-
“Dango?” Anko cried as she darted past Kakashi and through the door into what proved, unsurprisingly, to be the kitchen.
Sensei was standing at the counter, his back to the door, but he turned towards her with a smile. “Hello, Anko-chan. Yes, of course.” he gestured to a plate full of dango already on skewers with sticky, green-smudged fingers, and Anko gasped.
“Sensei!” Anko crossed the kitchen in a blink. “Did you make-?” she asked, hesitating with her fingers just over the plate.
“Help yourself.” Sensei said, brushing his other hand over her head. “Yes. You’ve done very well recently, you deserve a treat.”
Anko grinned around a mouthful of dango. “Thank you sensei!”
Oro made her botchan dango, rather than mitarashi dango (or anko dango, for that matter) because variety is a good thing. XP
Sakumo nuzzled down the inside of his mate’s forearm with happy little rumbles, nipping and licking at the thin skin. He paused, then lapped over the thin red mark he had raised. “Lovely?”
Orochimaru responded with little more than a lazy murmur, stretching languidly, fingers curling and brushing over Sakumo’s shoulder. Sakumo shivered with pleasure and pressed a soft kiss to his mate’s skin.
“This is your summoning contract . . . seal . . . yes?” Sakumo asked, rubbing his thumb over one inked curve.
“Mm.” Orochimaru shifted a little more, turning his arm further outwards.
“. . .am I going to accidentally trigger it? And, say, bring your very grouchy living siege engine into,” Sakumo paused, glancing at his house, and revised, “crushing my home?”
Orochimaru was still for a moment, then laughed, head tipping back, fingers curling into Sakumo’s hair. Sakumo smiled slightly, pleased with his mate’s pleasure, whatever brought it, but whined curiously, nosing him.
“No, Sakumo.” Orochimaru said, voice warm with amusement. “Even if you draw blood and let it run over my skin,” he said, tracing Sakumo’s face with his fingertips, “if I don’t channel chakra to call him, Manda will not appear. None of them will.”
“Oh, good.” Sakumo said, then nipped Orochimaru’s arm. “I like my home.” he added, hoping to make Orochimaru laugh again and grinning when he smiled. “And I don’t think Manda likes me much.”
“Manda doesn’t like anyone very much.” Orochimaru said dryly.
“You?” Sakumo rubbed his cheek against Orochimaru’s forearm.
“Mm. And mother, once.” Orochimaru agreed, his smile turning a little melancholy. Sakumo frowned and moved up to nuzzle his face, pleased when his expression softened back into content warmth.
Obviously the summoning has to be intentional to work, but, you know . . . good to be sure. No one wants to accidentally a Manda, ever.
Kouyou glanced up absently as one of the librarians passed by him, but she didn’t pause, and she didn’t take any of the books from the stack he had gathered. He looked away again, eye caught before he could return his attention to his book by someone else studying at a nearby table.
Kouyou tipped his head down but kept his eyes on Orochimaru, curious. He knew the rumours about the Sannin, of course, and he knew what Sakumo had said about his new boyfriend, but rumours were more of a game than anything in a ninja village and Sakumo was smitten. It was sweet, but it meant his opinions were rather coloured by fondness.
Orochimaru had his head bowed over a very old scroll, but his hands were raised before him, moving restlessly. Kouyou wouldn’t have guessed he would be the type to fidget. It took Kouyou a few minutes longer to realise the small, dark shape he was pouring between his fingers was neither a weapon nor some kind of toy for the purpose, but a tiny, indigo-banded snake.
Kouyou choked, fingers tightening on his book. Yes, Orochimaru was the Snake Sannin, but he was using a mountain-banded krait as a stress toy. He didn’t even appear to be paying attention to the small snake in his hands as it tumbled back and forth, occasionally winding around his long fingers.
Kouyou kept trying to drag his attention back to his own research, but- but he was caught by the sight and couldn’t look away. He realised, belatedly, as he watched that the faint sound just at the edge of his hearing was . . . the snake? Hissing softly in little gleeful swoops as it slithered and rolled from one palm to the other with each absent gesture.
I made up the mountain-banded krait - must be a ninja world species - but kraits are among some of the deadliest snakes in our world, with neurotoxic venom.
Orochimaru's snakes love their summoner~ I'm sure the little ones squabbled over who got to come to the library with him today. ;)
Orochimaru’s breath caught and the world stood still for a fraction of a heartbeat. Shock, he thought faintly, before everything surged into motion once more. This time it was painted with the sharp edges of fury, and Orochimaru didn’t moderate his own attacks.
Sakumo choked, blood bubbling worryingly from the wound across his ribs. It had driven deep enough, then, to nick a lung, at least. Orochimaru hissed and called up Dakon, who required no instruction to strike out after the last few enemy nin. Orochimaru ignored the other Konoha nin who had been with them. He was still in one piece - thanks only to Sakumo, the idiot - and he could see to himself.
“You thoughtless fool!” Orochimaru hissed as he dropped to his knees, splaying a hand over Sakumo’s ribs and feeling the heat of his blood as it spilt. “This won’t be pleasant.” he snapped.
“Lovely, you-” Sakumo’s lightly teasing words cut off with a low, bitten-off cry that rumbled with a snarl, but he didn’t fight, not with chakra and not by moving. Orochimaru stroked his arm and pushed another wave of chakra into his mate’s body, forcing it into the unfamiliar and unsuited patterns of iryou jutsu.
“Hatake-san! Orochimaru-sama, will he-”
“Go scout.” Orochimaru ordered harshly. “Make yourself useful somehow.”
The man faltered but was gone obediently a moment later. “Unkind, lovely.” Sakumo wheezed, and Orochimaru narrowed his eyes. Sakumo whined in a capitulatory manner and kept his mouth closed.
“You’re the only one who ever seems to expect kindness of me.” Orochimaru said dryly. “Idiot. Why did you throw yourself-” He broke off and took a breath, patting Sakumo’s chest lightly. “No, no. Don’t.” he said without looking his mate in the face again. “I know.”
Sakumo had been looking out for a comrade, even when that comrade was a fool who would have been dead thrice over on this mission if not for Sakumo’s and Orochimaru’s actions. Orochimaru wouldn’t disapprove, save that if Sakumo were only a little less tough it would have been bought at the price of his own life.
Knowing his wolf would likely still have chosen to save their comrade was not soothing Orochimaru’s temper, and he fought to wrestle it back under control.
“They’re all dead, summoner. Anything else for me to do before I eat?” Dakon asked, nosing his shoulder, and Orochimaru snorted, running a hand over his horned head. He nudged into it with pleasure, eyes sharp and tongue flicking.
“No. Thank you.” Orochimaru stroked down by his eye as his tongue flicked curiously. “Take yourself home when you’ve eaten.”
He hissed agreement and slithered off among the enemy nin again. His father would have cleared the small field of battle and still been hungry - and so would Dakon, one day - but Dakon would no doubt choose one or two smaller nin and then return home to sleep off his gorging.
Dakon, is, of course, one of Manda's hatchlings. (A Mandette, if you will.)
Chapter 185: Kakashi vs Roses
Sakumo paused, wrapping his hands more securely around his mate’s wrists and pulling his hands away to inspect them by eye. Orochimaru sighed, looking away, and Sakumo brushed a gentle kiss to one of the scabbed gouges in a slender fingertip.
Orochimaru’s fingers flexed. Sakumo kissed another fingertip. “What happened, lovely?” he asked, voice low, eyes rising to his mate’s face.
Orochimaru huffed softly, lips quirking. “Our cubling tumbled into a rosebush. And got stuck there.” he said, and Sakumo’s eyes widened.
“He-” Sakumo’s grip on Orochimaru’s wrists shifted.
“He was beginning to fight before I stepped in,” Orochimaru said dryly, “but I think both he and the bush would have come out of it somewhat the worse for wear.”
“No doubt.” Sakumo said, trying to stifle his laughter. “I’m sorry, lovely. Is Kakashi all right?”
“A little scratched up, nothing serious.” Orochimaru said, flicking his fingers dismissively.
Sakumo shook his head and brought his mate’s hands close once more, nuzzling gently into the space between them and kissing each of the little wounds they bore.
“Kashi-kun. . .” Jiraiya called, looking around, smothering the sparks of anxiety. “Come on, kiddo, not playing hide and seek, I promised-” He yelped as something yanked at his feathers, then quieted, wincing, even as the pull grew heavier.
He tilted his head and peered around his own shoulder and the crest of one wing, wings arching a little. A tousled little head of silver hair was clambering up between his wings, hands clutching in his feathers. Kakashi looked up at him with a fangy grin.
Jiraiya shook his head slightly, smiling, and arched his wings a little more, letting Kakashi haul himself up between them until he was settled right between their bases. One hand was buried in Jiraiya’s feathers, and the other was curled in his shirt.
“Comfy enough there, kiddo?” Jiraiya asked dryly.
“Your wings are even bigger than Daddy’s! Aren’t they?” Kakashi asked, burrowing between the feathers with a little puppyish - wolfish - sound, eyes half closed.
Jiraiya chuckled and fluffed his feathers - though they weren’t in the best shape at the moment, sadly - pulling his wings back and towards each other. Kakashi let out a little high-pitched yip that had taken weeks of patient, amused reminders from Orochimaru to settle in Jiraiya’s head as a happy sound from his nephew.
Jiraiya grinned and peeked around at him again, a little awkwardly, and found him mostly buried in disarrayed feathers, giggling and wriggling. Jiraiya could feel him there, but he wasn’t slipping, so well enough. “My wings are bigger than most people’s.” Jiraiya advised his nephew, bouncing a little in place and then beginning to walk.
Kakashi giggled a bit more and nestled in against his back, tugging a little at his hair, though this one seemed to be incidental. “Where are we going, oji-gama?”
Jiraiya huffed a little and shook himself - careful to keep his wings folded back around his nephew, cradling him safely on Jiraiya’s back if he lost his grip. “It’s a surprise.” he said loftily, and Kakashi squirmed and yipped again and didn’t continue asking.
Particularly fortunate as ‘surprise’ meant Jiraiya hoped to figure that out whilst they were at the park and Kakashi was distracted, in this case.
Particularly after the Happy News arc a bit of Good Uncle Toad has been tempting (even if he's also rather flailtoad).
Sakumo turned over, groaning a little. “Lovely? What is it?”
“I need your help with something. I’ve left Nori with Kakashi, will you come with me?” Orochimaru asked. He still hadn’t come any further than the bedroom doorway.
Orochimaru had been acting . . . very strangely lately, but. . . “Of course, lovely. Shall I summon Yura as well?” he asked, climbing to his feet and moving to dress.
Orochimaru’s breath caught with a little hitching sound. Sakumo went to him, still only half-dressed. “Lovely?” He smoothed his hands over Orochimaru’s side and frowned, worried, as he caught a glitter in his mate’s eyes. Orochimaru . . . rarely cried. Sakumo could think of perhaps half a dozen times he had seen tears in his mate’s eyes before, including on a battlefield over one of his best friends he thought had died, and in their home the day they had been able to confirm he was pregnant with Kakashi. “Are you all right?”
Orochimaru took a breath, then kissed his cheek. “I love you. Thank you. Come, and- Yes, I think perhaps if you would, calling Yura to watch over Kakashi as well would be wise.”
Sakumo nodded and stroked Orochimaru’s cheek before pulling away. He dressed quickly, then summoned Yura, who was curious but accepted that there would be no answers yet offered and went to Kakashi’s room readily enough.
Their cub well looked after, Sakumo followed his mate out of the house silently.
“What are we doing, lovely, incidentally?” Sakumo asked as Orochimaru paused, keeping close.
Orochimaru glanced at him and brushed his fingertips over the inside of Sakumo’s wrist. “Kidnapping. Approximately a dozen infants.” he said simply.
Sakumo’s eyes widened and he found himself almost without words for a moment. “. . .I assume there is more to it than that?” he asked weakly.
Orochimaru hummed, beginning to move again, and Sakumo continued to shadow him, mind whirling. “Approximately?” he quoted.
“It will depend,” Orochimaru said, and stopped more abruptly this time, breath catching with a rather pained little sound, “whether any more of them have died from unregulated chakra expression since I left the facility earlier.”
“What.” Sakumo demanded, almost a snarl, and Orochimaru relaxed slightly, leaning into him.
Sakumo rubbed a hand over his mate’s side, feeling Orochimaru shaking faintly.
“That . . . would be why we are stealing them.” Orochimaru said softly, pressing close to Sakumo and hiding his face against Sakumo’s cheek and hair. “If you’ll help me.”
Sakumo thought rapidly, but- But this was his mate, and he trusted Orochimaru, no matter how strange he had been over the past months. “Of course, lovely. Will you . . . tell me more, when we have?” he asked quietly.
Orochimaru kissed his cheek. “I’ll tell you everything. Hang Danzou and his orders.” he said softly, and turned away with a flicker of silky hair across Sakumo’s neck.
Sakumo only had more questions now, but he didn’t ask, following Orochimaru as he began to pick up speed, crossing the village.
Chapter 189: Pantry Imperfections
“Kakashi. Precious. Why are there seven rabbits in the pantry?”
“Mama.” Kakashi whined by rote at the old petname, which was a little much for him these days, and Mama arched an eyebrow at him, closing the pantry once more. “Ah. . . They . . . weren’t good enough. Perfect.” he admitted, biting his lip.
Mama glanced back at the closed door, then met his gaze again. “They seem fine to me. And you’ve put them in the pantry.” he added leadingly.
Kakashi cleared his throat, flushing.
“What do you need a perfect rabbit for?” Mama asked, moving closer. He reached up and ruffled Kakashi’s fringe with a light touch. “Mm?”
Kakashi whined again and ducked his head, and Mama scratched the nape of his neck instead. “I. . .” he began, then paused, licking his lips. “A present.”
“Mm. . .” Mama prompted, cupping Kakashi’s jaw and tilting his head up again. “For whom?”
“Ah. . . Uchiha Shisui.” Kakashi admitted, meeting Mama’s eyes hesitantly.
Mama smiled slightly, sharp and sure. “Is my vipercub courting?”
“Not a cub.” Kakashi said weakly, looking away.
“You will be cub to your father until you can win one of your scuffles properly and pin him . . . and probably forever,” Mama said, and Kakashi huffed, “and you will always be my hatchlingcub. I carried you for the better part of a year. You may be grown now,” he cupped Kakashi’s cheek, “however. . .” Kakashi nuzzled Mama’s palm, smiling fondly at him, and he smiled and fell silent.
“Courting?” Mama prompted after a moment, and Kakashi sighed, slouching into a chair at the kitchen table.
“I. . .” He ducked his head. “I hope so.” he admitted. “He’s . . . fast and he’s sweet and he’s the one that teaches his younger cousins and he plays with me when we spar and. . .” Kakashi looked up at his mother. “I really like him.”
“I should hope so; how long did you spend trying to find the perfect rabbit?” Mama teased gently, ruffling Kakashi’s hair.
Kakashi laughed, propping his elbow on the table. “Not that long.” he denied. “Rabbits are quick but I’ve been doing this a long time, Mama.”
Sakumo tilted his head back, fur gleaming in the moonlight, and howled, long and low.
Orochimaru watched him from nearer the house, a cup of tea in his hands. Sakumo kept calling out, voice a wavering, eerie echo. Orochimaru took a sip of tea, then sighed, approaching his mate and running his fingers lightly through Sakumo’s thick fur up to the back of his neck.
He lowered his head and looked at Orochimaru, a little mournful, and Orochimaru shook his head, stepping closer and tugging until Sakumo’s head leaned against his ribs. “Do you really want him to howl back, or do you just miss him?” he asked, rubbing one of Sakumo’s ears.
Sakumo sighed heavily, leaning into Orochimaru a little more, then lifted his head and licked Orochimaru’s chin. He hummed, stroking down Sakumo’s neck, and met his eyes.
Sakumo’s ears flicked forwards and he nosed Orochimaru’s collarbone.
“I’m sure he’s fine.” Orochimaru said, looking out at the forest that came up to the edge of their compound, thoughts wandering past the village walls somewhere beyond and further, out to the unsettled parts of Hi no Kuni, where their cubling was roaming with his team.
Sakumo huffed another breath and leaned so heavily against Orochimaru that he was nearly knocked off his feet.
“You’re going to get tea on your head.” Orochimaru warned, but he was already shifting away a little, kneeling on the ground and putting his tea aside. He opened his arms and Sakumo pounced - gently, but still enough to knock the wind out of Orochimaru before snuggling into him bodily.
Orochimaru hugged his mate, fingers winding into his fur, and thought of their cubling, half-grown and clever and strong, and reminded himself that Kakashi would be fine.
Chapter 191: Road Home (howls and home)
Sakumo stood straight, eyes fixed on the road into the village. He’d just come back in himself, and Orochimaru had come to meet him . . . and now he was too drawn to the open road leading up to the gates to want to leave.
“Oh, go on and howl for him, wolf-heart.” Orochimaru said softly, brushing the backs of his fingers over Sakumo’s cheek. Kakashi was due back this morning, and at the levels of missions his team of genin should be taking. . .
Sakumo smiled at Orochimaru a little sheepishly, bit his lip, then took a deep breath.
Kakashi grinned as a long, wavering howl reached him from home, bouncing a bit on his heels.
“What was that?”
“A wolf, but. . .”
“Kakashi-kun?” Minato-sensei questioned, resting a hand on his shoulder. “You recognise that?”
“Dad!” Kakashi said, snorting.
“Your father is howling?” Minato-sensei looked briefly bemused, then concerned. “Kakashi-kun-”
Kakashi was already trotting forwards a short ways away from his sensei and teammates to bound up to the top of a large rock by the road. He tilted his head back and howled in answer, laughing happily when Dad’s voice cut out and returned at a different pitch.
“Is everything all right, Kakashi-kun?” Minato-sensei asked from the road below.
“Dad just wants me home.” Kakashi said, hopping down and falling into step with his team once more, though his heart beat a little quicker and he had to struggle not to run for the village, now.
Kakashi hadn’t . . . quite realised how much he had missed his pack for the week he had been on a mission with his team.
Orochimaru ran his fingers idly through Sakumo’s hair, sitting on a rock within sight of the gates with his mate on the grass below. After the higher pitched, softer wavering howl in response, of course there was no way they were going to return home until their cubling had met them here as well.
Orochimaru suspected it wouldn’t be long now, in any case. Kakashi might not be quite as eager to be home as Sakumo was to have him back - as they both were - but-
Orochimaru smiled as Kakashi came into view, his sensei barely a step behind and his two other teammates trailing along another step or two back at his side. Kakashi yowled and burst into a run, and Sakumo lunged to his feet as Orochimaru slid off the rock.
Kakashi might have greeted them in words when he reached them, but if he had it was lost in yips and growls and the muffling effect of being crushed into his father’s chest. Orochimaru laughed and slid a hand over Sakumo’s shoulder.
“Welcome home, little one.” Orochimaru said softly, hand straying down Kakashi’s back.
Kakashi thumped into him and squeezed him around the waist, and Orochimaru returned the embrace. “-glad to be home.” he said, still mostly muffled, and Orochimaru squeezed the nape of his neck affectionately. He tilted his head back. “Were you waiting? Are we going home?”
“You should report in with your team.” Sakumo nodded towards where they were now waiting not far off, unable to quite quash his grin, and ruffled Kakashi’s hair. “We’ll meet you at home in a bit, cub.”
“Your father only just got in himself.” Orochimaru put in before Kakashi could respond. “We’ll all catch up at home later, right?”
Kakashi fidgeted, then nodded, nuzzling into Orochimaru’s side and then stepping back and returning to his sensei, who had been watching with a smile and welcomed him back with a light touch to one shoulder.
Chapter 193: Games (Chasing Games)
Sakumo skidded a bit as he rounded a large rock, but he didn’t let it keep him from pouncing, as it carried him within range of the shimmery bird as it kept running. It shrieked and kept running, and Sakumo huffed and kept after it with the mouthful of tail feathers that was all he’d managed to catch.
The bird ran . . . right up onto an engawa, and Sakumo was a little surprised, but not as much as when it shrieked for help in words. He skidded to a stop and blinked, trying to make sense of it, even as a tall man stepped outside and collected the bird.
He had white hair like Mama, and he was calm even as he stepped down and addressed Sakumo, and even introduced the bird cradled in his arms. The bird didn’t seem to like it very much, but Sakumo had caught his tail feathers, he guessed it wouldn’t be very happy for a while.
Sakumo frowned. “The snake boy likes it when I chase him though?” he asked uncertainly, because he understood the concept that Tobirama-sama explained, that chasing things that could talk was not good, but it made Orochimaru smile and sometimes he would giggle when Sakumo caught him.
Sometimes Sakumo only thought he’d caught the snake boy, and instead would find himself tumbled across the ground and pinned under a slight weight and a smug grin. He liked that, too.
“Games are different, little one.” Tobirama-sama said, with a little rumbling sound of amusement. And everyone needs to know they are games . . . and be enjoying themselves.” he added as the bird in his arms shrieked.
Sakumo nodded. That made sense. Orochimaru always enjoyed playing with him, but at first he had been angry when Sakumo tried to stalk him, and his acid-sharp scent had been bitter and sour.
Sakumo stiffened, cocking his head. Papa was calling for him, back at home. Sakumo rose and looked back at Tobirama-sama and his bird, apologising before he ran for home.
Chapter 194: Feral Families (Chasing Games)
Sakumo perked, tilting his head up and sniffing. He abandoned the trail he had been ferreting out and slunk through the brush, scrupulously silent. He circled the new target, carefully angling to where he could pounce his prey without catching the mother. . .
Sakumo lunged from his concealment, and his prey twisted to face him, stance shifting, but not in enough time to prevent Sakumo catching him. Sakumo tumbled them both to the ground, careful not to pin too hard, and yipped as he wound up on his back looking up at a sharp grin and gleaming golden eyes.
“Oro!” Sakumo barked happily, wriggling to free his arms and reaching up.
Orochimaru sniffed and let go, laughing softly as Sakumo caught hold of him, sitting up and nuzzling his shoulder. “Wolf.” Orochimaru said, fingers running lightly over his arm.
“You’re sure you don’t mind?” Orochimaru’s Mama was saying to Sakumo’s own Papa. “I had hoped- But for a few days, at least, until my mate is due home. . .”
“We’ll be fine together. As long as Orochi-kun is happy to stay with us, we don’t mind looking after him, you know that.” Papa said, and Sakumo grinned, looking back at Orochimaru. He smiled slightly in return, almost shy. Sakumo whined happily and pressed his nose to Orochimaru’s cheek as their parents continued talking.
“Orochimaru,” Orochimaru’s Mama opened her arms and Sakumo dropped his hold on his friend as he pulled away and went to them, “just as we discussed, I’m going to be gone on a mission, and the Hatake are going to look after you until your father returns, all right, precious?”
“Yes, Mama.” Orochimaru dipped his head, then hummed as his Mama swept him into tight embrace. “Be safe.” he said softly against her shoulder.
“I will.” She kissed his brow. “Be clever, precious.”
“Yes, Mama.” Orochimaru said again, hugging her tighter, then moved back. She ran a hand through his silky hair and cupped his cheek, then stepped away, and a few moments later she was gone.
Orochimaru was still looking after her, and Sakumo edged over and pressed comfortingly against his side. He looked up, and Sakumo tilted his head and whined softly, nudging closer.
Orochimaru sighed, the uneasy look on his face softening, and pressed into Sakumo in return.
Chapter 195: Nephew
Minato sighed, and- “It’s a baby.” Tekouru, who had three younger siblings, said in the most impatient tones Minato had ever heard from him. Minato stifled a laugh.
“This is my nephew, Kakashi-chan!” Jiraiya-sensei said, smiling. He looked down at the baby and winced. “Ah . . . his parents both had to go out of the village today, my best friend in a bit of a rush, so they asked me to watch him for a few hours.”
“That’s . . . cool?” Gintaka said uncertainly, his own face screwing up.
“He is the reason that I took you all on.” Jiraiya-sensei said, cradling the baby a little higher. He woke up, waving his fists. “I . . . decided to try being a jounin-sensei after he was born.”
“We’re not babies!” Gintaka snapped, and Minato kicked his ankle, scowling back at him.
“May I hold him?” Minato asked, stretching up and looking past fluffy silver hair to curious blue-grey eyes and a button nose. He smiled and Kakashi wriggled, opening his hands and waving them a little more.
“So what are we doing today?” Tekouru asked over whatever Gintaka was building up to say.
“Working on those exercises I showed you yesterday, Minato’s the only one who got them down yet,” Jiraiya-sensei said, “Minato, ah. . .”
“I helped with the littlest ones at the orphanage.” Minato offered, and Jiraiya-sensei hummed.
“Be careful. Ah. . . Don’t let him bite you.” Jiraiya-sensei said, settling him into Minato’s arms, and Minato went still, blinking up at his sensei. “Just- Trust me.”
“Jiraiya-sensei, he shouldn’t even have-” Minato’s eyes widened as the baby made a soft whining sound and showed very sharp little teeth. “Oh.”
Jiraiya-sensei huffed a laugh and nodded. “Yes, it’s-”
“White hair? Are you sure he’s your nephew, Jiraiya-sensei?” Gintaka laughed. “Sure your best friend’s wife wasn’t your-”
“Gintaka!” Jiraiya-sensei bellowed, and the baby barked.
Minato looked down at him, then up. “Is- Is your friend Hatake-sama?” he asked, cradling Kakashi against his chest and tickling the baby’s cheek.
“My best friend is Orochimaru, but his husband is,” Jiraiya-sensei paused, with another little laugh, “Hatake-sama, yes. Minato-kun, are you all right with him while I get your teammates started?”
Minato grinned and nodded, bouncing Kakashi gently.
Chapter 196: Tracking Lesson
Sakumo hid a smile at the quizzical look on his cub’s face as Kakashi stopped and tilted his head, then looked up at Sakumo. “Daddy. . .”
“Yes, cub?” Sakumo asked.
“Where Mama?” Kakashi asked, curling his fingers into Sakumo’s pants and tugging.
Sakumo smiled softly. “I don’t know. Where do you think Mama is?” he asked.
Kakashi looked at him, squirming. “. . .Mama?”
“Why don’t you follow,” Sakumo gently tapped Kakashi’s nose, “your little wolfy nose, cub? Where’s Mama?”
Kakashi whined and wriggled, tilting his head and sniffing great lungfuls of air. He went still with his nose twitching, and had he been a true wolf his tail would clearly have been wagging.
He bounded off in slightly clumsy wobbles, and Sakumo strode carefully after him.
Kakashi went right into the tall plants without hesitation, sniffing and wavering back and forth from time to time, and Sakumo kept pace only a few steps behind.
“Mama!” Kakashi barked suddenly, and disappeared in a flurry of pale purple flowers and tall stalks.
Orochimaru laughed, happy and surprised. “Hatchlingcub!”
Sakumo took the handful of strides further to reach them and found Orochimaru lying on his back amongst the lavender with Kakashi on his chest, wriggling in his arms. He was crooning contentedly, long fingers running through Kakashi’s hair.
Sakumo smiled at them, heart warm.
Chapter 197: Impermanence
Sakumo nuzzled Kakashi’s hair, then kissed Orochimaru’s cheek as he straightened. He moved to collect the dishes from their lunch back onto the tray and carried them off to the kitchen, the door shushing quietly as he closed it.
Kakashi squirmed and whined, and Orochimaru picked him up with a soothing croon, rocking him. Kakashi’s fingers caught in Orochimaru’s sleeve and clung as he kicked. He began to cry, little howling gasps.
Orochimaru hummed softly, rocking his son and cradling him close. “There there,” he soothed, “I know this is difficult for you,” he said, stroking Kakashi’s hair and down his round cheek, “because you haven’t developed object permanence yet, but your father hasn’t disappeared, I promise, cubling, he only closed the door. He’ll be back.”
Kakashi gasped and choked, and Orochimaru wiped his nose, tutting at him. “There, you see? You can breathe, it’s all right.”
Kakashi calmed a little, and Orochimaru wiped his nose again. He nestled against Orochimaru’s chest, making curious snuffling noises as Orochimaru crooned again.
The door opened and Sakumo returned with a pot of tea. “Aw, what’s wrong, cub?” he asked in a silly tone as he knelt.
Orochimaru stifled a laugh. “Daddy disappeared. It was most distressing.” he supplied, sliding Kakashi into his father’s arms.
Sakumo looked up, surprised. Orochimaru smiled and stroked his face, leaning in over their son and resting his brow against his mate’s.
Chapter 198: Patience
Sakumo groaned as elegant fingers ran over his arm and up towards his shoulder, leaning forwards obligingly. Orochimaru scrubbed the soapy cloth in languid circles and moved higher with every pass, sweat and dirt and blood - little of it Sakumo’s own - dissolving and drifting away beneath his gentle attention.
He moved closer as he continued, to reach more easily, making the hot water ripple around them; Sakumo’s blood was running hotter now as well. A single loose lock of Orochimaru’s hair fell forwards past his jaw and almost across Sakumo’s face, bringing the sharply acidic, familiar smell of his mate to his nose, mingled with the water and soap.
“Bend; wet your hair so I can get that as well.” Orochimaru murmured, and Sakumo obeyed, sliding lower in the bath and soaking his hair, then coming up again with a shiver of pleasure and arousal. Orochimaru’s fingers ran through his fringe, then further back, combing through the thick strands.
Then he withdrew his hands and tipped shampoo into his palm before returning them to Sakumo’s hair, moving closer still, his knee between Sakumo’s legs, leaning in until their chests almost brushed. Sakumo bit his lip, cock throbbing, and resisted the urge to grab slim hips and pull, to bring his mate close and rut against his lean thigh.
Sakumo sighed, then breathed in, eyes closed, basking in the beloved and reassuring scent as he did in the warm, gentle touch of hands on him, working through his hair.
“Patience.” Orochimaru murmured, his voice low and warm. Sakumo tilted his head up and opened his eyes, a curious sound in his throat. Orochimaru smiled. “Patience . . . and then you can have me. Here, if you like.” he said, almost teasing, but steady and warm as he settled lower in the bath, his skin sliding against Sakumo’s cock - and the head of his own brushing Sakumo’s stomach ever so lightly.
Sakumo growled softly and nudged his head into his mate’s hands, and Orochimaru kissed Sakumo’s brow and resumed his task, keeping the same steady pace.
Chapter 199: Brushing
“Really?” Orochimaru asked, lips quirking.
Sakumo whined softly, inching a little closer still on his belly, nose nudging against Orochimaru’s thigh. Orochimaru smiled a little more and ran his fingers through his mate’s thick fur from just behind his ears on downwards.
Sakumo sighed contentedly at the touch, letting his head slide across Orochimaru’s legs, ears flicking. Orochimaru leaned over him and retrieved the broad-headed brush, scratching lightly beneath his fur.
Sakumo sprawled out eagerly as Orochimaru raised the brush, and he laughed softly, running it through Sakumo’s ruff and over his shoulder. Sakumo rumbled happily, stretching, toes splaying out as he braced his paws.
Orochimaru bent and nuzzled into Sakumo’s fur, then shifted them both a little as he straightened again. Sakumo moved easily, despite his bulk, and he all but melted as Orochimaru brushed out his fur - coming out with drifts of silvery-white fluff caught on the bristles.
Sakumo’s tail swept back and forth from time to time, and he snuffled against Orochimaru’s stomach, basking in the attention. Orochimaru hummed, pausing to rub along the side of one ear and laughing as Sakumo shivered and pushed his head into the touch with a happy groan.
Chapter 200: New Otouto
All of the family of little ones for #200 here. . . ^.^
Minato straightened up a little, surprised, and looked towards the house, from which was emanating a small, warbling howl . . . and another that was higher pitched and rather less steady. He dusted his hands off and picked up the basket, letting himself out of the chicken coop and locking it securely behind him as he went.
Stepping inside didn’t offer any clarification, though nothing seemed to be wrong, at least. Minato tilted his head, setting the basket of eggs aside, and stepped closer.
Orochimaru was lying back on the couch, one hand over his face, seemingly smothering the laughter making him shake slightly. Kakashi and Tenzou were both crouched close around him and . . . howling at his stomach?
“What. . .”
“I was talking to the cub.” Sakumo said, resting a hand on Minato’s shoulder and laughing softly. “The cubs wanted to know what I was doing, and now . . . Kakashi is trying to make sure their new sibling will know their pack before they are born.”
Minato bit his lip, grinning, and watched the little ones. Kakashi snuffled against Orochimaru’s side and he ran his fingers through Kakashi’s hair. Tenzou gave howling another game try, then sighed and flopped over on his mother, pouting a little.
“Minato-nii!” Kakashi barked, and Minato raised his eyebrows. “Otouto needs to know pack!”
“So I heard.” Minato said, amused.
Kakashi just looked at him for a moment, then huffed, an exaggerated, miniature version of Orochimaru’s stinging impatience. “Well? Come say hello! You have to howl too!”
Minato’s eyes widened. “I-”
Sakumo nudged him forwards, and Minato glanced at him, then grinned and crossed the room. Orochimaru smiled at him as he knelt by the couch, and Minato hummed and tentatively rested a hand on Orochimaru’s stomach. “Hello little one.” he said without thinking, and- You’re going to be born into the best family, I’m so happy for you.
A warm brush through his hair made him look up, and he found Orochimaru’s eyes on him, warm and fond. Minato relaxed and leaned a little closer, and Orochimaru cupped his cheek.
“Minato-nii!” Kakashi scolded, and Minato jumped. “You have to howl! Otouto is all the way in Mama! Have to hear!”
“Erm. . .” Minato looked at Kakashi’s expectant face, and Tenzou watching him sleepily but with equal expectance, then up at Orochimaru, who arched a brow. He shifted and took a hitching breath, then a deeper one. “Aaawoooo. . .” he tried, flushing as he broke off awkwardly.
“Oh dear. Why have we never taught him to howl?” Sakumo said quietly as he came nearer, passing by Minato with a brush of his hand over Minato’s shoulder, and he flushed deeper, ducking his head.
“Howling is your department, wolf-heart.” Orochimaru said, ruffling Minato’s hair, and Sakumo hummed. “I told you, precious,” he added, reaching out and stroking Kakashi’s jaw, “your otouto can hear you just fine when you’re up close. Your brother can talk to him.”
“Ah, hello, Gai-kun.”
“Good morning, Orochimaru-sama!” Gai said brightly, bowing. “I am sorry to disturb you!”
“Yes, good morning.” Orochimaru stifled a yawn in one hand. “No trouble. Come in.”
“Thank you, Orochimaru-sama!” Gai grinned at his best friend’s mother, bouncing on his heels as he stepped into the house.
“You needn’t address me so formally.” Orochimaru said sleepily, once again, though he didn’t look terribly surprised when Gai shook his head firmly. “Ah yes, as you will. You’ll have to wake Kakashi if you want him, of course.” He gestured absently in the direction of Kakashi’s room. “I will have breakfast for the both of you when you’ve finished.”
“Thank you, Orochimaru-sama!” Gai called as he trotted off to wake his best friend. “Oh! I am sorry, Sakumo-sama! I did not realise you had returned.” Gai ducked his head apologetically, coming up short just before he would have run into Sakumo outside his own bedroom door.
Sakumo yawned. “I was already awake.” he said, smiling. “My mate got up. Kakashi is not. Enjoy.” He laughed as he walked away, patting Gai’s shoulder.
He grinned - he always felt welcome here, greeted with warmth; it was a feeling Gai appreciated most thoroughly - then went to roust Kakashi from his sleep.
Chapter 202: Disturbance (morning spar)
“Ah! Hello!” Gai grinned at the snake who had suddenly risen as he opened the door and was now staring him in the face. “I shall best you for the right to disturb my rival!”
Karei swayed back and forth a little, then dipped her head. “I don’t spar with you.” she said, coiling back onto the floor, and gaped her inky black jaw in something that looked much like a grin. Gai wasn’t sure if it was or not, and had never quite wanted to ask. It seemed rude. “Go on and disturb him if you wish.”
Gai dipped his head to her politely, then slid the door the rest of the way open. “Rival! Kakashi!” he cried, and Kakashi groaned, rolling over to turn his back to Gai and dragging his blanket further over himself. “If you will not rise, I will remove you myself!”
Kakashi grumbled wordlessly, as though still trying to remain in sleep’s clutches.
Gai narrowed his eyes and rushed towards his friend, then yelled in delighted surprise as Kakashi pounced, the blanket flung aside as Kakashi hit Gai, and then they both hit the floor. Kakashi eeled sideways as Gai punched lazily at his ribs, and deflected the less lazy blow at his kidney with one arm, fingers closing tight around Gai’s wrist.
“Karei-chan, why won’t you deal with disturbances for me?” Kakashi whined, cocking his head and looking off at his snake even as he twisted Gai’s arm. “Aren’t I a good summoner? Don’t I deserve help?”
“I’ll help when you have a problem.” Karei said with a soft, amused hiss, slithering nearer and sliding over Kakashi’s calf. “This isn’t a problem. Loud and irritating,” Karei sniffed, “but not a problem.”
Gai grinned, then bucked to throw Kakashi off, though he kept hold of Gai’s wrist as he went, snapping it backwards at a painful angle. Gai winced but was already moving to pin Kakashi where he had landed on the floor.
“Not in the house!” Sakumo reminded at an easy yell, and Gai stopped himself so suddenly he skidded uncomfortably on one knee.
“Yeah, Gai,” Kakashi grinned, “not in the house.”
“I am sleeping, in any case. Take yourselves elsewhere.” Karei sniffed. “Wake me if there are eggs.” she added even as she nestled her head deeper in her silvery, violet-sheened coils, closing her eyes.
Karei is a black mamba (and yes, even real world black mambas come in a purple sheen variety over their silvery grey or tan scales) and her name is written with characters that read 'splendour'.
Chapter 203: Advice (morning spar)
Kakashi shouldered Gai companionably and smiled as he led the way out into the back garden, to the clear space left for sparring or other exercises. Kakashi folded himself into a sinuous stretch that possibly would have required breaking something on someone else, humming sleepily and closing his eyes.
Gai had done his own warm-up stretches before he went on his morning run, which he had ended here, but he bent and followed suit, if to slightly less extreme degree. Gai was flexible - far more so than many people assumed, for some reason - but he suspected that there was a degree of flexibility Kakashi had inherited from his mother that was simply unattainable without the quirks of that bloodline.
Kakashi untwisted himself backwards rather than simply reversing the stretch, and lounged across the grass, yawning, his eyes still closed. Gai eyed him for a moment, then shifted into a different stretch himself, humming.
A third shift brought one leg beneath him in a crouch, the other outstretched, and in moments more he was driving an elbow into the dirt where Kakashi had been lying. Gai huffed, grinning, as he turned and dodged a return blow, sweeping Kakashi’s feet from beneath him.
He landed in an easy roll and was up in half a breath, aiming a strike for Gai’s face and nearly catching him in the shoulder with another when he dodged it. Gai circled him, alert, blood rushing with adrenaline and excitement as they traded blows and tumbled together across the grass, struggling together and retreating from one another again.
Gai was startled into a laugh when one of the wolves started calling advice - to both of them in turn - from her place lounging on the engawa, watching over them. He listened, though, as did Kakashi. The wolves had been partnered with Sakumo for a long time, and their assessments and advice were usually good if they chose to share.
Gai trailed Kakashi into the bathing room, both of them sweaty, mussed, and out of breath, and Kakashi’s sleeping yukata perhaps rather the worse for wear for being used as sparring gear. Gai apologised, and Kakashi only laughed softly and bumped their shoulders together, dipping his head and butting his brow against Gai’s gently.
Gai smiled, leaning into him in return for a moment.
Then they pulled apart and washed up, Gai’s breathing already returned to normal after the spar and his heartrate at least beginning to follow suit. He was straightening his hair in the mirror when a yukata hit him in the face and Kakashi snickered.
Gai looked at his friend, holding the yukata, and blinked. Kakashi wrapped a fresh yukata around himself, winding the obi neatly. “You’re not putting that back on after you’ve just washed, are you?” he asked, tilting his chin towards Gai’s jumpsuit.
Gai frowned, but shook his head and put on the offered alternative instead. Kakashi passed behind him, running a hand across his shoulders, and slipped out, probably heading towards the kitchen.
Gai followed after only a few moments, but he had to pause in the kitchen doorway.
Kakashi was lounging at the table with Karei wrapped around his shoulders and chest, a cup of tea in his hands. Orochimaru was feeding bits of egg to a rather larger snake stretched along the back of the counter. There was egg and rice, fish and miso, tsukemono and natto, which Gai liked but knew no one here particularly cared for at breakfast, set out on the table. Sakumo poured another cup of tea and looked up at Gai with a smile as he pushed it to the empty space around the corner from Kakashi.
Gai swallowed and then smiled back, making his way to his seat. Karei was complaining that she didn’t have any egg yet, and Kakashi was crooning to her affectionately as he reached for the miso.
Gai started to serve himself breakfast as Sakumo asked how their sparring had gone.
Chapter 205: Important Meeting
“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” Orochimaru asked cautiously, resting a hand on Sakumo’s wrist. Are you sure you want to do this? he heard, looking at his mate.
“Of course.” Sakumo said, though battlefield memories did little but encourage uneasiness. “He’s important to you, isn’t he?”
Orochimaru met his eyes, looking a little startled - Sakumo wanted to growl - and. . .
“. . .yes. He is.” Orochimaru said quietly, his expression faltering even as his lips curled slightly, his eyes gone incredibly warm and soft. “That doesn’t-”
“Then if you would introduce us,” Sakumo interrupted, and kissed Orochimaru’s cheek, nuzzling him affectionately, “I wish to meet him.”
Orochimaru squeezed his wrist and kissed him, breath catching as he moved away from Sakumo a little, smiling.
Sakumo returned it and watched as his mate bared one pale arm, and the dark, thorny band inked around it.
He took a breath as a great purple shape sprang into being around them, coiling tighter, scales shining in the sun as Manda bowed his head close to them.
“Summoner.” Manda said, and hissed, flicking his tongue out until the tips of the blue fork almost brushed Sakumo.
Chapter 206: Cub Baths
“Now, be nice.” Sakumo scolded lightly, disentangling Tenzou’s fingers from Kakashi’s hair and giving his eldest a smile for not snapping at his brother, despite the pulling.
Tenzou splashed, yelling wordlessly, but it was a happy sound and he was fine, so Sakumo let him be, balanced in the basin at the edge of the large bath. Kakashi ducked down as Sakumo directed, soaking his hair again and coming up with a spluttery noise and a scrunched face Sakumo knew was purposeful.
Sakumo corralled his cub to wash his hair as he made more faces at his brother, and Tenzou giggled and made faces back.
“You’re going to be so good when it’s your turn, right, my little sapling cub?” Sakumo asked Tenzou, and scrunched his nose up.
Tenzou giggled and said a few nonsense phrases that were no doubt something sensible in his mind. Sakumo grinned at him and he made a happy noise and then got distracted by his toes under the water.
Sakumo freed a hand and reached for him just in time to tilt him back up before his face hit the water’s surface. “Careful, cub.” he said lightly. “Kakashi-”
Kakashi yipped and submerged himself again, shaking his head and then twisting his whole body beneath the water before he came up, gasping and grinning. Sakumo patted his shoulder.
Chapter 207: Decompression
Orochimaru stretched languidly, raising one hand and running his knuckles along Sakumo’s thigh. Sakumo bent and kissed Orochimaru’s brow, a nuzzling caress. One hand splayed over his shoulder, palm cupping his collarbone, callused fingertips dipping under his shirt.
He smiled, rolling his shoulder and tipping his head aside, and closed his eyes as Sakumo’s other hand ran through his hair. He curled his fingers into Sakumo’s pants, nestling a little further into his mate’s lap.
Sakumo’s fingers combed through his hair, and Orochimaru sighed contentedly, breath hissing a little. The tension of his mission finally eased away from him, bit by bit, with the quiet, warmth, and doting attention. Sakumo rumbled soothingly, palm rubbing over Orochimaru’s chest, and eventually he fell asleep there in his mate’s lap.
Chapter 208: Hug
A shiver of tension ran through Orochimaru at an unexpected touch, then faded away again, and he laughed, shaking his head. “What are you doing?” he asked, glancing down his chest to where Sakumo’s fingers were creeping in under his shirt.
“Hugging you.” Sakumo said, voice a rumble against Orochimaru’s back. One of his hands splayed over Orochimaru’s stomach; the other slipped a little higher and nudged deeper under the crossed front of his shirt.
“Is that so. Nothing else?” Orochimaru suggested, amused.
Sakumo hummed and kissed his neck. “Should I be doing something else?” he asked quietly, stroking the flat of his palm over Orochimaru’s stomach. His fingers curled just a little inside Orochimaru’s shirt, tickling his skin with callused fingertips.
“You tell me.” Orochimaru invited lightly, leaning into his mate’s arms and arching his neck, smiling as Sakumo nuzzled against it and nipped lightly, sending a tingling shiver through him. Orochimaru licked his lips, breath coming a little quicker.
“Perhaps I could think of a few other . . . possibilities.” Sakumo said innocently, and Orochimaru laughed and pressed into his mate’s body, hands sliding over his forearms.
“Are you sure you don’t mind, Oro-mama?” Shisui asked, bouncing lightly on his heels.
Orochimaru smiled and reached out his arms. “I’m sure. You know I love her.”
Shisui returned the smile and lifted his daughter, nuzzling her tousled hair and kissing her brow. “Be good for your grandmama, Airi.” he told her, then let Orochimaru take her.
He crooned softly, stroking her face and then offering her a finger. She grabbed hold and stuck it in her mouth, though unlike her father at this age there was no scrape of fangs along his skin.
“We’ll be fine, won’t we little one?” Orochimaru said, rocking the baby and looking up at Shisui.
“Thank you.” Shisui grinned and hugged them both, stroking Airi’s face as he stepped back. “I’ll be back as soon as. . .”
“Bring my son back with you.” Orochimaru said quietly.
“I will.” Shisui’s expression sharpened. “And if he’s not got a good reason I’m going to beat him first.”
“And if he has?” Orochimaru asked, arching a brow.
“Then I’m going to beat whatever it is and then drag him home.” Shisui said wryly, and Orochimaru laughed, rocking Airi.
“Be safe.” he said, brushing Shisui’s cheek with one hand. Shisui nodded, then turned, collecting his pack from where he’d left it near the door, and was gone in a flicker.
Orochimaru sighed, looking at his granddaughter and hoping his son was safe, wherever he was - wherever he had been for the two weeks that had passed since he had been expected home.
Airi, with her lack of fangs, was written as an adopted Uchiha orphan. Though I suppose there's a possibility I'll write baby ravenwolfies at some point. (Ravensnekwolfies?)
Chapter 210: Cooking Competence
“What . . . are you doing?” Kakashi asked cautiously.
“Cooking.” Tsunade said slowly, drawing out the word as she peered into the oven.
Kakashi eyed her. “Oh.” He looked around the kitchen at the mess. “That’s . . . not what it looks like when Mama does it.”
Tsunade sighed and straightened, flicking the oven closed and leaning against the counter. “No, I imagine not.” she said, then snorted. “It’s not really my strong suit.”
Kakashi nodded, then looked around again. “Do . . . you need help?” he asked tentatively.
“Probably, but I’ll muddle through.” Tsunade said, waving a hand and turning her back to him again.
“Dad says every ninja should be able to take care of themselves.” Kakashi said after watching her a bit more.
“Yes, well, I’ve been rather busy and it’s not particularly interesting. Or something I’m good at.” Tsunade huffed.
“Mama agrees.” Kakashi added, and Tsunade turned to glare at him. “I can help.” he filled in quietly.
Tsunade blinked, expression softening. “Oh. I didn’t- Wait, you can help?”
Kakashi slid off the bench and trotted over to his aunt, reaching up and adjusting the pot on the stove carefully. “Dad and Mama say it’s important for every ninja to be able to take care of themselves, and anyone else around,” he reached for the knife, “so they make sure to teach me lots.”
When he looked up at Tsunade again she was smiling and shaking her head slightly. “I’m sure they do. All right, help it is.”
Chapter 211: Special Mission
“Oh, goodness.” Sakumo said, clucking and bouncing Kakashi gently. “Such a voice, cub!”
Kakashi’s face screwed up and he nearly choked as he sniffled between howling cries. Sakumo crooned, rocking him and pacing back and forth across the house.
“There now, I know, cub. . .” Sakumo murmured, lifting Kakashi upright to make it easier for him to breathe, rubbing his back.
Kakashi howled and curled his tiny fists into Sakumo’s shirt, and Sakumo tipped him back to look him in the face.
“Kakashi, I have a very special mission for you, my very tiny ninja.” he said seriously, and Kakashi sniffled but eyed him, cries calming a little as Sakumo’s tone caught his attention. Sakumo smiled slightly. “Your mission . . . is to calm the hell down, my cub.”
Kakashi’s face was confused, but his attention was caught, so Sakumo continued to talk to him in the same tone as they walked around the house, wondering idly if Kakashi would calm enough to let him put together dinner before his mate returned home, or if it would need to wait.
Chapter 212: Tongue
Sakumo’s hands caressed down Orochimaru’s sides, thumbs stroking as they stilled, clinging to his arching hips. Orochimaru shivered as he felt the feathery brush of his mate’s warm breath over his skin, and Sakumo growled.
Orochimaru groaned, an instant before Sakumo made contact, dragging his fangs across Orochimaru’s hip, licking at the dip of his spine, sliding further down - hands wandering down Orochimaru’s thighs - and nuzzling the curve of his ass. Orochimaru shifted slightly and Sakumo’s hands tightened.
Sakumo dipped lower, and Orochimaru jerked as sharp fangs dug into his thigh, a harsh pressure. It didn’t quite stop him from canting his hips and spreading his legs wider, knees sliding over the fabric of their futon with a barely-there rasp.
He shivered and a soft laugh spilled up from his throat as Sakumo nuzzled upwards, nose tucked against his inner thigh, brushing along the crease of his groin, then nudging his sac gently. Sakumo’s tongue lapped over his sac and Orochimaru’s breath caught.
He lingered, but slowly made his way up to tease at Orochimaru’s rim with gentle, but firm strokes, making him squirm and curl his fingers tight into the bedding.
Sakumo didn’t stop, tongue rubbing back and forth over the taut muscles, slowly teasing them into loosening for him. Orochimaru moaned breathlessly, heat racing beneath his skin as he arched his hips to push up towards his mate’s mouth.
Sakumo rumbled against him, not quite a growl, and Orochimaru’s toes curled as he nearly choked on a whine, limbs going weak. Sakumo’s tongue pushed firmly against the weakened resistance of Orochimaru’s muscles, and he keened sharply.
Catching his breath, he twisted a little and curled his hands more securely into the fabric, bracing himself. He swallowed, back arching and hips rocking as Sakumo’s tongue drove deeply into him.
Orochimaru’s muscles twitched, his whole body tense and hot with want that Sakumo was quickly intensifying with every stroke of his tongue, squeeze of his fingers, and rough rumble from deep in his chest.
Chapter 213: Favourite
Sakumo pulled up short, debated making the last pounce to try and catch his prey for half an instant, then wheeled around and ran instead for the insistent call.
Sakumo howled low as he ran, and there were no more calls until he arrived at a small space between a boulder and two trees to find his friend perched on a smaller rock against the boulder, tense and solemn. Not that either was unusual for him, but. . .
Sakumo crossed to him more slowly, panting a little from the run after all the time chasing prey this afternoon. “Oro?” He whined softly, inquisitive and sympathetic.
Orochimaru looked up at him and the almost impassive face wavered. He reached out to Sakumo, and he moved in towards the touch with alacrity. Orochimaru shuddered and curled his fingers into Sakumo’s collar, and he dropped to his knees beside the rock.
“Oro? What’s wrong?” Sakumo asked, pressing his nose against Orochimaru’s forearm and scenting even as he nuzzled comfortingly.
Orochimaru slipped off the rock and almost into his lap, surprising Sakumo. He shifted and caught Orochimaru in his arms, hugging him tight, and Orochimaru returned the embrace, to his surprise.
“I hate. . .” Orochimaru broke off and buried his face against Sakumo’s shoulder. “I wish your Dad had been able to take me.”
Sakumo swallowed and nuzzled Orochimaru gently. They’d . . . all been disappointed, but the Hokage had claimed Orochimaru for his team of genin and no one could dispute that.
“I don’t think he even likes me. He told Jiraiya today I’m not trustworthy, and he-” Orochimaru broke off and Sakumo fought not to snarl. “And I have to train with Jiraiya and he’s so slow, and loud, and- I hate him.”
Sakumo wasn’t sure whether Orochimaru meant Jiraiya or his sensei, but it didn’t . . . really matter, not here and not like this.
“I’m sorry.” he said, nuzzling Orochimaru’s neck and cuddling him close. “You know we wish, too. . . I mean,” he paused, sighing, “I wish you could’ve been on my team.”
“Me too.” Orochimaru said with a sigh. “I. . . It would be so much better with you.”
“You’d like Dan, too, if you gave him a chance.” Sakumo said, and Orochimaru huffed sharply, squeezing him even tighter. “You would. But you don’t have to.” he soothed, rubbing Orochimaru’s back. He hesitated. “You’ll always be my favourite person, anyway. If that-”
Sakumo broke off as Orochimaru’s arms suddenly moved to wind around his shoulders and neck instead, holding tight. Orochimaru sniffled and clung, and Sakumo’s eyes widened, but he didn’t say anything, only cuddled into Orochimaru’s embrace and whined softly, nuzzling his shoulder.
Chapter 214: Hajimemashite Aniki
Kabuto jumped, looking nervously towards the door. “What’s that noise?”
“Hatchling is home.” Motoki said, circling Kabuto’s waist.
“Older hatchling.” Jinkei said with an almost contemplative hiss.
“Oh.” Kabuto tucked his legs a little closer and eyed the front door. Kakashi had been on a mission when Oro- when his new parents had brought him home. What would he think about Kabuto being here?
The door opened and Nori crossed from behind Kabuto towards it at a quick pace, just as a slender boy much taller than Kabuto had somehow expected stepped inside. He looked very like Sakumo, though not so big or broad . . . until his eyes swept the room and landed on Kabuto with almost the same inquisitive light that Orochimaru had fixed on him when Kabuto had been healing his wrist.
Nori wound around his legs, climbing higher, and he stroked the huge serpent much like Orochimaru did as well. “Hello there.”
“Hello.” Kabuto said in a tiny voice.
“So you’re my new otouto?” Kakashi asked, closing the door and leaving his sandals behind as he stepped up into the room.
Kabuto’s eyes widened.
“Hello Mama.” Kakashi returned, his smile just showing beneath the mask that hid half his face, his eyes crinkling above it. Orochimaru swept him into an embrace, and he whined and nuzzled into it until Orochimaru stepped back, stroking his cheek.
Kabuto tried to make himself smaller.
“This is Kabuto.” Orochimaru turned towards him without releasing Kakashi, beckoning.
Kabuto swallowed nervously, but rose and sidled closer.
Orochimaru pulled him in and Kabuto relaxed a little under the warm touch, leaning against him. “Kabuto, this is Kakashi, your Aniki.”
Kabuto’s breath caught as Kakashi bent and drew him into a gentle hug, masked nose brushing his jaw. “It is good to meet you, otouto.” Kakashi drew back just enough to meet Kabuto’s eyes, and he was smiling again, and his embrace was warm and careful.
“Erm.” Kabuto nodded shallowly, and Orochimaru stroked his hair. “Hajimemashite . . . Aniki.”
Chapter 215: Here
Sakumo startled as he found himself suddenly being pressed lower in bed, but as soon as he was awake enough to register the feeling, he was awake enough to recognise the hands splaying over his shoulders. He sighed and relaxed, and Orochimaru stretched out over him, then quietly went lax, heavy and warm.
Sakumo growled softly, and Orochimaru kissed the nape of his neck, hands sliding over his arms and squeezing lightly. There was a soft hiss and a murmured endearment, and Sakumo shifted just enough to bring one hand up, catching his mate’s and twining their fingers.
“I love you.” Orochimaru said, and Sakumo smiled. “Thank you for being here.”
Sakumo squeezed his hand. “Always.”
Chapter 216: Bloody Hands
Orochimaru eyed his mate out the window. It was raining and nearly dark, but Sakumo showed no sign of ceasing the kata he was running through.
A nudge against his thigh had Orochimaru reaching down to rest his hand on his son’s hair. He looked down as Kakashi snuffled against him, a contented look on his face, and smiled.
Kakashi looked up and grinned, then tugged at the tail of Orochimaru’s shirt.
Orochimaru crouched just enough to pick him up, shifting to let Kakashi rest on his hip and bouncing him idly. “Dad’s not happy.” he said quietly, resting his head on Orochimaru’s shoulder and looking outside.
“So it seems, precious.” Orochimaru agreed, ruffling Kakashi’s hair and stroking his cheek. “I don’t know why, but perhaps he will feel better after dinner.”
“Someone in the market upset him.” Kakashi said, and Orochimaru stilled, then tilted his head to look Kakashi in the eyes. Kakashi looked unhappy himself, and Orochimaru frowned.
“What happened?” Orochimaru asked, glancing back out the window.
“. . .they said about . . . bloody hands. Said Mama has bloody hands.” Kakashi said, and Orochimaru blinked, then squeezed his eyes shut for a moment.
“Name me a ninja who does not.” Orochimaru said dryly, and glanced at his mate again. “Shall we go and get started on dinner while we wait for your father?”
“Help?” Kakashi said happily, expression clearing quickly, and Orochimaru smiled at him.
“Certainly, precious.” Orochimaru tapped the end of his nose with one finger.
“Kabuto! What are you doing?”
Kabuto jerked, looking away from his brother even as his hands dropped from Kakashi’s face and he swayed where he knelt, nearly falling.
Orochimaru swept over to him and caught him by the shoulders, chest and stomach pressing against his back. “Easy, easy, little one.” he soothed softly, rubbing Kabuto’s shoulders. “What are you doing?”
“Not hurting Aniki.” Kabuto promised, sniffing as he looked up at Kakashi’s face, mostly hidden by bandages and ashy where it was visible. It wasn’t lax even now, in sleep, but twisted with pain and grief and distress.
“I know you wouldn’t hurt him, little one.” Orochimaru said, and Kabuto whimpered. “What are you doing?”
“They- They won’t help him! Not enough!” Kabuto said, and leaned forwards, out of Orochimaru’s arms. He spread one hand out over Kakashi’s face and called his chakra again, the green glow lighting the dark hospital room.
“Kabuto. Kabuto stop.” Orochimaru ordered, and clasped his wrist, pulling it away.
“Mama!” Kabuto turned and looked up at him, eyes burning.
Orochimaru pulled Kabuto up in his arms as though he were far smaller, younger, than he really was, and then took his place on the edge of Kakashi’s bed, Kabuto cradled in his lap. “You could use too much chakra trying to heal your brother,” he said softly, mouth almost against Kabuto’s hair, “I don’t want to lose you either.”
Kabuto shuddered and sobbed silently, clinging to Orochimaru and unable to drag his eyes away from Kakashi’s tortured face.
“Tell me why you think they aren’t doing enough.” Orochimaru prompted, rubbing his back and rocking him. Kabuto sobbed a little more because-
Because Orochimaru would listen, because he hadn’t put Kabuto off and he wasn’t humouring him, and he would make sure Kakashi was taken care of even if he wouldn’t- wouldn’t let Kabuto help himself.
So is Kabuto just upset that his beloved aniki is still in pain . . . or is small Kabuto smart enough to think 'perhaps a delicate eye transplant, into a damaged face, done by a half-trained chuunin in the field, could use some checking on and perhaps improving' . . . where no other iryou-nin seem to have?
Chapter 218: Protective Aniki
Kakashi’s head jerked up, and he frowned. The cry came again, distress thick in the tone, and he was already running, eyes narrowed.
“You’re not even a real child, why would they want you?”
Kakashi snarled as he pounced, knocking one of the boys back and toppling another to the ground under his weight. The third yelped and turned as though he would run, and Kakashi lunged, knocking him face-down into the dirt and landing on his back.
“Aniki!” Tenzou sobbed, and Kakashi’s snarl faded as he turned just in time to catch his otouto in his arms, whining softly, comforting. “Aniki! They said! They- They-”
Kakashi rocked him and hugged him just a little tighter, crooning. Kakashi turned his head to glare at the three boys near them, baring his fangs.
They scrambled to their feet, shouting insults at him now, but he hardly cared - people said things about him and his parents, how they were wild and feral and not worth trusting, and it was awful, but they were only idiots and Kakashi could ignore them. Cornering his baby brother this way and making him cry. . .
Kakashi wanted to go after them, wanted to hurt them, but Tenzou was crying into his shoulder and clinging to him hard, shaking. Kakashi couldn’t let go himself when Tenzou clearly needed him here.
He nuzzled Tenzou’s cheek and cuddled him closer, hugging tight.
Chapter 219: Friendly Fire
“Fucking hell!” Sakumo cringed as Dai pulled the kunai out of his back.
“I am sorry, my friend.” Dai said, still holding him down firmly with one hand. “It does appear to have missed your kidney, at least.” he offered, and Sakumo huffed.
“That’s good.” he agreed. “Fuck. Ow. Bastard.”
“I do believe perhaps . . . Toryu should . . . refresh his skills.” Dai said slowly, clearing his throat, and Sakumo snorted.
“Before he gets anyone else friendly with his fucking dull kunai?” Sakumo continued, growling a little.
“Indeed.” Dai rubbed Sakumo’s back lightly. “Shall I clean and bandage this for you, or would you prefer to wait for an iryou-nin? Or your mate?”
“Oh, no, please.” Sakumo shook his head, trying to relax a little more and sighing. “. . .and please get me patched up before my mate is due back.”
“Perhaps as quickly as possible. Orochimaru-san does not tend to tarry.” Dai observed, and Sakumo laughed, wincing at the hot spike of pain from the wound in his back.
“Any time, my friend.” Dai assured him, patting his back and settling beside him again. “Although, please try not to require such aid too often.”
“I’ll do my best.” Sakumo snorted.
Chapter 220: Kidnapped
“We have to get to them!”
“If we want any part of the kidnappers alive to question, indeed.” Orochimaru agreed, anger and worry simmering in his veins.
“. . .what?”
“My cub is not a terribly patient person.” Sakumo said, his worry clear in his voice and his expression, but still several measures lesser than the Uchiha and her husband’s own.
“He is my son.” Orochimaru said pointedly.
“And both of you can be patient when you choose.” Sakumo modified, and Orochimaru laughed, because that was not what he had meant, but it was true as well.
“Kakashi has had cytotoxic venom since he was born.” Orochimaru informed the other parents. “He will not have hesitated to put his bite to use when dragged away from his home.”
“. . .your son will- Venom?”
Orochimaru snorted and bared his teeth, letting his fangs flick forwards, then quickly folding them back again. “Have you-”
Yura barked insistently, not even coming all the way to them before rushing off again, and Sakumo was on her tail almost instantly. Orochimaru didn’t wait to see if Obito’s parents were keeping up before following.
Chapter 221: Better Than Leaves
Orochimaru ruffled Sakumo’s fur and his ear flicked, but he didn’t stir. Orochimaru shook his head at his mate, climbing to his feet and eyeing the drifts of heaped fluff he had brushed off of Sakumo, then went to fetch the broom.
When he returned Sakumo was still drowsing in the same spot, but the heaps of fur were . . . spread out a little. And there was a suspicious depression in-
Kakashi pounced out of the largest heap, shed fur going every which way as he growled and caught hold of Orochimaru’s ankle, knocking into the broom along the way. Orochimaru laughed, glancing down, and Kakashi grinned up at him.
There was fur stuck to his clothes, and more caught in his hair, and one tuft clinging to his face. Orochimaru laughed louder, and Kakashi growled again, still grinning. “Mama!” he said, voice still rumbling with his little growls.
Orochimaru shook his head and looked at the mess - even more of one, now - beginning to sweep it up. Kakashi would need to have the fur cleaned off himself as well, now, but that could wait-
Kakashi pounced on the broom as Orochimaru swept, skidding across the floor and dragging the head of the broom sideways along with himself. Sakumo snorted, ears perking towards them, though he didn’t raise his head from his paws.
Orochimaru wrenched the broom away, then swept another drift in towards the main mess, sidestepped Kakashi’s pounce, and poked him lightly in the back with the bristles.
“Mama!” Kakashi protested, giggling, twisting and catching at the broom.
“Cubling!” Orochimaru retorted, and sidestepped again as Kakashi released the broom and darted for him again, smiling at his son.
Chapter 222: Seeking Out
“Jiraiya! You’re not la- You’re not Jiraiya.”
Sakumo turned towards the girl, nose twitching. “No. I am not.” he said, keeping as much of his distaste for the thought as he could out of his voice.
It was Orochimaru’s other teammate, Sakumo confirmed with a slightly deeper breath. Sometimes he smelled of her.
“I’m Hatake Sakumo. I’m looking for Orochimaru.” Sakumo said, bowing slightly.
Tsunade blinked at him, then tilted her head. “Looking for him?” she questioned, making Sakumo’s hackles prickle.
Sakumo brightened, turning towards his friend. “Oro!” he took a step, then waited as Orochimaru approached them.
“Hello, Tsunade.” Orochimaru returned, dipping his head slightly, then turning his attention immediately back to Sakumo in a way that made him want to preen. “What is it?” he asked, stepping a little closer.
Sakumo reached for him and Orochimaru stiffened for a moment, then caught his hand in a light clasp. “Sensei is taking us on a longer mission today. You’re still welcome of course, but I won’t be home for a few days.” He paused. “And I wanted to see you before I go.”
Orochimaru’s look of surprise - and Sakumo let himself think disappointment - warmed with a smile. “Be safe, then. I’ll see you when you get home?”
Sakumo tugged Orochimaru into a hug, nuzzling his hair and the curve of his ear. He felt the barely-there thrum of suppressed laughter in Orochimaru’s chest and grinned even as he reluctantly stepped back.
Chapter 223: Hammock (fretting family)
Several people hoped to see more in this arc; there will not be the actual rescue with Shisui and Kakashi out in the field (given the focus of this collection) but I hope the next few following on from the plot thread are enjoyable nevertheless.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Orochimaru hummed as he pushed absently against one tree trunk with the ball of his foot, keeping the hammock rocking slowly. Airi wriggled from time to time where she lay on his chest, but mostly she dozed peacefully, face smushed against him.
Orochimaru tilted his book back to turn the page with his thumb, keeping his other hand on his granddaughter’s back, rubbing lightly from time to time.
“Mm?” Orochimaru kept his eyes on his book, finishing the passage.
Sakumo bent and nuzzled his temple. “Did you have a plan for dinner tonight?” he asked, running his fingers through Airi’s wild hair.
“No.” Orochimaru closed his book on his thumb and looked up at his mate. “Are you cooking?”
“If you like.” Sakumo offered, his eyes on their granddaughter. “Going to stay out here for a while longer?” he asked, gaze lifting to meet Orochimaru’s.
“Probably.” Orochimaru tilted his head to meet his mate with a light kiss.
“I’ll call you when dinner’s ready, if you haven’t come in.” Sakumo said as he straightened, stroking Orochimaru’s cheek and then heading back inside.
Orochimaru watched him go with distracted warmth, then sighed as he looked down at his granddaughter, trying not to think about what might have kept his son from returning home. Shisui was out looking for him and if anyone was likely to be able to find him and bring him back. . .
A part of Orochimaru said he should be out there himself, but . . . well.
He shook his head, rubbing Airi’s back again as she began to wake up and tucking his book down by his hip to free his other hand.
“That’s it, little one. . .” Orochimaru crooned, slowly withdrawing his hand from his granddaughter’s arms. “Shh. . .”
Nori coiled a little more closely around her, broad nose nudging her neck, and she burbled, her little fists flexing against his scales. Orochimaru smiled and Nori hissed softly. He was . . . so much larger around Airi than he had once been around Kakashi - he would no longer fit in a cradle, himself - but he was as gentle as ever.
Orochimaru rose and left them to rest in the bedroom, intending to get a little cleaning done. He had only been working for perhaps half an hour when there a sound outside caught his ear, and he stilled, listening closely.
He darted for the door, opening it to find Shisui and Kakashi still half a dozen paces from the engawa. They looked up at him and Orochimaru ran down to meet them.
“Hello, Mama.” Kakashi said, resting his chin on Orochimaru’s shoulder and sighing. Shisui’s arm was still around his waist to support him.
“Welcome home.” Orochimaru said, forcing down the lump in his throat and reaching out to Shisui as well.
“Hello, Oro-mama. I brought him back.” Shisui said as he snuggled into Orochimaru’s embrace as well.
“Well done.” Orochimaru said with a flicker of amusement, holding them both close. “Are you all right, cubling?”
“Tired. Not too bad, though.” Kakashi said, shaking his head slightly as Orochimaru drew back a bit. “They wanted me in one piece. At least to begin with.”
“I caught them before his mouth could get him into too much trouble.” Shisui interjected.
“My mouth gets me into trouble?” Kakashi countered, arching a brow at his partner.
Orochimaru laughed softly, shaking his head. “Come inside.” he interrupted their good-natured teasing, drawing their attention once more.