Actions

Work Header

Something along those lines

Chapter Text

A quiet yawn escaped Otsuka’s mouth and she rolled over bumping into something. She growled and proceed to push it away with as much force as possible before a loud ‘Thump!’ and an audible shout cleared away the haziness of sleep. Crap! Not again.

“Minato!” She pulled herself forward and looked down to see him on the floor in a heap. Sitting up he glared at Otsuka and began rubbing his head.

“What was that for?” He sounded like a pouting child.

“Ah, sorry, I didn’t realize that was you.”

“You seem to be making a habit out of this Otsuka.” He wearily raised himself and stumbled towards the dresser. He blindly grabbed at a drawer and pulled out the clothes on the top. Otsuka giggled, scooting towards the edge of the bed and resting her head on his pillow.

“Minato honey, as thoughtful as you are, that’s my nightgown, and I’d rather you not stretch it out.” He looked down and sighed, resting it on the dresser. This time reaching for the proper drawer he turned to Otsuka and gave me a tired smile.

“Maybe it’s time to get a new bed, this is the fifth time you’ve pushed me out.” He chuckled. She’d only just moved in with him six days ago, it hadn’t even been a full week and things seemed to be just a bit too tight. He was used to living in his small apartment alone, and now with an extra human things weren’t exactly going as planned.

She groans and gets out of bed. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be causing such a disturbance for you.” Otsuka folds her nightgown and returns it to its original spot.

“Otsuka, that’s the point. We’d know something was wrong if the transition was seamless.” He pulled his blue shirt over his head and tossed his night clothes into the laundry pile at the foot of his bed. Otsuka gives him a look and he gives her a sheepish smile in return. Yet another issue that presented itself. Minato wasn’t a slob but he could be very lazy when he wanted to be. She just didn’t understand why he couldn’t buy a laundry basket to put in his room.

“Well, I could always move back, I’m sure the owner wouldn’t mind he’s known m-”

“Otsuka.” His voice is soft as he turns his girlfriend to face him. Pressing his forehead against hers he pulls her into a hug. His eyes shine with mirth and something akin to love. “I want it this way. We’ll fight and have our disagreements, but I’ll always be coming home to you. ” His words hold a heavy meaning but his tone stays gentle and caring.

After a few moments she hugs him back and he tightens his hold as she snuggled into his neck. Finding nothing but warmth Otsuka eased into his body. Neither could promise everything would work out but there is one thing they couldn’t deny. When they were together, they were home.

Chapter Text

Otsuka threw herself to the floor. Staring up at the ceiling she pondered what in the world she was going to do. Minato left three days ago and he wasn’t going to be back for the next few months. The war was going full force and she knew whenever he did get back she’d have to pick up the pieces. But she didn’t have a job, and she wasn’t a ninja. 

For as long as she could remember she’d taken care of her mother and grandfather. The both of them struggled because of their medical problems. Her grandfather died four years ago, and she’d only agreed to move in with Minato a few months after her mother had died. They’d always used both her grandfather and mother's retirement pay and what was left in their pockets.

She could hear Minato’s late alarm going off faintly in the background. She didn’t feel like turning it off, she always let it go on for the full thirty minutes and didn’t bother to turn it off. She wasn’t used to an empty home. The few friends she had were all ninjas, mostly children of people who were friends with her mother of grandfather. Her third cousin and his wife had introduced her to Minato, and he had in turn introduced her to all of his friends.

She could always visit her cousins wife, Yoshino, but she was busy as wife to the clan head and Otsuka wasn’t interested in being pulled into clan politics. Standing up, Otsuka grabbed her coat and left the apartment. She headed down the busy streets looking for stores with openings, asking around and coming up with nothing. Her search continued well into the night before she was ready to give up. Finally she took a turn to the Hokage tower and went to find someone who might have a list.

A chunin on desk duty was kind enough to give her the list and write down addresses, but all of the openings required one to know the trade. Seeing Otsuka’s upset face the chunin told her he’d inquire about any other openings and if she came in tomorrow he’d let her know what he’d found. She thanked him and left, heading home.

Otsuka sighed, she hated feeling useless. When she was helping her mother and grandfather she felt needed, everything she did had a greater cause and she enjoyed her family’s company. Otsuka loved Minato, but he didn’t need her in that same way her mother and grandfather did. They both relied on her to live. If she was gone, they wouldn’t be able to live with the same ease; and Otsuka wanted to be needed, because she had been needed all her life, and who was she really if no one else needed her. 

It was in her own feeling of worthlessness that brought her to the first step of finding herself. The bitter cold nipped at her fingers and she drew her coat closet to her body. She stared at the ground, letting her feet lead her home by memory. At the turn of a corner she ran into someone. Someone familiar, Inoichi.

The blonde gave her a concerned look as she apologized profusely. “It’s alright Otsuka. How are you?”

“I-I’m alright. I thought you were on a mission.” She commented, fingering one of the buttons on her coat.

“I got back last night, I’ll be gone tomorrow afternoon though, I came back to get Shikaku.” Otsuka lifted her eyebrows but didn’t ask anything. She was surprised her cousin wasn’t with Inoichi in the first place.

“Well I’ll let you get to it then.” Otsuka gave him a small forced smile and moved to leave but Inoichi caught her hand.

“Would you be interested in coming along with me to see Shikaku, he hasn’t seen you in a least a month. I know he isn’t adjusting well to you not being in the compound and ready to help at any hour.” Both Otsuka and Inoichi knew it was a bad attempt at trying to find out what was wrong but Otsuka was too tired to care. If Inoichi thought talking with Shikaku would help then she would try.

The two walked quietly towards the compound and as they drew nearer Otsuka felt a deeper sense of dread build in her stomach. She wasn’t sure why but it was getting harder and harder to keep calm.

Inoichi knocked on the door and Yoshino answered the door, smiling and welcoming them both in. Taking their coats Yoshino ushered them into Shikaku’s study complaining about needing to get ready for something.

Shikaku and Inoichi spoke in hushed voices before Inoichi left, giving Otsuka a comforting smile. Shikaku turned to his cousin and motioned for her to join him sitting at the shogi table. She followed him, avoiding the anxiety that was bubbling inside her.

Halfway through the game she spoke. “You’re the only Nara I know who is genuinely bad at Shogi.” Otsuka winced and drew her hand away from the piece she was going to move.

“I was just never able to catch on.” Otsuka looked anywhere but at Shikaku, she could feel his gaze and she knew the moment she looked at him she’d lose all composure.

“But you were never a normal Nara.” They’d always had a close relationship, they were born in the same year, and so while he knew little Otsuka had been far more annoying and self centered than she was now, he also knew she was just as passionate about her family. Shikaku knew Otsuka was struggling right now, she had been ever since her mother died. All she had ever done was take care of her family. Her childhood was short and she grew up faster than anyone else he knew.

So when Inoichi came in with Otsuka on a cold winter night, only a few days after Minato had left, he knew what needed to be done.

“When I would nap you would cook and clean. When I played shogi with Dad you weeded the garden and did the laundry. You were certainly never normal.”

Otsuka started to tear up. She picks up a Shogi piece and rubs it between her fingers. “I know that.” The panic feels ready to burst out of her. “I know that.” And then, finally, Otsuka feels it all explode inside her. The king in her fingers flies out of her hands and into the garden to her right.

“I know that I don’t fit in here! I’m useless and stupid! I can’t do anything important and I’m not good at anything!”

Shikaku smirked. “I beg to differ. You’ve spent all of your life caring for retired ninjas, you always dropped by to make sure I’d eaten food or was patched up, you know what other people are feeling and how to make them feel better. You’re hardly useless, unimportant, stupid or good for nothing. “

Otsuka stopped. “B-but you said….”

“I said you weren’t normal. Just because you don’t have a good head for war and strategy doesn’t mean you aren’t smart. You’re the smartest Nara I know, but it’s up to you to figure out why.” Shikaku smiled. “Now how about we go eat some food?”

Chapter Text

Otsuka moved the knight forward confidently, she was going to win this time! Shikaku just smiled and took her king. “Wha?!” Otsuka gasped, little hands dropping into her lap. “Aw, Shi, how are you so good?” Shikaku just shrugged.

“You aren’t much of a challenge Otsuka.” She gave Shikaku a small glare but cleared the board gently and moved the board into the corner. There was a call for dinner and Shikaku and Otsuka headed towards the dining room, but suddenly Otsuka stopped.

“I almost forgot! Oh no I was supposed to help grandpa to dinner, and Kaa-chan might be home tomorrow, I should clean up after dinner. I don’t think I can spend tonight with you Shi, I’ll see you at dinner!” Otsuka took off running in the opposite direction and Shikaku sighed, she was high maintenance but his cousin was still fun to talk to.

Shikaku waited while other family members filtered into the room, after the room had been filled they only waited for Otsuka and her grandfather. The minutes ticked away before the door slid open and revealed the two laughing and conversing. Shikaku felt the need to roll his eyes, Otsuka was so slow and he really just wanted to eat so he could nap after.

They were seated and the feast began, many of the people at the table discussing war and strategy and Shikaku paid close attention to what they said. He wasn’t about to miss anything that could be vital to him understanding just what was going on outside the compound. It was the sort of mystery he wanted to solve as he watched animosity between certain clans grow.

Suddenly Shikaku’s father looked over at his son and smiled. “But maybe our younger members might have something to say about that. Shikaku? Otsuka? What would you say to being homeschooled?”

“Homeschooled?! That would be amazing-”

“That would be stupid Otsuka.” What was Otsuka thinking? It was obvious clan relations were in shambles and keeping up appearances in school would help further a bond between clans. “Clan relations have been taken a sharp decline, staying in school and making friends will both help to reinforce our allies and gain new ones. Locking our children in the compound achieves the opposite effect. As if we don’t trust anyone.”

The table was silent and Shikaku took this as a go ahead to continue. “Otsuka, if you’d rather stay at home and help bring the village to civil war then staying home might be the appropriate choice.” He glanced up to see his father’s harsh glare and he took a moment to glance over at Otsuka.

She was tearing up, she had understood the dressing down for what it was and for it to be done in front of half the clan was even more humiliating. She politely excused herself from the table before rushing out of the room.

“Shika-” His father started but Otsuka’s grandfather spoke up.

“What is your opinion on Otsuka’s intellect?”

“She doesn’t understand much, she cares but she has to think her actions through and how they affect others around her. She’s very self oriented.”

“I would disagree. If you had let Otsuka finish you might have understood staying home from school helps her to have more time to take care of me and the family members around her. She hates leaving me alone. Otsuka might not be good with strategy but she loves those around her and every action she makes is meant to help the people around her.”

Shikaku felt frustration bubble. Otsuka might care, but that didn’t mean she understood the political climate. “I mean no disrespect Kinu-san but Otsuka’s love and passion does not correlate with her intellect.” It was at this moment his father spoke up.

“Shikaku.” The young boy stilled. He’d never heard his father use such a stern tone with him and it gave him literal chills. He slowly moved to look his father in the eye. “You love and care for Otsuka, you should reflect such things in your actions, no matter what you believe to be the logical conclusion. Every opinion matters, I thought I had taught you that. Otsuka still has much to learn and time to grow, like you. But in many respects I think everyone in our clan knows Otsuka will be the shining star one day.” His father held his gaze the entire time he spoke.

Shikaku’s mother softly spoke from across the table. “Why don’t you head to your room to think things over .” By the tone of her voice it was not up for discussion and there would be consequences later. He bowed and left the table and half way down the hallway he hesitated. He wanted to talk to Otsuka.

In a few minutes he was outside of Otsuka’s room and could hear her sobbing into, what was probably her stuffed bear. He knew it was harsh while he was saying it but he recognized his outburst as pride. If this was how his pride would affect his family he never wanted to have it again.

He knocks.

There's a shuffle and soon Otsuka is pulling the screen door open. When she sees him she her face gets bright red in anger.

“HOW COULD YOU?!” She threw her bear at his head and he caught it, holding it out to her again. She held back a sob. “You told everyone….. Now eveyone will know I’m stupid.” She started crying again and without any prompting she yanked Shikaku into her so she could cry on him as well. They stay there for a few minutes before his cousin calms herself down enough to only have hiccups. She mumbled something into her bear.

“What?”

She yells it this time. “I’M SORRY!” Shikaku takes a stepback.

“Shouldn’t I be apologizing Otsuka?” He looked off to the side, that was the last time he let anyone cry on him. His eardrums felt like they were bleeding.

She shrugs. Otsuka turns back into her room and starts to close the door, before she fully closes it she peeks out at Shikaku. “Do you think I’m broken?”

“How so?”

“I’m the only not smart Nara.” Shikaku shook his head.

“You’re not broken. You’re just a machochist.” Shikaku had to keep himself from snickering at his own joke.

“A mao-chest?” Otsuka opened the door a little more in confusion.

Her cousin sighs. “Every Nara is broken, you’re the only one who isn’t.”

“Huh?” She fully opened the door, as if it would help her better understand. “I don’t get it Shi.” Her cousin scratches the back of his head.

“You will. I didn’t until just now.”




 

Chapter Text

Otsuka lifted her head and realized she was asleep on Shikaku’s couch and she could smell Yoshino cooking in the kitchen. She yawned and pulled herself up before last night’s events returned to her. 

“Shi?” Otsuka was sprawled across the grass staring into the stars as another deer came up to nudge Shikaku into feeding it more. He was a pushover.

“What?”

“Do you remember all those years ago when we snuck into your father's office and graffitied the wall?” Otsuka shifted to her belly. 

“I remember my mother making me do the dishes for the next month.” Shikaku glanced over at his cousin and wondered if he should just outright suggest she become a psychologist or just hint at it. 

Otsuka rolled her eyes. “Your mother was making you do the dishes because you purposely failed a test.” Shikaku only smirked. “That was the only time I can remember your mother praising me for something. I was so worried about your father I didn’t even care about the consequences.”

Little Otsuka moved quietly around the office, tapping the butterflies to the walls in strategic positions, making sure to work quickly. Of course right when she moved on to taping up the pictures of baby Shikaku was when Shikaku himself walked in. It took almost no work to convince him to help vandalize his father’s office. His father’s depression was bad enough even his son was willing to risk the wrath of his mother at the chance his father might laugh a little.

Shikaku relented and fed the persistent doe a little more food than necessary.

Otsuka pushed herself up a little and continued. “I’ve aspired to always do more things like that. I like making people smile, and I realize that’s not all there is on the road to helping someone from depression, of course a little graffiti didn’t solve your dad’s problem on the spot, but even I could notice the changes. Even if it’s slow going for everyone knowing I even helped a little bit to get someone to a place where they can be truly happy sounds wonderful.” She looked over at Shikaku and gave him a watery smile. “But how can I help anyone if I’m not really okay myself?” The flood gates opened for the first time since her mother’s funeral and Otsuka found herself wrapped in a wordless hug a second later.

She wasn’t sure how long she cried but it didn’t matter, because every tear freed a little bit of her soul. It brought her a little closer to realizing that it was okay to need people, and it was okay to be overwhelmed. That it was all okay.

“Shikaku, don’t tell Minato anything, okay? I’m going to surprise him, show him I want to care about myself.” Shikaku smiled.

“It certianly won’t be the first thing I tell him about you.” His cousin rolled her eyes and dried her cheeks with her hand. She pushed herself up and stared into the sky.

“I’m gonna work at it, while you’re gone that is. I’m gonna work as hard as I can to help myself and then help others.” Shikaku was suddenly struck by Otsuka’s voice. She turned and gave him a determined smile, one he hadn’t seen in years, one he hadn’t seen since she decided to make Minato fall in love with her almost three years ago. “And when you get back, you won’t even recognize me. Maybe not even Konoha.”

It was with some amusement he realized once Otsuka was a psychologist, because there was no way in hell Inoichi would let her do anything else with her talent, Konoha was going to be in for some changes. It seemed the worries of a growing darkness Sarutobi had so kindly finally mentioned to Shikaku was going to be an easier problem to solve than he had initially thought. With Minato as his future hokage and his cousin’s drive to seemingly graffiti everyone into happiness Konoha had a bright future ahead, quite literally.

“Shikaku, come on, Yoshino won’t want you to be late for dinner.” The man froze and realized they were very late for dinner.

“You better take the fall for this Otsuka.” His voice was eerily serious.

“Or what, scared of your wife Shi-kun?” She laughed.

Shikaku gave her a dark smirk. “I’ll tell Minato you were the one who stole his kunai so he’d have a reason to come over to the compound.”

She gasped and clutched her chest. “You wouldn’t!”

“I would.”

Otsuka sighed. “Fine, but you try to blackmail me again Shikaku and I’ll pull out stories you don’t want anyone to know.”

 

~

 

“Otsuka darling, do you mind grabbing the rice from the cupboard?” Hanayo, Otsuka’s mother, was recently bound to a wheelchair. She was notified she had about a year left of life, and it was her hope that she could get her daughter to be more self sufficient and less reliant on others before she died. That was her goal, that last mission she’d hopefully fulfill.

“Otsuka, you should give yourself a break, you can rely on others to help your mother.” Minato, Otsuka’s boyfriend of a little over a year, had noticed his girlfriend was overworking herself. It didn’t take him long to realize he had no idea how to approach her own mental health with her, and his short discussion with Inoichi and Shikaku had only confuse him more. They seemed to understand something he didn’t.

“There’s nothing you can do but support her, actively pulling her away from her mother will only stress her more. She’ll worry she’s wasting precious time.” Inoichi was more worried about Minato than Otsuka at this moment. He had always known that she had a mental health problem, likely from her mother’s controlling attitude. But watching Minato worry himself over not being able to help Otsuka himself would just put the two of them in a spiral.

“Minato, are you alright? That cut doesn’t look good at all, did you go to the hospital? Did you-” Otsuka did not understand that Minato didn’t like to be coddled. Well she did, but she 

often ignored it, she wanted to make sure that the only other pilar in her life was alright. Once she lost her mother she foresaw herself as being useless but in the process of trying to help she was ignoring his own feelings and wishes.

“Stop worrying so much Inoichi, I have faith in them both.” Shikaku was far too lax about everything. Shikaku seemed to think if he did nothing it would all work itself out eventually because in his book his cousin was the only one he never really needed to give a push in any direction. She’d get there on her own.

 

~

 

Minato gritted his teeth as he watched Kumo slaughter his allies. Of course he was stuck here, sworn into staying at his position until the signal went off. He had the sudden urge to move. So move he did, like hell he was gonna watch his friends be killed while he sat back for a plan he was fairly sure had been derailed the moment they realized Kumo had more troops than Konoha had initially suspected.

It was hours later Shikaku found Minato in a medic’s tent being chewed out by Tsunade. It was a few minutes later he was finally cleared to speak with him.

Minato looked up to see his long time friend and his eyes and face brightened. “I thought you guys were going to be another month.”

Shikaku entered the tent the rest of the way, grunting. “We were pulled in early, We’ll finish this cycle and then start a month of the next before heading back home.”

“How’s Otsuka doing?”

“Straight to the point eh?” Shikaku laughed and Minato gave him a shrug.

“I’m worried. Can you blame me?” Minato considered standing before realizing catching a few hours of sleep after receiving new information about his girlfriend was a better option than another hour of yelling from Tsunade. Instead he slowly stretched out his legs and unwrapped his leg holster. “She hasn’t been great since we moved in, better than before but she’s so wrapped up in her mother, she's not even looked for a job yet.”

Shikaku nodded. “I have been told under no circumstances am I to tell you she cried for two hours in my arms in the Nara forest at night and, especially not that she spent the night at our house to relax.” Minato frowned.

“And you left her alone?” Shikaku rolled his eyes.

“Who do you take me for, Mikoto is keeping an eye on her.” He wasn’t worried about his cousin. She burned brighter at the thought of helping others, she found her purpose and joy in knowing she was needed, and he couldn’t wait to see what would happen. As long as he didn’t have to do any paperwork.

Chapter Text

Otsuka sat in one of the Yamanaka’s offices while she waited for her interview to start. She had scored the possibility of an apprenticeship from Inoichi, apparently Shikaku had gotten word to his friend instantly and he had set it up right before they left. She wished she could say she was surprised.

A young man entered, clipboard in hand, and he gave his guest a warm smile. Seating himself in his chair behind his desk he uncapped a pen and began to search through the papers on his desk. “Ha, sorry, I’m a little unorganized.” He made a space for his clipboard on the desk and then sighed. “Well I don’t seem to have the paper anymore.” He gave me a sheepish look and shrugged. “My name is Yamanaka Kin, pleasure to meet you Ms.Nara.”

The two shook hands. “Inoichi didn’t explain much to me besides that I’d be interviewed and then given an apprenticeship.” Otsuka gave a half smile.

“Ah yes, usually we don’t do a cursory interview before starting an apprenticeship, we would do something more thorough except you were recommended so we won’t need to try gleen what type of person you really are because someone we trust already has that information.” Kin quickly started to write something down on his clipboard but addressed her anyways. “I have a few questions for you, these are mostly for me because I’ll be training you until we deem you capable enough to take your own patients.” He looked up only to give Otsuka a reassuring smile and mod before looking back down at what he was furiously writing.

“Oh, well I don’t mind answering whatever they’re for, I trust you to guide me.” She didn’t bother to smile at him because he was writing but if he had been looking at her she would have flashed him a blinding smile. 

Kin stopped what he was doing to laugh heartily before making eye contact with Otsuka. “Oh you’ll fit right in Ms. Nara.” His eyes sparkled. “So, your mother died recently, what was that like for you?”

Otsuka got the innate sense this was not a cursory interview, so she acted accordingly and answered the heart of his question to spare him the leading questions to get the answer he really wanted. “Hard, this job is my attempt at a ways to come to an understanding on how to live life without always taking care of someone. Trying to baby my boyfriend because I’m feeling useless isn’t great.” Admittedly she shared a bit more than she had intended to but hey she’d use the makeshift counseling session.

“How long have you been dating your boyfriend.”

“Almost three years.”

“How has that been for you?”

Otsuka bit her lip. “There’s a lot of problems, they started a little before I found out that my mother was going to die. That’s also why I’m here. I’m determined to make it work with Minato, and I think the best outlet for my need to make sure I’m making a difference is through this position.”

Kin smiled down at his clipboard. “Remember this isn’t a real interview Mrs.Nara. You don’t need to prove yourself here, you already have.” He looked up and made eye contact with the woman before him. She was perfect, he could see why Inoichi had been so quick to snatch her up. Having a knack for seeing past what people were saying into what they really meant, politically, emotionally, or otherwise was an important skill among ninja. Being so upfront about what was wrong and blunt about her issues in order to help herself would ensure she would do the same for other things she cared about. Hopefully one of those things would become his department. Yes, he was very excited to train her.

Otsuka shrugged and motioned for him to continue on with whatever else he wanted out of her. He obliged. “What do you know of ninja politics?” The question was a little out of left field and caused Otsuka to pause and reconsider the job she was signed up for but pushed it out of her mind. She would figure it out eventually.

“Nothing much, what little I do understand is from Shikaku or Minato and it’s only enough to understand what caused the start of the War and the resource problem we are going to have to address now.” Otsuka furrowed her brow and considered a bit more, she really didn’t know much of anything if she really thought about it, she hadn’t paid any attention until Shikaku had come to dinner one night talking about War. “That’s about it.”

“That’s more than most civilians. Well I’m going to have to get you started on reading up on history as well as the politics between clans and other countries, it’s going to come in handy later, trust me.” Kin put his clipboard down and continued. “Well Mrs. Nara, I’m going to show you around today and send you home with-”

The door was suddenly pushed open with a bang and a middle aged man addressed Kin. “Sorry to interrupt but this is important, we just found out Sakumo Hatake has taken his own life.”

“God” Kin, unfortunately, didn’t look surprised. “Who found him?”

The man sucked in a breath. “His son.”

“Goddamnit.” Kin stood and started towards the door. “Get that kid in here now, I don’t want anyone disturbing him until I say so.” The Yamanaka turned to Otsuka. “You said Minato Namikaze was your boyfriend? Am I correct in assuming he doesn’t yet have a team?” 

She dumbly nodded, she knew Sakumo, not well but he’d come over for dinner to eat with her mother a few times. They were on the same genin team, he’d been at her mother's funeral. “No, why?”

“Well he’s about to have an apprentice, come with me. Looks like we’re gonna start on your training now.”

 

~

 

Kin stood outside the door with Otsuka. “The last thing is that it’s incredibly important you ensure you don’t take any political stance whatsoever, got it?” Otsuka glanced at the door to the room in which Kakashi was currently residing and then back to her newly appointed mentor a few times.

“Are you sure I’m the one who should be doing this?” Otsuka was highly skeptical shoving her into such a delicate situation right now was anywhere near approaching a good idea.

“Unfortunately you’re the only one on our team who Kakashi might know about. His father refused to tell him about his sessions with me and this department isn’t exactly well-known or well-liked.” Kin sighed and ran a hand through his dirty blonde hair. “You’re the best option right now, don’t worry about it too much, you have good instincts and I’m confident that I think you’ll be a better fit that I will.” He gave her a pat on the shoulder and motioned to the door expectantly.

Otsuka took a deep breath and slowly opened the door, closing it behind her and giving the small shaking boy in front of her a small smile. She stayed right by the door, Kin had made it clear that she should only approach with his own verbal approval. “Hello Kakashi.” The small boy froze and slowly lifted his head to glare at the unknown woman in front of him. His muscles tightened and Otsuka could see him unconsciously push himself a little further into the couch in an attempt to get away from her. 

With no response Otsuka hesitantly decided to continue on, doing her best to keep her legs from shaking. Kin said to be confident or he would ridicule her. “My name is Otsuka, I knew your father.”

Kakashi’s eyes darted up to meet hers and she could read the desperate hope in his eyes that was soon clouded over by anger. “Did you?” His words were accusatory but Otsuka didn’t pay it any attention.

“Yes, not well, but I knew him. He was on a genin team with my mother, he might have told you, her name was Hanayo Nara.” She watched some small recognition flicker through his face before he set his jaw and his tiny fists curled into balls tight enough Otsuka suspected he had drawn blood.

“I’ve never met you before.” Kakashi glared at her harder, if that was possible. “What do you want?"

Otsuka let her smile go and calmed herself, she didn’t want what she was about to say come across as pity. “To see if I can help you-”

“I DON’T NEED HELP!” Kakashi screamed. He stood and looked about ready to pounce on her.

Otsuka clearly understood that for a wrong move on her part. Anxiety bubbled up for a moment before the innate need to help took over. “May I tell you a story?” Kakashi was taken aback, he seemed to calm only a touch before his anger returned.

“I am NOT a baby.” He growled.

“No, it’s not a baby story, it’s a story about my own father. He died when I was six, you’re five right?” Kakashi didn’t respond and instead looked away. Otsuka decided it was best to continue now that his anger had somewhat faded. “He was always really kind and gave me chocolates behind my mother’s back. One day my mother came home crying, she told me that my father wasn’t coming home. After that I wouldn’t let anyone I cared about out of my sight. I practically dragged my uncle back into the house when he was leaving early for a mission. I was terrified that they would all die. It was soon after that I realized that I did not want to be a ninja, because I wanted to be there for people who were just as scared as me that the people they love won’t come home.” She paused looking at the tiny boy in front of her to see if she could discern in he was listening or not.

Kakashi glanced at Otsuka before realizing she was staring at him and he glanced away. There was a long pause. “G-go on.” Kakashi folded his arms around himself and seated himself on the couch but Otsuka didn’t move.

“You’re gonna go be a ninja, and while I didn’t know your father well, he was like my mother’s brother. Well a lot of my friends say being on a genin team makes you family, and well, it’s only right that I take care of my nephew huh? I’m not going to go anywhere, I won’t leave you behind no matter what, it’s a promise!” Otsuka gave him a smile and tentatively reached out her hand.

Kakashi looked at her with an emotion she couldn’t quite place. Slowly he reached out and grasped her hand pulling it over to the couch. “You really promise?” He said as they slowly moved.

“I do.” Otsuka seated herself next to him and ignored when his grasp around her hand got tighter. “Kakashi, may I call you that? I should have asked first huh?” The boy nodded and scooted a little closer.

“Well there are some people who would like to talk to you. They have questions about your father. I can’t promise all of them will be nice of won’t treat you like a kid, but I’ll be there. If you get angry or sad or scared all you have to do is squeeze my hand okay, squeeze it as hard as possible and I’ll take over.” Otsuka realized it had probably been a while and the police force would be hounding Kin to speak to Kakashi.

“Right now?” His voice was timid and conveyed everything Otsuka needed to know to come to a decision. Police force be damned, she was going to make sure Kakashi would never have to feel alone and distraught like that again.

“Whenever you’re ready, and not a moment before.” Kakashi looked up at Otsuka with wide eyes. She smiled.

“Oh, okay.” With that he hugged her and began to cry his heart out.

Chapter Text

It was decided that for the time being Kakashi would be under Otsuka’s care, Kin saw to that the instant he found out, seeking out the Hokage and having him sign the documents before anyone could get any funny ideas about the Hatake child. It was of course only until Danzo started to make a scene and by then Kin hoped to have the Hokage on his side of the argument and ensure Minato would apprentice Kakashi. It certainly wasn’t the biggest risk he’d taken in his few short years as one of the head phycologists.

 That was what led to Otsuka packing up Minato’s office and clearing space for a bed so Kakashi could have his own room when he was ready to stop sleeping with her. He hadn’t really let her out of his sight for more than the few minutes it took her to shower, right now he was searching the small library Minato had made for himself along the opposite wall, he seemed to be interested in almost every piece of information Minato had to offer. Otsuka hald told him not to do anything more than read them for as long as Minato was away, she had no clue what was in those scrolls and books but she’d watched Minato talk about theory for hours. There was no way a five-year-old was ready to tackle that all on his own.

She’d already written her boyfriend a letter explaining the situation and asking for guidance in terms of how to tell when the small boy was overworking himself or what was too advanced but she wouldn’t be able to send it until Fugaku, Minato’s close friend, left to go join him out in the field. There weren’t many people she could go ask, in fact she wasn’t even sure who would have experience with raising a child who was a little too eager to learn everything.

Kin had told her to just watch him closely when he finally started training again and maybe have someone she knew watch over his training until he graduated in a month. That was another thing, apparently someone had approved fast tracking Kakashi’s learning and Otsuka desperately wanted to do something about that. She was 100% certain having a five-year-old genin out in war was a bad idea. She had asked Kin about what she could do about it and the man had only smiled at her and said something about her needing to get a hold of Kakashi’s paperwork. Otsuka had made up her mind to go to the academy tomorrow.

“Otsuka?”

“Yes Kakashi?” Otsuka had finally put away everything on and in Minato’s desk and was ready to move it to the side. She figured Minato and her would figure something out later.

“Isn’t Minato-san going to train me? Because I don’t see why I couldn’t get started on practicing now so I can impress him.” Otsuka held back a long sigh. She was going to have to figure something out for him quickly. It wasn’t the first time she found herself desperately wishing Minato was here to help, most of the time she felt like she couldn’t understand what it was like for Kakashi at all and that Minato would have slipped into a caregiver role easily.

“We’ve talked about this. I don’t want you to do anything more than read it, I can’t imagine any of it’s safe to learn on your own, and I can’t understand why you’re in such a rush to become a genin.” Kakashi glared at her and left the room. It was almost like he was already a teen. She dearly wished she had someone who had some experience in this she could go to.

There was a knock at the door and she heard Kakashi open the door. “Hello Kakashi-kun.” Came an older sounding voice. “Is Otsuka Nara here? I was hoping to have a discussion with her.” Otsuka placed her box down and heading into the living room.

“Yes sir, to what do we owe the pleasure?” Otsuka held out her hand and smiled at the man she recognized as Damzo Shimura. She was pretty sure he was an elder who often helped out the Hokage but she didn’t know more than that, if he was visiting he must have come to help with Kakashi’s schooling. Perfect timing.

“Ah, I’m here to discuss some options for Kakashi.” She knew it. This was wonderful, it made her life so much simpler.

“Wonderful, please come in and have a seat. Can I get you any tea?” Otsuka closed the door behind him and he shook his head but looked around the room a little strangely. She ignored it and sat down across from Danzo at the table.

“Do you know who I am?” Danzo asked, almost carefully. Kakashi moved to sit next to his caretaker.

“Yes, you’re one of konoha’s elders correct?” Danzo smiled.

“Indeed, I’ve come to inquire about Kakashi’s schooling. It is my understanding you have no ninja background.” Otsuka nodded. “Well I of course have Kakashi’s best interest in mind and I have an offer.” After Danzo finished the sentence he shifted and Otsuka could see some strange emotion flicker through his eyes.

“What offer?” Kakshi leaned forward intrigued.

“Well, I’d like to take Kakashi under my own wing and train him myself, he’d of course come live with me so I could ensure he is well looked after and focused.” In the middle of Danzo’s pitch the man began to shift more and more. “We have a program that would move him quickly up the ranks so that he could be ANBU before you know it.” It became clear to Otsuka she was not the one this pitch was for and a slight uneasy feeling started to grow but she pushed it away.

“ANBU?” Otsuka inquired, she’d heard it a few times but she was sure she must be wrong because Kakashi was only five and there was no way Danzo could be suggesting something like what she though ANBU was.

“Ah, it’s a highly regarded position. Kakshi would be able to reach this goal in only a few years if he worked hard enough and before he knew it, he'd be one of Konoha’s best operatives. I really believe Kakashi’s training should be under a trained ninja.” Danzo looked to be sweating now. Otsuka’s eyes happened to flicker up and she felt her stomach drop. The seal above her table was glowing brighter and brighter slowly.

“Why exactly did you need my blood?” Otsuka asked when Minato had finished making his ink and had begun to continue to paint a seal along the wall.

“I’m adding you into the seal I’m putting up. Since I just moved in I figured there was no better time to try my hand at the more advanced seals.” Minato’s hair was up and he was standing atop a chair slowly adding on brush strokes to his partial seal. “In theory it will activate any time someone comes in with bad intentions for the apartments occupants. It should slowly become more and more painful for them to stay.”

Otsuka bit her lip. “But I don’t live here.” Minato stopped and turned to look at his girlfriend. He gave her a large smile.

“I’d rather make sure you’re safe. It should apply to anyone who the occupants care for but I’d rather take the extra precaution with you.”

Otsuka stood abruptly scaring Kakashi. “I can tell how much you care Danzo-Sama! Unfortunately Kakashi and I have an appointment to make soon.”She half forcefully, half kindly pulled Danzo up and led him to the door, rather unexpectedly. “Thank you for the offer, really Kakashi and I will discuss it in length and get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you for the visit!” It was with that she slammed the door in Danzo’s shocked looking face.

Otsuka turned to see Kakashi looking at her with hurt, anger, and confusion. She pointed towards the seal which was slowly fading from the wall. “Kakashi, I don’t know why but I have an awful feeling about that man and clearly Minato’s seal does too. Promise you won’t accept anything he offers you.”

“But-!”Kakashi started to protest.

“Promise me Kakashi. If you do that I’ll do everything in my power to see to it Minato teaches you every single piece of information on that bookshelf. Just promise me you won’t go near him.” Otsuka looked as desperate as she felt.

Kakashi looked a little offended but when he stared into his self-proclaimed aunts eyes he saw worry and fear. He wasn’t going to let someone he’d only just let into his life go so quickly. “I promise.”

Otsuka pulled Kakashi into her arms before taking him out to head towards the Uchiha Compound. She was getting that letter to Minato and she had a feeling Fugaku and Mikoto were the only two who could help her right now. 

 

~

 

Kakashi was training outside, he’d been out there for hours. Otsuka knew she should ask him to take a break but she feared he’d get upset at her. The Nara supposed it didn’t really matter if he was upset she needed to put his best interest first. Still she weighed the options she had before her and finally decided to call him in. Maybe she could get away with it if she said she was interested in spending time with him.

She pushed the window open and called down to him from the second story. Minato had never moved out of him ninja apartment complex. “Kakashi, come in, why don’t you and I do something?”

Kakashi paused and looked up. He didn’t look as though he wanted to do anything but train. “Once I’m done training!” He called back.

“How long will that take?” Kakashi turned to look at the sun.

“About an hour to an hour and a half.” His guardian checked the time herself and wondered if she should insist he come in now, he’d been going at it for five hours, it just couldn’t be good for a boy that young. However, Kakashi might see training as a way to forget about everything else. Otsuka dearly wished there was a class for parenting.

“How about just 45 minutes?” She watched Kakashi’s form but he didn’t respond. HE was probably thinking it over. “If you come in and shower once you’re done I’ll take you out to dinner and after we can stop at the night market and look for things to decorate your room.”

“I’ll be up in 45!” Kakashi’s called out after a few moments. Otsuka smiled, she was glad he wanted to hang out with her. She glanced around the house and decided she’d clean a bit before getting ready in something nice. She paused and wondered if Kakashi had any dressy clothing. Well it would just be another outing she could use to get him to stop training if so.

In an hour the two were out the door and headed towards dinner. As they walked Otsuka felt uncomfortable, she could feel stares directed at her and Kakashi. The further they walked the more stares she could feel, she even caught a few glares but they weren’t glaring at her. They were glaring at Kakashi. But why? 

She did her best to shield Kakashi from the glares by smiling and talking loudly about how strong she thought Kakashi was for his age. To Kakashi’s credit, he began to blush the louder she got. He was excited to hear her praise him, even if she wasn’t a ninja.

By the time they arrived at the restaurant Otsuka’s blood was boiling, she had seen enough in their walk to know this had been going on for a while. She resigned herself to handling the problem later for now she would enjoy her time with Kakashi.

The sat and ordered food before Kakashi began pestering Otsuka with questions. “Otsuka, do you think Minato-san will teach me rasengan? Or Hirashin?” Otsuka just laughed. "Is Minato-san good at kenjutu?"

"Well Kakashi, to be honest I don't know how to explain much of Mintao's ninja prowess besides what it is exactly he knows, but we used to spend hours talking about how time works. He always said he needed new ways of thinking about the world when working on Finjutsu and we would spout off different theories of how maybe time doesn't move but we move through time and yadda yadda." 

Kakashi’s eyebrows furrowed and he seemed to be trying to make sense of something. “So then Finjutsu is just applying different rules to the world around you?”

Otsuka shrugged. “I just came up with the weird ideas, I don’t actually know how Finjutsu works. Minato will have to help you with that. Are you interested in learning Finjutsu?”

Kakashi seemed to think it over before hesitantly nodding. “If it can really be used to change basic rules then it would be very important to know more about it before I decided not to study it.” 

Otsuka had to hide a smile at how thoughtful the young boy was, he was basically already a Nara. The woman briefly wondered if she’d be able to sign Kakashi to be under the Nara’ care without changing his last name. She’d look into it later. “That sounds like a good idea. Kakashi what do you think of going clothes shopping tomorrow?”

The young boy shook his head. “I have enough clothes, besides I will need new genin clothes later this year.”

Maybe it was just Otsuka but she was sure she’d only ever seen the same four shirts. She was sure that he had to have more, there was no way Sakumo wouldn’t give him clothing, especially because their clan was so small wearing something with the Hatake symbol on it would be essential. It was a thought she put aside at the arrival of their food.

“Well, if you tell me what you expect you’ll need as a genin now I can look at getting something handmade. If I mention it’s for Minato I’m sure we could get some pieces that are a little above a new genins level.” Otsuka couldn’t help the happiness that filled her when she watched Kakashi come alight.



~

 

Fugaku arrived faster than he had expected, it wasn’t because he had left earlier but rather he found himself wanting to find his best friend and deliver Otsuka’s letter quickly. If Danzo was making moves on Kakashi so openly, than he would certainly take advantage of Fugaku’s absence to make moves on the Uchila’s territory. Minato himself had, had to convince him to even leave purely because Danzo would rather Fugaku stay and claim he was the only clan head who hadn’t left.

He met with the commander first, Shikai Nara, before seeking out Minato. He found the man going over plans with some ninja he didn’t recognize, he almost decided to wait patiently, almost.

“Minato, I have urgent news.” Fugaku held up the letter and did his best to convey the need for speed with a glare. If they did this quickly enough they could send back a letter before the ninja he came to replace were sent back in the next hour. Minato rolled his eyes but excused himself anyway with a smile before settling an annoyed look upon Fugaku.

“What was so urgent?”

“Otsuka sent a letter and I have the details for some concerning news.” Fugaku held the letter out and Minato’s eyes lit up.

“As much as I love Otsuka, this isn’t urgent.” Minato betrayed his own words ripping the letter open and Fugaku rolled his eyes at the love sick puppy in front of him. He found himself a little sorry the letter wasn’t good news.

 

Minato,

I went and got myself a job but in the process we seem to have become suto-parents. Sakumo Hatake was discovered dead in his own home a few days ago, probably two weeks time for you, he killed himself leaving little Kakashi all alone. Kin, my boss, has decided you’re going to be the boy’s jonin teacher whenever you get back. Surprise? I know you’ve wanted to be a teacher for a while so I’m glad to at least give you some good news.

Still, Kakashi is only five and fast tracked to graduate in a month. He’s been looking through your library and I’ve kept him from doing anything more than reading it but I have no idea how to supervise his training or do anything more than keep him well fed. He’s moved into your office for the time being. What should I do exactly? I need to keep him busy but I’m worried that not only is he far too young to become a genin during war time but also will hurt himself without you here.

Fugaku watched Minato’s face contort into confusion and surprise. He stopped reading for a moment to look at Fugaku questioningly. The uchila motioned for him to continue, if he wasn’t angry yet he clearly hadn’t read the entire letter.

Today I was approached by Danzo-sama, I don’t know much about him but from the face Fugaku gave when I asked I’m glad I went to him to inquire. He came to our house earlier today, he came offering to watch over Kakashi’s training and take care of the boy himself. I was intrigued at first before that seal thingy you did in the living room started to go off an I ushered him out on the spot.

Furthermore, every time I go out with Kakashi people glare and whisper some of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’ve done my best to scare them off and try to keep Kakashi form noticing but he’s almost a genin, I’m sure he knows exactly what I’m doing. 

I have no clue what’s going on but I’m very worried about Kakashi. I’m going to see what I can learn from my boss because he seems to understand what’s going on, but I’d much rather hear from you.

I know you’re busy but I sent along some of your sealing paper, ink, and some extra food. I know the rations are bland and I figured some food for you and the boys might cheer you all up. Don’t go getting yourself killed, otherwise I’ll have to resort to drastic measures to bring you back.

 

Love,

G.N.

P.S. I love you, stay safe.

Minato snatched up some paper from the table in his tent and started to write furiously. “When do the people you replaced leave?”

“You have about an hour and a half. I asked them to stay longer.” Fugaku respond moving to watch his friend write. “Danzo has been trying to approach Kakashi without Otsuka there since she wrote the letter. In addition, he's been making moves to nullify Otsuka’s custody but he’ll have a bit of a hard time fighting it because Otsuka’s mother was on Hatake’s team. None of the ninja will see a problem with it at first.” Minato nodded to indicate he was listening.

Fugaku read over his shoulder to make sure nothing was forgotten. The letter was half way done when Minato stopped to ask for his ink and sealing paper, apparently he was going to draw up something on the spot. “And how exactly is your civilian girlfriend going to know how to activate a seal?” Minato paused for a split second before pushing the sealing paper out a bit further and extending his line.

“I’ll write for her to have Mikoto or Yoshino put it up, they’re probably the only people she’ll trust to do it anyhow.” Minato explained and he went back to studiously working. By the end of the hour both letter and seal were finished and being placed into the returning ninja’s hands.

Minato didn’t watch them leave and instead turned to find Shikaku. He was going to see if he could pay Danzo back the favor from the frontlines.

Chapter Text

Exactly a month after Otsuka had received Minato’s first letter she found herself seated in a conference with Kakashi, Danzo, and the academy’s director; Taiken. Kin was supposed to join them as Kakashi’s official psychologist but it seemed the man was late. Otsuka was aware the man was overworked with Inoichi gone and the war starting, she’d been spending over 15 hours following him around to note take, learn, and help out practically every day. She even sat in on a few of his appointments, but only if the patient allowed. Still, she hadn’t slept much before the meeting and she was new to this whole double meaning speech.

Danzo gave the young woman in front of him a grave smile. He’d been doing this for years, she might have helped, but he was certain he’d come out on top after this meeting. “Well, it’s quite clear Kin Yamanaka didn’t care enough to show, why don’t we get started.” He turned to Taiken to make sure the chunin approved.

“Ah, yes we should get started soon.” Taiken agreed, he gave Otsuka a smile and Kakashi a small nod. He didn’t know either well but Kakashi Hatake was rather infamous and he’d been in touch with Otsuka enough the past few weeks to be well acquainted with her.

“Good, why don’t we start by addressing the reason we’re here. Otsuka would like to move back Kakashi’s graduation, but I have been seeking him as an apprentice and I believe holding him back will do him more harm than good. Of course we know you have Kakashi’s best interest in mind, but Taiken was explaining to me earlier the academy has nothing more to offer Kakashi.” Danzo took control.

As the elder started to run with his course Otsuka felt worry start to bubble up. The way he was running wasn’t leaving her any room to speak up. Usually she’d just call him out but to do so in front of Taiken wouldn’t be incredibly disrespectful and would only push Taiken to dislike her. If she wanted her way she needed Taiken on her side.

“Taiken, you were telling me the boy has expressed to his teachers he wants new materials?” The director nodded. “Otsuka, unfortunately if we leave Kakashi in the academy he might go seeking the information in an unsupervised environment. If he were to come with me he would not only have that supervision but-” Otsuka cut Danzo off.

“Forgive me, I simply realized, we should ask Kakashi what he wants.” Danzo pressed his lips into a line at the disrespect but swallowed down any retort. He needed to seem like the polite one, this would ultimately work in his favor. He could see the surprise in Taiken’s eyes at the interruption. 

“Kakashi-kun” Otsuka continued, she had the floor now and she couldn’t let Danzo ask Kakashi any questions. That much Kin had made sure to tell her. “What do you want?”

All eyes were on Kakashi. His eyes flickered from person to person, lingering on his aunt’s eyes. “I’d like to be a Genin, soon.” His eyes flickered back to Otsuka’s face but she didn’t seem angry. Danzo’s face, however, was looking at him with greed and pleasure. It unnerved him.

“See, even Kakashi thinks holding him back is-”

“Oh!” Otsuka stood abruptly and looked down at the tea cup she’d ‘accidentally’ broken. “I wasn’t paying attention when I put the cup down, where’s the mop? I’ll clean it up right away-”

Taiken was up instantly. “It’s alright Otsuka-san, I’ll be right back with a broom and cloth.” Taiken smiled and practically ran out the door.

Danzo held back the urge to growl, that damned woman had done that on purpose. Her face of embarrassment was believable enough but Danzo was sure of it. Taiken reappeared and Otsuka bent to help him clean. After the broken cup was into the trash and the left over tea cleaned Otsuka started to talk again.

“Really, I am so sorry to have interrupted you Danzo-sama. Taiken-san please remind me to replace the cup before I leave.”

Taiken waved it away. “It’s totally alright, they’re not expensive anyway.” Just like that Otsuka had interrupted Danzo and was back in Taiken’s favor. She wished she could say she’d had a better plan than breaking a tea cup to interrupt Danzo, but since it was the only other interruption she had thought of, she was on edge.

“Back to Kakashi” Otsuka smiled. “There are types of ninja right? What type do you want to be?” Kakashi seemed to brighten at the topic change.

“I want to master sealing.” That was not the answer anyone had expected from Kakashi, the five-year-old who judged talent by power and wanted nothing more than to be seen as an adult.

Danzo’s eye widened and Taiken looked totally taken off guard. Otsuka took the moment before Danzo could say anything. “Well, than apprenticing under Minato is probably a good idea, any time he’s home the man is on the floor coming up with new ideas. He’s not a master yet but he’s close.” She looked at Taiken. “I must confess, I don’t know much about ninja but as soon as I told Minato about Kakashi he was ecstatic about teaching someone.”

She was right of course but he’d been more focused on keeping Danzo firmly away from his girlfriend. “He sent me a letter just for you Taiken, Kakashi should be graduating within the next few days but it has some suggestions with Kakashi in mind specifically.” Otsuka produced the letter and held it out towards Taiken. The man took it and was surprised at how thick the envelope was.

He read through the small letter and then realized the rest was information about sealing that would help the academy teachers with planning the lessons Minato had set out for Kakashi. “Well, it seems Namikaze-san has written out what Kakashi needs to be taught for the next two months before he returns, it looks to be mostly calligraphy work that the teachers will have to look over. He suggests Kakashi at least sit out the rest of the term with the class his age to promote friendship and make sure Kakashi doesn’t end up too secluded from his future comrades.” Taiken looked genuinely surprised and convinced by the letter.

“It sounds as if Minato has already thought of everything, and in order for him to become a sealing Master he must train someone so he believes this to be the perfect opportunity to ensure Konoha gains another sealing master and has another master on the way.” Danzo couldn’t argue with the logic of giving Konoha another sealing master and Minato knew it. It was exactly why the man had written the letter to Taiken himself and not the Hokage. “Well, it seems it’s decided then. Obviously we must ensure that Konoha gains a sealing master.” Taiken smiled at Kakashi, a genuine smile that took Kakashi by surprise. “I’ll see which class it would disturb least to have you sit in and have the information for you by tomorrow Otsuka-san.”

Otsuka gave him a blinding smile. “Oh, please call me Otsuka, we’ve talked so much and I’m sure we’ll be in contact for a while. Minato filled me in on what he is supposed to do at home but I have some questions regarding how to make sure he’s not over working himself. Questions I could never bother Danzo-sama with because they’re so trivial.” Danzo actually frowned at her and the heat of his stare only brought the woman more anxiety but she held herself together.

The meeting ended soon after and Kakashi and Otsuka headed home. Kakashi disappeared to his room before calling out he was going to go training and leaving the house. Otsuka didn’t try to stop him instead seating herself at the kitchen counter.

Suddenly everything felt overwhelming and a pressure built behind her eyes. She’d been thrown into a small part of the life of a ninja. Mikoto had been over every day to help her manage Kakashi and study all of the documents. Slowly she’d been realize what she felt was flaws in the system. 

For one it didn’t make any sense that clan children were in the same class as civilian children. Civilian kids would need to learn more in a faster time than clan kids and thus should be put into an advanced program because as it was it seemed like Konoha produced about two clan kids each year to become team genin, the rest were stuck in the genin corps. When she mentioned it to Mikoto the Uchiha explained that civilian parents would be in an uproar because ultimately, no matter the intent, the civilian kids would fall behind by leagues. The bias would send the best teachers to the clan kids class and before you know it all the resources would be in those classes too.

And two, why was it that Konoha seemed to cut always lie to civilians, she knew more than most civilians but up until a few weeks ago she had operated under the assumption that Danzo was one of Konoha’s greatest leaders.

There was something exciting about a great undertaking like her new job, but to suddenly support a traumatized child and now discovering the reality of the world she lived in. She felt stupid. Angry. Utterly useless. In that moment every emotion in her screamed to be let out, she couldn’t control any of her feelings or make sense of what she was facing.

In an instant she ripped her purse off the counter and flung it at the wall, the stool she was previously seated on was kicked across the room. Seconds later she was upending a drawer of utensils and smashing ceramic bowls and plates. She slammed the oven door over and over. Otsuka reached out and hurled the frame atop the stove across the room. It hit the far wall and shattered, the frame broken and glass littered the living room carpet. 

The moment the picture hit the wall she broke inside. She collapsed amongst the pieces of ceramics and tears flowed.

 

~

 

Otsuka frowned at her cabinets, she’d managed to break almost all of her plates and bowls, it left her with the three dishes in the sink from a dinner with Mikoto and Kakashi last night and one still in the cabinet. She didn’t regret her actions, it had been a wonderful release, and now she knew that she had to find a proper outlet for these feelings. 

Still Otsuka now needed to go out and replace everything she’d broken. Including the picture frame Minato had bought her for their first anniversary. It was a picture of the two of them atop Hokage mountain. The man loved it up there and it was his favorite picture, he’d almost taken it with him but he’d decided against it because he’d have had to fold it.

Otsuka honestly didn’t care, she wasn’t one for pictures. They were only snippets of a larger experience, they didn’t tell the entire story of someone. Maybe it gave an insight into someone’s mind but it would never tell you everything. Common sayings be damned.

The most troublesome thing would be replacing the frame. Minato would notice right away, whereas she could get away with replacing the dishes, she’d been complaining about them anyway. She was pretty sure he’d sealed the back of the picture but left the frame because he had yet to ‘fully understand’ carved seals. She’d just laughed at him for being so protective of a picture frame.

Otsuka turned and stared at the picture she’d placed on the counter. There wasn’t much she could do, her best bet was to cover it up by ordering a handmade frame. She’d call it a gift and then it would be unlikely he’d call her out on the lie. She placed the picture in a drawer and checked the time. It was Sunday so she didn’t need to go to work for another three hours. Perfect time to go shopping for everything and buy some clothes for Kakashi. It was decided. 

“Kakashi!” She called out. “Come get yourself cleaned up, we’re going shopping.” Otsuka could hear him groan from outside, she only laughed. 

 

~

 

Danzo Shimura read over the report one of his Root ninja had just brought back, Kakashi Hatake was an important piece on the board. The moment he realized that he’d started to push Sakumo Hatake towards death, he was determined to nab the small child. Danzo needed Root to grow and grow quickly. With the start of the war his own personal troops were spread thin, he couldn’t control as much of the board as he had previously assumed he’d be able to.

Danzo had severely underestimated the impact of Konoha’s lack of jinchuriki would have on the war. He’d done his best to mitigate the damage Sarutobi had done by letting the jinchuriki return to Uzu in the past tenish years but clearly he hadn’t done it as well as he had thought.

The captured Uzumaki’s both Iwa and Kumo had were presenting a large issue even with Uzu sending some reinforcements. Kushina was not nearly as well trained as she might have been had she stayed in Konoha. Sarutobi had damned Konoha to fight a long war, and if Danzo didn’t do something quickly he was sure it would drag on until Konoha was in ruins.

“Rat!” The ANBU appeared in front of him. “Find me some missing nin, I don’t want Otsuka Nara alive when The Yellow Flash returns.”

Chapter Text

Kin passed Otsuka the folder. “Make sure you read the entire thing before you go into the session. Thank you so much for agreeing to handle this for me, I can’t afford to miss the clan head meeting; Inoichi would kill me.” His eyes flickered over the room and fell on the desk. He reached forward to grab the stack of papers Otsuka had written up for him. “See you later, tell me how it goes!” With that Kin was out the door.

 

Setting the folder he’d handed her to the side, Otsuka sighed. She was going to handle his three sessions today; she was terrified. She’d practiced on others before but every time Kin had been there. She noticed an anxiety was building up in her chest she did her best to ignore.

 

She failed and she found herself collapsing into Kin’s chair hyperventilating. Her breathing quickened, a pain blossomed in her chest, her vision darkened as she sank deeper into her panic attack. How on earth was she supposed to be ready for this level of work. She didn’t have nearly enough experience for this. She spiraled for a minute but something inside her snapped her from the panic attack rather suddenly.

 

She looked up to see a small bird tapping the window. It was minding its own business for the most part, simply exploring. Otsuka heard her mother's chastising words flow through her head and she cringed. She was wasting precious time to prepare. Anxiety could come later.

 

First she cleaned up Kin’s desk and sorted through some of his files and paperwork; the man could not seem to keep anything clean. After she'd finished tidying she headed over to the office he had his appointments in. It was a large space with muted blues and light browns, a few pictures and a couch for the patient to sit on. She seated herself across from the couch in Kin’s usual chair. Pulling out her pen she started to go through the first file in the folder she began to read through the profile Kin had set up for her. He’d put together a few pages of things she might need to refer to quickly for all three patients.

 

The first patient was someone she’d met with before, Matsusuke Akimichi. He was a retired shinobi who’d lost an arm on a mission four years ago. He’d been able to come to terms with a lot of his trauma but felt it was important to continue his sessions in order to stay on top of his feelings. He was kind and hadn’t minded Otsuka sitting in at all, he said he hoped to be on of Otsuka’s first official patients, he’d commented on how taking up Kin’s time prevented him from other patients who probably needed to see Konoha’s best psychiatrist. Kin had of course denied that fact, he cared very much about all of his patients, but Otsuka had personally seen the backlog of patients who, despite not wanting to come, desperately needed to.

 

Otsuka supposed that was why Kin had been pushing her so far so fast, the past two and a half months of work were all focused on catching Otsuka up to speed so they’d finally have ten psychiatrists. With a population of over 80,000 people it was outrageous, Konoha hadn’t had much peace time in its entire lifetime, thus it was always mostly war oriented and things like mental health fell behind, especially since Hiruzen had come to power. Between Danzo and Hiruzen they focused almost solely on war and negotiations, and with Danzo’s actions he’d managed to cut a force of over 70 psychiatrist’s to 10 in five years. Everyone was overworked and it was why Otsuka had only had two days off in the time since she had gotten her job and began to pull 14 to 18 hour days each day.

 

Kakashi had commented on her dwindling free time and short temper, she’d always apologized for each snarky remark, but she knew the young boy was starting to feel lonely and neglected himself. Honestly Otsuka wasn’t sure how to make time for him. She just knew she would do it no matter what it took. She refused to fail Kakashi, not like she’d failed her mother.

 

She paused, wondering where that thought had come from but pushed it away as the door began to open. She’d reflect on it later.

 

“Hello Otsuka-san, Kin told me you might be the person running today’s session.” Matsusuke smiled, seating himself on the couch.

 

Otsuka smiled back. “Yes, he’s at the clan head meeting right now. Please excuse me in advance. This is my first official session without someone else here.” The Akimichi waved it away and continued to smile. “Well let’s get started, how was your week?”

 

Matsusuke started to talk about his youngest son’s schooling and his wife’s constant worrying about their oldest children, twins, who were currently in the war. Then he frowned. “Actually we were supposed to receive letters from their regiment early today, I shouldn’t worry about it really, sometimes they get delayed. Their mother’s just rubbing off on me.” Masusuke laughed but she could tell he was doing it more for her than anything else.

 

A small pit settled in her stomach as she realized she was fairly sure Minato was in the same regiment as Matsusuke’s twins but it wasn’t important at the moment. “Gomen Matsusuke-san, could we go back to your oldest sons? Mou and Moki correct? Tell me about them.”

 

Masusuke sighed and rubbed his neck. “Caught me huh? Guess I should have known, well they’re both primarily ninjutsu users, that means they-”

 

Otsuka interrupted waving her hands. “Oh no, I’m aware please don’t feel any need to explain anything, plus if I have any questions Kakashi loves to answer them in depth.”

 

“Ah” Matsusume looked surprised and stopped to glance over Otsuka before sighing. “I suppose I should’ve known that too.” Otsuka gave him a questioning look but the man just continued on about his children as Otsuka asked questions to lead him to the root of the problem.

 

“So you trust your children’s abilities?”

 

Matsusume nodded. “Of course I do, I just see too much of myself in them. I don’t want them to be forced into retirement, Mou could never handle it and Moki would be devastated. If they have to go through what I did, I’ve failed as a father.”

 

His temporary psychiatrist cocked her head to the side. “How so?”

 

“Well I should have trained them better, it’s my responsibility to keep them alive and safe.”

“But you weren’t their sensei, nor are they children anymore, Matsusume.” The man nodded again. Otsuka decided to try a different approach. “Excuse the change of topic but do you cook or does your wife?”

 

His eyebrows furrowed but he answered. “My wife cooks.”

 

“Mm, is she a good cook?”

 

“Wonderful!” Matsusume’s face lit up.

 

“I’m sure, but every meal is good?” 

 

The man nodded profusely. “Her cooking is heaven.” The awe and love dripped from his voice.

 

“So, tell me, did she teach any of your children to cook?” Otsuka praised herself for remembering him bringing up the piece of information a week ago. She was getting better at this.

 

“All of them. She wanted to make sure they could cook a meal out on the field and always have a reminder of home.”

 

“And if they mess up a meal, has their mother than failed them?” Matsusume stopped and considered.

 

“I suppose she hasn’t.” Then understanding dawned in his face. “And you’re saying I haven’t failed my children either.”

 

Otsuka shook her head. “I said no such thing.” The woman struggled to suppress a smile, it felt so good to succeed in helping someone.

 

Matsusume grinned at her. “Kin really has taught you well.” He paused and looked off to the side. “I have taught them well too, I should just focus on being proud and supporting them.” His eyes met hers and filled with gratitude. He glanced at the time and realized they’d gone a few minutes over his normal 45 minutes and stood.

 

“It was good to see you today Matsusume, I hope you get those letters today.” She smiled. The man looked at her for a few seconds before coming to a decision.

 

“I should tell you Otsuka-san, you need to be careful of who you tell that you’re taking care of Kakashi. There are some rumors going around.” Otsuka froze in her seat, it was clear he was trying to get something across that she didn’t fully understand.

 

She took a breath and met his eyes, they looked worried. “Rumors huh? Well I’ll get on fixing them. Thank you Matsusume-san.” The man nodded.

 

“Akimichi and Nara’s stick together after all.” He closed the doors and Otsuka absentmindedly wondered what exactly rumors meant. She’d ask Mikoto of Kin next time she saw them, though she knew Mikoto would give her a straight answer. She wrote down some notes about Masusume and then paused. 

 

Failed her mother huh? Did she really feel like she didn’t do enough for her mother? She’d poured all of her life into her mother, been at her beck and call until half a year ago. She didn’t have a life because she wanted to be there for her mother.

 

Maybe it was time to let go of some of her mother’s teachings. She’d think about it further once she was home.

 

~

 

Otsuka struggled to unlock the door under the weight of all the bags she was carrying. She’d left right after her third appointment, which was a little sketchy in her opinion, she wasn’t actually sure if she’d helped or made it worse. She stopped at the market and bought enough to make something she knew Kakashi liked, her mother had taught her to cook when she was little and she didn’t care much for cooking but she did love food. She was making miso soup and broiled saury, something that Kakashi had been asking for more and more.

 

She started on the cooking and then started to tidy the house before stopping half way through. She’d always gotten angry at Minato for never keeping the house spotless like her mother had taught her. And today, realizing she felt as though she failed her mother?

 

Otsuka had always strived to keep her mother happy, as hard as it was, and her mother had always complained she wasn’t doing enough. Nothing she did was right, and now thinking that she had begun to do the same thing to Minato her mother did to her. It was unacceptable, she wasn’t Minato’s mother. She was his girlfriend, and while it was perfectly fine for her to worry and care, she needed to stop treating the man like a child.

 

With some surprise she realized Minato did much the same thing to her, constant worry and his mother hen tendencies. She knew it was because he hadn’t had a family before. It sounded like treating each other as partners and not like children was something they both needed to work on. Maybe she’d eventually get to a place where she could separate herself fully from her mother.

 

She finished cleaning the table but left everything on the table, she should relax until Kakashi got home and then she’d spend time with him. He was more important, and she was determined to take care of him the best she could.

 

The food was finished in an hour and Kakashi was home a few minutes later with a young boy. He had a bowl cut and wore a blinding green jumpsuit with orange leg warmers. Otsuka blinked at the child and wondered if the fashion choice was a statement or the boy just didn’t realize. “You brought home a friend!” Kakashi’s aunt smiled and pulled the tiny boy into her arms.

 

“No I didn't.” Kakashi glared. “He just followed me here.”

 

“Hello youthful young lady! My name is Maito Gai!” His voice echoed and Otsuka winced. “Kakashi and I are eternal rivals!”

 

Kakashi growled and started to storm off into his room but stopped when he passed the counter. Otsuka watched the internal struggle as he tried to decide if the food was worth staying in Gai’s presence. He seated himself at the counter and his choice was clear.

 

“Well Gai-kun, my name is Otsuka Nara but please just call me Oba-san like Kakashi does.” Kakashi had started to call her auntie. It was adorable, but he had already started using it to get her to do things for him. Otsuka, saw this as good of a step forward in their relationship as she could’ve hoped for.Still, Kakashi glared into her back and sunk lower into his chair. 

 

“Would you like to stay for dinner?” Kakashi audibly protested but stopped when Otsuka gave him a look. The boy before her did not look well fed and she loved Kakashi, another sudden realization, but she also wanted to ensure the boy was fed tonight.

 

“Of course youthful Oba-san!” Otsuka laughed and watched him practically leap into a chair. He was certainly energetic. Because she’d only expected the two of them she didn’t have enough for the three of them but simply gave her portion to Gai. When the boy realized he started to protest.

 

“Please Gai-kun, I ate earlier today and am still full. We have plenty of food I can always get something later.” The response seemed to satisfy him and he continued to eat.

 

“So Kakashi, how was school?” The boy groaned.

 

“Awful, how does Minato-san do it? He wants such perfection with a brush, but I can’t even stop to think about a brushstroke halfway through otherwise it leaves a splotch. Except the things he has me copying are so confusing that can’t figure out where each stroke stops and ends.” Kakashi sighed and looked to the side. She could tell the boy was feeling dejected and getting antsy. She knew just the thing to perk him up but she’d wait until Gai was finished eating.

 

“And Gai-kun, how was school for you today?” She turned and watch the boy come alight with his passion. She had a feeling this wouldn’t be the last time she saw him with Kakashi. The young boy talked about the youthfulness of learning about taijutsu. Their conversation continued for another 30 minutes and Otsuka was delighted to see Kakashi animated with someone as he tried to tell Gai taijutsu was not the only important thing to learn. Eventually she decided it would be a good idea to break them up as Kakashi got more and more annoyed.

 

“Well, our letters came late today but Minato sent you a response.”

 

Kakashi immediately perked up and glanced around the house for them. Otsuka laughed and stood and grabbed his from her bag. She handed it over and Kakashi had left the dining table and moved into his room in seconds. Otsuka sighed and gave Gai and apologetic look.

 

“Gomenasai Gai, Kakashi’s been expecting this letter for a while.” He waved it away and stood.

 

“It is about time I head home. Thank you so much Oba-san! You’re food is so youthful!” Gai left with a wave and Otsuka was washing dishes when Kakashi re-entered the dining room.

 

“So? Everything you expected it to be?” Otsuka leaned on the counter and waited for Kakashi’s response.

 

“He sent a lot of tips and more work for my teachers, he also sent a new training regimine!” Kakashi had forgotten any semblance of pretending to be cool, he could finally start on learning more about ninjutsu. “It’s mostly chakra control and learning to master d-rank jutsu with one hand like I asked.” The Hatake went on about how Minato had said he would do his best to get in contact with his families ninken from his end and see how old the would accept Kakashi and when they would have a dog Kakashi could train.

 

Otsuka smiled, she was sure Minato was already thinking of his as his kid despite not having met the young boy. He had about a month before he came back, just in time for his twentieth birthday. Speaking of she needed to get the man a present, and she was sure Kakashi would want to get him one too. She’d begun to give him an allowance about a month ago for chores and getting his work done. 

 

Kakashi had been learning more in the past three months than he had in the academy. Minato had seen to his training even though he was miles away and Otsuka had been helping him to learn about how to spend and save money, cooking, proper physical and mental health. That last one she was doing as she learned herself, sharing what she’d learned with the young boy seemed to help him more than talking it out with him. Making it out to him as them learning together, which they were as he’d spent quite a few nights up helping her study, made them equals in his eye, and therefore she wasn’t looking down on him.

 

She’d also had a hand in keeping him away from the never ending glares and horrible comments about Kakashi’s heritage and the young boy himself being a failure. They were getting worse and worse, she wanted to find a way to get rid of them completely and force it into other peoples heads Kakashi was not his father. But that was a problem for future Otsuka, for now she was focusing on keeping Kakashi happy.

 

The two spent the rest of the night talking, and Otsuka helped Kakashi with his own work and chores at the boy’s request. When Kakashi decided he should go to bed Otsuka pulled out her own letter from Minato. She felt her heart squeeze when she looked at it. Kami she missed him.

 

She tore the letter open and pulled out the contents.

 

Dear Otsuka,

 

I miss you. I wanted to write you a happy letter but I can’t find it in me. Fugaku keeps telling me to stop wasting paper and write the damn letter already. This is about my fourteenth try at a letter to you. I’ve never been good at lying to you, apparently even in writing. The constant death and fighting here seems to have taken its toll on me, watching so many of my comrades fall only makes me angrier at myself. I should be able to protect them all, otherwise why should I even strive to become Hokage. I know you’re busy, I shouldn’t dump all this off on you.

 

They’ve given me a moniker. The Yellow Flash. Isn’t it cool? I certainly approve. The Iwa-nin seem to have good naming skills at least.

 

I’ll be home by the end of the month. I can’t wait to meet Kakashi, as horrible as it sounds, I’m glad we get to take care of him. I have a lot to share with you in regards to him and Danzo but unfortunately these letters are only so secure. 

 

The Uzu reinforcements arrived four days ago, I thought you’d be happy to know Kushina is here, she sends her regards. Shikaku has told me to tell you that he will not deign that question with a response. It’s safe to say Yoshino isn’t happy with his injury. Inoichi requests you give Kin hell and Fugagku wants me to inform you I’m infuriating.

 

As for a response to your question, I have it handled, Danzo won’t be an issue, Shikaku and I have made sure of it. If anything does happen despite our efforts, the two seals I enclosed just need to be ripped and every ANBU in Konoha will come running. Mikoto is right, we should take the right precautions. Give one to Kakashi and take one for yourself. Stay safe.

 

                        Love, Minato

Chapter Text

Mikoto was knocking furiously on Otsuka’s apartment door two hours later. The woman was just about finished with her studying and was starting to wrap up so she could get a few hours of sleep before heading to work. 

“Otsuka!” Mikoto’s voice sounded watery and disturbed. Otsuka breathed out slowly, stood and called out to her friend to get her to quit knocking. She was sure Kakashi was awake now but if the knocking ceased he would probably go back to sleep. Probably. She opened the door and her best friend crashed into her arms, sobbing.

“Mikoto?” The Nara pushed the door closed with her foot and led her crying friend to the couch. She’d only seen the young woman cry twice before in the time she’d known her, the first when her younger brother had died and the second had been at her wedding to Fugaku. Things never seemed to be too out of the Uchila’s control and she knew it.

Otsuka felt a hum as Mikoto whispered something through her crying. “Gomen Mikoto, I can’t hear you. It’s okay to just cry for as long as you need.” She rubbed circles into her back as she cried. What could have happened?

Their letters had just come, she knew Fugaku wasn’t dead or Minato would have said something. Unless it had happened right before the letters left. Still, it wasn’t likely. The contents of Mikoto’s letter from Fugaku was probably what had caused the extreme distress. When she felt Mikoto’s trembling hands dig further into her pants Otsuka resigned herself to give Fugaku a piece of her mind if it was in fact the man’s fault.

She didn’t know much about Mikoto and Fugaku’s duties as head of the clan and the clan head’s wife but she assumed it had to be something like Shikaku’s work. With Fugaku gone, Mikoto had stepped up and was handling everything, including the police force. Maybe it was that? Otsuka had eyes enough to see the police force got a little brutal at times and maybe with some pushback from Konoha’s council, Mikoto was at her wits end. She had to give her best friend props, she was insane to be able to handle this for so long.

Mikoto quieted down to hiccuping and pushed herself up to compose herself but Otsuka caught her hands and pulled her into a hug. “I don’t know what’s wrong, but I’m here for you. Just give the word and I’ll help you with whatever it is.” Mikoto tensed a little under her fingers but when she pushed her way out of the embrace to look Otsuka in the eye she was determined.

The young Uchila took a deep hiccupy breath and slowly pulled herself into a calmer state. In a few moments she was ready to speak and gave Otsuka a watery but still grim smile. “I’m going to murder Danzo if it’s the last thing I do.”

Otsuka, true to her word, leaned back into the couch while thinking about how on earth she was supposed to explain this to Minato and Shikaku. “I suppose we have some deaths to plan then.” The young Nara was not one for thought out plans, as she’d recently been learning Improvisation, while terrifying, was her skill. Coming up with plans and tricks in the moment seemed to work much better for her than a well thought out strategy. Shikaku would probably facepalm if he heard her say that.

Mikoto gave her best friend a small smile and took both her hands in hers. “Otsuka, you could get killed if you help me-”

Otsuka cut Mikoto off. “Miko, I’ve been dating Minato for three years, it’s about time I gave him some grey hairs don’t you think? Besides, we both know Minato would sooner kill half the village before he let anything happen to me.” She entwined their fingers. “What kind of best friend would I be if I didn’t join my best friend in treason? Now, tell me exactly what’s been happening and don’t leave anything out.”

It momentarily crossed Mikoto’s mind she’d never really remembered that Otsuka was in fact a Nara. While the boldness was out of character for her best friend ever since she’d started this new job, she’d watched her friend slowly start to grow into a strong willed woman. Mikoto straightened her shoulders and focused on the reason she was here now and began to tell Otsuka everything she’d been missing.

Mikoto spent an hour just telling her the backstory of Danzo’s obsession with the Uchila and the constant meddling he did, he’d been backing the Uchila into a corner more and more recently. The public disliked the police force and had been calling for change but the Uchila were too prideful to do anything but insist that they were enough.

Otsuka listened with a furrowed brow and growing anger; even she had been at least a little bit suspicious of the Uchila, despite her friendhship with Mikoto. To hear that the Uchila were in fact being bcked into a cornor made her feel incredibly stupid. There was no she was going to let this continue, Danzo was already an asshole as it was, like hell she’d just let it continue. The problem would be taken care of soon if she had anything to say about it. “Wait so what happened today?”

Mikoto took a deep breath, “I’m not entirely certain how it happened, yet. All I know is that a few members of the police force were called out to kick some drunk civilians out of a bar. When they arrived the civilian acted disrespectfully and spit in an officers face when they forcefully pushed the man out he retaliated. The civilian began to attack but for some godforsaken reason they used a Katon and practically roasted the man alive.”

“Is he still alive?” Otsuka was horrified.

“Yes, but barley, apparently the damage has caused paralysis.” Mikoto’s hands clenched. “I don’t know how yet but I know Danzo’s behind this.”

Otsuka agreed. The Uchila may be prideful but they weren’t animals. “Did you speak to any of the officers that were there when it happened?”

Mikoto shook her head. “They’re all in T&I, I haven’t been allowed to have any contact.” Frustration and desperation began to seep into her words.

It was becoming increasingly clear to Otsuka that she had missed something. Between Danzo’s apparent interest in young powerful shinobi and his attempt at ostrantion(?) of the Uchila, he was planning something big. How would setting the Uchila up in this way help? She’d have to ask Shikaku when he returned about it. Warning bells began to ring in her head when something clicked.

There wasn’t a single clanhead that was still in the village, they were all on the frontlines. It was strange that anyone who could make any real fuss about a decision the Hokage or his advisors were gone from the village. She wondered briefly if she should consider involving herself in more of the Nara’s decisions, she was missing so much information that she knew she’d have if only she’d accepted the position Shikaku had offered her when she found out her mother was going to die. He’d wanted her to be in line to be the next clan head. Despite having no ninja experience he’d affirmed she was the best choice for the position. He’d promised he would train her up until he was sure she could handle herself in a meeting and then shove off many of his obligations onto her so he could laze about more.

At the time she’d insisted that she had no need to involve herself in ninja politics when her mother was approaching her deathbed faster and faster. Now she was realizing Shikaku had been trying to set her up for success her entire life. Playing Shogi, mentioning issues others in the clan were experiencing off hand so she would inevitably handle them on her own, introducing her to all of his ninja friends, the list went on. The scheming jerk.

“Otsuka?” Mikoto was staring at the hallway suspiciously. Ah, Kakashi was probably still awake and listening. The woman didn’t have to be a ninja to know Kakashi had a habit of getting into things he really shouldn’t. For instance he’d snuck into her room multiple times to steal some of Minato’s really experienced finjutsu books; Minato had told her to look out for the small changes like that and if the book wasn’t returned in two days then she should ask him for it back.

“It’s alright Mikoto, Kakashi please join us.” There was the sound of a door swinging open and the Kakashi appeared at the end of the hallway. He looked as if he wasn’t sure if he should be guilty or indifferent. The young boy tended to put up that insufferable mask anytime anyone besides Otsuka was home, even then his emotions were muted if the woman herself wasn’t completely relaxed herself.

“It’s rude to eavesdrop, Kakashi-kun.” Mikoto scolded.

“Then you shouldn’t talk so loud.” Kakashi responded, he glared at Mikoto. In his eyes the woman was annoying.

Mikoto looked slightly peeved but rolled her eyes at Kakashi’s words. “And you shouldn’t get yourself caught.” Kakashi glared.

“Alright alright, let's be civil please.” Otsuka stood and moved into the kitchen. She would help her friend, the problem was simply she did not have the confidence yet to be able to actually take on Danzo and there was no way she was ready to deal with any backlash her actions might cause. Spending months focused on a different way of thinking was certainly helping her down the right path but Otsuka knew deep down that she would die if she took this path and anything went wrong. Wasn’t it Shikaku who always preached that a well thought out plan always goes wrong?

Kakashi seated himself at the counter and Mikoto sunk further into the couch in protest. “I can help.” The young ninja revealed one of Minato’s scrolls and pointed at something Otsuka didn’t quite understand. Mikoto moved to look over his shoulder and scoffed.

“Kakashi-kun you’re hardly a finjutsu master. You can’t even create a bomb tag yet.” Mikoto statched the scroll from him and looked at it. “What is this?”

“I can’t but Minato-san can. It is meant to compell thr truth out of people. It takes a long time and lots of Chakara to create but if Danzo was kept under its influence long enough it could work.” Kakashi lookedrather proud of himself but his few glances at Otsuka’s face told both of the women he was afraid his idea would be shot down.

“Well you two would know better than I, but we can bring it up with Minato once he returns. All letters leaving and returning are read by someone, Minato is given a little bit more wiggle room as a well known jonin but you never know.” Otsuka pulled everything she needed for tea out and set to work. “Right now, we need to figure out how to get in contact with that any ninja who were there. Meanwhile I have a few ideas on what we should do right now.”  

“When did you become such a strategist Otsuka?” Mikoto’s voice was light but it was clear she was legitimately interested in the answer.

Ostuka blushed. “Kin has been drilling the importance of thinking ahead into men and teaching me how to act on something that will quickly become a problem.” She paused and turned up the heat on the water. “But first, I’ll go meet with Yoshino in the morning, I need to make sure I can get another clan to back the Uchila. With every clan head out of the village Danzo will take action as soon as possible.”

Mikoto nodded solemnly. “I’ll start on trying to keep our clan as calm as possible. The elders are going to have a fit and be raging for retribution to a set up.” She accepted her cup of tea and held it in both hands.

“Mikoto, I hate to ask this so selfishly, but I can’t afford the cost to send a message to the front lines. I need to send Shikaku a letter as quickly as possible, I’d need you to pay for a letter there and back. I need permission from Shikaku to take over as clan representative whenever he leaves the village, Minato will probably know who in the village is best to leave Kakashi with for a week, about the truth seal thing, and I’m gonna need Fugaku’s written permission to allow a Nara to apprentice under someone in the force.”

“Wait, why do I need to stay with someone else for a week?” Kakashi looked a little frightened

“I won’t be home at all this week between this, work, and now taking over as clan head representative any time Shikaku is out of the village.”

“Will Shikaku give you that position? Isn’t that Yoshino’s job?”

Ostuka nodded. “Yoshino hates it, she wants to go back to taking missions. She’ll be ecstatic I’m taking over.” Ostuka looked to the side and sighed. “Kami what am I getting myself into.”

Mikoto finished off her tea and picked up Kakashi’s untouched tea without asking. She needed the warmth of the tea more than he did. “I can pay. But only if you’re sure this will work; Ostuka this isn’t an easy job and it will be permanent until you can find someone else to agree to taking it.” Her best friend smiled one of the largest smiles she’d ever seen.

“I know, but I’m not going to sit back, despondent, quiet, and lonely. And I’m rather excited to do something once in my life.” Her smile suddenly sharpened into a deadly smirk. For the first time in her life Ostuka understood what Minato and Shikaku had been spending years waiting for.

Chapter Text

It took Minato almost a full minute to stop coughing. His face was bright red and he was looking directly away from Shikaku and at the bar to his side. He picked up his water cup again and took another sip. At some point the nice conversation they’d been having had turned into a threat.

Minato had only just started dating Otsuka, she was sweet, thoughtful, and treated him like family. That was what had really caught him, as soon as he’d begun to hang out with the Ino-Shika-Cho trio for lunches and training Otsuka had brought homemade lunches for him too. She repaired his clothing and told him she’d handle his broken weapons with Shikaku’s. Inochi had almost instantly begun teasing him about it. 

After that Minato had managed to get Fugaku and Hiashi to start to join them in their free time Otsuka had insisted she make them lunches as well. That was how Mikoto and Otsuka had met.

Mikoto had been livid, thinking Otsuka was propositioning Fugaku. She’d said exactly. Otsuka had promptly picked up the box she’d made for Fugaku and emptied the thing over his head. She’d said. “Sorry, but I am not sacrificing my first female friend in their group for you.” Mikoto had laughed so hard she invited her over for tea and the two were fast friends.

It wasn’t until he’d heard Shikaku was in the hospital for injury that he had even noticed something. Otsuka had been waiting with Yoshino and Inochi when he found them. Yoshino was in Otsuka’s arms and Inochi had his head in his hands. He approached slowly and loudly so as not to scare anyone.

Otsuka looked up with water eyes and gave him a faint smile. It was at that moment he swore to himself he’d never allow her to look so sad again. It dawned on him at that moment that as his worry for Shikaku built his heart ached to see Otsuka smiling and warmly brushing his worry away. He filed away the start of his realization for a moment where he could afford to think about it.

Yoshino lifted herself enough to see Minato and then let herself fall back into Otsuka’s lap. She mumbled something he couldn’t understand but Otsuka only hummed and started to stroke her cousin's hair. Inochi seemed to have heard as well because he lifted his head out of his hands and stood slowly. When he began to move down the hallway Minato followed closely behind.

Inochi explained Choza had stayed behind to clean up the scene and then report to the Hokage. The two stopped at the Nurse’s station and Inochi asked about Shikaku’s status but was met with an unimpressed look. They turned around and began to head back but Minato caught Inochi’s arm.

“He’ll be alright.” Minato gave his best smile and he could tell it wasn’t great as Inochi didn’t seem to look any better. The man shook his head and looked over at the two women in chairs.

“He gave me messages for them in case.” Minato’s breath caught in his throat. It was unlike Shikaku to lose faith in anything. He pushed down the shooting feeling of a burning anxiety. “I’m supposed to tell you to ask Otsuka out already.”

Minato turned back to Inochi. With confidence he wasn’t aware he had he said, “He will be okay.” Inochi paused and his eyes met unwavering sturdy ones. A ghost of a smile pushed its way onto Inochi’s lips as he subconsciously straightened and pushed his shoulders back a little.

They looked over to see Otsuka and Yoshino staring at the both of them. Minato leaned over to whisper into the clan heads ear. “How loud did I say that?”

Inochi burst out laughing.

Four hours later Shikaku was stable and things were beginning to look up. Yoshino tore her husband a new one while Otsuka braided the man’s hair to keep it out of his face. Anytime Shikaku looked to her for support she almost comically steeled her face and nodded along with whatever Yoshino said.

When she had finished Otsuka moved behind Yoshino and nodded along to what the woman said. When she had finally finished her long rant Otsuka stood and put her hand on Yoshino’s shoulder.

“I should really get going and handle all of the Nara’s who I’m sure have collapsed somewhere to cloud gaze in anxiety. Inochi do you think you could grab Yoshino some food from Choza’s restaurant? She hasn’t eaten in twelve hours.” She gave Yoshino a serious and warning glance. “Minato, come, we have to coral Nara’s.” Ostuka ignored the fact that the Akimichi’s restaurant was all the way across the village and there were other places Inochi could grab food from and that word of Shikaku’s recovery had already had two hours to get out to all the nosy Nara clan.

Minato didn’t miss both Shikaku and Yoshino’s grateful glances to Otsuka and He only waved as he followed Otsuka.

As they made their way towards the Nara compound Minato noticed the flock of people who asked how Shikaku was and wanted to check up on the clan head through Otsuka was enormous. They were stopped by at least thirty people who clearly knew Otsuka and seemed to love her. Minato wondered when exactly it was that Otsuka had become such an integral part of Konoha’s civilians lives. They all seemed genuinely worried about a clan that cared more about sleeping than work.

It wasn’t until they had entered the head house that Otsuka broke down. The moment the door closed she paused and shortly after her shoulders began to shake. He gently placed his hand on her shoulder and she looked up with tears and panic.

“I was so worried it felt like I was going to burst.” Otsuka moved a hand over her chest as her breathing started to speed up. Minato helped her over to the couch and sat down next to her. “I felt so”, she took a deep shaky breath, “helpless.”

Minato locked eyes with the women he had largely considered to be one of the most important people in his life without ever realizing it. Something he couldn’t place bubbled in his chest. “So did I.” He sat back into the couch and ran a hand through his hair as he felt another push of anxiety move through his body. “It feels awful. But you took care of Yoshino, that counts for something.”

Otsuka shook her head and fell into his side. He ignored the warm feeling that blossomed and tried to focus on her instead. “You better keep yourself out of the hospital Minato-kun, I will murder you for stressing me out.”

Minato laughed and moved his arm so he could give her a side hug. “Yes ma’am. Well, what’s on the list of to-do’s today?” Otsuka shifted up and reached for a writing utensil and paper on the opposite side of the couch.

“I know there’s at least one meeting with some of the Nara that Yoshino was going to, but besides that my mother is visiting Sakumo today so I’ll probably clean up the house in preparation for Shikaku’s return and fill out some of his paperwork I’m not supposed to even know about.” Ostuka stood as she finished writing out a short list for herself.

 She looked back over at Minato. “Tea?” He nodded furiously and pushed himself up from the couch.

“Anything I can help with?”

Otsuka pulled the tea pot out and began making tea. “Shikaku has a stack of scrolls in his office, if you could get them and help me fill them out? I know little of the political things but Shikaku is always going on about his opinions. It's easy enough for me to guess. Oh, be careful of the seal that’s under his desk.”

Minato nodded and flashed into the room and was back in a few seconds. They spent the rest of the day finishing the paperwork and cleaning up the house. It was in the following weeks he found himself seeking out Otsuka more and more. The more he was around her the more that blossoming warm feeling he felt, the more he noticed Otsuka never actually gave herself credit for the things she did and knew.

He asked Shikaku about it once and the man sighed and said he’d been dealing with this for years. As Minato later found out, it was worse than he had thought. Shikaku had explained to him once that while Otsuka felt she knew all his opinions on politics, he never actually discussed them that often, it was just the few times he had she had remembered every scrap and detail and without thinking had pulled it apart in order to understand better and be able to help him.

Everything she did and understood was because she had noticed and picked up on the habits of others around her. She wanted to help those she cared about and in order to do so she was unknowingly examining them and watching to see if she needed to intercede. What she felt was obvious information was just her naturally doing what she’d been doing her whole life. She noticed the details. Like whenever Yoshino wore green she perked up because she matched her house’s general decor, so when Otsuka bought Yoshino clothing she bought green.

ShikakU explained Otsuka’s mother had always taught her to catch the details, through games and her own disability she pointed out the tiny things that pointed to pain, struggle, opinions, anything that would give her any insight into someone.

“So how do I make her realize she’s not as useless as she thinks?” Minato’s arms were crossed as he leaned against the door to Shikaku’s office.

“We don’t. She’ll get there on her own.” Shikaku took a sip of his coffee. “It will all figure itself out. I learned years ago it has to happen on it’s own.” The man before him looked rather content with the way things were currently going.

Shikaku cleared his throat and Minato was back in the present watching the man in front of him give him an unimpressed look. Minato shook his head of the memories that had bubbled up. “Shikaku, I have no intentions of playing with Otsuka’s emotions.” Minato fought down the blush that was still across his cheeks.

Shikaku raised an eyebrow. “That was not what I said.”

Minato rolled his eyes. “You implied it. Besides, while you’re content to sit back and watch Otsuka grow I’m going to prove to her she can do anything.” The two locked eyes and there was something the Shikaku couldn’t place there, but he nodded and leaned back.

He had the feeling everything was going to be fine. Eventually.

Chapter Text

Minato stretched slowly and felt his whole body groan. It took everything in him not to simply return to the makeshift bed behind him, he was exhausted. In a few hours he’d be on the move again with his regimen. He’d been proclaimed captain not two weeks ago when their captain had died on the field. He was sorry to no longer have Fugaku and Shikaku at his back but at the very least the experience would help him towards his goal as Hokage.

He stepped out of his tent just in time to see the start of a shift change. Tsume caught him by the arm, and gently tugged her captain to the side. She pulled out a scroll and handed it to him. “Back already? That was quick.”

Yeah well Hokage-sama figured you’d be interested in this opportunity. He would like you to know it’s optional, he believes you know best for our regiment.”

Minato sighed as he did a quick inspection of the scroll looking for anything out of the ordinary. “What is this opportunity?”

Tsume shrugs, motioning for him to get on with it already.  Minato rolls his eyes and opens the scroll surveying the information. “We have the chance to ambush some of Iwa’s nin, but it will probably prolong our regiments return for at least another month.” 

Tsume looks over his shoulder with a feral grin. “A chance to take out some Iwa scum? Count me in.” She reached her hand out to pet her companion as he came up to her side, back from delivering the rest of the letters she’d come back with.

Minato stares hard at the scroll in front of him. If they decided to go after this chance it would lead to countless deaths to his regiment that Konoha could really do without right now. An idea popped into his head that caused him a bit of a pause. The Hokage hadn’t insisted the whole regiment go. “Tsume, go get Kusuke and Heiko, I wanna discuss our options before we make any rash decisions.” He ignored the whine from Tsume that followed after his order.

In an hour it had been decided that the regiment would be splitting up into three parts with Tsume leading one group to hit the Iwa nin head on, Kusuke to lead one group around to attack from behind, and Minato was left with a much smaller group that would be rushing ahead to prepare the battle ground. They’d be facing two entire fully equipped and rested regiments of Iwa’s nin.

As quickly as possible the camp was packed. All three groups set off in their intended directions shortly after. It had occurred to Minato that despite the advantage the Iwa nin would have if he could get a day alone with the designated battle field between his own sealing and the trap experts he was bringing with them the battle would take a massive turn in their favor. From that point it was only a matter of Tsume’s group maneuvering Iwa’s troops into the right place for a battle.

It wouldn’t be easy by any means but as far as Minato was concerned if Anyone could intentionally corner two entire armies while making it look like Konoha was retreating it was certainly Tsume Izunaka. It was possible she was the only woman besides his girlfriend he believed could do anything she wanted. He was also biased.

Heiko, the forty-year-old trap expert that could probably make a trap the shinigami couldn’t escape, was by his side as they ran. They planned quietly as they ran. He’d taken a small bit of time to apply silence and communication seals he, jaiyra, and Kushina had all co developed. It allowed all parties to communicate without being heard by anyone who didn’t have the seal or was over five feet away. They still spoke as quietly as possible to be safe, you simply never knew.

“Minato-san, we have to make plans in case Tsume can’t lead them to the right spot, or if Kouske’s team gets lost, or if the Iwa nin know about our ambush, or-“ Heiko glared at Bumi to quiet the younger boy down.

“Bumi you’re gonna to stress yourself to death, if that happens we will figure it out.”

“Mah Hekio, it's good for Bumi to be contingency planning. But don’t worry, it will all work out.” Minato smiled brightly at the boy who flanked his left. “Trust the plan, if you question your teammates you’ll die quicker than if the plan goes wrong.”

“But aren’t we supposed to always be ready for a plan to go wrong?”

Hekio laughed, “There’s a big difference between being ready for something to go wrong and planning for it to go wrong. If you think something will go wrong, it will, at least if you hope something won’t go wrong you’re less likely to make a mistake.” Bumi looked confused but nodded along anyway causing the trap expert to laugh again.

Minato grinned. “Who knows, maybe if you plan for everything that could go wrong then none of the rest of us have to focus on that.” Bumi frowned.

“Minato-san, please tell me you are joking?”

Minato gave the boy an innocent smile. “What? But Bumi whatever shall we do if you don’t make those plans for us!” Heiko barely hid her snicker and the rest of the group failed to contain their own laughter.

Bumi’s frown deepened. “Well, fine I will show you then! I’ll have planned for everything!” The entire group breaks into laughter and Bumi’s facade cracks. It dawns on some of them, they’d follow Minato to their death. If that was because he was just a charismatic fighter or because they couldn’t help but feel drawn to him they didn’t know.

Heiko’s laughter subsided with a few huffs, her smile is knowing when Minato ruffles Bumi’s hair. She’d bet her stash of chocolates that the man standing before her was going to be the next Hokage.

 

~

 

Shikaku sighed at the sight of a personal messenger arriving at his tent. Ever since Minato left he was sure that something was going to go wrong. This was probably the start of another headache he would not be looking forward too. As soon as he glanced at the scroll to see Minato, Fugaku, and his own written hastily across the top he let out another sigh. He had the distinct feeling he was about to experience a lot of yelling.

He shooed away the personal messenger and stuck his head out of the tent to loudly shout. “Inoichi! Fugaku! Choza! Get your asses in here!” He heard two responding shouts and one loud grumble. The three were there within seconds. 

Fugaku snatched the scroll in Shikaku’s hand and opened it without her situation ignoring Shikaku’s eye roll. With a flourish he opened it and revealed the long letter and stack of papers Otsuka had sent to them. Fugaku found his own personally addressed stack of papers almost instantly and began reading, shoving the rest of the paper towards Shikaku. He seated himself unceremoniously at the table, more interested in what he was reading.

Inochi over and glanced at the large stack of paper in Shikaku’s hands. The two shared a glance as they both had a sinking feeling in their stomach. They set out the papers and once they had finished Fugaku was growling.

“That fucking bastard!” Choza looked up from the letter he was reading Otsuka had addressed to Minato. “Danzo set up the uchila while I was gone! I should have known leaving the clan was a horrible idea but Otsuka talked me into it.”

“She was right to Fugaku.” Shikaku stepped towards him and snatched the letter out of his hand, reading and speaking at the same time. “If you had stayed you would have been the only clan leader left in the village, while I recognize the position it put you in, if you had stayed Danzo would have only had more fuel for the fire.”

While Shikaku read, Inoichi opened Otsuka’s letter to the Nara head. “Choza, you’ve won the bet.”

“I know.” Choza reclined in his seat. He was quite proud of himself. “Though we will have to send Minato this letter. He won’t be happy.”

“Bet?” Fugaku asked.

“Otsuka has sent Shikaku the paperwork for him to assign her as the defectors head anytime he is out of the village, and Choza just so happened to bet she would take the position over before Minato and Shikaku returned to the village.”

“Fuck,” Shikaku ran a hand through his hair. “I was certain she would ask Minato before she took the position.”

Inoichi smiled a grim smile. “She may be dependent on him but she’s taking the steps to be her own person, she would make the decision without him. But you are her lifelong confidant. I’m surprised she didn’t wait til she could get in contact with you for advice.”

Fugaku rolled his eyes. “You’re worrying about a bet?”

“Yes” Both Inoichi and Shikaku responded.

“Winner gets the final say in the loser's first born child’s name.”

Fugaku winced. “That was dumb. But, I will not allow a non-uchila to apprentice anyone from my clan. We cannot-”

“All do respect Fugaku, but Otsuka is putting her life on the line for your clan. I would take her suggestion.”

Fugaku glared at the Nara. “Would you release clan secrets to my clan? Besides that Otsuka is not a military strategist and has never been trained-”

Inoichi shook his head. “No, she has been. Trust me on that one, just not conventionally. You think any Nara would allow their child into the world without the proper tools to take over the world? Their just too fucking lazy to ever actually do it.”

Shikaku sighed again. He had the feeling this would be a continuous thing. “It is mostly my fault, I lit a fire under her when she was younger. Because of that she’s always been subdued on anything that isn’t about other people's own personal health.”

Choza stood to take the letter from Shikaku’s hands and pointed towards the paperwork it would take forever to get Shikaku to fill out. They didn’t have the time to waste. “He called her dumb.” The clan head supplied the answer to the question he knew would follow.

Fugaku picked up the paperwork Miskito had sent him. It was against his better judgement, but he understood that the Nara clan was reaching out. He considered how bad it must have been if Mikoto had actually told Otsuka everything. His wife would probably murder him if he didn’t go along with this.

Inoichi grabbed a stack of the papers Shikaku would have to fill out and started. “Go on Fugaku, fill out the paperwork. You can change it once you get back, until then, trust your wife to make the right decisions for your clan.”

“Fine. At least I’m not dumb enough to bet upon my child’s first name.”

“What would you bet on Fugaku?” Shikaku asked, actually rather interested. He barely avoided Choza’s hand to the back of his head as he got distracted.

The man thought for a moment. “Minato will be the next Hokage.”

Shikaku scoffed. “That’s not a bet .”

“Fine.” Fugaku stopped only to glare at Shikaku. “An entire Iwa army will be blown up.” He paused. “Within the next two weeks.”

Shikaku rolled his eyes. “That sounds more like a prayer to me.”

“Mah, don’t underestimate Konoha, I’ll say an Iwa army will be burned to crisps within the next two weeks.” Inoichi considers his options for winnings. “If I win, you have to let a Yamanaka apprentice under and Uchila as well.”

Fugaku snorts. “If I win, you have to let my wife shop free at your flower shop til the day she dies.” Inoichi winced. He supposed it was a fair deal, kami help him win, otherwise his wife would really kill him.

“I would as well like to step into this bet with the same deal, let an Akimichi apprentice under your clan if I win, and if you win, your immediate family can eat free at my restaurant twice a week!” Choza laughed. “I say 

Shikaku continued to sign papers. “I will stay out of this, I don’t need any more reason for Yoshino to kill me.”

“Oh? You don’t want two Nara’s to apprentice under the Uchila?” Fugaku threw down his pen and began to put away the papers to send back.

“More irritation than it’s worth.”

“Danzo is more irritation than he’s worth.” Inoichi comments. His voice was lower and darker.

Shikaku froze as something finally hit him. “Shit.” The three around him looked up. The man looks down at the papers he’s just finished signing. Otsuka was going to make him go grey with worry and he suddenly was very glad for Minato’s absence.

“Care to share?” Fugaku crosses his arms. He seems to be back in his clan head mode.

“Otsuka was smart enough to realize why having all clan heads out of the village right now is bad. The steps she is taking are the right ones but between her newest ward and this, she now poses the biggest threat to Danzo and his plans.”

The tent was silent.

Fugaku moved from where he was standing to pick up a paper. He wrote a few short sentences and folded it up.

 

~

 

Tsume smirked as she and her team reached the clearing she was sure that Minato’s team was directly under right now. They’d lost quite a few of their team already but they hadn’t sent their full force in because they didn’t want to actually lose. They acted surprised and fought only enough to make it seem like they didn’t have another plan. They’d managed to buy Minato’s team and Kusuke’s an extra four days.

Her companion growled lowly to signal he could smell their Captain. Tsume looked over to nod at the designated second in command and sushined directly down. She found herself in a maze of tunnels with various levers and wires leading down multiple paths. Minato found her almost immediately.

He was smiling at her. “We were starting to worry.”

Tsume shrugged and followed him as they walked down two paths. “You’ve all been working hard.”

“You have no idea.” Heiko says as they enter a larger area where they are sitting with a cup of something. “After you didn’t come the first day Bumi almost had a heart attack and suggested tunnels to ensure we would be able to change where the battle took place. Those things stretch out for miles. It actually might be good to set up a permanent Konoha check point here with all the work we put in.”

Minato laughed. “That’s if we don’t blow the entire thing up. But he’s right. It certainly made me think creating deep tunnels that lead all over Konoha’s territory wouldn’t be a half bad idea.”

“Still” Heiko stood “Tell us how long we have until they arrive? And when will Kusuke be here?”

Tsume grinned. “Oh he caught up about two days ago. They’ve been following behind for a while now.” She frowned. “We’ve lost more people than I thought we would, we will have to be extra careful on every move we make because I think they were finally starting to get suspicious on how they’ve been able to keep up with us. We do have quite a lot of heavily injured people.”

“How many were you able to draw to us?” Minato asked. They’d have to play the long game before their reinforcements would be sent in, he wasn’t sure how long they’d be able to keep Kusuke out of the game.”

“Oh, we have all of them!” Tsume looked almost giddy.

“How the hell did you do that?” The room was stunned.

“Oh you know, we just kidnapped the kage’s son. Nothing too big.” 

Minato’s mouth opened a fraction. That really changed things. Suddenly the fight wouldn’t be taking weeks and while they’d prepared for a very different fight it certainly made their job easier.

“None of you are worried about how well this plan has gone?” Bumi asked in the silence.

Tsume shrugged. “Maybe all your plans are just awful.” Heiko choked on their water laughing. “We almost missed the spot entirely except Kusuke had a scout looking for it and they pushed us in the right direction. After that half of us were almost blown up, I’d say leave it alone.”

Minato nodded. “We could always make something go wrong to make you feel better Bumi.” The young man looked terrified that he’d actually meant it. “Let’s get that prisoner down here and all our heavily injured. Send something to Kusuke to sit back and hang tight for just a while longer.” He turned to Heiko.

“Set everything up for the third seal, I wanna give them a nice big welcome. Tell everyone else to set up the circle.” Minato thought for a moment. “And why don’t we prepare for Potatoes just in case.”

“Pota-”

“Don’t ask.” Both Heiko and Minato respond at the same time.

Chapter Text

Otsuka sighed as she entered her house for the first time in seventeen hours. As now the only current clan representative for Nara capable of making decisions for the clan she was swamped with work. The paperwork hadn’t stopped coming after Shikaku’s paperwork had been processed.

There were problems with the rationing among the Nara clan, mostly because half of them hadn't been collecting their rations or had been feeding some of it to the deer. Otsuka passingly wondered if she could get rations for the deer which might solve some of the problems but they were being forced to pull from the clans emergency funds to get enough food for their clan.

In the end Otsuka had gone from house to house and requested that every Nara collect their rations from the main house on Thursdays. Theoretically Otsuka would have all Nara rations delivered to Shikaku’s house and she would distribute them herself. It might have caused some problems if it was any other clan but she knew they didn’t care.

From there she was clearing d-rank mission requests that multiple houses had asked the clan to pay for. Interestingly enough one of them had been for genin to shape the clouds to settle an argument. She’d signed off on paying it, if solely so she could see the look on Shikaku’s face when he read what the report that would come in.

Beyond the hilarious issues that only the Nara clan could possibly bring up, Otsuka was feeling herself becoming more and more stressed. The work she was doing wasn’t hard, but it was work nonetheless. She made herself some tea while she continued to do paperwork and sent Yoshino to go check on Kakashi while she was out for training of her own.

The tea did little to calm her down but she took a minute to think over the past few months. She was proud of herself, despite sort of throwing herself face first into a new field, she was managing. In fact she was getting better at what she was doing. Kin had handed her two new ninja who’d just started taking sessions and she was incredibly excited to begin helping people from the start of their journey.

She’d even suggested offering sessions to children in the orphanage and that was a project Kin had handed off squarely to her. It felt good to be relied upon again, but not just because she was the last option. It was because she was proving herself, she was trusted. To be considered genuinely good enough at something that she could begin to hold her own was an amazingly freeing feeling. Kakashi didn’t necessarily have to rely on her, but he trusted her and cared for her. The changes that she was making in herself and those around her were things she didn’t know was possible.

Her mind fell on Minato. Minato Namikaze. The only pursuit she’d ever had for her own benefit and not someone else’s. As it turned out she hadn’t been the only one perusing, Minato just didn’t catch on until much later. She wondered what he was doing right now, hopefully not something too dangerous. She missed him, it had been a while since she’d even received a letter from him. She finished off her teas and glanced at the time. She was running late.

After that she rushed to work to get in three sessions and after that she was back at Shikaku’s house figuring out who to assign the task of picking up the ration deliveries.

When she was done she went home to find Kakashi training outside and she began to make dinner. With the rations she was using she made fish, rice that she cooked in fat, with some added salt, scrambled eggs, carrots and eggplant she’d splurged on solely for Kakashi she made enough to serve four hungry children. She wasn’t sure if she was sad Kakashi didn’t have someone else with him or to be glad to have some alone time to spend with her ward. She decided it didn’t matter as long as Kakashi was happy.

“Kakashi! Dinner!” She served the food and then poured them both tea.

In a minute Kakashi was seated at the table eating his food. “Wash your hands.” Otsuka gave the young boy a disapproving look as he grumbled at her. For someone who claimed he could take care of himself he loved to skip out on hygiene.

Kakashi begrudgingly washed his hands before reseating himself and digging into the food in front of him. “How was training today?” Otsuka picked at her food while she also looked through the files Kin had sent her home with. 

Kakashi shrugged. “I have to straighten out my lines with the brush still, Yoshino-san checked some of my taijutsu and Hamaru-sensei stopped by to check my katas. You?” He continued to scarf down his food while he waited for Otsuka to run through her day’s activities.

“Fine, fine.” She waved it off. “Oh, did you return Minato’s scroll on advanced barriers yet?” Otsuka hadn’t checked their room yet. She was really losing track of the things she needed to do. She was going to have to make a list. Oh no, was she going to turn into a list person? She’d give herself one list and then that would be it. She would not become a list person. Was this what it felt like to be a clan head? She hated it.

Kakashi almost choked on his food and he looked up at the women in front of him with wide eyes. “Y-yeah.” He was honestly surprised she had noticed. And if she had noticed this scroll how many others had she known he’d looked at? “I can explain-”

Otsuka waved her hand. “Just checking, as long as you don’t do anything with them.” She paused to look up at her ward and gave him a smile. After a moment she brushed her hair back and closed the file. A sigh escaped. “What do you say we go for a walk? It’s been a long day, and I’m told the east gardens are pretty at night.”

Kakashi thought it over and agreed. He’d been opening up more and more. Between Otsuka practically begging him to bring friends home and the therapy three days a week it seemed that his life was starting to come together. At six years old he felt he was ready to take on the world but he found he had been spending his time waiting for Otsuka to come home.

As Otsuka changed into different clothes she called out to Kakashi. “I know I’ve barely been at home Kakashi, but you come first, so please feel free to ask if you need help.” She paused. “Okay?” She heard a hum come from down the hall and she smiled. She’d learned pretty quickly Kakashi responded better when she didn’t make a big deal of offering help. So if she casually brought it up behind a door so he wouldn’t feel called out, then she was simply using techniques Kin had been teaching her.

They were out the door shortly after and Otsuka took a deep breath as she took in the cool, fresh air. Tension and stress unwound from her posture and suddenly the overwhelming work felt easier and the hidden panic settled down.

“Should we pick flowers for the house?” Otsuka pointed to the edges of the garden that were generally left for wildflowers to grow on their own. Kakashi pulled out a kunai Otsuka hadn’t realized he brought.

“The yellow ones?” Kakashi had been picking up on the aesthetic Otsuka always stuck too. She liked what she called, “Summer” colors and anything that could be described as bright, striking, or vibrant.

“They’re called Chrysanthemums, actually I should teach you, it’ll be important to know if you ever need to give someone a message or create a poison or antidote. I don’t know anything but the basic medicinal purposes and messages of flowers but I’ll see about Mikoto teaching you.” Otsuka reached over and pointed out another set of flowers. “These are-”

Otsuka was cut off as something blurred and sent her flying across the garden. She hit the pavement hard as pain blossomed in her leg and stomach. She let out a loud scream. She opened her eyes to see two ninja attacking Kakashi. No, no she couldn’t let them touch him. She tried to move but found herself falling back onto the ground.

Kakashi had leapt into action the moment after Otsuka had been hit and was currently focusing more on dodging any incoming attacks than actually attacking. The taller man caught him on the thigh before Kakashi retreated enough to start on the hand signs for something.

“KAKASHI!” Otsuka screamed. She couldn’t watch him get hurt in front of her. Another ninja appeared in front of her with a scratched out suna headband.

“Heh, you’re lucky you bent over. I won’t miss this time.” He brought his sword back and Otsuka felt fear and horror explode in her chest. She couldn’t- No she didn’t want this to happen. She had to protect Kakashi, she had to make sure he’d be okay.

As her body began to shake a warmth spread over her skin and a member of the Uchiha police force was suddenly in front of her moving her away from where she’d been moments before.

“Ma’am, I’m going to get you to the hospital as quickly as possible.”

“But- Kakashi.” Otsuka looked up into red eyes and begged. “Kakashi, Kakashi, he’s alone you can’t leave him alone! He’s-” Her breath left her body and she gripped onto the man who was holding her. This was- no- what was happening? It couldn’t be- Why?

“Ma’am, two of my comrades are there helping take care of the foreign ninja.”

“I need to make sure he’s okay, where is he?” Otsuka felt more panic, her breath sped up and she couldn’t get words out anymore. Pained sounds came out and as she tried harder and harder to speak her vision blurred.

“Ma’.... am ….. I need….. calm …… take a ….. you need.” Seconds later Otsuka’s world faded into darkness.

Chapter Text

Fugaku paced back and forth between his tent and the campfire that was set up directly to it’s left. Eight days. They were supposed to be here eight days ago. Minato’s regiment had successfully defeated two entire Iwa regiments and managed to capture the Tsuchikage’s son. Impressive considering they’d kept a little over half of their forces alive.

The Hokage had sent a scroll that they were to wait for Minato’s forces to meet up with them before they returned to the village. Everyone was antsy. They’d been ready to leave over a week ago and somehow Regiment 10 still hadn’t materialized.

There were shouts coming from the south and he turned to see two ninja approaching, they were shouting and looked badly hurt. “We were ambushed on the way back, we were sent ahead to see if we could get help. We need medic nin as quickly as possible.” Shikaku barked a few orders out and motioned for Fugaku to go join the two messengers. What had Minato gotten himself into this time.  He waited patiently while people rushed about and readied themselves. 

“Ready to lose that bet Fugaku?” Choza asked. He rolled his eyes. A minute later they were departing with the medic nin.

They arrived an hour and a half later with a group of less than thirty people. He scanned the group for Minato and found him helping someone to sit down. He spoke to the medic-nin quietly and then was shooed away. He looked unsure of what to do with himself as he glanced around the rest of his regiment. He locked eyes with Fugaku and the Uchiha frowned and moved towards him.

“What happened?” Minato winced and Fugaku got a glance into the facade breaking. He looked exhausted and hopeless.

“We were ambushed on our way back. Iwa managed to get a message out and they’d brought reinforcements. The only reason any of us escaped was an accident.” Minato glanced at his hands for a moment and then shoved them into his pockets. “Heiko managed to trip one of their own explosives in an attack and wiped out enough we could get away.”

Fugaku crossed his arms and surveyed what was left of a powerful regiment. This did not bode well for Konoha. With every regiment starting to return, the next wave of Konoha nin would hold up but there was no guarantee there would be enough time in between for all of them to fully recover. They couldn’t afford to lose Minato to a student, those few ninja left would probably now follow him to his death, and would perform better under Minato’s leadership than a new captain.

“Once everyone is ready to move we will head home.” Choza said as he walked up. He patted Minato’s shoulder, he could tell the man was running on Chakara fumes.

Fugaku frowned. “Speaking of-”

“Oi! Uchiha!” His head snapped to the side at the grating voice of one Tsume Izunaka. She was on the ground a ways away and a medic-nin was trying to keep her in one spot long enough to heal her foot. She had a massive wound across her face and her left eye was bandaged. That must have hurt.

“What?” Fugaku’s voice conveyed annoyance.

Tsume smirked. “Make sure pretty boy gets rest, but Choza here tells me you just lost a bet! Since when did you gamble?”

“What?!” Fugaku glared at Choza. “Do you always win?” He practically spat at the man. Choza only shrugged, holding back a smile.

“Bet?” Minato asked. When Fugaku glared at him too he rolled his eyes and sighed.

“As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted. We have some news about Otsuka.”

 The regiment captain froze. “What? Did something happen?”

“Not technically.” Choza supplied stepping forward. Minato cocked his head to the side confused.

“Otsuka took up the position of acting clan head, for anytime Shikaku leaves the village.” Fugaku filled in.

“OH?” Minato smiled. “Finally, I’ve been waiting for her to finally realize she-”

Fugaku shook his head. “Minato, she’s currently the only acting clan head in the village.” He lowered his voice enough that only Minato would be able to hear him. “She’s the only one who can do anything about Danzo’s plans. And with Kakashi already being a point of contention…” He trailed off to let the man in front of him finish the thought.

Minato knew better than to threaten to hurt anyone from the village, let alone a widely loved war veteran. Especially in front of his regiment who’d just spent weeks fighting non-stop. It didn’t stop the killer intent that leaked from him, but he managed to stop himself from spamming hirashin to get to Otsuka as quickly as possible.

She was okay. She had to be okay. If he let himself think otherwise he’d run himself into the ground with worry. “Mika-san, how long until we’ll be able to start the move to the village. We’re all aching to get home.” He shouldn’t rush them, he really shouldn’t. He knew it too. Still Minato found himself wanting to hirashin them all back to the village. He couldn’t rush them, he had to remind himself, it would only cause more problems in the end.

“A few more hours, Shikaku-san will have more ninja inbound by now.” She smiled at him, if a bit warily. The entire group could feel the killer intent leaking from him.

“Thank you Mika-san.” Minato thought for a moment. Two weeks, it would take them at least two weeks to get to the village. Two weeks. He supposed he didn’t have much of a choice. 

 

~

 

For the past week and a half Minato had looked like he was ready to have a kid. He’d bounce around from person to person. Asking who needed help. Can I carry your pack for you? How are you doing on Chakra? Is your foot alright Tsume? Are you sure you should be on it? He’d been smacked for that one.

Shikaku felt about ready to find an excuse to send Minato ahead. He probably would have already done it if the constant questions hadn’t seemed to be keeping everyone’s focus on how annoying Minato actually was and not the trauma they’d just been through. Inochi called it remarkable. ‘ONLY two people have had any problems with flashbacks this entire trip back!’ Well Shikaku felt about ready to have a mental breakdown if Minato didn’t shut up.

He was worried for his cousin but unlike Minato he didn’t seem to need to mother everyone else as a coping mechanism. How the hell did Otsuka deal with this? Shikaku groaned.

“Shikaku, we have a Konoha ninja incoming.” He looked up and nodded to his best sensor nin. Aoba really was amazing, it was honestly kind of scary.

A messenger came into view about thirty seconds later, but he stopped in his tracks looking relieved. “I was sent to check up on you, we expected your return almost a week ago.”

Minato sprung forward. “We ran into some trouble.” He stopped and something dawned on him. “DO YOU KNOW OTSUKA? IS SHE OKAY? HAS SHE BEEN-”

“Uh sir, I don’t know who that is. W-w-would you please stop shaking me….” Minato had grasped their arms and was shaking them back and forth furiously. He stopped upon request and had the capacity to at least look slightly ashamed.

“Minato, please go find someone else to pester about Otsuka.” Shikaku said, barely keeping the amusement from his voice. The man looked like a lost puppy.

Minato sighed. At least he recognized his own mistake. Minato left with his metaphorical tail between his legs and Shikaku briefly wondered how the rest of the world was terrified of him.

 

~

 

Otsuka just felt a warm darkness for a while. She did what she could to move into the warmth and just stay there, appeased. But slowly the haze was fading and she was becoming more and more uncomfortable. She realized she was in pain. Actually a lot more pain then she should have been. Why was she in pain?

Then everything came flooding back. Her eyes flickered open, struggling under the heavy weight. Kakashi? She needed to know he was okay. She would never forgive herself if- her eyes landed on a distraught looking Kakashi sleeping in the chair to her left. There was a blanket drawn over him and food and tea. He was okay. The pressure of anxiety lifted immediately. Also it seemed someone had been taking care of him. Good. He would need it, she doubted this wouldn’t cause Kakashi another trauma, especially so close to his father’s death and how close Otsuka and Kakashi had been growing.

She experimentally tried to see if she could lift herself up and her arms pushed her up with little trouble. It was when her stomach started to bend that the pain came rushing in. She couldn’t keep herself from crying out and Kakashi’s eyes shot open and he bolted forward to her. She could see the panic written in them. His tango was already half out. Oh Kakashi, she would never have wished this upon anyone, least of all him. She gave him a big smile.

“Sorry Kakashi, I seem to have forgotten I was hurt.” She laughed a little but winced at the pain. Still she scooted over and patted the bed. “Come on, I won’t tell if you don’t.” 

Kakashi looked like he considered it for a moment but when Otsuka began to reach over to grab him he immediately moved into the bed to keep her from hurting herself further. She wrapped her arms around him and drew him against her chest. She took a shaky breath, fingers curling into his hair and her hold tightening. They stayed there for a while and Kakashi ignored her tears while she ignored his own.

His heart had felt as if it was being ripped apart when he saw her fly across the pavilion so suddenly. It had all happened so fast. He was furious with himself for not noticing that they were infiltrators there in the first place. He was supposed to take care of Otsuka, he’d even promised Minato-san that. How was he supposed to face anyone anymore, knowing he’d failed to protect the person he cared about most. Again .

He felt Otsuka slow her breathing into long deep breaths. She pulled away enough to be able to look into his eyes. “It’s not your fault okay Kakashi?” She gave him a big smile despite her slightly red rimmed eyes. “No one will blame you, because you did everything you could. And I know this will drive you forward to want to become stronger. But just know, no matter what happens, I will always be proud of you. Always.” She pulled him back into her again and tightened her hold before reaching up and ruffling his hair.

Kakashi grumbled but felt lighter. He didn’t know why, but he felt like beaming at her praise, even as he tried to convince himself he wasn’t good enough. Suddenly he was yawning and Otsuka was laughing at him.

“Come on, let’s take a nap.” He nodded and when he started to move off the bed he found she still had him in her arms. “Uh-uh, no escaping for you! I don’t think my heart can take you leaving until I’m sure you’re rested up.” He begrudgingly cuddled into her form and did everything he could to convince himself this was for her, not him. In a few minutes he was out.

Otsuka looked down at the boy by her side. He looked peaceful now. She sighed and wondered how long she’d been asleep. She looked round as best she could for a calendar of something but she didn’t see anything. There was a quiet knock on the door before it opened to reveal Mikoto holding a basket of food. Her face lit up when she realized her best friend was awake.

“Mikoto!” Otsuka whisper-yelled. The woman came in and put her basket down on the side table. She took one look at Kakashi and smiled.

“How long have you been awake?” Mikoto asked. She folded her arms and a small happy smile settled on her face.

“An hour or so. Do you think you could get a nurse? No one has been in yet, and Kakashi and I were too distraught for me to ask him to get a nurse.” Mikoto rolled her eyes and with a loving exasperation she left to go retrieve a nurse.

A few minutes later the two were back and the nurse started to go over everything that had happened. “Those ninja nicked an artery, they also got enough of your mussel you’re going to need to be in rehab for a while. I can’t say for sure if you will have a permanent limp or not, but it is likely. Over all, I expect it will scar but it shouldn’t pose any more problems than a small limp when you fully heal.”

She did a few tests, which she woke Kakashi up for so she could properly take them. Otsuka had only been asleep for a day and a half. Mikoto had been bringing Kakashi food and sorting out the large problems that came with a temporary clan head being attacked. 

Once the Nurse left Mikoto gave Kakashi a look and he stood quietly and left after giving Otsuka a quick hug. “Kakashi,” Otsuka called after him. “Please go home and take a shower! I’ll be alright here until you return, promise!” He turned to nod at her before closing the door. She was certain that Gai would already be waiting at her house. He always seemed to know when his rival needed something. 

Mikoto sighed. “First things first, Kin has already stopped by to let you know that Kakashi will be staying with him until you are ready and able to go back home. Second, you are relieved of your duties at work until you have been mentally evaluated and are feeling ready to come back to work.”

Otsuka nodded. She didn’t like the sound of not working but she supposed it made sense. At least Kakashi would have a place to stay so he wouldn’t be alone.

“Second, Fugaku sent a letter home with all the paperwork. He was worried that you know who would take this moment to try to take you down. He wanted me to assign you guards with the KPD but instead I just had them keep an eye on you anytime you were out on the streets. As it turns out, that was for the best.” Mikoto uncrossed her arms and reached out to hug her best friend. She’d felt her heart drop when she’d heard Otsuka was in the hospital. It took everything she had to keep herself from staying in the room every second with Kakashi. But she had a duty to her clan and to her friend to ensure things ran smoothly while she was out.

“So, then, this attack was Danzo.” Otsuka whispered in Mikoto’s ear while she tightened her hug. Mikoto felt her heart flutter for a moment but pushed the feeling away.

“It was missing nin.” Mikoto said loudly as she pulled away. “Honestly I have no idea how they got through the barrier in the first place but the Hokage is looking into the barrier team.” The Uchiha matriarch waved her hands. “Don’t worry about it. All that matters now is you are safe and that the Hokage will handle it. I’m sure once Minato comes home it won’t be a problem again.

Otsuka furrowed her eyebrows. She looked down at her legs and Mikoto could already tell she was frustrated she couldn’t do anything just yet. “Here, I brought food, let’s get some nutrients in you.” Mikoto smiled at her and pulled a chair up before setting out the food.

Once it was all pulled, out Otsuka was smiling brightly. Mikoto had made her favorite, it was a spicy curry that Mikoto’s mother had made for the two of them. Once Otsuka had tried it she had asked for the recipe. Of course she had never got it because she wasn’t an Uchiha, but Mikoto made it anytime her friend was feeling anxious or depressed. The smile widened when she saw the red bean sesame balls and origini.

“Mikoto, you’re a literal god!” They both laughed and dug in. As the two relaxed and ate it became increasingly clear the Otsuka was growing tired. She’d been up for five hours or so and Mikoto was sure she needed rest. She left a few minutes later claiming she wanted to check up on Kakashi and then get started on more of her work.

“Get some rest Otsuka!” She called out as she closed the door behind her.

It took a few moments but Otsuka felt her smile start to fade. She frowned. Something was wrong with her. She felt a little like the room was closing in on her, she didn’t want to be alone. She wanted someone here. Someone to….. to protect her. A flash of fear seized her body. Oh, oh no. She was alone now. That meant there was no one to stop Danzo from sending someone to finish off the job. She found herself suddenly wishing Mikoto had stayed longer.

She curled up under the blanket and into the pillows behind her. Her anxiety was building and she could feel her heart start to try to beat out of it’s chest. A pressure built in her stomach and as her breathing sped up she felt her body shake a little and her lungs start to hurt. Her fingers went numb. What, what was happening? It was fear, the fear was taking over.

Her body shook more violently. Calm down, she had to calm down! She faintly recognized a beeping outside of her head. Was she going to die? Suddenly she realized it felt like she was looking at herself from far away. She watched her own body start to push further into the pillows but it didn’t feel like her. It felt like someone else, yet it was her. Then the door was pushed open and a nurse stepped in. The same nurse from before.

“Ms…… I need you …. breathe …… please breathe….”

Breathe? Otsuka opened her eyes again, she was back in her body, she was looking up at a calm nurse who was smiling at her. She took a breath, there was someone here. Another breath. And another. The woman’s voice became less foggy.

“That’s very good, keep breathing.” A minute or so later Otsuka was rubbing the feeling back into her hands.

The Nurse gave her a big smile. “I’m proud of you for doing that.” Otsuka furrowed her eyebrows.

“What do you mean?” “You took hold of the situation. While you were dissociating, that isn’t easy to do. Even if you don't, that's alright too, but it is still something to be proud of.”

Dissociating? She paused. That was what had happened wasn’t it. The out of body feeling experience, the helplessness, fear, anxiety. The numbness and shaking. Oh. OH. Otsuka felt like smacking herself. “I see, thank you. Can… can you ask for Kin Yamanaka to come in? Whenever he’s free?” The nurse nodded.

“I can, but I’m only going out for a moment. I think for now it’s best not to leave you alone.” Otsuka nodded. She had some things to think over.

Chapter Text

Kin was not available at all that day. So she spoke to the kind nurse for the rest of the day until Kakashi returned. From there the Nurse let her know that tomorrow she’d be starting physical therapy and Kakashi was quick to ask if he could attend. The Nurse had told him yes and Kakashi looked as if he was almost over the moon. Otsuka laughed and then caught him in a tight hug.

    Otsuka knew Kakashi was not someone who could deal with all of his feelings at once. She also knew that if she was terrified about being alone and Kakashi would probably have similar problems to some level. She sighed. Things had begun to get complicated the moment she stepped into Kin’s office. A feeling flickered up in her chest.

    Ostuka took a moment to examine it and with some surprise realized it was excitement. When she thought about it she’d never felt like she’d been involved in something so important. Her job had been a giant step for her, and while she’d certainly been thrown into the deep end, she’d loved every moment of it. There were so many problems to solve, so many issues that were thrown her way, and she had to learn in her feet. It honestly felt beautiful.

    Despite feeling overwhelmed by not knowing, she also felt inexplicably excited. Like something about this situation had triggered a part of her she didn’t know she had. Was this what being a ninja felt like? She had a newfound understanding for Minato’s passion in learning. It was wonderful to test yourself against people and obstacles and find you could overcome them, even if the way to do so took everything out of you.

    “Oba-san?” Otsuka paused. His voice was soft from beside her on the bed. He was looking at her worried and confused. Her heart practically melted as the little boy tightened his hold on her arm.

    “Kakashi?” She asked as she lifted her arms to braid his hair, with or without his permission.

    “You weren’t responding.” He looked at her hands as they worked and Otsuka watched as she saw him debate weather or not to tell her to stop. She held herself back from laughing at his inner monologue and instead responded.

    “I was thinking, I didn’t mean to ignore you.” She gathered more hair in her hands as she moved to make sure all of his hair was in the braid.

    “About what?” Kakashi held perfectly still while she braided but his eyes didn’t leave her face.

    “I realized, that I enjoy my life. I don’t think I’ve ever really enjoyed my life, at least not before you.” Otsuka stopped long enough to pinch his cheek and then resumed braiding. “I always felt like I didn’t fit in my clan. But, Kakashi, I think I finally realized, I am a Nara.” She smiled at him and Kakashi froze.

    If Otsuka knew exactly what was running through his own head at the moment, she didn’t let him know. She continued Braiding his hair, it wasn’t her place to do anything more than keep him safe from himself and others and guide him when he asked for it. Her heart wanted to reach out and show him how wrong others were about him, to ignore the glares and whispers because he was better than any of them would ever be. But if he didn’t come to that conclusion himself he’d never believe her.

    A few hours later Kakash reluctantly left with a side braid that was suspiciously decorated with tiny flowers that hadn’t been in the room two hours before. Soon after Otsuka was asleep and the Nurse stationed in her room was filling out paperwork.

    He didn’t say anything when Otsuka jolted awake, he simply stood and offered her some water before returning to his chair. When she burst into tears he asked if she wanted a hug and comforted her until she was hiccuping and pulled away from his hug. She whispered thanks and went back to sleep, and when the next night there was a random vase of flowers waiting for him at the desk he just moved them to a patients room who he knew needed the glimpse of outside.

    Otsuka ate her breakfast with Mikoto and Kakashi, the former had brought a fruit basket and sweetened milk. Otsuka swore Mikoto was a god. An hour of so later Mikoto excused herself to her clan duties and Kakashi pulled out his brush and ink to practice more. The day pushed on until noon when someone arrived to take her to physical therapy. Kakashi packed up quickly and helped her into the wheel chair they were using to move her. They wanted to be certain she was under the necessary supervision before she put any weight on either of her legs.

    She was pushed through foggy glass doors to an almost obstacle course like room. There were three other people working through stuff with trainors but a young woman looked up from the corner of the room she was in and smiled at her. She practically skipped over in excitement and reached out to shake Otsuka’s hand.

     “You must be Ms.Nara Otsuka, my name is Doctor Harada Yui, but please just call me Yui, Nara-san.” She practically radiated sunshine and joy and Otsuka laughed when Kakashi took a step back and wrinkled his nose.

    “It’s nice to meet you Yui-san, I’m sure I’m in good hands.” Otsuka smiled and Yui wheeled her towards the wall where there where two beam on either side at about waist height. Based on the stands they were attached to they looked as if they could be adjusted to the height of the patient.

    “Alright Nara-san-”

    “Oh, Otsuka is just fine.” Yui nodded and beamed at her.

    “Well, Otsuka-san, before we get you up, I’m going to ask you if you don’t mind me walking you through some warm ups. I’ll have to touch your legs to check up on those muscles if you don’t mind. You haven’t been on your legs in quite a few days, so it will hurt a lot and it’s a good idea for us to get the blood moving and stretch your muscles so you don’t hurt yourself further.” Kakashi seated himself on the other side of the beams so he could watch Otsuka and continue his practice in the corner.

    “Please go ahead.” The warm ups took about five minutes and as Otsuka started to work the muscles again she felt like she was already quickly growing very tired. This was going to be a long process.

    “Okay, I’m going to ask you to stand. Stand slowly and you can use me for any support you need. It’s important from now and until I say otherwise you don’t try to stand unless I am there. We don’t need you hurting yourself anymore than you already have.” Otsuka nodded and Yui smiled at her. 

    With a lot of strength that Otsuka didn’t know she had, she managed to stand, while Yui put her hand on Otsuka’s back to ensure she didn’t put any strain in places that would only further hurt her. They moved slowly over to the beams.

    “So, the point is not to hold yourself up with your arms, but to support yourself through the steps you are taking. We want to get you back to walking normally, so we are gonna treat it as such, but it is important you take a break if you need to.”

    Otsuka frowned. “I was told it was unlikely I’d return to walking without a limp.”

    Yui smiled at her patient. “I refuse to let you do anything but fully recover. Recovery is just as much about your mental health as your physical. Otsuka-san, we are going to get you back to walking!”

    It was a little like Otsuka had just been shown a whole new way of life. Something about what she said or the way she said it made Otsuka want to go above and beyond. It was kind of like Minato. “Understood Yui-san.”

     It took them an hour to get across the beams, and by the end Otsuka was breathing heavy and ready for a long nap. “That was wonderful Otsuka-san, you should be very proud.” Yui looked a little like she had just watched her child win a contest. “I’ll see you at noon tommorow!”

    She was wheeled back to her room by Kakashi. Inside they were greeted by a smiling Kin. “Hello Kakashi, Otsuka it’s good to see you awake!” He gave her a quick hug and patted the boy behind her on the head. “Why don’t you give us an hour of so Kakashi? I have to talk to Otsuka about some things.” He smiled at the young boy. “I’ll make sure she stays safe.”

    Kakashi seemed uneasy with the idea of leaving but conceded when Otsuka asked him to turn in his homework for today, and finish up at school before returning. When the door closed Kin pushed Otsuka over to one of the two chairs he’d moved to face each other.

    “May I help you into the chair?” Otsuka nodded and pushed down the embarrassed feeling that bubbled. It would be important to act no different and own her injury in front of others. Especially if Danzo showed up unexpectedly. She shoved the anxiety that appeared with the thought of Danzo down.

    Kin lifted her into the chair before settling into his own chair. Pulling out his pad, he relaxed into his chair. “So, we have a lot to go over don’t we?” He gave her a tired smile. Otsuka nodded and a feeling of exhaustion settled over her. “I know you need to talk to someone right now, and because of that, I’ve come as your friend and not your boss. I wrote down what I need to tell you as your boss here.” He waved the pad. “That said you might want to look it over before we talk.”

    Otsuka accepted the pad and read it over. It was mostly about fully excusing her from work until she had an evaluation by one of the hospital’s two counselors because she hadn’t worked with either of them yet. The thing that caught her eye was that Danzo had approached Kin about taking Kakashi in while Otsuka recovered. She wanted to break something. This man had put Kakashi in danger because he wanted something out of him. What was it that no one was telling her. It was something that everyone else understood, but were unable to tell her about. At least not yet.

    It made enough sense that they couldn’t talk about it while she was in the hospital, but she be damned if she was kept in the dark about what exactly was endangering her and Kakashi’s life.

    “Thank you Kin.” She said through gritted teeth. She took a deep breath. And then another. She could focus on this after they talk. “You’ve been looking out for Kakashi in my absence and that means a lot to me.” Kin nodded.

    They fell silent and when Otsuka’s anger receded enough to bring back her exhaustion Kin finally spoke. “Have you been sleeping?”

“Yes.” Otsuka’s voice was soft. “But I had a nightmare. The Nurses are making sure I’m looked after 24/7 after yesterday’s incident.” She paused for a long time. “I’m scared Kin, what if they try again? What if this time they hurt Kakashi?” Her eyes stung a little. “My mother taught me if you don’t show weakness, no one can hurt you. But does it really matter when all it takes is a fast ninja to take me down.”

Otsuka bowed her head over her hands and let her tears fall. She felt helpless, in a way she hadn’t felt before. If she couldn’t physically protect herself or others in a fight than all her other strengths were of no use. Not if she wasn’t even given the chance to use them. “I want to protect myself, from me and others. I want to be able to say that I got where I am because I worked for it. Minato won’t always be there, Kakashi won’t always be there.” 

Besides the helplessness she felt Otsuka was ready, she was ready for change. She’d never recognized the standards she held herself to and that she’d let fear take over anytime she thought she failed, but now it was time she said enough. She’d been panicking all her life. She’d been leaving herself in the dust while she took care of others and worried every waking moment about letting down the ones she loved. “I’ve always held myself to unrealistic standards, and I’m going to change that. I’m going to put myself first.”

Lifting her head Otsuka stared out the window at the sun that was high in the sky. She reached up and wiped the tears from her face. It left her face feeling a little sticky but she ignored it. She could feel the sun on her face even through the window. Even mid fall the sun in Konoha was hot and bright. It made her feel a little better. “I’m ready Kin. I’m ready for things to change.”