Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters used in this fic.
General Warnings: Rated T for Moderate Language
Author Notes: Many thanks to my editor for helping with this chapter. I would also like to thank Wulan-chan, Completely Confunded, Prescripto13, and one more person for whom FF won't let me post their pen name for reviewing.
Return for Redemption
For Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, and Kakashi, you only live once. Or twice, apparently. After a devastating war, they are the only ones remaining. Together, they travel to the past to save the lives of their lost friends. But not only must Team 7 confront the faces of their dead loved ones, but also the dangers found within themselves. Will their desperate bid for redemption succeed? Time-Travel AU
CHAPTER 1 – BACK TO THE BEGINNING
When they finally, reluctantly pulled away from each other, the tears had disappeared. In their place were darkened eyes and a mouth set in a grim line. Sakura, Sasuke, and Kakashi straightened. This was their Hokage standing before them.
"First thing's first," their Hokage grimaced. "Identification." The three tensed. Shit. Someone could've eliminated any one of us before we could make even a single move.
Sloppy, Sasuke, sloppy, Sasuke berated himself. Naruto could have been killed, gone from his world in less than an instant, all because of his momentary lapse in judgment, his minute of weakness. That could never be allowed to happen again. It would not happen again. Sasuke would make sure of it.
But first, they needed to confirm the identities of the others, and not just the identities of 'Naruto', 'Sasuke', 'Sakura', and 'Kakashi', but of those of their future selves in order to be certain they had all made it back okay. Therefore, they had to test each other on knowledge only the Team 7 of the future would know. If one of them did not pass the test, then that meant one of two things. One, the person who failed did not remember what had happened to them in the future, or two, they would be a spy. As Naruto looked at them, he presented only a blank mask void of any expression, but the three were angered to realize that it was with a calmness and ease that spoke of experience, that he was readying himself for action, for betrayal, and for pain. And Sasuke burned when he found himself responsible for a part of the hurt showing in the eyes of his Hokage, who was truly his brother in all but blood. Never again. No, never again would Sasuke be a cause of the hurt that now shone in the eyes of his brother; the eyes that had looked into his own and glared with the resolve to get him back, saying over and over and over again to just come home. Come back to them, back to Konoha.
But Konoha would never be home to Sasuke. Home, his only home, his true home, and most importantly, his family, was Naruto. And it was because of Naruto that, slowly but surely, his family had grown to include two more. So Sasuke would always protect with his life the man who had finally given him a home, a family, once more.
Naruto paused, then looked at Sasuke, who was standing with arms crossed, head tilted, staring at him with a hint of quiet mirth in his slitted eyes and a look of disdain plain upon his face, with slight incredulity as – Really Sasuke? You haven't called me that since I finally kicked your stupid ass for leaving us… 'teme.' Naruto gave a wistful smile at the nostalgia the word carried, and Sasuke was just pleased that the grim look upon his Hokage's face was lifted, even if it was only but for a moment.
"Do you really think we would be acting like that if we weren't who we were?" Sasuke scornfully remarked, then smirked. "Honestly, dobe."
"All the same…" Naruto drawled with nothing less than the highest of sarcasm. A switch seemed to flip inside the man, now boy, as all traces of affection instantly vanished from Naruto's face. "I'll go first." With a seriousness no one could have ever thought would grace the features of the rowdy trickster that had been Naruto's youth, he stared at each of them, processing, assessing, and evaluating.
"What was the name of the mask?" In an instant, Team 7 knew the man to whom he was referring. Glancing at one another, they nodded, and turned back to the boy sitting on the cot.
But Naruto didn't relax. Glancing swiftly at Kakashi, the silver-haired man immediately discerned what Naruto wanted from him. He straightened, paused for a moment to consider what only Naruto and the others would know, and then posed his question.
"The true name of your, ahem, 'tenant'?" Kakashi questioned. Naruto finally relaxed, as he seemed to sink into his pillow, and complained, "Come on Kaka-sensei, that was way too easy! It's Kura-chan!"
Kakashi huffed his amusement as Sasuke and Sakura relaxed, and smiled fondly at the yellow, spiky-haired boy.
"Maa, it is something only we would know 'here'…" Kakashi weakly protested, single eye crinkling
Tender warmth filled the room as they smiled at one another, taking reassurance from their family's (because after everything they've been through, what other word could even come close to describing what they meant to each other) presence.
And then, because the universe and Fate conspire to make their lives difficult, the door once again burst open. Having been in a battle-ready state almost completely continuously for the past 4 years, Team 7 reacted as any shinobi in those conditions would. That is, to say, they scared the living death out of nurse that had just walked into the room.
Nurse Ichikawa Atsuko was not having the best of mornings. First off, her snooty, nosy, egotistical, and absolutely narcissistic coworker had been all up her face about her patient and how she was doing everything wrong, and that he would be happy to take over from her because clearly he could do it so much better. Ooooooh, that guy really got on Ichikawa's nerves. 'So much better' my ass, the young nurse thought to herself, seething. Immediately afterwards, Ichikawa had been not so happily surprised to learn that there was going to be an official assessment of the Konoha Hospital conducted later that day. And not only that, but the Hokage himself was going to be supervising the evaluation! Her day just couldn't get any worse. Those, of course as everyone knows, were the magic words that practically guaranteed her doom. After (unluckily, as she found out only a little bit later) being assigned to manage the front desk for her morning shift, she thought that her horrible morning was finally over, and that the rest of her day at the hospital would go smoothly (there are those magic words again, really, how did she not see it coming?). After all, it was supposed to be a slow day, so needless to say, she was reasonably startled when four ANBU shunshined right in front of her, the body of the container of the Kyuubi no Yoko slung over the shoulder of the ANBU with a cat mask. Oh, fuck my life.
It was well known in the within the hospital that ANBU were synonymous with trouble, complications, and a crap ton of paperwork, (the young ANBU, Hatake Kakashi, was living proof of the fact). But Ichikawa plastered a smile on her face and asked politely (whether or not it was through clenched teeth might be debatable) what could she help you with ANBU-san. And when Cat presented the unconscious form to her inspection, detailed what had occurred, all Ichikawa was able to think was, I am sooooooo screwed. You see, Ichikawa knew through the Konoha grapevine (she was an incurable gossip) that this was indeed the boy that the Sandaime adored! And the Sandaime was coming here today! Yes, she was royally screwed.
So Ichikawa inspected the container, but was extremely confused as to why he was unconscious at all. Physically, the boy was completely fine. Well, Ichikawa thought as she gave the small form another glance, she might have to revise her first impressions. The boy was dreadfully small, wearing thin clothes and no shoes. His face was peaky for a child, and when looking at the rest of him, she noticed that the boy did not seem to have even a single ounce of fat on his body. She had frowned. That's unhealthy for a growing boy like him. The women and nurse inside her flared, and, as things such as motherly instincts usually do, set aside the boy's status as the container to focus upon the extreme displeasure she felt for the boy's lack of care. So, after getting a fellow nurse to cover the front desk for her, she brought him to a room, checked him over as best she could, tucked him in, and quietly closed the door.
But why was the boy unconscious? This was something the Head Doctor should know about, especially if the Hokage was going to be here at any moment. And so Ichikawa rushed to tell her supervisor about the little boy's strange state.
In her defense, Ichikawa was most definitely not expecting people to be in the room when she returned. So when she opened the door, she understandably panicked at the sudden movement inside her patient's room, so quick that all she was able to take in before panic took over were three blurs converging on the cot. And then of course, the panic took over and she threw her clipboard up in the air as her arms came up to protect her face. The next thing she knew was the cold floor, and she flushed in the realization that she had landed flat on her but.
Blinking back the frustration and pain that threatened to physically manifest within the droplets gathering at the corner of her eyes, she glanced upwards to see why she had yet to be killed (as a civilian in a shinobi village working as a nurse, she knew that most hospital room break-in's tended to be carried out by exceedingly dangerous people). And did a double-take at the scene that presented itself before her. The famous Copy-nin Hatake Kakashi was standing before the cot in a defensive position, almost completely hiding the form on the cot from her sight. On his right was a little girl with pink hair (pink? How was that even possible?), hands balled into tiny fists and looking about ready to deck the young nurse in the face. And…was that a boy crouching on the bed?! A dark-haired boy was indeed crouched protectively over the boy on the cot, feet placed precariously on each of the side rails of the hospital bed, with a balance Ichikawa knew only shinobi could achieve, and the boy looked absolutely feral. Tension spiked within the room.
Then, simultaneously, the three relaxed from their defensive formation around the cot as Hatake-san stepped forward and offered a hand to the the nurse, the other reaching back inside his flak jacket to put away the kunai Ichikawa hadn't even noticed he had been holding until just then. Ichikawa, realizing she was still on the floor, blushed and stammer apologies as she took the hand proffered and scrambled up from the ground. The Copy-nin seemed to smile sheepishly, as one hand ran through his untamable silver hair.
"That's alright, it was my bad." The ninja told her. "I wasn't expecting anyone to come into the room."
"But that's why it was my fault!" Ichikawa protested. "I should know by now not to startle shinobi," the nurse said, embarrassed at her amateur mistake.
"Maa, but you didn't know we were in her, so you couldn't have known not to startle me, yes?" The Copy-nin cheerfully countered.
"Ah, I suppose that's right…" Ichikawa mumbled, still embarrassed. Hatake-san nodded.
"Well, if that's all, I guess we'll all be getting out of your hair then!" The ninja said brightly, herding the two children from before towards the door.
"Ah, wait! But how did you…?" Ichikawa confusedly asked them.
"…I believe I would like to know that as well, Kakashi," a mysterious voice spoke up from the door.
The Copy-nin stopped in his tracks, and straightened from the instinctive slouch that had been his posture before. The two children traded loaded looks as they glanced towards the boy on the cot. Nurse Ichikawa, in her haste to bow to the man standing in the doorway, scarcely noticed out of the corner of her eye, the small boy sitting on the bed stiffen. The boy's reaction, however, did not escape the sharp eyes of the proud figure blocking the entranceway.
The Sandaime, Sarutobi Hiruzen, christened as the Professor and hailed as the God of Shinobi, was standing in the door of the hospital room, eyes as cold as steel and trained solely on our resident Copy ninja Hatake Kakashi.
We are so fucking screwed.
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