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Face Like Thunder

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Kakashi waited until Sasuke and Sakura had left. 

They'd returned to the village shortly before sunset, tired from four hours of walking to the farm and back. The team didn't even bother to pick up their paychecks, they just exchanged exhausted goodbyes and went their separate ways. Kakashi is normally long gone at that point, but not tonight.

"Night, sensei!" Naruto waved slightly, the slump in his shoulders giving away that even the endless fountain of energy was feeling the fatigue.

"Actually, Naruto, wait a second." Kakashi sighed, kneeling in the dirt right in front of the gates so he could speak face to face with his student, "I need to speak to you about something."

The blond boy seemed wary, "About what, exactly?"

"Your home life." Or lack thereof, Kakashi thought with a wince, "Your apartment. Sakura said some...worrying things earlier this morning."

"Should've known." Naruto sighed deeply, "It's really not that bad, Kaka-sensei. They never break in when I'm home, I think they're too scared. I'm not in any real danger, especially now that I'm a genin."

"Being a genin won't protect you from a drunk with a knife. Especially if you're a genin who's exhausted and passed out after training." Kakashi said, "Be honest with me, Naruto. If you could leave, would you?"

Naruto actually scoffed, "Yeah. Duh. There are loud bars outside all night and I never get any good sleep, my apartment constantly smells like piss, I think I've had to sew the stuffing back in my couch cushions ten times now...of course, I'd leave if I could. That's not an option for me, though, if you weren't aware."

The jōnin really didn't like that bitter tone of voice.

"What if there was?" He raised his visible eyebrow, "As your sensei, I can legally remove you from situations that could endanger you. If you wanted to stay in my apartment, I do have a spare bedroom."

Nevermind that Asuma usually slept there when he got too drunk to go home. The asshole could find somewhere else to crash.

"Of course, I can arrange for you to stay somewhere else, too, if you wanted." He scratched the back of his neck when he received no response, "I'm sure there's something available-"

He was cut off when he got the wind knocked out of him by a small body crashing into his own. He automatically wrapped his arms around the boy who was shaking like a leaf, hugging him tightly.

Naruto pulled back, eyes wide and a bit damp, "You'd really do that?"

"Yes, I'd really do that."

"But...won't they hate you, too, then?" Naruto asked, eyebrows creasing, "I don't want people breaking into your place, sensei!"

"Trust me, anyone who manages to break in will soon discover what a bad idea it was." Kakashi gave him an eye smile, rising to his feet swiftly, "Go get whatever you need to spend the night and meet me in front of Ichiraku's. I'll order our dinner then show you the way to the apartment, okay?"

The kid nodded eagerly, stars in his eyes, and Kakashi felt totally undeserving of the adoration. Naruto had probably craved attention and care from adults his entire life; now he was finally getting it twelve years too late. Watching the brat scamper off, he still remembers when the orphanage mother would refuse to touch the baby with whisker marks and would leave him crying through the night. Kakashi would slip in the window while Yūgao stood to watch outside, rocking the infant and feeding him store-bought formula. As he continued to grow, Kakashi had kept an eye on him up until he'd entered the academy. Now, in hindsight, he wished he'd continued to watch over him and, perhaps, give him the support he'd never gotten from anyone else.

He headed to Ichiraku's, prepared to order one normal bowl of chicken ramen for himself and three large orders of pork ramen for Naruto. Kami, that kid could eat.

"Down here." Kakashi said as they stepped off the elevator, Naruto looking around at the apartment complex with wide eyes, "Apartment thirty-six. I'll get a spare key made soon, and we can move the rest of your stuff in later."

Kakashi unlocked the door and opened it wide with his free arm, the other holding the bags filled with bowls of ramen. Naruto stepped through the threshold, two storage scrolls tucked tightly in his arms as he took in his surroundings. A small and cozy living room with soft carpet, a kitchenette with a small table suited for at least four people, and a hallway that led to what he assumed was the rest of the apartment. There was a sliding door in the living room that led to a little balcony area that was seemingly overflowing with plants. A lot of the apartment was, actually; Naruto could count at least ten potted ones inside sat on various surfaces and even more on the balcony.

It was a lot more lived-in than he expected; Kakashi-sensei had always been sort of aloof, so seeing his apartment so full of life was startling. He had eight dog beds of various sizes lying around a small table with a couple of cushions that looked like they were made for humans on each far side. Bookshelves and cabinets line the walls, vines and leaves spilling out onto the shelves from their pots. The kitchen was the one thing that didn't look too awfully used, pristine and clean like Kakashi didn't cook very often.

"Does it meet your standards?" Kakashi gave an eye roll, "Would hate to be subpar."

"My standards were the absence of my entire apartment, so yeah, this is great." Naruto said, "I'm just curious, though, why do you have so many dog beds?"

"My ninken like to spend time here. They're very social." Kakashi explained, "It was just easier getting them all one than dealing with the bickering."

"Ninken, like the Inuzuka's dogs?"

"Not exactly." His sensei explained, "They're summons; they speak our language, unlike the Inuzuka dogs, and can preform techniques of their own when they feel the need."

Naruto nodded and bounced on his heels, "Cool. Can I see my room? Please?"

Kakashi smiled slightly at the kid's barely hidden excitement and led him down the hall. He tapped on the first door to the right, "This is the storage closet. Towels, cleaning supplies, all that. Feel free to get whatever you need."

He pointed at the door on the left, "That's my room. Don't go in there unless I tell you to."

"This is the bathroom." He pointed to the door next to his own, "We share one, so don't be disgusting."

Finally, the last door on the right. He opened it up, revealing a nice room with a standard sized bed and a large window looking out at Konoha. It was bigger than his old one for sure, both the room and the bed. He dropped the sealing scrolls carelessly on the dresser by the door and ran to jump on the bed. He gasped at the softness of the sheets and how comfortable the mattress was.

"Kaka-sensei, this is amazing! Makes my old mattress feel like a brick!" He smiled brightly, looking around, "I even have a closet? I used to just hang my clothes in the bathroom!"

Kakashi smiled tightly, chest aching. He should've done this forever ago, should have thrown around his weight a little more and gotten the brat under his care. 

"Glad you like it." He said, instead of sharing what he actually felt, "I have to go run some errands, though, so I'll be gone for a bit. Come on."

Naruto blinked, confused, "I'm going with you for errands?"

"Maa, no, definitely not." Kakashi herded him out the door, "My friend is going to watch you."

"Watch me?" The boy frowned, "I don't need a baby sitter. I've lived by myself for years!"

"Too bad." The jōnin shrugged, "My place, my rules. Don't worry, though, Tenzō is nice." 

He grumbled as he was led across the hall, Kakashi knocking on the door right across from theirs. They heard footsteps lightly approaching before the door opened to reveal a man who looked a bit younger than Kakashi. He had dark eyes and unruly brown hair that gave the impression that he'd definitely been sleeping. Well, the hair and the pajamas.

"Ah, didn't wake you did I?"

"Yes." The man, Tenzō, deadpanned.

"Oops." Kakashi didn't sound sorry at all, "Could you watch over this for a second?"

The brown eyes fell to Naruto before nodding, "Of course, senpai. Is it finally happening?"

"No, no." Kakashi waved off the concern before pausing, "Well, I mean, if it doesn't go as planned, maybe."

"Is what happening?" The genin spoke up, narrowing his eyes.

"A murder." Tenzō sighed deeply, "We don't know anything about it even if it does happen, right?"

"Uh, sure." Naruto shrugged, there was no way he'd rat out his sensei anyway.

"Good boy." Kakashi patted his student on the head, "Now, I'll be back. Tenzō, watch him while he eats or something, I don't care. Just make sure no one comes around."

He disappeared without another word. Naruto's eyes widened, glancing at the brown-haired man who was now closing his door and ushering Naruto back into Kakashi's apartment.

"Is he actually killing someone?" He asked, "Are the ANBU gonna come looking?"

"Don't worry about it. Kakashi mentioned food, right?" Tenzō glanced around, "I'm Yamato, by the way."

Naruto blinked, "Eh, but...Kaka-sensei called you-?"

"Tenzō, I'm aware." The man sighed again, deep and laborious, "Believe me, I'm aware."

"Right, um, Yamato-san, then. I'm Uzumaki Naruto, it's nice to meet you." Naruto nodded at the man who simply ignored him in favor of unpacking the food.

"You got three large orders of pork ramen?" Yamato raised an eyebrow slightly before falling back to stoicism, "Here. I'm taking Kakashi's."


"No buts." The man silenced him with a look, "He asked me to babysit, this is my payment. Even if it does have the nutritional value of dust, I guess."

Ignoring the sleight at ramen, Naruto finished the bowls slowly because Sakura has been yelling at him for slurping so badly. He watches as Yamato finishes and then goes over to the bookshelves, brushing his fingers against the leaves of the plants. They seemed to perk up in response, making Naruto wonder if he was responsible for all the greenery in Kakashi's apartment.

"So, you know Kaka-sensei?" The blond tried to continue any semblance of a conversation.

"Yes." Yamato answered and then proceeded to not elaborate. 

He huffed. Damn jōnin and their mysteries.

"Sandaime-sama," Kakashi spoke as he pushed the doors open, ignoring the flustered secretary trying to keep him out. 

Hiruzen sighed, "Kakashi. What can I do for you?"

"I just wanted to inform you," His eyes trailed over Homura, Koharu, and Danzō all seated near him, "Inform all of you, that is, that Naruto will be staying with me until further notice."

The protests began immediately, but he slid the handbook made for jōnin senseis across the Hokage's desk with a smug smile under his mask. He'd have to thank Yamato for doing the leg work later; he'd sent one of his ninken with a letter while they were on their mission, and his kohai had come through per usual. There was no way he was reading the damn book himself, after all.

"Kakashi is within his rights as a jōnin sensei to take custody of a student deemed in immediate danger." Hiruzen sighed, "It's legal."

"Surely there is some exception you can make," Danzō spoke up, as Kakashi expected of the prick, "He is our jinchūriki, he must be loyal to only the village-"

"More like you want him alone and singled out so he's easier to manipulate." The jōnin snapped in response.

"My, quite the accusation." The old war hawk sat back, a cold look in his eyes.

"No accusations." Kakashi's glare was deadly, "Merely observations."

"It's legal, and that's final." The Hokage said firmly, looking back to Kakashi with tired eyes, "Will that be all?"

"No." He said, flatly. 

The old man sighed, "Why did I assume it would be?"

"I want it to be made official." Kakashi leveled them all with a serious look, "Not custody just as his jōnin sensei for the limited time of his genin career, but as his legal guardian."

"But that means-" Homura began, only to get cut off.

"That all issues the shinobi council has with him before he's of official legal age would go through me." Kakashi said, "It also means that he has the full protection of my clan name, along with the Uzumaki name. Just like you wouldn't force the Uchiha into ANBU, secret training, mutations, genetic testing, or any of the other ideas I know you have, you won't force Naruto either. And, of course, on the off chance you try to do that to Sasuke anyways, we'll have an issue."

He looked Danzō dead in the eye, something that didn't go unnoticed by everyone else in the room. The old man merely raised an eyebrow.

"To adopt a parentless genin, you need-" Koharu finally spoke up before faltering.

"The permission of their jōnin sensei." Kakashi sounded far too pleased, "Don't worry, I give myself full and unwavering permission. I have all the faith in the world in myself."

"This is ridiculous-!" Danzō stood, only going quiet when the Hokage raised a hand.

"Danzō, Koharu, Homura, you may leave." He said, and glanced up at them all sharply when they remained where they were, "Need I remind you that I am the Hokage and you are all advisors? I said leave."

Homura and Koharu went quickly, but Danzō trailed behind, locking eyes with Kakashi as he passed. The jōnin had half a mind to raise his headband and remind the old bastard who he was dealing with. When the door finally slammed shut behind the three, he turned his attention back to the Hokage.

"It will be done." Hiruzen sighed, "I'll have the paperwork drawn up, stop by with Naruto tomorrow morning and sign it."

"This should've been done before." Kakashi's voice was quiet, "It's what they would've wanted-"

"The shinobi and civilian councils would've never allowed it, not to mention my own council of advisors." Hiruzen waved a tired hand, "It will be done now-"

"After how many years of abuse and trauma?" Kakashi interrupted, "This village hasn't only failed Naruto, either, you know."

The Hokage's face darkened, "The Uchiha is coping well-"

"Well?" Kakashi laughed, dark and ugly, "If you call being obsessed with revenge and looking for the first chance to get a power trip well. Keep in mind I'm his jōnin sensei, too."

"I'm far too tired and old for an argument, Kakashi." The old man ran a hand over his face, "This hat wasn't meant for me again-"

"No, it wasn't." The jōnin confirmed, "But you still have it. So act like it. The councils are here to advise you, they do not run Konoha. Least of all the civilian council giving recommendations on shinobi matters."

Kakashi turned on his heel to leave the room, "I'll be back tomorrow with Naruto and my team to sign the papers and receive another mission. It was good talking to you, Hokage-sama."

Hiruzen had never heard so much sarcastic respect packed into one sentence.

He leaves the apartment with arms full of scrolls, and Naruto has never felt better. He'd pay rent for the last time this month, then he'd never have to worry about petty landowners or spiteful villagers vandalizing his home. He knew Kakashi-sensei wasn't to be messed with and wholeheartedly believed he would follow through with protecting his apartment. It made him feel lighter, the fact that he had a safe home and someone who cared enough to give him one. He knew it was partly Sakura's doing, too. She was definitely the one who had told Kakashi the state of his housing.

Kakashi was also his legal guardian now. That was kind of weird because he'd never had an adult take accountability for him in his entire life, but it also made a lot of sense what with the situation. He'd signed the papers earlier that morning, only a day after his sensei had offered him a new home. He'd almost cried when he signed them, and he was pretty sure both Kakashi and Hokage-jiji knew. Kakashi had bought him dango on the way home from their team missions, citing the fact that he refused to eat ramen for every meal. Yamato had come over later anyway, saying that dango was no healthier than ramen and made them eggplant casserole for lunch. 

Now he had just finished cleaning out his old apartment, packing all his belongings into storage scrolls, and wishing his landowner a goodbye. The man hadn't responded; Naruto was certain he was happy to be rid of the so-called demon. As he turned the corner to take that road that led through the training grounds to the shinobi district and onwards, he paused. Four chakra signatures, large ones at that, following behind them at what they probably thought was a safe distance. Pursing his lips, he knew they wouldn't be here on jiji's orders. So that left the councils, and from what Kakashi-sensei had said, nothing involving the councils was good.

He turned, looking in the exact direction he felt the signatures, and that was when he saw them. They wore animal masks, just like ANBU, but their bulky cloaks and the red tanto strapped across their shoulders gave them away. These were no ANBU, they were dressed incorrectly and Naruto was certain they weren't here on the Hokage's orders, which are something ANBU follow unfailingly. They immediately noticed him looking straight at them, and as one the four moved until they were in front of him. His heartbeat sped up; an empty street, and he had no witnesses.

In hindsight, he knew he'd fucked up by declining Sakura and Sasuke's offer to tag along. Maybe then he wouldn't be in this mess.

"Is this an assassination?" He snapped, taking a step back, "Are you kidding me?"

"Don't damage the stomach." He heard the ring leader speak to the others, "Danzō-sama was specific."

The one in front of the other three then simply drew his blade. Naruto's lip pulled back into a sneer, and he felt every inch of his power seep through his pores in the form of killing intent. The KI was potent, and he saw a couple of them pause, but the one with the blade moved forward at full speed. Jumping back in time, Naruto whirled around and saw the others moving forward as well. He panicked, reaching for a scroll to get his kunai and regretting leaving his nagamaki back at Kakashi's place. He dodged the slice aimed right for his jugular and launched himself back, he gripped the small dagger tightly, staring at them unblinkingly.

His blood pumped, heart beating impossibly fast, every fight or flight instinct activated all at once-

(Yuudai swung the blade towards his head, and Amahiko easily evaded it. Their battle of jutsu had simmered down into a kenjutsu duel, katana versus nagamaki. Amahiko knew he could take him out now, one water jutsu attached to his blades, and the man would be felled. Something held him back, though, something stopped him and he cursed his own weakness. Yuudai was a member of his graduating class. Yuudai was a traitor. He was one of Amahiko's best friends. He was a traitor. They were more than friends. He was a traitor. A constant war of doing what was best for Uzushio and doing what aligned with his heart struggled for control, but he knew what had to be done.

Uzushio's policy for traitors left no room for interpretation; execution is swift and unavoidable.

So he gathered the chakra, the water swirling to life out of the air, and pounced on Yuudai. Forming the water to his hands and twisting it, he infused wind chakra into the jutsu and it began twisting violently. Growing larger, the massive tornado with Amahiko leading it slammed towards Yuudai, attacking him with all the fury of Uzushio's Akai Kami. Leaping in to finish whatever was left with his blades, he dodged the weak strike thrown at him by the battered traitor and lashed towards him with the water forming a deadly cacoon around his nagamaki.

The blades were headed to Yuudai's throat. A clean-cut, a clean decapitation, and it would all be over.

He hesitated.

Dropping the last minute, one of his nagamaki plunged into Yuudai's chest the same time the man shoved his blade into Amahiko's heart. Swaying on his feet, the Uzumaki felt Yuudai rip the blade from him and Amahiko felt his own blade fall from the traitor's body. He felt blood fly out of his mouth when he coughed, and he looked up the see Yuudai looking at him with a lost expression on his face. The Uzumaki trembled, the natural healing of his clan trying to patch up the wound but it was too late. Yuudai had always been quite the marksman, and he wanted Amahiko dead. He could feel his pulse slowing, and he looked up at his once friend who could've been so much more.

"Why?" He croaked.

"Why...what?" Yuudai's voice was rough, and everything was silent. The fighting had gone from this area, and everyone but the two left standing were dead.

"You know." Amahiko coughed again, nearly falling to his knees, "Why do this?"

"Uzushio is going in the wrong direction." The man set his jaw, "I'm rebuilding it."

"By killing everyone?" Amahiko hissed, equal parts anger and sadness, "You're sick."

"You're naive." The traitor snapped back, frowning, "I...I'm going to build up this village again to be better than before."

"And you think they'll let you?" The Uzukage snapped, "You think Iwa and Kiri will allow that? You're foolish, and you're not the man I thought you were."

The man growled, "I won't listen to a dying man insult me!"

Amahiko sneered, blood coating his teeth, "Then leave, you fucking traitor. Leave your Kage and your...leave me to die and know that it was your fault. Know it was your fault that everything you helped build has now fallen, that you've killed the only people who ever loved you, that you've killed your comrades who would've died for you. Know you destroyed everything, and live with it. I pray to Kami you make it out alive, because death is too good for you."

Yuudai's eyes were wide and Amahiko felt his heart slow down to nearly nothing as he fell into the blood and muck below. He could distantly feel hands grip his shoulders, shaking him, but he closed his eyes and wouldn't open them again for a long time.)

Four opponents, all with a tanto, Naruto reasoned with himself in a brief second, it's a short blade and I doubt they can use chakra to enhance the length. They need to get close to me, need to not only overpower me but catch me off guard as well. Poor choice of weapon. 

If there's ever a poorer choice of weapon to face the fucking Akai Kami with other than plain old senbon, it would be a fucking tanto. At least those Kiri nin could throw those at everything that moved, a tanto is hard to use right.

They began approaching again, cautious steps moving towards the rabid looking boy.

Naruto pulled two more kunai out of his scroll before retying them on his back. Dropping a low impact exploding tag, mostly using it as a smoke bomb rather than anything else, he disappeared.

The shinobi froze when he threw down the tag, standing still as he disappeared, engulfed in the puff of smoke. The leader of the squad looked impassively at what was left in his place; a wooden post stood proudly where the boy had once been. The three behind the leader swiftly began looking to sense him, one turning around as if to begin hunting him down. They had been given a mission, and failure was not an option.

The underling that had turned didn't have time to scream when the kunai slit his throat.

"Wha-?" The leader turned, tanto already swinging but halting abruptly at the sight that greeted him.

Naruto Uzumaki, the supposed dead last, stood looking as though he was anything but. His eyes were cold, hard chips of ice as he held the body up. The boy sneered slightly, shoving their now dead teammate towards them. On instinct, the body was caught, but a stunned silence permeated the air.

"I think you're a bit out of your league." His voice had a soft lilt to the words that had become more noticeable, an accent reminiscent of the islanders in the Land of Waves, "Nice try, though. Maybe you'll do better next time."

Was this the nine-tailed fox? They could feel no demonic chakra but then again...they couldn't sense the Uzumaki at all. Truly the power of a tailed beast, they reasoned. The leader made a hand sign to the remaining two members of his squad. Retreat and inform Danzō-sama of the enemy's progress. Fall back and allow a more skilled team to eliminate the threat.

"Though, I'm afraid..." The boy's voice was ice-cold, "There won't be a next time for you."

They were dead before they even had a chance.

The Uzumaki looked at the bodies before glancing around once more. There was nobody around, nobody would know it was him unless they were the one to send the assassins in the first place. Flaring his chakra in a way no Konoha nin would recognize, he searched for any other signature, be it civilian or ninja. There were none. Mentally saying his apologies to the traumatized merchants who would find the bodies, he decided it would be good enough. There was no blood, at least. He had charged the kunai blade with fire chakra, which cauterized the wounds immediately. Dusting himself off and making sure all his storage scrolls remained accounted for, he made his way down the path towards the place he now called home.

His thoughts were racing every which way inside his head, old memories clashing with new ones, phantom pains of wounds that he no longer bore itching over his skin. Nonexistent mud and blood clinging to his skin and clothes, dragging him down. Gripping the kunai tighter, he continued his quick trek away from the scene. He was so sick of fighting.

He remembered everything. Everything from his life as Amahiko sat there in his brain right alongside his own memories as if they'd been there the whole time. Perhaps, he thought as he looked back at the past few years, they always had.

Well, at least Naruto knew he wasn't going crazy now.