It’s not exactly a problem, but considering the make up of Team Seven–the fact that she’s the only non-orphan and the only one with siblings who didn’t leave the village after slaughtering their entire clan–she probably could have handled the matter of introductions better.
Shikako’s teammates take the sudden appearance of a baby as well as she expected. Meaning, not with any measure of grace or dignity whatsoever.
“What do we do with it?” Naruto asks, his hands fluttering around Kareru without actually touching. In contrast, Sasuke’s stare has only become more suspicious, arms folded across his chest.
“He’s a baby,” she answers, exasperated, “not a kunai. We don’t do anything with him except, probably, raise him into a decent human being.”
“We?” Sasuke prompts.
“Oh, well, no,” Shikako says, amending her statement, “Not ‘we’ as in us, but ‘we’ as in people in general. I was hoping someone else would be willing to raise him. And I could just let them take over. It’s not as if we can, there’s other more qualified people.” Although, said out loud, it does sound an awful lot like she’s shirking responsibilities.
“Why not?” Naruto says, absolutely entranced by what might be his only living blood relative trying to eat his own foot. Shikako shifts her hold on Kareru so his infantile acrobatics won’t lead to him plummeting to the ground.
“Why not what?” she asks.
“Why not us?” Naruto clarifies, “Why can’t we raise him?” he asks, finally looking up, blue eyes full of conviction. “We can do this.”
Shikako and Sasuke glance at each other, expressions far less skeptical than the other would expect–neither of them have ever been all that successful at denying Naruto when it really matters.
And, yes, she may have been doubtful of Naruto’s ability to take care of a baby earlier–long ago D-rank babysitting missions flashing through her minds–but he’s not asking to take care of Kareru by himself. He’s asking if they can do it, together. And, well, together they’ve done some pretty amazing things.
She bites her lip, though, still unsure. This isn’t just some one-off mission that they can complete and walk away from. This is a baby, an actual whole other person who will be their responsibility for years. For the rest of their lives.
But it’s Sasuke who makes the decision, carefully extending a single finger in the baby’s direction. Fascinated, Kareru grabs it, a pleased squeal erupting from his mouth.
Naruto’s grin is wide and bright, “We can do this!” he repeats.
Shikako nods, an answering smile of her own spreading across her face. “But,” she adds, ever the pragmatist, “Probably not by ourselves.”
It wouldn’t make sense for the Hokage to be informed of every new citizen of Konoha–frankly, it’s an inefficient use of the village leader’s time and with this particular Hokage, time is something that his horde of administrative shinobi have to schedule with frenzied exactness–but when it comes to this particular citizen, exceptions can be made.
Or, well, Team Seven will make the exception for him. After all, it’s not everyday a jounin-sensei becomes a pseudo-grandpa via his students collectively adopting a baby found in the ruins of a fallen village.
… Well, it’s not as if the paperwork ninja didn’t already hate them.
“Maa, not the mask, Kareru-kun,” Kakashi says fondly to the baby currently seated on his desk and trying to unmask him. Except for gently pulling the tiny hands away from his face, Kakashi lets Kareru do whatever he wants, crawling across the desk and drooling on no doubt very important files.
“That’s all you have to say about this?” Naruto asks, impatient, the first one to crack.
“Hm,” Kakashi responds, stretching the noise out until Sasuke begins to scowl, “He’s a little young to learn the chidori,” he admonishes, just to see the team twitch in annoyed unison.
“I have a lot of free time,” Kakashi lies, blatantly, “I guess I could watch Kareru-kun occasionally,” he says, so nonchalant that it’s obvious he cares.
Not that Shikako was really expecting anything else, her sensei awkward but affectionate in his own way–but it’s nice to be proven right about things.
Team Ten, thankfully, is far less uncomfortable about sudden teenaged parenthood–skipping over origins and uncertainty of what constitutes family, going straight into how to raise Kareru. Which, isn’t really a surprise considering their clans are known for strong family ties.
“I always thought I’d end up with a kid first,” Shikamaru says, one eyebrow raised. But there’s a smile on the edge of his mouth, his shoulder brushing against his sister’s. It’s nice to know he’ll support her even in this somewhat spontaneous decision.
Chouji, in far fewer words, also expresses his approval by reaching out for the baby. His bulky arms a gentle cradle for Kareru to observe the world.
“Can you say Ino-neechan?” Ino coos to Kareru, who babbles happily in response.
“Neechan?” Naruto asks, as tactful as ever, “Wouldn’t you be Ino-bachan?”
“Excuse you,” Ino says, “If you want to be called uncle, then that’s fine. But I’m going to be Kareru’s fabulous older sister.”
“He’s not even old enough to talk yet,” Sasuke says, though he stands on the opposite side of Chouji from her. Strategically.
“I’m training him early,” Ino says with a shrug, before turning her attention back to the baby, “You can pull off purple, right Kareru-chan?”
Which starts Naruto in on the sanctity of Uzumaki wearing orange and somehow devolves into an argument about who will be Kareru’s favorite.
Well, at least he won’t be lacking for attention.
It doesn’t take long for Kiba to find them–hand on the pulse of Konoha’s rumor mill and having almost as good a sense for inane competition as he does smells–the rest of Team Eight follow after.
Preemptively, Shikako says, “No, this isn’t mine and Gaara’s kid,” which sends Kiba into a fit of raucous laughter.
Thankfully, it’s Shino who responds. “I did not think so. Why? First, because you have only been gone for a few months–not long enough for the human gestation period, or for the additional months this child has of age. Second, you were nowhere near Land of Wind, and it is well-known that the Kazekage does not often leave Sunagakure. Third, while it is true that the child and the Kazekage both have red hair, it is obvious, even within such a short period of time, that the child has more in common with Naruto in appearance than the Kazekage.”
There’s a beat of silence as everyone processes Shino’s statement.
“Thanks for the support?” Shikako says, more question than not, but Shino nods and she supposes it’s close enough.
“I-if I can help in any way, I’d like to,” Hinata offers, once the story has been repeated for Team Eight’s benefit. Shino nods again, in agreement, while Kiba is more vocal with his.
“And anyway, babies love dogs! Me and Akamaru will definitely end up this kid’s favorite.”
Which restarts the argument all over again: this time, with animal summons for added silliness.
It’s not as if Shikako ever planned for this–her entire life has basically been rolling with the punches–so it’s not like she’s actively recruiting people into helping out with Kareru.
Try convincing Lee that, though.
“I will run around Konoha one hundred times on my hands!” he declares, eyes bright and filled with determination. “I, too, will prove myself a worthy caregiver for young Kareru! Superior, even, to my rival, Neji!” He points, at said rival who, despite the look of deep disgruntlement, has not pulled away from Kareru’s curious hair tugging.
Instead, to rile up his teammate, Neji says only one word: “Byakugan,” which… is a fairly strong point. The Hyuuga bloodline would make literally watching a baby almost ludicrously easy.
TenTen huffs an exasperated laugh, “Of course they’d find a way to argue over a baby.”
“They might as well join the fight already in progress,” Shikako says, gesturing to where some of their friends have set up an impromptu sparring tournament to somehow prove which of them will end up as Kareru’s favorite. As if they were waiting for permission, Lee and Neji–untangling himself from tiny baby fingers–go and do just that.
“Mostly, I just wanted to see how your mission to Uzushio went,” TenTen admits, “I figured you’d bring back some seal samples, though, I didn’t think you’d return with a baby.”
Well, technically, she came back with both…
“My missions always end up really weird,” Shikako muses, before glancing over at the baby, still comfortably perched in Chouji’s arms. Kareru’s eyes meet hers and he smiles, a wide, toothless, drooling thing.
She can’t say it doesn’t tug at her heartstrings.
Within the hour, Sakura finds them–not that they were hiding–and she comes armed with paperwork and an unimpressed expression.
“I take it you’ve figured out what to name him, then,” she says, channeling as much of her shishou as Shikako tries to channel of her sensei. Given how infrequently Kakashi ever pulled one over on Tsunade, that was probably a poor decision.
“Aah, Sakura, I was just about to… you see, I was on my way home when–”
“Save it,” she interrupts, thankfully, because Shikako’s Kakashi impression isn’t all that good to begin with, “What’s his name and who should I put for his official guardians?”
With all of her friends around her, knowing that she’s far from alone in this, it’s less daunting to say:
“This is Kareru Uzumaki. And I’ll be his guardian.”
A/N: Sorry, y’all. It’s a little abrupt and clunky, but I kinda just wanted to get the full fifteen of the title at least mentioned so I can safely stow this two-shot away in my imaginary completed fic bin… still have a lot of prompts to go through. Oh, dear.
Okay, so I know it doesn’t really fulfill the prompt but… I kinda wanted to do more “reacting to sudden baby” fic than “raising sudden baby” fic, if that makes sense. And,Tth, I kind liked part one as is? But the title wouldn’t make any sense unless I actually wrote the others, so I just kinda use this as an opportunity to explore writing characters I never have before. It’s harder than I thought–less the actual characters and more having them interact in a group setting. One on one from now on, please and thank you.
Anyway… I think I’ll post both parts as one chapter in Dreaming One Shots on ao3…