A/N1: Response to this prompt because it was really compelling. Unfortunately, despite the title, this turned out way less cracky than I thought I was going to do… I’m actually a little sad. Also, this is a hella lot longer than I thought it would be hence why I’m breaking it up into parts
It happens when Shikako is exploring the ruins of Uzushiogakure. According to the paperwork she had to file for her self-assigned mission–which is something she can do because she’s teammates with both of the ninja messiahs and also the Hokage was her sensei–this is a research trip to see if any knowledge of the Uzushio style of sealing can be salvaged. Mostly, though, it’s her way of indulging that part of her that always wanted to be Indiana Jones.
The Land of Whirlpools, the minuscule series of islands far off the southern coast of the Land of Fire, is beautiful. Tropical without being muggy, everything in bright colors–the water, the sunset, the fauna–teeming with life. Just not of the human variety.
The broken chunks of what used to be buildings have grown over with shoots of green. Only by physically brushing some moss away does she see carvings of what must have been seals–inert without chakra and without the complete structure. It’s disconcerting, to say the least, and frustrating: as if seeing the ashes of the Library of Alexandria, all the wisdom and potential lost because of jealousy and greed and short-sighted pride.
There’s a fine line between excavating and looting, of which she takes care to remain on the respectful side. Places that look like they might have been private homes–even if they are better preserved–she only peers into curiously; the half-collapsed shells of public buildings are what she’s seeking. For now.
A hospital is easy enough to recognize, and something like a library, though most of the books have gone moldy with exposure and anyway, this seems to be one of the lower level libraries. Which makes sense, the shape of a school is its neighbor.
She tries not to scream when she recognizes a playground.
She shuts her eyes, overcome, and lets her hearing and chakra sense take over for sight. The susurration of waves and the call of some bird of paradise, the chakra of plants and insects buzzing at her senses and…
… the steady pulsing of human chakra not her own.
Shikako follows it, the rhythm constant like a heartbeat, away from the center of the village and towards the outskirts. She’d say they were training grounds, except for how there is a small one room building in the center, surprisingly well-preserved–though perhaps this is just what Uzushio training grounds look like.
The door has rotted shut, but so have the security seals, so all it needs is a shove. Inside looks like an office, or a lab, like the many set aside for members of Konoha’s R&D.
On the desk is a dusty and disorganized pile of papers–research notes, she’d recognize that anywhere–and a scroll of pulsing chakra.
Of course she touches it: once a Lucky Seven always a Lucky Seven.
But at least she tries to read the papers first, trying to figure out what it may be. So still reckless, but at least it’s not a blind recklessness.
Given that the notes referenced stasis seals and summoning seals and storage seal, she’s not sure what she was expecting.
She definitely wasn’t expecting a baby.
The problem with being away from home for months at a time is that when one finally returns with a surprise baby in tow, people tend to make a certain assumption. She wasn’t even gone that long!
Sakura, because only she’s foolishly sentimental enough to willingly be Shikako’s primary medic, looks between her and the red-haired baby and makes an additional assumption by asking, “Is that the Kazekage’s kid?”
Shikako hopes her expression is enough of an answer.
“Well, you can’t blame me!” Sakura says, as she finishes up the diagnostic jutsu and writes an all clear on Shikako’s records. “Do you want me to check up on it, too?” She gestures, because she’s done rotations in maternity ward before and there’s no need to bring some other medic in.
“Him,” Shikako corrects, and carefully holds the baby up so Sakura can reach him. He makes small baby sounds, perhaps at the movement or maybe at the diagnostic jutsu, but he settles soon enough. “I found him in Uzushio.”
“Alone?” Sakura prompts, going through a manual check up as per procedure with infants, instead of a deeper more invasive diagnostic jutsu.
Shikako tells her the whole story, though there isn’t much to it beyond: yes, I found a baby in a scroll in the ruins of a fallen village.
“I think the seal was meant to transport injured patients more easily–combine storage and stasis, get the best of both and neither of the flaws. And I guess when Uzushio was attacked, whoever was working on the scroll thought his best bet for survival was to just…”
“Seal him away and leave him in a locked lab for decades?” Sakura says, tone harsh and biting, but hands so gentle on the baby. “Who does that?”
“They probably meant to come back for him. Or they thought someone else would be able to sense the chakra pulse,” Shikako demurs, and once Sakura is done, pulls the baby back to her body.
To wake up in a world so unlike your own, with all your loved ones dead and gone. It’s not the same, he won’t even remember it, but still. He was found, eventually; he’s alive.
“What’s his name?” Sakura asks, as she fills out the forms necessary to start a new medical record.
Shikako looks up from her haphazard attempt at a clapping game with the baby. “I couldn’t find anything in the lab,” she says with a shrug. And she had looked, thoroughly.
“Then what do you want to name him?” Sakura says, practical as ever.
“Me?” Shikako asks, bewildered.
“You did find him,” she points out, which, true, “Which means you’re his guardian now,” which, okay makes sense, but–
“He’s probably an Uzumaki,” Shikako says because a red head in Uzushio couldn’t be anything else.
Sakura stares at her, almost disbelieving, “Shikako. His next of kin is Naruto,” she says slowly. Because, yes, Naruto is the ninja messiah but that doesn’t mean anyone should trust him with a baby.
“I’ll… think of something…” Shikako hedges, instead of answering.
Even if she’d be better than Naruto with a baby, that doesn’t make her a good choice. Just not as terrible.
Her first instinct, after leaving the hospital, is to bring the baby home immediately and hope her mom takes one look at his, admittedly, adorable face and decides that Shikako cannot be in charge of this small human.
Unfortunately, she is spotted en route.
“Shikako!” Naruto calls out from across behind her, and she can feel the shining presence of his chakra making a beeline for her, the warm embers of Sasuke’s following after.
Naruto talks to her, even as he approaches, loud enough to be heard over the decreasing distance, “One of the gate guards told me you were back, but when I told Sasuke he didn’t believe me, which means he owes me so much ramen and–” he stops, stunned, mouth flapping silently when he sees what’s in her arms.
“Is that a baby?” Sasuke says suspiciously, as if, perhaps, it weren’t a baby at all but a bomb.
“Wow, Sasuke,” Shikako says dryly, “the Sharingan really works wonders for your observational skills.”
He glares, but it’s half-hearted at best.
“You have a baby?” Naruto asks, finally, “Is it your baby? Is it Gaara’s baby?”
“Why do people keep asking me that?” she complains.
Sasuke takes his chance, “Maybe you need a Sharingan yourself.”
She should have expected that, she practically gift-wrapped it for him.
She answers Naruto’s questions: “Yes, this is a baby. Yes, it’s sort of my baby. No, it’s not Gaara’s.” She sighs and turns the baby around in her arms, so that he can face her teammates.
“Naruto, meet your cousin. Kareru Uzumaki.”
A/N2: Guess that name reference! 😀
Sorry, the first part I got overwhelmed by my Uzushio Feels (which is why I have an entire tag for Uzushio) and it kind of influenced the tone for the rest of the fic…
So the fifteen for the title are the Konoha Twelve plus Sakura plus Kakashi plus Kareru. Like, I know if this were to really happen, the Nara Clan would probably adopt the baby so that Shikako doesn’t have to juggle being Konoha’s Fuinjutsu Master and suddenly being a teen mom. Buuuuuut, uh, that’s not the direction that would fill the prompt.
So I brainstormed by recording myself ranting as I drove to work. If anyone’s interested at all in hearing it–warning: I cuss frequently, also it might be “spoilers” for the upcoming installments but really it’s just me trying to figure out how each person would react to sudden baby–you can check it out here. (Don’t I sound so graceful and intelligent?)