Posted in Fiction, Naruto, Rule 63

A Woman’s Honour; A Kunoichi’s Heart

Title: A Woman’s Honour, A Kunoichi’s Heart
Fandom: Naruto
Genre: AU, Genderbent
Warnings: Ninja. War. Child Soldiers. You know, all the things we put in children’s anime! Also, I genderbend several characters. No, I don’t care if you don’t like genderbend. There are literally a million Naruto fics, go find something else. Yes I did change the genders of characters, but not their names — mostly, because I don’t speak Japanese. These people can breath fire and pull their own bones out of their bodies to use as weapons — I don’t think non-typical names will be too reality-defying. Further warnings for an anime fan’s (mediocre) understanding of Japanese language and culture.

 

Synopsis: A woman’s honour is different than a man’s; men seek to cleanse their honour with blood, while any woman can tell you that it’s hard work that removes stains.

A kunoichi’s heart is strong and enduring; it bruises where a shinobi’s breaks.

Hatake Sakumo was a woman, not a man; her daughter Kakashi is the Silver Wolf, the legacy of the White Fang.

Notes: This idea crawled in my head and refused to leave until I wrote it. I expected to write about five thousand words. I’m really good at lying to myself, because I stayed up all night and dropped 13 000 words. Seriously, I wrote ninety percent of this thing inside a week, when I should have been writing the end of my NANO project. Yes, I did cockblock my own creative efforts by being too creative. Because I’m special that way.

Also, I will bend the genders of all your fandoms and you can’t stop me.

FYI Note: Please do not tell me that someone’s age is wrong, or that they were on a different team, or this happened first and not then — either I already know, and changed it on purpose, or I don’t know and could not care less. Seriously, I know more about the last half of Naruto from fanfiction then from watching it. I love anime, but I frequently lose patience with the endless stream of nesting doll villains. Yes, we beat the bad guy — but he was being manipulated by another bad guy. Great, let’s spend another 120 episodes — which we could cut in half if not for the five minute recap in every episode, and the full episode recap every ten episodes. And then, we’ll discover that the new enemy is just a front/puppet of another bad guy, who is actually the embodied spirit of a dead warrior/kami/demon/betrayed person/insert shonen trope here. And Naruto wins the prize — previously held by InuYasha — for longest amount of time spent getting nowhere close to defeating the actual antagonist. At least Rurouni Kenshin had separate, unrelated, story arcs.

So, the point of that rant was to tell you that I don’t care about keeping exactly to canon — I wrote an AU. I changed a character’s gender not to retell the same story using a character with boobs, but to tell a story that changed from that point forward. Let me give you some advice — when you write a story that explores the changes made by a different event, you actually need to explore those changes. It’s a pet peeve of mine to read a story which has the premise of what would happen if: character A was raised by . . . character B was . . . event X happened like . . . only for the author to keep all the major events the same. It’s like time travel, where the character tries not to change things because then they can’t predict what will happen — moron, you changed time, things are going to be different or what was the point of getting physics wasted and stealing the credit card and keys while she was sleeping off the hangover?

Basically — I fucked canon with a strap-on. If you can get through the genderbent and the deliberate changes made to a pivotal point in a major character’s backstory, but the changing of much smaller details upsets you, or itches at your orderly, canon-devoted soul — hit the back button, don’t leave a review explaining what I got wrong. I either don’t care or did it on purpose, possibly both, and I’m definitely not going to change anything after the fact.


Glossary: Don’t expect too much consistency in Japanese usage; mostly I stuck to the Japanese term if it sounds better to me.

Konoha
– short of Konohagakure no Sato, literally ‘Village Hidden by Tree Leaves’ or Village Hidden in the Leaves; the ninja village of Hi no Kuni, the Land of Fire, one of the Five Great Shinobi Nations. Led by the Hokage.
Iwa – short of Iwagakure no Sato, literally ‘Village Hidden by Rocks’ or Hidden Stone Village; the ninja village of Tsuchi no Kuni, the Land of Earth, one of the Five Great Shinobi Nations. Led by the Tsuchikage.
Kiri – short of Kirigakure no Sato, literally ‘Village Hidden by Mist’; the ninja village of Mizu no Kuni, the Land of Water, one of the Five Great Shinobi Nations. Led by the Mizukage
Kumo – short of Kumogakure no Sato, literally ‘Village Hidden by Clouds’; the ninja village of Kaminari no Kuni, the Land of Lightning, one of the Five Great Shinobi Nations. Led by the Raikage.
Kusa – short of Kusagakure no Sato, literally ‘Village Hidden in the Grass’; the ninja village of an unnamed land. Led by an Oyabun
Shimo – short of Shimo no Kuni (Land of Frost) or Shimogakure no Sato (literally ‘Village Hidden in Frost’). A land and ninja village, not one of the Five Great Shinobi Nations. Led by a Daimyo and Oyabun respectively.
Kage – literally ‘shadow’; the leader of one of the Five Great Shinobi Nations. Example: Hokage (fire shadow).
Daimyo – powerful feudal leaders, answering only to the Shogun from the 10th to 19th century. Leaders of the various nations.
Oyabun – literally ‘the Father’, the head of a Yakuza family. Yes, that’s right. I’ve seen this used by several other authors, I like it, I’m using it.
Shodai, Nidaime, Sandaime, Yondaime – first, second, third, and fourth Kage, specifically the Hokage.
Hancho – as in Jounin Hancho, the Jounin Commander; head of the Jounin forces. Highest ranking general ninja in the village though formally still a jounin.
taicho – captain, leader
genin, chunin, jounin – yes, you already know what these are, but everyone uses different romaji spellings; these are mine. Primary three ranks of ninja; there are also tokubetsu jounin, who fall between chunin and jounin; ANBU is a department rather than a rank, but is often treated as such.
Honorifics and terms of familiarity– if you don’t know these, you have no place reading anime fanfiction.

chan/kun/san – used in conjuction with names, either first or last, and sometimes with ranks: chan is for children and females and those closest to you (when used for adults); kun is a familiar term, generally used for males; san indicates equal or nearly equal social status and is not for people you know well.
sama – formal, high respect. In reality, most often used with a title rather than a name, but anime and fanfiction have little bearing on reality.
Okaa- or kaa- – mother, mama
Oba/Ba-, Oji/Ji-, Obaa/Baa-, Ojii/Jii- – aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather. Children use family terms for adults who are approx. same age as similar relative.
onii/nii-, onee/nee- – brother, sister. Children use family terms for adults who are approx. same age as similar relative.
Imouto/Aniki – little sister/big brother
sempai/kohai – one’s senior/one’s junior, specifically for colleagues and fellow students; same general social status
Hime – lady/princess/woman of higher birth.
Sensei – teacher (or doctor)
Baka – not actually an honorific, but sometimes used as one; fool/idiot

seppuku – ritual suicide by disembowelment, original reserved for samurai. Used voluntarily as a way to die with honor rather than be captured, because they had brought shame upon themselves, or as capital punishment. Could even be done ceremonially, in front of spectators. Who else is happy to romanticize the past, while living in the modern era?
jutsu – technique, method, spell, trick, or art. Ninjutsu, techniques that use chakra that affect the real world or physical body; often an elemental jutsu or technique. Shurikenjutsu, the martial arts of throwing shuriken (including bo-shuriken, metal spikes with a single or double point). Fuinjutsu, or sealing jutsu; taijutsu or body techniques are the martial arts or natural human abilities; genjutsu, the art of illusion techniques, altering perception. Doujutsu, eye techniques, uses kekkei genkai (bloodline trait, abilities passed down through bloodlines) that affect the eyes and require specific physical traits to perform, like the Sharingan (Copy Wheel Eye) or Byakugan (All Seeing White Eye). example: Kagemane no Jutsu (Shadow Imitation Technique), a chakra based technique of the Nara Clan which utilizes the caster’s shadow to control another person’s body.
Shinobi/ninja/kunoichi – ninja; spies and assassins. Shinobi is the original, kanji spelling and pronunciation; ninja is not historically used (but neither was spitting fireballs, so let’s go with it); kunoichi, a female ninja, is a later usage as well. In this, Shinobi are general or male ninja (or nin) and kunoichi are female ones.
Iryo-nin – medic ninja, who use iryo-ninjutsu and medical techniques to heal the body or in combat.
Ninken – ninja dogs
Hitai-ate – forehead protector, a metal plate on a band of cloth normally worn on the forehead; engraved with the symbol of a hidden village to proclaim loyalty.
Sannin – formally Densetsu no Sannin or Legendary Three Ninja; title given to and used by Senju no Tsunade, the Namukuji Sannin (Slug Sannin), Orochimaru, the Hebi Sannin (Snake Sannin) and Jiraiya, the Gama Sennin (Toad Sage).
Shunshin – body flicker technique, Shunshin no jutsu, a high speed movement that allows for moving across distances at rapid speed. It is not Apparition.
Henge – transformation technique; user takes the form or appearance of another person or object.
Onsen – a hot spring and the bathing facilities (or inns) that surround them.
Tessen – a war fan, often containing metal plates or spikes, made to look like a normal folding fan. These were not, in fact, a woman’s weapon but one wielded by samurai; tessen and other war fans had different uses and were carried by different ranks.
Raikiri Lightning Cutter or Lightning Blade, an elemental jutsu said to be able to cut through a lightning bolt; created by Hatake Kakashi
Kaiten – literally ‘Revolving Heaven’, a secret Hyuga technique that involves spinning expelled chakra to form a protective dome.
Kamidana – literally ‘god-shelf’, altars in Shinto worship; specifically household altars.
Kami – god, deity, divinity, spirit; the spirits or phenomenon worshiped in the Shinto religion; beings, natural forces, the venerated dead. Singular and plural.
Okami – wolf; a messenger of the kami and protective spirit
Ofuda – a household amulet or talisman, often a strip of paper inscribed with a kami and shrine name; used in different places depending on intention, including inside a kamidana.
Sakaki – flowering evergreen tree native to Japan; sacred in Shinto faith.
byakudan, jinko – sandalwood, aloeswood
Bijuu – tailed beasts; nine living forms of chakra distinguished by the number of tails they have.

Sanbi, the Three Tails, called Isobu
Gobi, the Five Tails, called Kokuo
Kyuubi, the Nine Tails, called Kurama; the Kyuubi no Yoko (Nine Tailed Demon Fox).

Jinchuriki – literally ‘Power of Human Sacrifice’; humans with bijuu sealed within them; living prisons or containers who gain powers specific to the bijuu they contain, as well as large chakra reserves.    


 

One

Kakashi’s first memory was of her mother. Unsurprising, really, as Sakumo was the only parent she had. Her father had fallen to a Kiri nin’s blade before she’d even been born — the news had sent her mother into labour.

In her darkest moments, Kakashi would wonder if that was an omen; that she was born to grief and loss. Then someone would smack her, or throw a kunai at her head thereby signaling that they wanted her to kick their ass, and she got over it.

Nara Satoshi had been a canny man, like most of his clan; laid back but not so lazy as some of his kinsmen, an adept in their Shadow Arts and taijutsu, fire natured and a master of shurikenjutsu. He preferred go to shoji — his only flaw, according to his half brother, the Nara clan head — and sunrises to cloud watching, and hadn’t hesitated to relinquish his clan name for that of his wife’s. Despite her own lightning natured affinity, Kakashi worked hard to master as many fire jutsu as she could, in his honour.

The Nara slouch took no effort at all, as she came by it quite naturally.

Though she honoured the memory of the man who’d fathered her, it was the mother who raised her that shaped her; who smiled widely when she told Kakashi that she was her father’s daughter and sang ninja folk songs instead of lullabies to get her to sleep.

Sakumo had been sharpening kunai by the fire; as an adult, Kakashi would realize that her mother had been on a long mission based on the state of her weapons. As a child, she was hypnotized by the smooth, steady motions of steel and wheatstone, the rasp of both blending with her mother’s humming. Sakumo’s hair and blades shone the same dull silver in the firelight.

For years afterwards, that image would be Kakashi’s idea of beauty.

Then her mother’s summons, a huge canine named Daichi, snagged the back of her shirt, carried her to Sakumo, and told the laughing kunoichi that her pup needed a bath.

~~~~~~

When Kakashi is four years old, her hands are already developing calluses from handling weapons and she sports bruises from chakra control exercises — that tree only thinks it has won and besides, it’s trunk bears as many marks as her rear does, so there — she learns the difference between a shinobi and a kunoichi. And that it is not a matter of skill, or abilities, or biology — but one of perception.

Kunoichi can be respected, even awed; shinobi can be revered and feared.

“Look at her! Man, what a face — yeah, she’s supposed to be pretty strong, too.”

And a kunoichi was always seen as a woman first, then a ninja.

“It’s because men can’t bring themselves to be afraid of women, puppy,” Tsunade-sama said in response to her question — why were people less afraid of her than her teammates? “It’s ego; even ninja suffer from it.”

“Ego is stupid,” Kakashi tells her, with a child’s blunt wisdom and a complete lack of understanding of what ego even was. “You’re stronger than anybody, and Kaa-chan says you can pull out someone’s spine, tie it in a knot and then put it back — without killing them.”

Tsunade roars with laughter and teaches her a new chakra exercises and shows her the trick to tree walking. Kakashi defeats her nemesis, the tree in the Hatake Clan compound.

When Kakashi is a jounin revered and feared throughout the Elemental Nations, with flee-on-sight orders in every Bingo Book and more names than her mother, and Tsunade has stopped running from the legacy of her family and her name to become the first female Kage, the Senju will remind her of their conversation. It will receive a great deal of mileage in teasing, and Tsunade-sama will tell her that, due to her age, she had edited her answer — and substituted the word ego for penis.

Jiraiya-sama laughs when she tells him, but disagrees with his teammate. “It’s not that men can’t bring themselves to be afraid of a woman — it’s that they can’t show that they are. Especially to other men,” he adds, “which is why they’ll cover fear with bravado or say ‘she’s strong, but’. Still about ego, though.”

He will, however, agree with Tsunade-sama’s amendment when he hears it.

“You’re afraid of Tsunade-sama,” Kakashi said. She might not know what this ego thing is, but she’s pretty sure Jiraiya-sama has it.

“Tsunade-hime beat respect for kunoichi into me by the time I made jounin, brat, and I’ve seen you mother in action — I’m plenty afraid of her, too.”

“You should be,” Kakashi tells him firmly, “Kaa-chan’s the best nin in the village.” She does not say kunoichi; at four years old, she had already learned that when someone calls her mother one of the village’s best kunoichi, that what they mean is: she’s good, but not as good as a man.

Kakashi has always been very quick; her uncle Shikadai claims she is sharp enough to cut, which she has decided is a compliment and that she doesn’t need to tell Hitomi-ba-chan that he is being mean to her. Though, it is hilarious when she does.

“Oh?” Jiraiya-sama chuckled. “What about Sensei?”

She considered that; Sensei means the Hokage, and Sandaime-sama was the Shinobi no Kami — but he wasn’t Kaa-chan. “He’s the best Hokage in the village.”

Jiraiya-sama laughed and tossed her in the nearby stream, claiming it was a necessary part of learning to water-walk. Kakashi will blatantly steal this gem of reasoning when she becomes a jounin sensei.

~~~~~~

At five, Kakashi is hailed as a genius when she advances straight to the senior class at the academy. Because she is a kunoichi, every compliment contains a backhanded insult — if not to her, then to her mother.

“At her age — very impressive. What a shame Sakumo-sama didn’t have more children. Imagine how powerful her brothers might be.”

“Her control must be exceptional — she’ll make a fine iryo-ini, I expect.”

“Two generations in a row where the Hatake Clan is led by a woman — perhaps she’ll settle down younger than her mother and properly rebuild the clan.”

“If she keeps this up, she’ll be the youngest kunoichi ever — though the Hokage was the youngest shinobi. He was only seven when he graduated.”

“Like mother, like daughter. Hard to imagine how she’ll find a husband. Though, since she will be a clan head, I suppose plenty will overlook it.”

She grits her teeth, even when the other students make things difficult.

“No little girl could get the best score in shurikenjutsu! Sensei, she must be cheating!”

Kakashi breaks his nose in taijutsu practice, and learns a lesson that she will carry with her all her life: physical pain is the best way to teach someone a lesson. And the most satisfying.

Her teammates, kohai, cute little genin, and every ninja who crosses the Rokudaime Hokage will regret this formative lesson. Kakashi will not.

Her next lesson — not counting the flower arranging that she suffers through with the other kunoichi-in-training — is the hardest, and the longest lasting.

She learns that her mother is human; that even when you do everything you should, you can still lose. That people will turn on you because the only thing they love more than to see a hero topple from a pedestal, is to see someone put in their proper place.

Kakashi learns that some people will stab you in the back, and some will guard it; that friends are nice in happy times and vital in dark ones. That sometime, tough love is the kindest of all.

She learns that Jiraiya-sama might be a pervert and an idiot, but he is wiser than most, and kinder than nearly everyone, even if he likes to teach lessons by throwing people into lakes and off ledges.

She learns that even though her mother is not perfect, and makes mistakes, and doesn’t have all the answers — she is still her Kaa-chan, and Kakashi loves her.

And there is always, always another war.

~~~~~~

“She should have retired to be a proper mother, instead of staying in the field.”

“Obviously, the White Fang was never that strong to begin with.”

“Just like a woman — soft-hearted. A shinobi would have made the right choice, and completed the mission.”

“Kunoichi are only really suited to support roles anyway.”

“It’s a disgrace — the Hokage should suspend her.”

“Why hasn’t someone taken her hitai-ate? She’s not worthy of it.”

Tsunade-sama hauls her away before she can show a very stupid civilian who doesn’t understand what it is to be a ninja and has never been in danger in his life and is fat as well exactly how she feels about his judgement of her mother.

“That won’t get you anywhere, puppy,” she says softly. “The harder you try to make them regret it, the more they’ll believe they’re right.”

“They aren’t right!” Kakashi growls. “They aren’t, and neither is Aki-sensei — he said the Shinobi rules are absolute but last month he went on and on about the strength of Konoha being it’s teamwork and how ninja work together and value each other and that the Will of Fire —”

“I know, puppy,” Tsunade-sama hugs her as her voice breaks and she shudders; Kakashi will not cry because that’s a sign of weakness and people smell it like blood. People expect kunoichi to cry because they’re emotional and weak and Kakashi is not any of those things even though she’s so angry and her eyes burn.

“People judge, Kashi-chan,” the Senju hime murmurs. “It makes them feel strong and superior. ‘I always thought so’, even though they didn’t. ‘I was right’ even though they aren’t.”

“It doesn’t make sense — it isn’t fair.”

“No, it isn’t.”

Kakashi is so angry; she has been for a week. The whispers make her want to set something on fire or cry; the smug looks from her classmates — who can’t beat her at anything even though they’re five years older — make her fists clench with the need to hit something. She spent hours yesterday throwing kunai and, later, pounding her hands against a training dummy until it was shredded and her knuckles split, and still she’s angry. At the stupid civilians, and the stupid shinobi, and the shinobi rules, and the enemy nin who made her mother’s mission fail, and the shinobi that Kaa-chan had saved and —

— and at Kaa-chan, who’s the strongest and smartest kunoichi ever and Kakashi’s hero and why did she fail and am I a failure too?

Tsunade-sama carries her home after she’s cried herself out and is too tired to inform the iryo-nin that she is not a baby and can walk.

Hitomi-ba-chan comes the next day, takes one look at the kitchen, and kidnaps Kakashi for three days. The Nara compound is quiet but not the empty silence of the Hatake one; Kaa-chan has even sent her summons away out of shame. Kakashi wishes that Daichi was around; the summons is always willing to be a furry pillow for her and he listens very well. The Nara deer are not cuddly, though they are calm and non-judgemental, much like the Nara clan.

If any of the Nara share the general belief of Konoha, they are too smart or lazy to say it in Kakashi’s hearing — which is very good, especially since she realized that she could enhance her senses with chakra. Either that, or Shikadai-oji has laid down the law in a way that was decidedly un-Nara-like.

“It’s not for them to judge,” her cousin Shikaku says. He is ten years older than her and already a jounin, and is the genius of his generation. Nara are smarter than most, but even within the Clan of Lazy Geniuses, there are standouts. He probably could have graduated early, and been a jounin for years — but that would have meant not spending years sleeping through the Academy, which would be troublesome.

He is showing her the Kagemane no Jutsu, which her uncle has given permission for her to learn. The Nara Shadow Arts aren’t a kekkei genkai but a hidden art, and Kakashi is closely related enough for her to learn at least the basics; Shikadai-oji has already told her that she’s unlikely to advance to higher levels. Her Hatake chakra is just different enough from the Nara’s yin-concentrated chakra to make things difficult; it takes her nearly twice as much for her to perform the Kagemane no Jutsu as it does Shikaku. But it’s a skill no one will expect of her, and could be very useful in a sticky situation.

“Doesn’t stop anyone else from judging,” Kakashi mutters sullenly.

Shikaku-nii thumps her lightly on the head and ruffles her hair; she wears it like Kaa-chan, with a tail in the back — hers is a short tuff, unlike her mother’s long silver ribbon — and spiky on top, with long locks framing her face. The spikes on top seem irresistible to anyone taller than her — which is everyone — and are constantly mussed.

“Nara aren’t everyone — thankfully, since most people are troublesome.”

“You think everything is troublesome.”

“Especially short cousins with funny faces and too many questions.”

“Suzaku-niisan is pretty short.” He chuckled, and Kakashi managed a smile for the first time since her mother’s mission.

“We don’t judge because we can’t,” he finally tells her gently. “None of us were there, Kashi-chan, so how can we have all the variables? Maybe I would have done something different, and maybe I wouldn’t have — I can’t know. No one can know. The difference between me and them,” he gestured to the compound wall that holds back the rest of Konoha, “is that I understand that, while they like to think that since they know now what the wrong answer is, they would have picked the right one in the heat of the moment.”

“Was it the wrong choice?” she whispers, afraid of the answer.

“I don’t know that either. What I do know?” Dark eyes met her pale grey ones. “Is that Sakumo-oba thought it was the right one, and that she was the only one there to make that choice.”

When Kakashi returns home, the house is spotless and the kitchen is full of food; there are detailed instructions on how to prepare several meals and use the appliances.

Kaa-chan is still in her room.

“Tsunade-sama managed to haul her out long enough to look her over,” Hitomi-ba-chan says gently, “and I managed to get her to bathe and eat several times.”

“She doesn’t want to see me.”

“She doesn’t want you to see her,” her aunt, a Yamanaka by birth, explains. “She’s ashamed of herself, and thinks you are too. I know,” she says before Kakashi can voice any of the words choking her, “but sometimes, Kashi-chan, feelings don’t make sense.”

“Feelings are stupid,” she decides.

Her aunt thumps her head — this is obviously where Shikaku learned it from — and says, “Feelings are what separate a ninja from the weapons they carry. Being emotionless is worse than being blind, Kakashi; a blind man can learn to use his other senses to compensate. Someone without emotions? Can only pretend to be human.”  

Her words will only make sense to Kakashi when she is faced with Root ninja, incapable of anything but faking emotions, and unable to use pure reason either because how do you predict the actions of a person without understanding the feelings that motivate them?

At five, Hitomi-ba-chan’s words are much like so many other adult’s words of wisdom; unfathomable and vaguely uncomfortable.

Two days later, Kakashi is staring at her new nemesis, the rice cooker, which has burned the rice despite Kakashi’s faithful following of her aunt’s instructions. Obviously, it is plotting against her; the burned rice is certainly not because Kakashi got bored of waiting and wandered outside to practice throwing shuriken for an hour.

Before she can engage her enemy, Jiraiya-sama walks into the house; she turns and, instead of getting his usual smile and a joke, Kakashi is picked up and tossed onto his back. She grabs on reflexively and clings like a monkey, popping her head over the broad expanse of his shoulders — Jiraiya-sama is the biggest man she’s ever seen, not just tall like Kaa-chan and some of her Nara cousins but huge — and growling. “What’s going on? Don’t pick me up, I’m not a baby. What are you —”

“Quiet, brat, this is faster, and you’ll want to see this.”

He heads straight to her mother’s room at the back of the Hatake Clan Head’s house; before she can tell him that there’s a barrier, he slaps a seal tag on the door. Chakra sparks and blooms across the wood, and the door splinters at the edges before falling out of place; Jiraiya neatly steps aside.

“Teach me that,” Kakashi demands because after this last few weeks she hates locked doors.

“Later,” he says and will come to regret it because Kakashi will hold him to it with relentless persistence.

Her mother is curled up on her futon, a vague shape in the dim light. She manages to roll on her back and ask “what —” before Jiraiya-sama grabs the front of her yukata, tosses her over his shoulder — leaving Kaa-chan’s torso hanging over the shinobi’s back and her thighs secured by his arm.

He doesn’t even pat her bottom, Kakashi is amazed to see; this isn’t Jiraiya-sama the Super Pervert, but the Gama Sennin and one of the Legendary Sannin, who armies flee from and who is the equal of a kage.

“Jiraiya —” Kaa-chan whispers hoarsely, “just . . . don’t.” Kaa-chan sounds defeated and Kakashi hates it.

So does Jiraiya-sama because he frowns furiously, tells Kakashi to hold on, and uses shunshin to bring them both to a nearby training field. Kakashi shrieks as he throws her up into a tree, sticking with chakra to the wide branch.

Kaa-chan looks up at her shout, but when Kakashi tries to meet her eyes, she looks away. And is dumped unceremoniously on her rump.

“Dammit, Jiraiya,” Kaa-chan manages, staying where she falls.

“That’s it, Sakumo-chan? Really? I invade your bedroom, haul you out in a sleeping robe, treat you like a sack of rice, and drop you on your very fine ass — and all I get is ‘dammit’?” He crosses his arms and glowers down at her. “The last time I touched you without permission, you summoned that wolf pretending to be a dog of yours and set him on me. The time before that? You kicked me through a wall, then spent an hour trying to kill me in a spar.”

She shrugs.

And screams as she hits the surface of the pond nearby. Kakashi is so startled — she didn’t see the move — that she throws a kunai at Jiraiya-sama, who catches it without even looking and tosses it into the tree branch for her to retrieve.

“You telegraph your throw, brat,” he tells her calmly while watching Kaa-chan surface and haul herself out.

“What was that for,” Kaa-chan demands.

“For being an idiot, of course.”

“I can’t deal with you, Jiraiya; I’m going home.” She stalks past Jiraiya-sama, and Kakashi’s heart sinks. She was hoping —

Kaa-chan goes flying, right back into the pool.

“Teach me that, too.”

“When you’re taller than a sack of rice, brat.” Kakashi huffs, her cheeks puffing out in frustration. He always says that about the cool jutsus!

Kaa-chan gets out again and stays, kneeling on the ground. “What’s the point in this, Jiraiya? Don’t you have something better to do than bother a failure —” the splash is twice as big this time. Kaa-chan surfaces and snarls, “What do you want from me, Jiraiya?”

“For you to get out, get up, and fight back, you stubborn wolf bitch!” he roars.

“What’s the point?”

“Living is the point, Sakumo.”

She crawls out for the third time. “Is it? Wouldn’t it be better otherwise? Maybe then the Hatake name wouldn’t be associated with shame and failure.”

Jiraiya doesn’t throw Kaa-chan this time; he kicks her straight back into the water. Good thing too; Kakashi had almost gotten over the horror of her mother’s words enough to fling herself out of the tree and — what? Hug her? Hit her? Scream and cry and beg her Kaa-chan not to leave?

This time, Sakumo gets out on the other side of the pond and sits, head in her hands. “You persistent bastard.”

“Ninja,” he explains flatly. “It’s not cheating if it works. Go ahead and say something that stupid again, Sakumo, I dare you.”

“Stupid? I’ve shamed my clan, Jiraiya; there are only two Hatake left in Konoha, and the other is my daughter. You think I want her to bear the burden of my mistakes?”

“A parent’s sins don’t belong to a child.”

“You aren’t part of clan, Jiraiya, but you know that’s not the way it works! For better or worse, that’s how people see it!”

“People see a lot of stupid things that I don’t, and majority doesn’t rule when it comes to truth.”

“But they do when it comes to public opinion, and it’s the public I’m worried about!” Kaa-chan gets to her feet and drags her hands through her wet hair. “Kakashi’s just a child; she’s vulnerable. What happens when other ninja won’t work with her? Or treat her like a pariah? Or hesitate in giving her backup?”

“Then they’d be guilty of far worse than they think you are,” he said sharply, “and Sensei will feed anyone who even considers that kind of behaviour alright a kunai, point first.”

“And if it’s already too late? If I can spare her that, Jiraiya, shouldn’t I?”

“You’re better than that, Sakumo; it’s men who think that blood washes away stains and sins. Women know better.”

“Honour isn’t like clothing; you need more than soap and elbow grease.”

“That’s the samurai blood in you talking. We’re ninja, Sakumo; honour is in getting the job done.”

“Then they’re right after all,” she screams, “and I don’t have any honour left!”

Jiraiya shunshins across to Kaa-chan and sends her into the pond again. This time, the Hatake Clan Head comes out swinging.

They’re both bruised in short order; Jiraiya-sama started out by only dodging, which had further infuriated Kaa-chan. Once she managed to land a blow — a vicious right cross that Tsunade-sama would be proud of — he started fighting back. A small tree shatters under the impact of Kaa-chan’s body; Jiraiya-sama makes a deep furrow in the earth when he goes flying.

This isn’t the set kata’s they’re taught in the Academy or the strike and counterstrike of a spar. It’s mean and bloody and occasionally sloppy; the grace she’s always admired in her mother has vanished beneath anger and the determination to pound her opponent’s face in. Jiraiya-sama taunts her relentlessly, even when it costs him, first with his body and then with words.

“What kind of kunoichi lets the opinion of a bunch of civilians land a fatal blow to her pride, huh? Or gives a damn what men who she’s never looked twice at think about her abilities?”

“That’s the best you’ve got, Sakumo-chan? Maybe everyone’s right, and the White Fang is just a little girl playing ninja. I bet that S+ rating in Iwa’s Bingo Book is a clerical error. Tell the truth, now.”

“Really, Sakumo, I could spare you the effort of seppuku and put you out of your misery now. I’ve gotten harder blows from a Kiri chunin.”

“Shut the fuck up and hold still so I can kill you,” Kaa-chan screams and lunges. Jiraiya-sama ducks and spins, tossing Kaa-chan across the clearing, then blinks. Kaa-chan uses her landing to summon her companions — not just her primary partner Daichi, but his mate Yuu and their puppy, Isamu, who was bigger than both his parents.

“Sakumo?”

“Help me kick his ass.”

Isamu dives right in, and yelps as Jiraiya-sama boots him straight into the same pond he dumped Kaa-chan into; his parents are older and wiser.

“We’re trying to kill Gamabunta’s summoner — why?” Yuu asks calmly. “Did you catch him peeking in the onsen again?”

“I dragged her out her imposed wallowing and found out she’s considering seppuku,” Jiraiya-sama told them, dodging Isamu again. “And now I’m trying to beat the stupid out of her. It’s taking a while.”

Daichi pounced on Kaa-chan, who shouted about traitors, while Yuu stands over her and snarls; Isamu takes a moment to shake water all over Jiraiya-sama — and he holds a lot of water in all the fur — and then comes over to Kakashi’s tree and climbs up next to her.

“Alright, Imouto?” he asks, and doesn’t complain when she gets his fur wetter by crying all over him.

When she finishes, Kakashi climbs on Isamu’s back, holding tight as he leaps down and trots over to both of their parents. Yuu is still snarling.

“ — kind of human stupidity I thought you were immune to! Idiot woman, what good does that do? It doesn’t change anything in the past, and removes you from the world for any future actions!”

“Kakashi —”

“Stupid human puppy — if you kill yourself, she’d be alone! We aren’t contracted to her, Sakumo — which you’re going to fix, idiot — and you’re all she has!”

“Her father’s Clan —”

“She’s your daughter,” Daichi grumbled. “If this is how you react to pain, what would she do? Close herself off, that’s what; the Nara are smart, but Kakashi is more stubborn than they are patient.”

“Let her up, Daichi, and we’ll let Jiraiya smack some sense into her; he was doing a good job earlier.”

But Jiraiya-sama doesn’t throw Kaa-chan back in the pond; he drops beside her. “Finished being stupid, Sakumo?”

“Fuck you, Jiraiya, I’m going to tell Tsunade-hime that you’ve been peeking on her.”

“She knows,” he says cheerfully. “Who do you think told me about your pity party?”

Kaa-chan finally sits up, and leans her head against his shoulder; Kaa-chan is tall, but Jiraiya-sama is still bigger. “There’s going to be a war, Jiraiya,” she whispers, “and people will die and it will be all my fault.”

“There’s always another war,” Daichi says. “That’s what you humans are good at — or else there wouldn’t be any samurai or ninja or weaponsmiths, and your clan has been all three.”

“We call a lack of fighting peace, Sakumo-chan, but it isn’t,” Jiraiya-sama says softly, gazing out over the training field. “Real peace can’t be broken by one person, or one mission. War was always coming again; Iwa has been itching for it, and Kumo is so desperate for more arable farmland that they don’t even need a justification for it. And Kiri? They’re always ready for blood, even their own.”

“If I had completed the damned mission —”

“And left your team, injured and vulnerable, at the mercy of an Iwa team? They’d have sent their fastest after you, and captured the others, and Iwa would have three of ours and, even if they said nothing, Iwa could well manufacture information that would let them declare war.” He jabbed two fingers into her spine. “And if there is a war — and there isn’t, yet — how is removing one of Konoha’s strongest from the field any help at all?”

“Stop being right, Jiraiya, it’s destroying my worldview.”

“The Gama Sennin is always right, lowly one; bask in my magnificence.” Yuu pounced on him — and Kaa-chan chuckled.

“Kaa-chan,” Kakashi whispered, and Sakumo’s head snapped around; depression and rage having made her forget her audience.

“Kashi-chan?”

Kakashi flung herself at her mother, crying and shouting incoherently and flailing her fists against her chest. After a moment, Kaa-chan’s arms wrapped tightly around her, preventing her from hitting, and hummed softly. Kakashi went limp against her mother, sobbing.

“What is honour, Sakumo? Some arbitrary idea that people judge and change on a whim — or standing up and moving forward?” Kakashi dimly heard the Gama Sennin ask. “Who do you care more about — strangers, or your daughter?”

“I’m sorry, Kashi,” Kaa-chan murmured. “I’m sorry.”

~~~~~~

When she is five, Kakashi learns that even perverts can be wise men; that honour can’t be judged by strangers, and that the strongest person can despair and need a helping hand — or a punch to the face. She learns to summon her mother’s canines, and make her shadow capture someone, and how to make rice without burning it because Hitomi-ba-chan refuses to allow her to starve to death and it’s easier than a fire jutsu, Kashi-chan, honestly. She learns that sometimes people need a hug, and sometimes they need a smack upside the head, and it’s hard to tell the difference, and that Clan is Clan and both of hers are strong even though one is small and the other is lazy.

She learns that her mother is fallible and Jiraiya-sama has a strong shoulder and that Yuu thinks all humans are basically puppies and need so much help how do you survive without me?

She already knew, but is reminded, that she is loved and that she is not alone.

When she is six — Kakashi learns that Uchiha are stupid, stubborn idiots, that she does not understand other girls, and that she does not like to share.

Six is a more memorable year than five. This does not bode well for future years.


Two

Kakashi has learned a great deal from her mother about how to be a ninja, and a Hatake, and how to deal with stupid boys who don’t shut up — which is why she summons Isamu and sets him on one of her teammates her first day as a genin.

Minato-sensei — who is Jiraiya-sama’s student and therefore cannot be judged based on his apperance of affability and gentleness because Jiraiya-sama is completely badass though not as much as Kaa-chan — is telling them about the real genin test when Uchiha Obito pipes up with this: “But, sensei, I don’t want to be on a medic team!”

“You’re not,” Kakashi says.

“Why do you think you are, Obito-kun?”

“Because there’s two girls?” he offers. “I mean, iryo-nin are really important, but I want to be a frontline combat ninja! And Uchiha aren’t iryo-nin.”

“Idiot,” Kakashi snaps, “Not all kunoichi are iryo-nin, and not all iryo-nin are female! And Minato-sensei isn’t one, so why would he be our sensei if that was our design? And,” she adds, “iryo-nin can be frontline assets — like Tsunade-sama — and if I was going to be an iryo-nin I’d be a combat one like her! Idiot.” she sniffs and turns away from him; Sensei laughs and she recognizes it as the that’s so cute one that people make when Kakashi pouts or acts like someone much older than she is.

Ugh, adults. She was not cute, she was a tough kunoichi.

“And there are at least two Uchiha iryo-nin that I know of, Obito-kun,” Sensei adds.

“Then they aren’t proper Uchiha,” Obito-baka says, and she shoves him. “Hey!”

“Shut up; you don’t get to judge someone’s worth to their Clan.”

“That’s what the Elders say!”

“They don’t get to judge either!”

“That’s the job of the Elders! To decide what being a Uchiha is!”

“No it isn’t, it’s their job to teach the next generation and to interact with outsiders on behalf of the Clan, and to advise the Clan Head — and a Clan Head should be smart enough to know that if people want to be iryo-nin, they should be allowed!”

“Kakashi-san. . . Obito-kun. . .”

“What do you know about Clans? You don’t have a proper one!”

Kakashi went from squaring off against the boy — nearly twice her age — to punching him in a heartbeat. Nohara Rin squeaked; Sensei sighed.

“‘It’s easy, Minato’,” he muttered. “‘Just keep them alive, and don’t let them kill each other’.”

“I do so have a Clan — I have two, because neither of mine makes people marry their own cousins!”

“I only let you hit me,” Obito-baka shouted, “because you’re a little girl.”

That was when she summoned Isamu.

When Minato-sensei calmed everyone down — meaning that Kakashi and Obito-baka were tied to separate training posts and Isamu was stretched out in the shade with a bone and Rin-san had stopped flailing — he surveyed the team and sighed. “Forget the test; I already know you’d fail it.”

“I can pass any test —” the idiot shouted while Kakashi flushed.

“So we’ll skip to the part where I start beating the lesson the bell test is supposed to teach into your thick skulls. ‘Of course I won’t have to pound things into their head, Sensei’,” he sighed. “‘I’m going to be a nicer sensei than you were’. No wonder he laughed.”

“Did he hold his belly and make the really exaggerated chortle?” Kakashi asked. “I hate it when he does that.”

“Me too, Kashi-chan, because it usually means he’s right. Or drunk,” Minato-sensei added thoughtfully, “but usually right.”

“And that’s when he gets all smug.”

“You definitely know him.”

“Know who?” Obito-baka asked.

“No one you’d know, Baka.”

“My jounin sensei; Jiraiya-sama.”

“You know one of the Sannin, Kakashi-san?” Rin-san asked.

“Two; Tsunade-sama and Jiraiya-ero-sama are Kaa-chan’s friends.”

“Why would awesome ninja like the Sannin hang around a failure like Hatake Sakumo?”

“Obito-kun!”

Too late; Kakashi slipped her bonds and lunged. Minato-sensei caught her at the last second, then sent a look at Isamu that had him slinking back to his bone.

Rin-san stomped up to Obito-baka and grabbed his ear — and twisted. “That’s rude, Obito-kun!” she shouted over his whimpering noises. “Just because you heard someone in your clan say it, doesn’t make it polite, or true! Sharingan or not, the Uchiha are just as fallible as anyone else, and Sakumo-sama is a Clan Head, a strong kunoichi, and Kakashi-san’s mother! Next time you say something like that — I’ll help her stomp you into the ground!” She twisted further. “Just like I’d hit her for saying something mean about your parents!”

“Sorry! Sorry! Sorry, Rin-chan!”

“I’m not the one you owe an apology to!”

“Owwww! Sorry Kakashi!” Rin released him abruptly.

“That’s better.”

“So,” Minato-sensei said brightly, “who wants to train?”

~~~~~~

It takes them two weeks to give the most affable jounin in the village a twitch. Kushina-nee-chan laughs and laughs and laughs and Jiraiya-sama comes by almost every day to say I told you so. Eventually, Minato-sensei learns to punish them with the worst D-ranks imaginable — one week, they are so terrible that he makes them catch the daimyo’s new wife’s cat every single day.

It will not be until Kakashi’s own genin team is unleashed onto Konoha that their record is broken.

Conversely, he learns to reward them for good — more reasonable than normal — behaviour with jutsus and training. The day they learn to make exploding tags? Was a good day.

Though, Hokage-sama didn’t seem to agree. This was, apparently, Jiraiya-sama’s fault. Sensei agreed, apologized, and led them all away; the next time they played with explosions, they did so in a far more isolated training field.

In retrospect, age six could have been worse; she still hated Obito, who is now and forever a baka, and Rin insisted on being called Rin-chan and who just confused her, and Minato-sensei was super cool but it would be much better if she didn’t have to share his time with anyone else.

Her mother was trusted on important missions again — not that Sandaime-sama had ever not trusted her, but it had been better not to send her on missions with ninja who sneered and might not try their hardest to guard her back — and Jiraiya-sama teaches her how to tweak exploding tags to get the biggest explosion she can without killing herself, partly because Kakashi begs him to and mostly because it makes Minato-sensei freak out.

She learns several of her father’s signature shurikenjutsu from her uncle, and how to wield her mother’s White Chakra Sabre; five lightning jutsu, three fire jutsu, and two each of wind, water, and earth.

She punches Obito-baka in the face twenty-nine times, and on two occasions, Rin-chan does it for her; once because he repeated something rude said by another Uchiha, and once because he said that Kakashi should try to be a proper kunoichi and learn iryo-ninjutsu.

Six definitely could have been worse.

~~~~~~

When she is seven, Kakashi becomes a chunin — and beats Obito-baka and Rin-chan to a promotion, ha! — kills for the first time, earns her first Bingo Book entry and sees war.  

She prefers not to think about seven very much.

~~~~~~

It turns out, when you kill an entire unit of Kumo nin with the nature affinity they are so proud of — lightning — a handful of shuriken and fifty feet of ninja wire — they take it badly.

If you’re only eight years old? They take it really badly.

Kakashi earns a moniker that will one day grace the Bingo Books of every shinobi nation — the Silver Wolf — a B-rank threat rating and fifty thousand ryo on her head. It goes up to one hundred thousand after she kills the first three ninja who try to collect. It triples after Minato-sensei expresses his displeasure over Kumo trying to kidnap his girlfriend and Konoha’s jinchuriki.

At age eight, Kakashi is reminded that once, her greatest wish was to be woman who wasn’t just respected as a kunoichi — but feared as a nin. Her new goal is to show Konoha that the Hatake Clan is strong and fierce and it’s women powerful. These goals, she learns, are not incompatible.

Kiri agrees; before she is nine, they enter her in their Bingo Book as the daughter of Shuriken no Satoshi, who took down two of the Seven Swordsmen before he was killed.

Kakashi will spend half her life playing kill me if you can with the swordsmen of Kirigakure; between wartime and missing-nin — because Kiri seems to produce more of them than any other kind — Kakashi will more than double her father’s tally. Before the Fourth War begins, Kiri will dub her the Slayer of Swordsmen.

It’s not her fault they keep getting in her way — if Kiri wants her to leave it’s swordsmen alive, it should stop throwing them in her path.

Age eight includes the time that she tricked Minato-sensei into thinking she didn’t know what sex was — she did know Jiraiya-sama, after all — which pretty funny. His face, and the fact that he tried to give her The Talk without using the words vagina, penis, or sex.

She learned that Minato-sensei could really turn that red and not die when she asked Kushina-nee-chan if he knew what to do with those body parts, since he couldn’t name them. Neechan told her very solemnly that he did, in fact, know how to make use of all said body parts, quite well, thank you for being concerned. Sensei didn’t die, but he did pass out.

Kushina-nee-chan bought her ramen, and she learned to never, ever, ever get between a Uzumaki and ramen. Ever.

~~~~~~

“Ugh, you’re such a baka, Obito-baka.”

“Yeah, well, at least I’m not short!”

“Kashi-chan. . . Obito-kun. . .”

“I’m only eight years old — what’s your excuse for being short, baka?”

“You’re a brat, Kakashi-chan!”

“What does that have to do with you being short?”

“It — nothing — that’s not — gah! Sensei!”

“Ha!” Kakashi declared. “I win.”

“You do not!,” Obito-baka shouted, red-faced. “If you weren’t a little girl I would —”

“I outrank you, Obito-baka!”

Rin-chan sighed. “Here we go.”

“Only because the examiners felt sorry for you! Why else did you get promoted when Rin-chan and I didn’t?”

Kakashi shunshins behind her teammate and kicks him into a nearby pond. “That’s why, Obito-baka,” she informs him as he surfaces.

“Jiraiya-kun, you are a terrible influence on my daughter.”

“Kaa-chan!” Her mother and Jiraiya-sama are nearby; Kaa-chan looks amused and Jiraiya-sama looks indigent.

“It wasn’t my idea to teach her that, Sakumo-chan,” he exclaimed. “Your little brat stalked me for two weeks until I broke down and taught her a few things. I couldn’t get any research done at all,” he grumbled. “She kept showing up and asking, loudly, what the ‘ojiisan was doing in the tree by the onsen’.”

“Really?” Kaa-chan asked. When Kakashi nodded, she snatched her up in a hug. “Aw, Kashi-chan! I’m so proud! Coercing an older and more experienced ninja and ruining a pervert’s fun — all at once!”

“Kaa-chan,” Kakashi whines and wriggles out of her grip, “Not where people are watching!” Her mother, of course, immediately grabs her again — and adds several noisy kisses and a pinch to her cheek.

“Ha!” Obito-baka says. “Some chunin! You really are just a —” there is a large splash where Rin-chan shoves their teammate back in the pond.

When Kakashi has escaped and recovered her dignity — straightening her vest and hair and scowling — not pouting! — at her mother, and Obito-baka has finally gotten out of the water and Rin-chan has stopped squealing about how cute they are and Minato-sensei has stopped teasing his sensei about being outmaneuvered by a chibi, Tsunade-sama and Orochimaru-sama have appeared.

“What’s taking so long, Sakumo?” the Hebi Sannin asks. He eyes them all cooly; Kakashi has never quite known how to speak to the third the Sannin, who is so much more remote than his friendly teammates. Wary respect seems the smartest route, and usually results in mild acknowledgement.

“Sorry, Orochi-kun,” Kaa-chan doesn’t seem to share her concerns and speaks cheerfully. “I was presented with an irresistible opportunity to embarrass my daughter and Jiraiya.”

“The latter is a frequent occurrence,” he said, and ducked Jiraiya-sama’s swipe, “and the former is understandable. And I’m accustomed to accounting for unexpected delays when planning for time.”

“Why does he talk like that?” Obito-baka mutters.

“Because some people know more than twenty-five words, baka. You have a mission, Kaa-chan?”

“I do.” Kaa-chan crouches down to Kakashi’s level — one day, she will be the tallest of them but for now, Obito-baka is unfortunately correct about her height — and lays her hands on Kakashi’s shoulders. She has already noticed her mother’s uniform, with even more pouches than normal and vest pockets which are all full; she also has a large travel pack, including a number of storage scrolls. All three Sannin are similarly outfitted.

It looks like they’re going to be gone for a long time.

“We’re heading out with a unit to reinforce the western border,” Kaa-chan explains, “and then Jiraiya-kun has an intelligence mission to complete while Tsunade-hime works with the field hospital staff.”

“And you?”

“Orochi-kun and I will be protecting the supply routes for the next few months,” Kaa-chan said gently. “The captain in charge of that team was critically injured in a raid, and the forward lines have been suffering from the lack of supplies.”

“Careful, Sakumo,” Orochimaru-sama murmurs.

“It’s nothing they can’t hear by standing outside the jounin station and listening to ninja gossiping,” Kaa-chan says, and Jiraiya-sama winks at Kakashi; this will soon become part of her routine and her colleagues will spend years trying to figure out how she always knows what’s going on even when it seems like she never pays attention to anything.

“You’re taking the ninken, right?”

“Daichi and Yuu, yes, but Isamu is still recovering from his broken leg.” Because even giant canine summons can stumble in the dark. “So he’s staying with you. There’s money for food in the usual place, and you make sure you go see your obasan and ojisan if you need anything, alright?” She casually straightens Kakashi’s hitai-ate. “Don’t be ashamed if you want to go stay with them, alright? There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to be alone in a big empty house. And tell your sensei if you need anything — and Isamu has an appointment at the Inuzuka clinic next week —”

“Kaa-chan,” Kakashi mutters. “I’m not a baby. I’ll be alright — you be careful, ‘cause you’re the one going on a mission.”

“Alright, big girl —”

“I’m a chunin, Kaa-chan!”

“ — Chunin Hatake,” she pulls the hitai-ate she’d straightened down over Kakashi’s eyes; her cheeks puff out in indignation as she shoves it back up. “Give me a hug goodbye, and I’ll promise to be careful if you promise to be good and to ask for help if you need it.”

“I promise to ask for help,” Kakashi huffs and hugs her mother so tight and does not get teary eyed because she is a chunin and not a baby.

Kaa-chan laughs and squeezes hard; it is the same conversation they’ve had before, but this is the longest time her mother will be away in Kakashi’s memory. “No matter how strong or tall or old you get, Kashi-chan,” Kaa-chan whispers too softly for anyone to hear without enhancing their senses, “you will still be my puppy.”

Kaa-chan kisses her cheek and stands; Kakashi scrubs her eye — it’s dust! — and realizes that Rin-chan has dragged Obito-baka a little further away and Minato-sensei and Jiraiya-sama and Tsunade-sama are pretending to ignore them. Orochimaru-sama is mostly doing the same, but is watching them both from the corner of one eye. “Alright, then; let’s go.”

“Good luck, shinobi-san,” Rin-chan says and Obito-baka echoes her; Minato-sensei tells them to fight well.

“Come home safe,” Kakashi says softly.

~~~~~~

When she was nine, she learned the words of the ninja funeral service by heart. Her ability to remember nearly everything she reads is not such a blessing when it means that she knows every name carved in the Memorial Stone; she will spend her whole life being able to recite, in order, each one including every new addition.

She also learns to change bandages and that she hates war because, in addition to the fact that her mother is gone for weeks at a time to run missions or fight on the front lines, Kaa-chan comes home with more than simple injuries. Also, Iwa ninja and their stupid earth jutsus are stupid. Kakashi learns as many of them as she can because, as she learned with Kumo, nothing sticks in the craw of enemy ninja quite like using their own skills against them.

This is the beginning of Hatake Kakashi’s use of psychological warfare in the same way that some ninja use kunai. Or, as Ibiki-sempai terms it; she becomes an adorable little mindfucker. And then ducks, because Kaa-chan and Minato-sensei will train her to kill but not let people swear around her.

Regardless, age nine teaches her that war is terrible and that only the truly deranged wish for it; proving your strength or making your village strong through military victory are not worth the loss of life and the suffering that war causes. This will put her at odds with Shimura Danzo and his ilk, though she doesn’t yet know it. Nine teaches her that your opponents mind is as useful a weapon as those in your thigh pouches; that a well-placed barb strikes deeper than a kunai.

There are ninja in a dozen nations — including her own — and entire armies who will wish with great sincerity that she had never learned that particular lesson.

~~~~~~

At ten, she learned why Rin-chan and the other girls blushed all the damned time, and promised herself to never do so again.

Kushina-nee-chan was right; Sensei did have a cute butt — gah! Bad brain! Stop! She didn’t mean to see him naked, it was a mixed onsen and Obito-baka tripped and grabbed Sensei’s towel to catch himself and — stop it, Kakashi!

She is reminded that even though Konoha is the village that values teamwork and loyalty, human emotions and self-interest outweigh the Will of Fire for some people — her mother’s ‘disgrace’ taught her that lesson. She learns that people can be resentful and envious enough of a child half their age being the same rank as they are  to become dangerous to her. The same day, she learns that Sensei has completed a new jutsu which is impressive and dangerous.

Also — not everyone thinks that Minato-sensei is kind and funny. Some people, like aggressive and angry chunin, find him pretty intimidating. Or maybe that was the spinning ball of powerful chakra held in Sensei’s hand.

She learns Rasengan as well; it takes her four months, but anything that helps overcome her too short, too cute appearance to intimidate others is worth the work. Plus, Sensei’s jutsu is cool.  

~~~~~~

When she was eleven, people began to tell her how pretty she was; how much she looked like her mother. It was the first time she heard whispers about how useful her face would be in a few more years, that pretty kunoichi were a certain kind of weapon.

Kakashi found a mask intended to filter airborne poisons or protect sensitive Inuzuka noses from too strong smells and sewed it to her uniform shirt. Obito-baka asked her why she was covering her face — did she finally realize how stupid it was? Kakashi tested her newest lightning jutsu on him.

She didn’t wear her mask all the time; just around stupid people and strangers. And enemies. And — fine, she took it off in private, around her team, and with her mother. Kaa-chan said she could do as she liked, as long as she kept smiling.

Kakashi was a weapon, but one of her own forging.

~~~~~~

When she was twelve, Kakashi learned that the end of a war can be nearly as hard as war itself; that even her kind sensei was ruthless, and Kushina-nee-chan was exactly as terrifying as Kakashi wished to be and then some, and that she preferred bleeding from a stab wound to bleeding from her vagina.

She learned that even Iwa ninja scream when you drop ten tonnes of stone on them.

She learned that Rin-chan was really good at iryo-ninjutsu, or she’d have had to learn how to see the world with one eye, and that Obito-baka was only a little stupid, and that her White Chakra could cut a jounin in half.

And that, even if you save each other’s lives, you still got to call your teammate baka.

She didn’t learn, but was reminded, of what her village was like when it wasn’t at war. Of what little kids sounded like when they played ninja, instead of being ninja in the killing fields of Kusa. Of what it was like to wear something other than her uniform once in awhile.

She learned that wars were hard to end; that it took incredible endurance and not a little luck, and a few super powerful ninja helped.

And that not all those ninja survived.


Three

Word that Iwa had sued for peace, that Kumo had offered an armistice, and that Kiri had said nothing but had withdrawn to its own borders, reached the village an hour before Kakashi was summoned to the gates. She had to take to the rooftops to avoid the civilians gathering in the streets.

Obito and Rin met her there, neither having any idea why and figuring that Sensei was on his way home; The Yellow Flash had left the village three weeks ago with his own Sensei and a group of jounin to reinforce the border and push Iwa back in several places; since the war was over, they’d obviously been successful.

Just as the blur on the horizon resolved into something resembled a group of people, the Hokage joined them.

“Sandaime-sama,” the jounin and chunin offered.

“Obito-kun, Kakashi-chan, Rin-chan.” Aged hands patted all three of them on the shoulder; lingering briefly on Kakashi. Behind the Hokage, his guards exchanged glances.

Others took notice of their leader’s presence and a crowd formed; mostly ninja, but some civilians. The Hokage greeted them by name, but did not offer any information, and soon people stopped asking.

“It’s Sensei,” Kakashi finally stated. Even with his Sharingan, Kakashi’s distance sight was better than Obito’s. “And Kushina-nee-chan.” Both had distinctive, visible hair colours.

“The Yellow Flash,” people murmured. “He ended the war.”

“Not alone,” Hokage said sternly. His hand settled on Kakashi’s shoulder — and she shivered.

“Stretchers!” Rin-chan said and stepped forward — ever the iryo-nin — and then stopped. “They’re all covered.”

“Bringing the dead home,” Kakashi said gently. It wasn’t always an option; she’d had to immolate several of her sempai’s corpses in the last few years, honouring the dead while protecting Konoha’s secrets.

A few people cheered as the ninja came into civilian sight, and were hushed by their neighbours.

Minato-sensei was solemn as he lead the way into the village. That wasn’t so unusual these last few years. Kushina-nee-chan’s pale and drawn face was, however.

Jiraiya-sama’s shoulders were slumped.

Sensei acknowledged the Hokage’s greeting — and knelt in front of Kakashi. And she knew.

“No,” Rin-chan breathed.

From beneath one of the black shrouds, a long tail of silver hung.

I’ll promise to be careful if you promise to be good and to ask for help if you need it.

“She ended the war, Kakashi-chan.”

There’s going to be a war, Jiraiya, and people will die and it will be all my fault  

“Sakumo-sama shattered the Iwa defenses; lead us straight into the their fortress.”

What do you want from me, Jiraiya? — For you to get out, get up, and fight back, you stubborn wolf bitch!

“She took on Han of the Steam Armour so we could keep fighting.”

I don’t have any honour left!  

“She killed him, Kakashi-chan, and Iwa laid down arms.”

How is removing one of Konoha’s strongest from the field any help at all?

“She fought so hard, Kakashi-chan, and so bravely.”

What I do know? Is that Sakumo-oba thought it was the right one, and that she was the only one there to make that choice.

“Hatake Sakumo is a hero.”

What is honour, Sakumo? Some arbitrary idea that people judge and change on a whim — or standing up and moving forward?

“She always was,” Kakashi managed, and let the tears come.

~~~~~~

Tsunade-sama, pale with her own grief, shows Kakashi how to tie the obi on her funeral kimono. All the other services she’s attended have been as a fellow nin, and meant a uniform.

She also shows her how to hide kunai in her sleeves, and tuck a tessen in her obi; Kakashi already knows how to weave ninja wire through her long tail of hair, just like Kaa-chan had showed her.

Some people were stupid enough to think long hair was a weakness, rather than a baited trap.

The Hatake Clan symbol is stitched over her heart, and she wears her hitai-ate around her neck, instead of over her forehead. Normally, Kakashi abhors the ‘lady-like’ style, but it’s technically correct for a formal kimono. Daichi, Yuu, and Isamu wear black cloths wrapped around their necks.

Her mother’s hitai-ate is wrapped around her left arm. It’s not correct, but it is right.

“Ready, Kashi-chan?”

“No, but we should go anyway.”

Kakashi is the Clan Head of the Hatake Clan; though it is a clan of one, it lives in her. Her honour is the honour of her clan, her actions act for her ancestors and her descendants; she speaks for them.

She is her mother’s child, and she is a proud daughter.

There are no other Hatake to form an honour guard, but there are six Nara, two teammates, two Sannin, and her sensei and neechan. They all wore uniforms or formal wear, and black bands on their left arms. Jiraiya-sama walks on her left; Sensei on her right. Tsunade-sama, the highest ranking of them, leads the way to the Memorial Stone.

The training ground is full of people. Some of them once shunned Sakumo for exactly the same reason they now honour her; Kakashi ignores them, and Sakumo and Kakashi’s friends fill the front, blocking anyone who isn’t one of them from getting close to the young Clan Head. She has been numb for days, but no one wants that to give way to rage should the wrong person say the wrong thing.

Kakashi hears none of the fine words that the Hokage speaks for her mother and the other ninja who fell in the last battle of the Third Shinobi War; her sensei speaks of the White Fang’s Last Stand, where she singlehandedly fought and killed the powerful jinchuriki of the Gobi, who had decimated the Konoha lines more than once over the last five years, and who often caused collateral damage to his own side. Jiraiya-sama spoke of his friend, Sakumo-chan, with her terrible sense of humour and fondness for setting her summons on innocent Gama Sennin.

She watches her mother’s name carved in stone, and bears the weight of the urn that holds her ashes.

~~~~~~

Because she is a girl and not a boy, Kakashi is subject to some very stupid people who think that a twelve-year-old female Clan Head is a perfect opportunity to gain power and prestige.

“My clan would be happy to take in Hatake-sama, Sarutobi-sama. So young a girl, and such a burden!”

“Perhaps a betrothal, Hokage-sama — to ensure the future of the Hatake Clan.”

“She’s just a child, really; I would be happy to guide her.”

“She’s a jounin who’s killed more people than are in your clan,” Minato-sensei tells a civilian who tries to insinuate that the bosom of his clan is really the only place for Kakashi to recover from her grief — and that his youngest son is more than qualified to run the affairs of a small clan, and only ten years older than Kakashi as well!

“Kakashi-chan is a full jounin, and an adult in the eyes of the law,” Hokage-sama tells the next Council meeting.

“But under these circumstances —”

“Under all circumstances.”

“Can she really be considered a Clan Head? Most Clans have male Heads — succession my pass through a female line, but it’s the husband and her sons who lead the clan.”

“Really?” Inuzuka Tsume growls; she was recently made Alpha of her clan by her grandfather. The Inuzuka cared little for gender and direct lineage when choosing their Head; the main requirements are being hard to kill, strong in their Clan jutsus, and able to run a large clan of unruly and half-wild ninja.

“You know, I had heard something like that recently,” Uchiha Mikoto tapped her lips absently. The only child of the last Clan Head, Kagami, when her father chose to retire the Clan elders had presented her with three Uchiha cousins — close enough for a strong Sharingan, but not too close — and told her to pick the one who would marry her to become Clan Head and the father of the Heir.

She, of course, would retire and produce a child within the year.

She had asked for three days to decide, left the Uchiha estate, and spent three days getting drunk with her closest female friends. Who included, in their number, Uzumaki Kushina and Inuzuka Tsume.

Tsunade-sama had joined them on day two; Kaa-chan by day three.

Mikoto-sama had returned to the Uchiha clan and informed the Clan Elders that any one of the three suitors might have a go at fathering her child, if they could manage it — but that she would run the clan, and raise her child, and two years of maternity leave was plenty, thanks.

Obito-baka had said that the wailing and gnashing of teeth had been epic, and long-running. Kagami-sama had merely smiled and said that he had told the Elders that Mikoto would do what was best for the clan.

Mikoto’s son, Itachi, was four years old and not even the Uchiha could deny that he was adorable, and only half Uchiha. Mikoto-sama would only smirk, and tell people it wasn’t her fault that the Elder’s hand-selected suitors didn’t perform well under pressure.

“And, of course, if Kakashi were not a jounin — her guardian would be her sensei, as established by law,” Minato-sensei stated. “Which would be — me.”

The Yellow Flash, who had decimated whole units of Iwa and Kiri and Kumo ninja in seconds, stood behind the Hokage’s seat. In three days he would receive the chair and the hat that Sandaime-sama current occupied.

“Ah — well —” one very brave and foolish man from a minor shinobi clan tried.

“If anyone should have custody of my brother’s daughter,” Shikadai-oji drawled, “it would be me. But I don’t, therefore it’s not necessary.”

“But, who will vote in her place on the Clan Council?”

“Why would anyone need to? Jounin, adult, Clan Head, law — any of this sound familiar?”

Several people blinked at Kakashi’s statement— either the words, or the lazy way it was drawled. They looked from her half-lidded eyes and propped chin to Shikadai-oji’s tired slouch and bored stare.

At his father’s side, Shikaku chuckled. “My little cousin is growing up and causing trouble.”

“Not that I doubted it,” Yamanaka Inoichi, recently risen to head of his clan, said mildly, “but she’s definitely a Nara.”

The amicable Akimichi Chocho, the first generation of the Ino-Shika-Cho team, laughed as he crunched down on a nut. “And we should know, right?”   

~~~~~~

Like five, twelve is a hard year and for many of the same reasons. Kakashi learns first hand about grief and despair; about the darkness that can creep over mind and heart and body until even rolling out of bed is impossible and laying in a dark room is a solace and breathing is almost more than she can manage.

She learns what it is like to have someone drag you out of the dark and beat the apathy out of you; she is reminded just how hard Jiraiya-sama and Sensei and even Rin-chan can hit. She learns that even in the Land of Fire, lakes are very cold in the springtime.

She learns to live without the sound of her mother’s voice and her scent and the gait of her walk across the floorboards. She learns to hum the same folk songs — and a few raunchier bar songs — to fill the silence. She is reminded that Nara woman do not take no for an answer when it comes to feeding their family.

She is reminded that even the strongest person can break under too much suffering, and learns that Tsunade-sama might be the strongest woman alive but her heart is not and that sometimes duty is not enough.

Kakashi learns what her sensei looks like under the Hokage hat — very good — and she learns that as you grow older the lessons that you learn are less straightforward and obvious, and more subtle. She learns how to be alone and that she isn’t alone, not really, and that however much her heart might hurt it can also heal.


Four

Kakashi is thirteen when she learns that maybe, just maybe, being a girl is not actually as terrible as she once suspected. She comes to this reluctant conclusion under the combined influence of her female Nara relations, Kushina-nee-chan, and the boys close to her age.

Hitomi-ba-chan and Neechan and Yoshino-nee spend time bullying her into kimono and civilian garments and kunoichi armour — they are all ninja, after all, and aren’t trying to make Kakashi go unarmed — and showing her how to be a girl who is also completely kick ass and terrifying. Since Kakashi is personally terrified of all of them, this works fairly well.

“If you end up spending your whole life in a unisex combat rig, that’s your choice, Kashi-chan,” Hitomi-ba-chan says calmly, “but it should be your choice, not because you’ve never known anything else. Just like with being a ninja, you need to know the rules of being a woman if only so you know which ones you’re breaking and why.”

Since this is frustratingly reasonable and the kind of logic that appeals to Kakashi’s sense of the perverse, she endures. Additionally, these lessons are not like the hated kunoichi lessons of the Academy; there are no drills in flower arranging or how to speak softly like a civilian woman.

Cooking lessons are practical and usually involve several obasan and oneesan who talk about their field experiences and about men — and, for a few of them, women — and Kakashi learns very quickly that if men are openly perverted, women secretly are.

“Akio-san? I’ve been on that ride — did he do that thing? With his tongue and —”

“Absolutely! Why do you think I took a second go?”

“I don’t know why people think Nara men are too lazy for sex — they avoid work, not fun, and if you think sex is work you’re probably doing it wrong.”

“Shikadai —”

“Oba, please, he’s my uncle.”

There are lessons in poison — and if poison is a woman’s weapon it’s because they are usually the ones doing the cooking and oh look, isn’t that a convenient way to administer something that causes a fatal heart attack? — and basic iryo-ninjutsu though Kakashi is ahead of the curve there thanks to her teammate. All the ways to hide weapons in seemingly harmless clothing, and the difference between the fashionable but useless kunoichi garments and proper armour, and how to tie a battle kimono so you can kick someone’s ass without flashing them — unless you plan to use that as a distraction technique in which case, go ahead — and, though Kakashi has thus far only grown up and not out, she learns the best ways to bind a chest for combat and movement without compressing her own ribs or straining her back.

“And pray you never grow to Tsunade-hime’s size,” Yoshino-nee shook her head. “It might make men drool, but it’s a good thing that woman is a iryo-nin or she’d have a permanent back injury.” Kakashi goes home and tries very hard not to think about the Legendary Sucker’s legendary proportions.

She is given her first taste of sake —

“Always drink with other women around, Kashi-chan, at least until you build up a tolerance; a drunk woman is too tempting a target for some men.”

— and several blunt conversations about sex, more suited to a jounin than a five year old genin.

“Never be ashamed of wanting something, Kakashi-chan, unless it hurts other people. Sex isn’t as sacred or profane as people like to make out. Mostly, it’s messy and ridiculous and fun.”

“If you do it right!”

“Of course, Kushina-san. And you aren’t less entitled to pleasure than a man, or required to pretend you are. If someone wants to seduce you honestly, that’s fine, but that nonsense about overcoming a woman’s natural modesty is just stupidity and male ego talking.”

“Unless it’s roleplay — but that’s another conversation.”

So was masturbation, and Kakashi vowed to never think of it again —

— for about six months.

“Don’t hesitate, Kakashi, if someone tries to take what you haven’t offered,” Hitomi-ba-chan tells her one day while they practice combining shurikenjutsu with senbon. Kakashi finds she prefers the bo-shuriken to senbon as they require less precision and have more stopping power, but the slim needles are better for poisons and easier to slip through a ninja’s guard.

“What if he’s a civilian — or a Konoha ninja?”

“He doesn’t deserve your sense of duty or camaraderie,” Oba-chan says flatly. “Anyone who takes that step isn’t an ally, or an innocent — they’re an enemy, Kashi-chan, and a kunoichi deals with an enemy swiftly and without hesitation.”

And if Kakashi still prefers her uniform pants and vest and her dark shirt with mask — sometimes, when she isn’t on duty, she might wear a purple shirt and mask instead of black, and a pair of long shorts instead of baggy shinobi pants that still have pockets for her ninja tools, and maybe she finds a pair of jade fang earrings that her father gave her mother and has Rin-chan pierce her ears for her.

So Kakashi decides that being a kunoichi is not a dark fate; but that she would prefer to be a woman to a girl because women are terrifying and strong and badass, and girls are weird. Even Rin-chan, who is nearly eighteen now and actually a grown-up, and a great iryo-nin and completely lethal with her Mystic Palm Technique, was once a weird girl who blushed over stupid things and had stupid crushes on boys based entirely on whether they were cute rather than smart or strong.

And Rin-chan was never as bad as a fangirl — Kakashi has seen them in the village and around the Academy, and even in the lower ranks. They squeal and giggle and blush over boys who don’t even know they exist and wouldn’t care if they did and they fuss with their hair not because they can’t quite get the senbon or wire imbedded in it to lay right but to make it look good and —

— and Kakashi will just keep being herself until she is old enough to be a woman instead of a girl, thanks.

But the main reason that Kakashi decides to be female — is because the alternative is it be a boy, and that is a fate worse than death. If girls seem to get better as they grow up — boys get stupider. A ten year old male is foolish, but tolerable. A thirteen year old? Kakashi does not know how they manage to walk without tripping over their own feet.

“They get over it eventually,” Kushina-nee-chan laughs.

“Most of them,” Mikoto-nee-sama says dryly. “Though it takes longer for some of them.”

“Like Obito-baka?” Because her teammate might be a chunin and have a Sharingan and even beat Kakashi in a spar half the time now — but he’s still complete stupid when it comes to Rin-chan who loves him despite being way too smart for him and is just waiting for him to say something.

Come to think of it, Rin-chan is stupid too — why is she waiting, instead of speaking up?”

“I’m going to enjoy your first crush, Kakashi-chan,” Rin-chan mutters when Kakashi tells her as much. “Just wait — then you’ll understand. And I will laugh and laugh and laugh.”

“If I act half as stupid as you and Obito-baka, I’ll deserve it,” Kakashi says, and then gets to practice combat with a skilled iryo-nin who wants to kill her.

~~~~~~

When she is thirteen, Kakashi finally gets taller than a sack of rice; so much taller, in fact, that she has to relearn how to move and fight and not trip over her own feet. Bruises from training blend with growing pains, and in short order she is as tall as Rin-chan and taller than any thirteen year old in the village.

Rin-chan complains bitterly about now being the short one; Kakashi takes some pleasure in the fact that she now has a much longer reach and that only half of the ninja she meets muss her hair. Minato-sensei is still tall enough to do so, and often does, as does Jiraiya-sama, who is in the village less and less but who always lets them know when he returns to tease his student and check up on his friend’s daughter.

This is also the year that Kakashi learns that ignoring someone? Is a great way to ruin someone’s day.

“Hatake-sama,” the Head of the Kimura Clan says as he approaches her in the Council hall. “My son, Jirou.”

Kakashi is reading The Infinitely Gutsy Shinobi, and she already knows how this conversation will go — she is a genius, after all — so she props her chin on her hand and glances over at then man — a civilian, though the Kimura do have shinobi among them — with one lazy eye. “Hmm?”

“Ah — well, I just wanted to introduce you. You know,” Kakashi looks back to her book, “um — Hatake-sama?”

“You say something, Kimura-san?”

“Yes — my son —”

“Jirou.”

“Yes.”

“What about him?” The son in question is about Obito’s age and handsome in a soft, civilian kind of way.

“Well, I hoped to introduce you.”

“You have. He’s Jirou, I’m Kakashi.”

“I mean —”

“She knows what you mean,” Shikadai-oji drawled nearby, “and she finds it troublesome.”

From the corner of her eye, she can see Kimura flush slightly, and Jirou’s eyes gleam slightly.

“This is the part where you offer him as a potential husband in exchange for some of the Hatake Clan’s wealth — since I’m not really using it — and, in your case, the farmland to the east of the village that abuts the Kimura Clan’s own tenanted land,” Kakashi flipped a page lazily. “And then I say no, and you try to persuade me, and in the end you leave, angry, and I don’t get a chance to finish my book before the meeting. Right, ojisan?”

“Sounds right.”

And then Jirou leans down and says, “There are all kinds of persuasion, Kakashi-chan,” and strokes his fingers along her wrist —

— and screams when she stabs a senbon through the webbing between his thumb and finger.

Don’t touch me,” Kakashi snarled darkly, and her uncle is right there and if people sometimes complain about how lazy the Nara are they should be grateful because Shikadai is standing at his full height and there is nothing laidback in the hand he fists in Jirou’s shirt.

“Kimura-san, what a shame you’ll miss the meeting while you take your son to the hospital,” the Nara Clan Head says in a cold voice. “That hand should really be looked at.”

“That little bitch just attacked my son!”

“That kunoichi just defended her space from a man who touched her without permission,” Mikoto-nee-sama says with spinning red eyes, “and not one person here will disagree with her actions.” She glances at the civilian Clan and Guild Heads and, though most of them would like to get their hands on the Hatake lands and money, they know a losing proposition when they see it.

However differently some people treat kunoichi and shinobi —  in Konoha, a woman’s right to chose and to defend that choice in enforced by ninjas who wield sharp blades.

Jirou clutches his hand and whines, twisting in her uncle’s grip. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it!” Shikadai-ojii dropped him in a heap.

“Your son has more sense than you do, Kimura-san — follow his example.” As the two men flee the room, Kakashi slid her senbon back into the hem of her vest and then turned another page. Because they were ninja, none of the people around her commented on her shaking hand or asked if she was okay; Shikadai-oji sat close enough for her to feel his body heat, slouching deliberately.

It would be awhile before Kakashi was bothered by ambitious civilians or ninja again.

~~~~~~

She meets Maito Gai for the first time when she is thirteen. As Gai is . . . Gai, and at fourteen is even worse than he will be as an adult, it goes something like this:

“Ah! A beautiful blossom of Konoha! I, Maito Gai, will protect this Youthful bloom with my very life! If I fail, I shall die; if I succeed, you shall be my girlfriend!”

Kakashi kicks him through a stone wall; being Gai, this only encourages him.

“Ah! What Youth! I must train harder! Only when I can best this blossom in combat will I succeed in winning her heart!”

“Kakashi-chan — I have run around the village two hundred times, and broken three hundred trees with my Youthful taijutsu!”

“Did you say something, Gai?”

“Ah, Youthful Kakashi-chan, I see that you are performing your katas! I will complete mine twice before you are finished! If I fail, I will run around the village four hundred times! And if I fail that, I will run five hundred laps on my hands! And if I fail —”

“Hmm? What was that, Gai? Oops — late for training with Sensei.”

“Gah! No! Kakashi-chan — I will sway your Cool and Hip Heart with my Youthful Vigor!”

It will take her five years to beat Gai’s sense of romantic chivalry out of him — he is nothing if not persistent — and teach him that she: finds it insulting that he thinks she needs protecting, is not a festive prize to be won playing a throwing game, and is not and never will be interested in him. Learning this will make him a more reasonable companion and an interesting sparring partner though still very . . . Gai.

Anything, even climbing the Hokage Mountain with her thumbs, is better than hearing Gai call her a beautiful blossom of Konoha — or make reference to his Youthful anything.

~~~~~~

When she is thirteen, Kakashi learns a lesson that she already knew but hadn’t necessarily applied yet: that the most power shinobi are still human. She knows that her mother, Jiraiya-sama, Tsunade-sama, and Sensei and Kushina-nee-chan are all people, fragile and human and real despite their powerful jutsus and famous names — but that’s because she knew them as people first and fearsome shinobi second. It’s only when she’s thirteen that she learns to take that knowledge and apply it to the other ninja she meets.

This is a lesson that she will remember as her own reputation grows; as the Silver Wolf is spoken of in whispers that grow into a legend, as the people of her own village go from wondering how a child, even a genius, could be a jounin to bowing their heads respectfully as she passes and no longer meeting her eyes. When she faces shinobi so powerful their own comrades fear them, who grin and expect her to quake, she will remember that they are as human as she is.

It is spring in Konoha when Kakashi wakes, the seals around her land stirring. The barriers placed on the Hatake compound were laid even before the walls were, in the early days of Konoha, and between all the blood used to lay them and the chakra they have absorbed over the last century, they have grown sensitive and aware.

The one who crossed them is familiar, but not; has been here before, but not in some time. A friend — but dangerous. And they have gone to the Hatake Shrine.

Barefooted, armed, and with Daichi padding silently beside her, Kakashi follows them through the morning twilight.

The Hatake burn their dead, as many shinobi clans do, so there is no need for a graveyard. Instead, there is an outdoor shrine in a quiet part of the gardens; a pair of sakura and a sakaki tree stand guard and offer shade to the stone kamidana and an okami statue. A pool and a rock fountain provide coolness even in the height of the Land of Fire’s summer, along with a pleasant sound to aid meditation or comfort.

There is a pillar of stone, bearing the names of those who are gone. The stone and the names upon them predate Konoha, a legacy of the clan from the Warring Clan Era. The stone is a dark obsidian known to come from the Land of Iron, and is a tribute to the fact that the Hatake were once samurai and not shinobi.

There is also a low stone bench, which is currently occupied —

“Orochimaru-sama.”

The Hebi Sannin turned to face her, and his face is oddly solemn. Normally he wears a faint, mocking smile, as if the whole world was a performance that only he understood.

It will be many years before she knows what he sees when he turns towards her voice; a young woman in a simple sleeping yukata, with her face bare and her long silver hair lose. Tall, though not yet approaching the height of her parents, and awkward with growth; too long limbs and too sharp bones, proof that no matter how much she eats, her body burns it with growth and training. With the faint morning mist and the large canine at her side, not even the scar across her eye or the glint of a kunai that rapidly disappears up her sleeve can diminish her otherworldly look.

Orochimaru-sama will not say anything emotional or poetic, when he speaks of this morning; there will be no mention of looking like a young wolf kami or of saving anyone as the Hebi Sannin has never needed saving. He will simply tell her that her timing was fortuitous and her words somewhat wiser than he expected from someone who was young and who had had Jiraiya as an influence.

But then, he says only: “Your colouring is all from your mother, but your face is much your father’s, especially around the eyes. I hadn’t noticed, with your usual mask.”

“I have Kaa-chan’s jaw,” Kakashi says, a little stupidly, because that wasn’t what she was expecting.

“Yes, and it’s all the more obvious for the way you usually cover it up, but your forehead is all Satoshi. Which makes sense, as he used his brain,” Orochimaru-sama said dryly, “while Sakumo followed her instincts and her heart. You, from all that’s said of you, actually think your actions through.”

“You knew them both. I knew you and Kaa-chan were friends, but I didn’t realize they both were.”

“Some people would say I don’t have any friends.”

“She called you ‘kun’,” Kakashi explained, remembering the day her mother had interrupted her team training to say goodbye, accompanied by the Sannin. “Kaa-chan was pretty formal with strangers — which always surprised people.”

“They expected another Inuzuka in all but name.” The Sannin nodded at her companion. “Daichi.”

“Orochimaru. You look tired.”

“I do wonder why those who work with dogs are seen as rude and informal,” he mused. “Oh, wait.”

Kakashi chuckled and finally approached the kamidana, clapping and bowing properly. There is no need to light incense; a stick is already burning. The scent is more floral and fruity than the byakudan she usually burns, but the jinko is pleasant. The kamidana has been cleaned, too, though Kakashi makes a note to replace the ofuda soon and return later with offerings for the shrine and the okami. She pats the okami statue on the head in a move that would give a priest conniptions, and then reaches out to brush her fingertips over the names of both her parents.

“Why here, instead of the Memorial Stone?” she wonders, dropping onto the ground, cross legged.

“One is public, the other private.”

Very private, since it’s on Clan land. “You’re lucky that you’ve been through the barrier before; it can be nasty with intruders.” The Sannin looks so disdainful that she grins. “Sannin or not, the barrier seals were laid even before the village was built.”

“Yes, and the Senju are not the only Konoha clan who married a Uzumaki.”

“Unfortunately, the Uzumaki’s famous chakra reserves didn’t pass down the line.” Kakashi’s reserves are only average, and she relies on her superior chakra control to make the most of them. “Jiraiya-sama left again? Damn, I was going to harass him into teaching me that shadow manipulation jutsu of his.”

Orochimaru-sama frowns darkly for a moment, before his face smooths out. “That’s a Toad Art, child.”

“Yeah, but if I know how it works I might be able to make a version more like the Nara Shadow Arts, which I can use.” Absently, she begins braiding her long tail of hair. “Well, he’ll be back — and he won’t see a naked woman until he shows me.”

“That is the only way to get anything useful out of the pervert — interrupt him. Why do you assume he’ll return?”

“Because he always does — this is home.”

“Foolish girl,” he snaps, “Tsunade and Jiraiya walked away from this place. Not everyone is so loyal to a village that hurts them — not like your mother, who died for people who rejected her over a single mistake, and even now would never properly respect her sacrifice.”

“They did turn on her,” Kakashi said. “Not not all of them. Not the Nara, or the Sandaime, or the Sannin; and if some of her comrades rejected Kaa-chan, there were others who stood by her. And Tsunade-sama might have wanted out of village, but she took a piece of it with her in Shizune-san, and even though she might not be able to heal people, she’s still passing on her skill.”

“And Jiraiya?”

“Sensei says that he provides more intel to Konoha than the entire Intelligence Division — even his books contain coded intel. You can love something, even if you aren’t around.” She cocks her head. “Why are you still here?”

‘We’re taught loyalty to the village above all else.”

“We’re also taught that shinobi kill their emotions but none of us actually manage it,” Kakashi points out. “And we’re taught loyalty to our teammates; it’s easier to be loyal to people than an abstract concept. That’s why the Hokage is the village — he’s real, not an idea.”

The Hebi Sannin frowns at her. “You are an irritating child.”

“That’s what Obito-baka says when I’m right — well, he says that I’m an annoying know-it-all, but it’s the same thing.”

“I’ve been working on a project,” he explains. “A long term one, that’s just about to enter a new phase. Tell me,” he said abruptly, “if you could have a powerful kekkei genkai, one that allowed you to become a stronger shinobi, would you take it?”

“Am I born with this, or is it acquired?” Because Kakashi wasn’t stupid, and Orochimaru-sama was a scientist.

“Acquired.”

“I suppose it would depend on the circumstances but — no, I don’t think so.”

“Not even if it gave you reserves to match your ninjutsu knowledge?” He asked intently. “Or a doujutsu that would let you learn even more of them?”

“What, like the Sharingan? Obito-baka has that, and I still know three times as many jutsu as he does. Besides,” she added, “even if I were to acquire something like that through my own strength, like a trophy of battle, and even if being able to use it required intelligence and hard work and skill — people would say that it wasn’t really my abilities that made me strong.”

“You would be the one to wield it — to master it.”

“That wouldn’t matter — people always look for a reason that a kunoichi isn’t really that powerful.” She shrugged her braid over her shoulder. “They already do it with me: oh, she knows so many jutsu, but only because she remembers everything she reads, or of course she’s strong, what do you expect from a clan child? Or even: I’d be that strong if I trained that hard — just wait until she’s old enough for other things to matter. Because it’s not like I still need to train hard, or make the effort to read and master all those jutsu, or like I sacrificed the time I could have been playing as a child to train — though Kaa-chan always made training a game when I was little.”

“So, you would turn down a powerful tool — because people would credit the tool, and not you, with the strength needed to wield it?”

“My strength needs to be my own, or I’ll never reach my goal — to be feared and respected without the amendment of ‘for a woman’ attached. That’s why I cover my face, and train, and wear a plain uniform. Look at your team, Orochimaru-sama; you and Jiraiya-sama are respected and feared as shinobi. Tsunade-sama is respected as an iryo-nin. People look at her face and her chest, and talk about her bloodline — and only fear her once they’ve seen her strength firsthand, and even then,” she added, “they speak of her strength after everything else.”

“And if you are judged as not female enough?” Orochimaru-sama asked softly. “What then?”

“Huh.” That’s not something that she’s thought of before. “You mean — that people will think I’m not female if I’m not girly?”

“People prefer for others to fit into categories — simple ones that make sense in their worldview. Women who act like men aren’t women, but they also aren’t male. Men who are too pretty, who use a kunoichi’s tricks because they work, or who don’t really see any difference between genders except in how people perceive them —”

“If they can’t fit into one spot, and they won’t fit into the other,” Kakashi murmured, “then they must be wrong — it can’t be because the categories are wrong, or lacking.” And that puts a little more about the Hebi Sannin in perspective. “If I don’t fit into the slot people have made for me — a female who is a ninja, therefore a typical kunoichi — I have to make my own space, that fits the shape I make.”

“Do you think that’s easy, child?”

“No.” Gray eyes meet golden ones. “But if life isn’t hard, it’s because you’re dead.”

“I see.” Orochimaru-sama studied her for a moment, and then smiled slightly. Unlike all the other ones she’d seen him wear, this one wasn’t mocking. “Burn jinko every once and awhile; your father favoured it over the byakudan your mother used.” She nodded. “Goodbye, Kakashi.”

The Hebi Sannin is gone before she realizes that he’d used her name and without honorifics; something he only seems to do with equals. Most people, including Sensei, get a ‘kun’ or ‘chan’; those older than him get a precisely accurate ‘san’ or ‘sama’ in a sweet tone. Only his teammates and her parents are spoken of or to without the use of an honourific in a way that is intimate, not insulting.

~~~~~~

The third of the Sannin vanishes from the village; by the time night falls, his home and labs are dark and empty.

“We must declare him a missing nin,” Danzo-san declares at the next Council meeting. It is the first time Kakashi has seen him do more than murmur suggestions to the Sandaime, and the first time he has been present at all since Sensei became Hokage and chose his own advisors.

“We didn’t do that with either of his teammates,” Sensei says flatly. “And doing so won’t make him come back on his own; in fact, it will make him too resentful to ever return. As it stands, all three Sannin are welcome here as they wish. Perhaps, they will return in their own time.”

“You sent word to Jiraiya-sensei, Minato-kun?”

Sensei nodded at Hiashi-sama’s question. “Yes, and he’s seen Orochimaru — they’re both on their way to see Tsunade-hime. Sensei hopes they’ll travel together, at least for a while.”

“Orochimaru has information which is too dangerous to be allowed out of the village.”

“They all do,” Tsume-nee-sama said dryly, “and I wish anyone who wants to take on all three Sannin to gain it the best of luck — and a respectful funeral.”

“Danzo-san refers to a large amount of intel on his actions that Orochimaru-sama left for me,” Sensei said gently. It’s his most dangerous tone, and around the room, ninja sit at attention. “As well as an experiment that Danzo-san has interest in. Orochimaru-sama indicated that he’d reached the point of human experimentation — and that he’d destroyed several key pieces of research, left the rest for the use of the iryo-nin as he feels it will be of use to them, and made sure that any information that Danzo-san had on his research was thoroughly destroyed.”

Danzo-san looks furious, dark eyes boring into Sensei. “Minato —”

“You’re dismissed, Danzo.” The doors open. “Incidentally, ANBU will escort you to Ibiki. He has questions for you before you’re charged with crimes of war.”

After the meeting, Sensei asks her to stay behind. “Do you know what Orochimaru was working on?”

“It was on kekkei genkai, wasn’t it? He was trying to induce them in people artificially.” Sensei blinked. “I figured it out from something he said.”

“Of course you did.”

“He was pretty obvious, actually.”

Sensei sighed. “He had samples of kekkei genkai DNA — including the Uchiha and the Senju — and Danzo had promised him as many human children to experiment on as he needed, as long as the survivors were given to him for his secret ANBU unit — which was closed down long before the Third War. Orochimaru destroyed some of the samples, and took others with him. Including the DNA of your parents.”

“Why?”

Sensei pulled a letter out of his robe. “Because, while he promises to give up kekkei genkai  research — he hasn’t stopped trying to perfect the Nidaime’s jutsu to restore the dead to life.”

Kakashi hummed slightly. “That’s — disconcerting.”

“Apparently, he hopes you will meet your goal before he manages his.” Sensei gives her a Look. “Start talking, Kakashi-chan. And don’t leave out the details.”         

~~~~~~

At thirteen, Kakashi learns to lead missions instead of just run them; she learns to go in the field without Minato-sensei, who is now the Yondaime and rarely leaves the village, and though she often works with her team, sometimes they are split up as their different skills are needed for different tasks.

“Wait — the kid is the team leader? I’ve been a chunin for seven years!”

“And she’s a jounin, Taka-san.”

“On paper, yeah — but come on, she’s just a kid.”

Kakashi also learns to make people eat these words by being better and faster and stronger than they are, and not by punching them in the face as her preference is.

And, occasionally, by challenging them to a spar, and proving herself better than them by punching them in the face.

She is reminded that Kiri nin are a huge pain in her rear, and teaches a few lessons of her own. Namely — don’t try to kidnap a member of Team Minato for any reason, much less because you want to seal a bijuu in them and release it on Konoha. Especially when one of those ninja can reorder your internal organs with a pass of her hand, one can control a bijuu with his eyes, and one has a small grudge against people from Kiri who carry stupidly big swords, more ninjutsus than a Uchiha, and a Sensei and a Neechan and a perverted Oji who make most fuinjutsu users look like toddlers finger painting.

Kakashi racks up her first Swordsman, shatters the seals that the Kiri nin are using to contain the Sanbi as well as protect their little mountain outpost, and teaches a whole bunch of water users that making things wet around a lightning user is just stupid; Rin-chan ruptures tendons and hearts and severs brainstems while growling about everyone always thinking she was the weak one, dammit, and she needed a mask or weird hair or a ridiculous weapon to make her look more intimidating. Obito-baka sets the Sanbi lose on a cavern full of Kiri ninja who regret their life choices, all of them.  

All three of them — including Rin-chan — get slapped with A ratings in the Kiri Bingo Book and stupidly high bounties on their heads. Rin-chan is thrilled; Minato-sensei congratulates them, tells Rin-chan and Obito-baka that they should study for the jounin exam, and grounds all three of them.


Five

When she is fourteen, Yuu decides that it will do Kakashi some good to have a puppy to take care of; Isamu sulks for days, until he is reassured that he is not being replaced and that not only will he be Kakashi’s Aniki — he was born six months before she was — but also the puppy’s big brother.

The Inuzuka iryo-nin tells them that Yuu is having not one, but three puppies. Daichi proceeds to be very smug.

Kakashi is on her way to the Inuzuka compound for Yuu’s checkup when she hears a whimper. Isamu looks around, confused, and Daichi and Yuu go on alert. The female summons barks once, and her mate darts off obediently with Kakashi following; she has learned what Daichi already knows, which is to obey when a pregnant female tells you to do something.

The puppy is tiny, with a flattened face and soft brown fur. Daichi sniffs carefully and licks it, then tells Kakashi he’s safe to pick up. “He’s not hurt, just young. Not even fully weaned.”

“Was he abandoned? I mean, he so small — a runt?”

“Don’t think so,” Daichi disagrees as she removes her mask to wrap the puppy in — he’s so small that he fits easily in the small length of fabric. “I think he’s just a small breed. Not all ninken are as big as us, you know.” Daichi’s head comes up to Kakashi’s chest, despite her rapid ascension.

“We aren’t far from the Inuzuka compound — maybe he got out and got lost?”

“We’ll find out.”

The Inuzuka clansmen on duty at the gate are surprised by Kakashi’s bundle. “Your ninken isn’t due to whelp yet, surely?”

“This one isn’t Yuu’s —” the summons leans against Kakashi, who corrects, “she didn’t birth him,” a pair of ninken bark with laughter, “we found him. Is anyone missing from the kennels?”

“Not that I’ve heard,” Inuzuka Momoe said, glancing at her ninken partner, who rose and darted off, “but we’ll check in case there’s someone missing that we haven’t noticed yet.”

“Since you’re going to the clinic anyway, you should take him back,” Nobuo added, “but maybe stop by the main house? Alpha will want to know, and she knows all the puppies.”

There is a girl and three identical puppies — still fat and clumsy but starting to look like proper canines — playing in the yard before the main house. The girl is a ninja-in-training, about eight, and has to be Tsume-nee-sama’s daughter.

The puppies take one look at her ninken, tense — and fling themselves at Isamu, who has dropped down to the ground where they can reach him better.

“Haimaru!” Hana-chan shouts over the high pitched puppy barking and Isamu’s playful growls. “I’m sorry! They’re just puppies, but since there is three of them, they think they can take on the world.”

“I hate to tell you this, Hana-chan,” Kakashi sighed, “but they don’t outgrow that.” Daichi headbutts her and trots off to supervise the puppies as they chase the massive Isamu across the yard only to ‘catch’ him and tumble all over his back.

The girl sighs. “I was afraid of that.”

“Is your mother home?”

“Yes, Hatake-sama! Please, come inside,” she glances at her small ninken, “they’ll be alright?”

“Daichi has experience with rambunctious puppies,” Kakashi drawled. “Isamu is his son.”

“He babysat you often enough too, Kakashi-chan,” Yuu chortles. “And you were worse than Isamu.”

Hana-chan gives her a look that says she shares the pain of an older, experienced animal companion that doesn’t hesitate to embarrass you with stories of your childhood in public — Kakashi has met Tsume-nee-sama’s ninken — and leads them inside.

“Kaa-chan!”

“Coming, pup.”

Kakashi hasn’t seen Tsume-nee-sama in more than a month thanks to her recent mission schedule, and she’s surprised when the older kunoichi appears. The Inuzuka Head looks the same except for a little bit of softening in her jaw line but her scent . . .

“Congratulations, Tsume,” Yuu offers.

“And you,” the woman laughs, “three this time, right? My sympathies.” She grins at Kakashi. “Never been around a pregnant woman, have you, Kashi-chan?”

She has, but only strangers and a few Nara clanswomen who she didn’t know very well. “Never someone who’s scent I’m already familiar with.”

“Should get used to it, pup. Post war boom,” she explains, “Between all the nin who are home from being out in the warzone, and the return of peace and prosperity — and all the celebrations — there’s usually a glut of babies born in the few years right after a war ends.” She pats her daughter’s head. “Speaking of babies, where are yours?”

“Playing with a bigger baby,” Kakashi said. “Daichi’s keeping watch.”

“That’s fine, then, Sakumo did a good job with all her puppies,” and Kakashi does not flush and why is she maskless? Time to start carrying spares. “Now, who’s this?”

“We found him on the way here,” she hands over the stray; Hana stands on her tiptoes to see over her mother’s arm.

“Hmm — not one of ours,” Tsume-sama judges. “We have some of the smaller breeds — these giant piles of fur are great trackers and attack ninken, but hardly subtle and there are a few Inuzuka who are,” she chuckles; her Clan is known for their fierce natures, which match their chosen companions. “But I know there aren’t any pugs currently, and certainly no puppies.”

Kakashi sighs. “So much for that.”

“We’ll take him to the clinic to get checked out, and I’ve got room in the kennels —”

“Not necessary, thank you, Tsume,” Yuu states.

“Do I get a choice?” Kakashi asks.

“No.”

“You know, Yuu, when you said I needed experience training a puppy — I was expecting one, not four.”

They are nearly to the clinic that the Inuzuka run for all the village animals — Hana has returned to her puppies and Isamu is suddenly a lot more cheerful about the prospect of siblings — when a hand grabs onto the long tail of hair that hangs past her waist.

Kakashi channels her chakra — not her lightning nature or White Chakra, this is home territory — through her hair. It’s harder than doing so with her feet since hair has no circulation of it’s own and is technically dead, but she’s had a lot of practice. A male yips behind her and there is a thud.

Tsume-sama turns and starts snarling.

There are four boys gathered around a fifth on the ground, all Inuzuka from their clan markings, and all about her age. They all flinch from their Clan Head.

“Stupid brats! What, you’re shinobi now, and have ninken, so you’re all big shots who can sneak up on older and wiser ninja? Bark and posture and show off to get a girl’s attention? Are you trying to get yourselves killed? You might have gotten a kunai instead!”

“But —”

“Or I might have used my nature affinity — lightning,” Kakashi mused. “Good thing I’m off duty, and there’s no ninja wire. Not only does it cut, but it conducts chakra.”

“And you’re lucky that Hatake-sama’s,” Tsume barked sharply, “summons are better behaved than you lot — or did you really think you’d snuck past me, a jounin, and four ninken undetected?” They flinched. “Kennel duty — all five of you — for a week. Scat!” Hands on her hips, she watches them scatter. “Little idiots.”

“Boys,” Kakashi sighs.

~~~~~~

When Kakashi is fourteen she ends up raising four puppies and makes the acquaintance of her hormones by way of a crush. If not for the fact that the latter is played out in public, it would probably be the easier of the two.

Minato-sensei has rotated his guards — the others grew far too panicked when he ducked out of his office to play with — ahem, train — his team — and Shiranui Genma is one of the visible members of the Hokage’s detail. He is also tall enough to scrub a hand through her spiky hair, and does so every time he sees her.

The first time he does so, she blushes behind her mask; Genma-san doesn’t notice. His friend, Namiashi Raidou, does and looks away with a smile.

Minato-sensei, of course, sees the whole thing. And tells Kushina-nee-chan.

“Oh, Kashi-chan has a crush! How adorable! Aww, look at her blush!”

Minato-sensei fails to see the direness of her suffering, and does nothing to stop his wife from pinching Kakashi’s cheeks, or to help her avoid Genma-san. In fact, he summons her to his office more frequently, even if they are only going to a training yard and Kakashi could definitely met him there, honest, Sensei, she wasn’t Obito-baka and always late!

“Training, Kakashi-kun?” Genma-san scuffs her hair — she never enters Sensei’s office unmasked now — and chuckles. “What is it today? A new, ridiculously powerful jutsu? Or are you guys just going to blow up another training field?”

“Both, Sempai,” she mutters. It is a Team Minato tradition to play — train — with exploding tags and all the derivative seals. As a result, Kakashi has a thigh pouch full of tags for everything from distracting puffs of smoke, poisoned gas, and explosions that could collapse a small castle.

Sarutobi-sama, now retired, who once scolded them for this, now only chuckles. “As Minato-kun is the one who now does the paperwork to have the fields repaired,” he puffed on his pipe, “you may destroy all the fields that he cares to.”

“Leave her alone,” Raidou-san chuckles.

“Why? Teasing the kohai is part of our duties, Raidou-kun! Especially the ones who will be able to kick our asses before too long — we need to get our teasing in now!”

“I can already kick you all over a training yard, Sempai,” Kakashi huffs. “Does that mean you have to stop?”

He grabs her in a headlock; Kakashi barely noticed his knuckles on her skull, too busy dealing with the fact that all the blood in her head had rushed to her cheeks. “Is that a challenge, brat?”

She substitutes herself for Raidou-san, which only works because neither expect it, and then leaps onto the top of a cabinet and crouches there. She looks like an irritated cat, and knows it, with her hair a mess and her eyes narrowed.

Minato-sensei laughs as his guards blink at each other in surprise. “Did she just —?”

Damn.”

“Training field 10,” Kakashi names one near the Hokage Tower — Sensei will want to watch, “In one hour.”

She spends an hour sparing with Genma-san, and learns several new tricks, gets very sore, and manages to dump him in a small lake she makes with a water jutsu. It doesn’t end her crush, but it does make it easier to live with.

~~~~~~

Kakashi learns that Tsume-nee-sama is right — it seems as if every woman she knows is soon pregnant. This is an exaggeration, of course, but it doesn’t feel like it when Yoshino-nee and Yamanaka-sama and Akimichi-sama and several other Clan Heads or their wives all announce pregnancies; there are other Nara oneesan and obasan in various — and occasionally alarming — states of pregnancy, and kunoichi at the Jounin Station gossiping about overprotective husbands and fussy iryo-nin and swollen ankles and other things that Kakashi does not hear because shunshin. The Inuzuka compound is full with puppies and new babies and pregnant bitches of four and two legs and once, Kakashi passes by the maternity ward at the hospital and never again

Because they are a ninja village, and because kunoichi can use jutsu and pills that control fertility, even babies are organized so that the village’s forces are not diminished; though Kakashi notices a slight uptick in her mission schedule, it’s minor and due as much to her increasing reputation as to the fecundity of her colleagues. Pregnant and recently delivered kunoichi take shifts at the mission desks and the Academy and the various posts normally held by injured, retired, and nin who have left the field; the desk ninja are thus freed to take guard and courier duty and those ninja take C-ranks in their turn.

And while some women retire to become mothers and housewives, it is because they chose to and not because they must; far more are on maternity leave than not. The Nara Clan, true to their strategic minds and lazy natures, all but raise their children communally, and the Inuzuka, like their companions, are pack-natured — there is always a handful of adults around to take care of the children of parents on missions, and the favour is returned without hesitation.

Mikoto-nee-sama — who is also pregnant and only smirks when people ask her if Itachi’s sibling with be a full or half one — has ignored her Elder’s dire warnings of declining traditions and established a Clan creche. The village has a similar, larger one, so that kunoichi and single shinobi fathers of civilian backgrounds or smaller clans can manage.

Kushina-nee-chan laughs when Kakashi asks about her childcare options — Sensei’s wife is also pregnant, and Kakashi has learned to be wary of being grabbed and made to ‘Feel that? See, he’s moving!’, and is also reluctant to trust the ANBU guards with Sensei’s wife and baby especially since she has managed to ambush them twice. Minato-sensei tells her to stop undermining ANBU moral and if she’s that bored, does she need him to find something for her to do? The ANBU Commander tells her that if she wants to spend time crushing the egos and professional pride of his troops, she should join and get paid to do so.

“Kashi-chan — babysitting is why I have you and Obito-kun and Rin-chan!”

“No, Neechan — babies are weird. Let Rin-chan do it, she actually likes them.”

Yoshino-nee-chan sighs. She is stroking her belly, which looks both uncomfortable and improbable. Kakashi is careful to keep her distance. “Kashi-chan, you think everyone is weird.”

“Not everyone — some people are stupid instead.” She tilts her head, adding, “a few can be both at the same time — like Gai.”

“You should give him a chance, Kashi-chan! He likes you!”

“So?”

“Give up, Kushina-chan,” Mikoto-nee-sama chuckles. “Besides, she’d kill him in a week.”

“Why would I bother? It would be easier to trick him into doing it himself in one of his challenges.” For some reason, this makes all three kunoichi laugh.

There’s a little whine, then a yelp, and suddenly a seething mass of furry bodies is tumbling towards Kakashi, begging for attention. In seconds, she has a lapful of puppies.

“Aww! See, Kashi-chan is good with babies!”

“These are puppies, Neechan,” Kakashi retrieves Pakkun, the little pug, who likes to lord his, very temporarily, greater size over the other three. “Puppies are cute and fuzzy and smart and they learn quickly and become independent before they’re even a year old.”

“Babies are cute!”

“No,” Kakashi states. “They aren’t.” She has been presented with several examples in the recent months, and considers her opinion on the matter to be solidly based in fact.

Despite her stance on babies versus puppies, Kakashi sees a great deal of babysitting in her future. Not only for her cousin’s child and Sensei’s baby —

— but for Rin-chan as well.

“Took you long enough,” Kakashi tells an ecstatic Obito-baka, and makes him flush. “Let’s hope it takes after Rin.”

“Congratulations, Rin-chan!” Sensei hugs her warmly, then gives her a stern look. “Shouldn’t an iryo-nin be a little more responsible with her birth control?”

“Sensei!” Obito-baka wails.

“I was — distracted, Sensei.”

“Good thing the baka learned to stop fumbling his kunai —” Kakashi ducks a gout of flame and throws a handful of shuriken and ninja wire at her teammate, nearly electrocuting him but for his substitution jutsu.

“Kakashi-chan!” Minato-sensei shouts. “Who told you — how do you — a young girl shouldn’t say such things!”

“Ninja, Sensei,” she drawls, deflecting a shuriken and flinging a handful of kunai in return. “Also, a jounin, and not a child.”

“You’re only fourteen! Pure and innocent —”

“Didn’t you make your first kill at seven?” Obito-baka mutters and tries to decapitate her. She shrugs and kicks him in the air, then leaps above him to try and land an axe kick.

“You know what he’s like when he gets like this — and since you two are all grown up and debauching each other, and Kushina-nee-chan only has so much patience right now — I’m the lucky recipient of Sensei’s mother-henning.” He dodges her strike — eight years of sparring with her has made him fast — and counters with another fire jutsu; Kakashi sighs and dumps a Water Dragon on his head. “Just when I think you’ve gotten smarter — you try to take me on in ninjutsu.” He might have the Sharingan, but Kakashi knows and can use more ninjutsu than both her teammates combined.

“ — corrupted by bad influences and filthy-minded shinobi —” Minato-sensei continues as Kakashi and Obito-baka try to maim each other. Rin-chan has taken a seat on a stump and started reading a scroll, immune to insanity after all these years.

“ — obviously, this is Jiraiya-sensei’s fault.” Minato-sensei finally wraps up as Kakashi finally manages to land a solid blow and pin Obito-baka long enough to wrap him in ninja wire; he knows very well that with her primary affinity, she can toast him in a heartbeat. “And the presence of Genma-san — he’s a degrading influence in your life, Kakashi-chan.”

Genma’s name startles her enough for Obito-baka to escape; Kakashi growls and summons her canines.

All of them.

Obito-baka is swamped by three massive bodies and four tiny, wriggly, furry ones who he can’t risk hurting even a little because Kakashi will kill him dead, and succumbs to the most dreaded jutsu in her arsenal — Puppy Kisses. Kakashi frowns at Sensei. “You aren’t making any sense, you know; you were the one who gave me porn.”

“It was a human sexuality textbook!”

“There were pictures of naked people in it, Sensei — even before Jiraiya-sama added his own notations to it.” It’s a lie, of course, but Minato-sensei is so horrified and speechless that Rin-chan agrees that Kakashi wins for the day.

~~~~~~

So of course Kakashi has to get a pornographic book — who cares about age restrictions when you’re a jounin and a Clan Head and also, henge — and read it in front of Sensei. Because she is a vindictive person who takes pleasure in psychologically pranking — it’s only torture if you mean it — everyone around her, she makes sure to use Jiraiya-sama’s new novel, Icha Icha Paradise, and pulls it out for the first time in a Council meeting.

The results are as glorious as she hoped; considering the reactions, and how little effort on her part it takes to get them, Kakashi has found a new distraction tactic.

The books aren’t bad, either.

~~~~~~

“Shikamaru,” her cousin tells them when he presents his son and the future Nara Clan Head.

“One day, the Nara are going to run out of deer names,” Kakashi tells him.

“By then, enough of us will be dead that they can start reusing them.”

“He’s beautiful,” Hitomi-ba-chan says. “Kakashi, come here.”

War trained instincts battle with deeply ingrained obedience; flee, and suffer the consequences, or take it like an elite ninja? Fleeing has appeal; surely she can outrun Oba and Yoshino-nee for the year or so it will take them to calm down?

“Now, Kashi-chan.”

Reduced to a child by her aunt’s stern tone, Kakashi faces her fate and finds herself with an armload of red-faced Nara infant; true to form, he’s already asleep.

“Well?”

Confident that, as long as she’s holding her cousin, Hitomi-ba-chan won’t hurt her — huh, maybe babies aren’t completely useless — she answers honestly: “He looks squished and red and weird.”

“You’d be squished, too, brat, if you tried to fit through —” Kakashi starts singing the bawdiest ninja song she knows to drown out Yoshino-nee-chan’s words; it earns her a laugh and a pinched ear.

“You know, you were a baby once,” her uncle drawls.

“You can’t prove that.”

“I was there, brat.”

“Your evidence is insufficient; hearsay is inadmissible in a court of law.”

“Come to think of it,” Tsume-nee-sama muses out loud at the next Council meeting, “I’m not sure the brat wasn’t actually a puppy like Sakumo said; she grew up twice as fast as a baby, was independent and dangerous before being even half grown —”

“She bites,” Shikaku-nii, sitting at his father’s side, said dryly.

“It was your own fault, Niisan, you were holding the last dango.”

“I didn’t think you’d bite it out of my hand, troublesome cousin. She was five,” he explained.

“Since you’d have five years to get to know me, you have no excuse, Niisan.”

“ — not to mention all the hair,” Tsume-nee-sama chuckled.

Kakashi lifts her book — a completely different book on Yin Release mastery, but wrapped in the cover taken from Jiraiya-sama’s book. She hardly needs to reread books thanks to her eidetic memory, but pretending to do so is worth the effort; every time Minato-sensei sees the bright cover, he vows to hunt down and kill his perverted sensei.

“She rolls in the mud, too,” her cousin says, and slides deeper in his seat to duck her bo-shuriken.


Six

Kakashi turns fifteen during a mission which, considering her lifestyle, is neither a surprise nor the first time.  

The part where she’s in the process of overturning a political coup, rescuing a deposed daimyo from public execution, and generally performing the kind of mission that only ninja in movies actually take part in.

As an adult, Kakashi will look back on this mission, and decide it was something of an omen as it would be the first, but far from the last, time she saved a nation or rescued a member of a ruling family.

It starts with a B-rank escort mission for a merchant caravan. It ends with Kakashi shoving a Raikiri through the heart of the Oyabun of Shimogakure.

It’s a long mission.

“So,” Obito-baka states. “The caravan we escorted was actually weapons and supplies for an attempt to overthrow the Daimyo of Shimo no Kuni, allowing the head of their hidden village to usurp his place — thus making the Land of Frost a military power which, one supposes, will soon rival the Five Great Nations.”

“That will last until Kumo decides that it won’t tolerate any competition and wipes the whole country off the map,” Hyuga Hizashi murmured, as soft spoken as most of his clan. “Anyone with the brains to conquer a nation should be able to see that.”

“Conquering is easy,” Kakashi drawled, “especially when your own military force is behind it; the daimyo only had a single barracks of his own samurai, and eight shinobi guards. Guess who they were more loyal too? Any decent force of shinobi could overthrow a single castle — it’s the aftermath that’s the problem. Conquered people are disinclined to be ruled by their conquerors.”

“Hence the public execution of the Daimyo, his sons, his council, and anyone else who resists — all in two days,” Sarutobi Masahiro, a young chunin of the Sandaime’s clan sighed.

“A tremendous waste of life that might incite fear in the populous, but will hardly stop the Raikage,” Hizashi-san added.

“Haven’t you figured it out?” Kakashi looked up from her mission scroll. “Konoha ninja escorted weapons into the capital of Shimo no Kuni, and we’ve been lingering, waiting for an audience with the daimyo, in that same city. Because the mission requires us to see Hisakawa no Kita, the Daimyo of Shimo no Kuni, and receive his signature and stamp on our mission scroll as proof of completion.”

“It looks like Konoha supported the coup,” Obito-not-a-baka sighed, “which Takayuki is hoping will make Kumo hesitate long enough for him to consolidate his power. Not even Kumo wants, or can risk, another war so soon.”

“It’s almost smart,” Kakashi acknowledged, “except for one thing.”

“Which is?” Hizashi-san asked. “It seems they thought of everything.”

“Our mission isn’t complete until the scroll is signed — not by the Daimyo, and not by Hisakawa no Kita — but by someone who is both.” Obito started laughing. “And, since I never fail to complete a mission, we’ll just have to make sure that he survives and is returned to his throne.”

“You — I don’t care how good you are, Hatake — there’s an army of ninja between us at that goal,” Sarutobi-san shouts.

“Only a small one.” Her teammate keeps laughing, even when he has to catch himself from falling out of the tree — helped by Kakashi herself — while Hizashi-san and Masahiro-san gape at her like she’s insane.

~~~~~~

“You’re insane, Hatake,” Masahiro-san growls, deflecting kunai and flinging his own as they fight through the daimyo’s throne room. “How did you make jounin?”

She flicks her wrist and three Shimo ninja dodge her shuriken only to be wrapped in ninja wire; lightning chakra races along the hair-thin metal and through their bodies. With a yank, all three come flying towards them — and catch a rain of kunai and shuriken before they can reach the two Konoha ninja.

“Like that,” she drawls and pushes forward. Three Konoha jounin and an experienced chunin against some of the best a small shinobi village can muster. Good thing the ninja don’t get hung up on fairness like samurai — or she’d have had to make one of her team sit this one out.

“What are you doing, shinobi?” Takayuki, the Oyabun — soon to be former — of Shimogakure and almost but not quite Daimyo of Shimo no Kuni, tries a reasonable tone. He’s on the raised dais of the throne room, surrounded by a diminished force, and holding a kneeling daimyo at swordpoint. “Will you really risk a war with Kumogakure over the leadership of a small nation of no concern to you? When the Raikage hears —”

“ — he’ll realize the same thing we did, Takayuki — that you tried to play politics with the Great Villages, and lost.” Obito drops into a kneeling position just as Kakashi takes a few running steps, using his back and her chakra to boost herself in the air. She lands within the circle of Takayuki’s men and catches his sword blade on her White Chakra Sabre before he can behead the daimyo. “Really, Takayuki, how long would it have taken Ei to see through your subterfuge? A month? A week? It doesn’t matter, really, because you made a fatal mistake early on.”

“I overthrew a nation,” he snapped.

“A small one,” she amends. “And you know — technically, so did I, with only three ninja instead of a village full.”

“I’ve always wanted to overthrow a despotic ruler of a broken land,” Obito-baka shouts over the sound of more bodies hitting the floor. “Thanks, Kakashi-chan!”

“Consider it a baby shower gift, baka.”

“Great,” Masahiro huffs. “Now the insanity is catching.”

“You’ve never met Minato-kun in person, have you?” Hizashi-san asks. “Kaiten! Honestly, I’m surprised even one of them turned out reasonably normal.”

“He means Rin-chan,” Kakashi tells the kneeling daimyo calmly. “Though I’m not sure normal is the right description. She eats kimchi and peanut butter together over tofu.”

“She’s pregnant!” Obito-baka shouts.

“Her choice of boyfriends is suspect as well.”

“Hey!” Takayuki snaps, “Military coup in progress — surely that trumps your insane team dynamics?”

“This? Please, we kept up a running dialogue while turning a bijuu lose on Kirigakure ninja and laying waste to an entire hidden mountain complex. Honestly, Takayuki, your men barely rate putting down my book.”

“The great elite ninja of Konohagakure,” he hissed, “just like all the other Great Shinobi Villages — ha! Great? By whose measure? You think you’re so special, lording over other hardworking shinobi, claiming all the glory and the recognition!”

“This is the part where he explains his long held grudge and the reasoning behind everything he’s done and intends to do,” Kakashi told Hisakawa-sama, who looked less frightened and more — amused? “If you really want to, we can listen, but I tend to find this part rather boring myself.”

Takayuki goes red with rage and snarls something; behind her there is a large thud, like something large and flesh-like had fallen to the floor.

“You were right, Kashi-chan! Deus ex machina in the form of a powerful summons, right on time!”

The oyabun smiles widely, which falters when Kakashi’s eyes disappear in a smile. “Predictable, Takayuki.” Behind her, there is a fierce snarl several deep barks. “Alright, Yuu?”

“Just fine, Kashi-chan! Daichi needs a bit of exercise anyway.”

“And to think, Hisakawa-sama, that all of this might have been avoided if Takayuki had simple written the mission request with a clearer head, and not been a cheapskate.”

“Oh?” The daimyo not only has a sense of humour, but he recognizes his cue as well. “Please, Jounin-sama —”

“Kakashi, please.”

“ — Kakashi-sama, then; You would not tell me that Takayuki was so foolish as to underpay ninja of your calibre?”

“Alas, he did class the unwitting support to an attempt to usurp Hisakawa-sama’s throne — as a B-rank mission.” She sighed and gave Takayuki a disappointed stare.

Hisakawa-sama closed his eyes. “Ah, Kakashi-sama, I regret the insult to the honour and skill of yourself and your fellow ninja. Perhaps this oversight might be corrected? So that Konohagakure may rest easy with the knowledge that Shimo no Kuni has proper respect for the ninja of the Leaf?”

“It’s always best to settle such things diplomatically and in good time,” Kakashi acknowledged. “But, Hisakawa-sama, I must insist that this mission be classed as no less than an A-rank, out of respect for the suffering you and your family have undergone. Anything less would devalue the risk to your life these last few days have been.”

“Please, Kakashi-sama — my children were involved. As a devoted father, I could not let your actions be considered less than an A-rank with special circumstances!”

Takayuki, faced with the dissolution of his plans, attempted to disengage their swords; Kakashi kicked him in the elbow, sending the watashi flying.

“Dibs!” Obito-baka called.

“I regret that I am not surprised the Takayuki lacks the manners to wait until we are finished, Hisakawa-sama.”

“No sense of diplomacy, I’m afraid; I’ve long despaired of him for that very reason. So, we are agreed? A-rank, plus?”

“Some things can’t be taught, I fear. Agreed — though, I must note that I saw several missing ninja not affiliated with your nation during today’s . . . exercise,” Kakashi tilted her head and scratched her chin. “I think that Takayuki might have recruited them to increase his numbers. The bounties . . .”

“Should any ninja — who are not of Shimo currently — with bounties have been killed by you or your men, then you are free to claim them,” Hisakawa-sama conceded swiftly. A sensible man, really. “We will, perhaps, consider that a bonus for the — efficiency— of your work.”

“Agreed.” Kakashi hauled the daimyo to his feet. “Now, about completing this contract —”

“Someone with such a fine sense of diplomacy will surely understand why I might wish that a ninja from a powerful village carries out this duty.”

Takayuki drew a kunai and tried to drive it in Kakashi’s spine; she spun, dodged his blade, and drove her lightning coated hand through his chest.

“Why was it better for you to kill him, rather than have him executed?” Obito asked.

“Baka — the Daimyo still has to be able to rule over Shimogakure. If he executes their leader, some of the ninja there will be resentful — even willing to seek revenge.”

“But a foreign ninja completing a contract is someone safe to resent from a distance,” he realized.

“He’s still a work in progress,” she told Hisakawa-sama, “but he learns eventually.”

~~~~~~

“A-rank mission pay, six bounties — one for each of you, and a second each for Kakashi-chan and Obito-kun —”

“We let him strike the killing blow; babies are expensive.”

“ — thank you, Kakashi-chan. Kumo has increased your threat rating and your bounties —”

“Congratulations, Kashi-chan! That puts you over five million ryo!”

“ — a standing offer for all four of you, should you wish to join Shimo or the Daimyo’s personal guard —”

“I did ask him not to include that in the letter he sent you, Sensei.”

“ — and . . . an offer of an alliance between the Hatake Clan of Konoha and the noble Hisakawa Clan of Shimogakure through marriage?

“I don’t know if that was the Daimyo’s idea, or if his son was that enamored of Kashi-chan in his own right, but he tried really hard to sell it to Kashi-chan. Maybe Hisakawa-sama thinks you’ll encourage her to accept, Sensei.”

The Fourth Hokage sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Hizashi-kun, I had some hope you might be a . . . civilizing influence during this mission.”

“The Sage of Six Paths couldn’t keep your brats civilized, Minato-kun; though Hisakawa no Kita seemed very impressed by their diplomacy.”

Sensei glanced between Obito-baka and Kakashi. “Diplomatic?”

“Kashi-chan did negotiate the mission fee while holding an oyabun’s blade away from the man’s neck. I was almost impressed myself, and I knew her mother.”

“Anything to add, Sarutobi-san?”

“That the daimyo might have offered for her himself, if he was younger and she was older, and that I never want to run a mission with any of them again.”

Minato-sensei sighed again. “Get out of my office, all of you. Kakashi-chan, you’re grounded — you too, Obito-kun.”

“I’m twenty years old!”

“I saved a country, Sensei, I think you owe me dinner.”

~~~~~~

Her fifteen year started unusually; she learned that however old you get someone will scold you for being reckless, and that Sensei was a big worrywart and that Obito-baka was still a baka.

Fine, the last two she already knew, but they bore repeating.

Politics was messy, and often backed by bloodied blades; the Great Nations weren’t the only ones with dramatic rivalries and deep currents of power — they were just the most visible. And, always make sure you held the trump card, especially when you knew your opponent had slid one up his sleeve.

Never, ever watch a pregnant woman eat, or you will never feel hungry again.

Babies were still less cute than puppies and —

— to love is to make sacrifices.

~~~~~~

“Does pregnancy make people insane?”

“Emotional, yes; Mentally ill, no,” Rin-chan answered Kakashi’s entirely rhetorically question.

“Thanks, Rin-chan,” Kakashi said dryly. “Kushina-nee-chan — no.”

“Please, Kashi-chan — I need you!”

“You’ll have a whole team of healers!”

“But I don’t know any of them, and Mikoto-chan is too close to giving birth herself and so is Rin-chan and thanks to security concerns I can’t have anyone else — but you’re a jounin and you know more than most about sealing,” the redheaded kunoichi explained in a rapid torrent of words, “so, even though everyone will know it’s a lie, I can say that you’re there for security and an extra set of hands —”

“Neechan, don’t say hands when you’re talking about giving birth! What if someone wants me to hold something? Or —”

“You’re a killer-for-hire and a soldier, Kakashi-chan,” Rin-chan sighed. “Labour should not make you this squeamish.”

Kakashi gave her a narrow-eyed stare. “At some point in the next two months, your vagina will stretch so much that something the size of a large grapefruit will pass through it.” Rin-chan went a little pale. “You’re a iryo-nin, Rin-chan; labour shouldn’t make you think squeamish.”

“Bitch.”

“Slut.”

“I prefered it when you both thought the other was some kind of alien lifeform,” Kushina-nee-chan muttered. “Kakashi — please.”

Kakashi could think of a dozen other things she’d rather do than be in the room with a woman giving birth, and ten of them involved stabbing or being stabbed with sharp objects. The other two involved fire.

But Kushina-nee-chan had dropped all pretense of humour; the strong, beautiful kunoichi just seemed . . . scared.

“I’m going to regret this forever.”

~~~~~~

Kushina-nee-chan was screaming and the baby was screaming and the air burned with chakra and there was blood splattered across the birthing chamber and spinning red eyes behind an orange mask and Kakashi palmed two kunai and dodged a sharp blade while trying to stay between Kushina-nee-chan and this traitorous Uchiha sonofabitch

“I’ll rip that creature out of you, woman, just like the brat was yanked out of your belly —”

— and threw one of the tri-pronged kunai right into the ground distracting the bastard long enough to get under his guard —

— Kushina-nee-chan lashed out with a Chakra Chain, only one she was weak and still bleeding from labour and —

— Kakashi smashed the orange mask and sliced through his left eye with a single blow and now he was screaming in pain and rage and blood red eyes were blood red for real —

“Mongrel bitch, how dare you!”

“Try me, you half-blind bastard.”

— more flames the fucker loved his fire jutsu but Kakashi was the daughter of Nara Satoshi and wielded all five elements and had spent ten years learning to fight the Sharingan and she cast a water jutsu and shunshin’ed behind him —

— he spun to meet her and a clone emerged from the steam where fire and water had met and when he dodged away from her blade it was straight into the clone’s —

“I am Madara, little girl! You think you’re a match for me?”

— lightning chakra coated her hand and White Chakra turned her kunai blade bright white —

“Yes.”

— and slashed at the other eye, cutting and cauterizing in one as a vicious blow sent her into a wall so hard she saw stars —

“Stay away from my baby!”

— and she spat blood and lunged again —

“Persistent little bitch, I’ll kill you for good this time.”

— and flung the kunai into the ground, summoning Sensei, as she slid out of the way of more flames —

— a flash of yellow and a hair to slow to turn away from another blow and the world went dark —

~~~~~~

Konoha was burning and the Kyuubi wasn’t just a demon it was a kami and with every twitch it reshaped the world and smote fragile human life.

“Get out of here, Kakashi!”

“Sensei, no! Let me —”

“Kushina is dying, Kashi,” Sensei grabbed her shoulders. “She’s dying and there’s no one else who can hold the Kyuubi.”

“Naruto — she’s just a baby!”

“Exactly — the full chakra of an unsealed Kyuubi would kill an adult — unless they were a Uzumaki. The seal — I showed you it.”

“The Eight Trigrams Seal,” Kakashi half-stumbled as the earth shook; Gamabunta had just thrown the Kyuubi into a mountain. “You wanted to alter Neechan’s seal.”

“I can use it with Naruto — but I have to weaken the Kyuubi first.”

“Gamabunta — “

“No.”

“The Shinigami will eat your soul, Sensei!”

“I know.” He managed a faint smile. “Kakashi — do you think it was a coincidence that Kushina and I made sure you know our secrets? The Uzumaki Clan secrets? You’re her godmother, Kakashi, and that’s why you need to get back and safe.” He cupped her cheek. “I need my student to live, so she can take care of my daughter.”

“But —” She shook her head. “Jiraiya — Rin and Obito —”

“They have their own child and —” Sensei looked out over the village grimly. “Who knows if they’ve even survived this. You’re a Clan Head, a jounin — you answer only to the Jounin Hancho and the Hokage.”

If Obito and Rin were gone, and Sensei and Kushina would be, and kami only knew who else — “Let me do it — Sensei, I can —”

“This is what it is to be Hokage,” he said softly. “This is what it is to be a parent, and no parent or sensei or Hokage would ask their soldier or student or child to do what they could do instead.” Her vision blurred. “Promise me, Kakashi; promise me you’ll stay safe and take care of Naruto.”

“I promise, Sensei.”

He kissed her cheek gently. “I love you, Kashi-chan, and I’m so proud of you.” He vanished in a yellow flash.

As the Kyuubi disappeared from the village, Kakashi let the tears come.


Seven

Kakashi managed to wash some of the blood and soot and dirt off her skin and hair and change into a new uniform before the Council meeting, but was very nearly late as a result. Considering she’d spent hours digging survivors and the dead out of rubble, she considered the few minutes to be necessary.

“ — we kill it, will the Kyuubi die with it?”

“No,” Sarutobi Hiruzen said cooly from the Hokage’s seat. “The Kyuubi cannot be killed; not even if you kill Naruto.

“Then what do we do with it?”

“How about you all shut up and let the Sandaime speak before you start asking questions,” her cousin snapped. Kakashi had been to see Shikadai-oji already; he would heal, and even walk again, but his days as a shinobi were over. He was still more fortunate than others in the clan, and the Nara compound had been damaged in the attack.

The Hatake compound had fared better, losing only part of a wall and an older house that had seen better days. There were already refugees, mostly pregnant women and young children, settling in the remaining buildings

“Seconded,” Tsume-nee-sama snarled. “I want to get this over with, sleep until I wake, and then go back to work. Drawing this meeting out won’t do any of us a damned bit of good.”

“Neesama,” Kakashi strode into the room instead of her usual slouching shuffle, “I saw Hana-chan when I stopped by the Inuzuka lands; Isamu is helping her take care of the puppies long with the other kids who aren’t genin. That screaming monster you call a son was fine too.”

“Kashi-chan,” Tsume-nee-sama managed a faint smile. “Hana was born to organize things. The other ninken?”

“The puppies are at home, distracting a bunch of orphans who are too young to help under the care of several older Academy students; Yuu and Daichi are taking turns helping in the village.”

“I’ll send some of the unpartnered ninken over to your place; they aren’t another set of hands, but they’ll be helpful if you’re compound is going to be a refuge centre.”

“Thank you, Tsume-sama.” The woman snorted; she wasn’t much for formality. “Sarutobi-sama,” she couldn’t quite bring herself to call him Hokage yet, “is that Naruto?”

The aged Shinobi no Kami rocked the bundle in his arms. “Yes; we were just about to discuss Naruto when you arrived.”

“That’s not necessary; I’ll take my goddaughter now.”

Even an old shinobi could be surprised; Kakashi nipped the baby from his arms while he was distracted by the shouting. Fortunately, more than one person had forced her to hold babies lately, and she was a quick learner. She soothed the baby as she took her seat.

“What are you up to now, troublesome cousin?”

“Nothing at all, Shikaku-nii; I’m just taking care of Sensei’s baby, like he asked me to.”

Sandaime-sama sighed after the shouting was over. “I intended to keep that a secret, Kashi-chan.”

“With respect, sir, that’s my choice to make.”

“Why would the Yondaime seal a monster in his own child?” a civilian merchant elected to the Council demanded.

“Who would you trust — a stranger, or your own blood?”

Kimura-san stared at her balefully. “A Clan should not be allowed to claim the jinchuriki — it gives them too much power.”

“I’m a clan of one — now two. Besides,” she smiled faintly, “are you questioning my right to honour the obligations between the Hatake and Uzumaki Clans, and between sensei and student?”

Several Clan Heads shifted; doing so would set a precedent that none of them wanted to see.

Hyuga Hiashi glanced over at Kimura and then away, dismissively. “The Kimura Clan Head has a bias against Hatake Kakashi that has been noted before. His objection should not stand.”

“Agreed,” Inoichi-sama nodded. “Everyone knows how close Kakashi-san and her sensei were — if Minato-kun chose his teacher as a godparent, it stands to reason that he would make his student one as well.”

“Kushina-chan agreed,” Mikoto-nee-sama nodded.

“What good is the word of a Uchiha,” someone asked. “Didn’t one of them set that monster loose on us?”

Naruto made a mewing noise and Kakashi patted her back. “Mikoto-nee — anyone in your clan lose one or both eyes to a kunai last night?”

“No,” the older kunoichi said, confused. “There were several injuries and some still missing — including Obito-kun, as you know — and two people suffered eye wounds from debris, but that’s all. Why?”

“Because the Uchiha that killed Sensei and Neechan wasn’t from the village then.”

“What?” Mikoto-nee-sama was just one of the people on their feet, but she was the only one Kakashi cared about right this moment. “Kakashi-chan, what are you saying?”

“I’m saying I know what a Sharingan looks like, and the bastard who attacked Kushina-nee-chan had it — and I slashed both his eyes with a kunai.”

“There have been no such injuries reported at the hospital or any of the field hospitals,” the Head Iryo-nin, Yakushi, reported.

“If it helps,” Kakashi offered, knowing very well the chaos she was unleashing and content to do so if it distracted everyone from Naru-chan, “he said that he was Madara.”

Shikaku-nii gave her one sharp glance as the room erupted.

~~~~~~

The baby had been washed and changed and carefully examined and sniffed by all her ninken and the puppies; Kakashi lay her in a small cradle that a Nara had delivered earlier.

“Just you and me now, Naru-chan,” Kakashi whispered.

Yuu nosed the sliding door open. “Your female teammate is here, along with your oba; the Inuzuka Alpha sent five dogs over, and they brought several baskets of food for you. I checked your sensei’s house earlier — it’s intact and the seals are working, so you can retrieve their belongings later. A Hyuga delivered a bundle of clothes and diapers, and the Uchiha head sent a few of the puppies too young for harder work to help with the people staying here. And you are not alone, you stupid pup, unless I count as furniture — and if you say one word about a rug —”

Kakashi laughed, wiped away a few tears, and rose to see her family.

 

Eight

When Kakashi is fifteen, she learns anew about grief and loss; about the helplessness of being able to change fate and being made to let go, no matter how much you wish otherwise. She learns to wield her power as an elite jounin and Clan Head on behalf of others, and gains a child.

She learns to change a diaper, feed an infant and, thanks to her experience with puppies, wake every two hours to do so. She learns to juggle a child, and training, and helping Rin take care of an infant and a wounded Obito, all while working to repair the village and take care of its refugees.

She becomes even more famous, having killed the leader of a shinobi village; the Silver Wolf in truth. She gains a niece, Sachiko, and has to relearn how to spar with Obito-baka now that he has gained his clan’s most powerful doujutsu; being trapped in rubble, unable to help as people die, makes an excellent substitution for killing your closest friend, apparently. Leave it to him.

She gains enemies, too; not everyone is happy with a jinchuriki being under the control of a young genius. For a time, people are too busy with recovery to make any trouble, but that last only until the rubble is cleared and the dead are buried. But Kakashi has the Nara and the Inuzuka and her teammates as backup, and the other shinobi clan heads, if not all their kin, agree that she is the best for the job and, anyway, no one can tell one Clan Head how to manage the obligations and debts she owes to another clan.

She learns to wear an ANBU mask without it obstructing her sight or breathing, and learns that the ANBU Commander is correct — ANBU will hone her to a sharper edge, and be the hardest thing she’s done. He is also right in saying that she will likely leave before too many years, and that her village needs her for as long as she can give.

She learns what her clan home sounds like filled with noise; with the sounds of women and children and the injured but mobile who stay in the Hatake Compound while their homes are rebuilt, the cry of babies and the running of children. She learns what it sounds like less full, as people empty out, but a handful of orphans too old for the overflowing orphanage, but too young to live on their own, stay with her. Academy students or new genin, these children have been scattered amongst the clans who will take them, helping those who are helping the village recover do the same. They are fragile and brittle and afraid; all but one, Anko, is newly orphaned, and Kakashi tries not smother them with attention while also not leaving them to their own devices; she remembers all too well the death of her mother.

She learns just how loudly a baby can cry, and how fast they learn to crawl, and then how fast they are period. Puppies still grow up faster, but human children are surprisingly capable of finding trouble. Especially when there are several young dogs who have yet to outgrow a puppy’s mischief to help.

Pakkun learns not to encourage Naru-chan, or he gets to sleep outside.

She learns that the Sannin will return, at least for a while, when the village is suffering, and that grief has trouble overwhelming you when you are too busy and too tired for emotions.

~~~~~~

When Kakashi is sixteen, she learns that toddlers are faster than infants. She spends a great deal of her sixteenth year running after a child who is too short to be that quick.

She learns what happened to Danzo’s Root ninja when Sensei executed him — they went to ANBU, the only life they knew, and proceed to creep out the other ANBU soldiers. Kakashi learns, and teaches a number of others, that the best way to get an emotional reaction out of people who had killed their emotions, was through anger or sheer, bloody-minded irritation.

Kakashi excels at provoking both reactions.

~~~~~~

When Kakashi is seventeen, Naru-chan learns to talk. Her first word is one of Obito-baka’s favorite swears. Obito-baka learns to regret this, and also that his babysitting privileges have been temporarily revoked. He also learns that Kakashi told Rin-chan.

Naru-chan’s second word is doggie. Her third is ramen. Her forth is kaacha. This, Kakashi learns, demonstrates her position in Naru-chan’s life.

No comes later, but when it does. . . it comes often. And loudly.

~~~~~~

By the time she is eighteen, Kakashi has learned that grief is like a broken bone: it does heal, however slowly. There might be a lingering ache under the right circumstances, and you remember how it felt, that first bright snap of pain, and sometimes the bone feels a little more fragile or stiff than it should — but it is whole, if reshaped by the experience.

Kakashi is a blade; forged, broken, and reforged of the pieces. Remade in a new form, but still a blade, honed to a sharp edge. And if life had done the breaking, and the forging — she had chosen the shape she made.

And, if people who thought that her adoption of a child marked her transformation into a proper woman and a kunoichi are disdainful of the fact that she remains entirely herself; let them. If her enemies fear the Silver Wolf less than her male comrades, they will learn better in time. Some think she is too tall, too thin, more interested in dogs and weapons than the right things; Kakashi knows her height gives her a longer reach, that what she looks like without chest bindings is no one’s business, and her dogs and weapons are more interesting than most people.

Kakashi is a daughter and a mother, a Hatake and a Nara; The Silver Wolf, the ANBU Wolf, the Yondaime’s student and teammate to Rin and Obito. She is Naruto’s kaa-chan, Sachiko Obachan, and Shikamaru’s Kashi-ba. Clan Head, jounin, prodigy; ninja and kunoichi.

Kakashi has learned much in her life, lessons small and large, sweet and painful. The most important? That she will keep learning until the day she dies.


By the time Naruto is four, she knows lots of things —  not things she is taught, like how to read kanji or hold a kunai; important knowledge that is so intrinsic to her it just is.

She knows that you will never fool a Nara, so it’s best to get them on your side, and to make sure it’s less troublesome to go along with your prank than to ruin it. She knows that no one can hurt her as long as one of kaa-chan’s dogs are nearby, and that one always is, and that Pakkun will tattle if you get him wet of splattered with paint but that Isamu and Akino will only laugh and join her.

She knows that Shika-nii is twice as smart as she is, but that he’s three times as lazy so she had to make him get up and work; that Shika-jii might have trouble getting around, but he will always tell her a story about being a ninja or when her Kaa-chan was little or teach her a better way to throw her kunai or throw a punch. She knows that Shika-ji is busy and works a lot, but always takes a nap after lunch, and that she can join him to hide from her chores or studying or after a prank or just because she wants to and he smells nice.

She knows that the Inuzuka are loud and don’t mind if she is, as long as she’s quiet around the littlest puppies or people who are hurt; that the Inuzuka compound is safe. She knows Kiba is stupid because he thinks Tsume-ba is scary when she isn’t, she’s just loud and fierce and awesome.

She knows that Rin-ba will always heal her cuts and bruises, and that she will always try to put Naruto’s hair in cute little tails like Sachi-nee, but laugh pat her head when Naruto says no, she wants to look like Kaa-chan. She knows that Obito-ji isn’t a baka, even though Kaa-chan calls him that, and that he will throw her high in the air and always catch her and will not only not stop her from playing pranks, he will help her.

She knows that Iruka-nii can always, always find her when she’d trying to avoid a bath or her schoolwork or her chores; that he will scold her for a prank but praise her for the skill it takes while despairing of her misdirected energy.

She knows that there are people in the village who don’t like her; who look at her with angry eyes and who mutter darkly under their breath, and who don’t know that her hearing is better than they realize. She doesn’t know why they call her demon, but she does know that none of them will hurt her because of the ninken and the ninja in masks. She knows those ANBU with their white masks and animal names are strong and that they know Kaa-chan, and anyone who knows Kaa-chan knows that she is dangerous and strong.

She knows that Kaa-chan isn’t her real mother, or at least not her first one; that she had another, and a father, and that both were strong and smart and that they are dead. She knows that, even if she doesn’t know much about them now, she will one day because Kaa-chan promised and she always keeps her word. Naruto also knows that even though Kaa-chan isn’t her first mother, she is her Kaa-chan.

But the most important thing she knows is that Kaa-chan is the strongest ninja ever, stronger than the Shikas and Tsume-ba and Obito-ji and Rin-ba and Iruka-nii and all their clans and all the other clans; stronger than the ANBU and Hokage-jii and everyone. And Naruto knows that, one day, she will be as tall and strong and smart as Kaa-chan, and be able to throw a hundred shuriken and run from one end of the Elemental Nations to the other and use a sword and breath fire. One day she will have a special name, and a team, and even summons of her own; and even if she is as strong as Kaa-chan, Kaa-chan will still be able to make her do something with a look, and know when she’s done something wrong, and will still love her.

She knows that she is Uzumaki Naruto, and that one day she will be Hokage, and be the strongest and fastest — after kaa-chan. Dattebane!

 

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Author:

I have spent more time in fandom than in real life in the last decade. I'd offer cookies and a speech about joining the dark side, but if you found me here you've probably drunk the kool-aid already.

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