When Kakashi wakes up he is somewhat surprised that he wakes up at all.
Not too much, because by now he's used to the strange feeling of waking up when you were sure you were going to die. It's actually pretty much a part of the job description.
The surprising part would be that he's not in the place he last remembered. Neither is he in a hospital, medical tent, or even any form of shelter. On the other hand, he's not tied up in some interrogation room or prison cell either. No enemies, no allies, just grass and the cheerful sound of birdsong.
The little wounds he had received in his most recent battle seemed to have completely disappeared. This is odd – because there are no bandages on his body and no signs that a comrade, or anyone, had been nearby enough to treat him. His clothes are… slightly different, but they still fit him well and they carry his own scent. Checking his weapons, he notices that his kunai pouch contains three more kunai than it should have. What's even stranger than any of this, and much more alarming, is that there's no Icha Icha book in any of his pockets.
He stands up and looks around. "Alright. This could be… a bad thing." He states out loud.
Because yes, something had definitely gone wrong when he used his Mangekyō Sharinganon on that enemy jounin. The man had been strong (at least for a random jounin he'd never heard of) and more than that, slightly tricky. And Kakashi had been alone – one against three (even if the other two jounin were nothing special) so he'd felt it was best to end it as quickly as he could.
Then that jounin had used some sort of genjutsu, but Kakashi had ignored it, because what sort of genjutsu would work against the Sharingan? But it had done something – something to his Sharingan, something to him, and he could instantly tell there was something very, very wrong even as he couldn't stop himself from continuing his Kamui attack. Space was distorted – the genjutsu interfered and… what happened?
Grass and birdsong, and Kakashi is at least seventy percent sure he isn't dead.
It's a look at his own reflection in the nearby river that gives him at least something of an answer.
There is a straight, deliberate slash through the Konoha symbol on his hia-ate.
He stares some more.
Then he mechanically rids his body of most of what he is wearing and carrying and carefully looks through all of it. In the sealed scroll he finds a Bingo Book – his own page marking him as an S-class nukenin with flee-on-sight orders.
"Ok. That is definitely different."
In his head he blames Naruto – even if his number one unpredictable student had been nowhere near him on this mission. When things go this stupidly impossibly wrong it must somehow be the future Hokage's fault.
It takes a lot to make Hatake Kakashi flinch.
After years in ANBU, losing his teammates in a myriad of horrible ways, joining Root, betraying Root and witnessing the aftermath of the Uchiha massacre he'd already felt like a hollow weapon who'd seen it all.
That was before Team Seven.
As a jounin-sensei he felt a lot less hollow, and a lot more immune to surprises. Because with Tsunade as Hokage, with Gaara as Kazekage and Suna as a close ally (who would have thought?) and with Sasuke as missing-nin, Sakura as a strong, capable medic-nin who could face down Sasori of the Red Sands and rip his heart out, and with Naruto as his own improbable self (his three students practically the second coming of the sannin!) he had adapted to the new version of reality, no matter how stupid or strange.
And now he was adapting once more.
Whatever had happened was strange and wrong in every possible way, but hardly a fate worse than death (and ANBU Inu was quite familiar with those).
So Kakashi doesn't flinch.
He could have been dead – should have been, because even if he's one of the most powerful, capable jounin of Konoha, things go wrong – even legends can die at the hands of a genin if they get lucky. Every battle was a gamble and this time Kakashi had lost.
He isn't dead.
Dead to his home, dead to his Konoha – probably, possibly, because he had tried to get back using Kamui, had managed to use the Mangekyō Sharingan on himself and figured out how phasing in and out of that other dimension worked. But it hadn't brought him back home despite his many attempts (most of them intermitted with days of recovering from chakra exhaustion) and there was little more he could do. (Because where do you even start in a situation as impossible as this one?)
Now, month later he admits to himself that for now, he's more or less stuck in this world and he decides to make the best of it. Since going back to Konoha is very much a no-no, (they'd most likely kill him on the spot – he was much too dangerous to attempt to capture alive) he goes with the hand he's been given.
He travels around and gathers information. He finds out, through his admirable ninja skills (he buys every available Icha Icha book and cries when he realizes the latest one doesn't exist here), that this world is a few years behind, but it still seems mostly the same as his – the countries, the shinobi, the history. So far all is as it should be, from his time line, except, of course, for the fact that Hatake Kakashi had abandoned Konoha three years ago (according to the Bingo Book).
As a nukenin, he ends up picking his own missions, which is actually quite nice – no assassinations on children or paragons of goodness and light and never a Fire Country civilian, no matter how rotten they are – no, he gets to choose which missions to accept, which people deserve help and which bastards deserve to die and there is something about that that he likes, even if it worries him just a little how gleefully he makes these decisions. Not a lot, because he is too familiar with the darkness in himself to really fear it.
But besides a few righteous assassinations that he might enjoy too much, he picks a lot of guarding and escort missions, because somehow that works for him best. He doesn't have a village to look after in the here and now, doesn't have his team, his Hokage, his Konoha, so he finds his own reasons and people to protect and even if it isn't quite the same, it's enough to keep him content.
But then two Leaf nin end up on the opposite side of that line – they're on a mission to stop a civilian caravan bring trade to Suna. And for political reasons, the Sandaime had signed off on the order to stop the caravan from making it there – no need to kill all involved, of course, but there was a named target; the most important of these traders and incidentally, Kakashi's client – and an order to steal or destroy the merchandise.
And this is Konoha – this is a mission from the Hokage, from Sandaime-sama, still alive in this world. But Kakashi had given his world to his client and his family, to these people, these civilians who have nothing to do with any of the political undercurrents that would lead to their deaths, and he's a nukenin now who doesn't have to take any mission he doesn't want to.
He doesn't have to side with Konoha, but it is almost instinct to follow those orders the moment his Kage bunshin expels and transfers the information it had read that mission scroll – the mission scroll with the Sandaime Hokage's mark on it.
Almost instinct, but not quite.
He stops a kunai from reaching one of the civilians and forces Raido and Genma away from the group. It's easy, so easy to stop them, even with such a major handicap – with having people to protect and refusing to use his deadliest (most of his) abilities.
But it's easy, because these two may be tokubetsu jounin, but Kakashi knows them and knows how they fight. Genma, Raido, Minato-sensei's guards, friends and comrades and he really doesn't want to fight them. But he does, as if it's just a spar, even while they are trying to kill him. He outmatches them, easily, but cannot find it in himself to do them any real harm.
So he wears them down. Defends and deflects and uses some low-chakra techniques to keep them busy, because low-chakra doesn't mean low-ranked and he is the master of over a thousand jutsu, he has enough to keep them busy for a long time yet and with his Sharingan covered, he has enough chakra to outlast them by far.
When Raido finally overtaxes himself – uses a technique that leaves him teethering towards chakra exhaustion, Genma spits out; "Who the hell are you?" and Kakashi stops moving, cocks his head to the side, frows for a moment of deliberation and then, finally, takes off the hood of his cloak.
"Maa. I'm just the shinobi hired to protect this caravan." He answers casually.
The silence in the wake of this revelation is sudden and complete – no more jutsu or kunai, just a tightening and tensing of muscles as two men stare at him in disbelief.
"What? Even a nukenin has to eat." Kakashi says, tone easy and amused.
"And you chose an escort mission, of all things, to get money?" Genma asks – and the incredulity is real, but it's not all there is to it. Kakashi knows them – knows Genma is getting involved in this conversation to stretch for time – to let Raido recover, to come up with some sort of plan or uncover something about Kakashi that will let them walk out of this alive.
And it's not-funny that Kakashi is the enemy here, the one to be weary of. So he throws them a bone, shows them a glimpse of the truth, because these are his comrades. "The pay is a bit less, yes. But escorts are actually my favorites, nowadays."
"I would have thought you'd found them boring." Raido shoots back, voice tired but firm.
"Maa. Everyone needs a hobby. It's actually quite soothing."
And maybe he shouldn't have eye-smiled at Raido like that, because the Kakashi in this world was young when he left – still in ANBU, probably, or only just out of it - and not the him he'd grown up to be after. Not the lazy, easy-going pervert but the deadly soldier who fought more fiercely than flame but who was little more than a weapon and who made the darkness of ANBU and Root his own.
Genma takes his smile as a threat and steps in front of Raido, body tense, ready for a fight, ready for death and for going down fighting. "What do you want?" the man demands, harshly. "You were just toying with us earlier, wearing us down. Why? You could have killed us easily enough. What's your game?"
And Kakashi holds himself back from what he'd normally do – from holding up his hands and giving the man that lazy smile and a 'who me?' answer. Because that would only make things worse and it's hard to see his comrades hiding their fear of him.
Instead his face is serious as he answers. "I have no desire whatsoever to kill you." He tells them flatly, straight to the point. "But I will not let you come near these people either – I've given them my word to get them safely to the Country of Wind. That is my mission, and I am not in a habit of failing them. So this is your choice: walk away and fail your mission." Kakashi throws the man the earlier pilfered mission scroll. "Or take your chances against me."
His voice is that of the ANBU Captain he once was: it leaves no room for negotiation, no way out or around it. Just take it or leave it – one last chance.
They will take it, Kakashi knows.
After a long moment, Genma nods, gathers his friend and turns around and jumps away. And no-one gives an enemy their back that easily, but all three of them know it doesn't make a difference – the two of them were always at Kakashi's mercy.
Kakashi turns around too, heads back to the caravan and knows they won't be back.
Genma and Raido are Konoha shinobi, after all, and good ones too. They know better than to take on stupid odds like that for a non-vital B-rank.
That was the first time he'd run across familiar faces on a mission in this world and he didn't like it.
After that he is more careful in selecting his missions, because he never wants to face his comrades as an enemy. It had nearly killed him to end Rin's life and that memory is enough to haunt him without adding more.
So from here on out, the missions he picks are, as far as he can tell with his knowledge from his own world and intelligence from this one, always in Konoha's best interest. Or at the very least, not against it.
He still holds to his first rule as a nukenin, though; without direct orders from his Hokage he will not assassinate any Fire Country civilian, and even if it is in Konoha's best interest he will do no harm to the little kids. Those self-made rules are enough to make him feel not like Danzo, meddling for the supposed good of all, and it also gives him something more to work towards instead of picking missions on a whim. There's more information gathering, more stealth and careful considerations and more at stake when he accepts the mission because it's not just his own honor on the line anymore, but also Konoha's benefit.
And, like all nukenin, he gains somewhat of a reputation. Surprisingly enough, though, this part of his reputation spreads through the civilian communities, amongst clients and potential clients.
He was already known as an S-rank ninja, as the Copy nin, as a highly skilled assassin. Now he is also known as a nukenin who always completes the missions he accepts – who never fails and never demands an increase in pay.
A trustworthy criminal, the word goes in certain circles and for a while he gets a lot of extra requests. Most of them come from people who are a little (or a lot) shady themselves – the gross of these missions are assassinations and Kakashi declines most of them (but not all).
In one case, where the photo of the target shows a four year old kid with sun-kissed hair and the brightest green eyes imaginable, Kakashi goes one step further and eliminates the prospective client without pause. "You're a despicable excuse for a man." He informs the dead body, his mind's eye filled with the image of an other bright blond boy; "And I don't do children." He looks up at the other men in the room, the guards, mercenaries, hired help. They watch him, gaping and terrified of the shinobi in their midst. "Anything else?" He asks. One of them manages to shake his head dumbly and Kakashi turns and leaves.
After that people are a bit more hesitant to approach him, at least for a while. Word has obviously gotten out because no-one dares to ask him to kill a child after that. Surprisingly this little hiccup also gets him a few more requests from the less shady side of life - from normal civilians who for some reason can't afford or send a request to the reputable shinobi of a ninja village, or those who were planning on asking Konoha for help, hear word of a missing nin nearby, and end up asking him instead.
He had never noticed this as a loyal leaf shinobi, but these clients usually actually do their research (well, they ask around) before they decide to hire a shinobi. He supposes that's because of their own survival instinct. They are, after all, wearier of him than of an 'official' shinobi from the village and it shows.
But more and more those brave few come forward, bolstered by tales of completed missions and a supposed love for children (that last part of his reputation is understandable considering the circumstances, but it still makes him blink in disbelief because he doesn't even like brats, not really and he's not a nice person).
These civilians want protection, for the most part, escort missions and the like. Some even ask him the equivalent of D-ranks – to use his strange, ninja powers with chores they cannot manage themselves. It's funny, Kakashi thinks, the idea of an S-class nukenin using an A-rank water jutsu to water the fields after a small draught – so of course he never refuses those missions. And it's almost… nice, to see the nervous civilians of these remote villages, unused to shinobi, become more and more at ease with the killer in their midst before he moves on to the next.
He knew it was inevitable that at some point he'd run into more Konoha ninja. He hadn't expected these circumstances.
If it's strange to him, he can only imagine how unreal the situation must be for those poor chuunin.
He can just picture it; fearless little Akahana-chan running up to Umino Iruka (because without a doubt, a child would choose him and not the Aburame, as the most trustworthy one) asking something like 'are you a ninja too?' with a great amount of awe. And when the man asks her if she knows any other ninja, Akahana-chan would inform him of someone who had just helped escort her daddy safely home and who is even wearing that same sign on his forehead.
Then the Aburame says that it is logical that if there is another Konoha ninja here, that they might ask for the help they require and that the chances of a successful mission would most certainly increase. And Iruka-san encourages Akahana-chan to lead them to him.
He plays this all out in his mind, deducing their need for help from the tired stance and injuries on the two shinobi.
Akahana rushes over to him, all bright and happy and full of innocent helpfulness and Kakashi snorts when he hears her say 'look, I found more ninja, just like you!' as if it's a gift to him.
He nods seriously to her, thanks her, and pats her head as if she's a dog – because that's how he'd always treated his genin and if it worked well enough for them, it should be fine with other kids too.
She rushes of and leaves the three shinobi behind.
Kakashi is fond of Iruka, really, so it shouldn't be funny at all to face him as a nukenin, as enemies and not comrades, but that look on his face – of realization and then dread – makes him smile beneath his mask.
He glances at the Aburame, whose blank face betrays nothing, but whose stance is suddenly tense and ready, and he can see the thoughts and calculations whirling behind that blankness. His smile stretches into a grin.
"Yo." He says happily, raising his hand in greeting.
The Academy sensei opens and closes his mouth in dismay. "You. You are…"
"Hatake Kakashi." He bows politely, because he can. "And you are Umino Iruka. Nice to meet you."
"Maa, Umino-san, that's rather impolite." Kakashi scolds lightly, scratching the back of his head as if puzzled by this strange occurrence.
"Nice to meet you." Iruka parrots, bowing mechanically. Then he blinks, shakes of the shock and backs away. "How do you know my name?" The chuunin demands, in a somewhat dangerous voice that doesn't suit him.
Kakashi waves his hands, symbolically waving the question away. "Really, that's what you're asking? Not 'What are you doing here?' 'What are your evil plans?' 'Will you be killing us anytime soon?' No, simply 'How do you know my name?' Is that really the important thing here?"
"Will you be killing us anytime soon?" The Aburame asks him without pause, voice as toneless as possible and Kakashi smiles at him, because this is what makes that clan who they are – not the bugs, but that logical frame of mind and that unrepentant bluntness; that complete disregard for social rules, awkwardness and tact.
"Not at all, Aburame-san." He informs the man pleasantly. "I have no reason to. My mission is complete and I have not accepted a new one, so I can see no conflict in that area. Will you be attacking me anytime soon?"
"At this moment, that would not be a logical course of action. Chances of success are low. Probability of failing our current mission even more likely - as we cannot do both."
"And what would your current mission be, exactly?"
Iruka frowned at him. "Why would we tell you?"
"Well, didn't you come here for help?" Kakashi says, infusing his words with as much innocence and helpfulness as he can manage. (For an ex-ANBU, current missing-nin, that is actually a surprising amount, but he's had a lot of practice during Team Seven's early days.)
"Why would you help us?"
"Konoha solidarity?" He says it like it's a joke, knows they won't believe such a simple truth at all, but really that is what it boils down to in the end. Even a year of this new, strange life does nothing to erase his loyalty to the village he had served for so many bloodstained years.
"Logically, it would make no sense for him, as a missing nin, to offer us aid. However, he would also gain nothing from deceiving us – he will not gain our trust so easily and he does not need deception to gain the upper hand. Why? Because we are chuunin, and he is an S-ranked ninja."
"See logic!" A cheerful eye-smile.
"Unless he's playing some sort of sadistic, twisted game for his own amusement."
"But sensei, I didn't know you were this distrustful. It's nothing more than me, offering you the aid of a jounin on this mission – for the love of Konoha, Akahana-chan, and kids and puppies everywhere."
The glare Iruka sends him should be considered a lethal weapon. It shuts him up.
For a moment.
"It has been a while since I've worked with a team, though." He steps forward, bows deeply and chants as innocently and happily as a child meeting their sensei for the first time; "Please take care of me."
Iruka doesn't give him the polite response.
Neither does the Aburame.
Kakashi thinks that he hasn't had this much fun in a long time.
It's true that it had been awhile since he worked with a team, but Kakashi isn't likely to forget something like teamwork. Distrustful as the two chuunin are of him, they do need him. Their charge had been kidnapped – and the group that was after her had hired their own shinobi.
Their charge is also a ten-year old. The daughter of an important family held for both ransom and revenge. This mission should have been a B-rank from the start, Kakashi thinks absentmindedly, as he leads the two chuunin, tracking the girl by scent.
When they come upon the group of shinobi, Kakashi is quick to summon a Kage bunshin before their enemy notices them. The bunshin will hide and take the first chance it has to grab the girl and get her away quickly and safely.
They attack swiftly but precisely, using the element of surprise. Kakashi could have used Chidori, could have killed one of these men before they even noticed he was there, but the girl was watching, a teary-eyed little civilian so he knocks the ninja out instead, before the man even knows he's there.
The bunshin does its job and Kakashi is left watching the two chuunin face off against the two enemy nin who are probably a high-chuunin or low-jounin level themselves. He watches the fight, intervenes a few times (only when necessary) and feels nostalgic about his days as a jounin-sensei watching with a hawks eye and a lazy slouch as his kids started fighting their own battles.
When all is done the two men are dead – only Kakashi's enemy survived. They are (were) all missing-nin like him but that means little to him when he never really considers himself a missing-nin at all.
Instead he feels more kinship to the two suspicious chuunin who he still (will always) consider his comrades.
"Perfectly safe with my Kage bunshin." Kakashi answers happily. "This way."
They follow him hesitantly, leaving a safe space between them. Kakashi is not worried at having these two at his back.
The Aburame speaks up; "You could have ended this battle sooner. Instead you let us fight them. Why?"
"Well, it's your mission. I didn't want to butt in. Would have been impolite."
"Yes, I'm sure you take politeness very seriously." Iruka's voice is more sarcastic than he's ever heard it. Who knew that the man could be so hostile under stressful circumstances?
"Maa, Umino-san – I think I'm offended. You've been the rude one today, not me."
Iruka looks quietly horrified to be scolded on manners by a nukenin, and Kakashi can't help but chuckle.
Yeah, it's not what he would have signed up for, the whole missing-nin gig, or tumbling into another dimension or time stream for that matter. But it's not exactly a fate worse than death either.
He'll make the best of it.
First of all, this is totally up for adoption or adaption. Or whatever.
Second of all. Where the heck did the present tense come from? Did I write like that before... Do I write like that? I have no idea.
So I read Hate, you say by FreshNerd and Branches by To Mockingbird, and I've been trying to find a story like… well, like this.
There are surprisingly few good nukenin stories out there, at least that I could find (and they are mostly focused on Naruto, or Sakura joining the Akatsuki and having lots of sex). But I wanted one where the ninja is still loyal, really, and well, something a bit… original, or well written.
I love peppymint's humorous Naruto focused ones, but darn it if I wasn't hoping to find something out here focused on Kakashi. Or a time traveling Konoha/Suna nin in the past. That would have been awesome too. Hasn't there been anyone who's written something like this? Seriously? Because there are soooo many stories out there, it must have been done. I just need to… find it. No dimensional or time travel required, even. (Oh yes, that reminds me. I didn't sign up for this by erimies, but also Naruto centered. And only two chapters so far…)