Taisetsuna "Precious" - Version Two

by Aoikami Sarah

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Note: The events of this fanfiction diverge from the Kishimoto plot essentially after the Zabuza arch and just before the Chuunin Exam arch. All fan-characters are property of Aoikami Sarah. This fic used to be much longer with no sign of ending. So I've chopped the continuation off and effectively 'completed' it.

.X.X.X.

Many Years Ago…

The ramen shop was packed as usual on a Friday night. The three ninja only just found room at the bar.

"Three gyuudon, please."

"Coming right up."

A nervous silence fell over them. The white-haired boy on the right tapped his un-cracked chopsticks against a soy sauce bottle.

The girl of the group's hand smacked his so fast no one saw it. "Stop that!" she hissed.

"Sorry, Oururi."

Oururi put her hands behind her head and smoothed her deep blue hair idly. She stared into space for a moment. Her soft grey eyes unfocussed.

Three steaming bowls of beef and noodles were placed before them.

Iruka laughed. "It's hard to believe you guys are nervous. It's me who should be pissing my pants. I'm the one taking the exam tomorrow, remember?" He smiled at his friends. "But you know what? I'm not nervous."

"Iruka," Oururi sighed heavily. "Would you stopped being so frickin' melodramatic? How can you set yourself up for failure like that?"

"I'm trying to be realistic!"

"Pessimistic is more like it," 15 year old Hatake Kakashi grumbled as he put his chopsticks down next to his empty bowl. "That was good," he muttered through his facemask.

"Damn! I will never get tired of how amazingly fast you eat!" Oururi clapped her hands together and marveled.

"That's just 'cause you're the only one who's seen his face for more than a second." Iruka pouted.

"Awwww…" Oururi pinched his cheeks. "IKURA is sad!" She giggled, calling him 'salmon eggs' instead of 'dolphin.'

"I RU KA!" he shouted, correcting her.

"Oururi…" Kakashi developed a large sweat drop. 'They'll never change, but after tomorrow everything will change,' he thought as he watched his friend and his girlfriend pull at each other's cheeks. 'Oururi and I are already Jounin but Iruka…' he stared at his friend. 'He will never make it.'

"Seriously, you guys," Iruka rubbed his cheek. "Thanks for supporting me. You don't know how much this means to me."

"You're never going to make it with that attitude," Oururi said before slurping up a slice of beef. "Ya big softy!" Oururi grinned and gave him a huge hug.

.X.

A year before, Kakashi had never imagined he would smile ever again. It was a few weeks after the nine tails attack. So many nin had died senselessly. War was one thing. War had a cause. This demon killed everything in its path regardless of age or ability. Konoha was very quiet. The remainder of October had been set aside as a period of mourning. The few people he passed as he headed for the bridge were dressed in the same black clothes. Their eyes sought his out as he walked by, but he didn't lift his head.

On the bridge where his team had always met, Kakashi stopped and leaned over the railing. The stream still flowed by, the birds still sang. The sun still shone, but his heart was broken. 'I can't do this anymore…' he thought. 'Everyone I've ever cared about is dead. I'll never care about anyone every again.'

"Hey kid. Don't do it," a voiced called with little enthusiasm as a set of footsteps sounded on the bridge. Kakashi looked up, but didn't recognize the girl. She was about his age and height. She was wearing a black kung-fu gi with her hands plunged deep into the pockets and Chinese slippers. Her hair was long and so dark it seemed blue. Her face held the same tired sad expression that Konoha wore. "This bridge isn't nearly tall enough."

"I wasn't going to kill myself, stupid," he snorted.

"Coulda fooled me," she commented. He was leaning pretty far over the railing. Kakashi pouted under his mask and pushed away from the rail. He looked up at the blue sky as perfect clouds ambled by. "Seems pretty ridiculous, doesn't it, that we're still here?" she asked no one in particular. "But like they say, life goes on." She too turned her eyes to the sky and stared. "I lost my mother, the last person in this world who cared about me."

"I lost my sensei and last member of my team," he said in reply; the first time he had vocalized this fact. "I have nothing left." He didn't know what to expect next from her. She nodded slowly and rested her gaze on him.

"Well, I'm going to get some tea," the girl announced and didn't wait for him to respond before shuffling along.

Kakashi stared at her as she went, and deciding he had nothing better to do, he followed.

At the sweets shop, they sat in silence at a table and drank genmaicha out of handle-less earthenware mugs. A plate of mitarashi dango sat before them, untouched. Across the way, a younger boy sat in front of a cup of tea and stared at them; not so much at the people as the treats they weren't consuming.

"Oi, Nee-chan," the girl beckoned to the waitress. "Give that kid whatever he wants." Kakashi raised a brow but said nothing. He watched the waitress relay the message. The boy looked shocked. Rather than order, he came over to them.

"Thank you so much, but you don't have to do that," he said quietly and idly rubbed the scar that crossed his nose.

"I don't have to, but I can," she said and jingled a bag of coins. "You see, I just came into a small inheritance," she joked. The bag couldn't hold more than 100 ryou. "You look like you could use some dango." She pushed the plate towards him.

"Thank you. My name is Umino Iruka."

"Aono Oururi," the girl responded. She turned and prompted her companion whose name she had not yet learned with a small nudge.

"Hatake Kakashi," he said quietly. "Yoroshiku."

When it got dark, Iruka went back to his cousin's house where he was living and Kakashi went back to his little apartment. Oururi followed.