A/N: This being my first venture into the realm of Naruto, the following story is more of a 'take the characters out for a spin' type of fic. Please be warned of possible OOC, and little plot development until I get the hang of these guys. ^_- Also, I've taken certain licenses with parts of the story: I have no idea how Obito died or where Kakashi's Sharingan came from (we'll have to patiently wait for the wonderful Kishimoto Masashi-sensei to reveal the truth), so I made certain parts up and patterned it according to my speculation. Enjoy! ^_^
Rules of Attraction
Chapter 1: Reverence
Whoever had said that dead men told no tales was a complete and utter idiot.
Hatake Kakashi suppressed a pained groan and attempted to push his uncooperative - and apparently, unresponsive - body onto his back. Almost instantly, beads of sweat formed on his unmasked face, plastering the strands of silver hair that weren't soaked with blood against his skin. However, all his efforts proved futile because it wasn't long before his already fuzzy vision blurred. With a muffled grunt, he abandoned all thought of movement and eased his stomach back down onto the ground, the pungent smell of moist earth and dense grass tickling his nostrils as he did so in a blatant attempt to tease him with its vitality.
Breaths leaving his exhausted and abused lungs in desperate heaves, he tried to recover what energy he had just lost from his aborted venture. If his screaming muscles and agonizing headache were any indication, then he should've been dead ten times over, and yet, the distant wheezing of dying men and remnant flashes of moonlit metal struggled valiantly in his groggy mind to form a cohesive timeline.
Told no tales, indeed.
Given some time to collect his thoughts, he was certain he'd have a few stories to share.
They had been ambushed, he recalled as another lungful of humid night air left his chest. The Hokage had sent them after a Class-S criminal and they had been ambushed. The shadows had come at them from nowhere, those fateful moments before the attack having been filled with uneasiness that none of his team members could identify. And so, with the slight rustle of surrounding foliage as his only warning, he had suddenly felt the jarring descent of a lethal blade when he'd instinctively brought his own katana to block. Never in all his fifteen years of living, or in his time as an Anbu assassin, had he encountered such a strong attack or the overwhelming aura behind it. Even now, his arms complained about the prior abuse. Nevertheless, the ensuing fight had been marked with nothing but quick clashes of steel, the partially covered moon providing the scant light that allowed him to defend - and only defend. It had taken most of his hard-learned skills to avoid being skewered by his mysterious attacker, much less launch an offensive move.
He remembered the shouts of his comrades around him as they engaged their own opponents and the sweet symphony of unsheathed weapons as metal met with flesh, blood, and bone. He had told himself that he just merely had to stay alive, defend and survive until his teammates came to help him out - for they were an elite Anbu squad, and he had the utmost faith that they would never abandon him.
And then, the scream had echoed through the air, slicing the battleground din like a knife through butter, and sending a heart-stopping chill down Kakashi's spine.
No sooner had his teammate's name entered his head than he had caught but a glimmer of deadly metal, and the world had exploded into a flash of intense white light. From that point on, all he could recall was debilitating pain ... pain and enshrouding darkness.
Kakashi let out one more cleansing breath and silently berated himself for failing so easily. Surely his team had taken care of the enemy. They were probably congratulating each other right now as he rested like a petulant child nursing his meager wounds. A small lopsided smile crept its way onto his dry lips. They would never let him hear the end of it for dragging them down.
But the absence of sound eventually registered in his muddled consciousness, and for a prolonged minute, his breathing stalled.
No lethal swoosh of arching blades.
No victorious clash of colliding steel.
Just a pregnant silence and the serene chirping of some lone, oblivious cricket.
Where were they? The team leader? His teammates? Obito ... ?
He had often heard that when loved ones and those one held close were in danger, the body tended to act beyond its physical limitations and exceed the capabilities imposed upon it by nature. He had never given the idea much consideration, citing the excuse that he had no loved ones and would never hold anyone close, but in that agonizing instant, his body inexplicably moved into action and somehow managed to roll itself over in one jerking motion. Perhaps what they had said was true after all, or perhaps he was simply worried about his comrades - it was a matter he'd think about later - but the sudden surge of adrenalin that coursed through his veins gave him the energy he needed to use the momentum from his roll to push himself onto his feet.
The inconstant moon danced in an annoying succession of circles as he tried to regain his balance and steady his feet on the seemingly unstable ground. His upright position attained, he then felt the warm trickle of competing rivulets against his left cheek, the thickness and texture of it causing no doubt in his mind as to its coppery identity.
'But that was of little consequence now,' he told himself. What mattered was that he was still alive.
His sword lay harmlessly beside him, and in an act that caused more pain than he'd anticipated, he bent down to pick the weapon up. Fingers tightly grasping the familiar grooves of the katana handle and hilt, he dug the blade into the ground and leaned tiredly on his makeshift cane. Now that he felt steadier, he glanced around at the shadowed surroundings for the very first time since his revival.
If he ever had the honour of living to a ripe old age, he didn't think he would ever forget the sight that greeted him in that grassy field. Bodies ... so many bodies, some in the Konoha village Anbu uniforms, and some in non-descrept black ones, littered the former battleground in a consecration of death. And the blood ... the sticky substance soaked the ground and dyed it to an unnatural hue, leaving Kakashi afraid to take a step for fear of slipping on the slickness. Bile rose threateningly in his throat, and he had to swallow several times to prevent himself from vomiting.
And thus, he stood, a body that felt more a corpse than not, a lone figure marking a field of the dead and dying. His young mind ceased to function, shocked and stunned by what it had just processed.
They were gone ... his teammates, comrades, and friends. They were gone and he hadn't been able to do anything about it.
Like a sacred mantra, his best friend's name echoed incessantly in his head.
Obito. He had to find Obito.
Throwing off the pall of helplessness and guilt that had fallen over him, he forced his rubbery legs to move, his sword easily becoming his stalwart support as he navigated his way through the field of unmoving forms.
The pale moonlight danced revealingly off the dark, concealing cloth of the fallen shinobi, but none were of the one he sought. With each unrecognizable body he passed, hope began to burn in his chest.
Perhaps Obito had escaped. Perhaps he was waiting back at the village, the habitual challenging smile on his lips waiting for his friend and rival to return. Perhaps he was still alive ...
He was beyond the point of exhaustion when he finally reached the edge of the field that bordered the entrance to the neighbouring forest, but the fact paled in comparison to the elation gained from his lack of success. Yet, true happiness, as he had learned in his short life, was fleeting at best, and so it was in this case when the slight rustle of cloth dashed what blessed relief he had felt.
Stumbling more than walking, Kakashi made his way to the forest entrance, the obscuring shadows of the trees providing the perfect cover for missing bodies. Still, as he approached, the reflected white light of the waning moon cast enough illumination to fill his chest with dread.
"Obito," his hoarse voice cracked in his parched throat, partly due to dryness and partly to adolescence. Letting his sword fall carelessly to the ground, he dropped to his knees beside the unmoving form. His friend's Anbu uniform was ripped, and liberally adorned with dark stains that were undoubtedly a combination of enemies and the owner himself. But all this was lost on Kakashi who preferred to concentrate on more important matters.
In the moonlit darkness, his fallen comrade's pale face almost looked serene, a slight smile imprinted on bloodied lips and an enviable calm in half-lidded eyes. The grey-haired youth reached out a shaking hand to smooth back dark blood-soaked hair from his friend's forehead.
"Ka - kashi ... " Hooded eyes opened a fraction at the contact.
"Shh." He had never been one to comfort or nurture - usually preferring a non-committal remark over a hug - but at the moment, he wanted to ease his teammate's suffering as much as possible. Even he, with is limited field experience, knew that the wounds Obito had taken were fatal.
"Rest now. We still have our fight to finish, remember?" His words came out in a hushed breath, whether it was from the grave situation or his lack of energy, he didn't know. "And I still have to get you back for that '1000 years of pain'."
A choked gurgle that may have passed for a chuckle escaped the dying man's mouth. Then, quickly sobering, Obito tried to raise a hand and said, "Eye ..."
Kakashi looked questioningly at his friend, reflexively grabbing the other man's fingers, while his left hand gingerly touched his own cheek to determine what Obito was referring to. And it was then while holding his dying friend's hand in a field of death that he learned he'd lost his left eye. His fingertips traced over the bloodied side of his face, and where a telltale protrusion had once been was a slight indentation of an eyelid.
A wave of dizziness washed over him at the realization, but he refused to show Obito any vulnerability. He had already failed his friend by not being by his side during the attack; he refused to abandon Obito now when he faced death.
Tightening his hold on the fallen man's hand, Kakashi smiled a reassuring smile. "It's okay," he whispered. "Didn't really need it anyways."
In response, Obito remained silent.
Kakashi grew uneasy with the oppressive quiet, and so, continued to talk. "You know, everything's going to be fine, right? You're going to be fine. By this time tomorrow, we'll wake up in Konoha's infirmary, and compare scars." A wistful expression flittered across his face at the thought. "And of course, I'll come out the winner."
Again, Obito didn't respond, leaving Kakashi to dwell in silence with his own words. "You're going to be fine ... " he repeated unconsciously, and a warm wetness moving too fast to be blood trickled down his right cheek.
"Liar." Startled by the muted retort, Kakashi looked down at his friend.
Obito started back, his half-closed eyes gleaming like black gems in the night. "Always a liar, Kakashi," he wheezed out. "Always lying ... always hiding ... so good too ... "
At his friend's gentle accusation, the grey-haired man let out a quiet laugh that bordered on maniacal. Yes, he occasionally lied - he had fun doing so at times - and he often hid - it was a habit he had acquired too long ago to remember - but if he didn't, he risked losing his very identity. He needed to take things lightly; he needed to approach problems with his laidback brand of humour because, otherwise, he gambled with being dragged into a void that would eventually destroy him. And he badly needed that attitude right now, now when the one person who had seen through his self-preserving mask was leaving him.
"Ka - kashi?"
The said man swallowed hard and looked beseechingly down at his dying friend. For the first time in his life, his very soul shone on his face.
"Don't die, Obito," he pleaded weakly. "Please don't die."
The structure stood proud and tall in its peaceful environment, an admirable testament to the lost souls it represented. A monument devised by man, it somehow managed to blend into the green landscape and harmonize serenely with Mother Nature's handiwork. Kakashi stood somberly by the Konoha's memorial marker and closed his eye, feeling the stirrings of shinobis long dead dancing through the air that caressed his face. The sun was just minutes away from setting, its trailing tendrils littering the sky with shades of pink, orange, and red as it slowly lost dominance to the violet velvet of the encroaching night. It was a moment of transition, a moment of change when the order of the world seemed to teeter on the head of a pin, but nevertheless, it was also a moment of absolute and perfect balance. It was during such a moment that if he stood still enough, he was certain he could hear the universe whisper its utmost secrets.
But that wasn't what he wanted to hear. He wanted something less ambitious, but something just as unattainable.
He wanted to hear the voice of his dead comrades. He wanted to listen to their friendly banter and their incomprehensible jokes. He wanted ... He wanted to see Obito again.
He had never asked for much in life, perhaps because he was a shinobi, and a shinobi's life was that of a shadow - insubstantial and immaterial - but in this very instance, he desired something as he had never desired anything.
And yet, no mysterious magic, and no great power rushed to fulfill his wish.
Opening his eye, Kakashi raised a hand and rested it gently on the stone memorial.
"Rest well, Obito," he said sadly, but expression remaining unaffected. "And thank you."
Obito had given him so much - friendship, honesty, the necessary punch in the face when required, and ...
Even from the grave, his dead friend had given him a priceless gift.
Kakashi moved his hand and lightly ran his fingers over the bandages covering his left eye. The new one still hurt, the rhythmic throbbing a constant reminder of all he had lost and all he had gained. Tsunade-sensei had said the pain would fade with time, and that he should learn to use his new ability. Even now, he could feel the power that tickled and surged in his new eye. And he would master it; he planned to use the new technique to the limits of his potential and never let any one of his own down again. This would be his thank-you to the friend who had always managed to render him speechless but still forced him to feel regardless. He would do Obito proud, for now he harboured his dead friend's ultimate gift, a memento of his innocence and a lasting legacy of the Uchiha clan - the Sharingan.
One year later ...
At the ripe old age of fourteen, Iruka knew what he was planning to do would be considered juvenile and immature. In fact, he was sure that he would get the requisite reprimand and punishment for it from his teachers - and perhaps even the Hokage - but he just couldn't let this opportunity slip through his fingers.
He had heard the rumour by chance from a couple of gossiping girls when he'd been on his way to detention. As always, it seemed that he was only seen as a person or taken seriously when he was causing trouble, so he had easily eavesdropped on the conversation without notice when he'd walked by. Apparently, the hot topic among the Academy students was the supposed torrid affair between Tezuma-sensei and Kaede-sensei, and their secret rendezvous every night in the shadows of the village's neighbouring woods.
A small devilish light had lit up in Iruka's eyes then, a seedling of a prank taking root in his adolescent mind. The plan had come to full fruition after suffering the solitude of his detention, and so, here he was, concealed to the best of his ninja-in-training abilities in the bushes of Konoha village's forest. After scouting out the area and subtly prodding for more information from his fellow students, he'd managed to plot his teachers' meeting point and had set up a small trap to catch the lovers in the act. Iruka chuckled quietly at the embarrassment he would cause with his little joke; it wasn't nice but for some reason, it was something he felt compelled to do. Besides, it was the teachers' fault for having a romantic tryst when they knew that students had a tendency to gossip.
Iruka's eyes scanned the leaves that covered the hole he'd dug earlier to ensure that everything looked natural. Nothing appeared out of place in his young opinion, even with the revealing light of the full moon, and if all things played according to his plan, the two lovebirds would not know what had hit them.
The young brunette eased himself into a more comfortable position and attempted to quell the habitual impatience that always crept up on him when forced to wait. He hated moments like these when he was left with nothing but his own company. It gave him time to think and reflect, and he didn't want that. The cries of an abandoned child always echoed in his ears when it happened, and he listened to enough of that every night he closed his eyes. It would only be a matter of time before he started cursing fate for stealing away his parents and inflicting on him this perpetual loneliness.
Iruka shook his head to clear it of the maudlin thoughts that had snuck in.
'Dwell in the present,' he told himself. 'Not the past.'
After a few more minutes of forced patience and self-encouragement, the rewarding rustle of leaves caught his attention. The young student straightened and peered out through the foliage to watch his 'prey' approach. Yet, what came barreling down the path was far from what he'd expected.
From his vantage point, he could barely make out the fast moving blue and white uniforms of the Konoha village's Anbu, and the dark blurs that must have been their opponents. Iruka heard the deadly clash of steel from the fight that had just appeared before him, and unexpectedly, he felt his heart jump into his throat.
What was an Anbu team doing here? And what would he do if he were discovered? He wasn't close to being on the same level as these infamous assassins. Even with his untrained eyes, he could tell that these men were engaged in a life-threatening struggle and that he would be killed without hesitation if they found him.
Iruka swallowed hard to control his anxiousness, but that did nothing to prevent the rush of blood that pounded through his ears or stop the sweat that trickled down his face. Every muscle felt strained when he tried to move himself deeper into the shrubbery, and he was half expecting to fall over and reveal his presence.
Still, he managed to shift back a few steps and watch the skirmish move away before the telltale snap of a twig beneath his foot invited the lethal end of a flying kunai from a straggling fighter. The only warning Iruka had of the dispatched weapon was the quick flash of pale light on polished steel and on pure instinct, he rolled onto his side. Fallen tree branches and dry leaves cracked under his body but they were all ignored in lieu of the searing fire that blazed across his side.
Iruka winced as the blade barely met its mark. Wound aside, he continued to roll onto his back and looked up to see the descending figure of a darkly clad shinobi. The attacker's uniform identified him as a foreigner to these parts, which was all the confirmation the brunette needed to push himself away from his current position before the enemy could land on him.
White-hot pain lanced through his side as he crawled, stumbled, and ran away from the other man. He was weaponless, and his novice ninja skills were not even close to matching that of his opponent; the only thing he could do was run, cowardly as it was. Panic had thoroughly consumed his reason, but his need to retreat shone glaringly bright in his mind's eye. His breaths came in ragged bursts and the cool night air burned his throat but he forced himself to move, sensing that his enemy was easily following his movements and waiting for the perfect chance to end his life.
Then, as if Fate was merely toying with him, he felt the ground give way beneath his feet just as a precisely aimed shuriken sliced through the air where his head had been.
He'd forgotten all about it.
He landed on his back in the bottom of the deep hole he had painstakingly made earlier that day, splashes of bright colours splattering across the dark sky before his vision. Every joint and muscle ached from the fall and he had no doubt that whatever omnipotent being had been watching over him was having a good chuckle at his expense. But he had little time to dwell on his own miseries when he noticed the camouflaged silhouette of his attacker standing confidently at the edge of the hole. Iruka only looked up for a moment before squeezing his eyes shut.
This was it.
This was the end of his pathetic little life.
He would never see the village again, never see the Academy again, and never see any one of his fellow students again.
Not that anyone would miss him ...
Thus, he lay there, fully anticipating the deciding blade that would pierce his flesh and kill him. Yet nothing came. Curious, he peeked out through one opened eye to determine what the delay was. What he saw then would have been missed entirely altogether had he kept his eyes closed: without a whisper of a sound and with a source unknown, a deceptively sharp kunai cut through the night and embedded itself firmly in his attacker's neck. The dark shinobi never knew what had hit him as he slumped solidly to the ground just short of falling off the ledge to join Iruka. The young brunette opened his other eye in surprise, part of him in disbelief at still being alive.
He was alive, he repeated again in his head. His heart still beat and his breaths still came. He felt like jumping up and shouting for joy, but his wound prevented him from making any sudden movements. Settling for small steps, he pushed himself up into a sitting position and was working up the energy to stand when a slight shuffle from above stopped his attempt completely.
"Who's there?" Iruka asked hesitantly.
His eyes darted from one side of the hole's edge to the other as the sweet relief he had felt earlier began to abate. His pulse sped up once again at the imminent danger headed his way. But what appeared above him caused his heart and breath to stop for a reason that had nothing to do with fear whatsoever. The man who stood at the ledge couldn't have been more than a couple of years older than himself, and wore the blue and white uniform of the village's Anbu. Silver strands of hair stood wildly untamed in the pale moonlight, and although a cloth mask obscured the lower half of the stranger's face, Iruka noticed something odd and intriguing about the man's left eye - it almost shone in the dark.
Before he could stop it, Iruka felt his skin heat up and a blush come to his cheeks. He couldn't explain or understand it, but this mysterious Anbu's aura pulled at him and made his entire body weak.
"Hmm, and I'd thought there was some cute little animal down there," the masked shinobi said with mock disappointment as he bent down to take a look at the trapped student.
For some unknown reason, the young brunette couldn't find his voice, and when he did, it came out a little too high-pitched and cracked. "You - you saved me? Th-thank you ..."
As if he hadn't heard Iruka, the silver-haired man then stood and made to walk away. "Well, better catch up to my team. I guess being late helps with catching the stragglers."
"W-wait!" Iruka exclaimed at the retreating figure. "Aren't you going to help me?"
The other man stopped and glanced back down. "Why? Do you need help?"
At this, the brunette gave his supposed saviour a 'you're kidding' look that almost resembled a gaping fish, but before Iruka could voice his thoughts, he felt the presence of someone in the hole beside him and the jarring movement of being lifted out of his own trap. His wound screamed bloody murder at the sudden exercise, but Iruka was in a state of shock at how fast the silver-haired man had moved to even care. He wouldn't have believed the Anbu had jumped down and carried him out of the hole if the remnant warmth of the stranger's arm didn't linger around his waist still. And now, the older man was prodding his injury with fingers that were too gentle to belong to an assassin.
Iruka blushed at the intimate contact ... again.
"It doesn't look too serious," the other man said matter-of-factly. "Can you make it back to the village on your own? I need to catch up to my team."
Iruka nodded dumbly at his saviour's words, too entranced to do anything else.
"Good, then get going," the Anbu instructed as he turned to leave.
"Th-thanks," the brunette managed to say once more before the stranger nodded in acknowledgment and jumped into the shadows of the forest.
Unconsciously, Iruka wrapped an arm around his middle and watched the glint of shining pale hair blend into darkness. The feel of the other man's hands on him was quickly disappearing, but the whole encounter, from the glowing left eye to that deep, resonant voice, was securely branded into his mind. Somehow, he knew that this wouldn't be that last he saw of his silver-haired saviour.
End Chapter 1