* Hi everyone, I hope you're liking the story so far! I had this idea to introduce an old love of Aiko's since I began writing, but I did struggle to write this chapter. Let me know what you think of it, and enjoy!*
Kakashi was still looking at the young man across the room from him, and when he looked up to see Aiko his entire body tensed and his jaw dropped in surprise. Kakashi was now interested in what was going on. Does he know Aiko too? He thought.
Granny looked up and saw Dai first, stopping dead in her tracks, knowing full well what was about to happen.
Aiko's eyes were closed as she laughed, and she hadn't seen Dai yet, or Granny come to a dead halt. Aiko bumped into her but managed not to drop the cake. Aiko opened her eyes, "Granny what are you doing, dessert could have been ruined," she pouted. It was then that she noticed that Granny was staring at something, and followed the gray-haired woman's gaze, her eyes finally landed on Dai, and Aiko dropped the cake.
Dai hadn't yet realized that the silver-haired man in the dining room was with Aiko, he hadn't seen her in so long, his adrenaline was pumping just from the sight of her. They had been very young the last time he had laid eyes on her, just a boy in a girl in love, but now she had grown into a woman, a beautiful woman. He quickly closed the space between him and his old love. Dai had so much love in his heart for this woman, even if Aiko had broken his heart and left him alone. She had done it out of concern for his and Gran's safety, he couldn't hold it against her. When he was standing face to face with Aiko, he wrapped his arms around her and brought her into a tight embrace. She smelled sweet; he had missed that smell.
"I missed you." He whispered into her hair.
Aiko hadn't moved an inch since she'd spotted him, she had been put somewhat at ease when Granny told her he wasn't due back until tomorrow afternoon. Now Dai's arms were wrapped around her and his nose was nuzzling into her hair. How did this happen? When did he get this close? She put both of her hands on his chest and gave him a light push back, forcing his arms to fall from around her. She looked into his eyes that were filled with love, and she felt a pang of guilt in her chest.
"Dai, I can't…" was all Aiko could say before the dark-haired man put his hands on either side of her face and kissed her.
Aiko almost let herself get lost in the passionate embrace, but she quickly regained her senses and pushed him off of her, more forcefully this time. Dai stumbled back but managed not to fall over. He looked at her with hurt and confusion evident on his face, and that's when he realized that the man with the mask on was standing close by.
Kakashi had been watching the show play out from the dining room, quickly gaining an understanding of the situation. There was clearly something between Aiko and this man, and Aiko hadn't told him about it. Why didn't she tell me? Why would she let me just walk into this? He's looking at her like he's in love with her. He's hugging her now, why is she letting him hug her? He's kissing her! With that Kakashi got up and crossed the room in a split second, but by the time he'd reached them Aiko had pushed the man off of her.
"Dai, we're on a mission, we just stopped over to sleep for the night and to visit Granny. I'm sorry if you misunderstood my presence." Aiko was looking at the floor, with her hands clasped in front of her.
"We're?" He looked between the raven-haired beauty and the mysterious man who had moved even closer to Aiko. "Oh, I'm sorry Aiko, I didn't know," he ran one hand through his hair looking embarrassed, a small blush spreading out over his cheeks, "I guess I just got a little over-excited." Now he was the one staring at the floor trying to avoid eye contact.
Kakashi now had one arm slung over Aiko's shoulder, holding her close to him. Making sure that Dai understood their relationship.
Dai looked Kakashi in the eyes, and apologized, "I'm very sorry, I didn't mean any disrespect," he gave Kakashi a small bow. "I'm Dai Akiyama, I live and work here, and I knew Aiko when we were younger," he said as he stood up straight again.
Kakashi was angry, but he was working hard not to show it. She lied to me, why did she lie, but it's not this man's fault I suppose. "It's understandable, I'm Kakashi Hatake, it's a pleasure," Kakashi lied.
Granny knew what was coming, and made a sad attempt to change the subject, "Oh my, I'll clean this cake up, Dai you must be exhausted from your travels, why doesn't everyone head up to bed then, and we can have breakfast in the morning before you two leave, Granny was looking back and forth between them waiting for her grandson to explode.
Dai's brow furrowed and his face turned red in anger, he lifted his right hand to point a finger at Kakashi, "Him Aiko, him," Dai screamed at her. "Are you kidding me, after everything you told me, all that I did for you, and you go running back to him." Dai had both of his hands in his hair, pulling it by the root, stairing at Aiko intensely. "How could you do this to me?"
Aiko took a step forward, leaving the Copy Ninja's arm to fall to his side, "Dai please, don't do this," she continued to move towards him, "I'm okay, I'm safe with him, I promise." She was looking at him with concern, "Just calm down and we can talk."
"Talk about what Aiko, does he even know what he did to you? How much you cried, how sick you made yourself over him. You barely spoke to anyone; you barely ate for a month Aiko. You would leave on those missions of yours, and then come back and collapse for days at a time because you couldn't bring yourself to eat." He was in Aiko's face screaming at her now.
Kakashi went to get in between them, but Aiko put her arm out to stop him, "Don't get involved Kakashi," she said almost somberly.
Kakashi took in the other man's words slowly, Did I really cause her that much pain?
"I loved you Aiko, I really loved you, and you know that" Dai was still yelling, and there were tears running down both cheeks now, "it took me so long to pull you out of the dark hole he dug for you, and then all these years later you show up, unannounced, with his arm around you." Dai was looking his long lost love in the eyes now, and he had one hand on each shoulder as he spoke with venom in his voice, "You're pathetic, and you deserve whatever he does to you this time around," he turned around, in anger kicked the box Granny used to stand on clear across the room, and stormed outside.
Aiko couldn't bring herself to look at Kakashi, "Granny I'll help you clean this up, Kakashi, why don't you head upstairs. I'll be up soon."
She didn't turn to see him leave, and he didn't give her a verbal response, but Aiko could feel him go. She went and retrieved the broom and dustpan from the storage closet, and made quick work of cleaning up the mess she'd made. "I'm sorry Granny, I thought enough time had passed, I didn't think the reaction would be that extreme," she said with tears running down her face.
The old woman looked at Aiko with a mix of concern and pity in her eyes, "Aiko, Dai has always allowed his emotions to overcome him, and he's not a shinobi. He doesn't understand all of the pain you've been through in your life and hasn't seen even half of the violence you have. I am somewhat concerned about that lover of yours too, but I do understand that you can relate to him in ways you can't relate to Dai," the old woman sighed and brought her hand up to wipe away the tears that were running down Aiko's cheeks.
"Do you think I should go outside and try to talk him down?" Aiko said in a shaky voice.
Granny shook her head back and forth, "No sweety, you know him as well as I do, he needs time alone now to calm down. Honestly, and I hate to say it, I don't think it's in my grandson to forgive you for this. You need to live your own life though; you can't carry on only doing what is best for others. Just go upstairs, I have a feeling you and that Kakashi have a lot to talk about."
Aiko hugged and kissed Granny goodnight before heading up the stairs to her room. She stood outside their door for a long time. She was trying to calm herself down before entering, Aiko still had tears running down her face, she had never wanted Kakashi to know the abysmal state she had been in after he tossed her aside. Even when she was angriest at him, she still hadn't wanted him to know. At first, it was out of pride, she didn't want to give him the satisfaction of having that strong of an effect on her, but after she had forgiven him, she just couldn't bear to hurt him. Now he would be angry, angry that she hadn't told him about Dai before coming here, and angry that she hadn't talked to him about her difficulties after he left her. Aiko knit her eyes shut and tried to banish memories of those time to the darkest parts of her brain, memories that hadn't even been drudged up when she returned to the leaf. She couldn't do it though, hearing Dai scream at her like that brought it all back, and as the memories hit her, she shrank to the floor.
Ten Years Earlier
It had been a few days since Kakashi left Aiko sitting by the lake screaming and sobbing. She had been lying in bed ever since that night, only sleeping a half-hour here and there, spending most of the time in a daze staring at the ceiling trying to figure out where she went wrong. Every time there was a man in her life in a serious capacity, things went horribly wrong, and she could not figure out what she had done to deserve it. On the fifth day, the broken-hearted girl finally managed to drag herself out of bed, she showered, ate a piece of toast, but even though she hadn't eaten in days the toast didn't sit well in her stomach. Aiko had made the decision to leave the village. There were too many horrible memories here, and now she had no one left to confide in. Aiko got dressed, and even subtly applied makeup in order to paint the illusion of liveliness on her face, and made her way to the Hokage's office. She stood outside the door to steel her resolve and then knocked. After a heartbeat, she heard a gravelly voice say "Enter," and she walked into the room.
"Aiko Tanaka, it is a surprise to see you here," the Third Hokage said with an actual hint of surprise in his voice, "what is it I can do for you?"
Aiko took one last deep breath and knelt before Hiruzen Sarutobi, "Lord Third, I have come today to formally request to be sent out of the village permanently. To complete espionage missions on behalf of the village," Aiko stayed knelt down before the Hokage's desk, eyes fixed on the floor.
"Please stand up, I need to look at you while we discuss this," he said, and he eyed her as she stood up shakily. "Where is this coming from Aiko, the type of work you are requesting can be grueling a difficult, and you don't look well. I will require an explanation."
"Lord Danzo has approached me about this before, but I'd prefer to work under you," she said, still not making eye contact with the man sitting behind his desk, "I don't have anything keeping me here and you know that the best way for me to serve the village is from the outside. I will agree to any terms you set; I just don't think I can manage to stay here any longer Lord Third. I have been ill the last few days," Aiko lied, "but I'm feeling better today, that's why I'm here." At this point, the kunoichi brought her eyes up to meet his. There wasn't much left in them besides defeat and pleading.
Hiruzen Sarutobi looked at the young woman in front of him, aware of her tragic past, and he even felt a pang of guilt in his heart when he thought about it. "What you're asking for is to spend your life alone Aiko, and loneliness is a bigger burden than you know. Here, at least you have friends and comrades, out there you will be left alone with your thoughts and our enemies. Are you prepared for that?" He asked her sincerely.
Aiko's eyebrows shot up in surprise, she hadn't thought about it like that, but she looked the aging man in the eyes and nodded her head, "Yes sir, I'll be fine. I've always managed to be fine," she said somewhat somberly.
"If this is truly what you want, then I will allow it, I would also prefer for you to work under me rather than Danzo." Sarutobi was aware that he wasn't getting the whole story, but Aiko Tanaka was particularly skilled in espionage and if she wanted to leave the village she would go if he allowed her to or not. At least this way she could come back if she ever felt the need. "I want to be clear that I don't agree with your decision, but I will grant it due to your specific set of skills, and the determination you seem to have to leave. Come back tomorrow afternoon and we'll go over logistics.
Aiko bowed and thanked the Third Hokage once more before leaving the office, and two days later she was walking through the village gates, not to return for a decade.
As the young shinobi took her to leave, she was relieved to be away from the village, and away from him. Her heart was still very much broken, and she was angry at herself for letting another person make her feel this way. She felt weak and powerless, and it was devastating for her. Subconsciously, Aiko blamed herself, and as a result, she took to punishing her body.
The young shinobi could barely bring herself to sleep or eat but was still pushing her body every day to train to the brink of exhaustion. After about three weeks of pushing her body to the limit, she received her first infiltration mission in the Hidden Sand Village. It was a simple mission, to collect intel, and Aiko did it seamlessly. Once she sent her report back to the village, she quickly made her way back to The Land of Fire, as per her agreement with the Hokage. He didn't want her roaming other lands unnecessarily, bringing unwanted suspicion upon the village if she were to be spotted or captured.
Even though her mission had been a success, Aiko's body was still suffering from the rigors she was putting it through. Another week passed, and she was back in The Land of Fire about a day's journey from the leaf. Aiko was walking slowly on a dirt road unsure of what to do; she was dizzy, her head ached, and her body felt weak. She knew why her body was failing her, and she was almost happy. Maybe death was better than this, maybe death would be better than being rejected by every person I have ever loved. She thought to herself as she laid down under a tree to wait for death.
Aiko could feel her body being moved, but couldn't manage to open her eyes. She could hear a deep voice speaking to her, but couldn't make out the words. In the back of her mind, she knew that she should attempt to escape, allowing a strange man to carry her off in this condition was unwise at best, but she didn't have to physical capacity to do so, and as a result, she allowed the darkness to engulf her fully.
Two full days later Aiko's eyes fluttered open, and she took in her surroundings slowly. I'm in bed, a comfortable bed. The room is small and dimly lit, it doesn't look like a hospital. I'm not restrained. These thoughts ran through her clouded mind before she realized that there was a dark-haired young man sitting in the rocking chair next to her bed sound asleep. Is this who brought me here? She thought while trying to push herself into an upright position, but it was difficult to do, and she let out a groan of aggravation.
The groan startled the man awake, and he placed one hand on her shoulder, "You shouldn't try to move around too much, my Gran says you malnourished and dehydrated. You'll just make yourself feel worse," he said in a caring tone you'd use with a sick child.
Aiko looked up at him and allowed his hand to guide her back to the pillow. "Who are you," she asked.
"I'm Dai, and this is my Gran's Inn," He gestured around the room with one hand, "I work here with her, and who are you?" He asked, sounding genuinely curious.
Aiko sighed but figured she owed the boy an explanation, plus she was wearing her leaf headband around her arm, she was just thankful he hadn't brought her back to the village. "I'm Aiko Tanaka, a Leaf Village shinobi. I'm sorry if I caused you any trouble."
Before Dai could respond to her a little old lady came shuffling in with a tray that contained a bowl of miso soup and a glass of water. "Well now, I thought I heard voices. Here you go dear, you need to get something in that stomach of yours and get yourself hydrated or you'll collapse on us again." The old woman said with a look of concern on her face. "I'm Dai's grandmother, and just so you're aware you don't seem to have any physical injuries. Forgive us, but we did look through your bag and found provisions, so I don't exactly understand how this happened to you." The look of concern on the old woman's face grew.
With Dai's help, Aiko was able to sit up, and he placed pillows behind her back to help her stay upright. She gave the older woman and small smile, "Well it's a depressing story really," Aiko said casting her eyes down, "I don't want to trouble you with it."
Granny shook her head, "You're no trouble at all young lady, you just look like you could use some love." The old woman gave Aiko a warm smile, "we noticed your leaf village headband, in a few days when you're feeling better Dai here can escort you back to the village if you'd like, but for now, eating, drinking, and rest are your top priorities." With that, the gray-haired woman placed the tray on Aiko's lap, wished her well, and went back to work.
Dai watched her eat, slowly at first, but then quickly, as if she hadn't eaten in a month. She looked as if she hadn't eaten in a month. As she polished off the soup and her glass of water Dai ran one hand through his thick mop of black hair, and set is dark blue eyes on Aiko's face, "A depressing story huh? You can tell me if you want, sometimes it helps to get things off your chest."
Aiko turned her head to look at this handsome man sitting next to her. His eyes looked like ocean water, his hair was black and curly, and his jawline was strong. I could almost fall for him. Aiko thought to herself as a small smile graced her lips, but she quickly banished the thought to the dark recesses of her mind. Why? So, he can say hurtful things derived from the secrets you've told him, threaten you, and leave you alone? Aiko shook her head back and forth trying to bring herself back to reality. When she brought her eyes back to meet Dai's he had a look of worry on his face, "I'm sorry about that," she said, I'm still not feeling that well. As for my story, I'm not much of a sharer."
Dai removed the tray from Aiko's lap, and moved it to the floor, "Well I'm a good listener, and from what I can tell you just attempted to starve yourself to death. I know it sounds a little silly, but talking through it might help you actually survive it," he fixed his deep blue eyes on Aiko's, determined to get her to tell her story.
Aiko sighed, she was conflicted, the only person she had ever actually shared her pain with was Kakashi, and now he was part of it, but she could not continue on the way she had been. If she tried to she'd die, so Aiko inhaled and exhaled slowly and deeply five times, looked Dai in the eyes, and said, "Well it's a long story, and clearly it doesn't end well," she gestured to herself using both hands, "but I guess talking through it to a stranger is as good of a plan as any." With that, she told Dai her tale, from her parents to her abusive sensei, all the way through to Kakashi's cruel words and threatening her with the lightning blade. When she was done he didn't ask any question, he wiped the tears from her face, and held her hand until she fell asleep.
Kakashi finally opened the door to the bedroom to find Aiko curled up on the floor with her back against the wall. He bent down to scoop her up and carried her to the bed in his arms like a small child. Neither of them said anything to the other. Kakashi laid her down, pushed the hair that was sticking to her wet cheeks off behind her ears, and covered her with a blanket. Then to Aiko's unvoiced dismay, Kakashi made himself a small cot on the floor, and went to sleep, leaving her alone in the bed with her thoughts.