Title: The Copy Ninja
Rating: PG-13 for innuendo and the occasional curse word. The epilogue, which has a much higher rating, will be posted on my LJ at jbmcdragon[dot]livejournal[dot]com.
Status: Written, will be posted once a week over the next 7.
Genre: Drama, I guess, with a heavy dose of comedy and sarcasm. KakaIru.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own these characters, nor am I making any money off of them. They belong to Kishimoto, to my knowledge, or maybe Toykopop or something. Just not me. Used without permission, and not for profit.
Never has the term 'Copy Ninja' been so appropriate.
Wandering home from a mission to copy a jutsu that makes other jutsu go wrong, Kakashi is pretty sure the world is out to get him. Imagine his surprise when he learns he's already been home for a full twenty-four hours. Except it's not him--it's a clone gone wrong. But when it doesn't vanish at injury, thinks of things even before he does, and not even Pakkun can tell the difference... Well, who's to say which is a clone, and which is the real thing?
Finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, Iruka is saddled with a ninja that might be a clone. Mind you, an earlier drunken mistake led to great sex and an awful morning after; being a clone would be Kakashi's just desserts, in his opinion. But as they spend time in each other's company, he realizes that he'd be sorry to see this Kakashi go--and certain the man is going to.
How do you fight the facts when they're stacked against you? Not even a genius is sure of that answer.
Author's notes: Cross posted like whoa. This is written in celebration of finally becoming a published author! If you enjoy it, check out jbmcdonald[dot]com. I have one book published, and several more on the way! HOORAY! Also, if you're wondering where I've gotten off to, I've joined the collaborative writing group Fallen Leaves at insanejournal[dot]com[slash]fallen_leaves, where I'm writing Inuzuka Tsume and Morioka Kaito. The stories there are fantastic. And I'm totally unbiased, really. ;-D
The Copy Ninja
Kakashi dragged himself back into the village, cursing the mission gods--he figured there had to be at least a dozen of those--for the worst fuck-up ever. Still, it was over now, and all he had to do was turn in a mission report--scratched out over the last few nights on the road--and go home. Home sounded good.
The mission office came first, if only because he actually got to it first. Otherwise he'd have to go back later, retracing his steps, and it wasn't that he liked annoying people by being late. He was just, plain and simply, lazy. It was much more work to have to come back.
He ambled into the building--it was surprising what aches and pains ambling could hide--and wandered into the main office. Wandering was almost as good as ambling for aches and pains.
There was only one staff member in the office, but given the hour--late--that was to be expected. The chuunin behind the desk, a man nearly Kakashi's height (taller, when Kakashi slouched), looked up absently.
Then looked up farther, a lot more sharply. Black eyebrows shot toward black hair scraped back into a ponytail. Then those same eyebrows rocketed down, bunching above the bridge of his very straight nose.
"What do you want?" he nearly snapped.
Kakashi stopped in the doorway, turning to look behind himself with purposeful care. There was no one there. He already knew there was no one there. He turned and looked back at the man.
He'd seen this ninja before. Here, at the mission office. Something to do with Team Seven, too, but... it eluded him. Square built, shinobi-fit, snapping black eyes.
Kakashi beamed cheerfully. "I want bed. Maybe dinner. But I'll settle for turning in a mission report."
Even tanned skin could flush; it just turned dark red instead of bright pink. The man behind the desk stood, stacking papers with quick, sharp movements. "Dinner and bed. Go to hell. Office is closed. Turn it in tomorrow."
The masked smile faded. The office was not closed. It didn't close! "Or," Kakashi drawled, slouching even more, "you can do your job, and I can turn it in tonight." He held up his scroll (form 32B), and waved it around. "You know you want to. It'll do your little secretarial heart good."
The chuunin--had to be a chuunin, moved too well for a genin--snapped. The files he was holding landed on the desk with a sharp crack of air. "You are a piece of work! First you treat me like shit, now you waltz in here with your snide comments and innuendo? No! Get out!"
He hadn't made snide--! The world was just getting weirder, and an awful suspicion was tickling the back of his mind. "While I would agree that, in general, I am a piece of work, and I do often make snide comments and innuendo, I'm pretty sure I haven't recently done that to you." He smiled. "At least not that I remember. Maybe it wasn't that eventful." It was, sad to say, a distinct possibility. So many people to annoy, so little time... "Regardless, I'd like to turn in my mission report." He waggled it again.
"You can take your mission report and shove it up your ass."
"That would be painful."
The chuunin continued as if Kakashi hadn't spoken. "I may have been drunk, but your behavior was inexcusable." He flipped through the files, grabbed one from the middle and two from the top, and marched around the desk. "Fuck off," he snarled, and marched out the door.
Kakashi stood in the office by himself, headache building. He really didn't need this right now. Setting his report down on the empty desk, he turned and dragged himself toward his apartment.
It should have been a simple mission, really. Or simple for the Copy Ninja. Find the Mist nin that had been plaguing the outlying villages, copy the jutsu that had been stopping other ninja from killing him, and come home. He didn't even have to engage the bastard, if he played his cards right. And, right up until the last day, his cards had been a royal flush. He'd arrived as another pair of shinobi had; two hunters from Mist, determined to take out their joker. Perfect.
He hadn't quite fathomed how much the renegade was screwing things up, though.
It had seemed prudent to remain hidden. Kakashi had formed chakra while the ninja were distracted with each other, pulling up a perfect replica of himself--what a shadow clone was to a normal clone, really. Something with his own personality, his own abilities. It halved his chakra to do so, but it would be worth it. Shadow clones vanished too easily; he needed something that would last through a fight, getting enough information to be useful when it came back to him. Besides which, it needed enough power and chakra to activate and use the Sharingan.
Two sets of eyes were more likely to catch all the chakra patterns and seals needed for this new jutsu.
And then... well, then things had gotten interesting. When talking to the missing nin didn't work, the Mist hunters attacked. They threw jutsu at him; wind elements and earth elements, causing enough damage to keep Kakashi moving to stay clear. Thankfully, they were making enough noise to hide an avalanche; he only had to worry about speed, not stealth. It was nice when enemy ninja made his job easier.
At first, he thought they were the most inept ninja he'd ever seen. Their jutsu kept going wrong, turning back on them or collapsing altogether. The missing nin wasn't idle, either; in the chaos they were creating, every strike he made connected. In the chaos they were creating, Kakashi kept his Sharingan eye open but paid little attention to what he was seeing. It was all he could do to stay one leap ahead of accidental death.
The battle moved hard and fast, tearing through rock and trees and into fields as the hunters fell. The last hunter put up a good effort, but the unnatural fire dragon he wrought from thin air twisted and blasted back, screaming out of control.
A simple transportational jutsu should have gotten Kakashi easily away. He formed the seals, formed the chakra--
And found himself fifty feet away, yes, but upside down and dropping toward the earth at an accelerated rate.
By the time he'd regained consciousness, the two hunters were dead and the missing nin was nowhere to be found. He knew he hadn't mucked up a simple transportational jutsu. It wasn't until he was heading home, though, Sharingan eye closed and replaying what it had etched into his memory, that he realized.
It was simple. Brilliant, and simple. The missing nin had made a chakra distortion wave. In the final stages of any jutsu, it simply... twisted. The fact that Kakashi had gotten caught in it--the only explanation for transporting badly--meant that it was area-specific, not target-specific. Not something you could use with teammates around, unless they'd been told to expect it, but he took enough solo missions... It didn't last very long. The ninja had had to recast it every few minutes--but it seemed to take a minimum of chakra.
Of course, a shiny new jutsu didn't make his head or body ache any less. Didn't magically heal the burns across one shoulder, or the shrapnel tears in his left leg. Or alter the fact that he'd lost a full day to unconsciousness, and was weak and woozy from dehydration. Water, rations, solider pills and bandages took care of the worst of it.
He replayed the jutsu all the way home.
Somehow, the distance from the mission office to his apartment seemed even longer than the distance from the missing nin to the village. He should probably go to the hospital; burns were nothing to be trifled with. But he'd gotten the shrapnel out of his leg in the field, and even stitched the worst of the injuries closed. He had balm and bandages in his bathroom, and if the pain got too bad he could always go find a doctor then. Get a lecture and some medication, and sleep it all off.
Sleep sounded the best.
He unkeyed the seals around his door with a flare of chakra, stepped inside--
He was in his kitchen.
He looked up from the sink, chest bare, bandages around his torso, wearing neither mask nor hitai-ate, and frowned.
It was a little disturbing to see how expressive his face really was. Kakashi blamed the exhaustion and injuries for why he hadn't attacked yet, but... even his chakra told him it wasn't an intruder. It told him there was no one there at all, actually. Just him.
He performed a kai. The him at the sink smirked. "Don't tell me," him-at-the-sink said. "My shadow-clone."
One of Kakashi's eyebrows lifted. Of course. Jutsu had been going wrong. If the missing nin had cast that before they'd even started fighting... Kakashi sighed. "Well. Aren't I a handsome devil."
Kakashi-in-the-kitchen's smirk grew. "But I already knew that. Now, why don't you unform yourself and come home?"
Kakashi frowned, mostly because he'd been about to say almost exactly the same thing--hopefully with a less supercilious tone--and it was annoying to be so predictable. "Me? I'm not the clone, here. Can't you tell?"
Him-at-the-sink lifted a single silver eyebrow, Sharingan whirling under a half-lidded eye with lazy boredom. "Having visions of grandeur, are we? There's one way to solve this." Nearly too fast to track, Kakashi-in-the-kitchen flipped his knife and hurled it.
Kakashi dodged, sliding to a stop as he whipped his hands through seals.
"Relax," Kakashi-in-the-kitchen drawled. "You'll just poof away." He'd already picked up another knife.
"I've already been injured, thanks." He formed the last of the seals and--before he could consider the damage to his apartment--blew fire at the doppleganger.
"So have I." The voice came from behind him. The man was flickering? Obviously, it remembered its sensei's--his sensei's--jutsu just fine. Kakashi twisted and shot the last of the flames in an arc, ending aimed at the clone.
"Buddha's balls, Kakashi!" someone yelped from the hall. "You trying to flambe the carpeting? I know it's ugly, but--"
The clone was gone. It couldn't have transported far. Kakashi let his chakra expand, feeling for anything different--except it wasn't different, and he wouldn't feel it. It could be anywhere, and halfway out of the village by now. "Damn it," Kakashi muttered. At least it didn't seem inclined toward doing something nasty--if it thought it was him, it wouldn't hurt the village.
Or maybe that was the exhaustion making up an excuse as to why he didn't need to take off after a creature he'd be unlikely to find. He didn't care. Bonelessly, he dropped back into a chair. Little bits of fire licked around, catching hold in the aforementioned ugly carpeting and on the bare cream walls.
Anko popped her head around the corner, eyebrows rising. "Redecorating?"
He covered his face with his hands. His big toe hurt. "I have a problem," he muttered from within mask and under palms.
"Uh huh. Starting with having to clean up chakra-suppressant fire retardant."
"What?" He dragged his hands away from his face just as Anko sprayed the fire extinguisher at the jutsu flames that were slowly growing. He cringed. "Okay, two problems."
"That was some pretty good sex we had, wasn't it?"
Iruka nearly dropped his wok, in the process of transferring stir fry from it to a plate for a late, after-work dinner. Instead of dropping it, though, he whipped around and hurled it at the shape in his window.
The Copy Ninja ducked. Too bad.
Even worse, the stir fry went sailing into the alley blow. Damn it. "What do you want?" he nearly snarled.
Kakashi looked thoughtful. Without his mask--he was only wearing pants and bandages, which Iruka would have thought was odd if he'd been calm enough to think anything--it was easy to tell 'thoughtful' from 'asshole.' 'Asshole' was, of course, the man's usual expression. "To be named Kage of the world," Kakashi said finally. "And pie."
It was hard to stay angry at someone who made no sense. "Pie?"
"Fruit pie. Has sweet, sweet filling, comes in a crust? I'm partial to cherry, myself."
Sense or no, Iruka started looking for something else to throw. Wait! Not his plates. Those were expensive. He grabbed up the metal tea kettle instead. It had been a five dollar bin special.
"I need your help, Ruka-kun."
Kakashi had moved. The voice was right next to Iruka's ear. He didn't bother trying to spot the man, just swung as hard as he could.
A strong hand caught his wrist, squeezing the tendons until his hand went numb and the kettle clattered to the ground. "You're hurting my feelings." Kakashi was pouting. He had a remarkably full lip when he wanted to.
Iruka glared. "You're hurting my arm."
The Copy Ninja let go, turning to hop up onto the counter with a bright smile. It showed off his teeth; canines slightly too large, the bottom just a hair overlapping. The night before, Iruka had thought it was an utterly charming grin. Took ten years off Kakashi's age. Now, he wished he could bash those crooked teeth into that jackass mouth.
"While I was on my last mission," Kakashi began, "I created a shadow clone."
"Good for you. I'm sure it was a first."
Kakashi kept speaking, just like he'd done earlier in the mission office. "Not just any normal shadow clone, but a heavily detailed one. Sharingan trick, you see. One that thinks it's me, apparently. The jutsu I was studying makes other jutsu go wrong. Including mine."
"Poor thing." There was a distinct lack of sympathy in Iruka's voice.
Kakashi kept talking. "I broke the clone jutsu, but it didn't go away. Now it's back, and it thinks it's the real me."
"So stab it and it'll poof." Damn it, no. He wasn't going to get involved in this, no matter how interesting--and utterly bizarre--it sounded.
"Can't. It's been injured. I think I need to talk to the hokage."
"Then why are you here?" He picked the kettle back up and slammed it down on the stove. When he turned around, Kakashi was right behind him.
"Because you know I got here last night. You're my star witness."
Iruka leaned back to get a better look at the too-close face. "I'd rather like to see you dead."
Kakashi beamed. "Exactly. That's plenty good enough." Then he grabbed hold of Iruka's wrist and with a yank of chakra, teleported them both out.
"Found the shadow clone, Tsunade!" Aoba turned the corner, followed by a haggard looking Kakashi and, behind him, Anko.
"I'm not a shadow clone." Kakashi didn't quite sigh, but it was a close thing. He nodded at the other Kakashi standing in her office. "That's the shadow clone."
The first Kakashi to have arrived--shirtless and maskless--gave her a look that clearly suggested the poor thing was insane. To Tsunade's naked eye, they looked exactly the same.
"Right." Her tone was sharp; it was, after all, one a.m. "Both of you come here and hold out your arm." There was an easy way to solve this, and if the idea had come from an obviously jilted lover, she didn't mind at all.
Iruka was glowering in the corner, arms folded over his chest, a pretty purple bruise forming around one wrist. Anko, who'd accompanied the possible-shadow clone, approached him. Both Kakashis walked to the desk, giving each other suspicious looks.
Tsunade picked up a kunai as they drew close. Steel gleamed dully in the light from the corner lamp. Aoba stood by the door. Izumo walked in and placed himself by the window. If either Kakashi tried to escape--well, they could at least slow him down.
The clothed Kakashi held his arm out like he was sliced by a kunai every day. It probably wasn't far from the truth.
The half naked Kakashi stuck his arm out as if proving he wasn't afraid--wasn't the clone.
A scratch wasn't enough to dispel a really good shadow clone, but a cut deep enough to need stitches would. She grabbed clothed-Kakashi's wrist in an unbreakable grip, pulling his arm out farther. He still looked bored. The blade of the kunai cut cleanly through his shirt and flesh, through muscle. Under his mask she saw his jaw tighten, and beneath her fingers tendons stood rock-hard. But he didn't vanish.
Which meant, then... Before the other could run she grabbed his wrist and sliced across his arm.
Blood spattered. He didn't vanish either.
"Tsunade-sama, that was downright rough. I almost think you like him better." His maskless face looked truly injured.
"Now what?" Anko asked from her corner, where she'd stopped whispering with Iruka to watch.
Shizune stepped forward with a topical anesthetization and sprayed it across both injuries before she started stitching the clothed one's cut.
"Now I have to buy a new shirt," he said unhappily. "You couldn't have just asked what injuries we'd already gotten?"
She shrugged. "Tell me what happened."
Kakashi stood in the rapidly filling room, glowering at the shirtless shadow clone that was refusing to say he was a shadow clone. He'd relayed the story just as he'd remembered it, only to learn that the shadow clone had told the same story--except he'd stayed out of the way better, and hadn't been knocked unconscious. He'd arrived here the day before and even turned in a mission report. He had a witness, and he'd gone to the hokage first--his story sounded good.
"If I were a shadow clone," Kakashi pointed out, "I wouldn't have woken up from getting knocked out."
"In theory." Tsunade frowned. "You also would have puffed into smoke just now. Iruka, you slept with him. Did he look clone-y to you?"
Iruka--he'd been Team Seven's academy sensei, Kakashi remembered now. Pain the ass man.--looked from one Kakashi to the other. "Not that I could tell. Sorry, Tsunade-sama."
"If I were a shadow clone," the half-naked Kakashi said, "I would have been good enough to avoid getting hit." He looked pointedly at Kakashi.
"Anko, you probably know him the best," Tsunade tried. "What--"
Anko shrugged, and pointed to clothed-Kakashi. "He acts like Kakashi." She pointed to the other. "He acts like Kakashi in a snit."
Tsunade pinched the bridge of her nose. Then, with a deep breath, she picked up a pot of ink and a brush, stalked to the half-naked Kakashi, and painted a seal on his chest. Even from several feet away, Kakashi could feel the chakra radiating out from the glossy ink.
"You," Tsunade began, "we'll call Hatake. Stay in the village until I figure this out." Then she marched to the clothed Kakashi and painted the same seal on the only bit of skin showing. He closed his good eye before she hit the iris itself, reminding himself not to recoil from his hokage. She really didn't need to be pissed off right now, not with his identity at stake. "You, we'll call Kakashi. Stay in the village."
"Yes, Hokage-sama," they said as one, and promptly glared at each other.
"Anko, Iruka, you have new missions." Tsunade set the ink well down with a neat click. "Keep one of them in sight at all times."
Anko straightened in alarm. "Tsunade, I'm supposed to leave tomorrow--"
"I have classes to teach--" Iruka nearly squalled.
"He can be a TA. Neither of them are to return to their apartment, except to collect clothing. Now, I'm going back to bed."
They watched as Tsunade left, trailed by Izumo and Shizune. Aoba looked at the four ninja still in the office. "I can't lock up until you get out."
Feeling a little bit defeated, they turned and walked out. In the hall, Iruka stopped--blocking all their paths--and pointed at Kakashi. "I want that Kakashi."
Anko looked at the pair. They looked back. "Why?"
"Because Hatake," his finger jabbed toward the half-dressed man he'd apparently slept with, "is an asshole."
Anko shrugged. "So's Kakashi."
Kakashi let his face fall into annoyed lines behind his mask, tucking his hands into his pockets. He looked, if possible, even more bland than usual. "I'm standing right here."
"And there, too," Anko quipped, patting his arm in a placatory gesture.
Iruka spoke as if Kakashi hadn't. "Yeah, well, I've slept with this Kakashi. I mean, Hakate. I'd rather stay with the other one."
"Do I get a vote?" Hakate asked. His hands were in his pockets, too. Kakashi glared at him.
"No," Iruka and Anko both answered.
"Want to try the set, huh?" Kakashi leered, though his heart wasn't really in it. It earned him a snorting laugh from Anko and a glare from Iruka.
"Don't think you're getting in my pants, too," the chuunin muttered.
Kakashi smiled brightly behind his mask. "Wouldn't dream of it."
"Getting in his pants is more like a nightmare," Hatake said.
"Oh, gods. Sure, fine, take this one. Let's just get them apart." Anko put both hands on Kakashi's back and pushed him toward Iruka. It only worked because she nearly hit his burns, and he hopped forward to keep that from happening.
"Don't I get a choice in this?" he asked grumpily.
"Nope. Man, I just got yanked off a well-paid cush job because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. If I can make you unhappy, I will."
Kakashi thought about that. Then he smiled. "Take Hatake."
"Nice place." Which was a complete lie, really. Iruka's apartment was in an older area of the village, in a rundown little building that probably had all manner of vermin. It had a bedroom and a bathroom, which, he supposed, meant it was bigger than his own apartment. But his own apartment was, well, his. And Iruka's wasn't.
Iruka apparently didn't miss the undercurrent of sarcasm--or he was still annoyed about everything. He shot Kakashi a dirty look and locked the door behind them. "Teachers don't exactly make a lot of money."
"Oh? Are we talking about salaries now?"
For a moment, Kakashi thought the other man wasn't going to respond. Then Iruka turned, jabbing him in the chest with one finger. "I can't wait until they decide one of you's a fake and kill it."
"That makes two of us," Kakashi said dryly. He stepped away from the single digit, moving a little stiffly. "You are aware I didn't actually sleep with you, right? That I was, last night, still walking home?"
"Thank the gods. It was horrible sex anyway."
Tired as he was, Kakashi called up a sunny smile. "Well, there you are. Proof it wasn't me. Anyone will tell you I'm a brilliant sexual beast. Now, if you don't mind," he continued before Iruka could say any more. "I'm going to shower. And bed. But not yours! Don't worry. Since you're apparently terrible at sex, I'll keep my eyes on my book." Waving the book he'd pulled out of a pocket and listening to Iruka bellow that he was phenomenal in bed, thankyouverymuch, Kakashi turned and headed to the bathroom.
They'd stopped by his place to get fresh clothes and anything else he might need over the next day. He prayed it wouldn't take Tsunade more than that to fix this mess. With his small duffle in tow, he locked the bathroom door and sat down on the toilet lid. His shoulder was throbbing, his leg burning, and the neat row of stitches Shizune had put in were like a brand against his forearm. That didn't begin to include the list of minor aches--sore muscles and a blister on his right heel. Damn it.
Kakashi turned the water on and started to carefully strip out of his clothes. The bandages over his burns he left in place; they'd adhered to the lack of skin, and he was half afraid to try peeling them off. Standing still for a sharpened kunai blade was one thing. Taking gauze off crisped skin was something else entirely.
He stepped under barely luke-warm water and cringed anyway, quickly turning it to cold. Any heat made the burns sizzle worse along his skin; the rest of him would just have to suffer.
It didn't take long for the gauze to soak through and the pus to soften. Braced, Kakashi peeled the bandages off and tossed them toward the edge of the tiles. They landed with a quiet plop. He'd pick them up later.
Washing injuries came next. He had gotten very good at the times tables over the years. Most of them were useless as a distraction, now, but five thousand, three hundred and six still worked. He ran through it--twice--before he was sure everything was clean enough to not get infected. It was funny how self-inflicted pain could wear a man out. Shaking, it turned off the water and stepped onto the little mat. Pulling a jar of burn cream out of his duffel, he smeared it liberally over his shoulder, and once again added gauze. He should have asked Shizune for that topical anesthetic. Too late, now. He pulled a bottle of pain pills out, debated being sleepy over not hurting, and finally took two. If you couldn't trust not to be killed by an annoyed chuunin in the middle of the night, what could you trust?
Not a clone, apparently.
He pulled a shirt on--carefully--over bandages, then eyed his shrapnel-cut leg. That, at least, was less painful. He wrapped his thigh with several quick motions, tying off the length of clean cloth before stepping into flannel pants. With silver hair still damp from the shower, he grabbed his duffel and walked out into the main room.
Iruka was nowhere to be seen. The bedroom door was closed. Wearily, glad that the long day was over, Kakashi dropped onto the couch and slept.