Sixteen: Dependable

Attention: Hatake Kakashi

Memo: Kakashi, I have become aware that the paperwork concerning the withdrawal of your student Uzumaki Naruto from the chuunin exam is still conspicuously absent. Please rectify this mistake.


Sandaime Hokage

Attention: Sandaime Hokage

Memo: After an extensive session in which I tested Uzumaki Naruto's capabilities, I have found him suitably competent enough to exclude the option of his forced withdrawal from the exam. I will not be pushing the issue, as I have no need of that headache, and the brat is quite stubborn on this matter. I believe he is (for the present) compensating for his lack of sight by relying on his hypersensitive hearing and possible enhanced other senses. Naruto has had training of some form to teach him to function blind, though I have yet to find his teacher. (Refer to report of Blindfold Mission) As such, he is currently coping, and I have no reason to remove him from his earned place in the finals.

If you still want to kick him out, you tell the brat. Bring earplugs, he's loud for a hypersensitive knucklehead.


Hatake Kakashi

Attention: Uzumaki Naruto

Memo: Naruto, sorry I couldn't tell you this in person, but I'm in a rush. You know me, busy busy busy! You've been released from the hospital, not because you've finished your physio, but because the medics are cross after that incident last week that we all know you were responsible for. Anyway, the Hokage wants you to move in with someone for a while until you find your feet – just someone to help you with the boring everyday stuff that you may have to relearn entirely now, harsh as that sounds. So, pick someone, move in. Sasuke's… acceptable but not ideal, because he's a kid too. You're welcome at my place, or Iruka-sensei's. Gai-sensei has also graciously offered you a room in his apartment. I'll be back this weekend, and I'll bring Sasuke with me – he's been pining for you, it's really very cute. Make up your mind by then, and we'll move you this Sunday, okay?


Hatake Kakashi

Attention: Sandaime Hokage, Hatake Kakashi

Memo: So how does this memo thing work? I just talk, and you write down whatever I say and send it to Sensei? And the old man? Dude, your job sucks! But you must know, like, everything! Oh, right, the memo! Ummm… Sasuke, what'm I supposed to say? Oh, yeah! Um, I don't need to move – I'm okay living on my own. But, like, thanks for the offer and junk. Sasuke was crashing with me for a while, but I kicked his ass out, and I'm fine. Promise. So… yeah. No to the whole move-in-with-someone thing. That's it. What? Oh, okay, I just need to sign it? And you'll send it to the Old Man and Kakashi-sensei? Why can't I just tell them this, anyway…? Oh, right, okay, I'll sign.


Uzumaki Naruto

Kakashi's Log:

Something is not sitting right with me about Naruto. He's too confident, too at ease. More than that, I've found no signs of even suppressed grief for the loss of his sight. Sure, he seems to be deluding himself into thinking this is some sort of long-term blindfold training, but there should still be… something. Who was it who taught him how to function without his sight in the first place? And why on earth did whoever-that-was think it was necessary?

Yet again, this train of thought has led me to the familiar territory of 'None of My Damn Business'. I'll have to keep my mouth shut and my eyes open, and hope that Naruto will trust me enough to tell me the truth. Until then, I'll try not to gag when swallowing his stories.

A drop of water landed on my outstretched hand, and I couldn't help jumping slightly in surprise as the icy water shocked the skin, slowly heating to a natural, almost undetectable temperature. Water droplet…? Another struck my elbow and a chill flushed through my shirt in patches, and I listened to the unsteady pattering that was increasing in intensity as startled mutters from nearby people alerted me to the fact that it was starting to rain.

I smiled faintly to myself, thinking, Better get home. This shower's been building up for days – I'll be soaked through in seconds if I don't get back in time.

I darted through the rapidly emptying streets with the ease of long practise, dodging people and avoiding the edges of buildings. It was easier to travel now, but I didn't really get why. People had generally stopped throwing things at me or trying to trip me in the street now, although that probably had something to do with the fact that I was usually out with Kakashi-sensei or Sasuke, these days. Scary glares, I'm telling you.

Icy water was flecking my skin rapidly now, and the beginnings of puddles scattered under my sandals as I sprinted down the pathway, heading for home as quickly as I could manage. The people around me were all evacuating for the safety of nearby homes or shops to wait out the ensuing rainstorm, but I was nearly at my apartment now – just this last block, and then up the stairs…

The rain was heavy, water starting to soak my hair and clothing. Loudly raindrops attacked the buildings around me, creating a series of distracting echoes that made me slip and stumble as my mind tried to reconcile the pictures I was getting with the images I was expecting. Even the ground seemed to be shifting under the constant barrage of water. Every freezing cold droplet that struck my exposed skin created a tiny wave of shock, and by the time I scrambled through my apartment block doorway, I was shivering.

I hate rain.

Stumbling up the stairs before the annoying landlady could yell at me for tracking water, I could still hear rain attacking the glass panes of the windows. I was very glad I'd shut my window this morning – the thickness of the air had made it so hard to breathe, if it hadn't rained today, I'd probably have suffocated overnight. Would you like some air mixed in with that water?

Very humid.

Was there a point in there somewhere? Oh yes, the rain. I don't mind light rain – the drizzly stuff that most people hate – I like that, tingly and cool like dew. But I hate heavy rain. Distracting, echo-y –

"WA-CHOO!" I sneezed, making the neighbour's fluffy cat let out an indignant yowl as it shot up the stairs ahead of me. And, of course, the chills.

Shouldn't matter with a fire demon in my belly, right? Well, as I've discovered over the course of many years of contact, he likes to annoy me. Oh, don't get me wrong, he won't let me get sick – he won't have such a 'weak' vessel having control of his power – but he knows how much sneezes hurt, and how they screw with my senses, and laughs gleefully from the back of my head.

Shooting a mental bird at the sniggering fox demon, I sneezed again, grabbing hold of the doorframe so that I didn't stumble and hit my head in the ensuing dizziness. Where did I put my keys…? I searched my pockets, wracked by intermittent sneezes, as wind and rain howled against the sides of the building, and I could swear I felt the structure shifting under the onslaught, shifting, sliding, crumpling, collapsing –

My hand closed around the jagged metal of the key and the sounds of splintering wood and screeching metal vanished from my mind. Fitting the key in the lock and muttering vague curses under my breath, I let myself into my apartment, brushing past the door and navigating the room with ease. There were a couple of random boxes I couldn't remember placing that I tripped over, but that was normal.

I shook myself off, water flying everywhere, and sneezed again, swearing aloud at the Kyuubi's laughter. Damn sadistic fox.

I changed into dry clothing quickly, rain pounding against the thin walls of my apartment. I was just considering what to have for dinner (instant ramen, instant ramen, air and water or instant ramen) when I felt a tiny flicker of something at the back of my mind. Putting it down to 'annoying fox', I continued shuffling through the kitchen and poking ramen packets, only to find myself freezing up as there was a faint crack, and then an explosion followed by a harsh snarling rumble –

Thunder roared overhead, making the very building shake, and I felt vibrations tingling through my body as the heaviness in the air drove into my eardrums. There was pressure on my lungs and I felt my heartbeat quivering –

The thunder died rapidly, leaving my ears ringing in the relative silence of a howling rainstorm.

I staggered backwards, shaking and gasping for breath and tripping over something on the floor that hadn't been there a second ago – must have been knocked down in the thunder, couldn't hear, couldn't feel –

Gods, I hated thunder.

Shuddering, I forced a couple of choking breaths through my lungs, putting my hand against the wall, vaguely noting that the Kyuubi had finally killed my sneezes. Damn fox, has to be good for something, I guess.

I flinched and stiffened, my heart racing uncontrollably as a second burst of thunder barked loudly, the sound a whip-crack or massively slamming door to my ears. I hate thunder – always have. What other people consider noisy and exciting is painful and downright terrifying for me. Loud noises never bode well, and thunderstorms make my head ache and my chest hurt and my ears start to ache from the pressure –

I like a bit of light rain. But thunderstorms suck.

Pathetic human, Kyuubi sneered, and I shook my fist uselessly at the demon, only to sneeze again. Afraid of a sound, can't even keep your own chakra under control, can't take a bit of water –

Like you're one to talk on the water thing, I retorted sharply. Be useful or be quiet!

There was a growl, and then silence. The fox had gone to sulk.

I sneered back at him, baring my teeth to an empty apartment, only to gasp and jerk at a fresh bellowing peal of thunder exploding right overhead – I could feel it, the floor was trembling, I could hear my window rattling, I was shaking with the force of it –

I slid down a wall I hadn't realised I was leaning on for support to sit on the floor with a strangled sound. I hate storms.

Kakashi scanned the drenched street with a sharp eye, grey sheets of rain shuttering across the concrete as the rainstorm attacked nearby structures with the ferocity of wild animals. The odd flicker of orange kept catching his attention, but there was no sign of his young student, even as a fresh squall of wind blew icy stinging drops into his face.


The jounin's head swung around, his eye instantly picking up the blue shadow sprinting through the downpour, and headed towards him.

"Sasuke!" he shouted, catching up to the genin in a few long-legged strides. Both ninja winced reflexively as thunder growled angrily overhead, and as he realised the close proximity of his sensei the Uchiha stumbled to a halt and doubled over, struggling for air.

"Have you – seen – Naruto?" he gasped out, sucking in precious oxygen as he stared desperately at the silver-haired man through his own dark, waterlogged bangs.

Kakashi shook his head quickly, his heart rate quickening as his mind started to produce several highly unpleasant scenarios. "Why? Has something happened? Is he–" Another peal of thunder drowned out the remainder of his last sentence, bolts of lightning searing the dark clouds overhead and supercharging the air.

Sasuke shook his head helplessly, still gasping, and managed to sputter, "Thunderstorms – he – hates them. Noise – can't think – gets scared – always has –"

Kakashi already knew Naruto's uncomfortable reaction to loud sounds – could guess how the deafening rumbles would hurt his hypersensitive ears – and it wasn't at all difficult to imagine his student huddled in the thundering rain, blind and terrified.

The jounin shoved the mental image away and focused on the sopping wet Sasuke he had managed to steer under a shop hanging. "Where did you see him last?" he shouted over the din hammering against the roof. "Have you checked his apartment yet?"

"No!" the dark-haired boy shouted back, still breathing deeply but no longer gasping. "I was just on my way! He was out in the markets – looking for Sakura, I think!"

Eloquent but quiet cursing escaped Kakashi's lips as he quickly traced several hopefully likely spots for his blonde genin to be sheltering. "We'll go check his apartment first, and keep an eye out for him along the way!"

Lightning flashed again and thunder drowned out Sasuke's agreement, but both ninja darted away through the storm as the skies roared their fury above them. Kakashi let Sasuke take the lead, allowing the worried genin to lead him to the right floor and apartment number – he already knew where Naruto lived, but Sasuke was bordering on frantic as he checked the door – unlocked – and shoved it open.

The room was dark, lit by no more than the occasional burst of lightning visible through the cracks in the shuttered window. Sasuke stepped forward straight away, one hand hitting the nearby table, while the pair of them waited for their eyesight to adjust. Kakashi knew the darkened room didn't mean much, because as depressing as the thought was, the light wouldn't matter to Naruto. Light or no light, he was still unable to see.

A rasping breath of air caught both ninja's attention and in an instant they were focusing dark-adjusted eyes on the shadows of the floor. Sasuke moved first, kneeling next to the small figure that Kakashi suddenly realised was Naruto, curled up in a little ball on the unpolished wood of his apartment floor. He looked smaller than ever, trembling and flinching defensively at every crack of sound that burst from the clouds.

Slowly, Kakashi moved to kneel on the other side of his student as Sasuke spoke reassuringly to his frightened teammate, one hand on his shoulder. "Naruto, can you hear me? It's okay, we're here, it's okay, I promise. Can you hear me, Naruto?"

The blond flinched at the first contact, but the familiar sound of his best friend's voice made him start to uncurl from his protective ball, raising his head enough for his visitors to see his sightless, blankly scared eyes. "Sasuke?" he said softly, dull eyes wandering aimlessly around a room he couldn't see. "Sensei? Wha… what're you two doing here?"

"Are you okay, Naruto?" Kakashi asked instead of answering, fingers brushing at the blonde fringe and carding through Naruto's damp, unruly hair, his other hand inspecting a small cut on his right cheek. Through the contact, the teacher could feel his genin shivering violently.

"It's okay now," he promised softly. "We're here."

Blue eyes blinked in confusion even as Naruto allowed his teacher to help him off the floor and guide him to the bed. Another volley of thunder echoed, close enough to shake the walls, and Naruto cried out, jerking closer to the jounin as if to shelter against him.

Kakashi found himself holding this small, terrified child close to his chest, rubbing his back in an attempt to calm him down. Sasuke stepped close, looking a little resigned and a lot understanding, and placed his hands firmly on Naruto's shoulder blades. "Naruto," he said steadily. "It's okay. You're safe. You trust us, don't you? We're here to keep you safe."

"Senseei!" Kakashi yelped, stumbling away from the window that had just lit up with a fantastic flash of light, accompanied by the terrifying explosion of thunder – to a ninja, even a ninja-in-training, that sound represented far too many things, most of them painful, all of them bad.

The blonde teenager who was the five-year-old's mentor was amused, but trying very hard not to show it. "It's okay, 'Kashi," he said soothingly, yanking the small silver-haired child onto his lap and ignoring the indignant squeak. "Shh. I know the thunder's scary, but it's okay."

"'M not scared," the child mumbled, trying to pretend he wasn't shivering.

He found himself being hugged quietly by his teacher, the gentle voice whispering in his ear, "It's okay, 'Kashi. Trust me. I won't let it hurt you. It's okay. I'll keep you safe."

Kakashi blinked as Naruto jerked again, thunder rattling the shutters, and sighed faintly as Sasuke settled on the jinchuuriki's other side, ready to weather the storm.

I'm not sure exactly when I woke up. The soft, comforting blackness of sleep gave way at some stage to warm safety, the transition so slight I took at least half an hour to acknowledge the change. Even once I figured out I was awake I didn't move, quietly content in the feeling of being safe. Usually, the cold, unforgiving air of an empty apartment pressed down on me until I moved, or bitter, unfriendly wisps of dawn breeze stirred. In the hospital it was even worse, too-clean and impersonal, and if not for the drugs they'd kept me on I probably wouldn't have slept at all, too wary of my surroundings.

So I lay still, feeling passively protected and undisturbed, warmth suffusing from all around me. I was hearing breathing and heartbeats that weren't mine, but the knowledge wasn't distressing, and I didn't react, waiting for my mind to struggle out of sleep to identify them. Eventually, I managed to gain access to enough of my sleep-fogged memories to realise Sasuke was against my back, barely on the edge of the bed, and Kakashi-sensei was on my other side, wedged against the wall.

Wha…? Why are these two here…?

There was a pained groan and the bed creaked worryingly as Kakashi-sensei sat up. I didn't move, already aware that both he and Sasuke were awake, but not yet willing to wake up myself.

"God, that bed is uncomfortable," he grumbled quietly, shifting with obvious discomfort. I heard a faint 'crak' from one of his joints, and he grunted, before the dying mattress shifted slightly from under me. He'd stood up. "Is there any coffee here?"

"Yeah," Sasuke mumbled, "middle cupboard, top shelf, behind the blue boxes. New tin. I'm the only one who drinks it."

I heard a faint clatter as Sensei started to move around the kitchen. That scrik-clak was the sticky cupboard door jerking open – the tinkling of a full tin of something – that crash would be him dropping the kettle on the counter.

"These shelves look rather empty," Kakashi commented, his voice carrying quietly enough from the kitchen area that I didn't need to twitch. "Nothing but instant ramen. Is he due to get groceries?"

Sasuke yawned, but didn't sit up. "Not sure. But, um, Sensei… he doesn't usually have much more than instant ramen anyway."

There was a pause.

"He loves his ramen, huh?" Kakashi remarked. Clothing rustled: Sasuke must have shrugged.

"He does…" my friend said slowly. "But… Sensei, I don't really think he can afford much. Ramen's, like, the only thing he can buy enough of to actually fill him up. You know how much he eats."

"Surely it's not that bad," Sensei protested, a spoon clinking against a mug as the strong smell of coffee made my nose crinkle just slightly. I hadn't heard the kettle boil… "I mean, he gets a monthly allowance, just like all the other orphans in Konoha. Naruto doesn't buy clothes or shoes on a monthly basis, so he should have more than enough for food."

I restricted a wince, suddenly glad that I was still technically asleep and, like any good friend, leaving Sasuke completely to fend for himself before our nosy sensei on a topic I hated discussing.

"Uh…" I could hear, and feel, Sasuke shifting uncomfortably beside me. "Well, yeah, that's true, sensei, but… well, it's just… sometimes they… forget."

I could have sworn I felt the air temperature drop ten degrees instantaneously. Shivering, I snuggled deeper into my blankets, unwilling to wake up. 'Awareness' or no, I was still very much out of it, and happy that way. Then I realised something and restricted a gag.

EW! These blankets reek! Ew, ew, ew – need to wash them! ASAP!

"They forget?" Huh. It sounded like Sensei was gritting his teeth. That was weird.

Sasuke's answer was subdued. "Yeah. I sometimes bring him stuff – extra blankets, kunai… stuff. Even that coffee's mine: I stashed it here to help me wake up."

Ok, that was way true. Sasuke bunks here sometimes, but he is definitely not a morning person. Two hours is his best waking time without coffee. And then he was grumpy for the rest of the day. I never hid the coffee again.

There was a clink as Sensei put down his coffee mug, and I listened sleepily to his footsteps as he began to stride around the room, seeming agitated. I heard cupboards open and close, and winced when the wardrobe door fell off in his hand, the corner hitting the floor with a distinctive 'thunk'. Stupid thing was always coming off… Sensei was flicking through my clothes (orange shirt, orange shirt, orange shirt, Sasuke's shirt), but abandoned that and walked over to the sink. I heard the tap squeak as he turned the knobs with some difficulty.

After a long moment, I heard my teacher whirl around.

"He doesn't have hot water?" he shouted. I winced as the temperature plummeted again, and decided that now was a very good time to get up. I wanted my jacket anyway – my blanket was apparently too thin if I was this cold.

Sasuke had sat up at some stage – I was confused to realise I didn't know quite when – trying to explain to our angry teacher. "It's not his fault! The pipe cracked a while back, and no one's come to fix it yet!"

Sensei went very, very still, the distinct rustles of his clothing and hidden weaponry silenced. "How long?" he said quietly.

I finally managed to work up the energy to sit up from the bed, glancing around and trying to remember where I'd put my jacket last night… and I still didn't know why Kakashi-sensei and Sasuke were here. "G'morning, Sensei, Sa, Saaaa…" I yawned. Okay, not fully awake yet. "…Sasuke. What're you two doin' here, anyway?" I mumbled as I wriggled free of my clingy blanket and landed on the floor with a thump. "Ow. I hate it when that happens."

"Naruto, pack up your things. You're coming home with me," Kakashi-sensei said flatly, and I was suddenly made very much aware of the waves of furious killer intent seeping from him. Okay. I am so awake now.

"Kakashi-sensei, I don't know what I did, but whatever it was I'm very sorry and I won't do it again!" I said quickly, the angry promise of death that I was sensing making me nervous.

I heard him snatch a breath, and the KI went up a notch as he said, "You haven't done anything, Naruto, but I need you to pack your stuff. It's okay."

It didn't sound okay. I'd never heard or sensed Kakashi-sensei this angry before. Sometimes he'd let out a little bit of killer intent, like at Zabuza, or at a medic-nin who annoyed him, but nothing like this. "Sensei, you're scaring me," I said in a low voice.

As soon as I said it he took a deep breath and the KI died away as he made an obvious effort to calm down. "Sorry, Naruto," he said evenly. "I'm not mad at you, I promise. But you need to pack up your things and come with me, alright?" Then, under his breath, something I probably wasn't meant to hear: "If I had known…"

I frowned, even as I followed Sasuke tamely around the apartment, finding the things that I actually needed or that I wouldn't leave behind even when we went out of the village, cramming them all into my backpack. Where had I put my ink pots – fridge, that's right, I was testing a chakra theory… no, I had a stack of seals in there cooling, the ink pots were hidden on top of the coffee cupboard. My brushes… good question.

"…um, Sasuke?" I asked, once Sensei had left the apartment and shut the door rather more firmly than usual. "Is this, normal? Should Sensei be… this angry?"

"Well, yes and no," Sasuke admitted, folding something and shoving it in. "I think he should be angry, but… I also think he's overreacting a little. There's something a bit personal behind this."

"Oh. …Right then. I should really get around to stealing his file."

"Yes. Yes you should," Sasuke said firmly, and handed me my brushes.

A silver-haired man in his late twenties stormed up the stairs of the Hokage Tower. Very few people even considered trying to stop him, and those that did, didn't try. The visible ANBU guards took one look and moved out of his way, allowing him access to the upper floors; the invisible ones pretended they hadn't seen him.

Hatake Kakashi was on the warpath.

The door to the Hokage's office slammed open, banging off the wall to close loudly behind the furious intruder. The Sandaime glanced up, unnerved by the volume of killer intent, and barely had time to say, "Kakashi, what on earth is –" before the man exploded.

"No hot water, no real blankets, a bed that might as well have been a stone, no food! How dare you let this happen?" he snarled, his voice loud enough to be dangerously near a shout. Sarutobi blinked.

"What on earth–?" he began, but was again cut off.

"I couldn't believe it – wouldn't have believed it unless I was actually there, looking around his apartment! If I had known you were going to do this to him – if I had known you were going to abuse him – I would have never agreed to keep my distance! Fuck, you're supposed to be the Hokage! You're supposed to protect your citizens! Dammit, Sarutobi, you were supposed to look after him!"

Kakashi broke off, his chest heaving, glaring daggers at the stunned old man. Sarutobi was startled to see that despite the overwhelming anger radiating from the jounin in waves, Kakashi almost looked as if he were going to cry. The Hokage hadn't seen Kakashi like this since… well, since Minato had died.

"Kakashi," he said gently, choosing to ignore the impudence, disrespect and outright rudeness his ninja was displaying and making a mental note to have a chat with the invisible ANBU guards in the office, who all seemed to be pretending they could not see, hear or sense the murderous Hatake. "I am afraid I do not understand. Who are you talking about?"

Apparently that was the wrong thing to say, as the killer intent went up another notch (Sarutobi hadn't thought it possible) and Kakashi drew himself up angrily before spitting, "Naruto!"

Sarutobi was on instant alert. "Naruto? Is he okay? What's wrong? Has he been hurt? Attacked? Is he injured? Where is he now?"

Kakashi stared at his leader as if seeing him for the first time. "How can you be so… how is it you don't see what I'm talking about?" he asked, his voice low and incredulous: a dangerous state for a ninja. "Are you so convinced that I was never going to find out? Naruto is blind, not me!" Sarutobi drew a quick breath at the harsh statement, but Kakashi wasn't done yet. "Sarutobi, he has no food! His twelve-year-old teammate Sasuke has been supplying blankets and kunai! Naruto… how could you do this to him?"

The shock on the old Hokage's face was painfully obvious as he finally realised exactly what Kakashi was saying.

"Wh-what?" he stuttered – the first time Kakashi had ever heard him stumble over a word. "He… what?"

"You didn't know?" Kakashi's anger was ebbing slightly, his voice calming.

Sarutobi shook his head as if to clear it, gesturing Kakashi to sit down. "No! Did Naruto tell you this?"

Kakashi shook his head, sinking into the offered chair. "I stayed the night there with him – and Sasuke. This was the first storm since he was blinded – I figured thunder would be hard for him to cope with, so I went to check on him. He was frightened by the storm, and the only way I could calm him down was by holding him. Eventually he fell asleep, so I stayed the night."

Sarutobi nodded to show that he was following, his fingers twitching in annoyance as he heard his ANBU guards breathe sighs of relief now that Kakashi had calmed down.

"Anyway, this morning I woke up and realised just how hard his bed was – like stone, and all lumpy too. Frankly, it'd be healthier sleeping on the floor. He had a single thin blanket that belonged to Sasuke. More than that, I went through his cupboards – there is nothing there. He has ramen, and a tin of coffee that Sasuke brought over, and a bottle of off milk. Oh, and half a loaf of stale bread."

Sarutobi was looking more concerned with each passing second. "Well… he does love ramen…" he offered. Kakashi shook his head.

"Sasuke was there. According to him, Naruto eats ramen because it's all he can afford. Oh, he loves it, yes, but he can't actually buy enough of anything else to keep himself fed – ramen is cheap. Apparently, the people who issue the orphan's monthly allowance sometimes forget to give him his."

The Sandaime's face was grey, his brow creased with worry. "Forget? But… how could they think to…" Sarutobi, Kakashi was pleased to see, was beginning to grow angry too.

"And," he continued, "You know that apartment he has? Not only is it falling to bits, he has to pay a horrendous rent, and the landlady isn't even keeping up her end of the deal. His water pipe cracked three years ago, and no-one's come to fix it."

Sarutobi was shocked. "Why didn't he say anything?" he breathed.

"He seems to feel it's no big deal," Kakashi confided. "He honestly didn't understand what I was upset about – he even apologised. Because he thought it was his fault that I was upset. Sir, he has nothing."

Sarutobi shook his head. "I will get to the bottom of this," he promised. "I assure you, Kakashi, I had no idea. But I will see those responsible punished – severely. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Now-"

"I'm not done," Kakashi interrupted. Sarutobi blinked, then raised an eyebrow, inviting him to continue. "Naruto moved into my apartment this morning," he said flatly. "As he should have twelve years ago. I will not let him leave, not now that he has not only suffered a crippling injury, but abuse all his life, too. I will care for him now."

Sarutobi frowned. "We tried to convince him to share living arrangements when he was first blinded," he reminded his jounin. "But he refused. He would not even bunk with Sasuke, his best friend. How can you–?"

"I told him to come, and he came," Kakashi said simply. "Easy. You can tell his landlady that she can re-rent out the apartment. And if she insists on him completing the contract, I'll pay it out. Re-direct the orphan allowance into my account – we'll see if they forget to pay after that. I will ensure that Naruto gets everything he deserves."

Sarutobi considered for a moment, then nodded, reaching into his desk for a paper and writing on it quickly. "Very well. I hereby make you Uzumaki Naruto's official guardian. That does mean he won't get an orphan allowance any longer, but you shall receive a dependant allowance instead – basically the same thing – to provide for him. Look after him, Kakashi."

Kakashi nodded once and stood to leave, but was stopped by the door as Sarutobi called out to him.

"Kakashi!" The Hatake turned slightly. Sarutobi met his eyes and spoke seriously. "I am sorry."

After a brief moment, Kakashi nodded briskly and left, intent on returning to his student and, as of two minutes ago, new dependant.

Twin2: … *crickets chirp*

Okay. That plot twist came outta left field. I seriously had no idea that our muses were going to do this. It just kind of happened. This was just based around what would happen if there was a thunderstorm… y'know, a bonding thing? (shakes head and grins sheepishly) Just shows that I'm not in total control of the story and that I can still surprise myself occasionally. Or that my sister can still surprise me.

Twin1: (is staring at conclusion with horrified astonishment).