A/N: Q: How long would it really take to get close to someone who's lost everyone they've ever cared about to the point of significant mutual trust and the development a romantic relationship?
A: A pretty long-ass while.
This is how an OC-centric (eventual) Kakashi/OC fanfic should be done. I have read (or tried to and have given up), over the years, many poorly-written or irritatingly mediocre Kaka/OC fics. This is my attempt at a well-written one with in-character reactions/interactions.
So, here's the rewrite of I Swear, retitled as Gain. It is six years pre-series and focuses on the older generation, who I completely adore. The first couple of chapters are a bit haphazard in trying to establish the setting but shit gets solid and serious. Kakashi's POV is introduced in Chapter II and gradually becomes more prevalent. You'll see.
I must also apologise profusely to my readers who've had to suffer through my various story changes. I am so, so sorry but I am so glad that you're still here with me.
Please read, enjoy and review. Reviews make me terribly happy.
of a Copycat and a Missing Cat
With a kunai still lodged in her left shoulder, Kazeko limped up the stairs, almost tripping over her own feet in the darkness. Grabbing hold of the handrail for support, she winced and cursed at the pain, lifting a hand up to gingerly touch the surrounding area of the stab wound. Oh, the joys of being a kunoichi. Finally reaching her former teammate's front door, she pounded on it with her fist.
"Oi, Shinichi!" she called out loudly, ignoring the fact that it was two o'clock in the morning and that he and his neighbours were most likely asleep. "In need of medical assistance here!"
Footsteps. The light inside switched on and the door swung open to reveal Shinichi in his pyjamas with an unkempt shock of platinum blond hair, rubbing his drowsy eyes. A rather familiar sight to Kazeko by now, as sepia memories wound their way into her mind of crashing at her teammates' places after exhausting missions. Suchlike this occurrence.
"Why can't you just go to the hospital?" Shinichi sighed resignedly, stepping aside to let her in.
"Because your bedside manner is lovely," Kazeko chirped with mock sweetness but her expression was betrayed by a pained hiss.
Ushering her over to his couch, he sat her down and examined the injury with a professional gaze.
"Some bastard rain nin got me," she gritted her teeth. "I could've ripped the fucker a new asshole."
She watched Shinichi as he carefully brushed his fingers around the area. He gave her a warm smile as he noticed her looking and she smiled back, despite the pain in her shoulder.
"It's a good thing you didn't pull it out," he walked off and returned with gloved hands and a washing tub filled with water and wet towels.
"Okay, brace yourself. It's in pretty deep. On the count of three…"
Kazeko held her breath, waiting for the pain to come.
"One... two… three!"
"Fuck!" she hissed, gritting her teeth as he dislodged the blade from her shoulder.
Shinichi stanched the wound with a wet towel and handed the kunoichi a small red pill.
"Blood replenishing. Take it."
Kazeko bit down on it before swallowing on doctor's orders.
Green chakra illuminated from his palms hovering over her shoulder. A soothing tingling sensation passed through her shoulder before fading when the glowing ceased.
"It's going to scar for a while but it'll fade with time," her personal medic nin said, wiping away excess blood.
"Ah, yet another addition to my collection," she reached to gingerly touch the remaining scar, tracing the uneven flesh with a finger before looking at her former teammate.
"Thanks again, 'Ichi. I'm gonna stick with the usual routine and pass out now."
He chuckled knowingly. "Of course."
As soon as she'd settled into her borrowed pillow and blanket, Kazeko immediately drifted off to sleep on Shinichi's couch out of sheer exhaustion.
Kazeko's modest studio apartment was still unfamiliar to her. It was more of a living arrangement than like a comforting home. She had vowed to move out of her parents' house after becoming a jounin and here she was, livin' the dream, or more like what was a relentlessly cold reality as she had so quickly discovered after being promoted.
The many souvenirs from her A-ranked missions that her body carried reflected back at her in the mirror. Kazeko sighed at the unattractive sight and slipped her shirt back on again. Well, at least scars showed character.
It was quiet. The faint chirping of birds was audible from outside the window.
After showering, she decided to go out for a jog to the training grounds. The crisp morning air nipped at her bare arms and legs. Kazeko shivered slightly as she locked the front door, keys jingling before pocketing them.
Her neighbour's door then swung open and out stepped a masked grey-haired ninja. Damn, must be an old-timer. He was lucky to have lived to such an age in this profession. She observed him curiously and was surprised at the sight of a young, albeit mostly obscured face when he turned around. Noticing the lop-sided headband covering his left eye and her mind clicked in recognition.
He paused and faced her. "That's my name."
Kazeko smiled, slightly humbled in the presence of such a legendary and accomplished shinobi. "So, we're neighbours, huh?"
"It appears to be that way."
"I'm Morino Kazeko," she introduced herself.
Kakashi blinked with his visible eye. "Morino…? Are you related to Morino Ibiki by any chance?"
"Yep, I'm his sister! I get that reaction a lot, we're pretty different people."
The image of her towering and threatening figure of an older brother standing next to her, of cheerful disposition, appeared in her head and she held back a giggle.
He scrutinised her for a few seconds while she tried to keep a straight face. "I see. Well, I've got places to go. It was nice meeting you, Morino-san."
Kakashi abruptly turned and body flickered away in a puff of smoke.
Kazeko set off in a paced jog as thoughts of her encounter with Hatake Kakashi, the Copy (heh, Copycat) Ninja as her new neighbour raced through her mind. The other third of her genin team, Zuru, had recounted several stories of the famous shinobi as his ANBU captain. "Hatake-taichou", he'd called him. However, this regaling of classified ANBU missions was often done whilst Zuru was incredibly drunk, temporarily forgoing the fact that such aforementioned missions were classified.
Kazeko laughed aloud at this thought and continued her way towards the training grounds. Her senses spiked up in alert, picking up a cutting chakra coming straight for her.
Shit, wind release? That must be…!
Mind springing into action, Kazeko instinctively performed a set of hand seals. "Wind Release: Deflection barrier!"
A wall of wind chakra surrounded her, immediately dissipating the opponent's gale before sending it straight back at her dark-haired opponent who deftly sliced the counterattacking gale apart.
"Sorry about that!" a familiar honey-over-gravel voice called out.
Forgetting the messy state of her hair and how she almost could have almost been sliced in half, a beam split Kazeko's face as she was met with the sight of none other than her kindred spirit in nature transformation.
Kazeko released her wind barrier. "Morning, Asuma-senpai! You're back from your mission already?" she said cheerfully.
He was still alive. That instant rush of relief flooded over her, whenever a friend of hers returned from a mission still standing. That was all that mattered. Kazeko had long ago learned to push aside the constant fear and paranoia of losing those who were close to her, a necessity in this line of work but the reassurance of their safe return reminded her of the very real possibility of a completely different scenario.
"Didn't I tell you to quit it with the 'senpai' thing? Makes me feel too much older," Asuma grumbled before lighting a cigarette.
"Yeah, but 'Asuma-san' sounds too formal and 'Asuma-kun' just sounds weird, like a shoujo manga weird."
He grinned, blowing out a puff of wispy smoke. "Then just drop the honorifics, Kazeko."
"Fine, then… Asuma." she mumbled, avoiding eye-contact.
Flustered, Kazeko patted down her hair and changed the subject. "Are you growing out a beard now?"
"Yeah," Asuma stroked his stubbled chin.
"It looks good on you," she blushed, wondering how it'd feel against her own face as his lips brushed hers with the feel of his hair in-between her fingers and…
This schoolgirl crush was getting ridiculous.
He grinned and made a bird seal before playfully flicking a gust of wind-infused chakra at her.
Kazeko gawked. "HEY! That could've easily sliced my face open, you idiot!"
"It's all about control."
For the rest of the morning, they traded wind jutsu and sparred against one another. Asuma was always the victor, though, with his age and experience. Kazeko couldn't deny that as a shinobi, he was also more skilled than she was, particularly being the Hokage's son. The topic of his father was rarely touched upon, however, as she knew they'd had a falling out a year ago and their relationship had become strained since then.
"You've gotten better," said Asuma, expertly sundering Kazeko's blades of wind chakra with his own trench knives.
Panting, the kunoichi sidestepped as a condensed lash of chakra whistled past her.
"Goddamn, that would've hurt!" she exclaimed, wiping the sweat off her brow before preparing for his next move.
To her disappointment, Asuma suddenly broke his combat stance and began to stretch.
"Wait, what are you doing?" she pouted.
"I'm hungry," he said, taking off his chakra blades and reaching for his pack of smokes. "It's lunchtime already. You're welcome to join me if you want."
"Nah, sorry, I've got other plans," Kazeko sighed and sat down on the grassy field, regaining her breath. "Some other time?"
"Alright, then. See you later."
Kazeko watched Asuma's retreating form before lying down and staring up at the sky, clutching fistfuls of grass. Closing her eyes, she inhaled and listened to her surroundings, immersing herself in the subtle sounds. An indeterminable amount of time passed before she finally got up and started to walk towards the Memorial Stone.
She didn't know what compelled her to visit her sensei today. It had been two months since her sensei's death and the day her former genin team had received the news was still fresh in her mind. Shinichi had burst into tears in front of the Hokage while Zuru and she remained shocked into disbelief. The rest of the week was spent in bereavement for all three of them, although Shinichi refused to come out of his house and see anyone.
Kakashi turned around to face Kazeko who wore a look of bewilderment.
"You again," he said.
"You again," she echoed.
They both stood facing each other in silence, unsure of what to say.
Wordlessly, she joined him at his side and scanned the monument, searching for her sensei before finally reaching it amidst the many others:
Kazeko didn't take her gaze off of his name and imprinted it into her mind. All of it came rushing back like a crashing wave.
"Who was he?"
The sudden voice interrupted her reverie as she was snapped back into reality.
"My sensei," she replied.
They said nothing else for the entirety of their visit until Kazeko's stomach let out an unhappy grumble.
She laughed softly, "Well, I think it's officially lunchtime," and gestured her head, signalling for them to take their leave. "Wanna get some lunch with me?"
It was only after Kakashi's unvoiced hesitation did Kazeko realise the implications of her invitation.
Oh shit, he thought she was asking him out. Dammit, this awkwardness was killing her.
"Erm, I mean, Hatake-san—… ah, shit, I didn't mean that as, err… FUCK! I'm sorry!" she cried out in frustration, mentally kicking herself.
"You've got a colourful vocabulary," Kakashi said dryly.
Kazeko ducked her head, "Yeah, yeah, I know I swear a lot…" she mumbled. "But what I meant to say was that I didn't mean it as a date, you know… I meant it as a friendly, platonic invitation to lunch between two neighbours."
"Yeah, I know what you meant," he smirked, or at least she knew he was smirking underneath that mask of his. "Thanks for the invite but sorry, I've got other things to do."
"Oh, that's okay," she tried to hide the tone of… mild disappointment in her voice. "I'll see you around, then."
Kakashi waved half-heartedly before abruptly disappearing again, leaving a cloud of grey smoke behind.
When she was left alone and was completely certain that he was out of earshot, Kazeko growled and petulantly kicked at loose dirt on the ground.
"Yeah, right. 'Other things to do,' my ass, that stupid dick!"
...violent shaking, hmm, must either be an earthquake or Ibiki trying to kill me.
"Kazeko, wake up!"
She guessed the latter.
"I'm up, I'm up!" she snapped, smacking her brother's hands away.
Still groggy and half-asleep, she yawned and rubbed her drowsy eyes.
"Jesus, I feel sorry for whoever's gonna have to wake up to your freakish face every morning," she snarked.
"My sympathies go to your future partner who must tolerate your delightful personality," Ibiki sarcastically retorted.
Rolling her eyes, Kazeko read the time displayed on her alarm clock and let out a shriek.
"You could've told me you'd be over here at the crack of dawn, you prick!"
"My mission starts in nine minutes," Ibiki stated placidly, handing her a purring snowy feline. "Do I have to go over the instructions again?"
She shook her head defiantly, not wanting to go through another of his longwinded rants concerning his precious little pet.
"Alright, then. Take care of Takara for me. I'll see you in a month, imouto-chan."
He patted her head in a brotherly manner before turning his back and proceeding to walk out her bedroom door.
"Wait!" Kazeko called out, while Takara nuzzled against her hand. "Don't die or I'll kill you myself, you great big teddy bear." Her voice softened at the last words.
He stopped, grinned, "Like I said, see you in a month," and casually resumed walking. "And don't ever call me that again."
…he would be fine. Ibiki was "one scaryass motherfucker", as Zuru had so eloquently put it. Her intimidating brother was also the reason why she had such trouble getting boyfriends, dammit.
Although Ibiki was not the conventional loving and dear older brother and was more like a sadistic and sick bastard who could traumatise a person within a couple of sentences, Kazeko knew she was one of the only people he truly cared about. It was also entertaining to threaten others to sic her brother on them, who was the commanding officer of Konoha's Torture and Interrogation Force. That was very fun.
Breathing a sigh, Kazeko lifted the little feline by her underarms. Takara stared at her with her odd-coloured silvery and golden eyes, blinking slowly.
"So, what's it like living with Big Ted?"
"Thought so." Then, she fell asleep again.
Per usual, Kazeko was awoken by her alarm clock at 7AM. Resisting the urge to crush the contraption blaring that offensive sound, she slammed down the snooze button before prying her eyes open to the unwelcoming morning light streaming through the curtains.
Groaning, she yawned tiredly before realisation struck her.
Looking wildly around the room, she called out, "Takara?"
This was not an unusual occurrence; the cat would disappear on her own accord and Kazeko would eventually find her afterwards in either three hours or in three seconds. Rushing outside her room, Kazeko was deeply relieved to find Takara lapping up water in her bowl.
"Freakin' hell, you should really stop doing that," the kunoichi muttered, yawning again and combing her fingers through her bird's nest of hair.
However, after turning her back for a few minutes, she found that the cat was nowhere in sight.
"Takara, where've you gone now?"
There was no answer, no audible meows or little feline bounding to her feet.
Flustered, Kazeko frantically searched her entire apartment, which wasn't very large at all, considering that it consisted of a single room and an adjacent bathroom. Takara wasn't under the bed, under the covers, behind the bathroom door, reclining on any pieces of furniture, she wasn't hiding in the toilet or the rubbish bin or out on the balcony…
"TAKARA, WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU, YOU STUPID BITCH?!" Kazeko roared.
Dreading that her brother would definitely inflict on her his genjutsu that caused the victim to experience the agony of being constantly tickled for days (a torture that actually drove people insane), if he came back to a missing cat, Kazeko dashed out of her apartment and began her desperate wild goose chase.
"Takara!" she shrieked to no avail.
Out of desperation, she tried, "Here, kitty, kitty," which earned her odd looks from the locals.
With the sun beating on her back and clothes drenched in sweat, Kazeko gave up on her fruitless search after a few hours. Her feet were aching and she was certain that a few blisters had developed on the soles of her foot.
Sullenly walking up her apartment stairs and wishfully thinking that Takara would turn up by herself eventually, Kazeko was stunned when she was met with the sight of Kakashi holding a fluffy white feline in his hands.
"You found Takara!" she squawked.
Immediately taking the cat in her arms, Kazeko squeezed the poor thing to her chest despite the hisses of protest. She was thankful to have her brother's pet safely back in her care so that Ibiki's extreme tickle torture was no longer held over her head.
"I found her on the stairs," said Kakashi, digging his gloved hands into his pockets.
Kazeko smiled meekly. "Thank you, Copycat."
There was a deathly silence proceeding her slip of the tongue as Takara leapt from Kazeko's arms and fondly paced around Kakashi's feet, purring contentedly.
"Kazeko, was it?" he lowered his voice, eye twitching as he deliberately ignored what had just taken place.
The kunoichi winced but maintained her composure. "Yes, Kakashi?" she responded boldly, addressing him in the same manner on a first name basis without an honorific title.
She was sure that the yobisute was used in an insulting way, though, after her nickname for him had slipped out. Whoops, my bad.
Takara meowed, interrupting the awkward silence.
"Your brother's the head of the T&I Force, right?" Kakashi ground out.
Kazeko smirked. "Yep, he's the one and only infamous sadist."
"Right. Okay, then."
Without another word, the Copycat curtly walked into his own apartment and slammed the door shut behind him before leaving Kazeko standing in the apartment hallway, snickering quietly to herself.