Prologue; Premonition

Hatake Kakashi never wore a watch.

Time was one of those strange phenomena that he preferred not to keep track of; it brought with it too many responsibilities, too many missed meeting places and 'should haves'. His personal freedom would be impinged upon if Time started to keep tabs on him, or if he started to keep tabs on It. Instead, the man without a watch let Time make all the moves, play all the cards – and, when it became an absolute necessity, Kakashi would respond. Like knives hurled toward one another in the air, only colliding for the briefest of seconds before springing away to the ground, Kakashi and Time kept their distance, always knowing they were speeding relentlessly at each other, waiting for that explosive moment when they would violently mesh together before hurtling apart again. Those moments were the ones he remembered – when Kakashi offered Time a brief explanation for his tardiness over the years and tried to explain why he hadn't done anything about anything until right now.

Right now, faced by a young, heavy-eyed boy at his front door with the exhausted words: 'Are you Kakashi?', the man without a watch could almost see the shady form of Time hovering over the house. Like a vulture, Time craned its neck to wait for Kakashi's response. Time eyed the man standing at the door on shivering legs, clutching a small note in his bony hands. Time listened carefully to the breathing of both men, the cautious, nervous catch of one against the surprised, hesitant stun of the other. Time waited for the young boy to be turned away, infamous eyes dull in the night, so he could swoop down and arrange a meeting. Discuss his mistakes and inform him frankly that his time was up. Let him go.

'Yes,' came the reply, eventually, after a long lock of stares. 'Yes, I'm Kakashi.'

'Do you have the time?' It came instantly, almost as though it had been practised. 'Can you tell me the time?'

The vulture on the roof watched Kakashi glance down the quiet street, illuminated by darkness, scanning this way and that for any sign of life. None. The boy's shadow hadn't even followed him here; he waited (im)patiently, right hand wrapped around a slender, battered suitcase. The left clutched the note.

He waited.

Time waited, preparing his muscles for a swoop.

'Of course I can,' Kakashi finally whispered.

He stepped aside in the doorway, silently gesturing for the smaller boy to enter the house. Tension still thick in his shoulders, the boy moved, eyes locked straight ahead, without looking back into the street. Once he was inside, Kakashi glanced upward at the Time vulture hovering overhead, met its gaze, and nodded.

He didn't need to be told that his time to act had, at long last, arrived. Two knives of history locked themselves together with a glint.

Click. The door closed.

Of course, we all know that the young man shivering in the doorway isn't interested in the time. Time has done nothing to help him. Time has taken the dear things away and left him with nothing but the almost empty suitcase in one hand and the scribbled note in the other.

We all know, in our secret mind, that really, the words uttered by the boy are code, are a disguise, cloaked by the dark night but given away by the shake of the knees and the rolled up tightness of the shoulders. The part of us not allowed to speak out hears the young man's plea; the desperate begging of the illegal words; the almost inaudible tremor in his voice.

'Can you tell me the time?'

It's painstakingly clear to all of us watching that the boy is begging for his life. The boy is speaking secret words.

The boy is asking: 'Will you still help me?'

Author's note: Welcome to the newest joint endeavour of myself, Sherbet Mayhem, and fellow Narutard Oil Pastel. This story is based loosely around the plot of Marcus Zusak's 'The Book Thief', although my writing does not do such an incredible author any justice.

This story will be updated once every two weeks, hopefully on a Monday night (circumstances allowing). I am now on Chapter 5, and will always remain a few chapters ahead of you, so you should hopefully never have to wait for an update. Reviews would be very much appreciated.

We sincerely hope you enjoy the story - and we beg you to review.

Enjoy the next chapter!