By Violet Garnets
Chapter One: Return
The wind brushed his cheek softly, like a gentle touch from a loved one— a reminder that he was still alive. It was silent save for the man's own heavy breathing. Dusk slowly enveloped the sky and he could see the faintest glimmers of far-off stars above him. But his vision blurred around the edges, so everything faded in and out of his sight. Soon, he thought, soon he would be among those stars, awaiting judgment from the heavens.
A loud crackle came from the trees, as if a gale had come blazing through the forest. A dark figure burst out into the clearing. The body hidden in darkness made his way over to him. Surprisingly, there was no feeling of alertness or fear, only an overwhelming relief.
The dark figure turned out to be a young man, judging from his tall and masculine form. With a rumbling stop, the man was soon at his side, grabbing at his arm. He could see that this figure was dressed in simple clothes that wouldn't hinder his movement, the dark shadow of a bow and a quiver of arrows slung on the man's back. However, the person's face was still hidden. The man kneeled down and began to shout. "You idiot! What happened? Damn it, you're so stupid!" Somehow those words seemed to be directed at the speaker himself, not the one on the ground. "We need to get you somewhere safe, so we can—"
The one lying down shook his head slowly, deliberately. He replied in a dry whisper. "You know no one will help me…" He coughed harshly, saw the blood spurting out of his mouth, and felt it dribble down his chin. "It's useless. I'm moving onward, becoming a part of the future—"
"Shut up! Just shut up! That won't happen. It can't." A tear dropped from the shadowed face. The unknown man let out a sigh, one full of resignation—and despair. He ran a dry, callused hand down the dying man's face with an excruciating deliberateness. It was like he wanted to remember the feeling completely. They both did. "Will…will you promise me something? Promise…that...even if I'm not born to myself…you'll find me."
It was quiet again. The bloodied man was slowly losing consciousness, he could feel it. "You're…always so cliché…it's annoying…" It was so difficult to shape his mouth around these words and expel air to sound them out; it all took so much effort. But soon, it'd be done. He almost looked forward to that prospect. The dark glare of his companion bored into his head. "All right, I promise. Work hard, and end it all. I'll see you later…" His voice faded along with his vision and he heard the young man whisper something, but he was too out of focus to get a grasp on what the other had said.
The last thing he saw was a pair of clear, crystalline eyes. The last thing he felt was a silky caress, and a delicate breeze. And then…he knew no more.
Kakashi woke up in a cold sweat. He propped himself up into a sitting position and looked around the room warily with both eyes, paranoia one of the aftereffects of his dream. It was several moments before the copy-nin finally relaxed. With a large sigh, he crumpled into himself, his arms holding up his head.
That goddamn voice in his dreams—again.
The silver-haired shinobi looked out the window. Judging by the pale, barely there light, it was almost sunrise. Perfect.
It was half an hour later when the sun rose and Kakashi was predictably at the memorial, in normal attire and a bento in hand. Usually, he would stand or sit there for hours and enjoy the silence with his friend. But today he had a lot on his mind, and it didn't seem fair to leave his best friend in the dark.
"Good morning, Obito." The former ANBU shifted uncomfortably; his voice was the only thing penetrating the general calm. But he continued. "I've been having weird dreams lately. Actually, I first had one as a child when my…before I changed for the worse. But these dreams, they've always been few and far in between. They're becoming more frequent nowadays.
"There's always this man in all of them. Each situation is different, but it's always the same man. But I don't know who he is. I never see his face. I hear his voice and his body, but nothing identifiable. Except perhaps," Kakashi paused to take a breath here, "his eyes, they're…unique. I actually can't tell what color they are." His visible eye crinkled and he chuckled a bit before continuing. "They're unbearably clear, pure. And they look so familiar…it's unnerving."
Dark eyes lit up. He remembered something important. He bowed over to the memorial. "Forgive me for not being here for so long and suddenly telling you these pointless things. I'm sorry...that I haven't stopped by often recently. Hokage has me going on a lot of missions nowadays. I think she's afraid I'm suddenly going to keel over and she's milking me for what I'm worth." He smiled again.
"According to Tsunade, Naruto's coming back soon." Kakashi immediately stiffened. He'd come across awkward territory without even realizing it. This wasn't exactly something he had intended to think about—or talk about. His head dropped and spoke no more.
At a sloth-like pace, the jounin fell into the river of time, and rode the lone current that would lead him backwards. Back before Sasuke's defection, before Team Seven, before the loss of those he loved most, to the times when they were a team. He desperately hung onto that time when they were all alive, able to feel emotions like happiness and sadness, and be able to share those feelings with those around them. He saw them all again: Rin and her tendency to worry too much, Minato-sensei and his gentle firmness, Obito's idiocy and habit to blow things way out of proportion. And even when the memories came to Obito's death, it was thoroughly welcomed; He relived those moments again and again and again.
His consciousness drifted so far into the past that when he returned to the present, only half of him came back. There was a reason why he always seemed a little out of it, after all.
"Naruto! Hang on! We're almost there."
The boy groaned. He was covered in crumbling leaves, dried mud caked on various parts of his outfit. His blue eyes were dark and out of focus. He looked ready to pass out. "But I'm hungry…"
Yamato's lips curved in amusement. "I had asked if you wanted to stop and eat for lunch, but you said you were too excited to get home," he recapped.
"But it's been a long time since I was home," he said, the last word rolling off his tongue with relish. "I wanted to get there as soon as possible." The boy scratched at a stripe of dirt along his chin.
"It's only been two years, not a big deal compared to your three years with Jiraiya."
Naruto sighed exasperatedly. "You don't get it."
"I suppose I don't."
"Any day without ramen is a day wasted. I still can't believe you wouldn't let me eat it just once either…" and he began mumbling a soliloquy, slowly forgetting the other's presence.
His companion only shook his head, thoroughly bemused. Ramen wasn't exactly a meal one could eat on the go, which they were, often. It wasn't exactly his fault. Although perhaps he had a duty to reward the young boy (not quite a man yet, Yamato thought, so boy fit him better) for holding out for so long.
"Ah, Naruto, would you like me to treat you to Ichiraku as soon as we're back in Konoha and finished with the typical business?"
A loud whoop whistled through the trees. Yamato sighed. The kid was hopeless. And so was he, after realizing the amount of money he'd be spending on the teen…Yamato groaned to himself. He was getting soft since he left the ANBU. Perhaps it was time for a refresher course. Looking over at Naruto again, he smiled slightly.
A disdainful glance was cast in the Jinchuuriki's direction, smile still in place. It was a look only someone like Yamato could pull off. "You know you're going to have to take a bath beforehand."
"No way! Tenzou-san, I'm starved. Ramen first, cleanliness later," Naruto spouted, as if it was the world's unspoken motto.
"Mm, that reminds me. When we're back in Konoha—"
"I know, I know," the seventeen, almost eighteen year old brushed off his senior with a wave of his hand. "You're Yamato-taichou. I don't know your real name. Got it. Sheesh. My attention span isn't that horrible…"
Yamato resisted the urge to snort. "I'm glad you at least remember that," he drawled. "And we're making a quiet entrance. No loud shouts."
"What the hell?! I'm not a goddamn kid!"
"Exactly. Nothing like that, Naruto."
The boy huffed and crossed his arms. "It's not like I could make a big entrance anyway, with this hair." He brought up an arm to tug at the coal-black spikes on top of his head. "Can't wait to wash it out…"
Yamato tilted an eyebrow, a hint of a smile on his face. "Something wrong with dark, normal hair?" Naruto imagined that he heard ominous rumbling in the distance.
"No, of course not! Dark hair is great, more than great!" Naruto hiccupped. It was just the two of them, and he doubted that anyone in Konoha would dare lift a finger to a miffed Yamato. "I'm just…not going to say any more now," he trailed off.
The Mokuton user shook his head, a true smile fully apparent. "Never mind. Just do whatever you like until we get to Konoha. Uzumaki Naruto has been missing, in a sense, for almost two years after all."
"Thanks, Tenzou-san," he replied. "But it's alright. I like Amano Akira just as much as I like Uzumaki Naruto." His trademark grin appeared again, and he stretched his arms towards the sky. "Look, the gates of Konoha!"
Naruto suddenly stopped dead in his tracks, cracked a few bones in his neck, shook out his limbs, and inhaled deeply. Closing his eyes, and mumbling quietly for a few moments, he opened his eyes but they were a bit softer and self-assured in a different way. The teen winked at his traveling companion before disappearing into his character. In a demure, barely-heard voice he said,
"Amano Akira desu. Yoroshiku."
Yamato only shook his head again. He'd play along with this game. After letting the guardsmen recognize his forehead protector so they could pass, he pulled up his hood. As they made their way to the Hokage's office, he watched in silent amusement the looks his charge was receiving from a few young girls. The boy didn't notice anything since his eyes were looking downwards; the stunning blue of them would give away his charade. But 'Akira' gave off that enigmatic aura girls liked to fawn over. And Naruto had inherited his father's relatively good looks, so it was inevitable that this would happen.
When they passed by an obviously overworking Shizune, she looked up at the sound of their steps and her coal-black eyes widened at the sight of Yamato. Her gaze questioned him, asking where Naruto was. He cocked his head to the dark-haired boy at his side. Shizune's jaw dropped and she obviously wanted to say something, but he stopped her with a devious smile and put his finger to his lips. It took her a moment, but when she figured out their plan she shook her head and returned to her work, with a minute change in her demeanor. As they made their way to the Hokage' office, Shizune called out "Tsunade-sama, there's two disgustingly dirty men here to see you!"
The mentioned men winced. That was a bit of a harsh welcome back, Yamato thought.
"What's this nonsense, Shizune?" Tsunade sighed. She turned around from the window when the door opened, revealing her visitors. The sight perplexed her immensely. "Tenzou? I thought you'd be back later this week. Where's Naruto? Who's this?" Her attention shifted to the timid-looking brunette standing alongside him, eyes downcast.
"Amano Akira desu. Yoroshiku," the boy's voice was soft, and she had to strain to hear it.
What was going on? Her eyes narrowed into thin slits. Something was off here. "Where's Naruto?"
"I killed him."
But when he looked up and brilliant sapphire twinkled mischievously at her, she wasn't sure what exactly she should do. So she opted for the jaw-dropping-eye-popping-utter-disbelief look. Yamato — who had been standing on the sidelines— relished the moment, seeing his Godaime being duped into silence.
The teen grinned at her, fully revealing his identity. "Hi, Tsunade-baachan." His voice was deep and confident now, but held that lilt and gravelly tone Naruto had naturally possessed as a child. He took advantage of her shock and gave her a quick hug. She returned it limply before stepping back again, sizing him up.
"N-Naruto? Is that…real?" Her shock was so intense she missed the typical "shut up and don't call me that." Naruto snickered.
"You mean, is it not a henge? Then yes. I'm not as good as you are at chakra control after all. (although I've gotten much, much better)! But the hair's dyed, and I'm wearing some powder on my face."
Tsunade cocked an eyebrow. "Powder? Like makeup?"
He only shrugged. "You told me to, in a way. Can't have my badass whisker marks be the death of me."
The blonde woman sighed. "I'm happy you two are back, that's all. Now, I need a rep—"
A loud grumble blared through her office. The two adults turned to Naruto, who chuckled awkwardly.
The Godaime smirked, and closed her eyes. "Hungry, Naruto?" she asked wryly. "Go eat or something, for gods' sake."
The teen charged out the door.
"But don't forget to clean yourself up!" Yamato and Tsunade called after him.
"Aw damn it!"
It was dusk when Kakashi finally pulled himself out of his reverie. Seeing as he had nothing to do that day (or rather, had nothing he had been assigned to do), why not spend it all with his best friend? Yawning lazily, he stood up, brushed off a little dirt from his clothes and set off with no ambition. But he was a bit hungry, and his bento turned out to be crappy anyways. A stop in town might be a good idea.
Somehow his legs traced their way to Ichiraku, and Kakashi couldn't help but wonder if he was a bit masochistic or just liked a challenge. Avoiding something was a little—screw that, a lot— harder if one went to places that screamed "REMEMBER!" But what the hell. He was hungry, and it was cheap. Take-out was always an option, maybe. He did have a way with words after all.
Ayame's face lit up when the copy-nin entered. He was hazily aware of her attraction to him, but he never really felt a need to do anything about it as long as she didn't. "Hatake-san! What a nice surprise. Is there anything I can help you out with?"
"Miso, please," he said automatically, never pausing to think about it. "Can I get it for take-out?"
"That's crazy! Ramen should always be savored!"
Kakashi froze, his visible eye shaken of its sleepy look. A lithe, muscular arm draped itself over his shoulder. He turned to his right. The man had dusty brownish blonde hair, but his clear ocean-blue eyes were a dead giveaway. No one else in this world had eyes like those. Well, no one alive.
At a loss for words, Kakashi could only stammer. "N-n-naruto?"
Naruto cocked his head to the side and beamed, brightening the atmosphere by tens of watts.
"Missed me, Kakashi-sensei?"
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs exclusively to Masashi Kishimoto, not me.
Hi. I'm Vi, nice to meet you. Welcome to Confluence, my first multi-chapter Naruto fanfic. Confluence is something I've had for a while, but I've been revising and editing it a lot. I promised myself I wouldn't post anything until I finished the whole thing, but I'd like to get some feedback.
Just some information and I'd like to get across: No, it's not a time-travel fic. Yes, Naruto will still be spunky and determined. No, Kakashi doesn't have his shit together. Yes, the pairing is Kakashi/Naruto. No, I'm not a very good writer. Yes, I try really hard to tell a story.
So please drop a review and tell me what you think. Even if it's harsh, I'm not going to kill myself if someone doesn't like it, I assure you. Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed!