The Importance of Being Family

PG (occasional language)

So, Konoha doesn't have child protective services. They do have a chronically tardy jounin whose aggravating pug-dog conscience bullies him into tolerating a new room-mate. Or two. A/U.

Chapter 1: Found—In which Kakashi finds It, and It thinks inside is a good place to be.

Beta: Thank you very much, Random Flyer, for the updates and revisions to this chapter!

Kakashi Hatake, the infamous Copy Ninja, Master of a Thousand Jutsu, lived in an unassuming apartment in the Village Hidden in Leaves. It was modest…well, really, it was quite small by shinobi standards. It included an open living room, an open bedroom, and an open kitchen—it was just one big room to be honest. It was nicely partitioned with screens in all the proper places, of course, but it was, when everything was said and done, nothing more than a frugal bachelor pad.

He liked it that way. Usually.

Today he was trying to relax under a hot stream of water. The shower soothed his tired muscles and washed away the grit and grime and blood of his latest mission. If he turned the faucet to full strength and hummed lightly, he could pretend he was washing away the screams too.

As much as he liked post-mission showers, this one needed to be short. He had a report to not do. It took time to be as creatively vague as he was in not doing his reports. He would turn it in…late. And it would be returned to him when the overworked desk ninja got to it…in about a week… with a very dry "Ha-ha…this is not done, try again."

He could feel the sarcasm now.

With one towel at his waist and another roughly tugging through his hair he kicked the bathroom door open and strolled into the living room…

Where he stopped short.

There was a…thing… sitting on the small patch of tile which he considered to be his kitchen floor. In fairness, there were two things, but one was easily identifiable. The other was… a thing.

"Is that alive?" He dubiously directed the question to the identifiable thing in the kitchen, the pug, Pakkun. The thing probably was alive, his refrigerator was open and it seemed to be eating his food—the last time he checked none of his ninken had opposable thumbs—but he thought it was only polite to ask and make sure. It was tiny, grubby, covered in…mud? He could smell some other interesting scents along with the mud, but he wasn't particularly inclined to inch closer at this point…it could be rabid.

Pakkun's eyes flicked his way. "The pup was hungry."

Kakashi pulled the towel down from his hair, settling it around his shoulders and crossing his arms. "You brought It home."

The dog yawned and stretched out on the kitchen floor, raking his nails on the tiles before settling on his belly. "He was hungry. I found him downstairs, when I went to bury my bones. He's been living under the back porch of the building."

A beat of silence passed before the dog felt the need to continue. "He needs more meat on his bones…or we'll be burying him soon too."

Kakashi scowled at the pug. This sounded like a ploy for sympathy, something Kakashi didn't feel inclined to give at the moment. If he didn't put his foot down quickly, he had the nasty feeling that his cozy apartment might become a bit more cramped. "You can't keep It."

It was watching him warily with eerily familiar blue eyes. Kakashi vaguely recognized It, but wasn't going to think about the issue any more than necessary. Following that trail of thought would only end with Kakashi drinking himself into a stupor at a cold, gray stone. In the meantime, It kept a cautious eye on the older man and continued eating Its apples.

However, It did seem ready to bolt for the door at a moment's notice.

Pakkun just shrugged…well, if a dog could shrug Pakkun's gesture would be considered as such. "I'm not keeping him. He can get out through the dog door whenever he wants."

While the human adult tried to process that statement, the pug plowed forward. "He wants to stay." Pakkun inclined his head toward the door. "Its cold out there, its warm in here. I can't blame him."

Kakashi shook his head. "You're feeding It, It'll never leave on Its own now."

The response was a long, drawn-out canine sigh. "He's not an it, Kakashi. He's a puppy. A special puppy...he's practically pack already if you'd get your head out of whatever hole you've stuck it in."

The jounin contemplated reducing his ninken's food rations, especially when he thought he heard a muttered "don't know what type of hole is big enough for your head anyway."

"Excuse me?" Kakashi cleared his throat and tried to look as intimidating as he could when standing boldly in his living room clad only in a towel, confronting ghosts of the past and annoying little canines who thought they knew so much.

Pakkun just watched him steadily. "Don't be dense, no one raised you that way."

Pakkun rolled over onto his back and wiggled against the tile before settling on his side. Apparently Kakashi wasn't the only one having a hard time getting comfortable after this latest mission.

"This puppy still needs raising. He's not blood, but he's as good as…besides, what do you care, you aren't actually home that often anyway." He closed his eyes and curled into a ball, feigning sleep. In Pakkun language, the conversation was closed.

Kakashi blinked. He was probably going to regret this, but he'd find a better way to get rid of It in a couple of days. Everyone would begin to see reason once they had full stomachs and a good night's sleep. This just wasn't going to be a long-term solution.

"Fine," He said, slipping behind the screen that separated the living room from the bedroom and searching for his clothes. "But, you are responsible for giving It a bath. Now. "

A/N: For the insatiably curious, this is an A/U "what if," where Kakashi confronts his ghosts and obligation's to his sensei's legacy a bit earlier than in cannon. In this chapter, Naruto is roughly 4-5 years old, and Kakashi would be the corresponding cannon age. This is going to be a family-centered story, I don't plan on having any pairings but as the reader you are free to interpret the relationships I've written however you'd like.

Chapters will be short, be reviewing does motivate me to get off my but and get things done, so feel free to scold me in your reviews if its been a month or so since I've updated. Additionally, tell me what your favorite lines are, what makes you laugh, and what you wish I would have elaborated on in my writing. Tell me what questions you have that you want answered. Those types of reviews are going to be what makes me into a better writer. I'm not going to be able to do that without feedback, so please, bring on the feedback!

As of 10.2012 this story is now being beta-read by Random Flyer. Minor revisions are being done to the first five chapters, and from that point on everything will be posted post-beta reading.