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.

Chapter 7: Figments—Kakashi wrestles with pieces of the past.

Beta: Thank you to Random Flyer for checking this chapter over and giving me some ideas on how to polish this thing.

"Watcha reading?"

Kakashi glanced down from his book, eyeing Naruto who was resting his chin on the tabletop. They were in the kitchen, or at least, Kakashi had retreated to the kitchen roughly thirty minutes ago, abandoning his sofa for a lost cause once Naruto determined it would make a good pillow fort.

It was a miserable day…the rain had been relentless and a cold front had come through the night before, chilling the air and causing most sensible souls to remain restlessly inside their homes. Iruka had been over the previous night helping Naruto complete his homework. It was kind of him, except now Kakashi had nothing left to occupy the person who, after sharing Kakashi's quarters for over year, was reluctantly acknowledged as a permanent house-guest. Iruka had some type of teacher's meeting today and Kakashi was still on Iruka-imposed house arrest, not that Kakashi would want to go out in this kind of weather. However, it meant that Kakashi couldn't go retrieve anything to alleviate his boredom. He was reduced to re-reading the Icha-Icha series (which Iruka had kindly requested Kakashi not do around Naruto but Iruka was not his mother, damn it).

Another unfortunate consequence of the weather was that Kakashi's babysitter of choice, the television, wasn't functioning properly. Kakashi had already run Naruto through the kata routines that could be performed inside a small apartment. Those didn't so much as dent the kid's energy. Kakashi tied the boy in a knot with the bed sheets and hung him from the ceiling, which had kept the blond occupied for a good 45 minutes. Kakashi put the kid through hand sign drills, set him to a math problem he knew the kid couldn't solve, called out Pakkun to recount old war stories (which inspired the couch fort), and had ultimately thrown in the towel and retreated for personal time in the kitchen.

Kakashi was unafraid to admit he was an introvert by nature and he'd put in his pseudo-parenting time for the day, thank you very much. Now the kid needed to entertain himself. He paused to take a sip of tea before returning his attention back to more adult matters.

"Ni-san, watcha reading?" Naruto repeated with a whine.

"The same thing I've been reading for the past thirty minutes."


Kakashi ignored the child, who promptly began to twist, fidget, and increase the volume of his pleas.

"Ni-san, why?"

The questions were met with continued silence and Naruto let out a rude-sounding noise, climbing awkwardly into the remaining chair and reaching forward to play with some abandoned newspaper.

"Look, Kashi-san, I made a hat!"

"That's nice," Kakashi said absently, turning a page.

"You didn't even look!"

The accusation was met with a soft hum and another turned page.

"Ni-san, you're boring today."

Kakashi made a sound of agreement.

"Why are you so boring?"

Another sip of tea.



"Arggh!" Naruto wailed and ruffled his hair before despondently throwing himself across the table, rattling the tea set.

If Kakashi hadn't been used to Naruto's temperament, the aggrieved cry would have put him on edge. However, Kakashi was an old hand to Naruto's tantrums by now and didn't even bat his single uncovered eye.

Naruto jumped off his chair and ran to the window, jumping up and down on the dissembled sofa.

"Can we go get ramen?"

"Can we go to the park?"

"Can we go see Iruka?"

Kakashi gave a slight sigh, "It's raining Naruto. I've been told by interested parties that it is not appropriate to let you, at this stage in your development, play outside in such questionable conditions."

Kakashi's deadpanned explanation was met by an incredulous audience and his lips twitched as he continued with a drawled, "Besides, Iruka promised to bring you Ichiraku for dinner tonight…you'll just have to wait 'till then."

The child slid noisily to the floor with a despairing wail, "I'm so bored I'm gonna die…"

Kakashi briefly glanced at the spectacle, then dismissed the boy from his attention and immersed himself in the love triangle of Ichigo, Ayaka, and Saki. Dimly, he noticed some clicks and thuds from the back of the room…Naruto was probably getting into his kunai, but he didn't really have the heart to stop him today and it was just getting to the good part where Ichigo realized that his female companions might be more into each other than into competing for his own affections. Not even the pitter patter of feet could distract him…

"Look what I found Ni-san!"

Kakashi flicked his eyes up, then back to the book, then up again in shock.

Naruto stood proudly before him, wearing one of his ear-to-ear grins and adjusting a painfully familiar pair of orange goggles atop his head.

Mouth dry, Kakashi was fairly certain he managed to ask where Naruto found those, but was promptly ignored as Naruto pranced to the bathroom to admire himself in the mirror.

"These are awesome, can I have them?"

Kakashi stood and went to investigate the bedroom area. Sure enough, a large trunk had been drug from under the bed, the seals securing it torn and useless on the floor. Kakashi pursed his lips as he examined the broken seals. These were blood seals he'd been taught from Sensei…supposed to keep things locked up until someone from his team came to open them. His team had used them frequently on missions to pass scrolls and supplies along…they were a basic design from what he understood, not intended to be top notch defenses, after all, the blood of a dead soldier could open the contents just as well as that of the living as long as it was considered a match.

Kakashi had to admit that sealing had never been an academic interest of his…as these were very basic designs it was possible that genetically Naruto was considered a match to his certain team members of Kakashi's. He'd never learned enough about sealing to alter the design from accepting the blood of his teammates to just his own. He hadn't thought he'd needed to since they'd all been, well, killed. Apparently, he was going to need to make a few trips to the library if he was going to keep secrets from his house-guest. What a bother, but then again, he didn't want to think about the rant he'd be forced to endure if Naruto figured out he could apply his new trick to the storage scroll holding his Icha-Icha books.

Kakashi supposed he should be grateful that Naruto had grabbed the goggles from the top of the trunk and hadn't dug deeper into its contents. He picked up his old team picture which now rested at the top of the pile of letters and trinkets and, deeply buried, other items of mostly sentimental value that Kakashi would rather remain hidden. For the first time in quite a while, he wasn't immediately overwhelmed with a deep sense of grief as he studied the well-known visages. Once again, he was struck by Naruto's strong resemblance to his father. However, Kakashi, and everyone else who knew of Naruto's origins, had been expressly forbidden from commenting on the relationship. The Hokage felt that Naruto faced enough threats due to his…condition…without adding the assassination attempts that would come from being openly hailed as the Fourth's only living legacy. If the physical resemblance continued, it was going to be harder to keep the secret as Naruto got older. He set the picture down and closed the trunk, letting out an exasperated sigh and addressing the offender.

"Ahh, Naruto-kun, you really shouldn't mess with someone else's belongings like this."

A sheepish expression accompanied Naruto's apologies and a mumbled explanation about wanting to try out something he'd learned in school…and then another plea to keep his new found treasure.

"Please, you never wear them, please!"

Kakashi couldn't help but smile at Naruto's pleas, despite the part of him that was slightly resentful at another treating Obito's favorite possession so lightly. His thoughts clouded with visions of an adult Obito ruffling the child's unkempt mop and joyfully handing over his goggles as Rin rolled her eyes and tossed her hair and an older man in robes snorted absently at all their antics as he tried to sort through paperwork. Kakashi passed a hand over his face and rubbed at his covered eye fiercely, telling Naruto that he supposed the boy could keep them as long as he treated them well. He wrestled with ghosts and should-have-beens as Naruto cheered and spun around the apartment, trying to decide if it was better to let the past stay buried or to dig it up and set the stage for it to potentially repeat.