A/N: Added roughly 3k on the previous chappy to balance things out (6/7k per chap word count) so sorry if you need to go and re-read the second added part... BUT YEAH!
Hope you had a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday (and have a good New Year!)

:]]]


0.2


Eyes feeling raw and gritty, Kakashi Hatake wheeled himself backwards upon his black leather office chair and further away from the bright glow of his desktop monitor. It was the early hours of morning and he felt exhausted (mentally and physically) with eyeballs borderline ready to roll out of his skull, his aching spine and the joints of his fingers cramping. It was stupid really, to feel so drained from an all-nighter of merely tapping away at the keyboard when he hadn't physically partaken in strenuous activity of any sort. But, shit, zero sleep and concentration on full power certainly made the Hatake feel like he had been dragging boulders up a steep hill.

'Never again,' the young man internally cursed. 'Never again am I leaving something like this till last-minute again.'

Although, with that being said, Kakashi knew full well it was a lie. He might've loved his work of being a writer - deeply so – due to the freedom and the fact he could live out silent fantasies or let his creativity run wild. But he also happened to be a notoriously lazy man who handed in the manuscripts for his latest book or short-story article in a magazine far too late for his editor, Genma Shiranui's, liking. It was a good thing the wisecracking, tooth-pick gnawing editor was so calm despite Kakashi's constant skimming of just barely meeting deadlines – just like right now, really. The silver-haired man had just emailed the final result off to Genma after literally spending under twenty-four hours hammering away at his keyboard and yanking ideas out of his head for a short, boy's love story for one of the many magazines he freelanced for.

But now it was finally done – complete, finished, closed, fucking-done-with-for-good! – and now Kakashi could just…collapse.

Well, not straight away, he really had to remove his numb feeling ass from his chair and forage for some food before even thinking of giving in to exhaustion.

So, with a jaw-achingly wide yawn, the young Hatake peeled himself from his chair and stretched – spine popping, neck cracking, cartilage grinding – before lumbering out of his modest office and into one of the short corridors of his family home. He held back a groan, the bright, natural light which his office blinds had shielded him from was now spilling from the hallway windows in watery blue streaks and irritating his tired eyes. Blindly, Kakashi shuffled down the short corridor that occupied his office, large bathroom and his father's master bedroom before his sock-clad feet skidded slightly underneath him on the dark, polished wood as he rounded a corner and into the large, main hallway. It didn't take long to ease himself around the staircase and slink past the doorframe which contained the living room, pure determination and hunger driving him in the direction of remaining wooden archway, hinting the location of the kitchen-diner.

Kakashi managed to stumble over the threshold, the chill of kitchen tiles seeping through his socks and onto his soles before catching the glorious sight of the refrigerator. He raised his arms as if meeting a long lost friend and wasted no time yanking open the door, all but reveling in the sight of fully stocked shelves while sending silent thanks to the only man (who was more of a family-member really) that owned a spare key and happened to be his godfather – Jiraiya. For once, he didn't mind the old pervert's intrusion due to the amount of food in front of him and happily began to gather his arms full of everything and anything which could be eaten on sight and required zero cooking or prep, he was far too hungry.

Heck, the young, silver-haired author was so hungry he settled himself upon the floor and lazily devoured celery sticks while rifling through a packet of store-bought sushi.

No matter how much he griped about his godfather and father's co-worker at the police department – Kakashi did like Jiraiya. The towering, broad shouldered Captain of police had been around since he had been small and was, in fact, the main reason why Kakashi had taken up his passion for writing for a career as opposed to following in his manic depressive father's footsteps into serving Konoha. Jiraiya did, after all, write a handful of smutty romance novels on the side of his police work. Yet, although smutty yet humorous, Jiraiya's famed Icha-Icha Paradise wasn't anything like Kakashi's work…the main difference being – to put it as bluntly yet crudely as possibly - Jiraiya was a breast man and Kakashi was all about the cocks.

Nonetheless of their different writing genres (hetero verses gay) the aging Captain managed to always be there when Kakashi needed him. Even when his father, Sakumo, had attempted suicide, Jiraiya hadn't shunned or resented his father's cowardly actions - unlike Kakashi, who had spent the better half of a few months filled with horror and anger, completely unable to look at his (at the time) heavily medicated father in the eye. In fact, Kakashi still felt awkward when seeing his father, unsure as to how to treat him and settled with letters or phone calls, knowing full well his father wouldn't entirely like his son treating him like fragile glass.

But Sakumo was so much more breakable than glass to Kakashi; the older man was like damp rice paper, ready to tear apart with the slightest wrong movement. He feared for his father: no matter how many years it had been since his commitment at Evergreen or the positive reports from doctors or the cheery attitude his father spoke in.

Yet spiraling thoughts and his hunger pangs coming to an end, a click of claws against tiles hinted the approach of one of the many hounds which occupied the Hatake family home caught Kakashi's attention. He peered up from his food stared at the kitchen counters which blocked his floor view of the other side of the kitchen. The other side contained the dining part of the room and a door which led into a utility room which housed all eight of his dog's beds and a few supplies, but from his slumped position upon the floor, Kakashi had to wait. After a few beats though, Kakashi blinked tiredly at the sight of Pakkun - the eldest hound who happened to be a tiny, arthritic pug - waddling towards him from around the counters, no doubt happy for some human company as opposed to the seven other canines.

So, giving in to indulge the grumpy pug, Kakashi scooped Pakkun up in his lap while managing to hold off another yawn, his hands mussing up the wrinkly dog's little ears. The young Hatake smiled sleepily as he rested his back against the comforting hum of the fridge, all but promising to be more vigilant for his only parent this time around. He had been purposely focusing on a new BL novel, hoping to get the planning and bulk out of the way so he would have more free time during his father's return, but such a plan had failed and inspiration seemed willing to come to him. It was so odd, really, that it was only over the past week of nervous trepidation over his father's return had the mind-searing images of his father's suicide attempt returned with a vengeance.

Kakashi all put it down to mild stress; although the actual event had happened two years ago it seemed so fresh in his mind that he doubted he would ever get rid of the sounds, sights and smells he had encountered upon discovering his father. Still, with a hefty sigh and an insuppressible shiver at the mental image of that purpling face, burst-blood vessel eyes and sickening gurgle, Kakashi murmured softly to the snuffling pug in his lap:

''I'll be bringing Dad home come Monday, Pakkun. You just keep an eye out for him with me, hm?''


Shizune liked to think she was a reasonable, calm and in-control woman, especially when placed in comparison of her old medical mentor, Tsunade. She was less of a medical implementer now-a-days, her work revolving around holding down the fort and doing far too much paperwork at her leading role at Evergreen. But right now, seated in her cramped little office and dealing with a mountain of a perverted man rifling through her previously well-organized patient files did test her tolerance. How her old mentor could deal with the man on a daily basis, Shizune didn't know, but she certainly could understand why Tsunade spent most of her free time sipping sake or gambling on online poker.

''Can I help you?'' the black haired female tried not to grit her teeth, the sight of Jiraiya carelessly tossing a manila folder aside only to gather another. ''Because if this is about Sakumo's release forms they're all ready to go for his discharge tomorrow…''

''It's fine, I found it,'' the large man crowed, waving a particularly thick folder in the air. ''And for once, I'm not here to pester you about that old loon of mine.''

Now that got Shizune's attention, especially since Jiraiya only ever stepped into this psychiatric hospital for the sake of visiting his old police comrade. In fact, the young woman could recall the number of phone calls he had gained from both Jiraiya and Sakumo's son, quite frequently questioning for her opinion on the manic-depressive's progress. After all, she was fairly certain the only reason Sakumo had been placed in Evergreen to begin with was due to being a trusted family-friend. Well, that and the obviously glaring reason it was highly appraised for quality and care of patients, be they temporary or full-time. Yet, having Jiraiya physically in her office and practically destroying it in a whirlwind of seemingly frantic search made Shizune raise an eyebrow.

So, as Jiraiya flung himself down in her chair and made himself comfy with violating a patient's confidentiality, Shizune tried to salvage her tidy office. She had managed to clear her desk and place a handful of files into the correct filing cabinets as the self-proclaimed 'super pervert' began to spread out the contents of the bulky file. Although not liking the illegal sight of patient confidentiality being ruined, Shizune knew that there was always method behind Jiraiya's madness and offered to leave the man be. As long as the Captain didn't brag about whatever findings he was wishing to gather, all would be fine, and Shizune wouldn't mind aiding the irksome pervert. However, it was only when pausing in her tidying-spree and peering over the older man's shoulder, she found herself extremely curious at the sight of Jiraiya meticulously going through this particular patient's folder.

Like right now, Jiraiya's large hands held the slightest tremor as he handled her most recent patience's birth certificate. Naruto Uzumaki, Shizune read over his broad shoulder and squinted at the print, father: unnamed, mother: Kushina Uzumaki, D.O.B: 10th October…

Shizune made a small noise at the back of her throat, suddenly recalling the patient who had joined them almost a year ago. She tried to involve herself with all her patients (even if it was just that spur-of-the-moment introductory chat) and often made a point of making sure they were receiving the correct treatment from the employed staff of orderlies, doctors and therapists. Out of them all, (aside from personally knowing Sakumo) she had to admit she held a little soft spot for the diagnosed schizophrenic upon first meeting him.

Naruto held such an adorable (such a rare trait in a late teen) but charmingly nice quality that Shizune had smiled the whole way through their little meet-and-greet chat. Admittedly, she had only scanned the surprisingly heavy file, but the small snifters of highlighted information had shocked her, be it the transcripts of past therapy sessions or the photocopied reports from Social Services. It wasn't that Naruto was dangerous, oh no, the youth had only had one violent incident to account for and that was almost six years ago during his early teens.

The reason Naruto was institutionalization came down to the boy's lack of self-care and occasional life-threatening excursions due to the delusions he held. However, the young man had made amazing strides and improvement that he happened to be one of the best patients Shizune had ever had. But all that was explained in that folder in Jiraiya's hands: it held all of Naruto's medical and personal history in a mishmash of written reports and a small handful of ID photos from over the youth's span under state psychiatric care.

Although, the young woman couldn't help but worry over Jiraiya's intentions for suddenly reading Naruto's file and half-hoped it had nothing to do with the man's police work. But before she could ask, Jiraiya had stopped counting on his fingers (working out dates? A time span? She didn't know, it was counting,) and glaring at the birth certificate to move his serious expression onto her.

''Can he be released at any time?''

''Um,'' Shizune blinked, taken aback by the question. ''Yeah, from his last mental evaluation Naruto has been re-offered to enter a half-way house or discharge himself,'' she stated, only to find Jiraiya tilting his shaggy head of white hair, urging her to explain. ''Uzumaki is eighteen, almost nineteen, Jiraiya. He only got transferred here upon turning eighteen because he's classed as an adult yet refused to discharge himself. He's on the right meds and sometimes his schizophrenic symptoms fall into remission or they remain toned down like now…sure, he causes a little ruckus around here, but he's never escaped or harmed anyone.''

''Sooo,'' Jiraiya drawled the word, obviously not soaking up what she had explained. ''He can leave, just like –'' he snapped his calloused fingers, ''- that?''

''Yes, but he'd still need to be under moderate surveillance like most of our discharged patients, just to check they're coping well.''

''Huh, I see.''

And with that, the Captain fell silent, his dark eyes latched upon the collection of papers as Shizune shifted nervously. It was only after several beats and a rustle of dog-eared paper that Jiraiya finally spoke up again, his usually jovial and loud voice dulled with apprehension.

''Shizune, do you have any of this kid's blood I can swipe?''

Dubiously, the young woman questioned, ''Why…?''

''To ease my old mind.''

''If you're looking for a scapegoat for an unclosed case…'' Shizune trailed off upon suddenly receiving a dark glare from the man.

Jiraiya huffed like a petulant child, ''Is my last name Uchiha?''

And Shizune laughed, nerves dispelled. There had been a lot of tension over the years in regards of the Konoha's official police force and the privatized enforcement of the U.D.A (Uchiha Defense Agencies) which was a separate yet conflicting law enforcement body that operated in the Nation of Fire. But nonetheless, Shizune eased herself towards the office door and sighed, ''Okay, I'll think about it.''

Only when the office door clicked shut, Jiraiya smiled a little to himself, knowing full well that Shizune's 'think about it' always translated into a simple yet wonderful: Yes.

Yet such a smile didn't grace Jiraiya's features for long, he currently felt as if he had been gutted and flayed, his head spinning dangerously as he took full advantage of the privacy he now had. So, he stared down at the birth certificate again, running the math and calculations through his brain to try and make some sense of it all. Naruto's mother was Kushina - Minato's Kushina - and had been seventeen years of age when she disappeared from Konoha around the month of March while Naruto was born – prematurely according to these files – within early October. Now, Jiraiya didn't know where the young woman had gotten to, but it was obvious that she had stayed within the Nation of Fire due to Naruto's citizenship and current location.

This whole event was so mind-boggling; it would be far easier just to wait for Naruto's blood and run a DNA with the sample of Minato's they still had on file back at the station. So, Jiraiya would do just that – he'd wait. But, for the time being, Jiraiya would get himself acquainted with the oddball which Sakumo had taken a liking to. He would do everything in his power to stop his newly released friend to take home a wayward, man-child of an orphan if there was the slightest hint of danger in the Uzumaki's file.

But there was none, not even a sliver.

Okay, there was one act of violence back when Naruto had been thirteen and in a mainstream high school. But that particular recount of details involving an unnamed teacher was shaky, like someone had purposely skipped out the obviously important details. Yet aside from the brief yet out-of-character act of driving a scalpel into a biology teacher's hand, Naruto had no other violent events. The kid had been bounced around orphanages or foster families since the marked date of Kushina's death when the boy was seven; it was only after the teacher incident when the youth finally gained some stability. That is, if you could call being committed into a psychiatric facility a form of stability – but the labeled hospital was the longest location Naruto had resided in up until being transferred to Evergreen.

It was the medical history which amazed and shocked Jiraiya, though. According to this particular section of medical notes, Naruto had been misdiagnosed to having mild autism at the tender age of six. That is, until being re-evaluated four years down the line and being finally (and correctly) having his symptoms identified correctly as childhood-onset schizophrenia with small hints of OCD in the form of intrusive thoughts.

''Poor brat,'' Jiraiya found himself grumbling, a twinge of pity being aimed towards the young man who he had spotted – albeit half-naked and soaked – earlier in the day and looked so bright, cheery and overly energetic.

Regardless, after flipping through a handful of pages, he finally found an in-depth yet revamped report which had been updated recently. Jiraiya wasted no time reading it, his eyes narrowing and shoulders feeling suddenly far too heavy as he summed up the trials and tribulations the schizophrenic (that Sakumo had taken a shine to) had been through. He summarized the whole hodgepodge of information as simply as possible:

Naruto Uzumaki, currently 18, held a profound connection with nature in regards to his schizophrenia. The wind, the trees, birds and small mammals speak to him - and they all seem to give him lousy, life-threatening advice. From numerous therapy sessions, it had been discovered that thorn bushes told him to take off his clothes and climb barbed-wire fences. The wind had ushered him towards railway lines or trees have urged him to escape foster homes and while (in one highlighted incident) a squirrel had beckoned him into freezing a pond.

It is a wonder, really, that Naruto was still alive.

And it didn't just stop there, and Jiraiya found himself drawn into reading – with sick curiosity and utmost fascination - about Naruto's other life-threatening antics. But perhaps, one which Jiraiya found the most disheartening, had to have been the event about the then-fifteen year old Uzumaki going missing from a local ward for two days, only to be found sitting in a snowdrift, naked, reciting poetry and suffering from frostbite and hypothermia.

There was only one thing Jiraiya could say in a gusted, half-chuckle, ''Fuckin' hell, I bet he knows how to party.''


''And Shizune's reassured me you'll be just fine.''

''I know.''

''Just keep doing what you've done all these years: take your pills, resist those voices and stay calm.''

''I know.''

''But don't you worry, Naruto, she'll be sending a CPN out to see you within the same week.''

''I kno-'' Naruto stalled, nose wrinkling and tugging his face back from Iruka's caring hands, ''-Wait. A what?''

''Community Psychiatric Nurse,'' Iruka explained softly. ''Now keep still,'' he urged, gently cupping the tanned chin between his thumb and forefinger, attempting to continue with shaving the rest of that downy, poor excuse of facial hair off. ''You'll be doing this for yourself soon, so I hope you've been paying attention.''

Naruto tried not to pout, the cold blade of the razor running smoothly across his face, his blue eyes staring intently at Iruka's focused, brown eyes as the man expertly shaved his face. He had tried – numerous times – to persuade the man into letting him shave his own face, but Iruka remained adamant and said no. Even now, Naruto would be discharging himself after his final tidy-up while Shizune gathered his medication from the pharmacist and tackled some last-minute formalities and paperwork, Iruka said no. It was a little frustrating, having someone do things which you – thought - could do for yourself, but it was protocol and Naruto should've been used to it. Although, technically, Naruto knew he should be grateful for even being allowed to receive a shave and other privileges they had in the recreational room. Especially since his last Psychiatric Hospital was a far cry from the moderately low-maintenance patients at Evergreen.

''Ah, Naruto…'' Iruka's timid tone pulled the blonde out of his lulled, contemplative state. ''Do you - I mean, are you confident about leaving here so short notice?''

Blinking, the blonde remained unsure about Iruka's increased mother-hen attitude and obvious (albeit little) hint of displeasure about him leaving. But nonetheless, Naruto watched the man seated opposite him on the stool in the modest bathroom before focusing on scrubbing at his newly shaven face with a provided, starch white towel. He held mixed feelings about leaving the safety of the Psychiatric Hospital, knowing exactly what type of dangers lay outside and the warnings presented to him in the form of letters, signs or whispers. It was terrifying, especially when he had assumed to be living in the controlled, sterile environment for the rest of his life. But then he had met Sakumo Hatake, and the generous man had presented him with an offer a day or two ago upon realizing Naruto had the privilege of discharging himself.

''Sakumo-papa said I can stay with him,'' Naruto finally responded, his words slightly muffled against the towel he held against his lips. ''And Kakashi,'' he added hurriedly, his mind suddenly sparking with the thrilling reminder. ''Kakashi lives at home, he's nine years older than me and –''

''So you're excited, then?'' Iruka ventured, cutting-off another Kakashi-orientated ramble.

The orderly thanked Sakumo for easing Naruto out of his shell and treating the young man with a parental air of guidance and affection. The blonde obviously craved such interaction, making it glaringly obvious that such an action which was something a younger Naruto never received. But still, Sakumo's stories about his son, Kakashi Hatake, happened to be a completely different issue. The Uzumaki had lapped up the elder Hatake's tales about his gifted son like a dying man seeking a prayer - and that is what made Iruka uneasy.

Naruto viewed Kakashi like a child admired a story-book hero...and Kakashi was no Robin Hood. Iruka had encountered Kakashi Hatake on a few occasions: the young Hatake would have a bored expression and read erotic novels as Iruka led him to the patient-visitor room – or – sound completely droned, blunt and borderline emotionless on the phone when requesting for Shizune or his father.

'Naruto hasn't even met Kakashi in person and he goes all starry-eyed when just listening to Sakumo talking about that son of his,' Iruka's mind hummed in displeasure as Naruto nodded at his previous question, clearly positively ecstatic. 'Naruto's gone and given Kakashi a hero-complex,' the orderly noted, his hands dropping a towel onto the teen's damp, newly-washed locks. 'Once he realizes how cold, dull and offensive Kakashi is, Naruto'll be disappointed.'

Mentally shaking away his fretful thoughts for the endearing teen, Iruka safely pocketed the razor blade deep in his pocket and stood up, gathering the now-lukewarm bowl of water and can of shaving cream. He went through the usual motions of tidying up as Naruto remained seated, clad only with a towel around his neck and fresh set of underwear. It was difficult though, especially with seeing Naruto's reflected, hyperactive squirming in the mirror, the boy was literally a bunch of ecstatic nerves and Iruka had tried…really, really tired hinting not to expect much of the youngest Hatake. Yet, Naruto had shrugged it off, leaving the brunette to sigh heavily and deliver reinsurances that at 'any time' to call Shizune's office should he need anything before his CPN's visit later in the week.

Yes, to say Iruka agreed completely with letting Naruto waltz out of Evergreen would be a lie. He had grown attached to the charmingly awkward schizophrenic and would hate to see the young man rush into something, panic and fall into relapse of years of stunning, pill-taking progress. While constantly reminded not to get too attached with patients, Iruka found his will wavering, especially if the youngest Hatake's cold demeanor pushed his prized patient into spiraling downward or backtracking with progress.


''Maa, you can let go at anytime.''

Kakashi remained boneless, his droned comment being nothing more than an attempt to remind his father to let go from his current embrace. The older Hatake remained unrelenting though, doing nothing more than to give an encouraging squeeze as Kakashi had to swallow the lump forming in his throat. Embraces from his father hadn't always been a mildly awkward event, Kakashi could remember the times of being younger and wanting nothing more than to find himself encircled by those powerful arms. But somewhere down the line - as Kakashi became older and the stress of his father's job weighed heavily upon those broad shoulders - such wondrous hugs had changed. Soon cheerful under-arm lifts and playful tackles had been exchanged for tight, needy grips, soft sniffles and the lingering scent of whiskey…

But with his father's failed suicide, it appeared the man had reverted into a mix of the fond memories of hugs and the negative.

It was like Sakumo was trying to compensate for past displays of weaknesses, like the memories Kakashi had of being a preteen and – in the rare occasions his father had encountered a bad case - blurrily waking up his pale-haired parent seated at the end of his bed, eyes red-rimmed from spilt tears. In retrospect, Kakashi had allowed the man to pull him into a hug out of sheer confusion, but time, information and understanding had made the younger Hatake realize those saddening moments often revolved around cases involving children, unknowingly hitting home to his single parent who merely sought comfort. Yet maybe even more so, this form of compensation Kakashi was experiencing now, was based solely around his botched attempt of suicide than those small handful of memories.

''Anytime soon, Dad,'' Kakashi urged softly, his hand patting a little firmer upon the elder's back.

''Hah,'' the long-haired male pulled back with a sniff, ''Yes, sorry. I keep forgetting that I'm going home and this isn't a visit.''

''It's -'' Kakashi grunted, his father's overzealous clap on the shoulder disturbing his balance '' – Fine.''

''Better than fine,'' Sakumo added, and Kakashi suddenly found himself being eased down onto one of the overstuffed chairs within the visitor-patient room. ''Things are going to be better than fine,'' the elder continued, taking his own seat opposite him and staring intently into his eyes. ''I'm good now,'' he stressed, a wryly nervous grin overriding his face as he tapped his temple, ''A little forgetful, but I'm good up here.''

''I know, Dad,'' the younger Hatake murmured.

It happened to be a slight lie though – Kakashi wasn't feeling nearly as confident over his father's return home as he was currently trying to portray. Confident about the recuperation, yes, he fully knew his father was 'better than' fine – a little shaky – but fine. After all, the family home had been turned into a house these past two years. It had become a place of shelter, bricks and mortar as opposed to a physical place of love, comfort and safety. The place had been so silent since his father's institutionalization, especially when Kakashi had been used to his father interfering (for his own good) with his work and dragging him out of the house for lunch or asking him to walk the dogs.

''Do you?'' Sakumo urged, his glasses hanging precariously on the end of his nose.

And Kakashi internally crumbled, knowing his father just took one look of his forcefully stretched smile, half-crinkled eyes and saw past the mask and towards the more truthful answer of: No.

Kakashi would've explained himself, he would've told his old man that he felt like a jumbled mess of pure excitement and terror over his return home. Sure, he knew that his father was in a – emotionally – better place than he had been in years, the man before him now sat with a confident posture and radiant smiles of comfort as opposed to the slumping, dreary half-smiles of the past. But it was difficult to talk of such things, leaving Kakashi to give a heavy exhale and simply let go of his clinging insecurities over his father's return, the whispers of worry tickling the back of his skull dissolving slightly.

He just didn't want to screw up, not for a second time.

Because Kakashi still scolded himself over not paying enough attention to his father's spiral of depression. Be it the lack of sleep (he thought it was a phrase), extra drink of an evening (it was just for relaxation), occasional mood swings (the elder must've been having a stressful day) or the other, more glaringly obvious signs and cries for help. Sure, Kakashi had returned home from a meeting early (by sheer chance) and saved his father's choking, sputtering body – but if his father tried to kill himself again, Kakashi was certain the fates wouldn't be so kind. So it was understandable why the young author felt so tense with apprehension…maybe even more so over his father's sudden idea to bring home a fellow, recently discharged patient called Naruto.

Oh, he had heard of this particular patient before. His father had babbled about a young teen who felt 'so familiar' and had managed to keep his mind active during his last year. Kakashi, however, didn't know how to feel about letting Naruto into his home…but it wasn't his, technically, it was his father's house. So he had no say in the matter, not really. Plus, if his father wanted to busy himself with helping this Naruto as his own source of recovery, then so be it – Kakashi didn't care as long as the young man didn't pester him or depress his father.

''Today is a fresh start,'' his father's gravelly voice interjected Kakashi's silent musings as he suddenly found his father's hands cupping each of his own in a prayer-like gesture. ''Today we start anew, okay? So stop worrying.''

''Maa, yes, Sir,'' Kakashi droned, his lips quirking up in the first genuine smile he had in a long time.


Naruto walked down the corridor from his session of signing documents and verbal garble of information from Shizune. The sisterly, dark-haired female had apparently gone out of her way (according to Iruka) with filing the correct forms and applying Naruto for some form of social benefits which resulted in a weekly stipend, a stipend he had been entitled to during his youth yet never received. But all that information went out one ear and through the other as he picked at a loose thread on his new clothing which had been purchased for him earlier that morning by Iruka, way before the brunette had given Naruto his shave and small lecture about taking care of himself.

He was going to miss Iruka…

But nonetheless, Naruto physically shook himself, his spiky locks flicking up in their usual unruly hairstyle as he continued walking. He had been told that Sakumo-papa was waiting in the empty visitor-patient room for him and while Naruto wanted to run to the man, he found himself distracted by his new clothes. Iruka had used some of Naruto's disclosed stipend for the items and purposely purchased an orange – duller than he would've liked, but still orange – hooded jacket, black t-shirt and stonewashed jeans. The shirt fitted perfectly, but the jeans hung low enough for Iruka to murmur out loud about wishing to have had brought a belt, but Naruto didn't mind. He hated restrictive clothes, and embraced and large – yet incredibly fleecy insides of the warm cotton hoodie – and loose-fitting jeans, overly content.

But still, as the eighteen year old strolled down the corridor with his minimal belongings on his person – enveloped pictures of his mother buried jeans pocket and the tattered fox plush stuffed into the jacket's pocket – he couldn't stop staring at his feet. Well, it was more or less his laces which his blue eyes remained suckered to. It had been so long since had worn a pair of laced shoes that Iruka had to refresh his mind with tying the laces. After all, since he had been thirteen his footwear consisted solely of slippers or none at all. So, Naruto stared down at those neatly tied strings with interest, his feet continuing to move forward with a slight squeak of rubber meets wooden flooring as the pinkish-gray glow of late afternoon seeped through the windowed corridor that led towards the location Sakumo-papa was waiting for him.

He was about to pick up his pace, excitement bubbling in his veins – he'd get to meet Kakashi, he'd get to live in the same house of Kakashi, he'd get to see the house which many of Sakumo's Kakashi-orientated stories happened in - that is, until a abnormally high-pitched voice caught his attention instantly.

''This is no place for you!''

It was difficult not to flinch at the loud, ear-ringing pitch – but Naruto prevailed and turned his head towards the source of noise. He looked out of the large glass windows before shuffling back a few feet, his blue eyes flickering around the obscured frame of a built-in glass door before finally spotting the speaker. It happened to be a bird…a tiny, pudgy little chickadee, and it was fluffing its wings on the railing outside in the courtyard, it's black, beady eyes staring intently at him.

''Well?'' the chickadee urged before – with a jerk of its beak upward towards the towering outer wall - adding, ''You should be up there!''

And Naruto tried not to shrink at its tone, half-tempted to ignore the aggressive little bird and flee. But maybe it needed to tell him something, warn him of something, like the way those street signs or letters tended to do on occasion. He had once ignored the obvious hint of the letter 'D' when he had been much younger and starting high school. Back then, and still to this day, Naruto knew that he should've paid heed to the warning because D meant there was a demon around but he had ignored it and…and bad things happened.

''Why…?'' Naruto mumbled hesitantly, his eyes darting around the empty corridor.

Last thing he needed is Iruka or someone else to come along, see him nattering to a bird and revoke his freedom. The pills he was on subdued his dubbed 'delusions' and turned the 'voices' he heard into a hushed rumble – but such things remained and Naruto would've been stupid just to ignore them, wouldn't he? They helped him. Sort of. Sometimes the wind or shrubs or one time that lying alley cat – had said nasty things, but they were just exceptions and Naruto had been more careful with his choices over his later years of life. He knew that if he didn't ignore some of those murmured suggestions then the doctors would've pumped him with those drugs which made him sleepy and hopeless like they did back when he was fifteen after his winter excursion...

''Don't you recognize it?'' the chickadee's high-pitched voice sounded so shocked, its black eyes glinting dangerously. ''The wall, Naruto, the wall!''

Shifting anxiously, Naruto followed the tiny, jerking feathery head nodding in the direction of the outer wall that fenced off the courtyard. It was a tall structure, at least ten feet, made of mottled bricks with a collection of ivy vines spilling over from the top. From the small distance from the glass doors he was peering through, it reminded him almost of the picturesque walls from the book he had once read about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and…

''But it is,'' the bird urged, wings flapping furiously. ''You must climb the vines to enter paradise, become a King-!''

''Naruto,'' a hand landed on the blonde's shoulder, his glazed eyes blinking, ''Naruto?''

Moving away from the window, the teen winced a little at the owner of the hand – Iruka – who was sending him a worried expression.

''What are you doing loitering here? Sakumo and Kakashi are wai-'

'Kakashi?' Naruto's mind bellowed the name, his hands becoming sweaty and knees giving a brief shake of excitement. 'Kakashi's here? In here? He came to pick up Sakumo-papa?' thoughts seemed to be flying out of mind, no matter how simply they seemed to be answered. It shouldn't have came as a shock for Kakashi – Sakumo's one and only and prized son – was coming to pick him up. But still, the sudden reminder of the fact he was going to meet Kakashi and that meeting was sooner than he had anticipated…after all, Naruto had been holding off his brimming excitement for meeting the younger Hatake upon arriving at his new living arrangements.

But no, he was going to meet Kakashi now – and Naruto found himself running down the corridor, barely aware until he whizzed around a corner with Iruka's sputtered yell of 'no running' echoing in his ears.

Naruto had heard so much of Kakashi but the only image he had seen happened to be a crinkled old photo which Sakumo had kept in his robe pocket. It had been a snapshot of a younger-looking Sakumo, his brunette-haired late wife (Setsuko, if Naruto recalled) and a tiny, chubby toddler-version of Sakumo who turned out to be Kakashi. Naruto often daydreamed and wondered during some of Sakumo's more repetitive tales as to what Kakashi looked like now, but those images blurred and faded often making him irritable. He had even tried prying more out of Sakumo about his adult son, only to receive the comment of 'he looks just like me' and 'shorter hairstyle but more gravity defying' before slipping into a fond recollection of his late-wife's constant attempts of trying to groom Kakashi's hair into a more presentable manner before she passed when the boy was six.

So, here the Uzumaki was, stumbling over the ends of his baggy jeans, his feet rubbing a little against the canvas of his shoes and breath coming out in excitable, breathless huffs as he skidded to a halt in front of the patient-visitor room's doors.

The teen didn't think twice about peeping through the narrow, vertically-reglangular piece of glass that acted as a window by the handle of the door, his blue eyes instantly catching sight of Sakumo seated in one of the chairs, donning a simple white shirt, slacks and dull-green sweater vest. It was odd how just a simple change in attire changed the demeanor of a person, especially when you had spent all year befriending someone who was clad in pajamas. However, admiring Sakumo's bespectacled, soft grinning features didn't last for long and Naruto gaped a little at the sight of the famed Kakashi Hatake who was seated opposite of his father, a small smile tugging at his perfect lips and highlighting the dimple in his right cheek in such a charming, stomach-fluttering way which Naruto hadn't experienced in a long, long time.

'They do look alike,' the blonde silently speculated, nervously gnawing on his bottom lip.

He continued to scan the scene, watching the pair of older male's converse as his blue eyes tried to widen to take in everything he could see about the youngest Hatake. They had the same ivory skin tone, shockingly pale hair (and style, although Kakashi's swooped madly to one side and lacked Sakumo's pony-tail) and build, although Kakashi appeared more sinewy in his rumpled yet body-fitting navy-sweater and black slacks. Naruto was mid-way through working himself up when he realized he had pressed himself against the door, unknowingly making the moveable object creak forward until it was too late and found himself tipping forward, yelping, and nose-diving towards the pale-colored linoleum.

By the time he lifted his head up – stunned expression obviously in place – Naruto found the room's two sole occupants staring at him. Sakumo was already on his feet, looking fretful but Kakashi…Kakashi was quirking an eyebrow at him and Naruto felt his face flush with heat, his brain taking a silent note how the younger Hatake's eyes appeared to be the lighter shade of his mother's charcoal as opposed to Sakumo's deeper black.

''Naruto, there you are,'' Sakumo was already by him, tugging him up onto his feet – but Naruto was far too focused on staring at Kakashi to utter thanks, his throat suddenly tight. ''Careful now.''

''Aa, so you're Naruto,'' the younger Hatake chimed in, and Naruto nodded so hard his brain rattled, heartbeat thrumming crazily. ''My first impression of you is…''

Naruto felt his brain short circuit at the drawled sound of Kakashi's voice addressing him. It sounded like a lazy drone of a beehive in summer yet held all the drizzling, tasty smoothness of honey. But such an inner brain sputtering and wide-eyed expression of trying to absorb Kakashi's voice came to an end as the teen felt his brain slip into stand-by mode. After all, Kakashi was staring at him – eyes slightly half-curved and happy but just as intense – and Naruto felt his heart leap into his throat, his ears straining to hang off every word as the attractively tall and composed male finally finished his sentence.

''…I don't like you.''