Like many people on this site I have been inspired by Silver Queen's fantastic story Dreaming of Sunshine (to the extent that my own title is a bit of a homage to hers), if you haven't read Silver's story yet you really should.
The plot will be slow to unfurl, with emphasis on character building, socio-political events and friendship/family. There will be NO FOCUS ON ROMANCE. It may pop up on occasion and yes, there will be attraction and the occasional crush but I will not give it much time in this story. ON THAT NOTE HOWEVER: If you are not open to all sorts of gender pairings this is probably not the story for you. There will be mentions of m/f, m/m and f/f relationships/crushes since I believe that all kinds of pairings should be explored in fiction to best reflect a realistic population demographic. Besides, love is beautiful. I honestly don't feel the need to justify it further especially since I won't be going into great detail either way.
The 'T' rating is for the run of the mill ninja violence.
I don't remember how I died. For all I know there could be another me running around, her life uninterrupted by the non-event that so changed mine. Perhaps she is looking up to the sky like I once did and dreaming of other worlds.
The naive woman-child I was couldn't imagine a worse life than getting an office job and settling into a humdrum nine-to-five schedule, before perhaps dropping out of that to have a couple of kids in the suburbs with a nice man. Or worse- not even having children, just a neatly trimmed lawn and an exuberant dog to distract me from the monotony of life. I thirsted for independence and the ability to make a significant impact on the world, of course, but most of all I wanted something that I could not conceivably obtain.
Ever since I was a little girl I have been attracted to the unusual, the fantastic and magical. There was a time I couldn't read a book, watch a television show or play a video game if it didn't have a fantasy element. For the most part I grew out of that phase but even as a young adult I found myself drawn to ideas and concepts which did not exist in the mundane world I had grown up in. I longed for something which didn't exist and that realisation was a physical blow each time I reminded myself that no, it really doesn't get any better than this.
Surrounded as I am now by violence and deceit, not knowing when myself or the people I love will die (because in the life of a shinobi, it is always when not if), I want to smack my daydreaming self of day's gone-by for not appreciating what she had. On Earth, where I grew up at least, there was such a thing as a childhood, creative pursuits and a long life expectancy. On my more melancholy days in the new world, I measured the worth of my new life against the old one I had left behind. Even if I had my old and new families alongside one another (as well as all the friends I had accumulated along the way), would the ability to wield chakra really be rated higher than the safety of everything I held dear?
I had been... selfish. Childish. I hadn't known how good I had it until I lost everything and it made me realise something (all right, I admit it, I didn't realise anything right away but I got there eventually).
Hiding behind fantasy isn't an option any more; I cannot be selfish in this lifetime, this war-torn world which wears a mask of peace. I am an adult now and it's my turn to shield the children under my care. They can call me an 'inner baba', a nag or a wet blanket but by all the gods of the two worlds to which I am intrinsically bound, I will drag them out of harm's way kicking and screaming if I have to. No one is dying on my watch, not so long as I live.
That's my promise of a lifetime.
I'll skip the gory details of pregnancy and birth, the former of which I have only a fleeting impression of (warmth, muffled sound, boredom) and the latter I endeavour to do my very best to forget about entirely. Forever. Please don't mention it again. There's a reason your bellybutton is both your first scar and the only one you carry for life indefinitely. Yeah. I am scarred for life in more ways than one.
There are also the horror stories of my earliest infancy, which I would rather not discuss but feel I should touch upon for the significant impact they had on my new life: all those times when I was confined to a caged crib, a giant's arms, the suffocating fabric of a baby wrap-around carrier, every new experience was a lesson in entrapment and helplessness.
I cannot conjure words hateful enough in any language to describe how much I despised the lack of freedom I had then, often constrained to an extent that I couldn't even scratch my nose if I needed to. Crying had little effect in that regard, because if the three obvious conclusions (feeding, changing, sickness) came up empty, how were my new parents going to spring to the conclusion of 'my changeling daughter has an itchy nose', never mind something with more emotional depth? Directly after my birth I didn't even have the muscle control to crinkle my nose and facial dexterity extended no further than being able to open my mouth and bawl. I did so much of that in the beginning, robbed of any other form of expression: confused, terrified and near blind with a useless tongue that couldn't even form words. I was in hell.
Although I have seen more than enough in this new world to give me nightmares, the most reoccurring has been of this time. Being trapped in my own body, an adult brain bound to such a helpless shell that is was unable to even hold that organ aloft under its own power... I still wake up in a cold sweat at the thought of being back there and throw myself into training, sometimes going for runs at ridiculously early hours, spitting in the face of curfew as I launch myself across rooftops and through the dense forest canopy just to prove to myself that I can.
This habit would not have served me well in another hidden village, I would have been pulled up on disciplinary charges for less in Iwa or Kumo and Kiri would have probably done me in long before graduation (or perhaps for their graduation exam). Fortunately Konoha is the 'nice' village, for all its political intrigue and dehumanising underground organisations, the ANBU weren't going to pull a young kunoichi in for questioning just because she couldn't sleep. My night time 'strolls' might be a matter for private record and heaven knows that the ninja on duty like to keep an eye on me but the village had a vested interest in me- they understood that I needed to be human sometimes in order for me to be a ninja the rest of the time.
For that small kindness (which was once a right which no one had any business in restricting) I will always be grateful. I'm so thankful that I didn't end up somewhere else in this world, or perhaps another world which is facing even worse odds. A slightly different reality of this world, or any number of the completely different alternate universes I had read about might not have been able to prepare me for the trials ahead. I could count numerous fantasy worlds (though for all I know, they could be real too) that would not have been as kind as Konoha, for all that the village had trained me to be their weapon.
Despite the fact that I am a fan (certifiably, irrevocably and unashamedly so), I did not know I was in the Naruto verse for quite sometime and had I been under different circumstances I would have been quite ashamed of my obliviousness. However, my new parents were not ninja and neither my eyesight nor awareness was fantastic early on, I was also kept inside the house and small garden for the first leg of my second life, bar a few trips to the market with my new mother.
She was not a conventional beauty, although she was undeniably pretty. I began likening her to an Asian Luna Lovegood for her dark eyes which seemed to be in a perpetual state of wide-eyed surprise and the soft lilt of her voice which sounded dreamy to my ears. Her hair was long and tuggable and as soon as I was old enough to I would wriggle a hand out of my baby wrap and tangle my fingers in the silky strands. Even though my plans for hair reins completely fell through (I admit, my thought processes were more than a little batty back then), I still relished the texture on my new hands, so receptive to every little sensation and starved all over for contact which I could initiate, rather than just having to accept what was given.
It came as no small relief that I had somehow been reincarnated (could it be reincarnation if I didn't remember my own death? At that point in time I was torn fifty/fifty between that and a very long, vivid coma) in Japan, as I had a rudimentary grasp of the language already. My best guess as to location was that I now lived in some kind of historical quarter not far from a cosplay hub, which would explain the lack of skyscrapers yet steady influx of obviously Asian people with brightly coloured hair and odd clothes. To be fair, I hadn't been getting the best view of the world at the time, strapped to Rokku Izuki's chest every time I went out. With a better vantage point I might have made out the chuunin vests and hitai-ate.
My rusty Japanese was given a good polish and soon my vocabulary actually began to increase. I concentrated on my language skills, aching for the day where I could speak without being labelled abnormally intelligent- I had no desire to be marked as a genius. Maybe if I was still in Scotland but not Japan, or what I thought to be Japan at the time. The fabled Japanese work ethic frankly scared me and I wanted to avoid the pressure of a heightened study regime.
As much as I wished to avoid scrutiny, I wanted to avoid the second youngest member of our family even more.
My big brother. I scoffed at the thought. I had a big brother, three years older than myself and much preferable in a long distance relationship (now made even longer by my current predicament) given that he had never quite grown out of his bullying phase. Or borrowing money without planning to return it phase. Or breaking my things and not replacing them- you know what, you get the picture.
Izuki and Daisuke liked to try and involve this strange new sibling with me from the moment I was brought back from the hospital. They would often lift him up over the bars of my crib to bid me goodnight and although there were no kisses (it was a fantasy approximation of Japan after all) I got a sloppy pat on the head from the gurgling infant instead. We were sometimes allowed to play together too, although it was with strict supervision and you could hardly call lying beside one another surrounded by soft toys 'playing' anyway. My 'brother' wasn't even a year old when I was born, possessing the same dark wide eyed gaze as our mother and messy tufts of similarly hued hair which had yet to settle into either Izuki's straight locks or Daisuke's rumpled bed head.
It was strange, to have a father so attentive even though he was always exhausted from work. I didn't know what he did, didn't find out until years later, only that he left early six days out of the week and came home late as many nights. I also knew, peripherally, that fathers were supposed to put their children first and not just treat them like particularly fragile toys there for their own amusement. This new father was soft spoken, full of secret smiles and gentle touches and he knew when to back off when tickling got to be too much, or I just wanted to be left alone to sleep. He was a fascination to me although I kept expecting the other shoe to drop.
Daddy issues, I have them.
It wasn't until years later that I discovered that I was born almost dangerously premature, that my big (tiny) brother was only seven months older than me- apparently no one told our parents that fertility rate spiked soon after pregnancy. Add to that that I was miraculously (and suspiciously) born on my old birthday, I was lucky to have survived and thus my parents had reason for smothering me more than usual with a newborn. Iro-nin were magic workers, in my old world I could have spent at least a month in ICU and thus probably cottoned onto the fact that there was something wrong much sooner.
Izuki and Daisuke could have told me themselves, if not for what happened four months after my second birth.
It was a frantic day to top off a stressful week. Daisuke had taken the last two days off of work and Izuki was fluttering about the house like a particularly skittish monochrome butterfly. The feeding schedule was off, no one seemed to know what to do with themselves and during the quiet moments between tasks, both new parents just sat in silence, their fingers intertwined in a white-knuckled grip. Every moment I strained my ears to pick up hushed conversations and worked furiously to translate them. What was more telling was their actions: Izuki packing and repacking the baby bag, Daisuke looking out the windows with worried eyes, rarely leaving the side of the old fashioned radio which breathed only static. Only the squirt seemed unaffected, gurgling happily enough and working up to longer words and even stringing a few together. Smart tot, if a little oblivious.
The sudden flurry of activity took me by surprise, I had exhausted myself into slumber and awoke with a start as I was grabbed less gently than usual and stowed in Izuki's wrap-around baby carrier. I didn't even realise I was crying into her collarbone until she shushed me, frightfully. "Shhhh." She rocked me with a trembling hand and continued in the same tremulous tone as before, so unlike her usual airy manner. "Please hush, Hinoe-chan. We have to listen very carefully to the nice ninja now."
'Ninja' shocked me into silence and I blinked away the few tears which had gathered purely on reflex. I tried to turn my head to see- because, surely I hadn't heard that right... All I could get a good angle on was Daisuke holding my little brother, his cuddly toy turtle/tortoise thing clutched in one chubby fist as he gazed about, looking as confused as I felt.
We were hurried out the house and although I couldn't feel tremors through my mother's body (other than her own) and there was no wind, everyone was acting like a natural disaster was bearing down on us. I shivered at the thought of a hurricane or tsunami- I would be torn apart, crushed, there was no way I would survive something like that! Looking back over at my fretting little brother I knew he wouldn't last long either. We were completely at the mercy of our parents and, now that I could see him, that gangly teenager in front of us, his breaths coming steady even as I felt Izuki's shuddering in and out.
Our little family was heading towards a mountain, from what little I could make out. Oh gods, I thought, what if a volcano's erupts? I couldn't smell smoke but the thought terrified me, as far as natural disasters go, a river of lava is probably the one I wanted to encounter the least. Surely, if we were getting up high we would be safe, provided we had enough oxygen to breathe once the poisonous gases started filling up the sky. Turning my face into Izuki's shirt I sniffled, cursing how easy it was for me to cry in this state- I was a grown woman for fuck's sake!
As my mind conjured more disasters, from tornadoes to Godzilla, I failed to notice the change in the atmosphere, the mounting tension becoming more palatable until Izuki stopped dead in the middle of the street, trembling like a leaf as she encircled my fragile form in her arms as if to ward me against blows. Her eyes darted between each shadow and back, unresponsive to my hair tugging as her breath came in shallow gasps.
"'Zuki," Daisuke pleaded, sweat beading at his brow. "We have to keep-"
It swept over us then, impossible for even my underdeveloped, previously unused chakra sense to ignore, terrifying and alien and every inch the disasters I had imagined and more. It was the weight of a tsunami, the force of a hurricane and the raw heat of staring an explosion in the face right before it engulfed you. Even knowing the mechanics and spiritualism behind chakra, I struggle to sufficiently describe what the Kyuubi's feels like and subsequent exposures to it only seek to overwhelm me anew. The first time was like fire burning me from the inside out and knives running along my every nerve ending, blades which were so sharp, I only felt the pain after they stopped slithering over my skin. Then there were the sensations which could not be defined as physical but hit me like a punch to the gut anyway- emotions clawed for my attention until even the echoing taste of mother's milk couldn't erase the fury and bloodlust which cloyed at the back of my throat.
Peripherally, I heard a baby's cry and for the life of me couldn't figure out if it was my little 'big' brother's voice or my own.
Daisuke pulled us all into an embrace as an explosion rocked the building behind us, spewing splinters and slate on his back and shoulders and every inch of flesh likewise exposed. Between them, our parents kept anything from touching us, even Izuki seemed to have recovered, her eyes ablaze as she hunched over me, her long hair spread over both her children.
I was her child and she my mother- even if it was only genetic to me and rang so false it was almost repugnant, that feeling wasn't mutual. I was her child. I didn't know what to feel.
"Quickly! There's still time!" A teenager I had barely made out before (thanks, vision-restricting baby carrier) waved his one good arm for us to get moving. Is this the so-called ninja? My eyes were still underdeveloped and his face was a blur to me but he was indeed little more than a kid- his limbs that awkward, unmistakeable length in proportion to the rest of his body that spoke of growing pains and misjudged distances. He held himself well though, aside from how he wasn't using one of his arms.
"For the sake of my family, thank you for assisting us, Shinobi-san." Izuki half bowed as she picked up the pace to a hurried trot, cradling my head in one hand and dusting debris off her husband's back with the other. Daisuke winced as her hands fluttered over the shards of shrapnel which had pierced his shirt, leaving shallow cuts and little bloody rivers flowing down the curve of his spine. "The damage would have been worse if you hadn't intervened."
Intervened? The kid hadn't even done anything, not that you could when a building blew up, I reasoned. How had that happened anyway? And come to think of it, we were lucky to get away so lightly. Still, I wanted gone from this place, the street felt so exposed and that horrible, hurtful feeling might come back if we stayed here. I want my mum. I thought forlornly before crushing that impossible plea.
I smacked that sentiment down, it hadn't done any good before and it certainly wasn't going to help during a real crisis. My skin was still prickling uncomfortably from that mad rush of feeling earlier but I pretended I was fine and pushed the sensation away, focusing on the curl and stretch of my toes, the humidity in the air, Izuki's hair tangled in my fingers. After a few minutes the feeling was gone and I had nothing to distract me from my brother's stuttering sobs and the sound of panicked feet pounding the pavement. We had joined another group of people now, our small contingent joining onto the tail end of another four times our size. Our guide shuddered out a breath of relief and I heard the smile in his voice. "Okay, Tanuma will get you underground, I need to get back to-"
The sky seemed to split in half with the force of the next wave and I couldn't even find the oxygen to scream as a block of flats cracked up the middle and started to slide away from its supports towards us.
"Tanuma!" Our guide cried out and suddenly the ground rumbled beneath our feet (I could barely feel it over the pounding of Izuki's heartbeat), a great wall of earth rising up to catch the falling wall before it could crush my second mother and I. Daisuke rushed to us, the munchkin uncharacteristically silent although he continued to cry.
A dream, it has to be a terrible, horrible dream-
The earth wall gave way as Tanuma fell to his knees, rocked by another wave of monstrous energy.
People were screaming, my head hurt, Izuki was holding me too tightly, my head hurt, it was dark, my head hurt. I fell unconscious.
Our ninja helpers were fresh genin, drafted almost straight out of the Academy to help evacuate civilians in the event of the Kyuubi breaking free of its current vessel, Uzumaki Kushina. The call to evacuate to the underground tunnels in the Hokage mountain was a last resort and, had the Madara imposter not intervened, would have been completely unnecessary. I blame him, the one calling himself Madara. I remember the manga well enough, that big reveal was one of the last chapters I read before coming here and I always had a good memory for stories and (previously) useless fandom facts. While before I thought he was a bland, uninteresting villain with periods of cracktastic insanity (I used to think his moon plan was hilarious), now I loathed him for more than having no discernible purpose, no vendetta or logical reason for what he did. Madara I could understand, even respect in a twisted way but Not!Madara would receive no empathy or regard from me other than the desire to put him out of his miserable existence like a mad dog.
I blame him for our father's crushed skull, secret smiles bludgeoned into oblivion until even the hope of an open casket was folly. For our mother's ribs crushed to powder as she shielded us with her body and used the corpse of her dead husband to prop the rubble up long enough for us to be dug out as she choked on her own blood and vomit. For the screams of my little brother as he and I were pulled from the debris, myself gaining consciousness in time to see our guide, Hamada Genji, shear my second mother's hair off with a kunai so he could pull me out from the little pocket of air Izuki had so desperately made.
I cried then, wailed like the world had fallen down instead of just a building and reached for dead eyes and lost smiles.
The two of us were raced to the Hokage mountain, where most of the hospital staff not cleared for field duty were currently posted to deal with the injured well enough to move or be carried. Genji cradled the both of us in his one good arm, pinning us none-too-gently to his chest to stop my head lolling and the other screaming infant flailing out of his grip.
Hamada's face was young and scared, eyes wide and unseeing as he sprinted through the streets and I took in every inch of his face so that I might remember him and thank him later. Sunlight reflected off the teen's hitai-ate while I got my tears under control, distracted by the small task enough that I could make out the design when my tears abated somewhat. Upon the metal plate, already scratched from field duty, was a stylised leaf with a spiral at its centre. No matter how I look as it still looks like the back end of a headless snail to me.
Konohagakure no sato. The village hidden in the leaves. Ninja. The mismatch of impossible genetics and pseudo Asian culture... it made sense in a horrifying way. If I had known before that day I would have been ecstatic but of all the times to be helpless... I looked over Genji's shoulder as best I could, saw the destruction that Kyuubi caused without even being in the village yet and felt sick. Cause tsunamis with a flick of its tail indeed. It looked like Kurama would do a lot worse than that before the night was over and he was finally sealed in Naruto.
Please, I begged, don't let me have changed anything, don't let me be the butterfly for god's sake, not when it comes to people's lives. If any of the Konoha twelve or the many other integral characters had been harmed... I focused on the ramifications, the maybe-catastrophe so much easier to deal with than the hell happening right then.
"KAAA-" Lee screamed, "TOOUU!"
I froze, going unnaturally still in our protector's arms.
I had been avoiding thinking about Lee as a person. He was so small and didn't have much of a personality yet, it was easier than it should have been. I honestly hadn't known what to do with him and once he was older I thought I would know even less. No one would accuse me of being a good role model and besides, as the 'older' one, Lee probably wouldn't have taken well to being intellectually supplanted. Like I've said, I have bad experiences with big brothers and had been content with the thought of another distant relationship, this one established from birth in a culture that prided itself on emotional distance in comparison to my overly blunt Scottish homeland. Now I couldn't keep distance, even if Izuki and Daisuke had lived, I was already emotionally invested.
It all started to slip into place. Oh gods, he's Rock Lee. I'm Rock Lee's sister. My mind supplied the English spelling even as I knew it would be spelt Rokku Rii in kana.
He just lost his parents. They weren't really mine after all. Not ours, just his. I reasoned, still trembling in shock and numerous small cuts bleeding freely... I can be strong for him, he needs me to be.
"Leee." My first word came out as a whine clogged with snot and tears. I patted his cheek, startling him out of crying. "Lee."
Lee sobbed, grabbing my blood soaked onesie and didn't let go until Genji gave us into a iro-nin's care in the caves. Even when we were patched up, when the all-clear rang out to go back to the village proper, when we were fostered off on an over-crowded children's home that night, I didn't let go of the child who shared my blood.
"Don't cry." I whispered in carefully annunciated English which still didn't sound anything like it should. Face-to-face in our shared cot that night, I clumsily rubbed my brother's back to the sounds of other infants shuffling and sniffling. "It's going to be okay. I promise it's going to be okay, Lee.
AN: I have been sitting on this story for a long time, constantly changing the plot and premise until I was finally happy with enough of it to start publishing. I actually had to change my SI's name from 'Choko' to 'Hinoe' because another 'Lee's Sister' story came out with a character of the same name (Konoha's Beautiful Lotus by Supernatural Crossover Girl). I'm kind of glad (although it doesn't sound quite as good as my original choice) since it gave me an opportunity to research some kanji meanings, an activity which I have been severely neglecting of late.
Rokku which is how 'Rock' is spelt in the Japanese kana is actually a type of wrestling which may be an allusion to Lee's later prowess in taijutsu. It was harder for me to come up with a kanji for his given name but 'ri' is a common symbol meaning 'clever' and 'i' can mean 'twelfth zodiac', in this case Sagittarius or Boar. Lee is canonically a Sagittarius but I made him born in the year of the Snake which is a fixed Fire year, along with the Horse and the Ram which come directly after that and I believe this somewhat explains the baby boom in Konoha around this time. Konoha is the capital of the Land of Fire where parents would want their children born under an auspicious sign and a war's not long ended, hey presto, lots of clan heirs all born in the same year.
The meaning of 'Hinoe' is a little more complicated as it carries a purely Japanese connotation (to the best of my knowledge at least). Hinoe means '3rd calender sign' and is linked to the Hinoe Uma (roughly 'Fire Horse'), the Japanese superstition surrounding a year taking place every 60. Reputedly the girls born then are more dangerous and bring bad luck to their husbands. Obviously every Hinoe Uma year is a Year of the Horse. Hinoe was not born in a Hinoe Uma year but a year of the horse all the same as Lee is seven months older than her (his birthday is November 22nd, hers June 7th) and I've already stated that he's a Snake. For kunoichi, a Hinoe year is very auspicious, but not so much for a civilian family like Hinoe and Lee's.
In my head!canon back story, Izuki wanted a matching astrological naming scheme for both children and Daisuke wanted to warn off his daughter's future potential suitors in classic overly-protective father fashion.
Please tell me what you think!