A/n: I do not own any Naruto copyrights.
Surrounded by water, I was trapped in an enclosure so dark; I'm not quite sure whether my eyes are open or closed. It's tight but not uncomfortable, floating here. When I first woke up in this place, no longer able to breath, move, or utter a word; well, it was all a bit disorientating for me. This was so different from my hospital room, so much a contrast to my sterile world; that, at first at least, I was convinced I was dreaming.
Or maybe this was the some sort of coma; my disease finally getting the upper hand after all these years. Had my feeble mind conjured up some distant memories to occupy my time while my body withered? But why a fetus? (I was floating in a watery cocoon with some sort of cord attached to my waist, what else could I be?) Of all things, would my mind force me to remember my own birth?
I shuddered horribly at the thought, a few limbs striking the rubbery walls around me as I did so. Oh please wake up, I begged myself, please let this really only be just a dream.
I didn't wake up, well not to my heart monitor and IV at least; though I did find myself drifting in and out as my time in the womb crawled by. As time passed I began to catalog what I could glean about myself, as much information as possible; just so the actual timing of my (*ew*) birth wouldn't be as big a surprise.
I used this tactic all the time back at the hospital; noting things like a nurse's gossip and the number of drugs I was given so that I wouldn't be in the dark on a surgery day. It used to make me feel useful, all that knowing; ironic that I could put it to so much use even after my battle had already been lost.
Still, there really was a lot to learn once you just sat back and listened; even as an unborn baby. Small things, like how my mother's heartbeat proved that my ears were developed; could show you so much if you only paid attention. Like I had at the hospital, everything that would bring me closer to the goal was checked off my list; and though my knowledge on unborn fetuses was next to none, what I was able to gather was more than enough to tell me what I wanted to know.
It seemed that I would be born soon; just as it seemed that I wouldn't wake to reality anytime soon. Oh what joy, I would actually have to go through with this.
Sure enough, what I guessed to be 2, maybe 3 days later; I was awoken by a sudden and painful tightening of my prison as I was unceremoniously shoved headfirst down a tube. I won't lie; this was both horrifying and disgusting. It wasn't even second to projectile vomiting or chronic diarrhea; both of which I have experienced before during a couple of my more extensive 'treatments'.
But no matter how terrifying this feeling was; it still wasn't the worst I had to go through. For while feeling like a watermelon shoved down a straw was bad; coming out of a bloody hole screaming and coughing up afterbirth was much, much worse.
Hands caught me as I screeched and kicked; completely disgusted by what I had just endured. Voices echoed around me and bright lights blinded my blurry baby eyes. Suddenly I stopped kicking, my breath coming faster and faster as I realized something very wrong; no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't understand what was being said.
Why weren't they speaking English? This is supposed to be my memories. This is supposed to be my language.
Another stream of unintelligible syllables sounded above me as I began to hyperventilate; followed almost immediately by a quick but gentle slap to my back. Realizing I was probably scaring these people with my panic attack, I quieted my breaths until the strange voices stopped sounding so harried.
The hands from earlier lifted me into a small basin; rubbing me clean before I was wrapped in something fuzzy and pink. Swaddled from head to toe in what I assumed to be a blanket; whoever was holding me placed me in thin, obviously feminine, arms.
I wasn't confused anymore; if anything I was calmer than I had been before. Unlike the rest of this encounter, what with waking up in a womb, experiencing my own birth, and suddenly realizing I couldn't understand the language; this part was fairly simple. The nurse, as that was probably who the owner of the hands was, would place me in the arms of my mother and she would bring us face to face.
I smiled a baby's smile as I thought of my mother; such a gentle and kind woman. She was someone that I had never heard complain, not even when I had been bedridden for years at a time. Would she look different? I wondered vaguely as petite hands began to lift me. Would a younger her look less haggard, less tired?
A woman's face swam into view as, like I predicted, a woman's hands brought me close. The blurriness faded as the distance closed; and the face of a stranger came into view. Spurred by the pure shock of the moment; I began to scream.
This was not my mother.
My mother had been blonde and beautiful. She hadn't possessed the thin waves of chocolate brown hair that fell so chaotically around this woman's too skinny frame. The slightly unhinged cinnamon eyes staring out at me were as far from my mother's warm blue ones as the sun was from the sea.
For a second the woman only stared at me wailing in her arms, like she didn't quite get who I was either; and then she slapped me.
Or at least, she tried to slap me. I was out of her arms before she could make contact; wrestled away by familiar hands as someone shouted things in that strange language. I watched on in newly renewed silence as her blurry figure lay back almost nonchalantly; like she felt no remorse at all.
I blinked, where was my mother? Why were they handing me to such an insane woman?
Whoever had rescued me hugged me tight to their chest; murmuring soothing words as they moved away from the woman's bed and through a nearby door. I bumped against the figures breasts as her (and it must have been a woman) walking jarred me; but those weren't the only things. Worn like a loose choker, there was a metal plate around a cloth necklace. The strange thing about it all wasn't the fact that she had it on, it was that; not only could I vaguely make out the pattern cut into the cold metal, but I could recognize it too.
Who would have thunk it, my nurse was a cosplayer; and of Naruto no less.
It was actually a bit refreshing; the nurse's back home would have never have even watched the anime, much less actually stoop to wear merchandise from it. I had pestered them about it all the time; especially after surgeries or treatments. If this nurse was there, maybe those times would have been a lot more fun.
Come to think of it, if one of the nurses was decked out in cosplay; did that mean I wasn't re-experiencing my own birth? Even if that lunatic was my mother, I was positive Naruto hadn't been around when I came into the world.
Am I not in a coma at all? Is this all some sort of freaky reincarnation?
My musings were interrupted when the nurse stopped, said a few more words in gibberish, and laid me in a glass box. I sighed as she began to blur, becoming nothing more than just a mass of colors as she stepped away completely.
Judging from the whimpers and cries around me; It was pretty obvious I was in the nursery. Like the womb, and even like my first sight of my new 'mother' (she couldn't have been anyone else unfortunately), I was pretty sure I knew how this would go. New language or not, nurseries were the same everywhere; and if they were the same here? Well I had a lot of waiting to do, again.
So, just like I had before, and had on countless occasions back in my old hospital; I began to listen. Now this was amazingly hard when you didn't understand a word of the conversations around you; but, believe it or not, there were other things to listen to too.
Like my new name for example. This was of course, said in the same gibberish that all their words were spoken in; and the name they had written on my box was not only backward (it was on the other side of the glass) but written in scribbles as well. At first it seemed impossible, but then I began to notice something about a couple of the conversations I could hear; the visitors of the other babies ignored me, but the nurses talked to all of us.
One nurse, the same nurse who had rescued me, cooed slow, obviously baby-ish talk whenever she changed or fed me. Compared to the faster gibberish that everyone else used, her words were by far the easiest to distinguish. Though I still couldn't understand her; it was enough for me to make out one important phrase, repeated over and over again as she babbled.
Aw there it was, Kaori.
Or should I say Kaori-chan? Something that was not only my new name but also a huge hint as to where I was; suffixes like chan were only common in one language after all. What do you know? Not only do the nurses do Naruto cosplay but they speak Japanese as well.
Was this a coincidence? I couldn't quite put my finger on it but something seemed wrong about it all. My sudden rebirth, the Naruto wear, my new Japanese name; hell my new mother hadn't even looked Japanese at all.
What was going on here?
I was deafly confused and curious, but I had no time to ponder the answers to my questions. The moment I had even begun to think them; I had been picked up by my rather disgruntled nurse. The lady didn't sound very happy as she carried me down a couple hallways and a few staircases; but I didn't have long before I knew why. For the moment we entered the lobby (or at least that's what I assumed it to be); I was unceremoniously shoved into a woman's arms. I blinked as the face of that woman came into view; suddenly feeling a horrible urge to scream all over again.
Oh lord no wonder the nurse had been upset; she had been ordered to hand a baby over to a mother who had already tried to hurt it. Hell, I was pretty upset by it.
Then again, that made sense too; after all, I was the baby she almost slapped.
After a very tense walk through the very loud streets of wherever we were; the woman took me to a building that could've only been her home. Or at least part of the building was her home; from the sheer amount of steps she had to climb, it didn't take me long to peg the place as an apartment complex.
There was a moment of stillness when the sound of a door opening registered to my baby senses; the faint jingling of keys identifying it as her door. I almost sighed with relief at the sound; glad that our journey was almost over. I was tired, hungry and (embarrassing as it is to admit) a little wet; all I wanted was to be out of this woman's arms and into the arms of someone who actually cared.
Maybe she had a maid or a live in relative; I didn't really want to rely on someone who slapped babies for the necessities.
For the first time since the hospital, gibberish floated through the air and into my small ears; this time sounding in a sarcastic voice that I could only assume was the woman's. Out of curiosity I listened to the words closely; hoping to unravel the meanings in their random syllables. It was only after a second or two of this that I finally registered something rather new; I was flying.
My eyes widened with horror as I thumped down on a cushion; the impact jarring my baby body enough that everything rattled. I could only stare as the blurry form of my new 'mother' retreated further into her home; giving not even one care to what she had just done. Hurt and confused, I did what my new body had wanted to do since I first realized what was happening; I started to scream.
She threw me. That horrible woman threw me. Was this some kind of karma? Had my sick and frail self before been such a bad person that this is what I got in the end, a mother who slapped and threw her child?
My crying petered out from sheer exhaustion eventually; and I was left wondering why the woman hadn't come back to shut me up. The last time I had cried in her presence she had tried to, so why not now when there were no pesky nurses to stop her?
Quiet now, I waited for something to happen; waited for that woman to come back and do something about my growing needs. I had noticed as soon as we had arrived in this place that she had no one with her; not only in the hospital but here as well. There was no greeting, no faces eager to see me, and most of all, no blurry moving figures besides that of her own. I wasn't actually all that used to having a family (it had just been me and my mom in that hospital after all) but the thought of having no human contact at all was a little daunting to say the least.
Hopefully that woman would remember to feed me; I didn't want my helpless new body to die as soon as I got it.
That at least, the woman did do. After what felt like hours in that basket, she returned to me with a bottle and a new diaper; disappearing again without a word as soon as I was no longer in any danger of dying. It became routine as the days began to pass; being left in that basket until I needed to be either fed or cleaned. Sometimes she would give me a bath and sometimes I would be taken along on a shopping trip; but other than that, I became rather used to nothing but my basket for hours on end.
Eventually as I became strong enough (the basket was on the floor), I started to crawl around the domain that was the woman's living room. There was no celebration of my new achievement of course; the woman hadn't talked to me since that sarcastic comment on the first day. All she did was move anything dangerous out of my way.
By the time my first birthday was over (no party, go figure) I had already graduated to some very wobbly first steps.
As time passed I began to listen more on the occasions the woman would take me to the market; straining my little ears to hear and understand what the people around us were saying. This was harder than the walking and the crawling because though the woman (who was practically my only human interaction) did speak to people in the shops and streets; she never spoke to me directly, not even at home.
It took longer than it had in my first life that's to be certain; but shortly after I turned two, I finally began to get a hang of the gibberish language that was Japanese. Surprisingly enough, this was also when the woman decided to finally talk to me; if only to complain about her problems.
Sad to say, this was how I learned several important facts about my life; through the complaining of the brutal women who had become my mother. One being her name, Takayami Junko (something that I learned purely through her love of talking about herself) and the other being that (through some random twist of fate) I had someone ended up in the Naruto universe; because if there was one thing that crazy woman delighted in, it was bad-mouthing ninja.
I probably would have figured that out sooner to be honest; especially if I hadn't been going around telling myself that everyone in a leaf-headband was a cosplayer. It was denial, I'll admit it now, but the straw that really broke the camel's back wasn't the headbands or the hokage monument; it was Hatake Kakashi, the ninja my vicious mother tried to rip to shreds in the middle of a dango shop.
It had started rather simply actually; mainly with me staring my eyes out at the man in line who couldn't exist. Imagine my surprise when that man turned around, saw Junko, saw me; and then promptly stepped out of line just to sit down at our table. For some reason, though she also looked just as surprised as I did (though probably for different reasons) the woman also looked angry at the fictional ninja before us.
"Hello Junko-chan" Kakashi said pleasantly as his eye crinkled in a smile before flashing over to me. "I wasn't aware you had a daughter."
Like that somehow had been an insult, the woman next to me turned a furious shade of red; her hardened eyes fixing the silver haired guy with a vicious glare. "Leave." She spat, no answers yet no questions; this was a demand, pure and simple.
Kakashi didn't go; instead his eye seemed to wander over to me again, all crinkle gone. For the first time (and mainly because I was getting over the shock) I wondered what he was seeing. A too thin girl with sallow cheeks? Or perhaps it was the thin clothing that he saw first? I blushed and turned my face away; ashamed that him of all fictional characters had to see me so low. The copy ninja said nothing about my state; instead he fixed a rather fierce look at Junko.
"Does he know?"
My eyes widened at the words, especially when the woman seemed to snap; pulling me out of my seat with one decisive movement. He? My father? Did Kakashi Hatake know my father? It was all a bit much to take in, and as the ninja silently followed us out into the street; I couldn't help but wonder who my father actually was. If Kakashi knew him, he might actually be in the series itself.
"Leave us alone!" Junko practically screamed, tearing me away from my thoughts as her grip on my arm tightened. She was openly glaring now, her mouth was twisted into an ugly snarl. "Go be a shinobi, go die on your missions!" She screeched, nails now digging into my flesh. I flinched, remembering the woman who had tried to slap me as an hour-hold infant. This anger alone was enough to send me cowering; Kakashi must have noticed because his eye went hard.
One instant I was cringing under my mother's hand and the next I was free; torn between staring at my liberated arm and at the man who had liberated it. It was over so quick that I wasn't even sure he had been the one to do it; was this what ninja speed truly was?
"You must have not realized you were hurting her." Kakashi explained in a too-serious-to-be-joking voice, one hand still on my shoulder as the woman before us gaped. "Don't worry, she's fine now."
"Give her back!" The woman cried as she launched herself at the much more able ninja; suddenly all claws. "She's mine! GIVE HER BACK!"
Kakashi dodged with much more grace than she attacked; fluidly pulling me out of the way as he did so. "Do you think Konoha's police would be happy with her condition?" He asked almost too casually. "What about the Hokage?"
Junko slowed, looking uncertain; finally she stopped completely. Looking both lost and confused, she began backing away; eventually she was gone and I was suddenly left completely alone. For the first time in a long time, I felt like crying.
Kakashi's eye crinkled again as he knelt to my level, finally looking me in the eye. "Now, what was your name again?"
For a second I stared at him, bewildered; after a few seconds, I answered in a very quiet voice. "Kaori." I muttered. "Takayami Kaori."
The ninja nodded. "So Kaori, would you mind if I introduced you to your father?"
I blinked, surprised both by the question and by how gentle he sounded now. What happened to that subtly brutal ninja that had scared away that woman? I had known from the beginning that he possibly knew my father, but why was he forcefully taking me from my mother to take me to him? Did I really look so bad as to rip me away from her?
Seeing that the guy was still waiting for an answer; I gave him a hesitant nod. His eye crinkled again as he took my hand; leading me slowly throughout the streets. I was curious, I'll admit to that fully; and I couldn't help but run the names of my potential father through my head. Who would have slept with Junko? That was the major question, and though it was slightly disturbing to think about; I honestly couldn't place someone in the canon storyline who would've stooped that low, especially someone who knew Kakashi.
We came to a stop in front of an apartment building (one much nicer than my own) and Kakashi gave me a long look. After what felt like forever the Jounin stepped forward and rang one of the doorbells on the ground floor. Before it could even finish ringing the door was flung open and a ball of green spandex shot out.
"Kakashi!" The man shouted in a far too excited way "My eternal rival, at long last you seek me out to chall-"
"Gai," Kakashi interrupted quickly, pushing me forward with one hand. "This is Kaori-chan, Junko's daughter." The silver haired ninja sent the other man a pointed look. My eyes widened in what must have been a look of utter terror. "Your daughter."
Maito Gai looked down at me; his face one of pure shock. He turned back to Kakashi and said something in a much more subdued tone from earlier; but I can honestly say I didn't hear a word of it. All I could take in were the eyebrows, the green spandex, and the leg warmers; all things I had thought were ridiculous since day one. Only one thought was running through my head by this point; one that though only three words, expressed my feelings to a tee.
Oh God Why?