It's a confusing experience, waking up dead. Confusing because, well, the last thing I remembered was falling asleep. An experience because finding oneself in a dark, cramped environment is not exactly normal. Just really, really, really boring, once the panic and confusion subside.
People complain about having nothing to do. It's a terrible complaint—most often heard from teenagers and children (having to provide one's own income typically teaches adults to be less vocal)—and it didn't take very long into my solitary confinement to decide that if I ever heard anyone whine about boredom again, I would do something drastic. Probably cry in relief, since a human's voice would mean release from this horrible silence, and for some reason, I couldn't seem to cry.
I didn't even know what my body was up to—just that in addition to the loss of all my senses, I couldn't move my limbs. If I even had limbs anymore.
As my optimism dwindled, my imagination filled in for it in heroic leaps and bounds. There were days that I strained myself trying to listen, and sometimes (after what I assume were hours and hours of effort), I could hear muffled sounds and what could have been voices. They could have easily been signs of insanity, too, but I like to think I coped decently.
I reached an epiphany the same day I ran out of fiction plots to run through. This epiphany was the sound of a heartbeat. Mine, I figured. It was the first good sign I'd seen in a long time—or rather the only good sign, ever—and I hoped that perhaps my presumed coma would end soon. If I could feel my heartbeat thudding through my body, then surely it would only be a matter of time before the rest of my senses followed suit, right?
And slowly but surely, they did. Awareness crept up my arms and legs, and eventually my fingers and toes, too. I tried moving them in time with my favorite heartbeat, and I always tried to mimic the cadences of the voice-like noises. I mean, I wanted to rejoin the people on the other end of this.
If there really were people.
Which was nonsense to doubt, I told myself. My family was hovering around me, anxiously waiting for me to recover. They couldn't help me. I had to be ready to wake up on my own.
I was, naturally, born ready.
I was driven out of my repetitively pessimistic thoughts by a muffled scream and the creepiest squeezing sensation forgotten by mankind. What on earth, I remember thinking, and that was all I thought for a very long time as my body was squished and pushed into the strangest positions. The squeezing blossomed into full-out pain a few times and I kicked satisfactorily, registering that there was something to kick. I regret to say that this lashing out against something was what got me through the worst few minutes of my life.
And hands down, they were the worst. I've felt excruciating pain before, and everything paled to this new feeling. It were as if the pain tolerance I'd spent a good lifetime building had morphed into pain sensitivity without so much as a by-your-leave. And I'm not stupid, by the way. I had a few theories on what could be happening, and only one of them matched up.
Whatever was causing the pain stopped, and I was blessedly left to pick up any coherent thoughts and reassemble my composure. Just kidding. As I was physically mauled by the world's most blinding light source ever, I tossed away all pointless attempts at self-control. "That light is killing me!" I yelled.
Only it came out as, "WaaaAAAA!"
I choked as something whacked my back.
The muffled screaming turned into sobs and then back into screaming as all the terrible, traumatizing things that doctors do to newborn babies began to happen to me. This isn't happening, I thought frantically. This isn't happening.
I was poked and prodded at until I eventually fell asleep, ruing the day I was born.
Unfortunately, I was indeed a newborn baby. This was . . . well, I didn't know what to think of it. Besides the fact that I'd clearly gotten through infancy the first time, so how much worse could this be?
Yeah, that much worse. But at least I was no longer trapped inside another human being. Or in the process of exiting one. I missed hearing her heartbeat, but it was possible to hear my own. Albeit hard to concentrate on when I was surrounded by hospital noises. Hardly worth it at all.
Since I was in a hospital, nurses kept coming to stuff food down my throat. They also made terrible cooing noises, which didn't bother my sense of personal taste at all. Ugh. The cooing was humiliating and it hurt my new, sensitive ears. And for some reason, when I tried to cover my poor ears with my hands, the coos only increased. Oh, well. At least the nurses didn't scream and wail like the other babies did. Not that I would ever compare nurses to babies.
Then again, a few short days ago, I'd been comparing my situation to a baby's. Couldn't do that with myself anymore, so I figured I may as well find a new comparison. Maybe one that wouldn't come true this time.
Shortly after I finished my twelfth bottle—but before I could escape my misery by succumbing to the pleasant lure of sleep—I was whisked down a hallway and handed to a random lady in a bed. She was propped up most of the way, and she listened attentively to the nurse before reaching over my back to hit me tentatively. The nurse said something encouraging and left, no doubt to feed the rest of the pack of infants.
Thus it was I was left with a woman whose talent for burping newborns developed a bit forcefully. Said woman murmured nonsense words to me as her attempt to make me burp grew more enthusiastic. I focused on staying awake, which was tough since I was in a relatively quiet room. So I drooled on this woman, who was probably my mother.
To make up for the drooling, I gave her my best, most vowel-like gurgle. She giggled and began to prattle more incomprehensible gibberish, such as the word "Kanachan." I gurgled again. She squealed.
I tried to focus on her face, but my young set of eyes hadn't gotten enough practice to do that yet. I focused on the sound of her voice, instead, and what words I could pick out of her prattling. "Kanachan . . . musume . . . Kanachan, kashikoi, Kanachan." I tested which of these garnered the most reaction when I gurgled (Kanachan), but the act of listening brought with it something better.
I could hear the heartbeat again. Clearly.
It were as if my life were complete, lying on this woman's shoulder and hearing such a familiar thing.
But listening to her heartbeat only increased how much I heard of her voice. She saw this, or rather the way my face and eyes scrunched and squinted, and she winced. "Gomen, Kanahime!" she whispered carefully. "Gomen."
I drooled forgivingly on the burp cloth. Japan. I was in Japan, or at least a place with a similar language. But why was I in modern-day Japan? What made this place special over any other place in the world? Why would I have been placed here?
I never made it to the tail end of that question, since my new mother softened her murmurs and began to rock me gently. I let her lull me to sleep, safe in the comfort of a relaxing heartbeat. Before my eyes shut fully, I gave her face one last good look. Orange hair, pale skin, teary eyes. Teary . . . ?
It was the first and last time I met my mother.
The nurses cuddled me more during the next few days. They exclaimed happily over my continued attempts at speech, but we tiny little babies are very good at reading emotions. My caretakers were sad about something, and I had a good suspicion what it was.
It was The Man that confirmed my worst fears. The nurse that was feeding me saw him and immediately placed the bottle on a table, to my chagrin. It was one thing when she ignored me in favor of the other infants, but this was unacceptable. What was I supposed to do now, starve?
"Good morning!" the nurse chirped, ignoring me in favor of the masculine blob. "You (at least, I thought. I didn't exactly have a dictionary, and baby talk wasn't exactly the best teacher) . . . of Kana-chan?"
The Man, the very first suspiciously non-medical person to show up in my life, nodded stiffly. "Yes."
I stared, all bottle-greed forgotten in the face of a possible addition to my one-parent family. No way was this guy my father. His hair stuck up too much. He had a lumberjack beard. His hair was purple, for crying out loud! What kind of self-respecting man dyed his hair purple? Not my father. But then, my new mother hardly lived up to previous expectations, either.
The Man's eyes, once he finished scratching the back of his neck, crinkled in a smile. "Good morning, Wakana-chan." (Or was it hello? I couldn't tell time without windows.) What I could tell was that he didn't truly feel affectionate.
Maybe about as loving as an inanimate object. Such as a puppet. That looked vaguely like a purple scarecrow. And was as caring as a rock.
I burped loudly, trying to get it on him.
"Sorry, Kana-chan," the nurse apologized. ". . . Bottle?" I spit it out, wailing. "She's not usually like this," the nurse probably half-shouted over my very first tantrum. She lured me to sleep as The Man shifted uncomfortably.
It was dark when I woke. I blinked, adjusting to the dim lighting and the pale blob in front of my face. The air around me was cool, punctuated by a forest's occasional whispers to a soft stream. I was rocking gently, but it felt more like walking than anything. My eerily sharp baby senses reported that no, it was not a recognizable heartbeat. I screamed.
My captor froze. Crouched. Fumbled urgently with my sling.
"Hush, Wakana-chan," mumbled The Man, bringing me back to his chest. "You'll . . . awake."
A matching wail came from the direction of the ground. Well! This was more promising than wondering how I could hear The Man over my screams. I matched my voice with my new best friend's as well as I could, enjoying the way our caretaker's arms tightened. ". . . Bottle?" I employed my new strategy of spitting, but the other baby accepted the peace offering.
Being loud was very tiring.
Once my lethargic body recovered, I woke to sunshine and the rather interesting sensation of a beetle on my nose. The Man shooed it away and offered me my bottle. I accepted. He had to wipe half of it off my face, of course. Beggars can still be ungrateful and all that.
The Man no longer had his ridiculous purple hair. It was now light gray and the gigantic beard had been replaced by blue skin. Which was very confusing. The rest of his skin was light. Perhaps my developing eyes were having trouble with colors? Eh. I blinked and duly spit up on him, somehow missing the burp cloth. His whacks were probably a little too firm, but whatever. I was squishy.
We were traveling, The Man, the other grapefruit, and I. The extra child was named "Wakato-kun" and had fuzzy gray hair. He slept in the front sling. I existed in the back sling, slouching through my times tables with all the patience of a smiling baby.
When a young baby smiles, that means it's about to cry. Smiling is a sign of bad digestion, because babies believe "what comes down must go up" religiously. Who was I to deny my faith? After all, I was just a helpless baby.
We stayed in several inns, and each time I was eager to charm the living daylights out of anyone else who offered to feed or hold me. I was very pleased with myself. I was less pleased with how the cooing people always referred to The Man as "Otōsan" in horrible baby voices. I didn't mind Wakato being called my otōto as much. He did his fair share of the whining.
I was deliriously appreciative when we passed under a creepily familiar pair of gates to the harmonic accompaniment of my brother's crying. He could hit some astonishingly high notes. I was so impressed that when The Man gave me the next bottle, I drank it straight down. That might have been gratitude for giving us a plain nursery room and a decidedly not-pink crib, though. You never know.
The Man's friends trooped by to shower him with presents and us children with kisses. They addressed The Man as Kakashi-san. I pouted and glued myself to the nice visitors, although I made an exception for the noisy green one. Ugh, hospital all over again. Noise, noise, noise.
A man in white robes was holding me when I woke from yet another bottle-induced haze. He tickled my chin when I stuck out my tongue. "Hello, Wakana-chan. Your father . . . you . . . cute."
I smiled at the Hokage.
Perfect. I was indeed the daughter of Hatake Kakashi, one of the most hated ninja in the world. Dream come true. And now time to make good on that smile, you horrible dream-shatterer.
Kakashi wasn't the worst father. He responded well to Wakato's hungry cries and talked constantly (baby speech was beneath his dignity) once he figured out it kept us both quiet. I dropped the screaming habit as a reward. Positive reinforcement and all that. Training parents was harder than I'd predicted.
My mouth stayed shut, but my ears remained open.
"She looks like an Uzumaki with that hair, you know. But she's too laid-back for that. Wish I'd had her for all those genin missions."
My father, who had spent half the night rocking an angry baby to sleep because he wouldn't go out and shut that stupid neighbor's dog up, glanced down at me. I gurgled toothlessly, inwardly cackling. I had recently figured out how to ooze Killing Intent, and boooy, did it make Daddy squirm!
"Wakato-kun has enough temper for both of them," Asuma continued obliviously.
Kakashi's eye shifted to his perfect son, who was drooling senselessly onto his—no, my—blanket. "Gah!" My lip trembled as I stared at the contaminated chew toy. How would I ever catch up with my mobile brother's single painful tooth?
"Share, Wakana-chan," reprimanded our father. I blinked and decided I was tired from my long day of watching my jōnin babysitter. "Wakana-chan seems to be highly intelligent," Kakashi continued as I squirmed into a comfortable position. "She knows a lot of object names and differentiates between people very well."
I supposed it was a miracle he hadn't noticed how quickly I'd made the connection between grabbing and moving my hands. Day five, had it been? Here we were in the sixth month, and my sounding board of a brother had just barely learned to crawl. He wanted to walk like his shaky big sister. His secretive sister.
"She didn't talk while I was here."
"'Guh' is all she ever says. She made more noise the first day I met her." I was proud of my "g" sound, thank you. That was quite advanced for a six-month-old.
Although walking beat it out by a mile.
"Maa," chirped Wakato.
"Mask," corrected Kakashi, glancing at me to see if I cared to display my erstwhile mental prowess.
"Guh?" I placed a fifth block on my tower and watched as it came tumbling down. "GuuUUH."
Kakashi sighed and went back to entertaining Wakato. "This is my mask," he explained. "It's dark blue. Can you say 'blue'?"
Daddy sighed again. "Mask, Wakato-kun. You're very determined to leave that consonant out, as ever. Would you like me to take it off?"
Oh, Kakashi. How friendly we could be, should you leave out your impossible emotionlessness and become the human I want you to be. But keep the snide remarks. I need my sanity friend.
I rolled my eyes and crawled to the other side of the room to find Guwuh, my much-chewed stuffed red dog. Guwuh was a birthday present from Pakkun, just like Woo, Kato's white dog. If Kakashi noticed that I was dropping wooden kunai on my toy, he didn't show it.
Oh, poor little howling neighbor doggy, being destroyed by vicious weapons. How sad you are. I hope Pakkun bites you the next time you howl. Being stuck in this body was a great way to learn patience.
Meanwhile, our loving father learned patience from his son. "Maa!"
"What happened to 'Maas'? Surely your memory isn't defective. It's not hard to learn to speak. Stick with it. Mask."
Shrieking laughter. "Maa!"
"So . . . how was your time with Gai-san?"
Wakato grinned proudly and pointed at himself. "Youth!" He pointed at me. "Unyouth!"
I yawned and stared at the steaming carton in Daddy's hand. "Gwah?"
"I suppose you take after me after all, Unyouth."
Kakashi zipped up Wakato's jacket and picked us both up. "Like I said yesterday, you're going to a birthday party. Shikamaru-kun is turning three."
Daddy opened the front door with his foot and made sure the diaper bag was safely sealed away in his weapons pouch. Carrying kids? No problem. A diaper bag? Storage seal or bust. "That's right."
Daddy wouldn't be back until five, so Kato and I holed up in Shika's room after the other parents came and hauled off their kids. Kato crashed on the toddler-sized futon, but Shika and I were busy doing something else.
I groaned. "Must you beat me every time? I want to learn Shōgi." I'd taught him checkers, he would teach me Shōgi. That had been the agreement. I hadn't agreed to having to beat him at my own game first.
Shika didn't like arguing with me very much, but he'd figured out a few key phrases that usually worked. "This wasn't my idea."
Cheater. He loved games. That was no reason to keep me from my love of talking.
"So—" There was a tap on the window. "Uh-oh."
"It's just your dad. Um, I think my mom's calling me."
Daddy climbed through the window, leaking Killing Intent like a drowning ship. "I hope you're going to explain why the Hokage just happened to mention that you've been talking for months." He was still wearing his ANBU mask. Poor Shika. Smart Shika.
"I—" my lip trembled, "you never asked me, Daddy." Yessiree, years of childishness had made me a better liar than the ninjas themselves. "Waaa!"
"Pesky child," Kakashi muttered under his breath. As far as I was concerned, that meant I was forgiven.
Kato grinned and tried squirm out of my grip as he saw the familiar figure in front of us. Honestly, Kato? Charging straight at the man who finally left us alone? So much for my clever job of finding the Memorial Stone. Twin Sis was gonna be in huge trouble for picking the locked front door while Daddy was out of the house. At this exact location.
Kato escaped and shot me a reproachful look before repeating his previous cry. The silver-haired man turned and smiled encouragingly at us.
I froze, suddenly mind-numbingly certain that whoever that person by the stone was, it was not our father. "Wakato, stop."
"Buu—!" His eyes widened. "Kana-chan, you're scaring me."
I growled, radiating Killing Intent in sheets. The man portraying our father jumped at us with a drawn kunai, and . . . I collapsed.
Footsteps. The door creaks open. "Time to get up," says my mother. "Are you awake? Show some life."
"Gwuh." Ah, well.
Wait. Since when did Mom have red hair?
"Kana-chan? Daddy said to wake you up. Daddy saved us from the mean ninja. Wake up, Kana-chan."
I rubbed my aching temples, too lazy to open my eyes. "Where are we?" Ugh, my ears were throbbing. The pain brought back memories of earaches and chicken pox and all sorts of happy things. Yuck.
"Daddy's room," my brother answered cheerfully. Oh, good. A clean, shuriken-patterned quilt. An old team photo on the dresser. No questionable books, due to no free time and two curious children. We were safe, then. My nightmares could fade into nothingness.
Kato climbed up beside me on the spotless bed and cuddled adorably into my side. "You're brave like Daddy." He yawned.
I snorted. "Not enough."
As my brother drifted off to sleep, my headache attacked with a vengeance. Okay, seriously. Time to raid the medicine cabinet. I wriggled out of Wakato's reach as quickly as I could (the kid was part octopus) and slid to the floor. Ouch. Still, the throbbing had moved out of my ears, so it wasn't an earache. One less explanation for Daddy.
I blinked. Were there usually masked men on the ceiling? Maybe I was hallucinating. ANBU weren't supposed to use chakra around us. Besides, only two of them ever watched us, and that was pretty rare.
"You have quite the talent for Killing Intent, kid. Nearly started a panic, but we're all still alive." He patted my head, then pressed a pill into my hand. "Here. This'll help."
I treated him to all the dubiousness I could while I ran a mental scan on his appearance. Headscarf, light brown hair, calm voice, brown eyes. Wait, what? Oh. Right. No mistaking it when the ANBU mask stuck out that much and had a weird little hole for his trademark senbon. A senbon that Kato and I always tried to steal.
"You're Kakashi-san's kid, all right," said Genma. "Look, I'm an ANBU. I'm perfectly trustworthy."
Logistically speaking, I thought, Daddy's coworkers, especially the ones his own age, would take any chance they could get to one-up him. Accepting a chakra pill would just be stupid. On the other hand, eating it would get him in trouble and maybe shift the blame . . . why am I hearing this?
Genma coughed. And for good reason. Most toddlers didn't jump to those kinds of conclusions. Just me.
(It was probably good that I didn't know enough Japanese to express my more complicated thoughts, but that was the blessing of learning through context.)
"Am I in a genjutsu? Did you drug me?"
"Now, hang on a—" He paused, taking in my feverish appearance. "Sit down before you fall over."
Oh, please. "I don't take orders from—"
"Sit down! Now!" I sat, not expecting an outburst from someone so unflappable. "Listen, little lady, you do not use Killing Intent on your allies. Ever. Do I make myself clear?"
My lower lip quivered traitorously.
"Don't make me repeat myself. We both know you're intelligent."
"It won't happen again," I whispered softly.
"Good girl. Now calm down before your father gets back and kills me."
Had I been a boring, intelligent toddler, the shouting and subsequent praise would have startled me into compliance. Especially if I'd recognized him as the most unflappable of Kakashi's friends. Slowly, deliberately, I rebelled. I leaned forward and shook out my hair. I dropped the pill on the floor. I shut my eyes.
"It's not a soldier pill or whatever you thought," Genma said after a few minutes of tolerable silence. "It's just a sleeping pill for children." I relaxed as another wave of pain shot through me and dulled. "Killing Intent has nothing to do with chakra, by the way." In, out. In, out. "It's pure negative emotion, and excessive use results in one h—orrible headache."
In, out. Tremble. In, out. Sigh. Without looking, I reached down and ate the pill. "Thank you, ANBU-san." Genma did not breathe as peacefully as Kato did, but Kato wasn't fighting a smile.
"You did the best you could have, kid. I don't think many kidnappers get caught by a little girl glaring at them. We all thought the village was under attack." He chuckled. "It may as well have been."
Genma left when Daddy appeared in the window, silver hair dishevelled in a jumble of worried, sad, smug, and simple don't-mess-with-my-kids-you-walking-corpse. Daddy stared at me. I stared back. Had he forgotten to cover his Sharingan or was he just that worried? Well, better go first.
"I'm sorry, Daddy. I drugged your dog and made Kato-kun come with me. I'm sorry I scared you." You're brave like Daddy. Pesky child. You take after me after all. You did the best you could. Not enough.
"It was all my fault," I continued guiltily. "I endangered us."
He hopped over the bed and met my eyes with his still-forgotten Sharingan. "Wakana-chan. You're safe now. That's all that matters." He meant it.
I tackled him.
Because really, it didn't matter if I was weak or irresponsible. It didn't matter when he joked he was going to enroll me in the Academy for my little stunt. His eyes said that even if I told him The Truth, I was still his kid.
~List of translations~
-Chan: honorific - signifies endearment or used as diminutive (typically used for girls)
-Hime: honorific, princess
-Kun: honorific - respectful (or disrespectful if used ironically), often used to refer to boys
Otōto: little brother
Hey, welcome! It's nice to meet you through the computer screen. I hope you enjoyed this first chapter (originally, this chapter was a one-shot of a dream I'd actually had. It's gotten longer), and please feel free to stick around. There are quite a few questions that need answered. Who's their mother? Why would ANBU be babysitters? Will Kakashi be a better father than a teacher? How come they haven't been trained yet? And stuff. Probably. Thanks for reading!
Update 5/21/16: Chapter has been edited, which is to say doubled.
Fair warning: the next few chapters will be really confusing. I direct you to this quote, and beg you to bear with me (it does get better later) as I work: "The first draft is just you telling yourself the story." - Terry Pratchett