It had become a habit, Elrond noted with minor amusement and exasperation, to check above the doors in Rivendell. One never knew when a bucket of water might drop down on an unexpecting elf, nor if a chalkboard duster would stain their hair with flakes of white powder. Wire was spun across walkways, near invisible to any eyes bar an elf’s, and glue was poured on chairs about to be used for meetings. It was the fast-drying stuff too, which had resulted in more than a few wardrobe malfunctions as of late.
Sighing quietly, he pushed open the prank-free door to his office, taking in the soaked form of Erestor, along with the considerably drier Glorfindel. “What news do you bring from the west?” he asked, directing his question at his old friend. “How fare the patrols?”
“Orcs have been sighted.” Glorfindel closed his eyes, cutting straight to the heart of the matter. “Not enough to pose a real threat, and yet they are still encroaching on our lands.”
“Will the current patrols be enough to deal with them?”
“I’ll lead my company out to join them on the morrow,” he replied smoothly, gesturing at the door stiffly, silently eyeing the sodden elf next to him with a hint of curiosity. “May I take my leave, now?”
“Of course.” Elrond nodded, turning his attention back to his sodden steward.
Glorfindel paused by the door, curiosity overtaking his solemn expression, eyes alight with a hint of glee as he looked between the room’s occupants. “By the way… might I enquire as to why the chief of your household is currently looking like he took a dip in the Bruinen?”
Erestor sighed, feet squelching in his boots as he stepped back, careful not to drip too much water onto the furnishings. “Ah, that’s right. You’ve been away for a short while, so you don’t know.”
One golden brow rose. “Are your sons back up to their usual mischief?” A smile curled at his lips. “The last time they caught you in one of their pranks was back when they were still little elflings,” he said, watching the small twitch of irritation flashing across Erestor’s face at the memory of the miniature little Balrogs they’d been.
“Elladan and Elrohir have both been adamant about not being the culprits behind all this chaos,” Elrond said, a fond smile on his face as he turned to stare out across Imladris. “So I suppose we’ll have to wait until our mischief-makers come forward… or make a little slip up. My sons are having a fair bit of fun looking for them as we speak, if only to pick up a few more tricks. Until then, I advise keeping an eye out, especially above the doors.”
“If that’s what Lord Elrond advises,” Glorfindel murmured, making a show of looking up at the doorframe where no buckets were in sight.
“Safe travels, old friend.” Elrond nodded.
“Expect me no later than seven days,” he said, shutting the door behind him with a soft click as he saw himself out.
“Hopefully we’ll have sorted out these damned pranksters before his return,” Erestor grumbled, still dripping water everywhere. “They are making a nuisance of themselves.”
“Patience.” Elrond sat down at his desk. “I have a feeling there’s more to this than meets the eye. Whether good or bad, I know not. The answers will reveal themselves in time.” He looked down at the documents on his desk. “In the meantime, though, I have all this paperwork to sort out…” A smug smile pulled at his lips. “If you have the energy to complain, I’m sure Elladan and Elrohir won’t complain if you join them in searching for our troublemakers.”
Water squelched in his boots as Erestor excused himself, heading to his rooms to clean up before joining in the hunt for Imladris’ newest source of pranks. He was not a happy bunny. First there were these pranksters, then that weird cry out at Weathertop, and now orc trouble… He sighed, running a hand through his dark locks. He was going to be busy. He just knew it.
Kakashi rested his head on his hands, peering down at the bustling street below him. It was amusing, how little people looked up, but that was part of what allowed them to flit around the city practically undetected. Evidently, not many elves used the rooftops to travel. He couldn’t blame them. They didn’t have chakra. And now neither did he, the snide voice in the back of his head reminded him. They were on Middle-Earth now. Chakra didn’t exist… and neither did all their friends. His heart pounded, smile falling from his lips as he stared out across the dwelling of their new kin.
“Kakashi…” Naruto’s voice sounded, his tiny hand pulling on his sleeve. “I think we should get back to camp. “There are these three elves coming, and they look like they mean business.”
“Ah. Is that so?” He pulled himself away from the lip of the roof. “Looks like they’re trying to find us… again.”
“Not that it’ll do them any good, ne, Kakashi?” Whiskered cheeks stretched in a grin, pointed ear tips just about visible under the smooth curtain of blonde hair. Just like Kushina’s… It made Kakashi’s heart ache.
“Come on,” he said, leading his younger charge away. If he looked about eight, then Naruto was definitely looking closer to a four-year-old. Likely meaning they weren’t any younger… their ages had just translated into elvish ones, and they aged weirdly.
“Coming,” Naruto all but sang softly, following him as they silently leapt from roof to roof, the muted sounds of their passing drowned out by hubbub below.
They hurried away, trading rooftiles and drainpipes for branches and leaves as they deftly evaded the guards keeping watch over one of the few entrances and exits to the elven dwelling. Rivendell, or Imladris, it was called. Someplace Naruto would probably be able to find home, and comfort in. Kakashi sighed, making it back to their makeshift den – angled logs against an outcrop of rock, forming a little lean-to, the gaps filled with moss in case of the event of rainfall. Naruto would no doubt be discovered soon. He wasn’t quite as good at chakra-unaided stealth, and more often than not they split up in the city to cover more ground. The main reason the elves knew it wasn’t just one person… they covered far too much territory with different traps for that.
“So, what prank are we gonna play on them tomorrow?” Naruto rocked back and forwards on his feet, that fake, fake grin plastered on his face.
Neither of them were admitting it, both too content to find joy in pranking the elves to focus on their feelings. An unhealthy habit which would come to an end sooner or later. But the elves could take care of Naruto. Kakashi bit his lip. They’d be the family he’d never had before. The family Kakashi couldn’t be. The campfire crackled, heat blazing from the flames in the sheltered little valley they’d found a little ways away from the target of all their pranks. “I don’t know, Naru,” he mumbled, leaning back to stare up at the sky. “But we’ve got a while to plan.”
Kakashi smiled. He wasn’t used to being without his mask, without his shield against the outside world and all the dangers it wrought. He wasn’t used to the emptiness welling up inside his chest, nor the voice reminding him that sooner or later everything would come crashing down around him. Again and again. The same repeating cycle. He was a bad luck charm, and while he was there Naruto wouldn’t be able to find the happiness he needed.
He glanced sideways at the blonde mop. Just a little longer, he told himself. Then he’d vanish, just like when he’d become ANBU Hound. He’d done it before, he could do it again. Naruto didn’t need his misery to keep him company. Kakashi could deal with it on his own. As per usual. He was an adult, no matter the laws of elves. He didn’t need the comfort of his new kin.