SEMI-FINALS ROUND TWO: Found Family v. Fake/Pretend Relationship

Apologies for the delay, everyone! Here is the second semi-finals round before we hit the grand finals!

In the red corner, we have Found Family! :family_man_man_girl_boy: as suggested by @MagnusTesla! Whether by circumstance or by choice, having two lonely people (and one kid or more) reach out and decide that even though they have no relations, even though they are two wildly different people, this is the person I would lay down my life for - truly, perfection.

And in the blue corner, we have Fake/Pretend Relationship! :face_with_hand_over_mouth: as suggested by @catnerys! Whether a mission made them do it, or social pressure did, that slow slide into actual feelings is always so satisfying.

(If you missed 'em, check out the fic and art recs for Found Family, and for Fake/Pretend Relationship !)

For this round, we’d like you to tell us what would you like to see in the fic that features your favourite trope if it wins! It might be something simple, or maybe you have an elaborate plot in mind - or it might be a visual that you have in mind. Anything goes. And even if it ends up not winning, well. It might end up inspiring someone. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

The poll will be open next Monday to first allow for a general discussion. Hopefully it might sway your decision, or someone else’s!

EDIT: The poll is now open! Get your votes in by this Sunday (October 11 2020)!

  • Found Family
  • Fake/Pretend Relationship

0 voters


And, as promised, a chocolate mint:

Hatake Kakashi was a man with a secret.

As one of the administrative clerks in the city hall, doing little more than processing and stamping and filing papers, Kakashi was unremarkable. Upon inquiry, his colleagues described him as cold, distant and unapproachable. It was clear that the man preferred his own company - the few times that he was coaxed out for drinks after work, he flatly refused to drink anything else aside from his single glass of water and sat quietly by himself for the entire night.

A man who keeps to himself - that's suspicious, the more disparaging of his colleagues would sneer. Who knows what he gets up to in his spare time? Sure, he's easy on the eyes, they admitted most grudgingly, but he could be a creep for all we know.

Still, much to those colleagues' (potential) dismay, being a creep was not Kakashi’s secret. No, Kakashi's secret was tucked away in a corner of the city’s seedier districts, down one of its darkest alleyways and in a store lit only by the staticky pictures of an aged television set. It was in the brown envelopes slid over a grimy countertop, the wads of cash and a single slip of paper bearing a name (or several) within those envelopes, and in the call made to his residence the very next night.

Within the week, those names would appear on the following three places: the tombstone, the obituaries and sometimes even the headlines. The seedy underground of Konoha would then trade whispers about the level of security, the amount of men hired, the latest guns bought - how Hound had hunted down his quarry and sliced his way through it all.

Yes, Hound was a legend; Kakashi was only a man. A man with not only a secret but also a problem: he was almost thirty, and he was still single. Taken separately, these two statements were not alarming; taken together in the Land of Fire where all were expected to perform their patriotic duty of marrying and raising a future generation, it absolutely was. His colleagues gossiped the other day about some woman being arrested on account of being suspiciously single at the age of thirty. With his line of work, Kakashi would like to avoid that fate.

It was with that line of thought that he accepted the invitation to Asuma's dinner party that had been extended to him as both mere courtesy and gossip ammunition. When he realized that it was at the end of the month, perhaps it was cockiness that made him ask if it was acceptable to bring a plus one.

Three weeks was ample time to find a significant other. Someone that would not pry into his affairs. Someone who wouldn’t ask where he went off to on some random nights, who’d agree to attend the requisite number of events with him just to allay suspicions. And once he did, his colleagues and the government would redirect their suspicions elsewhere - and he’d be free to carry out his work as required.

Three weeks. How hard could it be to find a partner?

Umino Iruka was a man with many secrets.

To his neighbors, he was utterly unremarkable next to his little hellion of a son. People kept to themselves in Konoha, so it was with pursed lips that they tolerated the patter of feet and the interjections of yelling and whining coming from the nearby apartment.

Besides, one of the housewives tittered over tea. He’s a single father at such a young age - his wife died of pneumonia, did you know? She nodded sagely as her companions leant closer, hungry for anything to distract them from the inescapable routine of chores and children and churlish partners, wash and rinse and repeat. It’s all very sad. That’s why he can’t control that little boy of his.

He’s still rather fetching, isn’t he? A nudge; giggles rippled around the table. That poor man ought to have a domestic touch in his life.

Oh, I dare say it’ll be just a touch, another housewife says with unabashed glee. When they meet his son they’ll show themselves right out!

But what these housewives would never know was that Umino Iruka never had a wife. That his son, Naruto, was not his own but a boy he plucked out of a decrepit orphanage mere days ago. Most importantly, they could never begin to imagine that a week ago the records for Umino Iruka had yet to exist. In its place, in another city’s registry, there was a mousy looking assistant with glasses too large for his face who stutteringly introduced himself as Wataya Kaito - and before Wataya there was countless of other identities easily worn and discarded like any other suit.

Because Umino Iruka's biggest secret was that he was a spy. Wherever he went, whatever his name was, his objective remained the same: to glean all the information he could, to lie and steal and do whatever he must in the name of protecting Ushiogakure. Having flown under the radar of both Konoha and the far-right extremist party led by Shimura Danzou for years, he could dare to consider himself an accomplished spy, and for that accomplishment he was given his current directive: to infiltrate the social circle of Uchiha Itachi and assess how much of a threat he was to Ushiogakure.

“Problem is, he’s a social recluse,” Anko told him as he read through the dossier. He would burn it once he memorized its contents. “Doesn’t attend any public gatherings, rejects all invitations for any social outings. Except,” she paused as he turned the page and trailed a finger down the swirl of the Konoha Academy’s crest, “for the academic events at the Academy. He attends them without fail.”

“He seems far too young to have a son,” he commented a tad too nonchalantly.

“A younger brother,” came the immediate reply. He flipped the page - a young boy with the same dark hair as Uchiha scowled up at him. “Sasuke will be moving up into his first year of elementary school this fall - and that’s where you come in.”

“You got me a posting as a teacher?”

“Do you see any parents inviting their children’s teachers to their political gatherings?” Anko snorted. “No, you don’t. That’s why, Iruka-kun - you’re going to have a child."

He almost dropped the dossier - “I’m what?”

A look at his face, and Anko spent an entire minute wheezing and clutching at her chair for support. He bore it with a grace borne from inescapable experience before she finally sobered into something that resembled solemnity.

“It's the only way to build a connection with Itachi.” He did not protest the truth of that statement - Anko did not pull her punches, and she did not send people on frivolous missions. “This directive was crafted only after months of surveillance. You’re our last resort.”

“No pressure at all,” he said wryly, flipping the dossier closed with one hand and fishing out his lighter with the other. The document caught fire easily; he dropped it into a metal wastebasket that Anko shoved towards him with her foot.

“Only the fate of Ushiogakure that rests in your hands.” She grinned, as sweet as poisoned candy. “You’ll have to operate alone - I can’t spare you a partner.”

“Don’t I always,” he sighed.

So he had to find a child, one smart enough to excel in the prestigious Academy. That was simple enough - there was no shortage of orphanages in Konoha. He went to the most run-down of them all, one that wouldn’t care for his (new) identification papers, and asked the scowling caretaker for a child that could read and write. As he followed the man down the corridor, Wataya - no, Iruka ignored their wide-eyed gaze, brimming with hunger and hope whenever an adult came by.

In that orphanage, he found Naruto. Messy hair, grubby cheeks, picking snot out of his own nose - Iruka almost decided to try his luck at the next orphanage when Naruto suddenly declared himself the smartest kid Iruka would ever meet. Intrigued by the statement yet half expecting Naruto to fail, he decided to let Naruto prove that statement - and proved it he did. He threw out answers almost as soon as Iruka thought of them, dodged all of Iruka's trick questions - but he impressed Iruka most when he freely admitted what he did not know.

Naruto was clearly a genius who was willing to learn. This was surely the child that would allow him to achieve his objective, Iruka thought as he stared at the desperation in Naruto’s eyes. That same desperation was once writ across Iruka's face so very long ago, when he still hoped beyond all reason that someone would look past the scar on his face and see him.

No one ever did. At least, until his country chose him.

So the plan progressed, though not without hiccups. He sent in Naruto’s application for the elementary school track alongside his own (forged) financial status and credentials. Then he had to prepare Naruto for the preliminary examination, a harder task than expected when Naruto was nothing short of bewildering. The boy would be hyperactive and rambunctious one moment, and quiet and withdrawn the next as if Iruka had already begun scolding him when Iruka had yet to say a word.

In fact, it was downright alarming when Iruka briefly left the apartment to run an emergency errand of the incendiary kind for Anko - only to return to find that Naruto had discovered his cache of equipment behind the kitchen cupboard. That the boy had somehow inadvertently sent out a signal on the communications radio, bringing down the attention of Wataya’s mark on himself and getting himself kidnapped in the process. A fact Iruka realized once a harsh grating voice crackled through the radio, demanding Wataya to return the photos he stole if he wanted the brat alive.

And in that moment, Iruka thought: maybe, Just maybe, it would be easier to start off with another child. They might not be as intelligent as Naruto, or as hardworking as him, but they might be more tractable.

For the good of the mission, he murmured to himself before reaching over to the radio to turn it off -

But then the sound of muffled sobs drifted over the staticky connection. The kind of sobbing that was like a pot boiling over its contents, for all of the efforts the lid made to tamp it down - the kind of sobbing a person would make when they did not want to, when they knew that that crying was meaningless but it was all they could do. In the rubble of Ushiogakure, Iruka had made those same noises - had wandered out into the burning night sky and gasped for breaths in between his tears and snot even though all he wanted at that moment was to die.

If he left to find another child, then no one would hear the sounds Naruto were making - hear the same exact sounds Iruka had made. The same noises Iruka had sworn to himself that he would never let another child make again when he cast away the name his parents gave him, to be lost forever to time.

It wasn’t really much of a choice after that.

That day, he proved himself Ushiogakure’s best operative once more. And that night, he tried to be more patient with Naruto. Naruto was far more intuitive and empathetic than he let on, so Iruka tried to catch his body cues before Naruto could make his own assumptions - tried to put Naruto first so that he might be in an environment he would flourish best in and consequentially improve.

When that approach was reciprocated by Naruto, Iruka felt something close to relief. And when the letter declaring Naruto shortlisted for the interviews finally arrived, he felt joy and perhaps even pride - a joy cut short when the missive invited (insisted) that both parents must attend the interview.

“Both parents,” Iruka murmured, his mind racing.

“I only have one!” Naruto exclaimed in full dismay.

Anko - no, she was his handler. Exposing his handler was the peak of stupidity. Perhaps Kotetsu or Izumo - but Kotetsu was terrible at acting, and Izumo was out of the city. All other operatives were deep in their covers. It was up to him to find another parent for Naruto, if only for the interview.

They would have to be willing to keep up with the rigorous testing of both the prospective student and their parents. Hopefully they would also be amenable to a long-term agreement. People might suspect him of infidelity or an unstable home if Naruto’s other parents constantly changed; he’d rather loose and wagging tongues not hinder his chances at approaching his mark. Konoha seemed to have no dearth of them.

So, someone who would not pry into his clandestine activities. Someone who would be willing to put on their best front in the interests of enrolling Naruto at the Academy. Someone who would help him take care of Naruto too, if Iruka was being honest - there was only so much hyperactivity the books on child-raising could advise him on.

It seemed nigh impossible to find someone with that exact criteria. But Iruka was nothing but Ushiogakure’s best operative, and he never gave up in the face of impossible odds.

He hoped that this would not be the first time he would have to.

Naruto was a child with far too many secrets.

His first secret was that he knew that Papa adopted him for a purpose. Papa - and on that word Naruto's brain whirled around like the swirl of water down the drain when there was nothing else to watch in the orphanage, a steady beat of Papa Papa Papa in his mind - Papa needed him to be friends with someone called Sasuke, so that Papa could be friends with Sasuke’s brother. Naruto didn’t know why Papa couldn’t ask Sasuke’s brother to be his friend, or why Papa had to be friends with Sasuke’s brother, but Naruto did know that he had to be in Sasuke's school to be his friend, and that school only accepted very, very smart children.

Naruto wasn’t smart. But he could trick Papa into adopting him - and that was his second secret. He tricked Papa when he said he was looking for a six years old when Naruto was actually eight, because two years wasn’t that much of a difference, was it? At least Masao-san thought so when he was scowling out of the window at the people passing by.

(Naruto tried to take a look at what he was looking at - sneakily, because Masao-san didn’t actually like any of them but kept them about for breaking taxes, whatever that meant - but there were only some older kids walking by. His eyes were drawn to their school uniforms, their hair and skirts fluttering in the wind - kids who were walking to school, with parents who bought those uniforms for them. Something heavy and ugly churned low in his stomach when he saw them; Naruto ran away from the window before Masao-san could even yell at him.)

Two years wasn’t a terrible lie, so Naruto told Papa he was six. And when Papa wanted someone smart, Naruto thought of Karin-chan who was able to talk in complete sentences despite being only five - and selfishly, selfishly declared himself, “the smartest kid you’ll ever find, believe it!"

He had Papa’s attention then. That was all Naruto ever wanted, and he wasn’t going to mess up this time. He’d do whatever Papa wanted of him, like go to school and become Sasuke’s friend, so Papa wouldn’t send him back to the orphanages like all the other families did. And he would never, ever, tell Papa his secret, so that Papa would never think that Naruto was scary or disgusting or a freak, like some of the people who once wanted to be his parents did.

Because Naruto’s third and hugest secret was that he could hear the thoughts of the people around him, every single word and impression and emotion. He had been able to do so ever since he was born, with his first memories being a white building, where everything was very bright and very cold. In that building, there were people with white coats who wanted him to take tests over and over and over, who thought about nothing but marking benches and speary mints and “for the good for the country.”

He didn’t remember how he ran away but he knew that he never wanted to go back.

If he had a family. That was all he needed, a family - one like the one in the evening shows that Masao-san liked to leave on as he drank bitter juice from a shiny can, as the children of the orphanage crowded around the doorway to keep up with the story - one that would eat dinner with their son and bring him out to play in the park and hold his hand when he crossed the road. If he had a family like that, a family that wanted him, he wouldn’t have to go back to that white building ever again.

So Naruto only had to answer all of Papa's questions correctly, even when Papa tried to be sneaky by thinking about tricking him, and asking questions that even Papa didn’t know the answer to. But by then Naruto knew that Papa was a spy (which was cool) and spies were supposed to be sneaky, so he didn’t mind. As long as Papa thought Naruto was what he needed, everything would be fine, and everything was fine when they finally left the orphanage behind them with Naruto’s hand curled tightly into Papa’s own.

It was less fine when Naruto kept messing up because he didn’t know the answers until Papa thought of them, and because he wanted to watch the cartoons about the super secret spy saving the world instead of learning about numbers. And then he messed up big time when he opened up Papa’s secret panel behind the kitchen cupboard and played with the super secret radio, pressing on it and pretending he was a spy just like Papa was - until some men broke down the door and grabbed him out of the apartment.

Sitting in that warehouse, Naruto was all too aware of how many times he had messed up. Even though he told himself that he wouldn’t mess up, he had. Now Papa probably didn’t want him anymore, because Naruto wasn’t smart enough to carry out the mission that Papa needed him to. Papa would find another kid who’d be smarter than Naruto, and he would never think about Naruto ever again.

It made him cry, even though he knew that Papa wouldn’t hear him cry.

But Papa rescued him - with smoke bombs and stealth and everything Naruto couldn’t see - and brought him back home. And Papa didn’t think about sending Naruto back to the orphanage, ever. It made Naruto feel bad that he didn’t try as hard as he should when Papa was trying to teach him, so the next time Papa sat down with him he tried to pay a lot of attention.

It helped, but sometimes he really wanted to watch Bondman save the world. Papa sure was relieved when his friend found the answer key, and when Naruto passed the exam by listening to the kid next to him.

Now here they were, preparing for the interviews by trying to find another parent. Papa was trying his best, looking through a humongous stack of paper (Papa’s friend called it a “cents-us”) and glancing at all the unmarried people whenever he brought Naruto out to run some errands. Naruto didn’t have a cent-us, but he could still help Papa by staring really hard at everyone who thought the slightest bit about him.

(The people in the building they lived in certainly thought a lot about Papa, but they weren't very nice when they thought about Naruto. Maybe it was selfish of Naruto, but he didn’t want any of them to even pretend to be Papa’s partner.)

Today Papa brought Naruto to the tailor (for proper clothes, he said, and Naruto poked at his own clothes and wondered what was improper about them) and Naruto stared at the nice lady as she thought about centimeters and measuring tapes and whether there was a bobby pin in her hair again because this kid was staring at her a lot. Papa had been considering her as a partner when Naruto had been ushered into the room, but Naruto thought she was too old for Papa - too old for anyone, actually.

When he was done he quickly ran back out, only to find Papa in conversation with another person. A person with grey hair, like the granny in the measuring room. Maybe Papa wanted someone old to be his partner, but Naruto thought that was a terrible choice even for a spy. What would happen if one day Papa’s enemies ran into him and Papa needed to run but he couldn’t because his partner was old and had creaky bones that would shatter the moment they took a step faster than a snail -

“Oh, Naruto!” Naruto snapped back to the present; Papa had called out to him. “You’ve got all measured up?”

The person next to him turned around and looked at Naruto - and the first thing they thought was, oh, I almost asked out a married man.

That was close, they kept on thinking as Papa asked Naruto if he behaved. Now that Naruto was staring at them, maybe they weren’t that old - they didn’t have wrinkles like Masao-san did. Some of my clients order a hit just because someone looked at their partner wrong. Though, and here their thoughts took a darker turn - in my case, I’d certainly kill them first. A professional’s gotta have his pride.

A professional killer. Like the assassin in the cartoons - getting in and out and leaving no trace of himself, Bondman’s sometimes ally. It took all of Naruto’s willpower to restrain himself from shouting out, THAT’S SO COOL!

“Naruto!” He turned to look at Papa, who stared quizzically down at him. “What’s gotten into you - “

He let out a startled shout as Naruto dove for his knee and clung to it for dear life.

“Oh, Papa!” Naruto said very loudly and very sadly, stealing glances at the assassin. Papa told him that his cover story was that he was Papa’s real son and that he had a Mama who died of an illness. Naruto had been all but ecstatic that he had one, just like Bondman did for every mission. “I’m so sad that Mama is gone! I miss Mama so much!”

“What - “

“Is his mother away?” The assassin's attention was back on Papa again, and Naruto thought that Papa should give him a gold star for his amazing acting. Maybe even a bowl of ramen with all the extra sides. Papa thankfully took the opportunity when Naruto gave it to him, like the proper spy he was.

“Ah, no. His mother passed away two years ago.” His hand settled on Naruto’s head, large and warm and comforting; all of Naruto’s smug thoughts about how Papa was such a liar was replaced by how he wished Papa would pat his head more. "I’ve been trying to raise him myself but… He’s really like his mother.”

“Is that so?” No harm in asking, then. Naruto grinned into the fabric of Papa’s trousers as they asked, “if you don’t mind, I have a favor to ask of you…”

So Naruto watched as the assassin (Hatake Kakashi, he introduced himself) ask Papa to be their pretend partner, and as Papa asked Kakashi to be Naruto’s pretend parent for the interviews. And he heard Kakashi think about how convenient it might be to have this be a long-term arrangement; seconds later Papa thought about how he’d escalate the request from a mere partnership into an agreement to marry.

And only Naruto would know all of their secrets: Papa was a spy and Kakashi was an assassin, working towards their own ends. This was a family of secrets, where no one told each other the truth. But that was fine, because the truth only hurt people and split families apart; it only ever brought Naruto back to the orphanages to be all alone again.

So he’d keep all their secrets for them, and some of his own. All he had to do was get into the school, then become Sasuke’s friend for Papa. And maybe one day if everyone pretends hard enough Papa would be his real papa, and Kakashi could be his other papa.

Nothing, Naruto was sure, could possibly go wrong.


OMG!! This chocolate mint was really an entire chocolate cake with a lot of toppings. It was excellent!!! I loved it!!


Yay! Everyone has their secrets and they are not what they seem. The family who fakes together stays together! They are allies against the workd. I love it! :heart_eyes:


i love both of these, but there’s something about that fake/pretend relationship where one of them (or both, both is good) realizes that they’ve got Feelings and it’s not so difficult to fake/pretend relationship this anymore. OOOH or if one (or both, lol, i’m not picky) actually does have feelings to begin with but doesn’t think the other person does… OH THAT ANGST, lmao. Mmm, yes this is the good stuff…


Ooooh this was such a good chocolate mint!! I love how seamlessly you combined fake relationships and found family into one story too!! Also ahhhh Hitman and spy is such a fun concept, and throwing in a psychic kiddo just to up the stakes… I love it so much!! Honestly I love both of these tropes so much, it’s hard to choose…


@myka1231 glad you enjoyed it! ^^ I thought it might be too sweet, but as long as people enjoyed it. Hopefully it made choosing which trope to vote for harder!

@Dunloth the family who fakes together stays together indeed! Why limit it only to fake boyfriends? :stuck_out_tongue: Makes it harder to choose once you’re aware of all the possibilities, don’t you think?

@badger it certainly is the good stuff! I try to be impartial, but (as we can see from the voting) pretending to be in love is simply a recipe for real love heheh

@vulcanhighblood first of all, welcome to the forum and i’m glad you enjoyed the chocolate mint! i have to say it took ages before this fic even came into proper being - it was only after I caught up with SPYxFAMILY that I went like THAT’S BRILLIANT! And it became this fic hahah. I really recommend the manga for unhealthy amounts of found family and fake / pretend relationship tropes! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: