Notes: Because they needed a break the poor things. A long one.
A small refrain from so much angst, hopefully. (From what I've read, I'm assuming Sennin is plural for Sannin?)
The woman I've named Shourei can be found on leafninja.com listed as 'decoder woman.' Seen it? Now tell me she doesn't look like a funny drunk?
I struggled a lot with this chapter, found it very difficult to write Kakashi as a social butterfly, so I would really appreaciate your thoughts!
Disclaimer: characters and situations are based on Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto. Except for Shiranui Genma and Namiashi Raidou, who have been corrupted and stolen by Meleth78 and Nezuko, and it's to them that credit is due. Unless they hate the characterisation, in which case, I'll take the blame! XD
Thanks again to everyone who has read and/or reviewed!
The heavy storms had started some time in the afternoon and had not let up. Soon, the entire village was drenched in the cold, refreshing deluge. Even the younger kids had been so grateful for the revitalising cool they had forgotten to fear the thunder.
Iruka had allowed his class to leave early, knowing they would not get any work done with even their teacher desperate to be outside for the birthing of that storm. Walking slowly home (resisting the urge to splash about like a kid) he saw a drenched Naruto running away from an even wetter Sasuke, both laughing slightly, splashing about like kids, so intent in their version of 'training' they didn't even notice their grinning former teacher. 'You get along? You get along. I'm sooo telling on you to Kakashi!'
Thinking of the masked Jounin arrested Iruka's thoughts for some time. He tried not to think about the horrible doubt that came with not knowing where he stood with the Copy Nin, knowing from past experience that if anything was wrong, Kakashi wouldn't have wasted his time driving the younger man slowly crazy.
Eventually, the blessed patter of rain eventually sent the Hidden Leaf into a deep slumber.
Late that night Iruka was woken by an insistent knocking at his door. Feeling vaguely ridiculous answering it, not only weaponless, but wearing only loose-fitting pyjamas, the teacher was shocked to see a half-drowned Sharingan Kakashi standing at his door, ANBU mask tied to his belt, tight trousers made even more clingy by the rain...
Kakashi's tired eyes seemed to shrug. "The locker rooms were being used for something..." he looked Iruka over without the slightest hint of discretion. "I didn't realise it was so late. You look rumpled."
"It's raining." Iruka's intelligent response only heightened his blush. "I mean, it relaxes everything, after the tension, you know?" He tried valiantly to fight the growing heat of mortification spreading across his face. It was a fruitless battle. Iruka gave up and just invited Kakashi into his home.
"Where should I..." the ANBU gestured to the arm shields he was removing.
"Oh just dump them on the floor there!" Kakashi nodded, complying. "You look - well, like some drowned animal, really. Oh, I didn't mean - you should take a shower. Have you got a change of clothing? Are you hungry?" Kakashi laughed at Iruka's flustered stream.
"No to everything except the shower. That would be great." Iruka smiled as Kakashi rested his soaking against the wall.
His chest armour had joined his shoes and arm shields on the floor. Iruka could just imagine what would happen if Kurenai or Anko could see Kakashi as he was just there - tired eyes framed by lank, drooping hair, incredibly wet all over and wearing the tightest uniform Iruka had ever seen, and that tattoo! - the fanclub would be back up and running in a flash. Hell, he was tempted to run for its president. The vague consideration flashed across his mind that, with the correct marketing scheme, even the Sasuke fangirls might be converted.
When Kakashi caught his eye, Iruka mentally slapped himself.
Mumbling something about a towel, Iruka led Kakashi to his bathroom, fetched him some old, oversized pyjamas and left the smirking Copy Nin to his own devices.
Iruka was already curled up in his bed by the time Kakashi emerged from the bathroom - presumably dumping his wet uniform with the armour - and before Iruka realised what was going on, the Copy Nin had crawled into the bed beside him.
"What - I mean - what?" Iruka moved to rise. "Don't worry, I'll take the couch - you erm -" Kakashi sighed and swung a leg over Iruka's, effectively trapping him. "You'll need to not do that..."
"I ache too much for this argument."
"Iruka." Kakashi leaned his head on a hand, elbow propped up by Iruka's cheek, unmasked face directly before him. When the Jounin spoke quietly, Iruka could feel the man's breath on his cheek. "I don't want to sleep on the couch. I don't want you to sleep on the couch. I'm tired, I'm cold, I'm bruised. I've spent the last three days dodging kunai and I'm a little desperate for some human contact that doesn't involve any aim for my vital points - I think I may be developing a complex." Iruka huffed with laughter at Kakashi's exaggerated pout.
"You're warm," he continued, placing a kiss to Iruka's collar bone. "You never try and murder me without an audience and you smell good. If you want me to move, say so, but don't put me through this 'for the sake of propriety' crap right now, ok?" Kakashi paused before adding to Iruka's slight frown. "I don't have the energy to tease you properly about it."
Iruka laughed a little, digging an arm beneath Kakashi as the older man settled down. Kakashi's nose buried itself in the crook of Iruka's neck and the Chuunin pushed the damp silver hair away from his sensitive cheek before continuing to stroke the wet scalp, soothingly. Kakashi wriggled in a contented sigh, and Iruka was put in mind of one of the Jounin's nin-dogs.
"Talk to me?" came a husky mumble.
"'Bout what, Kakashi?"
Iruka didn't need to ask what he meant, just began to speak quietly about his younger students as one hand moved gently across Kakashi's back - their games, their pranks, their tantrums. He avoided any mention of weapons and chakra and pain, until Kakashi finally fell asleep; dreaming, perhaps, of a softer life.
'Oh my god.'
Kakashi stirred as Iruka moved; his training kicking in enough to discern that his bed-mate was no immediate threat before he slumped back into a doze. Kakashi's hand tightened its fisted grip of Iruka's shirt front, and the younger shinobi marvelled again at the Jounin's sheer youngness in sleep.
He carefully pulled himself out from under the Copy Nin, unable to deny ruffling that silvery hair; and Kakashi curled up to Iruka's pillow, mumbling something about everyone stealing his warmth.
"Go back to sleep, Kakashi. It's early yet." The older man gave a responsive yawn from his cocooned position in the bed, his voice honeyed as he replied, made thick by sleep.
"One day I'll prove t'you that I c'n do mornin's..."
"Sure," Iruka grinned, amazed at how easily the feared Copy Nin could be persuaded. "Now go back to sleep."
Why was it, though, that whenever he agreed to an easy mission with Asuma, they always ended up in ridiculous amounts of trouble? It wasn't worth it. And the shit of was that Kakashi knew full well that Asuma was thinking the exact same thing. About him.
The B-Class Missing Nin holding a kunai to an unmoving Yuuhi Kurenai's throat was coming to the end of his monologue, and Kakashi just could not be bothered to go through all this right now. They had been running around since before dawn, aiming to be back to Konoha by sunset, for Shourei-chan's 30th birthday piss-up. A glance to his left told the Copy Nin that Asuma was again running on a similar wavelength, and even Kurenai looked more bored than bothered by the sharp object in line with her jugular.
Even with the Sharingan exposed, he had no idea what they could do to get her out quickly. Gai wasn't even with them to provide the energetic wordplay that so often got them out of - and into - more scraps than they could handle. It wasn't that the Elite Jounin were irresponsible shinobi, just that when tired, they grew irritable. Like children, really.
"Cut the crap, shinobi, let her go." Kakashi's uninterested sigh - the first move that any of them had actually made - shocked their opponent into silence, and their captured comrade into a spitting rage.
"You fucking bastard, how dare you not even try to save my life! Asuma you fuck! Get over here and fight this piece of shit!" Kurenai's head, the only part of her body not bound by the enemy's unfamiliar ninjutsu, thrashed about frighteningly - and frighteningly close to that kunai blade as well. Asuma casually lit up a cigarette to hide his sudden loss of colour. He turned to Kakashi, a feigned look of utmost boredom on his expressive face.
"Go ahead, twinkle toes, I got the last one."
Kakashi sighed dramatically, pulled off the glove of his right hand. "Do you have any idea who I am?"
(Once upon a time, Kakashi's teacher had explained to his young charge that the signature white chakra of the Hatake Clan (or what was left of it) could be exposed through the use of his father's tanto blade.)
"Sha-Sharingan Kakashi..." the enemy shinobi's hand began to shake as Kakashi began to advance, menacingly.
"Very good." He replied.
(This wasn't exactly true, however, as Kakashi soon discovered. The electric chakra was just another form of manipulating energy, the Hatakes, in theory, were instinctively good at it - just like the Uchihas were instinctively good at controlling the Sharingan.)
White lightening danced over Kakashi's fingertips; he slowly unsheathed a small knife at his side and spread the strong glow across the blade. Kurenai gasped melodramatically, turned her head to meet her captor's eyes with her fierce red ones. "Oh, no, not that trick..." The enemy shinobi echoed Kurenai's rehearsed shock with genuine fear.
(The family tantos were excellent vessels to use when controlling the destructive chakra, in a similar way that the Saratobi clan could used their chakra blades. It wasn't that it was necessary, just efficient. It was safer to have something you associated with the chakra directing its movement, than allow it come forth unchecked - as Kakashi had been prone to do during tantrums as a very young child. Once the young prodigy had figured it out, it had only taken him a short time to perfect his control of this chakra.)
"Let her go, shinobi, or I will kill you." Kakashi's eyes reflected the knife's leaping electricity fiercely, Sharingan pulsing to a rhythm unseen by all but the silver haired nin. The enemy shinobi dropped his kunai and took off running. The binding jutsu released, Kurenai grabbed the knife from Kakashi's hand and threw it at the escaping ninja - striking him neatly in the back of the head. The two men winced as their opponent dropped.
Mission accomplished, Kurenai grabbed a fistful of Kakashi's hair and yanked him down to her eye level.
"Never try your luck like that again, Hatake, or you will be in a world of pain." The two male shinobi wisely shut up at Kurenai's violent hiss, though they couldn't help muttering bitterly to each other as they obediently followed her lead.
"I think I liked it better when she only yelled at you." Kakashi whispered at some point, rubbing at his scalp.
"Welcome to the family," was Asuma's only reply as they lapsed into a content, yet bruised, silence.
Despite the deep resentment so many of their graduating class had felt towards the young Hatake, Raidou had too soon realised that with skill, came battle. In the times they grew up, battles weren't games in Konoha's guarded arenas, with referees to ensure fair play. They were exhausting fights in the middle of a war zone, pitting child upon child and not giving a shit if both opponents died or not - a weak shinobi was merely a hindrance in war, after all.
So it was that, while Raidou had heard a lot about Team 7, he seemed to expect far more from Kakashi's students than the rumours suggested. He had briefly seen their raw potential in the Chuunin exams some years ago, before their training at the hands of the famous Sennin, and had heard Genma rave about Naruto's defeat of the Inuzuka boy - which, typically, the senbon sucking idiot had found irresistible.
So of course, being a curious and efficient ninja continuously open to new experiences, Raidou was pleased to accept the offer of teaching Kakashi's troops while the younger Jounin was away for a weekend on a high-class mission. Classified, unfortunately.
The brats had been respectful, if a little concerned about their teacher, and Raidou had a lot of fun teaching the competent students advanced swordsmanship. He had taught them the basics, as Kakashi's notes had suggested, and then following the orders 'Feel free to tease them inventively,' had shown them an advanced technique, similar to the first part of the Crescent Moon Dance.
Raidou had shown them once, and ordered them to recreate it, expecting them to fold under the pressure. To the Jounin's surprise, Sasuke had apparently used the Sharingan to copy the technique, though like most taijutsu based moves the recreation could by no means be perfect. All three students glared at him before turning to each other, Sasuke slowly teaching his team-mates what he'd seen, Naruto improvising more than anything, around the parts they could not reproduce. Sakura had quickly figured out the correct placement and maintenance of chakra, and explained it coherently to the boys on her team.
Raidou could see Kakashi's imprint so clearly in how they pieced the move together, especially in the Uchiha's cool copy and analysis of Raidou's segmented action. The rumours all suggested that the three could not get along, many of the complaints rumoured to have come from the Copy Nin himself. Somehow, Raidou couldn't help but adore their secret loyalty, their ability to look out for each other when they aware their teacher could not look out for them all.
Raidou was good at seeing what other people missed. Shinobi in general strived to find alternatives to what they saw - ninja like Kakashi and Genma looked so far beneath the underneath that it came naturally to them; but Raidou had perfected his analysis of body language - of simple things like eye contact, jaw tension, hand placement - the little actions that gave everything away.
It was no surprise to Raidou when Sakura found him after their lesson, asking him quietly how well he knew their sensei. She told him in confidence about the prize she had won, how she was struggling to find any questions to ask and felt foolish for not knowing what her questions should be.
"Kakashi-san wants you to always look beneath the underneath." Raidou intoned the predictable words as if they held the key to life's great secrets, loving the suspense he created. "If it was an interrogation lesson, he probably isn't expecting you to ask anything you could find out by other means. Why does the answer have to be of words?" The way the dear little kunoichi's eyes lit up in malicious plotting brought a warm glow to Raidou's heart.
Kakashi's prize was an interesting mind game, but oh so childish. It seemed to Raidou as if the Copy Nin really was losing his touch, the Kakashi he knew would have found something infinitely more devious.
Raidou couldn't wait to put that to the Gossip Vine.
Iruka, despite the flare of jealousy - not jealousy. Shourei's just a total slut! - couldn't really blame the mission decoder. Shourei, who hadn't been born to the ninja way of life, had dragged promises out of everyone that they would dress down for one night, be normal human beings on the piss for just one night. The result was a mass of well toned bodies dressed in the slinkiest gear each owned. Shourei and her comrades, who for the most part were not qualified field ninja, complained good naturedly about the likelihood of this amount of eye candy being gathered in one place in the 'real world'.
The only item that remained on each shinobi from their usual uniforms was the hitae-ate, though only Kakashi wore his in its usual position. The moniker of his rank, combined with the black jumper - with mask, typical! - thatwas definitely not standard issue gave Kakashi his usual predatory look. But the well-worn jeans, slung low on thin hips, made the Copy Nin look slightly more his age - made Iruka's mouth go slightly dry.
The now complete ensemble ambled from the bar they'd inhabited to one of Konoha's most popular restaurants - the interesting design of the restaurant allowed for every seat in the room to survey the room's entirety, in the summer the slats of wooden 'walls' came down to reveal a totally open space, and even the kitchen was visible to any ninja in the room - which was designed specifically to ease the minds of the shinobi of the village.
Once in the restaurant they began the chaotic dance of sitting down. Kurenai and Shourei had disappeared to the bathroom, and everyone had sat around the table, leaving the head of the table free for the birthday girl. Soon though, Maito Gai was complaining about Kakashi's seat at he opposite end of the table, claiming it was purely offensive to think he could get out of their eternal battles at such an open opportunity. Heaving a sigh, the Copy Nin dragged himself to Asuma's side, sitting in the seat reserved for Kurenai. The ensuing confusion took a full twenty minutes to defeat, the two elite nin uneasy at the prospect of leaving the genjutsu expert out of their seating arrangement, and Raidou, despite being amazed at the illogical jigsaw-like strategies, did not fail to notice Kakashi's pleased smirk when, after being moved from almost every seat at the table, he finally settled in the chair next to Iruka's, scraping it close.
"No objections?" The Copy Nin's question seemed open enough, but Iruka's answering blush left Raidou smirking. When none were forthcoming and the two missing kunoichi returned, the alcohol flowed freely once again. When the food finally came, a chorus of Happy Birthday was sung to Shourei, who had given up trying to act sober and taken instead to throwing back shot after shot of saké, encouraged by her comrades and co-workers.
The elite Jounin and Chuunin, where they had congregated at the end of the table, were sipping politely at their drinks, engaging in less than polite conversation. So many had only recently returned from various missions, and were more intent on enjoying the food than partying hard. Kakashi was sporadically inhaling down parts of his meal, taking great pleasure in pretending to be oblivious to the other shinobi's desolation at not seeing beneath that mask - but Raidou was more intrigued with the way Iruka kept shooting fond looks towards the Copy Nin, with how often they were returned with hungrier glances. He was beginning to see the almost designed melodrama of the table shuffle - the way Kakashi had reacted so quickly to Gai's predictable outburst, how the usually stubborn Copy Nin had been manoeuvred around the table so easily, ending up practically in the Chuunin sensei's delectable lap. 'Sweet fuck, are they flirting?'
The hell of it all was that Raidou couldn't even share this momentous occasion with Genma, because the dippy bastard had agreed to go on some 'Active Reconnaissance' mission with Morino Ibiki, of all people. He had claimed it would be the perfect opportunity to bug the elite Jounin into giving up precious information about the as-yet-unconfirmed-ANBU-Kakashi (the very thought made Raidou shudder slightly) - 'but fuck...' - they really were flirting!
Unaware of Raidou's scrutiny, Kakashi continued in his self appointed mission. As each ninja finished their meal, someone shouted for a toast, and as each shinobi raised their glasses, one of her co-workers - her fiancé, Kakashi recognised - stood, speaking a strange blend of ANBU click and vocal binary. Kakashi leant in as if to listen better, delighting in Iruka's slight shiver at the low chuckle in his ear.
"What did he say?" Iruka turned to face Kakashi. Their noses almost touched before the Copy Nin realised enough to react to the proximity. Raidou barely hid a smirk. Was he really the only idiot noticing this?
"Just code. 'Happy Birthday, don't be swayed by sweet-talking machinery.'" Kakashi backed up slightly. "I think."
Iruka laughed lightly, turning back to the Jounin's renewed conversation. Kakashi knew he was pushing it, knew he had far too much to lose for the sake of a fling - 'like Iruka's friendship, for instance!' - but after that small taste of contact on Monday night, Kakashi had craved more. It shocked him, by no small measure, the violence of this sudden intent. He craved Iruka in a way he had wanted little else, but if his friend was game, then...
Kakashi tuned back into the conversation, feeling slightly apprehensive for reasons unknown to him, and realised Kurenai was bitching about the day's mission this afternoon.
"...So then these two bastards just leave me in the grip of some maniac -"
"In our defence, it was a very strange jutsu!" Asuma pointed out.
"Kakashi - You copy it?" Konoha's Green Beast alternated between a sleepy drunk and a violent one, and that night seemed strangely more coherent with so much saké in his system.
"Haaa... such a modern response!" Gai sighed. Kurenai gave a frustrated growl as she carried on berating her team-mates, but Kakashi had stopped paying attention altogether as Iruka proved a very willing distraction, running trimmed fingernails firmly along his inner thigh
Raidou noticed Kakashi's tiny flinch - right eye widening comically for a second - and noticed how Iruka's hands were both out of sight. 'I can't believe Genma's missing this!' A sharp kick to his own legs, though, told Raidou that he wasn't the only one to notice. Looking around the table, he noticed Asuma's raised eyebrow. The close-combat expert tapped his lips meaningfully with a cigarette, and Raidou, who hadn't really been planning on saying anything at all, found himself biting his tongue.
Tsunade paused at her friend's suggestion, wondering what the old man was thinking. She raised a golden eyebrow pointedly, a hand going to her hip as her left foot began a menacing tap upon the stone street.
"Tsunade-chan! I'm not trying to score with you, I promise! We can go to the offices, if you like, I'll cook something there!"
Jiraiya's bright grin, a lecher's grin, did nothing to put Tsunade's mind at ease. They ate at this particular restaurant every year. For the past four years - since her becoming Hokage - in a strange celebration of too many things lost to them both. They celebrated to proclaim that they were still standing, despite it all; though Tsunade had a feeling Jiraiya's celebration was a little more to do with their standing together again, than their standing alone. He had always been more sentimental that way.
"Tell me why. Right now."
Tsunade was fond of this restaurant - and they were close enough to see the diners now, it seemed a waste to just leave! Spring had hit Konoha already, so the adorable slats had already been removed, leaving it a fine, beatific room of open spaces. You could even see the kitchen staff as they prepared the food. Being a medical expert, knowing too much about the effects and administering of certain poisons, the restaurant had always made her feel at ease.
"Because there seems to be a celebration going on their already and we would probably ruin the fun!"
Tsunade's brow crinkled at the odd inflection of Jiraiya's words, she already knew about Shourei's birthday celebrations. However, the Toad hermit's accompanying finger waggle made her automatically look beneath the tables of the restaurants, looking for some act of perversion or intrigue. If it had not been for a teacher's hand settling on Jounin's thigh, she would've worried about what her response said about her own perversion, and the time spent with the other Sannin. As it was, Tsunade merely smirked and told Jiraiya to lead the way.
"It's nice of you to offer to cook, Jiji," Jiraiya nodded at her words, pleased. "But you won't get anything out of it, pervert!"
Jiraiya raised one white eyebrow at her satisfied smirk.
"I gave up on you years ago, Tsunade-baachan. You're resistant to my charms!" the Godaime's smirk grew. "You're obviously a lesbian."
Tsunade's fist met Jiraiya's head with a resounding crack, as they pleasantly made their way back to the Hokage's Tower.
'Oh my god.'
Kakashi stirred as Iruka tried to quell his nervous blush, training kicking in enough to discern that his bed-mate was no immediate threat before he slumped back into a doze. Kakashi's hand unconsciously tugged at Iruka's lose hair, and the younger shinobi grinned before slipping gently from the bed.
Not without a quick one on one with his attacker first.
This whole avoiding open war thing is really starting to grate. Kakashi didn't want any more bumps on his head. He didn't need any more bumps on his head. But as he had to choose between the blade coming at his throat or the heavy piece of wood swinging towards his head, he realised that his semi-permanent concussed state was inevitable, really. He kicked out at the enemy with the kunai and stumbled with the force to the back of his head - through the spot the clone had so recently occupied. He guessed that this shinobi - probably a covert assassin - would wish to avoid full frontal combat, instead placing its clone in Kakashi's line of sight in favour of attacking from a blind spot.
Kakashi reached out for the opponent, still behind him, as he fell. Playing on his own 'blindness,' Kakashi heard the shinobi gasp when the Copy Nin's groping hands clamped down upon his wrist. Dragging the Nin over his shoulder, Kakashi launched himself - and his attacker - forward. Tumbling painfully down the steep hill, he briefly hoped that, in case he should lose this fight, Tsume had taken the opportunity to get their 'package' back to Konoha.
'If Inuzuka is still standing up there when I get back, hangover or not the bitch is going down this bastard thing.'
A web of thrashing limbs, Kakashi somehow managed to drag up on the Shinobi's neck, snapping it. Unfortunately, the sudden dead weight trapping his lithe form - 'no, really, ouch!' - impaired any chance the Copy Nin had of stalling his descent, causing him to eventually land in an undignified heap in a muddy pit.
Fortunately, the grimy ditch was an implausibly perfect place to dispose of unwanted weights, and Kakashi, occasionally picking bits of grass and muddy twigs from his hair and clothing, made the short journey back home.
An hour and a half later, after he had showered and changed, visited his beloved dead and bitched to Yondaime about shoddy training and Gunk-Filled Death Pits; Kakashi reached his students. He was an hour late. Meaning they had been waiting for four.
"I was taking a relaxing mud-bath and was accosted by - "
"- a giant bird." Kakashi held his hands up, placating, before continuing, noticing Sakura's book. "Today I had planned to spar with you." Naruto's eyes lit up. "But if you feel so disheartened, we could work on the more theoretical aspects of strategy?"
Sakura's eyes narrowed at the reference to her reading material. "I didn't mean to suggest anything, sensei..."
"Then you should take more care with what you do and what you say. Carrying that book declares to the world that you are unsure of strategic theory, putting an unflattering slant on my teaching as well as your own abilities."
"Just like carrying porn around declares to the world that you're a pervert!" Apart from a slight grin, Kakashi gave no sign of hearing Naruto's petulant grumble.
"Any suggestions, then?" Kakashi stepped from the railing, falling gracefully into his normal slouch.
"Who are we sparring with and why?" Sasuke's greeting, in Kakashi's somewhat biased opinion, left something to be desired.
"Me, and to win." Kakashi grinned at the confident looks on their faces. Yes, they were strong, but they still had no idea what he was capable of. "Hn...The Rules: You must fight me to checkmate. Meaning I have to be forced into a position where I can no longer fight. If one of you goes down and it doesn't aid your attempts, you fail this exercise. Same goes if any one of you does not pull their weight. This means you Sakura."
Sasuke scoffed lightly as Sakura bristled. "Anything else."
Kakashi pretended to consider this. "Maa... You may use taijutsu only. But I will do the same."
Two hours later, Kakashi was standing attentively in the middle of a training field, on edge, waiting for his students to finish forming whatever strategy they would fail at next. He toed the book Sakura had dropped in her last clumsy attack. The girl had phenomenal strength, but was unaware of how to use it wisely. She had inherited the Godaime's fiery temper - no, she had always possessed it - but she now had the knowledge to bring forth strength enough to match it. It was classic Sakura that, instead of simply asking if Kakashi knew anything about strategic planning, she had assumed he was just muscle and mind-games and found a book. Independent research was a good habit to cultivate, but being friends with Nara Shikamaru also had its many merits, and a shinobi should take advantage of all options, not just the proud one.
Sasuke had come at him with the Sharingan, and, good as the boy was, his overconfidence had allowed Kakashi to shrug him off with minimal effort. The last six weeks of covert war games had given Kakashi more ANBU level field training than what he'd received when he was officially in the high class unit, and it showed in his relaxed deflection of every move they made. In taijutsu, Sharingan foresight was only an advantage if your opponent wasn't aware of what you were looking for.
Naruto, oddly enough, seemed to be the only one really thinking. He had come at Kakashi recklessly within five minutes of the exercise's beginning, but had seemed to merely aim for getting to the other side of the training field - he had disappeared as Sasuke ran at Kakashi from behind and the Copy Nin had thought no more of it.
Now, however, Kakashi contemplated Naruto's growth. The blonde shinobi would remember from his initial training the emphasis on teamwork, he would not expect to be able to actually crush Kakashi without a plan, and the rebellious kitsune would no doubt look for a way to get around Kakashi's orders. The blonde had inadvertently stumbled across another of the Hatake's Life Lessons - Appearances can be deceiving. The ever-present porn made him appear a pervert, and Kakashi seemed to his students a lazy, perverted, easily distracted, socially defunct fool - and playing the part was fun. Kakashi also seemed that way to his enemies, and that was something his students hadn't really considered.
He wanted to explain to his students that no matter how good they were, underestimating someone was a Big Mistake. Underestimating people meant dying. Kakashi was an expert at making people underestimate him. At six years old he had passed the first part of his Chuunin exam by fake crying his way into the examiner's cooing arms, stealing glances at the answers on the kunoichi's desk while he wailed for good measure.
Kakashi was fighting three opponents; he was outnumbered, and presumably outclassed. So Kakashi was on the defence. A shinobi on the defence had to be tricked, and that was another lesson the three gifted young ninja needed to learn, and quickly. His wording had been precise as subtlety was not their strongest point. 'Taijutsu only, all of them pulling their weight, appearing strategically defunct...'
Kakashi waited patiently for Naruto to find the loop hole.
After all, nobody was better at camouflage than they were.
The first hour had been hard going - every time they got close to one another Kakashi and his clones would set off intricate webs of shuriken to scatter the students - soon though, he had settled down to wait. The three were all too aware of Kakashi's permission to work out a strategy, and Naruto and Sasuke were struck angrily by the knowledge that despite their new training, their new strength, their past moments at besting their sensei, they were still sadly lacking when it came to second guessing the Copy Nin's experience. Sakura, who had never doubted Kakashi as much as the other two, began to think he'd intended to teach them all this lesson for a while.
But, as long as they timed it right, Naruto's initial plan, honed by Sakura's eye for detail, and Sasuke's execution, could work.
Sasuke attempted to pummel his relaxed teacher, throwing kicks and punches as fast and hard as he could to try and gauge when Kakashi's awareness began to blur. Kakashi blocked everything he had, and Sasuke began working to a challenging rhythm, aided by the Sharingan.
"You can't keep this speed up, Sasuke-kun." The Jounin smirked, even as he backed up slowly.
Spinning in mid air, sending a fierce flying kick straight at Kakashi's chest, Sasuke fell to his side as Kakashi crossed his arms before him to block the blow. At the same moment, expertly timed and executed, Sakura and Naruto each kicked a heel into the soft back of their instructor's knees.
Kakashi crumpled. His students squared up, surrounding his form.
A huff of laughter escaped the man as he hit the grass, and for a long moment he didn't move. Finally, propping himself up on his elbows with a grin, he turned to his students.
"Tell me your strategy."
Smiling widely, Naruto allowed Sakura to deliver the majority of the explanation, referring to many of Kakashi's past lessons which they had seemingly failed to understand. He threw the pink-haired kunoichi's book back to her.
"You see now why that text is insulting to your ability?"
Sakura felt both flattered and chastised, and remembered it.
Raidou, Anko and Kotetsu had left the main party just after the majority of the Jounin - that is to say, somewhere between the drunken table-top dancing and the karaoke contest. As the rumours of this party spread their way along Konoha's gossip vine, the karaoke contest was deemed ridiculous. The restaurant didn't even have a karaoke machine.
That was the very reason, Raidou would reply, it didn't go down so well with the staff!
Raidou stumbled home, occasionally itching at his scar self-consciously - somewhat more light-headed than he had realised - at about one in the morning. Seeing a light on in his apartment, Raidou entered in a rather clumsy, giggly version of the stealth training the elite ninja ranks had provided him with. Tripping over a dirty uniform, thrown haphazardly on the floor, the scarred Jounin found himself draped across his bed. Draped across his Genma...
"You!" Raidou shook the sleeping man until he woke, claiming his lips before the long-haired Jounin could voice his protest at the rough treatment so soon after a mission.
"Oh man, you're wasted!" Genma turned around in the bed with a grin, lying on his back to tug the older man down. "What do you want?"
"Are you hurt?" Raidou was running his hands over the other man, a wicked gleam in his unfocused eyes. "Wanna hear m'news?"
Genma sat up immediately, forgetting his weariness. "Gossip?"
"Uh-huh, can't tell no-one," Raidou sounded as solemn as a drunk ninja could. "As'ma would make me die! Un'erstand?"
Genma grinned. "Tell-me-tell-me-tell-meeee!"
"Kakash' an' 'Ruka... together!" Raidou melted into hopeless giggles, and Genma's enthusiasm was crushed as he realised he wasn't going to get anything good out of the other man until he was sober.
Genma flopped back down onto the bed with a sigh, pulling Raidou with him. "Glad you're home..." the scarred man mumbled into Genma's hair.
"Mmm, me too. Would've been nicer if you were sober - I could've gotten some fuss!"
"I'll fuss!" Raidou hands began to roam again, "I can fuss! Wha' happened with 'Biki?"
"Well I asked him about Kakashi..." A wicked grin stole over Genma face. "...And he definitely never said 'no'"
Kakashi seemed so knowledgeable then, so clear and concise in his explanations, that Sakura felt very young. Shikamaru's opinion of her teacher suddenly made absolute sense when she realised with a jolt that he was acting no different to his usual teasing manner. Sasuke and Naruto were bickering as ever, Kakashi's mind-games were familiar and confusing, but this was perhaps the first time she had been fully aware of the care her teacher took ensuring that all three understood - at least subconsciously - the lessons he was imparting.
Hatake Kakashi was not a teacher, he was a ninja - one of the best - and his only real concern was teaching them what it took to stay alive. Sakura suddenly realised that she had spent that entire first year after her graduation expecting another Iruka-sensei to teach her the shinobi equivalent of the alphabet. What would usually be a frustrating exercise to trip them up suddenly seemed excellent practice, pushing Sakura to question what she was spoon fed.
The way he looked at them today - a look that he had not possessed when Sasuke had first come crawling back from Orochimaru's grasp - was proud, confident, perhaps a little content. Kakashi had always treated them like shinobi. It had just taken Sakura a while to realise he only expected the same.
The fiery sun was setting quietly, and there was a chill in the air despite the warm glow bathing Konoha's rooftops. Kakashi had filled the entire day, had left himself with very little time to dwell on the past, and it had been almost refreshing. Or would have been, if not for his shaking hands and Naruto's familiar blonde exuberance; Sasuke's typical clanfeatures and Sakura's patient smile masking so many deeper frustrations.
Everything, it seemed, reminded him of the past. Failed to truly diminish the idea that however great today was, however much he had grown since that life, as that boy, in that time...tomorrow would still be that day.
Tomorrow, Kakashi finally admitted to himself as he silently greeted his sensei, would be the ten year anniversary of Rin's death.
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