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20th-Aug-2011 03:01 am - Naruto: Handling (Kakashi; cast) [2/2]
Handling
Part 2/?

Fandom: Naruto
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Kakashi; Minato and cast.
Warnings: Set during the Third Shinobi World War.
Summary: This is about how Kakashi handles.

1768 words of genny-gen-gen.

Part 1



The war went on. Training went on as well. Time flowed on in a logical progression: missions, reports, trainings, rest days, all punctuated by visits to the Memorial Stone. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't terrible, either. Somewhere between the layers of mental armour that all ninja had to throw up in a combat situation leaked the beginnings of a new sort of education: teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. Kakashi started to memorise faces, names, and ranks: the first of many new habits.

They initially let Kakashi stay with Minato on missions ranked A-class and above; there wasn't a better place to learn how to master the Sharingan than out on the field, so long as Kakashi didn't die.

Kakashi didn't die. Afterwards, he reflected that maybe he'd been too angry to die. Obito's grave was a punishing reminder of his own stupidity, quick to crush any thoughts of heroism or of suicide. He collected jutsu like most children collected stamps, filing them away for later practice against Guy.

After Kakashi stopped landing himself in the hospital after every other mission, they split him from Minato and sent him out with other, more dispensable jounin. There had been some wrangling in the Hokage's office about it: Minato-sensei and Sandaime arguing about whom he should go to. Kakashi had sent Pakkun to listen in from the rafters.

'You could put him with Jiraiya-sensei,' Minato had suggested.

Sandaime rejected the idea out of hand. 'Jiraiya works better alone. You wanted to teach him teamwork, didn't you? There's Orochimaru.'

'No,' Minato said, with force. There was a very long pause. 'Why are we trying to place him with one of the Sannin?'

'Because it's good for his pedigree,' Sandaime said loudly. Pakkun moved to escape, but not before hearing Sandaime go, 'Perhaps he would be better off with a normal team.'

Which was how Kakashi ended up with Nara Shikaku, greeting him and his team with a formal, 'I look forward to working with you.' No one had bloodline limits or aspirations to perfect S-class jutsu, and Shikaku never once tried to sneak teleportation tags onto any of Kakashi's equipment, unlike certain others he could name. It was a simple life of being treated like an adult instead of a disciple: they received missions, slept on hard ground, infiltrated or killed or captured or rescued, came back, and repeated it all over again in a strange, bizarre imitation of normalcy. After every mission, they trooped into a corner of a mess hall, the adults nursing tin mugs of moonshine while the teenagers practiced creative alchemy using combat rations.

It didn't remain very normal for very long: of their four-man cell, one of the chuunin — Kakashi's age — went on to be a hero, his name added to the memorial stone; the other chuunin was made ANBU in an effort to stop up their depleted ranks; and Shikaku went on to become Jounin Commander pro tem in a hasty but not thoughtless battlefield promotion.

Kakashi ended up in increasingly smaller cells as the mission room sized up his potential: a non-Uchiha affiliated Sharingan user endowed with the speed expected of one of Minato's students, and who had two natural chakra affinities at young enough an age that his appearance on a battlefield was as initially beguiling as it was deadly. Kakashi was an bargain: buy one, get five free. There was no shortage of assignments.



--



Kakashi could pinpoint the day the war ended, because that day he remembered how to be hungry.

The duration of the war had passed by in an endless, sickening flow of field rations. After that, reconstruction efforts had Kakashi out at all hours of the day, which meant that meals amicably shared in the communal makeshift dining halls. It'd been so long since Kakashi had had to make a run for personal groceries that when he went back to his still-chuunin-issue flat and opened the kitchen cupboards, he was met with a vista of cobwebs and darkness. It was a relief to have his biggest problem at hand be one so simple as hunger, but then came the glaring realisation that he now owned a completely empty kitchen.

Kakashi's stomached rumbled.

He shut his larder with a sigh, and reached for his wallet. Kakashi blinked down at its contents, and cast a despairing glance at the clock: 9pm, far past when administrative operations ceased at the Hokage's Tower, and none of the shops that would take his order on a tab would be open at this hour.

Casting his eyes heavenwards and consigning himself to his fate, Kakashi went to his window and leaped out, headed for the jounin quarter.

Minato-sensei opened the door when Kakashi was only midway through his second knock. 'What happened?' Minato-sensei asked immediately, voice kept down low and mission-level flat. Kakashi could feel the frisking he was being given: a quick, semi-invasive probe of chakra, followed by a sweep of Minato's eyes as he was scanned for physical injuries.

'Um,' Kakashi said, letting his hand drop down to his side. 'Nothing's the matter, sensei.'

'Oh?' Minato visibly relaxed, leaning against the doorframe with what looked like something dangerously close to fatherly affection on his face.

Kakashi felt his spine curving into the slouch of a guilty teenager. From beyond the entranceway, he could see the spill of light from a kitchen, and the smell of — curry?

Kakashi's stomach chose that moment to make ts dissatisfaction known again. Loudly. He hoped that his mask covered the spectacular shade of red that he was flushing.

'Ifyou'rebusysenseiI'llleaverightnow,' Kakashi got out all in one breath, mortified. 'I know it's late, but —' He paused. 'I don't have money right now.'

Minato's eyebrows had arched themselves upwards. 'Come in,' he said, tugging Kakashi into his house. 'Leave your shoes anywhere. Kushina!' he called towards the back of the house. 'We have a guest!'

'Uzumaki-san,' Kakashi greeted her awkwardly when Kushina emerged from the kitchen, an apron around her waist instead of a flak vest. Fighting A-Rank enemy nin had been a lot easier than figuring out what to do with himself, bowing shallowly in the dining room of the Namikaze household.

'Kakashi, is it?' Kushina greeted him, patting her hands on her apron to dry them. 'We were just going to settle in for a late dinner. Have a seat.'

Minato-sensei had one pulled out, with a look in his eyes that said sit or I'll make you. Kakashi sat. Minato put himself across the table. 'I saw Asuma-san and company near Ichiraku's, celebrating. Any reason why you're here instead of out with them or,' Minato corrected himself with a wry look thrown Kakashi's way, 'home alone and resting?'

'I'm out of food,' Kakashi started, 'And, well. Money.' He laced his fingers in front of him on the table and stared at them very hard. 'There haven't been too many paying missions the past year, and I returned home too late to go out for — I'm sorry, sensei.'

'Kakashi,' Minato-sensei said, cutting in gently. 'You're welcome here, at any time, and for any reason.'

'Minato,' Kushina said from the kitchen entryway, sending a wave of dangerous intent wafting their way. 'Have you been letting Kakashi starve?'

Minato and Kakashi turned as one to stare at her in horror. 'What?' Kakashi went at the same time that Minato-sensei went, 'No! Do you know how often I end up paying for ramen?' and then there was a blur of motion as a bowl of curry and rice deposited themselves on the table in front of Kakashi.

'Eat,' Kushina intoned, her hand on a suddenly lethal-looking ladle.

'Itadakimasu,' Kakashi said fervently, half out of hunger and half out of sheer fear at the look in her eyes, and tucked in.

An hour later, Kakashi was making faint objections as Kushina advanced on him with a glass of milk that would probably have been better described as a pitcher. 'Kushina-san, I won't be able to move if I have anything more.'

'Someone has to look after you or you won't fill out properly,' Kushina said, undeterred, putting the glass in front of Kakashi and directing a look at Minato, who had his hands raised in a gesture of surrender.

'Minato-sensei takes very good care of me,' Kakashi rallied bravely.

Kushina snorted. 'Teaching you jutsu and wearing your bones to bits, I'm sure.' Minato-sensei, from his place a few points beyond Kushina's range of vision, mimed the hand signs for a Silencing jutsu.

'The jutsus have kept me alive?' Kakashi tried meekly, sipping at the milk to keep from snorting. He hadn't bothered with the mask since dinner had started.

'You just let me know when you manage to eat chakra to survive,' Kushina smiled sweetly. 'What's that you're doing behind my back?' she asked Minato without turning.

'I'll do the dishes,' Minato-sensei said, choosing strategic retreat and fleeing for the relative safety of the kitchen.

Kushina waited for the sound of water running in the sink before she leaned in towards Kakashi. 'Kakashi,' she said, conspiratorial. 'Do you see the package there, on the top shelf?' She pointed towards a cupboard. 'I received it just today. Go get it.'

Kakashi obediently brought it over. It was a squarish, shallow box, and not very heavy.

'Open the cover,' Kushina urged.

Kakashi pulled the top off, and gently brushed apart the first layer of wrapping tissue. His eyes widened at what was underneath. 'Is this?' he asked, a little breathless, his fingers tracing the beautifully embroidered kanji that read fourth. 'Minato-sensei is...?'

Kushina nodded. 'That's why we ate so late tonight; he was wrapping up at the Hokage tower. Sandaime wants to retire.'

'When?' Kakashi asked, closing the box.

'Very soon, once reconstruction is complete,' Kushina told him. 'But the preparations are all done. The Council approved his nomination soon after fighting ended.' She smiled, warm and happy. 'Sandaime said it was a good time to pass his will of fire on to a new generation.' She lay her hands over his on the top of the box of robes. 'Why don't you give it to him?'

There was a sound of taps being shut, then Minato walked back into the room. 'What are the two of you gossiping about?'

Kushina pressed the box firmly into Kakashi's grip. Kakashi looked up at Minato, his heart ablaze with a mix of pride and happiness and the prospect of future loneliness, and said, 'Nothing, Yondaime-sama,' as he clasped both hands about the box and offered it forward, formal and respectfully aware of how things were going to change.
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