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Avalanche

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Kakashi still thinks of it as The Sharingan, although the bar hasn’t been called that for a number of years. It seemed off color, after everything, so the wooden sign had been taken down. All the regulars had offered up suggestions to the owner for the new name. Kakashi’s vote had been for anything that wasn’t The Byakugan; it would’ve continued the theme, but he would’ve had to stop coming to the bar out of clan pride (there is no Hatake clan pride, so arrogant or not, Kakashi just considers his personal pride the clan’s, and the Hyuuga are irritating enough that it counts). They’d probably be offended and try to sue too. Eventually, the owner had simply put up a blank slate and a bowl of chalk and the name changed every other day, then every other week, then settled into a couple rotating names. For the past couple months, it has been The Hanged Man.

Kakashi sits in his usual spot at a table in the far right corner of the bar, book in hand, ignoring the clock on the opposite wall that clearly says it isn’t evening yet. Daydrinking is a time-honored shinobi tradition. And so is listening to his friends, ruthless workaholics to a one, moan about how they’ve been saddled with three brats each. Kurenai had only stopped to request her usual from the bartender before sitting down next to Kakashi and letting out a stream of curses.

“I heard you’re supposed to be setting a good example these days,” Kakashi replies, turning a page.

“Fuck that. I’m too young to have the wrinkles these kids are going to give me,” Kurenai groans. She plucks the Icha Icha book from Kakashi’s hand and sets it down on the table. “I need your full attention for this, asshole.”

“I think Asuma’s a bad influence on you,” Kakashi says with a sigh.

“I have a Hyuuga.”

“I have an Uchiha,” Kakashi counters. He takes a sip of his beer and watches Kurenai fume.

“You don’t have anyone at the moment. I didn’t see you picking your brats up four hours ago.”

“Mah, I have time.”

“And your Uchiha doesn’t have—” Parents to complain to, Kakashi has no doubt she’d meant to say before Kurenai cuts herself off with a flush. “Ah, fuck it. You know what I meant. I’ve got a meeting with her father later on how she must conduct herself and where she’s not allowed to take missions. The man’s retired but I’m pretty sure he could take me.”

“There, there. I heard she barely speaks anyway, so I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“I’m sure he’ll blame me for not getting her out of her shell, too.” Kurenai’s forehead hits the table once, then another time for good measure.

As Kakashi wonders if he has an obligation to get her out of her funk—on one hand, he’s a friend, on the other hand, he’s completely unqualified to deal with people’s emotional states—he feels a familiar chakra signature outside the bar. Success: he can pass the situation off to Asuma. Unfortunately, Asuma goes straight for the sake when he enters the bar, so it’s fifty/fifty whether he’ll console his girlfriend or start in on his own issues. Kakashi idly considers drinking from home, but that sounds sad even in his head.

“I hate all three of them,” Asuma says, sitting down roughly.

“Haven’t they been friends since birth or something? They’d have to have known they’d be placed on a team together,” Kurenai says. She seems to be trying to decide whether to stab everyone who’d had input in her team assignments.

“Friends? No. They’ve had twelve years to develop ridiculous strategies that allow them to be the laziest versions of themselves possible.” Asuma gets out his pack of cigarettes, which are impaled by a senbon in short order.

“No smoking inside,” the bartender drawls. “I’ve told you that sixteen times, Asuma.”

“See? They’re driving me mad already,” Asuma whines.

That’s it. Kakashi is going to become a missing nin. If regular genin have reduced his generally stable friends to this, then it’s for the best that Kakashi simply bows out now. He already has gray hair. He doesn’t want to know what his sensei’s brat and the last Uchiha would do to his remaining sanity.

There’s a commotion at the entrance of the bar, but no one’s chakra spikes, so Kakashi isn’t worried as he turns toward the noise. There are three kids at the door. Three terribly familiar kids, the ones whose academy files he’d seen a couple weeks back when the Hokage had strong-armed him into giving them a chance to pass his test. The kids are looking around and once they find him, the blond one bursts into a wide grin.

“There he is!” calls his sensei’s kid. Kakashi knows his name, but fuck it if he can think of him in any other way. That fucking hair on Kushina’s round face. Someone should’ve stopped those two from getting hitched; it would’ve hurt a lot less that way.

“Don’t yell, Naruto, we’re at a… private establishment,” the pink-haired girl next to him says.

“Just call it a bar,” says the Uchiha.

“I can’t call it a bar, my momma made me promise I wouldn’t go to one until I’m at least twenty. So it’s a private establishment instead.”

Next to Kakashi, Kurenai huffs. “Cute kids.”

“Very cute,” Kakashi says. The headache forming in the center of his forehead is two parts nostalgia, one part laziness. Raising his voice a little, he calls out, “What are you doing here?”

“We’re here for you, of course!” the girl says, coming toward him with a skip in her step. “We’re your new squad!”

“What are you doing here?” Kakashi repeats. He isn’t nearly drunk enough for this—or drunk at all. Damn that sense of responsibility (or fear of the Hokage, same difference) that had kept him to one not yet empty bottle of beer.

“You didn’t find us, so we found you. You’re late,” the Uchiha brat says. “We don’t appreciate lateness.”

Naruto pokes him in the side. “What he means is that we’re really excited to start being real ninja and we know you’re excited too—”

“No, I’m not—” Kakashi tries to say.

“—so we found you so that we could get started already. But if you’re not ready, we can just wait here for you. I mean, we can still learn loads of stuff just by observing you.”

“Exactly!” The girl pulls out a notebook and pen. She flips it open, takes the cap off, and settles down in a chair. “All set! Sasuke: observations.”

“Hatake Kakashi, jonin, future sensei to squad seven, voted most attractive shinobi three years ago and rumored to have starred in a sexy shinobi swimsuit edition of Konoha Style, a leading civilian magazine, although no one can seem to find verification of this fact—”

Actually, this is the first Kakashi is hearing of it. Either he’s very out of touch or Uchiha Sasuke can lie with the best of them. He’s adopted a bored tone and is now reciting how various shinobi on the street had described his sensei’s eye color. The kid sounds like he can write a novel.

“My eyes are not cerulean blue,” Kakashi says, because it’s better than the long, looping stream of what the fuck going through his head.

“We told her that, but she wouldn’t listen,” Naruto says with a shrug. “Onward, Sasuke!”

Kakashi listens to a few more minutes of very creative nonsense, but he finally has enough when the brats start speculating on his favorite brand of toothpaste. “Would that information ever be necessary?”

“What if we needed to impersonate you, huh?” asks Naruto. “We couldn’t do that without knowing all these things.”

“And you’d need to impersonate me…?”

“Well, if you don’t show up to train us, one of us would obviously have to fill your shoes. And we’ve just learned the henge, so.” Naruto waves a hand. “Well, actually, they did. I learned the kage bunshin!”

“I do a very good henge,” Sakura assures him. “It’s just that I’d be worried about getting your behavior right. I don’t think I could ever be—” her voice turns to a horrified whisper “—late to something. And I don’t think I could wear so little pink in my outfit.”

His students are threatening him. Kakashi feels strangely charmed.

“All right, let’s get a move on to me failing you,” he drawls, sighing at the way Sakura and Naruto grin at him. Even Sasuke manages a brief turn of his lips. Kakashi herds them out of the bar, hoping that Sakura’s parents never find out their kid having been inside. From behind him, Asuma and Kurenai yell good luck with too much laughter in their voices. Going back to ANBU is sounding better by the second.

As the bar’s door closes behind the four of them, the kids turn toward him in unison. Kakashi feels like a hunted animal, which is absurd, and then it’s completely rational. These kids, who’ve known of him for a few hours, decide to hug him. Naruto ambushes him from the front, while Sasuke and Sakura take both sides, wrapping half around Naruto and half around Kakashi. It’s weird, uncomfortable, and warm. Kakashi very forcefully doesn’t think about how long it’s been since he’d last been hugged.

“Kakashi-sensei,” Naruto sighs.

Awkwardly, Kakashi pats him on his head. Then he does the same with his two other leeches. “I wasn’t planning on abandoning you.”

“We know,” Sakura says, her voice muffled by his flack jacket. “You’re not allowed to abandon us.”

Even Sasuke gives a murmur of assent.

“Alright,” Kakashi says. “I’ve never been fond of abandonment anyway.”

When they let go, Kakashi leads them to his old team’s training grounds, nostalgia a heady thing when faced with another generation’s squad seven. He remembers meeting Obito and Rin here for the first time and being about as obnoxious as these little brats are, although he’d gone for sullenly obnoxious rather than cheerfully.

“Man I haven’t been here in—”

Sasuke jabs Naruto with his elbow. “Dobe.”

Naruto scowls at him, though he doesn’t manage it for more than a second. “I was going to say ages, jeez, show some respect.”

“To whom?” Sasuke asks, raising an eyebrow.

“Your future Hokage!” the blond booms. A few birds fly off from their perches in the surrounding trees.

“Boys, boys,” Sakura says, stepping between them and linking her arms with theirs. “Don’t fight. It’s obvious that I’m going to be Hokage.” She holds her head high as she walks, and Kakashi can almost imagine the huge Hokage’s hat balancing on her head.

“Psh, you’d go mad with power in a week,” Sasuke says amid Naruto’s dramatic cries of betrayal.

“Children,” Kakashi says, jumping onto one of the posts and taking a seat. “None of you are going to be Hokage if you fail to even become genin.” He gets three cute little scowls from his students as they flop onto the grass. They sit down so close that their shoulders almost touch. It’s a kind of camaraderie Kakashi rarely sees in teams straight from the academy. The kids must have had crazy good luck in getting placed on a team with their friends—or maybe the Hokage had indulged them. “But before that, tell me about yourselves. It seems you know a lot about me—much of it incorrect—but I know very little about you.”

“What are we supposed to say?” Sakura asks, blinking, her eyes too wide.

Naruto’s snort of laughter isn’t hidden fast enough. “Dreams for the future!”

“Hobbies,” Sasuke says. His voice is monotone but Kakashi could swear there’s something laughing in his eyes.

“Things you like, things you hate, things like that,” Kakashi adds to the list. He isn’t even going to try to understand what his team finds so amusing. Maybe he’s getting old; he certainly isn’t up to date on hip academy student lingo and their inside jokes.

“I’ll go first!” Naruto says, sitting up straight. “I love the ramen at the Ichiraku Noodle Shop. Have you been there, sensei, because if you haven’t, you really should. I also love the way Sasuke makes ramen for me sometimes when I’m really sick. He’s only done it a few times but I think he should set up his own ramen shop. He and old man Ichiraku could be rivals!”

“No,” comes from the boy in question.

“You’re no fun. I hate— well, I don’t hate Sasuke. Or Sakura. I could never hate either of them, you know?”

That seems to be an actual question. Kakashi inclines his head.

“I hate having to wait for ramen after you pour the water in or after I hand my money over. This one time I waited for an hour, but that was because there was stuff that came up. Still, an hour! I also hate people who try to hurt my precious people.” Naruto’s expressive face shutters for a moment, but he’s back to his usual self with his next words. “My hobby is making people understand how much good there is in the world. And trying different kinds of ramen. When we go on missions, we have to stop at every ramen shop we see. Oh, and I’m going to be Hokage. That’s not a dream, it’s a promise. Believe it!”

Kakashi sighs. Too much enthusiasm right there, way too much. “Next.”

“I’m Haruno Sakura,” the girl says, waving at all of them. When Naruto waves back, she gives him a high five. “I like Naruto. And I like Sasuke. Oh, and Ino and my parents and you, Kakashi-sensei.”

“Unnecessary, but thank you,” Kakashi replies.

“I hate people who lie about their injuries and people who don’t take me seriously. My hobbies are spending time with my loved ones—I used to be a stalker, but now that Sasuke and I are friends, I can do it legitimately—and making sure they don’t do anything stupid without me.” She specifically looks at Naruto for that part.

Naruto huffs. “The rule is that if we’re doing something stupid, she has to be there so she can laugh at us.”

“At you,” Sasuke cuts in. “I’ve never made a bad decision in my life.”

Naruto gives him a look that speaks volumes.

“Ever,” Sasuke adds.

“My dream…” Sakura trails off, glancing at her teammates and then back at Kakashi. “My dream is to meet several people one day—especially Tsunade of the sanin.”

“Good luck with that,” Kakashi says, trying to land for somewhere in the realm of encouraging. It’s good for kids to have dreams, even if Tsunade hasn’t stepped foot in the village in over a decade. Jiraiya has visited only thrice as far as Kakashi knows, and it would be the worst of days to meet Orochimaru again. Kakashi remembers him from before he’d been cast out of the village, though only barely. The sanin are legends both together and in their own right, but their legends arose from lack of any sightings of them in the past decade. Turning toward Sasuke, he says, “Last one.”

Sasuke sighs deeply. “My name is Uchiha Sasuke, as everyone in this village knows. I hate a lot of things and would say I hate many more things than I like.”

Sakura pokes him in the shoulder. “That’s just depressing, Sasuke.”

Kakashi is of one mind, though he can’t expect much else from the last Uchiha.

“I like several people,” Sasuke concedes.

“Is one of them me?” Naruto asks, leaning toward him expectantly.

“I’m not admitting to anything,” Sasuke replies, loftily. “My hobbies involve training and being better than Naruto. My dream is to ruthlessly murder a certain man one day.”

Subtlety, thy name is not Uchiha. Kakashi wonders if the Hokage expects him to attempt to discourage Sasuke’s ambition to get himself killed while trying to kill Itachi. He hopes not; there is little he can do, even as the kid’s sensei. As he watches Naruto and Sakura reach over to give their friend a hug, not allowing Sasuke to squirm away from them, he hopes the kids will be able to do what he can’t. A life focused only on revenge—Kakashi can’t recommend it to anyone, any more so than a life inhabited entirely by ghosts.

“Right. You are all very… unique,” Kakashi says, for lack of anything better.

“But what about you, Kakashi-sensei?” Sakura asks. “You haven’t introduced yourself.”

“Yeah!” Naruto yells. “We need to know everything about you.”

“Everything, hm,” Kakashi says, raising an eyebrow. “I’m Hatake Kakashi. I don’t feel like telling you about the things I like and things I hate. My dreams for the future… never really thought about it. As for my hobbies, I have lots of hobbies.”

“Disappointing, Kakashi-sensei,” Sakura chides, but oddly enough, she sounds anything but.

Next to her, Naruto mutters something along the lines of, “Classic Kakashi-sensei!” with a grin.

What am I going to do with you lot, Kakashi thinks to himself. But the sun is still high in the sky and they’re already at a training ground, so Kakashi makes a decision. “Since the three of you interrupted my plans for today, I suppose I can test you a day early. Although the three of you have graduated from the academy, you are not yet officially my students. To become so, you must pass a test that I have given to four prospective teams in the past. All four of them have failed.” He eyes them solemnly, then jumps off of the post and feels for the pouch on his right side. “Your assignment is to…” Kakashi trails off. It’s too early for him to be going senile, no matter his hair color, but he could’ve sworn he’d placed the bell set in his pouch this morning in preparation for the test.

His students scamper up to their feet with matching evil grins.

“Looking for these, Kakashi-sensei?” Naruto asks, taking a pair of bells from his pocket.

“I am, actually.” Kakashi gives them each an unimpressed look while he tries to remember when they’d stolen the bells. It had obviously been during the hug and Sasuke had been closest to his pouch, but Kakashi’s coming up blank. He’d been so thrown that he hadn’t been paying enough attention to anything but the surprising embrace. “Thievery between teammates is generally looked down upon.”

“Kakashi-sensei, you’ve turned down four teams with this test. We were all worried that we wouldn’t be able to pass without trickery,” Sakura says, pouting.

Kakashi wonders which of his former prospective students had snitched. Most of them can be found in the village and at least last year’s trio harbor a grudge against him. He knows the answer, but he still makes an attempt with, “And if I offered to only pass whichever two of you were least involved in the theft?”

Naruto shakes his hand, handing the bells to Kakashi. “We stole them together.”

“All three of you?”

“All three of us,” Sasuke confirms.

Sakura nods. “It’s either squad seven or back to the academy, but we’ll do it together.”

Kakashi gives each of them a grave look, but his students stand firm, refusing to turn one of of their squad in. A quorum in complete consensus. Kakashi gives into his fate. “Then I suppose… you pass.”

A quarter of an hour later, Kakashi finds himself sitting at one of the stools at Ichiraku’s ramen stand with a steaming bowl of ramen sitting in front of him.

“What am I doing here?” Kakashi wonders to himself. He’d meant to make a discreet exit after telling the kids to meet him at the training ground at six in the morning tomorrow, but somehow he’d been pulled into this instead. Sakura is on his left while Naruto is on his right, two little guards keeping him from fleeing.

Sakura pats his arm. “You’re being inducted into the cult of Naruto. Just accept it now, it’s easier that way.”

“The kamaboko or the person?”

“Don’t tell him, but I don’t actually like naruto,” Sakura says with a sigh. “I tried, because I mean really, but kamaboko’s just not my thing.”

“Irony at its finest,” Kakashi says, eying his ramen. It does look good, but he has a feeling that ramen is just the first step on his slide to hell. One day he’s going to review his memories and point to this day and say, ah yes, that’s when it all went wrong. With a sigh, he waits until the perfect moment and slurps down the delicious meal.

Beside him, his students don’t even try to peek under his mask. Kakashi is both grateful and unnerved.

On his way back an hour later, Kakashi swings the bells between his fingers. They aren’t the original bells that his own sensei once used, but Kakashi’s had them ever since the Hokage had first tried to get him to accept a team. It’s possible that three academy graduates would have managed to take advantage of his distraction and steal them from him. Kakashi isn’t one for egotism, but he’s one of the most accomplished shinobi in the village. It is possible, but it is very, very unlikely. But there’s no doubt that Uzumaki Naruto is exactly who he says he is; Kakashi had become very familiar with that chakra signature ever since Naruto’s birth. Sasuke too is under the occasional surveillance as the last of his clan. And he doubts Sakura is an enemy infiltrator. Which leaves, what? Him being off his game?

Maybe the Hokage would let him slink back to ANBU. The idea of the newest iteration of Team Seven managing to find him deep in the ANBU bunkers amuses him much more than it probably should.

Kakashi sighs, dropping the bells into a nearby trash can. Back at the Hanged Man, Kakashi commiserates with his fellow new jonin sensei and tries to put into words how strange he finds his kids, though his complaints don’t make much sense when said aloud. Too much teamwork? His students being good friends? Good intelligence-gathering skills? Aren’t all those things what he wants out of a genin team anyway? When his head reaches his pillow that night, Kakashi resolves to accept that he’s still likely getting used to his new position. It isn’t as though he’s had much contact with genin in the past decade.

Chapter Text

The irony of receiving an ANBU missive that night does not escape him. Under the light of the moon, Kakashi scans the missive a hawk brought him and pulls on his mask.

Councilman Danzo is dead.

Kakashi is not the first to arrive to the scene of the crime, nor the last. The whole situation will be a mess for days, and the repercussions will stretch even after Danzo’s funeral. The councilman had his finger in every pot and pothole in Konoha; Kakashi doesn’t envy whoever has the job of taking on Danzo’s roles. When he enters the old man’s bedroom, Hiruzen is already inside, blocking Kakashi’s view of Danzo’s bed.

The sight is eerie. It’s wrong, this whole idea of a man like Danzo dying in a bed instead of a battlefield. Or perhaps at Danzo’s age, at his office. Shikaku passes him a mednin’s report, the handwriting rushed but Kakashi recognizes it as the head of the hospital’s. Heart attack, no signs of an outside attack, no evidence of foreign chakra.

“It could still be natural causes,” Kakashi says under his breath.

Across the room, Inoichi snorts. “Pull the other one. And turn the page.”

Kakashi does. The next page is all the non-relevant health information. He doesn’t have long to skim through the usual body modifications a man of Danzo’s age might make until he reaches the unusual ones. Aka, the eleven Uchiha eyes found in his body. Ten on the arm Kakashi’s never seen out of a sling and one more in his right eye, all blind with death now.

Fucking hell is this going to be a mess.

“That mednin’s report is an SS-ranked secret,” the Hokage says without turning around. “As the genin sensei to the last of the living Uchiha’s, you’ve been brought into the investigation to question your student on whether Danzo had ever approached him. It does not go past this room, but from this moment on, the main purpose of this investigation is to search for further evidence of Danzo Shimura’s treason.”

His words are even, but Kakashi can only imagine the pain Hiruzen must be feeling. One doesn’t get eleven Sharingan eyes implanted by accident, not from a bloodline that’s nearly dead and was vicious in defense of their eyes before their death. As he looks around, Kakashi also thinks, one doesn’t leave so many officially stamped documents in one’s bedroom, either. Inside job, his gut tells him, and it’s been a long time since his gut has led him astray.

Kakashi doesn’t get much sleep that night. There aren’t very many high-ranked shinobi who Hiruzen trusts to not have been more loyal to Danzo than himself, or have any ties to Root. It’s a night of going through the paperwork found near Danzo’s body, all of which seems to be both legitimate and implicating Danzo in a number of crimes, not the least of which is continuing to run a shadow organization from under the Hokage’s nose. A shadow organization that has infiltrated ANBU, Kakashi thinks with a sigh as he hands that one over to Shikaku. On the bright side, in the morning he will be a simple genin sensei. One who has to subtly interrogate Sasuke about whether anyone shady has ever approached him without coming off as a shady person himself. And there’s still the mystery of his genin team’s oddness. At least now, the urge to flee back to ANBU isn’t very strong; Kakashi doesn’t envy the poor souls who’ll be dealing with this mess. He doesn’t doubt that he’ll be occasionally called in, but his main job is teaching now.

He’s released by four in the mourning and is in bed ten minutes later, only having the presence of mind to chuck his ANBU mask and most of his weapons before getting in bed. Maybe I’m getting old, Kakashi thinks through a yawn and sets his alarm for ten in the morning. If he has to suffer, so should his students as they wait for him to arrive.

It feels like no time at all has passed when Kakashi awakens to loud banging on his apartment door.

For a moment, Kakashi just lies there. The banging isn’t Gai’s rhythm and no one other than Gai would ever bother hounding him while he’s at home. It could be his landlord, but Kakashi’s rent and utilities are taken out of his account automatically. He barely even remembers what he pays in rent, just that his ANBU paychecks had been orders of magnitude more than his expenses. Idly, Kakashi wonders if quitting ANBU means he has to learn to budget now. That would be new. The last time he’d tried that was…

Ah, hell, the last time he’d tried that had been when Minato had tried to teach him life skills after his father’s suicide. Kakashi had been worse than Naruto at living alone, if for different reasons. Spending all his time training had been nearly as bad as spending none of it training.

With a sigh, Kakashi gets out of bed. He feels his cheek for a second to make sure his half-face mask is still there and then swings open the door.

“No,” he tells the three people in the hallway.

“But Kakashi-sensei, we’re taking the initiative!” Naruto says in a hushed whisper. It seems he cares about the sleep schedules of the other residents of the building, just not his poor sensei’s. “You didn’t come to us, so we had to come to you!”

“You were late,” Sasuke glowers at him as though lateness is the worst possible sin. But Kakashi has it on good authority that murdering one’s entire family is truly the worst, so he has faith that he’s ranked at least one step above Uchiha Itachi. It’s a rather bad contest.

“It took us ages to find you,” Sakura tells him, shaking her head with disappointment. “But at least we got to work on our information-gathering skills.”

Kakashi nearly whimpers. His students do not need any more experience in the stalking department. But, “You can’t possibly have asked the records department where I live.”

Sakura pouts. “They wouldn’t tell us, no. But we asked Gai-sensei instead and he was nice enough to point us in the right direction.”

“We told him you were turning over a new leaf and trying unlearn your habit of being late,” Naruto says with a grin, hands behind his head. “He said it was very youthful of you and since we were in the general area anyway, he gave us some pointers.”

There is no way Gai had believed that. Even if he weren’t a damn good shinobi outside of his theatrics, the sheer ridiculousness would’ve thrown him off. However, Kakashi would believe that Gai had pointed in a direction and winked, which would mean… “Please tell me you didn’t knock on every door in my building.”

“Of course we didn’t,” Sasuke says, sounding not at all comforting. “Only the first, second, and half of the third floors, until we reached the right door. Most of your neighbors didn’t even know you lived here.”

“That’s the way I like it.” Kakashi sighs. “Alright, get inside before one of my angry neighbors decides to reconsider murdering you.”

“We did get a lot of slammed doors,” Sakura says as she steps inside. “You don’t have very pleasant neighbors, sensei.”

Kakashi wonders if he can blame the whole thing on his students’ combined trauma. If it’s not enough, he can add his own into the mix. “Go to the couch. I need to—” He waves a hand and closes the bathroom door behind himself. The sight in the mirror isn’t very positive. Kakashi slips his mask down to shave and wonders if the kids are biding their time to ask about the scar across his other eye, the one he hadn’t opened during the entire conversation. Probably not; despite all of their intrusiveness, they’d never said a word about his mask or anything else. Good kids, really. They’re going to drive him up the Hokage monument, but they seem like good kids. As he shaves, Kakashi wonders if he can take advantage of bonding over his and Sasuke’s shared kekkei genkai—even if Sasuke hasn’t activated his, all signs point to him being able to do it one day—in order to see if he’d ever been approached by Danzo.

When he leaves the comforting privacy of the bathroom, Kakashi is handed three hard-boiled eggs, some toast, and a mug of coffee.

“There wasn’t much else in your fridge,” Naruto says, apologetically.

Kakashi wonders if the three of them snooped everywhere else, too. Almost certainly, with Naruto as the ringleader. “I haven’t had the time to go grocery shopping lately. Have the three of you eaten?”

After two yesses and one hn, Kakashi sits down at his kitchen table while the kids fight over who gets to sit in the middle of the couch. Sasuke wins by virtue of sitting first and being immovable, but from what Kakashi can hear from the half wall dividing the two sections, winning gets Sasuke the other two draped over him like cats. Kakashi takes his time eating as he shamelessly eavesdrops on the resulting argument about who is the better cuddler. Honestly, Kakashi could’ve sworn Iruka saying something about how the three of them hated each other during the instructors’ briefing.

When he’s finished, Kakashi drops his dishes in the sink and says, “Alright, ducklings, follow me.”

“Yes, sir, Kakashi-sensei, sir!”

At the training ground, Kakashi takes out his book and flops against one of the three posts. “Today, the three of you will learn a valuable shinobi skill: tree-walking.”

“Really?” Naruto asks, gasping.

Sakura sighs as she looks up at the tree next to her. “Sensei, this is way too difficult for us poor genin.”

“Yeah! Start us off on something easier. Like the chidori.”

Sasuke elbows him. “Idiot, he’s not going to teach us the chidori in the first week. Maybe the second.”

“Do we really gotta wait that long?” Naruto asks, turning his big blue puppy eyes toward Kakashi.

“I’m never teaching any of you the chidori,” Kakashi tells them with complete and utter certainty. “I don’t even want to imagine the chaos you’d cause.”

“That’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to us,” Sakura says, smiling. It, frankly, is a somewhat terrifying smile.

A part of Kakashi can’t wait to unleash them on the world. “Alright, the first thing you have to know about tree-walking…”

 

*

 

As expected from her academy scores, Sakura does better at tree-walking than the two boys, but none of them manage to master the skill before the day is out. After an hour, all three of them seem to decide to give up, which means Kakashi can send them running laps and doing various other training exercises. His students accept the training with little grace and lots of complaining, but end up doing even more than he’d asked them too, complaining about their stamina all the while. They’re right; freshly graduated academy students’ stamina is generally horrible. Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura are better than the others Kakashi had tested, but not by too much.

No, the hardest part of the training isn’t making sure the lot of them don’t sprain their ankles or fall out of a tree. It’s watching them with half his face bare, yelling orders at them from the status of sensei instead of captain. He’s supposed to guide them, nurture them, and the thought fills Kakashi’s chest with ice. Sensei is a term for amiable, gregarious, caring people like Minato or Jiraiya. The thought of himself trying to fill their shoes is laughable. Kakashi can fake being approachable on missions while under a henge because he is a shinobi and he will rise up to the task, but he’s better at stabbing people than complimenting them.

When his brats fall into a sweaty heap next to him at the end of the day’s training, Kakashi says, “Mah, that wasn’t completely horrible.”

“It really was,” Sakura moans, rolling over onto her back and holding her elbow across her eyes. “Did you see the way my legs gave out after five miles?”

“I was rather surprised you managed even that,” Kakashi admitted. “You need to build up your muscles.”

“Don’t I know it.” She raises an arm. “Look at this. Where’s my muscle definition?”

“Waiting for you to actually start training your muscles,” Kakashi replies. He only has one eye open, but he doubts that even with two he’d see any muscle definition in Sakura’s arms. Naruto isn’t much better. Sasuke has obviously done a lot of his own training, but he’s still only eleven years old. And Kakashi is supposed to take them out of the village on missions and make sure they don’t irritate an enemy ninja into brutally murdering them, fuck.

Sakura harrumphs at him, then kicks Naruto and Sasuke. “We’re getting up at five tomorrow to train.”

“Can I send a shadow clone instead?”

“Make one for me too,” Sasuke mutters.

Kakashi smiles at them. They can only see the crinkle of his eye, but the motion still counts. “Don’t worry, I have just the thing for all three of you.”

“Showers?”

“Sleep?”

“Food?”

“You can pick some takeout up on the way to your first mission,” Kakashi graciously allows. The triple groans he hears warm his soul. “It is an incredibly important mission, one you’ll be doing for the good of the village—nay, the entire world!”

Naruto peers at him with suspicious eyes. “I only accept missions that involve saving princesses.”

“What would you even do with a princess, dobe?”

“Save her, of course! And earn her undying loyalty. Maybe I’ll even get a kiss out of it.” That last part he says so smugly that it begs for a punch, and Sasuke doesn’t seem to be able to resist giving into his instincts. Naruto laughs, jumping up with renewed energy. “Jealous?”

“I don’t care what you do with your free time,” Sasuke grumbles, getting up and crossing his arms.

Kakashi gets up from his perch as well and extends a hand down to Sakura. “Come on, there’s more pain ahead. Team seven mission one: painting fences!”

Sakura groans, while in the background Naruto hangs off of Sasuke and tells him he’s the star of Naruto’s eyeballs. It’s much less romantic than Naruto is likely intending. Sakura takes Kakashi’s hand and he lifts her up, steadying her until she gets back onto less wobbly feet.

“Kakashi-sensei, you’re evil,” Sakura groans.

“I do try,” Kakashi agrees.

But his brats seem to find their second wind on the way to their mission. It probably helps that they’d stopped by three different takeout places—one of which being Ichiraku’s, of course—on the way there. After handing his charges over to the family who’d bought the services of a genin team, Kakashi settles back with his book. He’s really starting to rethink his earlier hesitance about accepting a team; it’s allowing him to lean back and read all day while yelling the occasional order out at his students. As long as he doesn’t think too hard about screwing them all up for life (hey, they’re already pretty screwed up, Kakashi’s pretty certain he can’t make them much worse), Kakashi can deal.

As they day begins to dim, he looks up and sees that the trio had not only painted the fence, but they’d weeded the garden, cleaned the gutters, and are now asking the family if there’s anything else they can do with tired but cheerful voices. Kakashi isn’t used to people who don’t try to duck out of extra work, but he reminds himself that people like that do occasionally exist. Like that Iruka from the missions desk; he must have imparted his odd ways onto his students.

With no additional tasks to do, his students join him.

“We’re done,” Sasuke says. “Can we leave now?”

Well, the cheerful voices had really only been Naruto and Sakura’s. As far as Kakashi knows, Sasuke’s voice doesn’t reach a ‘cheerful’ register. “Yes, yes, you’re all dismissed. I’ll see all of you at six in the morning tomorrow.”

“Don’t worry, if you don’t show up, we’ll find you,” Sakura says sweetly. There’s a certain glint in her eyes. “We know where you live now.”

“…eleven, that’s what I meant,” Kakashi amends. He decides it’s not weak at all to bow to the inevitable, and his two choices seem to be either assign a more reasonable hour or suffer his students’ arrival every morning.

“Yes!” Naruto yells, pumping his fist. “Sleeping in!”

“Sakura and I are getting up at five to train,” Sasuke says with a raised eyebrow. “We’re not waiting for you if you refuse to wake up.”

“Why am I not extended that courtesy?” Kakashi asks.

“Because Naruto didn’t promise he’d meet us at a certain time and then skimp out on us. But don’t worry, we still love you anyway.” Sakura hands him a piece of paper and pen from her weapons pouch. “Also, please sign this permission slip for me to start learning a few things at the hospital.”

“Medic-nin, hm,” Kakashi says as he signs off. “Don’t get into any trouble. The hospital already hates me.”

“No promises,” Sakura says. She snatches the note from him and kisses Naruto and Sasuke’s cheeks. “I’m off to stalk the head medic nin, wish me luck!”

“Good luck!” Naruto calls.

“Let him acclimatize to you first,” Sasuke says, rolling his eyes at Sakura’s innocent look.

And with that, his student runs off, the slip fluttering in her hand. Despite the hard day of training, she still seems to have the energy to run toward the hospital. Kakashi, who’s done nothing at all today but read and have brooding thoughts, feels oddly tired himself. “Well, that was fun, I’ll just—”

Naruto sidles up next to him with those innocently devious blue eyes. “Hey, Kakashi-sensei, can you go shopping with me? You can teach me all about vegetables. You can come too, I guess, Sasuke.”

“Dobe, we live together. Your food is my food.”

Kakashi blinks. “What.”

As they walk to the market, Naruto explains the situation as, “Well, now that we’re a team, we’ve got to support each other, right? Sasuke and Sakura and you are basically my family now, especially since I don’t have any.” He pauses there, just long enough for Kakashi to feel awkward about keeping a few things from Naruto under the Hokage’s orders, and then goes on to say, “So since Sasuke lives alone, I decided to be the bigger man and move in with him to help him out! I mean, what if he accidentally kills himself while training and no one is there?”

Sasuke huffs. “How exactly would you be able to help if I accidentally kill myself during training?”

“I’d resurrect you with the power of my love! Also, the power of, uh, someone else’s love.” In a lower tone, he adds, “We need to fix them!”

“We’re not fixing everyone who told you their sob story,” Sasuke says.

“Of course we are,” Naruto mutters back. (Kakashi doesn’t even want to know. No, that’s a lie, he does, but he doesn’t know if he wants to deal with the consequences of being brought into his team’s insanity.) At a regular volume, Naruto says, “And if we live together, I can cook and Sasuke can do the chores I hate. It works great for us. Sakura still lives with her parents, though, because she says we have to limit our codependency at least a little. I don’t know why, since it’s not like we don’t spend all day together anyway.”

“Maybe she just doesn’t want to deal with your dirty socks everywhere,” Sasuke mutters darkly.

“Sakura loves me anyway,” Naruto says, all smug.

“She’s the only one.”

Naruto faux cries all the way to the market, where he pulls Kakashi over and asks him to explain vegetables to him. Kakashi makes the attempt while watching Sasuke pile a ridiculous amount of tomatoes into his and Naruto’s basket. Whenever he glances down at his own basket, which had appeared in his hand almost like a jutsu, he finds it multiplying with fresh food. When Kakashi runs out of vegetables to name, Naruto says, “I don’t know much about them, but here’s, uh, what a book taught me. You’ll like this turnip recipe I found…”