Whether a higher power exists or not, Kakashi is sure that he’s been condemned with a cruel and bitter fate. Perhaps, in his past life (if something like that even exists), he was a saint. Perhaps, now, the universe has gotten bored and has decided to explore a different side of Hatake Kakashi. After all, there are two sides to a coin.
The sky is expressionless when Kakashi’s hand pierces through the bones and sinews of his closest friend. The sky is indifferent when blood splatters across Kakashi’s face and this shinobi, who has sinned time and time again, recoils in disbelief. The sky is merciless as it cries and Kakashi cries with it. Electricity crackles and sparks on the tips of his fingers as freezing air whips across his skin. As he falls to the ground, Kakashi sobs for this is who he is: a silent killer.
Rebirth, a once potentially appealing concept, has overestimated him. In this life, he is a killer. In this life, Kakashi seeks death as easily as he grants it. He is ruthless, yet fragile, and Kakashi hates every single thing about it, about himself.
On the other hand, Tenzō, still a child, loves every space and crevice there is to his leader’s heart. As a shinobi, Kakashi is flawless. As a captain, Kakashi is perfect. As a person, Kakashi is exceptionally flawed.
Tenzō, however, is in no place to judge him.
They are both still children. They are soldiers before they are orphans. They are tools and pawns before they are kids. They are slaves to the state before they are villagers.
In this space, they meet each other under unfortunate circumstances. Through each other, they learn the meanings of acceptance and friendship. At last, as intelligent as they are, they learn one more word: saviour.
Tenzō is twelve years old when Kakashi turns sixteen. They’ve both grown up far too quickly, but Tenzō still has at least a small bit of innocence to spare as he adds one more flower to his makeshift bouquet.
He isn’t a professional like the Yamanaka’s are, but he thinks his arrangement is sufficient. Tenzō smiles, brushing away the strands of chestnut hair that fall over his eyes. He stands up and makes a barely noticeable sign with his hands. His palms and fingers press together in a meticulous manner, watching as a small piece of pale wood wraps itself around the stems of his flowers. It ties itself off and, to Tenzō’s pleasant surprise, it holds. His control over his jutsu has improved significantly.
In the bouquet are disorganized clutters of irises, carnations, daisies, and camellias. Recently, Tenzō has been occupying Konoha’s library during his short times away from the ANBU. Flowers have been his newfound interest for about a week now.
Kakashi is sitting in a tree overlooking the campsite when Tenzō finds him. His captain’s mask, specifically the one assigned to him by another ANBU operative, is not on his face this time. Instead, it is resting on its owner’s lap as Kakashi peruses a book with a bright orange cover.
Tenzō’s never seen Kakashi with that book before. Perhaps it’s a new addition to the library, he ponders. He makes a mental note to ask Kakashi about the book next time. After all, an esteemed shinobi like Kakashi must have a fantastic taste in literature.
“Senpai?” Tenzō calls as he subconsciously gets on his tiptoes to somehow match Kakashi’s height in the tree. “Are you busy?”
“I am,” Kakashi responds, sparing his teammate a glance. “What do you want?”
“I have something to give you.”
“A gift,” Tenzō clarifies.
“Huh… a gift?” Kakashi wonders aloud, suddenly curious as he marks his place in the book before pocketing it.
“Yes, do you want to see it?” Tenzō asks, hiding the flowers behind his back.
The first thing Kakashi notices about Tenzō is how unnecessarily strained his face appears to be. It makes Kakashi want to laugh behind the black fabric of his mask. He’s hiding something.
“I want to give it to you down here.”
“Maa, Tenzō, you ask far too much from me.”
Internally, Kakashi asks himself if this had been Yugao or Kō, would he have jumped down from the tree as quickly as he did just now?
“There. Here I am,” Kakashi announces. “What is it? What did you get me?”
“I thought really hard about this,” Tenzō tells him, shifting back and forth to avoid the attempts Kakashi makes to see what his subordinate is so keen on hiding. “So I hope you like it.”
Kakashi doesn’t get the chance to make a snide comment when a bouquet of flowers smacks him in the face. A few petals dislodge themselves from the flowers, landing in Kakashi’s hair. The older boy sneezes, causing Tenzō to jolt in surprise.
“Ah, are you okay, senpai?!” Tenzō frets through a sudden outbreak of laughter.
With a blush quickly approaching the tops of his ears, Kakashi nods. Honestly, he’s become a little flustered, he realizes with his fingers curling around the bouquet.
“You got me flowers,” Kakashi says, white and pink petals still in his hair. “Why?”
“I’ve moved on from architecture and saw a few books on flowers in the library last week,” Tenzō explains, gesturing wildly with his hands; it’s a habit that frequently appears when he’s nervous. “Flowers are more than just pretty things, Kakashi-senpai. Did you know that?”
“Ah, well!” Tenzō splutters, hands on his hips. “These ones reminded me of you.”
“Hm, did they?” Kakashi asks, pressing his face into the flowers to hide his embarrassment.
“Do you know what they mean?” Tenzō inquires, admiring his captain’s change in behaviour.
This time, Kakashi shakes his head. Finally, Tenzō thinks, something that his captain doesn’t know. Excitement rushes up the shorter boy’s spine at electrifying speed.
“Would you like me to tell you?”
Kakashi recomposes himself, lowering the bouquet and allowing Tenzō to search for an expression in what is left uncovered by his mask: his eyes.
“Maa, since we have some time to spare, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt.”
Tenzō stops himself from pumping his fist in the air as he relishes in his silent victory.
“And this one represents gratitude,” Tenzō finally finishes.
Kakashi swallows the lump in his throat, refusing to meet his teammate’s eyes as Tenzō leans closer and closer until his chin is perched on Kakashi’s bicep.
Right now, as Kakashi doesn’t push Tenzō away, there are no boundaries between them. Right now, they are innocent and rid of sin. Right now, they are the kids they deserve to truly be.
“You’ve… You’ve learned a lot about flowers,” Kakashi states, not knowing what else to say since he thinks he would rather sink into the ground than voice his embarrassment.
“Yes,” Tenzō nods vigorously, letting some passion seep into his voice. “They’re all so pretty and have such different meanings. Anthuriums, for example, symbolize happiness and are very beautiful. Although an amaranthus is just as beautiful, they signify hopelessness.
“The librarian told me that an alternative name for an amaranthus is ‘love lies bleeding.’”
When Tenzō brings his explanation to a conclusion, he gives Kakashi a long, unbreaking stare.
“Love lies bleeding,” Kakashi repeats, trying to remember the last time he saw an amaranthus flower in Konoha, but maybe he never has. “Does that make sense to you, Tenzō?”
In response, Tenzō shrugs, but he never breaks eye contact with his captain.
“Maa, me neither,” Kakashi answers his own question, scratching the back of his head.
But they do know. They know it far too well.
“Did you like the gift, Kakashi-senpai?” Tenzō asks, tearing Kakashi away from the previous subject. The former is blushing a little himself as he scratches his own cheek. “I apologize if it was too personal. You’re my captain, our captain — I shouldn’t have —”
“It’s okay. Stop apologizing,” Kakashi assures, not noticing the way he cradles the bouquet to his chest. “I did like it.”
“Oh, good… good!” Tenzō smiles, forcing himself to not break out into an ear to ear grin.
“Cute,” Kakashi says aloud with his eyes lowered.
A week later, Tenzō is still wondering if Kakashi was talking about him or the flowers.