Tsunade, much to Kakashi's disgruntlement, had left him a massive pile of paperwork to do. One of his objectives was to streamline the process, because he wasn't going to make ten-hour days hunched over a desk a habit. The only thing that made the morning bearable was the lunch waiting for him at Ms. Tokushima's house. It was with great relief when he heard a knock on the door.
The visitor was Kasumi, the kunoichi from Mist who had challenged Anko to a drinking contest. She bore no marks of the previous night's alcoholic binge fest and looked unusually cheerful.
"Hokage Kakashi Hatake," she said in a sly tone as she bared her sharp pointed teeth. "It's so good to see you again." She twisted her violet hair in her hands and pinned it atop her head. "Who would have thought a man like you would have taken a post like this? I would never have guessed."
Kakashi frowned. "What are you doing here, Kasumi? Beside's the free alcohol at the festival and a nose for trouble, that is."
She fluttered her eyes at him as she reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a small box. "I needed to give you a gift from the Mizukage, one that I am required to watch you open so I can deliver a message."
Kakashi took the small box from Kasumi warily. He got along well enough with the Mizukage considering he had stolen most of her jutsus when they had been teenagers. She only tried to kill him once when he was in Kiri.
He took his time as he opened the package, making sure that he didn't tear any of the delicate paper that covered it. When he was finished, he found a glass statue of a turtle that was filled with water.
"The statue is a symbol of Water Country's alliance with Fire, and it is the Mizukage's fervent hope that peace will have the longevity of such a noble creature. She also believes that someone like you would overlook the décor of your office." Kasumi slid off the coat from her shoulders and let it fall to the ground.
He chuckled and placed the turtle on an empty shelf behind him. "I haven't gotten around to opening many of the gifts I have received." He rapped his knuckles on the new desk. "I only received this yesterday."
Kasumi pointed her finger at the only other object in the barren room. "And what is the story behind that rock?"
Kakashi sat back down in his chair. "Earth Country would like to symbolize the ongoing peace by giving me a boulder. 'May it prevail and be steadfast as this large and ugly rock . ' I just left it there for lack of a better place."
She snorted and walked around the desk, sitting on the edge and placing a foot on his armrest. "I miss you."
Kakashi ignored the long expanse of exposed leg and raised an eyebrow at her in disbelief. "Somehow I really doubt that."
Kasumi slipped a foot out of her boot and placed it on Kakashi's lap. "I miss the lovely pedicures you used to give me." She wiggled her toes.
He scooted his chair back to allow her foot to fall back on the floor. "I don't give pedicures. You probably have me confused with one of your other hundreds of ex-lovers."
Kasumi laughed. "Yeah, yeah. Can't fool you, can I Kashi? And you don't give yourself enough credit. There aren't many who can keep up with me and quite frankly, most of the men I dumped were simply up to your standards. It's a pity it didn't work out between us."
Kakashi rolled his eyes. "It didn't work out because you are ruthless and conniving. And no, I'm not going to give our relationship another try."
"Why not?" She pouted at him, a move that brought absolutely no pity from Kakashi since he knew it was faker than Sai's smile.
"You hooked up with another man."
"It was just that once!"
"Right," replied Kakashi in a dry tone. "It was just the one time, during our mission posing as a married couple. And then you tried to blame the failure of the assignment on me."
"Don't be so sensitive, Kashi. That was over ten years ago. You got back at me by messing up my genin team two years later. Do you know how annoying it was for the next six months? All three of them were crying in their sleep! It's a miracle we weren't attacked by an enemy ninja squad that could hear them." A genuine smile was threatening to break out her lips.
"I thought it was a valuable lesson in teamwork." He shuffled some of the paperwork on his desk into a pile. "It is time to move on. We don't get along that well and you even tried to eat me once." Kakashi subconsciously rubbed the scar above his lip.
"It was only a nibble," Kasumi said coyly, all pretense of indignation gone.
"Well, thank you for that clarification. If you'll excuse me, I have an exciting journey to look forward to. Be thankful you are still free to roam." He waved his hand at the piles of paperwork by his feet.
The smile fell from her face. "I saw him, that old student of yours. He was giving us some trouble in Mist two weeks ago."
"Yeah, him. There is a school yard on the outskirts of the village. He attacked in the middle of the day and tried to slaughter everyone there. The only reason he didn't succeed was because of a summoning jutsu that brought jonin to that exact location. Twelve students, three teachers, and dozens of civilians were killed. Uchiha escaped because we were faced with the choice of rescuing some of our students from a collapsing building or chasing him down. We chose to let him go. By the time the trail was picked up again, Uchiha had disappeared.
"The Mizukage wants some immediate action against him. He's very lucky that his attempt to join Atkatsuki was so pathetic that he didn't actually do anything against Mist. When the Mizukage heard that you became Hokage she wanted me to impart how very important it is for you to take care of the situation."
Kakashi nodded. "Naruto is at the border of Fire Country waiting for him. However, Sasuke has yet to show his face."
"That is not good enough!" Kasumi's fist slammed against the table.
"I know." Kakashi stood up from his chair and lifted up her coat from the floor. "The only other option we have is to lure Sasuke here by his own choice, which is rather difficult since he has very few reasons to return. And searching for him is useless because he's genjutsu skills can get him out of most situations before most people are unaware of what is going on."
"But are you working on a solution? I don't want to tell the Mizukage that you're working on it and find out you haven't done anything. Hokage or not, I'll kick your ass." She leaned over and placed a finger on his chest.
"It happens to be my top priority." He brushed aside her hand and tapped at the desk with his foot. "This entire drawer is filled with information about Sasuke Uchiha. I have a plan that should work. If the mission doesn't succeed by winter's end, I'll send word to the other Kages."
"All right, I trust you on this Kashi." Kasumi removed the coat from his hands and made her way to the door. Kakashi followed her down the steps in silence and thought about the strange development.
"No." Sakura shook her head at Kiba. "You're wrong about that."
Kiba leaned back in his chair. "Naruto told me before he left for the border this morning. Kakashi's definitely gay."
Sakura rolled her eyes. Everyone else at the table was looking at Kiba with outright astonishment, even Shikamaru. Ino, in particular, looked particularly intrigued by this tidbit of news. Sakura knew the news would be running throughout the village by the end of the day if she didn't do something to stop it. It was supposed to be her private joke with Kakashi.
"Was Naruto sober when he told you that? Because when he stopped at my apartment last night to share the news, he could barely stand upright."
Kiba shrugged in guilt. "Uh... We were pretty drunk last night."
"Right," Sakura said. "And you do realize that if Kakashi finds out that your spreading a fake rumor he can make your life very difficult. He is in charge of handing out all the missions now." She saw Ino lean back in her seat as her best friend lost interest. Success.
"Okay, okay. I'll keep my mouth shut." Kiba removed a large chunk of pork off his plate and tossed it out the open window next to him where Akamaru was sitting. "I could be wrong. Maybe Kakashi isn't gay."
"I'm sorry, what were you just saying?"
Sakura looked up at the speaker, a jonin who was sitting at a table next to them. Shizune and Kurenai were eating lunch with him and had abandoned their food to listen in. She recognized the man, although for the moment she found herself struggling to remember his name.
"I've been his friend for years. I can tell you he's not gay." He removed the senbon from his mouth and pointed out the window. "In fact, that's his ex-girlfriend passing by right now."
Everyone at the table turned their head to look at the woman making her way down the street. Sakura's jaw dropped open when she recognized the violet-haired woman who won the drinking contest from last night. The competition had been a weird one and everyone had been talking about it in the morning. While Anko had pounded drinks down at the table, the woman had poured herself a glass and mingled about the crowd. And then poured herself another. Then she picked up an abandoned glass at a table and polished it off. Then she picked up a bottle and downed the whole thing while swaying to music playing. Anko had been expecting a straight-forward challenge, and the Mist woman wouldn't oblige. By the end of the night, Anko was at the hospital and the kunoichi from Mist looked as unruffled as ever. And she had drunk twice as much.
The jonin at the table sighed. "Her name is Kasumi and she and Kakashi have been an item off and on for about ten years. There's no way he would have stuck around with her if he was gay. She's one of the most infuriating women I've ever met."
"She looks pretty unhappy right now," observed Kurenai. "When I talked to her last night she spoke of giving the relationship another try. He must have turned her down."
"That's more proof Kakashi is gay," replied Chouji. Sakura had a sudden urge to strangle him.
Kiba gave a flirtatious whistle as the woman passed. She paused, looked inside, and began to make her way in the restaurant.
"What the hell did you do that for!" hissed the jonin. "Now she's going to come over here."
Kiba grinned. "I know. Maybe we can squeeze a bit of information out of her."
Sakura saw a vein throb in the jonin's face. "Unlikely, that woman's way out of your league."
"Genma Shiranui. It's so good to see you again."
"Hello, Kasumi. He's the one that whistled at you." Genma pointed to Kiba.
"Oh?" She turned to Kiba and gave him a very obvious look over. "Whistle at me again and I will remove your tongue and tie you up with it."
Kiba gave a smile, showing off the prominent canines in his mouth. "Kinky."
The woman gave a coy smile that displayed her own sharp teeth, and Sakura suddenly felt very sorry for Kiba. The premonition doubled when she heard Genma moan in distress.
"You like it rough?" She asked as her finger caressed the marks on Kiba's face. "I should have known. Your sister was the same way."
Kiba pulled back in horror, titling over his chair and flopping on the floor. The table burst out in laughter as he struggled to right himself.
"Shiranui, perhaps you can answer this question. Who's the girl?"
Genma frowned. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"I was turned down and that never happens. If I find out you had something to do with Kashi's change in attitude, I'll get you back for it." She crossed her arms in annoyance.
"Maybe Kakashi doesn't like you anymore," said Sakura. There was something about Kasumi's little nickname for him that set her teeth on edge. Cutesy nicknames didn't suit him at all. "It is possible."
Kasumi arched her eyebrow. "Don't be stupid. If there is one thing that Kakashi enjoys in a relationship, it's a power struggle. He wants his lover to be an equal, not a dowdy little sycophant." She gave Sakura a very purposeful look up and down. "I'm sure you wouldn't understand."
Sakura felt her anger flare and opened her mouth to retort back. But out of the corner of her eye, she could see Kiba wiggle in excitement. She caught him mouthing the word "catfight" and snapped her mouth shut. There was no way in hell she was fighting over Kakashi.
The woman smiled in triumph when Sakura backed down and turned back to Genma. "He'll come back to me. In the meantime, try not to ruin him for me." Kasumi made her way out of the restaurant.
Shizune shook her head as she watched the kunoichi walk away. "Kakashi has been changing some of his old habits. I think she might be one of them. Rumor has it he hasn't been late to one thing yet."
Sakura rolled her eyes. She gave Kakashi a month before he returned to his lax ways. She heard the others give murmurs of agreement.
Genma chuckled. "Listen, you may think you know Kakashi. But you don't remember him when he was young. He was an unrelenting hard-ass even then. Later, he became one of the top ninja who often went on missions unassisted. Then he became a respected squad leader. He takes the old, mixes in something new, and becomes just a little bit different. Some people are afraid to change, and that's the difference between a standard ninja and the elite. I don't know what he's going to do now, but it looks like he has already started on something big."
For this, Obito would forgive him.
At least, it was Kakashi's fervent hope that he would. If there was one thing his well-meaning, if not slightly dense, teammate had enjoyed, it was watching Kakashi make a fool of himself. And when Kakashi had taken the Sharingan as his own he made several promises. He would protect the village as best as he could and watch out for his teammates. And every time he stood in front of the monument he reflected on the future of the village and how he could do better. Some in the village viewed it as a morbid habit, an obsession that was tinged with guilt and stunted his emotional growth. But the truth was that Kakashi gained clarity every time he visited the memorial. He had plenty of talent as a youth, but he hadn't understood what a ninja's role was until that fateful incident. And as regrettable as it was that Obito had to die in order to give him that knowledge, he was forever grateful to his friend.
As much as he had wanted to respectfully decline the post as Hokage, Kakashi had to accept. Yes, it was full of politics, budgets, and tedious paperwork that he despised. However, he could no more decline the post than stop the sun from rising. Tsunade's request immediately set his mind spinning with long-term goals.
His father had given him a small scroll that detailed his family history the day he became a genin. Kakashi had hidden the scroll for the past few decades in a small box between old blankets. He had pulled it out to reread it when he accepted the position of Hokage, despite the fact he knew every word on the scroll by heart.
He did not have massive wealth to support the village or a clan. Instead his family had chosen a different fashion to make their mark in the village. Kakashi, his father, and his grandfather had all served Konoha by being loyal in mind and heart, almost to a fault.
This pledge of devotion didn't seem like much. Kakashi had recited a similar mantra when he became a genin, but it wasn't the same. They were simply words that held no meaning, evidenced by the actions of traitors. Clans were notorious for having deserters since they had a great deal of village secrets locked away in their minds. The hearts of the rich could sway once an opportunity for money came along. Politicians conspired, businessmen swindled, and the list of the disloyal continued.
Kakashi's great-aunt had married the daimyo of Fire Country. His grandfather had died in the second war after saving the Third Hokage. His father had become the famous White Fang and was among the village's most revered ninja. The dishonor that came eventually drove him mad and suicidal since he was so desperate to redeem himself. Kakashi always assumed he would die in battle as well, but his new title provided him with a new option.
The Hokage shaped the future of the village by giving guidance to the children in the Academy and inspiring the ninja in his ranks. The village was still hurting from the amount of backroom politics that had been present since its very foundation. Kakashi's goal was to heal those wounds.
It was for these noble reasons that he was standing half-naked in Ms. Tokushima's living room, waiting for her to emerge from the back room.
"Excellent, you've already taken off your clothes," Ms Tokushima said in a far too cheerful voice. She placed the basket of sewing supplies on a table and pulled out a measuring tape. She wrapped it around his waist and jotted down the measurement on a piece of paper.
Kakashi closed his eyes lazily, hearing the measuring tape snap as it pulled taut. He took a deep breath to inhale the rich smell of food that was bubbling on the stove.
"Do you have any preference in design?" She poked at his ribs.
"Not that I can think of." Kakashi thought it was best to leave the fashion choices to someone who knew what they were doing.
The elderly lady hummed in thought. "Perhaps a little color for accents?"
"Perhaps," he said with hesitance. He opened his eyes to see Ms. Tokushima pull out a swatch of bright yellow cloth and hold it to his face. Kakashi had a vision of himself dressed head to toe in a lemon yellow suit. To his relief, she put it down and reached for another color, this one a deep red. She clucked and set it down once more.
"I prefer darker colors," he said helpfully. "Light ones make me look anemic."
Ms. Tokushima stepped down from the stool she had been standing on. "We can't have the outfit too dark. It will make you look dangerous and imposing."
"I am dangerous and imposing," Kakashi replied as he courteously moved the stool in a new place for her.
Ms. Tokushima patted him on the forearm. "I'm sure you are. Well, I suppose there are always the classics to fall back on. Now let's get down to the details. How many pockets would you like?"
Kakashi hummed in thought. "Six should be sufficient." He glanced at his clothes that were folded on the chair, seeing the familiar lump of his Icha Icha book.
Ms. Tokushima reached for the measuring tape again. "Would you like a coat for the colder months?"
"That would be nice," he said, thinking of the Fourth Hokage's famous garment. Kakashi had never admitted how awesome he thought it was, preferring to let Obito and Rin voice his admiration. The tape slipped between his legs to measure the width of his thigh.
"What are your intentions for Sakura?"
"Intentions?" He looked at Ms. Tokushima, trying to ignore how the tape had mysteriously slid higher and was now digging into unfortunate areas of his crotch. He wondered if she was related to Ibiki.
"I saw the way you looked at her last night," she said.
Kakashi cleared his throat and the tape became tighter. It was clear that he wouldn't get out of this one. "I am attempting to bombard Sakura with my good looks, charm, and personality so she grows hopelessly attracted to me and calls off her engagement with the daimyo's son."
The measuring tape was removed as Ms. Tokushima put back the supplies in her basket. "I see. And how is that working out?"
"It's somewhat successful, but she's scared." He shrugged. "I can only to do so much about it. If I cross a line she'll never speak to me again."
Ms. Tokushima crossed her arms. "Do you love her?"
Kakashi's jaw tightened as he looked at the short old woman in front of him. The last time someone had asked such a question, he had been drinking. Even though his muddled head had struggled to come up with a response, it was one he found satisfactory. But now he was completely sober, half-naked, and there were no excuses. And as much had he wanted to give the same response, to say he simply cared for her, the words wouldn't come out of his mouth. He had chosen Sakura because she was a logical choice. But now there was a file with her name on it in his desk drawer. Its mere existence made it impossible to lie to himself and it was the reason he hadn't even contemplated Kasumi's advances.
Kakashi Hatake, like the rest of his family, was loyal in mind and heart.
Sakur received her first summon to the Hokage Tower a week later. She made certain to show up on time; the village had been talking about Kakashi's strict observance of the schedule the entire week. Rumor had it that Kakashi forced a D-ranked mission for every minute late.
The door was already open when Sakura arrived in the later afternoon. She poked her head in and was surprised to see a mess of random items strewn about the room.
Kakashi's voice could be heard from behind a mountain of boxes. "Close the door behind you and take a seat. I'm nearly done."
Sakura made her way around a large boulder and over to one of the chairs in front of his desk. She could hear the crinkle of wrapping paper.
"What are you doing?" She lifted up one of the ornamental fans that were placed on his desk.
"Opening presents. I managed to get most of the paperwork from the week finished."
She saw his hand reach up from behind the stack of boxes and place a photograph on the shelf against the wall.
Sakura's jaw dropped in astonishment when he emerged from his hiding spot. Kakashi had traded in his familiar clothes for something new and Sakura was finding it very difficult to concentrate.
It was a well-known fact that ANBU uniforms were Konoha's choice aphrodisiac. The combination of tight black clothing and armor was synonymous with power and intensity. And someone, some fool of a person, decided it was a good idea if Kakashi wore an outfit that was inspired by the uniforms.
The grey armor had morphed into a sleek vest that was more for decoration than defense. It was a lighter tone than the actual guards but it matched his hair color to give it a striking look. His mask was sewn onto the black shirt and had gained sheer sleeves. Kakashi had eliminated the forehead protector and replaced it with a thin strip of black cloth.
Sakura had seen a similar style when she was in Snow Country a few weeks ago. Businessmen liked to take ninja style as their own, modeling the look in their own shallow attempts to display power. But unlike those people, Kakashi had the skill to back it up. Sakura could see the outline of the Anbu tattoo that showed his many years in the organization.
"Nice clothes," she said weakly when Kakashi turned his attention to her.
He beamed at her. "Thank you. Ms. Tokushima tailored it for me. I was a bit worried at first, but I'm quite pleased with the results.
Sakura nodded as she clenched her fists around the armrests. Didn't her neighbor remember how she and Ino used to scope out the Anbu ninja that were crossing rooftops from her balcony? This new look was going to make it very difficult for some people to concentrate on his words.
She glanced at Kakashi's forearms again before forcing her eyes to stare at the pile of cardboard boxes in the corner.
"I have a task for you." He opened up a drawer in his desk and placed a thick file in front of her. "Take a look at the information."
The file had her name scrawled on it in Tsunade's handwriting. Hesitantly, she opened it up to find notes on optic nerves. Sakura flipped forward and noticed the information had shifted to chakra pathways. She frowned in puzzlement. Most of this information had been taught to her by Tsuande years ago. She flipped ahead and her hand froze mid-turn when she saw a photograph of a Sharingan eye. She darted a look at Kakashi hoping to get some indication of what it was about, but he was busy working on some paperwork before him. Sakura continued to skim the file, and was unsettled to see that the rest of the file was about the Sharingan. Its images sent shivers down her arms.
The last ten pages consisted of the health history of someone named Obito. Sakura took her time to read this information. When she was finished she looked up. Sakura wanted to believe that the file was a joke, that she had misconstrued the meaning of the papers in her lap. Kakashi, however, looked at her with that serious expression of his, and her stomach plummeted.
Look underneath the underneath, her mind whispered.
Sakura experienced double vision, as if she were the one that saw the world through two different sets of eyes. Kakashi looked like the rich people she had met in Snow, but she could also see the fighter in him. It said something about him that even his choice in wardrobe modeled one of the lessons he had stressed. She could see the familiar traces of her teacher and also the man who had proposed to her. Kakashi was evolving and on the precipice of something new.
"Does this mean…" Her words faltered. A part of her desperately wanted to keep her mouth shut so things would stay the same. But there was no other reason he would have given her this file if his mind wasn't already set. Sakura held on to the file with a tight grip and tried again.
"Does this mean you want to turn off the Sharingan?"