Summary: Kakashi can't help the whimsical smile on his face as he watches his former students, interacting with one another as if no time has passed. This peace won't last long, he knows. But for right now, in this tiny medical tent, they can all pretend for a little longer that everything is going to work out perfectly. [NarutoWeek2017 – Day 1 - Prompt: "Team 7"]
Disclaimer:This story utilizes characters, situations and premises that are copyright Masashi Kishimoto, Shueisha, Shonen Jump and Viz Media. No infringement on their respective copyrights pertaining to episodes, novelizations, comics or short stories is intended by the author in any way, shape or form. This fan oriented story is written solely for the author's own amusement and the entertainment of the readers. It is not for profit. Any resemblance to real organizations, institutions, products or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All fiction, plot and Original Characters with the exception of those introduced in the books, manga, video games, novelizations and anime, are the sole creation of KuriQuinn and using them without permission is considered rude, in bad-taste and will reflect seriously on your credibility as a writer. You will have chopsticks permanently stuck up your nose should you be found plagiarizing.
Warning:Spoilers for pretty much everything up to Chapter 699.
AN: My contribution to NarutoWeek2017. And don't worry, IoG is still updating later today
While the rest of the world is busy combing the battlefields for the wounded and burying their dead, the original members of Team 7 are forcibly put on bedrest. None of them are very happy about it, but no one is really in the right condition to fight it.
And Tsunade Senju is not a woman to be argued with.
"That's all we need now, is for the saviours of the Shinobi World to drop dead from exhaustion," she remarks imperiously, stepping back into a command role with ease. "You're all going to sit tight and recover your mental and physical faculties before you even think of dealing with other matters – yes, Sakura, that means you too!"
And she stalks out of the tent leaving her apprentice silently fuming.
"Thanks, Sasuke," Naruto sneers, albeit without true malice. "This is all your fault for trying to look cool! And making Sakura have to carry your unconscious ass back here, too!Looks like things haven't changed since we were kids!"
A hand slaps the back of his head, and he winces. "Owww…Sakura, I'm injured! You can't go hitting people in the head that are already hurt!"
"Then don't pretend like you're any better than Sasuke," Sakura chides. "I had to carry you both back here because you hyperventilated yourself into unconsciousness!"
Sasuke smirks. "Loser."
"Honestly, I told you two to take it easy, that was not taking it easy," she goes on, hands on her hips. "I know you had to dispel the Infinite Tsukuyomi, but wouldn't it have made more sense to eat a few ration pills to get your strength up beforehand? Honestly, the two of you are so short-sighted sometimes, I don't even know how you've managed to survive so long. And another thing…"
Kakashi can't help the whimsical smile on his face as he watches his former students, interacting with one another as if no time has passed.
This peace won't last long, he knows.
There's the matter of rebuilding the world following the war, a task he knows he's going to get saddled with (Tsunade has made it pretty plain to him she has no intention of taking back the mantle of Hokage after this is all over). If that's the case, it means he has to invest in getting Naruto rehabilitated and ready to take over as soon as humanly possible, which is a whole other headache. Then there's sorting out all the trouble Sasuke's been causing (he has no idea how he's going to talk the kid out of that metaphorical nest of vipers), and being there for Sakura when the post-traumatic stress finally hits (Naruto and Sasuke have been dealing with this in one form or another their entire lives; Kakashi's not sure how his lone female student will cope).
But for right now, in this tiny medical tent, they can all pretend for a little longer that everything is going to work out perfectly.
Several cots have been squeezed into the small structure, along with trays of bandages and other equipment set aside for their use. Yamato has been brought here as well, and lies utterly still, while IV lines stream medicine and nutritional fluids into his weakened body.
If anyone deserves some rest and relaxation after all this, it's Tenzou…
Kakashi lies supine, his limbs heavy like lead and every thought making his head spin; he's a little dizzy, as well, not used to seeing out of two eyes after so many years forced to rely only on his right. Naruto is a ball of barely contained energy, cross-legged on his cot and bouncing up and down nervously; he's still running on adrenaline. And Sasuke…is twitchy for an altogether different reason.
Despite being in the company of those he considers precious for the first time in years, he looks utterly vulnerable. As if he can't quite figure out how he came to be here or what his next move is meant to be. For someone whose entire life is a series of steps taken to reach a new goal, Kakashi imagines he's feeling a little lost right now.
Sakura paces back and forth, practically chomping at the bit in her concern for the people outside their tent. Every now and then she sits down beside Naruto or Sasuke and rechecks their arms, muttering about their idiocy and all the medical procedures they're going to have to go through once they return to Konoha. Neither boy complains, though, taking her mile-a-minute fretting with heretofore unseen patience.
So much for Tsunade ordering her to rest…
Every now and again, Sakura will suddenly go utterly still and gaze over at Sasuke. Her expression blooms into an expression of such utter joy and love that Kakashi feels as if he is intruding simply by observing it. But before he can look away, it is replaced with something cold and hollow, like she's remembering something horrible, and then she's once more a whirling dynamo of fretting and rambling.
She might not notice the way Sasuke's eyes follow her when she moves around, but Kakashi does. There's no discernable intent behind it, no sudden epiphany or understanding, but Kakashi gets the sense that the foundation for something are being laid in this moment.
He hopes to one day see it come to fruition.
No one talks about the bevvy of guards surrounding the tent, the express purpose of their presence being to ensure that Sasuke Uchiha doesn't go anywhere.
Not that he has any intention of doing so; he surrendered himself to the closest authority the minute the Infinite Tsukuyomi was dispelled, and intends to accept any punishment that he is due.
(That the closest authority was acting Hokage Kakashi Hatake is only coincidence and proximity; Sasuke didn't really get a chance to move much farther from him before passing out due to the combined effects of chakra depletion and blood-loss.)
When Sai arrives, carrying an armful of clothing and rations, he is practically ambushed by Sakura and Naruto ("Naruto, what the hell are you doing! Get back to bed, you're not supposed to be standing!" "But Sakura, he brought ramen! It's crappy military ramen, but still!" "I don't care! Sit down before I make you sit down!" "Huh. It seems being a war hero hasn't made your bedside manner any better, Ugly – ow!"). Kakashi is also curious about the state of affairs, but he can bide his time while Naruto relieves Sai of his burden (ramen first, of course!) and Sakura envelops him in a tight hug.
"I'm glad you're alright," she tells him warmly. "Everything happened so fast before, we lost track of you."
"It's thanks to you guys that I am," Sai replies evenly, and then looks over her shoulder to see Sasuke observing the entire interchange silently. There's a subtle down-turn of Sai's lips, and he slowly pulls away from Sakura.
Approaching the missing-nin with the same wary air of someone facing off against a lion, Sai wanders over to stand before the surviving Uchiha. Naruto and Sakura immediately go still, as if anticipating the need to protect someone – but unsure who should merit that.
"I have read that first impressions tend to irrevocably influence future relationships," Sai begins quietly. "Yet since knowing Naruto and Sakura, I have learned different. I would…not be averse to seeing if my first impressions of you were wrong. At some point in the future, of course."
The tiniest frown appears in Sasuke's forehead at this, not quite sure how to respond.
Sai holds out a spare Allied Shinobi Force uniform and flak-jacket. "This should be in your size, Coward."
Naruto makes a choking noise, and Sakura's cheeks turn an angry red; Kakashi wonders if he's going to have to intervene in yet another teen-angst-fueled altercation.
A moment later, however, something unspoken appears to pass between the two, because Sasuke nods once and replies, "These will be sufficient."
And the tense atmosphere dissipates.
At least he didn't call him "traitor", I guess…
Sakura wastes no time dragging Sai away to lecture him about tact, before switching gears, demanding updates on the world beyond their little tent. She wants to know the status of the wounded, the current supply situation, whether they have to worry about clean drinking water, are any outbreaks of sickness being properly quarantined, and have transports back to the various villages been organized –
"Ino said if I told you anything while you were supposed to be resting that she'd hurt me, and honestly, she scares me more than you do," Sai replies dutifully, causing Sakura to erupt into a furious, anti-Ino rant.
Meanwhile, Naruto has brought back two of the tiny ramen rations to where Sasuke is sitting, and as he waits for the tiny field kettle to boil, chats idly about how he can't wait to return home for Ichiraku ramen.
He regales his friend with stories about the new menu, changes in flavour, the new premises – which leads to a long, drawn-out explanation of how the village was destroyed in Pein's attack. Sasuke listens gravely, no doubt thinking of his own recent goals, and for a wonder Naruto notices, because he quickly changes the subject to happier topics – reuniting with Tazuna and Inabi, how he and Sakura defeated Kakashi's bell test ("Really?" Sasuke says, staring over Kakashi like he doesn't know if he should be judgemental or amused about the entire thing.) and how even after everything, Condor the Ninja ostrich is still alive and kicking.
(Sasuke looks comically disgruntled at this news.)
The warm reminisces are interspersed with good-natured teasing. It feels a little bit forced, but everyone appreciates it all the same.
Naruto grumbles. "Real asshole move, Sasuke, taking the hand I use to hold my chopsticks…"
"Tch. It's your own fault for not becoming ambidextrous," Sasuke retorts, and then utterly invalidates his argument by slopping his own ration down his front.
"Come on, Sai," Sakura sighs out loud, "let's help them before someone ends up with chopsticks up their nose…"
"Is such a thing an actual medical concern?" Sai wonders, although he dutifully follows Sakura and proceeds to help Naruto; it isn't even a question that Sakura will see to Sasuke.
Kakashi chuckles and pulls himself into a sitting position, reaching for the pile of clean clothing. Bathing is a long way off, but he wants to get rid of the sticky, itching sensation of dried blood against his skin.
He thinks nothing of stripping off his blood-stained, torn clothing right there. Battlefield conditions leave little room for modesty, and besides – they're all men here, and Sakura is a medic that's changed his bedpans and seen him in various states of undress over the years thanks to his propensity for landing himself in the hospital.
They're a far cry from the easily embarrassed youngers he was responsible so long ago –
"Kakashi-sensei," Sakura says suddenly, while he is in the process of tossing aside his ruined flak jacket, "you should really take off that mask. There's got to be a lot of blood and other toxins on it that have dried. You don't want to be breathing that in while you're recovering."
Her words are delivered in the usual matter-of-fact manner of a physician, and yet there's something entirely too innocent about it.
Dimly, Kakashi notices that Naruto and Sasuke have gone utterly and completely still, though their gazes have abruptly zeroed in on his face.
A long-forgotten memory hits him then, bringing with it a tidal wave of nostalgia, and Kakashi can't help smirk.
Ah. So that's what this is…
"You're right," he says, solemnly, surreptitiously sneaking a nearby surgical mask into his hand. "I definitely don't want to breathe anymore toxins in, especially in my weakened state."
He reaches for the bottom of his shirt to pull it and his mask over his head, and in a move that even Sasuke's Sharingan couldn't track, he fits it over his face.
"Much better," he declares to his staring former genin squad.
The so-called Neo Sannin all slouch forward, exhaling in united frustration.
"Still?" Sasuke asks.
"Still," Naruto and Sakura chorus.
Sai just looks confused.
We're going to be alright, Kakashi realises.
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