Kakashi looked up and saw the pink haired girl staring out across the field. How she had appeared, he had no idea. He wasn't the best at chakra sensing like Rin was but he had the best nose in his team - even if Obito was rather a good-for-nothing with no sensory abilities at all and didn't really count, and Kakashi hadn't smelt her approaching.
Perhaps more worryingly was that he had never seen a pink haired girl in the village before, let alone see a kunoichi with that pink. He would recognise that shade of pink. She looked down, her green eyes seeming to sear through him.
"What year is this?" she asked.
"Sandaime 33, or RBG 420 if you go by the Daimyo's calendar," he replied instead of ignoring people as he always did. Her eyes reminded him of his dad the night before he… went away and Kakashi wondered if he could do something to make that look go away. "I've never seen you around."
"I've never been around," she said to him after a long pause. Her eyes watered, her fingers digging into the bark of the branch that she had been sitting on.
Had she been on a long mission? That might make sense on why he had never seen her around. After all, jounin vests were strictly controlled and tagged. It wasn't like it was easy to copy or obtain. Kakashi stared at her and after a moment of hesitation decided to make his way to sit beside her.
She smiled and ruffled his hair, her hand lingering on his head before she replaced them on her lap. "Was it difficult?" Kakashi asked and added when she gave him a confused look. "The mission, was it difficult?"
Her shoulders tensed minutely and he cursed his social awkwardness. It was really none of his business - but that look. Kakashi had to try. He had been too young to recognise the significance on it on the night before his father killed himself, but her on the other hand, he could.
"Very," she replied, her voice hoarse with unshed tears.
Kakashi fingered his red scarf. Hadn't Rin given him her bunny to comfort him because her bunny comforted him? He couldn't give this kunoichi Rin's bunny… Unwrapping his scarf, he handed it to the pink kunoichi, turning his face away. "Here."
"What is this for?"
"You seemed sad. My scarf… it comforts me. Perhaps it could comfort you." Kakashi felt her rough fingertips brush against his hand as she took the scarf.
"Thank you. I will always treasure it."
And when Kakashi turned back, the kunoichi was gone. Not in a shunshin or a flash like Minato-sensei did, just gone.
He was ten when he saw the pink haired kunoichi again. She looked the same, her hair in the same cut, wearing the same jounin vest with the standard issue shirt and pants with his red scarf wrapped around her neck. Her eyes were still sad, but at least she was still alive.
"Hello," Kakashi nodded to her.
"Hello. What year is this?" She smiled a shaky smile at him. Why she chose to resurface after so many years, Kakashi wouldn't know. He wasn't obligated to comfort her except he wanted to, or needed to. Probably in some vague sense of redemption as his therapist would say.
"Sandaime 35. You're still alive."
She chuckled lowly. "I don't know about that. Am I still alive?"
Kakashi felt the hair on the back of his neck stand. "What do you mean by that?" he asked before he could stop himself. Her eyes were green, so very green when she knelt beside him. Her feet were definitely moving the grass at least, a ghost can't move things, right?
"Are you alive when everyone else you know is dead?"
Oh good, not that kind of dead. He scratched his cheek. Kakashi wasn't sure he could entirely relate to the kunoichi's experiences. His parents might be dead, but Minato-sensei and Jiraiya Oji-san had always been there for him.
"Does your heart still beat? Do you still breathe? Do you still hurt?"
She nodded at his words, the words he borrowed from Jiraiya oji-san.
"Then you are still alive. That pain- tells you that you are still alive."
"But how do you tell if all this is real?" she whispered.
At those words, Kakashi snapped his head in her direction, but the spot where she had been sitting was empty. Only the bent grass indicating that her presence hadn't been a fluke.
It felt like a bucket of icy water had tipped over him, colour bleeding from his face as he leapt through a series of deductions. The kunoichi, the woman, was she really a ghost? She had to be. The only other explanation would be that she was a hallucination and Kakashi would never admit to that.
He pressed a hand on the bent grass. The ground was warm like someone had sat on it, like she existed. If she was a ghost, then how was the ground warm?
He was thirteen and just newly promoted to jounin when he saw the ghost again. She looked exactly the same and now that he knew what to look for, he realised that she was exactly the same. Not just the outfit, but even the scuff on her sandals and the dent on her hitai-ate.
The first time he met her, he had been eight. Now five years later, it was impossible that was using the same sandals, wearing the same hitai-ate. All ninjas of Konoha were required to go through an evaluation every three years which meant changing of headbands. A jounin like her would have at least gone through two just from the rise of battles outside of Konoha.
A ghost. He felt the hair on his arms rise and he suppressed the urge to tremble. A ghost was haunting him for some reason. Perhaps being nice to her would make her go away? Kakashi didn't want to be mean to a fellow comrade (ex-comrade?) of Konoha. If he died and was stuck as a ghost, he too would want someone to reach out to him.
"Your name. I never got your name," he told her.
She gave him a weak smile and ruffled his hair. "My name is Sakura."
"Don't ruffle my hair," he whined, pulling his head from her hand.
"Oh, but your hair is so nice to ruffle!" She noogied him and ruffled his hair even harder.
Kakashi whined though he didn't really try to stop her. The ghost's smile was brighter. Perhaps letting her noogie him might let her rest in peace?
"Well I'm jounin now! Jounin's can't be having their hair ruffled."
"Jounin eh?" She patted his head one last time. "Congratulations Kakashi for becoming a jounin! You are going to have a great life ahead of you. I'll make sure of it." She kissed him on his cheek and this time, Kakashi saw her disappearance. Her body slowly turned translucent until only the glowing outline of her was left and even that too disappeared.
Her words unsettled him. What did she mean by that? Were all ghosts omniscient?
He shook his head, forcing the thoughts out of his head and made his way home. It wasn't until he reached home and saw Minato waiting in the living room for him that he finally vocalised the thoughts that had haunted him the entire walk back.
"Sensei? Do you think ghosts are omniscient?"
Minato choked on his water. "What a weird question Kakashi-kun!"
He nodded gravely. "The question, sensei."
"Maybe? I never met a ghost before, I wouldn't know. Why the question?"
Kakashi headed towards his room. "Just wondering."
This time when Sakura appeared, it wasn't years later. He was in the middle of the forest, trying to decide if he should chase after Obito or complete the mission.
"Sakura!" He stared at her in panic. "What should I do!? We have to finish the mission! But Obito-"
She held a hand up and started running towards the direction that he had pointed. Kakashi followed her wordlessly. She was the jounin with more experience and he was just a day old jounin. He wasn't so arrogant to disregard that.
The enemy-nin that came after them did not stand a chance. Sakura spun around, her hands glowing green like Rin, knocking them down with a single tap. Fast and vicious would be the words that Kakashi used to describe her.
When it was all over, they had tracked Obito to a cave and found Rin trapped in a genjutsu she turned and said to Obito and him, "I'm still not sure if this is real, but if you ever meet a little girl with pink hair and green eyes named Haruno Sakura. Tell her that she would be a kickass kunoichi one day."
She knelt down in front of him and traced his cheeks, wrapping the red scarf back around his neck. "Would you do that for me?"
"Yes, okay, okay. We can talk once we are back at the bridge." He nodded and said, picking Rin up.
"Hey, Kakashi?" Sakura chuckled lowly, kissing him on the lips. "You are going to have a great life ahead of you. I'll make sure of it," she murmured. Then with the strength that Kakashi never knew any kunoichi could have, she threw his team and him out of the cave, the rocks behind them collapsing.
"Sakura!" He screamed. "Sakura!"
He dug at the fallen rocks, trying to blink the tears away. If she was a ghost then why did his heart ache?
He was twenty when he finally laid actual eyes on the pink haired girl. It was baffling that girls at this age could be so mean to each other. Tears streaked down her face. The more she scrubbed them away, the more they fell.
The hair colour was exactly like the ghost's. Had she been a ghost? The more Kakashi thought about it, the more uncertain he was of it. Obito had seen her and she had thrown them from that cave. Her fighting skills, as Minato-sensei had said, were that of a legendary sannin that had deserted Konoha a long time ago, A sannin who was definitely not pink-haired. She was a person who shouldn't have existed, couldn't have.
Obito, after mastering his kamui, had attempted to retrieve her body as part of fulfilling a debt that none of them could repay. The jounin vest that he retrieved, the ID that was embedded in the metal plates of the vest, was an ID that did not exist. Not ever. And the DNA from the remains matched a girl who, at that point of time, hadn't even entered academy.
Kakashi leapt off the tree and sauntered over to the pink haired girl, taking a seat beside her. It took her a few minutes to notice his presence and when she did, her crying tapered off.
"What is your name?" he asked her.
Her eyes were green and very much like that Sakura. His heart clenched at her name and the impossibility of that Sakura. There could be only one possibility, no matter how unlikely it seemed.
Kakashi carefully pulled the red scarf off his neck and wrapped it around the little girl. He and his team had kept watch of her through records and the Hokage's crystal ball, long before she entered academy. Though it was first skepticism and out of respect for the kunoichi, Kakashi knew that Minato-sensei, like him, agreed on one thing. No matter what or who this kunoichi had been, they'd fulfil her dying wish.
"This scarf comforts me when I'm sad, perhaps it'll comfort you too." He patted her head. "Don't mind what others say, Sakura. You're gonna be a kickass kunoichi one day."