A Little Family Get-Together

...o.O I think this is as close as I get to fluff. Hope you're happy, Chevira. XDXD

As Kakashi is just turning 26, his canon age for Naruto Part 1, this is set pretty early in the series. Maybe somewhere around the Zabuza arc. I don't think there are any spoilers to speak of.
He is twenty-six this year. He feels more like fifty. Or maybe a hundred.

It is September the fifteenth, also known as Hatake Kakashi's birthday, and the legendary Copy Ninja of Konoha is contemplating ways to celebrate.

Throw himself off a cliff? Nah, too melodramatic. Spend the whole day in the gym, maybe? Volunteer for a grueling S-ranked mission? Provoke Gai or somebody into beating him unconscious? Get completely shitfaced drunk? Stay at home, lock the door and read porn all night?

Well, the last two have possibilities.

Kakashi doesn't like his birthday very much.

He doesn't like himself very much, any more than he ever did, and he doesn't like being reminded of all his other birthdays and all the shit that has transpired in his life up to now, and all the people that were alive for his last birthday and aren't for this one, and he especially doesn't like being the center of attention. And on his birthday he's exactly that to everybody he can't get away from. He's gotten to where he never tells anybody the date, but it's in his public records with the village, of course, and most of the other Jounin already know, so it's not like he can really keep it a secret. He always gets a few presents and everybody always smiles at him and wishes him a happy birthday like there was actually something special about it. If he were a less even-tempered man, he'd be tempted to say a few choice words back to them. Hell, he has once or twice, back when he was younger and angrier and not so much with the self-control. But he always felt a little guilty afterwards. He knows they all mean well, and he certainly isn't out to step on anyone's feelings.

So this year he's sitting in a tree out on the fringes of Konoha's business district, not exactly in hiding but not exactly in any place anybody would go looking for him either, and trying to think of some way to avoid the inevitable.


...Well, there goes that bright idea.

Sakura and Naruto run up to his tree, all smiles, waving at him in greeting. Sasuke follows afterwards at a more leisurely pace, hands shoved in his pockets, glancing off to one side with an expression somewhere between disgruntled and embarrassed. It's business as usual for his Team 7.

"Ah- Good morning, everybody," he says good-naturedly, giving them a smile and a little wave as he hops down to meet them.

"There you are, good morning! Happy birthday, Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura greets him brightly, and for the thousandth time he is glad of his mask because he doesn't think she notices the way her words make him wince. Naruto greets him with equal or greater exuberance, and he narrowly avoids getting tackled to the ground in a hug. The blonde boy is surprisingly touchy-feely at times. Sasuke just gives him his usual nod.

See, they're already treating him differently than usual - not once has anybody complained about him keeping them waiting. He knows it's been nearly an hour since they were supposed to meet at the bridge.

Damn, he hates his birthday.

"What are you three up to?" he wonders, smiling again. "Sorry, I was on my way, but I got lost in thought and just-"

"Don't worry about it, sensei," Sakura beams, and Kakashi is twice as irritated, because on any other day she'd've attempted to tackle him and make with the mauling by now, and for her to go so far as to actually forgive his lateness is turning this into an episode of the Twilight Zone. He narrowly restrains himself from asking whether she's all right, not sure whether it would come out as sincere-sounding or sarcastic.

There aren't very many things that actually irritate Kakashi anymore. He supposes this is just one of those last stubborn holdovers from his misled youth.

"I was actually late too," she continues with a laugh, and he blinks, not having expected this turn of events. "Your present took a little longer to be all finished than I thought it would."

Ahh. Of course. Now with the presents.


"Oh, well, that's all right," he says, a little embarrassedly. "You really didn't have to get me anything," no, really, "but it's sweet of you."

Sakura smiles at him. "I hope you like it."

They spend the morning in training, but around noon, his three students insist it's time for his birthday festivities to begin. He's about to insist they just keep working - really, this time he even has the perfect excuse - but the looks on their faces are so hopeful and sincere, and even Sasuke seems to be guardedly watching for his reaction, and he can't bring himself to disappoint them.

He didn't realize they were quite this fond of him. It makes the whole business slightly more tolerable... But only slightly.

Naruto's present is fairly predictable, but pleasant nonetheless - he treats not only Kakashi, but the whole unit to big bowls of ramen at the Ichiraku (naturally having some for himself, as well). Genin don't make much money, since they're new recruits and most still have families to provide for them; Kakashi ponders the amount of saving the boy must have done to be able to pay for all four people at once, and feels simultaneously flattered and a little guilty as he eats his ramen. It's gone just in time for his unit to whirl around expectantly only to find he's already replaced his mask over his face, hiding a mischevious smile. He gives Naruto his very amused thanks.

Sakura wears a disappointed pout as she goes to work finishing her own bowl, and Kakashi watches her wolf down the food with no small amount of curiosity. She rises and immediately rushes off without a word after she's done.

"Eh? Where's she going?" he wonders, blinking.

"To get your present," Naruto says with a grin and an expansive gesture. "She didn't want to carry it around all morning and mess it up, so it's at her house."

Kakashi hates his birthday, so he is ashamed to feel a little shred of curiosity at what the girl might have picked out for him.

A little while later, they meet her in the park nearby, and she holds out a long, narrow case with a grin of accomplishment. "Here you go. Careful, I think the ink's all dried, but I might've missed some spots."

He feels privileged and proud, for some reason, as he unrolls the long scroll inside to find truly beautiful calligraphy staring up at him.

"Sorry, it's probably a stupid haiku," Sakura murmurs, glancing away with sudden self-consciousness. Kakashi reads it. It's a poem about dusty summer sun and scarecrows and wide open spaces, and it's lovely, and the script is as gorgeous as he has ever seen coming from the hand of a twelve-year-old girl. He gives her a pat on the head, truly pleased in spite of himself.

"It's beautiful. Thank you."

"You... really like it? You're not just saying that?" she asks hesitantly. He smiles again and nods at her, and she grins in response, turning away after a second to mutter something under her breath that sounds suspiciously like "take that, Ino!"

Kakashi settles down on the grass to contemplate his work of art some more before he turns to very carefully rolling it up again, thinking about where he'll display it. There's a wall in his apartment that has always looked a little bare...

For a moment, he's not paying attention, but when he looks up again the other two Genin are gazing expectantly toward Sasuke. He has an awkward half-scowl on his face as he rises, reaching back into the shinobi pouch at his hip and pulling out a small paper-wrapped rectangle. Sakura and Naruto blink, apparently in as much suspense as Kakashi is, as Sasuke walks over and roughly thrusts the parcel into his face.

Kakashi takes it gingerly, and Sasuke looks away without a word while he opens it, tearing carefully at the paper. He looks down at the item inside, and can feel a very wide grin spreading across his face. This is perhaps the most thoughtful present at all.

"Sasuke-kun, thank you," he says cheerily, feeling genuinely enthused. "But how in the world did you get it? They don't sell these books to minors!"

Sakura and Naruto's jaws drop as he pulls the very latest volume of Icha Icha Paradise out of the wrapper. Sasuke coughs and conspicuously does not answer, continuing to look silently off to one side.

"You're welcome," he mutters.

Kakashi leans back against the tree, smiling as his student turns to plop back down in his place with his arms crossed over his chest, and Sakura and Naruto continue to freak out. Composing herself after a moment, Sakura clears her throat before glancing around at the group of them, and a smile starts to work its way across her face again.

"You know," she says, "I think we need a picture. So we'll always have something to remember Kakashi-sensei's twenty-sixth birthday by."

Sasuke rolls his eyes, Naruto just looks curious, and Kakashi resists the urge to groan. "Well, if you insist," he says, raising his eyebrows at her.

She grins. "Great! I'll go to my house and borrow my dad's camera... be right back!"

Sasuke mutters some remark about wasting time as she dashes off, and Naruto turns to rush to her defense, flinging his arms out in his usual overenthusiasm. They've gotten a pretty good argument going by the time Sakura returns, and she chews them both out soundly, throwing in a few smacks and threats of painful death for good measure. Kakashi watches them with a quiet smile.

Perhaps he will spend his birthday sitting right here.