Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto; all that happens within this fic is my twisted mind at work. Author's note is at the end.
words – thoughts
"words" – dialogue
Petals in the Sky
It was life as usual in Konoha, even if the Sandaime was buried not two days ago. Kakashi was making his way back to his apartment from a mission when he saw a mop of ridiculously bright blond hair in front of the Hokage Monument. True enough, the head belonged to the noisiest ninja of all of Konoha, his body wrapped in mourning attire instead of his trademark blinding orange affair. How the blue-eyed blond disaster managed to pull off the neon outfit was a mystery that will go down the annals of the village, filed next to the phenomenon known as the disappearing half of a pair of socks. Not that Kakashi made a good fashion police, in respect to his own bizarre penchant for sporting angled-forehead-protector-over-one-eye-and-mask-hiding-his-lower-face-with-neon-orange-porn-book-as-an-accessory look. Huh, maybe even he will go down the annals as well, if only for worst dressed ninja of Konoha. But then again, with Gai's green spandex leotard and orange legwarmers ensemble (and Lee to continue his legacy) around, Kakashi was not even in running for that particular 'prize'. Although it did bring up an awkward question of how the four of them managed to have something orange attached to their persons, voluntarily at that. Must be something funky in the village water supply…He must be thinking about the old man. I wonder how close they were…
He was just about to call Naruto intending to alleviate the boy's somber expression by the magical means of ramen, which is incidentally tip #1 in Kakashi's book of gaining cooperation from Naruto (has separate guidebooks in dealing with Sasuke and Sakura as well) when he noticed the bouquet of daisies and geraniums clutched in his hands. Considering the boy's stained hands and a smudge of earth under one eye, he correctly deduced that this bouquet was specially handpicked, had not the few straggling remains of (huge) earthen clumps trapped in the tangle of roots were a dead giveaway.
Naruto picking flowers? Now that is not a daily occurrence. Although in this case it was actually uprooting and strangling the plants to their early death and no doubt leaving behind tracks of bare land… But who cares for semantics? He left that to the Irukas of the world.
He tried again to get the boy's attention, but before one word was uttered, Naruto turned away before breaking into a trot, disappearing from sight like a fox vanishing into the undergrowth. Kakashi was sure the blond didn't notice his presence and he was tickled enough by the boy's behavior to shadow his student to his next destination.
Not long afterwards, Kakashi found himself lurking in between the foliage on top of Hokage Mountain. It was the last place he expected Naruto to visit, and now he was beyond tickled. He was as curious as a cat.
Hopefully one that didn't die because of it.
He should have known better than to expect Naruto to put down the bouquet at a special spot on the plateau high above the rock carvings of the four Hokages; this was after all Naruto, the most unpredictable ninja of Konoha. Even alone without an audience (as far as the boy was concerned) watching he was still surprising as ever. But what followed could baffle even the most unperturbed personality on the entire planet.
His eyes widen as Naruto began ripping the flowers from the stem, oblivious to clods of earth and roots flying in all direction.
Smacking into his face.
And hopelessly smearing his clothes. Classy he was not.
Uh… what a weird ritual. Did he finally snap? Kakashi blinked, and blinked again, trying to make sense of what he was seeing.
After decimating the wild flowers, Naruto carefully cradled what remained of the flowers and carelessly tossed the unwanted stems and roots. Then, he slowly crept nearer to the edge of the cliff, until he was literally hanging by the safety rails.
Kakashi's eyes narrowed; surely Naruto wasn't going to…
Before he could dash towards the boy and prevent him from jumping off, Naruto suddenly started singing in a low voice but Kakashi was able to hear it from where he stood.
He knew his jaw dropped. Well, dropped as much as possible under the mask he wore, which meant not that much. But drop it did, and his visible eye widened into a ridiculous imitation of a saucer. Or a baseball, he couldn't tell.
It was an old song, lullaby actually; one that he hadn't heard in a long, long time. It dredged up dusty memories of his grandmother singing him to sleep, back when he was a bedridden 6 year-old; a piece of nearly forgotten history that most of Naruto's contemporaries probably had no idea existed.
Heck, Kakashi probably wouldn't even know about it except that it was his grandma's favorite childhood lullaby. That, and the fact that she sang it nearly every night for the whole three weeks he was debilitated with fever, feeling like he was dying from the alternating heat and cold his body suffered. The song was the only thing settled him down, and it galled him to no end that he had to be sung to like a baby.
The lullaby was about a little girl who lost her father in a war, and how her mother living at the edge of an unnamed village raised her. Every year, during the anniversary of her father's death, both she and her mother would make several flower necklaces and throw it off the cliff where he was buried. It was, by the way the place was where her father proposed to her mother and their favorite spot. Even after her mother's death the girl would continue the tradition, until her children had families of their own. One day, several decades later when she is much older, she walked up to the cliff on the anniversary and observed the ritual.
After which she fell down and literally kicked the bucket, only to be found later by her family.
It was, despite the quite unexpected ending, a story of love and devotion, how by honoring her dead shinobi father (and later, mother) the girl could preserve their memories as proof of their short but important existence.
He vaguely remembered thinking that his grandma had a wicked sense of humor, singing a rather morbid song to a child whose active imagination believed he was at death's door. But he had to admit that it did have a soothing melody.
Maybe that's why people think I'm strange, I find a gloomy song comforting…
Although, that reputation could be attributed to his criminal tardiness and predilection to thumbing through smut-filled reading material (accompanied by a slight flush on his visible cheek) without nary a care to the occasion.
Kakashi snapped back to the present when he saw Naruto throwing off handfuls of flowers as he sang. For a boy who could annoy almost everybody with his high pitched wails and shouts he had an incredible singing voice.
He nearly fell when he saw a single tear fell from Naruto's eye, followed by another from the other eye.
Just as it had appeared, the tears stopped suddenly like a faucet was turned off.
Strange, I wouldn't have guessed that Naruto could control his emotions this well, he thought. But then, what I've seen so far doesn't make sense either. This is getting interesting. Wonder what else he has to hide…
The song ended at the same time Naruto released the last handful of flowers. The genin then stood silently, azure eyes glued to the petals as they swirled in the wind and dance down to the ground in the brilliant bath of the sunset.
Suddenly, Naruto's head snapped to left, and stared straight right at him.
"Kakashi-sensei! What are you doing here?" He quickly wiped his face, only to smear it further with dirt.
"Hi Naruto. Nothing… Just came back from a mission." He shrugged nonchalantly.
"How long have you been here, sensei?" The blond looked suspiciously at Kakashi. "I only noticed you when I saw a flash of orange." He pointed at the offending item in Kakashi's hand.
"Did you? Well, I just arrived." Damn orange color. But can't I live without it…He sighed silently.
"More importantly, what were you doing here and why is there dirt on your face?"
"Uh… umm… I was… training. Yeah, I was training, er… taijutsu. Here… alone," Naruto gestured vaguely behind him.
"I see…" Kakashi walked lazily towards his student. "I supposed you were training taijutsu with flowers?"
He plucked an errant geranium petal from Naruto's hair.
The boy's big blue eyes widened. He flushed. Kakashi smiled at the transparent reaction.
"Um, you see… I-"
Naruto took one look at his sensei's smiling face, and realized that he was trapped. The jounin already looked like a content cat with a particularly fresh fish in front of its nose. It was hopeless really to try and escape now.
"… I was thinking of the old man." He blurted, "When I was a kid-"
"You are still a kid."
"Arghh, sensei! I'm not a kid anymore! I'm a genin now… I will-"
"Yes, yes you will be the greatest Hokage ever. Now why don't you tell me what you were saying," Kakashi bit back a chuckle. It was easy to get Naruto all riled up; in fact it was too easy. Furthermore, this was a more usual countenance than the solemn one he had on earlier… It gave the jounin an uncomfortable feeling seeing such a look on the habitually cheerful 12 year-old.
"Then stop interrupting me, sensei! Sheesh…" The boy turned his eyes to the village once again, grumbling audibly under his breath but somehow managing to keep his temper. He sighed and began again.
"The old man used to come up here when he wasn't busy… and somehow or the other I usually bumped into him here. He was always singing this old song. He sang it often enough that I bugged him to teach me to sing it. That's how I learned the lullaby." His azure eyes shifted to the sunset in front of them, drinking in the heavenly splendor of the setting sun.
"And then one day… right before I started going to Ninja Academy he suddenly told me the story behind it. I remembered 'cause he bought me ramen after that. Two bowls of hot, steaming beef ramen! It was really, really delicious sensei-" Kakashi groaned inwardly; now that Naruto is talking about ramen it will take him half a day to finally get back to the topic at hand, " …vegetables. Oh, then I remembered saying to the old man that it was a sad story, but he shook his head and told me that it was a nice story, one worth remembering. Said that I'd understand it when I'm older,"
For a moment, his eyes clouded with memories.
"I just didn't expect that to be so soon," he whispered.
He's surprisingly sharp. Is it actually possible to be so slow about almost everything else and be so unnaturally perceptive about things like this? Kakashi then realized that Naruto, due to his circumstances, probably had enough emotional scars to haunt a sane man that made it impossible for him to be oblivious to things like this. The lullaby is also probably the few things he learned because of genuine care rather than forced duty. It was mildly disturbing to think that it might be the only thing he could chalk up as guidance from someone akin to a grandfather figure in this childhood. No wonder the kid remembered the song.
It was too painful to look at Naruto's expression that Kakashi had to turn and looked at the sunset instead.
"I don't know how to make a flower necklace since nobody taught me..." There was no hint of bitterness in his voice, only tired resignation, and the little grimace was the only indication of the unspoken fact of his orphan-hood; hence his lack of experience in that area, "...so I thought it's okay if I just tossed the flowers over…"
"Since the old man liked the song so much, I figured I should at least do it once. You know, as thanks for treating me to ramen once in a while, and if nobody did this for him yet… Not that it's likely, I mean his family must have known all about this and-"
"I think he appreciates it, Naruto-kun." Kakashi stopped the barrage with that simple statement.
"You think so sensei?" Again there was uncertainty tainting the genin's voice.
"I know so."
They both continued staring at the magnificent sunset, standing next to each other in companionable silence. Up on the Hokage Mountain, the din of the village was nothing more than a muffled whisper, making it seem like they were alienated from the rest of the world. It was a soothing balm for weary souls.
It was until the lights started to turn on and the sun began to disappear at the far horizon that one of them stirred.
"I hope when I die there is someone who will remember me…"
The words were so softly uttered that Kakashi wasn't sure he even heard it.
"Er, did you say something, Naruto?" He had to make sure.
"Ah!" Naruto reddened, "Uh, no. I didn't say anything, Kakashi-sensei." He grinned, although the effect was somewhat less stellar than he had hoped for considering the guilty flush that stained his face.
Kakashi stared at Naruto, who if it was even possible, blushed even harder. Kakashi thought idly that if the genin turn any redder he was liable to pop a major artery somewhere. Kakashi laughed.
"Ack!" The boy clutched his rumbling belly.
"Ne, Naruto… Would you like something to eat?" The jounin braced for the answer he knew was coming. Ramen, what else right? In Naruto-speak, it is akin to manna from the sky.
"Yay, you're buying sensei! OkayIwantokonomiyakitodaywithspecialsauce-"
"Alright, ra- what?" Kakashi gazed at Naruto like the boy had dyed his hair green and declared that he wanted to become a tattoo artist.
"Um, you see, the old man liked okonomiyaki, so I thought…" His voice trailed as he shifted a little under the scrutiny.
Kakashi was speechless for a split second. "Of course, okonomiyaki it is then," he said with a smile.
"Yosh! I want all the type of meat they have… and seafood too! But-" the blond chattered on and on about the perfect combination of ingredients for the perfect okonomiyaki, hardly pausing for breath as they made their way to the village's best okonomiyaki store.
"Hey Naruto, you better wash your face first. You look like you used your face to walk with instead of your feet"
"What! Why didn't you tell me earlier, sensei? I can't believe you let me walk through the village like this!" The boy quickly stopped by at one of the drinking fountains and washed himself as best possible.
After all, he was going to honor the old geezer; so he might as well do it properly.
You don't need to worry Naruto. Kakashi thought as he waited for the blond to wash up. Even if you leave this earth tomorrow, there are people here who will miss you terrible. Myself included.
He slowly shook his head in wonder.
Somehow, even though you are burdened with a demon in you for life, you are still the most human of us all… and many will remember you for it.
Kakashi sighed and prepared himself for what he knew would be a significant dent in his pockets when they entered the okonomiyaki shop. It was going to be a long night.
A/N: I randomly chose okonomiyaki as Sandaime's favorite food coz I have no clue what his favorite food is. If I ever find out, I'll make the changes. This is my first attempt at a fic, and it was really hard for me to keep it short. lol I have a tendency to ramble on and on, not to mention being utterly irreverent to boot.
I also don't have a beta yet, so the editing work is entirely mine. I try to catch all the obvious mistakes because I hate bad grammar. But, if there is some that remains (I'm sure I messed up somewhere) please bring my attention to it.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it.